Saturday, February 28, 2009


Michelle Malkin on the various anti-stimulus "tea parties," none of which seems to draw more than 600 people:

I joked to a Christian Science Monitor reporter covering the events that fiscal responsibility is the new counterculture....

There is, as the old '60s song goes, something happening here. And what it is, is very clear: A grass-roots revolt against the culture of entitlement.

Michelle, at least try to pretend you want this out of principle, not because you developed powerful pangs of jealousy after renting Hair from Netflix.

By the way, I'm still waiting for one of these tea parties to top a few hundred in attendance. Malkin's reports always cite cold or rain as an excuse for small crowds wherever it's, um, cold or rainy, but the crowds in warmer, sunnier climes don't seem to be any bigger.

... Oh, but a tech blog of the L.A. Times says that's OK because the "tea parties" are "massively-shared" -- a euphemism for "very well attended if you count people sitting on their asses while watching on a screen." I'm reminded -- in a kicky, modern, Web 2.0 kinda way -- of Father Guido Sarducci's souvenir button in response to Pope John Paul's 1979 U.S. tour. Remember? The real buttons sold at the Pope's appearances read, "I Got a Peek at the Pope," but Father Guido's button said, "I Saw the Pope on TV."

And speaking of Saturday Night Live, I see from the L.A. Times report that one of the speakers at L.A.'s "tea party" was Victoria Jackson. Good choice, "party" planners! She, of course, is the astute political observer who wrote this last fall on her Web site:

I don't want a political label, but Obama bears traits that resemble the anti- Christ....

You see, what bothers me most, besides that he is a Communist, and a whitey- hater, (although he is half white), is that he is a LIAR. He pretends to be a Christian and he incriminates himself everytime he speaks about Christianity. To lie about being a believer in Christ is very dangerous. Lightning could strike him at any minute!

Reading that again gives me a renewed appreciation for the subtle, nuanced, Burkean ruminations of Joe the Plumber. Yeah, kids, if you're building a movement, you definitely want to put folks like Victoria Jackson front and center, for the insta-credibilty it confers.

Friday, February 27, 2009


I see that Bobby Jindal's spokeswoman has issued a clarification: his story about the boats, which he said on Tuesday night happened "during Katrina," didn't actually happen during Katrina, i.e., not while the hurricane was ravaging his state. His spokeswoman now says it actually took place days later. (Talking Points Memo and Daily Kos diarist xgz have established that Jindal wasn't in the affected area during the storm.)

I told you on Tuesday night that Jindal has told this story a lot, and that it has evolved over time, but I left you to read my links for the excerpts. Here are those excerpts. Notice that there's no sheriff (and no direct exposure to the complaints by Jindal) in the 2007 version, and that Jindal and the sheriff don't offer to get themselves arrested in the 2008 versions. Notice, also, that Jindal in 2007 and 2008 never said the incidents took place while the storm was raging.

Ouachita Citizen, August 29, 2007:

"A lot of foolish things happened following the storm," Jindal said. "We all remember the horror stories.

"People were still in the water. Numerous heroes rushed down with boats to rescue them, but then the bureaucrats got involved. They said if you don't have proof of registration and insurance, you're not allowed to go into the water.

"People were drowning, and they were worried about paperwork. Look, if I'm drowning, I don't care if you steal the boat, I hope you come and get me."

Rush Limbaugh radio show, February 8, 2008:

I witnessed the frustration of the local law enforcement officials. At one point, volunteers were rushing in boats, to come and pick up people out of the water. Some bureaucrat decided that they couldn't go in the water -- turned away even sheriff's deputies because he said they didn't have the right paperwork. He said if you don't bring proof of insurance and registration, you can't go in the water to rescue. That is the kind of inane absurdity of the bureaucracy.

Human Events, 5/22/08:

Jindal told me, "There are thousands of these stories. I talked to a sheriff in an area where they had people with boats that were ready to go in the water and rescue people and they were turned away because they didn't have proof of registration and insurance, they didn't bring the right paperwork. The bureaucracy was just awful."

Tuesday night's speech:

During Katrina, I visited Sheriff Harry Lee, a Democrat and a good friend of mine. When I walked into his makeshift office I'd never seen him so angry. He was yelling into the phone: 'Well, I'm the Sheriff and if you don't like it you can come and arrest me!' I asked him: 'Sheriff, what's got you so mad?' He told me that he had put out a call for volunteers to come with their boats to rescue people who were trapped on their rooftops by the floodwaters. The boats were all lined up ready to go - when some bureaucrat showed up and told them they couldn't go out on the water unless they had proof of insurance and registration. I told him, 'Sheriff, that's ridiculous.' And before I knew it, he was yelling into the phone: 'Congressman Jindal is here, and he says you can come and arrest him too!' Harry just told the boaters to ignore the bureaucrats and start rescuing people.
(non-CPAC division)

From today (click to enlarge):

Yeah, right -- because only faggy wussy girly-men get up on ladders to hang curtains, not, um, a fairly large percentage of the Dads in America (possibly after being asked several times).

By the way, Laura Bush just gave an interview to ABC, and, judging from a shot about midway through the video at the link, Bush is still That Guy:

Yeah, Obama got photographed in a bike helmet last year (and launched a thousand think pieces as a result). But Obama wasn't wearing yellow shades. That's where the self-delusions about coolness and machismo really kick in.

Last night I criticized a post in which Ann Althouse made the ridiculous assertion that it's racist to compare Bobby Jindal to a white TV character. But I have to acknowledge that, like Althouse, I rolled my eyes at a passage from this New Republic article about Barack Obama by Michelle Cottle:

Biracial heritage aside, Obama is a black man. And, in this country, black men have long had the edge on cool.... [A]s a thought exercise, imagine Obama as a white politician. Wonky, overeducated, idealistic, unflappable, reform-minded, big into basketball, articulate but without the lyrical echoes of the African American pulpit -- far from being brother cool, Obama would be ex-senator turned failed presidential candidate Bill Bradley.

Er ... no.

I once saw Bill Bradley trying to work a crowd here on the Upper West Side. He seemed bone-tired, hobbled, and old (he was only in his fifties). His height didn't confer stature -- he slumped; I'd compare him to the "Middle-Aged Man" character Mike Meyers played a few times on Saturday Night Live. Forget Obama -- by contrast, Chuck Schumer, whom I saw around the same time also pressing flesh, was a bundle of energy, a pumped-up happy warrior who connected with the crowd.

Cottle's point is that Obama's a nerd, but he's also exceedingly cool, primarily because being black compels one to become cool. But Eric Holder isn't cool. Alan Keyes isn't cool. Deval Patrick doesn't seem to be particularly cool. And that's fine. Michael Steele keeps desperately trying to be cool, and he just isn't. And he should stop, because he shouldn't be required to be cool (even though that's one reason why -- or at least he seems to think that's one reason why -- he got the gig).

Yes, Obama draws on black style -- but that's hardly the sole source of his charisma. Obama just has "it" -- as Kennedy did, and as (though Cottle disagrees) Bill Clinton did. Obama has a thousand-watt smile. Bill Bradley has, er, a one-watt smile at best.

One of these things is not like the other.

No one really knows what charisma is, but it has something to do, I think, with a combination of ease and pleasure in one's own competence. I think I've mentioned this before, but I once got to see Bill Clinton in a crowd answering questions -- the one I heard at length was about, of all things, tax policy for accounting firms -- and he was in the zone, weighing the question from several angles and rattling off perfectly formed off-the-cuff sentences, without breaking a sweat. The crowd hung on every word. He clearly loved thinking and reasoning and persuading, knew he was good at it, and the crowd ate it up. You have this or you don't have it.

This is one reason I was exasperated back in '07 when David Ehrenstein wrote his "Magic Negro" op-ed about Barack Obama. Voters regularly look for a sense that a candidate has a magic touch -- and Obama's hardly the first politician they thought had that touch. (Hell, I'm willing to grant that George W. Bush had a bit of it -- he needed a solid speech and a huge, 100% worshipful crowd, but when all the minimum requirements were met, as they were throughout the '04 campaign, he connected in a way his base found charismatic. And Sarah Palin crowds sure don't turn out for the deep thought.) It's charisma. Whatever "it" is, high melanin levels aren't a prerequisite.

Ann, Alan, Rush -- carry on if you must, but the GOP and movement conservatism can go on without you, because everyone in the movement now is one or more of you. You've spread your gospel far and wide.

Jokey eliminationism? Who needs Coulter? Here's John Bolton (and his cheering crowd):

This morning, former U.N. ambassador John Bolton spoke to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). He tried to up the fear quotient in the room by raising the prospect of an Iranian-sent nuclear attack on an American city. "It's [a] tiny [threat] compared to the Soviet Union," Bolton said, "but is the loss of one American city — pick one at random: Chicago -- is that a tiny threat?" The audience erupted in cheers and laughter at the idea of Obama's home city being obliterated.

Keyes? Who needs him for conspiracy craziness? Here's Cliff Kincaid of Accuracy in Media (and, again, an adoring crowd):

Earlier this afternoon, Cliff Kincaid, head of a conservative group Accuracy in Media, introduced Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN). Kincaid suggested that President Obama is a communist, then suggested Obama was not born in the United States -- to which the crowd cheered wildly.

And everyone leading Republican -- Bobby Jindal, Michael Steele, Mark Sanford, Palin, Cantor, Boehner -- is Limbaugh now, obviously.

Is the Republican Party even a political party anymore? What I mean is, political parties actual field candidates who seek offices and then seek to govern when they hold those offices. Does the GOP, or at least the national GOP, even fit that bill anymore?

It seems to me that the GOP is now just an opposition-research team and attack-ad shop. Attacking and undermining the opposition are supposed to be part of what a party does, mostly at election time, but right now they seem to be all the GOP does. And, on most issues, that was true even when a Republican held the White House -- Bush did nothing as the economy cratered, did nothing as the economy was on the verge of cratering, did nothing (or nothing much) about Katrina or food safety or the Israeli-Palestinian situation or any number of other issues.

It's not just that Rush Limbaugh is the de facto leader of the Republican Party -- the Republican Party is, simply, talk radio off the air. It has nothing to do with governance anymore.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Ann Althouse (emphasis in original):

Comparing Jindal to Kenneth of "30 Rock" is not a nice indicator of Americans' ability to see beyond skin color. Quite the opposite! Instinctively repainting him white is -- I would say -- presumptively racial. To strip away his racial identity -- to stereotype him as an especially white white man -- is a powerful racial move. This is not nice at all. I would really like to know what makes white people so sure they are being nice about racial things.

OK, Ann, so what about this remark from Rush Limbaugh?

“When I interviewed Bobby Jindal for the Limbaugh Letter a year and a half ago or so I immediately thought I was talking to the elected version of the next Ronald Reagan, the closest thing we've got to an elected version of the next Ronald Reagan in the United States today.”

Obviously, this Reagan comparison is not a nice indicator of Limbaugh's ability to see beyond skin color. Quite the opposite! Instinctively repainting Jindal white (with, admittedly, a California tan) is -- I would say -- presumptively racial. To strip away his racial identity -- to stereotype him as an especially white deceased president -- is a powerful racial move. This is not nice at all. I would really like to know what makes Limbaugh so sure he is being nice about racial things.

A lot of people are talking about Patrick Ruffini's essay at the Next Right encouraging his fellow right-wingers to end the Joe the Plumberization of the Republican Party. Yes, Republicans would be wise to stop worshipping Joe -- but Ruffini is wrong about the reason they're doing it:

This culture of identity politics means we get especially defensive about the Liberal Majority's main lines of attack, because we think of our position as inherently fragile. The one that spawned the Cult of Joe the Plumber was the meme that Republicans want tax cuts only for the rich and that we don't stand for working Americans. When find a highly visible figure who contradicts this notion, we swing into action. And we go on to press the argument to the point to absurdity, replete with plungers and custom "Joe" yard signs to prove our working class chops.

That's a load of crap. Right-wingers embraced Joe not because we made them feel defensive but because they've deluded themselves into believing that they're the natural champions of (cue Sarah Palin) wearers of "the Carhartts and the steel-toed boots," of country-music fans and NASCAR fans and huntin', fishin', good ol' boys. Right-wingers have believed all that for years, and have believed for just as long that the Democratic Party is the party of coastal, frou-frou, Brie-eating chardonnay swillers. (See? The belief goes so far back that even the linguistic shorthand seems twenty years out of date).

Ruffini even expresses this nonsense himself, declaring that "Republicans thrive as the party of normal Americans -- the people in the middle culturally and economically." (Even though the last three Republican presidents were a Hollywood millionaire and two zillionth-generation Connecticut-born preppies, Patrick?)

Sorry, Mr. R. -- your side developed a crush on Joe because he feeds your self-delusion. Want to blame someone? Look in the mirror.


GOP at risk of becoming party in the no

The Republicans? At risk of being known primarily for saying no?

Yup -- and Kanye West is at risk of developing a big ego, Rush Limbaugh is at risk of becoming a tad overweight, and the Detroit Lions are at risk of turning into a subpar football team.

In reaction to Rush Limbaugh's impassioned, almost bro-mantic defense of Bobby Jindal (to fellow-right-wingers: "if you think ... Jindal was horrible, ... I don't ever want to hear from you ever again"), "crunchy conservative" Rod Dreher quotes a recent essay in which John Derbyshire argues that Limbaugh and other wingnut talkers are harmful to the glorious right-wing Cause.

I'm shocked, really -- I would have assumed that a right-wing denunciation of talk radio was as likely as a loan shark's skepticism about thumb-breaking -- but, well, there it is. Derbyshire writes:

...perhaps the worst effect of Limbaugh et al. has been their draining away of political energy from what might have been a much more worthwhile project: the fostering of a middlebrow conservatism. There is nothing wrong with lowbrow conservatism. It's energizing and fun. What's wrong is the impression fixed in the minds of too many Americans that conservatism is always lowbrow, an impression our enemies gleefully reinforce when the opportunity arises. Thus a liberal like E.J. Dionne can write, "The cause of Edmund Burke, Leo Strauss, Robert Nisbet and William F. Buckley Jr. is now in the hands of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity. ... Reason has been overwhelmed by propaganda, ideas by slogans." Talk radio has contributed mightily to this development.

It does so by routinely descending into the ad hominem -- Feminazis instead of feminism -- and catering to reflex rather than thought. Where once conservatism had been about individualism, talk radio now rallies the mob.

...We don't know how to speak to that vast segment of the American middle class that lives sensibly -- indeed, conservatively -- wishes to be thought generous and good, finds everyday politics boring, and has a horror of strong opinions.

Well, John, too bad -- that horse has left the barn. The little ellipsis in the middle of the E.J. Dionne quote? Dionne mentioned a third name: " -- and Sarah Palin." Talk radio appears to have done its damage -- perhaps the biggest star in the GOP is a politician who seems to get all of her ideas, opinions, and pugnacious postures directly from the medium. And even Republican pols who aren't stupid appear to be affected; as Daniel Larison notes, talk radio seems to have eaten Jindal's brain:

... there is such a thing as lamenting a bankruptcy of ideas, especially when it is a case of someone as genuinely talented and smart as Jindal reciting the no-earmarks-plus-more-tax-cuts catechism. It is all the more frustrating and painful to listen to the boilerplate when it is coming from someone we know could offer so much more that would be worthy of serious debate.


But is all this really the talkers' fault? Hardly. What Limbaugh and the other talkers give us is simply the essential nature of the right for approximately half a century. Rush et al. are a symptom, not a cause.

I don't care how many ten-dollar words William F. Buckley slung around, or how many books Richard Nixon wrote -- the modern conservative movement has always been "lowbrow," always been driven by provocateurs "catering to reflex rather than thought." The supposedly highbrow Buckley called Gore Vidal a "queer" on national TV, ran a stunt campaign for mayor, declared that he'd rather have the government entrusted to the first 400 names in the phone book than to Harvard guys, and called for tattooing of the HIV-positive. Even the alleged intellectual giant of the movement was an ur-Limbaugh playing to the cheap seats.

Goldwater was a rabble-rouser; Nixon was a rabble-rouser; Reagan and Gingrich were rabble-rousers. The rabble were roused by the anti-busing movement and the Proposition 13 movement. They're roused by the New York Post and Fox News. Movement conservatism has never made an effort to offer anything to "that vast segment of the American middle class that ... has a horror of strong opinions." Provocateurs are always in the forefront.

Limbaugh and his imitators have merely distilled the pure essence of what right-wing Republicanism always was: an angry, overwrought movement aimed at the resentful and the revenge-minded. If there were no Limbaugh, someone wingnut think tank would have invented him. Rabble-rousing is the essence of the movement. The talkers merely melt the anger down into verbal bullets the Jindals and Palins and Steeles and Cantors of the world can use to arm themselves -- and need to use if they want the votes and donations of the resentniks.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


He'll do what Bill Clinton did in '88. Remember? Bill Clinton embarrassed himself by boring the crowd in his Democratic convention speech introducing Michael Dukakis. Wiping the egg off his face, he got himself booked on The Tonight Show, where he was ribbed by Johnny Carson even before he stepped out on stage (keep watching Carson's introduction -- it's brilliant):

Jindal, if he has any smarts at all, will go on Leno or Letterman or one of the other late-night shows (Jon Stewart?). But when he's introduced, he won't walk out -- Jack McBrayer will. McBrayer, of course, plays 30 Rock's Kenneth the Page, to whom Jindal is being compared by all and sundry. Hilarity ensues! And then, after a while, we'll get the real Jindal. Alternately, Jindal goes on SNL and interrupts special guest McBrayer playing Jindal. Message: I'm cool with the joke, ha ha ha!

(By the way, it must be killing the GOP that Jindal isn't being mocked for his ethnicity, but, rather, is being spoken of as a twin to a TV character whose undiluted white Protestant-ness is a running gag.)

Embracing the mockery would be the smart move. The dumb move would be to get all huffy and complain about media bias from the safety of a protective wingnut cocoon -- the post-election Palin approach, in other words. Which will he choose?


UPDATE: Jinx! Buy me a Coke, David Corn.


UPDATE, THURSDAY: And so it begins -- Gawker's Ryan Tate has a clip of McBrayer mocking Jindal on a test run of Jimmy Fallon's Late Night (Fallon starts hosting the show next week):

As Tate says, "Test run for SNL is more like it." The table is set for Jindal -- all he has to do is look like a good sport by showing up at McBrayer's inevitable SNL appearance and seeming to join in the merriment. Let's see if he does it.

Also see: Nancy Reagan's moment singing "Second-Hand Rose" with parody lyrics at the 1982 Gridiron Club dinner.

The Obama speech was a home run -- the reaction was overwhelmingly positive -- but I'm not sure it did everything it could have done. The skepticism that's still out there may be confined to a fairly small minority right now, but it can still come back to bite the president sooner or later, especially given the media's fondness for right-wing talking points.

The skepticism centers on three main areas, and Obama provided a head-on response to only one of these concerns: Why do we have to keep giving money to evil bankers? He said it was because

credit has stopped flowing the way it should.

... I will not spend a single penny for the purpose of rewarding a single Wall Street executive, but I will do whatever it takes to help the small business that can't pay its workers or the family that has saved and still can't get a mortgage.

That's what this is about. It's not about helping banks –- it's about helping people....

But I think a lot of Americans -- people like your right-wing cousin -- still need to hear a clear explanation of why spending tax money in a Keynesian way is necessary right now. And it would be helpful if they were told why seeking to provide universal health care, offer increased aid to education, and work toward a green energy future is a good idea in the midst of a recession. It's doubtful that last night changed their minds; they're going to keep arguing that it's all just socialist wealth-spreading on the taxpayer's dime, with everyone naively being promised multiple ponies.

Obama still hasn't fully explained that make-work is what you have to resort to, temporarily, when private employers are firing and not hiring and people need to eat. Last night he mentioned cops who now won't be laid off in Minnesota, but I think he needs to push that stimulus-puts-food-on-real-people's-tables argument even harder, and explain more fully why it applies to infrastructure projects and spending on, say, new government cars. (Answer: the government replaces cars eventually anyway, auto workers need to get through the credit crisis, and the new cars will use less gas.)

Obama could explain why a better-run health care system would cost less (certainly less per person) while covering more people (preventive care for the newly insured is cheaper than uninsured people's desperate trips to the emergency room in response to untreated illnesses; making the paperwork more efficient lowers cost; etc.). He could explain that education spending pays for itself by making the educated more able to thrive in the job market. He could give a better sense of the eventual dollar-and-cent value of a better energy system. (He appeals to patriotism by saying we should be the green innovators, but I think it would help to say more explicitly that if we are we'll make the money. )

I'm just worried that when the glow wears off (and everyone forgets the pathetic Jindal response), the argument will be pretty much where it's been. Obama speeches are great, but I'm still not sure they're "pre-butting" the arguments of the GOP noise machine. And, between Obama speeches, that noise machine is most of what we hear.

Michael Gerson in The Washington Post:

...In recent days, Jindal has displayed another leadership quality: ideological balance. He is highly critical of the economic theory of the stimulus package and turned down $98 million in temporary unemployment assistance to his state.... But unlike some Republican governors who engaged in broad anti-government grandstanding, Jindal accepted transportation funding and other resources from the stimulus -- displaying a program-by-program discrimination that will serve him well in public office....

Got it? Because he's not rejecting all the money, it's not "grandstanding," it's "ideological balance." I suppose if it were 1962 and a Southern governor said black people could attend the state university but not vote, Gerson would also consider that "ideological balance."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


He told it on the campaign trail as far back as the summer of 2007 when he was running for governor, he told it to Rush Limbaugh in February 2008, he told it to a Human Events reporter a few months later, and then he told it again tonight:

During Katrina, I visited Sheriff Harry Lee, a Democrat and a good friend of mine. When I walked into his makeshift office I'd never seen him so angry. He was yelling into the phone: 'Well, I'm the Sheriff and if you don't like it you can come and arrest me!' I asked him: 'Sheriff, what's got you so mad?' He told me that he had put out a call for volunteers to come with their boats to rescue people who were trapped on their rooftops by the floodwaters. The boats were all lined up ready to go - when some bureaucrat showed up and told them they couldn't go out on the water unless they had proof of insurance and registration. I told him, 'Sheriff, that's ridiculous.' And before I knew it, he was yelling into the phone: 'Congressman Jindal is here, and he says you can come and arrest him too!' Harry just told the boaters to ignore the bureaucrats and start rescuing people.

I can't find full transcripts, but it appears that Sheriff Lee wasn't a character in the story when Jindal told it back in summer '07, and the bit about Jindal and the sheriff offering to be arrested doesn't seem to have been in there until now. (Lee died in October '07, so we can't ask him about it.) I suppose when Jindal tells this story during the 2012 presidential campaign, actual handcuffs will be involved.

And no, I don't believe a word of it, in any version.


UPDATE, THURSDAY: Via Steve Benen, I see I was right to be suspicious. Talking Points Memo has the story.

Here's Politico's Ben Smith on the rebuttal Bobby Jindal is going to give to President Obama's speech tonight:

Jindal accuses Obama of pessimism

The early excerpts of Bobby Jindal's response to Obama's State of the Union are largely standard fare, but the conclusion strikes an interesting note -- one hinted at recently by Bill Clinton -- accusing the president, basically, of pessimism.

A few weeks ago, the President warned that our nation is facing a crisis that he said ‘we may not be able to reverse.’ Our troubles are real, to be sure. But don’t let anyone tell you that we cannot recover - or that America’s best days are behind her.

Wow, smooth move, Bobby -- accusing Obama of insufficient Pollyannaism in the middle of a massive global financial meltdown. Wasn't that John McCain's brilliant strategy in the fall?

During a campaign stop today in Orlando, FL, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) attempted to defend his repeated claims that the "fundamentals of our economy are strong" by redefining those fundamentals as "workers and small businesses." "The American worker and their innovation and their entrepreneurship, the small business, those are the fundamentals of America and I think they’re strong," he said....

Worked like a charm, didn't it?

Obama-despising L.A. Times blogger Andrew Malcolm plays games with numbers:

One month down, 47 to go.

And Barack Obama's poll numbers have slid almost 10% already. According to the latest Gallup Poll, the new president's approval rating of 68% in January has slipped now to ...

Before I give you the answer, take a guess. The approval rating was 68%, and Malcolm says it's "slid almost 10%." What is it now -- 59%?


... 63%, about average for recent new presidents one month in.

Now, "slid almost 10%," in the context of a poll, has two possible meanings. Problem is, Malcolm is wrong according to either one of them. Obama's rating slid 5 points, not 10 or nearly 10. So he'd be wrong if that's what he meant. And 5 is nowhere near 10% of 68; it's actually about 7% of 68. So he's wrong if (as I assume) that's what he means.

I imagine Malcolm is thinking that 5 is almost 6, and 6 is kinda-sorta 10% of 68% -- heck, it would be exactly 10% if it weren't for that pesky 8.

So I'm sure he thinks he's close enough. I guess it's close enough for wingnut math.

Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele may boast that he wants the party to have more hip-hop appeal, but he's failing hip-hop's #1 test of character: his toughness lacks realness.

As noted by Greg Sargent, he went on Neil Cavuto's Fox News program last night and threatened that the RNC might punish collaborators with the enemy, Barack Obama -- or, rather, he carefully hedged his bets, trying to seem as if he was threatening traitors (in order to look tough and inflexible, because looking tough and inflexible brings in GOP donors' dollars) while passing the buck to state parties.

Here's the clip. Transcript below, with my emphasis of Steele's wussiness:

CAVUTO: So then what would you do, Michael -- I'm sorry...

STEELE: Go ahead. Sure.

CAVUTO: For those Republican senators, Collins, Snowe and Specter, who voted for the stimulus plan in the Senate, what retribution will you exact?

STEELE: I won't -- look, my retribution is the retribution of the voters in their -- in their -- in their states. They're going to have to go through a primary in which they're going to have to explain to those Republican voters in that primary their vote.

CAVUTO: I know that, but will you, as RNC head, recommend no RNC funds being provided to help them?

STEELE: That is something I will talk to the state parties about, and we'll follow their lead. You know, this is...

CAVUTO: So you're -- in other words, are you are open to that, Michael?

STEELE: Oh, yes, I'm always open to everything, baby, absolutely.

CAVUTO: So by being open to that, baby, does that mean you would consider punishing them for that vote?

STEELE: My responsibility is to follow the lead of the state parties, to get their advice, what their -- what their intent is. Those senators are going to have to account to those voters there. And we'll work with the state party and we'll follow their lead.

It's just like anything. When the state party says, "We're going to endorse a candidate and support that candidate," the RNC Is behind them. When the state party says, "We have a problem with that candidate," so does the RNC.

So he's using Cavuto to help him get the rubes riled up (and reaching for their wallets) -- but he wants credit for the crazy and an escape route from it as well.

Meanwhile, Steve Benen notes that two of the three senators currently under threat, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, aren't even up for reelection until, respectively, 2012 and 2014; Arlen Specter is up in 2010, but as Jay Cost of Real Clear Politics notes, he won his last race with absolutely no direct aid and only a tiny amount of indirect aid from the RNC (Specter does just fine raising money on his own, thank you).

But even if Steele's threat is aimed less at the three current heretics than at anyone else who's thinking of straying, he won't even commit to following through on it. Sorry, Michael, that makes you a wanksta.

I don't get over to Just One Minute very often, but I was there this morning and noticed the tagline:

I suppose Tom has had that up for a while. But why stop there, Tom? Why not make your blog's header a fuller record of right-wing solidarity with real, imagined, or anticipated victims of evildoer-and/or-liberal perfidy?

Something like this:

We are all purple-fingered voters Danish cartoonists Gilad Shalit Georgians Iranian dissidents the Palin family Joe the Plumber Rick Santelli now.

Keep it going! Let it run on for many, many column inches! Don't just feel vicariously victimized a little -- feel vicariously victimized a lot!

By now you've probably seen that Barack Obama is polling very, very well in two new surveys and the GOP is polling quite poorly, with large majorities willing to trust the president on the economy, and not supporting the GOP approach. (New York Times/CBS poll story here, results PDF here; Washington Post/ABC poll story here, results PDF here.) Oh, and even the much-mocked congressional Democrats are getting some love -- in the WaPo/ABC poll they've shot up to 50%-44% approval-disapproval, compared with 35%-57% last July. (Congressional Republicans are stuck at 38%-56%.)

But a sentence in the Times poll writeup jumped out at me:

At a moment when some economists are talking openly about the possibility of nationalizing banks, a majority of poll respondents said that so far, the administration's bailout plans for financial institutions would benefit bankers, not all Americans.

Talk of bank nationalization is indeed in the air -- and yet neither of these polls asks about it. And I can't find any poll that has asked about it.

I'm struck by the juxtaposition in the sentence I quoted. On Sunday, Frank Rich called "nationalization" a heretofore "forbidden word." Among the political and media elite, Obama's plans are seen (by supporters and critics alike) as some degree of socialism, and nationalization would be seen as a significantly greater amount of socialism. But I wonder if the public would have a very different -- perhaps completely opposite -- view.

As the Times notes, the public thinks we've just been throwing money at banks and getting very little in return. Is it possible that nationalization would be seen not as more of the same, but rather as the exact opposite -- a necessary law-enforcement act of search and seizure, like a raid on a drug kingpin's den?

I think some of the fear of nationalization is -- as usual -- the chatterers' fear of (or agreement with) throwback right-wing red-baiting. But the public, as these new polls show, isn't responding to throwback right-wing red-baiting. And the public sure doesn't feel sorry for the bankers or feel they should be spared the punishment that nationalization would in some ways represent. I think the public might really find nationalization rather satisfying. So why are pollsters treating it as an outside-the-decent-limits idea?


(Me, I'm persuaded by the notion that, like Japan in its "lost decade," we postpone nationalization at our peril; I say get it started and get it over with.)

Monday, February 23, 2009


If you haven't been paying attention, an article in Human Events makes it clear: the craziest opponents of the Obama administration are fighting the stimulus plan using the disturbingly familiar language of states' rights:

State governors -- looking down the gun barrel of long-term spending forced on them by the Obama "stimulus" plan -- are saying they will refuse to take the money. This is a Constitutional confrontation between the federal government and the states unlike any in our time.

In the first five weeks of his presidency, Barack Obama has acted so rashly that at least 11 states have decided that his brand of "hope" equates to an intolerable expansion of the federal government's authority over the states. These states -- Washington, New Hampshire, Arizona, Montana, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, California, Georgia, South Carolina, and Texas -- have passed resolutions reminding Obama that the 10th Amendment protects the rights of the states, which are the rights of the people, by limiting the power of the federal government. These resolutions call on Obama to "cease and desist" from his reckless government expansion and also indicate that federal laws and regulations implemented in violation of the 10th Amendment can be nullified by the states.

... The use of the 10th Amendment in conjunction with nullification garnered much attention in 1828, when the federal government passed a tariff that southerners believed affected them disproportionately. When the 1828 tariff was complemented by another in 1832, Vice President John C. Calhoun resigned the Vice Presidency to lead his home state of South Carolina in pursuit of an "ordinance of nullification," ...

... his efforts culminated in a tense affair referred to as the "nullification crisis," ...

The Nullification Crisis, of course, was a prelude of sorts to the Civil War. The rest of this language is rather similar to language heard in the South in the 1960s.

I should note that the Human Events article is exaggeration the success of this movement -- the New Hampshire resolution, for instance (HCR6), hasn't actually passed, and the California resolution actually dates to 1994.

In any event, Glenn Beck is talking this up, The Washington Times is plugging the movement -- and I think there's a good chance we'll soon have chin-scratching mainstream journalists furrowing their brows and asking thoughtfully whether Barack Obama is engaged in an unconstitutional power grab.

On the "Must Read" list at right now:

Yes -- a president and first lady who reached adolescence in the 1970s invited one of the biggest groups of the 1970s to perform. Somehow you just knew that would happen!

Ah, but I shouldn't downplay this, because it really is objectionable, isn't it? Earth, Wind and Fire are silly Negroes who play silly oogie-boogie savage jungle music in silly costumes, like this one in the linked video (which is from a 1979 live show, not the White House gig):

Appalling! The president of the United States enjoys music made by people who dress like that!

Why can't we have someone in the White House who likes music played by people who dress normally -- like the legendary country singer on George W. Bush's iPod:

Or that nice clean-cut Eric Cantor's favorite '70s band:

Yeah -- let's restore some honor and dignity!

Judging from this Politico interview, that's the philosophy behind South Carolina governor Mark Sanford's plan to reject some of the stimulus money:

Q: Gov. Schwarzenegger said that if you and other Republican governors turn down some of the stimulus money he'd be happy to take it. What's your response to that?

A: I mean, I think it misses the larger point, which is if you look at the back of a penny it says E Pluribus Unum. From many, one. And the belief of the founding fathers was that not only were we to be, you know, representatives or governors or senators from our respective corner of the country, but that we also look out for the big picture. I mean, is the course we're on sustainable? Is it not? And by anybody's measure the course we're on is not sustainable.

In other words, if the duly elected members of Congress pass a law, and the duly elected president of the United States signs it, then one governor's defiance of it at the state level is beneficial ... for the sake of national unity.

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

Which was the stupidest passage in "This Is the Way the Culture Wars End," William Saletan's op-ed in yesterday's New York Times? So many choices....

1. Saletan thinks it's critical to reduce the number of abortions. In reference to that, he writes, sneeringly,

The liberal answer is birth-control availability.

Well, no, it isn't. It certainly isn't the only answer. Saletan cites a Guttmacher Institute study to make the point that there's plenty of birth control around and it isn't being used often enough, or isn't being used consistently by those who wish to avoid pregnancy -- but the Guttmacher Institute itself argues that this proves the need for more education about birth control. Real sex ed in schools would help. So would more and better information from doctors and health-clinic workers. It's not an availability problem -- yes, most of the drivers have access to cars, they just haven't been properly taught how to drive.

And some of us would argue that a lot of women and girls are experiencing unintended, unwanted pregnancies because they lead hopeless dead-end lives. That's a liberal answer -- a bit economic hope and opportunity.

2. Regarding abortion, Saletan writes,

Mr. Obama, like many other pro-choicers, doesn't like to preach on these issues.

Would that be the same Barack Obama who said this in a speech at Jim Wallis's Call to Renewal conference on June 26, 2006?

I think that we should put more of our tax dollars into educating poor girls and boys.... I also think that we should give them the information about contraception that can prevent unwanted pregnancies, lower abortion rates, and help assure that that every child is loved and cherished.

But, you know, my Bible tells me that if we train a child in the way he should go, when he is old he will not turn from it. So I think faith and guidance can help fortify a young woman's sense of self, a young man's sense of responsibility, and a sense of reverence that all young people should have for the act of sexual intimacy.

Not preachy enough for you, Billy Boy?

3. Saletan writes,

Conservatives, in turn, need to face the corollary truth: A culture of life requires an ethic of contraception. Birth control isn't a sin or an offense against life, as so many girls and Catholic couples have been taught. It's a loving, conscientious way to prevent the conception of a child you can’t bear to raise and don’t want to abort. It's an act of responsibility and respect for life.

Oh, is that all? We simply need to demand that the Pope and other religious conservatives abandon line-in-the-sand core principles? Gosh, I thought Saletan was going to suggest something unreasonable and unimaginable.

4. At the end of the op-ed, Saletan turns to gay marriage, and writes this:

To liberals, same-sex marriage is a matter of equal rights. To conservatives, however, marriage isn't just another right or benefit. It's a moral anchor, a lifelong commitment, a foundation for raising children....

This issue, like birth control, requires both sides to accept the practical and moral importance of responsible choices. Commitment, unlike sexual orientation, is a choice and a virtue. Same-sex marriage binds gay couples to the same ethic of mutual support and sacrifice that Mr. Obama has praised in straight marriages. The cultural imprimatur of marriage makes the gravity of the bond stronger than a civil union or domestic partnership.

Is he arguing that gay people who want the right to marry (and straights who support them) aren't yet accepting the notion that marriage is "a moral anchor, a lifelong commitment"? Doesn't nearly every impassioned assertion of the need for marriage equality invoke long-established couples, many of them with children, who already regard their relationships as lifelong commitments and moral anchors, and in many cases have done so for a decade or two or three or four or five, and would just like the state and the society to recognize the lifelong commitment to a moral anchor that they've already made? What the hell does Saletan think this fight is about?

I realize that every Saletan essay has to built on a structure of "first I chide one side, then I chide the other," but what actual lack of desire for mature commitment does he think gays need to be chided for?

All in all, a dreadful piece of work.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Frank Rich today on "our" alleged denial problem:

AND so on the 29th day of his presidency, Barack Obama signed the stimulus bill....

"I don't want to pretend that today marks the end of our economic problems," the president said on Tuesday at the signing ceremony in Denver. He added, hopefully: "But today does mark the beginning of the end."

Does it?

No one knows, of course, but a bigger question may be whether we really want to know. One of the most persistent cultural tics of the early 21st century is Americans' reluctance to absorb, let alone prepare for, bad news.... Obama's toughest political problem may not be coping with the increasingly marginalized G.O.P. but with an America-in-denial that must hear warning signs repeatedly, for months and sometimes years, before believing the wolf is actually at the door....

Steroids, torture, lies from the White House, civil war in Iraq, even recession: that's just a partial glossary of the bad-news vocabulary that some of the country, sometimes in tandem with a passive news media, resisted for months on end before bowing to the obvious or the inevitable....

Regarding "recession": If by "we" Rich means the media and political elite, then, yes -- those people were in denial for too long about the fact that we were in economic trouble.

But I've been over at Polling Report, and the American people knew something was wrong quite a while ago.

* CBS News/New York Times Poll, March 28-April 2, 2008: "Right now, do you think the United States is in an economic recession, or not?"
66% yes, 27% no, 7% unsure

* Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg Poll, May 1-8, 2008: "Do you think we are in an economic recession, or not?"
78% yes, 17% no, 5% unsure

* Quinnipiac University Poll, May 8-12, 2008: "Do you think the United States economy is in a recession now?"
71% yes, 24% no, 5% unsure

That was a reaction to the pinch of high gas prices as well as other signs of money trouble. But ordinary Americans haven't felt good about the economy in years. In the USA Today/Gallup Poll, at least 50% of respondents have said the economy was getting worse in every poll since early March 2005; in all that time, "getting better" has never gotten above 41%, and "getting better" has been consistently below 40% since November 2006. Meanwhile, the ABC News Consumer Comfort Index has been negative since March 2007.

This economy hasn't been good for most Americans for a long time. They knew it; the elite just didn't know they knew it, or didn't care,

Yeah, right, MoDo, that's what's missing from the Obama presidency -- he's not fomenting war between the have-not class and have-not-much class:

... Mr. Obama has not yet captured either the grit the moment requires or the fury it provokes. He has not explained in a compelling way why Americans who followed the rules need to sacrifice more to help those who flouted the rules.

That is why the CNBC reporter Rick Santelli struck a populist nerve with his screed about the unfairness of responsible homeowners picking up the tab for irresponsible homeowners -- following the unfairness of taxpayers who are losing jobs, homes and savings propping up the exact same bankers and carmakers whose greed and myopia caused the economy to crash.

He spoke for those who want a pound of flesh. With the Wall Street bailout, Mr. Obama at least gave bankers a bit of the belt, and capped their pay. But homebuyers who wanted more than they could afford seem to be getting a free ride....

I'm a child of Boston who watched working-class and poor people fight turf battles over crappy-and-crappier public schools back in the 1970s, while people in tony suburbs tut-tutted, so this sticks in my craw. Yes, Ms. Highly Paid Superstar Columnist, Santelli the superstar TV talking head and ex-fat-cat trader did articulate a "populist" position, but only in the worst sense of populism. This is populism dark side: encourage people low down on the ladder to believe that all their problems are the result of sinister doings by the folks one rung below. Then stand back and enjoy the battle.

Friday's New York Times, incidentally had a story about the outrageous mortgages peddled in California to some of Santelli and Dowd's preferred scapegoats:

... One union organizer, Chris Young, showed me mortgage documents for several homeowners who got in over their heads. Like many home buyers in this heavily Latino region, they were given the hard sell in Spanish. They said they were promised affordable, fixed-rate loans, but the buried details in the papers, in English, told another story.

They were stunned to learn that 10 years of payments would go only toward interest, and that impossibly huge balloon payments lurked down the road.

Rosa Valdez said that she found out a year and half after closing on her house that she had signed on for 10 years of paying nothing to principal. Her second piggyback mortgage requires 179 monthly payments of $608.52, followed by one payment on March 1, 2021, of $61,490.69. Laura and Carlos Naranjo’s day of reckoning is March 1, 2022, when they will have to write a check for $43,365.78.

Such exotic loans might have worked in a fantasy world of perpetually soaring home prices. But here on earth, a reckoning has come due....

No, these people shouldn't have succumbed to the sales pitches. But whereas Dowd and especially Santelli want fury directed at the users, it's clear that nobody would have smoked this crack if there weren't dealers dealing.

And those mortgages weren't sold off the back of a truck -- they were sold out in the open, which told the mortgagees that these were legal, safe products to buy. Yeah yeah yeah, "buyer beware" and all that -- but this poison should not have been on the market. The fish stinks from the head. So I resent Dowd's suggestion that a little presidential rabble-rousing of the Santelli kind is in order.

The right is, predictably, flipping out in response to President Obama's plan to get the federal budget under control, which relies to a large extent on an uptick in taxes for the wealthy.

Quick quiz, righties (a question I'd love to get, say, Zogby or aome other pollster to pose to folks at one of these wingnut "tea parties," just the way Zogby asked those question of Obama voters on behalf of that self-styled documentarian):

If the Obama plan goes through and remains in force throughout an eight-year presidency, which of the following presidents will have had the highest top tax rate, on average, during his years in the White House?

A. Ronald Reagan
B. Bill Clinton
C. George W. Bush
D. Barack Obama

Answer: Ronald Reagan. You could look it up.

The top rate would be 39.6% under Obama's plan, which is what after Clinton's tax plan passed. Under Bush, it went down to 35%

For most of Saint Reagan's years, it was 50%. Fifty percent! Somehow, we survived. Somehow, Ayn Rand didn't roll over in her grave at the fascist-confiscatory jackbootedness of that horribly punitive rate for the poor, suffering rich.

(And go look up the rates under, say, that commie Dwight Eisenhower. Stratospheric. And yet the fifties were rather capitalist and prosperous -- no?)

Saturday, February 21, 2009


I'm wtiting this on a computer with no audio hookup, so you'll have to sample the tunes for yourself, but I'm looking at Michelle Malkin's post "Tea Party U.S.A.: The movement grows" and it's painfully obvious that what's really motivating a lot of the right (in addition to the usual desire to re-fight the Civil War) is an unquenchable 1960s jealousy. Or maybe not jealousy exactly -- in a way it's as if they're looking back on that era the way Rambo looked at his return to 'Nam and muttering, "Do we get to win this time?"

Her post ends with a collection of song parodies. As is usual with the right, they're godawful. But what's being parodied? Apart from, er, "Dixie," it's mostly tunes from the 'Nam era. "American Pie":

A long, long time ago…
we can still remember
How Ronald Regan made us smile.
And we knew if we had a chance
we could make those Democrats dance
And, surely we’d be happy for a while....

So bye-bye, to our kids piece of the pie.
Obama Drives us to the brink,
will leave us all high and dry.
Coburn and the boys were tryin' all they could think
Singin', "You're making our economy die.
you've taken our kid's piece of the pie." ...

And Janis Joplin:

Oh Barry, wont you buy me a Mercedes Benz ? ...

Plus a parody from a pro -- Arlo Guthrie of all people (misidentified by Michelle as his dad, Woody), updating the little-known Tom Paxton song "I Am Changing My Name to Chrysler" as "I'm Changing My Name to Fannie Mae":

I am changing my name to Fannie Mae
I am going down to Washington D.C.
I’ll be glad they got my back
'Cause what they did for Freddie Mac
Will be perfectly acceptable to me

(Good job there, Arlo -- giving your lifelong ideological enemies this kind of ammunition.)


These guys are making all the noise planning their "tea parties," but meanwhile there appears to be -- I use the phrase with some trepidation, knowing it's an inexact analogy -- a new silent majority in the land:

A national poll indicates that two out of three Americans approve of the way Barack Obama is handling his job as president of the United States.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey, released Friday, also suggests that six in 10 support the economic stimulus package that Obama signed into law Tuesday.

Obama's approval rating stands at 67 percent in the new poll. That's down 9 percentage points from the most recent CNN poll, which was conducted in early February. But a breakdown by party suggests that the drop doesn't mean that the new president is in serious trouble.

"Since nearly all of the decline came among Republicans, this doesn't indicate that the honeymoon is already over," said Keating Holland, CNN's polling director. "Among Democrats, Obama's approval went from 96 percent to 92 percent; among Republicans, it dropped from 50 percent in early February to 31 percent now."

Among independents, the president's approval rating now stands at 61 percent, down 6 percentage points from earlier in the month....

In many ways, "silent majority," is a lousy analogy. The stimulus isn't the Vietnam War, which was simply the wrong policy, as was clear even to a lot of people in Nixon's original "silent majority."

This silent majority is real. And if the current majority really does resemble the noble caricature Nixon painted of his own s.m., the new minority really resembles the caricature of the Nixon-era left: crazies who just want to act out and whack at the hornets' nest for the fun of seeing the result.

It would be bizarre if Obama, instead of being the new Lincoln or the new FDR or the new Clinton, turns out to be what Nixon pretended to be: a president trying to keep the country from steering onto the shoals as protestors howl in the street, a guy known primarily for respecting institutions and the notion of working within the system, at a time when crazies want everything blown up.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Sorry, I'm not going to be able to get back to blogging today. I'll check in tomorrow....
Busy day. Apologies for light blogging.

Noonan today (emphasis mine):

One thing for sure: Our political leaders for at least a decade, really more, have by and large been men and women who had fortunate lives, who always seemed to expect nice things to happen and happiness to occur. And so they could overspend, overcommit and overextend the military, and it would all turn out fine. They claimed to be quintessentially optimistic, but it was a cheap optimism, based more on sunny personal experience than any particular faith, and void of an understanding of how dark and gritty life can be, and has been for most of human history.

Noonan, March 1, 2001 (ditto):

Mr. Bush sometimes shows a clever way of flipping reality, and he did it in his speech. He approached the Democrats not as if they were burly tribunes of the people, but as if they were anxious accountants, pale and cringing under fluorescent lights. He acted as if they had to be told "It's OK, loosen up, take the green eyeshades off and come on out into the sun."

"I'm not sure the numbers add up," said Hillary Clinton, on message, as she walked into the speech. "His plan leaves no money for anything except tax cuts," fretted Dick Gephardt in his official response. He's the optimist, they're the pessimists. This was clear not only in words but in the picture; Mr. Bush was (sometimes literally) bouncy. In the cutaways, the Democrats looked sour, resentful, as if they’d been hit in the face by a sock full of pennies. Which in a way they had.

If we define "at least a decade, really more" as the last decade and a half, in that period we haven't had presidents who had "fortunate lives" and "sunny personal experience" -- we had one president who did. We didn't have presidents who felt they "could overspend, overcommit and overextend the military"; we had one president who did all those things -- and one president who did none of them.

Of course, what Noonan was celebrating on March 1, 2001, was the Bush tax-cut plan that would begin the process of reversing Clinton-era fiscal responsibility and put the United States deep into debt.

But boy, was Bush optimistic. And it felt awfully good to Noonan at the time.

I'm sick of the 911 system. I don't want my tax money to go to it. I stay healthy and live in a low-crime neighborhood -- where's my ride in an emergency vehicle that gets to run red lights? Why should my hard-earned dollars subsidize cops for losers who were brutally assaulted because they decided to live in high-crime areas, or emergency medical care for slobs who had heart attacks because they chose to smoke or let themselves get out of shape? Isn't that just encouraging bad behavior? If we help these people, won't a lot of them just go back to the same old bad ways of living? Or, say, if I have smoke detectors and a fire burns down the house of some idiot who doesn't, that couldn't possibly affect my house, could it? So why should I be forced to subsidize a fire department? To me, the #1 priority has to be avoiding moral hazard. That's why I say let all the losers suffer and die. It's not as if anything bad could ever happen to the rest of us -- we're smart and responsible. Right?

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Or so said Rush Limbaugh today:

RUSH: Yeah, let me describe, for those who haven't heard it, or seen it.... you got two cops shooting a chimpanzee, right? That's Sean Delonas in the New York Post cartoon yesterday. Here is what one cop says to the cop who shot the chimpanzee: "They'll have to find somebody else to write the next stimulus bill." Now, what Elizabeth's point is, is that Obama didn't write it. Nancy Pelosi did. But if you watch the mainstream media, you don't know that.

... Obama didn't write the stimulus bill. He delegated it. I don't know that he's even read it. I don't know how many people have read it front-to-back. But if anything is being lampooned here, it's Nancy Pelosi. She's the one who wrote the thing, and then Harry Reid got hold of it and stuck his train in there, Disneyland to Las Vegas. So even as we speak Al Sharpton is leading a protest outside the building housing the New York Post in New York....

Yesterday, with some reservations, I said the cartoon probably wasn't intended to be racist. I've been thinking the point was something along the lines of "This bill is so screwy, it's like a monkey wrote it." But Limbaugh says no. Limbaugh says the point is that cops had to put two bullet holes in Nancy Pelosi. Oh, that would be much less offensive than cops shooting Obama, right?

(And notice that Limbaugh also gets in the GOP propaganda charge that Harry Reid "stuck his train in there" -- yuk yuk -- a reference to the story that there's an appropriation in the stimulus bill specifically aimed at building a high-speed train between Disneyland and Las Vegas, which is an apparently unkillable lie.)


Also on today's Limbaugh show (hat tip Steve Benen), Limbaugh compared Democrats to murderers, rapists, and "this Muslim guy" who "offed his wife's head". From the transcript (headlined "Don't Ask Why They Hate America, Just Stop Them from Destroying It"):

RUSH: ... At this point, the only thing is: They. Must. Be. Stopped.

CALLER: I agree, and what can you do, Rush?

RUSH: Within the confines of our Constitution and the political arena of ideas, they must be stopped. I don't care why they see this country the way they see it. I don't care why a murderer does it. I don't care why a rapist does it. I don't care why this Muslim guy off-ed his wife's head. The NOW gang is out there saying (paraphrased), "Nah, that's not domestic violence. That's just..." What did they call it? "It's a cultural thing, an 'honor killing.' This woman was going to divorce him, and that's against the law. That's his diversity." You know, I don't care. I don't care why anymore. If I figure it out I'll be glad to tell you because it's interesting to know, but it doesn't matter in terms of defeating them.

Damn decent of him to throw in that "Within the confines of our Constitution and the political arena of ideas" bit -- otherwise it might seem as if he's saying that, since Democrats are as bad as the most vicious murderers and rapists, we deserve, y'know, death. Sure hope his listeners pay attention to the fine print.

And, as is typical with Limbaugh, another bloviation means another lie. This is all these people do -- birds fly, fish swim, Republicans lie. They lie every day, and their principal activity is lying. I'm referring to the swipe Limbaugh takes at NOW. This is what NOW actually said:

"This was apparently a terroristic version of honor killing, a murder rooted in cultural notions about women's subordination to men," said Marcia Pappas, New York State president of the National Organization for Women.

More, from New York State NOW's press release:

... NOW New York State is horrified that Erie County DA, Frank A. Seditall, has referred to this ghastly crime as "the worst form of domestic violence possible." The ridiculous juxtaposition of "domestic" and "beheading" in the same journalistic breath points up the inherent weakness of the whole "domestic violence" lexicon.

What is "domestic" about this violence? NOW NYS President Marcia Pappas says "it is high time we stop regarding assaults and murders as a lover's quarrels gone bad. We further demand of lawmakers that punishments fit crimes. We of NOW decry the selective enforcement of assault laws and call for judicial enforcement of our mandatory arrest policy, even when the axe-wielder is known by his victim."

And why is this horrendous story not all over the news? Is a Muslim woman's life not worth a five-minute report? This was, apparently, a terroristic version of "honor killing," a murder rooted in cultural notions about women's subordination to men. Are we now so respectful of the Muslim's religion that we soft-peddle atrocities committed in it's name? Millions of women in this country are maimed and killed by their husbands or partners. Had this awful murder been perpetrated by a African American, a Latino, a Jew, or a Catholic, the story would be flooding the airwaves. What is this deafening silence? ...

This, you'd think, is exactly what Limbaugh would want NOW to say. NOW says it -- and Limbaugh turns the statement inside out until it's the opposite of what it really is. And millions of your fellow citizens believe every word he says.


UPDATE: The Huffington Post's Sam Stein on Limbaugh's rapist/murderer/beheader anthology:

Coming off of a tone-deaf cartoon that compared the author of the stimulus bill with a crazed, shot-dead chimpanzee, it seemed likely that, for the time being, provocative political metaphors would be put on hold. But on his radio show Thursday, Rush Limbaugh pushed the envelope once more....

"It seemed likely that, for the time being, provocative political metaphors would be put on hold"? Really? All the evidence in the few weeks of the Obama presidency, and the fall campaign, and, well, the last the entire Limbaugh/Murdoch/GOP crazy base era suggests that right-wing hysteria only increases over time -- it doesn't go in the other direction. Especially recently.

A screaming-red headline at the Drudge Report right now points readers to this clip, which is all the rage in the wingnuttosphere right now. In the clip, CNBC's Rick Santelli, on a trading floor in Chicago, urges the pink-cheeked Masters of the Universe wannabes to get all testosteroned up in revolt against the Obama mortgage plan and other recovery efforts. It's just hot air, but the craving for a riot of the right's own is palpable.

This may be taken down soon, but here's the YouTube version of the clip:

Here's a partial transcript, some of it nicked from Pammy Atlas:

Santelli: ... And in terms of modification, I'll tell you what, I have an idea. You know, the new administration's big on computers and new technology, how about this, President and new administration. Why don't you put up a website to have people vote on the Internet as a referendum to see if we really want to subsidize the losers' mortgages or would we like to, at least, buy cars and buy houses in foreclosure and give them to people who might have a chance to actually prosper down the road. And reward people that can carry the water instead of drink the water. (rowdy applause on the trading floor)

Host: That's a novel idea. They're like putty in your hands. Did you hear --

Santelli: No they're not, Joe, they're not like putty in our hands. This is America! How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor's mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can't pay their bills? Raise their hand. (no hands raised, lots of booing) President Obama, are you listening?

Trader on the floor: How about we all stop paying our mortgages? It's a moral hazard....

Santelli: We're thinking of having a Chicago Tea Party in July. All you capitalists that want to show up to Lake Michigan, I'm going to start organizing it. (Trader on floor whistles approvingly) ....

My favorite line? "This is America." No it isn't. It's an exclusive little fraternity of overgrown frat boys who think they're entitled to party wherever and however they want, to vomit in your living room or mine and crap in our couches if they feel like it, then, when their status is threatened, hold us to an exalted standard of responsibility. Screw them.

And yes, I know a lot of non-Masters in America agree with the notion that we shouldn't be bailing out delinquent and "underwater" mortgage-holders. The administration could be doing a better job of explaining why it's necessary to prevent a further downward spiral in housing prices, and in the economy as a whole. But at least the administration isn't demagoguing and rabble-rousing this way.


UPDATE: After the video went viral, National Review's Stephen Spruiell interviewed Santelli, who whined:

... listen, my 401k's a 201k, my kid's college tuition is going up 10 percent. This is tough for everybody. Maybe a tax break, maybe everybody who has a house gets something. They need to quit picking winners and losers, and they have to quit alienating the classes....

Before you shed a tear for Rick Santelli and his "201(k)," read his bio:

... He joined CNBC from the Institutional Financial Futures and Options at Sanwa Futures, L.L.C. There, he was a vice president handling institutional trading and hedge accounts for a variety of futures related products.

Prior to that, Santelli worked as vice president of Institutional Futures and Options at Rand Financial Services, Inc., served as managing director at the Derivative Products Group of Geldermann, Inc., and was Vice President in charge of Interest Rate Futures and Options at the Chicago Board of Trade for Drexel, Burnham, Lambert. Santelli began his career in 1979 as a trader and order filler at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange in a variety of markets including gold, lumber, CD's, T-bills, foreign currencies and livestock....

Oh yeah, I'm sure this SOB is really hurting right now.

It's remarkable that the leaders of the Republican hard core can strike fear in the hearts of so many people -- the "liberal media," Blue Dog Democrats, Republican moderates -- when they're so clueless and tone deaf. Case in point: this (as reported by The Washington Times), which is going to be painful to watch:

Steele: GOP needs 'hip-hop' makeover

Newly elected Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele plans an "off the hook" public relations offensive to attract younger voters, especially blacks and Hispanics, by applying the party's principles to "urban-suburban hip-hop settings."

... "There was underlying concerns we had become too regionalized and the party needed to reach beyond our comfort" zones, he said, citing defeats in such states as Virginia and North Carolina. "We need messengers to really capture that region -- young, Hispanic, black, a cross section ... We want to convey that the modern-day GOP looks like the conservative party that stands on principles. But we want to apply them to urban-surburban hip-hop settings." ...

Oooh, wow -- "off the hook." Let's add that to the 50-year-old Steele's collection of recent utterances of long-in-the-tooth "urban" slang -- recall his reference to stimulus aid as "bling, bling," as well as his statement, to a reporter from Human Events, that if he met President Obama, he'd boast about his victory in the RNC chairmanship race by saying, "How you like me now?," a phrase that's still reasonably up-to-date but that's probably associated in Steele's mind with Kool Moe Dee circa 1987:

(The phrase has been around the block a few times, so much so that a contributor to Urban Dictionary reports that it's "fast becoming a 'well known' phrase used by impressionable young men throughout England, particularly Leicester." Usage example: "(andre) 'everyone.. I'm finishing early on friday to go down the boozer.... HOW YOU LIKE ME NOW!'")

There's not much difference between this and the embarrassing-dad behavior of Steele's paler near-peer, 45-year-old Eric Cantor, who thought crankin' some tuneage by grizzled old Geritol-swilling Aerosmith in a pro-GOP video would totally rock in the eyes of "the kids" (until Aerosmith's lawyers shut him down).

Michael? Eric? As a fellow middle-aged guy, I cringe just watching you guys. Stop it. Or, since you're Republicans, what the hell -- don't stop.


Bonus Spinal Tappy quote from Steele in the WashTimes article:

Under Mr. Steele's helm, the "old" may seem inappropriate in the Grand Old Party's affectionate nickname. He said he is putting a new public relations team into place to update the party's image.

"It will be avant garde, technically," he said. "It will come to table with things that will surprise everyone -- off the hook.”

Does that mean cutting-edge?

"I don't do 'cutting-edge,'" he said. "That's what Democrats are doing. We're going beyond cutting-edge."

Michael? "Beyond cutting-edge" would mean completely off the surface of the knife. Not much sharpness there.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Talking Points Memo:

So with the stimulus bill now fully passed and signed into law, are there still any Republican governors who might actually go so far as refuse some or all of the cash, even if it goes against the immediate interests of their states? The answer is Yes.

Joe Klein:

...I've just spent a few weeks outside the country and, when you take a step away from the media maelstrom, the overwhelming impression is the sheer volume and severity of the problems that the country and the world--and our new President--are facing right now. This is a global crisis. A great many people are being hurt badly. There is a real chance that it will get much, much worse.

... It seems some Republican governors are weighing whether or not to accept their share of the money. Reading between the lines, it seems they're most opposed to what Sarah Palin calls "social programs." That is, programs like Medicaid that are intended to help the poor....

Social programs. Lovely. In a once-in-a-lifetime downturn.

I think the role models for the GOP were described by Marlon Brando as Colonel Kurtz in a grim monologue in Apocalypse Now:

I remember when I was with Special Forces...Seems a thousand centuries ago...We went into a camp to inoculate the children. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn't see. We went back there and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile...A pile of little arms.

The difference between this and what the Republicans want to do, or at least want to be seen threatening to do, is just a difference of degree.

Brando goes on to say:

And I thought: My God...the genius of that. The genius. The will to do that. Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. And then I realized they were stronger than we.

If GOP governors reject stimulus money, especially for the neediest, it's because that's how they want to be seen -- not as public servants but as ruthless embodiments of pure will.

My gut reaction to the cartoon below, by Sean Delonas of the New York Post, isn't the same as that of Al Sharpton, the Huffington Post, Gawker, and others -- I'm not ready to say that Delonas is taking a racist swipe at Barack Obama:

The cartoon alludes, of course, to a recent story about a chimpanzee in Connecticut that was shot after attacking a woman, a story the Post has been flogging for days.

Yeah, I know -- I'm the guy who just got through telling you that J.D. Hayworth was blaming Jews when he named Chuck Schumer and George Soros as the prime culprits in the economic meltdown.

I stand by that. This feels different, though. The chimp in this picture isn't lanky and lean with a long face and outsize ears, the way Delonas draws Obama:

Obama-as-chimp fits the style of amateur-hour racists, but pro Obama-bashers know that analogy doesn't sync up very well with the poised, polysyllabic Obama we see every day. (That's why the pros give us subtler racist digs like The Wall Street Journal's "Driving Mr. Daschle.") Also, the wingnut line is that Obama himself didn't write the bill -- he left it up to the evil Reid and Pelosi. And finally, if the chimp is Obama, then Delonas is depicting a presidential assassination. This stuff, at least when the pros are doing it, usually avoids that level of eliminationism -- it's all about belittling and humiliation.

And yet, and yet ... I look at the most recent Post story about the Connecticut chimp and I read this:

Each night, Sandra Herold and her beloved chimp, Travis, would share a glass of wine before snuggling in bed together.

The Connecticut widow says she still cannot fathom how that loving animal, whom she raised as her "child," could turn violent, but when he began to maul her friend Charla Nash Monday, Herold said she didn't hesitate to stop him -- even if it meant killing him.

"I had to get a shovel, then a knife to get Travis off of Charlie," the visibly shaken woman said yesterday....

Nash, who sustained horrific injuries to her face and hands, had surgery at Stamford Hospital and will be transferred to a hospital in Ohio for extensive reconstructive surgery, friends said....

It feels like a racist cautionary rape/miscegenation tale from the Jim Crow era, doesn't it?

I still think Delonas believes the stimulus, not Obama, is the savage beast you shouldn't snuggle with because cozying up to it will encourage a vicious attack. But the fact that he got from that story to this cartoon makes me unsure what to think.


MORE: At the very least, Delonas should learn how to spell grade-school words.