Wednesday, June 30, 2010


From the Fox Nation homepage right now, in reference to Kathleen Parker's op-ed:

Keep it classy, Rupert.


(My take on the Parker column is here.)

A lot of wingers have been talking about Chris Christie for president, eventually if not in 2012. (Hell, Christie was endorsed by endorsed by Dale Peterson!) But forget it, folks -- it's all over for him, thanks to this unforgivable Politico interview:

... On the hot-button topic of immigration reform, he said he has long declined to "demagogue" the issue as a former U.S. Attorney, because "I come from law enforcement and it's not an easy issue."

But he did intimate that he thinks stringent state-by-state laws -- such as in Arizona -- are the wrong approach....

"This is a federal problem, it's gotta have a federal fix," he said. "I'm not really comfortable with state law enforcement having a big role."

He said that without border security, enforcement of existing laws and a "clear" path to legalization for immigrants, there would never be a fix....

Christie spent most of the interview hitting wingnut pleasure centers -- calling for lower taxes, denouncing his state's teachers' union, and so on. Very little of the story is about immigration. And yet here's a Politico follow-up:

A few readers have asked for a fuller version of Chris Christie's discussion of immigration....

So here's a bit more detail on his view....

"What I support is making sure that the federal government [plays] each and every one of its roles: Securing the border, enforcing immigration laws, and having an orderly process -- whatever that process is -- for people to gain citizenship."

He added: "It's a very easy issue to demagogue and I'm just not going to participate in that." ...

I consider myself a pretty fair expert on conservative correctness, and Christie has gone way, way over the line.

Now, he's allowed to say that this should be the feds' job -- the most fervent supporters of the Arizona law say they don't want to be the ones to rid the state of the Immigrant Menace, but they're forced to, because the feds won't act. What Christie's not allowed to say is that we need a "process ... for people to gain citizenship." The conservatively correct attitude is: Any path to citizenship is amnesty. Seal the borders! Seal the borders! Seal the borders! He calls that "demagoguing"? Demagoguing this issue isn't a bad thing, as far as the people who've been his biggest fans recently are concerned. Demagoguing this issue is mandatory.

It's been nice knowing you, Chris. Sucks for you that you'll never leave Jersey now. (And it sucks for us Democrats that now the GOP will never put an unappealing lout like you on the ticket.)

From CNN:

Democrats are apparently doing everything they can to ensure Rep. John Boehner's recent comments to a conservative-leaning paper in Pittsburgh aren't soon forgotten.

The Democratic National Committee is out with a web video Wednesday taking aim at the portion of the interview in which the House minority leader blasts the Obama-backed financial reform bill, saying of the measure, "This is killing an ant with a nuclear weapon." ...

Now, here's the Democratic video:

Notice what you don't see as the narrator talks about the financial crisis? Unemployed people. People who've lost their homes to foreclosure. You don't see actual victims of the financial crisis.

Notice what else you don't see? Fat cats. Wheeler-dealers. The people who actually profited from the financial crisis.

So there are your two major parties, ladies and gentlemen. One looks at an economic cataclysm and isn't concerned at all. The other is concerned, but only theoretically, and doesn't want you to think of the cataclysm in terms of who gained and who lost, and certainly not in terms of (ick) class warfare. And, unfortunately, that means there's still a significant difference between the Bad Party and the Less-Bad Party, because at least the Less-Bad Party thinks the economic cataclysm is a bad thing, and not just a cleansing act of nature, or of the free market, which the Bad Party thinks is the same thing as nature.


UPDATE: Rhetorically, at least, the president does a lot better:

... He compared the financial crisis to an ant. The same financial crisis that led to the loss of nearly eight million jobs. The same crisis that cost people their homes and their lives savings.

Well if the Republican leader is that out of touch with the struggles facing the American people, he should come here to Racine and ask people if they think the financial crisis was an ant. He should ask the men and women who've been out of work for months at a time. He should ask the Americans who send me letters every night that talk about how they're barely hanging on.

These Americans don't believe the financial crisis was an ant. They know that it's what led to the worst recession since the Great Depression. And they expect their leaders in Washington to do whatever it takes to make sure a crisis like this never happens again.

I fear the FinReg bill is a lot more like the video than like the speech, but at least the president talks the talk. If the party overall can't talk the talk in attack ads, that's a problem.

Just reading Kathleen Parker's "Obama: Our First Female President" in today's Washington Post and feeling a strange sense of deja lu....

If Bill Clinton was our first black president, as Toni Morrison once proclaimed, then Barack Obama may be our first woman president.


In the same sense that Toni Morrison claimed Bill Clinton was our first black president, Barack Obama could be thought of as another groundbreaker: our first female president.

--Ralph Alter, "Our First Female President?," American Thinker, June 5, 2009

Obama is a female candidate for president in the same way that Bill Clinton was the first black president.

It was Toni Morrison who first had the insight.

--Martin Linsky, "The First Woman President?," Newsweek, February 26, 2008

Obama ... offers a compelling blend of masculine and feminine. Bill Clinton, who was famously dubbed America's first black president, provides a useful typecasting precedent.

--Lucy Berrington and Jeff Onore, "Bam: Our 1st Woman Prez?," New York Post, January 7, 2008


When Morrison wrote in the New Yorker about Bill Clinton's "blackness," she cited the characteristics he shared with the African American community:

"Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald's-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas."


In a 1998 essay in the New Yorker, the Nobel Prize-winning author described Bill Clinton as "the first black president," commenting on his saxophone playing and his displaying "almost every trope of blackness."



Women, inarguably, still are punished for failing to adhere to gender norms by acting "too masculine" or "not feminine enough." In her fascinating study about "Hating Hillary," Karlyn Kohrs Campbell details the ways our former first lady was chastised for the sin of talking like a lawyer and, by extension, "like a man."


Hillary has long been accused of androgyny -- trying to sound like a man, flexing her rhetorical muscle....

--Berrington and Onore


Generally speaking, men and women communicate differently. Women tend to be coalition builders rather than mavericks....


He embodies many of the positive characteristics we tend to regard as feminine: sensitive and empathetic, seeking to find common ground and minimize conflict....

--Berrington and Onore


Obama is a chatterbox who makes Alan Alda look like Genghis Khan.


Obama is filled with sensitivity (one might even say, empathy), he would rather talk than fight...


Obama is advocating conversation and collaboration -- talking with everybody, including those with whom he has significant disagreements.


Those shots of Barack and Michelle sitting with Oprah on stools had the feel of a smart, all-women talk panel...

--Berrington and Onore


Obama may prove to be our first male president who pays a political price for acting too much like a woman.


...the clincher is that, consistent with all outward appearances, the Obama administration fights like a girl.


And I haven't even bothered to cite the oeuvre of Maureen Dowd.

I guess it's brilliant originality like this that got Parker her CNN gig and Pulitzer....

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Sarah Palin gave a speech a few days ago at the Oil Palace in Tyler, Texas. A clip of it made the rounds:

And, well, I have to agree with Bob Somerby of the Daily Howler, and respectfully disagree with Digby, Betty Cracker, and Bob Cesca: the speech may not have been eloquent, but it was fairly coherent. There were quite a few slips of the tongue, but it wasn't really "word salad."


I think it takes a monumental level of naivete -- approximately the amount you have to have to e-mail your Social Security and bank account numbers to a spammer, along with your ATM password -- to write what Somerby writes:

... in the main, [Palin] stated a progressive line, again and again, to a large group of Texas voters.

What does Palin say in this excerpt -- the excerpt our tribal mates derided? Again and again, Palin says that she is "in favor of strict government oversight" of the oil industry.

"Government does have a key role to play in overseeing some of our natural resource development, obviously," she says. What is "the proper role of government?" The former governor goes on at some length, expressing a rather congenial line....

"We have to make sure that BP will what Exxon did to Alaskans?" Let's be honest: If we liberals saw Obama say such a thing, we'd stand up and cheer....

In our view, it's interesting -- it's promising -- to see large groups of conservative voters told about the (obvious) need for strict government oversight. In a more rational, more disciplined world, this would represent a chance for progressives to stick their foot in the door -- to form outreach to such voters. At present, the vast bulk of voters -- right, left and center -- are being savaged by the power of big corporations. Our basic interests overlap. These mutual interests oppose the interests of Power.

... Palin's comments ... open the door to progressive advance....

Really, Bob? Hey Bob, wanna buy a bridge? (To nowhere or otherwise?)

Pal;in's comments are not "promising." They do not "open the door to progressive advance." Are you really that naive? Do you really not recognize blatant hypocritical opportunism when it's staring you in the face?

Yes, Palin does call for

appropriate regulation of industries like the energy sector, because if they’re lax or if they're careless, well there are far-reaching adverse consequences for the public, for our economy, for our environment, and we're seeing that in the Gulf. Government can and must play an appropriate oversight role. Such oversight is in the best [interest] of our nation and the public and industry, because the only way the public will trust industry to develop our resources is if they can prove that they can do it safely, ethically, responsibly.

But this is the easiest, cheapest, sleaziest form of Monday-morning quarterbacking imaginable from an out-of-the-arena pol who's free to promise anything because she has no responsibilities right now. Look, it's simple: Obama's government didn't prevent this bill through adequate regulation, Palin hates Obama, so voila! Palin's now an advocate of oversight. "Appropriate" oversight. "Appropriate" regulation. Whatever the hell that means.

Actually, I know perfectly well what it means, and so does any sensible observer. It means "I, Sarah Palin, magically would have regulated away all the bad stuff and preserved FREEDOM!!! for all the good stuff, so we can DRILL, BABY, DRILL! without any negative consequences!"

And if you believe that ... well, you're Bob Somerby.

Another clip from that speech is making the rounds. It's below.

In it, Palin takes Obama to task specifically:

... you might not know that BP had more high-profile accidents than any other company in recent years, throughout the U.S. and elsewhere, and their record was so bad that an EPA lawyer referred to the company as a reoccurring environmental criminal.... And I bet you'd never guess that even with that record BP requested a categorical exemption from EPA for their Deepwater rig in March of '09, and MMS granted a month later that request, and just to be clear, that happened on President Obama's watch, as in not on Dick Cheney's watch. And you'd never guess that the last inspection of the rig took place just ten days before the blowout preventer failed, and yes, that would definitely be on President Obama's watch....

Somerby's right: the words definitely resemble an attack on Obama from the left.

There's just one problem with Somerby's theory: If you think the McCain-Palin administration would have looked at BP's safety record and refused to grant BP that categorical exemption, or if you think inspectors in a McCain-Palin administration would have looked at the tests and shut down the rig before April 20, you're smoking crack.

If Bob Somerby can really imagine McCain-Palin, or President Palin, blocking the drilling efforts of a big energy company after being swept into office on a "Drill Everywhere" platform, then he has quite a vivid imagination. Me, I live in the real world.

Dana Milbank reports on a moment at the Kagan hearings involving Texas senator John Cornyn of Texas:

... Cornyn began his opening statement with a quotation that he said he received in an e-mail: "Liberty is not a cruise ship full of pampered passengers. Liberty is a man of war, and we're all the crew."

"I don't know why I thought of that," Cornyn told the perplexed audience.

Source for that quote? Kenneth W. Royce, otherwise known as "Boston T. Party," from his self-published 800-plus-page looney-right classic Boston's Gun Bible (sample chapters: "Creeping Citizen Disarmament," "Coercive Buy-up Programs," and "When the Raids Come"). He's also the author of Good-bye April 15th!, which argues that, as one chapter title puts it, "The IRS Has No Jurisdiction Over You," as well as Hologram of Liberty: The Constitution's Shocking Alliance with Big Government (yes, even the Constitution is too far to the left for this guy), Boston on Surviving Y2K (still in print!), You & the Police! and One Nation Under Surveillance, an updated edition of his earlier book Bulletproof Privacy, which, according to Wikipedia, "covers how to maintain privacy" using "both legal methods and those of questionable (or jurisdiction-dependent) legality."

Sooner or later, I'm sure his books will be worked into the curriculum in Senator Cornyn's home state.


Of course, what's getting the most attention from the hearings is, as Milbank notes, this:

... As confirmation hearings opened Monday afternoon, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee took the unusual approach of attacking Kagan because she admired the late justice Thurgood Marshall, for whom she clerked more than two decades ago.

"Justice Marshall's judicial philosophy," said Sen. Jon Kyl (Ariz.), the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, "is not what I would consider to be mainstream." Kyl -- the lone member of the panel in shirtsleeves for the big event -- was ready for a scrap. Marshall "might be the epitome of a results-oriented judge," he said.

It was, to say the least, a curious strategy to go after Marshall, the iconic civil rights lawyer who successfully argued
Brown vs. Board of Education....

Brian Beutler of Talking Points Memo notes this:

GOPers Who Slammed Marshall's Activism Can't Name A Case Typifying It

...After the hearing broke last night, TPMDC asked three of the top Republicans on the Judiciary Committee which of Marshall's opinions best exemplified his activism. And while two of the three were careful to praise Marshall the man, none of them could name a single case.

"You could name them," said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT). Pressed, though, he could not. "I'm not going to go into that right now, I'd be happy to do that later," Hatch demurred.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) claimed it wasn't about Marshall's jurisprudence at all, but rather about how Kagan, as his clerk, drove his work on the court behind the scenes....

Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (R-AL) came closest to citing individual cases, though ultimately fell back on a generalization....

But don't you see? The strategists who mapped this line of attack out didn't intend for the senators to be able to offer detailed backup for their argument. If this is going according to the usual script, the job of arguing the anti-Marshall line in detail will be handed off to a far-right Republican of non-European descent. The African American or Hispanic or Asian or Native American (maybe a woman -- a two-fer!) will write an op-ed for, say, The Wall Street Journal enumerating the supposed flaws in Marshall's jurisprudence. The op-ed will praise Marshall's role as a civil rights crusader; it will take him to task for other alleged sins. And the non-pink-skinned author of the piece will then appear repeatedly on Fox News and talk radio, restating the op-ed's bullet points.

Who's going to get the gig? Maybe Janice Rogers Brown or Miguel Estrada. Both are wingnut heroes, George W. Bush judicial appointees of color who were blocked by Senate Democrats. (Brown, who once compared liberalism to slavery in a speech, might have an approach that's a wee bit too harsh, however.) Or maybe it'll be an unknown. But righties are surely going to try to continue tarnishing Marshall, while giving themselves cover so they can say "Who, us?" when the racial dog whistle is identified as what it is.

Here's the lead story at Politico right now:

Democrats quietly cheer high court gun ruling

... For [Democrats], the court's groundbreaking decision couldn't have been more beneficial to the cause in November. Now, Democratic candidates across the map figure they have one less issue to worry about on the campaign trail. And they won't have to defend against Republican attacks over gun rights and an angry, energized base of gun owners.

"It removes guns as a political issue because everyone now agrees that the Second Amendment is an individual right and everybody agrees that it's subject to regulation," said Lanae Erickson, deputy director of the culture program at the centrist think tank Third Way.

A House Democratic aide agreed that the court's decision removed a potentially combustible element from the mix.

"The Supreme Court ruled here that you have a fundamental right to own and bear arms, and that means at the national level it's harder -- whether it's Republicans or whether it's the [National Rifle Association] -- to throw that claim out: if Democrats are in charge they're going to come get your guns," said the aide. "It pretty much took that off the table." ...

You guys are joking, right?


To reiterate the point I made yesterday, the gun movement (and right-wingers in general) can never acknowledge victory. Practically speaking, gun groups can't do this because it would be tantamount to saying that the groups are no longer needed and members don't need to send those renewal checks anymore. And emotionally, rank-and-file right-wingers always cling to the notion that they're besieged and aggrieved.

We know right-wingers insist that their taxes are skyrocketing under President Obama even though most people have received a tax cut. And on the subject of guns, we know that virtually all gun fans think Obama is a gun-grabber even though he's loosened gun restrictions.

Moreover, the Supreme Court created a huge make-work program for the gun lobby when it said that certain unspecified local gun restrictions could stand (and will inevitably face court challenges). That gives the gunners a tremendous sense of purpose: Yay! We're still besieged! The courts could allow all kinds of local gun restrictions! Lock and load!

Thus, last night I was at the Drudge Report and saw (and I'm sorry I didn't screen-grab it) an NRA ad that referenced the gun ruling and focused on a big fat number: 5-4. Directly below the ad was a picture of Elena Kagan, from Drudge's lead story. Message: Our liberties are hanging by a slender thread!

Yesterday, the NRA's Wayne LaPierre wasn't about to declare total victory:

This decision cannot lead to different measures of freedom, depending on what part of the country you live in. City by city, person by person, this decision must be more than a philosophical victory. An individual right is no right at all if individuals can't access it....

The NRA will work to ensure this constitutional victory is not transformed into a practical defeat by activist judges, defiant city councils, or cynical politicians who seek to pervert, reverse, or nullify the Supreme Court's
McDonald decision through Byzantine labyrinths of restrictions and regulations that render the Second Amendment inaccessible, unaffordable, or otherwise impossible to experience in a practical, reasonable way....

Chris Cox, the NRA's chief lobbyist, said the same thing to Politico's Ben Smith:

... "The NRA is preparing [our] next round of legal challenges," Cox told me, declining to specify targets....

"We’re going to be in coutrtooms making sure these aren't just words on a piece of paper," he said....

And remember, this is the gun group that's considered less hardcore. NPR's Nina Totenberg talked to a representative of the gun lobby's bad cop, the Gun Owners of America, and he promised lots of new battles, some of which are going to be real humdingers:

TOTENBERG: Among the other questions that will face the courts are whether assault weapons can be banned, or machine guns, or so-called cop-killer bullets that pierce armor. What about restrictions on the number of guns that can be sold to one person, or the age of the gun owner? Herb Titus, counsel for the Guns Owners of America, said he expects challenges as well to registration and licensing requirements.

TITUS: You can't license booksellers. You can't single them out. You can't single out magazine publishers. Why should you be able to single out firearms dealers?

...TOTENBERG: ... The first priority of his group right now, he says, is to invalidate a federal law that bans the sale of guns to anyone convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor.

TITUS: I believe that the prohibition against people who've been convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence will probably be the area of litigation down the road.


I know -- this is fighting to loosen gun laws, not fighting to prevent them from being tightened. Surely Democratic officeholders can count on voters to see that distinction -- right?

I doubt it. When your baseline demand is that every gun transaction in America should be subjected to as few restrictions as a sale at a pre-Brady Law gun show in the Deep South -- and that clearly is most gun zealots' baseline -- then anything less is tyranny, and any politician who supports virtually any gun control law (even one directed against convicted wife beaters) is a jackbooted fascist.

Monday, June 28, 2010


Barefoot and Progressive posts video of Rand Paul's appearance at the Christian Homeschool Educators of Kentucky conference last week, where he was asked at least one uncomfortable question:

... the first questioner ask[s] Rand how old the earth is, and Rand completely dodg[es] the question.

So what are we to make of this? Is Rand hiding the fact that he believes in saddled dinosaurs from the general public, as he knew people were there recording him? Or is he afraid to call out these conservative allies as total lunatics?

Interesting questions that I don't know the answer to. Somebody should ask him, as I think voters deserve to know if a candidate believes that saddled dinosaurs roamed the earth 6,000 years ago.

PZ Myers says,

Silly man. These were Christian homeschoolers in Kentucky. Everyone knows that on that planet, the correct answer is "6000 years".

Well, maybe. But apparently you get partial credit with the religious right if you say what George W. Bush said in 2000:

"I think that, for example, on the issue of evolution, the verdict is still out on how God created the earth," he said....

Apparently, if you're right-wing enough, and you invoke Jesus enough, you're allowed to question the 6000-year calendar.

And it's not just Bush who talks like that. After Mike Huckabee raised his hand in a GOP presidential debate a couple when asked if he doesn't believe in evolution, he clarified his answer in a subsequent debate, saying that he believes in God, and, well, you can easily find a presidential candidate who doesn't believe in God if that's what you want (really, Mike? you can?), but he's not that candidate -- yet he's simply not prepared to say how long the earth has been here. He knows that in the beginning God made the heavens and the earth, just not when.

Rand Paul's dad, in this clip from the '08 campaign, says something similar -- he doesn't believe in evolution, but he's not sure how old the earth is.

I wouldn't think that was an acceptable hedge, but these guys get a lot of Bible-thumper votes, so there you are. Rand's just using a time-honored dodge.


Barefoot and Progressive also notes this:

Also of interest is this question about the "Parental Rights Amendment" and the United Nations, which I had never heard of before. According to the fliers passed around the convention, these people believe that the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of the Child is a global plot to outlaw homeschooling, spanking, and raising your children in the religion you choose. FEAR!!!

But it's good to know that Rand Paul supports this, as he's never one to pass on a conspiracy theory designed to scare people about the hoard of villainous dark people coming to destroy your life and liberty.

Well, he's far from unique in that -- the Texas Republican platform (PDF) says, "We unequivocally oppose the United States Senate ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which would transfer jurisdiction over parental rights and responsibilities to international bureaucracies," and there's been a similar provision in the state party platform since at least 2004. Phyllis Schlafly has been denouncing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child since at least 1993. Jesse Helms also opposed it. A bill opposing ratification recently passed both houses of the Tennessee legislature overwhelmingly. The Heritage Foundation opposes it. So does Concerned Women for America.

The notion that this treaty is scary and a vast global conspiracy to erode U.S. sovereignty, sounds frongey, but it isn't -- or, rather, it is, but the fringe includes large segments of the right-wing mainstream. So Rand Paul is no loopier in endorsing this view than a lot of other Republicans.

Adam Serwer on the Supreme Court's McDonald v. Chicago ruling:

The gun wars are pretty much over, and the gun rights side won. One wonders when they'll will figure it out.

Well, if by "figure it out" he means "acknowledge it," the answer is "never." And that's not just because they won't consider America to be anything less than a fascist dictatorship until it's as easy for virtually anyone to buy a gun in D.C., Chicago, or New York City as it is in, say, rural Mississippi. Even if the day comes when we have gun laws everywhere that are as loose as the loosest ones now (and I think that's far more likely over the next couple of decades than ever passing any laws anywhere that actually tighten gun access), the gunners still won't admit they've won.

They can't. As I say here all the time, the belief that right-wingers are the perpetual victims of liberal fascism is a core element of their self-image. What's more, believing this is what opens up wingers' wallets and keeps groups like the NRA and Gun Owners of America -- as well as every other right-wing organization that seeks small contributions -- well funded and healthy.

Right-wingers thought they were under siege in 2003 when the GOP controlled all three branches of government and George W. Bush had absurdly high approval ratings; scruffy protesters whose demands were scoffed at were the all-powerful enemy; no, Hans Blix was; no, it was Ward Churchill, or Michael Moore, or Phil Donahue on MSNBC. Right-wingers arenever in charge. They're always guerrilla warriors and members of the underground resistance. Victory is always an infinite number of fund-raising appeals and wave elections away.

Teabagging Alabama congressional wannabe Rick Barber created a stir with an ad in which he discussed impeachment of President Obama with actors playing several of the Founders ("Gather your armies," the greasepaint George Washington says in the ad). Now (via Oliver Willis and Zandar), I see Barber has a new online ad -- and it's crazy, but it's also oddly ... um, overstuffed.

Did you ever see the unedited version of Michael Jackson's "Black or White" video? It was made at the point in Jacko's career when he felt he just had to keep topping himself, so he made the video an incoherent salad of everything remotely Jacksonesque that was potentially mega-entertaining or controversial: the video had outer space special effects and Macaulay Culkin and international dancers and multiple stage sets and animals and the then-new technology of morphing and, at the end, Jacko crotch-grabbing and smashing car windows in a dark alley in what was supposed to be a menacing way. And some pyrotechics. And a panther.

Barber's new ad is sort of like that:

It's not enough that in this one he talks smack about taxes with actors playing George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. It's not enough that he gets Lincoln to compare the income tax to slavery. It's not enough that he gets in Nazi death camp imagery at about 33 seconds. He can't stop there, so midway through he throws in a reprise of a recent righty YouTube sensation -- an elderly former Marine singing the fourth verse of "The Star-Spangled Banner" (I believe that's the original Marine doing the singing again). But wait, there's more -- Glenn Beck shows up on TV, and then we see Barber watching Beck. Frankly, the only way this could have been more ungainly is if Barber leapt up on cars in a dark alley and started smashing their windows while grabbing his crotch.

I also love the first few seconds of Barber's ad because Barber's question to "George Washington" is what I'd call right-wing nerdcore:

Mr. President, some argue that you would have been in favor of this tyrannical health care bill because you enforced the Whiskey Act of 1791. But that was an excise tax, levied to service the military debt incurred by the Revolutionary War -- a legitimate function of government. Correct?

I guess by now this is casual chitchat among the wackier teabaggers and Beckistas -- half-baked speculation on the constitutional legitimacy of this or that tax provision or the Hayekian legitimacy of this or that function of government. (I suspect, on the right, that talk like this can occasionally substitute for foreplay.)

I'm of two minds about this. On the one hand, I envy the righties' political strength -- the noise machine has actually got large numbers of Americans thinking that that sitting around jawing about these questions is fun. On the other hand, the most powerful citizens' wing in our politics is an agglomeration of half-educated fringe theorists and conspiratorialists. The only question is whether they can largely dismantle the government before their moment passes.

Adam Serwer has a new solo blog at the American Prospect. Congratulations, Adam. Everyone should bookmark this posthaste.

I suppose I should join in Mark Kleiman's outrage at right-wing commenters' reactions to the death of Senator Robert Byrd:

... The comments on The Hill or Pajamas Media are about 80% nasty. Big Government is the worst, by a nose. Not a little bit nasty: "too bad he didn’t die earlier" nasty and "he's going to Hell" nasty and "the rest of the Democrats should die, too" nasty. About a third mention Byrd’s membership in the Klan, more than sixty years ago, leading to the usual "all-Democrats-are-racist" rant....

Really, it's not good for the country.

I'm holding my tongue because, if we'd lost Dick Cheney this weekend, I don't exactly think our side's peanut gallery would have been a model of decorum. Mark does acknowledge that commenters at are often unable to show respect fort the dead, but I think it's unlikely that, in the event of Cheney's passing, this kind of talk would have been contained to an isolated outpost or two.

In any case, I don't think Mark should award Big Government the prize without venturing over to Free Republic ("He always wore clean sheets"), Fox Nation ("Don't ever feel bad about a communist dying. GOOD RIDDANCE!"), and ("This is a rare Dem dinosaur death I mildly regret. No more will we be able to point out to dems that they have a former klansman among their ranks and not ours").

In the hours and days to come, there'll be liberals offering honest assessments of Byrd, including his racial attitudes -- and yet the "respectable" right is going to use this death to insist that there's a media double standard because obituaries of Strom Thurmond focused on his segregationist views, and those of Byrd in the mainstrwm press don't. This is going to be yet another grievance that inflames and rallies the grievance collectors of the right. Never mind the fact that segregationism was central to Thurmond's career as a national politician -- it was the raison d'etre of his presidential run; it motivated his record-breaking filibuster of civil rights legislation in 1957; a Thurmond aide, Harry Dent, was the architect of Nixon's "Southern strategy" -- while Byrd, though a vote for racism during part of his political career, was never the racial driving force that Thurmond was (Byrd's own appalling 1964 filibuster of civil rights legislation notwithstanding). None of the whiners we'll hear from in the next few weeks will note that the New York Times obituary devotes five paragraphs to Byrd's membership in the Klan as a young man, stating flatly that "Mr. Byrd's political life could be traced to his early involvement with the Ku Klux Klan." We'll be told this part of his life was ignored. It's not true.


UPDATE: As predicted.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


A Christian Science Monitor story notes some recent poll numbers on Afghanistan:

...Most Americans agree with Obama that McChrystal had to go, polls show. But they're far less supportive of the conflict itself....

A recent Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters finds that just 41 percent "now believe it is possible for the United States to win the nearly nine-year-old war in Afghanistan." More to the point, a plurality of 48 percent now say ending the war in Afghanistan is a more important goal than winning it.

Meanwhile, 53 percent of those polled by Newsweek disapprove of how Obama is managing the war - a sharp reversal since February when 55 percent supported Obama on Afghanistan and just 27 percent did not....

The same Newsweek poll finds that "46 percent of respondents think America is losing the war in Afghanistan (26 percent say the military is winning). A similar plurality think the US is losing the broader war on terrorism (43 percent vs. 29 percent)..."

The CSM story quotes Peggy Noonan's aseertion, in last Friday's column, that ordinary Americans across the political spectrum might eventually sour on the war. I really don't think that could happen all the way to the right, though I'm not sure it matters:

The left doesn't like this war and will only grow more opposed to it. The center sees that it has gone on longer than Vietnam, and "we've seen that movie before." We're in an economic crisis; can we afford this war? The right is probably going to start to peel off, not Washington policy intellectuals but people on the ground in America. There are many reasons for this. Their sons and nephews have come back from repeat tours full of doubts as to the possibility of victory, "whatever that is," as we all now say. There is the brute political fact that the war is now President Obama's. The blindly partisan will be only too happy to let him stew in it.

It's offensive to me that Noonan assumes all members of military families are part of "the right," but I'll concede that a lot are. And I'll do some generalizing of my own and say that, while the futility of our bad wars has made a certain percentage of pro-military, flag-waving families question whether the sacrifices made by members of their own families were worth it, that doesn't seem to happen in a broad-based way. Supporting our wars, even when they seem futile and your own kids die in them, is part of the larger culture war -- losing faith in the notion that we always fight for right would make you just another sandal-wearing hippie. At most, I expect the most fervently right-wing military families to become embittered because (to paraphrase Rambo) they'll feel we didn't "get to win" in Afghanistan. (And it's only a matter of time before right-wing critics of Obama's Afghanistan policy pull another Vietnam catchphrase out of mothballs, saying that Obama has us fighting in Afghanistan "with one hand tied behind our backs.")

All of which addresses Noonan's point about the "blindly partisan" and their willingness to let Obama "stew in" the war. If she's referring to conservative politicians and bloviators, they don't want him to do that -- they're looking for an opening to attack him from the right.

But in the midst of all this, what would happen if the anti-war movement were holding as many demonstrations as it did in the run-up to the Iraq war and the war's first couple of years?

I think it might really help build a national consensus on the center and left that the war is a colossal waste of time now -- that the jihadists we need to worry about aren't in Afghanistan anyway and that conventional wars aren't our best means of fighting jihadism anyway. This is what the anti-war movement was able to accomplish slowly during the Bush years -- it wasn't possible to stop the war and bring the troops home on his watch, but the political world learned that the center might actually punish you at the polls if you were a hippie-punching hawk, a stance that had previously seemed about as safe as being pro-Mom and apple pie.

Unfortunately, I don't know what the practical results of building an anti-war consnsus would be in this political climate. The anti-Iraq war movement gave us a Democratic Congress and president, and a tardy, too-slow withdrawal from Iraq -- but that's an improvement over the permanent Iraq war we'd have had if Republicans had stayed in power. Electing Democrats got us some of what we wanted.

But there doesn't seem to be a chance in hell that we'll have a president who opposes this war anytime in the foreseeable future -- Obama, even as he talks about withdrawal timetables, will probably extend his own deadlines, fearful of being bashed as a hippie. Any GOP replacement elected in 2012 will be an unswerving hawk.

Or maybe that's too pessimistic. Is there even a slight possibility that we could stiffen Obama's spine and give him the cover of national consent for the notion of declaring the war an exercise in futility and getting the hell out? Or, down the line, could we possibly give, say, President Romney (who'd already have the cover of being a Republican and thus not need to worry about looking like a hippie) the opening to declare victory and go home?

And meanwhile, could we isolate the war lovers, the Palins and Giulianis and Kristols and Gingriches (and, probably, the Cantors and Steeles and Boehners and McConnells)? If we can get centrists on our side, won't that highlight the fact that the folks who claim to be their saviors want us to double down on this?

I don't know how that would play out. As Obama inevitably gets attacked for not being bellicose enough, I fear a lot of voters in the center will start agreeing and wanting him to double down. But I think we just might be able to win that debate. I'd like to see our side try, by putting some bodies in the streets.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


What is it about modern right-wing thinking that so perfectly complements snake-oil-style hucksterism? We know that Glenn Beck combines ideology with what Salon's Alexander Zaitchik calls "cross-platform self-marketing" -- TV broadcasts, radio broadcasts, DVDs, nonfiction books, novels, kids' books, live appearances, movies, some of it selling notions like his hundred-year "Plan." And the fans eat it all up -- being part of the movement (which means buying the merchandise) makes them feel like part of a massive human-potential cult. And they like that.

Well, in today's New York Times I see that Tim Scott -- a black Republican who's almost certain to be elected to Congress next fall from South Carolina -- has a bit of Beck in him. Unlike Beck, he's not selling human potential blather to others -- he seems to have sold it to himself, after a mentor sold it to him:

... Now a business executive, Mr. Scott said he never used drugs and worked since he was 13, wiping windshields at a gas station and serving popcorn at a movie theater. But he acted up in class to seek attention, he said, and by ninth grade, he was failing several courses, including civics, English and Spanish.

He was rescued by a man named John Moniz, who ran the Chick-fil-A next to the movie theater. Mr. Moniz became his mentor, imbuing him with his conservative, Christian philosophy and, as a graduate of the Citadel, teaching him the importance of structure and discipline. He also introduced him to the self-help views of the motivational Christian author Zig Ziglar.

... Mr. Moniz died of a heart attack at 38, when Mr. Scott was 17. That prompted Mr. Scott to write down a "mission statement" for his life: to have a positive effect on the lives of one billion people before he dies.

From there he developed what he calls a "life matrix," a script for living, which is a blueprint for his future, blocked out in five-year segments.

Every day in every way he's getting better and better! But even though the current item in Mr. Scott's plan now involves getting a job in government, don't think for a second that he actually has anything good to say about government:

... He believes that President Obama is driving the country toward bankruptcy and socialism.

... His goals are to shrink government, repeal the new federal health care law and eliminate earmarks, even those that would help his state. In the state legislature, he has co-sponsored an Arizona-style immigration bill, earning him the endorsement of the Minutemen.

(How that last item actually shrinks government I'm not sure, but let's move on.)

... Mr. Scott said that if elected, he would limit himself to four terms in Congress....

"If you really believe in something and that the government shouldn't do it, you better be busy," he said.

Government, he said, allows too many people to be unaccountable, while individuals can achieve great things.

"That's why I need to invest my time, my talent and my treasure in getting things done," like helping people develop self-discipline and financial security, he said. "That's my ambition."

Quite a bit of this, obviously, is hypocritical. For a guy who doesn't like government, he's sure tried awfully hard to be in its employ -- as his primary opponent noted in a debate, he's run for four offices in three years.

But I really believe Scott believes he hates government (and will feel the same way years from now, when he's the party's presidential or vice presidential nominee). And I think, as with Beck, anti-government thinking syncs up perfectly with the nonsense of human potential thinking.

I suppose a lot of government wouldn't be necessary if we could all just turn our lives around and become fabulously successful through sheer force of will (and the strategic employment of techniques found in pricey books, DVDs, and seminars), as hucksters like Zig Ziglar and Glenn Beck tell us we can. It's brilliant to throw that wingnut boilerplate into the sales pitch -- negative forces are holding you back from achieving your maximum potential, and one of those negative forces is ... big government! Which no one should need, because anyone can really do anything! Anyone can go from failure to success! Jut attend this expensive weekend seminar and you'll find out how!

Maybe there'll be more Glenn Becks and Tim Scotts in movement conservatism. Maybe this will replace the human potential hucksterism of old-fashioned televangelism. These guys are going to need something when they take over the country eventually and their utopian libertarianism fails. This is a perfect way to explain their failures away: it really could work if you'd just believe.

Friday, June 25, 2010


Steven Lonegan, a low-taxer who lost to Chris Christie in the 2009 GOP gubernatorial primary in New Jersey, says Limbaugh is wrong and Christie isn't all that:

RUSH Limbaugh is singing the praises of Governor Christie's budget. National pundits talk of "spending cuts." Some enthusiasts have gone as far as starting a "Christie for President" chant.

... Sweep away the bluster and the attitude, and behind it all is the largest property tax hike New Jersey has ever seen.

... Underneath the hype that cocoons Christie’s budget is the fact that it grows state government by more than 6 percent – more than double the proposed 2.5 percent cap on local governments.

Beyond the rhetoric of phantom "spending cuts" is the fact that there are no layoffs in the bloated government payroll that exploded under the direction of Govs. Christie Whitman, James McGreevy and Jon Corzine. Every entitlement program is not just in place, but expanded. Property tax relief to suburban and rural taxpayers is reduced by an astonishing $2.56 billion.

... Under this budget, state government grows at three times the rate of inflation. No departments are eliminated. No departments are consolidated....

If this is accurate, then Christie is truly Reaganesque -- he's figured out a way to be praised to the skies as a government-slasher and without actually doing any slashing.

Now I guess all he needs to do is replace that Joe Pesci attitude with a merry little twinkle in his eye and he really can be president.

Gallup todays offers more evidence that conservatism is on the rise -- which I think is excellent news for conservatives and Republicans in the short run, not as good news as they think in the long run, and probably a disaster for the country over the next decade. I'll explain what I mean below.

Conservatives have maintained their leading position among U.S. ideological groups in the first half of 2010. Gallup finds 42% of Americans describing themselves as either very conservative or conservative....

As you can see, the percentage of people calling themselves liberal hasn't really changed much. (It's actually been slightly higher since Bush's reelection than it was during Bill Clinton's entire term, whatever that means.) The new conservatives, as the graph makes clear, are people who used to consider themselves moderates.

I've been talking about this for a while, in response to other Gallup polls showing similar results -- I've talked about Democratic politicians' failure to defend the notion of liberalism and about liberals' inability to make more liberals by making liberalism compelling to heartland swing voters. I think this is yet another dire warning for liberals and Dems -- though I think it's a good news/bad news situation.

Moderates are becoming more conservative because conservatism, to them, now means whatever they want it to mean. Primarily, it means "opposition to whatever's going on right now." The right-wing noise machine is selling conservatism with descriptions that aren't particularly detailed -- less government! more freedom! what the Founding Fathers wanted! not socialism! tricorn hats! -- and nobody quite knows what any of that would be like if put into practice because right-wingers, while able to gum up the works in Congress, aren't able to advance their own legislation. So it's just a hopeful-sounding set of platitudes.

Unfortunately, it's going to be just that for another two years. I think Republicans are going to take the House, but Democrats will hold on to the Senate and, of course, the White House. House Republicans may overreach (fishing-expedition investigations? impeachment? attempted repeal of popular programs? the return of the the religious right's agenda?), but they still won't pass anything extreme. So their goals will still seem largely theoretical for another two years.

That's great for Obama and Democrats if the economy recovers -- but if this is turning into an economic "lost decade" (and I agree with Paul Krugman that it is), then right-wing ideology will have even more time to seem like the one thing we haven't tried -- the one thing that can save us.

If this scenario is right, there'll be even fewer moderates and even more conservatives at this time in 2012. And the GOP will take back the government the following November -- and, after that, voters will learn what right-wing Republicanism really is. They won't like it, but by then it will be too late.

The press loves Haley Barbour and loves speculating on the possibility that he'll run for president, but Politico suggests he's really going to do it this time -- and he's not making any concessions to teabag notions of purity:

... the Mississippi governor is discreetly building a complex political operation rivaling those of any other 2012 GOP presidential prospects.

His apparatus, which has socked away hundreds of thousands of dollars this year alone, will get a major boost -- as will the Barbour 2012 buzz -- when the governor ... attend[s] a big fundraiser Thursday for one of his three political action committees.

The fundraiser, set for adjoining hot spots in Washington's trendy Glover Park neighborhood, has been the talk of Washington GOP circles, boasting a host committee that reads like a next-generation GOP bundling and campaign dream team.

Ascendant lobbyists for the health insurance, tobacco, liquor, defense and pharmaceutical industries are jockeying for space on the host committee with hotshot, young finance professionals and accomplished political operatives....

A Republican operative close to Barbour said the governor is strongly inclined to run for president because he sees weakness in the field of likely candidates and strength in his own political operation....

But who the hell is actually going to vote for this guy?

I mean, yes, I understand Nothstine's point:

I have a feeling that the 2012 presidential race for the GOP is going to be a lot like 2008 was: The dominant voter impression will be of eight or nine unappealing white folks ... milling around on stage trying to out tea-bag one another.... That will continue into the summer until, in the end, the GOP nomination won't go to the winner, but rather to the survivor, like McCain.

In other words, there'll be a lot of ideologues competing for the same ideologue voter pool, so a non-ideologue will win a plurality of the delegates in the early going and then go on to victory.

But isn't that Mitt Romney's role in this scrum?

I'm forgetting that Barbour's a good ol' boy, you say. Well, I think that, for GOP voters, Southern-by-God tribalism has morphed into culture-war resentment, which means Sarah Palin, because of her incessant God-bothering and hatred for all the culture warriors' enemies, because of Trig, for heaven's sake, will be seen as more of an honorary cultural Southerner than Barbour. And if she doesn't run, I think even Gingrich will tap into that thinking more than Barbour. Or hell, even Santorum, who has the advantages of hardcore Jesus-ism (Catholic branch, to be sure, but these days that counts) and having experienced actual (electoral) martyrdom at the hands of the Godless liberals.

I just don't see anyone voting for Barbour who doesn't have a material interest in his success. I know right-wingers generally love fat cats, but at this moment they think they prefer purity and outsider status and lack of corruption. Other candidates can fake all that. Barbour clearly isn't going to bother trying.

I think Barbour's going to be 2012's version of Texas governor John Connally:

Connally announced in January 1979 that he would seek the Republican nomination for President in 1980. He was considered a great orator and strong leader and was featured on the cover of Time with the heading "Hot on the Trail". His wheeler-dealer image remained a liability. He raised more money than any other candidate, but he was never able to overtake the popular conservative front runner Ronald W. Reagan of California.

I like that bit about the "wheeler-dealer image" (Connally was unapologetic about his wealth, saying, "They haven't printed enough money to bribe me"). But 1980 was a time a lot like now -- Americans in despair, the economy in the toilet, Iranians thumbing their noses at us -- and, well, a zealot won the GOP nomination rather than a fat cat. I think history will repeat itself.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Republicans in the Senate are on the verge of using their 41-59 "superminority" to filibuster a bill that (as Steve Benen notes) "extends unemployment benefits, maintains popular tax breaks, protects doctors from Medicare cuts, and boosts state aid to prevent massive job layoffs in the states." Democrats (Ben Nelson) are prepared to vote for this bill, and could pass it with a asimple majority, but, because of the filibuster, they can't.

Matt Yglesias says: note that if conditions do worsen many, many, many more Americans will blame Barack Obama for the bad state of things than will blame the Senate minority. The filibuster might not be so pernicious were its impact generally understood by the public, but the intersection of a minority that's empowered to obstruct and an electorate that holds the majority responsible for policy outcomes is toxic.

And that really is the problem -- Republicans are going to take away unemployment benefits and Democrats are going to be blamed. But, um, does it have to be that way? Of course, you reply -- Americans just don't understand the filibuster.

But is there no mechanism whatsoever -- a prime-time interview, a prime-time speech -- whereby the president of the United States might explain the filibuster to peple, as if he were teaching Civics 101? Explain it, and explain the specific way in which this undemocratic relic of a procedure is being used to block these benefits and thwart majority rule? Why couldn't a president reach out to the public to educate us on how our government works, in the interests of his agenda? Would Ronald Reagan have hesitated to do so? Would FDR? Wouldn't they have found a way?

I know that Obama, while not a professor, taught for a while. Unfortunately, he taught elite law students. I don't think he quite understands how to educate people who really need a basic education in government.

He should imagine what he would say if Malia or Sasha were to ask him to explain why, if he has a majority, he can't get the law passed. And then he should explain it to us exactly the way he'd explain it to one of them.

Via the New York Daily News, Blue Texan of Firedoglake has learned what the platform writers of the Texas Republican Party think is vitally important:

The GOP there has voted on a platform that would ban oral and anal sex. It also would give jail sentences to anyone who issues a marriage license to a same-sex couple (even though such licenses are already invalid in the state)....

In addition, the platform says that homosexuality "tears at the fabric of society, contributes to the breakdown of the family unit and leads to the spread of dangerous communicable diseases."

Texas Republicans also want to ban strip clubs and “all pornography."

Oh, but there's way more to their platform than that. As Raw Story reported a few days ago (hat tip: Zandar):

In addition to this, the Texas GOP seeks to end the state's lottery, which provides millions in funding to public education; restrict citizenship to children born in the United States whose parents are citizens; end federal sponsorship of pre-kindergarten schools; impose a jail sentence on any illegal immigrant in the state; shut down all day-labor centers; cut off all bilingual education after a student's fourth year in a U.S. public school; legalize corporal punishment in public schools; mandate that evolution and global warming be "taught as challengeable scientific theory"; and demand that Congress evict the United Nations from U.S. soil and end American membership in the global body.

You can read the whole thing for yourself (PDF). My favorite plank?

Livestock and Pet Locations – We oppose a mandatory national animal identification system requiring registration of all animals, of animal owners and their properties, including GPS coordinates and the use of RFID technology.

A burning issue, no doubt.

Notice the resemblance between this and the recent Texas textbook standards? Those didn't amount to a curriculum so much as a loose collection of talk-radio-fueled right-wing resentments; this platform is pretty much the same.

Then again, things are looking up in some ways -- a few years back, Kevin Drum gathered together a list of planks in the 2000 Texas GOP platform. You should really read his list in its entirety, but notice three planks that are gone from the current document:

* "The Party calls for the United States monetary system to be returned to the gold standard."

* "The Party believes the minimum wage law should be repealed."

* "The Party urges Congress to support HJR 77, the Panama and America Security Act, which declare the Carter-Torrijos Treaty null and void. We support re-establishing United States control over the Canal...."

Total impact of that extremist document on the national electability of Texas Republican George W. Bush? As far as I can tell, zero.


UPDATE: My mistake -- the current platform does call for the repeal of minimum wage laws. Yet more highlights here.

Well, I thoroughly enjoyed the column Gail Collins wrote in response to the big kerfuffle of the week, "General McChrystal's Twitters." Brilliant opening:


In Paris with my Kabul posse -- Bluto, Otter, Boon, Pinto, Flounder. Plus some newbie. Guys call him Scribbles.

And it gets better from there. But do you know what's even funnier than the Collins column? No, not the harrumphy response by Jammie Wearing Fool, who essentially says the column is stupid because, well, it just is. No, what's even funnier is the response by JWF commenter Meredith:

For those who are just passerby news/opinion consumers it looks like he actually tweeted those. She has no disclaimer. It is extremely misleading - and that's her point and the NYT's point.

Yes, that's right -- the whole point of the column by Gail Collins, which is headlined "Opinion" and "Op-Ed Columnist" and is written by someone with a reputation for snark, is to persuade you that McChrystal actually wrote these tweets. What nefarious subterfuge with The New York Crimes think of next!

Oh, but there's more: if you click on Meredith's name, you find you can visit her on Twitter. One of her nineteen tweets today (so far) is this forward:

RT @LJZumpano: RT @PatriciaSmiley: Was McChrystal set-up to be smeared?

Which takes us to the blog of the D-list wingnut site the American Thinker, and ultimately into the diseased mind of Mr. Whitey Tape himself:

...This leads us to conjecture about the hidden agenda of the mainstream press and Rolling Stone Magazine. The way the mainstream media spun the remarks of McChrystal's team has some in the blogosphere speculating that the Left set out to smear the general and cause him to lose his job.

Details are scant about who said what to whom, and how the magazine got access to the highest command unit in Afghanistan. Here's a post from Larry Johnson's blog, No Quarter:
This was a set up of General McChrystal. While I'm not a personal friend, I worked under his command for several years and know that he frowned on sharing anything with the media. In fact, I'm certain he did not invite the Rolling Stone reporter into his lair.


Here's what I think happened. Rolling Stone asked someone at the White House or DOD for permission to do a piece on the counter insurgency progress in Afghanistan. McChrystal was told to let the reporter accompany them. He thought that the piece being done was on the counter insurgency. Boy, was he wrong.

Yup, and he and his entourage were forced to make disparaging remarks about everyone they work with in the U.S. government! B. Hussein Osama ordered them to do that so McChrystal could be fired for it! There's no end to his sinister wickedness!

(No, actually Larry J says about counterinsurgency guys: "They talk alot of shit when they are among friends. Some of it is rude. Much of it is blue.... More importantly, they make jokes about political figures and leaders. But it is supposed to be kept in-house." So the Kenyan usurper apparently ordered McChrystal to allow all that trash talk to be put on the record. Because he hates America, that's why.)

And while we're on this subject, can we please stop asking ourselves why on earth McChrystal would allow in a reporter from -- gasp! -- Rolling Stone? That hippie peacenik rag? Um, didn't that hippie peacenik rag employ P.J. O'Rourke for many, many years? And doesn't the military regularly run recruitment ads in RS and other rock magazines? Which makes sense, because when the troops in our recent wars have wanted to get pumped up for battle, what were they listening to? Some mixtape downloaded from a Brooklyn-based MP3 blog? No -- they've listened to precisely the kind of corporate rock Rolling Stone champions. You know -- "Bodies" by the Drowning Pool, for instance, which practically became the anthem of the Iraq War.

And in what world is it bizarre that generals do press? In anticipation of his September 2007 appearance before Congress, General Petraeus gave interviews to Fox News, CBS, ABC (twice), NPR, CNN, USA Today, The Christian Science Monitor, the BBC, The Times of London, Hugh Hewitt, Alan Colmes, and WBZ in Boston (links here) If Rolling Stone had asked him, he probably would have said yes to that interview, too. And he probably would have known better than to say anything stupid.

At the Daily Beast, Tunku Varadarajan describes the selection of David Petraeus to replace Stanley McChrystal as "Obama's 2012 power play":

... Obama has, at a stroke, taken Petraeus out of the 2012 presidential race.

Keep your friends close -- and the competition closer. There has been a buzz about Petraeus and the presidency since about the fall of last year, and to many in the Republican Party -- a party bereft of ideas and credible leaders -- the general has increasingly taken on the aspect of a possible messiah. His impeccable military credentials, his undoubted intelligence, his mastery of personal and professional politics (you wouldn’t catch him talking to Rolling Stone in a million years), plus his undoubted (if carefully tailored) conservatism have led many to see in him a man who can take on Obama in 2012, and beat him. He is even the sort of guy who'd allow the GOP to broaden its tent, drawing in "undecideds" and independents.

I don't buy it.

I don't see any evidence that Petraeus could have possibly cobbled together a campaign -- in modern politics, you have to start doing this ridiculously early, and you have to clear as many impediments out of your life as possible to do so. That's why the likely GOP field consists largely of the long-term unemployed (Gingrich, Romney, Santorum), the recently jobless (Palin), and the soon-to-be-jobless (Pawlenty). Those burdened by gainful employment (Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour) are already working hard to be mentioned as contenders by the Great Mentioners in the press. I don't see much of this from Petraeus. If he'd wanted to run, he'd be Gen. David Petraeus (Ret.) by now.

And what about that "undoubted" conservatism? Petraeus has said repeatedly over the years that he opposes torture -- and he supports the notion of closing Guantanamo and rethinking Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Do we even know if he's willing to hew to any of the GOP's other litmus tests? Do we know if he's anti-abortion? Does he unswervingly oppose "amnesty" (defined as any policy on immigration to the left of "ship 'em all back and seal the borders")? Will he take the Grover Norquist pledge to never, ever, ever raise taxes under any circumstances whatsoever, even in a national emergency?

If not, I think -- sainted though he is -- he'd have had a fight on his hands if he chose to run in 2012. The right has persuaded itself since 2006 that Republicans lose when they're not right-wing enough. Plus, wingnuts desperately crave, on an emotional level, candidates who'll be standard-bearers, wavers of their resentment flag.

Maybe they'd give all that up for a messiah in uniform. But if he deviated from conservative Correct Thinking on other issues as much as he's deviated on torture, Gitmo, and DADT, I think he'd suddenly become fair game.


Oh, and did I mention the Fox News poll from this past April in which respondents were asked whether Petraeus would be doing a better or worse job than Obama if he were president -- and only 33% of Republicans said yes? (A plurality, 43%, said they didn't know.) Overall, only 18% of respondents said he'd be doing better -- and among independents the number was also 18%. Petraeus may be more of a saint in the Beltway media than he is in the public at large, even the right-wing public.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Allahpundit at Hot Air on the Petraeus appointment:

Most of all, though, he's the perfect political cover. If Petraeus can turn things around in a year, wonderful; if he can't, the White House can use the fact that even Iraq's miracle worker is flailing as proof that Afghanistan is hopeless and that we shouldn't dump any more resources into it. Politically, for The One, it's all upside and very little downside whereas retaining McChrystal would have been the opposite. If he had kept Mac on and things didn't turn around, any decision down the road to withdraw would be challenged by hawks on grounds that McChrystal was too weak from this incident to stand up to Obama and make the case for extending the mission. That's gone now. Petraeus is the face of the mission going forward, which makes it hard for anyone ... to object to whatever happens down the road.

How did you figure that, A.P.?

I say it's just the opposite: if Petraeus, who walks on water according to all informed Beltway sources, can't make this work, that's even more evidence that hippie America-hater Obama's timetable and hatred for the military are the real problems, not the strategy or its execution. McChrystal could have shared some of the blame if he'd stayed on; Petraeus, by definition, can't, because, well, he's God, isn't he? I say that with the Petraeus appointment, Obama's putting himself at risk of looking even worse when the withdrawal deadline comes around. (Then again, I assume he'll just punt and extend the deadline, to avoid trouble.)

But I'll tell you this: my ideal president is someone who actually is as brilliant a schemer and conniver as every Republican believes every Democrat is.


(And yeah, I used "fiendishly clever" in two post titles today. So sue me.)

I'm sure it's only a matter of time before some pundit asks whether Rush Limbaugh has ceased to be the "boss" of the Republican Party -- after all, he expressed support for General Stanley McChrystal shortly after the McChrystal article in Rolling Stone became public, yet now President Obama has fired McChrystal and replaced him with General David Petraeus, and even Republicans are saying good things about Obama's decision. And Limbaugh has recently defended BP and attacked Republicans for failing to defend Joe Barton, while many Republicans, uncharacteristically, are attacking Limbaugh right back.

But I'm not sure Limbaugh ever really was the "boss" of the party. The guiding spirit of the party, sure -- he's been like a combination of Dick Morris and the Delphic oracle to Republicans, someone they regard as having an almost mystical ability to tap into the thinking of the public, or at least of the hardcore wingnut public (i.e., the voters they'll need in the low-turnout midterms). But I'm not sure he was ever more than that.

Yeah, there was a moment early last year when a lot of them were apologizing to him. Well, mainstream Republicans back then thought they needed to maintain a fig leaf of civility -- remember Cantor and Romney and Jeb and all those other guys forming the National Council for a New America, which sought to engage in "thoughtful dialogue with the American people" (an effort that, as I recall, began and ended with one so-called pizza summit)? Rush (and Palin and Dick Armey and Rick Santelli and Murdoch/Ailes/Beck) had a gut sense that the way to beat Obama was not with dialogue and finesse, but with brute force -- "I hope he fails," accusations of totalitarianism, and so on -- and that turned out to be a pretty good instinct.

But hasn't that approached reached its limit? Well, we'll see -- if Rand Paul and Sharron Angle actually lose I'll say yes, but their fate is very much an open question. I think what's really happening is that, in the case of McChrystal, there wasn't a clear-cut hardcore-wingnut response -- righties were split on whether Obama had to enforce the chain of command, and then the Petraeus pick became uncriticizable for them. And the issue of BP is very, very unusual -- for the first time in years, probably since Bush sought Social Security privatization, that voters in the middle have angrily gravitated leftward en masse on an economic issue. (Hell, only 18% of Texans -- residents Barton's home state, the ultimate oil state -- think Barton's apology to BP was appropriate, according to a new poll.)

In other words, this is an unusual month. I don't think there'll be very many more issues on which Republicans will feel they have to agree with Obama.

But Rush may never again seem as if he's leading Republicans by the nose, because now they're pretty much where he is on ideas and tactics. There won't be many disagreements to apologize for because Rush and elected Republicans don't disagree on all that much anymore.

This morning, Roger Ailes (the good one) declared that very soon we'd hear a new wingnut war cry: Palin/McChrystal '12! And -- predictable as the sunrise -- the groundswell has begun at Free Republic. Or maybe not: the Rolling Stone article says McChrystal voted for Obama in '08, and that turns out to be a dealbreaker for a lot of Freepers.

Yesterday, James Pinkerton of Fox News was predicting McChrystal would stay on, for reasons along these lines:

... Obama might think to himself that if he fires McChrystal, he will be minting a possible new Republican presidential or vice presidential candidate to oppose him in 2012.

In wartime, people naturally look to military leaders. McClellan, it will be recalled, was the Democratic presidential candidate in 1864, running against Lincoln. And for his part, MacArthur angled, unsuccessfully, for the 1952 Republican nomination, to take on his old boss, Truman.

Um, right -- but James, as you say, MacArthur angled unsuccessfully for the '52 nomination. So how would that even be a relevant analogy?

But in 1952, Truman, a Democrat, found his own further presidential ambitions thwarted; political reality made his re-election impossible, and so he chose to retire.

And the new president was another Army general, a colleague of MacArthur's--although a very different personality--Dwight Eisenhower. Ike was not Scots-Irish, he was Pennsylvania Dutch. And he was an easy winner in the '52 election, serving two successful terms in the White House.

And let’s see, today there's a prominent general with a Dutch surname, a proven leader, successful in war, still active in public affairs, whom some see as presidential timber. What’s his name? Ah, yes. Petraeus. General David Petraeus.

And so we see the evil genius of Barack Obama: he's figured out that if he fires a top general, the voters, as in 1952, will automatically want to replace him as president not with that general, but with another general.

So now he's replacing McChrystal with the other general who seemed most likely to be on the GOP presidential ticket -- David Petraeus.

Always thinking, that sly devil Obama.


By the way, the guy who really seemed to be bringing the snark in the RS article wasn't McChrystal -- it was the unnamed aide who was presumably the now-terminated Duncan Boothby. How soon before the wingnuts start talking about running him for office?

(Or, as this guy says, how soon before he's a pundit on Fox?)


(And I'll note that obviously I was wrong when I predicted that McChrystal would stay on. But my thinking was that Obama would be risk-averse with regard to his right-wing adversaries, and now I'm noticing that three of his top people in foreign policy -- Bob Gates, Hillary Clinton, and now Petraeus -- were all effectively pre-endorsed by the right before Obama's inauguration. As I say, risk-averse.)

Nikki Haley is today's GOP Future Fifth Face on Mount Rushmore, and I guess I understand that, but I'm a bit baffled by the segue at the end of Jennifer Rubin's Commentary post "Nikki Fever":

Haley should be wary, but she also has the benefit of others' examples. The way for Haley to disarm the media and beat back the political attacks is, of course, to be at the top of her game. Although Chris Christie may be the un-Haley in outward appearance, his approach is the right one: be the happy warrior, apply conservative values, reject the entreaties to "get along" with the political establishment, and avoid even the appearance of impropriety. It's harder than it sounds. But in the end, the media can't bring down a competent, likable politician -- nor, as we have learned in the last 17 months, can they keep afloat an incompetent, snippy one.

I know I'm repeating myself, but let me get this straight, Jennifer: this is your idea of "likable"? This is your idea of not "snippy"?

I hate to keep harping on Christie and his testy you-want-a-piece-of-me? attitude, but I'm just fascinated by the tone-deafness of Rubin and other righties in reference to him. I can't help thinking that, for the right, the idea of "likability" has become totally unmoored from, y'know, actual likability as normal human beings would define the term, and now means "sneering contempt for the people we hate, with Andrew Dice Clay comedy timing."

Nikki Haley has barely made an impression on me, but I don't think she's like Christie at all -- yet I suspect there's going to be pressure on her to become more like Christie. I don't think she can retain her GOP-rising-star status if she's gracious to political opponents at all.

Haley's most famous endorser, Sarah Palin, is, body mass index aside, essentially Chris Christie in a skirt -- thin-skinned, unwilling to let any insult roll off her back, always looking to get mad and get even. That's what the GOP faithful want. As a result, if Nikki Haley is personally decent and gracious, I suspect she's going to find herself becoming an also-ran in her party, no matter how successful she is as governor.