Sunday, February 28, 2010


I've got nothing to say about the New York Times Magazine profile of alleged regular-guy Senator Scott Brown and his secret frou-frou past because a couple of days ago Betty Cracker said everything I could possibly want to say. Go read. Don't stop until you get to the anecdote about what Brown wore on his first date with the woman who's now his wife, at which point you won't need my encouragement to keep going.

Pondering Joe Stack's airplane attack on the IRS office in Austin, Texas, and citing a recent report by fellow Timesman David Barstow on the tea party movement's ties to old-school right-wing radicalism, Frank Rich arrives at a conclusion that I think is too simplistic -- though I agree with him that there's significant cause for concern:

... the unhinged and sometimes armed anti-government right that was thought to have vaporized after its Oklahoma apotheosis is making a comeback. And now it is finding common cause with some elements of the diverse, far-flung and still inchoate Tea Party movement. All it takes is a few self-styled "patriots" to sow havoc.

Equally significant is Barstow's finding that most Tea Party groups have no affiliation with the G.O.P. despite the party's ham-handed efforts to co-opt them. The more we learn about the Tea Partiers, the more we can see why. They loathe John McCain and the free-spending, TARP-tainted presidency of George W. Bush. They really do hate all of Washington, and if they hate Obama more than the Republican establishment, it's only by a hair or two. (Were Obama not earning extra demerits in some circles for his race, it might be a dead heat.) The Tea Partiers want to eliminate most government agencies, starting with the Fed and the I.R.S., and end spending on entitlement programs. They are not to be confused with the Party of No holding forth in Washington -- a party that, after all, is now positioning itself as a defender of Medicare spending. What we are talking about here is the Party of No Government at All.

The distinction between the Tea Party movement and the official G.O.P. is real, and we ignore it at our peril.

I don't think it's quite that simple. Listen to founding teabagger Keli Carender, profiled in the Times today. She's the young improv actress from Seattle with the pierced noise, the movement leader the "liberal media" loves to profile (recall the earlier glowing coverage she received at NPR). Does she believe in "no government"? By her admission, she doesn't even know what kind of government she wants:

Ms. Carender is less certain when it comes to explaining, for instance, how to cut the deficit without cutting Medicaid and Medicare.

"Well," she said, thinking for a long time and then sighing. "Let's see. Some days I'm very Randian. I feel like there shouldn't be any of those programs, that it should all be charitable organizations. Sometimes I think, well, maybe it really should be just state, and there should be no federal part in it at all. I bounce around in my solutions to the problem."

That's the thing about fervor-driven political movements -- and mainstream political coalitions as well: the followers don't all believe the same things, and even individuals aren't quite sure what it is they really want.

There was radical talk in the 1960s and early 1970s, but some people turned to violence while others "worked within the system" -- or gave up on politics and focused on drugs or "spirituality" or organic gardening. And I'm sure a lot of individuals weren't at all internally consistent -- they were liberal sometimes and radical at other times.

I think most of the teabaggers want radical change, or think they want it, yet most will allow Republican politicians to lead them by the nose. Partly that's naivete on their part. Here's Carender again:

Sarah Palin? She will have to campaign on Tea Party ideas if she wants Tea Party support, Ms. Carender said, adding, "And if she were elected, she’d have to govern on those principles or be fired."

Right -- because, if pols don't do what you want, you can just "fire" them on the spot. Of course!

Nevertheless, there's definitely a potential for violence.

That's partly because the movement will inspire some people to regard their opponents as agents of evil who must be destroyed. It's also because so many in the movement expect so much change right now that some of them aren't going to be able to cope if they're thwarted.

However, I think a GOP wave in national and state elections is going to take a lot of the wind out of the movement's sails. Rank-and-file teabaggers claim to want certain policy goals accomplished, but so much of what's going on is just wanting a win. They all watch Fox News and they all listen to Limbaugh -- and Limbaugh and Fox, of course, root for the GOP. Crushing their enemies will satisy most of the 'baggers, as long as the newly elected Republicans keep pumping out rhetoric about the effete/liberal/Democrat enemy.

But there's a serious potential for violence if a new "silent majority" in the center decides the teabaggers and GOP are just too extreme and returns Barack Obama to office in 2012, much as Nixon's silent majority elected him in '68 and (especially) '72, in reaction to the notion that the Democrats were linked to the scary lefties. If that happens, a few 'baggers could become really, really dangerous. Remember, the Tim McVeighs of the world don't seem so angry when there's a Republican in the White House -- at least then they get what they want rhetorically from the Oval Office, and that seems to mollify them.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


A New York Times religion writer notes today that a number of Catholics have harshly criticized fellow Catholic Marc Thiessen, a former Bush speechwriter and current Washington Post op-ed columnist, for his defense of waterboarding. Here's one of his arguments:

"There's a standard of torture in civil law," he said, "which is severe mental pain and suffering. I also have a common-sense definition, which is, 'If you’re willing to try it, it's not torture.'"

Thousands of American soldiers have been willing to undergo waterboarding as part of their resistance training, Mr. Thiessen notes; therefore, it stands to reason that it is not torture.

For the moment, let's ignore the fact that many of those who've volunteered to be waterboarded -- Jesse Ventura, Christopher Hitchens -- absolutely insist that it is torture. Let's also ignore the fact that no one, as far as I know, has ever volunteered to be waterboarded 183 times, the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was subjected to the procedure. Let's just pursue Thiessen's argument to its logical conclusion.

We know that thousands of anorexics in this society refuse to eat more than a tiny amount of food every day. Thiessen, I presume, would argue that since some people choose not to eat a diet that's adequate for self-sustenance, therefore there was nothing immoral about the food rations at Auschwitz.

Right, Marc?

Or, because some people choose to compete in ultra-marathons, Iron Man triathlons, and other extreme sports, it stands to reason that there was nothing immoral about the Bataan Death March. Right?

Or, because men pay dominatrixes to lead them around on leashes and otherwise enforce obedience, therefore slavery was just okey-dokey. Correct?

Just trying to make sure I understand the principle, Marc.

I'm not surprised to see a GOP congressman arguing that abortion is worse for blacks than slavery, or to see an article in The New York Times about stepped-up anti-abortion activity in the African-American community. The mainstream press has been comforting itself with the notion that nouveau righties aren't all that interested in cultural issues (teabaggers don't emphasize abortion! an anti-gay guy was booed at CPAC!) -- never mind the fact that the queen of the tea parties, Sarah Palin, is one of the best-known culture warriors in America.

Alveda King, the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, is, as noted in the Times article, the director of African-American outreach for Priests for Life. Priest for Life is run by Father Frank Pavone. That would be this Father Frank Pavone:

Deal Hudson reports that John McCain "met privately" with Rev. Frank Pavone, the Priests for Life head most famous for calling Michael Schiavo a murderer, before a Catholic-outreach meeting in Philadelphia. McCain has been holding events with supporter Sen. Sam Brownback, whose brief presidential run attracted a lot of attention from social conservatives, and who promised to court the Religious Right activists such as Pavone on McCain's behalf....

He also gave the invocation at a 2005 inaugural eve gala sponsored by the Traditional Values Coalition and attended by Karl Rove. So the padre is connected.

ABC News:

The endless winter of 2010...kept not ending today, with more than 20 inches of snow crippling New York City....

"Crippling"? Not really. I guess 20 inches fell -- it was snowing for the better part of two days -- but 20 inches didn't stick, for the simple reason that it's kinda warm here, relatively speaking. Here's the view out the front door of my building:

Snowy, yes, but cataclysmic? Not so much.

I bring this up because winter storms feed the wingnuts' global warming denialism. But it rained here all day Tuesday. Parts of Maine -- Maine! -- got 8 inches of rain in this storm. Yes, there were really big snows, in, say, the mountains of upstate New York. But here in the city, we've seen much, much worse.

Friday, February 26, 2010


Via Newsweek's Lisa Miller, here's a pearl of wisdom from Lanny Davis, who's teamed up with a former Mitt Romney campaign aide, Mark DeMoss, on the Civility Project, which is trying to get our political culture to be nicer:

... Would a more civil public conversation get us to where we need to go? If a big alien ship descended to earth and removed Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Keith Olbermann, and Rachel Maddow from the planet, would Congress finally be able to pass health care?

Davis says yes. "If Obama and the Republicans could be Mark DeMoss and me, we could listen to each other. We would mix and match, and find an incremental solution that may be 25 or 50 percent away from where we want to be. Perfect is the enemy of the good."

Er, no. It's a bit like the belief that arresting drug dealers will decrease the demand for drugs -- it never does. If political-anger dealers were removed from society, new dealers would step up to take their place. We like political anger.

Miller, naturally sees an equivalence between left and right anger-mongers -- ignoring, as all conventional-wisdom purveyors do, the fact that the thirteen highest-rated cable news shows are all on Fox and the fact that the nine most influential radio talkers are right-wing. There's an imbalance -- obviously.

And yet the imbalance in conventional wisdom goes the other way: left-wing anger is sometimes believed to exist on its own, and is deemed unspeakably awful (Cindy Sheehan! Michael Moore!), but right-wing anger is never believed to exist independently -- it's always part of a generalized incivility. When right-wingers are angry, it's everyone's fault! That, at least, is the CW in the rare moments, like now, when CW purveyors are forced to admit that right-wing anger even exists.

And, of course, Beltway journalists would really, really prefer not to acknowledge right-wing anger at all. Perhaps you've seen this Washington Post article about the Coffee Party movement, which is a small, loose agglomeration of pro-Obama types who want the discourse to be a bit more civil so something can get done. We know the Coffee Partiers want civility because that's a stated goal of their movement; Dan Zak of the Post,faced with this fact, feels the need to insist that tea partiers also want civility ... because, well, they say they do:

"We have to relearn how to talk to each other, to deliberate," says [Annabel] Park, driving west on I-66 to the Coffee Party meeting in Manassas. "It's also about regaining confidence that we can come together, that we can come to the middle and agree on things."

The Coffee Party believes the middle is consensus. The Tea Party believes the middle is the Constitution.

"People are scared on both sides about the financial stability of the country," adds [William] Temple, the Tea Party activist, on the phone from Brunswick. "There are people who get angry. I remind people, 'Hey, settle down. The sky's not gonna fall.' ... We need to reassure them that there's hope. We're not about to launch a French Revolution here. We can vote and we can talk and we can do it civilly."

Yeah, just trust him when he says that! After all, the tea partier came unarmed -- this time. (Temple, of course, attends tea party events wielding a musket.)

Ultimately, I don't have a problem with political anger. Our political anger problem in this country is this: right-wing elected officials are allowed to respond to it when it's on their side, and they're not called extreme when they do; Democrats aren't supposed to respond to the anger on our side (and many Democrats agree with that statement), and yet they're called extreme even when they don't. It's a subset of the larger problem, which is that Republicans get to win when they win -- i.e., they get to govern as they choose -- but Democrats aren't supposed to.

In today's Washington Post, ex-Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson defends Teddy Roosevelt against Glenn Beck, Ron Paul, and others on the right who think TR was a dirty socialist -- but I don't think Gerson really understands how his own side functions: was [Teddy] Roosevelt's political purpose to avoid a revolution. He sought to preserve the market system by regulating its health, safety and fairness. This is not laissez faire, but it is an authentic conservative tradition -- the use of incremental reform to diffuse radicalism. And few today would wish to return to 19th-century labor, health and antitrust standards.

All those few, however, seemed to be in attendance at CPAC, determined to sharpen an ideological debate. In the name of constitutional purity, they propose a great undoing. Not just the undoing of Obamaism. Undo Medicare and Social Security. Undo the expansive American global commitments that proceeded from World War II and the Cold War. Undo progressive-era economic regulations. Undo the executive power grab that preserved the union. Undo it all -- until America is left with a government appropriate to an isolated, 18th-century farming republic.

This is a proposal for time travel, not a policy agenda....

A candidate running recently in Virginia, New Jersey or Massachusetts on a Beck/Paul platform would have duplicated Ron Paul's results during his 1988 presidential run. (Paul gained less than one-half of 1 percent of the vote.)...

Is it really true that "few today would wish to return to 19th-century labor, health and antitrust standards"? Among right-wing elitists -- Beck, Limbaugh, Grover Norquist, et al. -- I'm not sure it is. I think they really might wish to return to those standards. They're well off -- nothing terrible will happen to them. They certainly talk as if they do.

Among the rank and file of the far right? Well, they may not wish to return to those standards when they hear the details -- hell, they don't even want Medicare modified, much less eliminated -- but they think that's what they want. The delicious absolutism of it, the sense that it's the utter antithesis of allegedly communist Obamaism, just thrills them.

And the evidence that Ron Paul lacks mass appeal on the right is that he fared poorly as a third-party presidential candidate 22 years ago? That's absurd -- we know he's much more popular on the right now, and it's impossible to know what the limit of his popularity would be if he liked war as much as the rest of his party does.

But fine -- let's assume for the sake of argument that a candidate who advocated undiluted Paulism wouldn't fare very well in a major election. The secret is to do what so many mainstream Republicans do -- suggest you're a pure Paulist, while also taking more mainstream-right positions. Give the rabble the thrill of thinking they're revolutionaries, then act like a regular old Republican when you're in office.

The genius of this is that if you pump up your electorate with absolutist wingnut rhetoric, then pursue only gradualist right-wing change, there's always some goal on the horizon -- some tax cut, some budget cut -- that the evil liberals are making unattainable. And then another after that, and another after that. This is more or less how the gun and anti-abortion lobbies work these days -- they're sustained by gradualism, because the enemy (us) is never fully defeated, and there's always one more incrementalist defeat we can suffer.

Of course, a consequence of this is that the Overton window is gradually pushed further and further to the right the more this strategy is adopted. The country becomes more wingnutty gradually.

So relax, Mike. Your guys are still playing the game quite skilfully. The country's going to have to become a lot saner before Beck and Paul really manage to do you serious harm.

At the Drudge Report, the health care summit is so eighteen hours ago, relegated to the tiny little headlines above the big banner:

Evil Negroes! That's Drudge's lede.

Paterson's in trouble for reportedly helping to cover up a top aide's girlfriend-battering. Rangel's in trouble for lining his own pocket. But, you know, all those people's scandals look alike, right?


Elsewhere, I find it interesting that President Obama's performance was called "arrogant" by Murdoch-wannabe journalists (Mark Halperin, the editorial board of the Boston Herald) but not, as far as I can tell, in the Murdoch press itself. I generally assume Murdoch and his minions are wily bastards, grandmasters at media manipulation -- so I'm guessing they think there's no percentage in calling the president uppi--, er, arrogant. Even Murdoch's own Fox News poll says:

By a 50 to 40 percent margin, more voters think the health care summit is a "sincere effort" on the president's part to work out a compromise than think it is "just for show."

And even though the poll says more people (50%) want nothing done on a health care bill than want one passed (46%), that's an improvement for Obama and the Dems:

The new results show an increase in support for health care reform, up five percentage points since December, when 41 percent wanted lawmakers to pass reform legislation. At that time a 54 percent majority wanted Congress to do nothing.

So, on optics, maybe Obama's doing something right, and perhaps even Murdoch is treading lightly, at least with regard to personal attacks. (The Fox News site headlines fears of the misnamed "nuclear" option rather than fear of Obama, while Fox Nation frames Obama with Pelosi and Reid and says they "Lose Summit on Substance." The Wall Street Journal online front page barely mentions the summit at all.)

And I guess Drudge just figures any black person in the wingnut dunk-the-clown chair that is his front page is just as good as another.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


You probably know about the new lunatic conspiracy theory on the right:

... that the Obama administration manipulated the redesign of the Missile Defense Agency to look like his campaign logo. This theory then evolved to claims that the new logo incorporates the Islamic crescent as well....

This nutty conspiracy theory was escalated by Frank Gaffney, who sees it as explaining Obama’s rationale behind his cuts to missile defense. How so? Well because he is a secret Muslim of course, which since all Muslims are out to destroy America, means Obama is out to do the same....

Here, of course, is the Obama campaign logo:

And, yeah, the new Missile Defense Agency logo does look vaguely like it, and does kinda have a crescent and star:

But check out the red striped swoosh on the new MDA logo. Notice the way it curves around and comes to a point. It's obvious where we've seen that before:

In the logo of football's New England Patriots!

So now we know why the fiendishly clever Obama administration is changing the logo -- it's outreach to Scott Brown! It's all about playing on the regular-guy senator's deep and abiding love for local sports ... just so he'll occasionally vote for cloture!

Hey, Scott voted for that jobs bill, and it passed. So I guess the subterfuge by the wily White House is working....
(with an update)

I'm not able to watch the health care summit today, but I just found out about this statement made by Democrat Louise Slaughter:

I even have one constituent -- you will not believe this, and I know you won't, but it's true -- her sister died. This poor woman had no denture. She wore her dead sister's teeth, which of course were uncomfortable and did not fit.

Do you ever believe that in America that that's where we would be?

I find that moving. Reuters correspondent Caren Bohan tweeted,

Consensus of Blair House press pool: Louise Slaughter's tale of the woman who wore her dead sister's teeth was most compelling anecdote

Here's the clip:

So how did Fox Nation react to this?

Yes -- those insane Democrats! They think this debate is about how people with health care needs actually live in America! What madness! Don't they know it's really all about political posturing and seeing how close we can come to realizing Ayn Rand's ideal society? Don't they realize people are supposed to serve the capitalist economic system, and not the other way around? What crazy folk!

Oh, and Michelle Malkin thinks the anecdote is just a kneeslapper. Here's a tweet:

Slaughter: We need trillion-$ Demcare cuz someone had to wear their sister's dentures! O: "Terrific conversation"

And then from Malkin, about two hours later:

Phew. Biden hasn't said anything about wearing anyone's dentures.Yet.

Hyuk hyuk hyuk hyuk! Dentures! Har har har!

And from Malkin's blog:

1:00pm Eastern. Last speaker before the break: Democrat Rep. Louise Slaughter, who complains about women and minorities being excluded from clinical trials years ago and tells a sob story about a woman who was "forced" to wear her dead sister’s dentures. Or something.

Obama extols the "terrific conversation" so far.

Pray for the Republic, people.

Are these people even capable of ordinary human empathy?


UPDATE: As a commenter notes, Limbaugh calls this the "sob story of the day" and also says,

I mean for example, well what's wrong with using a dead person's teeth? Aren't the Democrats big into recycling? Save the planet? And so what? So if you don't have any teeth, so what? What's applesauce for? Isn't that why they make applesauce?

CNN polled the tea party folks recently, and I think Jim Spencer and Curtis Ellis, a couple of Democratic political consultants writing in the L.A. Times, are on to something -- but I don't think they've got the story exactly right:

Most 'tea party' followers are baby boomers reliving the '60s

... Neither "average Americans," as they like to portray themselves, nor trailer-park "Deliverance" throwbacks, as their lefty detractors would have us believe, tea partyers are more highly educated and wealthier than the rest of America. Nearly 75% are college educated, and two-thirds earn more than $50,000.

More likely to be white and male than the general population, tea partyers also skew toward middle age or older. That's the tell. Most came of age in the 1960s, an era distinguished by widespread disrespect for government. In their wonder years, they learned that politics was about protesting the Establishment and shouting down the Man. No wonder they're doing that now.

... The tea party is a harbinger of midlife crisis, not political crisis. For men of a certain age, it offers a counterculture experience familiar from adolescence -- underground radio, esoteric tracts, consciousness-raising teach-ins and rallies replete with extroverted behavior to shock the squares....

Yes, but is this experience familiar because today's protested did it in their youth, or because they didn't do it, and resented the ones who did -- quite possibly out of envy?

I think there are some teabaggers who were lefty protesters back in the day -- but I think a lot of these folks were on the other side then; they saw their lefty generational peers getting all the media attention and (or so legend has it -- I was in grade school so I don't know for sure) the good sex and good drugs, and they've never stopped feeling that that was unfair. They wanted an Age of Aquarius in which they were the center of attention -- and now they have it.

I've been saying for a while that the tactics of anti-Obama protesters seem sixties-oriented -- the use of live pigs as props, the naive calls for national strikes, the Alinsky envy, and so on. Oh, and did I mention the protest music?

From the YouTube page of the singer-songwriter, who calls herself ... er, cowgirlmoon:

... For more than 20 years, I was a Singer/songwriter/ entertainer and for several years, part owner of a popular, local music hall, called "The Little Ole Opry Co." Located near Burfordville, Mo.

Several years following, I interned with the Irish Republican entrepreneurial Star Travelers. A cosmically conservative, outlaw band, on the fringes of societal evolution, we set about the enormously, minuscule task of saving extremely, small, unimportant planetoids, from near distinction.
(Pluto was nearly, our most prestigious success)

Sometime during my association with the R.E.S.T., I was sucked through a Loop-hole and blown into a prison cell phone, where I had no choice, but to listen to monitored communications, with conviction.

Since my escape, I've continued to hide out in the old home town....

Burfordville is just outside Cape Girardeau, home to Rush Limbaugh. This strikes me as small-town wannabe leftiness, but I confess I can't really tell what the demographic tale is here. (I will note that her favorite books include Bury My Hart at Wounded Knee and -- gulp -- Jonathan Livingston Seagull.)
(now updated)

Fox Nation link to a new Sarah Palin Facebook post:

The quote in context, from Palin's post:

The President has wrestled control of the health care debate away from Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid by finally introducing his own plan. Unfortunately, the White House's proposal includes everything we found untenable about the old Senate bill - only this one is even more expensive! This is what you might call putting "perfume on a pig." ...

"Perfume on a pig"? Not "lipstick"?

Well, if you agree with Barbara from the Mahablog that Sarah Palin, to her followers, is a goddess -- and I do believe that -- then you have to assume that Palin used "perfume" rather than "lipstick" because lipstick is a sacred attribute of her goddesshood.

Barbara takes this idea from Buddhism, but it certainly shows up in Christianity (think of the Catholic saints, who have attributes that are well known to devout followers) and Greek and Roman mythology (think Dionysus, the god of wine, who carried a phallic staff called a thyrsus). Barbara writes that Palin

is a near-perfect embodiment of an ideal. She is (to a rightie) beautiful, sexual, and maternal; she is powerful enough that the Evil Ones who live in Washington and who speak seditious things on the Teevee must kowtow to her. Through her folksy speech and shooting skills she evokes other American archetypes from more wholesome, earlier times, like Daniel Boone. But she also wears modern clothes and has a Facebook page.

Like most tantric deities, Palin has has both benevolent and wrathful aspects. As a wrathful goddess she gives voice to her followers' deepest fears and hates and resentments. But she also has a bright smile and sometimes carries a baby, showing a benevolent side. Her followers both love her and identify with her; she is an archetype representing their own deepest selves, or at least the selves they’d like to be.

As Barbara adds, because Palin is effectively sacred to her followers, it doesn't matter if she reads notes off her hand or can't answer certain questions -- "Whatever she does is exactly right, because it is her doing it, and she is a goddess."

Makes sense to me -- and it makes sense that the hockey-mom lipstick is something she regards as a sacred attribute.

... Or, perhaps, as a part of her branding -- a trademark of sorts that helps make her a successful product.

Then again, Palin is sort of a Randian, and I suppose if you believe in Randism, then branding and being a successful product are sacred, aren't they? A trademark or slogan is a sacred attribute, no?


UPDATE: And for those who believe that I'm "overthinking" this (or that Barbara is), don't forget that many Palinites regard her as a modern-day equivalent of the non-divine but still holy Esther from the Bible. See, for instance, this link and this one and this one. It's been reported that Palin herself takes this comparison seriously. People who talk this way regard the biblical Esther as a beauty queen.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Nice ad ... but I assume, based on the time readout, that it's too long to actually be shown on TV -- what show has a 1:19-long ad slot? Which means that the ad is meant to be chatted about on the Net and among the chattering classes, but is not meant to be seen by a mass audience in Arizona:

Jonathan Chait says:

Interesting -- John McCain apparently thinks that pointing out that his opponent is a Birther, or caters to Birthers, will help him win a Republican primary

But unless he puts this, or a version of it, on the air, he's not really addressing the primary electorate. He's addressing Politico writers and David Broder and the like. Maybe he'll prove me wrong, but I don't think he'll dare go mass-market with this message.


By the way, in a trip to McCain's campaign site, so far I don't see the video anywhere -- not on the home page, on the Newsroom page, on the blog, or in the collection of videos on the "About John" page (by contrast, McCain's last Jay Leno interview is there). The campaign Twitter feed doesn't mention it. I don't see it on the campaign's Facebook wall. I really don't think it's meant to be seen widely.

... would they stop complaining about an economic downturn just because it's over, Arnold?

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger believes that the tea party movement is "not going anywhere."

Schwarzenegger, speaking Tuesday night with Fox News's Greta Van Susteren, said the grass-roots movement is only "an expression of anger and disappointment."

"People meet. They talk about it. What can we change? How? And it's all healthy and it's all good,” California's Republican governor said. "But I'm just saying they're not going anywhere with it because nobody is coming up and saying, 'Here's our candidate, here's our solution, here's what we're going to do, and have a whole policy debate over the various different issues.'" ...

"In the end, when the economy comes back, I think that the tea party will disappear again," he said. "It will, you know, twinkle and disappear, and that will be it."

Hey, Mr. European, that may be how they do things in Euroweenie Land -- you know, protest about actual government policies and demand an actual set of alternate policies -- but that's not how we roll in the U.S. of A., Jack. Here we start a protest movement called "Taxed Enough Already," and the people who show up are protesting a guy who didn't raise taxes, and, in fact, gave out tax cuts. That's because (a) we're proudly ignorant in America and (b) what's really being protested is the really, really unfair fascist rigged system whereby moderate Democrats who live in the North are sometimes allowed to run things rather than extremely right-wing Southerners who listen to country music, the group that should run things all the time.

The tea party movement will break up, of course ... the minute Republicans gain control of all three branches of government. Then they'll be told, "Adios, suckers! Thanks for the votes!" "Twinkle and disappear"? Nahhh. More like "be purged and disappeared" (at least on Fox).

Even though more people think Republicans are not doing enough to reach bipartisan consensus, 54 percent believe the Democratic party should take the first step toward developing bipartisan solutions to the country's problems, the survey says. Forty-two percent say the GOP should take that first step.

--report on a new CNN poll

Did you follow that? On the question of who's causing gridlock, more people say the GOP is at fault (67%) than say the White House is (52%) -- and yet the Democrats are the ones who are supposed to do something about it.

I wonder if this way of thinking arises out of some version of the "just world" fallacy. You know about that -- it's the tendency to believe that, if something horrible happens to someone, that person must have done something to deserve it. Rape victims and abused spouses struggle to have their problems taken seriously because people can't get past the tendency to think there must be a reason why they've been attacked.

Obviously the rage against Barack Obama, Democrats, and liberals on the part of the right hasn't been like real interpersonal violence. But I wonder if the public is having an analogous reaction: Boy, those people are really beating up on the Dems. The Dems must really have done something to deserve it.

I thought about this as I was reading Driftglass's post describing a Chicago public television story on the tea party movement. Once again, as in the case of the NPR and New Yorker stories on the movement that I've written about, we were told that in the Chicago report that the teabaggers are just nice, normal folks who've been spurred to action by genuine affronts to their sense of justice. (In fact, all the interviewed teabaggers are right-wing operatives, a fact the story never seems to disclose.)

It's as the "liberal media" can't bear to imagine that Democrats are being attacked unfairly, by vicious partisans who simply want to make the country ungovernable in the midst of multiple crises because they think that's the most effective route to power. That would mean the teabaggers are attacking Democrats unfairly. That notion, apparently, is intolerable. Therefore, the "liberal" journalists seem determined to demonstrate that Democrats really have been, um, "asking for it."

Maybe if Democrats fought back passionately, in a partisan way (by which I mean in a way that says they truly believe their ideas are right), this wouldn't happen -- both sides would be attacking, both sides would be targeted by attacks, and we'd assess the competing claims. But the president, as we're reminded in today's New York Times, certainly doesn't operate that way:

... Mr. Obama has not been the sort to bludgeon his party into following his lead or to intimidate reluctant legislators....

"I wouldn't mind seeing a little more toughness here or there," said Representative Louise M. Slaughter, a New York Democrat, who contends that if Mr. Obama had pushed the Senate harder last year, the bill would have been law by now.

Like many Democrats in Congress, she praises Mr. Obama as intellectually gifted and a generous listener. But "if you are asking me if he dominates the room," she said, "I would have to say no."

... "He always starts off with a policy argument, making the intellectual case for his point of view," [Senator Evan] Bayh said. "Secondarily to that, there might be a discussion of some of the political ramifications, but he always starts off with, 'Look, this is why I think this is right for the country, and I respect your point of view, I know where you are coming from, but here's why I think we need to do it this way. Can you help me?'" ...

I'd also point out (as Aimai did yesterday) the complete lack of outrage by Obama and other prominent Democrats in reaction to the attack on the IRS office in Austin. Joe Stack may not have been a teabagger, a Republican, or even a full-bore right-winger, but he's been embraced by the right -- for instance, by GOP congressman Steve King, who

told a crowd at CPAC on Saturday that he could "empathize" with the suicide bomber who last week attacked an IRS office in Austin, and encouraged his listeners to "implode" other IRS offices, according to a witness.

If you fail to fight back against this kind of outrageous talk, the public must be forgiven for assuming that the rhetoric is reasonable, as was the act it defends -- that maybe the IRS agents, and the government they represent, really were "asking for it."

(Driftglass link via Rumproast; Steve King link via Steve Benen.)

And spank Obama for things he isn't actually doing?

When President Obama took office, gun rights advocates sounded the alarm, warning that he intended to strip them of their arms and ammunition.

And yet the opposite is happening. Mr. Obama has been largely silent on the issue while states are engaged in a new and largely successful push for expanded gun rights, even passing measures that have been rejected in the past.

... lawmakers in Montana and Tennessee passed measures last year -- the first of their kind -- to exempt their states from federal regulation of firearms and ammunition that are made, sold and used in state. Similar bills have been proposed in at least three other states....

A major setback for [Virginia] gun control advocates was this week's House vote repealing the one-gun-per-month law, which was passed in 1993....

I didn't remember that that was the year the one-gun restriction was passed in Virginia. You see, up here in New York City, especially during our high-crime years, it was known that multiple-purchase wasn't just a way for virtuous Virginians with country music on the truck stereo to defend themselves:

Virginia's Governor, Douglas Wilder, has been pushing a one-gun-per-month bill for his state because it has become a source for illegal gun smuggling on the East Coast. Dealers from New York City, where local laws sharply restrict access to guns, drive to Virginia and fill the trunks of their cars with weapons purchased in stores with the help of local residents. Then they haul the guns back to New York and sell them illegally on the street at huge markups.

Since it wouldn't pay to travel back and forth for one gun at a time, limiting purchases to one per month could quickly put the smugglers out of business in Virginia.

That's from The New York Times on February 4, 1993. Well, the law passed in Virginia that year. Guess when homicides in New York City began to plummet?

(Click to enlarge.)

Yes, homicides started to drop a bit for a couple of years after 1990 -- but the plunge started just about when this law passed. (Obviously that wasn't the only reason -- the use of CompStat computer tracking of crime, a general turning away from crack, the fact that "zero tolerance" policies of arresting people on misdemeanor charges often found that the arrestees were wanted on serious charges -- all of these changes were part of the reason violent crime plunged in New York starting in the early '90s. Cite your own pet reason. But the Virginia law had to be a part of the solution. And by the way, our two Republican mayors since then, Giuliani and Bloomberg, have been very pro-gun control.)

Virginia gun laws are rather lax even with the one-gun law in effect -- and, what do you know, the state is still the #1 source of NYC crime guns. It's also a top source for crime guns in Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, and D.C. So hey, why not let more guns flow out of state? Because, after all, we have to stop the jackbooted fascist Kenyan from taking away our right to self-defense. Oh, wait, he's done just the opposite:

In the meantime, gun control advocates say, Mr. Obama has failed to deliver on campaign promises to close a loophole that allows unlicensed dealers at gun shows to sell firearms without background checks; to revive the assault weapons ban; and to push states to release data about guns used in crimes.

He also signed bills last year allowing guns to be carried in national parks and in luggage on Amtrak trains.

Gun fetishists are like anti-Semites who see a Jew saving a Christian child's life and declare that that's proves all Jews kill Christian babies and use their blood in Passover matzos. Empirical evidence is not allowed to get in the way of delusional hate propaganda.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


I've been skeptical about the possibility that there'll be a serious rift between the Republican Party and the tea party movement -- their main enemies are the same, and they share a Pravda in Fox News. Sure, teabaggers like to think of themselves as independent, but it seems likely that, come November, they'll do as they're told on radio and cable: vote GOP.

However, it's clear that there's quite a bit of concern on the right about a couple of events at CPAC: the straw-poll victory by Ron Paul and the pox-on-both-your-houses speech by Glenn Beck. And so there may be a rift emerging somewhere, tea-stained or otherwise.

Here's Dave Weigel on Paul:

The news that Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) had won the 2010 CPAC presidential straw poll was leaked early, to soften the blow.... reporters started to write stories on Paul's surprise win, waiting for the official announcement -- and an explosion of jeering and booing in the main ballroom of the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel. Sighing with relief, press aides for the annual conservative conference made sure that the on-site media had heard that reaction.

Just as relieved were mainstream GOP activists and traditional conservative thinkers who were pondering ways to make the party electable again....

The importance of minimizing Paul's win united conservative activists like almost nothing else that came from the three-day conference....

As for Beck's speech, we now have this radio monologue by Rush Limbaugh, enthusiastically promoted by one of the Corner folks at National Review:

... People said, "What would you have said if you were there? What would you have said?"

... I would say that the Republicans have not joined the Democrats in any of this destruction. The Republican Party has -- because of you, because you let them hear from you -- not gone bipartisan.

... I certainly would not have ignored the other team on the field, the Democrats. They're the only reason we're in this mess. The Democrat Party is the only reason we are threatened with the things we're threatened with. The Democrat Party. Solely. They own it.

...the best way to insure that Obama succeeds is to think that we need a third party.

... One year after the inauguration of Barack Obama there is a conservative ascendancy within the Republican Party, and it needs to be encouraged, not beaten down. It needs to be inspired. We need to thank them and join them....

And in case you don't get the message -- in case Beck doesn't get the message -- the transcript is accompanied on Limbaugh's site by this propaganda graphic:

I still think these guys are worried about nothing -- after all, as I pointed out a couple of days ago, the CPAC crowds cheered both George W. Bush and Bush-bashing. And as for the invasion of the Paulbots, Benjamin Sarlin of the Daily Beast noted that many of the very young, very anti-imperialist Paul fans don't really seem to care that much about this aspect of their ideology:

While Newt Ginrgich repeatedly bashed Democrats as soft on national security on the main stage Saturday, the Paul group Campaign for Liberty hosted an anti-war panel called, "You've Been Lied To: Why Real Conservatives Are Against the War on Terror." It filled a smaller ballroom to maximum capacity with a cheering, overwhelmingly young audience.

For all the differences between them, however, most attendees said they felt little tension with their fellow conservatives on a personal level.

"We respect each other's viewpoints," Travis Korson, a George Washington University student, said. "You just don't talk about things you disagree [about]."

That may be because they were too busy using CPAC as a singles bar:

For many students who see themselves as embattled conservative minorities on overwhelmingly liberal campuses, CPAC is a rare opportunity to relax and be themselves, a place where the teenager in a bow tie will be accepted with open arms, where opinions aren't shouted down -- and, of course, where singles can find like-minded hookups.

"We're looking for boyfriends," Jamie Boccanfusso, a sophomore from UPenn, said with a giggle in the exhibit hall.

"You don't even know where to start" boasted Gerald Ratchford, a cadet from the Citadel, whose uniform made him a hit with the ladies. "Some of the girls here, it's like instantly, 'Will you marry me?'"

And yet, obviously, Limbaugh and the GOP establishment are worried. And why are they worried? Beyond the fact that they don't want purists to refuse to pull the Republican lever in November, I think they fear that, when and if Republicans are in power, they might actually be held to some of their small-government promises. As Paul Krugman wrote yesterday:

... Republicans insist that the deficit must be eliminated, but they're not willing either to raise taxes or to support cuts in any major government programs. And they're not willing to participate in serious bipartisan discussions, either, because that might force them to explain their plan -- and there isn't any plan, except to regain power.

Can't have all these people in the coalition genuinely expecting -- no, demanding -- a break from business as usual from the GOP, right? They have to stay in the fold. They have to vote GOP. And then they have to content themselves with the same-old-same-old -- tax cuts, jingoism, Democrat-bashing, and no real reform. They shouldn't think they have a right to expect more.


AND: Kevin K. notes another red-on-red attack, this one by World Net Daily, which accuses Glenn Beck of being a (gasp!) global warming believer with a publicist who's a Democrat. (Funny, I don't recall any wingnut outrage when The Washington Post profiled that publicist last fall....)
State Funeral

Am I the first person to say that I would like to see some serious Federal and State recognition for the attack on the IRS building in Texas, and a state funeral for the two tour Vietnam Veteran who was killed in the attack? I see no real time TV and listen to no talk radio other than NPR but it seems to me that the White House is missing an important opportunity here to confront the freak show on the far right head on. Mr. Hunter and his family deserve to mourn and celebrate their husband, father, and grandfather in private, of course, and I'm not suggesting that anything should be done that will turn their private grief into a public scene. But the fact of the matter is that the attack on the building that led to his death was a direct attack on the US government and all its public servants and every person who ever enters a public building--in other words: all of us.

The emergence of right wing violence is as perennial and as predictable as the appearance of cicadas: there are always disaffected, angry, violent, white guys in American society. When their own party/race/community is in power and they see the power to tax and police in "their own hands" they are content to expand the powers of government and to submit to its authority, secure in the belief that minorities, women, and poor people will be kept in their place. When the "opposite party" is in power, or seen to be in the ascendance, they become hysterical and withdraw their consent to the entire project of the nation: accepting neither the federal government, the police function, nor the power to tax. I don't think there are a lot of potential mass murderers out there, even on the fringe. I'm not worried about a hundred more Tim McVeigh's or IRS plane bombers. But I am concerned that we not give the modern GOP cover by pretending that these are not their voters or that they aren't in the business of supporting this kind of violence. There's a symbiotic relationship between the GOP, as currently constituted, and anti-tax/anti liberalism/anti government ideology--my own new boy toy ("Naked Came the Senator" as Tbogg calls him) said as much before someone reminded him that that might be a tad impolitic.

I think this is the time to force a public split between the Republican ruling class--which adopts and apes the language of the anti-taxers, and their angry base by drawing a public line between lower tax/limited government policies and speeches and violent anti-government actions. Make the Republicans own their violent fringe, and disown it too. I'd like to see a State Funeral for Mr. Hunter at Arlington, if his family would like that, and at the very least I want to see the Obama administration appropriate money for a new IRS building in the name of Mr. Hunter and force the entire Texas Republican hierarchy to attend the ground breaking ceremony and listen to speeches--and give speeches--about the importance of taxation to representation and to good governance.


I learn via ql at Eschaton that Cenk Uygur thinks Rahm Emanuel is on his way out and is using the press to signal that fact:

.. Dana Milbank transcribed an article written by Rahm Emanuel yesterday in The Washington Post. Never has an article been more clearly written to support a political benefactor.

... My second thought was, "Wow, what a hatchet job on Jarrett, Gibbs and Axelrod!" Since Rahm is obviously feeding this to Milbank, that is very revealing. You don't throw these kinds of bombs unless you've already lost. This is an act of desperation. It's bound to make mortal enemies of these people inside Obama's inner circle. You can't really work with these people anymore. That means you're already finished there.

This is basically Rahm saying on his way out, I was right all along and these guys were wrong....

Well, maybe. I criticize Emanuel's biggest antagonist, Jane Hamsher, but I'm no Emanuel fan either. I just think he's incompetent as a legislation manager. And what strikes me about the Milbank article is that even if Emanuel did spoon-feed the story, it doesn't necessarily make him look good:

The president would have been better off heeding Emanuel's counsel. For example, Emanuel bitterly opposed former White House counsel Greg Craig's effort to close the Guantanamo Bay prison within a year, arguing that it wasn't politically feasible. Obama overruled Emanuel, the deadline wasn't met, and Republicans pounced on the president and the Democrats for trying to bring terrorists to U.S. prisons. Likewise, Emanuel fought fiercely against Attorney General Eric Holder's plan to send Khalid Sheik Mohammed to New York for a trial. Emanuel lost, and the result was another political fiasco.

Obama's greatest mistake was failing to listen to Emanuel on health care. Early on, Emanuel argued for a smaller bill with popular items, such as expanding health coverage for children and young adults, that could win some Republican support. He opposed the public option as a needless distraction.

You know what this says to me? It says that maybe Emanuel just doesn't do his job very well when he has to help execute a plan he doesn't agree with. And, y'know, he works for the president of the United States. Havin to do it the boss's way, and no backtalk, kinda goes with the job description.

Zandar has a couple of other theories:

I think it's Rahmbo trying to look like the bad guy here in order to take the heat off Obama among the Dems so that his boss can get health care reform done.

(Though I don't know why he would think that would help.)

There's also the theory that this is Rahm serving very public notice to the rest of the West Wing that he's not leaving.... He may be looking to see if anyone's got the stones to check his raise, especially after the recent article earlier this month on Obama's inner circle leading him astray.

It almost seems like a dominance challenge to the president and the fellow staffers who are criticized in the article -- and I don't know if Obama and the rest of his team really do have the cojones to punish him for that. They make think they need him too much right now (despite the fact that he hasn't exactly done such a bang-up job so far). I don't think he's afraid of anyone at this point.

Steve Benen is understandably appalled by this -- but if he thinks it's some sort of new low for the right, well, it really isn't:

... On his radio show yesterday, [Rush Limbaugh] condemned health care reform as "a civil rights bill" and "reparations." Seriously.

Limbaugh has spent plenty of time talking about President Obama and "reparations," and has also had plenty to say about health care reform, but as far as I can tell, yesterday was one of those rare instances in which the host combined the two.

I'm going to go on a limb here and describe this as about the most racist thing a major American media personality has said in quite a while....

It's bad -- but it's not particularly original, even for the "mainstream" right. Here was the Fox Nation front page on July 28, 2009:

This led to an editorial from the ultra-right Investor's Business Daily that read, in part, as follows:

Reparations By Way Of Health Care Reform

Still believe in post-racial politics? Read the health care bill. It's affirmative action on steroids, deciding everything from who becomes a doctor to who gets treatment on the basis of skin color....

This may be a goal of Obama's health care plan: the redress of health care disparities on the basis of race....

The racial grievance industry under health care reform could be calling the shots in the emergency room, the operating room, the medical room, even medical school....

(The direct link to this editorial is here, but it seems to have been hijacked by another site, so proceed with caution. You can read the full text, if you must, here.)

And for what it's worth, Newsmax on Sunday called the settlement of a long-standing complaint by black farmers against the Agriculture Department "$1.25B in Reparations." In fact, it was definitively determined in 1999 that the Agriculture Department had discriminated against black farmers (go here and here for some background); many claims were paid, but this was a settlement of claims by those who were unable to obtain restitution during the Bush years, because of a lack of cooperation on the part of the Civil Rights Office. But what right-winger needs to hear the details? Just toss out the word "reparations" and a winger knows all he needs to know....

Remember that book deal Brown was seeking a couple of weeks ago? Well, it absolutely would have been worthwhile for a publisher to give him a huge advance, even though there's nothing to learn about him that you can't glean from one back issue of People, because, as we've seen in the past year or so, right-wingers will grab a copy of any half-baked book that reinforces their sense of group solidarity and functions as a two-minute hate against Democrats in type.

Ah, but Brown is now apostate:

Newly-seated Republican Sen. Scott Brown (Mass.) on Monday joined Democrats in voting to move forward on their $15 billion jobs bill.

Brown crossed the aisle after Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) nixed an $85 billion, bipartisan plan in favor of a more narrowly-focused bill....

And that means he just lost himself book sales in the hundreds of thousands. Here's some of the initial reaction (click to enlarge):

They. Will. Never. Forget. Scott, you blew it.

Of course, legislatively, this was Harry Reid's gift to the GOP, a bill so meaningless that Brown and four other Republicans could vote for cloture, and thus give the GOP the opportunity to claim a certain level of reasonableness, without any possibility that Republicans' goal of destroying the country and blaming it on Obama and the Democrats will be at risk:

Jon Chait has the definitive take on why this happened:

It tells you that these [GOP] Senators recognized that the legislation is essentially symbolic, and therefore a good time to burnish their moderate credentials rather than spend political capital to advance their party's agenda.

Exactly.... At around $15 billion, the so-called "jobs" bill represents around one-tenth of one percent of the total output of the American economy over the year ahead, and less than one-half of one percent of total federal spending over that period. It doesn't get much more symbolic than that.

The only way it's not symbolic is for Scott Brown's future bestseller-list status (and presidential aspirations). Well, thanks for playing, Scott. You're yesterday's wingnut hero.

Monday, February 22, 2010


You probably know that Ron Paul won CPAC's presidential straw poll.

I just want to remind you that Ron Paul's choice for president in 2008, after Paul decided not to mount a general-election campaign, was Chuck Baldwin, a minister and talk show host who was the candidate of the Constitution Party.

In case you didn't know, Chuck Baldwin wrote this a couple of days ago after Joe Stack flew a plane into the IRS offices in Austin, Texas, killing a worker:

My heart goes out to Joe Stack! ... We are fed up with an arrogant and oppressive federal government that is strangling the life and freedom out of our states. We all share Joe Stack's pain!

I really wish Joe Stack had not killed himself, however. We need each other....

Let's send a message, in no uncertain terms, that if they want our pound of flesh, they are going to have to come and get it--and if they do, it's going to cost them a whole lot more than a pound of theirs!

Oh, Joe! I wish you had not killed yourself.

Once again: CPAC's preferred 2012 presidential candidate endorsed a presidential candidate in 2008 who wrote those words.

Anyone going to ask any of the very mainstream CPAC speakers and attendees about that?

(Baldwin is also a 9/11 truther.)

Question: how many different ways can wingnuts use the existence of developmentally disabled children as a cudgel useful for bashing liberals?

Well, by now you've probably seen this story from Virginia:

RICHMOND [Virginia] — State Delegate Bob Marshall of Manassas says disabled children are God's punishment to women who have aborted their first pregnancy.

He made that statement Thursday at a press conference to oppose state funding for Planned Parenthood.

"The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the first born of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children," said Marshall, a Republican.

"In the Old Testament, the first born of every being, animal and man, was dedicated to the Lord. There's a special punishment Christians would suggest." ...

Now, note the very, very different approach taken by Eileen Marie Gardner, a Heritage Foundation "scholar" who was appointed to an Education Department job during the Reagan years by then-education secretary William Bennett:

Gradner -- who had to resign after her writings on the handicapped became public knowledge -- also wrote:

Back then, handicapped children were born that way, according to one wingnut, because God wanted to teach them a spiritual lesson; now, apparently, they're born that way because God wants to teach their baby-killing parents a lesson.

We know Sarah Palin believes just the opposite -- she believes that "not only had God made Trig different but He had made him perfect." Presumably Palin believes God makes all children perfect, in ways we mortals can't truly understand, and presumably a perfect child isn't a punishment to the mother. But this view -- which is exactly the opposite of Bob Marshall's -- is just as good for bashing liberals, who are believed to want all disabled fetuses aborted, and no backtalk.

The Palins, we assume, will send Trig to a school where, one imagines, Eileen Marie Gardner would say his presence will be "weaken[ing] the quality of teaching." But will any right-winger actually say that? Probably not, because being nice to developmentally disabled kids is, in the Palin era, presumed to be a much more effective form of liberal-bashing than saying nasty things about them. Except, of course, when the disability itself can be used to demonstrate the parents' wickedness.

See, it's fun to be right-wing -- you have great freedom of argument, just so long as your argument arrives at the endpoint LIBERALS ARE EVIL.

...two years in a row. (Video of both entrances at the link.)

The ego has landed. Twice.

Well, at least he didn't try to stage-dive.

OK, the White House's problem with health care reform was a Democratic Party that can't close ranks around any plan and a Republican Party that's united in the belief that anything the Democrats propose is not only unacceptable but intrinsically evil.

So the White House just unveiled a health care plan of its own. How's it working out?


Pelosi, Hoyer cool on Obama's health plan

Both Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) released statements on the president's plan that were notably muted.

Pelosi said merely that the new plan contains some "positive elements" from the House and Senate bills....

Hoyer, meanwhile, was almost entirely neutral on the proposal.

"In combining elements of the House and Senate-passed bills, the President has drawn a blueprint of ideas that have been thoroughly debated and publicly examined," Hoyer said....


Boehner: President's Health Care Proposal Jeopardizes Summit, Doubles Down on Failed Approach Americans Have Already Rejected...

"The President has crippled the credibility of this week’s summit by proposing the same massive government takeover of health care based on a partisan bill the American people have already rejected. This new Democrats-only backroom deal doubles down on the same failed approach that will drive up premiums, destroy jobs, raise taxes, and slash Medicare benefits....

Wow, that broke the logjam, didn't it?

It used to be that, if your company screwed up big time and had a serious image problem, your crisis management consultant would recommend a PR campaign that was somber, earnest, remorseful -- and resolutely apolitical. Toyota, we now learn, has a different strategy, which has two prongs: run the typical mea-culpa media campaign ... and also work the Glenn Beck crowd in order to discredit auto safety regulators:

Internal Toyota documents derided the Obama administration and Democratic Congress as "activist" and "not industry friendly," a revelation that comes days before the giant automaker's top executives testify on Capitol Hill amid a giant recall.

According to a presentation obtained under subpoena by the House Oversight and Government Relations committee, Toyota referred to the "changing political environment" as one of its main challenges and anticipated a "more challenging regulatory" environment under the Obama administration's purview....

Toyota has launched an image rehabilitation campaign on Capitol Hill, and its top lobbyist has sent e-mails to congressional aides in an attempt to shape its image amid this crisis.

Committee aides say the presentation, which was obtained by POLITICO, gives the clearest view into the minds of Toyota executives....

The “Activist Administration & Congress – increasing laws & regulations” is listed as one of “Toyota Challenges,” as is “Massive government support for Detroit automakers.” ...

The excerpt above is from a Politico story. The story presents this as a leak of documents that were not intended to be made public -- but it sure looks to me as if this is a deliberate "accidental" exposure of Toyota's strategy; the Drudge Report led with this story first thing this morning, and wingnut bloggers are acting in sync to spread the meme, writing posts with titles such as "Just How Radically Anti-business is the Obama Administration? Toyota May Have the Answer."

Maybe this is the work of an inept PR consultant who watches too much Fox News and is really misreading the national mood; maybe, in other words, dissatisfaction with the Obama White House and Democrats in general doesn't extend to skepticism about the regulation of products that can kill you and your kids. On the other hand, the size and monomaniacal bias of the Fox/tea party crowd, plus the clear effectiveness of the GOP noise machine, may mean that this can be an effective strategy in helping to get Toyota out of this mess.

We've already heard this line from Bush administration veteran Mitch Daniels, who's now the governor of Indiana, where Toyota has a couple of plants. Expect to hear it more and more on talk radio and Fox.

It will be a sign of the diseased nature of our political culture if these guys actually succeed in persuading a significant segment of the American population that efforts to hold Toyota accountable are a sinister plot by the socialist/fascists in the White House to help "their" auto companies. But Glenn Beck et al. may really have made us that paranoid and that stupid.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Dana Milbank thinks this is startling and significant. It's neither:

At CPAC, Glenn Beck scolds the Republican Party

After three days of liberal bashing, 10,000 right-wing activists attending the Conservative Political Action Conference used their final night in town to give a sharp rebuke to ... the Republicans?

... it was time for the keynote speaker, the wildly popular Fox News host Glenn Beck. "I voted Republican almost every time," he said, and "I don't even know what they stand for anymore. And they've got to realize that they have a problem: 'Hello, my name is the Republican Party, and I've got a problem. I'm addicted to spending and big government.'"

The audience in the Marriott Wardman Park gave a huge cheer.

... In an apparent reference to John McCain, Beck condemned a "guy in the Republican Party who says his favorite president is Theodore Roosevelt." ...

Obama, no doubt, will be delighted to learn that he has been joined in the conservatives' ire by the Hero of San Juan Hill....

The barrage continued. "One party will tax and spend; one party won't tax but will spend: It's both of them," he said. And as for George W. Bush's presidency, "anybody who thought that George Bush was spending and it made any kind of sense was a madman." ...

First of all, aren't the CPAC attendees who cheered Beck when he insulted George W. Bush also the folks who were in the cheering section at this CPAC moment, previously reported by Milbank's own newspaper?

George W. Bush is back -- at CPAC, at least. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) got a big cheer Friday for putting up a picture of the former president with the caption "Miss me yet?"

"I like it too," she proclaimed. The image first appeared mysteriously on a billboard in her state earlier this month....

These people don't care all that much about logical consistency. When Bush is compared to Obama, they cheer Bush; when some bashing of Bush makes them feel virtuous and patriotically "non-partisan," they cheer Bush-bashing. And besides, the subtext of that Bush-bashing, which every wingnut knows by heart, is that when Republicans engage in deficit spending they are "acting like Democrats." So, in a way, bashing Bush isn't really bashing the GOP at all -- it's bashing Republicans who deviate from conservative correctness.

And Milbank is shocked to hear Teddy Roosevelt condemned? Greg Girard, the tea party backer and Palin fan who was arrested a while back with a large cache of weapons, wrote this online not long before his arrest:

Leftists (a.k.a. radical liberals, progressives) have been vigorously pursuing a transformation of this country to a totalitarian communist state for about 100 years or so. For much of the early 20th century, leftist idealogy was so popular in the country that it was in many respects the most popular political perspective, and gave us a string of very leftist Presidents such as Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and FDR....

TR was a DFH? Yup -- that's a common notion on the right.

Now, recall that Milbank quotes Beck saying this:

" ...And they've got to realize that they have a problem: 'Hello, my name is the Republican Party, and I've got a problem. I'm addicted to spending and big government.'"

Elsewhere in the speech, according to Milbank, Beck said this:

"I'm a recovering alcoholic, and I screwed up my life six ways to Sunday," Beck said. "I believe in redemption, but the first step to getting redemption is you've got to admit that you've got a problem. I have not heard people in the Republican Party yet admit that they have a problem."

Actually, practically every day I hear Republicans swearing on a stack of Bibles that they're never going to deficit-spend again. But it doesn't matter what Beck has actually heard or not heard -- he's laying out a script for how Republicans purify themselves in wingnut voters' eyes. It's an AA script -- which he offers even as he presents himself as an example of how AA works. In other words, Beck is basically saying that Republicans -- like himself -- are quite redeemable.

No one in Wingnut World ever says that about Democrats.

So, Dana -- and anyone else tempted to fall for this (yes, I'm talking to you, Jane) -- my advice is: don't get sucked in. Republicans aren't really being bashed here. Only deviations from correct Republican thinking are being bashed. Beck will vote GOP in 2010 and 2012, as will virtually everyone who cheered him on.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Computer problems -- back in a while...

Friday, February 19, 2010


Headline at The Hill right now:

Is the next GOP presidential candidate a CPAC speaker?

Well, Palin's a no-show, but other than that it's quite possible, given the presence of folks like Romney, Pawlenty, Gingrich, ... er, Cheney... (I'm only half-joking about that last one -- he sure sounds as if he's waiting for the call.)

But what strikes me about CPAC is that it's smirky, jokey, flip, and arrogant, and some of that (e.g., the Tiger Woods crack) is coming from Possible Next Presidents themselves.

Can you imagine if, in the runup to 2006 or 2008, most of the major Democratic presidential contenders had attended a convention featuring a Condi Rice pinata, and maybe a Dick Cheney face shoot or a George W. Bush pretzel-eating contest? And can you further imagine Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and Joe Biden trying to outdo one another on missing-WMD jokes and Katrina-failure jokes, all while attendees got to knock down a guy dressed in drag as Lynne Cheney, sumo wrestler?

David Broder would be beside himself -- the lack of gravitas! Charles Krauthammer would need three columns to deride the Democrats' "unseriousness"!

Now imagine how much more unseemly the Dems' behavior would appear to the Beltway mandarins if it were all taking place during a time of 10% unemployment and two wars.

But these are Republicans, so this is no big whoop.

How charming that we had this at CPAC this morning:

Less than an hour before Tiger Woods was set to explain himself in a press conference, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty urged conservative activists to follow the golfer’s wife and "take a nine iron and smash the windows out of big government."

... Joking about Woods' looming press conference, Pawlenty said. "I think we can learn a lot from that situation. Not from Tiger, but from his wife."

"She said she'd had enough, and we've had enough," he said. "I think we should take a nine iron and smash the windows out." ...

The quip came, of course, less than 24 hours after this:

A software engineer furious with the U.S. tax agency launched a suicide attack on it Thursday by crashing his small plane into an office building housing....

Flames shot from the building, windows exploded, a huge pillar of black smoke rose over the city, and terrified workers rushed to get out....

"It felt like a bomb blew off," said Peggy Walker, an IRS revenue officer who was sitting at her desk. "The ceiling caved in and windows blew in. We got up and ran."

... Michelle Santibanez felt the vibrations and ran to the windows, where she and her co-workers witnessed a scene that reminded them of Sept. 11.

"It was the same kind of scenario, with window panels falling out and desks falling out and paperwork flying," said Santibanez, an accountant.

...The blaze at Stack's home ... caved in the roof and blew out the windows....

(Emphasis mine throughout.)


One thing I learned during the busing years in Boston is how eager some people are to have a moral justification for their violent rage. It struck me that most violent haters don't really want to be evil -- they want to believe their rage is virtuous. They want someone to give them the moral license to hurt people. (The people who threw rocks at school buses really had themselves convinced that they were doing it to preserve the concept of neighborhood schools; injuring black children, they'd all have told you, wasn't the point at all.)

The craving for a license to commit violence (personally or vicariously) is why so many right-wingers absolutely wallowed in 9/11. It's why they love the "smoking gun" scenario that seems to justify torture. It's why a lot of them enjoy imagining that criminals on the rampage will compel them to retaliate with their own firearms.

Pawlenty's remark seems to be lighthearted, but it's still tapping into the notion that violence against the hated group is moral and necessary. And it's addressed, of course, to people who "came unarmed (this time)" -- or maybe just last time.

(Clip via Right Wing Watch.)