Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Plain and Simple Truth

QOTD, John Aravosis:
Every day is Waco is for these guys. And people fall for it. Democrats need to learn to fight back accordingly. That doesn't mean we lie. It does mean we stop treating every battle like an intellectual exercise where the best man naturally wins. The worst men and women keep winning on the Republican side, and we need to figure out as a party how to block them and stop them.

If you have some time this morning, I'd recommend taking a few minutes to watch this fairly devastating segment from last night's Rachel Maddow's show. It emphasizes a point that I've been pushing quite a bit -- as Republican lawmakers reject ideas they support, reason has lost all meaning, and the GOP's descent into madness is nearly complete.

The segment highlights the ways in which Republicans loved their idea for a deficit commission, until President Obama endorsed it at which point the GOP rejected their own proposal. The same is true of cap-and-trade. And PAYGO. And the financial industry bailout. And trying accused terrorists in U.S. courts. The same Republicans who said the stimulus "failed" also say that the stimulus is absolutely fantastic -- so long as the money is going to their state/district.

"What Republicans are doing on policy is no longer interesting," Rachel explained. "It is so thoroughly, unrelentingly, consistently predictable, that anyone who thinks it's an open question as to what Republicans are going to do about the next legislation that's proposed just is not paying attention."

Rachel ended the segment explaining exactly why all of this matters: "Republicans, right now, do not care about policy -- by which I mean, they will not vote for things that even they admit are good policies. On policy terms they have been caught bragging on the stimulus as good policy. I have no doubt that some of them think that health reform is good policy. We know they think that things like a deficit commission or cap-and-trade or PAYGO are good policy, because they're on the record supporting them.

"But they're not going to vote for them because ... screw Policy. Screw what even they believe is good for the country. Screw what even they believe is good for their own districts. They are not voting 'yes,' for even things they agree with. For anything substantive. They are not going to vote 'yes' for anything substantive that this president supports. It's not going to happen.

"You're not going to earn Republican votes for a second stimulus, for example, by pointing out that it's good policy that creates jobs. We know they already know that. They concede that in their home districts. And they're still not voting for it.

"And they are unembarrassed about this fact. They are not embarrassed. Charging them with hypocrisy, appealing to their better, more practical, more 'what's best for the country' patriotic angels is like trying to teach your dog to drive. It wastes a lot of time, it won't work, and ultimately the dog comes out of the exercise less embarrassed for failing then you do for trying."

  • Joe Sudbay adds:
    This is Rachel at her best. Most of the traditional media types just accept the GOP talking points and criticisms of Obama without question. But, it's quite stunning how many of them are hypocrites -- saying one thing one day, something else the next. These are the people with whom the White House wants to work in a bipartisan manner. Right.
And I guess winter proves summer doesn't exist. What's amazing is how the right-wing relies on anti-intellectual arguments to convince people of their misinformation, and it works. Unfortunately, people are gullible. Death panels. Socialists in the White House! Obama is the most radical president ever (compared to a turnip). Tax cuts cure everything. The stimulus didn't create one job. Banning (some) pre-existing conditions is a government takeover.

Every day is Waco is for these guys. And people fall for it. Democrats need to learn to fight back accordingly. That doesn't mean we lie. It does mean we stop treating every battle like an intellectual exercise where the best man naturally wins. The worst men and women keep winning on the Republican side, and we need to figure out as a party how to block them and stop them.

Update: White House press sec Robert Gibbs just got in touch to confirm that there was an exchange and to clarify a key point. His comments are below.

At the private White House meeting today between Obama and Congressional leaders, the President and John Boehner got into a testy exchange, aides say, with Obama charging that the GOP is just out to kill all his initiatives.

According to aides familiar with the discussion, Boehner made the case that long-term concern over Dem policies — health care, cap and trade — was leading to uncertainty in the private sector, damaging job creation efforts. Boehner said the only way to get the economy moving again is to put these issues behind us.

That apparently irked the President, aides say, who accused Boehner of just wanting to kill all his initiatives. Boehner shot back that this was false, that Republicans are serious about bipartisan cooperation.

That prompted the President to push back again, aides say, arguing that the White House isn’t getting enough credit for the part of the stimulus that boosts federal funding for state Medicaid programs, arguing it has had a positive effect on the economy.

The dispute also spilled over into a discussion of Obama’s proposal for a bipartisan fiscal commission on how to get control over the deficit.

Obama asked Boehner and Mitch McConnell if they were prepared to commit to appointing members to the commission. Boehner pushed back, aides say, arguing that if the White House is serious about cutting spending, he should should start now, and suggested Obama use his rescissions authority to send spending cut proposals to the Hill.

Boehner pledged GOP cooperation if Obama sent such proposals to Congress. But he and McConnell refused to commit to appointing members to the commission.

It’s gonna be a long year.


Update Robert Gibbs just got in touch to clarify a key nuance. He confirmed there was an exchange over Boehner’s insistence on more certainty for business. But he said it was a bit different than recounted above.

Gibbs said that Obama responded to Boehner’s point by saying the certainty businesses crave would best be achieved if Dems and Republicans prove that they are capable of working together, if they prove that Washington can be made to work. The President added that Republicans merely want Dems to pledge not to rock the boat and to do nothing on the big issues.

Boehner, Gibbs says, responded that this wasn’t his argument — that he did in fact want to “settle” these issues. The President replied that by all means, these issues should be settled — by Dems and Republicans working to solve them.

Gibbs confirmed that the exchange had an edge, though he said the testiest part occured in the back and forth over the debt commission. At any rate, it’s an interesting nuance.

Amato (C&L): Mark Sanford now begs for stimulus money after he said it would lead to slavery

Mark "Lover Boy" Sanford of South Carolina once called the stimulus "fiscal child abuse. Now he's flying to D.C. to beg for it.

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) waged a high-profile war against the economic stimulus package last spring, claiming that accepting the $700 million for which his state was eligible would lead to “a thing called slavery.” Even as his state’s unemployment rate climbed above the national average, Sanford maintained his partisan and politically motivated refusal to take the funds.

But yesterday, Sanford flew to Washington to demand $300 million in stimulus money for education, the State newspaper reports:

Sanford, who spent much of last year fighting parts of the Obama administration’s stimulus plan, now wants S.C. to have a piece of $4 billion in “Race to the Top” education money. [...]

Sanford met with [Secretary of Education Arne] Duncan to learn more about a charter school program Duncan started in Chicago, said Ben Fox, the governor’s spokesman. Sanford also took the trip to urge Duncan to support more charter school grants, Fox said. [...]

Sanford’s trip — which did not appear on his official calendar — is especially hypocritical because the majority of stimulus money destined for South Carolina was to fund education and save thousands of teachers’ jobs. Yet, in March, Sanford told Fox News host Glenn Beck that taking the money would be akin to “fiscal child abuse.”

This is typical conservative behavior. Attack a Democratic initiative relentlessly -- and then after you get your fifteen minutes of fame, change your mind because you know the media will never hold you accountable. Sanford actually had an extra 15 minutes of fame, thanks to his love of long hikes in the Appalachians Brazil.

* Tons to chew over in the new WaPoABC News poll. Key finding: GOP gains ground big time on major issues, significantly narrowing the gap with Obama on who Americans trust to handle the economy, health care, and the deficit.

* And: GOP has closed gap with Dems in generic ballot matchup.

* But: A big majority, 68%, says Republicans should use its newly-gained power in the Senate to block legislation only infrequently. Which will immediately cause GOP Senate leaders to undergo a tearful and wrenching gut-check moment…

* And: More Cheney/Palin fearmongering fail, as 56% percent approve of Obama’s handling of terror. In fact, the Cheney/Palin fail is so miserable that terrorism is the only issue where Obama hasn’t slipped.

* And: As always, the Obama/Dem health care proposal has only minority support, but the poll shows very strong majority support for its individual components.

* House-of-Lords megalomaniacal Senate moment of the day: Orrin Hatch calls on the President to respect the “will of the Senate” on the Craig Becker NLRB nomination — by listening to its 33 vote minority, rather than its 52 vote majority.

* National Dems heartily congratulate themselves for spreading oppo on one lone GOPer who may not even be a candidate, even as they can’t pass a health care bill and Republicans are catching up with them in the polls.

* Mitch McConnell says there’s only a “chance” that Senate Repubicans will back the jobs bill. Maybe time to schedule another bipartisan summit?

* Downer of the day: Dem Senator Jeff Bingaman says record snowfall in D.C. makes it more likely that climate change legislation won’t happen.

Steve Benen on REWARDING IDIOCY....
By most measures, Republicans have spent the last year acting like children -- reckless, disturbed children who fiddle with matches and take pleasure in playing in traffic.

For nearly 13 months, GOP officials on the Hill have engaged in unprecedented abuse of the political process, blocking good legislation, offering insane ideas to major national challenges, rejected their own ideas when embraced by Democrats, and generally being an embarrassment to themselves and the country.

Naturally, then, Republicans are making major gains in the polls.

There was a lot of noteworthy data in the new Washington Post/ABC News poll, much of it discouraging, but let's first highlight the numbers on health care, because some of the results were surprising.

Asked whether they support or oppose the Democratic health care reform plan, 46% approve of the proposal, while 49% do not. That's not great, but the numbers are pretty close to parity and the 46-49 split were the best since November. It's fair to say that reform at least isn't getting less popular, and may be starting to improve a bit.

Also note that clear majorities support provisions such as employer mandates, individual mandates, and a ban on discriminating against those with pre-existing conditions.


Of particular interest, though, was the question reflected in this chart. Respondents were asked, "Do you think lawmakers in Washington should keep trying to pass a comprehensive health care reform plan, or should give up on comprehensive health care reform?" A 63% majority want policymakers to keep trying. Among independents, the results were 56-39 in favor of perseverance.

At a minimum, that's something to build on. For some weak-kneed Democrats, there's obviously a temptation to run away from health care as quickly as possible. But even now, despite all that's occurred, the American mainstream clearly wants to see policymakers keep working towards getting a bill done.

Also note, the blame for the existing acrimony is falling squarely on the GOP. Poll respondents were asked whether the president is doing enough to compromise with Republicans, and a plurality believe Obama has been doing the right thing. When the same question was asked about the GOP, a 58% majority believe Republicans aren't doing enough to cooperate with the White House.

Even 44% of rank-and-file Republicans believe their own party's lawmakers should be doing more to work with the president.

We'll have more soon on other aspects of the poll, but on health care, these results aren't bad.

Republicans are hoping to use Obama’s big health care summit to pull the reform proposals to the political middle — or what they’re defining as the political middle, at any rate.

But House liberals have another idea: They hope to turn the summit into a last stand of sorts, a last ditch effort to use the intense media scrutiny the event will attract to force a public debate on the core liberal priorities they’ve long hoped to include in the final bill.

“This is our one big public oppportunity to say, `We shouldn’t write an obituary for the public option and for insurance reform,’” Rep Raul Grijalva, the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said in an interview with me this afternoon. “On the contrary, they should be revived and taken seriously.”

The focus is hardly just on the public option, whose death appears increasingly certain. Grijalva says he hopes the summit will provide an occasion to draw media attention to other liberal priorities: Closing the donut hole, repealing the insurance industry’s anti-trust exemption, and securing national exchanges, in addition to still trying to win some kind of “public mechanism.”

Grijalva says the idea is to “not let the progressive ideas get lost. There is still an agenda that is being ignored.”

Grijalva says he and other House liberals will be asking Nancy Pelosi and other leaders and attendees to use the summit to make an aggressive push for liberal reform ideas.

“Once we know who all the invitees are, we’ll extend that communication to all of them,” Grijalva says.

The worry is that a very public face off with Republicans will move the perceived “center” of the health care debate way further to the right than it is in the real world. House liberals appear determined to prevent that from happening.

Marshall: Simple Facts

The problem for the GOP congressional leadership on the Hill is that when you put the facts together it's clear that it didn't occur to them that anything to do with Abdulmutallab's handing was a problem until days later when Dick Cheney started gunning them up over the red herring of 'mirandizing' him.

So basically all the stuff about what Brennan told them or didn't tell them in that briefing is beside the point. They knew exactly how Abdulmutallab had been handled. And they didn't think it was a problem until days later when Dick Cheney told them it was. Then they went back and came up with a story about how if they only would have known they would have been screaming to high heaven.

We'll have more on this on Wednesday.

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