Saturday, April 30, 2011


There was a GOP candidate forum in New Hampshire last night that was sponsored by Amercans for Prosperity (a Koch organization); the headline-grabbing moment was this: response to a question about high gas prices, [Mitt Romney] blurted out a Jimmy Carter-Barack Obama comparison about how just as Reagan had hung the "misery index" around Carter's neck, so, too, would Republicans have to "hang" Obama with the country's current economic hardship. Romney repeated the "we're going to hang him" locution once more and then, all of a sudden, in mid-sentence, seemed to realize that metaphors about hanging a black man probably wouldn't redound to his political benefit.

Ouch -- that's pretty bad. But I want to draw your attention to a bit more reporting on the forum, from the same story:

Herman Cain upstaged [Tim Pawlenty] by specifically calling to lower the corporate income tax, the personal income tax, temporarily abolish the payroll tax (individual and employer), abolish the capital gains tax, repatriate profits from overseas (abolishing any taxes on those profits), and, the coup de grace, declaring that all this would pay for itself by spurring economic growth.

Michelle Bachmann called for an immediate 25 percent cut in federal discretionary spending, the cancellation of outstanding stimulus projects, and the privatization of vaccine development (she cited polio as an example). The debt ceiling? Keep it right where it is. She joined Cain in calling for the abolition of the capital gains tax, the "death tax," proposed limiting income-tax rates to 20 percent, and then decided to scrap the federal tax code outright. "Let's get rid of what we've got and start over," she said.

Holy crap.

Any wonks out there? Anyone want to run some numbers to tell us what programs we'd have to cut, and by how much, to hit Bachmann's 25% target (which, I assume, exempts military spending)? Anyone want to calculate how much of a tax cut the average gazillionair would get from Cain's plan? Anyone want to calculate what this would actually due to the federal debt -- and to economic inequality in America?

And yet you know that this crazy talk from GOP upstarts is going to be hghly influential in the race. You know that the "serious" candidates -- Romney, Pawlenty, et al. -- will soon be offering laundry lists of Laffer-esque, pie-in-the-sky, allegedly self-sustaining tax cuts of their own, meeting Bachmann and Cain much more than halfway, rather than the other way around.

This is why I stick with the Democrats no matter how much they sell me out -- because no matter how fast they tack to the right, the Republicans just head in that direction even faster.

News from a new Gallup poll:

Americans Favor GOP on Budget: Poll

Americans say Republicans in Congress would do a better job than Democrats in dealing with the U.S. budget, according to a poll released Friday....

The USA Today/Gallup survey of 1,013 U.S. adults looked at whether Americans expressed more confidence in the ability of Republicans or Democrats in Congress to deal with six major issues facing the country.

The federal budget was the only issue in which respondents clearly preferred one party over the other, with 48 percent favoring Republicans and 36 percent Democrats....

The numbers are here.

The standard liberal response to stories like this is that Democrats should have pushed back against attempts by right-wingers (and centrists) to make the deficit the #1 economic issue. I agree that that's a problem -- but I also think Democrats get in trouble by accepting (and using)the standard political simile for government indebtedness, which is that a government's budget is just like a family's budget.

Democrats shouldn't say, We need to deal with this debt precisely the way you would in your own family. The federal government is not like a family.

The federal government collects revenue -- and, by spending in a severe recession, it can actually collect more revenue (because economic stimulus keeps people working, and thus paying taxes; it also keeps people spending, which means storekeepers and manufacturers have taxable revenue). Obviously this comes at a cost -- in order to do this in a recession, government has to borrow a lot of money -- which is why government sustains (or should sustain) employment this way only when necessary. But when it is necessary, and it's done right, it works.

By contrast, a family at a kitchen table can't really come up with a lot of ways to make money by spending money -- maybe you can do it by paying for schooling or job training (which is the metaphor I'd use if I were a Democratic president trying to explain all this), but there aren't that many other ways. A family is just different from a government.

If a Democratic president won't say this, of course voters are going to fall back on the belief that government should do the simple, basic things they themselves would do if they were in financial trouble -- first and foremost, they'd just spend less. But for a family, "just spending less" means eating out less or not taking vacations -- expenditures that don't generate revenue. Government deficit spending in a recession, by contrast, does generate revenue.

And government spending in a recession has a pump-priming effect -- it influences the entire economy. A family's now-canceled trip to the Grand Canyon isn't like that.

If Democrats don't even try to explain how these two kinds of debt are different -- if, in fact, they assert that that they're the same -- of course they lose the public-opinion battle.

Friday, April 29, 2011


Today's David Brooks column is about as Brooksish as they get: he visits the Department of Housing and Urban Development and its secretary, Shaun Donovan (probably at the invitation of the Obama administration, which courts Brooks, but that isn't mentioned), and he concludes that (a) government isn't evil, (b) government can actually do some good, yet (c) government really can't do all that much good. (I'm sure this is precisely what Brooks believed going in, so I wonder why he even bothered to make the trip.)

Now, you may argue that a Republican who sees some good in government is a tiny bit better than the typical Republican of today, who sees nothing good in government. That's true. But even as Brooks is arguing what's nearly a heresy right now -- that government should continue to exist -- he's taking one of his usual cheap shots at liberals:

I observed a strategy meeting led by Donovan and Scott Gould, the deputy secretary of the Veterans Administration, with about 30 career personnel and political appointees. The purpose of the meeting was to see which regions were doing a good job of getting [homeless] veterans treatment and housing vouchers, and which weren't. (Democrats seem to feel comfortable using vouchers to address housing problems but not education and health care problems.)

(Emphasis added.)

Would you like me to explain, David?

If we happened to live in a country in which something like 90% of the population relied on the public sector for housing (as is the case for education), and it was proposed that housing should suddenly and wrenchingly be decoupled from government, with the distinct possibility that many of the housing providers in the new regime would treat non-Christians, atheists, gay families, liberals, and others as second-class citizens or worse, then you'd better believe people like me would oppose housing vouchers. Because that's what we're going to get if school vouchers ever turn the Catholic system and Rev. Billybob's Randian Gospel of Success Academy into our national substitutes for a public school system.

And just as approximately 90% of children in America attend secular public schools, the vast majority of elderly people rely on Medicare to assure them of health care coverage. If we had an employer-based housing system that simply kicked you out of your house (or made the cost of maintaining it prohibitively expensive) as soon as you retired from working, along with an elderly-housing market that charged exorbitant rates (on the assumption that, say, you'd eventually need round-the-clock medical care at your house), then, yes, we liberals would oppose housing vouchers for the elderly that were sure to be inadequate to pay for that housing -- just as we oppose voucherizing Medicare.

Got it, David?

I know a lot of louts get to Vegas and just let their inhibitions go, but I think there was actual calculation behind Donald Trump's decision to work blue in a speech there last night:

Once while discussing Iraq.

"We build a school, we build a road, they blow up the school, we build another school, we build another road they blow them up, we build again, in the meantime we can't get a f***ing school in Brooklyn," Trump says.

To the audiences approval, while talking oil.

"We have nobody in Washington that sits back and said, you're not going to raise that f****ing price," he says.

And finally, while speaking about taxing Chinese goods.

"Listen you mother f***ers we're going to tax you 25 percent," Trump says.

Trump has said he wants to talk about something other than birtherism and related subjects (although you'd never know it); birtherism has the potential to hurt him now, even in an insanity-saturated GOP electorate, so it's understandable if he wants to be associated with other issues. (And I'd say that's true even if he's just being a provocateur rather than a candidate-in-preparation.) So, isn't this a good way to get his words on other subjects noticed? Made you look, didn't he?

I keep thinking that, for all his denials, Trump is still running plays called by Roger Stone -- the GOP provocateur who, of course, concocted Citizens United Not Timid as a means of attacking Hillary Clinton before the 2008 primaries. Even if Trump isn't running, I think the hope is to weaken Obama just by having these things said, and said in a very prominent way. It doesn't matter that the proposals are utterly unrealistic (after you flip off the Chinese and tell them about the tax, are you going to do the same thing to the CEO of Walmart?); what matters is that they set a standard against which Obama looks weak and sissified. (Given the fact that this may be a Roger Stone scheme, I'll remind you that Stone, like his hero, Richard Nixon, worships "toughness" -- although I wince when I think about the sexual undercurrents of that in Stone's case.)

But won't voters recoil? Well, most people don't care about that Joe Biden F-bomb; right-wingers feigned shock and disgust, but they absolutely love Dick Cheney for cursing out Pat Leahy. (They also loved what George W. Bush said about Adam Clymer of The New York Times; at Free Republic, a favorite insult in the Bush years was "major league Clymer.")

I'm not saying this is going to meet with the approval of the general public, or even with swing voters -- I think they'll be appalled -- though I think it will appeal to the crazy base. I'm just saying that I suspect Trump believes it was a brilliant chess move, and did it in a calculated way.

In a sane world, the people responsible for this would be feeling profound shame, and would have already withdrawn the invitation:

The Washington Post gossip columnists recently published a list of "stars" on the [White House Correspondents' dinner] guest list of different media companies. This item stood out:

Even if the dinner is all about D.C. schlubs rubbing shoulders with glitzy celebrities rather than about the business of Washington, Trump should have been enough of a pariah not to be invited before the second Obama birth certificate release. After that release, he should be in the same category as Holocaust deniers, Klansmen, and people who think AIDS can be cured by means of sex with a virgin.

I say boycott 'em. Boycott every media organization that, after Wednesday, continues to give credence to birthers. If you can't boycott all the Post's advertisers, boycott those who advertise alongside the Post's White House coverage. And while you're at it...

Boycott all companies that advertise on The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire blog, which responded to Wednesday birth certificate release by seeking out Orly Taitz and publishing her thoughts. Boycott the advertisers of Fox Business Channel's Follow the Money, where Eric Bolling discussed lunatic theories about the newly released certificate with Pam Geller on Wednesday. (Bolling, by the way, is reported to be on the short list to replace Glenn Beck on Fox. He's not just a birther-enabler, he's a birther himself. So start his boycott early and avoid the rush.)

Oh, and obviously, as Douglas Brinkley, the noted historian, has argued, boycott the advertisers on Trump's Apprentice.

Time to draw a line in the sand.

I generally like Kevin Drum, but in this post he seems to be auditioning for a mainstream-press gig as a Richard Cohen-esque, snide, above-it-all, pox-on-both-your-houses (but-especially-you-libs-and-Dems) op-ed writer. He's responding to some rather shameless GOP ref-working in a Bloomberg news story: "Republicans Dismiss Public Attacks on Ryan Medicare Revamp as Orchestrated."

Drum, after quote a complaint by a GOP congressman, Lou Barletta, writes::

You know what? Barletta is mostly right. But that's not really the problem. After all, a lot of the tea party town hall protests in 2009 were pretty much orchestrated too. Here's the problem: liberals are lousy at pretending that their protests are organic. Ever since the Ryan plan has come out, I've been reading endless tweets and blog posts about how liberals need to create a ruckus at congressional town halls. Or, alternatively, complaining that liberals aren't doing a good enough job of creating a ruckus at congressional town halls. Or wondering when liberals are going to rise up in wrath. Or something.

As a result, even I haven't really taken any of these various ruckuses very seriously. They're just too obviously contrived to be our equivalent of the tea party protests. And my guess is that the press is yawning for the same reason. You can't make protest plans in public for a couple of weeks and then turn around and try to convince reporters that this is all a grass roots effort....

What the hell is he talking about? Republicans are better at pretending that their protests aren't "contrived"? Because they don't openly send tweets? Really?

At the beginning of the long, hot August of 2009 it became blatantly obvious that groups such as Freedomworks were disseminating town hall harassment strategies ("Rocking the Town Halls -- Best Practices") -- and yet this, and large amounts of additional evidence of substantial fat cat support, didn't cause the press to "yawn," or shrug off the protests as manufactured; the media covered the disruptions eagerly, and has continued to insist to this day that the tea party movement is "grassroots." But that's no surprise, given the fact that the press hadn't stopped calling the protests "grassroots" even after Fox News Channel literally branded the April 2009 tax day teabag protests:

Of course, the entire argument is a crock. In less fevered times, we still wouldn't be talking about Norman Rockwell-esque, New England-style town meetings in which the entire populace gathers -- congressional town halls, by definition, would be gatherings of people with a greater-than-average interest in what government is up to. And, golly, they might even decide to attend the town hall and give the congressperson a piece of their mind after reading about the gathering in the local weekly paper -- weeks in advance! That's almost like a tweet!

This is a ridiculous argument. The difference isn't whether these things are planned or not (as far as I can tell, the only unplanned political act with a comparable effect is a riot). The difference is whether the protesters were summoned by massive, deep-pocketed organizations or sincere, underfunded individuals and groups. And this year the latter is the case.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


I'm getting to this a bit late, but last night The Washington Times posted this editorial, under the headline "Birth Certificate Isn’t Obama’s Only Secret." Here are the first two sentences:

Barack Hussein Obama II was born on Aug. 4, 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii. For over two years, the president has resisted pressure to divulge this simple biographical information, which proves he's a natural-born citizen.

Excuse me? Have these people simply stopped trying to make their rants appear to jibe with the facts? Not content with arguing that Obama withheld the specific version of his birth certificate that they were irrationally howling for, they're claiming he withheld this basic biographical information about himself? He concealed the mere fact that he was born on 8/4/61 in Honolulu?

The facts of Obama's birth had been widely reported even before he released that first birth certificate in June 2008 -- but, um, USA Today had the basic data as far back as 2006, as did the Indian Express news service, and this astrology Web site. And that's just from a quick Google. So, um, I don't think there was a vast conspiracy to conceal this.

Politico's Jonathan Martin and John Harris argue that President Obama felt compelled to answer the birthers' charges himself because the rules have changed:

By directly and coolly engaging a debate with his most fevered critics, Obama offered the most unmistakable validation ever to the idea that we are living in an era of public life with no referee -- and no common understandings between fair and unfair, between relevant and trivial, or even between facts and fantasy.

... It's hard to imagine Bill Clinton coming out to the White House briefing room to present evidence showing why people who thought he helped plot the murder of aide Vincent Foster -- never mind official rulings of suicide -- were wrong. George W. Bush, likewise, was never tempted to take to the Rose Garden to deny allegations from voices on the liberal fringe who believed that he knew about the Sept. 11 attacks ahead of time and chose to let them happen.

... [Obama] did so, senior ... advisers say, because of the radical reordering of the political-media universe over the past 15 years, or so. The decline of traditional media and the rise of viral emails and partisan Web and cable TV platforms has meant the near-collapse of common facts, believed across the political spectrum.

... On Wednesday, [Obama] finally gave in and affirmed a new truth of politics in the Internet era: Nothing can be dismissed and anything that poses a political threat must be confronted directly.

There's just one problem with this argument: Sure, the media landscape has changed somewhat since Clinton (who suffered real damage from all the attacks on him but, yes, was able to keep them mostly out on the fringe, although it was a rather large fringe). But the media landscape really hasn't changed at all since the inauguration of George W. Bush -- and yet it's true that Bush didn't have to debunk 9/11 trutherism personally.

Why not? There were plenty of viral e-mails and partisan Web platforms throughout his presidency. There was partisan cable. There was, um, Air America. And yet we never had a majority of Democrats polling as 9/11 truthers. We never had truther legislation in multiple states, or passing any state legislatures. We never had a Democratic presidential candidate rising to the top of the polls on trutherism. (Yes, Howard Dean flirted with it, but he then dropped it, and it was never an issue for him at all, much less his #1 issue, the way birtherism is Trump's.)

What Politico calls "a new truth of politics in the Internet era" is a new truth for Democrats only. The difference between how Democrats and Republicans have been treated in the 21st century is a consequence of the fact that there's no clear dividing line between the right-wing fringe and the non-fringe -- between, say, World Net Daily and Fox News -- which means that the (alleged) non-fringe fuels the fringe. Fox has been obsessed with birtherism lately, whereas no big-name lefty media outpost of the Bush era (think Huffington Post, Keith Olbermann, the Daily Kos) was ever obsessed with 9/11 trutherism.

That's the difference. And as far as I can tell, that's going to continue to be the difference. (Apart from Andrew Sullivan, and one Kos diary, how much Trig trutherism have you seen on our side? And is Andrew Sullivan even on our side?) So there's no "new truth of politics" for Republicans -- still.


By the way, Martin and Harris allow Karl Rove to get away with this grotesque distortion of the truth:

Rove also said that while most mainstream Republicans have distanced themselves from birtherism, some Democrats didn't do the same about whether Bush knew about Sept. 11.

“Our situation was different than this because you had guys like Howard Dean saying that was ‘an interesting theory,’” the Republican recalled.

Hey, Karl: name some other "guys like" Dean in the Democratic Party (I'll link Dean's one truther-curious quote again to put this in perspective). Go ahead -- I'll wait for the list. By contrast, the list of Republican birthers, of varying stripes, is as long as your arm -- and those two links are far from complete, because they don't include every state legislator who's sponsored or voted for a birther bill. Karl Rove, you are to the truth what a vampire is to sunlight.

Lost in our discussions of Barack Obama's birth certificate is the fact that a guy who was once the leading candidate for the 1968 Republican presidential nomination -- George Romney, governor of Michigan and father of Mitt -- wasn't even born in America.

George Romney was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, in 1907, his forebears having fled the U.S. in the 19th century to avoid prosecution for polygamy. In November 1966, the Gallup poll showed him as the top contender for his party's presidential nomination, although he later fell behind, especially after asserting that he'd experienced "brainwashing" from U.S. military leaders during a trip to Vietnam. But there's no evidence that a concerted campaign was mounted to declare him ineligible to run -- and even though he dropped out of the race early, he was put in nomination for the vice presidential slot (remember that the constitutional requirements for the president and vice president are the same) at the Republican convention.

In 1998, when John McCain was talking about a presidential bid and his birth in the Panama Canal Zone was brought up, Ken Rudin wrote in The Washington Post that Romney had been unquestionably eligible in '68:

... Romney was eligible. Romney’s grandfather emigrated to Mexico in 1886 with his three wives and children after Congress outlawed polygamy. Romney and his parents, who retained their U.S. citizenship, returned to the United States in 1912, the year Mexico erupted into revolution.

By the way, it's amusing to me that we might have a presidential race in 2012 between two descendants of polygamists.

Politico's Playbook has an explanation -- unsourced, but plausible -- of at least some of the thinking behind the release of President Obama's birth certificate:

MARGINALIZING TRUMP was one purpose of the White House birther blast. Democrats feared that Trump could be out there saying crazy things, splattering President Obama, while the real Republican candidates would be able to talk about their own messages rather than attacking, and therefore look less partisan by comparison.

I said something somewhat similar a couple of days ago:

I also think the rise of Trump has deprived other nutjobs -- Bachmann, Cain, Santorum, Gingrich -- of media oxygen. They can't get traction as an alternative to Romney; Trump has -- and then he's probably going to withdraw from the fray.

Team Obama and anyone else who fears the election of a Republican president in 2012 should want the other crazies to get more attention; the alternative is a grind-it-out win by Moneybags Mitt -- who could then beat Obama in a general election posturing as a "sane" Republican, even though, if he becomes president, he's just as likely to turn into a 50-state Scott Walker as any of the crazier-seeming Republicans.

So, yeah, it may be a good idea to try to hobble Trump, or at least try to make him seem less worthy of so much attention from the mainstream press. Time for the other nuts to grab the spotlight.

From the beginning, I've felt that the formula "birtherism = racism" was too simplistic -- yes, birtherism feeds off racism, but there's more going on. Over the last few decades I've watched so many Republicans vent so much hate at so many Democrats of all races, colors, and creeds that, while the racism of birtherism seems obvious, it also seems obvious that birtherism isn't just racism.

But I'm given pause by some reactions to the release of the Obama birth certificate. Goldie Taylor wrote this at the Grio (and read it last night on Rachel Maddow's show):

"Show me your papers!"

Major Blackard, then just 19 years old, dug into his trousers in search of his wallet. He padded his jacket, but could not find his billfold.

"Sir, I done left my wallet..." Blackard said. Before he could finish his sentence, the young man was posted against the brick wall, cuffed and taken to the St. Louis city jail. Unable to prove his identity, he would spend the next 21 days in a cramped, musty cell. That's where his older brother Matt found him, beaten and bloodied. Matt returned with Major's employer later that day, wallet and identification card in hand, to post bond.

The year was 1899. Major Blackard was my great, great grandfather.

The real crime, as Pulitzer Prize winning author Doug Blackmon points on in his seminal work Slavery by Any Other Name, was that my grandfather was a colored man in America.

This morning, as White House staffers released copies of the president's long form birth certificate, I couldn't shake the feeling that something very ugly was going on. For the first time in recorded history, a sitting president of the United States found it necessary to produce his original birth certificate for public inspection. Not once, in 235 years, have we ever demanded proof that our president was born on American soil....

Baratunde Thurston posted a video response to the news at Jack & Jill Politics:

There were people who dropped out of their ordinary lives, sacrificed their personal safety, their reputation, their ability to earn money, to intervene on behalf of those who they also saw as American. They got on buses in freedom rides, they sat in, they died in waves and waves of domestic terrorism, so that someone like me could go to a voting booth and not be asked by some racist poll worker to pay a tax, or prove that my grandfather wasn't a slave, or pass a literacy test, which got increasingly difficult the more I might pass it.

And today the president of the United States had to prove that he was an American to the satisfaction of the 75 percent of Iowa Republicans who doubt that, or the 43 percent of national Republicans who doubt that, or the one heinous, low-class individual who took credit for it after....


And yet campaigns of personal destruction have long been the right's standard response to any Democrat who's risen as high as Barack Obama had risen when he became a presidential nominee. Democratic presidents and Democratic presidential candidates are subjected to this sort of thing routinely. And the right-wing base responds with hate-filled enthusiasm routinely.

John Kerry was Swift Boated. Michael Dukakis was turned into an absurd little helmeted egghead in a tank, an elitist with ideas "born in Harvard Yard's boutique" (so deemed by that salt of the earth George Herbert Walker Bush), a man who won't protect you, or his own wife, from rampaging dark-skinned criminals.

Bill Clinton, of course, was deemed a murderer and a drug kingpin and a coke fiend and a real estate crook and a rapist and a pawn of the Chinese and a former Soviet agent and a thug who intimidated critics and the wife of a Maoist man-hater whose lesbianism didn't preclude a heterosexual affair with a man she later had killed ... did I miss anything? Are there people on the "Clinton Body Count" whose treatment at Clinton's hands doesn't fall under any of the above headings?

I'm sure there are, because Clinton, we were told (by many of the same people who attack Obama now) was evil -- so unspeakably evil that in 2000, when Rupert Murdoch's New York Post asked readers (in print and online) to select the 25 most evil people of the millennium, Bill Clinton, as a write-in, came in second, trailing Hitler but ahead of Stalin, Pol Pot, and Mengele, while Hillary Clinton came in sixth, also as a write-in, ahead of Saddam Hussein, Adolf Eichmann, and Charles Manson. Such was the power of eight years of hatemongering, disseminated on talk radio and the then-novel Web and Fox News.

Faced with a powerful Democrat, of any race, the right just sows the seeds of hate any way it can,uses whatever material are available. I'm not saying that birtherism isn't racism -- I'm just saying racism is a weapon of convenience. The purveyors of birtherism are using it because it's there. If it weren't -- if the Democratic president were white -- they'd be trying just as hard to make Americans respond to that Democrat with hate, using different material.

So it's racism, but it's racism deployed cynically. It's not personal -- it's business. Character assassination is just what these people do.


Here are the Goldie Taylor and Baratunde Thurston videos.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


In a righteous, exasperated rant about birtherism, James Fallows writes:

Yesterday, about half of all Republicans thought Obama was foreign born, and therefore an illegal occupant of the White House. How many Republicans will think the same thing one week from now? My guess is: about half. We've reached that stage on just about everything. It's probably been true of human beings throughout time, but is more obviously significant in politics now, that generally people don't act like scientific investigators, or judges in moot-court competitions, when parsing the logic and evidence behind competing arguments to come up with political views. They go on loyalty, and tradition, and hope, and fear, and self-interest, and generosity, and all the rest....

Here we have a wonderful real-world test: if "actual knowledge" mattered, the number of people who thought Obama was foreign-born would approach zero by next week -- with exceptions for illiterates, the mentally disabled, paranoid schizophrenics, etc. My guess is that the figures will barely change.

And yet, elsewhere in the rant (in a passage added after it was published), Fallows says this about Donald Trump's insinuation that Barack Obama was an undeserving affirmative-action Ivy Leaguer:

First, whatever is wrong with Obama, no sane person thinks he's stupid.

But -- as is obvious to anyone who lurks in the right-wing fever swamps -- a lot of people who seem sane (if ignorant, narrow-minded, and hate-filled) think Barack Obama is stupid. They think he's incapable of intelligent thought when he's not reading off a Teleprompter -- and no amount of actual footage of Obama thinking quite well on his feet, and offering opinions that are well thought out, can persuade them otherwise.

My point is that just about every belief angry right-wingers have about Obama is now developed and sustained in the same way as birtherism: namely, through scant evidence and a lot of quasi-religious faith (religious in the sense that it's part of a belief system that posits Obama as the Devil). Yes, the birthers are going to move on to other conspiracy theories (where are the college transcripts? what's Obama hiding?), but in a way it doesn't matter -- the beliefs about Obama that aren't considered to be conspiracy theories really are conspiracy theories. He's a socialist! He's deliberately trying to destroy capitalism! He wants to make Americans increasingly dependent on government! He hates this country and has excessive sympathy for our enemies! He's a hardcore Alinskyite! He's a Chicago thug! And, yes: he's a Teleprompter-dependent dimwit!

"Mainstream" Republicans mostly gave birtherism a wide berth -- but everything I just listed has been proposed in all seriousness by folks like Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty and Marco Rubio (Rubio once critized Obama's use of the Teleprompter while reading from a Teleprompter.)

So, yeah, birtherism took a body blow today, but anti-Obama conspiratorialism will never die, because it's thoroughly mainstream.

This is disheartening. Obviously, it's evidence that Democrats have to work harder to convey the true awfulness of Ryanism, and it's evidence that opinions on the subject track opinions of Obama and Democrats in general, rather than nearness to retirement age. But I think there's another point to be made, as I'll explain below:

Gallup: Seniors Most Favorable To Ryan Budget

A new Gallup/USA Today poll contains a counterintuitive finding: the age group most receptive to House Budget Chair Paul Ryan's plan to deal with the budget - seniors.

The poll finds 48 percent of seniors (those 65 and over) support Ryan's plan over President Obama's plan, while 42 percent back the president.

That's the highest total among the age groups tested - a 47 percent plurality between the ages of 50 and 64 backed Ryan, and a 45 percent plurality of those between 30-49 backed Ryan. But young voters overwhelmingly sided with Obama by a 23-point margin, 53 to 30 percent....

Beyond their approval of Obama, one reason young people might not be falling Ryanism is that they don't pay a whole lot of attention to the bigfoot news sources -- not just grampa's beloved Fox, but CNN and the three major networks and the mainstream print press. All of them have been in the tank for Ryan to a greater or lesser extent, and all have lectured us about the need to be "serious" and have "adult conversations" about the deficit and debt. Young people, who'll be running the country soon, aren't responding to these lectures because they're just not listening.

And perhaps, given the fact that they don't remember the '60s and '70s and do remember the '00s, they're not automatically ready to assume that Democratic ideas are evil, and they are ready to assume that Republicans are acting in bad faith unless proven otherwise (the latter, of course, is an accurate assessment).


Here are the Gallup numbers, by the way (click to enlarge):

(but how soon will the "FORGERY!" sites start popping up?; UPDATE: Awesome -- Trump is a doubter already!)

I've been thinking for a while now that Barack Obama is, y'know, the president and all, so even if Hawaii law forbids the release of his original birth certificate, it would be in his best interest to pull some strings and prevail upon the state to make the thing public. That's what I said at the end of this post, and in comments to the post.

And now it's happened:

The President believed the distraction over his birth certificate wasn’t good for the country. It may have been good politics and good TV, but it was bad for the American people and distracting from the many challenges we face as a country. Therefore, the President directed his counsel to review the legal authority for seeking access to the long form certificate and to request on that basis that the Hawaii State Department of Health make an exception to release a copy of his long form birth certificate. They granted that exception in part because of the tremendous volume of requests they had been getting. President Barack Obama's long form birth certificate can be seen here (PDF)...

No surprises regarding parentage. Or residency. Or religion (which isn't listed). Click to enlarge.

Now, I can't wait for the crazies' microanalyses of this document. (Look -- this capital K is misaligned, but this one isn't!) The true loons won't stop.

But Trump will -- at least he'll stop the birther part of birtherism, though I bet he'll still say there are too many secrets we still don't know!!! And he'll claim he's pleased that this is now straightened out. Doesn't matter, though -- he looks like an idiot now. And hey, Jerome Corsi -- didn't Matt Drudge say your book Where's the Birth Certificate? just went to the printer? Planning to pulp it now?

Oh, and nice timing to do this the day Trump is headed to New Hampshire to headline a GOP fund-raiser. Tee-hee.

By the way, I said this a while back about how Trump intended to approach the humbling nature of campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire:

But can't you see him magisterially propelling himself into an Iowa state fair, or down a main street in small-town New Hampshire, in a motorcade of Escalades? And are we really sure that couldn't work -- winning the nomination, by being the macher, the mack, the big pimp?

And now this is what he's doing today:

The billionaire real estate mogul and reality television star is slated to arrive by private helicopter at 9 a.m. Wednesday morning at the Portsmouth International Airport where he will hold a news conference upon landing.

Big pimpin'! But with the release of the birth certificate, he's been, er, trumped.


UPDATE: Zandar's response is exactly the opposite -- he thinks this emboldens the birthers (who'll just ask for more information), and he thinks this means Obama's on the defensive. I see his point. But I think birtherism was starting to seem kinda-sorta credible to a lot of low-information swing-voter types -- and now the people who pursued this have much less credibility when they say anything. That's my read, at least; we'll see how this plays out.


UPDATE: Even though he's bragging about getting this document no rational person really ever needed to see, Trump's not convinced it's real yet!

As for the actual document, Trump added, "We have to look at it, we have to see ... is it real? Is it proper? What's on it? But I hope it checks out beautifully."

He's now forever yoked to every idiot who won't let this rest. And there'll be plenty of them.

A "Biller"? Is that a good name for people who think (or suspect) that Bill Ayers wrote Barack Obama's first book? Any other suggestions? Well, we know Donald Trump is a Biller. Now we know Sarah Palin is one, too -- or at least she's Biller-curious (as well as curious about the whole range of birther-related nutball theories):

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you blame the media? Because I mean, it's gotten to be quite a distraction. And I think that, you know -- I know there are a lot of people out there who don't like President Obama so they want to believe he was born someplace else. But so far, you know, people who have investigated this, you know, believe that he has been born here in the United States. I don't have any doubt he's been born here in the United States -- and has gotten a sort of a circus-like -- is that Donald Trump sort of, you know, playing with everybody and being a distraction away from those important issues, or do you blame the media?

PALIN: I think the media is loving this because they want to make birthers, as they call people who are just curious about the President of the United States and his background and his associations and his consistency with what he says today versus what he said in both the memoirs that he wrote or Bill Ayers or whomever wrote them -- the media is loving the fact that some curious Americans are actually asking the questions. And they're trying to make those curious Americans sound kind of crazy. So the media is loving this issue and they're perpetuating the issue, trying to make it sound really worse than it is.

And then Palin goes on -- and I guess this means that Orly Taitz's labors weren't in vain after all:

What the heck is wrong with asking the President of the United States to disclose what his college thesis was, what some of the Harvard Law Review papers were that he wrote? I don't care about his grades. I don't care if he was a C student. You know, more power to the C student. What I care about is what goes into his thinking today? What is his foundation from his background? A lot of that could be reflected in the writings that he produced as a college and a grad student.

(All this is, of course, is from Palin's interview last night on Greta Van Susteren's show; video at the link, which is a Fox Nation link.)

So maybe Palin really will run, and be the candidate who takes the Trump torch and runs a birther (or birtheresque) campaign.

Also, note that Palin, like Trump (and possibly Jerome Corsi in his forthcoming book), seems to be doing birtherism 2.0, relegating the birth certificate to a relatively minor role in a narrative that portrays Obama as a deceiver on a number of issues.

Oh, and once again: Obama didn't write an undergraduate thesis. At Columbia, he didn't have to. I got a Columbia B.A. two years before Obama and I was never required to write one.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

(updated a couple of times)

Reuters money columnist and occasional Sarah Palin starburst-seer James Pethokoukis injects a rumor into the political infosphere that would be the second most thrilling presidential news any Democrat could hope to hear, topped only by an announcement that Palin herself was going to run:

It's not just Bill Kristol, gang. There's desire at the highest ranks of the Republican Party, according to my reporting and sources, to see House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan seek the 2012 presidential nomination. Here’s why:

1) Since Democrats are determined to hang Ryan's bold "Path to Prosperity" budget plan around the neck of every Republican running for office in 2012, why not have its author and best salesman advocate for it directly vs. President Obama?

2) Ryan -- to borrow a favorite Simon Cowell phrase -- is "current." He's smack in the middle of budgetary and ideological clash between Democrats and Republicans and would immediately energize conservative and Tea Party activists.

3) Ryan is a strong national defense conservative, as well as pro-life.

4) Ryan is from a battleground state, Wisconsin, and a battleground region, the upper Great Lakes.

5) Ryan’s youth, vigor, likability and Jimmy Stewart persona — well, a wonky version of George Bailey — would be an immediate shorthand signal to voters that he’s a different kind of Republican. He also has a compelling life story to tell....

"Compelling life story"? You mean, including the part about relying on entitlement benefits as a teenager, then trying to gut entitlements as an adult?

I would love for this to be true. Running a guy in 2012 who's staking his political career on the abolition of Medicare would be the dumbest presidential move since, well, running a guy in 2008 who hugged George W. Bush. You know what percentage of voters in 2008 were at or near retirement age -- i.e., 50 or older -- according to CNN's exit poll? 43%. In 2010 it was 53%.

But I don't believe Pethokoukis -- I don't think anyone in the GOP actually wants Rand Boy to run. This is just an attempt to do a little jujitsu on the public perception of Ryan. He's not the guy whose plan voters are starting to attack at town halls (and Republicans are starting to run away from) -- he's a Republican superstar-in-the-making! Still! No, really!

If a few A-list Beltway journalists buy the spin, soon we'll be back to "We simply have to do what Paul Ryan proposes, or something very similar, as all serious people know...."


UPDATE: On her show tonight, after playing clips of town halls in which Republican members of Congress are facing constituent anger over the Ryan budget, Rachel Maddow previewed a report she'll be doing tomorrow:

The corporate-funded, big-money part of the conservative movement is not freaked out about the kind of thing you just saw -- they don't get freaked out. They, rather, are mounting a counteroffensive, a big, expensive counteroffensive, to try to quash the story of this grassroots anger that you just saw expressed against Republicans who voted for the Paul Ryan Republican budget.

I don't know what she's going to talk about in the report, but I think this Pethokoukis story is a small part of that corporate-funded counteroffensive -- no more, no less. I don't think it's news. I don't think it's true. It's a tiny extra dollop of spin.


UPDATE, WEDNESDAY: Oh, bloody hell:

There's clearly a concerted effort out there to persuade the public -- or at least the mainstream press -- that Ryan is still the object of adulation. The people behind this are operating on the principle that if you see a lot of people with positive feelings about someone, you'll be inclined to think that person must deserve the praise.

The image managers around Bush used to subscribe to this theory -- they loved setting up photo ops so there'd be lots of pictures of Bush being greeted by close-in, wildly enthusiastic crowds. They set up the hall for the 2004 convention so Bush would be speaking in the round. They wanted you to see him being liked. Then you'd think you should like him.

In his early days on The Tonight Show, Jay Leno went this route -- and (much as it may pain you to recall this) it helped him go to #1 in the late-night ratings:

Jay Leno had what Oprah Winfrey might call "a light bulb moment" ten years ago when he brought his late night NBC talk show to New York for a week and taped it in a studio that seemed cramped when compared to his spacious work environment in Burbank. When Leno returned to Los Angeles he immediately ordered a redesign for his entire studio, with the primary mandate that the front rows of the studio audience be brought closer to his stage, within touching distance. Leno's changes brought renewed energy to "The Tonight Show" that had been missing following the departure of Johnny Carson, and its ratings began to climb.

They're not really going for the visuals with Ryan so far (too many booing town hall participants), but they are trying to make you think he's really admired.

Holy crap -- Digby and Glenn Beck (or at least Glenn Beck's Blaze) actually agree on something. What is it? The fact that this is nuts:

The U.S. Department of State is proposing a new Biographical Questionnaire for some passport applicants: The proposed new Form DS-5513 asks for all addresses since birth; lifetime employment history including employers' and supervisors names, addresses, and telephone numbers; personal details of all siblings; mother’s address one year prior to your birth; any "religious ceremony" around the time of birth; and a variety of other information. According to the proposed form, "failure to provide the information requested may result in ... the denial of your U.S. passport application."

The State Department estimated that the average respondent would be able to compile all this information in just 45 minutes, which is obviously absurd given the amount of research that is likely to be required to even attempt to complete the form.

I'm happy that it's not just lefties who are reacting to this with horror; it means there's a chance this could die the death it deserves. (Lefty anger alone wouldn't mean a thing.)

Commenter at Digby's site:

The plutocracy's long-term plan is the creation of a police state.

Commenter at Beck's site:

This is just one more means of control for the masses by the progressives and the socialist utopia they are wanting to make us into.

Well, I guess this moment of comity goes only so far. But let's see what we can do with the surprising degree of common ground we have.


UPDATE: In comments, Aimai says:

This turns out, I believe, to be a complete nothing. There was a huge discussion of this over at Baloon Juice and it appears that far from being a crazy intrusion into civil liberties this is actually a streamlining of the process of getting a passport for the few people who can not produce one of the ordinary forms of acceptable ID. If you do not have access to your original birth certificate, for example, or its not relevant to your Passport since you were born a citizen of another country, you can adduce a variety of other pieces of information including testimony from previous employers or neighbors or baptismal or circumcision records....

Ah, I see.

I have a theory about why Donald Trump is heading in this direction, and it isn't, or isn't merely, an attempt (as John Cole says) to blow the affirmative action dog whistle:

Donald Trump is upping the ante against President Barack Obama's legitimacy, raising questions on Monday night about how the president was admitted to two Ivy League schools.

Trump openly questioned how Obama, who he said had been a "terrible student," got accepted into Columbia University for undergraduate studies and then Harvard Law School.

"I heard he was a terrible student, terrible," Trump told the Associated Press in an interview, a claim he's made in the past but one he doubled down on by suggesting he's probing that area of the president's life.

"How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard? I'm thinking about it, I'm certainly looking into it. Let him show his records," he said, without providing backup for his claim....

As I said last week, Trump seems to be working in sync with Jerome Corsi, who wrote a bestselling book before the 2004 election peddling the Swift boat lies, and whose new book, Where's the Birth Certificate?, comes out a few days before the final episode of The Apprentice, at which time Trump may or may not make an announcement about his future plans. Matt Drudge says he was told by an unnamed "insider," regarding the birth certificate investigation, "When Donald Trump said he sent PIs to Hawaii to get to the bottom of all this, he meant this book."

So would Trump also be peddling Corsi's other theories? You see, this is how Corsi thinks Obama got into Harvard:

Did radical Muslims help send Obama to Harvard?
White House refuses to release president's law school records

President Obama's unwillingness to allow the American public to see his records at Harvard Law School prevents resolution of a continuing controversy over whether radical Islamic influences promoted his admission and financed his legal education there.

In an appearance on the New York-produced "Inside City Hall" television show, octogenarian Harlem lawyer Percy Sutton -- whose clients included Malcolm X -- explained that Islamic radical Khalid Abdullah Tariq al-Mansour, "one of the world's wealthiest men," asked him to write a letter of recommendation to Harvard Law School for then relatively unknown Barack Obama....

Sutton, by the way, isn't just (cue the scary music and watch the white righties tremble) an "octogenarian Harlem lawyer," he's a former Manhattan borough president, and a consummate mainstream political insider here in New York City. So if he did write a letter for Obama, that's hardly evidence of extremism -- except to those who watch Glenn Beck every day and think everyone to the left of Mitt Romney is part of the International Islamo-Communist Conspiracy.

Ben Smith, at Politico, wrote this back in '09 when this story surfaced:

Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt told Politico that "Obama did not know and does not know Khalid al-Mansour."

LaBolt said Obama doesn't have a relationship with Sutton and that "to our knowledge, no such letter was written." Obama was in Chicago, not New York, when he applied to Harvard.

The person to whom Sutton was apparently referring, al-Mansour, is a former Black Panther and an adviser to Saudi royalty who has produced, as Amanda Carpenter noted, some YouTube clips that would light up cable television if he's actually been close to Obama. He's also been quoted backing the Palestinian side in the Middle East conflict, though he has not been quoted supporting violence there....

However, a guy who's an adviser to Saudi royalty is an adviser to people mainstream American politicians regard as friends. Right?

Smith also spoke to Mansour, who said,

"The scenario as it related to me did not happen," he said.

"I’m sure he’s written a letter [to someone else] and he got it confused somehow," he said of Sutton, adding that he'd never asked Sutton to write a letter to any university supporting anyone's admission.


As I said last week, I think Trump and Corsi are trying to create a narrative in which Obama is engaged in a vast web of lies, in which the birth certificate plays a small part.

And think about it: You have one principal allegation (Obama wasn't born in the U.S.) and the mainstream press can bat it away, in a way that's persuasive to much of America. You have a lot of allegations -- as the Swift Boat liars did -- and the press just can't keep up, or doesn't try. And the public thinks, "Well, there are so many allegations, there must be something to them.

So that's where this may be going.

I find myself thinking that Haley Barbour dropped out of the presidential race because this is the first time in decades that he's tried to do anything and failed to receive widespread adulation from right-wing white people (voters or fellow fat cats). The guy made it to the top of the greasy pole so long ago that I don't think he's accustomed to trying. I don't think he's accustomed to having to persuade people (or at least conservative whites) of his wonderfulness. Yeah, he won a tight race in 2003 (53%-46%) when he was first elected governor of Mississippi, but he got 77% of the white vote. And now he's been traveling around the country and right-wing whites and donors don't all love him. I suspect that's what damped down the fire in his belly.


Barbour was not going to be the GOP nominee in 2012 -- Mitt Romney has the rich-insider niche to himself, and the competition apart from that is for the crazy base, a constituency Barbour clearly didn't want to court. I've been saying for months that Barbour can't win because he doesn't know how to speak wingnut, or at least the tea-party-era dialect of it; Politico's article on why Barbour dropped out (which doesn't really answer that question) confirms what I've been saying:

Barbour officials dismissed his dismal showing in early polls as a mere product of lack of name identification, but some GOP activists who heard the governor speak on some of his recent trips said they weren't convinced he was connecting.

At a moment when the loudest and most provocative voices in the GOP are drawing most of the attention and presidential candidates are scrambling to get in line with a base demanding ever bloodier red meat, Barbour showed no inclination to accommodate.

He is a conventional Republican and was offering conventional rhetoric about President Obama's policy weaknesses.

His instincts for what the base wanted to hear were just awful -- and his pals in the press never figured out that they were awful. Remember when he called for a cut in defense spending, and Joe Klein predicted that all the cool Republicans would follow that smart Haley Barbour's lead? Ha.

And Barbour's racial gaffe? Well, yeah, he said race relations in his Mississippi hometown in the '50s and '60s weren't that bad -- but he just never learned how you handle these things in the modern era: you do what Rand Paul did when he said the law should allow you to segregate your lunch counter, which is to apologize, but to also withdraw from contact with the mainstream media, as a means of signaling to the crazies that you're the victim and the people in the lamestream press are the villains. (And, hell, this past week a GOP operative was revealed to have sent an Obama-as-monkey e-mail, and she was warmly greeted by a black wingnut radio host; Barbour, if he'd known how the crazies think, could have gone on a similar anti-contrition tour of talk radio and Fox News. If he'd displayed just the right combination of regret and defiance, he could have been exonerated by the wingers and his MSM pals.)


And now I'm reading that Barbour's exit helps Mitch Daniels, who's Barbour's friend and who's said he wasn't inclined to run if Barbour ran. Well, Mitch's pal just conceded fifth place to him. Daniels can't win either, not because he's short or bald (though those things don't help) but because he called for a "truce" on social issues and a (slight) retreat from Scott Walker-style anti-union extremism. So forget it -- he's toast, too, no matter how much insider juice Barbour can offer him.

Monday, April 25, 2011


When did these guys suddenly learn how to play this game? This (if it happens) is smart:

Senate Democratic aides expect Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to force Senate Republicans to vote on the Paul Ryan budget plan.

Reid hasn't made a formal decision yet, and won’t until he returns from an overseas trip.

The idea is to drive a wedge through the GOP caucus and put vulnerable incumbents such as Sens. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) in a political jam....

If Reid can show that a bloc of Senate Republicans will not support the dramatic spending cuts and sizable tax cuts passed by the lower chamber, it would help his negotiating leverage with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio)....

And this, from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, is good (ceratainly a hell of a lot better than the confusing and insulting "strippergram" ad):

And this, from Democratic allies at Americans United for Change, is very, very good:

Well, I get it. The complete list of Democratic lines in the sand is, as far as I can tell, two items long:

(1) Social Security
(2) Medicare

If there's anything else on the list, I haven't identified it.

You know, guys, you might actually win this one -- and if so, you might consider learning from your success and fighting the same way on some other issue in the future.

Hunh? Maybe?

Was there ever even the slightest chance that this would turn out another way?

The Supreme Court rejected a call Monday from Virginia's attorney general to depart from its usual practice and put review of the health care law on a fast track. Instead, judicial review of President Barack Obama's signature legislation will continue in federal appeals courts.

The justices turned down a request by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a leading opponent of the law, to resolve questions about its constitutionality quickly. The Obama administration opposed Cuccinelli's plea.

Only rarely, in wartime or a constitutional crisis, does the court step into a legal fight before the issues are aired in appellate courts. Hearings already are scheduled in May and June in three appeals courts.

The case still could reach the high court in time for a decision by early summer 2012....

Obviously this would have been a break with precedent, but the deciding factor here is that the Roberts GOP majority isn't going to make a decision before November 2012 that depletes the base's motivation to vote Republican. What would be the point of that, given the fact that the law doesn't fully go into effect until 2014, and the fact that it doesn't seem to be motivating Democratic voters very much (and certainly not swing voters0?

I think we can guess when the Supremes will rule on the health care law: early 2013. If Obama wins reelection, they'll trip him right out of the starting gate by overturning the law shortly after his second term begins. Otherwise, they'll let Congress go after it, and give the whole effort the constitutional stamp of approval. But they're certainly not going to deprive the party of a hot-button issue that could help make up for a less-than-inspiring presidential nominee.

Julian Assange is a peculiar sort of whistleblower -- or maybe I'm just an old fart who doesn't understand his importance and brilliance. A whistleblower of the old-fashioned variety releases documents that are specifically incriminating -- that confirm allegations of a particular outrage. Assange just throws document caches against a wall, which would be understandable if their release generally helped bring malfeasors to justice, or even to accountability. But they don't, really -- I'm looking at this morning's stories on Assange's Gitmo leaks, and what am I learning? That innocent people were held for years and dangerous people let go? That the imprisoned have included the very old, the very young, and the clinically insane? That the Obama administration has failed to clean up the Bush administration's mess? What does this tell me that I didn't already know?

But, of course, Assange is out to bring a crime to light only in the sense that he believes secrecy itself is the crime -- "information wants to be free" and all that. If you agree that secrecy is the #1 crime, then this is just the ticket. If not, not.

And yeah, I know that Wikileaks is credited with starting the wave of uprisings in the Arab-Muslim world by exposing Tunisian corruption -- but that's not a view that was necessarily shared by people actually on the ground in Tunisia. And even if it's so, it seems like a decidedly mixed blessing, especially if you live in, say, Misrata right now -- and it hardly seems like comeuppance for the First World secret-holders who were presumably Assange's primary targets. And that poor bastard Bradley Manning -- is that what he's been in a hell of incarceration for? His life was effectively sacrificed in order to avenge the crimes of the Ben Ali family?

Wake me when a buccaneer document-leaker seriously threatens our financial overlords (those Bank of America leaks by Assange's Anonymous pals went down a damp squib, didn't they?), or, say, posts the documents that actually shock the national conscience and thus make the continued existence of Guantanamo politically impossible in America. I'm not holding my breath.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


The Atlantic's Chris Good thinks that, in spite of all the craziness, Mitt Romney is the GOP frontrunner right now. To my horror, I'm starting to agree. I say "To my horror" because, in this economy, a Republican who's not obviously stark raving bonkers can beat Obama -- and then, no matter who it is, the entire country will become Wisconsin almost overnight. So, yeah, I'm rooting for Gingrich or Bachmann or Palin, or even Trump, but I don't think we're going to get those guys. I think we really might get Mitt.

Good points to a recent Gallup poll showing Romney tied for first with likely non-candidate Mike Huckabee, and well ahead of the pack in the latest ABC/Washington Post poll. I'd also point (as Chris Cillizza did a month ago, to a Pew poll (PDF) showing Romney in first place among tea party supporters, and a March Post/ABC poll showing Romney with 70% approval among people who called themselves "very conservative." The newest ABC/Post poll shows Romney with more tea party support than Huckabee, Palin, or Bachmann. So, for now at least, they've actually accepted the Romney reboot (or multiple reboots) as legit

I also think the rise of Trump has deprived other nutjobs -- Bachmann, Cain, Santorum, Gingrich -- of media oxygen. They can't get traction as an alternative to Romney; Trump has -- and then he's probably going to withdraw from the fray. (I suppose that won't matter if he bails next month, when his TV show ends, but I fear he's going to prolong this, because whoever's whispering in his ear -- Roger Stone? Roger Ailes? Jerome Corsi? -- thinks his candidacy is harming Obama, even (or especially) the birtherism. (I half-suspect that's true.)

I know Romney is supposed to be vulnerable because of Romneycare, but why is no potential opponent challenging him on that? Maybe it's too soon, and the attacks will come -- but I have to wonder if GOP voters, who are clearly stupid enough to believe birtherism, climate denialism, "death panels," the unconstitutionality of "czars," and all sorts of other codswallop, are also stupid enough to believe Romney is genuinely repulsed now by the health care plan he championed. For now, the attacks are coming in the form of praise for Romneycare from the likes of Deval Patrick, Romney's Democratic successor as Massachusetts governor. But, see, if an evil Obamaesque liberal tries to link Romney to his own plan, while Obama-hating Romney says he has nothing to do with his own plan, who's a zombified wingnut voter going to believe?

Things will change, I'm sure, but right now I'm worried that the nominee will be the sane-seeming Mitt -- and yet, if he beats Obama, he'll be radically right-wing with the zeal of a convert. So I'm worried.

This story was frst reported Friday, but now it's reached The New York Times:

Federal authorities last week arrested and charged a Tennessee pastor with aiding in the "international parental kidnapping" of a girl who has been missing since late 2009 and is at the center of a lengthy custody battle between her two mothers -- a onetime lesbian couple who were in a civil union.

The two had a bitter falling-out after one became an evangelical Christian and denounced the other’s continued "homosexual lifestyle."

... Lisa Miller, the girl's biological mother and a newly fervent Baptist, was championed by conservatives for her efforts to shield her daughter from homosexuality....

A Vermont court granted Miller primary custody (yup, a court in Vermont sided with the evangelical Christian, something right-wingers would probably have thought impossible) -- but Jenkins was granted extensive visitation rights. Miller refused to allow the visits, so the Vermont family court awarded primary custody to Jenkins.

Ms. Miller and Isabella, who is now 9, disappeared. A warrant was issued for Ms. Miller's arrest, and they have not been heard from since.

An FBI affidavit that was unsealed on Thursday says a Tennessee preacher helped spirit Miller and her daughter to Nicaragua:

Ms. Miller and Isabella stayed in a beach house in Nicaragua that is owned by a conservative businessman with close ties to Liberty University, an evangelical school in Lynchburg, Va., and whose daughter works at the university's law school, according to the affidavit.

Lawyers from Liberty, including the dean of the law school, Mathew D. Staver, represented Ms. Miller in court appeals on the custody issues....

[Staver] said he knew nothing about the accusations involving a law school office assistant, Victoria Hyden, and her father Philip Zodhiates, the beach house's owner.

Mr. Zodhiates runs Response Unlimited, a Christian direct-mail company in Waynesboro, Va....

Yeah, and I'm sure Zodhiates would be a much better influence on the little girl than some ... some lesbian. That would be this Philip Zodhiates:

For eight years, a major direct-mail firm "specializing in the Christian and conservative markets" has been selling lists of the readers of America's leading anti-Semitic newspaper and, since about 2001, its successor publication.

Response Unlimited, based in Waynesboro, Va., and headed by Christian Right activist Philip Zodhiates, charges $100 for the rental of every 1,000 names of subscribers to the now-defunct
Spotlight newspaper. Founded by veteran anti-Semite Willis Carto, The Spotlight carried anti-Zionist, anti-Semitic and wildly conspiracist articles interspersed with ads for Klan, neo-Nazi and related hate groups.

Zodhiates also peddles lists of subscribers to the
American Free Press, which replaced The Spotlight when that tabloid was shut down amid legal and financial troubles surrounding Carto.... Today, the Free Press carries stories on Zionism, secret "New World Order" conspiracies, American Jews and Israel. Mixed in are advertisements for outfits like Pete Peter's Scriptures for America and Kingdom Identity Ministries -- practitioners of Christian Identity, a theology that claims that Jews are the literal descendants of Satan....

And this Philip Zodhiates:

The truth about the war on terrorism!

Philip Zodhiates

President Bush and our nation's leaders are not telling you the whole truth about the war on terrorism.

In fact, they can't.

Because the war we're fighting is a religious war. A war not against Muslims, but rather a war against Islam.

... Islam is a militaristic and imperialistic religion, whose followers are commanded by the Qu'ran to subjugate all other people without hesitation to shed blood....

(Will it surprise you if I tell you he did direct mail for Christine O'Donnell last year?)

This guy will be a fine influence on the girl if he shows up at his beach house. Right?

Saturday, April 23, 2011


The New York Crank thinks this is America's future. I wish I could say for certain that he's wrong:

Some years ago when The Crank's Beautiful Girlfriend was still alive, the two of us went down to Ecuador....

It turned out that we needed our own guide because the experience was not pleasant. As we soon discovered, Quito is a dangerous place. Even in downtown Quito, we were advised that it was unsafe to cross the street at night. I mean that literally. One night, just as the sun had set, we stepped through the front door of our luxury hotel.

"Where are you going?" the doorman asked.

We pointed to another luxury hotel just across the street, where there was a restaurant we had been told was pretty good.

"I'll call a taxi for you," said the doorman.

"But it's only across the street!"

"It is not safe," insisted the doorman....

Then, during a ride through one of Quito's"nicest" neighborhood, we found ourselves getting driven among the hills above town, past nice-looking but not extraordinary suburban-style houses. Most of the houses had a uniformed armed guard with an automatic rifle standing at the front door. A few houses had
two armed guards with automatic weapons.

I asked why a smattering of the houses had two armed guards instead of one,

"Oh," said are guide, "those are the homes of the
super rich."

...No, there will be no revolution against them in this country. No chance of the masses rising up and taking control as they did in Egypt and Tunisia.

... Instead, what will destroy the quality of life of the super rich will be the cost of attempting to defend themselves from gangs of ambitious thugs who form little fiefdoms led by ruthless and ambitious criminals who kidnap, torture, rob, and kill in order to survive and amass wealth outside of the power structure.

In short, the thugs who are robbing America of our Social Security and Medicare and product safety and education today will live in fear of even bigger thugs tomorrow.

This is how it is these days in most of Mexico, most of Nicaragua, much of El Salvador -- in fact in every one of the impoverished Latin American nations where the top few have all the money and power while the people at the bottom struggle desperately to survive....

I think the Crank is probably right when he says that we'll never rise up the way Egyptians and Tunisians have. And I think that's what it will take, because I don't think we're going to stop the relentless dismantling of the social contract that makes a middle class possible.

Is this our future? Are those who can't be the office drones for the super-rich going to be subsisting on garbage heaps or living in a state of permanent war with society, starting practically from birth? I wish I were certain the answer was no.

Go read the whole thing.

Charles Blow, a New York Times op-ed columnist who's African-American, on encountering the hottest name in politics today:

I first met Donald Trump a couple of months ago at a cocktail party. Someone introduced us, and he immediately started in on a speech about how beloved he was among blacks. He said that everywhere he went, blacks were telling him to run for president and that some hip-hop stars had told him that he was the most popular white man among black people. (He reiterated this point last week, which was published in amNew York, claiming, "I've always had a great relationship with the blacks.")

Remind you of anything? This perhaps?

The difference is that Lenny Bruce's character has some anxiety, however unacknowledged, about what he's saying. Trump just thinks he's all that. He thinks saying this makes him even cooler.

Friday, April 22, 2011


Do these right-wingers ever just suck it up and admit they made a mistake?

Oh, what am I saying? Of course they don't. You probably know about Marilyn Davenport, a tea party-affiliated member of the Orange County Republican Central Committee in California, who sent around this image in an e-mail:

For days she vacillated between apologizing for the e-mail and trying to downplay it; the county GOP chairman, Scott Baugh, was more forthright, denouncing it as "dripping with racism" and calling for Davenport's resignation (she hasn't stepped down).

Well, today Davenport went on the radio show of KABC's Larry Elder, a black conservative -- and Elder argued that she could actually help the Republican Party win black votes:

...during her KABC appearance this morning Davenport reiterated that she blames herself for igniting the scandal but went on to blame Democrats for having a "double standard" about racism and Republicans for not keeping her email a secret from the media.

Elder, a prominent black conservative talk radio host based in Los Angeles, got Davenport to agree that the "real racists" are Democrats and to credit Republicans for insisting on the nation's civil rights advancements.

"Take the initiative [and attack Democrats]," Elder encouraged her. "You've got nothing to lose."

He then told Davenport that if she goes "on the offensive" she can help "crack" the Democratic Party's "hold over blacks" during elections.

"Get people to start thinking of themselves as individuals," said Elder, who claims that Bill Clinton has made racist remarks and never apologized.

"Yes," she replied, noting that she agreed with everything the talk show host said.

The mind reels.

Look, I understand that wingnuttism is a cult, but seriously, how much Kool-Aid do you have to drink before you can be Larry Elder and not only defend this woman but tout her as an underutilized minority outreach resource?