Thursday, May 27, 2010

Teabaggers all

John Cole: We’re Already Ruled by Teabaggers

Everyone is linking to this John Heilman piece, which contains this quote:

“Today, it’s hard to find anyone on Wall Street who doesn’t speak of Obama as if he were an unholy hybrid of Bernie Sanders and Eldridge Cleaver. One night not long ago, over dinner with ten executives in the finance industry, I heard the president described as ‘hostile to business,’ ‘anti-wealth,’ and ‘anti-capitalism’; as a ‘redistributionist,’ a ‘vilifier,’ and a ‘thug.’ A few days later, I recounted this experience to the same Wall Street CEO who’d called the Volcker Rule a testicular blow, and mentioned I’d been told that one of the most prominent megabank chiefs, who once boasted to friends of voting for Obama, now refers to him privately as a ‘Chicago mob guy.’ Do all your brethren feel this way? I asked. ‘Oh, not everybody—just most of them,’ he replied. ‘Jamie [Dimon]? Lloyd [Blankfein]? They might not say Obama’s a socialist, but they come pretty close.’”

Much like the teabag morons showing up to HCR debates screaming “KEEP GOVERNMENT OUT OF MY MEDICARE,” the CEO’s are on the dole for billions and are then bemoaning socialism. I guess they think those no interest loans that allows them to keep giving themselves huge bonuses is just a special reward for their capitalist genius.

Just hang them all.

E.J. Dionne on the oil spill in the Gulf and what it teaches us about the arguments on capitalism vs. socialism (via DKos):

"Deregulation" is wonderful until we discover what happens when regulations aren't issued or enforced. Everyone is a capitalist until a private company blunders. Then everyone starts talking like a socialist, presuming that the government can put things right because they see it as being just as big and powerful as its Tea Party critics claim it is.

But the truth is that we have disempowered government and handed vast responsibilities over to a private sector that will never see protecting the public interest as its primary task. The sludge in the gulf is, finally, the product of our own contradictions.

Sargent: Is there a Sarah Palin vileness/absurdity threshold?

A question for fellow reporters and editors: At what point do Sarah Palin's attacks and smears become so vile and absurd that they no longer merit attention? Is there such a point?

Palin, who has broken the mold in so many ways, has defied the laws of political and media gravity in another fashion: Despite the ever-mounting ridiculousness of her claims, she continues to get attention. This isn't so with other figures. Frequently those who traffic in absurdity and smears to get media attention keep upping the ante until their assertions become so grotesque and self-parodic that they are no longer newsworthy.

It's kind of like inflation: Keep printing more money and the value of it keeps dropping. That hasn't happened with Palin.

Yesterday Palin launched a bizarre and rambling attack on a journalist that by any standard should make us seriously pause. Her target was award-winning journalist Joe McGinniss, who has rented the house next door to her to research a book. The short version is that she suggested he might be peeping at her kids.

Palin is siccing her fans on a journalist who might be planning to cover her with something less than outright adoration. Dave Weigel notes that Palin's attack was "strange, unprofessional, and paranoid," and constitued "irresponsible and pathetic bullying."

In fairness, McGinniss is doing something a bit unorthodox, and for that reason this particular standoff is perhaps somewhat newsworthy. But more broadly, as long as Palin isn't an actual candidate for public office, at what point do we stop rewarding every statement from Palin, no matter how vicious or mendacious, with attention? Should there be such a point?

That's a real question, by the way. I'd love to hear what other reporters and editors have to say about this.

UPDATE, 11:31 p.m.: Ruth Marcus makes a detailed case today that the empress has no clothes, which I think makes the above question even more relevant.

Aravosis: What does it say about Sarah Palin that she can't speak even one sentence of correct English?

Maybe we should pass a law that in order to become President you need to be able to utter an entire sentence in correct English.

Ruth Marcus on Sarah Palin:

Three unattractive Palin traits have, if anything, been amplified since the election: her unwillingness to buckle down and do the necessary preparation; her tendency to adopt what McCain adviser Steve Schmidt described as a "down is up and up is down" version of reality; and her enhanced sense of injury at the hands of what she oh so cleverly refers to as the "lamestream media."
Palin's appearance on "Fox News Sunday" pushed me over the edge.

First, there was Palin on Republican Senate nominee Rand Paul, whose candidacy she had championed. Anchor Chris Wallace asked straightforward questions: Was Paul right or wrong in his view that the 1964 Civil Rights Act went too far in banning discrimination in private establishments? What did Palin make of the controversy? He got typically Palinesque answers, rambling and aggrieved:

"I think there is certainly a double standard at play here. When Rand Paul had anticipated that he'd be able to engage in a discussion, he being a libertarian-leaning constitutional conservative, being able to engage in a discussion with a TV character, a media personality, who perhaps had an agenda in asking the question and then interpreting his answer the way that she did, he wanted to talk about, evidently, some hypotheticals as it applies to impacts on the Civil Rights Act, as it impacts our Constitution. So he was given the opportunity finally to clarify, and unequivocally he has stated that he supports the Civil Rights Act."

Actually, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow and other interviewers did not ask Paul about "hypotheticals." They asked whether he supported prohibiting private business owners from keeping blacks off their premises.
Yeah, I'm pretty sure blacks being kicked out of businesses wasn't a hypothetical. It was American History 101.
Sully: Quote For The Day
"If Sarah Palin took to her Facebook page tomorrow and posted a note that said, "well, whaddya know, I's'a jus' out trawling' for catfish with my ol' hubby Todd, and a neighbor tol' me that he saw Rahm Emanuel crushing an endangered tropical frog to death while saluting a portrait of Mao, and also the sky is green," you can bet that the next day's "Fox & Friends" would treat the greenness of the sky as a self-evident fact, and Glenn Beck would ask Sarah why Rahm threatened Willow like that," - Alex Pareene.
Ryan Powers: Obama, Corker, and Bipartisanship

Both the Hill and Roll Call have accounts today of an apparently testy exchange between Obama and Sen. Corker at a lunchtime, closed-door meeting yesterday:

“I said, ‘I got to tell you something, there’s a degree of audacity in you being here today,’” Corker said, recalling his exchange with the president. “If you look at your three major initiatives they were almost all done on party-line votes,” Corker told Obama. “I feel we’re all props here today.

“Just last week you engineered a very partisan vote,” Corker added. “I would just like for you to explain to me, when you get up in the morning, and when you come over to lunch like this, how you reconcile that duplicity.”

Obama, of course, has worked very hard the last two years to reach out to Republicans. And Corker, if we take him as his word, would really like to cooperate (he sort of tried it seems on financial reform). But Obama’s failure to secure bipartisanship is hardly duplicitous. The fact of the matter is Obama and Corker are dealing with structural forces that are much larger than themselves. Alan Abramowitz documents this in a paper that he recently presented here at William and Mary, arguing that the partisan divide in Washington is simply a reflection of the partisan divide in the voting public — and not just the political elite:

The gradual disappearance of conservative Democrats and moderate-to-liberal Republicans has had a clear impact on the electoral coalitions of Democratic and Republican Senate candidates. … [O]ver the past four decades on the [American National Election Study] 7- point liberal-conservative scale…the gap between the average location of Democratic and Republican voters has more than doubled, from .8 units to 1.7 units. In 1972, conservative identifiers made up 30 percent of Democratic Senate voters and 43 percent of Republican Senate voters. In 2008, conservative identifiers made up 19 percent of Democratic Senate voters and 72 percent of Republican Senate voters.

Abramowitz concludes, “Rather than indicating that there is a ‘disconnect’ between politicians and voters, polarization in Congress actually indicates that Democratic and Republican members are accurately reflecting the views of the voters who elected them.” He also suggests that the effect of this is more obvious in the Senate than in the House due to reliance on unanimous consent and the filibuster.

It seems that the sooner Obama et al recognize this political reality and learn to work with in it, the better. Recent weeks suggest, however, that the President is getting there.

Ali Frick: Obama Sees Conservatives For Who They Really Are

I want to build off of Ryan’s post below a bit. Ryan pointed out that the existing atmosphere is irrevocably partisan, and that Obama seems — finally — to be noticing:

Noting that sometimes conservative activists portray him with a Hitler moustache, Obama seemed to put to rest any notion that there could be broad-based bipartisan cooperation – something he promised to try to bring to Washington during his 2008 campaign.

“There are members of their base who think if somebody even smiles at me, they think, ‘You’re a traitor. You smiled at Obama,’ ” the president said at fundraiser for Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). “The day has passed when I expected this to be a full partnership.”

There is hardly any “room for cooperation” in the Republican Party, Obama said.

That was a quote from last night. But just hours before, the Obama administration announced it would agree to right-wing demands and send troops to the Mexican border — even though a) the move comes without a full compromise on comprehensive reform and b) troops at the border won’t stop illegal immigration, and c) Obama knows it’s a bad idea (from March: “We’ve got a very big border with Mexico,” the president said. “I’m not interested in militarizing the border.”).

But the larger point is that, if Obama believes what he said last night, then he knows that the move won’t do a thing to bring conservatives to the table on comprehensive immigration reform. (And, as Ryan points out, there seems to be little that could bring conservatives and progressive together right now.)

I guess the strategy is for Obama to constantly reach out to conservatives with compromise, only to have his hand slapped away. Over and over and over again. And then he can go out and say things like he said last night.

The problem with this strategy is two-fold: First, conservatives just make stuff up. They say he is a partisan hack who refuses to compromise — even when this is patently and obviously untrue — and hope enough people are ignorant for them to win. Too often, that strategy works.

Second, when Obama does go to fire up the base as he did last night, those of us there start to wonder whether he actually believes what he’s saying. If he does, we wonder why he keeps reaching out, repeatedly demonstrating his good faith by acceding to central conservative demands (supporting offshore oil drilling, scrapping a public option, ditching an independent CFPA) before negotiations on the larger reform have begun.

On the other hand, it is effective for Obama to point out every time Republicans refuse to work with him — and even more effective when he looks at what conservatives really want to do and points out why it’s so dangerous to America. “You can’t drive!” not only fires up the base, but drives home (excuse the pun) the fundamental point: Conservatives and progressives aren’t working together because these people are maniacs.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I see crazy people

QOTD: DAY, on the GOP' "America Speaking Out" project:
Simpler GOP version:

"We value your opinion. Please write it on the back of a twenty dollar bill, and send it in."
In which the inevitable and incorrigible DougJ engages in a Post chat, and fails to draw the reporter into the crazy world of Randie ...
DougJ: A rare Kaplan victory for me

Though the answers aren’t particularly exciting:

Louisville, KY: I’m writing as a supporter of Rand Paul, whom the Post has treated unfairly. You say that his position on 40 year-old settled law is important. I say that he is the only candidate looking towards the future where we are forced to accept the single North American currency called “the amero” (go on YouTube and search for Vincete Fox amero if you don’t believe me).

Why aren’t we hearing more about this instead of about hypotheticals and bygones?

Perry Bacon Jr.: Hypotheticals matter; campaigns are about what you will do as much as what you have done, particularly for someone who has never held office before. I think his views on the Civil Rights act are important, in part because they might give a clue to his votes on the minimum wage and other such things.


Lexington, KY: Rand Paul may not be the smoothest talker, he may not answer the questions the way you want him to, to quote Sarah Palin. But who else has the guts to take on the NAFTA superhighway? Who else will put us back on the gold standard where we belong? Aren’t these more important issues?

Perry Bacon Jr.: I think he is pretty good talker. I”m agree to hear him defend his views on the big issues, repealing the health care bill, raising the retirement age, etc.

DougJ: Immigration politics

No one could have predicted (via Ben Smith, whose insane Drudgite readers followed the link to the comments, I see):

When we polled Colorado in early March Michael Bennet and Jane Norton were tied. Last week we found Bennet with a 3 point lead. One of the biggest reasons for that shift? Bennet went from leading Norton by 12 points with Hispanic voters to a 21 point advantage. That large shift in a Democratic direction among Hispanics mirrors what we saw in our Arizona Senate polling last month- Rodney Glassman went from trailing John McCain by 17 points with them in September to now holding a 17 point lead.

But Chris Matthews’ cranky uncle likes the law, polls show a majority of Americans support it, never underestimate white backlash, blah blah blah.

This thing is a goldmine for western Democrats.

  • from the comments:

    Boots Day

    It’s very popular among people who were already going to vote Republican, which means it doesn’t make any difference to the GOP in the long run. Among people for whom this is such a big deal that it makes them want to change their vote, it’s hugely unpopular.

This is wrong on so many levels it makes my eyes bleed. First, dems go on Faux all the time, where they are confronted with contrived questions designed to push a narrative that is often false for the purposes of riling up the republican/conservative base. Repubs rarely go on any news show that actually presses them on the issues, almost never on a show like Maddow's where their ideas are actually and thoughtfully examined.

Sully: "Why Rand Paul Matters"

A reader writes:

While I think that Rand Paul was smart to take a step back from the national microphones and skip this week's "Meet the Press," I think his decision highlights a larger problem: politicians on the right will not venture beyond the safe confines of Fox News. MSNBC's Joe Scarborough rhetorically asked this question on his show on Friday: "What the hell was Rand Paul doing on MSNBC?" That says it all. As you have chronicled much on your blog about the separation between red and blue states, this is just another nail in the coffin of debate in this country. When the right and left of this country will not share the same TV shows to discuss or debate the issues facing our country, we all lose.

mistermix: Can This Clown Win?

Ladies and Gentlemen, your new Connecticut Republican candidate for Senate, Linda McMahon, wife of Vince McMahon and CEO of WWE:

  • Involved in multiple steroid scandals.

  • Delivered a “low blow” to a commentator on TV as part of his firing.

  • Part of an organization that condones “simulated rape, public sex and necrophilia”.

Here’s what one of her former employees says about her:

She may look like a Sunday school teacher. Linda McMahon’s hands are as bloody as her husband’s because she is aware of every move in the ring. She has had no problem with grown men – myself included – cutting their head with a razor blade. All of a sudden, why aren’t these guys bleeding anymore? Because Linda is running for the Senate.

That’s just from her Wikipedia entry. Compared to this woman’s caravan of crazy, Dick Blumenthal’s Vietnam fudging is about as politically interesting as a county commissioner using the wrong fork at dinner.

No matter what generic Congressional ballot polling says (and it’s not looking that bad), candidates win elections. And, man, do the Republicans have some shit candidates.

Update: I love that we’re wall-to-wall Linda ads as soon as I post this. “Ready for Something Different” indeed.


One of the main downsides to a national controversy over the beliefs of a high-profile candidate: other candidates start fielding questions about their takes on the matter.

Last week, Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul articulated his opposition to the Civil Rights Act, the Fair Housing Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, as part of his larger extremist ideology. But given the controversy it generated, it was only a matter of time before Republicans elsewhere started feeling the heat, too.

In Nevada, Sue Lowden, the controversial GOP Senate hopeful, spoke to Politico yesterday, and refused initially to talk about her health care views. When the discussion turned to Paul, she refused to talk about that, too.

At the end of the interview, Lowden declined to discuss whether she shared Paul's views on the Civil Rights Act.

"You can't resist this, can you? I have no idea what another candidate says," Lowden said.

Asked whether she had any concerns about the law's reach into private business, Lowden said, "I'm going, thank you," then abruptly hung up the phone.

In Kentucky, Republican congressional candidate Andy Barr was less rude, but no more forthcoming when asked whether he agrees with Paul's worldview.

"Well, we'll, we'll, we'll certainly answer those questions later on."

At that point, Barr walked away, rather than continue the discussion.

A couple of things to consider moving forward. First, these questions are likely to continue. Republican campaigns would probably be wise to come up with a stock answer to the inquiries.

Second, coming up with that answer should be pretty easy. For crying out loud, we're talking about the Civil Rights Act and the ADA. I realize the Republican Party has shifted aggressively to the hard-right, but in the 21st century, even in contemporary GOP politics, there's nothing wrong with a Republican candidate endorsing some of the bedrock legislation of modern America.

"I support the Civil Rights Act of 1964." How hard is that to say?

DougJ: Gibbons’ decline and fall

Living in New York, I’m generally not impressed with other states’ political shenanigans, but what’s going on in Nevada right now is pretty special. You’ve got a sitting governor, Jim Gibbons, who: (1) is being sued by a Vegas cocktail waitress for sexual assault, (2) publicly claimed to have not had sex for fifteen years after being spotted consoling a Playboy model, (3) was caught repeatedly lying about a trip to Washington with his alleged mistress, (4) was recently investigated by the FBI for 18 months (though eventually cleared of wrong doing).

And then you’ve got Republican Senate primary where the chicken-for-checkups advocate Sue Lowden is regarded as the more sane of two leading candidates:

And as part of this effort, (Senate candidate Sharron) Angle reportedly wants to go to the Senate to fight to privatize Social Security; build nuclear power plants inside Yucca Mountain; eliminate the federal income tax; pull the country out of the United Nations; and allow unlimited campaign contributions. She’s also a hard-right culture warrior, backing the far-right line on immigration and supporting bans on nearly all abortions.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal, a conservative paper, conducted a survey that identified Angle as the Nevada Assembly’s “Worst Member.” Twice.

Angle and Lowden are neck-and-neck. Gibbons, unfortunately, is well behind in the polls.

Update. And, yes, I forgot about John Ensign.

DougJ: Fragrant candles

Colbert is going to have a great time with this:

“Largely decorated by Limbaugh himself, [his Palm Beach house] reflects the things and places he has seen and admired. A massive chandelier in the dining room, for example, is a replica of the one that hung in the lobby of New York’s Plaza Hotel. The vast salon is meant to suggest Versailles. The main guest suite, which I didn’t visit, is an exact replica of the Presidential Suite at the Hotel George V in Paris. There is a full suit of armor on display, as well as a life-size oil painting of El Rushbo. Fragrant candles burned throughout the house, a daily home-from-the-wars ritual.”

Sixteen years ago, House Republicans put together the "Contract With America" based on polls and focus groups. This year, House GOP leaders are launching the "America Speaking Out" project, in the hopes of crafting a new "contract" based on public feedback and interactive social media.

The biggest difference, however, is that this time, American taxpayers are being asked to finance the partisan initiative.

Republican officials will kick off the project with an event in D.C. this morning, and it's been described, accurately, as an initiative intended to help the GOP craft "a set of policy items that Republicans would pursue if they won back control of the House in November."

When asked about this yesterday, GOP Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) was vague about financing. "'America Speaking Out' is not a project of the political" campaign arm, Pence said, reluctant to go into further detail.

Now we know why. Republicans are claiming that the project will be kept separate from their campaign committees, and can therefore be financed by taxpayers.

Congressional scholar Thomas Mann, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said it is not credible to say the agenda is not intended for the 2010 campaign cycle.

"Its only purpose is as a campaign document," Mann said in an e-mail. "They are in no position to shape policy before the election. It is a defensive move, to deal with the criticism that they are the party of 'no.'"

But Meredith McGehee, policy director at the Campaign Legal Center, said Republicans have to maintain that the document is not meant for the campaign trail, even if it is only a charade. "If they don't, they are in danger of using taxpayer funds for campaign purposes," she said.

But given what Republicans have already stated publicly, the notion that the "America Speaking Out" project isn't intended for the midterm elections is ridiculous.

This isn't even thinly veiled -- the partisan, campaign-related function is as plain as day.

House Republicans will unveil on Tuesday a Web site they will use to solicit policy ideas from the public, the first step in the development of a platform that they will present to voters this fall. [...]

The Web site formally starts the GOP's process of touting its own vision and policies to voters, after spending most of the last 16 months bashing President Obama and congressional Democrats.

And Republicans, aware that some of the anti-Washington fervor among the public is aimed at both parties, don't want to simply put out a formal agenda without buy-in from voters, particularly conservatives. So, along with the site, House Republicans will hold town hall meetings around the country starting next week. They want to use this process to get ideas for the "Contract With America"-style policy document they are set to release closer to the election, which would list principles and proposals that Republicans would adopt if they won control of the House.

Keep in mind just how transparently silly the argument is. Republicans will argue that all of this -- the website, the social media, the town-hall events, and the document to be released in September -- has nothing to do with the party's campaign efforts in the fall. They have to maintain this fiction with a straight face, in order to justify use of our money to pay for the effort.

This probably isn't the ideal way for the GOP to prove it can be trusted to spend the public's money wisely.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Narratives and Projection

DougJ: How does the right do it?

If you’re an American and you believe that the government should respect habeas corpus or privacy rights or the separation of church and state, or that invading foreign countries for no reason with no plan is bad, or that torture is bad, then you hate America. If you’re a Catholic and you believe that raping children is bad or that social justice is central to Catholicism or that that it’s okay for a democratically elected representative in a secular government to vote in favor of reproductive rights, then you’re a cafeteria Catholic. If you’re Jewish and you think that nuking Tehran is a bad idea, then you’re a self-hating Jew.

How did the far right manage to do this? These are three different (if connected) arenas with three different sets of issues. Why does the right hold the patriotic/one truth faith/etc. higher ground in all of them?

I believe this is the central question of modern American politics.

  • from the comments:


    Is it possible you’re slightly over-analyzing the situation, DougJ? One answer is that the specific issues don’t matter—it’s that rightwingers are authoritarians, and someone has told them over and over what to believe is right. They can even turn on a dime when needed.


Karl Rove thinks the Obama White House, unlike its predecessors, is filled with mean people who say bad things about their political opponents.

"President Bush, for example, never allowed a White House staffer or administration spokesman to go out and do what this administration and our predecessor routinely did -- that is to engage in calling the leaders of the opposition party disparaging labels and question their motives," he said.

The underlying complaint is itself dubious. This White House has its flaws, but in the face of hysterical criticism from clowns like Rove, the president and his team have shown considerable restraint when it comes to using "disparaging labels" and questioning critics' motives.

But the irony of Rove's criticism is that he's guilty of engaging in the very tactics he's whining about now. In 2005, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) described the Bush administration's torture policies and system of secret prisons as being reminiscent of "Soviets in their gulags." As Alex Seitz-Wald reminds us, Karl Rove, at the time a high-ranking White House official, argued that Durbin's quote was evidence that liberals are anti-American traitors.

If Bush "ever allowed" his aides to question rivals' motives, why did Rove specifically question, to use his words, "the motives of liberals"?

But the larger, and arguably more entertaining point, is that Karl Rove has made a habit of blasting Obama and his team of doing the exact same things Rove did when he helped run the White House.

Rove ran a White House that embraced a "permanent campaign," so he's accused the Obama team of embracing a "permanent campaign." Rove embraced the politics of fear, so he's accused Obama of embracing the politics of fear. Rove relied on "pre-packaged, organized, controlled, scripted " political events, so he's accused Obama of relying on "pre-packaged, organized, controlled, scripted" political events. Rove looked at every policy issue "from a political perspective," so he's accused Obama of looking at every policy issue "from a political perspective." Rove snubbed news outlets that he considered partisan, so he's accused Obama of snubbing snubbed news outlets that he considered partisan. Rove had a habit of burying bad news by releasing it late on Friday afternoons, so he's accused Obama of burying bad news by releasing it late on Friday afternoons.

A lesser hack may find it difficult to launch political attacks that are ironic, wrong, hypocritical, and examples of projection, all at the same time, but Rove is a rare talent.