Conservatives follow Ronald Reagan the way conservative Christians follow Jesus: they say he’s their savior but then ignore 90% of the things he said and did.
I swear to God, if I hear one more conservative say about the Iraq War, “Oh, you mean the war that Hillary voted for?” and then wear a smug expression like they just won the argument, I am going to lose it. Any person using that particular fraudulent contention deserves a righteous smack in the face.
That statement is the pat conservative response whenever someone points out that it was conservatives who led us to the war, who caused it in the first place—usually after a conservative has blamed Obama for ISIL and the current situation in Iraq. Often John Kerry is cited along with Hillary, depending on the focus of the lie.
The use of Clinton’s vote as some kind of magical Get Out of Jail Free card to absolve conservatives for their criminally devastating actions is nothing less than a facile, asinine, deceptive, self-serving fraud which deserves to be shouted down with not just scorn but scathing fury at the smug dismissal of their complicity in manufacturing a war that has so savagely devastated our nation and laid waste to what little stability there was in the Middle East.
Here are the facts:
- Were Bush not in office, Democrats never would have chosen to go to war in Iraq—not even a hawk like Hillary would have led us to a war there.
- Neither Clinton nor Kerry voted to start the war, but insisted that before a war could be waged, conditions would have to be met—conditions which would have prevented the war from starting had the Bush administration not rushed into war, or would have made the war far less a disaster than it was.
- The Iraq Resolution to grant war powers was presented as a means to negotiation—you can’t negotiate strongly if you don’t have authorization to go to war—and the Bush administration swore up and down that the war powers would be used only as a last resort after every other recourse was exhausted; Bush said, “Approving this resolution does not mean that military action is imminent or unavoidable.”
- The primary reason why Clinton, Kerry, and many others believed Hussein had WMD and was a building threat was precisely because we were all working from information from the intelligence community, which was being manipulated by the Bush administration to provide a patently false view of the potential and imminent threat from Iraq.
- Weapons inspectors, despite some difficulties, were making a great deal of headway and were being effective in finding and arranging for dismantling of what little Iraq had left in the way of WMD support equipment; ignoring this progress and the pleas of the weapons inspectors as well as international voices of restraint, Bush ordered the inspectors out and started the war in violation of his own promise and of the conditions under which Clinton and Kerry gave their approval.
- Even if Clinton and Kerry had been both virulently pro-war, it would not in the least negate the fact that the Bush administration and Republicans in general were the instigators of the war, and responsible for the disastrously incompetent manner in which it was executed.
So, what is the glibly fatuous assertion supposed to mean? That because Clinton, under the huge political duress of the post-9/11 atmosphere of fear, made a self-serving political calculation and demanded full inspections and international cooperation, that Bush was therefore not responsible for providing the false intelligence which prompted that view and intentionally driving us into the war?
Or that the conservatives who helped drive us into the war are free of guilt because people like Clinton didn’t try hard enough to stop them?
Not to mention: Hillary Clinton has long since publicly announced that her decision was wrong; neither Bush has done so.
Cheney, Bush, and Republicans wanted that war to happen, made that war happen, and executed it disastrously, and bear the primary and overwhelming responsibility for the war and what followed it, and anyone who still supports that war shares that guilt in how it will warp our future actions.
First, let me say that I am not a big Hillary Clinton fan. My impression is that she will continue everything Obama is doing that disappoints me, and likely will expand that to even more stuff I won’t like. I see her as another candidate bound to wealth and business, only mouthing platitudes to the middle class but likely not much more. Like Obama, she’ll very vaguely be on our side, but will never lead—she’ll only move when the fruit is over-ripe and then catch it falling and say she was behind it all along.
I would be quite happy if Clinton fell from the race and Sanders were allowed to burst forth; he’s my only actual hope for a candidate.
That said, I wanted to comment on the whole email thing. From what I read (Slate’s account seems well-informed and not apologetic), it’s dubious, at best—but like Benghazi, enough dust can be kicked up to make it look like Clinton was guilty of something, and that’s good enough for Republicans. And while it is possible that something may at some time emerge that could be legally damaging to Clinton, it seems unlikely.
However, even if something emerges showing that Clinton did something more than just fishy, and at least unethical, and possibly even something illegal—as much as I dislike Clinton, I strongly believe that she should get a pass on it. Again, I wouldn’t mind seeing her kicked out, but on principle, she shouldn’t be.
There are two fundamental reasons behind this.
First, laws should not be upheld selectively—and the laws in this case are being applied as selectively as you can imagine. During the Bush 43 administration, non-government email servers were used on a massive scale, involving far more damning investigations (including the US Attorney scandal), and as many as 22 million emails were deleted, roughly 500 times as many as Clinton is said to have deleted. And not only were Rove and several others heavily involved never charged with anything, but Republicans threatened the political equivalent of all-out nuclear war if Democrats, having regained control of Congress in 2006, even thought about investigating the matter. So, as far as I’m concerned, until Republicans first begin a thorough investigation into the Bush email scandal, they have zero foundation for investigating Hillary.
A law is meaningless—worse than meaningless—if it is only applied to politicians of one party, and not the other.
The second reason is related to the first: the investigation into Clinton and the emails is about as purely political as you could possibly get. This is not about national security, this is not about whether or not something wrong was done. This is about Hillary being a 2016 powerhouse, and Republicans hating her guts and wanting to take her down if it is the last thing they ever do. If Hillary were not running, there would be no investigation. Period. And when it comes to investigations designed solely to destroy a political candidate, again, we enter the realm of “much worse than meaningless.” It is, is no uncertain terms, a blatant abuse of power, above and beyond the baselessness and the sheer hypocrisy involved.
Not that that ever stopped Republicans.
Another police officer has been gunned down, another black man the suspect. No matter what the provocation, any violence is utterly unjustifiable.
This killing is immediately being linked to the Black Lives Matter movement, as have other killings of police officers by black men, and is being used to shame and denounce the movement for criticizing police for their actions. Certainly, were the rhetoric of the representatives of Black Lives Matter to rise to the level where they incited violence, that would be objectionable; however, they have been quite careful not to, including using the slogan, “Unite, Not Incite.” That hasn’t stopped the connections from being made, and from various voices among conservatives denouncing Black Lives Matter, calling them “race hustlers,” and accusing them of inciting a “race war.”
Even the sheriff who lost a deputy yesterday said, “when the rhetoric ramps up to the point where calculated, coldblooded assassinations of police officers happen, this rhetoric has gotten out of control.”
You hear about this quite a bit, but you rarely hear anyone point out any actual rhetoric which incites to violence. When such is found, it is usually someone from left field, some unknown person who was cited only because they said something outrageous. The national rhetoric, however, has been clearly against violence, not for it. They condemn acts of violence against police and instigate for less, not more killing. What are they supposed to do—stop protesting the widespread killing of people in their community? Stop pointing out the injustice?
I would like you to reflect for a moment, however, on what would happen if one of the leaders of Black Lives Matter were to react to these killings by saying:
“We will look at an unaccountable, arrogant, out-of-control police force showing contempt for the law, and we know that the time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior.”
And perhaps it would be followed up by NAACP president Cornell William Brooks announcing:
“There may be some connection where police are killing unarmed black men, yet are unaccountable to the public, and it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in violence. No one, including those police officers, including the sheriffs and police chiefs nationwide, should be surprised if one of us stands up and objects.”
I would think that there would be massive outrage and indignation against these people and the entire movement. We would probably never hear the end of it.
Of course, neither the BLM movement nor Brooks said any such thing, nor would they.
The thing is, I didn’t make those quotes up out of thin air. I minimally rephrased two people who did say those things. However, they weren’t black leaders—they were conservative leaders. They were, respectively, then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Republican Senator John Cornyn, back in 2005. They were not talking about police officers killing unarmed black men, they were talking about judges making decisions they did not like. DeLay was reacting to the Terry Schiavo case, and Cornyn was reacting to the Supreme Court overturning a death penalty in Missouri.
DeLay got into some trouble for his remarks, Cornyn much less. The point, however, is that the tragic killing of the deputy in Texas was not due to the Black Lives Movement, nor did their rhetoric make it happen. Conservative rhetoric often flares to the level of incitement, usually over fictional things like Death Panels and Jade Helm (remember when the right-wing nuts fired on U.S. troops?), and when that happens, they feel fully justified and indignant when the fact is noted—recall Sarah Palin’s outrage when her use of gun crosshairs on liberal politicians was called out.
It is hypocrisy of the highest order when the right-wing media, which makes a daily practice of inciting their base into a frenzy, and mostly over imaginary or vastly exaggerated things, to denounce the Black Lives Matter for “inciting a race war” when they specifically denounce violence of any kind.
When an African American movement protests the regular slaughtering of hundreds of unarmed black people each year, and does so whilst carefully warning against violence, this is called “out of control.”
Despite the sporadic and horrible random acts of violence we are seeing, the movement to stop violence is not the one that should be denounced.
I don’t have any problem with Bristol Palin having a second child out of wedlock, presumably by a different father than her first. I don’t even really hold it against her that she was a spokesperson for abstinence; she did that at such a young age and under such circumstances that were almost certainly pushed on her, likely such that she was unprepared to handle.
If this new turn of events is her choice, then good for her; if she just has poor judgment and is unhappy with what the results are, then I hope she is getting all the support she possibly can to deal with it.
What is sad is that if this were one of Obama’s daughters instead of her, Bristol’s mother would be, without any doubt whatsoever, at this moment publicly unleashing such unholy hell upon the poor girl as could not be imagined, casting aspersions upon the daughter, the whole family, and the president in particular. You know she would be. Because that’s how she rolls.
I just hope that Sarah is the perfect hypocrite we all suspect her to be, and that privately she is treating her daughter with nothing but unconditional love and respect.
As the Republican Party continues its march to the extreme right and its core voters begin to die off, its advocates search for and work to enforce more and more new ways for the GOP to win elections despite more people actually voting for Democrats.
Concentrate on winning state governments, and then redistrict so tightly that reversal is virtually impossible, and re-legislate so that liberal voters are encouraged not to vote at all.
Work as hard as possible to denigrate, defame, and destroy any organization that works to enable liberal voters: defund and break up unions, slander organizations such as ACORN and tear them to shreds, and generally bury any liberal constituency in a flood of malicious lies so as to strip them of influence.
Declare the Voting Rights Act essentially null and void, then institute the most blatantly political anti-voting laws imaginable, engineering elections to specifically disenfranchise anyone who would vote Democratic.
Advocate changes to state electoral processes that would allow GOP candidates with a minority of people’s votes to run away with the majority of electoral votes.
And these, apparently, are just the start.
There exist conservative groups who make it their mission to explore every possible means of reworking the system to add votes to the GOP tally without actually winning those votes. The exact same group that forwarded the case that tore to pieces the Voting Rights Act, the disingenuously named “Project on Fair Representation,” is back with a new case, one which the conservatives on the Supreme Court have unexpectedly grabbed hold of.
The case challenges the manner in which people who make up a district are counted. Instead of counting all the people in a district to determine its size and influence, instead only eligible voters would be counted, and as a result, further redistricting that favors conservatives would not just be allowed, but would be mandatory. The group pushing the case claims that rural voters’ influence is “diluted” by the current system of counting, perhaps as much as “one and one-half times,” according to the claimants.
It does not matter that conservative voters are already strongly over-represented disproportionate to their actual numbers. This is true both by several of the aforementioned recent means (in which many states in which the popular vote was strongly Democratic, but more Republicans won state seats), and by the classic means called “The Senate,” in which conservative rural voters are given voting powers often dozens of times greater than those in more heavily-populated liberal states. Not to mention the traditional primary system as well as the electoral college itself, both of which give advantages to the more conservative rural states.
To claim that the current system of counting “dilutes” conservative votes is like claiming that white people are “oppressed” by things like Affirmative Action. Which this exact same group also claims and is trying to overturn, by the way.
No, this is not actually about dilution of rural voting power. This is simply another case where conservatives see an opportunity to skew the law so that more conservatives can win elections and hold the power they perceive is slipping away from them. It is not about fairness; quite the opposite. If the current system of counting advantaged conservatives already, even if it did so in a blatantly unfair manner, this group would never even think to challenge it.
This is about stealing more and more votes. And you can safely bet that the conservatives on the court will try as hard as they can to make it the law of the land, no matter what was intended by the constitution, no matter what the case law has established, no matter what fairness and equality demand.
The case led one law professor to remark:
It is highly ironic that conservatives, who usually support respect for precedents and states’ rights, are bringing a case that if successful will not only upset decades-old case law but also restrict the kind of representation states may choose.
He hit the nail on the head with that one; whether he was truly baffled or was simply using irony to highlight the litigants’ hypocrisy is unclear. Whatever the case, the truth is that conservatives have never given a damn about actual “states’ rights,” but have only used it when it is of service to their political goals.
Because that’s really all that the Republican power structure truly stands for nowadays: their own power and influence, and anything that enriches them.
It is astonishing to me that anyone on the right could continue to defend the Duggars, in light of all that has happened. It is an excellent example of how conservative Christians, and conservatives in general, so easily forgive amongst their own that they would forever condemn for someone not in the fold.
If Barack Obama had been twice divorced, cheated on his previous wives, and served divorce papers to one of his wives while she was in the hospital being treated for cancer, do you think conservatives would not point to this as proof positive that he was unfit for office? And yet they have no problem with Newt Gingrich for having done just this.
Those on the right may point to the fact that Gingrich has repented and asked for forgiveness (though he never specified for what); but again, if it were Obama, would any amount of repenting make a difference with them? Not a chance.
And so it is with the Duggar family. All kinds of defenses are being put forward, but the two main ones are that Josh was a minor at the time, and that he has since repented and asked for forgiveness.
I can fully understand how the family might want to deal with such things internally. I am not saying that this was the right thing to do (Salon addresses that issue), but that many families would probably have done the same thing. It didn’t help that Josh’s father, Jim Bob Duggar, was running for Senate from Arkansas at the time, having already served as a House representative; it only increases the likelihood that the family kept it quiet and did not have their son treated because it would have derailed their campaign.
Nor am I saying that minors should be branded for life for crimes committed at that age. Whatever can be done to diagnose and hopefully treat someone like that should be done, mindful that treatment may in some cases not be enough.
However, what the Duggars did was wrong—perhaps understandable, but still unforgivably wrong. By not at least putting their son in treatment immediately after learning that he had molested underage girls, they were putting others at risk. This fact becomes imminently clear when considering that it was likely a matter of incest, and at least one of his victims may have been as young as five years old at the time.
But here’s the reason why all the calls for their show’s cancellation are fully justified, and all the defenses of the family are not: the Duggars have put themselves forward as models of morality and authors of justice, using their public pedestal not just to forward their opinions, but to shape the laws of their state and the country at large.
In 2014, Josh’s mother—fully aware of what her son had done—recorded a robocall making a statement against an anti-discrimination law, focusing specifically on transgender use of bathrooms, claiming that it allowed sexual predators posing as transgender women to use public bathrooms, endangering the daughters of parents in their town:
I don’t believe the citizens of Fayetteville would want males with past child predator convictions that claim they are female to have a legal right to enter private areas reserved for women and girls. I doubt that Fayetteville parents would stand for a law that would endanger their daughters or allow them to be traumatized by a man joining them in their private space.
If the irony of that statement isn’t bad enough, consider what Josh’s father said in 2002, when he was running for a Senate seat, regarding his position on abortion in relation to rape and incest:
If a woman is raped, the rapist should be executed instead of the innocent unborn baby. … Rape and incest represent heinous crimes and as such should be treated as capital crimes.
Note also that he said this two months after Josh had first admitted to his offense.
Protecting their son is one thing, even if they did not initially know how grave his offenses were before they decided to send him off for treatment.
However, if your son is a child predator and you cover that up, protecting him from the exact justice that you demand be taken out on others, and then you stand up in front of your community and the nation at large and ask to be accepted as authorities on morals and justice… well, you are a feckless hypocrite who deserves none of the spotlight. While others may choose to forgive, you have no right to preach.
As for their defenders? Again, ask yourself what their reaction would be if this were a prominent liberal family. It is doubtful in the extreme that more than a handful of the people forgiving the Duggars would even remotely consider forgiving such things from a family whose politics they disagree with—no matter how clearly Christian, no matter how sorrowful and repenting—much less accept the idea that such a family be allowed to continue to speak their opinions from the pulpit of the national media.
And here’s the kicker: liberals wouldn’t be defending such a family either. They might not go after them as vociferously as they now do the Duggars, but they would not, as a rule, defend any of their own guilty of such a thing.
But for Christian conservatives, and conservatives in general… well, this is just another variation of IOKIYAR.
One of the reasons John Kerry lost the 2004 election was the now-famous statement by Kerry on the Iraq War: “I was for it before I was against it.” Except, he never said that. He said,“I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.” The quote was about an $87 billion appropriation bill for military operations in both Afghanistan and Iraq, not Kerry’s actual position on the Iraq War. Kerry voted for a version of the appropriations bill that would be paid for by getting rid of some of Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy, but later voted against a version which lacked that provision. His statement, which Kerry admitted was “inarticulate,” was then taken out of context and now is almost as famous as Al Gore’s “I invented the Internet,” another quote that was baldly misrepresented. Still, it cost Kerry dearly.
Well, how about Jeb Bush now? He’s had years to decide where he stands on the Iraq War. What’s his position on it?
Well he was for it, and would do it again if he had to face the same choice.
But that was Monday. On Tuesday, he didn’t know.
Tuesday is so long ago, though; on Wednesday, he said that answering the question would offend the troops.
And now? Well, it’s Thursday, and Bush is now against the war.
So, he was for it before he wasn’t sure before he wouldn’t answer before he was against it.
I admit, it’s not as catchy as what they made Kerry’s quote out to be. How about, “He was for it before he was against it, and waffled a few times in between.”
Or maybe just stick to the classic, “He was before it before he was against it.” Sure, you lose the waffling, but the short version has merits: it’s catchier, it demonstrates flip-flopping, it illustrates irony—and it is a far more accurate representation of Bush’s actual statements than it ever was of Kerry’s.
Oh, and let’s not forget the canard that Bush threw in at the start: that Hillary voted for the war too. “I would have, and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody”
As I have pointed out, that’s yet another asinine Republican lie. Clinton voted for the war powers act, and possibly did that as a political weasel, but she also made crystal clear in a Senate floor speech that her vote was to give Bush a bargaining chip to pressure Saddam, and that war was only a “last resort.” Only an idiot would presume that Clinton, on her own, would have taken us into Iraq. As much of a hawk as Clinton is, she clearly would not have done that.
It’s a common meme now for conservatives to try to hold themselves up as victims, but especially when they are trying to cast aspersions on others and are, in part or in full, prevented from doing so. They then immediately look for any event that could show a double-standard, and, without really thinking about it very hard, indignantly shout about how they are being mistreated.
Part of it is simply a matter of wannabe martyrdom, somewhat of a long-standing niche favorite amongst conservative Christians. Take this story of a woman who went to Walgreens to get some bible verses printed up. The clerk noticed that there were images in the documents that could constitute a copyright violation. The woman was asked to sign a waiver stating that she attested to the fact that she had the rights to print them. Fox News elevated this to a national-level story about how Walgreens was discriminating against Christians by making the ludicrous claim that Walgreens had somehow claimed that the bible verses were under copyright, with the implied meaning that Walgreens just wanted to harass Christians because, you know, whatever. Even after everything was made clear and the store even offered to print the documents for free, the conservative media still trumpeted this as an attack on Christianity.
A more specific form of this phenomenon is when conservatives are on the defensive regarding some issue or another, and try to use some event in the news or elsewhere to show how the opposition is being hypocritical. After Ferguson, for example, when it was becoming more publicly clear that white police officers are killing unarmed black men in large numbers, conservatives rushed to find any cases at all of black police officers killing unarmed white men. They found a few, and proceeded to make a huge deal about it. “Why aren’t liberals in an uproar when this happens?” they lamented. The obvious reply: because that’s just two cases. It’s not a few hundred each year. Show me a rash of black cops killing unarmed white men on a massive scale, nationwide, and I’ll join in your indignation.
Another aspect of this is when conservatives accuse liberals of being okay with something when it happens against Christians but not when it happens against Muslims. For example, after a Christian bakery refused to make a cake for a gay wedding, some conservatives came up with a great idea: let’s go to Muslim bakery shops and see if they refuse to make the same kind of cake. Some Muslim-run businesses in fact did refuse, and conservatives whooped it up: “See! A Muslim bakery did the same thing, why aren’t liberals upset about that?!? It’s because of a witch hunt against Christians!!”
Except that the point is stupid. If a Muslim bakery had been the one to refuse service in that first now-famous case, the result would have been no different. Liberals and activists would have been just as appalled and the media reaction would have been the same—or, actually, stronger, as right-wing news sites would likely have piled on in that case as well. Liberals never said that Muslims discriminating against gays was okay or more acceptable; conservatives simply jumped to that conclusion without even asking. Nor have liberals had the chance to really protest, as these bakeries did not refuse any actual service—just fake, partisan, gotcha-style we’re-the-real-victims-here idiocy, which is kinda hard to rally behind. If tomorrow a gay couple went to one of these bakeries (which, you’ll have to admit, are not exactly everywhere) and they refused service, the protest would be no different than if another Christian bakery did so. But not because of some asinine political stunt.
This conservative desire to be outraged has become almost a reflex reaction now, with right-wingers taking offense at the drop of a hat, assuming that anything that could even remotely be a sign that something may be biased against them is in fact full-fledged persecution, and running full-speed to the media crying about how they are being victimized, without first bothering to check if their outrage is in any way justified.
This is in some ways similar to the right-wing practice of banning Sharia law, as if there were somehow a real danger of Sharia being instituted publicly anywhere in the United States, so of course we have to make special laws to avoid that. We’re so much in danger of being subjected to Muslim authority that we have to take action now!
This bizarrely ludicrous fear came to light recently when Allen West published a blog post about how how “Sharia law” resulted in “Christian persecution” at a Walmart in Dallas.
There was a young man doing the checkout and another Walmart employee came over and put up a sign, “No alcohol products in this lane.” So being the inquisitive fella I am, I used my additional set of eyes — glasses — to see the young checkout man’s name. Let me just say it was NOT “Steve.”
I pointed the sign out to Aubrey and her response was a simple question, how is it that this Muslim employee could refuse service to customers based on his religious beliefs, but Christians are being forced to participate in specific events contrary to their religious beliefs?
Boy howdy, that is one astute young lady.
Imagine that, this employee at Walmart refused to just scan a bottle or container of an alcoholic beverage — and that is acceptable. A Christian business owner declines to participate or provide service to a specific event — a gay wedding — which contradicts their faith, and the State crushes them.
Except, as it turned out, that’s not why the sign was put up. The sign was put up because the cashier was underage, and so under Western law, he was not allowed sell alcohol.
It’s not just that West was wrong, it’s that he ignored a number of indicators that made it obvious that he was wrong. For example, since when does Walmart cater to the dignity of its employees, much less inconvenience customers and slow down business to serve their religious sensitivities? Second, if this were a case of catering to Muslim sensitivities, why only restrict alcohol sales, and not sales of pork products? Critical thinking rules also demand that you consider alternatives—which would not even have required West to think, only to ask either clerk why the sign was put up.
West processed none of this. He only saw an Arabic-sounding name and a no-liquor sign, and jumped right to the conclusion that he was being persecuted because he was a Christian. He did not do this mindlessly; he had to go to a good deal of trouble to connect certain dots. He just followed dots that served his interests and prejudices, and ignored the dots that any reasonable person would follow.
But hey, let’s imagine that West was in fact right, and that Walmart had inexplicably begun to go out of their way to respect the religious rights of their employees. Would this be, as West proclaimed, a matter of injustice because Christians were “crushed by the State” (that’s “State” with a capital “S”!) for the same kind of thing?
As it turns out, no. For two rather blatantly obvious reasons. First, Walmart was not refusing to sell alcohol, they just did not allow it in that one specific register line. West or anyone else could simply move to a different line and buy whatever they wanted. And second, Walmart was shutting down service in that one line to anyone buying alcohol, not just Christians or any specific group. If the bakery that refused to make a gay wedding cake had simply refused to make wedding cakes period, there would be no fuss.
But West’s indignation is even more striking, considering that liberals would not approve of even the one line being shut down because of the cashier’s religious beliefs—they would tell the cashier that if they don’t want to do what the job requires, they should take a different job.
It would, however, be exactly what conservatives want, which is the ability to refuse service of a specific type because it offends their religious beliefs —something that conservatives are fighting for, and have succeeded in enforcing by law in at least a dozen states, and have been reported to happen in any case in nearly half of all states.
But when the Walmart throws up a no-liquor-sales-in-this-line and the cashier is named Ahmed? PERSECUTION! SHARIA LAW! RUN FOR THE HILLS!!
Shoot off your mouth first, ask questions later.
As of late, the expression “religious liberty” has worked as a code word for a variety of right-wing positions; it is a “dog whistle” term amongst conservatives, similar to “academic freedom” (teaching conservative Christian doctrine in public schools) or “strict constructionist” (favoring conservative ideology over constitutional law).
“Religious liberty” currently applies to two issues in particular: reproductive rights and discrimination based upon sexual or gender orientation and identity. However, it will doubtlessly be applied to any issue conservatives see fit which could possibly be framed as a point of religious ideology.
As a sign that virtually any Republican candidate must bow to the extremists on such issues, Jeb Bush gave a now-obligatory speech at Liberty University, “religious liberty” being the theme. That he spoke at commencement and not just at some required assembly speaks to who the favored candidate is.
The speech, of course, blew all the right dog whistles; there was no doubt that Bush was making references to sex & gender discrimination, though he refrained from being that specific. Bush was specific enough to mention reproductive rights by name, speaking on the issue of how conservative Christians should be allowed to make decisions affecting how others live based on their own personal religious ideology.
Of course, foisting one’s beliefs on the lives of others doesn’t sound good even to Christian conservatives, so they have to veil it with a layer of meaningless obfuscation and blame the people trying to stop religious interference with that exact wrongdoing:
“The mistake is to confuse points of theology with moral principles that are knowable to reason as well as by faith. And this confusion is all part of a false narrative that casts religious Americans as intolerant scolds, running around trying to impose their views on everyone. The stories vary, year after year, but the storyline is getting familiar: The progressive political agenda is ready for its next great leap forward, and religious people or churches are getting in the way. Our friends on the Left like to view themselves as the agents of change and reform, and you and I are supposed to just get with the program.
”There are consequences when you don’t genuflect to the latest secular dogmas. And those dogmas can be hard to keep up with. So we find officials in a major city demanding that pastors turn over copies of their sermons. Or federal judges mistaking themselves for elected legislators, and imposing restrictions and rights that do not exist in the Constitution. Or an agency dictating to a Catholic charity, the Little Sisters of the Poor, what has to go in their health plan – and never mind objections of conscience.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m betting that when it comes to doing the right and good thing, the Little Sisters of the Poor know better than the regulators at the Department of Health and Human Services. From the standpoint of religious freedom, you might even say it’s a choice between the Little Sisters and Big Brother – and I’m going with the Sisters.
See? By demanding our religious standards be enforced by law, we are not involving theology! We’re not the ones imposing dogma, it’s the secularists! This is not about religion because our religious beliefs are based on reason! We’re just trying to be good, moral people by forcing everyone else to follow our moral code and those liberals are trying to force their views on us by not letting us!
Also, you may have noticed one of the anti-LGBT dog whistles in the above quote, even if you don’t recognize it. The part about ”officials in a major city demanding that pastors turn over copies of their sermons,“ which ominously implies that government is attempting to either intimidate pastors or to demand the right to edit their speeches.
If your source is Fox News, then this is over a law allowing ”men to use the ladies room and vice versa,“ and this is all about secularists attempting to suppress freedom of religion.
In fact, it is over a Houston anti-discrimination ordinance, one which was challenged by local preachers who wanted the right to discriminate, and so used their pulpits to get signatures of petitions in a way that may have violated the city charter—thus the subpoena for ”all speeches, presentations, or sermons“ related to the issue, so that the validity of the petitions could be measured. And the court ruled in favor of the city.
Which no doubt is one of the cases referenced by Bush when he mentioned ”federal judges mistaking themselves for elected legislators,“ paraphrasing another right-wing dog-whistle expression, ”legislating from the bench,“ which means ”judges who make legal decisions that we disagree with.“
Bush’s speech was chock full of platitudes involving charity, the homeless, the lonely, the ill, the weak, and the innocent… even ”giving hope to the prisoner“… despite the fact that Bush’s own policies have callously disregarded these exact populations.
All part of the new right-wing approach to social justice: talk the talk, but walk the other way.
Conservatives have been making noise about how income inequality is bad and that is so important to them:
Appearing at a candidate forum in late January, three likely Republican presidential contenders — Senators Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul — all made a striking confession: They considered “the increasing gap between rich and poor” to be a problem.
Yeah, the problem they see is that income inequality is being noticed more and it’s in danger of being opposed. We can’t have that.
Which is not too far from their stances: they brought it up primarily to say that it can’t be addressed with government action—in short, we should not raise taxes on the rich or mandate minimum wage hikes, stuff like that.
To prove their extreme concern over income inequality being challenged, Republicans in the House just passed (on heavily partisan lines) a bill that would repeal the estate tax.
To be clear, the estate tax does not affect you unless you are handing over more than $5.43 million upon your demise, and that’s only if you’re single. For a married couple, it’s $10.86 million. And that means that if parents pass away with a $15 million estate, no tax is applied until the first dollar after $10.86 million. After that, the rates go from 18% to 40%, the 40% kicking in after $1 million. So on the $15 million estate, the inheritors would pay about $2 million in taxes.
So, how is this about Republicans protecting people of lower incomes?
Republican Majority Whip Steve Scalise explained, “the vast majority of our members in the Republican conference have never had the opportunity to stand up for small businesses who are threatened by the death tax everyday.”
Ah, yes. The small business owner. The Republicans’ favorite go-to prop when they want to help the super-wealthy.
But wait! Those small businessmen could get hit! Really! It happens!
In fact, only about 20 “small” businesses and farms each year are subject to any estate tax every year. And that’s figuring businesses which value at $5 million, not $10 million. And those 20 per year usually owe only about 5% in taxes.
Not to mention that there is no language in the bill whatsoever mentioning small businesses, just an unqualified repeal.
So, are Republicans really voting to protect small businesses? Of course not. It’s an asinine lie. Nothing new—I have written before about how Republicans habitually trot out “small businessmen” when they want to give massive tax cuts to primarily wealthy people.
In short, it’s pure, unadulterated bullshit.
The estate tax repeal would cost the federal government about $27 billion per year, mostly so that people with hundreds of millions, as well as billions of dollars can maintain vast treasuries of unearned wealth.
For example, Emma and Georgina Bloomberg stand to inherit their father’s $31 billion fortune. Assuming they get it all (and are not largely cut out like Paris Hilton), and they split the fortune evenly, each would, after the estate tax, only receive $9.3 billion. The horror!
As Thomas Piketty pointed out, it is amassed wealth that is the biggest problem in the world—and the estate tax is pretty much the only established tax on that wealth.
And so naturally, Republicans, newly concerned about income inequality, want to completely erase that tax, to the exclusive benefit of the 1%.
Of course, we can breathe a sigh of relief: the bill will never become law. Democrats stand to filibuster it in the Senate, and even if not, Obama will veto it. And Republicans know this. Despite that, they passed it purely as a stunt—which, strangely, kind of puts the lie to their recent claims of concern for income inequality. (Alas, billionaires like Sheldon Adelson can hire lawyers to set up massive trusts to get around billions in estate taxes.)
It’s almost as if they figure that independents know full well they are lying all the time, or they believe independent voters are idiots who won’t notice.
It happened again, inevitably. A white police officer pulled over a black man for an alleged traffic violation. The details are still scarce, but at some point the officer tries to subdue the driver, uses a taser on him, and then, as the man attempted to flee on foot, the officer fired eight times, hitting the man in the back, killing him. After handcuffing the dying man, the officer then radioed in that the “suspect” had been “threatening” to the officer.
This time, the officer was charged with murder—an extremely unusual outcome, mostly because or third-party video showing the incredibly egregious act.
I had to wonder, how are conservatives reacting to this? Well, it really isn’t very hard to guess, as their tactics are always the same: when there is one incident of an injustice they don’t want to recognize, paint the aggressor as a hero and the victim as a villain; when there are multiple incidents, find any example of the reverse happening and cry in outrage that it isn’t being reported on. It’s what they always do. Always.
And sure enough, when I did a search for exactly that, there should be zero surprise at what I found: two police killings, one of an 18-year-old man in Mobile, Alabama, and one of a 20-year-old man in Salt Lake City, both incidents where unarmed white men were killed by black police officers—and conservatives are just outraged that the media isn’t giving these killings the same level of attention as they gave Michael Brown in Ferguson.
As usual, you can guess who can be counted upon to stand up for the oppressed white men:
Talk-show host Rush Limbaugh blamed the discrepancy between the two cases on “the liberal world view” that portrays whites as oppressors and blacks as victims.
“[I]n the current climate in the United States, a black person can never be the oppressor, and a white person can never be a victim,” said Mr. Limbaugh on his national radio show last week.
This attitude is mirrored in the comments to the articles, where conservatives demand equal attention be paid to these stories, condemn the media as “liberal” for not doing so, and point out that white people, unlike blacks, aren’t rioting and looting everywhere.
The fish-in-the-barrel counter to that, of course, is that when it happens once or twice a year, it’s not news. When it happens at least a hundred times a year, probably much more often (police, for some reason, are reluctant to keep track of how often unarmed black men are shot by white police officers), it is news. When it’s a chance occurrence, it’s not a story that merits strong national attention; when it’s a trend, marked by nationwide racial profiling, countless black people stopped, frisked, tased, arrested, shot, and killed, which creates such a spontaneous outrage that people nationwide protest the massive injustice, then it’s a story.
It’s not a story because you can see that your worldview is shamefully wrong so you have to dig deep to find some reverse case which you then claim is equal to the massive outrage.
I was somewhat surprised when I caught up with The Daily Show this week, and saw Stewart’s reaction to the Republican letter to Iran. Interestingly, he skewered both Republicans and Democrats, based upon the fact that then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Syria in 2007 against the wishes of the Bush administration, and other liberals or left-leaning commentators (specifically, Hillary Clinton, Diane Feinstein, and Chris Matthews) spoke in praise of Pelosi’s actions.
This is essentially the main defense by the right wing for the 47 Republican senators’ letter to the Iranian leadership: Pelosi did it, so liberals are hypocrites for objecting now!
Well, not quite.
In situations like this, it kind of helps to look beyond the superficial and check out, you know, the actual facts of the situation. From a New York Times article at the time of the Pelosi visit:
Ms. Pelosi and many other Democrats, as well as some Republicans, have spoken often in recent months about the value of increasing dialogue with Syria as a way to improve stability in the region, but the Bush administration has resisted the idea, citing its view that the country is a state sponsor of terrorism. It accuses the Syrian government of providing militants with safe passage into Iraq and of interfering in Lebanon’s politics after its army was forced to leave there in 2005. Damascus denies the accusations.
At the White House on Tuesday, President Bush told reporters that he saw little point in talking to Syria now. “Sending delegations hasn’t worked,” he said. “It’s just simply been counterproductive.”
Even so, three Republican congressmen — Robert Aderholt of Alabama, Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania and Frank Wolf of Virginia — visited Syria separately and met with Mr. Assad on Sunday. And a senior American diplomat, Assistant Secretary of State Ellen Sauerbrey, held talks in Damascus last month with Syrian officials about an influx of Iraqi refugees. Mr. Bush did not mention those visits in his remarks yesterday.
Ms. Pelosi is traveling with a high-level group of lawmakers, included Representatives Henry A. Waxman and Tom Lantos of California, Louise M. Slaughter of New York, Nick J. Rahall II of West Virginia and Keith Ellison of Minnesota, all Democrats, as well as David L. Hobson, Republican of Ohio.
Doesn’t exactly sound the same, does it?
So, here is essentially what happened: the Bush administration had a stated policy to not engage the Syrian government on the grounds that such engagement would not be productive… although Bush officials had, in fact, made recent official contact at a fairly high level. Bush just didn’t want Pelosi to go. Pelosi went anyway. That’s about as close the Pelosi visit got to what the Republicans did recently: she engaged with a foreign leader in a way that the president did not approve.
However, that’s where the similarity ends.
The differences? First, Pelosi did not pull a surprise visit to Syria, but instead coordinated her visit with the Bush administration.
Second, while Pelosi made a move that the Bush administration claimed was counter-productive, she went there in support of the Bush administration’s policies concerning Syria, taking the same stance of Syrian conduct, and communicating to Assad the same views that the Bush administration held on his actions.
And third, she was not alone: Republican congressmen and the Bush Assistant Secretary of State all met with Assad, in fact prior to Pelosi, and the Bush administration did not object to any of them doing so, or say that any of them were interfering with administration policy or making things worse. The Assistant Secretary of State’s visit the month before, in fact, clearly belied the Bush administration’s assertion that engagement would not work. Pelosi also traveled with other Republicans (who were also not called out) in what was a bipartisan endeavor.
In point of fact, there was one other similarity between 2007 Pelosi event and the current GOP letter event: in both cases, Republicans used the event as a political weapon to assault Democrats.
Bush was engaging with Assad, and Republicans did also make contact—Bush objected to none of these. He only objected when someone of the opposing party wanted in on the same action his own party was taking. Basically, he was saying, “This is our political campaign tool, to make us look good—how dare a Democrat try to share the stage!”
In contrast, Republicans, in opposition to direct, ongoing negotiations with a foreign leader, actively participated in what was clearly a partisan political stage performance in a manner that undermined the president of the United States. This, just days after Republicans invited the Israeli Prime Minister to address the in Congress in a speech that criticized the president.
So, no. Not the same thing. Not even close.
In the past, there have been a virtual lexicon of expressions designed to sound generally positive and innocuous while in fact forwarding a strident partisan agenda. “State’s rights” has long been used as a means of attempting circumvention of everything from prohibition of slavery to Obamacare. “Victim’s rights” has been synonymous with denying the rights of the accused, an integral—indeed, overwhelming—chunk of the Bill of Rights. More recently, “academic freedom” and “teaching the controversy” have been used as code words for violating the separation of church and state so as to teach creationism in public schools.
Now we have a new one: Religious Liberty. You want to deny women the right to birth control as much as possible? Well, any relationship you have with them, no matter how slight or glancing, gives you the right to do so, because otherwise, your religious freedoms would be infringed! A gay couple comes into your business and you want to discriminate? Sure, it’s illegal—but if you can’t, then your religious rights are being trodden upon! Religious Liberty!
And if you’re a Hindu who wants to give an invocation at a town meeting?
THEN TAKE IT BACK TO WHERE YOU CAME FROM, YOU FILTHY TERRORIST!!! Because, Religious Liberty!!
Hillary Clinton seems to have broken rules about using a personal email account for official business while Secretary of State, constituting a “serious breach” of the Federal Records Act.
Which essentially puts her on equal ground with virtually every major player in the George W. Bush administration.
Nonetheless, the rule is there for a reason, and should be followed. If she broke it, that’s bad. [Late update: Or maybe she didn’t.]
And no doubt Republicans will mass all over this like sharks on chum.
It would be nice, however, if before getting to Hillary, they got to the hundreds of Bush administration officials who did this and much, much more. Which will never, ever happen.
But then, hypocrisy is more or less the name of the game nowadays.
Let’s see: under Obama, we’ve had 59 consecutive months of private-sector job growth, including six straight months of healthy job gains over 200,000, after Obama came to office while the economy was cratering and we were losing up to 750,000 jobs a month; unemployment has gone from 10.1%—something Obama was not in the least responsible for, despite conservative allegations—to 5.7%; the Dow Jones Industrial Average has nearly tripled, from 6627 to 18,140, since Obama took office, while the NASDAQ had nearly quadrupled, going from 1294 to 4956; most of this economic turnaround has been due to a greatly successful stimulus package Obama shepherded, which while imperfect has nonetheless undeniably turned the economy away from what was certain ruin; about 10 million Americans without insurance are now insured, while crippling restrictions like denial for pre-existing conditions have been outlawed; the auto industry has been effectively saved where conservatives wanted it to collapse so money could be made from the restructuring; and, oh yeah, Obama got Osama bin Laden.
Sure, even despite the effects of massive obstructionism and opposition to almost everything he does, Obama still hasn’t been as strong on ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, shutting down Guantanamo, fighting for gay rights, overseeing Wall Street and political reform, ending the harmful drug war and easing massive incarceration of mostly minority citizens, or helping us achieve energy independence—but overall, he has been moving us in the right direction on all of these issues.
Meanwhile, Republicans have obstructed the political system because “it works for us,” held the American economy hostage as a political ploy to the point where the American economic rating was downgraded, tried to lower taxes for the rich while raising them for the poor, attempted to dismantle Social Security and Medicare, torn down long-standing civil rights, refused to repair the Voting Rights Act while passing laws to suppress voting, incessantly tried to deny health care to millions of Americans, have insulted, browbeaten, lied about, disrespected and even threatened to sue the president for no discernible reason, while generally working against the welfare of the majority of American citizens.
Which is why Obama doesn’t love America, and Republicans do.
For eight years, after Democrats won control of the Senate in 2006, Republicans had a single strategy: obstruct. They famously became the party known for its “Audacity of Nope,” often called the “Party of Nope.” Session after session, year after year, bill after bill, Republicans blocked pretty much anything and everything—and not even because they always disagreed with the legislation, but rather just because it was on Obama’s watch. It was just No, No, No, No, No, all the time, for eight long years. They weren’t even shy about admitting it:
Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott boasted, “The strategy of being obstructionist can work or fail. So far it’s working for us.”
Well, Republicans finally won back full control over both houses, winning the Senate majority last November. Sessions barely started a month ago, and Republicans have spent much of the time shooting themselves in the foot.
However, one bill passed the House, and Senate Republicans would love to vote for it. The problem: the bill is extremely partisan, essentially destroying all the positive work Obama accomplished on immigration reform over the past 2-3 years, assuring the Democrats would never let the bill through. And that’s what they’ve been doing.
Yep, that’s right: the Democrats filibustered their very first bill. After eight years of Republicans filibustering almost every last bill in sight.
How do Republicans respond?
Well, they’re just livid. John Boehner could not restrain his frustration:
The House did its job. We won the fight to fund the Department of Homeland Security and to stop the president’s unconstitutional actions. Now it’s time for the Senate to do their work. You know, in the gift shop out here they’ve got these little booklets on how a bill becomes a law. All right? The House has done its job! Why don’t you go ask the Senate Democrats when they are going to get off their ass and do something other than to vote no!
Do I even need to point out the extraordinary hypocrisy?
A week ago, I made the case that Republicans should not be rewarded for trying to turn the country to crap so people would be unhappy with Obama and vote Republican more:
When one party is merely lame and unwilling to act forcefully, but the other party is going batshit insane, you don’t vote for the batshit insane people! When a president has gone too far trying to accommodate diehard hacks bent on ruining the country to make that president look bad, you do not reward the ones who have driven us into the ground just because they can make you unhappy. …
Rewarding Republican politicians for any reason is the most disastrously insane solution anyone could possibly dream up. They are dying anyway; put them out of their misery now before they add to the astonishingly catastrophic devastation they have already wrought upon this nation. The sooner we stop their policy of ruin, the more we can salvage.
I just saw a post along almost exactly the same lines come up on my “This Day Past Years” list. Two years ago, I made effectively the same case:
The key point: Republicans have been far more destructive to the economy, even openly stating goals which work against economic recovery, again openly admitting their goals in this are to gain political power.
The answer to this is not to reward them with more power.
The answer is to give that power, definitively this time, to Democrats, even just for two years, so we can see what Democratic policies would reap without Republicans poisoning everything.
Unfortunately, the American people will probably wind up giving the GOP even more power.
At least, if they do, and if Republicans take control of the Senate, it won’t make too much difference. The Senate is hardly passing laws at all right now, and the president still has his veto power. Democrats would still have the filibuster, which Republicans will no doubt immediately vilify once again, as always completely unabashed in their barefaced hypocrisy.
So the Republicans will have a few more committees to investigate their fictional “scandals.” So they’ll have a few more podiums from which to rant. Otherwise, things will stay the same—and conservatives will continue to call it Obama’s fault.
At some point in the future, demographics will begin to undo what Republicans have done with gerrymandering and Jim Crow. The problem is, what will be left of the nation by then?
With all that we will have lost by then, at least we’ll have the comfort of knowing that conservatives are certain that it was all the Kenyan Socialist’s fault.
So a Democratic Texas D.A. did something stupid: got drunk, and then drove. She was arrested and served time, but refused to resign under pressure. She was within her rights under law: she is under no obligation to resign.
Rick Perry pressured her to do so anyway. His motives were not just for show; if the D.A. resigned, Perry would get to appoint a replacement.
That’s no small deal, as the D.A. in question, Rosemary Lehmberg, is the D.A. for Travis County, home to Austin, the state capital.
Why is that a big deal? First of all, Austin is one of the few counties in Texas with a Democratic majority. Second, the D.A. for Austin, it being the state capital, runs the state’s public integrity unit. The public integrity unit is kind of the like ethics committee: it investigates government corruption. And it’s run mostly by Democrats, in a state where most politicians are Republicans. And Texas Republicans have a long history of corruption.
Naturally, Republicans would like nothing more than for the public integrity unit to shut up and/or go away. They have tried to defund it in the past, but failed. Getting a Republican appointee in there could potentially throw off all current investigations and damage the unit, even if the appointee were replaced by a Democrat in the next election.
So, when D.A. Lehmberg was arrested, and, as a bonus, acted like a tool on camera in jail, Republicans saw this as a big political opportunity. Unfortunately, the position is locally elected, and so Republican politicians couldn’t touch her. A grand jury set on her by Republicans refused to indict her. Lehmberg refused to resign, but said she would not run for re-election in 2016.
Unwilling to accept that, Perry decided to play hardball: he demanded that Lehmberg resign, or else he’d cut the funding for the public integrity unit.
She refused, so Perry defunded the unit.
Normal hardball politics, right?
Except for one small detail: Perry, like so many Republicans, was so used to getting away with illegal crap that he forgot that he could still be prosecuted for it. And he had committed an abuse of power: he threatened to defund a legally operating government office if a legally elected public official who was not under his authority did not resign so he could appoint a political ally to that seat. What’s more, he didn’t try to hide it: he made it quite clear what he was doing.
Well, you’re not supposed to do that, it turns out. The governor is not supposed to get involved with county business, he’s not supposed to coerce public officials, and he’s not allowed to use his office or powers as governor to do so.
Think it’s no big deal? Well, imagine if Obama, citing Perry’s corruption, demanded that Perry resign, or else Obama would cut the $1 billion-plus federal Transportation Equity Bonus funds for Texas, citing a corrupt governor’s inability to disperse those funds honestly.
Do you believe that, if Perry refused and Obama actually cut those funds on the basis of his threat, that Republicans would not immediately impeach him?
Of course they would. They would call it the foulest, basest, most despicable act of illegal “Chicago politics” imaginable. And they would see no irony in defending what Perry did at the same time, claiming they were totally different.
Perry, predictably, is not taking this sitting down. He is, however, kind of going over the top.
“This indictment amounts to nothing more than an abuse of power and I cannot and I will not allow that to happen,” Perry charged. There’s your standard conservative move: accuse those you are against with exactly what you have done wrong.
However, he went much further:
I intend to fight against those who would erode our state’s constitution and laws purely for political purposes and I intend to win. I’ll explore every legal avenue to expedite this matter. I am confident that we will ultimately prevail, that this farce of a prosecution will be revealed for what it is. And those responsible will be held accountable.
So, what is his evidence that this is a political attack? Nothing, of course.
Michael McCrum, the special prosecutor appointed to the case, is a respected attorney from San Antonio, and was actually backed by both Republican Senators for the U.S. Attorney position in Texas. Hard to call him a flaming political hack.
The grand jury who indicted him, on the other hand, consisted of residents of Austin—a county with more Democrats than Republicans. While not his “political opponents,” they potentially could have bias. On the other hand, the grand jury was selected by Special State District Judge Bert Richardson—a San Antonio Republican, appointed by Bush.
So, all in all, it does not look especially like this is a political witch hunt; a Republican-backed prosecutor convinces a grand jury selected by a Republican judge from a county which is roughly 60% Democrat and 40% Republican.
What really sounds over-the-top in Perry’s response is that “those responsible will be held accountable.” Really? Will he be holding the Republican judge who seated the grand jury responsible? Or the highly-regarded prosecutor who received Republican backing, will he be “held responsible” for playing politics? Or maybe the governor intends to track down and punish the members of the grand jury who voted to indict?
And what will Perry do to them, exactly? He calls it an “abuse of power”—what, did any of those people threaten Perry with the indictment unless Perry resigned? Nope—nobody involved said or did anything remotely political—so exactly what will Perry do to “hold them accountable”?
Perry’s bluster is not just game-playing, however: he levied a rather serious charge and a threat of retaliation, in a case where he very clearly demonstrated that he does follow up on such threats.
I’m sure it will play well with the home crowd, but from a distance, Perry sounds even worse than he did when he started.
Boehner’s petition to sue the president included this claim:
After years of slow economic growth and high unemployment under President Obama, they are still asking, ‘where are the jobs?’ The House has passed more than 40 jobs bills that would help. But Washington Democrats, led by the President, just ignore them.
Wow! More than 40 jobs bills! Why haven’t we heard of this before? Must be the Liberal Media just trying to make the Republicans look bad.
So, what were the bills he’s talking about? There’s a list of 46 “pro-growth jobs bills” on this page.
One thing you notice right away is that six of the bills listed here were either signed into law or are supported by Obama. We know that because Boehner’s list itself makes this clear. So, exactly how are “Washington Democrats, led by the President” just ignoring them?
But hey, that’s still 40 jobs bills that Democrats haven’t approved! They must be anti-jobs!
Let’s look at the list, starting at the top. Right there is the Keystone pipeline bill that Democrats refuse to pass in the Senate. They’re preventing oil from being more easily delivered from Canada!
Umm, wait. That’s a jobs bill?
A piece of legislation called a “jobs” bill should be first and foremost focused on creating jobs. If it is focused on a very different task, even though it results in some jobs being created, then it’s not a “jobs” bill.
For example, let’s say I write a bill proposing that all businesses must submit 100 extra pages of forms every year for some purpose or another. Those businesses will obviously need to hire more people to collect that information, confirm it, and submit the forms. Arguably tens of thousands of new jobs must be created to accomplish this task.
Did I just write a “jobs” bill? No.
No, a “jobs” bill is one that is at the very least mostly about creating jobs, and should be directly about creating jobs. For example, in 2012, Obama was pushing strongly to pass a bill that would give tax incentives to companies which would bring jobs now outsourced overseas back to the United States. That’s clearly a “jobs” bill, as creating jobs in the United States is the primary objective. Republicans opposed it because it would make it less advantageous to hire cheap foreign labor.
Then there was the “American Jobs Act” in 2011, which Obama was also pushing, and Republicans also blocked; Obama split the bill up and got a few elements passed, but Republicans stopped most of it. The bill called for suspending some payroll taxes for employers and employees; unemployment benefits and jobs training; spending for creation of infrastructure, construction, teacher, firefighter, and police jobs; prohibiting discrimination against the unemployed; and loosening regulations on creating capital for new business projects. Again, the theme of all of this is clearly to create jobs, both directly and by economic stimulation.
So, how is the Keystone pipeline a “jobs” bill? The primary objective for the Keystone pipeline is to support the production and sale of controversial tar sands oil. It’s kind of hard to argue that approving an oil pipeline to profit oil companies—one of which is not a United States firm—is somehow primarily an American “jobs” bill. It is, however, part of a distinctly partisan pro-corporate agenda.
In fact, an estimate of the impact of the project says that the project would create only 2,000 short-term construction jobs over two years, with as many as 40,000 “indirect” jobs (providing food services for workers as one example) which are just as if not more temporary. That’s a job increase worth just 15% of last month’s job increases—and those are temporary jobs that would expire after two years, creating a jobs lurch whenever that happens.
Remember back in 2009 when Obama was really pushing the economic stimulus, and a big part of that was to create jobs on infrastructure projects? At the time, Michael Steele and the GOP claimed that these weren’t “jobs” because they were not permanent:
Steele: “You’ve got to look at what’s going to create sustainable jobs. What this administration is talking about is making work. It is creating work.”
Stephanopoulos: “But that’s a job.”
Steele: “No, it’s not a job. A job is something that a business owner creates. It’s going to be long term.”
Stephanopoulos: “So a job doesn’t count if it’s a government job?”
Steele: “Hold on. No, let me finish. That is a contract. It ends at a certain point, George. You know that. These road projects that we’re talking about have an end point. As a small-business owner, I’m looking to grow my business, expand my business. I want to reach further. I want to be international. I want to be national. It’s a whole different perspective on how you create a job versus how you create work.”
So, if Keystone passes, how many “actual,” that is to say, permanent, jobs would be created in America? About 50. More jobs that that would be created—but in Canada. The real profit from this would not be in jobs, it would be in the source of oil. This oil must be refined, but there is no new refining going on, we’re just using a different source. Which means no more new jobs on that end, not in the United States.
But wait a minute. The pipeline delivers oil, but is not the only delivery method. Is this oil that would never be delivered without the pipeline? No. It’s not like we’re not getting the oil—we’re just transporting it by less cost-effective measure, namely rail, truck, and/or barge. Which creates jobs for people running those lines of transportation. Which are currently well-paying, permanent, full-time jobs—which will be killed by the pipeline.
Then there is the fact that the pipeline will lead to higher fuel prices in the midwest, which will have a negative impact on jobs. Oil spills kill jobs over time. The costs for the pipeline will have an opportunity cost on investment in green energy, an industry which has been a true job creator and source of economic value for the United States.
According to various reports, Canadian oil companies would be the biggest winners for this project, with a few jobs spilling over to the American side, which will probably be offset by job losses created by the pipeline. Oh, and tar sands oil is incredibly polluting. In contrast, look at clean-energy car technology initiatives—which created 150,000 long-term manufacturing jobs in the United States. But that’s the kind of industry Republicans mock and deride.
So, no, Keystone is obviously not a “jobs” bill. It’s an oil-industry bill, aimed to mostly profit oil producers and refiners, mostly in Canada, with a minimal or negative jobs impact.
But hey, maybe they just really like the Keystone project, so they topped the list with it. Maybe the 39 other bills on the list are actually “jobs” bills.
How about the “Offshore Energy & Jobs Act” which will “revitalize manufacturing, create jobs, and restore our nation of builders”? That’s offshore drilling with the word “jobs” attached to it. There are other bills for “onshore drilling,” and for deregulating fracking, and other general “drill anywhere” and “get rid of all environmental protection regulations.” Essentially, most of the energy-related jobs bills are “drill & pollute as much as you like” legislature—which, like the Keystone project, is about energy interests making tons of money, and oh yeah, some jobs may be created in the process. Those are not jobs bills.
In fact, nearly half of the “jobs” bills are actually let’s-give-billions-to-morbidly-profit-rich-energy-corporation giveaways, mostly bills which attack Democratic policies to keep air & water clean and not completely wreck the environment.
But hey, maybe the other two dozen or so bills on the list are actually “jobs” bills.
The first non-energy bill listed: kill Obamacare. Which would result in millions losing the first affordable healthcare they have seen in a long time, and in many other greatly beneficial policies getting struck down. But hey, the CBO said 2 million jobs would be lost!
No, the CBO said that the equivalent of 2 million jobs in hours worked would be reduced, mostly from people working themselves half to death to pay for pre-ACA health care, which now they don’t need and so can work less but still get the same benefits. Overall, the ACA is probably more job-neutral than anything else—primarily because it’s not a jobs bill. Killing it will not create jobs, that’s GOP fantasy politicking.
So, what’s next on the list? Oh, the next three “jobs” bills are also about killing Obamacare. Go down the list, and you’ll see that they are mostly of this stripe: partisan laws trying to get Republican political agendas signed into law and Democratic political agendas repealed. Privatization of schools, half a dozen limits or prohibitions on government regulation, importing cheaper labor in high-tech industry, more attempts to get rid of the ACA, defunding welfare, spending cuts (which ironically fund jobs), cut food stamps (which are actually job-stimulative due to increase sales business), tax cuts & credits for corporations—stuff like that.
You can read it on the list. Once you get past the hyperbolic “jobs, jobs, jobs!!” titles & language adorning the proposals, you will see that none of these bills are in fact focused on creating jobs, but depend on side effects (many of them fictional) to create the jobs. But the bills themselves are all about something other than jobs.
So, essentially, John Boehner and the Republicans are complaining that Obama is not passing their partisan legislative agenda which is not about jobs, but instead is about rewarding Republican constituents and breaking down Democratic ones.
Of course, since then, the Republican “justification” behind the alleged lawsuit has been revealed as a delay in enforcement of the ACA for some businesses—a move which Republicans not only approved of at the time, but actually pressured the president to do in a different form—until they realized they could use it as a way to attack Obama, at which point they suddenly opposed such delays.
I can imagine that a lot of Americans who are not favorably inclined towards Obama will believe that there is something to the lawsuit, but only because they do not listen, think, or study the issue seriously. They will hear Boehner and other conservatives saying something like, “Obama blah blah blah failed blah blah blah killing jobs blah blah blah shameful blah blah blah destroying America blah blah blah gerbils blah blah blah fluoridation blah blah blah therefore we must [ sue / impeach ] him.”
Apparently, in conservative politics nowadays, this is what is referred to as “Thursday.”