Friday, February 12, 2010

The alternative is worse

The above picture is from the Palin-Perry Rally in Texas. The following video is related and enlightening:

Marshall: Times Tough All Over, Pt. 2

Today in Monterey, California, Nathan Augustine, 35, pleaded no contest to arson charges after confessing to throwing a Molotov cocktail into the Creative Visions tattoo parlor after the tattoo artists refused to give him a tattoo with a swastika and crosshairs overlaid on President Obama's face.

Augustine was apparently also responsible for a vandalism spree in the first half of 2009 in which swastikas and the phrases "kill Obama" and "death to Obama" were painted around the city.

There was also the restaurant Augustine firebombed after they didn't give him a job.

Booman: Why the Nutters?

Here's the thing, E.J....even if roughly a quarter of the people in this country are instinctively anti-government and opposed categorically to anything Washington does or proposes to do...they still tend to stay home and vent quietly as long as a Republican is in the White House. The second a Democrat enters the White House, the black helicopter-talk ramps up and the charges of socialism go out. Suddenly, congresspeople are inundated by nuts phoning them, writing them, showing up at their town hall meetings with guns and shouting batty nonsense they've learned from right-wing radio hosts. And it can be argued somewhat convincingly, I think, that even Poppy Bush aroused this kind of reaction when he raised taxes. He was no longer a Republican after he did that, so it was okay for Buchanan and Perot to gather up the nuts and run for the crown.

Obama's getting a couple extra doses of crazy because he's black and he inherited a terrible economy. But there's a reason that lunatics come out of the woodwork any time the rich get taxed. The rich people pay for it.

Greg Sargent:

* And, really, it’s not too surprising that 78% of GOP leaders believe Obama is a socialist, since that’s the RNC’s official position — or, at least, that Obama is moving “towards socialism.”

Paul Krugman:

"Don’t cut Medicare. The reform bills passed by the House and Senate cut Medicare by approximately $500 billion. This is wrong." So declared Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, in a recent op-ed article written with John Goodman, the president of the National Center for Policy Analysis.

And irony died.

Drum: Public: Government Waste Tops $1.8 Trillion
Thu Feb. 11, 2010 1:36 PM PST
Here's a fascinating little chart. The question is, "Out of every dollar the federal government collects in taxes, how many cents do you think are wasted?" The average answer, in the latest Washington Post poll, is 53 cents. A few comments:
  • Clearly, Republicans are winning the PR battle on this score. The idea that 53 cents of every dollar is wasted is obviously ridiculous even for the most ardent tea partier, but I don't suppose this ought to be taken especially seriously as an actual response. Rather, it's sort of crude proxy measure of dissatisfaction with gummint spending. And it's been going up steadily for 25 years.
  • If the average was 53 cents, that means lots of people must have said 60 or 70 or 80 cents. Even more fascinating! I'd love to see the distribution on this answer.
  • Although there's a secular rise over time, specific dips and spikes seem unrelated to the party in power or to economic conditions. Maybe this is just statistical noise, though the drop from 1998 to 2000 was pretty substantial.
  • At this rate, by the year 2135 the average voter will think the entire federal budget is pure waste.

I wonder how people in other countries would respond to a question like this? And what does it all mean? Ponder away in comments.

Think Progress: GOP Sen. candidate refuses to apologize for comparing embryonic stem cell research to Nazi experiments.

As ThinkProgress noted earlier this week, GOP Senate candidate Curtis Coleman (R-AR), who is running against Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), compared embryonic stem cell research to “what the Nazis did to the Jews.“ Yesterday, progressive radio host Thom Hartmann invited Coleman onto his show and offered him a chance to apologize to survivors of the Holocaust for his statement. Coleman flatly refused to apologize and went on to say that it is “not at all” a horrific comparison:

HARTMANN: I wanted to give you an opportunity to apologize to the Holocaust survivors of Arkansas for that comparison and that remark.

COLEMAN: I’m not sure an apology is needed. [...]

HARTMANN: What I am saying is to compare eight cells in a petri dish to a human being in a death camp or even an experimentation camp in Germany during World War II is a horrific comparison.

COLEMAN: Well, not at all. It’s life at a different stage, but it’s still human life. That’s the point, it is still a human being, it is still a human life. It hasn’t fully developed, but it’s still that human being, and it’s unique –

HARTMANN: It is not experiencing pain, it is not experiencing the horrors of what the Nazis did. You know, I’m telling you there are Holocaust survivors listening right now Curtis Coleman who just have to be in shock to hear you say this.

Watch it:

Responding to Coleman’s comments, Progressive Puppy writes, “No, Mr. Coleman. What the Nazis did was round up living, breathing human beings, strip them of their freedom and dignity, and exterminate them in various ways. They also performed grotesque medical experiments on those same living, breathing human beings. Remarks like yours are not only incredibly stupid, they’re demeaning to Jewish people whose ancestors suffered terribly in Nazi concentration camps.”

Update In 2006, Michael Steele apologized for comparing stem cell research to Nazi experiments. "I offended members of the Jewish community and members of the Maryland community," Steele said outside a Prince George's nursing home. "It was a remark that was an improper inference, because I never specifically said Holocaust. ... And it did not reflect my attitude and my belief, and I am really sorry about the whole thing."

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Who Is John Galt? Maybe He's Paul Ryan

Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) determination to privatize Social Security and dismantle Medicare -- what he calls a "collectivist system" -- comes, at least in part, from his longstanding devotion to the works of Ayn Rand.

Rand developed the objectivist philosophy, which values the self, capitalism and laissez-faire economics. Ryan, the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, reportedly requires staffers and interns to read her opus, Atlas Shrugged, and gives out copies as gifts.

In his keynote address to CPAC last year, Ryan said Obama's policies sound "like something right out of an Ayn Rand novel."

Fearing political suicide, Republican leaders have tried to distance themselves from Ryan's "roadmap" budget proposal, which calls for privatizing Social Security. But Ryan is upfront about it.

At a 2005 celebration of what would have been Rand's 100th birthday, Ryan called for reforming the "collectivist system" of Social Security by changing it to individual savings accounts.

"If we actually accomplish this goal of personalizing Social Security, think of what we will accomplish. Every worker, every laborer in America will not only be a laborer but a capitalist. They will be an owner of society," Ryan said at the 2005 event, according to a profile written last year in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

In interviews, he has said Republicans should frame the choice between "collectivism" and capitalism as a moral choice.

"We have an opportunity to make a choice clearly once and for all in the next two elections, and we owe it to the American people to give them a clear choice: Do you want a collectivist welfare state or do you want to get back to being a free market? We need to make a moral, not just practical or statistical, case," he told Reason, a libertarian magazine, in December.

In last year's CPAC address, he claimed the White House had blamed the free market for the financial crisis, then used the crisis as an "excuse to impose a more intrusive state."

And despite GOP attempts to frame these entitlement reforms as something other than privatization, Ryan has been clear on the point.

"Rather than depending on government for your retirement and health security, I propose to empower people to become much more self-dependent for such things in life," he said in a speech to the Hudson Institute last June.

Beutler (TPM): Is GOP Budget Guru Paul Ryan Jonah Goldberg Acolyte?

He may be the House GOP's budget guru, and the conservative author of a plan to reduce deficits by slashing Social Security and Medicare, but Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) isn't always on the side of the GOP base. Under President Bush, Ryan voted for the bank bailout, and then under President Obama voted to authorize the bailout of the auto industry.

What leading light guided him to those controversial votes? According to him, none other than conservative...luminary...Jonah Goldberg--author of the controversial best seller Liberal Fascism.

According to the Daily Beast, "Ryan said his vote for the bailout was influenced by Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism, a popular book among conservatives that argues that Nazism and other fascist movements were actually left wing in origin, and his belief that a second Depression would threaten capitalism--and rescue Obama's presidency."

"I'm a limited-government, free-enterprise guy, but TARP... represented a moment where we had no good options and we were about to fall into a deflationary spiral," he said. "I believe Obama would not only have won, but would have been able to sweep through a huge statist agenda very quickly because there would have been no support for the free-market system."

Goldberg's book was widely panned, but Goldberg himself described it as a "very serious, thoughtful, argument that has never been made in such detail or with such care." So who's to say.

He's also the same Jonah Goldberg who wrote this:

Instead of making it easier to vote, maybe we should be making it harder. Why not test people about the basic functions of government? Immigrants have to pass a test to vote; why not all citizens?

A voting test would point the arrow of civic engagement up, instead of down, sending the signal that becoming an informed citizen is a valued accomplishment. And if that's not a good enough reason, maybe this is: If you threaten to take the vote away from the certifiably uninformed, voter turnout will almost certainly get a boost.

An intellectual leader among Republicans.

DougJ: Good stuff

I was banned from commenting on the New York Times site after I suggested that the only good that could come of pairing Bobo and Gail Collins would be a murder-suicide. Looks like I was wrong anyway (from Steve Benen):

David Brooks: Gail, there I was watching the snow drift down on the Brooks estate in suburban Maryland last Saturday, when suddenly, after some spluttering and coughing, I was without power. Now I know how the Republicans feel.

Gail Collins: David, I think the Republican analogy would work only if your next step was to barricade yourself in the power station, turn off service to all the people who did have power and announce that nobody was going to do anything until the company promised to build its next generator on your block and employ all your family, friends and neighbors at handsome salaries to do the assembling. But I’m sorry, you were saying about the snow…

It’s not a Cole-quality rant but not bad for a quasi-Villager like Collins.

digby: The Return Of Up Is Downism
The other day I hypothesized that the Republicans were hypocritically turning "bailouts" into a right wing dogwhistle. Unsurprisingly, it turns out it's a Frank Luntz special.

Senator Jeff Merkely explains:
We may be in the middle of a huge snowstorm here in Washington D.C. but there is another storm brewing on Capitol Hill. Master manipulator Frank Luntz is at it again, with a memo for the lobbyists and their allies in Congress who want to derail financial reform and allow Wall Street abuses go unchecked. The memo lays out an unapologetic roadmap for harnessing Americans' anger with bailouts and their demand for accountability to ... kill any effort to bring accountability to Wall Street. It just doesn't get any more cynical.


Say you're for reform while you kill it

Luntz writes that in order for politicians to remain popular on financial issues, they need to "be an agent of change" and state that the "status quo is not an option." Of course this advice is included in a memo explaining how to preserve the status quo. Luntz is saying, in short, pretend to be for reform while you work to kill reform.

Call financial reform a job killer

The memo tells opponents of reform to say that financial reform kills jobs. I'm sorry, but have they checked the unemployment rate lately? Failure to enact reform earlier led to the biggest loss of jobs since the Great Depression.

Blame the government

Predictably, given that the goal is to allow the banks to keep doing what they've been doing, the Luntz memo advises Republicans to blame the crisis on government instead of the banks. I will concede one point here - the government is responsible for not doing its job and allowing Wall Street abuses to run amok. But it's a tough stretch to argue that the cure is for the government to continue the same bad behavior and forgo accountability and oversight.

Luntz, by blaming the government, is advocating that legislators ignore many of the factors that created this crisis. Ignore that the banks paid kickbacks to brokers to put customers in high-cost loans they didn't need. Ignore that credit rating agencies said that lots of risky loans packaged together were a safe security. Ignore that investment banks borrowed billions to gamble other people's money on dubious mortgage-backed securities. Ignore the explosion of derivatives - bets on future interest rates, currency values, and the price of commodities, stocks and bonds - that linked banks and investment houses in a web of risk.

Threaten that reform will limit choices

The memo tells opponents of reform to say that financial reform will limit consumer choice. What kind of choice do consumers have when credit card companies can unilaterally change the terms of the contract, when mortgage brokers get secret payments to steer borrowers into dangerous loans, when banks reorder the sequence of one's checks in order to maximize overdraft fees? That's not choice, that's tricks and traps. Real choice is clear information and the right to walk away from a bad deal without leaving your wallet behind.

Poison the process

In the memo, Luntz advises Republicans to use the phrase "lobbyist loopholes" when describing a financial reform bill. He suggests, essentially, that any advocacy for reform be characterized as the work of lobbyists seeking special favors. But the fact is, last year the financial sector hired 2,567 lobbyists and spent over $300 million lobbying Congress in an effort to water down financial reform.
The Republicans are going to use the unpopularity of the bailouts to discredit Democrats so that they can cut taxes and deregulate the system even more. It's actually a beautiful scam --- may be one of the most beautiful ever because the Republicans have constructed a truly elegant explanation for their hypocrisy.

Here's the new GOP Superhero, Paul Ryan, explaining why he voted for the bailouts:
Ryan said his vote for the bailout was influenced by Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism, a popular book among conservatives that argues that Nazism and other fascist movements were actually left wing in origin, and his belief that a second Depression would threaten capitalism—and rescue Obama's presidency.

"I'm a limited-government, free-enterprise guy, but TARP... represented a moment where we had no good options and we were about to fall into a deflationary spiral," he said. "I believe Obama would not only have won, but would have been able to sweep through a huge statist agenda very quickly because there would have been no support for the free-market system."

He couched his support for the auto bailout in similar terms, saying that he feared the bill's failure would have led the Obama administration to use TARP funds in order to rescue the industry with less congressional oversight instead.

“A lot of these votes are defensive votes," he said. "A lot of them are not votes you want to take but under the circumstances they're the best path forward."
It's not far removed from the thesis set forth at the teabagger convention last week-end by the far right fruitcake, Joseph Farah. And I'm sure Ryan and the boys will find no end of clever rationales for why they might need to do it again should the need arise, whether in power or out.

Yes, the Democrats are corrupt and complicit in the face of Wall Street crime as well. We know this. But Republicans are corrupt and complicit in the face of Wall Street crime --- and batshit insane about everything else. Empowering this wacko extreme wing at this moment of economic and social instability is a nightmare scenario. These people have already shown that they care nothing for popular opinion, elections or the consent of the governed and they are in the grip of a powerful myth about their own ideology. Any validation of that myth would be very dangerous.

Witness Sarah Palin's advice to Obama as to how he might win reelection:
PALIN: It depends on a few things. Say he played, and I got this from Buchanan, reading one of his columns the other day. Say he played the war card. Say he decided to declare war on Iran, or decided to really come out and do whatever he could to support Israel, which I would like him to do. But that changes the dynamics in what we can assume is going to happen between now and three years. Because I think if the election were today, I do not think Obama would be re-elected.

But three years from now things could change if on the national security threat --

WALLACE: You're not suggesting that he would cynically play the war card.

PALIN: I'm not suggesting that. I'm saying, if he did, things would dramatically change if he decided to toughen up and do all that he can to secure our nation and our allies. I think people would perhaps shift their thinking a little bit and decide, well, maybe he's tougher than we think he is today. And there wouldn't be as much passion to make sure that he doesn't serve another four years --
Two of the GOPs most important rising stars believe, respectively, that Liberal Fascism was an important work of political history and that the president could prove he is "tough" by invading Iran or doing "whatever he could" to strongly support Israel. That's just nuts.

It's very difficult to deal with the Democrats, most of whom seem to be in some somnolent state of denial about their own political fortunes, and it is vital that the liberal rank and file push them as hard as they can to end this sick, corrupt symbiosis between Wall Street and the federal government. But no matter how feckless they are are, it's important to also remember that the alternative is worse.
Sully: Thou Shalt Not Vote With A Democrat

Matt Steinglass revisits one of the odder political realities:

The temptation to criticise one's political allies exists because criticism can help individuals derive personal advantage, either within the group or by forming temporary alliances outside the group. Refraining from criticising your allies is a strategy of deferring or sacrificing individual benefits for the good of the group. But Republicans are supposed to be individualists! Democrats are supposed to believe in collective action for the good of the group. And yet Democrats are perfectly awful at collective action. Democrats are constantly undercutting their presidents; liberals have been lukewarm and quick to turn on Carter, Clinton and Obama, and no Republican president has ever faced the kind of fury from his base that the left directed at LBJ.

Marc Ambinder highlights an important court case that went entirely overlooked last week, but which matters quite a bit.

Last week, as Republicans ratcheted up their criticism of the administration's counterterrorism framework, a jury in the Southern District of New York quietly convicted a woman named Aafia Siddiqui on charges related to the attempted murder of U.S. soldiers and FBI agents in Afghanistan. She faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.

What makes Siddiqui's conviction relevant for the current debate is that she was captured, on a recognized battlefield -- Afghanistan -- and tried to kill FBI agents and American soldiers who had come to question her. Siddiqui, 40, could easily have been designated as an enemy combatant. But the Bush administration determined instead that she be tried in federal court. She was read her Miranda rights, and given access to a lawyer.

Afghanistan police arrested her in July 2008 -- she was reportedly loitering nearby a sensitive facility -- and Siddiqui was found to have materials suggesting an intention to commit acts of large-scale terrorism in the United States, including documents that referenced the Brooklyn Bridge and the Empire State Building.

When U.S. military interrogators and FBI agents sought to interview her, Siddiqui opened fire on the Americans, one of whom returned fire and wounded her. She was treated by Americans in a U.S. military hospital, transferred to American soil, arraigned in New York, charged as a terrorist.

Last week, Siddiqui was convicted, and will no doubt spend the rest of her life behind bars.

Republicans haven't said a word about this, but based on their increasingly stupid rhetoric, this series of events is not only outrageous, but actually dangerous. By GOP standards, Bush administration officials "imported" a foreign terrorist to American soil, and will now transfer said terrorist to an "American community."

So, here's the invitation: go ahead, Republicans, tell us how awful last week's conviction was. We're waiting.

Kleefeld (TPM): Lieberman Now Against Saying White House Critics Help Al-Qaeda (After He Was For It, During Bush Years) (VIDEO)

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) appeared on MSNBC Thursday afternoon, and made a bold pronouncement on the political debates surrounding the interrogation of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the suspect in the attempted bombing of Flight 253: That critics of the White House should not be accused of aiding al-Qaeda.

The catch here is that during the Bush years, Lieberman himself made some similar comments about critics of the Iraq War -- saying that when they attacked the Bush administration they were harming America, or helping al-Qaeda, or attacking America's allies.

Yesterday on MSNBC, Lieberman said just the opposite of his earlier position. "I just think we're into a bad cycle here. I have a lot of respect for John Brennan. I think some of the things he's said have been provocative and in my opinion inappropriate," said Lieberman. "You can have a difference of opinion about how the Christmas-Day Bomber should have been treated without turning it into a political debate or suggesting that anybody who doesn't agree with the way the administration handled the Christmas-Day Bomber is somehow giving aid and comfort to al-Qaeda. Nobody here wants to do that or is doing that. I think we'd all say that what we're trying to do is in fact protect the homeland security of the American people against al-Qaeda."

Lieberman was referring to a recent USA Today column in which Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan declared: "Politically motivated criticism and unfounded fear-mongering only serve the goals of al-Qaeda. Terrorists are not 100-feet tall. Nor do they deserve the abject fear they seek to instill."

Here are just four examples of Lieberman's prior position on accusing White House critics of helping al-Qaeda:

Lieberman raised this issue in a November 2005 guest column in the Wall Street Journal: "After a Thanksgiving meal with a great group of Marines at Camp Fallujah in western Iraq, I asked their commander whether the morale of his troops had been hurt by the growing public dissent in America over the war in Iraq. His answer was insightful, instructive and inspirational: 'I would guess that if the opposition and division at home go on a lot longer and get a lot deeper it might have some effect, but, Senator, my Marines are motivated by their devotion to each other and the cause, not by political debates.'"

In December 2005, Lieberman famously declared in a speech: "The distrust is deep and I know it will be difficult to overcome, but history will judge us harshly if we do not stretch across the divide of distrust to join together to complete our mission successfully in Iraq. It's time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge that he will be the commander in chief for three more critical years, and that in matters of war, we undermine presidential credibility at our nation's peril." (Via Nexis.)

In April 2007, in a Washington Post guest column, Lieberman said: "When politicians here declare that Iraq is 'lost' in reaction to al-Qaeda's terrorist attacks and demand timetables for withdrawal, they are doing exactly what al-Qaeda hopes they will do, although I know that is not their intent."

In August 2007, he declared: "Forced by facts on the ground to acknowledge the progress of the American and Iraqi militaries since the new surge strategy started, some of these opponents of the war are now turning their harshest criticism on our allies in Iraq instead of our enemies"

We've contacted Lieberman's office for comment on how these situations might be different. They have not gotten back to us at this time.

Marshall: Quite a Difference

A lot of people are saying that John Brennan went too far by saying that "politically motivated criticism and unfounded fear-mongering only serve the goals of al-Qaeda." Given the past administration's habit of arguing that dissent or questioning of counter-terrorism policies played into the hands of the terrorists, the words may have been ill-chosen. But it is simply wrong to equate the two things. Indeed, it's the kind of distinction, regrettably, the daily press is seldom able to grasp, putting simple, structural equations above the substance of what is actually being said.

If you look at what Brennan actually said it was that sowing panic, telling people that the terrorists are far more powerful than they are and that our institutions are incapable of defending us against them just makes them seem more frightening than they are. That seems qualitatively different than trying to forbid any question of just how great the threat is or the means we're using to counter it. In both cases, in and out of power, the Republicans are about the political mobilization of fear.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Evening Potpourri

Jay Ackroyd: Dean?
So Broder believes in compromise, in bipartisanship and in moderation.

And in Sarah Palin.
Ezra Klein: Collins vs. Brooks

You don't usually get this much real talk in the conversations between Gail Collins and David Brooks. Here's Collins describing her colleague's M.O.

You’re a man of good will with a fatal attraction to tidy programs. I admit it’s a very powerful approach. All during that health care debate, whenever things got impossible you could always say: “What I think they should do is pass the Wyden-Bennett Reform Plan,” and everybody would shut up and slink home to look it up on Google.

It’s a more elegant version of the Bipartisan Study Commission. Which, by the way, the Republicans recently filibustered.

We're all vulnerable to this tendency. Skeptics of messy cap-and-trade legislation get to advocate elegant carbon taxes that wouldn't survive two seconds in the legislative process. Critics of the messy health-care reform bill get to call for Wyden-Bennett or single-payer despite the absence of any evidence that either policy is remotely achievable. Folks frustrated by the budget get to look at Paul Ryan's fantastical alternative and declare it the path forward.

It would be very annoying to go to a restaurant if people insisted on ordering the dish they wanted most in the world, rather than most on the menu. The problem, of course, is that American politics doesn't offer menus, and the politicians aren't very honest about what's achievable ("I'm sorry, monsieur, but the chef does not do nationalization"). Plus, however slim the likelihood of perfect policies is, they have absolutely no chance if no one advocates for them. But for all that, there's a difference between trying to push policy in a more perfect direction and letting perfection become your excuse for never passing any policy.

Yglesias: Conspiracy Theories and Tea Parties

Jonathan Kay is the managing editor for comment at The National Post, a conservative Canadian newspaper. He says “I consider myself a conservative and arrived at [the Tea Party in Nashville] as a paid-up, rank-and-file attendee, not one of the bemused New York Times types with a media pass.” But he’s concerned that what he saw was dominated by crazy conspiracy theories:

This world view’s modern-day prophets include Texas radio host Alex Jones, whose documentary, The Obama Deception, claims Obama’s candidacy was a plot by the leaders of the New World Order to “con the Amercican people into accepting global slavery”; Christian evangelist Pat Robertson; and the rightward strain of the aforementioned “9/11 Truth” movement. According to this dark vision, America’s 21st-century traumas signal the coming of a great political cataclysm, in which a false prophet such as Barack Obama will upend American sovereignty and render the country into a godless, one-world socialist dictatorship run by the United Nations from its offices in Manhattan.

Sure enough, in Nashville, Judge Roy Moore warned, among other things, of “a U.N. guard stationed in every house.” On the conference floor, it was taken for granted that Obama was seeking to destroy America’s place in the world and sell Israel out to the Arabs for some undefined nefarious purpose. The names Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers popped up all the time, the idea being that they were the real brains behind this presidency, and Obama himself was simply some sort of manchurian candidate.

A software engineer from Clearwater, Fla., told me that Washington, D.C., liberals had engineered the financial crash so they could destroy the value of the U.S. dollar, pay off America’s debts with worthless paper, and then create a new currency called the Amero that would be used in a newly created “North American Currency Union” with Canada and Mexico. I rolled my eyes at this one-off kook. But then, hours later, the conference organizers showed a movie to the meeting hall, Generation Zero, whose thesis was only slightly less bizarre: that the financial meltdown was the handiwork of superannuated flower children seeking to destroy capitalism.

I see some of Glenn Beck’s show almost every day at work, and it’s been fascinating to me to watch the extent to which the conservative mainstream has embraced a program that’s an only very slightly prettied up version of this kind of conspiracy-mongering. Beck’s ratings, though impressive by daytime cable news standards, still amount to basically a small niche audience. In a country of 300 million people it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest that a few million people may subscribe to nutty Beck-style views, but it’s odd and disturbing that conservative elites have actually taken to pushing this stuff.

What Eric said ...

Eric Boehlert (Media Matters): Palin headlines birther conference; press pretends not to notice

If you don't think there's a media double standard that favors Republicans over Democrats, then let's play a game of what-if.

What if, in 2006, at Yearly Kos, the first annual convention of liberal bloggers and their readers, organizers shelled out $100,000 for former Vice President Al Gore to address attendees? And what if the same organizers booked as an opening-night speaker a fringe, radical-left conspiracy theorist who'd spent the previous year pushing the thoroughly debunked claim that some Bush White administration insiders played a role in, and even planned, the 9-11 attacks. What if the speaker (also proudly anti-Semitic) received a standing ovation from the liberal Yearly Kos crowd?

Given that backdrop, and given the fact that the 9-11 Truther nut had for weeks bragged about his chance to share the stage with Gore, do you think the press would have demanded that Gore justify his association with a hateful conference that embraced a 9-11 Truther? Do you think pundits would have universally mocked and ridiculed Gore's judgment while condemning the Yearly Kos convention as being a hothouse of left-wing hate? Do you think Gore's appearance would have become a thing?

I sure do.

Gore and liberal bloggers would have been crucified by the press and the D.C. chattering class if the scenario I described ever unfolded in real life. (FYI, it goes without saying that organizers for Yearly Kos, now known as Netroots Nation, would never dream of mainstreaming an anti-Semitic 9-11 Truther via a prime-time speaking gig.)

But this past weekend in Nashville, at the first National Tea Party Convention, the Beltway press did just the opposite with regard to Sarah Palin's keynote address, which did follow a prime-time speech by "birther" nut Joseph Farah, who over the years has carved out a uniquely hateful and demented corner of the right-wing blogosphere. Because, yes, at the Tea Party convention, Farah, a proud Muslim-hater and gay-hater, did receive a standing ovation from the conservative crowd after he unfurled his thoroughly debunked birther garbage. (i.e. Obama "doesn't have a birth certificate.") And Farah did brag in the weeks leading up to the event about his chance to share the stage with Palin, to associate with Palin. ("Sold out! Palin-Farah ticket rocks tea-party convention," read the headline at Farah's discredited right-wing site,

Worst of all, though, the press played dumb about the whole thing.

Fact: Virtually nobody in the corporate media said boo about Palin helping to legitimize Farah by sharing the same stage with him. She was given a total free ride.

And I mean nobody. According to Nexis, there were more than 150 newspaper articles and columns published in the U.S. last week that mentioned both Palin and the Tea Party. (Combined, The New York Times and The Washington Post published 18 of them.) Yet out of all those articles and columns, exactly two also mentioned Joseph Farah by name. (Congrats to the Philadelphia Daily News and New Hampshire's Concord Monitor.)

And keep in mind that lots of scribes, even after listening to Farah's rambling rant, filed dispatches from Nashville stressing how mellow and mainstream the Tea Party convention was turning out to be. According to the Post, the mood at the Nashville confab was "festive, even giddy." And no, not a single word in the Post dispatch mentioned Farah's high-profile birther harangue.

Bottom line: The birther movement embarrasses most conservatives. Yet even when they invite a birther nut to speak at their conference, the press still won't ask tough questions. Instead, journalists politely look away.

It didn't used to work that way. There's been a long media tradition of holding politicians accountable for their public associations, especially when they appear at conventions that feature fringe rhetoric from controversial speakers. Reporting on who politicians agree to share a stage with has always been considered not only fair game, but genuinely newsworthy.

It's just that in this instance, the press gave Palin a complete and unobstructed free ride, a free ride Al Gore never would have been afforded.

In fact, the stage-sharing question was actually of added importance at the Tea Party event, because the movement remains somewhat undefined, since, unlike a political party, it does not have obvious leaders. The people Tea Party organizers choose to associate with provide telling insight into where the movement might be headed.

As Joel Mathis at Philadelphia Weekly wrote last week (emphasis in the original):

Whenever liberals point out some of the nuttier stuff at the Tea Party gatherings -- the racist signs, the comparisons of Obama to Hitler or the talk of revolution and secession -- Tea Party sympathizers offer a couple of excuses: The nutty stuff is at the fringe, not really representative of the group as a whole and it's not fair that you focus on that! Or that the whole thing amounts to political theater, not to be taken that seriously.

But this convention is making it harder for a reasonable observer to distinguish between the nuts and the mainstream. They're all on the same stage together.

I realize some people will take issue with my headline and my claim that the Tea Party gathering in Nashville was a "birther conference." They'll claim the controversial topic was not the dominant issue addressed at the event and that I'm trying to tar a mainstream movement with the distasteful fringe. And that's why there was no reason for the press to dwell on the issue over the weekend.


I'm not the one making the birther connection. It was the Tea Party convention planners who made the conscious decision to place the topic front and center. Face it, when organizers invite a high-profile birther disciple to address the entire convention, and when he receives a standing ovation after pushing the birther craziness, then they're hosting a birther conference. End of story. (And that's when the press should have taken note.)

And can we please retire the media-sanctioned Republican defense that the racially tinged birther crusade represents a tiny, misguided element of the conservative movement? That's more baloney. Birthers have been mainstreamed, thanks to the GOP Noise Machine. How else would you explain the fact that more than 60 percent of self-indentified Southern Republicans either believe Obama was not born in America or aren't sure?

Birthers have hit critical mass, which became blindingly obvious over the weekend when mainstream GOP star Sarah Palin spoke at a convention that rolled out the red carpet for the No. 1 birther cop.

Again, if Tea Party organizers didn't want the conference to be viewed as a birther clearinghouse, then they shouldn't have invited Farah, whose only real claim to fame in the past year has been his increasingly deranged obsession with Obama's birth certificate. ( on Farah: His "raison d'etre of late has been to challenge Obama's eligibility to be president.")

But they did invite him.

If Tea Party organizers had pangs of guilt after Farah's speech, they could have denounced his comments. Sure, it would have been incredibly hypocritical, since, again, they invited Farah, and everyone in the Nashville ballroom knew what he was going to talk about. But if organizers wanted, for purely political reasons, to retroactively distance themselves from the debunked conspiracy theory, they could have done that.

But nobody did.

Keep in mind that there was online speculation Saturday that conference leaders were going to hold a press conference to downplay the birther angle.

But the press conference never happened.

There was also speculation that Palin might show some courage Saturday night and, from the Tea Party stage, create her own Sister Souljah moment and denounce the birther garbage.

But Palin did not. (Recall that in December, Palin told a radio host the public was "rightfully" making an issue about Obama's birth certificate and that she didn't "have a problem with that." Farah's WND used her comments to highlight its prior "reporting" on Obama's birth certificate and sell its birther swag.)

And wait, didn't conservative media activist Andrew Breitbart call out Farah at the Tea Party convention?

Didn't Breitbart denounce the birther crusade as a "self-indulgent," "narcissistic" "losing issue"? Well, yeah, but that happened outside the convention hall, and out of view of the conventioneers -- not exactly a profile in courage. Meaning Breitbart was reportedly "grumbling audibly" about the birther stuff during Farah's speech, but when Breitbart had the convention stage to himself that night -- when Breitbart followed Farah's crazy remarks -- did Breitbart loudly denounce the birther nonsense in front of the Tea Party convention crowd?

Plus, before Breitbart gets credit for being a conservative voice of reason on the birther obsession, please note that last year, one of Breitbart's own sites, Big Hollywood, routinely pushed the "self-indulgent" birther crap. (e.g. "In Defense of the Birthers.") So it's hard to take Breitbart's sudden birther denunciations seriously.

Let's return to the original what-if scenario, just to stress that if a high-profile liberal netroots conference during the Bush years ever, ever embraced the 9-11 Truther crusade the way Palin's Tea Party convention so publicly did last weekend with birthers, the emerging online progressive movement would have instantly discredited itself in the eyes of corporate media. Adopting a one-strike-you're-out rule, journalists would have gleefully written up the netroots' obituary, denouncing the movement as unserious and unstable. And yes, they would have taken special pleasure in piling on Gore for having anything to do with such an odious event.

But Palin strolling onto the same Tea Party stage after convention-goers gave a birther fanatic a standing ovation? That's just not news, people.

Curse that liberal media!

Pushing Back

Lesson here: don't challenge Rachel on the facts because you will most likely not only lose but lose badly. As Inhofe does here.
Inhofe, still hypocrite, not alone

Feb. 10: Chris Hayes, Washington editor for The Nation, talks with Rachel Maddow about the shameless hypocrisy of congressional Republicans who rail against the stimulus bill on the national stage but celebrate its benefits in their home district.

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It transcends self-parody. Dean of the Washington press corps, David Broder declares Sarah Palin has the right stuff.

The snows that obliterated Washington in the past week interfered with many scheduled meetings, but they did not prevent the delivery of one important political message: Take Sarah Palin seriously.

Her lengthy Saturday night keynote address to the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville and her debut on the Sunday morning talk show circuit with Fox News' Chris Wallace showed off a public figure at the top of her game -- a politician who knows who she is and how to sell herself, even with notes on her palm.


More important, she has locked herself firmly in the populist embrace that every skillful outsider candidate from George Wallace to Jimmy Carter to Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton has utilized when running against "the political establishment."


The lady is good.

Read the whole thing.

Marshall: Yep, She's on Fire

A very interesting companion to David Broder's endorsement of Sarah Palin as a politician with the right stuff who's a real contender for the presidency in tomorrow's Post.

The Post itself has a new poll out with interesting Palin numbers.

55% of Americans have an unfavorable view of Palin while 37% have a favorable impression of her. That's actually a bit worse than other recent polls of this question have shown. But the really revealing number is how many people consider her qualified to be president.

Over 70% say no, she's not. And that's up from 60% just last November. Even a majority of Republicans say she's not qualified to serve as president.

The key tell in these numbers is that even more and more of the people who like her and continue to like her are coming to the realization that she's simply not equipped to serve as president.

Old GOP talking points die hard

Feb. 10: The Washington Independent's Spencer Ackerman talks with Rachel Maddow about the falsehoods and lies by some Republicans clumsily attempting to resurrect "Democrats are weak on terrorism" talking point.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010


John Cole: Justify This Column

I’d love to hear Hiatt justify why Michael Gerson gets a paycheck:

During his question time at the House Republican retreat, President Obama elevated congressman and budget expert Paul Ryan as a “sincere guy” whose budget blueprint—which, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), eventually achieves a balanced budget—has “some ideas in there that I would agree with.” Days later, Democratic legislators held a conference call to lambaste Ryan’s plan as a vicious, voucherizing, privatizing assault on Social Security, Medicare and every non-millionaire American. Progressive advocacy groups and liberal bloggers joined the jeering in practiced harmony.

The attack “came out of the Democratic National Committee, and that is the White House,” Ryan told me recently, sounding both disappointed and unsurprised. On the deficit, Obama’s outreach to Republicans has been a ploy, which is to say, a deception. Once again, a president so impressed by his own idealism has become the nation’s main manufacturer of public cynicism.

Couldn’t the WaPo save a lot of money by just having the RNC pay Gerson’s salary?

John Cole: Just Let the Media Establishment Burn

Mark Knoller, who was last seen counting the number of times Obama played golf, has a real winner this morning:

Obama Says Bipartisanship, But What He Wants Is GOP Surrender

What these presidential appeals for bipartisanship always mean is: do it my way.

Mr. Obama said he “won’t hesitate to embrace a good idea from my friends in the minority party.” But he wants his way. He wants his energy policy enacted along with his jobs bill, his financial regulatory reform and his health care plan.

And if the opposition continues to block his objectives, he said he “won’t hesitate to condemn what I consider to be obstinacy that’s rooted not in substantive disagreement but in political expedience.”

When a sitting president calls for bipartisanship by the opposition – he really means surrender. And if they block his proposals, its “obstinacy” and not political views they hold as strongly as he holds his.

Missing from this “analysis” from Knoller is the fact that but for bizarre Senate rules, a vast MAJORITY of the House and Senate want what the President wants. Missing from this analysis is the fact that the GOP is not acting as an honest partner and is voting as a block, providing not one vote. Missing from this analysis is the fact that the WH has made so many concessions to the Republicans and included so many of their demands into legislation that the left wing is pissed, and the GOP turned around and voted against it anyway.

He doesn’t want them to surrender. Hell, if they would just vote for bills that they co-signed, he’d be happy.

Nothing is going to change until our pudgy, well-paid, lazy stenographer class is as desperate as the rest of the American people. If Mark Knoller and Michael Gerson had no health care, made 17k a year, and had a pre-existing condition, I bet they’d think differently about things. But then again, that is suggesting he even thought before barfing up this piece.

*** Update ***

Mission accomplished. Knoller is rewarded with his Drudge link.


DougJ: What’s the downside?

Newt Gingrich goes on the “Daily Show” and makes up a story about why Richard Reid was Mirandized:

After Gingrich assailed the administration for reading Miranda Rights to Detroit undie bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, Stewart drew a comparison to something that happened under George W. Bush.

“Didn’t they do the same with Richard Reid, who was the shoe bomber?” he asked the Republican icon.

“Richard Reid was an American citizen,” insisted Gingrich.

Steve Benen calls this “clueless”, but the truth is, why shouldn’t Gingrich go ahead and do this even if he knows it’s a lie? It got right by Jon Stewart (a bit surprising, since I and, I suspect, most of you knew Reid was a British citizen) and you can bet it won’t hurt his chances of being on “Meet The Press” or being enjoyed intellectually by Joe Klein. People who read left-leaning blogs know that Newt lied, but we already knew Newt was a liar.

While we the lucky few are congratulating ourselves for busting him, he’ll be telling the same story on some other show where the host is too dim to correct him.

There is absolutely no reason for Republicans not to make things up when they’re on tv. There’s no downside and there’s always the chance the story will catch on. Remember how Al Gore claimed he invented the internet? And how the Clintons stole all the W keys from the typewriters? And can you think of a single instance where a Republican paid a political price for lying?

Update. Stewart did fact check Newt at the end of the show. But you can bet Dancin’ Dave wouldn’t have. Moreover, getting fact-checked at the end of the show doesn’t have the same effect. (Still good for TDS for fact-checking at some point, even if it was too late in effect.)

John Cole: From the “No Shit” Department

Conservative author Jonathan Kay went to the Tea Party in Nashville and discovered he was surrounded by lunatics:

It’s a charming act, which makes the tea-party movement seem no more unnerving than the people who spend their weekends reenacting the Civil War. But the 18th-century getups mask something disturbing. After I spent the weekend at the Tea Party National Convention in Nashville, Tenn., it has become clear to me that the movement is dominated by people whose vision of the government is conspiratorial and dangerously detached from reality. It’s more John Birch than John Adams.

Like all populists, tea partiers are suspicious of power and influence, and anyone who wields them. Their villain list includes the big banks; bailed-out corporations; James Cameron, whose Avatar is seen as a veiled denunciation of the U.S. military; Republican Party institutional figures they feel ignored by, such as chairman Michael Steele; colleges and universities (the more prestigious, the more evil); TheWashington Post; Anderson Cooper; and even FOX News pundits, such as Bill O’Reilly, who have heaped scorn on the tea-party movement’s more militant oddballs.

One of the most bizarre moments of the recent tea-party convention came when blogger Andrew Breitbart delivered a particularly vicious fulmination against the mainstream media, prompting everyone to get up, turn toward the media section at the back of the conference room, and scream, “USA! USA! USA!” But the tea partiers’ well-documented obsession with President Obama has hardly been diffused by their knack for finding new enemies.

I’m not sure how this could be, when Reason magazine has spent months informing me these are just average (gun-toting) Americans upset by too much government. Personally, I see a number of elements to the tea party:

1.) Republican operatives bankrolled by the usual suspects, with the sole intent of using the tea party to advance the GOP and corporate agendas and to regain political power (FreedomWorks, DeMint, Palin, etc.)

2.) Cynical operators like media operations, talk show hosts and glibertarians and snake oil salesman who see a way to raise their profile and raise a buck (Fox news, PJTV, Breitbart, Glenn Beck, Reason, all the little for profit hucksters starting their own tea party funds). To a lesser extent, I would throw in the hundreds of cynical “new media consultants” the GOP seems to burp up on a daily basis.

3.) Straight up Birchers, birthers, flat-earthers, racists, militiamen, Patriot movement members, and that motley crew of scumbags and lunatics.

4.) A very small group of folks who honestly are very upset about government spending, but manage to never care when the GOP is the one doing it. They probably make up the smallest chunk, but you can pick them out quite easily- they are the somewhat sane looking people that the folks from the three previous groups try to hide behind every time the cameras are on.

At any rate, the fact that the Tea Parties have gotten this far with their incoherent and often times hypocritical message (to say nothing of the lunatics and racists and militia types) is a sign to me there is no amount of bullshit our media won’t swallow. The fact that it is allegedly a “populist” movement that was inspired by a tantrum from millionaire tv financial personality and a Brooks Brothers mafia on the Chicago trading floor, upset over meager plans to help troubled mortgage holders in the wake of a near trillion dollar bailout of the the wealthy elite who pay Rick Santelli’s salary, just ups the humor value in this theatre of the absurd. Nothing cracks me up like an angry peasant mob screaming for the repeal of the estate tax and ending the capital gains tax.

A sad state of affairs.

Pushing Back the Stoopid


Sadly, we need a lot more media reports like the one above if we are to move forward...
A tri-partisan energy bill being crafted by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) is still pending in the Senate. The odds have been against it, and this week, it looks as if success is getting further away.

Just last week, Graham explained, "[F]rom a Republican point of view, you've got the best chance you'll ever have to get meaningful energy independence. From the Democratic left point of view, you've got the best chance you'll ever have to have carbon pollution controls. Don't let [the opportunity] pass."

It looks likely that lawmakers will ignore Graham's good advice.

Record snowfall has buried Washington -- and along with it, buried the chances of passing global warming legislation this year.

Cars are stranded in banks of snow along the streets of the federal capital, and in the corridors of Congress, climate legislation also has been put on ice.

Democratic senators say a bill that was once a top priority for the party and for President Barack Obama cannot be dug up again during 2010.

It seems mind-numbing, but Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) said snowfall in D.C. has had an effect on policymakers' attitudes. "It makes it more challenging for folks not taking time to review the scientific arguments," said Bingaman, chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

"People see the world around them and they extrapolate," he added. "I think that it's hard to see an economy-wide cap-and-trade [proposal] of the type that passed the House could prevail."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters last week that he'd like to see the final language on Kerry/Graham/Lieberman fairly soon, with hopes for a floor debate in the Spring. "Lawmakers," The Hill reported, "are growing increasingly skeptical of that plan."

And given that Republicans -- who tend to believe all of the scientific data is part of an elaborate conspiracy/plot, and deserves to be rejected -- are likely to make meaningful gains in the midterm elections, it may be many years before Congress even tries to limit emissions and combat global warming.

As the threat of the crisis grows more intense, Congress cannot act. The environmental consequences are likely to be severe and unforgiving.

Ezra Klein: What Obama could learn from Bush

Last night, Craig Becker's nomination to the National Labor Relations Board was approved, with 52 senators voting in favor of Becker and 33 voting against him.

Wait, sorry, I got that wrong. It was rejected with 52 senators voting in favor of Becker and 33 voting against. How? Well, the filibuster, grasshopper. This led some lions of the Senate to take aim at the practice. "I think [the filibuster] will either fall of its own weight -- it should fall of its own weight -- or it will fall after some massive conflict on the floor," Carl Levin told the Huffington Post. "The reason the filibuster rule has been supported all these years is people have used it responsibly," Pat Leahy said. "This is unprecedented."

But the big news is that Barack Obama is finally threatening some recess appointments. Unlike on legislation, the president is not powerless before obstruction of his nominees. He, like most every president before him, can invoke his constitutional right to appoint during a congressional recess. By this point in his term, George W. Bush had recess appointed 10 nominees, including one to the National Labor Relations Board in August of his first year. We're in February of Obama's second, he has more than twice as many nominees held up as Bush did, and he's only threatening his first recess appointment.

Bush had this right. In his first year in office, he was using recess appointments and running major legislation through the reconciliation process. That normalized those moves for the rest of his administration. Using those tools wasn't a story. The Obama White House, by contrast, is holding those moves in reserve, which has allowed Republicans to paint them as extraordinary measures. But they're not extraordinary measures. They're basic elements of governance in an era of polarization and procedural obstructionism, and the White House should treat them that way.

  • from the comments:

    The Boston Globe, focusing on the Scott Brown angle, actually had a blurb on their from page that said "Scott Brown was in a 52-33 majority to reject a pro-union pick for the NLRB," and yet you wonder why most people don't understand what's going on with the filibuster.

    Posted by: _SP_ | February 10, 2010 12:39 PM
Sully: Tomorrow Belongs To Her, Ctd

A reader writes:

I was born, raised, and educated in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, an exemplary Whitopia. I grew up listening to Rush Limbaugh, watching Fox News and had a "Proud Member of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy" bumper sticker on my debate tub. I was lucky though. I did well enough in school to be eligible to attend one of those evil elite East Cost universities on scholarship. I defended Bush, idiotically, all the way until my senior year, when I studied abroad in both China and England. I was forced, over and over, by classmates and those I met in other countries to confront the grotesque neo-con mindset I had thought was so obviously right.

It took crossing both oceans, a comprehensive study of the history of religion and government, and four years of college to change my perspective. As someone who moved from one extreme to the other, I can tell you the one thing that saved me was the conservative impulse to be self critical, to avoid hubris and arrogance. The other was my parents teaching me to love science. My first break with Whitopia doctrine was when I argued with my church's youth group leader over the reality of evolution. That someone could deny something so obvious baffled me. It has been a slow and painful process since then, testing and retesting my beliefs.

I am now everything I grew up thinking I should hate:

I live in New York, go to NYU, and I study feminist and queer theory. I am horrified by the insane ramblings of Palin and the small government ideas she mutilates on a daily basis. I have lots of friends back in CDA, and lots of friends from high school who "got out." Those of use who escaped treat our home town as a place we love filled with people we don't understand or relate too. Most of us who "got out" are liberal or libertarian (I'm the latter). Most of us are deeply ashamed of how we used to view the world and, in many cases, how our friends and families still do.

If you really want know fear, all I can tell you is that Coeur d'Alene was downright progressive compared to the surrounding towns.

Keep hammering Palin. Those of use who grew up in Whitopia know her kind and understand how seductive her anti-logic can be. Thank you thank you thank you for exposing her.

Sargent: White House: Kit Bond’s Call For Brennan’s Resignation Is “Pathetic”

As you may have heard, Senator Kit Bond is calling for Obama counter-terror chief John Brennan to step down, largely because Brennan has taken the lead in pushing back against GOP efforts to paint Obama as weak on terror.

The White House is now dismissing Bond’s efforts as “pathetic,” and pointing to Brennan’s lifetime of professional intelligence experience as proof that Bond is putting politics over our national security. Asked for comment on Bond’s broadside, White House spokesman Nick Shapiro emails over a brief and dismissive comment:

“Through his pathetic attack on a counter-terrorism professional like John Brennan who has spent his lifetime protecting this country under multiple Administrations, Senator Bond sinks to new depths in his efforts to put politics over our national security.”

The conventions of political journalism for some reason discourage doing this, but it’s worth pointing out that the White House is right.

Bond’s position, quite literally, is that Brennan should step down because he’s fought back aggressively against GOP efforts to paint Obama’s policies as weak on terror. As Bond put it: “We have to wonder whether we can trust [Brennan] after he has been a mouthpiece for the political arm that I thought only came out of the White House press office.”

Yet Brennan boasts a 25-year career in intelligence and counter-terrorism. He joined the CIA as an intelligence director in 1980, subsequently holding a series of positions at the agency in America and abroad. He led counter-terrorism efforts for various agency programs in the 1990s.

Brennan was appointed CIA deputy executive director in March 2001 and served in that post until 2003 — under notorious terror sympathizer George W. Bush. He moved to the National Counter-Terrorism Center in 2004, revamping the system for monitoring terrorist activity. Etc., etc.

Yet Bond wants this man to step down, and take his counter-terrorism experience with him, because he won’t roll over before Bond’s efforts to paint him and his boss as … weak on terror. Interesting priorities.

Elliott (TPM): The Obama-GOP Miranda Showdown: Everything You Think You Know Is Wrong

On close scrutiny, this week's intense debate over Miranda rights for Umar Abdulmutallab -- culminating in GOP calls for a top Obama aide to resign -- largely falls apart.

The key point of dispute -- whether four Republican leaders should have assumed that the Christmas bombing suspect had been Mirandized after a phone call from Obama aide John Brennan, in which the GOPers were told that Abdulmutallab was in FBI custody -- is moot in light of the facts of the case.

That call occurred sometime in the evening of Christmas Day after the incident in the skies above Detroit. The Republicans maintained this week, in sniping eagerly picked up by the media, that the phone calls from Brennan were brief and informal, and they had no way of knowing that the suspect was read his rights.

What's been lost in the debate is that on the afternoon of the very next day, Dec. 26, the Justice Department announced Abdulmutallab had been criminally charged in federal court. At that point, less than 24 hours after the Brennan phone calls, there could be no doubt not only that the suspect was being handled by the criminal justice system, but also that he had been read his rights.

But none of the four Republicans made an issue out of it until at least several days after criminal charges were brought, according to our search of news archives.

Let's go back and look at what happened in more detail.

The current round of debate started Sunday when Brennan, the deputy national security adviser, said on Meet The Press that he had called Sens. Mitch McConnell and Kit Bond and Reps. John Boehner and Pete Hoekstra the night of the attempted bombing.

"I explained to them that he was in FBI custody, that Mr. Abdulmutallab was, in fact, talking, that he was cooperating at that point. They knew that 'in FBI custody' means that there's a process then you follow as far as Mirandizing and presenting him in front of a magistrate," Brennan said.

"None of those individuals raised any concerns with me at that point. They didn't say, 'Is he going into military custody? Is he going to be Mirandized?' They were very appreciative of the information, we told them we'd keep them informed, and that's what we did."

The four GOPers angrily fired back with different versions of, "but he didn't mention Miranda specifically!" "At no point did he ever talk to me about legal strategies," Hoekstra told Politico.

Bond said in a statement, "Brennan never told me any of plans to Mirandize the Christmas Day bomber -- if he had, I would have told him the administration was making a mistake."

Said McConnell's spokesman: "Senator McConnell was given a heads up that Abdulmutallab was in custody, but little else. He wasn't told of the decision to Mirandize Abdulmutallab."

Asked about the matter by TPMmuckraker earlier this week, Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith dismissed "Brennan's claim that 'in FBI custody' somehow means Miranda rights have been read," pointing to an article about a non-operational interrogation team that would potentially not read suspects their rights.

But whatever side you take in this argument -- and given that its standard FBI policy to read Miranda rights to suspects, Brennan seems to have the upper hand on this one -- it really only bears on the 20 hours or so after the phone calls on Christmas evening.

That's because at around 3.p.m. ET the next day, the government announced that criminal charges had been brought against Abdulmutallab. The press release was sent out by the Justice Department. And an FBI agent's affidavit was attached.

So, that's when top Republicans fired off their own press releases slamming the decision to bring criminal charges and to -- one would have been right to assume -- Mirandize the suspect, right?

Not so much.

Lt. Col. David Frakt, a law professor at Western State University who has represented defendants before military commissions at Guantanamo, tells TPMmuckraker that if "FBI custody" wasn't a tip-off that Abdulmutallab had been Mirandized, the fact that he was criminally charged would remove all doubt.

"If the agents had not advised a person of their rights, which undoubtedly they would, then the judge will," Frakt says. "The judge will reiterate those rights and typically appoint counsel if it hasn't already been appointed."

The DOJ press release noted that Abdulmutallab "will make his initial court appearance later today." U.S. District Judge Paul D. Borman visited the hospital where the suspect was being treated that day and informed him of the criminal charges.

But as far as we can tell from searching news archives, the first time Hoekstra, Bond, Boehner, or McConnell made an issue of the fact that Abdulmutallab was going through the civilian system is a Dec. 30 statement from Hoekstra's office. That's four days after Abdulmutallab was charged in civilian court.

Hoekstra even wrote an op-ed that appeared in his hometown paper on on Dec. 29 taking Obama to task over counterterrorism policy and the Christmas bombing attempt. But the op-ed didn't criticize the fact that Abdulmutallab had been charged three days earlier in criminal court, nor that he was read his rights.

Bond, for his part, didn't come out against Abdulmutallab being in civilian courts until Jan. 3, about a week after he was charged, according to a Nexis search.

As for the Miranda question at the heart of this week's debate, none of the four seem to have mentioned the issue specifically until Hoekstra did on Jan. 13. That came only after the Miranda-specific attack had been initiated by Tom Ridge and Dick Cheney, as we explained yesterday.

The delayed GOP outrage may be explained by the fact that all previous cases of suspected terrorists captured on U.S. soil had been handled by the criminal justice system, as Attorney General Eric Holder noted last week.

Despite all this, Republicans are sticking to the Miranda attack. Amid calls by Bond and Hoekstra for Brennan to resign, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) told National Review that Brennan is "not being honest and forthright" about the phone call and the Miranda issue.

We asked spokespeople for the four Republicans why they didn't respond to the criminal charges against Abdulmutallab when they were brought on Dec. 26. We'll let you know if we hear back.


Last week, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee, unveiled a GOP budget blueprint that slashes Medicare and privatize Social Security. The same plan, incidentally, includes more tax breaks for the wealthy and a "consumption tax" of 8.5% that would unfairly burden the lower- and middle-class.

After presenting his plan, Democrats went on the offensive, noting how radical approach the House GOP prefers. Republican leaders slowly distanced themselves from the Ryan plan.

For his party, Ryan can't dismiss the criticism out of hand -- Democrats are describing his plan in an honest, accurate way -- but he can feel sorry for himself. Republican columnist Michael Gerson devoted his latest Washington Post piece to characterizing the GOP lawmaker as a victim.

The attack "came out of the Democratic National Committee, and that is the White House," Ryan told me recently, sounding both disappointed and unsurprised. [...]

To Ryan, the motivations of Democratic leaders are transparent. "They had an ugly week of budget news. They are precipitating a debt crisis, with deficits that get up to 85 percent of GDP and never get to a sustainable level. They are flirting with economic disaster."

I see. So the reason Democrats are pointing out the absurdities of Paul Ryan's plan is that Democrats are struggling to clean up the fiscal mess left by ... Republicans like Paul Ryan. It's quite a scheme.

Gerson finds this persuasive. Given that his column has basically become Fox News in print, that's not especially surprising.

But the entire pitch is nevertheless pretty silly. Ryan voted for budgetary and economic policies that added $5 trillion to the national debt over eight years. He supported the budgetary and economic policies that took a $230 billion surplus and turned it into a $1.3 trillion deficit. He was proud to endorse all kinds of measures -- including two wars and Medicare expansion -- that cost a bundle, but which Ryan and his cohorts never even tried to pay for.

But now Paul Ryan has decided it's time to clean up the mess he helped create, and to do so, he wants to go after Medicare and Social Security. When the left suggests that's ridiculous, Ryan concludes that Democrats are big meanies.

He's obviously well on his way to becoming a media darling. Gerson sounds ready to take a leave of absence to erect a statue in Ryan's honor.