Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The New Black

To say that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) built his most recent persona -- the latest in a series -- around the notion of being a "maverick" would be a dramatic understatement. The "m" word was practically a verbal tick for McCain -- he'd use it constantly, whether it made sense or not, similar to the way Rudy Giuliani would mutter "9/11" at random moments throughout his day.

In 2008, McCain's television ads described him as "the original maverick." When McCain and Sarah Palin would routinely take different positions during their national campaign, aides insisted this was to be expected from "a couple of mavericks." A quick search of McCain's Senate website turns up several dozen references to the senator being a "maverick" -- in some cases, press releases, instead of quoting McCain by name, would simply note, "The Maverick said..." McCain's website for his Senate campaign does the same thing, using "McCain" and "Maverick" interchangeably, as if they were practically the same word.

The point, of course, was to create a McCain brand, of sorts, characterizing the conservative senator as the kind of politician who doesn't mind bucking his unpopular party from time to time.

That persona, however, no longer suits McCain's purposes. So, it's been scrapped.

Many of the GOP's most faithful, the kind who vote in primaries despite 115-degree heat, tired long ago of McCain the Maverick, the man who had crossed the aisle to work with Democrats on issues like immigration reform, global warming, and restricting campaign contributions. "Maverick" is a mantle McCain no longer claims; in fact, he now denies he ever was one. "I never considered myself a maverick," he told me.

I knew McCain was shameless. I knew he had few, if any, core beliefs. I knew he'd abandon any of his so-called principles at a moment's notice, and flip-flop on every imaginable area of public policy.

But I never thought I'd actually see McCain say, "I never considered myself a maverick."

It's as pathetic a political display as anything we've seen in quite a while. All of those political reporters who worshiped McCain circa 1999 should probably pause right about now, and appreciate the extent to which they fell for a con.

from the comments:

Maybe he'll get booked on a Sunday morning show so he can explain further.

Posted by: Stuck with "Big John" Cornyn on April 5, 2010 at 1:13 PM
Yglesias: Jindal Blackmails Louisiana AG Into Joining Lawsuit to Overturn the Affordable Care Act

A set of far-right academics, think tank types, and media figures have long promoted the idea that judges ought to throw out existing constitutional law and instead insist on using judicial review to essentially mandate libertarianism at the federal level. This has never been something that practical conservative politicians or actual conservative judges have been very interested in. But during the debate over the Affordable Care Act, the notion that the individual mandate was unconstitutional took hold in the conservative echo chamber. And right-wing media has become such a closed loop, that it’s now difficult for conservative politicians to do anything other than pretend to believe that this argument has some merit.

Thus far, however, the actual lawsuits leveled by state attorneys-general have all been by Republicans, giving the whole thing a partisan air. But my colleague Amanda Terkel points out that former rising star Bobby Jindal has devised a solution to the problem—blackmail:

In a subsequent address to employees of his office, the Attorney General said the decision was made more out of the necessity of saving jobs in his agency than any real hope—or desire—of overturning the health care law.

One employee said Caldwell, in a candid admission, claimed that a deal was made with Jindal. Under terms of that agreement, the governor would not make additional cuts in the attorney general’s budget if Caldwell joined in the litigation. Caldwell agreed to be the “token Democrat,” he said, so that he might save additional job cuts by an administration whose state goal is to reduce the number of state employees by as much as 5,000 per year over three years.

And now right-wing media will inform the right-wing audience that the lawsuit it bipartisan, making it even-more-difficult for right-wing politicians to avoid hopping on the bandwagon. This elite signaling will further convince people that the ACA is unconstitutional. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when this intellectual bubble is burst by contact with actual legal practice.

Marshall: Fly Like an Eagle

This article from Politico about the RNC's 'Young Eagle' program, the one that got them in trouble with the faux-lesbian bondage club, is truly hilarious and a must-read.

The upshot seems to be that a lot of young guys -- and yes, pretty much just guys, it seems -- with lots of money managed to do a lot of partying on the RNC's dime without sharing that many dimes with the RNC. Basically you could pay a relatively small sum in contributions -- a few thousand dollars or maybe less -- and then be okayed in to all the Young Eagles events, many of which cost a lot to put on. Obviously the way this is supposed to work is that you give these richies a lot of free stuff and they end up giving you back a whole lot more in political contributions. But apparently no one was watching the inflows and outflows very closely. Even funnier are the descriptions of just why the program is necessary and the pained laments of young rightwingers trying to make their way in a world as conservatives when all the cool stars they want to chill with are Democrats.

"Everything that's cool from a pop culture perspective is Democratic -- whether it's Kanye West or Bruce Springsteen -- and with younger conservatives, a good event is often a big way to help sell," said the former Young Eagle, who left the program in 2008. Traditional fundraising events such as golf and tennis outings don't quite cut it with young donors, he said. "How many times can you go to the U.S. Open?"

The Young Eagles are "a fun group," the former member said. "If you've got a little insecurity complex, but you've got money -- what a cool group to hang out with."

Reading this piece I found it hard to tell whether this was just a good way to blow a lot of money on events for rich kids who didn't actually give much money or some sort of nerd empowerment program gone terribly wrong.

DougJ: Tea is the new black

This rings true:

In a recent interview, Wolf said of the Tea Partiers, “They were stepping up to the plate, when my own liberal privileged fellow demographic habituates were lying around whining.” Liberals, she says, in words that sound like they belong on Sarah Palin’s Facebook page, have “a cultural problem with self-righteousness and elitism … We look down on people we don’t agree with. It doesn’t serve us well.”

Part of it is “authenticity, ” an idea with a weird appeal in recent American politics, especially for liberals. Many admired and trusted John McCain in 2000 and later, not because they agreed with him but because he seemed real, and his fits of ill temper made him even more appealing, until suddenly one day he just seemed like a tired Republican hack. Jesse Ventura, Arnold Schwarzenegger and briefly even Mike Huckabee had a similar appeal, while Mitt Romney suffers as their opposite. And there’s no doubt about the Tea Party movement on this point—they do say what’s on their minds. The appeal is also probably related to the inevitable let-down after the high energy of the 2008 presidential campaign. As we settle into the dreary compromised reality of actual governance, we need a hit of the intensity and passion of 2008—there’s only one place to find it, even if that place is a wholly owned subsidiary of a Republican lobbying operation.

And finally, it may be that, now that even the New York Times has recognized that “identity politics” is not a liberal vice, but today involves the special claims of white American identity against the complex and diverse actual country (a point this magazine made two years ago), finding allies among Tea Partiers is the equivalent of what finding a black friend was to liberals in the 1960s. It’s a way to get in touch with the real America, to feel a little superior, a little less elitist or isolated, less wimpy, less conformist.

I am so fucking sick of the authenticity thing. What exactly makes a welfare-supported retiree with a misspelled sign about “exremism” more authentic than a union worker calling his Congressmen to support health care reform?

But you already know the answer: being well-informed and reasonable is a sign that you are out of touch, regardless of your income, educational level, age, gender, or race.

  • from the comments:


    What exactly makes a welfare-supported retiree with a misspelled sign about “exremism” more authentic than a union worker calling his Congressmen to support health care reform?

    Self awareness. They are Adam and Eve before they ate from the tree and realized they were naked. You shall know them by their misspelled signs! “This authenticity thing” is old hat to me. My generation of hipster has always been somewhat in thrall to the authentic, which is why we love old diners, but not fake old diners, dive bars, but not fake dive bars. The beauty part? Authentic people don’t see the difference between the old diners and the fake old diners, but probably like the latter better because all the stuff is newer.

    And the hipsters of my generation also hate going into the authentic places and seeing nothing but other hipsters. At that point it’s “ruined”. Also.

Life-long Republican Chris Currey has a thoughtful piece over at David Frum's place, explaining his belief that his party has lost its mind. Currey doesn't exactly break new ground -- his fears and concerns will no doubt seem familiar to most who keep up with current events -- but his piece is worth reading anyway.

I am an old Republican. I am religious, yet not a fanatic. I am a free-marketer; yet, I believe in the role of the government as a fair evenhanded referee. I am socially conservative; yet, I believe that my lesbian niece and my gay grandchild should have the full protection of the law and live as free Americans enjoying every aspect of our society with no prejudices and/or restrictions. Nowadays, my political and socio-economic profile would make me a Marxist, not a Republican.

I grew up in an era where William F. Buckley fought the John Birch society and kicked them out of the Republican Party. I grew up with -- in fact voted for the first time for -- Eisenhower. In 1956, he ran a campaign of dignity. A campaign that acknowledged that there are certain projects better suited to be handled by the government. See, business thinks in the short term, as he said. That's the imperative of the marketplace. I invest and I expect that in a few quarters, I garner the fruits of my investment. Government, on the other hand, has the luxury to wait a few years, maybe decades, for a return on a given investment. As a former businessman, I know that first hand. Am I a Marxist for thinking that?

Probably, at least as far as today's Republican base is concerned.

Currey, like Northern Republicans from a half-century ago, applauded the passage of the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act. He opposed Medicare at the time, but has since come to recognize its importance to society. He voted for Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, and Bush, and doesn't feel as if his values or priorities have changed.

Then something happened in the 1990s. The leaders of the GOP grew belligerent. They became too religious, almost zealots. They became intolerant. They began searching for purity in Republican thought and doctrine. Ideology blinded them. I continued to vote Republican, but with a certain unease. Deep down I knew that a schism happened between the modern Republican Party and the one I grew up with. During the fight over the impeachment of President Clinton, the ugly face of the Republican Party was brought to the surface. Empty rhetoric, ideological intolerance, vengeance, and religious zealotry became the common currency. [...]

Recently, since the election of Barack Obama, common sense has left the Republican Party completely. We are in the era of craziness.... We shrank [the party] when we sanctified Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck, and canonized Sarah Palin. These are the leaders of my party nowadays. How did we go from William F. Buckley to Glenn Beck? How did we go from Eisenhower and Nixon to Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann? I do not know.... I do not recognize myself in the Republican Party anymore.

I, not surprisingly, find all of this quite compelling. But it also reinforces my biggest concern about the midterm elections.

When a party becomes as radical and irresponsible as the Republican Party of 2010 has become, the only way to bring it to its senses is for it to suffer electoral humiliation. The GOP went sharply to the right after the 2004 elections, and it lost in 2006. Republicans then went even further to the right, and lost in 2008. In response, they went even further still to the right.

If 2010 is an electoral bonanza for the GOP, the party will assume that the way a party wins elections is to have its members become stark raving mad. If 2010 is another humiliating failure for the GOP, the party may be more inclined to identify their most ridiculous and dangerous habits, and consider where they went wrong.

Republicans appear to have lost Chris Currey, and with good reason. But unless Currey has a lot of like-minded friends voting in November, the party won't bother to try and get him back.

Aravosis: Reid mocks Palin

Well that's not going to win him any friends among the teabaggers :-)

"I was going to give a few remarks on the people who were over here a week ago Saturday," Reid said in a video posted by Fox News anchor Greta Van Susteren, "but I couldn't find it written all over my hands.

"You betcha," Reid added to supporters' laughter, mimicking one of Palin's trademark slogans.
Drum: Coffee Conservatives

A few days ago I heard the term "coffee conservative" for the first time. I didn't get it until it was explained to me. And now, here's the Raleigh News & Observer to explain it for the rest of us:

To join the Coffee Party in Raleigh, you can't be a screamer, a name-caller, a loud-mouthed zealot or somebody whose idea of politics translates to jabbing a sign in the air, red in the face. All you need are some manners, a good listening ear and a caffeine jones.

Inside a month, this politeness-first political movement has jumped from one meeting at the Hillsborough Street Cup A Joe to five coffee chats scattered across the Triangle. Nationwide, the Coffee Party USA has drawn nearly 200,000 supporters, sipping java and talking turkey in 47 states.

A coffee conservative, then, is a conservative who's not a tea partier. Someone who remains interested in actual policy and doesn't feel the urge to rant tirelessly about decline of the west and the imminent tyranny that Barack Obama is bringing down on us. It's your phrase of the day.

GOP enacts pre-emptive outrage on SCOTUS
April 5: Senator Amy Klobuchar, wise Slovenian, talks with Rachel Maddow about early speculation about an opening on the Supreme Court and the Republican threat of a filibuster before any candidate has even been mentioned.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Beutler: Bunning Blames GOP Blockage Of Unemployment Benefits Extension On Democrats

Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) is the trendsetter in the GOP for blocking temporary extensions of unemployment benefits. Early in March, he blocked Democrats' efforts to temporarily extend unemployment insurance benefits and COBRA subsidies for several days, before finally relenting. Then, before the Senate adjourned for Easter recess just over a week ago, he backed a similar effort spearheaded by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK). That effort has caused benefits to dry up, with unemployment still over 9 percent.

Now, Bunning says the whole thing is Democrats' fault.

"Before the Senate adjourned for the Easter Recess, Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats had agreed to pass a one-week extension of unemployment benefits that was fully paid for," reads an official statement from Bunning.

Unfortunately, the House Democrat leadership said no, and then Congress left town knowing the benefits would expire. Earlier, Senate Democrats voted to kill a one-month extension that was fully offset and did not add to the deficit.
We could have stayed in Washington to resolve the issue and see that these benefits are extended and paid for, but it seems the Democrats thought it was more important to catch their planes. I am disappointed that the Democrats continue to play political games to avoid paying for these benefits that are so important to the many struggling families across our nation who rely on them to make ends meet while they search for work. Clearly, the Democrats don't want to help the unemployed unless they can increase the deficit while they're doing it.

Bunning is correct to say that, citing the ongoing recession, Democrats rejected the GOP's proposal to pay for a temporary extension with stimulus funds. But the Republicans using the Senate rules to hold up the extension are doing so despite the fact that a large majority in the Senate favors extending these benefits, regardless of whether they're paid for. The first time around GOPers objected to an emergency extension 11 times. This last time, they objected five times.

In response, Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid whacks Bunning by name. "Another classic release from Senator Bunning," Manley tells me. "Families across the country are struggling to make ends meet yet he continues to demand that an emergency extension of unemployment benefits be paid for. What in the world does he have against the working men and women of this country. His actions are inexcusable and irresponsible."

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