Friday, February 5, 2010

You must be a right wing news junkie if . . .

You must be a right wing news junkie if . . .

  • You don’t know that you got a tax cut last year as part of the Democrat’s Stimulus Bill (just check your W2 from 2008 and 2009).
  • You think the stimulus bill didn’t work. Even McCain’s economic advisor Mark Zandi said that the economy would be in a full depression now, instead of a recovery, without the Stimulus Bill. Zandi: “I think stimulus was key to the 4th quarter. It was really critical to business fixed investment…and to housing and residential investment because of the housing tax credit.”
  • You think the stimulus bill created no jobs. Every reputable economist from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office to the right wing American Enterprise Institute (AEI) agrees that the stimulus saved or created 600,000 to 1.6 million jobs in the third quarter of 2009.
  • You think stopping health care reform is a good thing. You don’t know that you haven’t gotten a pay raise in years because of ever increasing insurance payments. Don’t believe me? Check your pay stubs for the last five years and see how much your health insurance has cost every year. Overall health insurance reform is the ONLY way to fix this.
  • You believe Limbaugh when he says: “I think this is the first time in his (Obama’s) life that there’s not a professor around to turn his C into an A or to write the law review article for him he can’t write.”Bradford Berenson — a lawyer who worked in the Bush White House and served with Obama on the Harvard Law Review, said: “I saw Barack hunched over manuscripts editing articles on many a late night at Gannett House. He simply could not have been elected President (of the Law Review) if he was not regarded by his fellow editors as being among the best legal writers and legal minds in his class.
  • You think Obama is running the same deficits monthly that Bush ran annually, as Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling claimed. Apparently, republican Hensarling doesn’t understand that the Obama Administration decided to treat Americans as adults and stop the practice of hiding the actual deficit using accounting tricks. That meant that the deficit waiting for him when he entered office was $1.2 trillion dollars, not the $160 billion under the old, deceptive accounting.

Hensarling must be a Right Wing News Junkie too. Are you?

Delicate Flowers

Greg Sargent

* Dana Milbank, on Scott Brown’s first day in the Senate:

The one declarative position Brown did take — “The last stimulus bill didn’t create one new job” — was demonstrably untrue.

* Too bad the Associated Press reported on that same claim by Brown as if it’s a matter of argument, describing it as “a claim that most economists would dispute.” Lame.

* New CNN poll: One-third of the country views Tea Party movement favorably, versus only one-fourth who view it unfavorably. Plurality has no idea what it’s about. Maybe time to rethink the Dem strategy of attacking the Tea Partiers to paint the GOP as extreme?


But there’s no reason to panic about budget prospects for the next few years, or even for the next decade. Consider, for example, what the latest budget proposal from the Obama administration says about interest payments on federal debt; according to the projections, a decade from now they’ll have risen to 3.5 percent of G.D.P. How scary is that? It’s about the same as interest costs under the first President Bush.

Why, then, all the hysteria? The answer is politics.

The main difference between last summer, when we were mostly (and appropriately) taking deficits in stride, and the current sense of panic is that deficit fear-mongering has become a key part of Republican political strategy, doing double duty: it damages President Obama’s image even as it cripples his policy agenda. And if the hypocrisy is breathtaking — politicians who voted for budget-busting tax cuts posing as apostles of fiscal rectitude, politicians demonizing attempts to rein in Medicare costs one day (death panels!), then denouncing excessive government spending the next — well, what else is new?

The trouble, however, is that it’s apparently hard for many people to tell the difference between cynical posturing and serious economic argument. And that is having tragic consequences.

For the fact is that thanks to deficit hysteria, Washington now has its priorities all wrong: all the talk is about how to shave a few billion dollars off government spending, while there’s hardly any willingness to tackle mass unemployment. Policy is headed in the wrong direction — and millions of Americans will pay the price.

DougJ: Question

You probably heard about this:

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) has put an extraordinary “blanket hold” on at least 70 nominations President Obama has sent to the Senate, according to multiple reports this evening. The hold means no nominations can move forward unless Senate Democrats can secure a 60-member cloture vote to break it, or until Shelby lifts the hold.

“While holds are frequent,” CongressDaily’s Dan Friedman and Megan Scully report (sub. req.), “Senate aides said a blanket hold represents a far more aggressive use of the power than is normal.”

The Mobile Press-Register picked up the story early this afternoon. The paper confirmed Reid’s account of the hold, and reported that a Shelby spokesperson “did not immediately respond to phone and e-mail messages seeking confirmation of the senator’s action or his reason for doing so.”

It goes without saying that this shows what a great, venerable institution the Senate is, what a serious, bipartisan legislator Shelby is, and (of course) what a failure Obama has been at changing the tone in Washington.

Here’s what I’d like to know: is there any limit to how much a strong-willed minority can slow things down in the Senate? Could a new Republican Senator do something like this every day and bring everything to a complete halt for months on end?

  • Steve Benen adds:

    And why, pray tell, has Shelby decided to hold several dozen administration nominees hostage? It's not about qualifications, ideology, or party -- it's about pork. The conservative Alabama senator wants some defense earmarks for his state, and until he's satisfied, Shelby apparently won't allow the Senate to vote on just about anyone, including nominees ready to fill positions related to national security.

    The abuse, the arrogance, the corruption ... it's just breathtaking. Shelby is proving himself to be little more than a petty, greedy thug, undermining our system of government until he's been paid off to his satisfaction.

    Josh Marshall added, "This is more like just a stick up. Gimme my money and I'll give you your Senate back! Worse than a squeegee man and not much better than a bank robber, Shelby is shutting down the president's ability to appoint anyone to anything until he gets his way."

    What's more, it's additional evidence, as if more was needed, that congressional Republicans are simply out of control. At a time when the nation needs strong institutions, GOP lawmakers have not only gone mad, they're also tearing down governmental touchstones like the United States Senate.

    It's inexcusable and unsustainable. Something's gotta give.

Yglesias: Martha Johnson

With 60 Democrats in the US Senate, the White House was annoyed by minority obstructionism. But with “only” 59 Democrats in the US, the White House no longer has anything better to do than to finally pivot and really confront it. Thus yesterday’s Dan Pfeiffer post offering a case study of pointless obstruction:

Nine months ago, the White House sent the nominee for GSA Administrator, Martha Johnson, to the Senate for its consideration. Today, she was finally given a vote and was overwhelmingly approved by a margin of 94-2. What happened in between was a perfect example of why Americans are so frustrated with Washington.

Martha Johnson is an ideal candidate for Administrator, which is highlighted by the unanimous vote she received in committee. And the only thing that’s changed between now and then is that some in Congress found it to be politically expedient to delay her vote. This isn’t just about one person filling one job – it hampers our ability reform the way government works and save taxpayer dollars by making it more efficient and effective.

What’s worse, Martha Johnson is hardly the first nominee to fall victim to this trend of opposition for opposition’s sake. Nine of the President’s nominees found themselves stuck in this same situation only to be confirmed by 70 or more votes or a voice vote. Several nominees, including two members of the Council of Economic Advisers, had cloture withdrawn and were passed by a voice vote.

The public is always a bit skeptical about the capacity of the government to deliver effective public service. And obstructionist Senators are doing everything possible to feed that skepticism. Finding a way to fight it effectively is critical to the progressive cause.

Kurtz: If You Got It, Flaunt It

You may have heard that Larry Kudlow, the former Reagan economic adviser, diehard supply-sider, and CNBC host, is considering running against Chuck Schumer for U.S. Senate from New York.

How can Kudlow hope to match the fund-raising prowess of the incumbent Schumer? Thanks to the Supreme Court's decision on corporate contributions in the Citizens United case, we got it covered, a top Kudlow supporter and pal tells TPMDC.

"People who are worried about their taxes, particularly medium- and large-size businesses, would be more interested in helping Larry Kudlow than Chuck Schumer," John Lakian says.

Greg Sargent

* New ad from the DNC: The DNC is going up on national cable with this new spot slamming the GOP over recent reports saying that Republicans are raising cash on Wall Street while promising to protect the Street from Dem efforts at regulatory reform:

“They’re at it again, promising Wall Street, `We’ll have your back, and we’ll block reforms to hold banks accountable,’” says the spot, in keeping with the Dem 2010 strategy of saying Republicans not only have no solutions, but also want to reinstate the policies that led to the economic meltdown in the first place.


Expectations for the new jobs report were all over the map, but by one estimate, the economy was expected to have lost 22,000 jobs. The prediction proved to be almost exactly right.

The United States economy shed 20,000 jobs in January, the government said Friday, deepening concern that relief from the deepest economic downturn in a generation would be slow to come. But the unemployment rate fell to 9.7 percent from 10 percent in December.

As the broader economy gains steam and crucial sectors like manufacturing spring back to life, analysts say the recovery appears to be intact. But the nation's stubbornly high unemployment rate remains a persistent thorn in the side of optimists, and economists expect the situation to worsen before it gets better.

Job totals from November and December were revised and changed rather significantly. Whereas previous estimates showed 4,000 jobs were added in November, the economy actually added 64,000. December, however, was much worse than previous thought, losing 150,000 jobs rather than the 85,000 originally reported.

The good news, if you can call it that, is that January 2010 was the second best month for the job market since the Great Recession began in December 2007. The trend line seems to be pointing in the right direction. The bad news, obviously, is that shedding fewer jobs isn't nearly good enough.

In terms of the politics, lawmakers are poised to take up a jobs bill as early as next week. One can only hope that the latest report will remind policymakers that the status quo, while vastly improved over the disastrous conditions of a year ago, is still not even close to where we need to be. The need for an ambitious jobs bill and additional economic stimulus should be obvious.

And with that, here once again is the homemade chart I've been running the first Friday of every month, showing monthly job losses since the start of the Great Recession:

Steven Pearlstein:

One thing that is already obvious is that most people in Washington have forgotten what bipartisanship means in practice, if indeed they ever knew it.

The most common misconception is that bipartisanship means finding common ground and focusing on the things most everyone agrees on. In reality, that turns out to be a pretty small set of ideas and proposals that, taken together, would not address the major challenges before us. Certainly, that is the obvious place to begin, and it would be an improvement over the current gridlock, but it won't add up to effective governance.

Beutler: Dem Leadership Rips 'Republican Plan' To Privatize, Slash Medicare, Social Security

You thought Republicans were going to be able to wiggle away from their historic support for privatizing Medicare and Social Security? Think again.

Leading Democrats aren't letting the GOP put much distance between themselves and a new, long-term budget proposal written by their top budget guy, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).

"That's their budget plan," Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)--chair of the House Democrats' reelection committee--told me in a brief interview. "He's the ranking Republican member on the Budget Committee. That is their so-called roadmap. And it's a roadmap right into the economic ditch that we got ourselves to begin with.... Put it this way. For seniors on Medicare, it's a dead end."

Van Hollen says Republicans should own up to their own ideas, and debate them on the merits, or else stop complaining when Democrats accuse them of being the Party of No.

"These guys got very sensitive about the fact that they had no ideas to put on the table," Van Hollen said. "Well, it turns out they did have some ideas to put on the table. You gotta give Congressman Ryan credit for putting the proposal on the table. Now they should have to live with the consequences of that proposal."

It's interesting to hear they're running away from that proposal. It's an idea they put on the table. They told President Obama at the Republican conference, We're not the party of 'no,' we've got ideas, and that was one of the major ideas they put on the table. I hope they'll have the courage of their convictions to stick with it and defend it.

In a conference call with reporters this afternoon, a number of other senior Democrats said much the same.

"They are dusting off their old playbook, rehashing the policies that the American people have rejected in the past," said House Democratic Caucus Chair John Larson (D-CT). "They want to privatize Social Security. They want to turn Medicare into a voucher program. And they're providing tax breaks for the wealthy while they raise taxes on the middle class."

Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) said much the same: "This is not new. These are ideas, but they're not new ones. And privatization is on the row again by the Republicans."

Earlier today, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) tried to distance himself from Ryan's plan--but was unable to articulate any major disagreements with it. In response, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) suggested Republicans were fragmenting over the plan. "They're either not on the same page or the leadership is walking away from this ill-found roadmap," she said.

Welcome (again) to election season.

digby: Go Al! (Again)

So apparently, after the "question time" featuring endangered conservadems whining about bipartisanship, the Senators really let their hair down in private. And they were led by none other than Al Franken:

Sen. Al Franken ripped into White House senior adviser David Axelrod this week during a tense, closed-door session with Senate Democrats.

Five sources who were in the room tell POLITICO that Franken criticized Axelrod for the administration’s failure to provide clarity or direction on health care and the other big bills it wants Congress to enact.

The sources said Franken was the most outspoken senator in the meeting, which followed President Barack Obama’s question-and-answer session with Senate Democrats at the Newseum on Wednesday. But they also said the Minnesotan wasn’t the only angry Democrat in the room.


In his public session with the senators Wednesday, Obama urged them to “finish the job” on health care but did not lay out a path for doing so. That uncertainty appeared to trigger Franken’s wrath, and the sources in the room said he laid out his concerns much more directly than any senator did in the earlier public session.

The private session was set up in a panel format, with Axelrod joined at the front of the room by Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine and Democratic strategist Paul Begala.

A Democratic source said that Franken directed his criticism solely at Axelrod.

“It was all about leadership and health care and what the plan was going to be,” the source said.

Good for him, although there's certainly plenty of blame for the health care debacle to go around, particularly in the House of Lords.

But it appears the irreverent comedian isn't playing by the rules there either:

Franken — a comedian turned liberal talk show host — vowed to keep a relatively low profile when he arrived in the Senate over the summer after a protracted legal battle with former GOP Sen. Norm Coleman. But he has developed a reputation among his colleagues as one of the more aggressive personalities on the Hill.

Last November, after Tennessee Republican Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander authored an op-ed in a local paper defending their opposition to a Franken amendment, Franken confronted both men on the floor — and grew particularly irritated with Corker.

He lashed out at Corker and a staff member in a follow-up meeting about the matter, several people said. Franken also clashed with South Dakota Sen. John Thune, No. 4 in GOP leadership, last month in a scathing speech during the health care debate, and staffers have reported other run-ins.
Those delicate little Republican flowers just don't know what to do when a Democrat isn't afraid of them.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


Kurtz (TPM): Facts and Data Be Damned

I was pulling my hair out this morning reading this Washington Post piece. Titled "Despite his roots, Obama struggles to show he's connected to middle class," it's one of those classics of Washington political journalism where the thesis is unsupported by any hard evidence and where the anecdotal evidence is embarrassingly off-point, irrelevant, or insubstantial -- or, in this case, all three.

But in this case, it's even worse. The Washington Post's own polling data don't just undermine the premise of the piece; they refute it.

The article begins and ends with the usual trope, setting the scene of a President sealed off by the perks of office from the suffering of everyday Americans, but it goes farther than that and asserts that Obama himself is especially disconnected:

It is a tough sell for any president who lives inside what Obama refers to as "the bubble," but tougher still for Obama. His first year in office was defined in part by a paradox. He is a rare president who comes from the middle class, yet people still perceive him as disconnected from it.

Then, amidst the cliched Obama anecdotes about arugula and bowling, we get the only hard evidence to support this thesis:

As he arrived in Nashua, nearly two-thirds of Americans believed that his economic policies had hurt the country or made no difference at all; almost half thought he did not understand their problems.

Almost half? Does that mean more than half thought he did understand their problems? Why, yes. Yes, it does. As Greg Sargent points out, the Post's own polling in mid-January shows that 57% of those surveyed agreed that "He understands the problems of people like you." Notably, that number has been above 50 percent for Obama's entire first year in office, including periods above 70 percent last year.

The Post's own polling also asks if Obama "shares your values." That number, too, has remained above 50%, most recently coming in at 55% in mid-January.

At this point, the article falls apart under the weight of its own misinterpreted data and well-worn anecdotes, but there's still room to squeeze in one more bit of Washington conventional wisdom, a homily to that plain-spoken man of the people, George W. Bush:

Those shortcomings were evident last month when Obama invited the previous two presidents to join him at the White House for a news conference about the U.S. relief effort in Haiti. George W. Bush was simple and frank: "Just send us your cash," he said. ... In the two weeks since, Obama appears to have learned from his predecessors' trademark strengths.

It's a story that practically writes itself.

A vile vile man ...
Think Progress: Exclusive: Bush Lawyer Debunks Limbaugh’s Claim That Professors Wrote Obama’s Law Articles

In her interview with Rush Limbaugh which aired today, Fox News’ Gretchen Carlson asked the hate radio host what he thought of President Obama’s State of the Union address last week. “The State of Obama speech,” Limbaugh interjected, adding that he thought it “was defensive, petulant, immature, childish, sarcastic. He’s clearly angry, that he’s been rejected.”

Limbaugh — who had called Obama the “affirmative action candidate” during the 2008 campaign — claimed that Obama didn’t do his own work when he was a student:

LIMBAUGH: I think this is the first time in his life that there’s not a professor around to turn his C into an A or to write the law review article for him he can’t write. He’s totally exposed and there’s nobody to make it better. I think he’s been covered for all his life. The fact that his agenda failed this year is the best thing that could have happened to this country.

Sully: Calling The GOP's (And the Dems') Deficit Bluffs

In my view, every single Republican who appears on cable or radio and who complains about the debt and rules out any tax hikes should be directly and specifically asked every single time what they propose to cut. Specifically. Every single time. Equally, every single Democrat who says they want to tackle the debt needs to be asked every single time which taxes they propose raising. Specifically. Every single time. If the journalist looks like an asshole, get over it. It is our job to look like assholes. We are professional assholes. We get paid to be rude. In order to expose the truth.

One reason this country is in a fiscal crisis is that journalists are not doing their job.

They chase ratings and politician "gets" more than they chase the truth. Why did it take the president to expose the Republicans' appalling fiscal record and lack of seriousness on spending rather than the press? Why are these politicians allowed to go on the air without being pressed relentlessly for their actual proposals.

And by relentlessly, I mean - if they fail to answer, or offer vague generalizations, ask again. And again. And again. And again. On air. Refuse to move on. Put them on the spot. Both parties. Every time.

DougJ: Being right counts for nothing

I usually like Matt Yglesias, but I don’t like this kind of thing:

I wrote about “optimism inversion” back in January 2009, noting that over the previous five years liberal commentators had been consistently more pessimistic about the economy than conservative ones. I saw three factors at work:

1. I believe left-wing politics and pessimism are generally correlated traits.

2. Left-of-center commentators are generally smarter than right-of-center ones and pessimism was the correct position.

3. People inclined to be hostile to the incumbent administration are naturally disposed to believe that disaster looms around the corner.

This is one of those things I don’t understand in general: why is it necessary to psychoanalyze people when they arrive at the correct conclusion? We saw this with the war too, where it was claimed that liberals only opposed the war because Bush was for it. Not only were the anti-war people I spoke with smart to be against the war, their arguments against the war were completely correct—“we won’t be greeted as liberators”. Similarly, the pessimism I heard about the economy (from Krugman and from a friend on Wall Street) were of the form “we have a big real estate bubble and it’s going to burst”.

When people not only predict something correctly but also accurately assess the reasons why that something will happen, isn’t it enough to just “they were right” without wondering whether or not they’re naturally pessimistic or ill-disposed to the administration?

I’ll grant that number 2 goes partly to this, but I think the real answer here is that left-wing commentators, to some extent, engaged in reality-based economic prediction while right-wing ones did not. I’m not sure that makes the right-wing ones dumber though: how many of these right-wing commentators lost their jobs?

Reader J.W. emails to let me know about this item from MSNBC's First Read:

Yesterday, we really saw the Obama administration push back against the GOP critiques about 1) trying 9/11 suspected terrorists in civilian courts, and 2) that the alleged Christmas Day bomber stopped talking after he was read his Miranda rights. In fact, it was Maine Sen. Susan Collins -- of all people -- who delivered last weekend's blistering GOP radio address: "Abdulmutallab was questioned for less than one hour before the Justice Department advised him that he could remain silent and offered him an attorney at our expense. Once afforded the protection our Constitution guarantees American citizens, this foreign terrorist 'lawyered up' and stopped talking."

But as NBC reported yesterday, citing officials close to the case, Abdulmutallab has begun talking again. And the methods used to get him to talk, according to the administration, was longstanding FBI practices -- in this case using Abdulmutallab's family. The administration argues that Abdulmutallab would have been less cooperative had he faced an interrogator in a military uniform.

Of course, this won't end the debate; it just adds more nuance to something that it appears is never as black and white as some would like to believe. [emphasis added]

Well, actually, the facts aren't especially nuanced. Susan Collins made a fairly specific claim in a prepared, broadcasted text -- that Obama administration officials questioned an attempted terrorist for less than an hour, and then Abdulmutallab "stopped talking" after being made aware of his rights.

We now know that Collins was simply wrong. Her claims were proven false. She was, by any reasonable definition, either lying or grossly uninformed about her chosen subject. The Obama administration used a specific approach, and it worked just as it was intended to work.

Learning about reality doesn't "add nuance" to a debate, it ends the debate. Two sides made opposite claims, one of them was made to appear foolish by the introduction of additional evidence.

Is it really that hard for a major news outlet to note when a Republican is wrong, even when confronted with obvious evidence that the Republican made demonstrably false claims to the nation?

John Cole: Still Loving You

Love, your love, Just shouldn’t be thrown away. I will be there, I will be there:

McCain appears to shift on ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’

By Michael D. Shear- Wednesday, February 3, 2010; A09

Three years ago, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was pretty clear about his stand on the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

A former war hero, McCain said he would support ending the ban once the military’s top brass told him that they agreed with the change.

“The day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, ‘Senator, we ought to change the policy,’ then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it,” McCain said in October 2006 to an audience of Iowa State University students.

That day arrived Tuesday, with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen testifying to senators after President Obama’s announcement that he would seek a congressional repeal of the 15-year-old policy.

Mullen called repealing the policy, which bans openly gay men and lesbians from serving, “the right thing to do” and said he was personally troubled by effectively forcing service members to “lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.”

Gates told the Armed Services Committee, “I fully support the president’s decision.”

In response, McCain declared himself “disappointed” in the testimony. “At this moment of immense hardship for our armed services, we should not be seeking to overturn the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy,” he said bluntly, before describing it as “imperfect but effective.”

You just gotta love the Kaplan Test Prep Daily and the incessant McCain worship in our media. Why, yes, Mr. Shear, it does “appear” that he has “shifted” on DADT. In much the same way that the sun “appears” to rise in the east, and that John Edwards “appears” to have cheated on his wife, and so on.

Can you imagine for one second if this were Al Gore or John Kerry who had done the complete and total about face on an issue? There would be no such mincing of words about “appearing” to “shift” positions, they would be labeled wishy-washy and unfit to lead and flip-floppers.

Plus, Al Gore is fat. Also, too.

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:


Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Kos: What Democratic leadership failure looks like

This is almost 13 months of net favorability ratings for both the Republican and Democratic parties, from our weekly state of the nation poll:

Dem party collapse

There are two early bumps. The first was the inauguration. The second was the passage of the stimulus bill. Voters liked success! That entire time, Republicans looked like shit and plummeted southward.

Then the Democrats stopped delivering victories, and in August, the teabaggers gave the GOP a new lease on life. And they've been trending upward ever since. At this point, they'll cross over the Democratic Party's trendlines and be the less unpopular party. Indeed, that crossover has already happened with our generic congressional ballot question:

Gen congressional ballot

While voters still don't like the GOP -- it's a party that refuses to govern, after all -- they've realized that the Democratic Party is incapable of governing. And how could it, when it rewards its most disloyal members with big fat checks? And hence the party is punished.

It took all of last year to get into these dire straits. We still have 10 months to turn things around. But that would require victories, and with our broken Senate, I'm afraid to hope for the best.

Ezra Klein: Obama: If Democrats don't pass health-care reform, 'I don't know what differentiates us from the other guys'

Today's televised session between Barack Obama and the Senate Democrats wasn't encouraging to those of us hoping the Democrats are spending their time worrying about how to pass the health care bill. There were questions on the deficit, on jobs, on partisanship, on energy and on judicial nominees. No one bothered to ask about health-care reform. The closest was New York's Kirsten Gillibrand, who asked about health care for 9/11 responders. It felt, for a moment, like we were back in the Bush years. Want to talk health care? Add 9/11 to the sentence.

To Obama's credit, he valiantly twisted questions on things like jobs and partisanship into opportunities to talk about health-care reform. He reminded Democrats that they have the second-largest majority since the 1970s. He mentioned the Village Voice's mocking headline, "Scott Brown Wins Mass. Race, Giving GOP 41-59 Majority in the Senate." Democrats laughed at that. Obama didn't. "Think about it," he said sternly.

If we don't pass this, he told the assembled Democrats, "I don't know what differentiates us from the other guys." It's nice to believe good things, but no one keeps their home, or pays for their doctor visit, because Democrats believe good things. "If anyone is searching for an answer to the lessons of Massachusetts," Obama continued, "I promise you, it's not to do nothing."

Evidence for that came in Tuesday's Illinois primary. Democrats were choosing their candidate to try to keep Obama's Senate seat. Republicans were looking for a standard-bearer able to take it. The turnout numbers were scary for the Democrats. As Jon Chait noticed, "GOP primary turnout is up 11 percent over 2004. Democratic turnout has dropped 29 percent." That's what elections looks like in a world where 59 Senate Democrats give up on health-care reform. The base gives up and stays home. And come the day after the election, those Senate Democrats will find themselves spending plenty of time home, as well.

Booman: Loser Centrists
Here's a question. With news that former senator Dan Coats is going to challenge Evan Bayh it looks like some of our most conservative Democrats are vulnerable to defeat in November. But, aside from the overall political makeup of their particular states, what makes them so vulnerable? Why is Blanche Lincoln less popular than a case of the clap? Why do Nevadans hate Harry Reid? It's not like they're crooks or sexual deviants.

Here's what's going on. Even where Democrats are still winning, they're suffering from an enthusiasm gap. Democrats who stall the president's agenda and badmouth him and the party are most likely to exacerbate this enthusiasm gap. In a purple or red state, combining a kind of inherent cyclical enthusiasm gap with a self-created one is enough to put your reelect number in the thirties.

Lesson? Stop tying to save your hide by bashing the left and embrace good policy. We talk a lot about why we hate the DLC and Clintonism. Well, the number one reason we hate them is because they're political losers. It's not centrist policy that is the primary problem. You work with the Congress you have, not the one you might wish for. But it's the idea that you can win elections by bashing your own party and your own party activists. Listen to Blanche Lincoln complain about left-wing blogs. Do you think that wins her any votes?

Yglesias: Lincoln Slams Mythical Liberal Extremists

This stuff really pisses me off:

[Blanche] Lincoln, who faces serious competition in her ‘10 re-elect — and a 27 percent approval rate in Arkansas — practically demanded Obama “push back in our own party… for people at the extremes.”

She added that “no one in your administration” understands how to make payroll.

As I’ve said before, this is nonsense. It’s just mathematically impossible for liberals to advance a liberal-as-opposed-to-centrist agenda through congress. The votes aren’t there. The only proposals that can pass the House are proposals that have some support from Blue Dogs. The only proposals that can pass the Senate are proposals that Blanche Lincoln votes for. Therefore 100 percent of the items on the legislative agenda have been pre-trimmed in advance to suit the desires of centrist Democrats. There’s been no Universal Medicare plan, there’s been no 100% auction of carbon permits plan, there’s been no gay marriage bill, there’s been no $1.5 trillion stimulus, there’s been nothing.

That’s the way it is. Blue Dogs and Blanche Lincoln types have succeeded at positioning themselves in the legislative pivot points. Consequently, they control the legislative agenda. I don’t blame them for it. Indeed, I regularly urge liberals to accept political reality support the Blue Dog / Blanche Lincoln agenda as preferable to the status quo. But unfortunately the Blanche Lincolns of the world uniformly refuse to take responsibility for their own position as the drivers of the agenda. They’re the ones who’ve been in charge. And frankly it hasn’t been going very well. In particular, they’re decision to take the President’s stimulus request and say “this is too big” rather than “this is too small” has been a horrible fiasco, leading millions of people to suffer avoidable unemployment.

Ezra Klein: The social networks of the Senate

Andrew Odewahn has put together a fantastic set of slides showing the slow deterioration in Senate bipartisanship between 1991 and 2009.

But keep an eye not just on the deterioration of cross-party cooperation, but the shifting blocs within both parties. As Odewahn shows, "there are clear and distinct moderate blocks within both parties." Saying that Democrats have 60 votes doesn't tell you whether Harry Reid has 60 votes, or whether liberals have 60 votes. The story of the Senate is not just that the two major parties don't agree and don't cooperate with each other, but that they don't always agree and cooperate with themselves.

Yglesias: The Political Virtue of Lying and Determination

Suppose you’re committed to defending a politically unpopular position. You think, for example, that banks shouldn’t pay any increased taxes or face any new regulation. What to do? Well as Frank Luntz explains to congressional Republicans, you just lie like crazy. You pretend that the bill you’re opposing is a giant bailout for banks, and that you oppose the bill because you’re against unpopular bailouts. Here’s his sample language:

Congress is preparing to enact legislation to pass a law with $4 trillion more for more bailouts. Should people who write the financial reform laws be the same ones who helped cause the crisis? Should taxpayers be punished and the big banks and credit card companies be rewarded? The time has come to take a stand. Oppose the big bank bailout bill.

That’s just totally false. Jon Chait has an amusing riff on this, but I think it highlights something important about the political process, namely the absolute importance of deciding what you want to do. Once a political party has achieved consensus on what it wants to do, almost all political problems are solvable. Want to oppose taxes and regulations on banks? Just pretend you’re opposing bailouts! It’s extremely easy.

What’s hard is to actually try to construct the boat while you’re sailing. If you have an agreed-upon plan, you can then huddle with focus group experts and work out the language. But that only works if everyone on your team actually agrees as to what’s going on. If there’s disagreement, then your language needs to contain some real content, since your statements involve communicating with other members of congress. At the moment, for example, nobody’s quite sure what Chris Dodd will put in his bill. Consequently, nobody’s quite sure if they agree with Dodd’s bill. And as a consequence of that, Dodd can’t just lie blatantly when he talks about his process—his utterances need to contain content that’s relevant to the merits of the issue, because key actors actually want information from Dodd about the bill. If he starts lying, nobody’s going to be sure what’s going on.

In a practical legislative controversy, this is a pretty crippling disadvantage. And then to make matters worse, the very fact of disagreement makes your ideas look bad. If all Republicans think something is bad, and Democrats can’t seem to agree on whether or not it’s bad, then heuristical reasoning leads to the conclusion that it’s probably bad.

Roth (TPM): 'We Might As Well Be Able To Vote For Disney': Tea Partiers Slam Citizens United Ruling

Some Tea Partiers are expressing vocal opposition to the Supreme Court's recent ruling striking down the ban on corporate political spending -- a stance that puts them at odds with the Republican Party and the broader conservative movement.

Just hours after the court ruled last month, RNC chair Michael Steele praised the decision, calling it "an important step in the direction of restoring the First Amendment rights" of corporations.

But some Tea Partiers don't agree. Shane Brooks, a Texas-based Tea Party activist, told TPMmuckraker in an email:

This decision basically gives the multinational corporations owned by foreign entities [the right] to pour unlimited funds into the pockets of corrupt corporate backed politicians to attack everything this country stands for. We might as well be able to vote for Disney or the SEIU as President of the United States of America.

In a recent blog post, Kevin Smith of the Nashville Tea Party wrote that the ruling "puts corporations in a position to crowd out smaller competition and buy politicians from the local sheriff to the President himself."

In a statement provided in the wake of the ruling to the Reid Report blog, Dale Robertson, the Houston-based leader of, took the same view:

It just allows them to feed the machine. Corporations are not like people. Corporations exist forever, people don't. Our founding fathers never wanted them; these behemoth organizations that never die, so they can collect an insurmountable amount of profit. It puts the people at a tremendous disadvantage.

Jim Knapp, a Sacramento based Tea Party activist, went even further, telling TPMmuckraker via email: "Most of the anger by Tea Party supporters is directed at the effects of special interest money."

Knapp continued:

I believe that campaign finance reform is the most important political issue facing America. I would even go so far as to say that this issue is even more important that our current financial crisis and jobs. Everything in American politics is affected by special interest money. From who controls our monetary policies in treasury and the Fed to regulation of Wall Street. I would also venture to say that it was special interest money which precipitated the current economic crisis.

And Everett Wilkinson, the leader of a Florida Tea Party group, told TPMmuckraker that his group had "mixed feelings" about the ruling. One the one hand, Wilkinson said, "getting corporations more involved with politics could be a detrimental thing." But on the other, Wilkinson said it was a free speech issue.

Even the movement's leadership, which generally has closer ties to the GOP, isn't rushing to embrace the ruling. Neither FreedomWorks, the Washington grassroots lobby group that helped organize several Tea Party rallies, nor leaders of the Tea Party Patriots responded to questions from TPMmuckraker about their stance on the court's decision.

Some of the activists who oppose the ruling had already made clear that they weren't willing to blindly accept GOP orthodoxy. Brooks recently posted a video on YouTube that warned "We must not allow the Tea Parties ... to be hijacked by the GOP." Smith, who had worked closely with the organizers of the upcoming Tea Party convention before a falling out, echoed that theme in a blog post, lamenting that the movement had been "co-opted by mainstream Republican demagogues determined to use this as their 2010 election platform." And Knapp has sounded similar alarms.

But their opposition to the court's ruling on behalf of corporations hints at an ideological split between the movement and the GOP that has long existed under the surface. Tea Partiers -- especially the rank-and-file activists, as opposed to the movement leaders -- often embrace a more populist, anti-corporate position than does the Republican Party, or the conservative movement that under-girds it. This difference underlies much of the tension we're increasingly seeing between Tea Partiers and the GOP.

It was Steele, of course, who recently declared himself a Tea Party fellow-traveler. "If I wasn't doing this job, I'd be out there with the Tea Partiers," he told Fox News recently.

If that ever happens, the RNC chair might be wise not to bring up the Citizens United case.


We talked yesterday about a broad, new Research 2000 poll, commissioned by Markos Moulitsas, gauging the attitudes of rank-and-file Republicans nationwide. The results were discouraging.

A plurality of rank-and-file Republicans wants to see President Obama impeached. More than a third of self-identified Republicans believe he wasn't born in the United States. A 63% majority is convinced the president is a socialist, about a fourth believe he wants terrorists to be successful, and about a third think Obama is a racist who hates white people.

One of the lingering questions is whether these extreme beliefs will push more reasonable voters away from the GOP.

"This shows a huge vulnerability for Republicans," says Jef Pollock, a veteran pollster and Democratic strategist working for Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) -- who was forced to bolt from the GOP after conservative Pat Toomey attacked him from the right.

"Independents, who are particularly disinclined toward any kind of partisan rhetoric, are going to be turned off when they hear Republicans say stuff like this, which is patently crazy," Pollock said.

The report added that Republican leaders concede "privately" that "the extremity of the base, and a hard-to-harness populist tea party movement, could give deeply wounded Democrats new life."

That's certainly possible. The American mainstream -- which not too long ago elected President Obama and large Democratic majorities -- is no doubt deeply unsatisfied with the economy and the pace of change in Washington, but it's unlikely to gravitate towards right-wing extremism and bizarre Republican ideas like impeaching the president. The poll points to a GOP base that's fallen off a right-wing cliff.

But the problem with Democrats counting on this to help their electoral fortunes is that it takes a fairly high level of political knowledge. Those who are engaged in current events -- folks like you -- can see Republicans moving further and further from the mainstream, and perhaps find the trend offensive. But the only way to capitalize on Republicans becoming the "party of crazy" is for Americans to realize this has happened.

Given the "megaphone gap," it would take considerable effort on Dems' part to make this a key campaign narrative this year. Something to keep an eye on.

Marshall: Boxed Out, Buddy

For years John McCain has been saying that when the generals said it was time to change Dont Ask Don't Tell, he'd support it. Yesterday, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs said it was time. (Presumably McCain wasn't restricting his point to the Army and Marines?) But McCain said it was still wrong. Now Colin Powell says it's time too. And McCain has repeatedly invoked Powell's view as guiding his.

I thought that after 2008 we wouldn't get more chances to see McCain betraying all the principles and positions he claims to stand for. But the primary challenge in Arizona seems to be providing many more opportunities.

Any word from McCain about the Supreme Court decision gutting his signature campaign finance legislation?

John Cole: The Not-So Magnificent Seven

Anyone know who the seven Republicans are:

And when Obama backed a bipartisan commission to find ways to cut the long-term deficit – including reexamining popular entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security – a handful of Republican sponsors switched their positions and joined in filibustering it, the president said.

“This failed by seven votes, when seven Republicans who had cosponsored the idea suddenly walked away from their own proposal after I endorsed it,’’ an exasperated Obama told the crowd. “I said, ‘Good idea.’ I turned around, they’re gone. What happened?’’

Dollars to doughnuts that Mean Old Man McCain is one of them.

  • from the comments:


    Republican Bumper Sticker

    Vote Republican, We negotiate in bad faith.

    Yes, McCain is on the list.

  • August J. Pollak

    One of them is Gregg, who proposed the commission in the first place.

digby: The Nucleus Of Our Society
As I surmised yesterday, the administration has in fact decided to debate the Republicans on the basis of ideology (when they aren't joining hands with them to make deficits the biggest threat to America since Osama bin Laden.)

Orszag’s criticism of Ryan on Tuesday is part of a sustained White House strategy to use Ryan as a foil. He took similar shots over the weekend while previewing the budget and on Monday when it was released.
Ryan fired back at the White House in a gaggle with reporters.

“The primary reason [for the attacks] is that they don’t want to talk about their own approach,” Ryan said. “It’s an embarrassment.”

The White House effort appears aimed at taking on GOP lawmakers who have portrayed the Democrats’ proposed Medicare cuts in healthcare reform as a attempt to cut benefits for seniors. By attacking high-profile GOP plans as devastating to seniors, the White House could counter that criticism.

Far from running away from a fight with the president, Ryan has embraced it. On Tuesday, he responded to Orszag’s criticism with a five-minute defense.

“We simply believe that the nucleus of our economy and our society is the individual, not the government,” he said. “And we believe we ought to have a safety net, to help people who cannot help themselves, are down on luck. But we don’t want to turn that safety net into a hammock.”

So, if you are over 65, unless you are "down on your luck" (definition TBD), you'd better get your lazy old butts out of that social security and Medicare hammock and get to work -- if you can find a job. And everybody else had better get rich and stay healthy or plan on working until you're in your grave. That's how Real Americans stay strong.

I think the White House has hit pay dirt. This guy's going to be completely honest about what conservatives really believe in. Let's roll.
Yglesias: Obama’s Doomed Strategy

Carl Hulse and Jeff Zeleny report on the White House’s political strategy:

The White House’s goal is to show voters that Mr. Obama is willing to engage Republicans rather than govern in a partisan manner while forcing Republicans to make substantive compromises or be portrayed as obstructionist given their renewed power to block almost all legislation in the Senate.

I think this is doomed to fail. Hulse & Zeleny, to their credit, take the rare step of noting that actual events in the world rather than political strategy are the most important thing:

While the strategy addresses some of Mr. Obama’s short-term political problems, it is not clear that it will help him with the more fundamental issue facing him as the leader of the party in power, which is showing voters results before Election Day, especially with unemployment in double digits and the health bill stalled.

But I think it’s hard to work even in the short-term. The problem with this strategy is that it relies on massively overestimating the amount of attention people give to political events and the level of detail on which it’s possible to persuade them. Ezra Klein has a great post on the relevant literature:

This focuses Americans on the part of the political process that scares them: disagreement. In their book “Stealth Democracy: Americans’ Beliefs About How Government Should Work,” the political scientists John Hibbing and Elizabeth Theiss-Morse use focus groups and voluminous survey data to show that people don’t know much about policy and don’t care much about policy. Instead, they believe in broad goals for the country, and they think that political actors working in good faith could accomplish those goals with a minimum of disagreement if they were interested in doing so.

“People believe that Americans all have the same basic goals,” write Hibbing and Theiss-Morse, “and they are consequently turned off by political debate and deal making that presuppose an absence of consensus. People believe these activities would be unnecessary if if decision makers were in tune with the (consensual) public interest rather than cacophonous special interests.”

You know how annoying “Village” pundits inside the Beltway tend to take a “pox on both houses” response to any sign of political gridlock, no matter how obvious it is that the blame should be assigned primarily to one party? Well, the point is that your average American living his average life pays much less attention to detail than even the laziest pundit and thinks the exact same way. If the GOP refuses to negotiate in good faith and nothing gets done, people will assume that nothing is getting done because “people in Washington” aren’t negotiating in good faith. The only way for the blame to be assigned to one specific party would be to persuade the broad mass of people to stop spending time doing the things they normally do (working, taking care of the kids, spending time with family & friends, watching TV, etc.) and start paying attention to the details of congressional debates.

In the real world, if your problem is that 41 Senators are playing procedural hardball and making it impossible to get things done, the solution is for 59 Senators to play hardball in return and stop letting the 41 stop things. Recognize that zero voters will punish you for engaging in procedural hardball and that the number of voters who will even realize any of it happened is approximately zero.