Saturday, March 20, 2010

I see crazy people.

Kate Pickert (Swampland): "Alert the patriots: Tyrants are ruining our country!"

A funny thing happened on the way to the congressional switchboard earlier this week.

On Wednesday, Rush Limbaugh told his listeners to call Congress and tell them to vote no on health care reform. That's no small thing. With his millions of fans, this is the kind of advice that could crash the congressional phone system.

But Rush made a critical error in his activism and it revealed an insider trick about grassroots organizing and showcased the absolute hatred some of Rush's listeners feel about Democratic health care reform. Stay with me here – I promise the payoff will be worth it.

FamiliesUSA, a pro-reform activist group, has a toll-free number on its web site, telling supporters: “Call your elected officials at 1-888-876-6242. Tell them that Americans deserve better than the status quo. We need quality, affordable health care NOW.”

People who call this number, however, don't actually reach elected officials – at first. They reach a recorded message that begins, “Thank you for calling your representatives and your senators. Please urge them to vote yes on health reform…” After the pro-reform message, the call is routed to the actual capitol switchboard. The purpose of this is to two-fold: To give callers a kind of script to say when they do reach members and senators and to spare them the cost of a long-distance call.

Unfortunately for Rush, he gave out the toll-free FamiliesUSA number on his show on Tuesday, which meant his anti-reform listeners got a pro-reform message when they tried to call Congress. So many Rush fans called the FamiliesUSA number on Tuesday that it caused a massive spike in call volume, which was immediately noticed by the group's telephone re-routing vendor. Not wanting to pick up the tab for anti-reform calls, of course, FamiliesUSA immediately shut down the number and got a new one, which is posted above and now functioning as intended. (FamiliesUSA executive director Ron Pollack says the cost of that brief spike is in the thousands of dollars. “It's an ironic form of flattery,” he quipped when I reached him earlier today.)

But Rush's callers didn't understand this whole re-routing thing and many were absolutely and astoundingly enraged. Many of them assumed the pro-reform message they got was a left-wing conspiracy to take over government. Think this is a stretch?

Here's a Youtube video posted by one such caller, who believed he had discovered a blatant case of “Obama propoganda…Alert the patriots: Tyrants are ruining our country !”

He's not alone. After FamiliesUSA turned off their original toll free number, it was bought by someone else who must have known about the mixup. That new person put a pro-reform bulletin on an answering machine and recorded messages left by angry – and I mean very angry – Rush listeners. WARNING: Many of the message contain obscenities – they can be accessed by calling 206-666-6666.

If you ever had any doubts that there are people out there who truly believe the Democratic health reform plan is a communist conspiracy to take over America…

Here we go!

Tim F.: Great News

Via twitter, more than 50 Senators have signed a letter promising to vote for the reconciliation fixes immediately. This could very well encourage a couple of House Dems to support Pelosi’s present strategy (vote for the Senate bill as a separate item) and move into the ‘yes’ column.

A couple is all we need.


Did Steny Hoyer just declare that he has the votes to pass the damn bill? Someone translate from twitterish.

BTW, this is why I don’t twitter. It is fucking addictive.


Someone make me stop updating Ezra’s twitter stream.

KagroX RT @AlanColmes:Palin Concerned Obama’s Lack Of Experience Has Him “Over His Head” On #hcr || Written all the way up arm

wonkroom Managers amendment is only 9 pages. Hope Republicans can read it in just 24 hours.


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Friday, March 19, 2010


QOTD, beltane:
Am I supposed to be relieved or concerned that out of every four people I see, one of them is bound to be crazy?
C Street marked by failures
March 18: Rachel Maddow updates the news on embattled members of the C Street "Family," Congressman Bart Stupak, Senator John Ensign, and Governor Mark Sanford. The Interfaith Alliance's Reverend Welton Gaddy joins to discuss the intersection of religion and politics.

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John Cole: They’re Wingnuts


As if relations between Israel and the United States weren’t icy enough lately, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s brother-in-law, Dr. Hagai Ben-Artzi, has now publicly called President Barack Obama an anti-semite on an Army Radio program:
    It’s not that Obama doesn’t like Bibi. He doesn’t like the nation of Israel… When there is an anti-Semitic president in the United States, it is a test for us and we have to say: We will not concede. We are a nation dating back 4,000 years, and you in a year or two will be long forgotten. Who will remember you? But Jerusalem will dwell on forever.

The biggest immediate problem for Israel right now is that the American public is going to start to make the connection between the wingnuts at the Weekly Standard and the teabagging fools in the GOP and the hard-right government in Israel. If you listen to the interview, Rev. Wright makes an appearance. Right now, the usual suspects think they are really putting it to Obama, but I suspect he will just let them keep talking and talking.

On the upside, I don’t think he mentioned death panels or Obama’s birth certificate.

Sully: Foxman Calls Petraeus A Jew-Baiter

The man with the fax machine has declared that Petraeus' recent comments on Israel "[smack] of blaming the Jews for everything.” Yglesias yawns. Meanwhile, back on planet earth, Josh Marshall highlights the unavoidable truths Petraeus said in his prepared remarks to Congress this week:

The enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests in the AOR [CentCom Area of Responsibility]. Israeli-Palestinian tensions often flare into violence and large-scale armed confrontations. The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel. Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in the AOR and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support. The conflict also gives Iran influence in the Arab world through its clients, Lebanese Hizballah and Hamas.

Josh comments:

In a sense, all of this is no more than commonsense, a given in many conversations about the US position in the world, especially in the arc of Muslim majority nations from the eastern Mediterranean to Indonesia. The continuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict directly harms the vital interests of the United States. But if this is the consensus view at the highest levels of the US military, that's a very different world we're living in than the one we've been in heretofore.

What remains to be seen is whether this is a statement not to be acted upon or a strategic analysis that will inform Pentagon policy.

Reality is meeting a lobby. In Washington, that usually means the lobby wins. But this time, we are at war and America's vital interests are at stake. This will be a struggle - but that there is a struggle at all is progress in a way. I'd be more worried if no sparks were flying.

Ackerman: Abe Foxman ‘Smacks’ Gen. Petraeus

A million thanks to FNord for catching this – my life is too fleeting to spend reading the Jerusalem Post — but it would appear that Abe Foxman, that frivolous poltroon, is warning of a new danger rising in the shtetl:

Israel should immediately battle a charge emerging in the US that its actions are endangering the lives of US soldiers, because it is a particularly “pernicious” argument that “smacks of blaming the Jews for everything,” Anti-Defamation League National Chairman Abe Foxman said on Monday.

Foxman, in an interview with The Jerusalem Post, was replying to an emerging theme that has run through the public discussion in the US of the Interior Ministry’s announcement of plans to build 1,600 housing units in northeast Jerusalem’s Ramat Shlomo neighborhood: that Israel’s actions could cost the lives of American soldiers.

That sentiment was expressed by such noted antisemites as Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. Central Command chief who tried and failed to get Israel, the West Bank and Gaza placed under his area of responsibility. At the risk of concern-trollery, allow me to offer some free advice to my shtetlmate Foxman: Do not fuck with David Petraeus. Do not come within a football field of implying he is an antisemite. Do not formulate any construction, no matter how weaselly and crass and insulting to the intelligence, that leaves the slightest, faintest, remotest indication that he has any animus at all to Israel or the Jewish people.

Indeed, let’s take a look at what that weasel word was. We cannot discuss the security implications for the United States of Israeli actions, Foxman instructs, because that “smacks of blaming the Jews.” Yes, it “smacks.” It leaves a bad taste in Foxman’s sour mouth. Something is “smacking” Foxman’s delicate sensibilities, and it’s the prospect of a grown-up argument about what Israel does and what that means to the United States.

The truth is that nothing in this complex and variated world is monocausal, and it’s rare that you can find any one action in the security sphere that directly and exclusively leads to an equal and opposite reaction. Such is true of Israel and the United States. But it would be equally foolish and immature to rule out of analytic consideration that what Israel does contributes to the insecurity of the region and, when U.S. troops are in the region, contributes to their jeopardy. You can find this when Moqtada Sadr freaks out in Iraq because of the Israeli invasion and bombardment of Lebanon. Or when a sick fuck like al-Qaeda’s Khost bomber claims to have his radicalism strengthened by Operation Cast Lead. Or when Usama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri, seeing that their hold on the Muslim mind is weak, attempts to appropriate Muslim bitterness over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to bolster their support. In none of these cases can you say Had Israel Not Done This, Then That Wouldn’t Have Happened, because the counterfactual conditional makes for sloppy reasoning. But you also can’t say it had no effect when the ripple effects of Israeli actions on American security are so obvious and manifested. Recognizing that doesn’t remotely make you a Blame-The-Jews guy. It makes you a minimally informed and thoughtful observer of the Middle East.

The fact that Foxman wants to keep that consideration out of bounds demonstrates how insecure he is about winning a mature argument. And so he’s willing to intimate in a circus-huckster manner that Gen. Petraeus and other members of the Obama administration have something against the Jews. I’ll tell you what I’d like to smack.

John Cole: John Rogers Is a Genius

More ammunition for the defense of the crazification factor:

Some 27 percent of Israelis believe that U.S. President Barack Obama is anti-Semitic, according to a Haaretz-Dialog poll conducted this week.

Anpther 56 percent questions said they don’t believe politicians who call Obama anti-Semitic or hostile to Israel, or who say he is “striving to topple Netanyahu.”

On the whole, Obama’s popularity may be declining in American public opinion, but a sweeping majority of Israelis think his treatment of this country is friendly and fair.

Just the other day, 27% of Hiram Monseratte’s district decided that despite the fact he was convicted of slashing his significant other, he deserved their vote.

I’m telling you- pay attention to 27%. It is uncanny how often it shows up.

Sully: Bursting The Neocon Balloon

Obama is well-regarded among non-wing-nut Israelis and the Israeli population at large, unlike the lobby that purports to represent them, is evenly split over the critical issue:

Nearly half the respondents (48 percent) said Israel must keep building in the capital, even at the expense of a rift with the United States, while 41 percent said Israel must accept the American demand (and Palestinian ultimatum) to stop building in Jerusalem until the end of the negotiations (which haven't begun yet)... Though the public remained composed in the face of the diplomatic fracas, poll respondents are not thrilled with the prime minister's conduct in the affair.

More people said Netanyahu's behavior was irresponsible than said he acted responsibly.

Meanwhile, Laura Rozen pens a drily hilarious sentence:

Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren channeled Netanyahu's anticipated response to U.S. demands to the Washington Post's Jackson Diehl earlier Thursday.


Sully: “I said, ‘For God’s sake, he desperately has to be kept away from working with children’”

18 Mar 2010 07:31 pm

The psychiatrist who warned Ratzinger's archdiocese about pedophlle priest Peter Hullerman goes public:

“I said, ‘For God’s sake, he desperately has to be kept away from working with children,’” the psychiatrist Werner Huth said in an interview Thursday. “I was very unhappy about the entire story.” Dr. Huth said he was concerned enough that he set three conditions for treating the priest, Peter Hullermann: that he stay away from young people and alcohol and be supervised by another priest at all times. Dr. Huth said he issued the warnings — explicit, both written and oral — before the future pope, then Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, left Germany for the Vatican in 1982. In 1980, following abuse complaints from parents in Essen that the priest did not deny, Archbishop Ratzinger approved a decision to move the priest to Munich for therapy.

Here is where things start unraveling for the Pope:

The psychiatrist said in an interview he did not have any direct communications with Archbishop Ratzinger and did not know if the archbishop knew about his warnings. Though he said he spoke with several senior church officials, Dr. Huth’s main contact at the time was a bishop, Heinrich Graf von Soden-Fraunhofen, who died in 2000...

In the minutes taken by the priest in charge of the parish at the meeting with the parents, he noted that they “would not file charges under the current circumstances” in order to protect their children.... Spared prosecution after his transgressions in Essen, which according to the statement released by the diocese he “did not dispute,” Father Hullermann instead was ordered to undergo therapy with Dr. Huth. The archdiocese said that order was approved personally by Archbishop Ratzinger.

So we are asked to believe that, as archbishop, Ratzinger personally approved an order for a priest to be transferred to Munich for therapy, after his archdiocese had been repeatedly and explicitly warned that this priest was a danger to children - but that Ratinger had no idea what that therapy was about, and bears no responsibility at all for the acts of abuse committed then and thereafter by this protected child-rapist.

Yes, it appears that this is what we are being asked to believe.

Bias defends 'Don't ask, don't tell' policy
March 18: Major Michael Almy, former U.S. Air Force Communications Officer discharged under "Don't ask, don't tell," talks with Rachel Maddow about the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the policy and the misconceptions about gays in the military.

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Madrak (C&L): Why Is Fox Funding Ops Research On A Minister Simply For Preaching Social Justice?

Burns Strider, of the American Values Network, makes a good point. Why is Fox funding research to discredit a minister for believing in social justice?

This past week, Glenn Beck publicly revealed that his staff is moving beyond simply twisting the news for ideological ends to now funding opposition research and internet attack campaigns with the stated purpose of destroying the personal credibility of pastors who dare to question statements made by FOX commentators.

By now, many people are probably familiar with Glenn Beck's statement from a couple of weeks ago that any church that talks about "social or economic justice" is not of Christ but is instead spreading Nazi or communist propaganda, and that Beck's listeners should leave those churches. (Funny, Beck's own Mormon faith uses those terms throughout its website.)There was an immediate response from pastors around the country citing the overwhelming call for economic and social justice in Scripture ... and Rev. Peg Chemberlin, president of the National Council of Churches, provided a wonderful summary of the Scriptural case on theHuffington Post.

But the pastor who quickly rose to the lead of the Catholic, mainline, and evangelical rebuke of Glenn Beck was Rev. Jim Wallis, President of Sojourners.And so with no scriptural or theological arguments to fall back upon, Glenn Beck apparently decided that his only option is to try to destroy Rev. Wallis personally.

Personal attacks aren't uncommon from partisan commentators, but what is especially troubling about this most recent development is that Glenn Beck isn't just planning to throw insults; he said that he has been using his FOX staff to research everything that Rev. Wallis has ever said or done and to dig up dirt on the people who work with the pastor.

I know Rev. Wallis both professionally and as a friend. I've watched him coach my son in Little League baseball and prayed with him for the strength and success of our great nation. Beck's attacks are contextually fictitious to the point of being imaginary. It's quite sad, actually. He's about to overcook my grits.

But Rev. Wallis continues to take the high road, speaking out for the power and calling of social justice, refraining from personal attacks, and reminding us that Dr. King stood down injustice and promoted social justice by confronting, not attacking.But that is all for another time. Why is FOX funding research to discredit an American minister?

HCR Friday

Nancy Pelosi.
"I never stop whipping."
Email Of The Day

From the staff of Senator whose support we can’t afford to lose.

...[W]e got more than 300 teabagger calls today. My intern cried. We got TWO (2) pro-reform calls today. I hate to beg, I really do. But y’all are doing a better job of whipping Members than anyone else. PLEASE KEEP CALLING.

You know what to do.

Switchboard: (202) 224-3121

Guide for first-timers here.

Why People Don't Understand Health Care Policy.
Take it away, Chris Cilizza:
That meeting also made plain the wide policy gap between the two parties; Democrats were focused primarily on expanding coverage, while Republicans were fixated on controlling costs.

Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office says [PDF] the Democrats' plan is the biggest deficit-reducer in 15 years:

CBO and JCT estimate that enacting both pieces of legislation—H.R. 3590 and the reconciliation proposal— would produce a net reduction in federal deficits of $138 billion over the 2010–2019 period as result of changes in direct spending and revenue... [it would also] reduce federal budget deficits over the ensuing decade relative to those projected under current law—with a total effect during that decade that is in a broad range around one-half percent of GDP.

The bill also reduces Medicare expenditures by 1.4 percentage points a year. Which is to say, Cilizza's descriptions of the two sides is pure b.s., and, sadly, they appear in an otherwise sensible article.

Republicans have consistently opposed many cost control measures, from an independent medical advisory commission to insurance exchanges, while touting ideas like malpractice reform that do reduce costs but only by small amounts. And malpractice reform policies are in the bill! Read David Cutler. Cillizza literally refuses to believe that someone could care about reducing costs and expanding coverage at the same time, despite the bare facts.

-- Tim Fernholz

Ezra Klein: Democrats get the bill, and the score, they needed

The question people generally ask about the final health-care reform vote is, "Won't it be politically difficult for many House Democrats to vote yes?" But with the release of the CBO report (pdf), I'd flip that question a bit: Won't it be substantively difficult for many House Democrats to vote no?

If you're a liberal House Democrat, here's what you'd be voting against: Legislation that covers 32 million people. A world in which 95 percent of all non-elderly, legal residents have health-care coverage. An end to insurers rescinding coverage for the sick, or discriminating based on preexisting conditions, or spending 30 cents of each premium dollar on things that aren't medical care. Exchanges where insurers who want to jack up premiums will have to publicly explain their reason, where regulators will be able to toss them out based on bad behavior, and where consumers will be able to publicly rate them. Hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies to help lower-income Americans afford health-care insurance. The final closure of the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit's "doughnut hole."

If you're a conservative House Democrat, then probably you support many of those policies, too. But you also get the single most ambitious effort the government has ever made to control costs in the health-care sector. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the bill cuts deficits by $130 billion in the first 10 years, and up to $1.2 trillion in the second 10 years. The excise tax is now indexed to inflation, rather than inflation plus one percentage point, and the subsidies grow more slowly over time. So one of the strongest cost controls just got stronger, and the automatic spending growth slowed. And then there are all the other cost controls in the bill: The Medicare Commission, which makes entitlement reform much more possible. The programs to begin paying doctors and hospitals for care rather than volume. The competitive insurance market.

This was a hard bill to write. Pairing the largest coverage increase since the Great Society with the most aggressive cost-control effort isn't easy. And since the cost controls are complicated, while the coverage increase is straightforward, many people don't believe that the Democrats have done it. But to a degree unmatched in recent legislative history, they have.

The Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit didn't try to offset its costs. It just increased the deficit. And Medicare and Medicaid were passed in the days before the Congressional Budget Office even existed. For health-care reform, Democrats have gotten the toughest scorekeeper in Washington to bless their effort, and though many don't think that's good enough, it's a lot more than anyone else has ever done.

People pay a lot of attention to the difficult politics of health-care reform, but at the end of the day, the task of writing the policy will be seen as the harder, and more consequential, element of this effort. But it worked. Democrats got the score they needed, and now they can go to their liberals and say that this is closer to universality than we've ever been, and they can go to their conservatives and say this does more for deficit reduction than has ever been done, and both things will be true.

If this bill does pass on Sunday, that, and not deals or polls or rides on Air Force One, will be why.

Ezra Klein: Mike Pence's confused response to the CBO report

"Only in Washington," said Rep. Mike Pence, "can you spend a trillion dollars and say you’re gonna save the taxpayers' money.”

And only in Washington can such willful obtuseness be considered a professional attribute. You can believe that the savings in the Democratic plan will work as CBO thinks they will work, or you can disagree with that. But let's not pretend there's something complicated about the theory of spending money and saving money at the same time.

Let's say I own a graphics design firm. But all our computers are very old. A lot of time is wasted waiting for Adobe Photoshop to load and compute. So I decide to upgrade all of the computers. Costs a lot of money. But since my designers can now do more projects in a day, my firm is actually making more money. So yes, I can spend money and increase my bottom line at the same time. Investing in order to secure efficiencies is not a new concept.

The health-care example is a bit more complicated because the thing we are spending money on (coverage) is not the thing that's saving us money. But it's not that much more complicated. Let's say I want to hire new people at my graphics design firm. But first I need to make room in the budget. So I move our offices to a cheaper area of town, I stop providing free lunch for the staff, I raise prices slightly and I implement a variety of painful managerial changes that substantially streamline our operations. This not only pays for the new hires, but saves money above and beyond that.

No one would argue that these hypotheticals are impossible. Or, if they did, they would be out of touch with basic economic concepts to a truly unseemly degree. But that's what Pence is implying above. Presumably, he's just misleading his audience because it's easier to play to ignorance than to explain his actual critique of the bill. But that's not a good thing either.

Chapter and verse ...
History awaits health reform's passage March 18: Rachel Maddow reviews the news of the CBO score of the Senate health reform bill and talks with former Vermont Governor Dr. Howard Dean about the contents of the bill.

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Last night, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) was asked whether his caucus has the 216 votes it needs to pass health care reform. He said he believes so. This morning, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) was asked the same question. He said he doesn't think so, but was confident about success "by Sunday."

Watching this process unfold is not for the faint of heart.

I'm deeply skeptical of this, but the New York Times reported this morning that the leadership is so confident about securing a majority, the Speaker's office is now in the process of trying to figure out which vulnerable Dems to give passes to.

Yes, the 11th-hour vote tallying is under way at a brisk pace in offices from Capitol Hill to the West Wing, with Ms. Pelosi and her lieutenants keeping hour-by-hour tabs on wavering Democrats.

But as the week inches along, with momentum steadily building to a Sunday vote, the party leaders are also beginning to decide which politically endangered lawmakers will be given absolution to vote no. [...]

There are, of course, very few votes to spare. Yet there are some. And even most Republican leaders concede that the mystery is not so much whether Democrats will reach the magic number of 216, but rather whose names will be included as yes votes in the final count.

That's about the most optimistic assessment for reform supporters I've seen, which is probably why I find it so hard to believe.

The good news for proponents is that there are now three Dems who voted against reform in November who are going to support the bill. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), who announced his switch on Wednesday, was first, and two more -- Tennessee Blue Dog Bart Gordon and Colorado's Betsy Markey -- made the same switch yesterday afternoon. Illinois' Luis Gutierrez and Ohio's Charlie Wilson, who were threatening to switch from "yes" to "no," both said they'd vote to pass reform, too.

But the news was not all good. New York's Michael Arcuri, in a rather shocking display of cowardice, declared on his website that he would oppose the bill he supported in November. Illinois' Daniel Lipinski signaled his intention to follow Bart Stupak's lead. Ohio's Zack Space is leaning "no," despite supporting reform in the past, and in a head-scratcher, Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts, a member of Speaker Pelosi's whip team, declared that the reform bill isn't liberal enough for him, and declared his opposition.

And, of course, Bart Stupak is still Bart Stupak.

Expect a busy day.

Marshall: Lynch: Still a No
Even after a 40 minute meeting with the president yesterday, Rep. Lynch (D-MA) is still a no on Health Care Reform. Looking like a pretty likely primary challenge to come.
Sargent: SEIU To Yank Support For Arcuri, Will Search For Challenger

It appears SEIU is dead serious about this business about yanking support for House Dems who vote No on the health bill.

The SEIU bluntly informed Dem Rep Michael Arcuri of New York yesterday that it’s pulling support for hiim in the wake of the news that he’s an all-but-certain No, I’m told. And the search for a primary or third-party challenger is underway.

Jerry Dennis, the president of SEIU local 200, which represents 14,000 workers statewide in New York, called Arcuri yesterday and deliered the news, SEIU spokesman Matt Nerzig tells me.

“Jerry called him yesterday and told him it’ll be very difficult to support him come next election if he’s not on this bill,” Nerzig says. “The search for alternatives has already begun.”

“This guy won by two percent with our support and 1199 support against a moderate republican last time,” Nerzig continues. “It’ll be very difficult for him to win reelection next time without us.” Arcuri won with 52% of the vote in 2008.

It’s worth reiterating that this threat is very real. Because of the powerhouse Working Families Party in New York, a labor-backed third party challenge could be a career-ender for these pols.

Separately, in a bit of good news for Dem vote counters, Rep Charlie Wilson, a former Yes who was thought to be undecided, will vote Yes again, a good get for Dems because he shared the Stupak dozen’s concerns.

“I am confident that the language in the Senate bill ensures that there will be no federal funding for abortions,” Wilson said. “I am confident that the Senate language upholds all of my pro-life values.”

Dennis G.: John Barrow: Profiles in ______________

John Barrow is a Congressman from Georgia’s 12th District. He has been in Congress since 2004 when he won election in 2004 when he ran for Congress in the 10th District that includes my old stomping grounds of Athens, GA. After that election, the Republicans in Georgia took a tip from Tom DeLay in Texas and engaged in some rogue mid-decade reconfiguration of Congressional Districts. The new 10th District was designed for Barrow to lose the seat in 2006 and so he moved to Savannah and ran in the newly drawn 12th District. He had a close race in 2006 and held onto the seat by a narrow 864 votes. In 2008—riding Barack Obama’s coattails—he easily won re-election with 66% of the vote.

Tonight, John Barrow faces a choice. He is an old friend and I worry that a cowardice born of ambition is about to lead him to vote NO on HCR.

He needs to hear from some folks about this vote—and soon.

I’ve known John Barrow for years, decades really. Back in the day (as the kids say), John and I both lived in Athens, Georgia. I published an alternative newspaper there and John was a lawyer and a member of the Athens City Council. In 1989-1990 I worked to support unifying the local Governments of Clarke County, Georgia and the City of Athens into one new Unified government: Athens-Clarke County. It was a hard fought campaign, but we won the Unification Vote and then a progressive slate of candidates won control of the new local government. John was one of those progressives and he represented the Fourth District of the A/C Government for many years. Over many elections and legislative battles, I supported him and wrote many an editorial upon his behalf.

I left Georgia in the late-nineties, but I would stop in and visit John when I came back to Athens from time to time. When I heard that he was running for Congress in 2004, I gave him my support and did what I could do to help him win. When he had his close race in 2006, I did what I could to support him as well. I was happy to see him win.

I’ve been playing phone tag with John for the last few months on HCR. I’ve heard him on my voice mail and I’ve spoken with members of his team. I have to say that as of tonight, I am not encouraged by what they’ve been saying. More troubling are the reports I’m hearing from other contacts in Georgia that John Barrow is leaning to a “NO” vote on HCR. To some longtime friends he has been ‘apologizing’ as he talks about his upcoming vote. These are not good signs.

While some whip counts have Barrow listed as undecided, others list him as a firm “NO”. My effort to find out where he stands is—so far—disappointing. It looks like Barrow may be a NO vote and the worst part of all of it is that his reason is just cowardice born of ambition. It would pathetic if the stakes were not so high.

John has been a back-bencher in Congress. It is hard to see anyplace where he has made his mark in his almost six years in the place. In some ways this makes sense given the difficult District that he is in, but it is not that difficult for a Democrat—the GA-12 went for President Obama by 54.09% of the vote in 2008 and that margin carried Barrow back to Congress. If Barrow’s goal was just re-election he could vote YES on HCR and most likely do just fine come November, but I’m hearing that he has his eyes on a bigger prize. It seems that his ambition for higher office is the force that is driving him towards a NO vote.

The talk in Georgia is that John wants to run for the Senate in 2014 and that he thinks a NO vote on HCR will be smart positioning for that race. He seems to be making the bet that a NO vote on HCR will be forgotten by then. Hell, he seems to be making a bet that Democrats will forget his betrayal by the fall and support him with DCCC money, fundraisers, grass roots support and ground troops for his re-election. He seems to feel that even if he votes to kills HCR that Democrats will still rally to support him in November and that they will support him again in 2012 and then get behind him when he runs for the Senate in 2014.

John Barrow needs a little dose of reality.

He needs to hear that voting NO on HCR will only place him on a fast track to the END of his ambitions. He needs to hear that a NO vote is a betrayal that will not be forgotten. He needs to hear that a NO vote will lose him support in every election from here on out. He needs to know that Democrats will not support him for anything if he votes NO. HIs fear of a NO vote needs to become greater than his fear of a YES vote when it comes to his ambitions. I wish my old friend was a fellow who put doing the right thing first, but he is not. Fine. If ambition is his motivation, he needs to know that a NO will be his end of his political career.

I keep hoping that I will hear that John Barrow will be a vote FOR HCR, but I feel a need to let an old friend know that there will be a price for his calculated cowardice if he votes NO on HCR. This vote will be John Barrow’s test. He has a choice between a Profiles in Courage moment or a base capitulation to the fearmongers of the Right. I want him to do the right thing.

This is a message that I have left for John and one that I will tell him if he returns my calls. It is a message that I hope you will share with him as well.

I know John. He is a decent fellow, but he is driven by his ambitions. That’s fine as far as that sort of motivation goes, lots of politicians are driven by ambition. Many have done excellent things because of that motivation. But many, many more have let their ambition trump their integrity. And from time to time a vote comes along that shines a light on every backbencher trying to just skate by to the next election and forces them to decide between courage and cowardice.

That light is now firmly focused on John Barrow. On Sunday he will cast a vote that will either be a Profile in Courage or a Capitulation to Chicken-shit Fear.

If you are in the 12th District of Georgia, give Barrow a call:

Washington, DC / p: (202) 225-2823 / f: (202) 225-3377

Augusta, GA / p: (706)722-4494 / f: (706) 722-4496

Milledgeville, GA / p:(478) 452-4611 / f: (478) 451-0717

Sandersville, GA / p: (478) 553-1923 / f: (478) 553-9215

Savannah, GA / p: (912) 354-7282 / f: (912) 354-7782

Vidalia, GA / p: (912) 537-9301 / f: (912) 537-9266

If you are in Georgia outside of the 12th District, give John a call as well and let him know that his dreams of running for the Senate in 2014 are dead if he votes NO on HCR.

And if you are in the rest of the Nation, call and ask him to put the needs of our Nation above his ambition.

You might also call the DCCC at (202)863-1500 to let them know that you will not be able to send them any money unless they can guarantee that none of your money will go to any weasel who votes NO on HCR.

If Barrow votes NO, I would rather see the 12th District in Republican hands than see John re-elected. Such a cowardly act can not be rewarded.

Fortunately, if Barrow votes NO there is an alternative. He has an opponent in the Democratic Primary, Regina Thomas. She ran against him in 2008 and took 24% of the vote. I suspect that if John Barrow decides to votes with the Republicans to kill HCR she will do much, much better this year.

I will keep trying to get up with my old Athens-Clarke County Commissioner and see if he can explain to me where he stands on HCR. In my conversations with his aides, they just repeated Frank Luntz talking points and then wedged on about the importance of supporting John in November to “hang on to” a Democratic Majority in the House so we could make progress on passing a Democratic agenda in the future. Well, Health Care Reform has been a core item on the Democratic agenda since way before John or me were born. We have a chance to fulfill that goal within the next few days. John has a chance to be part of that if only he can find where he left his backbone.

Perhaps some calls will help him locate it.

I hope my old friend will do the right thing and vote YES. We shall see in a few days what he does. And then we will know what needs to happen next.


Former Bush speechwriter David Frum enlisted some interns this week to survey Tea Party activists protesting in D.C. earlier this week. The goal was to get a sense of the activists' understanding of taxes -- ostensibly, the "movement's" raison d'etre -- and factual knowledge.

Bruce Bartlett reported today on the survey's results, and found that for an anti-tax group, "they don't know much about taxes."

Indeed, it appears much of the Tea Party crowd is simply clueless about the issues they claim to care the most about, wildly exaggerating federal tax rates, how much a median family pays in taxes, and what's changed since President Obama took office.

In short, no matter how one slices the data, the Tea Party crowd appears to believe that federal taxes are very considerably higher than they actually are, whether referring to total taxes as a share of GDP or in terms of the taxes paid by a typical family.

Tea Partyers also seem to have a very distorted view of the direction of federal taxes. They were asked whether they are higher, lower or the same as when Barack Obama was inaugurated last year. More than two-thirds thought that taxes are higher today, and only 4% thought they were lower; the rest said they are the same.

As noted earlier, federal taxes are very considerably lower by every measure since Obama became president.... No taxpayer anywhere in the country had his or her taxes increased as a consequence of Obama's policies.

There were no questions in the survey about health care policy, but it stands to reason that these same folks are basing their opposition to the Democratic plan based on little more than confusion.

Bruce added that "it's a bad idea for so many participants to operate on the basis of false notions." It is, indeed. We're talking about a reasonably large group of people who seem to have no idea what they're talking about, revel in their own ignorance, and nevertheless seek an active role in the process.

Making matters worse, this is also a group that seems to actively eschew reality, deliberately rejecting the truth because facts are perceived as having a liberal bias. As John Cole recently noted, "It really is quite amazing what you can do with a group of people who are completely uninterested in the truth, unwilling to believe anything that comes from someone other than Rush or Glenn Beck or an 'acceptable' source of information, and who have a vested interest in believing what they want to believe, reality be damned."

Following up on an item from last month, this is important to the extent that there are still some who believe the political mainstream should do more to listen to the Tea Party crowd and take its hysterical cries seriously. But how can credible people take nonsense seriously and hope to come up with a meaningful result? How can policymakers actually address substantive challenges while following the advice of angry mobs who reject reason and evidence?

The bottom line seem inescapable: Tea Party activists have no idea what they're talking about. Their sincerity notwithstanding, this is a confused group of misled people.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

"this herd of bloviating assholes"

Marshall: All On Board
Dennis Kucinich didn't just switch his own vote on Reform. He's now helping House leadership whip the vote with other wavering members, something colleagues find astonishing and say they've never seen him do before.
mistermix: Five Hundred Thirty Five Reasons for Our Current Predicament

In a typically good analysis of the recent uptick in support for the healthcare bill from moderates and liberals, Nate Silver says:

Liberals like the idea of being the scrappy underdog—being the fighter—and Obama, after a strangely aloof performance on the health care bill throughout 2009, has been fighting the good fight.

I’m sure there are many things that Obama would change about 2009 if he had a do-over, but being “aloof” probably isn’t one of them. One big difference between the Obama and Clinton healthcare reform efforts, aside from the obvious benefit Obama gains from hindsight, is that the current push is being led by someone who served in Congress.

Obama had first-hand knowledge of the preening, feckless and cowardly jackasses he was dealing with. If he were perceived as dictating the contents of the bill, or pushing Congress around, he’d have bruised the fragile egos of those, like Max Baucus, who wanted to be seen as the real authors of the bill. And if HCR became “Obama’s bill”, it would have been far too easy for the Democratic caucus to run away at the first sign of trouble. The path Obama took, though painful and ugly, is probably the only way that we could have gotten as far as we have.

But don’t take my word for it. Watch a few clips from the new C-SPAN archive and try to imagine what more Obama could have done to corral this herd of bloviating assholes.

Tim F.: The Era Of Stupak Exceptionalism

Bart Stupak, still complaining.

Leading a revolt against President Barack Obama’s healthcare legislation over abortion has been a “living hell” for Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.).

The telephone lines in his Washington and district offices have been “jammed” and he’s gotten more than 1,500 faxes and countless e-mails — most of which he says don’t come from his constituents.

Does Bart talk with colleagues in the House? Every Democrat in DC is getting slammed by angry stupid callers from outside their district. Fighting a quisling battle on their behalf apparently doesn’t insulate a guy from wingnut rage as much as Stupak thought.

At any rate, this means that you guys will need to use redial a lot to get through to your Congresspeople. Don’t give up! Do if for the underpaid staffers and volunteers who will be listening to a screaming out-of-district moron if they’re not talking to you. If teabaggers have killed off the phone lines entirely, send a fax or consider writing a Letter to the Editor to your local paper. OFA has useful online tools if you have never done it before.

After making countless unreasonable demands, offering a variety of inaccurate claims, and threatening to work with far-right Republicans to kill health care reform, Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) isn't having any fun.

Leading a revolt against President Barack Obama's healthcare legislation over abortion has been a "living hell" for Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.). [...]

"How's it been? Like a living hell," Stupak said.

I guess we're supposed to feel sorry for Stupak now? If he's waiting for an outpouring of sympathy, I suspect he'll be waiting a long while.

These comments also stood out.

The ideal outcome, Stupak said, might be for the House Democratic leadership to get the votes they need without him and for the bill to pass.

"You know, maybe for me that's the best: I stay true to my principles and beliefs," he said, and "vote no on this bill and then it passes anyways. Maybe for me is the best thing to do."

I'm not sure what to make of this. Stupak, who claims to have always supported health care reform, apparently wants the legislation to pass, but also wants to be on record opposing it -- because of abortion provisions he's already mischaracterized and doesn't seem to understand.

What an odd lawmaker.

Bart Stupak vs. 59,000 nuns March 17: After pointing out that Catholic Sisters support the health reform bill, Rachel Maddow talks with Tracy Weitz, a director at the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health, about Rep. Stupak's canard about abortion funding in the bill and the importance of freedom of choice to women's health.

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

When former Rep. Marjorie Margolies (D-Pa.) talks about the challenges of casting tough votes, she knows of what she speaks.

In 1993, Margolies (then Margolies-Mezvinsky) was a targeted Democratic freshman representing a Republican district. Bill Clinton needed her help to pass his budget plan, which Republicans insisted would lead to economic disaster and national ruin. Her constituents bought into the far-right rhetoric and opposed the Clinton plan, but Margolies supported it anyway.

The Clinton policy went on to produce remarkable economic prosperity -- Republicans' uninterrupted track record of wrong predictions goes back quite a while -- but voters nevertheless threw Margolies out of office in the '94 midterms.

In a terrific Washington Post op-ed today, Margolies tells Democratic lawmakers wavering on health care reform: "I am your worst-case scenario. And I'd do it all again."

[I]t is with the perspective of having spent nearly two decades living with your worst political nightmare that I urge you to vote for health-care reform this week.... The moral of my brief political story is not that casting a tough and decisive vote necessarily predicts a bad electoral outcome for you, nor that the majority of your constituents is always wrong or always right.

It's that there are times in all our careers when we must ask ourselves why we're here. I decided that my desire for public service at that moment was greater than my desire to guarantee continued service. Yes, there are few jobs as rewarding (mostly) as being a member of Congress, and I was let down after I lost. But I believed then and now that being able to point to something tangible that changed our country for the better was a more powerful motivator than the possible electoral repercussions.

I urge you simply to cast the vote you can be proud of next week, next year and for years to come. Given the opportunity, I wouldn't change my vote.

Margolies's piece, which is well worth reading, notes that Republicans will attack vulnerable Dems anyway, so they might as well "cast the vote that you won't regret in 18 years." She also reminds lawmakers that their constituents' judgment is not flawless -- her district actually thought Clinton's economic policies would be awful. Her constituents got it wrong, but benefited when their representative got it right. If the goal is for lawmakers to help those they represent, Margolies succeeded in siding with her district's best interests.

There's one point, though, that her op-ed didn't mention, but which is also worth keeping in mind -- with her judicious vote in 1993, Margolies secured a place in history. Indeed, her name is still remembered on the Hill, all these years later, as an example of wisdom and courage. With the benefit of hindsight, we know that Marjorie Margolies did the right thing and made a positive difference in the lives of millions.

Isn't this why candidates run for Congress in the first place? Do these wavering Dems really want to be remembered for cowering on the biggest vote of their careers? Do they really want to be known forever as politicians who wilted when given history's spotlight?

Or would they rather put their stamp on history and be remembered as a hero?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Crazy Base

Booman: Cyclical Craziness
I thought there was something about the Clintons that made people on the right crazy. At the time, the press reported this as some kind of generational thing. Clinton was the first president too young to have served during World War Two, and this was supposed to be a big deal. Other accounts focused on Clinton's humble beginnings in Arkansas as a reason the snobs didn't accept him in DC. A last explanation was that Clinton had some moral shortcomings (mainly with the ladies) that offended the morally upright. Whatever the cause or blend of causes, it is now clear that the crazy response to Clinton was at least partly do to the mere fact that he wasn't a conservative Republican.

I think we can expect from now on that whenever a Democrat is elected president, that the far right will simply not accept it and will begin agitating for state's rights. The second a Republican in elected president, they'll fall mute. The pattern is established, and I don't think it will change any time soon.

Neiwert (C&L): Beck steps up the eliminationist attacks on progressives as health-care reform effort comes to a head

Well, I just got to spend ten blissfully Glenn-Beck-free days in China, which is probably the only place one can safely escape his wingnuttery these days. It's quite a different world there, and certainly nothing like what Beck himself frequently depicts it as (more on that later).

And what better way to reacclimate myself to the USA than to turn on Fox the afternoon of my return and watch yet another of Beck's patented eliminationist attacks on progressives -- followed the next night by yet another?

Ah, some things never change, do they?

On Monday, Beck continued his current theme that "progressives are a disease" by ripping into the effort to push health-care reform through Congress. He again warned that America was being destroyed from within by progressives:

Beck: I was, way back then, I said that America could never be destroyed from the outside. I remember the day that I said it because it was September 11th, and people were freaking out, and I was on my radio program and I said, militarily there is no equal, don't worry, if the world tries to attack us, and we've decided we're not going to bother with smart bombs, we'd control the world in a heartbeat, but that's not who we are.

Don't worry. The only way to destroy America is to rot it from the inside -- collapse our system from the inside. It's got to be one of us that brings us to our knees.

When I said that, I was trying to give hope to people. But I didn't have the full truth, because little did I know that there were people, our own countrymen, who are already here who are on the inside who actually want to do that -- bring our country to its knees. That's insanity.

... Progressives -- progressives are the ones that say you've got to rot America from the inside. You have to be inside in order to bring her down. It has been the plan the whole time. Make progress -- baby steps. Well, progress from where to what? From the Constitution to a democracy. We're not a democracy.

So now that it's happening, why is America surprised? They've been clear for a hundred years. Radical progressives are infecting America! By deceiving unsuspecting people on their true intentions!

A little later, he used the disease metaphor again to describe health-care reform:

Beck: What they're about to pass is not a tumor. Because the doctor can come over here and say, 'Yeah, there's a tumor here, and we've got to go in and cut this out.' I don't know if you can cut this tumor out. Maybe not. But you can try. But what they're about to pass is a bloodstream disease. It will be injected into our system and it will be incurable.

Then on yesterday's show, he continued (h/t Media Matters) to attack the health-care reform effort:

Beck: I think they're gonna pass this thing. They are gonna do whatever it takes to pass this, and they're not going to go the traditional way, they are gonna go the way of snakes and cockroaches. They're gonna crawl out in the cover of darkness, and they're going to pass this, make it happen one way or another.

In case anyone needs reminding, here's how I explained the nature of eliminationism in my last book, The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right:

What motivates this kind of talk and behavior is called eliminationism: a politics and a culture that shuns dialogue and the democratic exchange of ideas in favor of the pursuit of outright elimination of the opposing side, either through suppression, exile, and ejection, or extermination.

Rhetorically, eliminationism takes on certain distinctive shapes. It always depicts its opposition as beyond the pale, the embodiment of evil itself, unfit for participation in their vision of society, and thus worthy of elimination. It often further depicts its designated Enemy as vermin (especially rats and cockroaches) or diseases, and disease-like cancers on the body politic. A close corollary—but not as nakedly eliminationist—are claims that opponents are traitors or criminals and that they pose a threat to our national security.

Eliminationism is often voiced as crude "jokes," a sense of humor inevitably predicated on venomous hatred. And such rhetoric—we know as surely as we know that night follows day—eventually begets action, with inevitably tragic results.

Beck, of course, has a long history of using such rhetoric to attack progressives:

It's almost enough to make you want to go live in China, isn't it?

John Cole: Heckuva Job, Atlantic

I was really good and didn’t read McMegan for a while, but for some reason or another, I started up again. Today, Megan reacts to the following video:

Basically, teabaggers and health care advocates were on two sides of a street each doing their thing about health care reform, and a man with Parkinson’s sat down in front of the teabagging fools. They proceeded to berate him and throw money at him and basically act like scumbags. Megan’s response:

No matter how frail his condition, could the fellow on the ground possibly have been seriously endangered by having two bills hurled his way?

I’d certainly be willing to take such harsh treatment from the nice folks at Progress Ohio.

Great. Get back to us when you have Parkinson’s disease, asshole, and I can find a few people to throw shit at you.

Are we going to have to end up paying these glibertarians to go Galt?

MCJOAN (dKOS): Gingrich Broke the Law?


American Solutions: "Passing Laws Without Voting On Them Is Blatantly Unconstitutional." In an email to supporters, Newt Gingrich's American Solutions for Winning the Future wrote:

Because Speaker Pelosi cannot find enough votes to pass the deeply unpopular ObamaCare bill in a constitutional way, she is hoping you and other Americans won't notice, or won't care, whether she passes ObamaCare in an unconstitutional and blatantly corrupt way.

Her latest plan is called the "Slaughter Rule", which would allow the House to vote on a different bill and "deem" the Senate's ObamaCare bill as being "passed" at the same time as the other bill is passed, without having an actual up and down vote on the ObamaCare bill.

Said Pelosi in an interview: "It's more insider and process-oriented than most people want to know....but I like it, because people don't have to vote on the Senate bill."

Pelosi may like "deeming" laws passed, but passing laws without voting on them is blatantly unconstitutional. [American Solutions email, 3/17/10]

As Speaker, Newt Gingrich "Set New Records" For The Amount Of Self-Executing Rules. According to the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars:

When Republicans took power in 1995, they soon lost their aversion to self-executing rules and proceeded to set new records under Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). There were 38 and 52 self-executing rules in the 104th and 105th Congresses (1995-1998), making up 25 percent and 35 percent of all rules, respectively. Under Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) there were 40, 42 and 30 self-executing rules in the 106th, 107th and 108th Congresses (22 percent, 37 percent and 22 percent, respectively). Thus far in the 109th Congress, self-executing rules make up about 16 percent of all rules. [Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 6/19/06]

Ah, politics. No one personifies the soul-crushing absurdity of what is supposed to be governing like Newt Gingrich.

Madrak (C&L): Tea Party Petitions Court To Remove Sen. Menendez. Is NJ Turning Into California?

I was taking a look at Gov. Chris Christie's budget today and then I saw this. Will New Jersey follow in California's footsteps and start governing by mood ring?

A state appeals court today ruled New Jersey’s secretary of state must accept a petition a citizens group filed to recall U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, but left open the question of whether the removal effort itself is constitutional.

The three-judge panel stayed its ruling to give Menendez (D-N.J.) the opportunity to appeal to the state Supreme Court.. The senator has 45 days to file an appeal but did not say today whether he would. He called the recall effort a "political stunt" that won’t distract him from doing his job.

"This an organization trying to undemocratically and unconstitutionally overturn an election in which more than 2 million New Jerseyans voted," said Menendez, whose term expires in 2012. "My focus continues to be on job creation legislation and delivering a successful extension of my local property tax relief bill."

The court found existing New Jersey law and the state’s constitution both allow U.S. senators to be recalled. For that reason, the appeals court said, the removal effort can proceed. But noting the absence of case law and precedent, it left the ultimate question of the constitutionality of the state’s recall law and amendment to a higher court.

"There are a host of genuine arguments and counterarguments that can be articulated and debated about whether or not the Federal Constitution would permit a United States Senator to be recalled by the voters under state law," the appellate judges said.

"I’m pleased," said Dan Silberstein, attorney for the Committee to Recall Senator Menendez, which is backed by the New Jersey chapter of the conservative Tea Party movement. "I think the appellate court made the right decision on where the case is procedurally."

Menendez’s attorney disagreed.

"The U.S. Constitution is clear that a senator’s term is six years and is not subject to recall," said Marc E. Elias. "The state attorney general correctly argued before the court that a recall is unconstitutional and a clear disservice to voters who take part in a petition process that is invalid. We are pleased the court stayed this opinion until the appeals process is completed."

Think Progress: Bachmann: ‘ people’ are not ‘real people.’

While yesterday’s tea party rally outside the Capitol drew an anemic crowd of about only 300, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) urged supporters to keep up the fight against health care reform for the rest of the week. Bachmann warned that Democrats will bring in “ people” “to really beat the living tar out them” — presumably referring to lawmakers who are not sure how they’ll vote — and called on “real people” to “keep flooding here”:

BACHMANN: What they plan to do is keep everyone here and beat the living snot out of them through Saturday and then try to get the vote on Saturday. That’s their goal. So, the main thing is the more people that can just keep flooding here between now and Saturday to keep the pressure up. Because my guess is they’ll probably be bringing in a lot of people on Saturday to really beat the living tar out of them. That’s my guess. So the more we get real people here, the better.

Watch it (beginning at 0:35):

Bachmann’s “real people” comment is reminiscent of Fox News contributor Sarah Palin’s claim that “small towns” represent “the real America” where people are “pro-America.”