Sunday, September 12, 2010

Three from Steve.

Three from Steven Benen.

Obama Derangement Syndrome can take some strange people to some strange places. Disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), in all his pseudo-intellectual glory, has become so enveloped in his own garbage, he appears to have suffered some kind of severe head trauma.

Gingrich's trip to Crazy Town began quite a while, but in recent months, his unbridled hatred of the president has pushed him to the point of sputtering, incoherent rage. Earlier in this summer, Gingrich insisted that Obama and his allies represent "as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did."

Ol' Newt seems to be getting more worked up as time goes on.

Citing a recent Forbes article by Dinesh D'Souza, former House speaker Newt Gingrich tells National Review Online that President Obama may follow a "Kenyan, anti-colonial" worldview.

Gingrich says that D'Souza has made a "stunning insight" into Obama's behavior -- the "most profound insight I have read in the last six years about Barack Obama."

"What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]?" Gingrich asks. "That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior."

"This is a person who is fundamentally out of touch with how the world works, who happened to have played a wonderful con, as a result of which he is now president," Gingrich tells us.

"I think he worked very hard at being a person who is normal, reasonable, moderate, bipartisan, transparent, accommodating -- none of which was true," Gingrich continues. "In the Alinksy tradition, he was being the person he needed to be in order to achieve the position he needed to achieve . . . He was authentically dishonest."

Gingrich appears to have been inspired by D'Souza, perhaps best known for writing an entire book arguing that terrorists are right about the problems with American culture. Osama bin Laden and other dangerous Islamic radicals believe the U.S. is too secular, too permissive, too diverse, too free, and too tolerant -- and D'Souza concluded that they're absolutely correct. Indeed, D'Souza went so far as to argue that liberal Americans are at least partially to blame for 9/11 -- the left invited the attacks by reinforcing the beliefs al Qaeda had about the United States.

In one particularly memorable episode of "The Colbert Report," D'Souza conceded that he finds some of the critiques from radical, anti-American extremists persuasive.

And now that D'Souza has crafted some new twisted theory -- the president, the argument goes, is executing an anti-colonial agenda pushed by his father -- Gingrich's twisted little mind has concluded that the "Kenyan, anti-colonial" worldview makes perfect sense.

I care about this, not because Gingrich is a lunatic, but because Republicans and the media establishment continue to treat Gingrich as a sane, credible visionary. I think it's fair to say most reasonable people would charitably describe his attacks on America's leaders as idiocy, but the problem is, it won't make any difference.

Given the way the political establishment is "wired" for Republicans, there simply aren't any consequences for this kind of abject stupidity. In the first year of the Obama administration, the most frequent guest on "Meet the Press" was Newt Gingrich. Despite having left office more than a decade ago in disgrace, he remains a leading figure welcome in polite society.

There's literally nothing the man can say to lose his platform to spew nonsense.
Depending on one's perspective, there was very likely an event honoring the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks yesterday offering an appealing message. There was, for example, a ceremony at the Pentagon, where President Obama appealed to American ideals.

"[T]he highest honor we can pay those we lost, indeed our greatest weapon in this ongoing war, is to do what our adversaries fear the most -- to stay true to who we are, as Americans; to renew our sense of common purpose; to say that we define the character of our country, and we will not let the acts of some small band of murderers who slaughter the innocent and cower in caves distort who we are. [...]

"Those who attacked us sought to demoralize us, divide us, to deprive us of the very unity, the very ideals, that make America America -- those qualities that have made us a beacon of freedom and hope to billions around the world. Today we declare once more we will never hand them that victory. As Americans, we will keep alive the virtues and values that make us who we are and who we must always be.

"For our cause is just. Our spirit is strong. Our resolve is unwavering."

About 200 miles north, one could hear a very different message.

In downtown Manhattan today, about 1,500 people gathered to protest the planned Park51 Islamic center near Ground Zero. Speakers assured the crowd that it's not that they're intolerant, because this isn't about tolerance, exactly -- but so what if it is, because Islam is intolerant? Or something. [...]

Ralliers carried signs like "No Bloomosque, No Obamosque, No Victory Mosque," and frequently broke out into chants of "No more mosque," "No-Bama," and even "USA."

Unhinged conservatives will do what unhinged conservatives do, and their pro-hate message is neither new nor interesting. What did some relevant, however, was just how small the size of the right-wing crowd turned out to be. Jillian Rayfield's TPM report quoted local law enforcement, which put the figure at 1,500. The NYT had a slightly higher estimate at 2,000. (When Fox News tells viewers 17 gajillion people were there, please be skeptical.)

As offensive as the rally was, the modest turnout is heartening. Organizers intended to bus people in from across the country, to take a bold stand on 9/11 against Muslims, the White House, religious liberty, and the conversion of closed clothing stores. Organizers also had plenty of leading hateful figures speaking to attendees, to help boost attendance.

And in the largest city in the country, they managed to maybe pull 2,000 people together.

John Boehner first gained national notoriety in 1996, when the chain-smoking conservative congressman, shortly before a key vote, walked the House floor distributing checks from tobacco industry lobbyists. Boehner, an up-and-coming member of the GOP leadership at the time, later acknowledged that his money-distribution scheme didn't "look good."

But that didn't stop the Ohio Republican from forging close, almost inseparable, connections to Washington's lobbyists. As Americans just start getting to know the dim-witted man who's likely to be the next House Speaker, perhaps no trait is more important to Boehner's persona than his love of lobbyists.

He maintains especially tight ties with a circle of lobbyists and former aides representing some of the nation's biggest businesses, including Goldman Sachs, Google, Citigroup, R. J. Reynolds, MillerCoors and UPS.

They have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to his campaigns, provided him with rides on their corporate jets, socialized with him at luxury golf resorts and waterfront bashes and are now leading fund-raising efforts for his Boehner for Speaker campaign, which is soliciting checks of up to $37,800 each, the maximum allowed.

To a certain extent, this isn't new.. When Congress worked on a jobs bill, Boehner and congressional Republicans huddled with corporate lobbyists. When work on Wall Street reform got underway, Boehner and congressional Republicans huddled with industry lobbyists. When Congress worked on health care reform, Boehner and congressional Republicans huddled with insurance lobbyists. When an energy/climate bill started advancing, Republicans huddled with energy lobbyists.

But arguably no one in Washington better epitomizes this borderline-caricature than Boehner -- who literally meets in smoke-filled rooms to scheme with powerful lobbyists.

While many lawmakers in each party have networks of donors, lobbyists and former aides who now represent corporate interests, Mr. Boehner's ties seem especially deep. His clique of friends and current and former staff members even has a nickname on Capitol Hill, Boehner Land. The members of this inner circle said their association with Mr. Boehner translates into open access to him and his staff.

It's the kind of scenario Americans claim not to like -- a powerful politician has put together a network of lobbyists, some of whom are his former aides, who reward him with campaign cash. The politician in turn gives them unrivaled access and does their bidding on the Hill. The whole gang likes to golf, smoke, and drink together, and dash off to beautiful locales on corporate jets.

It just screams "man of the people," doesn't it?

There's a very real chance that voters aren't bothered by any of this. For all the faux-populism of Tea Partiers and alleged disgust throughout the electorate for business as usual, many Americans seem to have developed quite a tolerance for the blurred line between politicians and lobbyists. In Indiana, I thought Dan Coats (R) might have trouble running for the Senate as a corporate lobbyist, but voters don't seem to care. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) hopes to parlay his career as a corporate lobbyist into a likely presidential campaign, and few seem to find the idea silly.

Perhaps it's just a sign of the times, then, that the congressman who serves as King of Boehner Land would become Speaker of the House at a time when Americans at least pretend to want the opposite.

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