Thursday, October 1, 2009


QOTD, David Kurtz (TPM):
Sarah Palin's contribution to American letters is already at No. 3 on Amazon's bestseller list based on pre-orders alone. That and the day's other political news in the TPMDC Morning Roundup

Yglesias: People Don’t Know How They’re Being Helped
This chart from a new EPI survey does a lot to explain the public’s sour political mood:

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The thing of it is that the public’s belief that the federal government hasn’t been stepping in to help them out is simply mistaken. For example, every single employed person in the United States of America received a tax cut as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. But as I’ve noted previously the eager beavers in the White House got their hands on some behavioral economics research which indicated that the tax cut would be a more effective stimulus measure if it was implemented in a way deliberately designed to obscure the fact that it was happening from people. And mission accomplished!Another major invisible way ARRA is helping ordinary people is through aid to state budgets. Virtually every state in the USA has cut spending and/or raised taxes to deal with budget holes. But they’ve done less of this than they otherwise would have. But if you like the idea of police on the streets and teachers in the classroom, then ARRA has stepped in to help you out. But, again, people probably don’t realize this.
But not all of this can be chalked up to program design. Just 36 percent of the public thinks the government has done much of anything for those who’ve lost their jobs. In fact, ARRA extended eligibility for unemployment insurance and heavily subsidized COBRA purchasing, both of which are boons to anyone who’s lost a job. But there’s been much less focus on this stuff in the media than on bank bailouts and mythical death panels, so apparently most people don’t realize it’s even happening.
Rockefeller targets insurance companies

Sept. 30: Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.V., reveals, exclusively on Countdown, an amendment he will introduce to make it a law that insurance companies spend a minimum percentage on actual health care not profits, advertising or salaries.

In August, MSNBC's John Harwood mentioned something to Paul Krugman that stood out for me: "I gotta tell you what a White House official told me today: 'Our problem right now is, if we tell some of the Republican opponents in the Senate, 'You can have everything you want in the bill,' they still won't vote for it.'"
Yesterday, the Republicans' Senate leader conceded that this is largely true: no matter the circumstances or concessions, Republicans will oppose health care reform.
The Senate Republican leader made clear on Wednesday that his party, despite all its griping over the public health insurance option, abortion-funding or health care for illegal immigrants, is simply and flatly opposed to the "core" of the Democratic health care reform proposal.
Satisfying every Republican demand short of scrapping the entire project, said Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), would still not capture GOP support.
Talking to reporters on the Hill, McConnell said Democrats could remove the public option, remove funding that could be used on abortion, remove funding that could benefit "illegals," and it wouldn't make any difference -- Republicans recognize "the core of the bill" and they're against it.
"[H]owever these other issues are resolved, the core of the bill is a trillion dollar government attempt to take over one-sixth of the economy, which slashes Medicare by half a trillion dollars, and raises taxes on most Americans," McConnell said.
As a substantive matter, McConnell's remarks yesterday weren't just wrong, they were ridiculous. But let's put that aside for now. The key is the larger point: for all the whining about specific provisions, congressional Republicans don't like the idea of the reform bill. They're opposed to the general approach to resolving the health care crisis. Democrats could give the GOP all of the talked-about concessions, and it still wouldn't enough. Not even close.
And here's the kicker: there's nothing wrong with that. Republicans are the opposition party. There's supposed to oppose what the majority wants. Of course they're against health care reform. The steps necessary to resolve the problem -- government intervention in the marketplace, regulation of private insurers, subsidies for those who can't afford coverage -- are entirely antithetical to the Republican Party's approach to public policy.
That's not the problem. The problem is the expectation that Democrats are supposed to get Republicans to agree to a bill they find offensive. The problem is the sense that reform advocates have failed unless 65 senators (or 70, or 80) endorse reform to make it "legitimate." The problem is the demand that the majority "compromise" with a minority that rejects the very idea of the proposed solution.
McConnell's refreshing candor yesterday should, in theory, add the nails to the coffin of "bipartisan health care reform." He couldn't have been any clearer -- Democrats and Republicans want different things, and want to go in different directions. Insisting that they find "common ground" is folly.
  •  from the comments:

    Rep. Grayson made this same point well yesterday on CNN. Its time for others to chime in. The fact that the Republicans are not on the defensive only goes to highlight further the need for unity among Democrats, something that never seems possible.
    Posted by: Gillette on October 1, 2009 at 8:40 AM 

  •  Greg Sargent

    Grayson has received an outpouring of support on the left for his claim about Republicans, and the common Beltway explanation for why this kind of stuff has so much appeal is that partisans just want their leaders to say mean and nasty things about members of the other party. But that’s a fundamental misreading of the dynamic.
    What’s really going on is that the Dem rank and file, radicalized by years of watching Dems cowed by Republican rhetoric on patriotism, national security, and many other issues, just want to see Dems show some fight and some fearlessness, and not back down every time Republicans say “boo.” It’s really that simple. The specifics of what he initially said are almost incidental.
    Indeed, Grayson’s refusal to apologize for his outburst despite Republican demands that he do so, and his demand that members of his own party grow a pair, are likely to garner him even more support from the base than his initial claim did.


After lengthy delays and watching the House already complete its work on the issue, Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) finally unveiled legislation yesterday to address global warming. The good news, it's a fairly ambitious bill. The bad news is, the distance between yesterday and passage is long and arduous.
Kate Sheppard noticed, among other things, the fact that "cap and trade" seems to have fallen out of favor -- the label, not the policy.
[N]oticeably missing from both the bill and their rhetoric was any reference to cap and trade. Instead, they're calling it a "Global Warming Pollution Reduction and Investment" program -- and they're promoting the energy and national security benefits rather than the emissions reductions goals. [...]
The senators touted the bill's provisions to expand the use of natural gas and nuclear power, two major changes from the Waxman-Markey legislation passed by the House in June. While the House bill would also likely spur development of those energy sources, the Senate bill includes titles specifying how they would be expanded. The senators also stressed that the bill includes a good deal of support for the development of controversial "clean" coal technology.
"It recognizes that there is no one silver bullet that is going to solve this problem," said Kerry.
Their full bill, weighing in at 821 pages, closely mirrors the various leaked drafts that were circulating yesterday, and, in most respects, Waxman-Markey. It aims to reduce emissions 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050, and will cover approximately 7,500 major emissions sources around the country.
Bradford Plumer does a nice job highlighting some of the specific differences between the Senate bill and the Waxman-Markey bill that passed in June. There were some fears that Boxer and Kerry might scale back the scope of the plan, in order to increase its chances of overcoming obstructionist tactics, but if anything, the Senate is slightly better than the House version.
So, does the bill have a realistic shot? It won't be easy. The first step for Boxer-Kerry will probably be the easiest: it's going to pass the Environment and Public Works Committee, perhaps by the end of the month. From there, however, it will be subjected to scrutiny in at least four other Senate committees, each of which will change the bill, probably for the worse. Some of the entirely worthwhile measures introduced yesterday are not at all likely to withstand the process.
But at least the process is getting underway. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) suggested the bill may pass before December's climate treaty negotiations -- wishful thinking, to be sure -- even as the chamber weighs health care reform.
The calendar notwithstanding, it's a fight worth watching closely. As Brian Beutler noted this week, Boxer-Kerry, when eventually reconciled with Waxman-Markey, will "become the most significant piece of energy legislation in the nation's history."

"People want Democrats with Guts"

QOTD, Grayson: 
'Republicans Are 'Foot-Dragging, Knuckle-Dragging Neanderthals'

Rachel was really good last night, and is really good in this segment.  Questioning Grayson's rhetorical excesses but putting them into the context of republican screaming and giving him a chance to say why he did it: "People want Democrats with Guts"  Good stuff.
Republicans shocked by own tactic  Rep. Alan Grayson, D-FL, joins Rachel Maddow to talk about his tongue-in-cheek criticism of Congressional Republicans for failing to produce a health care reform plan.

sgw: Jon Kyl Gets Called Out
President Obama tried to warn these fools, but as usual they didn't listen.

Elections have consequences BITCHES! 
Josh Marshall: Can't Quit Da Ladies
You probably remember how earlier this month Newt Gingrich somehow managed to have his 527 Group award its "Entrepreneur of the Year" award to porn exec Allison Vivas and invite her to an "intimate event" with Newt himself. Vivas was game. But Gingrich's group soon rescinded the award.
Today we learned there's been another misunderstanding. Gingrich's outfit, American Solutions for Winning the Future, gave a new "Entrepreneur of the Year" award to Dawn Rizos, owner of The Lodge, which the Dallas Morning News calls "one of the best-known gentlemen's clubs in Dallas."
Alas, again, the offer has been rescinded. But TPM's Ben Frumin got a chance to talk to Rizos to get her take on getting the Newt jilt.

Find out what corn and MADD and tanning has in common with ACORN.
Meet Rick Berman  Sept. 30: Rachel Maddow profiles notorious lobbyist Rick Berman whose nefarious clients now include the ACORN smear campaign.

John Cole: What Atrios Said
Sorry for stepping on the open thread, but I agree 100%:
I think our society has become a bit hysterical about teen sexuality, and that age limits and punishments for statutory rape have, in some states, started to get a bit exteme even if such relationships are inappropriate. But the undisputed facts of this case are that she was given booze and drugs and raped. There may be other procedural legal issues as I said, but I really can’t believe people are minimizing what happened. What is wrong with these people?
I was talking to my mom and dad this morning, and we don’t agree on damned near anything regarding politics anymore (mom seems to think that Bob Dole is still what most Republicans are like), and told them I can not believe everyone apologizing for Polanski. They couldn’t either, and it really is kind of insane.
One of you all remarked in the comments the other day that Polanski is the upper-class OJ Simpson. I think that makes sense.
With Democrats like these.  Rachel Maddow is joined by Huffington Post political reporter Sam Stein to talk about the few members of Congress who call themselves Democrats even though they're clearly working at cross purposes to Democratic Party ideals, goals and voters.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My Hero! Really!

C&LAlan Grayson stands by his words: 'I apologize to the dead and their families...'
By John Amato Wednesday Sep 30, 2009 4:00pm
Alan Grayson hit back today at the Republicans who said he should apologize for his biting attack against them. He got honest about the Republican plan for health care reform: "Don't get sick. That's right, don't get sick." That has them screaming.
Well, how quickly they forget what they've been saying about Obamacare. Stuff like the phony death panels and let's kill Grandma. That kind of stuff. Here's what Grayson had to say in response to the whining.
Grayson: Last night here in this chamber I gave a speech. I’m not going to recount every single thing that I said, but I will point out that immediately after that speech, several Republicans asked me to apologize. Well, I would like to apologize. I would like to apologize to the dead. And here’s why. According to this study, “Health Insurance and Mortality in U.S. Adults” which was published two weeks ago, 44,789 Americans die every year because they have no health insurance. That’s right, 44,789 Americans die every year, according to this Harvard study called “Health Insurance and Mortality in U.S. Adults.” You can see it by going to our website, That is more than ten times the number of Americans who have died in the war in Iraq.
It’s more than ten times the number of Americans who died in 9/11. But that was just once: this is every single year. That’s right: every single year. Take a look at this. Read it and weep. And I mean that – read it and weep because of all these Americans who are dying because they don’t have health insurance.
Now I think we should do something about that, and the Democratic health care plan does do something about that. It makes health care affordable for those who can’t afford insurance, and it saves these peoples’ lives. Let’s remember that we should care about people even after they’re born. So I call upon the Democratic members of the House, I call upon the Republican members of the House, I call upon all of us to do our jobs for the sake of America – for the sake of those dying people and their families. I apologize to the dead and their families that we haven’t voted sooner to end this holocaust in America.
Wow, simply amazing. The attacks are coming fast and furious on Grayson...
Ryan Grim writes this for Huffington Post: Despite Outrage, Many House Republicans Have Said Dem Health Care Will Kill People
By contrast, charges that the opposition's health care plan will kill people have been about as common on the House floor lately as resolutions naming post offices.
Take Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fla.), who said in July: "Last week, Democrats released a health care bill which essentially said to America's seniors: drop dead."
Or Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.), a doctor, who reviewed the public health insurance option in July and diagnosed that it is "gonna kill people."
Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), not one to pull punches, suggested on the House floor that Congress "make sure we bring down the cost of health care for all Americans and that ensures affordable access for all Americans and is pro-life because it will not put seniors in a position of being put to death by their government."
July was a busy time for House floor death sentences. Also that month, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), noted: "One in five people have to die because they went to socialized medicine...I would hate to think that among five women, one of 'em is gonna die because we go to socialized care."
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) had a similar assessment. "They're going to save money by rationing care, getting you in a long line. Places like Canada, United Kingdom, and Europe. People die when they're in line," he said on the House floor in July.
So far, none of the members of Congress who made such charges have apologized.
The Republicans had eight years of uninterrupted rule to overhaul our health-care system and did nothing except help the rich and start wars. And now, when the chance finally comes for them to step up and help American families, they just say no.
Don't forget to Get Grayson's Back.

He Said That About Us? How Dare He!

QOTD, Rick Moran (conservative blogger): 
"I don’t know how to say it any other way; those conservatives who don’t see a problem with this, or don’t think it “representative” of a significant portion of the conservative movement, or who don’t believe this sort of thing should be taken out, examined, and criticized as forcefully as possible are fooling themselves into believing this kind of thinking doesn’t matter. It is poison coursing through the body of conservatism and we either use reason and logic as an antidote or it will end up killing us."
QOTD2, Michael Steele (via Josh Marshall at TPM):  
Michael Steele sends out fundraising pitch comparing President Obama's "fanaticism" to Stalin and Kim Jong Il.
It seems freshman Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) has sparked something of a controversy with a speech on the House floor last night.
Republicans are pouncing on a late-night House floor speech from Rep. Alan Grayson, during which the freshman Florida Democrat said the Republican health care plan calls for sick people to "die quickly."
"It's a very simple plan," Grayson said in the speech Tuesday night. "Don't get sick. That's what the Republicans have in mind. And if you get sick America, the Republican health care plan is this: die quickly."
The after-hours speech, which included prominent banners behind the congressman to reinforce his point, drew immediate calls from some Republicans for an apology.
"That is about the most mean-spirited partisan statement that I've ever heard made on this floor, and I, for one, don't appreciate it," Tennessee Republican Rep. Jimmy Duncan told the Politico.
Conservatives are up in arms; GOP offices are going after Grayson with a vengeance; and Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) is introducing a House resolution to condemn the Florida Democrat, who has quickly developed a reputation for shooting from the hip.
Igor Volsky had a good piece on the substance of Grayson's remarks: "No Republican wants Americans to die, but the party's efforts to stonewall meaningful health care reform perpetuate a status quo in which 45,000 Americans die every year because they lack health care coverage and thousands more see their policies canceled or denied by private insurers that are beholden to Wall Street's profit expectations and not patient health. Grayson intentionally over-stated his case. It's not that Republicans want to kill people; it's that their opposition to meaningful health care reform and their "free market" alternatives would further deregulate insurers and allow companies to continue pushing individuals into high deductible policies that don't provide adequate coverage and actually harm Americans who can't afford their medical bills."
As for the politics, isn't it a little late in the game for congressional Republican to feign outrage about death-related rhetoric? Ryan Grim noted this morning, "[C]harges that the opposition's health care plan will kill people have been about as common on the House floor lately as resolutions naming post offices."
Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fla.) said Dem plans would tell seniors to "drop dead." Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) said Democratic plans for a public option would "kill people." Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) said Dems' proposals might "put seniors in a position of being put to death by their government." Plenty of other House Republicans have made similar remarks, and not one of them has every apologized. House Democrats haven't even asked.
Grayson may have been deliberately provocative to highlight a larger point, but if "die quickly" is beyond the pale, the GOP should probably start lining up now, asking for forgiveness for months of dishonest fear-mongering.
  •  from the comments:

    Michael W said:
    I hope this gets a lot of air time in the MSM. Grayson was simply telling the truth, and it's time more people know it.

    Don't worry, Grayson's speech will get tons of coverage from the corporate-controlled media.
    He'll get universal condemnation for his "unprecedented" incivility and bipartisanship. Obama will get nothing but questions about why he hasn't yet condemned Garyson's "hateful" speech. David Broder will call for Grayson to resign before his words "poison the collegial atmosphere of Congress."
    In the end, the Democratic "leadership" will throw Grayson under the bus and demand that he apologize.
    The media sh*tstorm will begin in 3 . . . 2 . . .

    Posted by: SteveT on September 30, 2009 at 1:02 PM

  • Josh Marshall says : Gimme a Break 

    Rep. Alan Grayson delivered a speech last night in which he made some really over the top comments -- namely that the Republican plan for health care is a) don't get sick and b) if you do get sick, die quickly. I'm not going to defend that. But is this really a controversy when half the Republican elected offiicials in the country have been saying for the last couple months, as a statement of purported fact, that the Democrats want to institute 'death panels' that will euthanize or deny care to people who can't justify their lives on utilitarian grounds?
    And what reporters are stupid enough not to point this out?

Yglesias: Real Talk From Wayne Gilchrest: “Arrogange and dogma . . . are pervasive in the Republican Party” 
Alex MacGillis’ interesting profile of moderate Republican former Rep. Wayne Gilchrest mostly focuses on non-political topics, but Gilchrest does offer a few spots of real talk:
In that regard, his retreat to the Shore had nationwide echoes. He was one of a legion of moderate Republicans who fell away from the party as it narrowed around a more orthodox, pugnacious and Southern strain of conservatism. “I can remember sitting and having dinner with the other Republicans,” he said while driving to the shelter, “and thinking, if I was on the outside, I would not be having dinner with these guys.” [...]
When he started in Congress, Republicans “weren’t yet what they turned out to be,” he said. “It was the last of the WASPy New Englanders, with their sense of public service. . . . But then all of a sudden, they just got taken over. I hate to say this, but ignorance, arrogance and dogma are pervasive in the world, and they certainly are pervasive in the Republican Party.”
Gilchrest was defeated by a conservative challenger in his 2008 primary, then that guy got beaten by a Democrat. To some extent, then, this may just be sour grapes. But those are still some very tough words for guys who were his colleagues 12 months ago.
Sargent: Poll: Huge Majority Of Mainers Wants Snowe To Break Ranks With GOP 
With Olympia Snowe pondering whether to break ranks with the GOP and support a health care compromise, the new Democracy Corps poll contains a somewhat relevant finding: A huge majority of her consituents want her to do just that!
Mainers think Republicans aren’t serious about reform and don’t care about bipartisanship for its own sake, the poll finds. Check out these numbers:
* By 50 to 39 percent, voters in Maine believe Republicans in Congress “aren’t being constructive and just want Obama to fail” rather than that they “are playing a constructive role in improving a health care reform bill.”
* By 62 to 29 percent, Mainers believe President Obama “has made an effort to reach out to Republicans on health care reform” rather than that he “has ignored Republicans’ ideas on health care reform.”
* And by 64 to 28 percent, they feel Senator Snowe “should vote for the health care bill if she thinks it’s a good bill even if she is the only Republican who supports it” rather than that she “should only vote for the health care bill if it is a bipartisan bill that other Republicans are willing to support.”
This is coming from a Dem firm, admittedly, but the questions seem well-framed, and these are striking numbers.
Snowe has been making mildly critical public statements about the GOP that seem designed to pave the way for an eventual break with the party on health care. Seems like the sentiments of her own constituents give her plenty of cover to make that break, too.
Update: By the way, don’t forget to check out Snowe Patrol, our blog dedicated to tracking all things Snowe.

I tend not to expect much from National Review's John Derbyshire. The conservative writer/columnist more or less jumped the shark when he expressed contempt for the victims of the Virginia Tech shooting massacre. (As he saw it, those who feared for their lives should have tried to physically confront the armed madman.)
But it seems Derbyshire continues to push the boundaries of good taste. His new book apparently includes a section against women's suffrage, and Alan Colmes explored the matter on his radio show this morning.
The National Review writer initially said "women lean hard to the left," which isn't necessarily true, and certainly isn't a rationale for denying women the right to participate in democracy. So, Colmes pressed further. Faiz Shakir posted a transcript:
DERBYSHIRE: Among the hopes that I do not realistically nurse is the hope that female suffrage will be repealed. But I'll say this -- if it were to be, I wouldn't lose a minute's sleep.
COLMES: We'd be a better country if women didn't vote?
DERBYSHIRE: Probably. Don't you think so?
COLMES: No, I do not think so whatsoever.
DERBYSHIRE: Come on Alan. Come clean here [laughing].
COLMES: We would be a better country? John Derbyshire making the statement, we would be a better country if women did not vote.
DERBYSHIRE: Yeah, probably.
He added that the United States "got along like that for 130 years," and added that the Civil Rights Act may also lack value because you "shouldn't try to force people to be good."
Just so we're clear, a leading conservative writer at one of the premier conservative political outlets, argued publicly against a woman's right to vote and against the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
It's extraordinary. Generally, conservative media figures try to maintain the pretense of sanity in public. I'm afraid that's no longer the case.
Josh Marshall: In Case You Missed It 
As noted earlier, Newsmax appears to have taken down its article endorsing a potential military coup as the only way to solve the "Obama problem". But here's the full text of the article as it originally appeared.
As noted previously, the article not only endorsed the idea but seemed to suggest that top military brass were also planning or actively considering such an option.
Late Update: Newsmax is now distancing itself from Perry's column and they've sent us a statement to that effect.
Later Update: Let me just add a little more on this. As you can see, the angle Newsmax is taking on this is to suggest that Perry doesn't really have anything to do with them, that he's just an "unpaid blogger." Now I think we all understand that there are many sites -- Kos, Redstate, even TPM -- where readers are allowed to set up their own blogs or diaries and write their own stuff. These are essentially discussion areas. And it's a cheap shot when someone finds some nutty diary on Kos and says DailyKos published such and such. Newsmax is claiming that that's what's happening here. But we've taken a close look. And I think it's clear that that is not true. Perry has written a weekly column for the site going back to at least 1999. And he's prominently listed on the bio page of all Newsmax columnists, along with Dick Morris, Dr. Laura, Grover Norquist, Lanny Davis, Michael Reagan, Rep. Ernest Istook, etc. (You can see the page we're referring to here; scroll down and look for the red arrow on the left.) We'll have more for you on this shortly.
DougJ: A kinder, gentler coup 
Maybe I’m way off base on this, but in my opinion, the Conor Friedersdorfs and Nicole Wallaces of the right aren’t so different from coupmeister John L. Perry. The idea of David Petraeus sweeping in and becoming president in 2012 isn’t unethical or unconstitutional, but I can’t help but think that Friedersdorf and Wallace simply want an institution they see as Republican—the military—to depose a Democratic president they dislike. (Friedersorf’s other preferred candidate is Colin Powell.)
The desire to depose Obama runs much deeper on the right—even the so-called moderate right—than anyone is willing to admit. The Perry piece wasn’t any kind of outlier.
John Cole: How The Village Thinks 
I know I always put my health at risk when I read the Moustache of Understanding, but sometimes I can not resist. Like today:
Sometimes I wonder whether George H.W. Bush, president “41,” will be remembered as our last “legitimate” president. The right impeached Bill Clinton and hounded him from Day 1 with the bogus Whitewater “scandal.” George W. Bush was elected under a cloud because of the Florida voting mess, and his critics on the left never let him forget it. And Mr. Obama is now having his legitimacy attacked by a concerted campaign from the right fringe. They are using everything from smears that he is a closet “socialist” to calling him a “liar” in the middle of a joint session of Congress to fabricating doubts about his birth in America and whether he is even a citizen. And these attacks are not just coming from the fringe. Now they come from Lou Dobbs on CNN and from members of the House of Representatives.
Got it? Clinton and Obama are not legitimate because the lunatics say they aren’t.

Think ProgressPeople reluctant to book Palin for speaking engagements because ‘they think she is a blithering idiot.’ 
Since Sarah Palin resigned as Alaska’s governor, she has signed on with the Washington Speakers Bureau, hoping to cash in on her fame. While Palin did do one speech — to mixed reviews — in Asia recently, she is reportedly having trouble getting booked for more:
Palin’s bookers are said to be asking for $100,000 per speech, but an industry expert tells Page Six: “The big lecture buyers in the US are paralyzed with fear about booking her, basically because they think she is a blithering idiot.
Many big lecture venues are subscription series, “and they don’t want to tick people off,” said our source. “Palin is polarizing, and some subscribers might cancel if she’s on the lineup.” Other lecture buyers are universities, which have a leftist slant, and corporations, which dislike controversy.
“Palin is so uninteresting to so many groups — unless they are interested in moose hunting,” said our insider. “What does she have to say? She can’t even describe what she reads.
Blue Texan (FDL): Conservative Blogger Rick Moran Calls on the Right to Condemn “Crazies”, Sees Racism in Attacks on Obama
There is a growing list of conservatives -- David Frum, Bruce Bartlett, and Joe Scarborough, to name a few -- who are actually pushing back against the Palin/Beck/Bachmann lunacy that's taken over the GOP and the conservative movement. They understand that shouting "fascist!" and "racist!" at the President isn't a winning electoral strategy.
Rick Moran is another, and yesterday highlighted the "How to Take Back America Conference" -- at which Mike Huckabee, Michele Bachmann, Steve King, and other prominent elected Republicans spoke -- as an example of everything that's wrong with the conservative movement.
Before commenting on the substance of what the author [Kitty Werthmann] actually believes is solid evidence that Obama wants to set up a Fourth Reich, I want you to look at that list of Republicans who will be giving their imprimatur to a conference that features such idiocy. Those are not “fringe” players. They are all considered “mainstream” conservatives. Should they be taken to task for attending a conference that features such off the wall lunacy?
Bingo. And that's the big difference between the right and left today. Both side have their kooks, but the kooks on the right are embraced by the party establishment. Can you imagine the outcry from the corporate media and the GOP if a bunch of prominent Democratic members of Congress and a leading Democratic candidate for President spoke at conference examining how Bush is like Hitler?
Adds Moran,
Exaggeration is not argument. It is emotionalism run rampant. And at its base is simple, unreasoning fear. Fear of change, fear that the powerlessness conservatives feel right now is a permanent feature of American politics, and, I am sorry to say, fear of Obama because he is a black man. Fear of change, fear that the powerlessness conservatives feel right now is a permanent feature of American politics, and, I am sorry to say, fear of Obama because he is a black man.
There are too many photos of racist posters at Teabaggings, there have been too many racist emails forwarded by too many elected Republicans, and too many comments about "white culture" from conservative commentators to not address the race issue. And it's telling that every time someone like El Rushbo or Glenn Beck goes there, they are immediately defended by the right. Why?
I agree with the left to a certain extent that the right - especially on the internet - has become something of an echo chamber (it’s true on the left too but their crazies have already been marginalized). This has resulted in what might be termed a “negative feedback loop” where the more exaggerated claims about dastardly Democrats go around and around, becoming ever more outrageous and illogical, until we get overflowing crowds at a seminar where the most fantastically stretched and mangled analogies to Nazis and Communists are taken seriously.
Yes. This "Obama's a Nazi" theme is mainstream among conservatives -- Jim DeMint, Glenn Beck, Michele Bachmann, Rush Limbaugh, Paul Broun -- all have gone there. And the response? Glenn Reynolds "Heh indeeds", Michelle Malkin and the RedStaters cheer it on, and Jonah Goldberg goes on Fox News and offers historical insight into why Obama is, in fact, just like Hitler.
I don’t know how to say it any other way; those conservatives who don’t see a problem with this, or don’t think it “representative” of a significant portion of the conservative movement, or who don’t believe this sort of thing should be taken out, examined, and criticized as forcefully as possible are fooling themselves into believing this kind of thinking doesn’t matter. It is poison coursing through the body of conservatism and we either use reason and logic as an antidote or it will end up killing us.
It already has.


A conservative friend on Facebook posted a link to the latest Cohen atrocity in the Post, as evidence that liberals are turning on Obama, in this case on foreign policy.  While that may be true for some, Cohen has been a sadly diminished thinker these last several years, and I pointed out that he doesn't actually represent liberal thinking any more.  In response, this:

However, Cohen is still read by many and quoted by many. Therefore, his latest column is further evidence of an emerging pundit pattern that is now viewing Obama as a mere mortal. Quite a change for the Angel chorus of the Spring.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Wingnuts: Off the Deep End Edition

Aravosis: THIS JUST IN: Top GOP news portal discusses military "coup" against Obama 
This is beyond the pale. If the Democrats don't step up and shut this kind of talk down right now, I fear we are going to see violence in this country. And yes, it will be the Republicans' fault. But it will also be the fault of the Democratic party for watching the crazy talk grow, and not doing a thing to stand up to it. At some point, silence abets.
Imagine a bloodless coup to restore and defend the Constitution through an interim administration that would do the serious business of governing and defending the nation. Skilled, military-trained, nation-builders would replace accountability-challenged, radical-left commissars. Having bonded with his twin teleprompters, the president would be detailed for ceremonial speech-making.

Military intervention is what Obama’s exponentially accelerating agenda for “fundamental change” toward a Marxist state is inviting upon America. A coup is not an ideal option, but Obama’s radical ideal is not acceptable or reversible.

Unthinkable? Then think up an alternative, non-violent solution to the Obama problem. Just don’t shrug and say, “We can always worry about that later."

Smooth Like Remy: Republicans/Conservatives Do Not Live On The Same Planet As The Rest Of Us 
Jon Stewart takes a look at what is most important to Republicans and their wingnut base compared to what is important to the rest of us.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
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Healthcare Protests

The shot at Tucker Carlson is an added benefit ;)

Rep. Trent Franks (R) of Arizona has been moving fairly aggressively lately towards the edge of the right-wing cliff. By agreeing to appear at an extremist conference in St. Louis over the weekend, Franks further cemented his position as one of the caucus' most unhinged members.
But if there are any lingering doubts, consider the fact that the Arizona congressman labeled President Obama an "enemy of humanity" at the event.
"Obama's first act as president of any consequence, in the middle of a financial meltdown, was to send taxpayers' money overseas to pay for the killing of unborn children in other countries...there's almost nothing that you should be surprised at after that.
"We shouldn't be shocked that he does all these other insane things. A president that has lost his way that badly, that has no ability to see the image of God in these little fellow human beings, if he can't do that right, then he has no place in any station of government and we need to realize that he is an enemy of humanity."
Remember, he thinks the president is "insane."
At the same event, Franks said Obama "acts un-American," and "doesn't want people to see" his birth certificate.
Think Progress: Right-wing icon Schlafly: Feminism is ‘the most dangerous, destructive force in our society today.’ 
Phyllis Schlafly, the anti-Equal Rights Amendment activist who heads the Eagle Forum, hosted the right-wing conference How To Take Back America last weekend. Several GOP members of Congress attended the conference, and each paid their respects to Schlafly for her leadership in the conservative movement. Schlafly delivered several speeches and led a discussion advocating traditional roles for women as well as warning about the dangers of feminism and blasting single mothers:
I submit to you that the feminist movement is the most dangerous, destructive force in our society today. [...] My analysis is that the gays are about 5% of the attack on marriage in this country, and the feminists are about 95%. [...] I’m talking about drugs, sex, illegitimacy, drop outs, poor grades, run away, suicide, you name it, every social ill comes out of the fatherless home.
Watch it:

At the closing ceremony, Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) thanked Schlafly for her critical support of his candidacy last year, and Mike Huckabee stood by as she was presented with the “American Hero of the Century” award. “God bless you,” said Huckabee, “and God bless Phyllis Schlafly most of all.”
John Cole: Who Could Have Thunk It? 
I’m sure you are all shocked:
Conservatives were quick to insist that the near-riot — the first of many town-hall mobs that would dominate the headlines in August — was completely spontaneous. The protesters didn’t show up “because of some organized group,” Rick Scott, the head of Conservatives for Patients’ Rights, told reporters. “They’re mad about the stimulus bill, the bailout, the economy. Now they see that their health care is about to be taken over by the government.”
Behind the scenes, top Republicans — including House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, Minority Leader John Boehner and the chairman of the GOP’s Senate steering committee, Jim DeMint — worked hand-in-glove with the organizers of the town brawls. Their goal was not only to block health care reform but to bankrupt President Obama’s political capital before he could move on to other key items on his agenda, including curbing climate change and expanding labor rights. As DeMint told an August teleconference of nearly 20,000 town-hall activists, “If we can stop him on this, the administration won’t be able to go on to cap and trade, card check and the other things they want to do.”
I eagerly await the folks at Reason explaining that really, the health care protesters were just advocates of limited government.

Joe Klein (Time Swampland): Philo-Semitism Gone Amok
Mike Gerson and Ezra Klein are two of the more temperate partisans I know. Gerson is an evangelical conservative whose speeches sometimes managed to make George W. Bush look like he sorta knew what he was talking about; he was also among the rare Bushies who supported faith-based social programs because of the impact they made on the lives of the poor, rather than on the President's poll-ratings among evangelicals. Klein--no relation, except friendship--is a wise-beyond-his-years policy wonk, who has moved to the Washington Post from the American Prospect, and has done some of the very best reporting on the health care issue.
So what is to explain this weirdly intemperate attack by Gerson on Klein?
Beats me. But it is part of a pattern among neoconservative Likudniks--including the lead Likudnik, Benjamin Netanyahu--and their evangelical running mates: Jews who disagree with them on Israel or the seriousness of antisemitism (on the internet or in the world) are either self-hating...or anti-semitic or, as Gerson spews about Klein:
Those, like Klein, who trivialize evil are actually making its advance more likely. Their cynicism and ideological manias are the allies of genuine bigotry, because they blur its distinctive shape and cover its distinctive smell.
This, because Ezra propounded the factually indisputable proposition that flaming bigots like Rush Limbaugh (who was fired after one week as a football commentator on ESPN before he made a racially idiotic statement about the quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles) have far more influence over the intemperate nature of the public debate than various internet commenters and bloggers.
Now, let me say there is a fair amount of anti-semitic intemperance on the internet--including some on the left--and certainly, out in the world, among purposely provocative public haters like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (who still doesn't have control of Iran's nuclear or national security portfolios). Historically, though, anti-semitism has found its true home on the populist right.
But there has been a curious, and growing, phenomenon in the evangelical community in recent years: they just love us Jews. They just love Israel, uh, to death. For many, I'm sure, there is real admiration of Israel's pluck and toughness and democracy. For others, as Lieutenant General William Boykin said after 9/11, there's something of a "my God is bigger than your God" attitude toward Muslims in general--and the Israelis are on the front line of the war against the "infidels." And then, there are those who take the Bible literally, especially the weird, fever-swamp hallucination of the Book of Revelation. This odd addendum to the New Testament has taken a disproportionate place for many evangelical Christians who believe in the Rapture--that is, a sequence of events that begins with the Jews regaining control of the Holy Land, fighting a climactic battle against the infidels (Muslims) at Armageddon (Megiddo, in the Jezreel Valley), after which Jesus returns, believers Go Straight to Heaven...and all non-believers, like any remaining Jews who don't accept Jesus, are incinerated.
I have my doubts about those who believe such nonsense being true allies of Israel. Likudniks, though, don't have very many allies in the world; some of them tend to see the Evangelical literalists, who bring significant amounts of tourist money to the Holy Land and have influence in the Republican Party, as useful idiots. "Prophecy" for the literalists requires that Israel retain control of Judea and Samaria (i.e. the West Bank). A great many Jews disagree, including me. They believe that to retain those areas is not only unjust, and illegal, but spells long-term demographic doom for Israel. This is not even a remotely radical position; it was held by the last three Israeli Prime Ministers, including Ariel Sharon.
I'm not saying that Gerson, or his evangelical Bushie running-mate Pete Wehner (who writes on the Commentary blog and piled on when the Likudniks called me anti-semitic), believe in the Rapture. In fact, both Gerson and Wehner, when they have their heads screwed on right, have occasionally been lonely voices reminding the evangelical community of Jesus's social gospel (except when it comes to raising taxes to pay for them; somehow that old, inconvenient "easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter heaven" business doesn't play in Evangelical America). In any case, I don't know how literally Gerson and Wehner take their Bible. I don't know if they're snuggling up to the Likudniks because of philosophy, prophecy or some combination of the two. But I'd advise caution when they question the Judaism, rather than the politics, of those, like Ezra Klein, who disagree with them. It's obnoxious enough when Bibi Netanyahu calls David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel self-hating Jews or when silly old Abe Foxman calls me anti-semitic.  But after the last two thousand years, when a non-Jew indulges, it is prohibitively creepy.
And I here I thought former New York Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey (R), whose propensity for misinformation is practically limitless, couldn't possibly appear any less credible. I stand corrected.
McCaughey, of course, has been a leading conservative opponent of health care reform in 2009, frequently straying from the truth (and reality) to trash Democratic proposals. She's also known for playing a similarly destructive role in 1994, when McCaughey positioned herself as "a scrupulous, impartial, independent scholar who, after leafing through the endless pages of the Clinton health proposals, had been shocked by what she found."
What we don't know until very recently is that McCaughey, when she wrote her infamous 1994 New Republic article that contributed to reform's defeat, she was working in secret with corporate interests who were lobbying against the Clinton plan.
Writing for Rolling Stone, Tim Dickinson reports on documents obtained from a Philip Morris lobbyist
[W]hat has not been reported until now is that McCaughey's writing was influenced by Philip Morris, the world's largest tobacco company, as part of a secret campaign to scuttle Clinton's health care reform. (The measure would have been funded by a huge increase in tobacco taxes.) In an internal company memo from March 1994, the tobacco giant detailed its strategy to derail Hillarycare through an alliance with conservative think tanks, front groups and media outlets. Integral to the company's strategy, the memo observed, was an effort to "work on the development of favorable pieces" with "friendly contacts in the media." The memo, prepared by a Philip Morris executive, mentions only one author by name:
"Worked off-the-record with Manhattan and writer Betsy McCaughey as part of the input to the three-part expose in The New Republic on what the Clinton plan means to you. The first part detailed specifics of the plan."
Media Matters added, "This latest disclosure, combined with a previously exposed conflict of interest, should destroy any remaining credibility she has with the media as an expert in health care reform acting in the public interest."
Indeed, it should. But will it? How soon until a major media outlet once again turns to McCaughey for "analysis" of health care policy?
Kevin Drum recently noted, "McCaughey is pure poison. She cares about nothing except making sure that no healthcare reform of any kind is ever adopted in the United States, and in that cause she's willing to say or do anything."
Think Progress: Right-Wing Panel Agrees Obama Is The ‘First Muslim American President’ 
At the How to Take Back America conference last weekend, attended by several Republican lawmakers, former Reagan official and prominent neoconservative Frank Gaffney, right-wing historian Bill Federer, and Christian activist Walid Shoebat hosted a panel on “How to understand Islam.” An attendee of the panel asked the three speakers if they would consider President Obama a Christian or a Muslim, given his “roots.” While Gaffney gave a now familiar response linking Obama to the Muslim Brotherhood, Federer and Shoebat provided new theories, which elicited praise from the crowd:
GAFFNEY: If Bill Clinton, on the basis of special interest pandering and identity politics, was properly called the first Black American President, on that same basis, Barack Obama should be called the first Muslim American President. […] But there is evidence that a lot of Muslims think he is Muslim. But whether he is or whether he isn’t, the key to me, is is he pursuing that is indistinguishable in important respects from that of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose mission ladies and gentlemen, we know from a trial in Dallas last year, is to quote to destroy Western civilization from within by its own miserable hand. That’s what we need to keep our eye on.
FEDERER: In Islam, if your father is a Muslim, you’re automatically a Muslim. Since Barack’s father, stepfather, and grandfather were all Muslim, the Muslim world views him as Muslim. Mohammad allowed his warriors to say they’re not Muslim to gain advantage and um, but he’s uh, Islam permits you to lie to advance Islam, Saul Alinsky allows you to lie to advance your communist agenda, you can put them together.
SHOEBAT: I came from an American mother, Obama came from an American mother. I came from a Muslim father, Obama came from a Muslim father. […] Did you know that your President knows how to do the call to the prayer in eloquent classical Arabic? […] No one can do this in classical Arabic language unless he grew up and was raised as a Muslim.
Watch it:

During the panel, Shoebat advocated entering Arab countries and converting Muslims to Christianity. He also went on a rant about how Muslims in meat packaging plants are contaminating America’s food supply because their hands are unclean.
Gaffney has a record of comparing Obama to Hitlera major theme of the conference — and spreading other absurd reasons for why he thinks Obama is Muslim. As Matt Duss has noted, although it may be difficult to take Gaffney as a serious analyst, his “transparently bigoted” attacks are given a platform on major media outlets. This reason alone is why Gaffney’s smears shouldn’t be ignored.
In the past week alone, Gaffney has appeared as a pundit on Fox News and MSNBC, has been featured in an article in NewsMax, and wrote an opinion column for the Washington Times.
Neiwert, C&L: Lou Dobbs doubles down on gun paranoia by claiming Sunstein will be 'gun czar'
From the very moment he was elected, right-wingers have been waiting, hoping, and watching anxiously for President Obama to take some kind of action -- any kind of action -- relating to guns. Just so they can start screaming, "He's trying to take away our guns!!!! Lock and load!!! Molon labe!!!"

Of course, he's done nothing. Nada. Zippo.

Which means they're now forced to just make stuff up.

This is never a problem for the paranoid, gun-toting right anyway. It's what they do.

Lou Dobbs was out leading the parade last night:

DOBBS: A record 1 million background checks on gun sales were completed by the FBI in the month of August alone. Those numbers show that gun owners are increasingly concerned that the Obama administration is on a mission to restrict Second Amendment rights in this country.

Supporters of those rights gathered in St. Louis over this weekend to fight attempts to strip Americans of their right to keep and to bear arms. Bill Tucker with our report.

And what exactly is the source of that fear? Um, well ...

TUCKER: Ask them why, and they recall the words of Attorney General Eric Holder on the need to ban assault weapons to help reduce drug violence in Mexico.

They point to the president's regulatory czar, Cass Sunstein, who personally is not just opposed to hunting, but said back in 2007 it should be banned. Or they will point to the president's consistent voting record for gun control, both in the Senate and back in Illinois.

Nor do these gun rights enthusiasts trust the newest Supreme Court justice, who in her only ruling on gun rights said the Second Amendment could only be applied to the federal government.

Hmmm. This sounds like almost exactly the same charges the NRA has been peddling since January, and yet the Obama administration has not acted on guns in any fashion.

The only new thing is the bit about Cass Sunstein, the demonization of whom began with Glenn Beck and has now spread to Dobbs' show. Dobbs and Tucker delve this in more detail:

TUCKER: All of them, of course, united under the banner of securing their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. For his part, the president does say he respects the constitutional right and promised that he will "protect the rights of hunters and other law- abiding Americans to purchase, own, and transport, and use guns."

But gun activists remain skeptical -- Lou?

DOBBS: I mean, the attorney general, Eric Holder, has said "They just want to do a few things with the Second Amendment." And the czar here, Cass Sunstein -- I mean, what's his deal?

TUCKER: He's a vegetarian, and he believes that hunting ought to be banned.

DOBBS: So, he's not big on hunting.

TUCKER: He's not big on hunting at all. But he has openly supported the right of animals to sue. He believes animals ought to have rights...

DOBBS: I'm sorry, repeat that again?

TUCKER: He believes animals should have rights, which would include the right to sue if they have been mistreated.

DOBBS: If they were hunted.

TUCKER: Or I guess hunted.

DOBBS: If they were hunted -- really?

TUCKER: I can't explain it, Lou, I'm just telling you.

DOBBS: I just think we should let this sort of percolate, because, presumably, the president knows this man, knows who he put there...


DOBBS: ... as the regulatory czar over guns. That's truly, truly interesting.

Thank you very much, Bill Tucker.

TUCKER: You're welcome.

Cass Sunstein, the regulatory czar over guns? Not exactly. And by "not exactly," we mean, "not even remotely related to the truth."

Sunstein has been nominated to head up the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, whose role it is to review draft regulations under Executive Order 12866; additionally, "OIRA reviews collections of information under the Paperwork Reduction Act, and also develops and oversees the implementation of government-wide policies in the areas of information technology, information policy, privacy, and statistical policy."

Guns are nowhere near this picture, except hypothetically (it would be possible, as a matter of conjecture, that Sunstein's office would review the efficacy of proposed gun regs coming out of the ATF). And that's it. That's the entire "connection" here.

But hey, don't worry, Lou. When the next Richard Poplawski kills three cops because he was afraid Obama was gonna take his guns away, we'll know who to thank.

Our Media: deliberately misleading assertions Edition

Atrios says that Apparently  Obama makes Fineman's penis just a little bit smaller. 
Boehlert: Newsweek's Howard Fineman: Obama thinks he's all that
This must be one of the stranger White House critiques I've read in quite a while [emphasis added]:
Obama can seem a mite too impressed with his own aura, as if his presence on the stage is the Answer. There is, at times, a self-referential (even self-reverential) tone in his big speeches. They are heavily salted with the words "I" and "my." (He used the former 11 times in the first few paragraphs of his address to the U.N. last week.) Obama is a historic figure, but that is the beginning, not the end, of the story.
Does Obama constantly refer to himself as an historic figure? Not that I can tell. But maybe Fineman's hearing something else from Obama.
As for Obama's speech to the U.N., which Fineman claimed was way too self-referential, let's take a quick look at the text:
I come before you humbled by the responsibility that the American people have placed upon me, mindful of the enormous challenges of our moment in history, and determined to act boldly and collectively on behalf of justice and prosperity at home and abroad. I have been in office for just nine months -- though some days it seems a lot longer.  I am well aware of the expectations that accompany my presidency around the world.  These expectations are not about me.  Rather, they are rooted, I believe, in a discontent with a status quo that has allowed us to be increasingly defined by our differences, and outpaced by our problems. 
Yeah, Obama just needs to get over himself.
Richard Cohen's columns are getting increasingly difficult to read, and even more difficult to understand.
Sooner or later it is going to occur to Barack Obama that he is the president of the United States. As of yet, though, he does not act that way, appearing promiscuously on television and granting interviews like the presidential candidate he no longer is. The election has been held, but the campaign goes on and on. The candidate has yet to become commander in chief.
Take last week's Group of 20 meeting in Pittsburgh. There, the candidate-in-full commandeered the television networks and the leaders of Britain and France to give the Iranians a dramatic warning. Yet another of their secret nuclear facilities had been revealed and Obama, as anyone could see, was determined to do something about it -- just don't ask what.
As criticism goes, this is pretty odd. President Obama talking to television reporters about current events from the White House is, apparently, not "presidential." Why? Because Richard Cohen says so. The public disagrees -- recent polls show Americans entirely comfortable with the amount of time the president spends communicating through the media -- but that apparently doesn't matter.
But more important is the notion that Obama, standing alongside British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, was also not presidential enough in publicly revealing the existence of a secret Iranian nuclear facility. The problem, as Cohen sees it, is that the Western leaders warned Iran, but were vague about potential consequences.
It's unclear why Cohen found this so offensive. Obama's goal was to give the U.S. leverage, and put Iran on the defensive, in advance of this week's talks in Geneva -- representatives of the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, Germany, and Iran will meet, and Obama, Brown, and Sarkozy added an increased "sense of urgency" to the discussions.
Indeed, President Obama seems to have played this very well. After achieving a victory on Thursday with the U.N. Security Council, his remarks on Friday had exactly the intended effect. Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, said Obama "played Iran perfectly, to isolate Iran, unite all the other countries around him, with an open hand to Iran, and then he springs the trap." Even a Washington Times columnist noted, "Not only did the president look strong, he looked cunning."
So what is Cohen whining about?
The columnist added:
The trouble with Obama is that he gets into the moment and means what he says for that moment only. He meant what he said when he called Afghanistan a "war of necessity" -- and now is not necessarily so sure. He meant what he said about the public option in his health-care plan -- and then again maybe not. He would not prosecute CIA agents for getting rough with detainees -- and then again maybe he would.
Most tellingly, he gave Congress an August deadline for passage of health-care legislation -- "Now, if there are no deadlines, nothing gets done in this town . . . " -- and then let it pass. It seemed not to occur to Obama that a deadline comes with a consequence -- meet it or else.
Obama lost credibility with his deadline-that-never-was, and now he threatens to lose some more with his posturing toward Iran.
When Obama called Afghanistan a "war of necessity," he was talking about the merits of launching the war, not with the value in sticking with an ineffective policy in the country. That's not a flip-flop or a lack of commitment; it reflects an ability to adapt to changing circumstances.
Obama has never wavered in his support for a public option. Obama's position on prosecuting torturers didn't shift at all, though the Justice Department had its own ideas.
Obama didn't "lose credibility" because Congress couldn't wrap up health care reform before August -- he gave lawmakers a target, which they missed. Nevertheless, the reform effort is further along than it's ever been, and that's due almost entirely to the president's efforts.
Cohen's entire piece sounds like he's trying too hard to complain about Obama for no particular reason. He wants Obama to "understand" he's the president and should act accordingly. I want Cohen to understand he's an influential media figure and should act accordingly, too.
Update: Tim Fernholz is thinking along the same lines.
Ya'll come.  You too can join Cohen at the Post . . .
Yglesias: WaPost Pundit Talent Search
The Washington Post is launching a political pundit talent search:
Here’s your chance to put your opinions to the test — and win the opportunity to write a weekly column and a launching pad for your opinionating career!
Start making your case.
Use the entry form to send us a short opinion essay (400 words or less) pegged to a topic in the news and an additional paragraph (100 words or less) on yourself and why you should win. Entries will be judged on the basis of style, intelligence and freshness of argument, but not on whether Post editors agree or disagree with your point of view. Entry deadline: Oct. 21, 2009 at 11:59 p.m. ET.
Huh. If only The Washington Post employed some kind of talented young political opinion writer in some other capacity and could give him an op-ed column instead of resorting to this sort of method. Be that as it may, suppose you were setting out to try to win this, what would you do? Remember, you’re trying to impress the people who decided that they needed to add Bill Kristol to a columnist roster that already included George Will and Charles Krauthammer. So one school of thought says that your 400 word sample column should contain some deliberately misleading assertions. Another school says you just turn in clean copy but during your 100 word “about me” graf should just make it clear that you share the sort of casual contempt for the truth and disrespect for the audience that is the hallmark of the Post op-ed page.
At any rate, I heartily encourage everyone to apply!
Atrios says Every Time I Try To Get Out...
I really was going to try to avoid Polanski blogging, but then Richard Cohen referred to drugging and raping a 13 year old over clear objections as her being "seduced."

What is wrong with these people?

Health Care Tuesday: superduper legitimacy Edition


Aravosis: Baucus bill would let private group, with ties to industry, write the rules for implementing the entire health care bill 
The Los Angeles Times has the story. Anybody have any thoughts about that?

Kurtz (TPM): Who's Legitimate Now?
Anything less than a superduper majority of 65 votes for health care reform in the Senate will not be legitimate, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) tells voters back home.
For the record, Nelson first won election in 2000 with just 51% of the vote and won re-election in 2006 just shy of his new superduper legitimacy standard, with 64%.
  •  Greg Sargent adds: 

    It would be interesting to ask Nelson whether he sees the 65 number as a self-evident truth, rather than a bar he arbitrarily created himself. Keep in mind, this isn’t the first time Nelson has presented himself as a passive observer of the process, rather than an active member who’s declarations and actions influence what happens. He recently said that including a public option would cause reform to “implode,” without acknowledging that his opposition to a public plan would help make this outcome more likely.
    When you throw in Nelson’s declaration of opposition to reconciliation, this latest really is tantamount to saying that the majority shouldn’t rule unless an arbitrary number of Republican Senators greenlights it. Not sure how else you would read it.

Think Progress: New poll finds that public support for health care reform has substantially increased since the summer. 
During the summer, many on the right claimed that raucus meetings at town halls showed Americans had turned against health care reform. Politico reported, “Democrats lost the month of August — not just in the polls and at town hall events but also within their own caucus.” Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) said the GOP is “going to keep the nightmare going through the fall.” But today, the Kaiser Family Foundation released its latest poll of public opinion on health care reform that shows that voters are actually more enthusiastic about reforming our broken health care system than ever. The poll finds that 57 percent of Americans now find health care reform “more important than ever,” a marked increase since August:


Sargent: New Ad Bashes Insurance Giant Humana, GOP For Frightening Elderly
The battle over insurance giant Humana hits the airwaves in this entertaining new ad from a top White House ally, Americans United for Change, which slams Humana — and its Republican defenders — for misleading seniors about how reform would impact their Medicare:

The ad is running in D.C. and in Louisville, Kentucky, the home state of Humana and one of its leading Congressional defenders, Senator Mitch McConnell.
The spot tries to turn Humana’s widely-reported letter warning seniors about Medicare — which Dems have condemned as a scare tactic — into a symbol of broader insurance industry and GOP efforts to persuade the elderly that reform proposals represent a real threat to their health care, and by extension, their well being.
“Whether it’s the insurance companies, or their Republican allies, the case against health insurance reform always gets down to one word,” a narrator intones. Meanwhile, the screen flashes, in lurid, scary lettering, the word…
Sully: Republicans ♥ Medicare 
Tom Schaller questions the wisdom of the GOP's entitlement fear-mongering:

Are there not risks to this strategy? Specifically, does it not further cement the GOP's image as an aged, out-of-touch coalition? Also, how is the GOP defense of cuts to Medicare not creating at least some dissonance with the very protesters who turned out for town halls and the recent march on Washington complaining about a too-big government getting bigger? (I suppose I'm presuming that people complaining about big government are, in fact, able to identify such contradictions; surely, some are not.)
This was also something the Tories did as they reeled from the first term of Blair. They actually opposed any real cuts or reform in the welfare state in a desperate bid for some, any, votes. They were obsessed with tactics and forgot even a smidgen of strategy. It took them twelve years to have a shot at governing - and largely because of Labour's failure. The GOP is now defined entirely by opposition to Obama - regardless of the merits of his policies. If you want evidence that the tea-party message is pure phony, look no further. Even Mark "Freedom Or Tyranny" Levin won't risk offending seniors. (Leave it to Pareene.)

Ezra Klein: Is Medicare Advantage Worth It?
The argument over Medicare Advantage is pretty simple: The program, which allows private providers to compete for Medicare patients, was supposed to cost as much or less than traditional Medicare. It actually costs 114 percent of what Medicare costs. Democrats want to eliminate those overpayments and force private insurers to live within Medicare's budget, given that they're taking Medicare's money. Republicans say that will cut benefits for retirees, which is something they're suddenly very concerned about.
On some level, Republicans are right: The reform will change some benefits for a small minority of Medicare's beneficiaries. But will it change it by very much? Austin Frakt, a health economist at Boston University, has studied whether the Advantage program is spending its windfall on patients or profits. The answer? Profits, mainly.
Payment to MA plans has gone way up since 2003. Did the payment increase largely benefit beneficiaries or not? This is a current political and policy debate, about which much has been written in the media (both traditional and blogospheric). It turns out the answer is known and quantifiable. My work (with Steve Pizer and Roger Feldman) shows that for each additional dollar spent by the federal government (taxpayers) on the program since 2003, just $0.14 of it can be attributed to additional value (consumer surplus) to beneficiaries (see also: findings brief).
What do we make of the other $0.86? That goes to the insurance companies but doesn’t come out “the other end” in the form of value to beneficiaries. In part it is accounted for by the costs of the additional benefits and in part it is captured as additional insurer profit.
So, do higher MA payments produce little value to beneficiaries, as Obama claims, or are the benefits they fund important to maintain, as Republicans would have us believe? The balance of the evidence is on Obama’s side. In fact, it is a landslide: for each dollar spent, 14% of the value reaches beneficiaries and 86% of it goes elsewhere (profit or cost).
"Cuts to MA should be a no brainer," he concludes. This is a case, incidentally, where Republicans have lined up in favor of a wasteful government program, where their rhetoric relies on the inviolability of current and future Medicare benefits, and where they are opposing a reform that will improve the deficit over time. It almost makes you miss the purity of the Gingrich crew.
Aravosis: Dorgan will try to blow up Big Pharma backroom deal, let cheaper drugs import from Canada, will save $50 billion by eliminating 300% Rx drug tax
Dorgan's amendment would let cheaper drugs from Canada come into the US, so people like you and me would no longer have to pay a 300% to 500% mark-up on the prescription drugs we buy. The administration scotched this possibility in their secret deal they made with Big Pharma, that was subsequently exposed. It will be interesting to see which politicians vote to have you pay three to five times as much for your prescriptions simply because American pharmaceutical companies have a monopoloy in our market. One could almost call that a prescription drug tax, since it's simply a mark-up that you're paying. Will our members of Congress vote to sustain the 300% Prescription Drug Tax? Stay tuned.
GOP sees political opportunism in old foe Medicare   Senator Bernie Sanders, I-VT, joins Rachel Maddow to try to understand how Republicans can suddenly present themselves as champions of Medicare after actively opposing it for nearly half a century.

Congressional Democrats have made an effort of late to point out the fact that congressional Republicans, despite their "guarantees," have not come up with their own health care plan. Indeed, it's been 104 days since the leadership promised to deliver one.
Yesterday, the Republican Study Committee tried once again to mount a defense.
[T]he Republican Study Committee has tossed this back on Majority Leader Steny Hoyer's lap [Monday], cutting and pasting the GOP alternative, HR 3400, which was introduced July 30. [...]
Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), the chairman of the RSC, says Hoyer is "making the certifiably false claim that Republicans have 'not only failed to produce legislation, but they have yet to offer any real solutions or ideas' for health care reform."
Here's a radical idea: maybe the RSC can pretend to be grown-ups about this?
Let's be clear. Have assorted groups of GOP lawmakers presented health care reform proposals? Sure. But when observers note there is no Republican alternative bill, we're talking about legislation embraced by the caucus and its leadership. Price and the Republican Study Committee surely know this, which makes their latest claims, to borrow a phrase, "certifiably false."
There are 177 House Republicans. At this point, 44 of them -- not quite one-fourth of the caucus -- have endorsed the RSC proposal. Of the 44, how many are part of the House Republican leadership? Zero.
"Last time I checked, the House Republican Conference does not have a proposal," Hoyer spokeswoman Stephanie Lundberg said. "When the RSC becomes the leadership of the Congressional Republicans, let us know."
What's more, there's a very good reason most of the House Republicans and all of their leaders have steered clear of the RSC plan: it's truly awful. The proposal is built around tort reform and ridiculously inadequate $5,000 tax credits. Democrats would love for this to be the House Republican plan, and use it as proof of just how little credibility the GOP has on the issue.
But it's not the House Republican plan because House Republicans don't have a plan. In mid-June, they "guaranteed" a bill of their own, but have failed to follow through. Tom Price's whining won't change this.