Category Archives: Republicans

Republicans in Congress are not preventing Obama from devising a coherent foreign policy

Somebody suggested to me recently that if not for Republicans in Congress, President Obama would have a coherent and consistent foreign policy, one that would perhaps have included a long-term plan for post-Gaddafi Libya. Never mind, apparently, that the President has two quite large institutions and several smaller but still substantial ones, all headed by persons of his own choosing, to help him out on that front.

The occasion was a post by the always vivid Charlie Pierce at Esquire, reacting to a somewhat disjointed critique of the President by New Hampshire senator and Lindsey Graham mini-me, Kelly Ayotte. Ayotte is concerned that the President may have taken up the cudgel against ISIS for electoral purposes, and that once those are achieved (or not), he’ll back off from the fight and leave the other players to their own devices. By way of precedent, she mentioned the chaos in Libya, where the President participated in the destruction of the previous order without giving a lot of apparent thought to the following one. Pierce thought Ayotte was presumptuous to criticize the President. I thought Ayotte was beside the point, the point being that she may well be right. In any event this would seem a good opportunity to review the hot-spot foreign policy of this President.
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Torturers, looters and oligarchs let their freak flags fly

The people who variously collapsed the economy, bought the political process and brought torture into polite society are tired of your disrespect and they’re not afraid to let you know it.

The latest in the parade of former Bush administration officials and CIA personnel to come in from the cold the suburbs and either defend or brag about their roles in the Bush torture regimen is psychologist James Mitchell, the prominent member of the helping professions who is credited with having designed the procedures used by the CIA to torture prisoners and is supposed to have tortured at least one prisoner himself. In an interview with The Guardian, Mitchell said “I’m just a guy who got asked to do something for his country by people at the highest level of government, and I did the best that I could.” Mitchell follows in the footsteps of former Vice President Dick Cheney and others who say the times required torture and the results justify it, and anyway it wasn’t torture.

In some circumstances, in some countries, admitting to having not just devised torture procedures but practicing them as well would land one in hot water. In the US, however, torturers have a very prominent advocate for letting bygones be bygones: the current President. In 2009, when he ordered the release of the documents the Bush administration’s legal team wrote to retroactively and prospectively justify torture, President Obama said that “[i]n releasing these memos, it is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution.”
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All across America, insurance company executives and insurance commissioners are doing spit takes

(Updated 11/14/2013)

Obamacare: despise it or hate it, it’s now the law of the land and we all need to accept it and make it … wait, what’s that? The President just changed the law? Okay then.

As you know, people and Republicans have been making a big noise, first about the continuing web site enrollment woes, and then about insurance company customers who are getting cancellation notices for their insurance policies after the President emphatically said for three years that “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan.” (You most likely couldn’t keep your plan but in fairness to the President, he probably thought nobody would want to.) In response to this less than joyful noise, the administration has come up with an administrative fix that they think will put the screws to the insurance companies they blame for the mess, but is almost certain to backfire: they’re allowing insurers to reinstate the cancelled plans if the various state insurance commissioners permit it.
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Lickspittles, Poltroons and Slubberdegullions

Referring, obviously, to congressional Democrats who wish to further reduce food stamp benefits and to cast a Nixon spell on the NSA, rendering all its predations lawful. The latter would be Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-NSA), who is expressing her outrage over the eavesdropping on allies by writing legislation that fully legitimates spying on citizens, and the former a host of other Democrats whose starting point in the negotiations about the SNAP program (food stamps) is a $4 billion cut on top of the $5 billion lost as the stimulus ends.
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Famous political scandals of the past as they might have been reported by ABC’s Intrepid Jonathan Karl

As everyone knows, Obama administration dirty tricks operative Ben Gazzy was caught slipping Muslim DNA into the refreshing chilled Thorazine-based breakfast shakes enjoyed by stalwart Congressional Republicans. The administration immediately disavowed any knowledge and responsibility for the affair but the remaining alert Republicans are having none of that.

The administration’s stonewall was holding firm until Intrepid Jonathan Karl, the stalwart political reporter at broadcast news leader ABC, obtained secret emails that had been shown to Congressional Republicans several months ago to no effect. Karl reported that the emails, when subjected to his special stalwart scrutiny, revealed that Obama administration officials not only knew about Ben Gazzy’s dirty tricks, but had supplied him with the Muslim DNA in question. (Reportedly perhaps Osama bin Laden’s! Prove it wasn’t!)

Later developments showed that Intrepid Jonathan Karl had not actually seen any emails and that the plot didn’t exist. Nevertheless, IJ Karl and broadcast news leader ABC stand by his reporting. Or if not by it, exactly, somewhere in the general vicinity of it although with enough distance between them that a cautious witness would hesitate to swear under oath that they were together.

This got us to thinking: what if Intrepid Jonathan Karl had been the reporter breaking other famous political scandals. What would that look like? Glad we asked!

Jonathan Karl interprets the Army-McCarthy hearings through the lens of a source in the McCarthy camp:
ABC news logo McCarthy Vindicated

Jonathan Karl interprets Watergate through the lens of an Oval Office source:
ABC news logo jon karl reports watergate

Jonathan Karl interprets the runup to the invasion of Iraq through the lens of a Bush Administration source:
ABC news logo jon karl reports iraq

Use the hashtag #jonkarlreports to add your own Jonathan Karl interpretations of past scandals to Twitter.

This is why Democrats can’t have nice things

I’ve now read two opinion pieces, one by Charlie Pierce at Esquire last week and another by Jamelle Bouie at The American Prospect today, saying that the failure of various gun control measures proves that presidential leadership doesn’t work. They’re writing to defend President Obama from charges that he doesn’t use his position effectively to lobby for legislation he wants.

Both writers cited the speeches Obama has made and events he attended in the months since the massacre of innocents at Newtown. The number of these speeches and events can be described as a handful, as can the number of months since Newtown.  What Pierce and Bouie are saying, then, is that the President, with a handful of speeches and events during a handful of months, failed to overcome a deeply entrenched and effective gun lobby, and this proves that previous criticism of his lack of leadership is bunkum, that presidents, particularly ones facing the kind of opposition this one does, simply don’t have the power and influence to sway public opinion and legislator’s votes.

Part of the failure, which really shouldn’t be described as failure until the President gives up, is Harry Reid’s. The background check measure that was filibustered to death today would have passed, with a few Republicans voting “yes” and a few Democrats “no,” had Reid reined in the filibuster when he had the chance.

The other part of the failure can be laid at the feet of Pierce and Bouie and anyone else who thinks stumping for some legislation for a few months and giving up if you lose constitutes leadership. If the President keeps working for it and gun control proponents in Congress bring this legislation up repeatedly during this session and the next, and it still doesn’t pass, then we can talk. If he doesn’t keep at it, then it wasn’t leadership but a passing enthusiasm.

Republicans don’t give up this easily. They bring up the stupidest and nastiest ideas in the form of legislation every day they can for decades until they get what they want. Bush George-un worked his ass off, in his own way, on behalf of the Iraq invasion, campaigning for it almost daily for more than a year, sending out every recognizable name in his administration with every manner of lie, working the press like a geisha — a favor returned in spades — even when he was on vacation until he got a majority of legislators and ultimately a public majority to back him. That was leadership. He should be painting his little doggie portraits in a cell in the Hague because of it, but it was leadership.

If Democrats brought up Medicare-for-all legislation every year for 40 years, even when they were the minority, campaigned on it, built think tanks around it, I’m pretty sure we would have Medicare for all right now. Instead, we have comically low official tax rates for rich people and comically low effective ones for huge, profitable corporations, and a continuing erosion of social welfare and social insurance programs. This is not coincidence.

The President seems genuinely put out by the fate of the background check measure. I hope he doesn’t read what Pierce wrote — which includes, not for the first time, the sentiment that Obama is too good for America — and what Bouie wrote, and instead takes for his example people like James Brady and Gabrielle Giffords, who intend to keep trying despite suffering the effects of having been shot in the head, which is worse than not getting your way on some legislation that you put a few months of effort into.

Mr. Pierce, Mr. Bouie: grow up.

Rand Paul: Genius. Nitwit. Post-racial Statesman

The number of actual Libertarians in Congress is the same as the number of actual Arcturans in Congress, as far as we know; if there are any of either, they’re not open about it. Most congressional Libertarians espouse a philosophy of government under which everyone — corporations, powerful reactionary white guys, women, liberals, people of color, whoever — will be free to do whatever the corporations and powerful reactionary white guys want.

Rand Paul, a sometime Libertarian who is so blindingly white that he splits into a rainbow when you hold a prism up to him, decided to take the new Republican outreach plan seriously and hied himself off to Howard University to reach out to some tinted folk and suggest reasons why they might want to vote Republican in the future. Predictably, he pancaked the landing. Giving full rein to his inner nitwit, he wondered if his audience knew that Republicans were among the founders of the NAACP; or, to put it another way, he wondered aloud if the students populating an elite academic institution steeped in African-American history might not be some ignorants. (Probably through an oversight, he didn’t remark that W.E.B. DuBois, among the most prominent founders of the NAACP, was a Socialist, or suggest that this might be a reason for Howard students to consider voting Socialist in the future.) He couldn’t remember the name of the first popularly elected African-American senator. And he couldn’t remember that he opposed a seminal feature of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It’s safe to say that nobody who wasn’t already a Republican — a number probably including only Paul and his entourage — left the hall inclined to give the GOP a shot.

Also predictable, and representative of Rand Paul’s genius, was the enormous amount of publicity the speech garnered in the incestuous circles of the Washington press and the liberal press, which, no, are not the same although they attend many of the same parties. Some people, Paul among them, lauded the Senator for having the courage to go all the way to Washington, D.C. and expose himself as a white man to a large gathering of people of color. (Bill Clinton will be taking the same risk next month when he delivers a commencement speech there but so far he’s not getting the same credit for his courage.) Other people condemned the people who lauded Paul’s courage because the only reason Republicans talking to persons not of a blinding whiteness might require courage is that the Republican carry-on bag has 50 years of calculatedly malign attitudes toward people of color in it, which is a fair point.

(Andrew Sullivan is among the people crediting Paul and bemoaning the gracelessness of Paul’s liberal critics. I mention this only because if Justice were an actual thing, Andrew Sullivan would be condemned for his sins to life driving Tom Friedman around and around the world in a gypsy cab, forever receiving anecdotal advice in lieu of the tip, forbidden from picking up any passengers other than David Brooks and Joe Klein, who would themselves be forbidden from catching any other cab. This is not happening; ergo, Justice is not an actual thing.)

I should note that even though praising Rand Paul is kapu for liberals, whether for this escapade or the Brennan filibuster or any other — because unlike any Democrats he holds many reprehensible positions — he’s following the playbook of conservative apostate Bruce Bartlett, who does get love from liberals and has written a book detailing how Republicans can recapture the Negro vote by, among other things, explaining how once Republicans were the party of tolerance and Democrats were racists. I thought this was a joke when somebody mentioned it in passing, but it isn’t and Bartlett is proud of his work. (I once asked the usually communicative Bartlett if he had happened to run his thesis past any black folk when he was writing the book but he never answered me.)

Which is to say that when he went to Howard, Rand Paul was going by the book. Here’s my question, though: how many Democrats, when faced with the what-have-you-done-for-us-lately question that tripped up Rand Paul along with his assumption that black students at a historically black university would be ignorant of black history, would fare a lot better? What, for instance, would Steny Hoyer, the one-time Democratic majority leader in the House and a reliable corporate toady, say to lure black voters to the Democratic party if they had anywhere else to go?


Who’s afraid of Rand Paul?

Ralph Emerson said that a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. He meant that it’s silly to stick to one’s guns in the face of overwhelming evidence that the guns are wrongly aimed. He said it over drinks in a tavern at a table full of the finest minds of his generation. The first question from among his companions was “Are you talking to me?” The second was, more or less, “Who says who’s a fool?” It was the beginning of deconstruction as a critical discipline.

rand paul mitch mcconnellRand Paul is the junior senator from Kentucky, the one of the two who doesn’t look like a turtle. He is the son of Ron Paul, retired Republican Representative from Texas and permanent candidate for president of the US. He is named after a South African gold coin*; when he was born, his father bit him and declared him genuine; he bears the scar proudly. Like his father, he sometimes flies the Libertarian flag. Like his father, it is a flag of convenience. Like his father, he will never be president of the US. He will one day become the senior Senatuh from Kentuckeh, wearing white suits and declaiming from a veranduh for fun when the Senate is out of session. When imagining him as a Marx brother, it is best to think of Harpo**.

Rand Paul and Harpo MarxAlso like his father, Rand Paul collects adherents from across the linear political spectrum. He won election by running to the right of his conventionally far-right Republican primary opponent, but his grammar school libertarian stances on some issues also attract people who think of themselves as liberals or leftists, or left-ish anyway.

This drives more traditional liberals crazy. We saw this recently when he filibustered Obama’s nominee for CIA director, John Brennan. If you wanted to invent a symbol for torture and kidnapping and drones and stuff, you could do worse than a photo of John Brennan, at least if anybody knew who he was. He is not a civil libertarian’s dream. Neither is Rand Paul, but he decided to filibuster Brennan because something about drones. Nobody else in the Senate has said or done anything splashy about drones, so people who are concerned about them — and let’s be clear, drones are really shorthand for the sense that the Obama administration have evidently decided they can kill anybody, anywhere, because whatever, whether or not drones are the instrument — got really excited and said kind things about Rand Paul, like “Hurray! Rand Paul is filibustering drones!”

Had any Democrat done something similar, and earlier, the liberals worried about drones would have reacted just the same or possibly with even more enthusiasm. But Democrats didn’t do anything. An appropriate response from liberals who don’t like Rand Paul and don’t like the administration’s killing practices, of which Brennan seems to have been an architect, would have been to say “Why do we have to wait for fucking Rand Paul to bring this up in the Senate?” And then maybe berate some Democratic Senators and urge them to filibuster Brennan as well, or at least vote against him.

Instead, they went berserk about people supporting Rand Paul who had no business supporting Rand Paul because he’s something of a nitwit and something of a reactionary. “Rand Paul is a reactionary,” they said. “He is a nitwit. He is inconsistent. Only imbeciles would support him.” And the supporters, many of whom probably didn’t know that Rand Paul is a nitwit or a reactionary, said “Well maybe, but drones, and John Brennan, and civil liberties!” And then Democrats voted en masse to confirm Brennan and the excitement over drones faded but for whatever reason, the excitement over Rand Paul has endured.

But why? As has been scientifically proved above, Rand Paul will never be president. So why must liberals who support him be excoriated and condescended to by people who routinely support Obama, he of John Brennan (using Brennan as a symbol there, see how that works?) and Social Security cuts and backdoor tax increases on the working poor? Obviously they — the excoriaters and condescenders — see Rand Paul, in the flesh or as a type, as a threat, but to what?

mccarthy cruzNo, really. I don’t know why Rand Paul threatens institutional liberals. Ted Cruz, that I could understand; Ted Cruz is a scary son of a mother. While liberals who support Obama are yelling at liberals who support Rand Paul, Ted Cruz (shown at left in his previous and current incarnations) will sneak up behind them all and slit their throats and collect their Social Security checks and cash them to fund his presidential campaigns. But Rand Paul? I don’t get it.

*Some people say he is named after an adulterous, pro-abortion atheist who wrote turgid political novels and loathed Ronald Reagan, but that’s an obvious attempt to smear either Ayn Rand or Rand Paul.

**All respect to Harpo, man, sorry I had to drag you into this.

Bobbing for sharks with Orange John Boehner

John Boehner’s next job could be as a safety buoy bobbing gently in the waters of the Fiscal Shoals, warning off the unwary. (“These are not tears,” he will say with a sad little smile; “it’s only the life-giving waters of the sea in my eyes.”) If he falls, he’ll likely give way to one among the group of 40-something white guys who call themselves The Young Guns, which right there gives you multiple insights into some of the things troubling the Grand Old Party.

House and Senate staff members will take an 8.2% pay cut if their bosses don’t get a tax and deficit deal done before the end of the first federal pay period in 2013. Collectively, the staff are looking at more than $100 million in cuts for the year. Possibly this will have an impact on the negotiations. Their bosses, who included themselves among America’s Warriors and others so valuable or vulnerable as to warrant protection from any budget reductions, face a 0% cut (although their foreign currency conversion allowance will take a brutal hit). Even John Boehner will still get paid despite demonstrating live on national television that he can’t do the job for which he draws a larger pay check than anyone else in the House.

(“Who should get pay cuts?” “Well, let’s start with the obvious: not us. VA nurses first.”)
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Free trade, terracotta candidates and cardboard bicycles

The giant sucking sound Ross Perot wants you to hear these days is him endorsing Mitt Romney on the basis of Romney’s presumed fiscally responsible policies. Perot, who wasn’t born yesterday, posits that history began in 2009 and says experts support Romney’s contention that the mome raths outgrabe.

Democrats, meanwhile, are shocked, shocked! that the company Romney once owned and still profits from is outsourcing jobs to China in a particularly callous fashion — requiring American workers at Sensata, an auto parts maker, to conclude their own employment by training their Chinese replacements. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin (who recently declined to sign a letter pledging to block Social Security cuts) is joining Sensata workers today in a show of solidarity.
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