Friday, March 26, 2010

Beating up the schoolyard bully

After a painfully long, arduous process, Congress completed its work on health care reform last night. I know, I find it hard to believe , too.

Several hours after the Senate voted 56 to 43 to approve a reconciliation package, the House voted 220 to 207 to pass an identical measure. The combined total of Republican votes in support of reform in both chambers: zero.

The bill now goes to President Obama, who will likely sign it into law today -- though probably with far less fanfare than Tuesday's historic bill-signing ceremony.

By any reasonable measure, this package of amendments -- often called the "sidecar" -- makes a good bill better. The reconciliation fix improves subsidy rates for the middle class, delays implementation (and alters eligibility) of the excise tax, closes the Medicare "donut hole," and requires insurers to allow young adults to remain on their parents' insurance policies until they're 26.

And with that, the most ambitious and most important domestic policy initiative in nearly a half-century -- after a few too many obituaries -- is complete. Back in December, Jon Chait described the Affordable Care Act as "the greatest social achievement of our time" and "the most significant American legislative triumph in at least four decades." I agree wholeheartedly.

And now we have one last phrase to use to describe health care reform: law of the land.

Ezra Klein: Beneath the Obama agenda, the Obama agenda

Last night, the House of Representatives passed the reconciliation fixes. "And oh, by the way," writes Jon Cohn, "they managed to completely revamp the student loan program along the way. At any other time in recent memory, that would have been a huge accomplishment all its own. Today, it's just part of the mix."

There's been a lot of that this year. The health-care bill, for instance, features not the health-care expansion and associated insurer and delivery-side reforms, but also calorie labeling on all menus in chain restaurants. That would've been a big fight and an unlikely win in another year. The stimulus bill was chock full of this sort of thing, too: Alongside the tax cuts and the state and local aid came $226 billion for investments in infrastructure, in health IT, in green energy. On its own, that would've been the biggest infrastructure and investment bill passed in recent memory, and in the long-run, it'll be seen that way. But because it was part of the stimulus conversation, it's not gotten its moment in the sun.

The Democrats have been pretty good at merging their big-ticket items with their medium-size priorities, and though that's not great for selling the accomplishments, it's been great for getting them done.

Sudbay: Winning has given Dems. momentum and the GOPers are starting to doubt themselves

It's like the Democrats finally beat up the schoolyard bully. And, it turns out the bully is all talk and really a wimp. Winning seems to have inspired Obama and the Hill Democrats. Losing has caused angst in the GOP. That's the assessment from one of the papers that covers Congress, The Hill:

Political momentum has shifted so fast over the last week that it has given Republicans whiplash.

Democrats are heading into the two-week Easter recess in high spirits after passing the most sweeping domestic policy reform since Medicare was enacted four decades ago.

President Barack Obama on Thursday dared Republicans to make healthcare reform a campaign issue.

“They’re actually going to run on a platform of repeal in November,” Obama said. “Well, I say go for it.”

But even as some Republicans talk of using healthcare as a cudgel, others are questioning the hard-line opposition strategy that limited their input on the substance of healthcare reform and may deny them any chance of shaping financial regulatory reform later this year.

Cracks emerged in the unified front Republicans held throughout most of the healthcare debate.
Congress is taking a two week vacation district work period. Let's hope the Democrats come back even more fired up. The GOPers are regrouping and plotting their next moves of obstruction. But, we need to exploit the "cracks" in the "unified front."

And, let's keep that momentum going til November. Passing more progressive legislation -- and being bold about it -- will help.

Markos tracks the "intensity gap" in the "Daily Kos Weekly State of the Nation Poll." This week, that gap, which has favored the GOP, narrowed. The tracking poll is here. The analysis arrived via email:
While both sides saw big spikes in their numbers, Democrats were particularly energized, with that intensity gap narrowing from 11 points to a far more manageable seven. First the first time in over a year, Democrats have a reason to get excited about their party, and are newly engaging in the political process.

This intensity gap will bear tracking the rest of this cycle. Democrats can continue to close the gap by ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell, passing tough financial regulatory reform, make progress on comprehensive immigration reform, and continue to talk tough against the obstructionist GOP.
The base has awakened. Democrats keep to it inspired.
Booman: On the Path Back
The Research 2000/Daily Kos Weekly Trending Poll is out with some post-health care numbers. Unsurprisingly, the president, the Democratic Party, Congressional Dems, and Nancy Pelosi are all enjoying a nice bump in public approval. Pelosi saw a three point jump, while Obama went up five points. Poor Harry Reid dropped a point. No doubt, he's done a poor job of selling himself and his remarkable achievement in getting 60 votes on Christmas Eve. I guess these numbers are evidence that people blame him for the lack of a public option in the final bill but are giving a Pelosi a pass on the issue.

Who suffered the most? Republicans in Congress (-7) and John "Hell No" Boehner (-5) both saw their numbers tank. Only 17% approve of Boehner's job performance, while 71% of disapprove of the job congressional Republicans are doing. Even in their homebase in the South, the congressional GOP only has 30%-56% approval.

Perhaps more importantly, the enthusiasm gap has closed (as we predicted it would) post-health care passage. Markos explains:

Three weeks ago, 40 percent of Democrats were likely or definitely going to vote, compared to 51 percent of Republicans -- an 11 point "intensity gap". Two weeks ago, as the battle for health care reform heated up, and GOP obstructionism came in full view, the numbers were 45 percent for Democrats, 56 percent for Republicans -- both sides equally riled up.

This week, the numbers are 55 percent for Democrats, 62 percent for Republicans. While both sides saw big spikes in their numbers, Democrats were particularly energized, with that intensity gap narrowing from 11 points to a far more manageable seven. First [sic] the first time in over a year, Democrats have a reason to get excited about their party, and are newly engaging in the political process.

Isn't it amazing how people actually like politicians who deliver on their promises and get hard stuff done? I think it's particularly telling that Boehner took such a massive hit in his numbers. The Democrats are more popular than the Republicans in pretty much every category, and they have a slight money advantage, too. If the Dems continue to deliver accomplishments, that enthusiasm gap may disappear all together or even flip in the Democrats' favor. The American people don't want to vote for Republicans, but until this week they didn't see much reason to vote for their incumbents either.

TPM Video: Scott Brown: The President's 'Go For It' Rhetoric Was 'Inappropriate'

Drum: All This and College Loans Too
The House passed the final component of Affordacare1 tonight. Yawn. So what has Congress done for me lately, anyway?

Oh yeah, this:

Ending one of the fiercest lobbying fights in Washington, Congress voted Thursday to force commercial banks out of the federal student loan market, cutting off billions of dollars in profits in a sweeping restructuring of financial-aid programs and redirecting most of the money to new education initiatives.

....Since the bank-based loan program began in 1965, commercial banks like Sallie Mae and Nelnet have received guaranteed federal subsidies to lend money to students, with the government assuming nearly all the risk. Democrats have long denounced the program, saying it fattened the bottom line for banks at the expense of students and taxpayers.

This is, to coin a phrase, sort of a big effin deal. The student loan program has been a disgrace for a long time, essentially insuring a fat stream of profits to banks by allowing them to make risk-free loans thanks to guarantees from Uncle Sam. It was a pretty nice racket while it lasted. Republicans, of course, denounced the end of this gravy train, demonstrating once again, as Bruce Bartlett said a few years ago, that they are "incapable of telling the difference between being pro-business and being for the free market."

Bottom line: if the taxpayer are taking the risk, then the taxpayers ought to get the profit too. Now they do, and it's going to be used to expand access to college for low and middle income students. It's a reform that's long overdue.

1aka the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 aka the Affordable Care Act aka ACA

  • Steve Benen added:

    Republicans, of course, were outraged about passage of the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA), largely because bank lobbyists told them to be. The same GOP lawmakers who demand cost savings, improved efficiency, and streamlined government programs, nevertheless fought like hell to kill a common-sense idea that achieves those very goals.

    They lost. The result is a new law that provides "a huge infusion of money to the Pell grant program and ... new help to lower-income graduates in getting out from under crushing student debt." The savings to taxpayers is expected to total about $61 billion over 10 years.

    An alert reader reminds me that CNN recently polled on student-loan reform, and found that 64% expressed support for the Democratic proposal. Even a slight majority of Republicans favored the idea.
Aravosis: 1 in 4 Republicans think Obama may be the anti-Christ, 38% think he's doing many things that Hitler did

This isn't funny. We have a serious problem in this country, and any sane Republicans who are left had better get a hold of their party. Hard to read these results and not think "Timothy McVeigh."

Per the latest Harris poll, the number of Republicans who think Obama...

- Is a socialist (67%)
- Wants to take away Americans' right to own guns (61%)
- Is a Muslim (57%)
- Wants to turn over the sovereignty of the United States to a one world government (51%); and
- Has done many things that are unconstitutional (55%).
- Resents America's heritage (47%)
- Was not born in the United States and so is not eligible to be president (45%)
- Is the "domestic enemy that the U.S. Constitution speaks of" (45%)
- Is a racist (42%)
- Want to use an economic collapse or terrorist attack as an excuse to take dictatorial powers (41%)
- Is doing many of the things that Hitler did (38%).
- Even more remarkable perhaps, fully 24% of Republicans believe that "he may be the Anti-Christ" and 22% believe "he wants the terrorists to win."
The results are from the first week of March. (Hat tip: Mediaite.)
  • mistermix adds:

    Commenter Basilisc pointed out this Bloomberg story about one of their polls. Teabaggers think the government is more socialist than capitalist (at 90% margins), but 70% of them want the government to foster job creation.

    “The ideas that find nearly universal agreement among Tea Party supporters are rather vague,” says J. Ann Selzer, the pollster who created the survey. “You would think any idea that involves more government action would be anathema, and that is just not the case.”

    That’s from a Harris poll that didn’t segment out the teabaggers, but they did publish crosstabs on education levels.

    These replies are also strongly correlated with education. The less education people have had the more likely they are to believe all of these statements.
Think Progress: Poll: Tea partiers afraid of ‘big government’ want the government to create jobs and rein in Wall Street.
While the right-wing tea party movement touts its rhetorical “aversion to big government,” a new Bloomberg national survey finds that many tea partiers are clamoring for more aggressive government action. The poll finds that large numbers of them want the federal government to act to create jobs and rein in Wall Street by restricting excessive executive bonuses:

At the same time, 70 percent of those who sympathize with the Tea Party, which organized protests this week against President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul, want a federal government that fosters job creation.

They also look to the government to rein in Wall Street, with almost half saying the government should do something about executive bonuses. Supporters are also conflicted over whether private-enterprise elements should be introduced into government programs like Social Security and Medicare.

“The ideas that find nearly universal agreement among Tea Party supporters are rather vague,” says J. Ann Selzer, the pollster who created the survey. “You would think any idea that involves more government action would be anathema, and that is just not the case.”

The poll also finds widespread disagreement about what comprises a “socialist” program run by the government. Only 10 percent of tea party backers agreed that the Veterans Administration, the country’s “only true island of socialized medicine” where the government directly runs hospitals and services for veterans, is socialist. Meanwhile, 47 percent of responders thought that Social Security and Medicare, both of which are government programs, should stay public programs and not be privatized.

The Washington Times has no shame:

Senate Democrats voted almost unanimously Wednesday night to ensure the right of rapists and child molesters to have guaranteed access to government-subsidized Viagra under the president's health care plan. Only Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana broke ranks with his Democratic colleagues.

Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, put the Senate's majority party on the spot by offering an amendment denying convicted sex offenders coverage for erectile-dysfunction medications.

Laurie: Catapulting the Propaganda — Again

The great and much-missed blogger known as Billmon has a post over at Daily Kos that really deserves to be read, re-read, and printed out and mailed to the local newspapers for their edification:

For some years now, I’ve been morbidly fascinated by the political dark arts—especially the very dark art of disinformation: the systematic creation and dissemination of false narratives designed to discredit your opponents and/or drive undecided audiences away from their cause.

The difference between disinformation and just plain lying is in the scope of the enterprise: A lie is intended to conceal a specific truth (e.g. “I did not have sex with that woman”). Disinformation, on the other hand, is aimed at constructing an entire alternative reality—one in which the truth can find no foothold because it conflicts just not with a specific falsehood, but with the entire fabric of the false reality that has been created. It puts the “big” in big lie, in other words.

These basic disinformation techniques were first pioneered by the totalitarian movements of the 1930s, such as the [GODWIN REDACTION] and the Soviet KGB, but they’ve been brought to their full fruition by the modern advertising, public relations and political consulting industries. Proving once again that what communism can do, capitalism can do better.

Karl Rove’s White House was, in many ways, the Olympian ideal of a disinformation operation—a propaganda achievement that will probably never be topped, at least in American politics (God willing). But it looks as if the House Republicans are giving it the old college try.

Thus the rather amazing press conference Minority Whip Eric Cantor held earlier today, in which the Virginia Republican in effect accused the Democrats of inciting violence against all those innocent teabaggers out there who are simply expressing their sacred constitutional right to spit on black people and fax pictures of hangman’s nooses to their elected representatives.

The basic objective of all this, as I wrote way back when, is very simple:

The goal is to confront the public with two sides hurling identical charges at each other—the better to convince them that it’s just another partisan mudfight and who the hell knows . . . anyway.

In that sense, the “mirror image” technique is a like a bomber scattering chaff behind it to try to fool enemy radar or deflect a heat-seeking missile from the real target. As I said, it’s one of the tricks Rove would use when Team Bush lost the news cycle, which suggests the past few days of coverage of the Great Teabagger Freakout have done some real damage –- or at least, that the Rovian high command thinks it has done some damage.

Will the ploy work this time? I don’t think so, or if so, only to a limited degree. The material may have been brilliant, but the performance sucked –- even Cantor couldn’t make himself sound like he actually believed it. Sure, Fox News is ready (as always) to take the baton and run with it, but I think the mainstream corporate media deadheads, brain dead as they may be, have finally picked up on the scam…—Spock with a Beard: The Sequel
  • billmon adds an update:

    Update 3/26/10, 1:45 am ET:

    Me, above:

    The goal is to confront the public with two sides hurling identical charges at each other -- the better to convince them that it's just another partisan mudfight and who the hell knows...anyway.

    The New York Times, tonight:

    Accusations Fly Between Parties Over Threats and Vandalism

    Eric Cantor, in my imagination:

    "Mission accomplished, baby. Mission accomplished."

mistermix: It’s So Easy

John can’t post at the moment, but he sent over this AC360 transcript. After Dana Bash discusses the stray bullet hitting Eric Cantor’s office, David Gergen hits her slow pitch out of the park:

GERGEN: I do. I think there’s a chance of an incident, isolated, to be sure, but I think there’s going to be some wing nut out there on one side or the other of the political aisle, or somewhere, who is just out in Never Never Land, and a lot of guns out there. (emphasis mine)

It takes almost no work to push any political conversation into the “both sides do this” story outline. Eric Cantor at least had a slightly credible story line, but it wasn’t really necessary. If John Boehner had stood up and claimed that someone threatened to take away his tube of bronzer, he’d have gotten the same result.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Emperor's New Clothes #2


David Frum, a former Bush speechwriter and a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, has been urging the Republican Party to be tactically smarter. He's also publicly lamented the fact that the party seems to be taking dictation from Fox News, rather than the other way around.

Today, the American Enterprise Institute, a major think tank on the right, parted ways with Frum, after seven years. He emphatically denies that his departure was the result of his criticism of the GOP, and I have no evidence to the contrary. But Bruce Bartlett has a piece worth reading this afternoon:

Since, [Frum] is no longer affiliated with AEI, I feel free to say publicly something he told me in private a few months ago. He asked if I had noticed any comments by AEI "scholars" on the subject of health care reform. I said no and he said that was because they had been ordered not to speak to the media because they agreed with too much of what Obama was trying to do.

It saddened me to hear this. I have always hoped that my experience was unique. But now I see that I was just the first to suffer from a closing of the conservative mind. Rigid conformity is being enforced, no dissent is allowed, and the conservative brain will slowly shrivel into dementia if it hasn't already.

Sadly, there is no place for David and me to go.

Consider the larger pattern here. A few years ago, John Hulsman was a senior foreign policy analyst at the right's largest think tank, the Heritage Foundation. Hulsman was a conservative in good standing -- appearing regularly on Fox News and on the Washington Times' op-ed page, blasting Democrats -- right up until he expressed his disapproval of the neoconservatives' approach to foreign policy. Heritage showed him the door. The Cato Institute's Chris Preble said at the time, "At Heritage, anything that smacks of criticism of Bush will not be tolerated."

About a year before that, Bartlett was fired from the conservative National Center for Policy Analysis. His transgression? Bartlett criticized Bush's incoherent economic policies.

And now Frum is gone from AEI. Intellectually, modern conservatism is facing a painfully sad state of affairs.

To understand David Frum, you need to know the unabridged version of The Emperor’s New Clothes. Before that little kid yelled out and everybody finally admitted the emperor was naked, two other people make a ruckus.

The first one was an honest, straightforward fellow who showed up early in the procession. He had been a fan of the emperor for a short time, but he soon recognized that his highness was the kind of idiot who would let a couple of smart tailors parade him around with his junk hanging out. For honestly declaring that the emperor was naked, as well as an idiot, the emperor ordered him beheaded, and all the emperor’s courtiers threw rocks at him.

The second man was an ex-courtier who had gotten his position by sucking up to a prior emperor, even though he knew that the previous leader, like this one, was a moron. When the new emperor finally decided to parade around in the buff, and well after the first man was beheaded, the second man decided to announce that the emperor was naked. Unfortunately, his timing was a bit off, but since he was a member of the last wrecking crew, the emperor took pity on him. He merely had his guards kick him in the ass and point him in the other direction. Later, after the little boy yelled out, man #2 spirited him away, threw him down a well, and took credit for the ensuing revolution.

I’m sure this isn’t too subtle, but if you’re blotto like me, you might have missed that David Frum resembles man #2 far more than man #1.

Here’s a man who came up with “Axis of Evil”, who wrote a book defending the Iraq War and advocating the same treatment for Syria, and who ultimately endorsed Sarah Palin even though he knew she was completely unqualified. His problem today was timing, not an excess of honesty or nobility.

a pop and a fizz

QOTD, Cat Lady

I’m feeling a pop and a fizz in the Dems. They’re starting to realize that it feels good to win. Now, let’s play some offense!

Aravosis: More threats from Teabaggers against members of Congress

This is my favorite quote from the article:

Rep. Jim Moran, a fiery Virginia Democrat, got a visit from tea party activists at his office earlier this week. Aides got between the burly lawmaker and the activists. The activists, according to the congressman, asked whether he needed “bodyguards” to protect him.

“We’re not protecting him from you,” the aides said, according to Moran. “We’re protecting you from him.”

Kurtz (TPM): Taking The High Road

NRCC downplays vandalism at Rep. Tom Perriello's brother's home: The real victims are Perriello's constituents, thanks to health care reform.

Dennis G.: John McCain’s tantrum is noticed…

The latest John McCain temper tantrum has been widely reported and commented upon in the press and the old blog-o-sphere. Today, as noted by Michael Scherer, the latest hissy fit from Sentator “Hey-you-kids-get-of-my-lawn” McCain was the source of a fun exchange at the White House:

Q (Helen Thomas): McCain said he’s going to oppose everything.

MR. GIBBS: Well, yes, I find it curious that not getting your way on one thing means you’ve decided to take your toys and go home. I don’t think—it doesn’t work well for my six-year-old; I doubt it works well in the United States Senate, because we have issues that are important for his constituents and for all of America.

Look, again, when it comes to financial reform people are going to have an opportunity to weigh in on behalf of the banks or on behalf of consumers. And I’ll let their vote on that dictate which side of that ledger they feel most comfortable on.

Q (Chip Reed): Are you comparing McCain to a six-year-old?

MR. GIBBS: I’m saying that I think the notion that if you don’t get what you want you’re not going to cooperate on anything else is not a whole lot different than I might hear from a six-year-old.

Somehow, I am certain that is is good news for Not-President John McCain and the conservatives everywhere.

TPM: Report: Senate Republicans Preparing Second Bunning-Style Showdown

Remember Jim Bunning's one-man government shut down earlier this month? Remember how everyone -- even Republicans -- condemned it?

Well, it seems the GOP has had a change of heart. According to a report by Politico's Manu Raju this morning, multiple Republicans in the Senate are now preparing to repeat Bunning's scheme to block unemployment benefits if Democrats attempt to pass an emergency extension of them again, a move that could come as early as this week.

Playing the role of Bunning next time will likely be Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK). But he'll have an ensemble cast to help.


John Cole: Or What?

Who cares:

All Senate Republicans wrote President Barack Obama on Thursday, demanding he not use a recess appointment to fill spots on a labor board.

Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), joined by all of their Republican colleagues in the Senate, warned the president against using his recess appointment powers to name Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

“We are writing to urge you to not act in contravention of the bipartisan Senate vote against the nomination of Craig Becker to be a Member of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) through a recess appointment,” the senators said. “To do so would disregard the Senate’s constitutional responsibility of advice and consent.”

Considering Mean old man John McCain has decided to take his ball and go home already, what is he gonna do (and paid no price in the media, I might add, for his petulance)? Besides, what kind of advice and consent are you offering when you have holds on everyone?

Up or down vote of STFU. I’m seriously to the point that my response to everything the Republicans say is a Friedmanesque “Suck on this.”

  • from the comments:

    West of the Cascades

    52 Senators voted “aye” on cloture – this is a “bipartisan vote against”?? When it’s Lincoln (D – WalMart) and Nelson (D – Mutual of Omaha) voting with the GOP??

    I hope Obama makes about 60 recess appointments over Easter.

Aravosis: WH won't help re-elect Dems who voted against HCR

And that, my friends, is what a President can do to influence legislation on the Hill. A number of naysayers were questioning whether the President of the United States had any power to influence legislation. He is, after all, they argue, the head of a separate but equal branch of government. That means there's little he can do to influence legislation (they claim).

Naive, and untrue.

Senior White House and organized labor officials are warning the handful of House Democrats who supported health care legislation last year only to oppose the final measure on Sunday that they shouldn’t expect assistance for their reelection campaigns this fall.

The five who switched from yes to no — Reps. Michael Arcuri of New York, Marion Berry of Arkansas, Daniel Lipinski of Illinois, Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts and Zack Space of Ohio — have so annoyed top Democrats that there is also open talk of finding opponents to ensure they pay a steep political price for changing their vote.
It might have been nice for the White House to realize this, and/or be willing to exercise this option, before the most conservative health care reform bill in Congress became the law of the land. But putting that aside, let's stop with the talk about how it's all up to Congress. It's not.

Booman: These People Are Effing Crazy

It's hard to exaggerate the size of the gulf between what Democrats are willing to do to stop the Republican agenda and what the Republicans are willing to do to stop the Democratic agenda. I mean, let's leave aside the fact the Republican crazy-talk now has a quarter of registered Republicans wondering whether the president in the antichrist and 57% thinking he's a Muslim. They are using their power in the minority to force the cancellation of committee hearings. This is a form of government shutdown. I saw on the Rachel Maddow Show that the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin, had to cancel a hearing with four commanding generals, one of whom had traveled from Hawaii and another from South Korea. Sen. Akaka had to cancel a hearing on wounded veterans and McCaskill had to cancel a subcommittee hearing on police contracting in Afghanistan. The Democrats would never do anything like this.

And, you know, sometimes, like with the Supreme Court nomination of Samuel Alito, I wish the Democrats would use all their power to oppose. But I don't want them to act like the Republicans. I don't want the Democrats to shut down the government, lie incessantly, poison the minds of their base against the government, call for special prosecutors every two seconds, or incite violence and intimidation against opposing lawmakers.

The GOP is not a healthy party, and we are not a healthy country.

Maddow: 'With leadership comes responsibility' March 24: Rachel Maddow reviews the historic connection between right wing extremist violence and irresponsible poltical rhetoric and how that relationship is echoed in the current political climate in which Republican politicians use irresponsible metaphors and imagery and incite their party's extremists.

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

C&L: Shep Smith Confronts Michael Steele on the GOP's Over the Top Rhetoric

Shepard Smith needs to find a new network to work for since he clearly didn't tow the line with how ClusteFox usually does business in this interview with Michael Steele. I keep wondering when one too many times of doing this sort of thing is going to cost him his job. I didn't catch this when it first aired but I can only take Fox in small doses before wanting to break my TV screen. Thankfully the folks at Media Matters have a stomach for this stuff that I don't.

Smith points out that Boehner called passing the health care bill armageddon for the Democrats and that another Congressman called it a "baby killer". Steele tries to claim that the rhetoric is not a reflection of what the GOP leadership is saying, but just what "average folks out there are saying" about the bill that they're reflecting. When Smith called him out for it Steele attacks Smith personally and says he's toting the "Democrat" talking point.

It's really pitiful that the GOP and their leadership continue to drum up the hatred while refusing to take any responsibility for it. Given the fact that Smith is actually willing to challenge any of these guys when they're spouting their party line B.S. on his show, I'd gladly welcome him to the MSNBC line up to replace Scar in the Morning if MSNBC ever decides that horrid show's ratings are low enough to get rid of it.


It started with racist and anti-gay slurs on Capitol Hill. It led to a Democratic congressman being spat on. Before long, opponents of health care reform were vandalizing lawmakers' offices. Then a gas line was cut at a lawmaker's brother's house. Yesterday, nooses were faxed to Democratic lawmakers. One Democrat received an anonymous voicemail message that said, "You're dead. We know where you live. We'll get you."

If the goal of the Republican base was to send a terrorist-like signal to Congress, officials have heard it.

The pitched battle over health care has unleashed a rash of vandalism and attacks directed at politicians, with at least 10 House Democrats reporting death threats or incidents of harassment or vandalism at their district offices over the past week.

More than 100 House Democrats met behind closed doors Wednesday afternoon with representatives of the FBI and the U.S. Capitol Police. The lawmakers voiced what one senior aide who was present described as "serious concern" about their security in Washington and in their home districts when they return this weekend for the spring recess.

Usually only the congressional leadership has regular personal protection from the Capitol Police. But at least 10 lawmakers have been offered increased protection by law enforcement agencies, said House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.).

Asked whether members are endangered, Hoyer said: "Yes. [There are] very serious incidents that have occurred."

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) appeared on Fox News yesterday and briefly addressed the developments. He initially expressed sympathy for the enraged -- saying "Americans are angry" because "Washington Democrats just aren't listening" -- but added, "[V]iolence and threats are unacceptable. That's not the American way. We need to take that anger and channel it into positive change. Call your congressman, go out and register people to vote, go volunteer on a political campaign, make your voice heard -- but let's do it the right way."

The sentiment was welcome, but arguably too weak and too late. Republican leaders, including Boehner, have whipped up the GOP base into a frenzy, pumping so many lies into right-wing activists, incidents like these aren't even that surprising.

What do Republicans expect to happen? They've told confused, misguided activists that health care reform it a "totalitarian" scheme that attacks our "freedom" and represents the "end of America as we know it." The policy breakthrough is, as several GOP leaders have put it, "Armageddon."

It's quite likely that most Republican lawmakers know that their over-the-top rhetoric is just a political gambit, and that their more insane attacks on the new law have no foundation in reality. But therein lies the point: their base doesn't know that Republican officials are lying. When enraged activists are told by leaders they trust that health care reform will destroy America, these activists actually believe the nonsense.

When Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele demands that Pelosi get "ready for the firing line," the GOP base gets the message. When Sarah Palin's Facebook page shows 20 gun sights over Democratic lawmakers, some of whom are colored in red, the GOP base gets the message.

And now we're seeing the results of Republicans' irresponsibility.

The most farcical angle to this? The lunatics committing these crimes don't even know what they're so upset about. The things they think they hate about health care reform aren't real. They're lashing out violently to protest a law they don't understand. Ironically, many of these same people and their families stand to benefit as a result of reform.

Republicans have quite deliberately exploited the ignorance and hatred of their own supporters to create a toxic political environment, which in turn leads to the violence we've seen over the last several days. Responsible GOP leaders, if any still exist, must do far more to lower the temperature before conditions take a more tragic turn.

Maddow to Brown: 'Bring what on??' March 24: Rachel Maddow emphasizes to Senator Scott Brown that she is (still) not running against him despite his insistence to the contrary and calls (almost) everyone in Massachusetts personally to inform them of this fact.

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

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Children and Adults

NYT Editorial:
... the health care victory shows that big goals can be achieved — with Mr. Obama’s personal intervention and sustained leadership.

With rare exceptions, the Republicans are not going to help. Anyone who thinks otherwise should consider what Senator John McCain of Arizona said on Monday: “There will be no cooperation for the rest of the year.”

As shocking as that is from a man who more than once presented himself as a candidate for president, it sums up the political reality that Mr. Obama faces. Still, he should be able to sell the public at the very least on creating jobs and restraining a rapacious financial industry. The nation’s well-being depends on it.

Arizona Sen. John McCain (R) told the media on Monday about his outrage over the Democratic majority voting to approve legislation they support. He announced that, going forward, he would tell Dems to stay off his lawn refuse to cooperate in the Senate's legislative process. To punish Democrats for fulfilling their campaign promise to the nation, McCain said, "There will be no cooperation for the rest of the year."

We saw the manifestation of this pettiness yesterday, when Republicans used an obscure rule to block any Senate hearings from continuing after 2 p.m. Amanda Terkel reports on the developments that are almost too juvenile to believe.

Today, during a Senate Homeland Security Subcommittee hearing on transparency, Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) announced that he had to stop the proceedings because of Republican blocks. [...]

ThinkProgress spoke to a Homeland Committee staffer who said that the committee's work would be significantly disrupted if Republicans refuse to give unanimous consent throughout the week. The AP also reported today that Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) had a hearing on the bark beetle canceled today "after Republicans angry over the passage of health insurance reform legislation blocked it by using an obscure Senate rule requiring a unanimous consent to hold hearings scheduled after 2 p.m."

Democratic staffers on the Hill told ThinkProgress that they anticipate Republicans will not only continue blocking hearings for the rest of the week, but also delay or block all sorts of minor, routine measures.

The country has not seen a congressional minority this pathetic in a very long time. Republicans are effectively shutting down the Senate because a supermajority of the chamber approved legislation the GOP didn't like.

Kevin added, "To call this behavior childish would be an insult to children everywhere. Are we really expected to take a party like this seriously?"

For its part, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) office noted in a statement, "The bottom line is that as millions of Americans are learning about the immediate benefits of health reform, Republicans are throwing a temper tantrum and grinding important Senate business to a halt."

Marshall: No Boehner's For You!

Having given up the fight to save America from medical socialism, Senate Republicans have opted instead to the final round into a new full-employment act for political ad makers. To finalize the reconciliation bill, Dems have to pass it through the process with zero amendments. With no real chance to stop anything Senate Republicans have decided to come up with the most preposterous amendments possible and then pocket the Dems' no votes for the 30 second political ads this fall. Our favorite so far? Sen. Coburn's amendment to ban health care exchanges from providing Viagra to sex offenders. Brian Beutler has the story.

Marshall: Shut Up & Bring It

As I noted over the weekend, the Republicans were just constantly trying to help Democrats out, warning them how bad it would be for them if they passed Reform. Clearly, the Democrats didn't take that good advice and passed it anyway. Monday morning, they were back at it telling Dems it's just going to be downright awful for them in November.

But now the bill's signed. It's law. It's over. And they're still saying how bad it'll be. But, enough. Eventually you've to stop with the sizzle and deliver the steak -- unless how bad Reform is for the Democrats is now actually the Republican campaign platform.

As I've said countless times, I don't doubt this is going to be a rough election for the Dems. I know Reform could cost them their majorities (though I think unemployment is the much bigger factor). We all get that. But it's time for Republicans to stop saying how bad it's going to be and just go out and do it.

Make the arguments on substance. Not about how the bill filing wasn't filled out with a No. 2 pencil or whatever other nonsense. They may not realize this: but the Republicans can't run on how bad Reform is going to be for the Dems politically. That's very meta, to put it mildly. You can't be so transparently cynical with your riffs that they don't even make sense on their own terms. They need to run on repeal. So, enough. The terms of the 2010 election are set. Stop puffing and threatening, shut up and bring it on.


A few weeks ago, some on the right thought they'd found a big new scandal. President Obama nominated Scott Matheson -- law school dean, former Harvard professor, Rhodes scholar, respected attorney, and accomplished federal prosecutor -- to serve on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. For conservatives, the nomination was an attempted bribe of sorts -- Scott Matheson's brother, Jim, is a Utah congressman who was weighing whether to vote for health care reform. The right, as it's prone to do, saw a conspiracy.

Except there wasn't one, as even Republican officials quickly conceded. The whole story was nonsense, and most of the right moved on.

Some didn't get the memo. (thanks to reader G.S.)

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., claimed on Fox News [yesterday] morning that Rep. Jim Matheson switched his position to support health care after the congressman's brother was named to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

"In Utah, a member from Utah that voted on the bill, he was against it and then he was for it. What a coincidence that his brother just got named to be a federal judge," Barrasso told Fox's Greta Van Susteren.

First, for a senator to allege a conspiracy of this sort on national television with no proof is truly ridiculous.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, Jim Matheson voted against the health care reform bill. Barrasso, hoping to paint a picture of corruption, said the Democrat "was against it and then he was for it." But if Barrasso had bothered to check before attacking a lawmaker's integrity in front of a national audience, he would have seen that the Democrats voted against reform in November and in March.

A Barrasso spokesperson said late yesterday that the senator "misspoke." If "misspoke" means "falsely accused a member of Congress of accepting a bribe," then sure, Barrasso "misspoke."

Granted, the far-right senator isn't the only one who keeps pushing this unusually stupid conspiracy theory, but Fox News personalities and sitting U.S. senators are held to different standards.

The need for the Republican caucus to clean up its act is becoming overwhelming.

Sargent: SEIU Ad Blasts GOPers, Supports Dems

The post-reform-passage airwars are in full swing: The SEIU goes up in the districts of a half dozen vulnerable Dems with a new spot blasting Republicans for standing with the insurance companies and thanking Dems for showing the fortitude to stand with their constituents.

The ad, in keeping with the White House and Dem strategy, strongly emphasizes the immediate impact the bill will have on Americans:

The ad will run in the districts of Tom Perriello, Dina Titus, Betsy Markey, John Boccieri, Kathy Dahlkemper, and Earl Pomeroy.

“While Republicans in Washington stand with insurance companies and Wall Street, Congresswoman Tom Perriello is on our side,” runs the version in Perriello’s district.

“So now, you can’t be denied or lose coverage because you’re sick and families and small businesses will be able afford the health care they need,” it continues.

It’s worth noting that reform proponents are out of the gate much quicker than the opposition with efforts like these to frame the debate going forward — another sign of how much the bill’s passage has energized the left and changed the political equation.

Bellantoni (TPM): From Pelosi Pinatas To Fiery Flames -- GOP Targets Speaker As Public Enemy No. 1

She's been dubbed the most powerful speaker in a century, and was singled out by President Obama as being a critical force for passing a sweeping health care reform overhaul. But for the Republicans, she equals fundraising gold -- a San Francisco liberal who fires up the base and creates an endless supply of photo fodder.

GOP pollsters find that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is one of the most recognized Congressional leaders in decades. That's one reason the term "PelosiCare" has found its way into Republican mailers and television ads, and GOP sources tell us that will keep up in the coming months.

The current TPM Poll Average of the speaker's popularity shows Pelosi with 47.3 percent unfavorability and a favorability rating of 24.6 percent.

"The voters cannot fire Barack Obama in November but they can fire Nancy Pelosi," said Wes Anderson, a GOP pollster who contracts with the Republican National Committee. "The only other person voters are as concerned about is President Obama. They find she shares his ideology but not his charm."

Anderson told me in an interview Tuesday night that Republicans won't let up on Pelosi attacks because of her high name recognition They also see a window for them because she is highly unpopular among independent voters.

But for all the right-wing ire targeting Pelosi, our PollTracker shows she is more popular than the Republican Minority Leaders in the House and Senate.

The current TPM Poll Average of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's popularity shows McConnell (R-KY) with 62.9 percent unfavorability and a favorability rating of 20.9 percent.

The current TPM Poll Average of House Minority Leader John Boehner's popularity shows Boehner (R-OH) with 62.3 percent unfavorability and a favorability rating of 19.8 percent.

Pelosi, on the other hand, has a wide fan base being the first female speaker in history. What's more is the GOP has attempted to demonize Pelosi for the last two election cycles to little benefit.

Republicans told me for this piece they think it will be more successful this year in part because they lost others they used to hold up as "scary liberals" the GOP should be aiming to replace. They say Pelosi has filled a vacuum -- Hillary Clinton had been their prime foil since the 1990s, but when she and Obama sparred during the long and bloody primary, many Republicans shifted to portraying her as a hero fighting for the middle class. Sen. Ted Kennedy held a spot as the top conservative boogeyman for decades but the GOP stopped using image following his illness and then death last summer.

The Democrats have their own favorites who help them raise money, one reason you see Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh's name pop up so frequently in their campaigns.

Both Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill told me they think the Pelosi attacks have been substantially higher and more personal than what the GOP has done in recent years. The Republicans admit that but defend their choices as one way they can try and win back the majority.

Among the greatest hits from the last year:

At the Conservative Political Action Committee, one of the after-parties featured a Pelosi pinata as the entertainment.

An internal RNC fundraising document obtained by Politico compared Pelosi to Cruella de Vil. The RNC also linked her image with "Pussy Galore" in a James Bond-style video targeting her comments about the CIA.

At the Capitol tea party last November, Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) told a screaming crowd, "Fellow patriots, go tell your Congressman, you're not going to eat this rotten stinking fish that is -- Pelosi health care!" Last fall, a tea party group in central Virginia scrapped plans to burn Pelosi in effigy outside Rep. Tom Perriello's (D-VA) office after getting criticism that it was too much.

And as we've taken a look at in recent days, the new Republican National Committee campaign is to "Fire Pelosi," and the Web site aimed at fundraising to that cause depicts her in front of a background of flames. The RNC had raised nearly $1.3 million for the effort as of this writing, beating the RNC's declared goal of $400,000 in 40 hours. Chairman Michael Steele said on CBS News yesterday that he'd actually ordered the campaign "tamed down" from its original form.

To go with the fundraising drive, the RNC released this week a Web video called "Celebration," with an ominous narrator declaring that "Democrats are celebrating because Nancy Pelosi says 'this is only the beginning' [and] that Democrats will take the country in a new direction." It closes with, "It's time to fire Nancy Pelosi. Now that's a cause worth celebrating."

NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX) asked supporters to "Send Pelosi a Message" and said in an email fundraising drive that "Nancy Pelosi and her Democrat puppets have no intention of listening to the American people." The short email mentions her name 7 times, and closes with, "Your support is critical to ending Pelosi's reign as Speaker. Democrats made their choice."

Democrats don't want to raise this publicly, but privately say they find the attacks -- and multiple unflattering images -- to be misogynistic. They've told us on background that they believe Republicans are approaching dangerous ground by attacking the first black president, first female speaker and first Hispanic Supreme Court justice in "vicious, outrageous ways."

Pelosi's office pointed us to her remarks to Diane Sawyer (below) this week, dismissing the attacks as fruitless.

Democratic National Committee spokesman Hari Sevugan said the "demonization and personal attacks" on Pelosi are another example of GOP fear-mongering.

"We've seen it take the form of false smears about impending 'death panels,' outright lies about 'government takeovers' and screams of 'baby killer' from the floor of the US House of Representatives," Sevugan said. "What should be scary for Republicans is that with the help of Speaker Pelosi's determined leadership Democrats are getting things done for American families, while the GOP has to explain to the American people why they want to undo all that including why they want to impose the largest health care tax hike in American history on middle class families and small businesses."

The GOP pollster Anderson said it is "shocking" that 40 percent of voters have formed hard opinions of Pelosi, and said no speaker of the House has ever come to close the name recognition she enjoys. Newt Gingrich became a household name after becoming speaker, but when the Republicans won back control of Congress in 1994, polls showed most Americans didn't know who he was, Anderson said.

I asked him about Democrats charging misogyny and he said female voters are among those who don't like Pelosi. "It's not gender driven. If that's the case, how can you explain that she's so badly upside down with American voters," he said.

Pelosi dismissed being a target outright in an interview on ABC's World News Tonight this week. Watch:

Meanwhile, progressives are pushing an online campaign to send 3 roses for $10 to the speaker's office this week in honor of Pelosi's 70th birthday on Friday. They claim they are up to nearly 1,000 roses ordered.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is getting plenty of heat as well, despite not being as known. The Tea Party Express has a major protest planned for his hometown in Searchlight, Nevada this weekend.


Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) apparently has a viable plan to stay a Republican superstar: be as ridiculous as possible.

Is Rachel Maddow gunning for Scott Brown's Senate seat? The Massachusetts Republican thinks she is. In a fundraising email sent out Tuesday afternoon, he says the state's Democratic Party is trying to get the MSNBC host to challenge him for his newly acquired Senate seat.

"It's only been a couple of months since I've been in office, and before I've even settled into my new job, the political machine in Massachusetts is looking for someone to run against me," Brown writes. "And you're not going to believe who they are supposedly trying to recruit -- liberal MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow."

Said Brown in a fundraising email: "I'm sure [Maddow's] a nice person -- I just don't think America can afford her liberal politics."

Now, I realize that politicians and various political entities take certain, shall we say, liberties when writing fundraising letters. But making up imaginary rivals is usually the work of desperate fringe groups, not sitting United States senators.

For her part, Rachel addressed the subject in a very amusing segment last night.

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

If you can't watch clips from your work computer, here's the bottom line: Rachel said, "I have the best job in the world. I'm not running for office. I never said I would run for office. Nobody's asked me to run for office."

On a related note, the conservative Boston Herald has a report today, suggesting the Brown fad is quickly coming to an end. Bill Whalen, a former Republican operative and research fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution, compared the GOP senator to Arnold Schwarzenegger, calling both a "political novelty."


On Sunday, during a surprisingly rousing speech, Rep. Bart Stupak, the pro-life Michigan Democrat, was interrupted by a Republican lawmaker who shouted, "Baby killer!" We learned the next day that Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R) of Texas was responsible for the ugly outburst.

When he fessed up, Neugebauer tried to sound contrite, expressing "deep regret," and apologizing to Stupak. "The timing and tone of my comment last night was inappropriate," the far-right Republican said in a statement.

That was Monday. By Tuesday, Neugebauer decided his misconduct might be lucrative.

One day after admitting he yelled "baby-killer" during Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak's speech before Sunday evening's health care vote, Texas Republican Randy Neugebauer has posted a fundraising video on his campaign web site citing the incident.

"Not only did we see the government take over of your health care, but we saw the lives of unborn children used as a bargaining chip to somehow get the needed votes to pass this legislation," the three-term congressman says in the video, where he's joined by his wife, Dana. Neugebauer also sent a note about the incident, which is posted along with the video on the conservative Red State blog.

So much for "deep regret" and "inappropriate."

I suppose this was predictable. When Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) heckled the president during a speech to a joint session of Congress lasst year, he was initially contrite, too. But his remorse quickly disappeared when Wilson realized he could parlay the controversy into becoming a right-wing cause celebre. It wasn't long before unhinged donors were throwing money at the South Carolinian.

It no doubt occurred to Neugebauer, "Hey, maybe I can be a right-wing cause celebre, too!"

It creates a bizarre dynamic -- GOP extremists now have an incentive to be as boorish as possible, in order to receive rewards from a radical base. Why be an obscure back-bencher in a small caucus when you can act like an idiot and become a Republican star?

"House Republicans continue to reach new lows as they engage in shameless and dishonest fearmongering," said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Ryan Rudominer. "There is no line they won't cross if they think it will appeal to right wing extremists."

While Republican lawmakers tend to struggle in some areas (substance, honesty, integrity, seriousness of purpose, decency), they are not without strengths. As a rule, their most impressive quality is message discipline.

The GOP Powers That Be will decide what party officials and their allies are supposed to say, and Republicans tend to follow the marching orders extremely well. The GOP shapes much of the discourse simply by getting its members to all say the exact same thing, over and over again.

At the same time, however, when Republicans are struggling, it's obvious -- they start muddling their message. Take the health care "repeal" push, for example.

"We will work in every way to repeal this legislation and start over," said House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence, of Indiana.

Moments later, however, Pence said the House GOP was in favor of "repealing and replacing Obamacare with an approach that gives Americans more choices instead of more government."

"There are small elements of the legislation that's moving forward that Republicans have always supported," he said.

Got that? The whole package has to go -- except for those good parts. Which provisions of the new law to Republicans like and plan to keep? They'll have to get back to us on that.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) wants to repeal the whole thing, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is only interested in repealing the "egregious parts." Reps. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Steve King (R-Iowa) demand a full repeal, while National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (R-Tex.) wants to leave the "non-controversial stuff" alone.

Mitt Romney wants to scrap the whole package, while Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) declared, "We always said there are things that we can all agree on in the bill."

Rep. Phil Gringrey (R-Ga.) "does not want" to repeal the whole thing, and Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) see partial repeal as more realistic than the full repeal some of their GOP colleagues are pushing.

Republicans, in other words, are already finding themselves stuck in the repeal trap we've been talking about for months. Party leaders continue to characterize the new law as "Armageddon," but are grudgingly coming believe some parts of Armageddon may not be that bad after all.

Democrats are not only thrilled, they're seizing on Republicans' discomfort. The DSCC has even set up a "new feature designed to make it easier to track who's called for repeal and who hasn't."

It took a while, but the trap has been set. Republicans can either infuriate their base (which has been misled about health care from the start), or they can alienate the mainstream electorate.

John Cole: Take Your Wingnuts to Washington

Great work by Steve over at No More Mister Nice Blog on the wingnuts currently throwing bricks through windows and generally attempting to create a climate of fear and intimidation. It really is as simple as Rachel says in the video over there- what they could not achieve in the ballot box they are attempting to achieve through violence and intimidation.

The next plan for these clowns is to march on Washington on 19 April (the anniversary of Waco and the Oklahoma City bombing) with their guns to… well, you know why they are doing it, because you have a working brain. No doubt, however, it is time for another thought piece at Reason on the myth of right wing violence (prefaced, as always with “Other than Oklahoma city, the abortion murders, the Atlanta Olympics… what have the Romans done for us?”). Because remember- it is just a coincidence that gun nuts, militia movements, and angry mobs are on the rise. It has nothing to do with the fact that Clinton Obama is President and Republicans are whipping people into a froth on a daily basis.

It is just an extra special bet of deliciousness that the person behind all this is on Social Security disability.

*** Update ***

The Wasilla Wingnut tells her supporters to “reload,” then provides a map with rifle scopes over the names of legislators who voted for #HCR.

But don’t worry- glibertarians say this is normal.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Survey with a Fringe on Top

Scherer: The Challenge of Measuring The Right-Wing Fringe

The Daily Beast reports today the results of a Harris Research poll that will be released tomorrow. Among the findings:

  • 67 percent of Republicans (and 40 percent of Americans overall) believe that Obama is a socialist.
  • 57 percent of Republicans (32 percent overall) believe that Obama is a Muslim
  • 45 percent of Republicans (25 percent overall) agree with the Birthers in their belief that Obama was "not born in the United States and so is not eligible to be president"
  • 38 percent of Republicans (20 percent overall) say that Obama is "doing many of the things that Hitler did"
  • Scariest of all, 24 percent of Republicans (14 percent overall) say that Obama "may be the Antichrist."

The poll, with a sample of 2,230 people, appears to have been conducted online, a methodology that is heavily debated in the polling industry because it may skew results. (For more on this controversy, read Mark Blumenthal, a.k.a. the Mystery Pollster, here and here.) We also don't know how the questions were asked. But at least one of these results has been roughly reproduced before. A Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll in February found that 63 percent of self-identified Republicans considered Obama a "socialist," a term that has different meetings for different people. (In some circles, any support of expanding government services, spending or responsibility is considered "socialism.")

But that same Kos poll found that 36 percent of Republicans believed Obama was not born in the United States, substantially less than the Harris figure of 45 percent. Why the disparity? Either one of the polls is wrong, or about one in ten Republicans found a reason in the last six weeks to doubt the legitimacy of Obama's birth certificate. The latter seems unlikely. Another option: People answer polls not to say what they actually believe but to register their anger. The Harris poll was done during the height of the health care debate frenzy.

The Harris responses about Obama's religion are also odd. Pew polls in 2008 and 2009 found that the portion of Republicans who thought Obama was a Muslim unchanged: 17 percent. What would explain that number more than tripling in the last year to 57 percent? I have no idea, though it makes me wary of taking the Harris poll too seriously.

Suffice it to say, I am not aware of previous polls asking whether or not Obama is either acting like Hitler or the Antichrist.

Steven D.: Race & Teabaggers: Mr. Gilroy's Right
There's a diary in Booman Tribune's recommended list I'd like you to read if you haven't already done so by Arthur Gilroy, The Teabaggers and the Truth of the Matter. I don't always agree with Arthur (does anyone AG?), and he can be quite blunt, but the truth is the truth, and he states it here better than anyone that the Tea Party is all about Racism:

I can travel 10 to 15 minutes in any direction (by any mode of transportation from walking to automobile) from my mixed-race, working class Bronx neighborhood and be right in the middle of Tea Party Central.

Hell...all I have to do is drop into one of the many remaining Irish bars...almost all cop bars and fireman bars now...along Broadway from about 180 St. right on up into Yonkers to be be surrounded by Tea Party sympathizers. Most of them armed and allowed by law to use those arms.

Or walk into any police station or firehouse.

Or hang out with any construction crew.

Or walk into almost any diner/truck stop.

Just for fucking starters!

In a 100 mile radius, there are innumerable all-white neighborhoods.

Italian neighborhoods.

Irish neighborhoods.

Polish neighborhoods.

Catholic neighborhoods.

Literally millions of people live in those neighborhoods, and the most active among them are Tea Partiers either by action or by sympathy and vote.

Let me elaborate on AG's point from my experience.

If the Tea Party movement was simply about opposition to "progressive issues" like re-regulating the Financial industry after it almost tanked the world's economy, and we wouldn't have fought over and passed a health care reform bill that, as David Frum, former Bush speechwriter noted, was essentially the Republican health care plan circa 1993.

The Obama plan has a broad family resemblance to Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts plan. It builds on ideas developed at the Heritage Foundation in the early 1990s that formed the basis for Republican counter-proposals to Clintoncare in 1993-1994.

Got that? Frum says Obamacare is founded upon what The Conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation and the GOP proposed in opposition to what they derisively smeared as "Hilarycare" the last time a Democrat in the White House was elected to the Oval Office. He says "Obamacare" had Republican and Conservative movement fingerprints all over it, and he ought to know.

So what are we left with as an answer to the question what motivates the raw hatred and venom of the Tea Party? Sadly, I think we know the answer, and it isn't pretty. Here's only one very recent example (you know so many of them one will suffice) of what we've witnessed over the last fourteen months:

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) received racist faxes Monday in the wake of Sunday's House vote approving health care reform legislation.

Clyburn, a veteran of the civil rights movement, told Keith Olbermann Monday that faxes sent to his office had racist images including a noose. "If you look at some of the faxes that I got today, racial slurs, nooses on gallows, and I'm telling you, some very vicious language. This stuff is not all that isolated. It's pretty widespread. I hope it's not too deep."

Representative Clyburn was being generous. The racist bigotry and bile he to which he was exposed runs very deep among many white Americans. As a child growing up in an all white suburb in the 60's and 70's, I heard lots of racial epithets from the kids with whom I played and hung out. The only Jewish family in our neighborhood were a "buncha dirty kikes." Mexican American kids I went to school with were always called spics and wetbacks behind their backs if not to their face. And African Americans? Well let's just say the N word wasn't just for rappers back then.

Of course, once I went away to college, become a white collar professional (lawyer in my cae) in the 80's and 90's and worked with African American and other minority professionals I heard fewer and fewer racial slurs. But they never completely went away. Racist jokes were still told behind closed doors among all white (usually male) lawyers and corporate clients.

Yet, most of the time it wasn't an active part of my experience. In my circle of college educated people, it was considered crude and lower class to express such sentiments. So it was easy to believe that society was changing; that race played a lesser role. easy to ignore the signs that racism was still out there as strong as ever. Until my children were born, my half Japanese/half Northern European heritage children.

It started when we traveled in the South Carolina to Myrtle Beach to play golf and were met with hostile stares and antagonism from local whites anytime we strayed off the beaten tourist path. (I'll forego the details in the interest of some brevity). The open disdain in the eyes of many lower and middle class white people we met was palpable. And my wife and kids were the members of "safe minority" -- Asian Americans. But I told myself, well, this is South Carolina after all, the first state to secede from the nation. Not a representative sample.

What was less easy to accept, however, were the racial slurs that one of my son's soccer coaches directed at him and another Chinese American boy back in Western New York when he was eight or nine. We confronted the coach and he apologized, but it was half-hearted and disingenuous walk back of his use of racial slurs to describe my son. One of those "I'm sorry if I offended you" mea culpas you hear all the time. In his view, what he'd called my son was actually a "compliment" because he had been praising the athletic ability of kids who were stereotyped as "smart" (i.e, nerds who were supposed to be better in the classroom than on the athletic field). It was a lame excuse, but I let it pass.

But then came my great eyeopener. In 2000 John McCain ran for President, and believe or not I was attracted to his candidacy, especially his pledge for campaign reform. I naively believed he was different. Until he used the racial slur "gooks" and refused to apologize for it. I couldn't believe this "man of conscience" would do such a thing. I tried to start a campaign on internet political forums to get people to email him asking politely that he retract his comments because regardless of his intentions, they were a racist slur which applied to my wife and children. I was surprised by the lack of empathy I met by most people in those online forums, but even more surprised by the bile and hate that was directed at me for daring to express my opinion, for daring to demand that McCain do the right thing and admit he had been wrong by using a racist epithet. I was called a cry baby and a whiny-assed pinko and far, far worse.

People told me I had no right to criticize a war hero who had been tortured by the North Vietnamese. And this at a time when I was still professing to be a McCain supporter. All I wanted was a polite acceptance that his use of a word that slurs all Asian Americans was wrong. What McCain essentially did instead was tell anyone who complained about his comment to go "F" themselves. he wasn't sorry in the least.

What was even more galling was the lack of coverage by the mainstream media covering McCain's campaign. They basically ignored the story, giving McCain a pass on his (let's be generous) egregious remarks. It got very little press coverage (compared to say the Trent Lott episode a few years later). Aside from a few op-eds in cities with large Asian populations, all those white reporters on his bus let it slide. They would have killed him for using the N word, so why not the same treatment for the G word?

So I wrote a 750 word essay for my local paper that inexplicably was accepted for publication. I was polite. I stated my admiration for Senator McCain and his status as a "war hero" and stated I understood his great anger at his captors. But then i tried to explain that regardless, his choice of language, his use of a racial slur like gooks, was wrong. That it hurt my family, my children and millions of other good Americans. I pointed out how the units pf Japanese-American soldiers in WWII suffered the greatest casualties and received the most citations for valor per capita of any other unit during that war, and the using racial slurs in 2000 dishonored them and their memory. And I asked him politely (as well as all the other candidates including Bush and Gore) to refrain from using racial remarks in their campaigns.

My response was a bunch of hate mail ( I was named in the op-ed piece I wrote) and numerous harassing, threatening, hate filled angry phone calls. One guy in particular kept calling implying he he was going to cause me physical harm. His calls stopped only after I told him I was going to report him to the police. I expected some of that, but I also expected letters and calls supporting my reasonable and politic response to McCain. I received none. Nadfa. Zip. Well that was my wake-up call. I learned over the next few years of the Bush era just how enabled many people felt by Bush's victory to spew hatred toward minorities (principally Muslims, African Americans and Latinos). And when Obama won, I even heard remarks from family members that shocked me about how Obama only intended to help blacks and that he was out to get revenge on white people. Where did this come from? It certainly had no basis in reality.

Where did it come from? From conservative emails filled with lies and libels, Republican astroturf organizations (such as Freedom Works, Fox news and radio talk show hosts such as Limbaugh and Beck and Hannity, et al, and from opportunistic GOP politicians like Sarah Palin and Michelle Buchanan who played the white race card like there was no tomorrow, both during the 2008 campaign and in the years since then. FOR God's sake, Joe the Plumber, a complete ass and an idiot became a national symbol of white working class pride for standing up to Obama who treated him with far more dignity and respect than he deserved.

So, yes, America, The Tea Party is filled with racists. Millions of them. And they aren't going away. How large a group they represent I don't know. But it's too large, much too large. I know that much.

Bob Herbert (NYT): An Absence of Class

Some of the images from the run-up to Sunday’s landmark health care vote in the House of Representatives should be seared into the nation’s consciousness. We are so far, in so many ways, from being a class act.

A group of lowlifes at a Tea Party rally in Columbus, Ohio, last week taunted and humiliated a man who was sitting on the ground with a sign that said he had Parkinson’s disease. The disgusting behavior was captured on a widely circulated videotape. One of the Tea Party protesters leaned over the man and sneered: “If you’re looking for a handout, you’re in the wrong end of town.”

Another threw money at the man, first one bill and then another, and said contemptuously, “I’ll pay for this guy. Here you go. Start a pot.”

In Washington on Saturday, opponents of the health care legislation spit on a black congressman and shouted racial slurs at two others, including John Lewis, one of the great heroes of the civil rights movement. Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat who is chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, was taunted because he is gay.

At some point, we have to decide as a country that we just can’t have this: We can’t allow ourselves to remain silent as foaming-at-the-mouth protesters scream the vilest of epithets at members of Congress — epithets that The Times will not allow me to repeat here.

It is 2010, which means it is way past time for decent Americans to rise up against this kind of garbage, to fight it aggressively wherever it appears. And it is time for every American of good will to hold the Republican Party accountable for its role in tolerating, shielding and encouraging foul, mean-spirited and bigoted behavior in its ranks and among its strongest supporters.

For decades the G.O.P. has been the party of fear, ignorance and divisiveness. All you have to do is look around to see what it has done to the country. The greatest economic inequality since the Gilded Age was followed by a near-total collapse of the overall economy. As a country, we have a monumental mess on our hands and still the Republicans have nothing to offer in the way of a remedy except more tax cuts for the rich.

This is the party of trickle down and weapons of mass destruction, the party of birthers and death-panel lunatics. This is the party that genuflects at the altar of right-wing talk radio, with its insane, nauseating, nonstop commitment to hatred and bigotry.

Glenn Beck of Fox News has called President Obama a “racist” and asserted that he “has exposed himself as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.”

Mike Huckabee, a former Republican presidential candidate, has said of Mr. Obama’s economic policies: “Lenin and Stalin would love this stuff.”

The G.O.P. poisons the political atmosphere and then has the gall to complain about an absence of bipartisanship.

The toxic clouds that are the inevitable result of the fear and the bitter conflicts so relentlessly stoked by the Republican Party — think blacks against whites, gays versus straights, and a whole range of folks against immigrants — tend to obscure the tremendous damage that the party’s policies have inflicted on the country. If people are arguing over immigrants or abortion or whether gays should be allowed to marry, they’re not calling the G.O.P. to account for (to take just one example) the horribly destructive policy of cutting taxes while the nation was fighting two wars.

If you’re all fired up about Republican-inspired tales of Democrats planning to send grandma to some death chamber, you’ll never get to the G.O.P.’s war against the right of ordinary workers to organize and negotiate in their own best interests — a war that has diminished living standards for working people for decades.

With a freer hand, the Republicans would have done more damage. George W. Bush tried to undermine Social Security. John McCain was willing to put Sarah Palin a heartbeat away from the Oval Office and thought Phil Gramm would have made a crackerjack Treasury secretary. (For those who may not remember, Mr. Gramm was a deregulation zealot who told us during the presidential campaign that we were suffering from a “mental recession.”)

A party that promotes ignorance (“Just say no to global warming”) and provides a safe house for bigotry cannot serve the best interests of our country. Back in the 1960s, John Lewis risked his life and endured savage beatings to secure fundamental rights for black Americans while right-wing Republicans like Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan were lining up with segregationist Democrats to oppose landmark civil rights legislation.

Since then, the right-wingers have taken over the G.O.P. and Mr. Lewis, now a congressman, must still endure the garbage they have wrought.

Madrak (C&L): After HCR Passed, Militia Leader Said: 'Break Democratic Party Windows'. So They Did.

Brick, Liberty Tool, Model Mark One dash A. - from right-wing website.

As Dave Neiwert's been pointing out for a while, right-wing extremist fury is only growing now that we have a black Democrat in the White House. Now that the health-care bill has actually passed, and the right wing has bought the hysteria that this is an "assault on liberty," expect this - and worse:

Authorities in Wichita and some other cities across the country are investigating vandalism against Democratic offices, apparently in response to health care reform.

And on Monday, a former Alabama militia leader took credit for instigating the actions.

Mike Vanderboegh, of Pinson, Ala., former head of the Alabama Constitutional Militia, put out a call on Friday for modern "Sons of Liberty" to break the windows of Democratic Party offices nationwide in opposition to health care reform. Since then, vandals have struck several offices, including the Sedgwick County Democratic Party headquarters in Wichita.

"There's glass everywhere," said Lyndsay Stauble, executive director of the Sedgwick County Democratic Party. "A brick took out the whole floor-to-ceiling window and put a gouge in my desk."

Stauble said the brick, hurled through the window between Friday night and Saturday morning, had "some anti-Obama rhetoric" written on it.

Vandals also smashed the front door and a window at Rep. Gabrielle
Giffords' office in Tucson early Monday, hours after the Arizona Democrat voted for the health care reform package.

Over the weekend, a brick shattered glass doors at the Monroe County Democratic Committee headquarters in Rochester, N.Y. Attached to the brick was a note that said, "Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice" — a quote from Barry Goldwater's 1964 acceptance speech as the Republican presidential candidate.

And on Friday, a brick broke a window at Rep. Louise Slaughter's district office in Niagara Falls, N.Y. Slaughter, a Democrat, was a vocal supporter of the health care reform bill passed by the House on Sunday.

Tyler Longpine, spokesman for the Kansas Democratic Party, called the incidents troubling.

"It's kind of an alarming context," he said. "We haven't had any trouble here, but we're fortunate enough to be on the seventh floor of an office building in Topeka." However, he added, "Most of our county offices are storefronts, which are a little bit more vulnerable to that kind of intimidation."

Vanderboegh posted the call for action Friday on his blog, "Sipsey Street Irregulars." Referring to the health care reform bill as "Nancy Pelosi's Intolerable Act," he told followers to send a message to Democrats.

"We can break their windows," he said. "Break them NOW. And if we do a proper job, if we break the windows of hundreds, thousands, of Democrat party headquarters across this country, we might just wake up enough of them to make defending ourselves at the muzzle of a rifle unnecessary."