Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Contrast Could Not be Clearer

kos: GOP embarrassed Republicans believe what they believe

Conservatives, like Bill O'Reilly, are angry.

They are angry that a poll found that Republicans believe the crap that Glenn Beck has been feeding them for the last year.

They've spent the last year talking about Obama being a secret socialist who wants to kill grandmother, who wasn't born in the United States, who is making common cause with the terrorists because he wants to destroy America.

You'd think O'Reilly and the rest of the wingnuts would be ecstatic, that their message is getting through to them! But when a poll confirms that the Fox News message has gotten through, they're angry?

Who can figure out those guys?

Sully: They Still Fear Her

Many conservative Republicans in Alaska are happy to see Sarah Palin disappear into the large bosom of Roger Ailes. I was struck by this one:

Moments earlier, another woman, who called herself a conservative Republican, spoke incredulously about the "cynicism" of national Republicans in choosing someone clearly unqualified for the vice presidency. "How in the world could they?" she asked. "The phenomenon of Sarah Palin exists because people are uninformed politically." (Like several people interviewed, she refused to be identified for fear of "retribution" from Palin and her allies.)

My italics.

Marshall: Game On?

House Republicans don't have an official budget yet. But they have what amounts to a first draft. The official budget will be released in March or April and will be authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the ranking member of the House Budget Committee in consultation with the other Republicans on the Committee. But Ryan has released a budget he'd like. And it's actually fairly detailed. And if you read it, which we have, you start to wonder why Democrats aren't making a bigger deal out of it.

What's in it? A few interesting things.

First, it calls for big cuts in Social Security benefits for everyone currently under 55 years of age. On top of the cuts it also calls for privatizing Social Security.

Basically the exact plan President Bush tried in 2005. Next, it calls for the full privatization and phasing out of Medicare. It'll be replaced by a system of vouchers in which instead of getting Medicare you get a voucher to buy un-reformed private insurance.

Weirdly, with all that, the draft GOP budget doesn't get the federal budget into surplus until sometime after 2060, which seems like a pretty long time. But isn't this sort of a big deal? House Republicans are poised to run in 2010 on slashing or abolishing the two most popular federal government programs -- Social Security and Medicare.

Now, Minority Leader Boehner (R-OH) and Minority Whip Cantor (R-VA) have been sort of dancing around the Ryan draft. They're both saying they're putting forward a detailed budget plan and then simultaneously refusing to say Ryan's plan is endorsed by the conference. But Ryan's their budget writer. So this is a bit like Peter Orszag releasing a budget document and having Obama and Rahm saying he's just speaking for himself.

Poll: Republians Prefer Having A Deficit With Tax Cuts (TPM)

A new Rasmussen poll supplies a very interesting data point in the ongoing debate about the budget deficit: As it turns out, Republican voters would prefer having a deficit if it meant they can get more tax cuts, instead of raising taxes in order to balance the budget.


One of the more robust applause lines in the State of the Union address came when President Obama said, "I do not accept second place for the United States of America."

E.J. Dionne Jr. chatted with Vice President Biden yesterday, and brought up the line. Biden "replied emphatically" on the subject, rejecting the notion that "we just can't make this transition in the 21st century."

Dionne explained quite well why a "hidden political issue of the 2010 elections" is actually the "larger debate over how to maintain American preeminence."

Beneath the predictable back-and-forth between Obama and his Republican adversaries over government spending lies a substantively important difference over how the United States can maintain its global leadership.

For Republicans, American power is rooted largely in military might and showing a tough and resolute face to the world. They would rely on tax cuts as the one and only spur to economic growth.

Obama, Biden and the Democrats, on the other hand, believe that American power depends ultimately on the American economy, and that government has an essential role to play in fostering the next generation of growth.

Notice that when Obama spoke about keeping America in first place, he said not a word about the military. He referred instead to the efforts of our competitors in the public sphere of the economy, and of our past complacency.

"Washington has been telling us to wait for decades, even as the problems have grown worse," Obama said [in the State of the Union]. "Meanwhile, China is not waiting to revamp its economy. Germany is not waiting. India is not waiting. These nations aren't standing still. These nations aren't playing for second place. They're putting more emphasis on math and science. They're rebuilding their infrastructure. They're making serious investments in clean energy because they want those jobs."

Suddenly, Obama's approach is not about old-fashioned Democratic spending. It's about patriotism, competing successfully, investing to maintain American economic leadership.

Republicans may prefer to avoid this argument, but it's reasonable to think just about every policy dispute on the American landscape can, and probably should, be reframed to answer the question: how does this position the United States for global competition in the 21st century?

Every major power on the planet offers universal health care to its citizens -- except us. This puts America at a competitive disadvantage, undermines wages, creates job lock, and stunts entrepreneurship. Republicans are satisfied with this, because their goal is to prevent "big government," not position the United States for a competitive future. Are Americans OK with that?

Countries like China intends to create the world strongest system of higher education. Are Americans prepared to let that happen? A variety of rivals are preparing to dominate the next phase of the energy revolution? Will the United States deliberately skip the race and fall behind?

To keep American on top, the government is going to have to make real investments and establish a new foundation for growth. Republicans are staunchly opposed to making those investments and don't see the need for such a foundation.

So, let's have the debate, and take it out of the left-right dynamic and put it the global-competition dynamic. Why not make it the centerpiece of the 2010 elections?

I've long believed it creates an opportunity for American Greatness Liberalism -- progressive ideas, investments, and priorities needed to keep the U.S. on top for the long haul.

Obama/Biden has a plan to maintain American preeminence in the 21st century; Republicans don't. Voters can decide whether to look forward or backward.


In talking to Senate Democrats yesterday, President Obama reminded the caucus that its successes have come against "enormous" and "unprecedented" obstructionism: "You may have looked at these statistics. You had to cast more votes to break filibusters last year than in the entire 1950s and '60s combined. That's 20 years of obstruction packed into just one."

That may seem like a bit of an exaggeration, so CNN fact-checked the claim. Wouldn't you know it, the president was correct.

* A vote to end filibuster debate is called a cloture vote. From the 81st Congress (1949-1950) through the 91st Congress (1969-1970), there were a total of 30 votes on cloture. There were no more than seven cloture votes in any single session during those years.

* Starting with the 92nd Congress (1971-72), cloture votes became more frequent. Part of that can be explained by the fact that the Senate changed the required majority in 1975, making it easier to induce cloture.

* The 110th Congress (2007-2008) is the record-holder so far: There were 112 votes on cloture during that two-year period.

* So far, the 11th Congress (2009-2010) has held 41 cloture votes, 39 of them last year, two more this year.

It's not especially close. From 1949 to 1970, there were 30 cloture votes. In 2009, there were 39.

This reminds me to post this chart, recently put together by TPM, which puts Republican abuse in a helpful, visual context. It doesn't even include the current Congress, which is poised to break its own record from the Congress than ended in 2008.


There are still some in the political world, including far too many media professionals, who think mandatory 60-vote majorities for literally everything is just routine, as if the Senate has always been this way. It hasn't -- the Senate has never been asked to function this way; it wasn't designed to function this way; and it quite obviously can't function this way.

The chamber is broken, and Republicans are standing over the shattered pieces holding a hammer.


When it comes to the Abdulmuttalab case, Republicans have been outraged. They argued, without getting their facts straight, that Obama administration officials failed to properly interrogate the attempted terrorist, read him his rights too quickly, and failed to acquire valuable intelligence.

Republicans, we now know, were completely wrong. Indeed, to set the record straight and prove how demonstrably ridiculous the GOP claims have been, the Obama administration provided ample evidence yesterday that Abdulmuttalab has been interrogated and has also provided valuable, actionable information.

And wouldn't you know it, Republicans have now adapted their complaints to whine about the administration correcting bogus GOP claims.

In a hearing with Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, Republicans on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence questioned the timing of the disclosure and accused the White House of "political cover."

"I do find it an interesting strategy that we hastily call a briefing to let America and our friends and our enemies in the Middle East know that he's now singing like a canary," said Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee.

"I can't think of a reason why that would happen other than political cover," charged Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas.

Let me get this straight. Congressional Republicans (1) complain about something that isn't true; and (2) complain again when confronted with evidence of their mistake.

There should be some kind of rule or something: the liar doesn't get to whine after having been exposed as a liar.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton was asked yesterday about the release of Abdulmuttalab information, and told reporters that officials wanted to let the public "know that we're doing everything possible to keep the American people safe."

As for the GOP's bizarre rhetoric, Burton added, "[B]efore, there was criticism from Republicans that what we were doing wasn't working. Now that people find out that what we're doing is working, they're criticizing the fact that we're saying that what's working is working."

Our discourse sure is frustrating sometimes.

BarbinMD (DK): When Orrin Hatch said, "I am," he really meant ...

After an interview aired yesterday on MSNBC, some parts of the blogosphere were aflutter (and probably atwitter) with the shocking news that Orrin Hatch (R-UT) was "open" to repealing "don't ask, don't tell."

And perhaps their confusion was understandable given that, after he proclaimed that there are patriotic gay people in the military, that they shouldn't have to lie about who they are, and that he is opposed to prejudice, Mitchell said:

Well, I can put you down as at least being open to the idea, so ...

Watch his answer:

Seems pretty clear, doesn't it?

But Hatch was horrified when people interpreted his saying, "I am" to mean, "I am," and his office quickly issued a statement:

Sen. Orrin Hatch says the left-leaning media misconstrued his comments in a TV interview Wednesday that seemed to imply he would be open to repealing the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which requires gay service members to keep their sexual orientations secret.

"I certainly do not support repealing this policy," he said in a statement trying to clarify his views and blasting activist groups for "misconstruing my position."

So to all of you activists out there, stop misconstruing Orrin Hatch's words! When he appears on television in an effort to peddle the notion that he's not a bigoted homophobe, just report that ... because you certainly can't go by what's coming out of his mouth.

Sully: Sessions vs Mullen: The Turning Point?

A reader notes something from that astonishing DADT hearing on Tuesday:

Did you notice Admiral Mullen's smackdown of Jeff Sessions, scion of the Old South, which has owned the military for a century? Sessions accused Mullen of "undue command influence", a serious charge--just one step away from "illegal command influence". (At 4:00 in the Youtibe above).

The accusation was so ugly, and so serious, that Gates (rightly) leapt to Mullen's defense, and smacked Sessions hard (5:20), after which Mullen looked straight at Sessions and said:

"Senator Sessions, for me, this is not about 'command influence', this is about leadership, and I take that very seriously."

(Emphasis in the original. I should note that Mullen's language contrasting "command influence" to "leadership" is not merely rhetorical, it is legal, and the outline of Mullen's legal defense:

"While some types of influence are unlawful and prohibited by the Uniform Code of Military Justice… other types of influence are lawful, proper, and in certain circumstances a necessary part of leadership".

Sessions, in other words, told Mullen that the Republican line of attack would be to question his competence and integrity, as well as the legality of his open support for the repeal of DADT; Mullen in turn told Sessions that if the Republicans insisted on war, he was happy to oblige them.

Not only is that an extraordinary personal moment, and an extraordinary moment in the struggle for gay rights, it is an extraordinary moment in American history: we just watched the tide turn. Yes, there is much work left to do, and pain and loss still to come, but the tide has turned on gay rights--and you won. The war is over. Everything the Republican/conservative/Christianist coalition does from here on is nothing more than a rearguard action. They just lost the military; they just lost the gay-bashing card.

They have been routed--and at the most unexpected moment. And this has enormous implications for national politics going forward.

I have noticed - with great relief - the lack of furious blowback so far. But I am not as confident as my reader, as I have learned not to under-estimate the passionate intensity of reaction in America. But Tuesday was a deeply moving and powerful moment for many of us. It happened because of one man's skill - Obama - and one man's integrity - Mullen.

Mullen just earned himself a place in history.

Yglesias: The Filibuster Was Never a Good Idea

Yesterday, talking to Democratic Senators, the president offered some thoughts on the filibuster:

So the problem here you’ve got is an institution that increasingly is not adapted to the demands of a hugely competitive 21st century economy. I think the Senate in particular, the challenge that I gave to Republicans and I will continue to issue to Republicans is if you want to govern then you can’t just say no. It can’t just be about scoring points. There are multiple examples during the course of this year in which that’s been the case.

Look, I mentioned the filibuster record. We’ve had scores of pieces of legislation in which there was a filibuster, cloture had to be invoked, and then ended up passing 90 to 10, or 80 to 15. And what that indicates is a degree to which we’re just trying to gum up the works instead of getting business done.

I appreciate what the President is trying to do here and I agree with the spirit of his comments, but the history here is bad. There was no point in time when supermajority voting in the Senate was well-suited to the challenges of the time. Indeed, as David Mayhew has demonstrated it’s simply not the case that there was routine supermajority voting until the recent past. When FDR’s opponents were seeking to block court-packing and when LBJ was lining up support for Medicare, vote-counters assumed that a majority was needed to block initiatives.

The authentic tradition is of using the filibuster as an extraordinary technique for the specific purpose of maintaining white supremacy in the South. A Harding administration anti-lynching initiative fell prey to the filibuster back in the 20s. The Civil Rights Act of 1957 and the Civil Rights Act of 1960 both had to be largely gutted in order to surmount filibusters. And it was recollection of the filibuster’s specific role as a bastion of white supremacy that led to the bipartisan effort to reform the filibuster in 1975 when northern liberal Democrats teamed up with the Ford administration and many Republicans to cut the cloture threshold to 60.

The institution has always been pernicious, just as the malapportionment of the Senate has always been the result of a hardball political negotiation rather than expressing some underlying good idea about the design of political institutions. Part of what makes the filibuster a bad idea is that it’s viability depends on minority party restraint. But the nature of human psychology is to create a procedural downward spiral in which each time there’s a change of partisan control, the new minority steps-up its obstruction.

Think Progress: Tea Party profiteer downplays Bush’s fiscal mess before throwing him under the bus.

Judson Phillips, the profiteer behind Tea Party Nation and the National Tea Party Convention, which begins today, appeared on CNN yesterday to promote the gathering. Host Rick Sanchez challenged Phillip’s claim that big government spending “started” under President Obama, leading Phillips to, at first, defend President Bush’s legacy by grossly underestimating the deficit Bush created. When Sanchez corrected Phillips, he quickly pivoted to attacking the former president, before concluding that it “doesn’t matter” what Bush did:

PHILLIPS: What got the Tea Party movement going is just the absolute sheer magnitude of the spending and what will ultimately come as the tax increases that started with this administration. You know when the Bush administration was wrapping things up, I think the deficit was something like $160 billion, some number like that

SANCHEZ: No, no, I think I can help you there. $1.2 trillion.

PHILLIPS: That was not the — that includes all the Obama spending.

SANCHEZ: No sir, no sir, no sir. Let’s do this together and fairly, George Bush left Obama a deficit of $1.2 trillion. Fact. [...]

PHILLIPS: Well, I’m not — you know, the Tea Party movement does not defend George W. Bush. George W Bush is not exactly one of my favorite people. There’s a whole of things that George W. Bush did that I don’t agree with. But it doesn’t matter whether we like Bush, don’t like Bush — think whatever we think, Bush is not president, Obama is.

Watch it:

As the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) notes, “Obama largely inherited today’s huge deficits” — it estimates Obama inherited $1.4 trillion from Bush. The Bush tax cuts alone will contribute $3.4 trillion to the deficit through 2019 while the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan under Bush alone have cost another $1.1 trillion. This CBPP chart demonstrates that the bulk of the deficit was driven by Bush policies:


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