Archive for the ‘Political Game-Playing’ Category

Vote for My Secret Agenda!

October 28th, 2014 1 comment

The latest thing in Republican politics which is not being reported by the “Liberal Media™”?

Keeping your political agenda secret.

You know how campaigns are supposed to be about telling the people what you plan to do so they can make informed choices about the government they want, right?

Not according to Mitch McConnell!

[McConnell] refused, when asked by a member of the club, to identify the first three issues he would try to push through the Senate if he becomes majority leader.

“Obviously, I’m not going to answer that question,” he said. “To lay out an agenda publicly at this point makes it look like you’re measuring the drapes.”

Instead, he laid out his plans in broad terms, including passing a budget, voting on whether to allow the Keystone oil pipeline project to proceed, and repealing the individual mandate to buy health insurance and the tax on medical devices that were part of the Affordable Care Act.

After the speech, in response to a reporter’s question, McConnell refused to say if, as majority leader, he would back legislation to privatize Social Security. “I’m not announcing what the agenda would be in advance, we’re not in the majority yet. We’ll have more to say about that later.”

Since when has this been the case? Well, it’s not exactly new. McCain did this some when he ran in 2008. Remember when he told everybody that he had a secret plan to catch Osama bin Laden, it was a surefire guarantee—but he would not tell anyone what it was unless he was elected?

McConnell seems to be upping the game, making his entire legislative agenda secret.

Essentially, politicians are like salesmen: if there’s something they don’t want you to see before a sale is made, they do their damnedest to hide it from you.

Interestingly, the news media is largely silent on McConnell’s quotes. Apparently they think what he said is nothing significant enough to note. Spiffy.

Categories: Political Game-Playing Tags:

Rick Perry Indicted for Abuse of Power, Threatens to Punish Those Involved

August 17th, 2014 2 comments

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.

To Be Polarizing, You Have to Actually Do Something Polarizing

August 10th, 2014 1 comment

I am getting pretty tired of people referring to Obama as a “polarizer” or a “polarizing” figure. Sorry, but that’s complete bull.

Scenario A: you get a job in an office where there are desk workers and field people. As a person who works in the field, you start making all kinds of insinuations about the desk workers, calling them “desk jockeys,” “do-nothings,” and “lazy fatasses.” You begin to advocate for budget increases for field workers at the cost of the desk workers, and you spread rumors about the desk workers stealing supplies, taking too many days off, and spending most of their time playing games or surfing the web on their computers. Worse, you claim, the desk workers are spreading malicious rumors about the field workers, trying to get them fired so the rest will be disorganized and easy prey for office politics.

Pretty clearly, in this scenario, you are polarizing the office, trying to create a rift between the two groups.

Scenario B: you get a job in an office where there are desk workers and field people. You have a field work position. You do nothing untoward, just your job and not much else. Instantly, several of the desk workers arbitrarily decide that they hate your guts. They get most of the desk workers to agree with them, and begin a campaign to make your life miserable and get you fired. They start spreading lies about field workers, using you as a poster boy. They start sabotaging your work and the work of other field workers. They begin trying to cut every bit of the budget that might make field work easier, and every time you hand in work that they will later process, they “lose” parts of the work and blame you. You suddenly become the reason they cite for every bad thing that happens in the office, and some even claim that they will go on strike or up and quit unless “something is done” about you.

Are you a polarizer in this scenario? Pretty clearly no. Are you “polarizing”? Perhaps in a starkly technical sense—but not because of anything you did. Describing you as “polarizing” is patently misleading, as it implies that the polarizing is somehow your doing. Worse, if you object to this patently unfair treatment, you are even more strongly labeled a “polarizer”—“See? Look how he’s bashing the desk workers!”

To polarize is to “divide or cause to divide into two sharply contrasting groups or sets of opinions or beliefs.” The thing is, when you do nothing that could reasonably cause such division, but others overreact bizarrely because they decide they do not like you, then you’re not doing the polarizing. If you come to a group of people and say, “I’d like to do something about this issue, so let’s begin by using your plan with a couple of my ideas thrown in,” and they react by rejecting not only your ideas but their own plan, calling it the most drastically radical and disastrous idea ever, and instead spend all their time twisting and distorting the proposal and fighting against it only because you are proposing it—I’m sorry, but no way on Earth are you the one being “polarizing.”

And that’s the case with Obama. Despite constant references to Obama “polarizing” the country, he has done nothing of the sort. He has gone a great distance to give everyone what they want, to ameliorate the dissatisfaction of his political opponents. He has done pretty much what he promised when he campaigned in 2008: to try to bring everyone’s concerns to the table, address them, and find a solution that everyone can get behind.

I am not saying this out of admiration; I wish he wouldn’t do that, because it’s stupid. When your opposition is bent on making you fail, when they obviously will not cooperate no matter how much you give them, when you wind up giving them more than they originally asked for and still they vehemently oppose you—then you’re an idiot to keep on trying that strategy. When someone not only refuses to work with you but takes every opportunity to knock you down and crack your head open, you don’t keep on trying to shake their hand. You have to deal with the situation you’re confronted with.

The point, however, is that Obama is not the polarizer nor is he in truth polarizing. Republicans are clearly, undeniably responsible for the divisions we see today, taking extremist positions solely out of an unreasoning hatred for Obama—a hatred founded in the desire to crush the opposition for the sake of gaining power, money, popularity, and influence.

Age and Health

May 19th, 2014 4 comments

Between Benghazi, Brain Damage, and everything else, the GOP is either relentless in its attack on any potential Democratic candidate, or they are scared to death of Hillary Clinton:

Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, insisted on Sunday that Hillary Rodham Clinton’s health and age were fair targets for inquiry ahead of a possible 2016 presidential run, as both he and Karl Rove, the Republican strategist who injected those questions into the debate, suggested that such scrutiny might dissuade her from running.

Are health and age fair game? Sure. We should not ignore the health of a candidate who could be in office for as long as eight years.

Do they have any bearing on Hillary Clinton? No. Instead, it’s just another smear campaign.

Remember when John McCain was running? He was not just 72 years old, he was a cancer survivor. As it turns out, he stayed healthy through much of what could have been his two terms (knock on wood—that he wasn’t elected, that is). But it was wholly acceptable to be worried about a man who could be in office beyond the average male life expectancy (77.4 for males in the U.S.), and whose vice president would be a raving lunatic.

In contrast, Hillary will be 68 in 2016, and the female life expectancy is 82.2 years, meaning she would still be six years shy of that age were she to complete two full terms. In terms of how far she is from reaching life expectancy, she also beats out Mitt Romney, Bob Dole, George H. W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan when they all ran for a first term of office.

So, what exactly is the “age” issue with Hillary supposed to be?

The answer (whisper it, now) is that she’s a woman!

If you don’t think the GOP is going to play the sexist angle, you’re naive. Of course they are.

And the market is prime for it. Remember when Chelsea announced she was pregnant, and many in the media wondered (a) if it would matter that a grandmother was running for office, or (b) if Chelsea had gotten herself pregnant so Hillary’s chances in office would be improved? Forget that both points contradict each other, they were both speculating negatives about Hillary.

When Mitt Romney ran for president in 2012, he had some twenty grandchildren. Aside from the publicity photos in which this fact was played up as a positive, the fact was never even mentioned in the race at all. McCain had four grandchildren when he ran—did anyone even know that?

As for health, what have we got? While dehydrated suffering from the flu, Hillary fell and hit her head. She had a concussion, and a blood clot developed (outside her brain), which was dissipated and caused no stroke or other neurological damage. Aside from possible slight, temporary double vision, there appear to have been no lingering or permanent effects. While the clot could have caused a stroke, it did not, in the same way that it could have caused death, but it did not. In fact, at the time, Republicans actually scoffed at Hillary’s medical issues, claiming she was faking it all so she could avoid testifying about Benghazi. And when she did come to testify, double-vision or no, she wiped the floor with them. But in deference to Karl Rove and Rance Priebus, maybe the Republicans on the committee were even more brain-damaged.

In short, what she had is something one can recover from. You know, like McCain’s cancer.

In the meantime, you know that they will play it up. Determined to stay classy, Fox News ran an article from—I kid you not—The National Enquirer:

HILLARY CLINTON has secretly decided to run for president in 2016, but doctors have warned that pursuing her dream of becoming America’s first female commander in chief could kill her!

In a bombshell world exclusive, The ENQUIRER has learned Hillary wants to spurn her doctors’ advice and announce her candidacy on June 4, 2014 – the day her late mother would have turned 95. …

“Hillary’s doctors have painted a grim picture of her health,” said a close source. “Behind the scenes, they’re telling her, ‘Running for president will kill you.’

But Hillary wants to ignore her doctors because she’s so desperate to be America’s first female president.

Omigod Omigod Omigod!!! You don’t SAY!!!

I’m sure that those who consume Fox’s usual crap will have no problem accepting ”journalism“ told in a narrative mimicking a feeble-minded 12-year-old.

The Republican Mindset

April 20th, 2014 1 comment

This article crystallizes the mindset of the Republican party extremely well.

Common Core is a set of K-12 educational standards that would delineate what any student should know at the end of a grade level in English and Math. It was created by the National Governor’s Association as a state-driven initiative. It had bipartisan backing and strong Republican support. Only a few crazies on the wingnut fringe opposed it.

Then Obama got behind it too, offering a few incentives for states to adopt it.

Suddenly, conservatives have abandoned it en masse and now call it “Obamacore,” saying it is a vile overreach by the federal government to warp the minds of youngsters.

Like Obamacare itself, and so many other ideas that actually were conservative to begin with and had major right-wing support, all it takes is for Obama to voice support for it, and suddenly the bulk of the Republican Party and conservatives everywhere make a 180-degree turn and call it treachery.

The Republican revolt against the Common Core can be traced to President Obama’s embrace of it, particularly his linking the adoption of similar standards to states’ eligibility for federal education grants and to waivers from No Child Left Behind, the national education law enacted by President George W. Bush.

The comparison to Obamacare is not coincidental; now that the ACA has flopped as a political war cry, conservatives appear to be desperate for anything they can grab ahold of to win elections with, and if that means sabotaging what they believed was an important improvement to children’s education, well, so be it.

A few Republicans stand in defense of the program, but are kind of being drowned out by the rush of Republicans turning tail.

Jeb Bush said the pivot seemed more like pandering. In remarks this month during an event at his father’s presidential library, he affirmed his support for the Common Core. “I guess I’ve been out of office for a while, so the idea that something that I support — because people are opposed to it means that I have to stop supporting it if there’s not any reason based on fact to do that?” he said. “I just don’t feel compelled to run for cover when I think this is the right thing to do for our country.”

With a knowing grin, he added, “Others that supported the standards all the sudden now are opposed to it.”

Some other former Republican governors who pushed the adoption of the Common Core agree with Mr. Bush. “There is a great deal of paranoia in the country today,” said Sonny Perdue, a former governor of Georgia, who was also instrumental in creating the program. “It’s the two P’s, polarization and paranoia.”

“Polarization and paranoia,” well-put. But there’s one more P: Politics.

Supporters of the Common Core, which outlines skills that students in each grade should master but leaves actual decisions about curriculum to states and districts, say that it was not created by the federal government and that it was up to the states to decide whether to adopt the standards.

But opponents say Mr. Obama’s attempt to reward states that adopt the standards with grants and waivers amounts to a backdoor grab for federal control over what is taught in schools.

The only meager silver lining I see in this is the generation of idiotic utterances to support a completely hypocritical and empty opposition to something purely on political grounds. Cue Ted Cruz:

“Standards inevitably influence the curricula being taught to meet those standards,” Mr. Cruz said.

Ya think? Never mind that educational standards were a big Republican idea until just recently.

Or, if you recall, this dilly from a Republican candidate for governor of Arizona:

Melvin’s comments led Sen. David Bradley, D-Tucson, to ask him whether he’s actually read the Common Core standards, which have been adopted by 45 states.

“I’ve been exposed to them,” Melvin responded.

Pressed by Bradley for specifics, Melvin said he understands “some of the reading material is borderline pornographic.” And he said the program uses “fuzzy math,” substituting letters for numbers in some examples.

Stay classy, Republicans.

The Difference Between Private and Public

February 12th, 2014 4 comments

Let’s say there are two financial managers you might trust with your money. One has a sterling record as a manager of other people’s money, but you find out he kept some of his own money secret from his wife and spent it on expensive nights out with the boys. The other manager also had the exact same personal misdeeds—but his reputation as a financial manager was terrible, to the point where he seemed downright antagonistic toward his clients. Who would you choose?

Ran Paul is trying to make points in a few areas by attacking Bill Clinton recently. He’s trying both to sully Hillary’s reputation with Bill’s, and he’s trying to combat the impression that Republicans are waging a war on women:

“He took advantage of a girl that was 20 years old and an intern in his office,” Paul told host David Gregory. “There is no excuse for that, and that is predatory behavior.”

On Newsmax TV Thursday, Paul – reportedly considering a presidential run himself – tried to connect Clinton’s past to 2016 front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“What if that unsavory character is your husband?” Paul asked. “What if that unsavory character is Bill Clinton raising money for people across the country, and what if he were someone that was guilty of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior at the workplace – which, obviously, having sex with an intern at the office is inappropriate by any standard.”

Then he came back to it in a pre-taped C-SPAN interview to be broadcast Sunday.

Said Paul: “The Democrats can’t say, ‘We’re the great defenders of women’s rights in the workplace and we will defend you against some kind of abusive boss that uses their position of authority to take advantage of a young women’ when the leader of their party, the leading fundraiser in the country, is Bill Clinton, who was a perpetrator of that kind of sexual harassment. Anybody who wants to take money from Bill Clinton or have a fundraiser has a lot of explaining to do.”

In one sense, he is correct: Bill Clinton’s sexual antics in the White House were, without question, inappropriate. However, his attempt to label Clinton a “sexual predator” and thus his fundraising activities for Hillary are an unacceptable affront… well, that’s stretching it a bit. To further claim that personal dalliances somehow rise to the level of public policy is an even bigger stretch.

First off, the claim that Lewinsky proves Clinton to be a sexual predator ignores the fact that Lewinsky was herself a predator; her friends reported that she said she would be getting her “presidential kneepads” at the White House. Which sort of makes Paul’s claims fall a bit flat. It’s a bit difficult to call something sexual harassment if Lewinsky showed enthusiasm for entering the relationship before ever arriving at the scene. It’s standard conservative revisionist history, alas—Clinton got into trouble for the affair and for the testimony he gave, not for victimizing Lewinsky. An affair can be overlooked; rape cannot. That’s why Paul and others are trying to smear Clinton as a “predator,” because what he actually did can be forgiven.

To then further say that since Bill had workplace affairs, Hillary is under suspicion for having Bill campaign for her just does not ring true. And the claim will fall flat—people have had fifteen or more years to form opinions on this, and most see Bill Clinton as a cad, but not an egregious one. They saw Hillary as the victim, and accepted the fact that she and her husband worked things out, however they may have done it. It will be difficult to get past such a long-held conclusion. Moreover, this is a party which sports the likes of Newt Gingrich, who not only had affairs before leaving two wives, but cheated on and left one while she was being treated for cancer, all while he was criticizing Clinton and trying to get him impeached. Kinda makes Clinton look like an amateur.

However, there’s another reason Paul’s assertions fall flat: nothing Bill Clinton did sexually had anything to do with public policy. Clinton did not force rape victims to be violated by the state with an ultrasound wand when they wanted to abort a pregnancy caused by the rapist. Clinton did not try to redefine rape. Clinton did not fight tooth and nail to deny women equal treatment in the workplace. Clinton did not do everything he could to deny women access to contraception or access to reproductive health care.

Indeed, whenever conservatives try to point the finger at Democrats regarding the “war on women,” it is always accusations of having sexual affairs, something conservative politicians do just as often. Democrats do not push any public policy issues that are antagonistic to women, which is a huge contrast with Republicans.

Women may or may not choose to forgive any politician’s personal transgressions, but trying make laws which would hurt millions of women nationwide is simply on a completely different plane.

So, no, Paul’s criticisms and similar ones by other conservatives are essentially meaningless.

Ho Chi Minh and Thomas Jefferson

July 27th, 2013 1 comment

The right-wing media, led by Murdoch’s Fox News and The Wall Street Journal, are joyously outraged at Obama again. Their beef? From Fox:

It may come as some unwelcome news to the families of the nearly 60,000 Americans who died in the Vietnam War that the whole thing was just a misunderstanding.

That was the impression President Obama gave on Thursday when he spoke to the press after his meeting with Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang. Sang brought Obama a copy of a letter sent to President Harry Truman from Ho Chi Minh in which the communist dictator spoke hopefully of cooperation with the United States.

Obama, striking a wistful tone, observed that it may have taken 67 years, but the United States and Vietnam were finally enjoying the relationship that Ho once wrote of. After all, Obama said, Ho had been “inspired by the words of Thomas Jefferson.”

The WSJ piles on:

One can imagine the wily Ho Chi Minh laughing from his grave. Once upon a time, antiwar activists in America called him “the George Washington of Vietnam.” Now the U.S. president is taking a similar line.

Holy Crap! Obama essentially praised Ho Chi Minh as a font of freedom, compared him to our founding fathers, and completely disrespected every American veteran of the Vietnam War! Obama apparently thinks Ho Chi Minh was some sort of venerable hero! Ultimately, he said that Ho Chi Minh was just as great and just as dedicated to Democracy and peace and individual liberty as Jefferson!

Right? Because that’s what these news reports make it sound like. We don’t have to actually see the whole quote in context, or anything, do we?

At the conclusion of the meeting, President Sang shared with me a copy of a letter sent by Ho Chi Minh to Harry Truman. And we discussed the fact that Ho Chi Minh was actually inspired by the U.S. Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and the words of Thomas Jefferson. Ho Chi Minh talks about his interest in cooperation with the United States. And President Sang indicated that even if it’s 67 years later, it’s good that we’re still making progress.

Hm. So, Obama is not actually praising the former leader of Vietnam. He’s being diplomatic with a new ally who we used to be at war with. He’s just saying that Ho Chi Minh was inspired by Jefferson, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution, and wanted cooperation with the U.S.

So, was he? A historian relates a public speech by Ho Chi Minh in 1945:

A frail-looking wisp of a man advanced to the microphone. “All men are created equal,” he declared, as all of Hanoi listened. “They are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights; among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” He paused and then elaborated. “This immortal statement,” he explained, “was made in the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America in 1776. In a broader sense, this means: all the peoples on earth are equal from birth, all the peoples have a right to live, to be happy and free.”

That was not all. Just as Jefferson’s immortal vision of unalienable rights and freedoms was followed by a kind of legal brief that documented at length all the abuses committed by King George III and the English Parliament against their American subjects, Ho Chi Minh similarly outlined the grievances of the Vietnamese against France, their colonial master. As his listeners strained to hear him, he reminded them that France was still attempting to destroy Vietnamese unity by artificially dividing the nation into three separate political regions, Tonkin, Annam, and Cochin China. France burdened the Vietnamese with unjust taxes; France expropriated the people’s land, rice fields, and forests; France ruled by decree and not by law; she built prisons instead of schools, and in Indochina’s darkest hour, France abandoned her to the Japanese.

Jefferson, toward the end of his great document, had proclaimed that the Americans were simultaneously dissolving all political ties with Great Britain and declaring their independence. “We … the representatives of theUnited States of America. . . do . . . solemnly publish and declare,” he wrote, “that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states.” Ho Chi Minh struggled to recall Jefferson’s exact words. “We, the members of the provisional government of the democratic republic of Vietnam proclaim solemnly to the entire world: Viet Nam has the right to be free and independent, and, in fact, has become a free and independent country.”

FDR, as it turns out, had advocated the independence of colonies, pledging the release of the Philippines to its people after the end of the war. Ho Chi Minh saw this as a hopeful sign, and indeed appealed to America for support. However, France was not so inclined, and Truman, in the new anti-Communist post-war atmosphere, sided with his ally and against the specter of another Communist regime.

So, actually, what Obama said was 100% accurate, and you can’t exactly blame him for trying to find common ground with a current ally. I mean, he’s trying to create ties with Vietnam, should he really say, “President Sang shared this letter with me, which suggested that Ho Chi Minh was inspired by Jefferson. But that’s an insult—the man was a brutal dictator who tortured people”?

Yeah, that would go over well.

That, however, is the tone of conservatives now, who are eagerly infuriated by Obama’s statement. Texas congressman Sam Johnson (R), for instance, is pissed:

“Sadly, when it comes to individual liberty, the President doesn’t have a clue,” he said in a statement issued by his office Friday afternoon. “What an insult to the POWs brutally tortured at the merciless hands — and rifle butts — of our captors. This is a slap in the face to those who served — and especially those who paid the ultimate price for freedom during that dark time in history. Let me tell you, there was nothing ‘free’ about my seven years in captivity in Hanoi — more than half of that time in solitary confinement. As a fellow POW etched on a prison cell wall, ‘Freedom has a taste to those who fight and almost die that the protected will never know.’ ”

Yes, let’s not lose sight of the fact that Communists led by Ho kept enemy combatants prisoner—I mean, who does that? America would never hold people prisoner. Except, like Vietnam, enemy soldiers. And, now, people accused without evidence of being “enemy combatants.” And more than 100,000 U.S. citizens during WWII who did nothing except share an ancestry with an enemy state. And, arguably, a sizable percentage of America’s African-American population, under laws biased towards their imprisonment, under a system where private institutions profit the longer they stay behind bars.

But, hey, let’s be fair: Ho tortured his prisoners. The United States of America would never… ummm… oh crap. The same conservatives now outraged at Obama were, in fact, the ones who, for the first time in our history, instituted torture as an official policy of the state. These same people defended and protected that policy.

Well, at least we can be outraged at the fact that a man like Thomas Jefferson was being invoked by someone who was so anti-freedom … except that, despite being Communist, Ho Chi Minh was trying to gain free self-rule for his country. And Jefferson was not exactly pristine to begin with—he was a slave owner, after all.

So, history is not quite so clear-cut. Obama’s statement was true. The history is muddled. And those now celebrating a new reason to denounce the president, no matter how flimsy, are abusing the truth in the name of partisan politics.

Categories: Political Game-Playing Tags:

Yes, There Really Was a Partisan Political Witch Hunt

June 25th, 2013 1 comment

It has been a while since I could get a full blog post out. My apologies; work has demanded my full attention for several weeks now. It hasn’t lessened too much, but I am enjoying a little bit of a breather.

During that time, I abortively started a post on the IRS “scandal” at least a few times. Each time it seemed to be less and less likely that the scandal was a scandal at all. Each time I sat down to address the issue, there was more and more evidence that this, like Benghazi, was indeed a political witch hunt—just by conservatives against Obama, and not the other way around.

The first clue: Republicans said it was a scandal of monumental proportions. This tends to be a fairly good indicator of a non-scandal. Conservatives have been attempting to smear the administration with something since he started running for president. Any time anything comes along, it’s supposed to be The Thing That Takes Obama Down. How many “Obama’s 9/11”s have we seen? How many “Obama’s Katrina”s? How many “Obama’s Watergate”s? And yet, nothing sticks, because nothing was there in the first place. Wishing does not make it so, even though conservatives have been wishing so hard that you’d think it would make it so. When right-wingers start claiming that something is “worse than Watergate and Iran-Contra combined, times maybe 10,” you can rest assured that there’s nothing to it.

The second clue: predictably, accusations by Republicans starting turning out to be bullshit, like the story about how IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman visited the White House “at least” 157 times, which of course could only mean he was constantly scheming with Obama personally to target conservatives. The “at least” was a cute touch, meaning that it was probably even more than 157 times. It turned out that this “smoking gun,” as Fox News talking heads referred to it, was baloney. Shulman did not visit the White House 157 times. The number refers to how many events Shulman was cleared to attend. In fact, Shulman signed in only 11 times over 4 years. Furthermore, 76% of the clearances were for health care-related briefings.

The third clue: it was revealed that about two-thirds of the groups applying for tax-exempt status were conservative, and about two-thirds of the groups approved… were conservative. As Kevin Drum pointed out, it’s a funny way to run a “witch hunt.” If the intent was to target conservatives and disproportionately shut them down, why did that not happen?

The fourth clue: right-wingers started using the investigation of whether there was a focus on conservative groups applying for tax-exempt “social welfare” status to claim that any IRS audit against any conservative for any reason was only more evidence of Obama’s criminality. Take Wayne Allyn Root, former Libertarian vice-presidential running mate and conservative talk show host. He was claiming to anyone who will listen that he knew all along there was a witch hunt, because he was audited!

Despite the fact that it was a personal audit—meaning that, in fact, the current IRS brouhaha has absolutely no relation to Root’s case. Nevertheless, Root claims he is “vindicated” in his accusation that Obama personally targeted him for persecution.

The fifth clue: after many hearings and enough investigation so that some clear evidence of wrongdoing should have been uncovered, Darryl Issa (whose personal reputation is hardly sterling) issued a statement which clearly insinuated that Obama, through his lackeys, was directing the IRS to attack his political enemies—but when you looked closely, it was clear that Issa had nothing:

… Republican Rep. Darrell Issa said interviews with workers in the Cincinnati IRS office show targeting of conservative groups was “a problem that was coordinated in all likelihood right out of Washington headquarters – and we’re getting to proving it.”

“My gut tells me that too many people knew this wrongdoing was going on before the election, and at least by some sort of convenient, benign neglect, allowed it to go on through the election,” he said. “I’m not making any allegations as to motive, that they set out to do it, but certainly people knew it was happening.”

Now, read that carefully: “in all likelihood,” “getting to prove it,” “My gut tells me.” When you factor all of that in, you are left with, semantically, nothing. Zero. But after reading it, you get the strong impression that this is real and true. After all, “people knew it was happening,” and there can’t be “motives” for something that was not happening, right?

And the excerpts of testimony? They seemed to consist of every time that “Washington D.C.” was ever mentioned, so as to give the impression that D.C., and therefore Obama personally, was involved. But again, a close inspection shows that no one piece of testimony showed any actual evidence of direction from D.C., and that references to “requests” for information from D.C. were likely of a simple procedural nature.

The sixth clue: an IRS manager, this time making clear statements, said that the focus on “Tea Party” groups did not originate from D.C. (not that originating from D.C. in any way means that Obama was involved anyway). And this official claiming it was his idea was a conservative Republican.

That was kind of when the ongoing firestorm of conservative-media outrage ebbed quite a bit.

But today, we have one last piece of the puzzle:

The Internal Revenue Service used the terms “progressive,” “Israel” and “occupy” on internal documents that helped agency employees screen groups’ applications for tax-exempt status, according to IRS documents.

In other words, it was not a witch hunt for conservatives. They were looking for wrongdoing by pretty much anyone.

My favorite line comes next in the article:

The disclosure adds a dimension to the controversy surrounding IRS scrutiny of applications for tax exemptions.

Ya think? The “extra dimension,” by the way, is that this is not a scandal at all. The groups under scrutiny are supposed to be “promoting social welfare,” and it seems clear that many, if not most, are primarily partisan political action groups using the tax-exempt and donor-anonymous status illegitimately as a shield. Which is why any political leaning is a clue. The wrongdoing would have been if one type of group had been singled out over the others. This new information suggests that this was not the case.

Republicans like to ask, “What did Obama know and when did he know it?” the classic Watergate question. Now it becomes, “Did Darryl Issa and the Republicans know about this new information, and if so, when?”

Because there has been an egregious abuse of power culminating in a partisan political witch hunt—by Republicans, targeting Obama. That abuse of power, that string of lies, that waste of taxpayer money will never be investigated. And the media will likely allow this all to fizzle without fanfare, leaving a huge chunk of the American population to feel like there was something there, because it was not refuted as loudly or as clearly as it was accused.

It Long Ago Stopped Being About What Matters

May 17th, 2013 6 comments

Last Friday, Republicans leaked what they claimed were exact quotes from administration emails showing the alteration of talking points. The emails appeared to be somewhat damning, suggesting that “the changes suggest administration officials were interested in sparing the State Department from political criticism in the wake of the attack.”

One email leaked by Republicans, from Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Adviser to President Obama, read thus:

We must make sure that the talking points reflect all agency equities, including those of the State Department, and we don’t want to undermine the FBI investigation.

The problem? He didn’t write that. The administration released the actual emails today. In the email quoted above, the genuine quote is:

We need to resolve this in a way that respects all the relevant equities, particularly the investigation.

Just a wee bit different, wouldn’t you say?

Turns out that CBS, which received the leaked emails and reported them on May 10, were none too pleased at having been lied to. Their original report did not specify where they had gotten the emails.

This is a common game in D.C.: partisan players leak info damaging to the other side, but demand anonymity so that it won’t look like a partisan attack. The news agency reports the information without naming the biased source, thus presenting the appearance that the information is more trustworthy and not part of a political attack.

Except in this case, the release included intentionally faked information to make the administration look bad—meaning that Republicans hoodwinked CBS into making a false political smear against the administration.

So today, they not only noted the altered emails, they also revealed their source as having been Republicans.

Another alteration, this one of an email purportedly written by State Department Spokesman Victoria Nuland, read:

…and the penultimate point is a paragraph talking about all the previous warnings provided by the Agency [CIA] about al-Qaeda’s presence and activities of al-Qaeda…[which] could be abused by members of Congress to fault the State Department for not paying attention… so why would we want to cede that, either?

The actual email:

…and the penultimate point could be abused by Members to beat the State Department for not paying attention to Agency warnings, so why would we want to cede that, either?

The main point that Republicans are making is that the Obama administration altered information given to the public for political purposes. Which is exactly what the Republicans did here.

You might wonder, “Why is this at all important? The changes don’t seem too great, and it’s not as big an impact as the government misinforming the people in the midst of a presidential election.”

The answer is that, in the case of the administration reports before the election, it is virtually impossible that different reporting by the administration could have altered the election. After all, Republicans were making great hay about Benghazi in the final weeks of the election; had there been 100% perfect transmission of information from the administration from Day One, there would have been far less damage to the administration—and yet, despite the greater damage, Obama still won handily. In short, the impact of the claimed distortions was petty, at best.

On the other hand, Republicans would clearly love to impeach Obama over this controversy; failing that, they wish to damage Obama at least to the degree of derailing his political agenda and bringing even more gridlock and delay to government policies intended to repair the economy and fix the problems we face. In which case, faked information could have a substantially significant impact.

In the end, however, this entire affair comes down to nothing more than sordid and contemptible political game-playing—which means that facts have little impact on what will happen. It’s has moved from a matter of saying and doing things with meaning, to a reprehensible game of creating and fighting back against absurd partisan narratives.

We no longer have a functioning government. But then, that is hardly news.

UPDATE: New Headline!


The accusation against Mrs. Clinton drew a strong response from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R.—S. Carolina): “There’s been a concerted effort by Hillary Clinton to cover up her role in President Lincoln’s murder. She has said nothing about it. This is bigger than Watergate, the Cuban missile crisis, and the Second World War put together.”


December 22nd, 2012 4 comments

Shame on Obama for giving Republicans exactly what they want with Kerry as the new Secretary of State.

Far more shame for “America First” Republicans for engineering Kerry’s placement only so they can get a chance at a Senate seat.

I could forgive Obama if, as is likely, he actually believes that Kerry is the best person for the job—something that seems likely considering that he’ll be giving up something rather significant to get Kerry.

Republicans, however, are a completely different story. They are not trying to get the best person appointed. They are not trying to get someone more conservative nominated. They are doing all of this—to an extent, probably also fiercely opposing Chuck Hagel for Defense as well—for purely strategic and unprincipled political reasons.

We Were Panicking?

September 27th, 2012 1 comment

I don’t think so, but Jamelle Bouie and Bob Moser seem to think that in 2004, we liberals were doing the same thing about polls that conservatives are now:

Around this time in 2004, liberals were panicking. The Democratic nominee for president, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, was lagging behind George W. Bush, who appeared to be on his way to a second term. This was baffling, and not in a Pauline Kael kind of way. It wasn’t so much that liberals couldn’t imagine the person who would vote Bush—at the time, it wasn’t hard to find a Bush voter—but that conditions were terrible, and it was a stretch to believe that America would re-elect a president who brought the country into two messy wars and the most sluggish economy since WWII.

Obviously, these liberals decided, the problem was the polls. A cottage industry of liberal bloggers and pundits arose to explain how “biased” sampling had skewed the polls. If you weighted Republicans and Democrats correctly, they argued, then John Kerry would be ahead. But that was missing the point. Pollsters don’t weight the partisanship of the electorate in one way or another. They simply survey a large, randomly selected group of people, and report their party identification. If there are more Republicans than Democrats in a collection of samples, it’s because there are more Republicans than Democrats.

Bush won, as you might recall. One lesson that emerged: The party that complains about the polls is one that’s about to have an unhappy election night.

Bouie and Moser, conspicuously, don’t offer any evidence to support their point, nor do they go much into the details. I wondered at the idea that possibly, I could have been guilty of dissing the polls just like conservatives are now. Fortunately, it turns out that I have a blog and can go back and check this stuff out.

So, what was the “liberal cottage industry” in poll-bashing? Were we all panicking because the polls were not favoring us?

Turns out, no. We were suspicious of the polls because the polls showed impossibly varying results:

One really has to wonder if the polls mean anything this year. Ever since the Republican convention, they’ve been going nuts. Just a few days ago Harris had Kerry out in front by one point. But now Gallup comes up and says that Bush leads by fourteen points. No way both are true, or even close to agreeing upon anything. Other polls show similar discrepancies. Kerry is at 41% or at 48%, Bush at 46% or 54%.

This was around the same time that the “cottage industry” supposedly erupted. Ironically, this “liberal” conspiracy theory was suggested by Rasmussen itself!

Concern has been growing over the quick-and-dirty post-convention polls from TIME and Newsweek which show Bush enjoyed a double-digit bounce. Not so fast, though; Rasmussen polls, tracking the numbers day by day, see only a 4 to 5 point lead over Kerry, which is backed up by reports of internal poll numbers from both campaigns. Rasmussen attributes the discrepancy between TIME & Newsweek and the new numbers to the news magazines’ giving more weight to Republicans’ responses in the polling data; the L.A. Times, apparently, made the same mistake by counting too many Democrats when the paper reported a huge Kerry lead earlier in the year.

Rasmussen’s article is behind a paywall, but there’s a reprint of it here.

So, were liberals acting the same as conservatives today? Hell, no. Back in 2004, we saw polls varying wildly, and a professional polling firm, the one conservatives today love best, pointing to inaccurate sampling. We also noted polls leaning too far toward a Democratic bias as well.

Now, in 2012, there is no professional pollster making any such claim, and the polls do not vary nearly as much; conservatives are simply unhappy with the numbers, and are making up complete BS about how it’s all part of a liberal conspiracy, despite the numbers being more or less backed up by similar polls from Fox News and Rasmussen.

In short, Bouie and Moser didn’t look closely enough and got the facts wrong. I suspect that they simply wrote their article based on vague rememberings or secondhand reporting instead of actually checking out the exact genesis of the “panicking.”

Interestingly, they claim that the accuracy of the polls liberals complained about was confirmed by the fact that Bush won. However, the polls liberals complained about had Bush ahead by double digits, and the ones we believed in more had Bush ahead by 4 or 5 points—and Bush wound up winning the popular vote by 2.4%. In other words, the final results were leaning even more toward Kerry than our “conspiracy theories” suggested!

What we seem to have here is yet another case of false equivalency. Liberal questioning of the polls was based upon professional analysis and included balanced views later confirmed by election results. Conservative questioning of the polls is based on nothing but desperation on top of the usual layer of self-serving whacko drivel.

What It’s All About

July 16th, 2012 Comments off
The Christian Science Monitor, inadvertently, I believe, more or less made clear in their headline what Republicans are doing with their voter purges:

A victory for Republicans, Florida wins use of federal database to purge voters

The giveaway: it’s a victory for Republicans. Not for fair elections, not for democracy, not for the nation. It’s a political victory for a strategy to disenfranchise Democratic voters in an effort to illicitly win an election.

Not what the Monitor meant, I am sure, but I think that everybody pretty much knows it to be a fact. The thing is, if you’re a news agency, you can’t say what is obvious–because if you do, then you’re a stinking lame-stream liberal media elitist, and not a “real” journalist who understands that there are always two sides to any argument and you have to give equal credence to both sides, no matter how obviously stupid and corrupt one of them might be. Unless they’re Democrats, because they suck at demonizing journalists for saying bad things about them.

Romney and the NAACP

July 12th, 2012 6 comments

Romney goes to appear before the NAACP. The big story in all the news outlets? He gets booed. But is that the real story? Most news reports talk about the booing mostly, as well as scattered heckling among the crowd; few mention that he received an ovation after he finished speaking. Businessweek mentions the ovation in their article; however, their original headline, “Romney Gets Ovation at NAACP After Boos‎,” was quietly changed later to just “Romney Booed at NAACP During Speech Criticizing Obama.” Andrew Sullivan’s take: “But I think [Romney] gets points for showing up.”

I don’t think Romney should get points for anything but political game-playing. The media, meanwhile, deserves scorn for hyping that very game. Romney and Obama get booed and heckled at various events; why is it such a huge story when it happens to Romney at the NAACP, especially when such a thing is expected? And why go to such lengths to de-emphasize the positive responses, which are, after all, more noteworthy?

Consider when Bill O’Reilly interviewed sitting president Barack Obama in February 2011; O’Reilly was extremely disrespectful, interrupting Obama dozens of times (remember when a reporter interrupted Bush once, and Bush stopped and scolded the reporter?). Were the newspaper stories about O’Reilly’s behavior? Hell, no. The “liberal media” is scared witless at the prospect of reporting truth when it makes conservatives look bad or liberals good; they know they’ll get labeled “liberal” and will suffer for it. Playing into conservative stories, meanwhile, gets them no scorn and loses them no ratings.

Romney understands this; it’s why he was so flummoxed when a Fox reporter actually pitched him a few tough questions. It’s why he knows he can flip-flop like a dying fish and dispense outrageous lies and not have to answer much for it. The media will not call him on stuff like that.

As they will not call him for playing the NAACP as he did. Romney wanted to be booed there; that’s what gets him points. He obviously cannot say much of anything to that audience that will make them want to vote for him, so why appear? The answer is so he can stir up empathy, get people to respect him for his “bravery” in standing up to a hostile crowd, and as a bonus, he can make the people and the organization appear biased, unfriendly, and ungracious.

And he knew the press would lap it up; he even scheduled an interview at (of course) Fox News after the NAACP speech, so he could play up how he was poorly treated by those disrespectful people. His campaign is even openly saying that he expected to be booed, playing up the “telling it straight” courage line, while at the same time punctuating the “biased and disrespectful” NAACP angle.

It was a political play, and the NAACP essentially gave him exactly what he wanted. I think that if they hadn’t reacted badly to his hits against the ACA, he probably had lines ready to deliver which would be more likely to get booed.

Fast and Furious

June 29th, 2012 7 comments

This from the National Review Online:

And gun dealers who cooperated with the ATF report a shift in policy that coincided with Fast and Furious — from stopping sales and questioning customers, to telling store owners to just go ahead and sell the guns. While Fortune reports that the ATF had no chance to interdict the guns that might have killed Border Patrol agent Brian Terry — the shop that sold the guns informed the ATF that the transaction was suspicious, but it was a holiday weekend and the fax wasn’t seen for days — the gun store’s owner has said he was told in advance to go ahead and sell guns to people he normally wouldn’t. The entire Fortune piece seems to neglect the distinctions between probable cause for an arrest, the act of at least questioning people who are trying to buy guns illegally, and the ATF’s advice to store owners that they refuse to make any sale that they “doubt” is legal. A big part of Fast and Furious is that store owners were told to make illegal sales when the ATF couldn’t follow up on them or chose not to.

It occurs to me that there is a hypocrisy here much more significant than the fact that the general policy of “gunwalking” now called a horrific scandal and “Obama’s Watergate” started under the Bush administration (named “Operation Wide Receiver” in 2006).

The hypocrisy lies in the fact that, were conservatives allowed their way, no gun sales would be under any scrutiny at all. They are the ones who object to background checks or other federal restrictions–but now, apparently, seem to be on the gun control side?


Categories: Political Game-Playing Tags:

Last-Minute Tactic?

July 29th, 2011 2 comments

Today, Boehner delayed the debt-ceiling/budget vote, likely because he can’t get enough GOP votes to pass it.

There seem to be three possibilities: (1) he doesn’t get the votes, makes a deal with the Dems even less to his liking but all Dems will agree and enough Republicans will go along to pass it; (2) he sways enough Republicans to get the votes; or, (3) he waits until the last second before the ceiling will expire, then pushes through a thoroughly Republican plan that Obama will have to either accept or else the national economy will be crushed.

Why do I suspect that (3) is most likely? Certainly, (1) seems impossible.

I hope I am wrong. But then, right now, I am at the stage where all of the plans look stupid–with Democrats suggesting deep cuts with no Bush tax repeal for the wealthy, I am seeing even the best-case scenario being one where this passes and I have to wait for the media to realize that this was another of Obama’s things where it looked like he caved but actually got more of what he wanted than the other side did. Frankly, I don’t see it, though.

It’s Simple

July 15th, 2011 1 comment

Romney holds Obama responsible for the entire budget/debt crisis Republicans have manufactured, claiming that Obama could end it any time he wants:

“It is within the president’s power to say to the leadership in the house and the senate that ‘I’ll cut spending, I’ll cap the amount of spending, and I’ll pursue a balanced budget amendment,’ and if the president were to do that this whole debt limit problem goes away.”

Of course, since Republicans won’t agree to any tax hike (except on the poor or struggling small businesses because they’re slackers who aren’t contributing), and will never agree to cutting defense, basically this means that all Obama has to do is either dismantle Medicare or Social Security, or else reduce both significantly. And take all the blame for it.

See? All Obama has to do is abandon all his principles, betray his party, fall on his sword, and give in on every single demand the Republicans are making. Simple! He can end this any time he wants to! And if he doesn’t, we threaten to run the U.S. economy over a cliff and take the world economy with it.

It is truly difficult to figure out which is the most outrageously inflated–the Republicans’ gall, idiocy, obstinacy, ego, or rank dishonesty. All are stunning in their magnificence.

The Politics of Hostage-Taking

May 17th, 2011 4 comments

Republicans are seriously threatening to let the debt ceiling expire, something which would have dire consequences for the U.S. and world economies. In response, Obama should give them nothing. Nada. Not a penny. Not even a kind word.

Frankly, the whole GOP romance with Hostage politics is getting more than just a little too unnerving. They were obnoxious over taxes, threatening to deny everyone a tax cut unless the rich got one too–and Obama caved. The GOP won the battle, and discovered that they could take hostages and Obama would fold. So then they threatened a government shutdown, and, predictably, Obama played footsie with them; even though he wound up giving them very little in the end, the impression was that he played ball, and that the GOP either got something, or came close.

Almost immediately after that, the GOP, emboldened from the apparent success of their hostage-taking so far, announced they had two more hostages: Medicare and the Debt Ceiling.

This is why you don’t deal with hostage-takers: if you give them a cookie, they’ll want a glass of milk. It’s too easy to take hostages, and there’s no end to their supply. Obama dealt with the GOP when it demanded ransom, and lo, just days later, they produced brand-new hostages.

Medicare, so far, has come back to bite them in the ass. They continue to vacillate between saying that they’re not going to do it, and threatening to go all the way. You get the feeling that (1) they want to do it, (2) they know that it would be politically damaging, but (3) they believe they can use it as a huge bargaining chip to get other things they want. The Democrats actually are on pretty strong ground here, and know that they can use the Medicare plan to hurt Republicans in next year’s election. As a hostage, it’s kind of a loser because it would be harder for Republicans to harm it.

The Debt Ceiling, however, is something else. It is more like the government shutdown, in that Republicans actually have the power to make it happen by withholding a vote. But the debt ceiling is like the government shutdown on steroids. Steroids from hell. Seriously, this could wreck the economy–but the Republicans are holding it back like it’s a dessert they want to withhold to punish a recalcitrant child.

Obama has got to stand firm on the debt ceiling thing. He has to call the Republican’s bluff. Dealing with the Republicans when they threatened to shut down the government was bad enough; it brought about the current crises, and if Obama continues to deal with them, the GOP will keep on doing this, and every few months we’ll have another situation where the GOP is threatening to destroy some aspect of America in order to get what they want.

Another reason Obama should not give an inch is that the debt ceiling, unlike the government shutdown, is not something the GOP can pin on Obama. The GOP can’t let the debt ceiling go unchanged and then tell Americans that the president wrecked the economy. And if they do let this go, it won’t be like the government shutdown, which is bad–it would be completely disastrous. Republicans would have to be a hundred times more stupid and crazy than they could possibly be to make this happen. The GOP would be literally committing suicide if they ran the economy into the ground over political game-playing.

Obama will be pressured, though; he may think or people may tell him that he has to do something. And that is true, in that he has to appear before the American people and tell them that the GOP is out of bounds on this one. That the debt ceiling is not a bargaining chip, it is not something you hold hostage, and that in all good conscience, there is no way on earth that he will budge on this one, and that if the Republicans have decided to wreck the economy, there’s nothing he can do about it.

That Obama seems to be unwilling to do is stupid. This is not a choice for him, unless he wants to face this situation every other week. If Obama really wants to keep playing the “I’m reasonable, I’m not partisan, so I’ll talk to them regardless of what they’re doing” game, then he’s an idiot. He has to draw the line in the sand.

Otherwise, a week or two after he makes some sort of deal with the GOP, yet another hostage–or three–will materialize, and we’ll be back at square one. Because when the GOP sees that destructive behavior wins them something, they make it a standard practice, like they did with obstructionism and blazingly hypocritical partisan attacks.

Obama has to make clear to the GOP that they cannot simply print free currency like this, like a child demanding a toy or else he’ll use his baseball bat to destroy something else in the house. It was bad enough when the brat threatened to bash in the TV set, but now he’s saying he’s going to take it to grandma’s head.

Time to take the baseball bat out of his hand and teach the little snot a lesson he’ll never forget.

Amendment Games

May 12th, 2011 1 comment

For a party that not only claims to love the Constitution so much, but to honor and respect it the way it was (in their opinion) originally drafted, conservatives sure love to push amendment after amendment, trying to reshape the document to line up with their current party platform. The latest: give states veto power over the federal government. If two-thirds of the states don’t like a federal law, they can send it back to Congress.

Now, this seems just a little bit redundant to me; after all, the people who vote for those state legislatures are the exact same people who vote for the Congressional representatives.

Of course, a lot of this is simply playing to the base; in conservative circles, there is a newfound love of states’ rights (which conservatives immediately and unabashedly ignore when states try to do stuff like legalize marijuana or or pass right-to-die legislation), and so a PR stunt (bound to fail, and even if not, it would be a horrible mess to put into practice) which would play up the states would play nicely in campaign commercials next year.

However, when conservatives propose Constitution amendments, it is often based upon short-term interests, like when they wanted to repeal citizenship requirements for the presidency because they were excited about running Schwarzenegger as the party’s candidate.

So I have to wonder: would they be introducing this amendment, even with it bound to fail, if it were Democrats and not Republicans who controlled a majority of state legislatures?

Categories: Political Game-Playing Tags:

Republicans Trying to Have & Eat Medicare Cake and Not Gain Weight

May 6th, 2011 Comments off

This is kind of funny. Republicans are trying to sloooowly back away from their whole “let’s destroy Medicare and say we’re saving it” plan. Apparently they didn’t do nearly as good a job of masking their intentions as they thought they were, and are really feeling the backlash, especially from town hall attendees. After all but six of them in the House voting to pass this legislation, Obama & the Democrats have had a field day–simply by pointing out exactly what the Republicans were doing. No exaggeration necessary. Funny thing, it turns out people don’t like the idea.

What’s funny is that they seem to know it’s political suicide, but they can’t seem to completely abandon the idea, either. Most of the Republican mixed-message scrambling is journaled here, but it boils down to the idea that they want to (a) blame Obama for making it look bad, (b) take it off the active agenda at least until after the 2012 elections where it could really hurt them, but (c) nevertheless somehow keep it “on the table” so they can use it as an extreme starting point from which to negotiate what they like (which is probably what they expected it would be used for from the start). Like the actions of some neurotic binge & purge dieter, it’s an interesting mix of “blame Obama,” “we’re not doing it,” and “but we still want to use it anyway.”

Democrats are being smart about this for once. They’re effectively saying, “until you say you’re abandoning it completely, we get to tell the public you stand behind gutting Medicare.” And it’s working.

Blaming vs. Fixing

April 27th, 2011 Comments off

Republicans are eager to blame Obama as much as possible for high gas prices. Boehner, however, messed up when he reflexively tried to defend huge government subsidies for energy corporations already making obscene profits. Obama and the Dems want to target those subsidies as a way to help balance the budget. Good for them.

Boehner hits back that socking the energy corps won’t cut gas prices:

If someone in the administration can show me that raising taxes on American energy production will lower gas prices and create jobs, then I will gladly discuss it. But since nobody can, and the president’s letter to Congress today doesn’t, this is merely an attempt to deflect from the policies of the past two years.

He’s hoping, of course, that nobody will notice that not eliminating the subsidies would have any better an effect–energy corporations don’t need an excuse to hike prices–or that it wasn’t liberal policies that brought up gas prices either. In fact, I am pretty sure that perhaps the only government actions that could bring energy costs down are price controls or stricter regulation of speculation–neither of which I bet Boehner would support.

It looks, however, like Obama is aiming for possibly the better practical policy (if way too little and late): regulation of speculation, elimination of unneeded subsidies, and investment in alternate energy sources. All of which, of course, Republicans will object to. They will instead wish to invest all possible resources into (1) putting even more money into the pockets of big oil, and (2) blaming Obama and the Democrats for everything. Because whining and blaming is so much easier than actually fixing stuff.