Saturday, June 30, 2012


I've got some company coming in for the kinda-sorta-long-weekend, so I'll be gone until July 5. There'll be (I think) some posts from the usual suspects while I'm away, so stop by.

Abortion is theoretically legal nationwide, but it's widely available in only some states, and it soon won't be available at all in some. Gay marriage will probably soon be legal in many states -- and will probably never be legal in others. Up here in the Northeast, we have gun laws; in most of the country, it's a firearms free-for-all.

And now, as ProPublica, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times have noted in the past couple of days, it's quite likely that many states of the Union simply won't go along with the Medicaid expansion in the health care law, thus continuing the process of turning America into two nations engaged in -- to use a phrase I didn't coin -- a cold civil war:
Millions of poor people could still be left without medical insurance under the national health care law if states take an option granted by the Supreme Court and decide not to expand their Medicaid programs, state officials and health policy experts said Friday.

Republican officials in more than a half-dozen states said they opposed expanding Medicaid or had serious doubts about it, even though the federal government would pick up all the costs in the first few years and at least 90 percent of the expenses after that.

... already, governors in Kansas, Nebraska and South Carolina, among other states, have said they would have difficulty affording even the comparatively small share of costs that states would eventually have to pay.

... In New Hampshire, State Representative Andrew J. Manuse said he and other Republicans were already working to block the expansion of Medicaid....
Striking down the Medicaid provision was an act of evil genius, because the middle class never seeks to fight for benefits for the poor. The issue now ceases to be "coverage for everybody" and becomes "coverage for them." Even in blue and purple states, governors and legislators who fight for universal coverage are going to be attacked as evil taxers and job-killers; this is the perfect issue to get another round of Chris Christies and Scott Walkers elected.

Oh, and as Politico notes, there are going to be many Republican refuseniks preventing their states from setting up health care exchanges. This might not mean much -- the feds are supposed to set exchanges for states that refuse to do so themselves -- but it's one more way this law is starting to seem like Brown v. Board or school busing, a federal requirement that's going to lead to massive resistance at the state level.

On the Medicaid front, as the Times reports, there is the possibility that there'll be pressure on reluctant states to go along with the expansion -- and guess what the source will be:
Health care providers who treat low-income patients strongly support the expansion of coverage.

Richard J. Umbdenstock, the president of the American Hospital Association, said that hospitals around the country would lobby for the Medicaid expansion....

Nancy M. Schlichting, chief executive of the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, said she "absolutely will lobby" for the expansion of Medicaid. She said she expected Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, to support the expansion, but she added, "he may have trouble" getting it through the Michigan Legislature.
Is near-universal coverage going to happen only because the fat cats of Big Medicine lobby for it? Maybe.

The New York Times says that, yes, Republicans might be able to repeal some of the Obama health care law if they control the White House and both houses of Congress after the November elections -- but a number of provisions will be hard to overturn:
In essence, the Republicans could not muster sufficient votes by themselves to undo most of the regulations and benefits of the law, but could for the parts that pay for them.

"You can't get everywhere with reconciliation," said Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, referring to the Congressional process that Democrats used, which allows certain budget measures to pass with 51 votes instead of the 60 that would be required to block a filibuster vote on a full repeal. "You will need to use other procedures," he said.
The Times presents a possible alternate procedure:
While some Republicans fantasize about a bipartisan solution to undoing the elements of the law, Representative Tom Price of Georgia, a physician who is the Republican leadership’s point man on health care, said Friday that a health and human services secretary under a Romney administration would dismantle other parts of the law through fiat.
You know who's coming to mind as a possible Romney pick for that job?

Rand Paul.

Now, of course, it could be the obstetrician father rather than the ophthalmologist son. But I think Romney has cut a deal with Ron Paul to do right by Rand, in return for Ron's people not making trouble at this year's Republican convention. Giving Rand a cabinet position carrying out Romney's #1 campaign promise would certainly qualify as "doing right" by Rand.

Just a hunch....

Friday, June 29, 2012


Or maybe Luis Bunuel:

Really, click on the Instagram link in the tweet. Check out what Beck's doing. It's not gruesome, but it is ... disturbing.

He's a sick guy. (But we knew that.)

I don't want to criticize the core argument of Neal Katyal's New York Times op-ed on the health care decision -- it's good that he's pointing out the ways that the decision may have quite a few future consequences you and I won't like. If I have a quibble with what the Georgetown law professor wrote, it's with this sentence:
But one thing is apparent: Americans are growing increasingly comfortable, if not always happy, with the idea of nine men and women in Washington handing down rulings that remove decisions from the legislative process or even rewrite legislation altogether.
Er, no -- Americans aren't "growing increasingly comfortable" with this. Maybe the ones Katyal knows personally are growing comfortable with it, but they're a tiny, tiny minority of the population -- the people who actually have some influence, however slight, on how the important stuff gets done in America. The rest of us just shrug and accept legislative stonewalling, corporate rapaciousness, and all the other things done by America's Big Kahunas -- what are we supposed to do about it? Who the hell listens to us?

This change in jurisprudence is just more of the same. Ordinary schmucks have no control over it. Ordinary schmucks have very little influence. We're not comfortable. We're just resigned -- to this and to whatever else gets trickled down on our heads from the lofty folks above us.

This morning, NPR's Yuki Noguchi wanted to know how an ordinary small business owner feels now that the Obama health care law has been upheld. So she turned to this guy:
The law will give some small businesses tax incentives to pay for employee health care. Starting in 2014, those with 50 or more employees will be required to provide it.

That requirement is bad news for businesses like Perfect Printing in Moorestown, N.J. The company's president and CEO, Joe Olivo, says he now has 48 employees, for whom he pays some health care coverage.

But he's intensely aware of crossing that 50-person threshold and will think very hard before hiring more people so he can avoid hitting government requirements that he says will raise his health care costs.
Last night, Anne Thompson of NBC News wanted to know the same thing. So she turned to ... the same guy:
ANNE THOMPSON: For small business owners like Joe Olivo, it is the unknown cost of the law that could impact his printing business....

Olivo offers health care to his 48 workers. If he goes to 50, he says the law would require him to provide more comprehensive and expensive care or pay a penalty. He says the penalty makes more sense.

JOE OLIVO: The penalty is far below my premiums. It'll be cheaper for me to allow the employees to go and purchase insurance on the exchange by themselves.
Wow -- two news organizations covering the same story scoured the nation for a random small business owner to comment on that story -- and they both found the same one! How'd that happen? What are the odds?

Well, as it turns out, Joe Olivo of Perfect Printing turns up quite a bit in public discussions of this and other issues. Here he is testifying against the health care law before House and Senate committees in January 2011. Here he is on the Fox Business Network around the same time, discussing the same subject. Here he is a few days ago, also on Fox Business, talking to John Stossel about the law. Here he is discussing the same subject on a New Jersey Fox affiliate.

And here he is in July 2010 discussing small business hiring with Neil Cavuto on Fox News. Here he is opposing an increase in the minimum wage in an MSNBC debate a couple of weeks ago.

Go to many of these links and you find out something about Joe Olivo that NPR and NBC didn't tell you: he's a member of the National Federation of Independent Business. NFIB's site and YouTube page promote many of Olivo's public appearances. He was the subject of an NFIB "My Voice in Washington" online video in 2011.

NFIB, you will not be surprised to learn, is linked to the ALEC and Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, and to the usual rogues' gallery of right-wing zillionaires.

So Joe Olivo isn't just some random business owner -- he's dispatched by NFIB whenever there's a need for someone to play a random small business owner on TV.

Thanks, NPR and NBC -- you asked us to smell the grass, and you didn't even notice it was Astroturf. Or you noticed, but you didn't want us to.


UPDATE: "MSNBC" corrected to "NBC" in last two references.


(X-posted at Balloon Juice.)

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Jonathan Bernstein writes this, and I just don't believe it:
... this election will not be fought over health care. Oh, it's an issue, as it always is, but with 8 percent unemployment, it's not going to be what swing voters are hearing about. And don't forget -- those swing voters weren’t the ones keeping a tab open on SCOTUSblog this morning; they may see a headline, but they aren’t paying much attention to any of this even when it's dominating the news. And by next week, and then August, and then October, the Affordable Care Act isn’t going to be dominating the news anymore, and most swing voters will barely be aware that there is a health-care reform law.
I think it's practically all swing voters are going to hear about from Mitt Romney. Yes, he's a convert to movement conservatism, and to a large extent he's faking it, but he is determined to run a wingnut-till-death campaign, and the base barely wants to hear about anything else. He's going to promise to repeal the law and get massive standing ovations from his crowd -- do you think he's going to stop? Pleasing the base seems to be all he cares about.

As it is, Romney's first promise in his campaign ads is to "repeal Obamacare." Recall that a week ago he released customized ads for four different swing states; he juggled the order of information in all of them, but in each one, repeal of the health care law was Promise #1. He has to do this. He is compelled to do this. It's what the base demands, and he won't dare to buck the base, even if the consequence is that he never competes seriously for the middle.

As DougJ wrote yesterday,
... the media narrative has shifted from "Romney will move to the center in the general" to "Romney will govern from the center even though he campaigned from the far right in both the primaries and the general". Clearly, Romney can't "tack to the center" even on issues where it would be politically advantageous for him to do so. Why? ...

The fundamental fact of contemporary American politics is that no one fears anything except the far right. There's millions of examples from Shirley Sherrod to the Bush's Dubai ports and Harriet Miers fiascos to "Drudge rules our world", etc.

... The right will eat [Romney] alive he goes too far off their reservation.
And that means treating the existence of the Obama health law as if it's worse than 9/11, the Holocaust, and a meteor about to destroy Earth combined. That means, in all likelihood, making a repeal promise the centerpiece of his campaign.

Charles Johnson:

Search it and you get a lot of links to Fox Nation quoting Arizona congressman David Schweikert --"Supreme Court just woke up a sleeping giant... election just rolled back to 2010 because it was driven by ObamaCare" -- as well as links to rank-and-file wingers saying more or less the same thing. Meanwhile, Politico brings us Sarah Palin's thoughts:
Sarah Palin says Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling will be a boon for conservatives -- because it will get them more fired up to vote in November.

"Thank you, SCOTUS. This Obamacare ruling fires up the troops as America's eyes are opened! Thank God," she said in a message posted on Facebook.
As I said in my last post, that seems to have been the motivation of John Roberts for upholding the mandate while calling it a tax -- I suspect he thinks gutting the bill would have helped President Obama in November, so he's hoping a ruling framed as Obamacare is a big fat tax!!! will awaken that giant catching Z's.

But the GOP base already hated Obama about as much as is humanly possible. This didn't so much awaken that giant as prevent it from going back to sleep.

The giant the GOP needs to alert about is the swing-voting population. Does this decision wake those folks up?

My feeling is that it won't, based on one simple fact: the health care law was unpopular and Obama was winning anyway. I say "the health care law was unpopular," and that's pretty much what every poll says, but there are two kinds of opinions a poll can uncover: opinions that are visceral and deep-seated -- e.g., for the past few years, "the economy sucks" -- and opinions that people apparently focus on when asked a poll question. In the latter category, I'd put "I disapprove of the health care law." Wingnuts hate it with every fiber of their being, but the rest of the country is flat-out confused. Disapprovers in the middle don't have a gut hatred of it -- if they did, Obama would be as unpopular as the law.

So I think right-wingers are deluding themselves. They're not going to see a sharp and lasting uptick in base motivation -- that motivation was already there, and has been showing up in the polls. As for the folks in the middle, they mostly look at the law and say "Meh," not "To the barricades!"

The only question is whether right-wingers can up the rhetorical ante to the point where even swing voters believe their fevered pronouncements. Tying the word "tax" around the law's neck might help in that effort -- but we'll see. Wingers forget that other Americans aren't as unalterably opposed to taxes as they are.

On the other hand, repeal will now be the only thing Congress will try to do between now and 2014 if Obama is reelected.

Well, at first I was shocked that the Supreme Court upheld the Obama health care law, with John Roberts joining the 5-4 majority, and with the mandate effectively upheld. But I think I see what's going on.

As I've said many times, I was sure the movement-conservative Supremes didn't want to overturn the law altogether, because that would deprive right-wing voters of motivation come November. I thought the mandate would go -- the law would be hobbled but would still be in place.

But I think the way supporters of the law got riled up about the idea of the mandate being invalidated led Roberts to believe that just overturning the mandate would motivate Obama voters in the fall. So he let us have our sense of victory. He wants us to let our guard down. (I'm not saying it isn't a victory -- we backed him down a lot. The law was saved. I'm just saying there's more going on.)

He upheld the law, but he motivated GOP voters by giving them a fresh set of talking points. I'll let a right-wing apparatchik -- Jennifer Rubin -- explain it for you:
The political and legal world just got turned upside down and shaken by the ankles. The individual mandate is not valid under the Commerce Clause. Chief Justice Roberts joined four other justices on that point.... But on grounds no one thought would be taken seriously, the taxing power, Roberts sided with the liberal justices....

The problem here of course is the Obama administration swore up and down it was not a tax. The Supreme Court in effect held that the Democrats imposed a tax on every American, something Obama swore up an down he'd ever do....

As for the political fallout, Obama is in quite the pickle, defending a nation-wide tax and a law a majority of Americans don't like. Mitt Romney will be able ... to fight tooth and nail against Obamatax....
We made Roberts fear the consequences to his beloved GOP if he killed the law, or mortally wounded it by making the mandate effectively impossible. So he upheld it as a tax, and now hopes he's making trouble for Obama. I don't know if this is going to work, but I can't believe it wasn't thought out precisely in this way. Roberts is an apparatchik, too -- he's not a jurist. So this is a tactical move in the right's long war.


UPDATE: Here ya go:

Also go here and here, and see the Chris Christie quote in Jennifer Rubin's update, all of which highlight the fact that the Court upheld the mandate as a tax.

Trust me -- the talking points were distributed on the right well before Roberts released his decision. Now the question is whether they'll work.

Tom Goldstein of SCOTUSblog predicts the mandate will be overturned -- and even though he's an expert and I'm a non-lawyer ignoramus, I'm not going to change my prediction that the mandate but not the entire health care law will be overturned, which I was predicting before oral arguments, back when all the smart people said that an overturn of the mandate was a near-impossibility. As I've said, a partial overturn is intended to do the maximum damage to Obama and Democrats, in November and beyond (it preserves the law as a rallying point for base voters, then makes implementation more difficult and expensive if Obama wins). So there you go.


I'll add one more prediction -- it's a wild surmise on my part, and since I know bugger-all about how these things work, it probably doesn't even jibe with proper Court procedure. But here goes.

I'm predicting a separate concurrence -- joined by some or all of the Court's Wingnut Four, written by Scalia, and read by him from the bench in his usual egomaniacal fashion -- in which it's argued that not only is the mandate unconstitutional, but the very reason supporters of the law give for its constitutionality, the fact that everyone eventually joins the health care market because you have to be treated at an emergency room if you're broke, is also unconstitutional.

In other words, even though nobody brought it up, I'm predicting that Scalia and a couple of the other wingnuts are going to say that state laws compelling us to pay for emergency room care of the indigent violate our constitutional rights, by requiring us to buy a commercial product (health care for others), and (Scalia will imply) it would be really, really nice if someone would bring a court challenge of those laws.

Just a crazy hunch. Would it really surprise you? If America continues to trend right, isn't that where our health care laws are eventually heading, one way or another?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


A story from yesterday:
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney argued Tuesday that if the president's signature healthcare legislation was overturned Thursday by the Supreme Court, it would mean that President Obama's first term was a waste.

..."As you know, the Supreme Court is going to be dealing with whether or not ObamaCare is constitutional. If it's not, if ObamaCare is not deemed constitutional, than the first three and a half years of this president's term will have been wasted on something that does not help the American people."
Now here's a detail from a new Fox News poll on health care (click to enlarge):

People don't favor the law (approval/disapproval in this poll is 39%/49%, which isn't very different from what other polls are showing), but they give Obama credit for trying. (I've noticed this in other polls as well.)

And, of course, the polls show that Obama is a favorite to be reelected, even if voters don't love the health law. For voters, in other words, the health care law clearly isn't the make-or-break issue. And I suspect it still won't be after tomorrow.


The story on Fast and Furious by Fortune's Katherine Eban ought to win a Pulitzer -- hell, it ought to win a Nobel Peace Prize. It utterly upends your sense of the events that led to the death of Brian Terry, no matter which side of the debate you were on. You need to clear time to read it. Every reporter working on the story needs to clear time to read it. So does every elitist in the Beltway. So does Jon Stewart, who thinks the problem is "gun walking." (For the most part, it isn't -- it's that things that need to be illegal aren't illegal, or aren't really.) In a sane world, this story would change the course of this "scandal" and direct the nation's righteous anger at the very people who've been the most self-righteous up to now. (Needless to say, that won't happen, but we can dream, can't we?)

You should read the article, but for now I'll just excerpt a couple of paragraphs, prefaced by this observation: You know how a lot of Americans feel smug whenever a group of Muslims do something violent in response to the desecration of a Koran? You know how those Americans smugly say that we don't hold any inanimate object so sacred that we'd defend it at the cost of actual human beings' lives?

Well, that's not true. We have sacred objects in this society that we believe are worth more than the lives of innocent human beings.

Those sacred objects are called guns:
... No federal statute outlaws firearms trafficking, so agents must build cases using a patchwork of often toothless laws. For six years, due to Beltway politics, the bureau has gone without permanent leadership, neutered in its fight for funding and authority. The National Rifle Association has so successfully opposed a comprehensive electronic database of gun sales that the ATF's congressional appropriation explicitly prohibits establishing one....

Customers can legally buy as many weapons as they want in Arizona as long as they're 18 or older and pass a criminal background check. There are no waiting periods and no need for permits, and buyers are allowed to resell the guns....

The agents faced numerous obstacles in what they dubbed the Fast and Furious case.... Their greatest difficulty by far, however, was convincing prosecutors that they had sufficient grounds to seize guns and arrest straw purchasers. By June 2010 the agents had sent the U.S. Attorney's office a list of 31 suspects they wanted to arrest, with 46 pages outlining their illegal acts. But for the next seven months prosecutors did not indict a single suspect.

...five law-enforcement agents directly involved in Fast and Furious ... insist they never purposefully allowed guns to be illegally trafficked. Just the opposite: They say they seized weapons whenever they could but were hamstrung by prosecutors and weak laws, which stymied them at every turn....

It was nearly impossible in Arizona to bring a case against a straw purchaser. The federal prosecutors there did not consider the purchase of a huge volume of guns, or their handoff to a third party, sufficient evidence to seize them. A buyer who certified that the guns were for himself, then handed them off minutes later, hadn't necessarily lied and was free to change his mind. Even if a suspect bought 10 guns that were recovered days later at a Mexican crime scene, this didn't mean the initial purchase had been illegal....

After examining one suspect's garbage, agents learned he was on food stamps yet had plunked down more than $300,000 for 476 firearms in six months. Voth asked if the ATF could arrest him for fraudulently accepting public assistance when he was spending such huge sums. Prosecutor Hurley said no. In another instance, a young jobless suspect paid more than $10,000 for a 50-caliber tripod-mounted sniper rifle. According to Voth, Hurley told the agents they lacked proof that he hadn't bought the gun for himself....
Those excerpts don't describe policy -- they describe worship.

From Talking Points Memo:
House Speaker John Boehner said Wednesday that he didn't know whether the botched ATF operation known as Fast and Furious was a secret Obama administration plot to implement gun control by sending guns to Mexico.

"I've never indicated that was the case, I don't know whether that's the case because we don't have the documents," Boehner told reporters at a short press conference....
I've used the term "gun-therism" for this conspiracy theory, but I think it's now attained a status even birtherism hasn't attained. You can be a Republican politician and say you believe the president was born in Hawaii, but it may now be the case that you can't say that Fast and Furious wasn't a gun-control plot -- you either have to say it was a plot or say you're not sure. That puts this conspiracy theory in the same category as climate-change denialism -- you can't be a Republican anymore and say with certainty that people are causing climate change, though if your name is, say, Mitt Romney, you can say you're just not sure. That party-wide shift on climate change was bought and paid for by energy-industry zillionaires; the one on Fast and Furious comes courtesy of the NRA. Both are very stern taskmasters.

Dana Milbank realizes what we've lost and sheds a tear, after running into Trent Lott while buying socks in a D.C. department store:
... Lott created Seersucker Thursday in the '90s, encouraging senators of both parties to mark the beginning of summer by wearing the pajama-like cotton, popular in the South.

As many as 30 senators once donned the striped fabric -- from Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski to California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, from Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar to Pennsylvania Republican Rick Santorum....

Seersucker Thursday would have been on June 21, but on the evening before, the Senate cloakroom's staff notified members that the custom was being discontinued. Lott's former colleagues thought it would be politically unwise to be seen doing something frivolous when there's so much conflict over major issues.

... those who canceled Seersucker Thursday have got it exactly backward: Our leaders can't agree on important things because they're missing this kind of social lubricant....
Yes, this again: people can't get along in D.C. not because the right has a radical program to repeal the 20th century and a habit of using every means at its disposal to enact that agenda through legislative hostage-taking, but because Tip and the Gipper don't drink and tell Irish stories after a long, hard day.

But are the parties really irrevocably split? Not entirely:
Now that the politically potent National Rifle Association is keeping score, some Democrats may join House Republicans if there's a vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress in a dispute over documents related to a botched gun-tracking operation.

The chief Democratic House head counter, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, declined to tell reporters how many defections he expected, but acknowledged that some in his party would consider heeding the NRA's call for a "yes" vote.

The gun owners association injected itself last week into the stalemate over Justice Department documents demanded by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The NRA said it supports the contempt resolution and will keep a record of how members vote....
Forget seersucker -- if the NRA wanted all members of Congress to wear their underwear on the outside for one day, you'd better believe the entire GOP delegation would go skivvies-forward -- as would a small but significant portion of the Democratic delegation.

"Social lubricant"? That's not how D.C. is going to come together. It's going to come together only in an atmosphere of total victory for the right. On guns, the city is basically already there. On everything else, well, the right is committed to a long war.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Barack Obama maintains a lead over Mitt Romney in the new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll -- Obnama's up 47%-44% (last month's numbers: 47%-43% Obama). But please note:
Another place where Obama is running ahead: the swing states.

Among swing-state respondents in the poll -- those living in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin -- Obama leads Romney, 50 to 42 percent.

Also in these swing states, Romney's favorability numbers have dropped, possibly reflecting the toll the negative Obama TV advertisements are having on the former Massachusetts governor in these battlegrounds.

A month ago, Romney's favorable/unfavorable score stood at 34-38 percent nationally and 36-36 percent in the 12 swing states.

But in this latest survey, his national fav/unfav score is 33-39 percent and 30-41 percent in the swing states.

In addition, the poll shows that attitudes about Romney's business background -- a frequent target in Obama ads -- also are more unfavorable in these battlegrounds.
Bain advertising is like a magic potion -- you talk about Bain and Romney's numbers instantly go down.

That's exactly what Stan Greenberg and James Carville discovered recently fter some swing-state focus groups:
In the sustained flood of advertising, the one thing that stands out is how strong the reactions to Mitt Romney are-- particularly in Ohio -- where he has been defined as hurting workers in his work at Bain....

Romney is damaged heading into this race....

Respondents immediately volunteer that Romney is rich, out of touch, and in the pocket for Wall Street and big finance. That was true before we introduced any information -- reflecting the outside advertising on Bain that was airing at the time of the groups in Ohio.
The Obama campaign mustn't go wobbly. It mustn't listen to the likes of Cory Booker and Ed Rendell. Bain is toxic.

If Obama and his allies continue to talk about Bain, Obama will win. It's that simple. This is happening now in the swing states. It needs to happen everywhere.

Can you find anything objectionable here?
Jarrett: 'We will be prepared' if health care law struck down

Valerie Jarrett wouldn't give details Saturday on the Obama administration's plans if its health care law is struck down but did say the White House will stand by Attorney General Eric Holder as the House prepares to vote on a contempt resolution against him.

"We will be prepared," the White House senior adviser said of the pending Supreme Court ruling on the health care law, at the National Association of Black Journalists convention here. "We want to give the Supreme Court the room to make their decision." ...
No? I can't find anything objectionable either. But Fox Nation and the Washington Free Beacon could:

Valerie Jarrett, the senior adviser whose exact responsibilities in the Obama administration remain unclear, used the term "we" instead of the President's name in a speech on Saturday, leading some to speculate that Jarrett's role in White House decision-making is larger than advertised....
Excuse me? Referring to an administration in which you're a top adviser as "we" is now the height of effrontery?

(Or is uppitiness the word I'm looking for?)

There's long been a sort of Valerie Jarrett Derangement Syndrome on the right, and you've got to hand it to the righties -- they can actually pick an obscure West Wing insider, someone the vast majority of Americans have never heard of, and turn attacks on her into ratings gold. Glenn Beck repeatedly declared her the second coming of Karl Marx in his TV heyday. Edward Klein, in his #1 bestselling Obama hatchet job, declares Jarrett the de facto president (an attack gleefully retransmitted on Fox). And now she has the audacity to use the secondfirst-person-plural pronoun. Cover the children's ears!

Is it even possible for a right-winger these days to reach a hate saturation point? Is there any amount of hate that makes right-wingers say, "Thanks, I've had enough"?

I like this:
Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren took direct aim at Mitt Romney at an Obama fundraiser on Monday, dredging up his remark that "corporations are people."

"No, Mitt, corporations are not people," she exclaimed. "People have hearts, they have kids, they get jobs, they get sick,... they live and they die. Learn the difference.

"And Mitt, learn this: we don't run this country for corporations, we run it for people," Warren continued, drawing cheers from the crowd at Boston Symphony Hall.
She should do this, because Scott Brown is doing an excellent job of being the Eddie Haskell of American politics, with half the state of Massachusetts acting as his gullible June Cleaver:
PPP's newest poll on the Massachusetts Senate race finds it dead even, with Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown both at 46%....

Brown's numbers have experienced a bit of a resurgence in the last few months. His approval rating is back over 50%, with 51% of voters approving of him to 38% who disapprove....

Brown is conveying the sort of centrist, independent image he'll need in order to win this fall. Only 34% of voters think he's too conservative to 48% who say he's ideologically 'about right.' And 49% say he's been an 'independent voice for Massachusetts' to 39% who say he's been more a 'partisan voice for the national Republican Party.' ...
Some of this resurgence is traceable, no doubt, to the warm-fuzzy ads that have gone into heavy rotation on Massachusetts TV recently.
In one called "Dad" released June 11, [Gail] Huff [Brown's wife] said that Brown would "get the girls up, get them fed, get them dressed, get them off to school" because of her own busy career as a reporter. In another, called "Husband," Huff said Brown "encouraged me have my own life, to have my own identity."
The ads work -- and Brown simply doesn't radiate that meaner-than-a-junkyard-dog affect that's so popular with GOP pols these days. So he's going to be tough to beat.

Thus, Warren is punching up. And why not? It's not a distraction for Warren to bring up Romney. After all, what's the danger of having Scott Brown remain in the Senate? It's that Brown will help rubber-stamp the Romney agenda, which is the Paul Ryan agenda and the Grover Norquist agenda and the Sheldon Adelson/Koch brothers agenda.

Why shouldn't a Democrat run against the Republican Party? The party's the problem. And Republicans do this all the time. Every Republican runs against Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. Many of them run against Jimmy Carter and Barbara Streisand and Jane Fonda and Michael Moore and George Soros and MSNBC and college professors and kids in lower Manhattan running drum circles. The right has made its base believe we're all one hydra-headed beast. The Republican right is one hydra-headed beast -- it acts much more in lockstep than our side does, on issue after issue -- so why not run against it?

So, yeah, Warren's doing the right thing.

Oh, please:
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice looked to downplay speculation that she could be inching up Mitt Romney's short list for vice president after her widely regarded policy briefing last weekend at a meeting of his top donors.

"I didn't run for student council president. I don't see myself in any way in elective office," Rice told "CBS This Morning" on Tuesday....

When "CBS This Morning" host Charlie Rose pressed Rice, noting she hadn't technically said she wouldn't accept the offer to be vice president, the former secretary of state was more definitive.

"It's not going to happen -- and no," she said....
Charlie Rose is being a useful idiot. So is everyone who reports this without noting that the scenario is preposterous.

It used to be that every time a new Republican won the presidential nomination, the pro-choice Tom Ridge, from the delegate-rich state of Pennsylvania, was mentioned as a possible running mate. It happened in 2000. It happened in 2008. Funny thing -- Ridge never got the #2 slot. Nor, famously, did the pro-choice Joe Lieberman in '08, even though John McCain really wanted to run with him.

And that was before the 2010 GOP/Tea Party takeover of many statehouses and state legislatures, which led to this:

Condi Rice as running mate? In the GOP? In 2012? Even though she says she's just "mildly pro-choice"? Are you crazy?

No, you're not crazy. You're just being spun. You're being spun the way you're being spun when Campbell Brown writes GOP-propaganda op-eds for The New York Times on women's issues. You're being spun the way you're spun by every public appearance of Ann Romney. You're being told that Mitt Romney is a really awesome candidate for women to vote for. And that's all you're being told. (And, yes, he respects a black woman. That too.)

I'm not even going to get to the rumors about Rice's sexual orientation. The abortion issue is a 100% disqualifier before we even get there. Everyone in the elite media knows that. And yet Charlie Rose and others play along, happy to be spun.

(X-posted at Balloon Juice.)

Something said by the majority leader of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives at a Republican State Committee meeting this past weekend has gotten a lot of attention:
House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) suggested that the House's end game in passing the Voter ID law was to benefit the GOP politically.

"We are focused on making sure that we meet our obligations that we've talked about for years," said Turzai in a speech to committee members Saturday. He mentioned the law among a laundry list of accomplishments made by the GOP-run legislature.

"Pro-Second Amendment? The Castle Doctrine, it's done. First pro-life legislation -- abortion facility regulations -- in 22 years, done. Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done."
Apart from the fact that not one of these issues has anything to do with the #1 concern of voters everywhere -- the economy -- the claim that instituting a voter ID law will help Romney win the state stands out.

This is interpreted by people on the left as a cynical acknowledgment, by a Republican speaking to an all-Republican crowd, that voter ID laws are a sham -- that they're a clever and effective way to disenfranchise legitimate voters.

I'm not sure that's what Turzai believes. I'm not sure that's what his audience believes.

When I started blogging a decade ago, I really thought that the crazier things said by right-wing pols, pundits, and media windbags were just attempts to gull the rubes. I didn't think the people saying them believed what they were saying.

I've sensed a change in recent years. Right-wing leaders seem to be drinking their own Kool-Aid. They seem to be getting high on their own supply.

We know that both Governor Scott Walker and RNC chairman Reince Priebus said before the Wisconsin recall election that Walker would need one or two percentage points over a majority just to offset voter fraud, after that state's voter Id law was blocked for the recall. That means Walker and Priebus were arguing that vote fraud can add well over 40,000 votes to the Democrats' total in a Wisconsin election. Who knew we were so good at this?

On the day of the recall, the lead "story" at Fox Nation was a phone call made to a Washington, D.C., talk radio host by a man who said he was one of a group of Michigan union workers being bused into Wisconsin to vote for Scott Walker. (Why this guy would call a talk radio host in D.C. I'm not sure. Why he'd waste a day of his life to do this, and then blow the whistle en route, I'm not sure.)

I'm beginning to think wingnut pols actually believe this stuff. Why wouldn't they? They think we're satanically evil. They think the whole country is controlled by powerful liberals. They think the president has the means, motive, and opportunity to completely dismantle American capitalism in one term, or possibly two, and still have time left over to confiscate every single gun in America. And, of course, they think he does this in part because he's not an American by birth (a fact suppressed by a massive conspiracy), and because he's been successfully concealing his lifelong fealty to socialist revolutionaries and bomb-throwers.

Some of them are probably still too cynical to believe all this. I don't know about Priebus, for instance. But I think Turzai believes it all. And I think it's even odds whether Walker does.

Monday, June 25, 2012


Politico goes to a Romney spokesman, Rick Gorka, and tries to nail down the candidate's response to the Supreme Court immigration decision, and it's like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall:
...QUESTION: Does (Romney) support the law as it was drafted in Arizona?

GORKA: "The governor supports the right of states, that's all we're going to say on this issue."

QUESTION: Does he have a position on the law, or no position?

GORKA: "The governor has his own immigration policy that he laid out in Orlando and in the primary, which he would implement as president which would address this issue. Whereas Obama has had four years in the office and has yet to address it in a meaningful way."

QUESTION: But does the Governor have a position on the Arizona law besides supporting the right of states?

GORKA: "This debate is sprung from the president failing to address this issue, so each state is left and has the power to draft and enact their own immigration policy."

QUESTION: But the Arizona law does very specific things, does the governor support those things that the Arizona law does?

GORKA: "We've addressed this."

QUESTION: What is his position on the actual law in Arizona?

GORKA: "Again, each state has the right within the Constitution to craft their own immigration laws since the federal government has failed." ...

QUESTION: Is it fair to say that he has no opinion on the Arizona law?

GORKA: "Look, again, I¹ll say it again and again and again for you. The governor understands that states have their own right to craft policies to secure their own borders and to address illegal immigration." ...
OK, I guess it's understandable that Romney took days to respond to President Obama's change of policy regarding undocumented immigrants who came here as children -- perhaps Romney simply didn't expect that move, and he needed a few days to pore over the focus-group results and the poll crosstabs. We know he doesn't have inherent beliefs about what's right and wrong in this situation (or in a lot of other situations), so we know he's motivated solely by what he thinks will help him win, and he didn't know what that would be in this unexpected situation.

But the Supreme Court agreed to take this immigration case more than six months ago. Romney can't fake a set of core principles with that much lead time? He can't anticipate the possible rulings and craft a response?

How long would he stall if he were president and, say, there was the equivalent of a 9/11 or Katrina? Would he need six months and counting before he had a few talking points ready, much less a plan of action?


UPDATE: BuzzFeed now has a short piece titled "Romney Criticizes Immigration Ruling," but what Romney is quoted as saying is that, um, "I would have preferred to see the Supreme Court give more latitude to the states, not less." To do what, Mitt? Or not do? Any chance we'll ever find out what you believe?

On policy, clearly, the Supreme Court's decision on the Arizona immigration law is more of a defeat for the right than a lot of people were expecting. But in terms of November, I think it helps Mitt Romney and Republicans -- and I see that last December I predicted an outcome somewhat like this:
...I think the Court's Republicans want the lower court decision blocking provisions of the law to be upheld. Uphold the law itself and you motivate millions of Hispanic citizens to go to the polls and keep the next four years of Supreme Court vacancies out of Republican hands. By contrast, if you let the lower court decision stand, you motivate right-wing voters, who never think any institution of government is right-wing enough, and who'll therefore be more motivated to vote GOP (and the party may crave a motivation boost if its presidential nominee is less than inspiring). Fox News/talk radio wingnuts will be focused not only on the Supreme Court, but on the fact that the lower court ruling being upheld is from the hated Ninth Circuit -- the right despises the Ninth and refers to it as "the Ninth Circus." So giving Obama a win would help the GOP.
The fact that three provisions of the Arizona law cherished by wingnuts would have been upheld by Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito would have upheld two of them, is an alarm bell sent out to the GOP base that the courts are still dangerously left-wing (no, really) and the only remedy is another Republican presidency that will put more Scalias and Thomases on the bench (The GOP candidate, of course, is the guy who actually said the Supreme Court was liberal in 2008, in his Republican convention speech.)

The Court's right-wing justices are relentlessly corporatist, so placing curbs on an anti-immigrant jihad isn't a betrayal of their prime directive -- corporations, let's face it, like low-paid workers who can't fight back against labor abuses, and of course the Wall Street Journal editorial page used to advocate a constitutional amendment that read in its entirety, "There shall be open borders," so the elites and the Fox/talk radio rabble aren't on the same page here.

A challenge to this law wouldn't have been accepted by the Supremes on this schedule if there was a real chance that the outcome would hurt The Cause in the long run. The political impact of this was foreseen in advance.

We now know, by the way, that the chance of a Romney/Rubio ticket is zero. The base won't vote for Romney unless he positions himself as the guy who, in their eyes, will right this wrong. A Rubio pick would be worth a million votes to any third party that's hard-line on immigration.


The next big Supreme Court decision is on health care, and I'm sticking with my prediction that the mandate will go, and possibly other provisions, but the core of the law will be upheld. This makes it harder for the law to succeed in the long run and be a Democratic crowning glory, yet the law will remain on the books and motivate the base to vote for Romney.

Oh, perfect -- one movement-conservative institution hires a top aide from another movement-conservative organization:
The Vatican has brought in [a] Fox News correspondent in Rome to help improve its communications strategy....

Greg Burke, 52, will leave Fox to become a senior communications adviser in the Vatican's secretariat of state, the Vatican and Burke told the AP....

Burke, a native of St. Louis, Missouri, is a member of the conservative Opus Dei movement. Pope John Paul II's longtime spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, was also a member of Opus Dei....
Burke was rumored to be in line for this job as far back as May 2006. You can see why: a few months later, Pope Benedict made some inflammatory remarks about Islam...
He began his speech, which ran over half an hour, by quoting a 14th-century Byzantine emperor, Manuel II Paleologus, in a conversation with a "learned Persian" on Christianity and Islam -- "and the truth of both."

"Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread the sword by the faith he preached," the pope quoted the emperor....
...and Burke responded with a quite sympathetic report on Fox:
Burke went on, "While the Vatican has worked hard at clarifying church teachings on Islam, some Catholics say Pope Benedict has nothing to apologize for."
Burke strongly suggested that Benedict's main error had been to misunderstand that he was not speaking in an academic setting. (I can't embed the clip of Burke's report, but you can watch it here.)
In a generation, perhaps, we'll recognize that the Catholic Church is part of the crazy right; for now, I think too many people look at the church and still see smiling, Capra-esque New Deal white ethnics and Bing Crosby in Going My Way. We'll learn.

I considered writing a full rebuttal to Campbell Brown's New York Times op-ed entitled "Planned Parenthood's Self-Destructive Behavior," but Kathleen Geier at Washington Monthly has made the points worth making -- Geier notes that Brown is married to a Mitt Romney adviser, Dan Senor, and is thus acting as a campaign surrogate here, a fact that goes unmentioned; Geier also notes that Campbell's shining example of a Republican lawmaker who supposedly deserves Planned Parenthood's backing, Robert Dold of Ilinois, is actually not much of a supporter of reproductive rights all:
... that label is completely misleading. In 2010, Dold was back by the anti-choice Right to Life PAC; among other things, Dold
opposes government assistance for women who cannot afford abortions, he supports the ban on late-term abortions, he supports parental involvement laws, and he supports the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act (which requires that a script be read to women before an abortion). Dold also supported the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, which would have resulted in women losing health benefits related to abortions that they have today.
In fact, Dold is so anti-choice that in 2010 he actually won the endorsement of Phyllis Schlafly's far-right Eagle Forum. At Dold's request, however, they rescinded the endorsement.
In fact, Dold's most recent rating from the National Right to Life Committee was higher than his ratings from NARAL and Planned Parenthood.

Want more details? There's
his "yes" vote for the Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2011 that would have reinstated the Washington, D.C. abortion ban, eliminated the Title X program and defunded Planned Parenthood, among other stipulations.

The bill passed in the U.S. House of Representatives, but the measure was not enacted.

The Title X program provides federal money to clinics and other service providers that offer comprehensive family-planning access to low-income families....

By law, the money is not to be used for abortions. Instead, money can be used for contraception, STD and HIV testing and breast and cervical cancer screenings, among other things.
Dold's "yes" vote for H.R. 358, or the "Protect Life Act," which passed in the House in October of 2011.

The act, which opponents called the "Let Women Die" bill, would have allowed federally-funded hospitals to refuse to perform abortions if they do not agree with the procedure -- even if a woman could die without the procedure.
This is Brown's great reproductive-rights hero? A guy who's looking at a tough reelection fight and cynically moving to the left for political gain? Why on earth should Planned Parenthood support such a candidate, who'll get no backup in his party for this opportunistic change of heart on reproductive rights, and whose party, if it keeps its House majority and gains the White House and/or a Senate majority, will continue its relentless assault on Planned Parenthood's top priorities?

Take your concern trollery somewhere else, Ms. Brown.

This was a ridiculous op-ed.

Sunday, June 24, 2012


You gotta love Tom Friedman. He lives in a world with the Arab Spring, Europe-wide anti-austerity anger that's led to riots and brought down one government after another, and, in this country, the Tea Party movement and Occupy Wall Street -- and what does he conclude? He concludes that politicians these days are too responsive to the public:
...can there be such a thing as too much participation -- leaders listening to so many voices all the time and tracking the trends that they become prisoners of them?

... I heard a new word in London last week: "Popularism." It's the uber-ideology of our day. Read the polls, track the blogs, tally the Twitter feeds and Facebook postings and go precisely where the people are, not where you think they need to go. If everyone is "following," who is leading?

... When you have technologies that promote quick short-term responses and judgments, and when you have a generation that has grown used to short-term gratification -- but you have problems whose solutions require long, hard journeys, like today’s global credit crisis or jobs shortage or the need to rebuild Arab countries from the ground up -- you have a real mismatch and leadership challenge. Virtually all leaders today have to ask their people to share burdens, not just benefits, and to both study harder and work smarter just to keep up. That requires extraordinary leadership that has to start with telling people the truth....
Oh, right -- the problem in, say, Greece and Wisconsin is that there aren't nearly enough politicians willing to tell people they just have to go eat stones. And the Syrian government and Egyptian military are mollycoddling their citizenry even more than American politicians are.

I understand that's it's easy to lose perspective when 98% of the people you've spoken to in the last twenty years are political and economic movers and shakers, rather than ordinary schmucks on the receiving end of whatever the powerful do. I understand that it's possible to get an idee fixe in your mind, in this case "everyone must suffer," and that once that happens it's impossible to see the world through any other lens. I understand that if you're getting up in years, maybe the Intertubes seem dangerous and scary (though Friedman is only six years older than I am). But how freaking blind do you have to be to think that the major problem in the global-depression world of 2012 is that leaders haven't kicked people in the teeth enough?

Brian Beutler of Talking Points Memo writes:
Supporters of the Affordable Care Act are having a slight disagreement over what approach to take if the Supreme Court strikes the individual mandate. Some Democrats want to make a swift, aggressive push to restore a mandate or some incentive for people to buy health insurance; others want to shake it off and press ahead under the assumption that the law will work pretty well without a mandate if it comes to that.
Beutler thinks it doesn't matter one way or another. After the ruling, he predicts, we'll enter a sort of limbo:
But the fact is that if the mandate falls next week, nothing will happen. Then the next week, nothing will happen. Nothing again the week after that, and nothing will continue to happen for the next 70 weeks, which is roughly when the bulk of the law takes effect. In the meantime, Congress can do something, or it can do nothing, Democratically controlled states can step in, or not. If lawmakers move aggressively and fix it in advance, great. If they don't and then in 2014 the reforms start to wobble, Congress will do something, or a lot of states will pass their own laws to broaden the risk pools, and things will settle down. That's my hunch at least — that if the policy becomes unsustainable, then the politics of not fixing it will be unsustainable too.
But that's not what's likely to happen. If the Supreme Court does administer this back-alley beating -- and I've said for a while that I believe the Court will strike down the mandate but uphold or most of the law otherwise, so Mitt Romney and the GOP can still use it to rally voters -- then the GOP will swiftly set plans in motion to do the law further harm. After all, the party's prime directive in all this is to make sure Democrats never get credit for a popular program. They can't permit it to succeed. They can't permit it to take effect in any way that can be viable.

If the rest of the health care law is upheld and Obama wins reelection, I think the response is going to resemble the right's approach to abortion in the wake of Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992 and the election of Bill Clinton a few months later. Republicans can't repeal or overturn the hated law? Fine -- they'll just hobble it. Much of the battle is just going to shift to the states -- I think Republicans will push for non-cooperation by governors and state legislators, and try to elect as many governors and legislators as possible who'll pledge to gum up the works at the state level.

In Washington, I think there'll be a lot of brinkmanship focused on funding any aspect of the law that the Supremes have allowed to stand -- whatever Republicans can do to cripple the law at the federal level, in budget battles or in provisions tacked on to unrelated measures, they'll try to do.

This fight will never end until they win or they overreach. We're not going to enter any sort of lull period. The fever isn't going to break.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Kathleen Parker today:
... Ann Romney, wife of the presumptive Republican nominee, recently became a target of ridicule when it was revealed that she co-owns an Olympian horse that will compete in dressage, a sport she apparently enjoys....

Why ... have some seen fit to ridicule Ann Romney's choice of activities?

... The issue of Ann Romney's horse is yet more ideological nonsense from the left, intended to portray Republicans generally and the Romneys specifically as enemies of The People. Riding horses is framed as just one more example of how out of touch the Romneys are with everyday Americans...
Kathleen Parker four years ago:
Being effete comes naturally to Democrats these days....

... the Democratic party has had trouble convincing working Americans that party leaders are not out of touch with so-called "Ordinary Americans." A few recent examples: John Kerry and his expensive toys; John Edwards' $400 haircuts; Howard Dean's stereotyping of southerners as caring only about race, guns, God, and gays.

Now comes Obama, whose recent bowling expedition earned him membership in the faux bubba club and put the italics in cringe....
Oh, and here's Kathleen Parker two years ago:
What is [Elena] Kagan's geography? What is her anchorage, her port of call?

Coincidentally, she shares the same home town as the other two women on the court. Assuming Kagan is confirmed, all three women will hail from New York....

President Obama has made clear his desire to nominate justices who are in touch with "ordinary Americans." ...

Enter Kagan?

Certainly New York City dwellers would argue that they struggle with ordinary concerns, just in a more dense environment. But New York, like other urban areas, tends to be more liberal than the vast rest of the country. More than half the country also happens to be Protestant, yet with Kagan, the court will feature three Jews, six Catholics and nary a Protestant. Fewer than one-fourth of Americans are Catholic, and 1.7 percent are Jewish.

One does not have to be from a rural Georgia backwater (Clarence Thomas), or the child of recently arrived immigrants (Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito), to qualify as a justice, though it might help in claiming identity with ordinary people....
Well, it's all perfectly consistent. Right-wingers are determined to keep the rest of us from focusing on the power of economic elites, so they labor mightily to divert any class resentment we have, directing it against the urban and the urbane. People who live in high-rise buildings or who grow up attending Upper West Side ballet schools don't take bread out of the mouths of heartlanders by doing so; vulture capitalists who live on low-tax "carried interest" do. People like Parker want to make sure you never remember that. They want any anger you'd (understandably) have toward the latter directed toward the former.

A measure of justice in Philadelphia:
A monsignor who oversaw hundreds of priests in the Philadelphia Archdiocese was found guilty on Friday of one count of endangering the welfare of a child, making him the first senior U.S. Roman Catholic Church official to be convicted for covering up child sex abuse.

The jury acquitted Monsignor William Lynn on two other counts....
And, as I'm sure you know, in Centre County, Pennsylvania:
Jerry Sandusky, a former Penn State assistant football coach, was convicted Friday of sexually abusing young boys, completing the downfall of a onetime local hero....

Sandusky stood stoically as the jury foreman read off the verdicts on the 48 counts against him. The foreman said guilty 45 times....
Reading that Sandusky story, I cringed when I read this:
The case against Sandusky, even before his trial, had exacted an enormous toll.... Penn State officials, alumni and students were forced to confront the possibility that the interests of big-time college sports had trumped concern for the welfare of vulnerable children.
"The possibility"? Gee, ya think?

But that's who we are as a society: We respect authority. We're not skeptical enough -- but we are able to see things clearly, at least sometimes, when confronted with overwhelming evidence that people who've been put on a pedestal are shown to be contemptible and monstrous.

I can't help wondering how David Brooks feels about all this. You know -- David Brooks? The guy who recently wrote this?
We live in a culture that finds it easier to assign moral status to victims of power than to those who wield power. Most of the stories we tell ourselves are about victims who have endured oppression, racism and cruelty...

The old adversary culture of the intellectuals has turned into a mass adversarial cynicism. The common assumption is that elites are always hiding something....

I don't know if America has a leadership problem; it certainly has a followership problem. Vast majorities of Americans don't trust their institutions. That's not mostly because our institutions perform much worse than they did in 1925 and 1955, when they were widely trusted. It's mostly because more people are cynical and like to pretend that they are better than everything else around them. Vanity has more to do with rising distrust than anything else....
So, David, was it vanity that led to these verdicts? Was it a failure of followership? Should the jurors -- more than half of whom had ties to Penn State -- have just unquestionably accepted the argument that Jerry Sandusky was a great man, worthy of elevation to an exalted position in his community, and that he was victimized by lying grifters, as his lawyer and his wife argued in the courtroom? Should the holy fathers of the Philadelphia archdiocese also have been taken at its word? Did we convict these two guys out of narcissism, the same way we add a Sub-Zero refrigerator to our McMansions? You want to argue that in your next column, David?


AND: Yes, I know: Brooks declared last fall that it was "vanity" to believe that we would have dealt with the Sandusky situation better than the people at Penn State did. But it doesn't matter what we think about ourselves. The fact is that the people at Penn State were regarded as moral paragons, in a way that most of us never are. And they were confronted with a situation that tested their morals, in a way that most of us never are. They were supposed to be the morally superior ones. And they failed.

Er, sometimes:

Friday, June 22, 2012

There's a Reason Why the Victim Is Invisible

Writing about the Fast and Furious hearings, right-wing columnist Michael Graham tries to claim that the "Victim [is] becoming a footnote"...and Obama/Holder are to blame:
The two most important words in the current Obama administration scandal aren’t “Fast” or “Furious.” They are “Brian Terry.”
For Team Obama, this story is all about politics.
But for the family of Brian Terry, it’s the story of their son — murdered with guns given to killers by his own government. Yet many mainstream news consumers never heard of it until this week. According to Media Research Center, the first time NBC mentioned the story was last week.
And he's half right: the numbers show that Brian Terry really is getting lost in the shuffle. Google "fast and furious"+"brian terry" and you get 297,000 hits. Do the same with "fast and furious"+"eric holder" and it's 66 million.

But as Graham himself observes, the wingnuts have been pretty much the only ones talking about this--so if the victim is being neglected, it's because wingnuts are neglecting him. Sure, that not-Joe the not-plumber campaign video opens with Brian Terry...and within 30 seconds it launches into the insane anti-Holder tirade. Graham's column itself, ostensibly about Terry "becoming a footnote", uses him only as setup for cheap shots at the Democrats on the committee.

Despite having a victim's family that's more than happy to disseminate their talking points, the wingnuts haven't put him front and center. Given that this is all about Holder (and Obama) for them, and that Terry is just a pretext, you'd still think they'd do much more to highlight the grieving (and pliant) family.

Except that this is where agendas collide. In their version of the tale, Brian Terry died because the DOJ let weapons get into the wrong hands. Thus we have to stop the DOJ's nefarious keep weapons from falling into the wrong hands.

That's the problem. There has to be just enough focus on Brian Terry to whet the wingnuts' appetite for rage, but not so much that it highlights the internal incoherence of the whole thing. To make him a full-blown martyr would be to admit a fundamental premise of gun control.

Brian Terry isn't becoming a footnote. Brian Terry started out as a footnote, and he'll be a footnote as long as the Gun-thers* are controlling the message.

*Nice coinage, Steve.

Michael Reagan, who was the adopted son of Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman and is now a right-wing talk-radio host and syndicated columnist, says this in his latest column, which declares Barack Obama to be an "emperor":
Emperor Obama obviously could not care less about helping the Latino population. When Democrats had control of both houses of Congress he did absolutely nothing for them.

Now he's doing to Latinos what Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky allegedly did to the children of Pennsylvania -- using and abusing them. With his short-sighted politicking, Emperor Obama has hurt the Latino cause in the long run.
(Emphasis added.)

Yes, as Blue Texan notes, Michael Reagan is trivializing child rape.

Which is especially appalling in light of this:
According to Nancy Reagan in her memoirs published in 1989, Reagan disclosed to his parents in 1987 a very painful incident in his boyhood that he had kept secret for many years. "At the age of 8, he had been sexually molested by a camp counselor, who had also taken nude pictures of him.... Poor Mike had spent his whole life racked with guilt and in constant fear that these pictures would someday surface in a way that might embarrass him and, especially, his adoptive father."
What kind of person do you have to be to have suffered molestation yourself and yet be so lacking in empathy that you flippantly use molestation as a political metaphor for a policy you don't agree with? Especially when you once wrote an entire memoir about what you describe as a painful and miserable childhood?

Oh, yeah -- I guess you have to be a Republican, a person whose hatred of Democrats and liberals trumps everything else.

On Wednesday night, there was an extraordinary story on Rachel Maddow's show about the right-wing theory that the Fast and Furious "gun-walking" effort was a secret Obama administration plot to generate gun violence, so it could then push for stricter gun laws. As Maddow reported, the idea was first promoted by Mike Vanderboegh, a right-wing blogger and militia member, who'd previously urged readers to break windows at local Democratic Party headquarters -- a call to action that was followed by quite a few such incidents, including one at the office of then-Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. Vanderboegh is now regularly invited on Fox News to discuss Fast and Furious. (Oh, and as Betty Cracker has noted, Vanderboegh is also the author of a popular Turner Diaries-style novel that has actually inspired would-be terrorists.)

Last night, Maddow did a follow-up report asking whether mainstream reporters are really going to take the Fast and Furious story seriously. She compared it to the Shirley Sherrod story, which also bubbled up from the wingnut fever swamps and was ultimately revealed to have been based on a lie.

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Here's what Maddow said in the conclusion to her follow-up story:
This is a test. This is a test. We have been here before. We know how this ends. News media of America, you are getting baited to cover this story that Fox and the right have cooked up in their own special cockamamie marinade for more than a year now. Are you gonna swallow this one, too?
My take on this is slightly different. Shirley Sherrod did nothing wrong; there simply was no "scandal" in anything Sherrod did. Something was screwed up in Fast and Furious, and it would be swell if we could get to the bottom of that, in an atmosphere of good faith rather than naked partisanship.

I don't want the press not to cover these stories. I want the press to cover the story of the way these stories are generated. I want right-wing media to be the story. In the case of Fast and Furious, I want the story to be the acceptance of a lunatic right-wing conspiracy theory by prominent, powerful members of Congress -- and remember that this is a theory that is exactly as crazy as birtherism.

In the clip above, Darrell Issa says he thinks Fast and Furious was a plot to advance gun control. Other members of Congress say the same thing. So does Rush Limbaugh. And it matters that Fox News -- which is America's top-rated cable news channel and is considered a serious enough news organization to get a front-row seat in the White House briefing room -- advances this theory.

Dear mainstream media: when major players in our political life are crazy, it's a major story. And you refuse to report it.

President Obama was going to press for stricter gun control after F&F led to deaths? Really? The same President Obama who didn't press for stricter gun control after Gabby Giffords was shot, or after a neo-Nazi shot up the Holocaust Museum?

This is the story: one entire political wing in this country has taken leave of its senses. I know you won't, but I'm begging you: report this story, dammit.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg goes to a Bruce Springsteen show with New Jersey governor Chris Christie, then has a sad because mean old Bruce won't be nice to Christie, who loves Springsteen's music but despises everything else about him:
Despite heroic efforts by Christie, Springsteen, who is still a New Jersey resident, will not talk to him. They've met twice -- once on an airplane in 1999, and then at the 2010 ceremony inducting Danny DeVito into the New Jersey Hall of Fame, where they exchanged only formal pleasantries. (Christie does say that Springsteen was very kind to his children.) At concerts, even concerts in club-size venues -- the Stone Pony, in Asbury Park, most recently -- Springsteen won't acknowledge the governor. When Christie leaves a Springsteen concert in a large arena, his state troopers move him to his motorcade through loading docks. He walks within feet of the stage, and of the dressing rooms. He's never been invited to say hello. On occasion, he'll make a public plea to Springsteen, as he did earlier this spring, when Christie asked him to play at a new casino in Atlantic City. "He says he's for the revitalization of the Jersey Shore, so this seems obvious," Christie told me. I asked him if he's received a response to his request. "No, we got nothing back from them," he said unhappily, "not even a 'Fuck you.'"
Gosh, I can't imagine why Springsteen would keep a distance from a guy who shows him this kind of respect:
"You want to know what he’s saying?," Christie asks. "He's telling us that rich people like him are fucking over poor people like us in the audience, except that us in the audience aren't poor, because we can afford to pay 98 bucks to him to see his show. That's what he’s saying."

Wait a second, this is Bruce Springsteen we're talking about, the guy you adore?

"I compartmentalize," Christie says.
Christie rolls his eyes. "He feels guilty," he says. "He feels guilty that he has so much money, and he thinks it's all a zero-sum game: in order to get poor people more money, it has to be taken away from the rich. I don't mean to get all serious, but this is what I was trying to say at the Reagan Library" -- a reference to the speech, delivered last year at Nancy Reagan's invitation, that thrilled Republicans looking for an electoral savior. In the speech, Christie criticized President Obama for "telling those who are scared and struggling that the only way their lives can get better is to diminish the success of others" and "insisting that we must tax and take and demonize those who have already achieved the American dream."
This is when Christie isn't bragging that all the people Springsteen claims to sing for actually vote for him.

This doesn't stop Goldberg from whining:
[Springsteen] doesn't seem to care that Christie is the sort of Republican many Democrats find appealing, or that Christie breaks left on such issues as Islamophobia (he stood up for a Muslim judicial appointee under specious attack for attempting, his critics said, to turn New Jersey into a Sharia state -- if you can imagine such a thing) and drug-law enforcement (he is campaigning for a new law that would divert nonviolent drug offenders away from prison and toward treatment). But Springsteen seems actively uninterested in engaging with Christie. When I asked to interview Springsteen about Christie, his people gave me the brush-off.
A couple of thoughts:

First, I thought it was a bad thing when entertainers got involved with politics. It's not just right-wingers who say that -- every centrist in the media told me it was a horrible, horrible thing when Barack Obama had a fund-raiser with hoity-toity Sarah Jessica Parker and Anna Wintour.

Ahhh, but of course it's not a bad thing when Mitt Romney gets the support of, say, Kid Rock, because that's just one Real Amurrican backing another.

(“The ikats, kilims and dhurries reinforce the sultry mood of the house,” decorator Martyn Lawrence-Bullard says about Kid Rock's Malibu mansion. "The effect isn't specific to one place or period. It's not strictly Balinese or Moroccan. We were going for fantasy—sexy and luxurious but also relaxed." Oh, sorry, you're not supposed to think about that.)

The message is: If you're a celebrity, it's OK to be non-partisan, and it's OK to be pro-Republican -- but if you're pro-Democrat, you're an obnoxious out-of-touch Hollyweird elitist.

And if you're a left-leaning entertainer like Springsteen, you're supposed to do make bipartisanship happen all by yourself. In other words, you're treated just like a Democratic politician. The other side isn't expected to make conciliatory moves of its own.