Monday, March 8, 2010

Lying Scary Liars

Booman: Add Your Caption
Obama with, from left, Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Mona Sutphen, White House Counsel Bob Bauer, and Director of the Office of Health Reform Nancy-Ann DeParle in the Oval Office, Feb. 12, 2010, reacting to the idea that they might compromise some more and actually win some Republican votes for health care reform.

No seriously, I just made that up. I don't know what they're laughing about. I just know that they look a lot better than John McCain, Sarah Palin, and whoever they would have selected to be part of their team.

But, hey, make your own caption. Who are they talking to? Orrin Hatch?

Sudbay: EJ Dionne called out Orrin Hatch's lie while sitting next to Orrin Hatch

There was a great exchange between Orrin Hatch and E.J. Dionne on "Meet the Press" yesterday. Well, it was great for Dionne, not Hatch. Last week, Dionne wrote a column challenging the lies in Hatch's op-ed about reconciliation. Then, Dionne did it right to Hatch's face:

Joan Walsh:

I predicted Wednesday that Republicans and the mainstream media would soon have a new but typically simplistic partisan line: that recent scandals involving Democratic Reps. Eric Massa and Charlie Rangel and New York Gov. David Paterson would make 2010 what 2006 was for Republicans -- the year voters punished the party for its corruption. Throw in oldies but goodies like former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, both Democrats, and I foresaw an avalanche of 2006-2010 comparisons. And I was right.

Before I attack that false equivalence, let me make clear: I'm not defending these Democrats.

Drew Westen:

To his credit, the president pushed through a stimulus bill that prevented us from falling off the cliff. But he refused, as FDR had done, to brand the crisis that had occurred as the direct result of Republican ideology and governance. He refused to explain to the American people why deficit spending in times of a crashing downward spiral is a virtue and not a vice. And he refused to call out -- let alone even answer -- Republican politicians attacking him from his first days of office for deficit spending, although they had just created as much debt in 8 years as in the previous 200-plus with enormous tax breaks for the wealthy and a trillion dollar war "off the books," neither of which they even considered paying for. As a result, he got little credit for having prevented another Great Depression, and now there are two competing narratives, that the stimulus saved us and that it was a waste of taxpayers' money.

  • DemFromCT adds:
    FDR didn't contend with political foes with their own cable network and credulous he said, she said stenographers.
I have to admit, I didn't really expect to see so many Republican leaders respond with contrition to the flap surrounding the so-called "fear-gate" controversy.

Last week, a Republican National Committee fundraising presentation was leaked, and immediately became a headache for the party. The RNC's message -- filled with donor insults, offensive caricatures, and an admission that the party will rely on little more than "fear" -- has already put many Republican officials on the defensive. It's even driving donors away.

The subject came up during the Sunday shows, and GOP lawmakers continued to distance themselves from the controversial party materials.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blasted the Republican National Committee on Sunday for producing a fundraising presentation that mocked the President and congressional leadership as cartoon villains and socialists.

Asked about the document -- which outlines how "ego-driven" wealthy donors could be persuaded to take out their checkbooks -- the Kentucky Republican called it "certainly not helpful" to the Republican cause.

"I can't imagine why anybody would have thought that was helpful," McConnell added. "Typically the way parties raise money is because people believe in the causes they advocate. I think the way we raise money from donors across America is to stand for things that are important for the country."

McConnell dodged a question about whether anyone at the RNC should lose their jobs over this, but he added, "I don't like it and I don't know anybody else who does."

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) added, "There is no excuse for that type of stuff." When Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) offered some tepid praise for the underlying message of the RNC materials, his office soon after issued a statement describing the presentation as "juvenile and insulting."

What I find most interesting about this is the fact that Republicans actually seem rather embarrassed. That's an exceedingly rare sight. Generally, Republicans -- at the RNC, in Congress, or both -- will say or do something completely indefensible, and when Dems try to raise a fuss, the party shrugs its shoulders and says, "So?" No matter what the circumstances, Republicans generally reject the very idea of remorse.

But this "fear-gate" controversy is apparently proving to be unspinnable, perhaps because it includes insulting comments about GOP donors.

It's astounding, but in the midst of an unemployment crisis, prominent Republicans continue to castigate those struggling to find jobs.

Yesterday, for example, disgraced former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) argued that unemployment benefits are a bad idea, because, as he sees it, they discourage people from entering the work force.

"You know," DeLay said, "there is an argument to be made that these extensions of these unemployment benefits keeps people from going and finding jobs." When CNN's Candy Crowley described his argument as "a hard sell" to the public, DeLay replied, "It's the truth."

Crowley followed up, asking, "People are unemployed because they want to be?" DeLay again said, "Well, it is the truth."

When it comes to Republicans condemning the unemployed, there seems to be something of a trend of late. Two weeks ago, Rep. Dean Heller (R) of Nevada expressed concern that the government is "creating hobos" by extending unemployment benefits. Around the same time, Rep. Steve King, a right-wing Republican from Iowa, explained his opposition to extended unemployment benefits: "We shouldn't turn the 'safety net' into a hammock."

Last week, Senate Minority Jon Kyl of Arizona, the Senate's #2 Republican, argued that unemployment benefits dissuade people from job-hunting "because people are being paid even though they're not working." And this, of course, coincided with Sen. Jim Bunning's (R-Ky.) crusade against extending benefits.

As a matter of economics, the GOP argument is absurd: "[W]hen the economy is deeply depressed, extending unemployment benefits not only helps those in need, it also reduces unemployment. That's because the economy's problem right now is lack of sufficient demand, and cash-strapped unemployed workers are likely to spend their benefits. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office says that aid to the unemployed is one of the most effective forms of economic stimulus, as measured by jobs created per dollar of outlay."

As a matter of conscience, having prominent Republicans chastise those struggling to find work during an unemployment crisis is just callous and cruel.

And as a matter of politics, who, exactly, is going to be impressed by Republicans attacking the unemployed as lazy? Since when is "screw struggling families, let's worry about corporate tax cuts and the estate tax" an effective election-year message during difficult economic times?

Joe Sudbay:
The pressure is on to pass the health insurance reform bill. This morning, the President is heading to suburban Philadelphia to make a pitch for the plan. Later this week, he's heading to St. Louis to do the same thing.

House leaders are counting the votes to see if they can pass the Senate bill. Then, the fixes will come through reconciliation. But, expect to keep hearing the GOPers lie about the reconciliation process. Lindsey Graham lied yesterday on "Face the Nation." You'd think with all the talk about Karl Rove's new book that some in the traditional media might recall how he trained the Republican Party to lie. He knew that reporters and pundits were patsies who would never call call them liars. But, the reconciliation lie is so easy to disprove. Think Bush tax cuts.

So, it should be another interesting political week. Never a dull moment. Rarely a gratifying moment anymore, but never dull....
John Cole: Jon Chait is Shrill

More of this, please:

Jesus Christ, Mike Allen, Reconciliation Is NOT THAT COMPLICATED

When I read the op-ed, I figured it had to be totally redundant. What sentient being who’s following this closely could not understand it by now? I give you Politico’s Mike Allen, writing Saturday:

    When Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) made this confusing argument last week on “Face the Nation,” we weren’t sure he was being deliberately disingenuous. It was, in fact, spin. Now, he’s made the same case in a similarly obtuse WashPost op-ed, “Reconciliation is not an option for health-care reform.” Don’t misread it: It’s an Alice-in-Wonderland argument FOR the use of reconciliation as part of the recipe for getting comprehensive health reform to the president’s desk

Confusing? Obtuse? Does Conrad need to stop by Politico’s offices with a picture book and some finger puppets? I understand perfectly well how intelligent people who don’t follow this debate closely might not catch on to the distinction. But this is what Mike Allen does all day—and, as I understand it, much of the night and the wee hours of the morning as well. How can anybody still not understand this? I’m at a loss here. Look, there’s an endless list of topics I don’t understand at all. I went through an entire semester of pre-Calculus in high school and was never able to understand what a function is. I still don’t. It’s a complicated subject and I was a lazy student. But this reconciliation distinction is easy, and Mike Allen is (legendarily) not lazy. So, what the hell is going on here?

Mike Allen, dishonest right-wing hack, or complete moron?

I vote both. And how much better would our media be if everytime someone was as bad as Allen, someone like Chait would call them on it?

  • from the comments:


    Hmm, looks like his dad, Gary Allen, was also a George Wallace speechwriter. Those were some hateful speeches.

    It also appears someone has been messing with Mike’s wiki page again:

    Michael Allen (1964-) is the chief political stenographer for The Politico.
Ezra Klein: Your procedural workarounds in charts
This is the best chart summarizing the history of the reconciliation process. That would be true, I think, even if there were other charts summarizing the history of the reconciliation process.
I really wonder how much longer the Post will allow Ezra to kneecap their op-ed "stars." He's not in the least shy about doing it, and rarely subtle when he does.
Ezra Klein: Can't judge a policy by its price tag

This argument from Charles Krauthammer is really very weird:

The final act was carefully choreographed. The rollout began a week earlier with a couple of shows of bipartisanship: a Feb. 25 Blair House "summit" with Republicans, followed five days later with a few concessions tossed the Republicans' way.

Show is the operative noun. Among the few Republican suggestions President Obama pretended to incorporate was tort reform. What did he suggest to address the plague of defensive medicine that a Massachusetts Medical Society study showed leads to about 25 percent of doctor referrals, tests and procedures being done for no medical reason? A few ridiculously insignificant demonstration projects amounting to one-half of one-hundredth of 1 percent of the cost of his health-care bill.

Reasonable people can disagree with whether state-run demonstration projects are the best way to figure out an effective medical malpractice system (they can also disagree with Krauthammer's number, which is eye-poppingly high, and bears no relationship to the demonstrated gains from tort reform. Many states have imposed harsh tort reforms and their medical system is barely any different. Texas is one of those states, yet McAllen is the national poster child for unnecessary care).

But whatever tort reform you attempt, it's not going to be expensive. Tort reform is a series of regulations that change the way lawsuits are handled. Saying that the experiments come to only "one-half of one-hundredth of 1 percent of the cost of his health-care bill" is saying exactly nothing about them. If they made all malpractice lawsuits illegal, they'd actually have a negative cost to the federal government, but by Krauthammer's logic, they'd be a total slap in the face to reform advocates.

Think Progress: Graham Falsely Claims GOP Has Only Used Reconciliation With ‘Bipartisan Support’

With President Obama endorsing the use of the budget reconciliation process in the Senate to finish health care reform, Republicans have flown into overdrive to discredit the simple majority procedural tool. Use of reconciliation would be “ripping a piece of the fabric of America off,” said Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) on Saturday.

On CBS News’ Face The Nation today, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) declared that use of reconciliation “would be catastrophic.” Sensitive to charges of hypocrisy over the fact that Republicans have pushed legislation through the reconciliation process more often than Democrats have, Graham claimed that every time the GOP used reconciliation the bills “received bipartisan support”:

GRAHAM: Well, reconciliation will be used to clean up the Senate bill to make House members happy. House members are going to vote for the Senate bill and they hate it. And the Senate and the president saying, OK, we’re going to change what you don’t like.

And when it comes to the Republicans, you all don’t matter anymore. You just need a simple majority. So reconciliation will empower a bill that was very partisan. We’ve had reconciliation votes, but all of them had received bipartisan support. The least was 12 when we did reconciliation with tax cuts.

Watch it:

Graham’s claim that “the least” amount of Democratic votes a GOP reconciliation bill received “was 12″ is flat out false. As The Wonk Room’s Igor Volsky has detailed, during the Bush presidency, the Republican-controlled Senate passed three reconciliation bills with three or less Democratic votes. The 2003 Bush tax cuts were supported by only two Democrats and needed Vice President Dick Cheney’s tie-breaking vote to pass:

Vote Count Bipartisan support?
College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007*
79-12-9 Yes, although all 12 voting against it were Republicans
Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005* 54-44-2 3 Democrats (Nelson (D-NE), Nelson (D-FL), Pryor (D-AR)) voted for it
Deficit Reduction Act of 2005* 52-47 2 Democrats (Landrieu (D-LA) and Nelson (D-NE))
Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003* 50-50 2 Democrats (Nelson (D-NE) and Miller (D-GA)) voted for it
Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001* 58-33-2-7 Yes
Marriage Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2000* 60-34-5 Yes
Taxpayer Refund and Relief Act of 1999* 50-49 Yes, 3 Democrats (Breaux (D-LA), Landrieu (D-LA), Torricelli (D-NJ)) voted for it
Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 92-8 Yes
Balanced Budget Act of 1997* 85-15 Yes
Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act* 74-24-2 Yes
Balanced Budget Act of 1995* 52-47 Yes
Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 49-49-2 No
Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990* 54-46 Yes
Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1989* 87-7-6 Yes

In 2005, Graham voted for two of the reconciliation bills that passed with three or fewer Democratic votes, the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005 and the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005.

Elliott (TPM): GOP Rep Runs Taxpayer-Funded Campaign-Style Ads On 'Out Of Control Spending'

Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) is running campaign-style Web ads for a "tele-town hall" on "out of control spending" that are financed by taxpayer dollars -- and the ads were OKed as permissible under House rules.

The ads, which you can check out one version of below, are set on an American flag background and include a red-white-and-blue button that reads "Congressman."

The words "OUT OF CONTROL SPENDING" appear in large white letters on a blue background. The ads include a note saying they are paid for by official funds.

They were approved by the Committee on House Administration, which is in charge of authorizing spending by members, according to Roskam Communications Director Dan Conston. (See the approval letter here.)

"Clearly out of control spending and our massive national debt are relevant to our constituents," Conston tells TPMmuckraker.

Conston says Roskam's office has bought Google ads for the last four or five tele-town halls conducted by the congressman. "We find it very valuable that we are reaching non traditional voters -- really disenfranchised voters, specifically younger voters," he says.

Here's one version of the ad:

In tele-town halls, which have been used by multiple members of congress, a company is hired which calls thousands of households for what is essentially a mega-conference call. Those who pick up the phone can listen to the congressman talking about the issue at hand, and press a button to offer a question.

In Roskam's case, the calls typically go out to just under 100,000 households.
He has done over 25 such calls since taking office in 2007. Roskam, who represents Illinois' 6th district, has been called a "rising star" in the GOP caucus and is heavily favored to win reelection in the fall.

Under House ethics rules, members may hold town halls one of two ways: either "arranged, promoted, and put on entirely or almost entirely using official allowances" or "as political events, organized and funded by their campaigns."

According to Attorney Stan Brand, who was previously general counsel to the House, a taxpayer-funded town hall would only be in violation of House rules if it was explicitly campaign-related.

Last week, Liz Cheney's right-wing vehicle, "Keep America Safe," launched a pretty disgusting smear against nine Justice Department attorneys. The group includes lawyers working in the Department of Justice who fought the Bush administration's treatment of suspected terrorists as unconstitutional.

The vile attacks from Cheney and her cohorts seek to characterize the attorneys -- who actually deserve the nation's thanks -- as terrorist-sympathizing traitors. Keep America Safe's scurrilous ad asks about the lawyers, "Whose values do they share?"

Last week, Cheney's efforts faced some pushback from the left and right. Fortunately, the blowback from across the legal establishment is getting more forceful and organized.

A group that includes leading conservative lawyers and policy experts, former Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr and several senior officials of the last Bush Administration, is denouncing as "shameful" Republican attacks on lawyers who came to the Obama Justice Department after representing suspected terrorists. [...]

"We consider these attacks both unjust to the individuals in question and destructive of any attempt to build lasting mechanisms for counterterrorism adjudications," wrote the 19 lawyers whose names were attached to the statement as of early Monday.

The statement cited John Adams's defense of British soldiers charged in the Boston Massacre to argue that "zealous representation of unpopular clients" is an important American tradition.

The attacks on the lawyers "undermine the Justice system more broadly," they wrote, by "delegitimizing" any system in which accused terrorists have lawyers, whether civilian courts of military tribunals.

That some of the signatories are Bush administration attorneys who went up against these lawyers in court gives the argument that much more credibility.

In the larger context, Adam Serwer explains why this matters so much: "The reason for the backlash is that the attack on the so-called Gitmo Nine or al-Qaeda Seven wasn't just an attack on a handful of liberal lawyers, it was an attack on the American system of justice, suggesting that certain classes of people aren't entitled to robust legal representation and that those who chose to represent them in order to ensure due process are America's enemies. If anyone can be denied due process, than all of us can be denied due process. The people at KAS, for whatever reason, are incapable of looking beyond their political self-interest and are willing to cannibalize the very institutions of American democracy in order to gain political ground against their political targets."

No comments:

Post a Comment