Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Here's How It Works, People:

You get to vote in elections (or not vote, but that's your choice). Elections can go either way. Sometimes your candidates win, and sometimes they lose. When your candidates lose, that doesn't mean the results are illegitimate.

The people who do win these elections are then authorized to make decisions on your behalf, even if you didn't vote for them. That authorization continues until they leave office.

Sometimes the winners do things you don't like. The fact that you don't like them doesn't mean those things were done without your consent or representation. You gave your consent when you voted in an election, and you are represented by whoever wins. Unless you didn't vote. In which case, you gave your consent by default.

When this happens, it isn't an abuse of power, or unconstitutional, or tyranny. It's the political system working in an entirely legitimate way. A way you might happen not to like, but the way it was meant to work.

Oh, and by the way? The people do not directly vote on legislation. An opinion poll is not a plebiscite. When Congress passes a bill that a majority of poll respondents oppose, that isn't un-democratic; it's just a different decision about what should be done, by the people whose job it is to make those decisions.

When you claim that any given result of the legislative process is illegitimate just because you don't like it, you de-legitimize the process as a whole. Which you're perfectly free to do, because it's a free country, and people can say stupid things if they want to. But if you do try to de-legitimize the legislative process, you don't get to pretend that the people who designed the process are on your side.

Got that?
Heya.  Zandar here. dropping by to do some guest blogging for Steve.  I'm honored that he thought enough of my writing to post over here, and I'm more than glad to help out.  Here's my offering for today:

Lesson Unlearned

On the surface, today's decision by President Obama to lift a ban on some offshore drilling seems like a perfect follow-up to health care reform:  it's something that makes pragmatic sense, it doesn't require any arm-twisting in Congress, it appeals to moderates and it neatly traps the GOP (after all, it was their idea in the first place.)  Most importantly, Obama sees it as a compromise step towards climate legislation.  It's low-hanging fruit, and Obama could surely use something easier after the year-plus long slog through the marshes on health care reform.

All of this of course proves Obama didn't learn a friggin' thing from his last 14 months in office.  If he had, he never would have even attempted this.  In fact, this decision worries me about Obama to the point where I have to openly question if the guy's been paying attention at all to the Republican party.

I love Obama, but I honestly am shocked that he did this.  It's a carefully calculated political move, but the political calculus demanded that his next act needed to be something that would excite the Democratic party base, not piss it off and bring out the firebagger brigade while guaranteeing the Republicans would just attack Obama for not going far enough.

And that's exactly what happened today.  MoJo's Kate Sheppard:

So far, Obama’s gesture at bipartisanship has been met with scorn on the right. On Wednesday, John Boehner (R-Ohio), the House minority leader, fired off a statement saying that Obama's plan did not open up enough off-shore territory for drilling and chiding him for "delaying American energy production off all our shores." Obama’s previous offering to Republicans and apprehensive Democrats, a major expansion of government support for nuclear power, was met with similar disdain.

While Obama's overtures aren't earning him much goodwill among detractors, his drilling plan is sure to anger the Senate's progressive, coastal state senators, who last week fired off a missive to the senators working on a climate and energy package that said expanded off-shore drilling was a deal-breaker. New Jersey Democrat Frank Lautenberg today condemned the plan as a "Kill, baby, kill" approach to energy policy.
Why Obama's first reaction towards starting the next leg of his policy agenda is "Step 1)  Compromise With Republicans By Telling Progressives To Eat This Bullshit" after the empirical evidence of HCR with all zero of its Republican votes for the finished product, I can't explain. 

Well no, I can explain it, and all the explanations make me rather depressed for the rest of the Obama presidency.  I really do want to know who in the Obama braintrust thought this would be a good idea that wouldn't completely explode in the President's face.  I also want to know why the rest of Obama's crew didn't immediately say "Hey, no offense, but compromising with the Republicans seems to only encourage them to complain about not getting 100% of their own way 100% of the time, maybe this is not such a good idea."

What it says to me is that somebody's learning curve is a flat-line, and at this point in the Presidency going forward, that's unacceptable.

(Cross-posted at ZVTS)

I've got some things to attend to, so I'll be out of blog contact for a few days. Aimai will be here, as will a guest blogger or three.

See you Sunday evening, I think.

According to CNN yesterday, Senator John Cornyn was pressing for repeal of health care reform:

Republican Senate candidates are being instructed Tuesday to promote the party's health care policy proposals as they continue to push the "repeal and replace" theme following passage of President Obama's health care reform legislation.

Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who oversees Senate Republican campaign efforts, outlines the key health care talking points in a new memo, "Moving Forward," that was also conveniently sent to some media outlets including CNN....

However, according to ABC today, Senator John Cornyn is wary of repeal of health care reform:

GOP Wary of Health Law Repeal Push in Fall Races

... Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, who chairs the committee responsible for electing GOP senators this fall, said in an interview, "The focus really should be on the misplaced priorities of the administration" and Congress' Democratic leaders....

Asked if he advises Republican Senate candidates to call for repealing the law, Cornyn said: "Candidates are going to test the winds in their own states. ... In some places, the health care bill is more popular than others."

On Tuesday, Cornyn issued a 1,280-word campaign memo that mentioned "repeal" only once. It did not advocate repeal....

That's the same memo CNN quoted -- it's reproduced at the CNN link. So how did CNN ever arrive at the cockamamie notion that Cornyn's a repeal guy?

Er, maybe it was the shout-out to Mitch McConnell in the Cornyn memo?

... As U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) appropriately noted in the Republican radio address this weekend:

"Most people aren't interested in celebrating a bill that makes their lives more complicated, takes more out of their paychecks and puts decisions they're used to making themselves into the hands of federal bureaucrats. Most people aren't celebrating the fact that their insurance premiums will go up. Seniors aren't popping champagne corks at more than a half a trillion dollars in Medicare cuts. And, job creators, already struggling in a down economy, aren't doing any cartwheels over all the mandates and new taxes they'll have to shoulder as a result of this bill."

A shout-out that quoted McConnell's radio address -- an address in which McConnell said this (emphasis added)?

In one of the most divisive legislative debates in modern history, Democrats decided to go the partisan route and blatantly ignore the will of the people. Americans opposed this legislation, and, now they're clamoring to see it repealed and replaced....

The American people [have] been clamoring for a different approach, and that's why Republicans are committed to repealing this bill and replacing it with common-sense solutions that achieve the good things that folks on both sides want to achieve without all the nasty consequences we're already beginning to see.

Repeal and replace. That's what Americans really want, and that's something people far beyond Washington, D.C., will actually want to celebrate.

Er ... um ... maybe McConnell saying "repeal" is like Sarah Palin saying "reload" -- heck, they don't really mean that! It's, um, a pun! No, what's that thing that's the same backwards and forwards? A palindrome! Yeah, that's it!

(Also see Jon Oliver of The Daily Show, about four minutes into this clip.)

Is there anything Barack Obama can do that Andrew Malcolm of the L.A. Times won't find fault with? Here he's apparently chastising the president for lack of dignity on a visit to troops in Afghanistan, contrasting this photo...

...with this one from the Bush presidency:

Well, Andrew, I notice you didn't choose this Bush rub-the-bald-guy's-head-for-good-luck photo:

Or these two Dancin' Bush photos:

Or, of course, the photo of Bush waving a plastic prop turkey at the troops:

It's all a matter of selection, Andrew, isn't it?


AND: As cautiousman notes in comments:

Look closely at the picture of Bush that Malcolm did use - he appears to be rubbing the head of the African-American soldier he's looking at, in front of him.

Comparison FAIL?

Indeed. Bush, in fact, had a bizarre fondness for rubbing, kissing, and otherwise bonding with bald heads:

More photo evidence here.


AND: In comments, Tom Hilton makes the point that what Malcolm seems to be addressing is the troops' relative enthusiasm. I may have misread the item (but if so, so did the headline writer -- the subhead is "The styles of Barack Obama and George W. Bush in photos"). But a lot of the troops in the Bush photo look bored or distracted, and thrilling to Bush's presence was hardly a universal reaction on the part of photographed troops:


Yesterday, Howard Kurtz wrote:

I'm increasingly convinced that Sarah Palin is running to head a media empire rather than a presidential campaign.

On that front, she is nothing short of an extraordinary success. She's got a multi-year gig at Fox News. She just signed a deal with Discovery's TLC for a documentary about her native Alaska. Her memoir was a runaway bestseller....

Of course, the possibility that she may seek the Oval Office -- despite resigning as governor after 2 1/2 years -- stokes interest in everything Palin does. But when it comes down to raising money, participating in debates and having to be interviewed by the likes of Katie Couric, I don't think so....

I've said the opposite and, well, when I see Palin on the verge of interviewing LL Cool J her first time out as a Fox News host, as well as that reality-series deal, I have to wonder if I've just been contrarian when every sensible person knew she wanted TV stardom more than the presidency.

But please recall the career the one "historical" figure from politics whom Palin considers a role model -- Ronald Reagan. His his last movie, The Killers, was released in 1964, two years before he became governor of California, and four years before his first run for the White House. On the verge of a political career, he took on the job of hosting Death Valley Days in '64 and stayed with it through '65. He had the Death Valley Days gig when he gave the "Time for Choosing" speech, which is said to have truly launched his political career, and which wingnuts still speak of with awe (they just call it "The Speech"). Oh, and he published his memoir Where's the Rest of Me? in '65 as well. I think Palin knows all that, at least in broad outline, and thinks it's a career path she can emulate.

Also realize that Palin isn't exactly setting herself up for all-consuming eighty-hour weeks tending to her media empire. She still doesn't have a regular Fox gig. Her reality show has a limited run. She had a ghostwriter for her first book, and she's not even going to pretend to be the author of the whole sequel, which "will include selections from classic and contemporary readings that have inspired Palin."

I think she's going to try to BS and soundbite her way through debates. Interviews with Katie Couric? Even if she were planning to be a traditional candidate, I think avoidance of the "lamestream" media would be a mark of virtue for her with her voting base.

So, yeah, I think she's still running.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


CNN reports:

Republican Senate candidates are being instructed Tuesday to promote the party's health care policy proposals as they continue to push the "repeal and replace" theme following passage of the President Obama's health care reform legislation.

Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who oversees Senate Republican campaign efforts, outlines the key health care talking points in a new memo....

The Republicans want to use the phrase "repeal and replace" to help nationalize the midterm elections. So when are Democrats going to start doing some nationalizing of their own, by asking how many Republicans also want to "repeal and replace" Social Security and Medicare?

George W. Bush tried to privatize Social Security. Representative Paul Ryan, reputedly the GOP's big brain on budget matters, wants to "convert Social Security into primarily a network of individual investment accounts [and] convert Medicare into a voucher system, capping the value of each voucher at well below the rate of medical inflation," in the words of Jonathan Chait. And now two leaders of the tea party movement -- a movement Republicans have praised to the skies -- have just told Larry King they'd love to abolish Social Security:

Dana Loesch, a tea party organizer from Missouri, and another tea party organizer, Wayne Allyn Root, joined King for the discussion.... King noted that programs like Social Security are mandatory and asked if the tea parties would like to "do away with" that program as well. Both tea party organizers enthusiastically said "yes, absolutely" and added that a compromise would be at least privatizing the system:

KING: Would anyone turn away Social Security now? Would you do away with it?

LOESCH: I would, yes.

KING: You would?

LOESCH: Yes, absolutely.

KING: Would do you away with it, Wayne?

ROOT: I'd certainly like to....

There's your attack ad, Democrats: "Call Congressman So-and-so and ask him if he agrees with these leaders of the tea party movement that Social Security should be abolished."

How hard is that, Democrats? And if Congressman So-and-so stammers the usual defense of Social Security, make sure the teabaggers know he or she is just another dirty socialist.


UPDATE, WEDNESDAY: First link fixed.

Let's see: it was a mediocre bill, it was relentlessly described as much worse than it actually is (in fact, as the death of civilization as we know it) by the most skilled propagandists in America, none of its provisions have taken effect, at least one of its most popular provisions seemed for a while as if it wasn't going to take effect as advertised, and it's still being relentlessly attacked -- wow, no one could have predicted that its popularity would fail to skyrocket overnight:

Democrats who held out hopes that President Barack Obama's health reform win would mean a quick boost to the party's political fortunes are getting a reality check....

Obama and his health reform plan did get a bump in several surveys immediately after the House vote eight days ago -- but the numbers in some of those polls flattened out.

...Obama's approval in the Gallup daily tracking poll stands at 48 percent -- near his all-time low of 46 percent in the three-day rolling average....

Right-wingers are (understandably) crowing about the fact that Republicans lead in Gallup's the generic-ballot question -- something that wasn't even true before the 1994 election.

And the interminable HCR campaign goes on:

President Obama defended his health care program in [a Today show] interview broadcast on Tuesday morning [i.e., this morning], portraying it as a "centrist approach" that Republicans are opposing mainly because they want "political benefit in November."


On Thursday, Mr. Obama will be in Maine, home state of two moderate Republican senators who opposed his health-care plan, to promote the health law.

Stop. Please. JUST STOP.

Want people to like this bill? Stop defending it. When you never stop defending it, you seem defensive.

The way to win support for health care reform is to do something else. Do something you don't have to spend half your time defending because it's something the public, or at least the non-hater public, can understand. Do something real about jobs. Do something real regarding mortgage relief. Do something that will actually get banks to lend to small businesses again. Do something real about the underregulation of the Wall Street casino.

This is how you and the Democrats can earn back the goodwill of the public -- not by selling HCR the same way you've been trying to sell it to the public for a year, with limited success. You're doing the same thing and expecting a different result. STOP. Move on.

I know my relentless repetition of this message is tiresome. But I told you that passing HCR was never going to be a magic bullet for the Democrats, and, well, it isn't. You can't just reverse the results a yearlong (and still-unrelenting) propaganda barrage like that overnight, especially with a flawed bill.

So do something that's less flawed. I know it's naive of me to ask that, but it's political suicide for you not to do it.

It's not often that RedState and the posters at Democratic Underground agree, but I guess it's no surprise when the subject is Fred Phelps, and he's just dealt a dead Marine's father a legal defeat:

Lawyers for the father of a Marine who died in Iraq and whose funeral was picketed by anti-gay protesters say a court has ordered him to pay the protesters' appeal costs.

On Friday, the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ordered that Albert Snyder of York, Pa., pay costs associated with Fred Phelps' appeal....

Lawyers for Snyder say the Court of Appeals has ordered him to pay $16,510.80 to Phelps for costs relating to the appeal, despite the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to review the Court of Appeals' decision.

They say that Snyder is also struggling to come up with fees associated with filing a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court....

"The Court of Appeals certainly could have waited until the Supreme Court made its decision," [Snyder attorney Sean E.] Summers added. "There was no hardship presented by Phelps."

... if his client doesn't have the money when Phelps requests payment the matter would go into collections. Snyder could lose his property or his wages, Summers said....

RedState blogger E Pluribus Unum notes that there's information about a legal fund at the site run in Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder's memory. Go there if you want to give.

E Pluribus Unum is wrong, however, about this (emphasis in original):

This is why the Senate 41 should block the nomination of every Obama court nominee at every level. Just simply block every single one. Because they are all like this, or worse.

Er, E? I've looked at the decision (PDF). The case was before a three-judge panel -- and two of the three judges were Bush appointees.

Judge Robert King was appointed by Bill Clinton, but Judges Allyson Duncan and Dennis Shedd were appointed by George W. Bush -- and, in fact, the nomination of Shedd, a former aide to Strom Thurmond, was held up temporarily in 2002 by Senate Democrats out of concerns about Shedd's record on civil rights.

I understand what McClatchy blogger Mike Doyle says here:

We often hear, with perhaps a tad too much sentiment, that a soldier has died to preserve our freedom(s). In this case, if the Supreme Court upholds the appellate decision, it can be fairly said that Matthew Snyder's death contributed to greater constitutional protections for free speech -- but only at the expense of immense family pain.

What Phelps and his crew do is protected speech, and has to be allowed in some venue. But it's also an ugly, repellent form of harassment, carefully aimed not at the prominent leaders of the society Phelps thinks is so decadent, but rather at the weakest, most vulnerable people who could -- by an extraordinary stretch of the imagination -- be regarded as appropriate targets for what's being said. Al and Matthew Snyder didn't do the things to society that get up Phelps's nose. A legal system that can't recognize targeting people like them as harassment is missing something obvious, and doing an inadequate job of balancing conflicting societal needs.

Monday, March 29, 2010


Nahhh, I know it won't really work out that way, because the Obama administration will work to make the Census fair, but I find myself smiling at the thought of Texas right-wingers sabotaging themselves:

Census caught in anger toward Washington
Officials worry low response rate is a form of protest

Texas is counting on the 2010 Census to deliver four new congressional districts, four new Electoral College votes in presidential elections, and millions of dollars in additional federal aid. But, as some elected officials are starting to worry, Uncle Sam can't deliver anything to the rapidly growing Sun Belt state unless Texas residents deliver their forms back to the government.

As of Friday afternoon, only 27 percent of Texas households had filled in and returned their census forms -- well below the national average of 34 percent -- according to computer data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

... a new and growing threat to an accurate national head count is coming from anti-government conservatives who may not fill out their forms to protest against "Big Brother" in Washington.

In Texas, some of the counties with the lowest census return rates are among the state's most Republican, including Briscoe County in the Panhandle, 8 percent; King County, near Lubbock, 5 percent; Culberson County, near El Paso, 11 percent; and Newton County, in deep East Texas, 18 percent. Most other counties near the bottom of the list are heavily Hispanic counties along the Texas-Mexico border.

..."People are concerned about the apparent intrusive nature of the census," said Rep. Ted Poe, R-Humble. "People are very concerned that the government is going too far." ...

Ten freaking questions is "going too far"?

For every Texan missed, the state will lose an estimated $12,000 over the next decade in federal funding for transportation, agriculture, health, education, and housing....

Don't want it? We'll take it up here in the North. We'll take a few more congressional seats, too. Maybe you'll actually lose seats. Maybe this guy will lose his seat. That'd be nice.

So I've been noticing this story:

The Republican National Committee gave nearly $2,000 to a Southern California GOP contributor for meal expenses at Voyeur West Hollywood, a lesbian-themed California nightclub that features topless dancers wearing horse-bits and other bondage gear, according to newly filed disclosure records.

Originally it was believed that RNC chairman Michael Steele spent the money at the club himself, but no, it wasn't Steele:

The RNC said Monday it is investigating the disbursement of the money to Erik Brown of Orange, Calif., who has donated about $10,000 to GOP candidates and is listed in public records as the CEO of Dynamic Marketing Inc., with offices in California and Washington.

So, has Brown made it really, really easy for us to snicker at him? Is he going turn out to be precisely the sort of hypocrite we'd expect a Republican in this situation to be?


...Erik is married to Alison Brown, a graduate of Chapman University and an MBA student at UCI’s Merage School of business.... A former director of the Sunday school, Alison and Erik reside in Las Flores, California and are actively involved in the ministries of their local church.

(Emphasis added.)

Oh, Erik -- thanks for the gift.


UPDATE: Via Dissenting Jusrice, I see that Brown's bio has been pulled down at the above link. Here's what it looked like (click to enlarge):

(now updated with a note about Norman Leboon)

(Sorry -- I just posted this and realized I buried Aimai's recent post. Check that one out, too -- she and I are seeing this somewhat differently, and I think she's asking very interesting questions.)

Even carazies like Michelle Bachmann and Steve King may hesitate before aligning themselves with these folks -- which doesn't mean that the right won't come up with some dandy talking points with regard to this story:

Nine suspects tied to a Christian militia in the Midwest are charged with conspiring to kill police officers, then attack a funeral in the hopes of killing more law enforcement people, federal prosecutors said Monday....

Members of the group called Hutaree are charged in the case....

Once other officers gathered for a slain officer's funeral, the group planned to detonate homemade bombs at the funeral, killing more, according to newly unsealed court papers....

These aren't people you want to embrace if you're a wingnut who's only sort of advocating terrorism and treason. And yet I'm sure it will not escape notice among the cynical fanners of right-wing revolutionary flames that their core audience is still rooting against the U.S. government -- check out this Free Republic thread:

I’m not buying this.


These are b.s. charges.


Innocent until proven guilty.


its starting...


Why arrest them? Congress is committing treason but the FBI is after these folks.


Notice the underlying assumption that it is wrong to "resist the authority" of the US Gov't?

Voting the wrong way would be "resisting the authority of the US Gov't".


If the FBI is going to start enforcing the law against “seditious conspiracy”, when will they arrest Obama and members of his administration?


0bama DEFINES who the legitimate authority is,
and any opposition to this/him IS "sedition".


Sounds to me like they were arrested for thought crimes.


So, anybody who disagrees with the government is to be charged with sedition?


Big Sis wants to out-do El Reno’s inferno.


Funny this happens when the media and Dem's war against the Tea Party isn't sticking. Already seeing headlines calling the raids against Christian terrorist militia groups. How long does it take for the media to call a group Muslim terrorists? We're under attack by our very own folks.


Just like the OKC bombing allowed them to demonize conservatives and talk radio, this will be used by the media to attack anyone who is anti-Obamunist.

That last two hint at what you're going to start hearing from Fox and talk radio and the loudest crazies in Congress: that there's less to this than meets the eye; that this is a marginal group that is completely unrepresentative of the militia movement, much less of conservatism; that the timing of this is awfully convenient and has a lot to do with Obama's failure to get a sustained bump in the polls for health care reform; that what these guys were doing is being used to smear all "patriots"; that the Obama administration's misplaced priorities make an attack in the U.S. like the Moscow subway attack increasingly more likely, because that evil fat lesbian Janet Napolitano has made targeting right-wing groups a priority (remember the memo?) ... in short, that the real problem here is the fact that this is a news story, rather than the fact that these people actually wanted to do these things.

None of this is going to affect the mainstream media's coverage of the story. It is, however, going to turn that MSM coverage into yet another grievance for the right-wing base. That's one tactic the right-wing media has to try to get Republican voters to the polls (after all, to the base, there's no difference between evil traitor Democrats and evil traitor media liberals). And if the anger leads to more violence? Oh well, whatever.


UPDATE: Whoops! Never mind -- while the feds were going after Hutaree, there was also this:

A Philadelphia man has been arrested and charged with threatening to kill the Republican party whip in the U.S. House of Representatives, officials announced today.

The FBI says Norman Leboon, 38, told investigators he was the "son of the god of Enoch" and that he had posted a video on the Internet threatening the lives of Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia and his family....

So the same right-wing spin doctors who were about to say that the Hutaree plot was an isolated event and entirely unrepresentative of the right are now going to say that Norman Leboon is entirely representative of the left. That makes things much easier. (And no, I haven't seen evidence yet that Leboon is left-wing. But Fox et al. will say he is no matter what his politics are. And everyone in the Fox audience will believe that.)

And no, this isn't going to prevent the righties from saying that Janet Napolitano is inordinately fixated on right-wing groups, or that the Obama administration is thoroughly anti-Semitic. They're just going to say nothing about those matters for a few days (at least in this context), and then just start saying them again.


NEVER MIND: It appears that Leboon is a Muslim convert. So the right is going to have to stop talking about the failure of the feds under Obama to go after the real enemy for at least a few days. And no amount of right-wing violence short of another Oklahoma City will be said to equal the horror and viciousness of MusloliberoMarxist violence. And no one on the right will say that, well, maybe what's really going on is that the government is taking threats from all sides seriously -- merely suggesting that would be conservatively incorrect.

And in the center it will be considered a wash -- Leboon as a lefty, Hutaree as righties. Everyone's guilty, so no one is guilty. Or the Internet is guilty. Yeah, that's the ticket.

I'd say there are spreaders of hate and poison and people who don't spread hate and poison. I see this in the jihadist movement and on the American right. This could change sometime, but I see much less of this on the American left.
I always fail the analogy portion of tests.

I wanted to call this some variation on Tim McVeigh, John Brown, Oklahoma Bombing, Fort Sumter, Charlie Manson, Race War, Columbine, all linked together in some clever analogy and then when I looked at it I simply couldn't make head of tail of it. And yet I think there's something there. Basically, I'm inclined to think of McVeigh, John Brown and Charlie Manson as all acting out various scenarios which include violence and some idea of vindication or explosive follow on violence. With the exception of Brown's acts-and that's arguable, nothing happened because of McVeigh or Manson any more than anything happened because of the Columbine killings. I think we can argue that some violent acts really do produce a serious knock on effect politically but in the modern era when a separatist movement goes up against a modern nation state the separatist movement generally loses. Even though some violent acts appear to take place within a context which may lead us to worry that this is just the thin end of the wedge, the "last straw" for some fringe group that is actually very seldom true.

SteveM and I are having an interesting discussion down below in our own comment thread about just how worried we should be about another Waco, or rather the right's respone to the Hutaree arrests as if they were another Waco. I just wanted to bump the discussion up to a new thread to see if we could get some good conversation going about whether that is likely, whether we have the right analogies, and where people see the violent right wing fringe actually going over the next few years.

My own take on this is that Waco was an important mobilizing moment for fringe groups, but they have accomplished little with that excitement/mobilization as long as they stayed out of electoral politics. To the extent that anti government sentiment/John Birch style hysteria has been mainstreamed that preceeded Waco and continued to grow post Bush because of things other than Waco and among communities that had been unimpressed, or uninvolved, in Waco. The modern day teabaggers are not at all the kind of people who were formerly involved in real separatist movements, although they may have been pro gun, or anti abortion. As far as I can see from the interviews many of them were apolitical, highly conventional and conformist to what they understood as mass culture.

I agree with Steve that arrest and conviction of a fringe group like the Hutaree people may result in the conversion to extremism of a Tim McVeigh type--and such a person may be effective in blowing up a building or two, and killing lots of people. But in both the long and the short run I'm not worried that cracking down on the Hutaree people will result in much more than that. I think its highly significant that the Michigan Militia's, when faced with a serious show of force by the Federal Government, quickly decided that today was not the day to die for someone else's plots. I think the event horizon for such last stands turns out, for the majority of people, to always recede into the distance even if their rhetoric would convince you that they are on the brink of turning violent any minute.

Charlie Manson also intended to foment a civil war/race war--and he killed a bunch of people--but the political effect of his attempt was null. Tim McVeigh killed a lot of people, but he was caught right away and although he became a rallying cry and a hero to the far right he turned off a lot of people to that level of violent insurrection, too. Again, nothing much came of his act politically or perhaps I mean electorally.

But what do you all think? What does/did Waco mean to people you knew in your political circle? What do you think the Hutaree arrests will mean for a) fringe, extremist right wing organizing and b) mass political right wing organizing?


You probably know about this:

At least seven people, including some from Michigan, have been arrested in raids by a FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana as part of an investigation into an Adrian-based Christian militia group, a person familiar with the matter said....

On Sunday, a source close to the investigation in Washington, D.C. confirmed that FBI agents were conducting activities in Washtenaw and Lenawee counties over the weekend in connection to Hutaree, a Christian militia group ... whose members describe themselves as Christian soldiers preparing for the arrival and battle with the anti-Christ....

Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on Islamic-American Relations of Michigan, made an announcement Sunday during the group's 10th anniversary banquet about receiving a call from a network journalist about the alleged threat against Muslims....

Now, there's this group -- Hutaree -- and then there's the Michigan Militia. We're told that they're very, very different groups:

Mike Lackomar, of, said both The Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia and the were not a part of the raid.

Lackomar said he heard from other militia members that the FBI targeted the Hutaree after its members made threats of violence against Islamic organizations.

"Last night and into today the FBI conducted a raid against homes belonging to the Hutaree. They are a religious cult. They are not part of our militia community," he said.

This has been seconded by our old pal Mike Vanderboegh, the guy who recently became notorious for urging that opponents of the Democrats break their office windows:

The Hutaree have indicated in the past that, much like John Brown, they WANTED to start a civil war, which is why no responsible militia group in Michigan was willing to ally with them.

And yet there's a curious thing. Dan Riehl and Instapundit, in an effort to downplay the danger people like this pose, noted that a local official in Michigan recently turned to militia members to help in a couple of missing persons cases -- and it turns out that a member of the Michigan Militia sought help from members of Hutaree, the group we're told is completely, totally, and utterly separate:

Bridgewater Township Supervisor Jolea Mull has twice sought help from militia members this year to search for missing township residents.

The move is drawing criticism from militia watchdog groups, who say Mull is legitimizing an extreme right-wing movement that has a history of being associated with criminal activity....

When Mull learned from Washtenaw County sheriff's deputies that a township woman was missing Jan. 13, she contacted local militia leader Jimmy Schiel....

Schiel, a member of the Washtenaw County-based Michigan Militia Corps Wolverines, 9th Division, 13th Brigade, started making phone calls. He quickly rounded up three members from his unit and three from the Lenawee County-based Hutaree, 8th Division, 20th Brigade....

Mull, who said she was pleased with the militia's response, contacted Schiel again Feb. 17 when deputies told her 56-year-old Robert Melvin Wise was missing.

Four members from Schiel's unit, one from Hutaree and a member from a Livingston County unit responded....


I don't know what's going through this Jolea Mull's head, but I see no difference between this and a hypothetical 1960s or 1970s local government turning to violent leftist radicals, something Riehl and Instapundit would rail against.

Mull seems to be a member of a group called the Campaign for Liberty, which professes a small-government constitutionalism and opposition to foreign interventions that's reminiscent of Ron Paul's philosophy, although the name invoked on the group's site is Robert Taft. She also volunteers at what appears to be an anti-abortion pregnancy counseling center.

To me it's just so reminiscent of the '60s and '70s -- there was an "us" and "them," and there was a sense that people who seemed in any way to share your skepticism about "the Establishment," or whatever you called it, were the people who were most trustworthy, however peculiar -- or outright dangerous -- their particular approach to protest was.


Now, I'd like to get back to what Mr. Vanderboegh has to say:

As near as I can determine, no shots have been fired, no one has been killed and no houses or churches have burned down. I know that muster alerts have gone out to units all over the country, and people are getting ready and awaiting further word.

But here's the deal, Feds. If you kill anyone or burn somebody's house or church down with them inside, you will have started a civil war, no matter how despicable the Hutaree are, or how crazy, or how provocative. If that happens, there will be NOTHING responsible leaders of the constitutional militia movement will be able to do from our side to stop it. You will have crossed the Rubicon.

What I fear is that it won't even take that much. These appear to have been peaceful raids. And yet I fully expect Michelle Bachmann and Steve King and quite possibly Glenn Beck and Fox Nation and even Sarah Palin to declare that Waco has already happened. (We already have this talking point, courtesy of Pamela Geller at Atlas Shrugs: "Despite Record Levels of Islamic Terror in U.S., FBI raids Christian Groups.")

I think, even if the raids prove to have prevented horrible crimes, the right -- even allegedly responsible teabaggers -- will recall this as proof that their fears of totalitarianism are justified, and if so, it will be because elected officials sworn to serve the country will have willfully tried to divide it, and because organizations allegedly devoted to presenting the news will have helped those demagogues fan the flames.

And I really don't know what they'll do in response. But I know I would think twice before going anywhere near a federal building this April 19.


One more thing: It's not as if militia members in Michigan -- Hutaree and otherwise -- have been completely harmless and nonviolent until now. Note the timeline here:

* 2005: Michigan militia member Norman David Somerville is sentenced to six years in federal prison for possessing and distributing 13 machine guns. Authorities claim Somerville planned to retaliate against Michigan State Police troopers for the death of Michigan militia member Scott Woodring.

* 2003: Michigan State Police Trooper Kevin M. Marshall is fatally shot during a standoff at the home of Michigan militia member Scott Woodring in Newaygo County. Police say Woodring killed Marshall. Woodring was located a week later and fatally shot by troopers after he pointed a gun at them....

* 1999: North American Militia of Southwest Michigan member Bradford Metcalf is sentenced to 40 years in prison after being convicted of conspiring to blow up government buildings, threatening to kill federal officers and weapons violations.

Yeah, Jolea Mull, these seem like swell people to call for your missing persons cases.


(Riehl and Instapundit via Roger Ailes.)

Sunday, March 28, 2010


It's easy to snicker smugly at the hypocrisy of this:

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- When Tom Grimes lost his job as a financial consultant 15 months ago, he called his congressman, a Democrat, for help getting government health care.

Then he found a new full-time occupation: Tea Party activist.

In the last year, he has organized a local group and a statewide coalition, and even started a "bus czar" Web site to marshal protesters to Washington on short notice. This month, he mobilized 200 other Tea Party activists to go to the local office of the same congressman to protest what he sees as the government's takeover of health care.

But, well, that's what you can get in a democratic society in which many citizens aren't extremely well educated or politically sophisticated, and in which freedom of speech can sometimes mean that the dominant political voices belong to lying demagogues.

Maybe I just say this because I'm the child of people who didn't have the education I did, but if you want to obtain "consent of the governed" when your ideas are complicated and your political opponents are vicious liars with much better messaging skills, you have to compete effectively for public support in the country as it is, not in the country you wish existed. You have to win Tom Grimes over even if he can't write a Harvard-quality senior thesis on government social spending.

The way the Obama administration might have prevented the rise of the tea party movement was to work tirelessly early on to convey a sense that it felt ordinary citizens' pain and was trying is level best to alleviate that pain; the failure to do so led to this:

Mr. Grimes is one of many Tea Party members jolted into action by economic distress. At rallies, gatherings and training sessions in recent months, activists often tell a similar story in interviews: they had lost their jobs, or perhaps watched their homes plummet in value, and they found common cause in the Tea Party's fight for lower taxes and smaller government....

A year ago, [Diane] Reimer's husband had been given a choice -- retire or be fired. The couple had been trying to sell their split-level home in suburban Philadelphia to pay off some debt and move to a small place in the city.

But real estate agents told them the home would sell for about $40,000 less than they paid 19 years ago -- not enough to pay off their mortgage.

Then Ms. Reimer saw a story about the Tea Party on television. "I said, 'That's it,'" she recalled. "How can you get this frustration out, have your voices heard?"

..."All I know is government was put here for certain reasons," Ms. Reimer said. "They were not put here to run banks, insurance companies, and health care and automobile companies. They were put here to keep us safe."

There you go: government was "put here to keep us safe." And, in this presidency, through all of 2009 it kept Wall Street safe instead, while failing to devise any program of even remotely similar magnitude for the immediate needs of ordinary citizens. No real jobs program. No real mortgage relief program. Nothing. Just a health care reform plan, most of which won't go into effect for years.

I don't feel smug when I read that these people accept Social Security and other government benefits while railing against government. We have a system that doesn't legally require intellectual rigor on the part of voters. Our side has to make a persuasive case to them anyway. That's just how it is. And our side failed all through 2009 -- and, the health care bill notwithstanding, isn't doing all that much better this year,

I guessed where Frank Rich was going with this week's column as soon as I read the title -- "The Rage Is Not About Health Care" -- and he delivered exactly what I expected:

...If Obama's first legislative priority had been immigration or financial reform or climate change, we would have seen the same trajectory. The conjunction of a black president and a female speaker of the House -- topped off by a wise Latina on the Supreme Court and a powerful gay Congressional committee chairman -- would sow fears of disenfranchisement among a dwindling and threatened minority in the country no matter what policies were in play. It's not happenstance that [Barney] Frank, [John] Lewis and [Emanuel] Cleaver -- none of them major Democratic players in the health care push --— received a major share of last weekend’s abuse. When you hear demonstrators chant the slogan "Take our country back!," these are the people they want to take the country back from.

They can't. Demographics are avatars of a change bigger than any bill contemplated by Obama or Congress. ...

Rich is singing his usual song -- this is all about fear of everyone who isn't a straight white male, with the reassuring message that demographics spell the haters' eventual doom -- so I'll sing mine: no, it isn't that simple.

Rich is downplaying the fact that that plenty of hate was directed at the likes of Bart Stupak, Tom Perriello, and Russ Carnahan. And he's ignoring the fact that crazy, angry right-wingers have no problem with their side's female and and non-white leaders, and even, to some extent, with sympathetic gay people. They love Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann. If John Roberts weren't around, they'd be delighted if Clarence Thomas were chief justice. Ultimately, there was quite a bit of support for the gay group GOProud at CPAC, and the blog Gay Patriot is widely linked in the right blogosphere.

And yet the attacks on Nancy Prlosi are sexist. The attacks on Lewis and Cleaver have been racist. Barney Frank is attacked homophobically. But that's because this stuff isn't simple.

If you turn from Rich's column to today's New York Times Book Review, you'll find a review of Nell Irvin Painter's book on whiteness. Linda Gordon, the reviewer, tells us this:

In [early-20th-century America], anarchist or socialist beliefs became a sign of racial inferiority, a premise strengthened by the presence of many immigrants and Jews among early-20th-century radicals. Whiteness thus became a method of stigmatizing dissenting ideas, a marker of ideological respectability....

I wasn't there, so I'm not sure which came first -- the sense that certain people were "other" because they had radical views or the sense that they were "other" because they had dark or olive skin. I don't know if it's possible to say. And I don't know if thinking about "otherness" was the same then as now.

But I know that the people who hate Obama and Pelosi and Cleaver and Lewis and Frank and Stupak and Perriello and Carnahan (and Louise Slaughter and Anthony Weiner and every other Democrat and liberal, straight white Christian males included) hate us because they think we're crazy radical jihadist Marxist Nazis. Does our alleged radicalism make us effectively non-white? I wouldn't say that. I think the haters just hate our ideas, or what they think are our ideas, regardless of our race, creed, color, or affectional orientation -- and the usual group affiliations that lead to prejudice are just add-ons. I think every Democrat in government could be a straight white male right now and the hate wouldn't be diminished one iota, because they'd be seen as standing for "others," and be seen as "others" just for their weird, evil, rootless-cosmopolitan ideas.

The present-day haters have distilled the old hatreds, the ones based on race and sex, and can apply them just as well outside the old categories as within those categories. Bigotry, in other words, evolves in order to adapt.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


Headline on the Fox Nation title page right now (scroll down):*

Is the Media Out to Get the Pope?

We knew Murdoch's message board was on the wrong side of every conceivable issue in the realm of politics, but I suppose there was reason to hope that it would take the right stand on something -- killing puupies? speeding in school zones? I suupose that's still possible, but this headline demonstrates that the toxicity at Fox Nation extends to issues far beyond Washington.

The title-page link goes here, where we're sent to a Newsmax story headlined, "Vatican Goes on Defensive as Media Stoke Reports of Abuse." That "Stokes" notwithstanding, please note that the Fox Nation headline is even more of a condemnation of news organizations attempting to uncover the truth about pedophilia cover-ups in the Catholic Church.

As for the story itself, it's largely given over to the fulminations of the Catholic League's Bill Donohue -- whose defense of the indefensible Church response to the incidents currently being report needs to be kept in mind by every TV booker who thinks of Donohue as within the community of decent citizens. His works mark him as a moral monster:

... The [New York] Times reported [Friday] that Ratzinger had received a copy of a memo to inform him that [a] priest had undergone therapy for pedophilia and would return to pastoral duties. The priest, the Rev. Peter Hullermann, was convicted later of molesting boys in another diocese.

The New York Times story, which added to a flurry of reports in recent weeks of abuse in Ireland, Germany, Italy and the United States, prompted a heated condemnation from Bill Donohue, president of the New York-based Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights....

"Let's say Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, now the Pope, did in fact learn of the transfer," Donohue says in a statement on his organization's Web site. "So what? Wasn't that what he expected to happen?

"A more hard-line approach, obviously, makes more sense, but the therapeutic industry is very powerful," Donohue says. "In other words, there is no real news in today's news story. So why print it? To keep the flame alive.

"Look for the Times to run another story saying they have proof Ratzinger knew of the transfer," Donohue says. "Did they think that after he approved the therapy that Hullermann would be sent to the gulag?" ...

Er, no -- just to prison, or at the very least to duties which wouldn't put him in contact with boys.

If you can bear more of this, go to the Newsmax link, where Donohue essentially says what the Catholic Church did was OK because (a) laws and mores regarding pedophilia were different in the past and (b) hey, other churches and institutions have pedophilia scandals, too!

How nice of you to provide your media megaphone for this toxic propaganda, Rupert.

The Times story in question is here.


*UPDATE, MONDAY: It's no longer on the title page, but you can still see it via the Google cache.

Friday, March 26, 2010


Complain all you want about David Brooks -- I certainly have often enough -- but give him credit for saying on NPR today that right now it's Republicans who are inciting violence, and that's disgraceful. A fairly obvious point, but you won't find a lot of right-wingers making it.

More of them are like Peggy Noonan, who, true to form, blames "everbody" in her current column (subscriber-only Wall Street Journal link here; full column at her site here.) Oh, she doesn't exactly dole out the blame equally; guess which sides gets most of the criticism:

... Democratic officials are right to call attention to what they believe is a growing threat. It is a truly terrible thing. But it would be deeply unhelpful for the Democrats to use this story as a mere political opportunity, as a way to undermine opposition to ObamaCare by painting opponents as dangerous and unhinged. That would only inflame the country, and in any case is not true. The truth is this sickness works both ways....

No one's saying there's never been intimidation of Republicans; the question is, what's the predominant motivation of intimidators right now -- when we have a hell of a lot more intimidation going on than usual? Do sporadic incidents in the past mean that a concentrated wave of incidents right now is okey-dokey? And how are Democrats supposed to report this -- which you say is OK, Peggy -- without being accued of politicizing the story by people like, um, you?

Noonan does say "everybody" is at fault. But she's not even doling out half the blame to Republicans and the right; after blaming Democrats as well, and blaming them more for (in her eyes) politicizing the story, she dilutes GOP blame even more by blaming ... the culture!

What I keep thinking of is a beehive. A modern, high tech, highly politicized democracy is a busy beehive, and sometimes the bees are angry, and sometimes someone comes by and sticks a big sharp stick in the hive. The biggest thing Washington should do right now is stop it, stop poking the stick.

The beehive was already angry about a million things a year ago, and most of those things, obviously, were not the fault of the administration. People are angry at their economic vulnerability. They are angry at the deterioration of our culture, angry at our nation's deteriorating position in the world, at our debts and deficits, our spending and taxing, our threatened security in a world of weapons of mass destruction.

... future trends will be to come apart, and for many reasons. To come apart because we're no longer held close and firmly by the cold glue of appreciation for a common heritage, history and culture; to come apart because we're a country that increasingly feels there are people in the cart and people pulling the cart, and the latter are increasingly overwhelmed and fearful; coming apart because we're now in at least our second generation of young, lost, unguided children with no fully functioning parent in their lives, kids being raised by a microwave and a TV set. All of these things weigh and grate.

Oh, so that's our real problem -- we lack, as the white supremacists say, "appreciation for a common heritage, history and culture." I don't actually think Noonan means that the way it sounds -- though I do think she means that we all declared our loyalty to the same Christian God as floridly and ostentatiously as she does, none of this would be happening. Maybe she means that if we liberals did that, good devout Christians wouldn't attack us in the name of Jesus. Or whatever.

And let me try to parse this:

... we're a country that increasingly feels there are people in the cart and people pulling the cart, and the latter are increasingly overwhelmed and fearful ...

Which is it, Peggy? The first part of that suggests that we feel some people give too much and others take too much -- but if you say that "the latter are increasingly overwhelmed and fearful," then clearly you think "the latter," i.e., "people pulling the cart," really exist, and really are "pulling the cart," and therefore really are being taken advantage of by parasites. (But I'm sure you're saying that in the nicest possible way.)

Oh, but it's ultimately the fault of Democrats:

And yes, this mood, this anger, has only been made worse by this yearlong, enervating, exhausting, enraging fight over health care. The administration is full of people who are so bright, and led by one who is very bright, and yet they have a signal failure: They do not know what time it is. They cannot see how high the temperature is. They cannot for the life of them understand that they raise it.

Translation: If Democrats are being attacked, Democrats were asking for it. Blame the victim.

I just found out about this story:

A Nashville man says he and his 10-year-old daughter were victims of road rage Thursday afternoon, all because of a political bumper sticker on his car.

Mark Duren ... said Harry Weisiger gave him the bird and rammed into his vehicle, after noticing an Obama-Biden sticker on his car bumper.

Duren had just picked up his 10-year-old daughter from school and had her in the car with him.

... Duren stopped at a stop sign.

Once he started driving again, down Blair Boulevard, towards his home, he said, "I looked in the rear view mirror again, and this same SUV was speeding, flying up behind me, bumped me."

Duren said he applied his brake and the SUV smashed into the back of his car....

Police say Harry Weisiger is charged with felony reckless endangerment in the incident.

If you're imagining this guy as some cliche hick, I'd like to point that there's a Nashville man by the name Harry Weisiger who's the vice president of a major construction firm who does feasibility studies for Basile Baumann Prost Cole & Associates, Inc., "an economics and real estate development advisory firm which counsels an array of public and institutional clients, as well as both novice and sophisticated private investors."

If it's the same guy, and if he did what reports say he did, I don't think we're talking about a guy who's been living at the fringes of society as a marginal sociopath. He sounds like a stable, well-established guy ... who nevertheless feels entitled to lash out this way when his team loses a political fight. Nice society we're living in these days.
Busy this afternoon ... I'll try to get back to you by the end of the day.

However repellent it is, I guess there's nothing particularly remarkable about hate mail to a congresswoman being in the form of a nasty sex remark accompanied by a prophylactic:

Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minnesota, was one of several members of Congress who reported receiving obscene and threatening letters after voting for the health care reform bill passed by Democrats on Sunday.

... McCollum's spokeswoman Maria Reppas said Thursday that the congresswoman's district office in St. Paul received [a] condom in an envelope dated March 23, along with an anonymous typed letter reading: "Betty McCollum you've been dry f***** by the liberal party."

But this gives me pause:

Her office also reported receiving part of a shredded American flag doused in gasoline and a typed letter addressed to McCollum, Rep. Keith Ellison, Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Sen. Al Franken - all Democrats from Minnesota.

"Each of you receives part of a shredded American flag," the letter read. "It represents Obama and your liberal filth. Open the bag, it's covered in the stench you've brought to our government ... Because of you, we are now a country of dirt, shame, corruption and slime."

A bit obsessed with dirt and bodily excretions, aren't we, pal? Projecting some anxiety outward, perhaps? I mean, obviously it's easier not to acknowledge the humanity of your enemies when you think they're literally putrescence, but this seems like a problem you have with self-regard as much as regard of others, don't you think?


(Oh, and I guess we're not going to be seeing any grandstanding calls from the GOP for a flag desecration amendment anytime in this election cycle -- not when it's right-wingers who are repulsed by the flag....)

Paul Krugman this morning, in a column about GOP extremism:'s been a hoot watching Mitt Romney squirm as he tries to distance himself from a [health care] plan that, as he knows full well, is nearly identical to the reform he himself pushed through as governor of Massachusetts. His best shot was declaring that enacting reform was an "unconscionable abuse of power," a "historic usurpation of the legislative process" -- presumably because the legislative process isn't supposed to include things like "votes" in which the majority prevails.

Yeah, but the odd thing is that Romney is actually polling well among potential 2012 Republican primary voters, at least if Public Policy Polling is to be believed:

In Ohio Romney leads with 32% to 28% for Mike Huckabee and 26% for Sarah Palin. Romney is also at 32% in Wisconsin, followed by Palin with 27% and Huckabee with 23%.

In fact, PPP has done polls in eight states. Romney's #1 in six of them (Huckabee leads the others. Palin has no first-place finishes.)

And there seems to be a simple explanation, which makes a lot of sense to me:

The numbers in [Ohio and Wisconsin] follow the big trend we've been seeing across the country, which is that conservatives are split pretty evenly in their support between the three candidates at this point but Romney leads overall because of a wide advantage among moderates.

Look, I made a lot of dire warnings about Giuliani's great poll numbers before the '08 primaries, so I know from painful experience that you don't want to make serious pronouncements about a presidential race years in advance. But I think it's possible that Romney could possibly win the nomination because GOP crazies are going to split several different ways (not just Palin and Huckabee but Gingrich and Santorum and who knows who else), while the remaining Republican "moderates" (i.e., conservatives who aren't stark raving mad) may well gravitate to Mitt. It's more or less how John McCain won the '08 nomination.

And that -- if the GOP is still the party of teabagging rage -- is when we might finally see the tea party/GOP schism everyone's predicting for this year.

Look, it's true that a few tea party candidates are going to beat establishment Republicans in primaries. It seems much less likely that there'll be serious third-party teabag threats (except that possible phony teabagger in Nevada). Because really, how hard will it be to be the GOP nominee in most races and also talk tea party lingo? Nearly all of them are going to pull it off, or get primaried off the November ballot. Rifts will be few and far between.

But 2012 could be different. The crazies have had years to develop skepticism about Romney. If he wins, I think he really could get Nadered.

It's amazing he's doing as well as he's done, but I do think at least some of the crazies will fall for anyone who gets all the codewords right. That might be enough to get Romney through the primaries. But a teabagger may siphon off GOP votes from him after that.

UPDATE: CNN gets numbers similar to PPP's:

On the GOP side, it's impossible to say who the frontrunner currently is, with three potential candidates - Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, and Mike Huckabee - bunched together at the front of the pack within a few points of each other. 22 percent of Republicans want to see Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and 2008 GOP White House hopeful, get the GOP nomination; Palin, the former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, wins support from 18 percent of GOPers and former Arkansas governor and 2008 Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee comes in at 17 percent.. All other Republicans tested were in single digits.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


And in the midst of all the insanity in our political life, the New York Daily News runs this op-ed by a sort-of conservative guy and a sort-of liberal guy who've been affiliated with something called the Bipartisan Policy Center:

...What if [Ted] Kennedy had lived? Would some Republicans have voted in support of health reform? Would a bipartisan agreement have been achieved?

Nobody can provide a firm answer, of course. Still, for many on the left, the answer is most likely: No. Rather, they say, Kennedy would have delivered on the cherished (and now defunct) public option. Kennedy wouldn't have caved so quickly to his erstwhile Democratic allies who refused to support a government plan to compete with private insurers in the health care marketplace. He would have refused to capitulate to squishy moderates in his ranks.

Given how the debate unfolded, however, another set of developments might have occurred: Kennedy's presence in this sharply divisive debate could have acted as a moderating tonic. When the chips were down, he might have tempered some of the partisan vitriol on left and right; possibly, had he lived, he could have led the push for a bipartisan health care bill....

You just can't kill this notion. It feels as if we're on a slippery slope headed toward a literal civil war and these guys, and yet there's still a belief out there that there was some way to get everyone to make nice.

As a liberal, I'm perfectly comfortable with the notion that Ted Kennedy would have tried like hell to cut a health care deal. I know perfectly well that he was more a dealmaker than a zealot. But there's no compromising with the right -- God knows Democrats tried. Partisan vitriol on the left? Did any of that show up in the bill?

At least this was in the News, not one of the country's big agenda-setting papers. I think by now most of them have finally grasped that dealmaking in Congress right now is essentially impossible.
(with an update on the Russ Carnahan coffin incident)

So the current crop of right-wing activists are extremely secular? Apparently someone forgot to explain that to these guys:

Liberty University Files Lawsuit Against the Government Takeover of Healthcare

Lynchburg, VA – Prior to midnight yesterday, Liberty Counsel filed a federal lawsuit against the newly signed healthcare law on behalf of Liberty University....

Jerry Falwell Jr. is Chancellor and CEO of Liberty University (LU), the largest Christian university in the world, with more than 58,000 students in its residence and online programs....

Among Liberty's objections:

The law ... violates the Free Exercise Clause and Religious Freedom Restoration Act by forcing the plaintiffs to subsidize abortion, the Free Speech and Association Clause by forcing plaintiffs to support and associate with private companies that cover abortion, the Establishment and Equal Protection Clauses by preferring only "recognized" religions for opt out purposes ...

I guess Falwell Junior really doesn't believe in that executive order regarding abortion. And I guess he's a lot angrier than he and his dad were when a GOP Congress helped give Medicare Advantage subsidies to insurance companies, even though many of those same companies offer plenty of policies that cover abortion.

And regarding "opt out," Falwell et al. are trying to take advantage of an exemption for the Amish, and possibly for Christian Scientists and Old Order Mennonites. Um, I don't think so.

But never mind the details. Look what's happening: Jerry Falwell's son and namesake is suing to overturn health care reform on behalf of the university built by his dad. Now, if Code Pink or ACORN had sued the Bush administration to try to stop the Iraq War, even if the suit didn't have a snowball's chance in hell, Fox News and Drudge and talk radio and the right blogosphere would have made it into a huge story. And that's the difference between the so-called liberal media and the right-wing media: no one in the SCLM is going to treat this suit as a big deal. They shouldn't, because it almost certainly isn't one. But if the non-right-wing press were as nakedly ideological as the right-wing media, this would be a huge story, because it's widely assumed that the religious right aspects of Republicanism have been huge turnoffs to swing voters.

Maybe more people on our side should be talking about this suit. I actually think the Christian right is going to be making its presence felt more and more in the tea party movement and the GOP in general, so maybe we'll see more of this.


UPDATE: ... And of course that's a silly thing for me to say, because we're already seeing "more of this" -- not just Bart Stupak being called a "baby-killer!" but a right-wing blogger whose site is under the aegis of a group founded by one of the most influential right-wing Catholics in the last couple of decades telling us boastfully that he was one of the people who delivered a coffin to Congressman Russ Carnahan's home:

We brought a coffin with us to represent the millions of Americans who will suffer from inadequate treatment and perish under Obamacare....

After our prayer service we took our coffin and went and prayed on the sidewalk outside of Russ Carnahan's home....

We prayed for Russ Carnahan. We prayed that God would forgive him for taking away our freedom. We prayed for the babies who will never feel the warmth of the sun or a gentle spring rain. We prayed for the elderly who will die waiting for care because they couldn't make it past the Obama death panels....

Secular righties? You're losing control of your movement. Bart Stupak's decision to vote yes is setting off a reaction that guarantees you soon won't be able to distinguish it from the culture-war right of the Reagan and post-Reagan years.

We were told that Democrats should "man up" and stop "using" the intimidation they were experiencing, but I guess that's yesterday's message -- now Republicans are declaring (exclusively to Fox!!!!, though now everyone has the story) that they've been subject to some intimidation too:

FOX has learned that the Richmond, VA campaign office of House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) was shot at Monday....

FOX has also obtained a threatening message left Friday on the voicemail of Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH). This is believed to be the first threat against a Republican member. The message contained racial overtones and profane language.

... No, wait: our side's complaints about evil righties and Republicans are bad, but their complaints about evil lefties and Democrats are good:

Cantor ... admonished his colleagues -- specifically Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine -- for "dangerously fanning the flames by suggesting these incidents be used as a political weapon."

"Any suggestion that a leader in this body would incite threats or acts against other members is akin to saying that I would endanger myself, my wife or my children," Cantor said. "It is reckless to use these incidents as media vehicles for political gain."

And, of course, the way you can tell which public statement is exploitive and which isn't is: It's OK if you're a Republican.

I told you yesterday about Stephen "Vodkapundit" Green's expression of skepticism in response to a Politico story about threats to Democratic lawmakers:

What that last line tells you is, this Politico report is totally bereft of any actual facts.

It looks as if this is becoming a right-wing meme. Here's Fox Nation right now:

FN takes you to this NewsBusters post:

The Media's Myth of Right Wing Violence

There is a disturbing chill in the air according to the leftist media. Threats of violence and rumor of murder are taking center stage instead of reporting legitimate public outrage about the passage of Obamacare....

Whether this is a shortcut to 2nd Amendment action, valid concern, or just a bunch of crybaby progressive politicians over reacting to criticism, it's hard to tell. But Obama's desire to continue ramming through the most divisive legislation -- against his own creed -- isn't helping bring calm to even the most peaceful conservatives. And while the evidence of a violent right is scarce, there's no limit to liberals attempting to make conservatives look evil....

So an outpost of the Murdoch media empire is endorsing the notion that reports of an uptick in threats and intimidation are (a) mythical ("the evidence of a violent right is scarce" sounds an awful lot like Vodkapundit's "totally bereft of actual facts"), (b) the product of bad journalism by "leftist media" (the second link in the quote goes to an AP story about the FBI investigating threats; merely reporting that the FBI is doing this, presumably, is an act of "leftist" bias), (c) a possible false-flag prelude to a jackbooted gun grab, and (d) whiny hyperbole by Democrats who just aren't tough enough to take it. And this Murdoch site implicitly endorses the notion that if anything is going on, the Democrats were asking for it.

Ah, but (as the NewsBusters piece notes elsewhere) Glenn Beck reportedly received a death threat. And James Cameron called Beck's ideas "dangerous." And some lefties over the years have done some violent things. (Bill Ayers!) So, you know, it's probably OK if right-wingers are returning the favor. Which, um, they aren't. Heavens no. That's just a LIE from the LIEberals. But if they were....

Though imagine how much worse this would be if Fox were a nasty organ of propaganda rather than the serious legitimate news organization we all know it is.


UPDATE: Republican members of Congress pleaded for civility today, acknowledging attacks on Democrats, but Rush Limbaugh is still apparently an intimidation truther:

Our side doesn't do this kind of stuff. This is all made up, 95% of it's made up....

I think they should release all the information, all of the tapes, whatever they have. See, no one supports threats or violence. But it's the left that does that. It's the left that does that in their protests and their marches. But if there are threats, let's see them. Let's see them all. Let's hear them all. I don't want to hear that you just feel threatened. For crying out loud, people feel a gazillion things each and every day. I'll tell you what it is. These people know that what they have done is universally unpopular. They are trying to distract everybody's attention and create sympathy for them by making up stories and lying about threats, death threats, when these people are the architects of how these kinds of threats and protest marches and violence work. I mean, we don't have anybody on our side that tried to blow up the Pentagon. And certainly we don't have anybody on our side who had a friend who tried to blow up the Pentagon who's now president of the United States. We don't have anybody on our side wiping out cops. Eric Cantor's Virginia office was shot at last night. Eric Cantor is a Republican....

Er, that story's looking a little shaky, Rusty. Want to reconsider what you said?

I'm sure you know about this:

With the Senate working through an all-night session on a package of changes to the Democrats' sweeping health care legislation, Republicans early Thursday morning identified parliamentary problems with at least two provisions that will require the measure to be sent back to the House for yet another vote, once the Senate adopts it....

According to all reports, this isn't expected to be much of a stumbling block in the House. The vote on the package of fixes was 220-211, and it's assumed that the vote will be about the same this time.

But I think the margin should be much greater.

As I said on Sunday morning -- when the intimidation was just beginning, before the propane line was cut at the house of Congressman Tom Perriello's brother, before a coffin was placed on Congressman Russ Carnahan's lawn, before someone left a voicemail at a Congresswoman Louise Slaughter's office referencing "snipers," before Congressman Bart Stupak received many of his recorded death threats -- the ugliness and threats of violence should embolden more Democrats to vote for reform. It should be the declared reason some of them vote yes.

Why doesn't at least one former fence-sitter who ultimately voted no now stand up and say, "I was undecided, and then I voted against the bill and the package of changes, but now I'm voting yes -- I'm standing with Congressman Stupak and Congresswoman Slaughter and Congressman Perriello and Congressman Carnahan and with all the others who've been attacked and threatened and spat on. I'm taking a stand against the viciousness of the extremists in the opposition"?

In fact, this should be the declared reason every single Democrat votes for the package of fixes this time.

And if there were any honorable Republicans left in Washington, they'd vote for it, too, for the same reason.