Friday, August 6, 2010

On Being Shrill and Rude

Ezra Klein: The political logic of job losses

Matt Yglesias puts a finer point on the political history behind, and electoral implications of, today's jobs report:

The losses came from the public sector. And they were foreseeable. And they were foreseen by the President of the United States and the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Majority Leader of the United States Senate and the majority of House members and a majority of Senators. And the President of the United States and the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Majority Leader of the United States Senate and the majority of House members and a majority of Senators voted for bills that would have prevented that. But because in the Senate a minority of members can get their way, action wasn’t taken. Consequently, we have a horrible jobs number. Which would be bad enough, but the way the American political system works, the minority party that prevented the majority from addressing the crisis will accrue massive political benefits as a result of the collapse.

Conservatives won’t admit it today, but what we’re looking at is a major breakdown of the logic of the American political system.

Kay (BJ): Elizabeth Warren Is (Still) Not Shrill
Before Elizabeth Warren was a potential nominee to run the new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, she once wore a lesser-known hat: blogger. The Harvard Law School professor was one of the founding writers of CreditSlips, a blog that’s “a discussion on credit, finance and bankruptcy.” Her posts ended shortly after she headed to Washington in the fall of 2008 to head the Congressional Oversight Panel, monitoring TARP. Law and bankruptcy scholars, as well as lay consumer finance junkies make up the blog’s core audience, which serves as a digital water cooler for Warren and her colleagues.

The contributors lean decidedly pro-consumer, which is refreshing. They somehow missed the national directive that said every advocate has a duty to make the other side’s argument. They must believe (sensibly) that lenders have millions of dollars in advertising and an army of lobbyists to “tell their side of the story”.


DougJ: Rude boy

Krugman attacks Paul Ryan’s “roadmap” quite savagely here. Krugman is the only major pundit I enjoy reading—because he enjoys being a rude asshole when rude assholery is called for, as it so often is.

This brings me to another question I have for Erik: why are the vast majority of writers for official publications (such as True/Slant) so excessively polite to one another? Why is everything “I have great respect for Jeff Golberg” and “Megan makes a great point here” and “Matt Steinglass makes a good point about Noah Millman’s rejoinder to Jim Manzi”? Why isn’t there more of “so-and-so said something really stupid, here’s why it’s stupid, and sadly this kind of stupidity is all too typical of this writer”?

For example, I read Megan McArdle every day and her posts are often—I won’t say invariably—filled with the worst sort of silliness, e.g. “all that carbon used to be in the atmosphere so how could it be bad to put back in the atmosphere”, “my calculator doesn’t go into the billions”, etc. Why do all you official publication types insist on taking her seriously?

That’s just one example. I can think of many others. Why the big, clubby, collegial atmosphere? It’s worse than the faculty club.

Krugman: The Flimflam Man

One depressing aspect of American politics is the susceptibility of the political and media establishment to charlatans. You might have thought, given past experience, that D.C. insiders would be on their guard against conservatives with grandiose plans. But no: as long as someone on the right claims to have bold new proposals, he’s hailed as an innovative thinker. And nobody checks his arithmetic.

Which brings me to the innovative thinker du jour: Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

Mr. Ryan has become the Republican Party’s poster child for new ideas thanks to his “Roadmap for America’s Future,” a plan for a major overhaul of federal spending and taxes. News media coverage has been overwhelmingly favorable; on Monday, The Washington Post put a glowing profile of Mr. Ryan on its front page, portraying him as the G.O.P.’s fiscal conscience. He’s often described with phrases like “intellectually audacious.”

But it’s the audacity of dopes. Mr. Ryan isn’t offering fresh food for thought; he’s serving up leftovers from the 1990s, drenched in flimflam sauce.

Mr. Ryan’s plan calls for steep cuts in both spending and taxes. He’d have you believe that the combined effect would be much lower budget deficits, and, according to that Washington Post report, he speaks about deficits “in apocalyptic terms.” And The Post also tells us that his plan would, indeed, sharply reduce the flow of red ink: “The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan would cut the budget deficit in half by 2020.”

But the budget office has done no such thing. At Mr. Ryan’s request, it produced an estimate of the budget effects of his proposed spending cuts — period. It didn’t address the revenue losses from his tax cuts.

The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has, however, stepped into the breach. Its numbers indicate that the Ryan plan would reduce revenue by almost $4 trillion over the next decade. If you add these revenue losses to the numbers The Post cites, you get a much larger deficit in 2020, roughly $1.3 trillion.

And that’s about the same as the budget office’s estimate of the 2020 deficit under the Obama administration’s plans. That is, Mr. Ryan may speak about the deficit in apocalyptic terms, but even if you believe that his proposed spending cuts are feasible — which you shouldn’t — the Roadmap wouldn’t reduce the deficit. All it would do is cut benefits for the middle class while slashing taxes on the rich.

And I do mean slash. The Tax Policy Center finds that the Ryan plan would cut taxes on the richest 1 percent of the population in half, giving them 117 percent of the plan’s total tax cuts. That’s not a misprint. Even as it slashed taxes at the top, the plan would raise taxes for 95 percent of the population.

Finally, let’s talk about those spending cuts. In its first decade, most of the alleged savings in the Ryan plan come from assuming zero dollar growth in domestic discretionary spending, which includes everything from energy policy to education to the court system. This would amount to a 25 percent cut once you adjust for inflation and population growth. How would such a severe cut be achieved? What specific programs would be slashed? Mr. Ryan doesn’t say.

After 2020, the main alleged saving would come from sharp cuts in Medicare, achieved by dismantling Medicare as we know it, and instead giving seniors vouchers and telling them to buy their own insurance. Does this sound familiar? It should. It’s the same plan Newt Gingrich tried to sell in 1995.

And we already know, from experience with the Medicare Advantage program, that a voucher system would have higher, not lower, costs than our current system. The only way the Ryan plan could save money would be by making those vouchers too small to pay for adequate coverage. Wealthy older Americans would be able to supplement their vouchers, and get the care they need; everyone else would be out in the cold.

In practice, that probably wouldn’t happen: older Americans would be outraged — and they vote. But this means that the supposed budget savings from the Ryan plan are a sham.

So why have so many in Washington, especially in the news media, been taken in by this flimflam? It’s not just inability to do the math, although that’s part of it. There’s also the unwillingness of self-styled centrists to face up to the realities of the modern Republican Party; they want to pretend, in the teeth of overwhelming evidence, that there are still people in the G.O.P. making sense. And last but not least, there’s deference to power — the G.O.P. is a resurgent political force, so one mustn’t point out that its intellectual heroes have no clothes.

But they don’t. The Ryan plan is a fraud that makes no useful contribution to the debate over America’s fiscal future.

John Cole: Something New and Original
Oh. Look. James Pethokoukis is making shit up again. Why people with track records like this are given any attention is beyond me.
Marshall: Requiem for the Crazy (tm)

For weeks the second and third place candidates for the Tennessee Republican gubernatorial nomination have been battling it out to see if they could say something crazy enough to take the lead away from Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam.

Rep. Zach Wamp threatened to have Tennessee secede from the United States over Health Care Reform unless voters force its repeal before 2012. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said the 1st Amendment may not apply to Islam since its a cult and not a religion.

Tonight though the relatively moderate Haslam crushed Wamp and Ramsey, beating first runner up Wamp by 19 points.

Marshall: On a Mission from God

I'm not sure which is weirder.

That something like everybody in Nevada public life -- including a growing and reasonably substantial number of Republicans -- are coming out for Harry Reid and against Sharron Angle.

Or that Sharron Angle could very well still win in November.

Now Lois Tarkanian, wife of the former UNLV coach and mother of Danny Tarkanian, who Angle beat in the primary, is going to campaign tomorrow with Reid to "call out Sharron Angle's extreme and dangerous positions against Nevada's working families."

Kleefeld (TPM): GOP Rep. Inglis Tells CNN About Crazy Right-Wingers Who Ousted Him (VIDEO)

Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC), who lost his primary on June 22 by a whopping 71%-29% margin, appeared on CNN this afternoon to further discuss the forces that took him out of office: Crazy right-wing conspiracy theories, and his inability and refusal to go along with it.

CNN host Rick Sanchez went over a recent piece on Inglis in Mother Jones, in which Inglis talked about the crazies that he would come across on the campaign trail.

Sanchez read from Inglis's recollection of a conversation with some voters: "'Bob, what don't you get? Barack Obama is a socialist, communist Marxist who wants to destroy the American economy so he can take over as dictator. Health care is part of that. And he wants to open up the Mexican border and turn [the US] into a Muslim nation.'"

Sanchez asked Inglis who these people were. And in response, Inglis conceded he might have done better politically had he humored them.

"That was several 80-year-old couples that were expressing their views. And you know, what I should have said was, 'Over my dead body that's gonna happen. I can guarantee it's not gonna happen,'" said Inglis. "That would have been the better answer, wouldn't it? Rather than the one I gave, which is, 'Well it's not quite that bad, let's keep it within the realm of facts.'"

Sanchez read from another excerpt: "'I sat down, and they said on the back of your Social Security card, there's a number. That number indicates the bank that bought you when you were born based on a projection of your life's earnings' -- I'm gonna try and not laugh here -- 'and you are collateral. We are all collateral for the banks. I have this look like, 'What the heck are you talking about?' I'm trying to hide that look and look clueless. I figured clueless was better than argumentative. So they said, 'You don't know this?! You are a member of Congress, and you don't know this?!'"

Inglis responded: "Well you know, I think that my colleague put it well to me last week. She said that her father used to tell her, 'Leaders can either lead -- or mislead.' And you know, if you're gonna lead, you need to lead with facts. And you need to help people the realities that we face."

In light of the latest discouraging jobs report -- the third consecutive month in which the job totals were disappointing -- there's an obvious course ahead. Heidi Shierholz, an economist from the Economic Policy Institute, said, "The economic case for more government action to create jobs is about as clear as they come."

Right. It's painfully obvious. The problem is staring us right in the face. And yet, nothing will happen because our political system is such a mess.

Significant action in the Senate is obviously out of the question, since the chamber is largely paralyzed. But the House has its own problem -- panicky Democrats who are afraid to do the right thing. Politico reports that some of these hand-wringing Dems might even be afraid to help save school teachers' jobs next week.

When the House returns next week to rubber-stamp the Senate's $26 billion state-aid package, Democrats will take a political crapshoot.

Even though party leaders expect that approval will be a slam-dunk, some early responses from rank-and-file Democrats have raised red flags about the optics of returning to a special session to vote on more spending -- even if it's framed as saving teachers' jobs.

The risk for Democrats as they seek to bolster their flagging election prospects is that some of their vulnerable members will feel like they have to walk the plank, yet again, on a politically unpopular economic-stimulus agenda, while reminding voters of their failure to handle routine budget work this year.

This really is crazy. With the economy sputtering, here's a bill that will help prevent tens of thousands of layoffs, including school teachers and firefighters. It's paid for, and won't add a dime to the deficit. It enjoyed bipartisan support in the Senate, and even Ben Nelson voted for it.

But for some panicky House Dems, saving jobs means spending money, and "spending = bad." Why? Because Republicans say so.

This need not be complicated. These frightened Democrats think spending is unpopular? Here's something that's more unpopular -- unemployment and an economy moving in the wrong direction. Republicans have these Dems so rattled, they're afraid of the disease and the cure.

Passing the state-aid bill should be the easiest of no-brainers, but the fact that even this is problematic makes ambitious policymaking impossible. Ideally, right now, Democrats should be preparing a massive jobs bill, without any concern at all for the deficit. When asked if they consider job growth more important than the deficit, Dems should be bold about it: "You're damn right we do."

None of this will happen; economic conditions will drag Democrats down further; and Republicans who are hopelessly backwards about the basics will be rewarded for their dangerous ignorance.


President Obama has spent a fair amount of time the last couple of weeks talking up the rejuvenation of the American auto industry. There's obviously some political elements to the effort -- the White House wants to emphasize good economic news where it can be found, and more importantly, it wants to remind the public that at a moment of crisis last year, Obama was right about the industry rescue and Republicans were wrong.

With that in mind, the president visited a Ford plant in Illinois yesterday, and continued to tout the success story. A Democratic official alerted me to an inexplicable reaction from House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.).

"So as President Obama prepares to take another victory lap, who exactly is President Obama celebrating with?" asked a statement issued by the office of Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House Republican whip.

I don't know, Eric, shouldn't you be celebrating with him?

Look, I know it's an election season, and I know Eric Cantor isn't the sharpest crayon in the box. But the easiest, most basic form of patriotism is taking at least some pleasure when good things happen to your country.

In this case, thanks to the Obama administration, the industry has added 55,000 jobs -- the best growth in the industry in over a decade. All three American automakers are operating at a profit for the first time since 2004.

Sure, Republicans don't want to talk about this -- in part because good news interferes with their election strategy, and in part because this progress wouldn't have happened if they were in charge last year. Indeed, if we'd listened to Cantor and his cohorts, the American auto industry would be left in shambles, hundreds of thousands of jobs would be lost, and the backbone of American manufacturing would have been broken. At a moment of crisis, Republicans had it backwards.

But that's no excuse for Cantor's petty partisanship. Who is President Obama celebrating with? The workers who have jobs that would have been lost, the plants that are humming that would have been shut down, the regional economies that couldn't have sustained another hit, and the entire industry that would have very likely collapsed were it not for Obama's intervention.

The question isn't why the president is celebrating good news; the question is why Eric Cantor chooses not to.

Republicans rooting for American failure is unseemly. I'd hoped Cantor & Co. realized that by now.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Be afraid.

Steven D.: It's What They Do That Worries Me
Another Conservative apologizes for an anti-Obama stunt, but do you really believe the apology? Read and decide for yourself:

Shooting gallery apologises for using Obama as a target A carnival game that offered fair-goers the chance to win prizes by shooting a black man has been axed after complaints that the target resembled President Obama. "I voted for the man. It wasn't meant to be him," Irvin Good Jr, the president of Goodtime Amusements, which ran the attraction, told the Morning Call newspaper. "If they took it that way, we apologise."

Here's the local newspaper's story:

Roseto carnival game message: 'Step right up and shoot' Barack Obama Kathryn Chapman took a trip to the annual Our Lady of Mount Carmel Big Time celebration last weekend, and she was shocked to see a shooting game with President Barack Obama as the target.

"I just can’t believe how far things have come that now on church property you can shoot the president and get a prize if you hit him in the head or heart," said Chapman, a Medford, Mass., resident who last lived in Roseto the year President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. She was in town for a family reunion.

Even though the game shows a black man dressed in a suit, holding a scroll labeled "health bill" and wearing a belt buckle that features the presidential seal, Goodtime Amusements President Irvin L. Good Jr. said the image does not portray President Obama. [...]

Chapman confronted the game owner, who claimed "freedom of speech," she said. Her husband, Richard Shultz, said he would have complained no matter the political party of the president depicted.

So first the Carnival Owner says it's not Obama (right, I believe that one) and then the game owner says its a freedom of speech issue. Well at least he was honest. But here's why you shouldn't believe either man is really sorry or that their "apology" is sincere:

The fairground shooting gallery, named "Alien Invasion", appeared at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Big Time Fair in Roseto, Pennsylvania, last month, and attracted complaints for using using a lifesize figure of a black man in a suit, wearing a belt buckle labelled "The Prez" and clutching a rolled-up sheaf of papers marked "Health Bill".

Once, you get the benefit of the doubt, but twice? And after this "attraction" had elicited prior complaints at the first venue? Sorry, but that apology for a "mistake in judgment" is just impossible to swallow. They knew what they were doing was promoting hatred for profit.

The real question is why would anyone think that a picture of the President as a target to be shot at in the head and heart would be profitable unless they knew that some people are bigoted and hateful enough to want to kill the President, even if its only a fantasy?

Obviously they knew it would make money in rural and small town Pennsylvania. Which means the right wing media machine of Fox, Beck, Hannity, Limbaugh ad nauseam, has accomplished its goal: ratcheting up the latent racism in certain individuals and promoting hatred against an African American President such that assassination is just another "joke" to increase their audience. In fact to them, its a chance to make money off all that stirred up hatred. So why shouldn't a small time carnival owner get in on the action by offering people the illusion that they can assassinate Obama.

Well decent people like Kathryn Chapman don't find this kind of thing funny. I bet Obama's daughters and his wife don't either. Or the Secret Service for that matter. But for the Becks and Limbaughs of the world, its just another day at the office.

And that is the true horror of this. That we as a country have devolved so low so quickly that incidents like this are becoming commonplace everyday events. And that there are people out there who think shooting President Obama in reality would be perfectly okay with them.

Rush Limbaugh and other right wing demagogues have taken to calling the federal government "our enemy." They know what they are doing when they say that. They never said those things when Bush was in office despite the many broken laws, lies, violations of civil liberties, outing of a covert CIA operative, torture, corruption, etc. that occurred on his watch. But now that a Democrat and a Black man sits in the Oval Office the gloves have come off.

This shooting gallery is just one more sign of the times, one more bit of proof that the radical conservatives who own the Republican Party lock, stock and barrel don't give a damn about democracy or our country or for the rule of law. All they care about is money and power. And if it puts the lives of innocent people at risk, what's that to them?

Think Progress: Flashback: George Washington in 1790 — The U.S. government ‘gives to bigotry no sanction.’
In 1790, President George Washington wrote a letter to the Jewish community of Newport, Rhode Island, affirming the values of tolerance and religious freedom that he saw as the bedrock of the country that he had had helped found, and done so much to secure. “The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for giving to Mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy,” Washington wrote, “a policy worthy of imitation.” He continued:

All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens. [...]

May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.

The debate over the Ground Zero Mosque is, in fact, a debate over American values. Newt Gingrich has been trying to claim that the construction of the mosque is “explicitly at odds with core American and Western values,” while Mayor Bloomberg correctly noted yesterday that “we would betray our values if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else.” If the conservatives who have been attacking the mosque think that George Washington was wrong about American tolerance and religious freedom, let them say so explicitly.

The Antidote.

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Think Progress: Coburn And McCain Troubled By Stimulus Debt, Which Is 488 Times Smaller Than Debt Impact Of Bush Tax Cuts

Yesterday, Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) released a report that highlights 100 supposedly “questionable stimulus projects that are wasteful, mismanaged, and overall unsuccessful in creating jobs.” “The only thing getting a boost is our national debt,” the report complains. The “American people have awakened to the incompetency of Washington,” said Coburn. “The rest of the federal government is filled with stuff just like this.”

Coburn went on Fox News today to promote the report and criticized White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs’ claim yesterday that the report is not credible:

COBURN: Mr. Gibbs knows I don’t mess around when it comes to stealing money from our kids and grandkids. And if he wants to defend this kind of stuff — this isn’t political. It’s too serious to be political no guys. We’re $13.4 trillion in debt and growing and this is the kind of waste that people are sick and tired of.

Watch it:

If Coburn doesn’t “mess around” with “stealing money” from the American youth, then why are he and McCain fierce advocates for extending President Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy? The ten-year cost of extending those tax cuts amounts to $830 billion. But how much of this alleged “wasteful” stimulus spending are the senators now concerned about? A mere $1.7 billion:


Moreover, CNN noted that “the report’s use of selected information from hundreds of footnoted sources left it unclear if the brief summaries of each project told the whole story.” For example, the report attacked a grant to replace windows at a vacant Forest Service visitors’ center in Washington, claiming there are “no current plans to use the empty space.” However, as CNN noted, the Forest Service said it “is now reviewing several proposals for how the facility could be used in the future through a variety of public-private partnerships, including a science facility, education camp, or an overnight lodge.”

But maybe Coburn is more concerned about the $1.7 billion in alleged “wasteful” stimulus spending as opposed to $830 billion in tax cuts for the wealthy because the believes the tax cuts are free.



It's surely not what the leader of the free world wants for his birthday. But, for a stubborn group of Americans, conspiracy theories about President Obama's birthplace are the gifts that keep on giving. [...]

According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey, more than a quarter of the public have doubts about Obama's citizenship, with 11 percent saying Obama was definitely not born in the United States and another 16 percent saying the president was probably not born in the country.

Broken down by party, 85% of Democrats believe the president was definitely or probably born in the U.S. Among independents, the number is 68%. For Republicans, only 57% believe reality, while 27% of rank-and-file GOP voters believe Obama was "probably" born elsewhere, and 14% of Republicans are convinced he was "definitely" not born here. In other words, a combined 41% of GOP voters are reasonably sure of something with no foundation in reality.

That's an awful lot of ignorance, generated entirely by a right-wing noise machine pushing a baseless, ridiculous conspiracy theory. As Rush Limbaugh told his minions yesterday, "They tell us August 4th is the birthday. We haven't seen any proof of that!"


For what it's worth, the reason poll results like these don't force me into unreachable despair is that I'm not convinced those who are wrong necessarily understand the constitutional implications. For some of those who question the president's birthplace, it may not matter whether Obama is a natural-born citizen (reality) or a naturalized citizen (fiction). For all I know, some folks find the whole bogus idea charming: "Isn't America great? Someone can be born in another country, work hard, and eventually become president of the United States."

Still, the pervasive quality of the ignorance here is remarkable. Given how obvious reality is, and how many times this nonsense has been debunked, the "birthers" in Congress and the media have to be pretty pleased with themselves.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Hate gives their lives meaning

McMorris (TPM): #BigotryFail: Plan To Harass Muslims With Dogs At CA Rally Collapses

In the end, the people trying to stop the construction of a mosque in Temecula, California were vastly outnumbered by the crowd welcoming the growth of the Muslim community in Riverside County. Last week, we told you about the plan by some conservatives opposed to the construction of the new mosque to show up over the weekend outside the Temecula-area Muslim group's current digs to tell those inside they weren't welcome. To prove the point, the group planned to bring dogs -- which one protester characterized as pretty much the Muslims' mortal enemy, saying that Muslims "hate dogs."

Here's how it all turned out: the anti-mosque protesters were outnumbered by pro-mosque supporters, the local tea party disavowed the protest and called it hate speech, the protester we talked to dropped off the face of the earth and only one dog made it to the planned protest.

It was a fittingly unexpected end to an extraordinary tale.

First, the scene on the ground at Friday's protest. As the Los Angeles Times reported, "a small group of protesters took over a patch of grass across from the Islamic Center of Temecula Valley," but they were "greatly outnumbered by supporters from area churches who were there to support the Islamic Center." Overall, the paper reported, the opposition was "vocal but relatively tame."

The anti-mosque group numbered at "about 20," according to the Press-Enterprise. Other local press reported that the group carried signs with messages like "Muslims Danced with Joy on 9/11," and "No Allah's Law Here." The counter-protesters, on the other hand, "wore white shirts in solidarity" with the Muslims and carried signs reading "Leave These American Citizens Alone."

The two groups clashed verbally, though police on the ground kept things civil. Meanwhile, as the Southwest Riverside News Network reported, the Muslims actually there to worship "ignored the protesters but smiled to acknowledge the supporters."

What about the dogs, you ask? Here's what Southern California Public Radio reported on that front:

There was only one dog. He was on a leash. No bibles or firearms were on visible display.

The Los Angeles Times talked to the dog owner on scene, "Zorina Bennett, 50." She brought her dog Meadow along because, as she told the paper, "many Muslims believe that the saliva of dogs is impure."

Their plans to use dogs to scare the Muslims out of Temecula dashed, the protesters found themselves on the outside looking in. The Valley News reported that Diana Serafin, the self-described tea partier who spoke with me about the protest and helped to promote it online, wouldn't return email or phone messages as the controversy built. Any mention of the protest disappeared from her website as the event drew near. That might be because Serafin and her compatriots found themselves running out of friends.

The leader of the local Republican Party distanced himself from the protest in the Valley News. "In every group you get an element, we get an element, I mean in the Republican Party, that are really, super radicals and we say, 'Ok, well, you can't be a part of it because you're a racist,'" he told the paper. "So there's these groups and sometimes you can't control them, they're inside the church, club, mosque or the synagogue that are underground, you don't even know they're there."

The Temecula area Tea Party Patriots had a similar response, strongly condemning the protest in a statement published by the paper. "The organizers of the Menifee, Hemet, Murrieta and Temecula Tea Parties wish to emphatically state that they are not involved in organizing any planned Mosque protest, but that they would strongly condemn the use of dogs to harass anybody, anywhere," they wrote.

In the end, one Mosque supporter said, the power of unity overwhelmed the conservative attempts at division.

"We have people from different religious organizations and of different faiths showing their support today," mosque proponent and Christian Rev. Joe Zarro told the Southwest Riverside News Network on the day of the protest. "We are all here to stand up for our brethren."


When I see Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), I see a conservative Republican senator who talks a bit about constructive policymaking, but who invariably fails to follow through.

When his right-wing constituents see Graham, they see a senator willing to betray their extremist ideals.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who often finds himself out of step with the most conservative elements of his party, was censured by yet another GOP county party committee Monday night.

In recent months, Graham has been censured by GOP party committees in Lexington and Charleston counties. On Monday, the Greenville GOP Executive Committee passed a censure resolution by a vote of 61-2.

"THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, the Greenville County Republican Party hereby issues this formal rebuke of Senator Graham for his cooperation and support of President Obama and the Democratic Party's liberal agenda for the United States," the resolution reads.
The resolution says Graham will no longer be invited to participate in meetings or other events sponsored by the Greenville County Republican Party, and alleges Graham has "abandoned the Republican platform."

How odd. Graham's voting record is very conservative, and he's backed every Republican filibuster -- good lord, there's been a lot of them -- on every Democratic proposal.

Why on earth would they censure him? The resolution points to (1) Graham's vote on the financial industry bailout; (2) his stance on immigration reform; and (3) his confirmation vote on Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

But (1) Graham's position on TARP was the same position taken by the Republican White House, the Republican House leadership, the Republican Senate leadership, Mitt Romney, Glenn Beck, and Sarah Palin. Have they all "abandoned the Republican platform"?

On immigration, Graham was willing to talk about a compromise, but he abandoned the talks and killed the legislation. Shouldn't the GOP base be pleased?

And, sure, he voted for Sotomayor, but so did seven other Republicans. It was something of a no-brainer.

I feel ridiculous defending Graham from other Republicans, but the larger significance of this is important: the GOP base wants to create an environment in which Republican lawmakers should be afraid to even talk to Democrats. That was the lesson of Sen. Bob Bennett's (R) defeat in Utah, and the motivation for resolutions like this one in South Carolina. Rank-and-file Republicans want leaders who aren't interested in discussions, oppose compromise, and seek to do little more than destroy any hopes at solving problems.

It's really not healthy.

Sargent: Sharron Angle: Obama and Reid are making government our false "God"

Nevada journalist Jon Ralston unearths an interview that Sharron Angle did with Christian radio that is perhaps her most eyebrow-raising contribution to the conversation yet. In it, she says that government expansion under Obama and Dems is an effort to make government into our "God."

In case you're tempted to dismiss this as a figure of speech, Angle makes it clear that she's being literal, adding that our dependence on government is "idolatry" and that this is a "violation of the First Commandment." Here's the key bit:

"And these programs that you mentioned -- that Obama has going with Reid and Pelosi pushing them forward -- are all entitlement programs built to make government our God. And that's really what's happening in this country is a violation of the First Commandment. We have become a country entrenched in idolatry, and that idolatry is the dependency upon our government. We're supposed to depend upon God for our protection and our provision and for our daily bread, not for our government."

As Ralston puts it: "This mindset will further reinforce to some that religion infuses everything Angle believes but also might explain her hostility to government programs, believing essentially they are produced by a false God."

And, indeed, Angle also explains her zeal for politics as follows:

"And I knew that all along when I started praying over a year ago over it. And this just seemed to be the battle that I needed to go to war with. And I need warriors to stand beside me. You know, this is a war of ideology, a war of thoughts and of faith. And we need people to really stand for faith and trust, not hope and change."

Is it a stretch conclude that Angle genuinely views the Nevada Senate race as a Holy War?

No wonder she thinks voters may soon be resorting to "Second Amendment remedies." Big Government has put our national soul at risk.
  • Steve Benen adds:

    Greg Sargent added, "Is it a stretch conclude that Angle genuinely views the Nevada Senate race as a Holy War?"

    It's not a stretch at all. Angle's argument, such as it is, constitutes pure madness.

    Let's say we, the people of the United States, decide to form a more perfect union. We conclude that it's a good idea to establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. In turn, we create laws and government institutions to establish a government, and craft a Constitution with governmental powers and limits (one of which, incidentally, guarantees religious liberty, allowing us all to worship as we please, or not to worship at all.)

    To hear Sharron Angle put it, this is all a terrible mistake. Why turn to our democratically elected government and our chosen political representatives to establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty when we should be turning to the deity Holy Warrior Angle believes in?

    The Las Vegas Sun recently reported that Angle, who said she's running because God told her to, embraces a radical church-state philosophy that "parallels that of a religious political movement -- Christian Reconstructionism -- seeking to return American civil society to biblical law."

    If you're unfamiliar with Christian Reconstructionism, it's quite literally analogous to the Taliban and radical proponents of Sharia law -- just as they want to replace secular law with laws based on their interpretation of the Quran, Reconstructionists want to replace secular law in the U.S. with their interpretation of the Christian Bible. In this vision, our Constitution would be replaced with a radical take of Scripture.

    Reconstructionists represent some of the most extreme elements of the American fringe -- and they seem to have an ally running for the United States Senate in 2010.

Fallows: This Is Not My Normal Beat (Bloomberg & Mosque Dept) ...
... but I have to say that all Americans are New Yorkers today, in the wake of Mayor Bloomberg's brave and eloquent defense of American tolerance, and the resilient strength of America's diverse society, in welcoming the vote that cleared the way for construction of a mosque near the site of Ground Zero. (Daily News pic.)
Thumbnail image for Bloomberg.png"We may not always agree with every one of our neighbors. That's life and it's part of living in such a diverse and dense city. But we also recognize that part of being a New Yorker is living with your neighbors in mutual respect and tolerance. It was exactly that spirit of openness and acceptance that was attacked on 9/11.... Of all our precious freedoms, the most important may be the freedom to worship as we wish....

"The World Trade Center Site will forever hold a special place in our City, in our hearts. But we would be untrue to the best part of ourselves - and who we are as New Yorkers and Americans - if we said 'no' to a mosque in Lower Manhattan.

"Let us not forget that Muslims were among those murdered on 9/11 and that our Muslim neighbors grieved with us as New Yorkers and as Americans. We would betray our values - and play into our enemies' hands - if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In fact, to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists - and we should not stand for that."
Apart from the lofty sentiments, I love the plain "That's life" -- part of the thick-skinned, no-nonsense realism that Americans like to think exemplifies our culture, but doesn't always. Nothing is more admirable about this country in the rest of the world's eyes than the big-shouldered unflappable confidence demonstrated in that speech. Nothing is more contemptible than the touchy, nervous, intolerant defensiveness we sometimes show.

From Jeffrey Goldberg on this topic; and Andrew Sullivan; and Ayelet Waldman on TNC's site; and Andrew Sprung. Good for Bloomberg. Shame on Newt Gingrich, Joe Lieberman, and the ADL -- who, unlike Sarah Palin and the Tea Partyers, presumably know better. I will never be a New York guy, but New York is a very American city today.
Atrios: That's Exactly The Attitude They Want You To Have
I'm slightly less pro-bike than some - though I am pro-bike - but I may have to rethink.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes is warning voters that Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper's policies, particularly his efforts to boost bike riding, are "converting Denver into a United Nations community."

"This is all very well-disguised, but it will be exposed," Maes told about 50 supporters who showed up at a campaign rally last week in Centennial.

Maes said in a later interview that he once thought the mayor's efforts to promote cycling and other environmental initiatives were harmless and well-meaning. Now he realizes "that's exactly the attitude they want you to have."

"This is bigger than it looks like on the surface, and it could threaten our personal freedoms," Maes said.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I see crazy people

Barbara Morrill (DKos): FL-08: How to respond to Republican attacks

Just how low is Rep. Alan Grayson's Republican opponent willing to go?

Florida Republican Kurt Kelly is slamming Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson, suggesting that his absence during a war-funding vote might mean the freshman lawmaker actually wants American troops to die. [...]

“He missed the vote. He took a walk on the vote to provide supplemental funding for our soldiers,” Kelly said in the interview, which Kelly’s campaign advertised on its YouTube page Monday. “He put our soldiers, our men and women in the military, in harm’s way and, in fact, maybe he wants them to die.”

Pretty low. But instead of pearl clutching outrage and demands for an apology from the Grayson campaign, Grayson's spokesman simply said:

Kurt Kelly thinks the stupider he sounds, the more Republican votes he'll get.

A perfect response. No taking their crap and no attempt to pander to voters who will never vote for him.

Scaring white people for fun and profit Rachel Maddow talks with Sheriff Antonio Estrada of Santa Cruz County, Arizona, to debunk some of the lies and distortions perpetuated by politicians hoping to capitalize on anti-immigrant fears for extra votes.

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

DougJ: Just a number

This is funny, defeated Republican Congressman Bob Inglis talking about his meeting with teatards:

I sat down, and they said on the back of your Social Security card, there’s a number. That number indicates the bank that bought you when you were born based on a projection of your life’s earnings, and you are collateral. We are all collateral for the banks. I have this look like, ‘What the heck are you talking about?’ I’m trying to hide that look and look clueless. I figured clueless was better than argumentative. So they said, ‘You don’t know this?! You are a member of Congress, and you don’t know this?!’ And I said, ‘Please forgive me. I’m just ignorant of these things.’ And then of course, it turned into something about the Federal Reserve and the Bilderbergers and all that stuff. And now you have the feeling of anti-Semitism here coming in, mixing in. Wow.

I may try this stuff out in my local Tea Party mailing list, see what people have to say.


Sharron Angle (R), the extremist Senate candidate in Nevada, has a habit of saying some pretty remarkable things, including vague advocacy of the violent overthrow of the United States government.

In recent weeks, under strict orders, Angle has tried to improve her public image and make fewer crazy remarks, in part by avoiding the media. Confronted by reporters anxious to press the Senate hopeful on her own comments, Angle has even taken to literally fleeing from journalists.

And yet, the year's nuttiest statewide candidate continues to surprise. Over the weekend, Angle sat down with Fox News' Carl Cameron, who noted her tendency to avoid reporters' scrutiny. Angle replied, "We needed to have the press be our friend."

When Cameron said that "sounds lame," the right-wing candidate replied, "Well, no, no, we wanted [journalists] to ask the questions we want to answer so that they report the news the way we want it to be reported. And when I get on a show and I say send me money to, so that your listeners will know that if they want to support me they need to go to"

Angle recently conceded she only wants to talk to media that will let her beg for cash on the air, and notice that Fox News didn't edit out her shameless plug.

But that's clearly not the interesting part here. Sharron Angle said, on the record and on camera, that her campaign's media strategy is built around the notion of manipulating news organizations, getting the questions Angle wants, so she can give the answers she wants, so the public will hear the news the way Angle wants it to be heard.

I expect Angle to say insane things, but this is truly remarkable. I'm trying to imagine what the response on the right would be if President Obama said he needs independent news organizations to be his "friend," which is why he demands that reporters ask the questions he wants to answer "so that they report the news the way we want it to be reported."

Even Fox News noted that Angle was "too honest" with her remarks. National Review added, "Did She Just Say That Out Loud?"

I'll look forward to conservatives' defense of this. They're a creative bunch, and I can hardly wait to see what they come up with.

DougJ: Ryan’s hope

In some ways, the most horrible thing about teatardism is that it makes people like Paul Ryan look like intellectual giants by comparison.

Bobo and Andrew Sullivan and Ross Douthat and the other economic illiterates who populate the serious intellectual conservative pundit class are so happy to see a Republican whose calculator goes into the billions that they don’t bother to ask how the fuck raising interest rates would increase lending or what the fuck “vouchering Social Security” could possibly mean.

You can bet that they’ll portray John Thune as a serious policy wonk if he gets the nomination in 2012, too. And the evidence that will be provided is that he’s not as ignorant as Sarah Palin.

Kurtz: McCain: Let's Hold Hearings!

Reporters chased a dodgy John McCain into the bowels of the Capitol a short time ago to get him to answer whether he supports the GOP's new push on "birthright citizenship."

All McCain would say is that he supports Mitch McConnell's call for hearings on the issue.

But with this new-found issue percolating up from the tea party right and only suddenly enjoying any "mainstream" attention of any kind, supporting hearings is tantamount to supporting a constitutional amendment that would deny citizenship to children born on U.S. soil whose parents live here illegally. There's no halfway point on this issue.

Can John McCain really get away with this?

We talked a few weeks ago about the right's approach to the U.S. Constitution, specifically, its desire to fiddle with it, adding more amendments while scrapping some old ones. As the GOP's interest in giving the 14th amendment a touch-up intensifies, let's take stock of where we are.

By my count, Republican leaders, including George W. Bush, endorsed six different new amendments to the Constitution over the last decade: (1) prohibiting flag burning; (2) victims' rights; (3) banning abortion; (4) requiring a balanced budget; (5) prohibiting same-sex marriage; and (6) allowing state-endorsed prayer in public schools. Jon Chait runs a similar list today, and notes a few I missed, including amendments to require legislative supermajorities to raise taxes, a "parental rights" amendment, a term-limits amendment, and in one instance, an amendment to give Washington, D.C., a single voting representative.

Taken together, that's 10 constitutional amendments proposed, endorsed, and/or introduced by leading Republicans over the last decade.

I'd call this many things, but "constitutional conservatism" -- a phrase repeated ad nauseum by Bachmann and the Tea Party crowd -- it isn't.

On top of the new amendments the right has requested, there's also the existing amendments the right wants to "fix." That means scrapping the 17th Amendment, repealing the 16th Amendment, getting rid of at least one part of the 14th Amendment, and "restoring" the "original" 13th Amendment.

It's as if the right has begun to look at the entire Constitution as little more than a rough draft, in desperate need of deft conservative editing. (What could possibly go wrong?)

The Constitutional Accountability Center's Elizabeth Wydra recently noted:

It is encouraging that so many Americans are now discussing and debating the Constitution. It is, after all, the People's document. But before Tea Party repeal efforts gather steam, 'We the People' should take a sober look at the text, history, and principles behind the amendments the Tea Party would like to do away with. Amending the Constitution is not an easy task, and generations of Americans poured blood, sweat, and treasure into adopting the amendments that Tea Party activists would now like to repeal.

Of course, if this were limited to right-wing activists, it'd be easier to dismiss. Alas, Republican officeholders and several statewide candidates are echoing the same ridiculous demands. In recent weeks, both Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) both called for the partial repeal of the 14th Amendment, for crying out loud.

Given the alleged reverence for the Constitution in far-right circles, the irony is rich.

Sully: Drones Over Iceland? Ctd

Michael Scherer takes the time to rebut Thiessen:

To be clear, Assange's crime, according to Thiessen, is intentionally receiving and republishing classified information, something that is done with some regularity in the United States by respectable and responsible reporters working for top flight news organizations. To adopt Thiessen's view, one would effectively have to reject the Supreme Court's opinion in New York Times Co. v. United States, the so-called Pentagon Papers case from 1971.

Kentucky's Rand Paul (R), the extremist Senate candidate, explained recently that he rejects the notion that the government should establish safety regulations to protect mine workers. This week, he's starting take some heat for it.

As Paul explained, he doesn't understand mine safety rules, "so don't give me the power in Washington to be making rules." He added that, by honoring the free market above all, "no one will apply for those jobs" if a mine doesn't do a good job protecting worker safety.

In Kentucky's mining areas, Paul's remarks didn't go over especially well.

Members of the United Mine Workers from Kentucky have scheduled a news conference via phone Tuesday to take Paul to task for the remarks.

Tony Oppegard, a Lexington attorney who is a mine-safety advocate, called Paul's statement "idiotic."

He said it shows a lack of understanding of Eastern Kentucky, the region's economy and of the history of underground coal mining in the region, where for generations coal operators strongly opposed efforts by workers to form unions. In Harlan County, deadly battles over union organizing helped earned the county the nickname "Bloody Harlan."

Working conditions in underground mines are dangerous enough with federal and state rules, Oppegard said. If the industry were unregulated by government, "there would be a bloodbath," he said.

Paul is misinformed when he says no one would take jobs in mines that weren't safe, Oppegard said. Miners would take jobs even in unsafe mines because they need work, he said.

"There's no other job opportunities," Oppegard said.

This touches on what I like most about this story. Rand Paul has a nice little worldview, shaped by a bizarre, inflexible libertarianism. And in this little world Paul has created in his mind, everything should work as he envisions -- the free market can and should dictate safety regulations at coal mines. If employers don't look out for their workers, those employers won't have applicants for job openings, which means less business, less profit, etc.

And while Rand Paul's nice little vision is just delightful in an Ayn Rand novel, it's contradicted by everything we know and have seen about reality. Indeed, how does the Republican Senate hopeful explain the nightmarish conditions miners faced before federal safety regulations? Shouldn't the free market have prevented such a disastrous set of circumstances and prevented the dangerous exploitation of desperate workers?

It's not uncommon for conservatives to suggest that "liberal elites" don't understand the "real world" because their political ideals are rooted in an "ivory tower." This, of course, is backwards -- it's the far-right worldview that crumbles when subjected to real-world conditions.

Yglesias: Paul Ryan’s Strange New Respect

To just agree with Kevin Drum for a bit there’s something bizarre about the recent Beltway fad of praising Paul Ryan. I think that when progressives do this they’re mostly being ironic, holding up Ryan—who’s basically a fraud—and saying this guy is the honest and intelligent one! And it’s true that he beats the Mike Pence standard for idiocy in that he can sort of maintain a back-and-forth with a well-informed policy writer as long as the writer doesn’t press him on anything. But coverage of the Super-Honest Ryan Plan to Balance the Budget While Cutting Taxes Through Draconian Spending Cuts tends to overlook the fact that most people would pay higher taxes, and the plan wouldn’t actually balance the budget if you calculate revenue figures based on a real model rather than Ryan’s ad hoc stipulations:


On top of all that, as Drum says, his “plan” for draconian cuts in spending isn’t really a plan at all he just rattles off arbitrary numerical caps without saying what kinds of reduced levels of services he thinks this would entail. Are we letting people out of federal prisons? Selling national parks? And of course he doesn’t seem to know what the Federal Funds Rate is. So I’m not particularly impressed. I’m pretty sure we could have random congressional interns throw together a balanced budget plan as long as it was allowed to (a) raise taxes on 90 percent of Americans and (b) not balance the budget, but I doubt the authors would become the toast of the town for their rigorous thinking if they did.

Ezra Klein posits that statements like “Rationing happens today! The question is who will do it? The government? Or you, your doctor and your family?” at least raise the honesty level of the debate. I’m not sure they do. Or at least I don’t think this is a very honest description of Ryan’s plan. Voucherizing Medicare puts rationing decisions into the hands of the executives of health insurance companies. Refusing to keep Medicare expenditures in line with the growth of health care costs means the rich will get treatment and the poor won’t. Putting decisions into the hands of patients and doctors rather than the government has no relationship to his proposals.

Sargent: Still more proof Sarah Palin is toxic outside her bubble

Okay, here's still more evidence, as if you needed it, that Sarah Palin is increasingly toxic to voters who reside outside the Palin Nation bubble.

Pew Research just released a new poll finding that more than twice as many Americans see a Palin endorsement as a negative for a Congressional candidate than view it as a positive.

The numbers: Thirty eight percent say they are less likely to back a Congressional candidate if Palin "campaigns on their behalf." Less than half that amount, 18 percent, say they are more likely to do so. Forty two percent say it would make no difference, only slightly more than see it as a downer.

No one is contesting the fact that Palin is a major draw among GOP primary voters. But the larger story here -- one that goes directly to the heart of her presidential aspirations -- is that she's successfully tightening her emotional grip on her devoted legions of supporters at the expense of just about everyone else. Far more see her as a turn-off than as a turn-on.

Palin supporters get very, very angry when you point this out. But the evidence is overwhelming at this point:

* A recent NBC/WSJ poll reached the same conclusion as today's Pew poll: It found that a majority of adults nationwide would look negatively on candidates endorsed by Palin.

* A recent Gallup poll noted a striking disconnect in public attitudes towards Palin: While her favorability rating is far higher among Republicans than that of all the other 2012 GOP contenders, she's also far and away the least liked of all the 2012 hopefuls among Americans overall.

* A recent poll of New Hampshire voters from the Dem firm Public Policy Polling found that 51 percent say they're less likely to back a Palin-endorsed candidate. Tellingly, among moderates that number jumped to 65 percent.

* Multiple other polls have found her negatives on the rise with the broader electorate.

This all supports what I've argued here before: That Palin is better off staying in her current role of celebrity quasi-candidate. This has allowed her to insulate herself from direct media cross-examination and to communicate directly to the Palin Nation mob, which is growing more transfixed. But the rest of the world continues to sour on her. It's hard to see how she'll succeed if she ever steps outside the bubble she's crafted for herself.

There's a tremendous amount of media discussion about whether Palin will run for president and about how much of a political "rock star" she has become. It's odd that the larger and arguably more important story about what she has wrought for herself never enters into the conversation.
DougJ: Hyper-obstruction

I’ve stayed away from the topic of judicial confirmation because I didn’t know if Republicans were truly being obstructionist about this from a historical perspective. Well, they are:

It is part of a trend, but the jump from Bush to Obama is quite striking, given that Democrats have a large majority under Obama, whereas Republicans had no majority during the first year of Bush:

Similarly, the Alliance for Justice found that in Obama’s first year in office, the Senate confirmed a mere 23 percent of his judicial nominees. By contrast, presidents Carter and Reagan had 91 percent of their nominees confirmed in their first year. That number dropped to 65 percent for George H.W. Bush, 57 percent for Bill Clinton, and 44 percent for George W. Bush.

It’s going to be interesting to see how this issue gets resolved. There’s no penalty to be paid, politically, for failing to confirm judges. So expect more of this.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Looking for serious, well-intentioned Republicans

One of the uglier strains of modern conservative thought is pervasive anti-intellectualism. As Faiz Shakir noted today, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) offered a rather classic example on "Fox News Sunday."

Host Chris Wallace noted that "a number of top economists" believe that the nation, right now, needs "more economic stimulus." Boehner replied, "Well, I don't need to see GDP numbers or to listen to economists; all I need to do is listen to the American people."

That's actually kind of crazy -- the "American people," en masse, lack the qualifications and background needed to make sweeping decisions about complex economic policies. It's why our system is built around the notion that voters will choose sensible representatives to do this work for us -- evaluate a situation, consider the judgment of experts, and ideally reach a wise decision about the way forward.

If Boehner were facing a serious ailment, would he say, "Well, I don't need to see lab results or to listen to medical professionals; all I need to do is listen to the American people"? Maybe so, but at this point, the serious ailment is our national economy, and it affects us all.

When Wallace pressed Boehner on how he'd pay for trillions of dollars in tax cuts, the would-be Speaker eventually concluded, "This is the whole Washington mindset, all these CBO numbers."

I don't even know what this means. "All these CBO numbers"? Boehner loves those CBO numbers, when they're telling him what he wants to hear. But when tax cuts for billionaires are on the line, suddenly objective, independent budget data is deemed useless.

There's just no seriousness here. Boehner comes to the debate with all the sophistication of a drunk guy yelling at the TV from the end of a bar. He hasn't thought any of this through, and seems prepared to argue that he shouldn't think things though because forethought is part of "the whole Washington mindset."

If I thought Boehner was just playing for the cameras, throwing out garbage on Fox News, when in reality he actually takes reason, evidence, and arithmetic seriously, I wouldn't be scared of his leadership role. But all available evidence suggests Boehner simply doesn't know what he's doing and he believes his own nonsense.

As political hackery goes, it's the worst possible combination of traits.

As we've been talking about over the last couple of days, President Obama's decision to rescue American auto manufacturers looks awfully good with the benefit of hindsight. Republicans were apoplectic at the time, but more than a year later, we now know the GOP was wrong and the Obama White House was right.

The more amusing angle, however, is watching Republicans scramble to justify their enormous mistake. At a moment of crisis, and with the GOP's credibility on the line, Republicans made the wrong call -- but with a little revisionist history, they're hoping you won't notice.

Early last year, as this clip helps make clear, the GOP saw the bailout of the auto industry as a policy that wouldn't, and quite literally couldn't, work. It was deemed wholly unacceptable for practical reasons (it would waste money and the industry would fail anyway) and for ideological reasons (it was "Marxism" in practice). Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) proclaimed Obama's actions "truly breathtaking" and said the government ownership roles at Chrysler and GM "should send a chill through all Americans who believe in free enterprise."

Now that this same policy has been deemed an unqualified success, most Republicans are biting their tongue, embarrassed about having been wrong once again. But some GOP officials are nevertheless still talking -- and taking partial credit for the policy they perceived as the end of American capitalism.

"The ideas [Republicans] laid out there were followed through," Corker told the Washington Post. "I take some pleasure out of helping make that contribution."

Got that? Corker hated the policy last year -- it offended his notion of how the government should operate on a fundamental level -- but now that it worked, and the evidence is clear that Obama was right, he wants the public to think the president succeeded thanks to the Republican "contributions" to the policy.

This is not only a reminder of just how shameless this crowd really is, it's a reminder how fortunate America was that Republicans weren't calling the shots when the pressure was on.

As David Broder sees it, the White House is already preparing itself -- mentally, emotionally, strategically, substantively -- for expected Republican gains in the midterm elections. The columnist quoted an insider who told him, "If you asked the president what he would really like for Christmas, it would be a smart loyal opposition."

Anyone who's watched congressional Republicans at all since January 2009 knows how unlikely this is. Broder highlights some GOP leaders of years past -- Dirksen, Dole, Baker -- who "mostly opposed Democratic presidents but made common cause with them on certain national and international issues." Though Broder doesn't mention it, these senators came from eras when Republicans had grown-ups in leadership positions, a dynamic that has sadly disappeared.

That said, the column identifies a few areas where President Obama might be able to work with congressional Republicans, including a South Korean trade deal and the administration's education policy, which the right does not reflexively hate. This assumes, of course, that a GOP majority would have any interest in governing at all in 2011 and 2012, which strikes me as highly unlikely.

But one Broder observation stood out.

As the problem of long-term joblessness has drawn increasing White House attention, thoughts have turned again to the need for large-scale investment in all kinds of infrastructure projects, electronic as well as physical. Obama has set staffers to searching for innovative ways to finance such projects, with some form of public-private partnership, and has asked them to invite Republicans to come forward with ideas that could significantly reduce the ranks of seemingly permanent unemployed construction workers.

It's hard to be optimistic about this. As Digby noted, "What a great idea. I have no doubt that the Republicans are going to step up with all kinds of great ideas for this. I know, how about some tax cuts for rich people?"

There's still a temptation among many in the political/media establishment to pretend that congressional Republicans are a credible major-party caucus capable of problem-solving, creative solutions, and bipartisan compromise. I haven't the foggiest idea why anyone would believe such a fanciful notion.

Look at Broder's paragraph again -- there's talk of large-scale infrastructure investment, which contemporary Republicans reject out of hand. There's talk of public-private partnerships, which the GOP of late has found offensive. There's talking of inviting Republicans to "come forward with ideas," but that invitation was extended nearly two years ago, and all the GOP can offer is a combination of tax cuts and deregulation -- and in several instances, Republicans haven't even been willing to accept tax cuts.

Broder's column makes it seem as if President Obama may still be able to get some things done working with serious, well-intentioned Republicans. I'd be more inclined to agree if I could find some serious, well-intentioned Republicans.

Krugman: Defining Prosperity Down

I’m starting to have a sick feeling about prospects for American workers — but not, or not entirely, for the reasons you might think.

Yes, growth is slowing, and the odds are that unemployment will rise, not fall, in the months ahead. That’s bad. But what’s worse is the growing evidence that our governing elite just doesn’t care — that a once-unthinkable level of economic distress is in the process of becoming the new normal.

And I worry that those in power, rather than taking responsibility for job creation, will soon declare that high unemployment is “structural,” a permanent part of the economic landscape — and that by condemning large numbers of Americans to long-term joblessness, they’ll turn that excuse into dismal reality.

Not long ago, anyone predicting that one in six American workers would soon be unemployed or underemployed, and that the average unemployed worker would have been jobless for 35 weeks, would have been dismissed as outlandishly pessimistic — in part because if anything like that happened, policy makers would surely be pulling out all the stops on behalf of job creation.

But now it has happened, and what do we see?

First, we see Congress sitting on its hands, with Republicans and conservative Democrats refusing to spend anything to create jobs, and unwilling even to mitigate the suffering of the jobless.

We’re told that we can’t afford to help the unemployed — that we must get budget deficits down immediately or the “bond vigilantes” will send U.S. borrowing costs sky-high. Some of us have tried to point out that those bond vigilantes are, as far as anyone can tell, figments of the deficit hawks’ imagination — far from fleeing U.S. debt, investors have been buying it eagerly, driving interest rates to historic lows. But the fearmongers are unmoved: fighting deficits, they insist, must take priority over everything else — everything else, that is, except tax cuts for the rich, which must be extended, no matter how much red ink they create.

The point is that a large part of Congress — large enough to block any action on jobs — cares a lot about taxes on the richest 1 percent of the population, but very little about the plight of Americans who can’t find work.

Well, if Congress won’t act, what about the Federal Reserve? The Fed, after all, is supposed to pursue two goals: full employment and price stability, usually defined in practice as an inflation rate of about 2 percent. Since unemployment is very high and inflation well below target, you might expect the Fed to be taking aggressive action to boost the economy. But it isn’t.

It’s true that the Fed has already pushed one pedal to the metal: short-term interest rates, its usual policy tool, are near zero. Still, Ben Bernanke, the Fed chairman, has assured us that he has other options, like holding more mortgage-backed securities and promising to keep short-term rates low. And a large body of research suggests that the Fed could boost the economy by committing to an inflation target higher than 2 percent.

But the Fed hasn’t done any of these things. Instead, some officials are defining success down.

For example, last week Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, argued that the Fed bears no responsibility for the economy’s weakness, which he attributed to business uncertainty about future regulations — a view that’s popular in conservative circles, but completely at odds with all the actual evidence. In effect, he responded to the Fed’s failure to achieve one of its two main goals by taking down the goalpost.

He then moved the other goalpost, defining the Fed’s aim not as roughly 2 percent inflation, but rather as that of “keeping inflation extremely low and stable.”

In short, it’s all good. And I predict — having seen this movie before, in Japan — that if and when prices start falling, when below-target inflation becomes deflation, some Fed officials will explain that that’s O.K., too.

What lies down this path? Here’s what I consider all too likely: Two years from now unemployment will still be extremely high, quite possibly higher than it is now. But instead of taking responsibility for fixing the situation, politicians and Fed officials alike will declare that high unemployment is structural, beyond their control. And as I said, over time these excuses may turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy, as the long-term unemployed lose their skills and their connections with the work force, and become unemployable.

I’d like to imagine that public outrage will prevent this outcome. But while Americans are indeed angry, their anger is unfocused. And so I worry that our governing elite, which just isn’t all that into the unemployed, will allow the jobs slump to go on and on and on.