Friday, May 31, 2013


Today's New York Times tells us that some Republicans are worried that 2014 will be another 1998 if the GOP runs on an Obama-is-evil message:
Not everyone in the party, however, is so sure that they can expand their ranks in Congress or improve their standing among voters by personally attacking the president....

"I don't think I'd personalize it," said John Linder, the former congressman from Georgia who ran the National Republican Congressional Committee during the late 1990s while Newt Gingrich and House Republicans were preparing an impeachment case against President Bill Clinton. Mr. Linder said he fought and lost a battle with Mr. Gingrich over their strategy in the 1998 midterm elections, which Mr. Gingrich thought should be focused on assailing Mr. Clinton's character....

In the fall of 1998, Republicans poured tens of millions of dollars into a television ad campaign with slogans like "Honesty does matter," a thinly veiled reference to Mr. Clinton’s duplicity about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

They lost big that year, and it marked the first time since 1822 that the party that held the White House gained seats in the House of Representatives during a second term.
No, the Republicans did not "lose big" in 1998 -- Democrats gained a mere five seats in the House and none in the Senate. Yes, that was a shock because the party of a president in his sixth year hadn't made gains for 176 years, and the scandal-plagued Clinton didn't seemed the least likely guy to break the streak -- but Republicans held the House and the Senate. It was a wrist-slap to the GOP (and to Gingrich personally), but it wasn't a thumpin'.

And anyone who thinks we may see a repeat of 1998 because the GOP is railing about scandals while the economy is improving -- see "Rising Economy Shifts 2014 Election Landscape" by Politico's Ben White -- needs to be reminded that the unemployment rate in November 1998 was an astonishingly good 4.4 percent, and had been 4.7 perent or lower for he previous twelve months. (It's now 7.5 percent.)

So, yeah, Republicans are attacking Obama because there's not much risk to it, and the potential for a serious electoral reward.

All the GOP has to do is ring the bell persistently enough and the usual voting blocs start drooling:
Hillary Clinton's favorability rating dropped significantly in a Quinnipiac University poll released Friday, as the months-long investigation into the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, have begun to drag on the former secretary of State.

According to the survey, 52 percent said they have a favorable view of Clinton, against 40 unfavorable. That’s down from her all-time high of 61 percent favorable and 34 unfavorable in February of this year....

"The drop in favorability is substantial among men, Republicans and independent voters. One reason for her drop may be that 48 percent of voters blame her either a little or a lot for the death of the American ambassador in Benghazi." ...
The poll numbers are here.

So a story that even the scandal-hungry national media thinks is a nothingburger is working on independents, and on men in general, not merely on Republicans. Yes, Clinton is still in positive territory, and the poll says she'd still beat Rand Paul or Jeb Bush handily. But this is happening when the Republican noise machine isn't completely focused on turning Clinton (or whoever is the 2016 front-runner) into the Antichrist. That focus will come.

Meanwhile, yesterday's numbers from Quinnipiac show that Republicans have pulled even on the congressional generic-ballot question: "If the election for the U.S. House of Representatives were being held today, would you vote for the Republican candidate, or for the Democratic candidate in your district?" It's now 38%-38%. Two months ago, Democrats led by 8. (It's been estimated that, because of gerrymandering, Democrats would have to win the popular vote by 7 points to retake the House.)

Two months ago, the parties were tied among independents; now Republicans lead by 13. Two months ago, Republicans led among men by 2; now it's 12.

Yes, there are a lot of scandals right now, but none of them concern Democrats in Congress. So this shift isn't really logical. But it's how politics works. Electoral success was the purpose of all this scandal-mongering, not good government.

The notion that Republicans howl in outrage at every possible opportunity because demonization of Democrats is all they've got to offer has never caught on among centrist and heartland white males. Those groups still think Republicans act in good faith, just as Joe Scarborough and David Gregory endlessly insist. So they're always ready to fall for this sort of thing.

Yes, I suppose there's some information worth considering in a new McClatchy story titled "IRS May Have Targeted Conservatives More Broadly" -- for instance, I may not like what the suburban Houston anti-abortion group Christian Voices for Life does, but if its picketing of Planned Parenthood clinics isn't intended to influence elections, and if it's otherwise done within the law, and if none of its other activities are intended to favor any political candidate over any other, and if analogous liberal groups get 501(c)(3) status with little fuss, then, no, the group should not have had to jump through extra hoops to get 501(c)(3) approval.

But if we're talking about Catherine Engelbrecht of True the Vote and the King Street Patriots, I have no sympathy whatsoever, and my only problem with making her jump through hoops to get tax-exempt status is that her application should have been laughed out of every office at the IRS.

From the McClatchy story:
Catherine Engelbrecht's family and business in Texas were audited by the government after her voting-rights group sought tax-exempt status from the IRS....

Concerned about government regulation of her family's manufacturing business, she became dissatisfied with the political process and particularly the 2008 presidential choices.

She discovered like-minded viewpoints and attended rallies, organizing a group called the King Street Patriots....

After witnessing what she called voter irregularities in the Houston area, Engelbrecht formed a group called True the Vote. With a paid staff of five, it aims to educate 1 million poll workers nationwide on spotting election fraud. Liberal groups view it as a conservative effort aimed at restricting minority participation, a claim that True the Vote officials deny....
Gee, I wonder where liberal groups would get that idea. Perhaps from ... True the Vote itself?
In 2010, before most reporters had heard of True the Vote, the group put out a video introducing itself. As epic battle music plays, far-right activist David Horowitz comes on screen. "The voting system is under attack now," he says. "Movements that are focused on voter fraud, on the integrity of elections are crucial. This is a war." Horowitz goes on to claim: "A Democratic party consultant once told me that Republicans have to win by at least 3 percent to win any elections." ...

"The left has been focused on this now for decades," says Horowitz, as photographs of black voters lining up to cast ballots flash by. "Obama's very connected to ACORN, which is a voter-fraud machine. ACORN is the radical army." ...
True the Vote's website portrays voter fraud as largely a Democractic party problem. It routinely runs stories on election fraud being perpetrated by "liberals," ... or "Democrats" ... but has, to date, never run a story on Republican or Conservative instances of voter fraud....

In 2011, True the Vote posted an article on its website claiming that US attorney General Eric Holder supported a plan by the NAACP "to involve the United Nations in U.S. elections." referencing a protest the NAACP held across the street from the UN in December of 2011, and a related petition filed with the UN. Holder gave the protest and the petition no formal support, but True the Vote's press release made it seem like Holder was advocating direct UN involvement in American elections, asking ""Are you ready to have U.N. blue helmets outside your polling place?" This article earned True the Vote a "pants on fire" rating from

... in 2012, True the Vote contributed $5000 to the Republican State Leadership Committee.... This overtly political statement would legally, according to tax lawyers specializing in election law, disqualify a nonprofit from 501(c)3 tax-exempt status....
In 2010, in Texas, Engelbrecht accused Houston Votes, a group conducting a voter registration drive in poor and minority areas, of massive voter fraud -- adding the charge that the group's office was "the Texas office of the New Black Panthers."
The county's Republican voter registrar, Leo Vasquez, jumped on the allegations, holding a press conference on Aug. 24 and accusing Houston Votes of conducting "an organized and systemic attack" on the county's voter rolls.
True The Vote ... put together a video raising the threat of voter fraud which features soaring music. "Think it can't happen in your town? Think again!" reads one message. "Our elections are being manipulated. By the RADICAL LEFT," the video says.

The video originally featured a doctored photo of an African-American voter holding a poorly photoshopped sign -- featuring Comic Sans font -- that read "I only got to vote once." That part of the video has since been edited out.
In 2012, True the Vote was part of a project called Verify the Recall, which reviewed signatures on petitions calling for the recall of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker.
"Verify the Recall" is a joint project between the Houston-based nonprofit "True the Vote" (a project of the Texas Tea Party group King Street Patriots) and the Wisconsin Tea Party groups Grandsons of Liberty and We The People of the Republic.

On Tuesday, February 28, Governor Walker ... request[ed] that the Government Accountability Board incorporate the "Verify the Recall" findings....

A cursory review of signatures that True the Vote considers "ineligible" strongly suggests they are not counting legitimate petitions....

* True the Vote discounts the signature of Mary Babiash (page 980) because she added the state abbreviation "WI" to her zip code. Her address is otherwise correct....
*The signature from Tyrell Luebkes (see page 983) would not be counted because he entered his city in the "street address" section, and vice versa.
* They would not count Cheryl L Koch's signature (see page 497), saying she had a "bad sign date" of 1/91/12 because of a stray pen stroke behind the "9" on the correct sign date: 1/9/12....
Oh, and there was that curious RV last year:
Driving down the Interstate in Florida, you may see an R.V. wrapped with a picture of Abraham Lincoln.

These eye-catching vehicles are mobile command centers for registering and energizing voters. They are part of a citizen effort to "defeat Obama, hold the House and win the Senate in November," Fred Solomon, a retired Alabama businessman, said in an e-mail to fellow Tea Party supporters.

Mr. Solomon is a coordinator for Code Red USA, the plan to flood swing states with conservative volunteers. "Partnering with True the Vote, a nonprofit, nonpartisan watchdog group, we will train and put election observers in polling places in the swing states to reduce voter fraud," Mr. Solomon said in his e-mail.

Code Red USA is financed by the Madison Project, a political action committee whose chairman is former Representative Jim Ryun, a Kansas Republican who was regarded as among the most conservative members of Congress. The provocative video promoting Code Red accuses Democrats of "a clear intent to commit massive voter fraud."

Despite Mr. Solomon's e-mail and the video, which identifies True the Vote as a participant, Ms. Engelbrecht said her group has no role in the effort.


The right wants Catherine Engelbrecht to be this year's Ollie North: culprit as victim. John Fund has portrayed her as a victim. So has Peggy Noonan. Selling her as a poster child is brazen, but brazen is what the right does best.

If Engelbrecht can be successfully sold that way, there are massive dividends for the right: not only are the IRS and the Obama administration discredited, but the GOP's vote suppression campaign gets a major boost going into 2014 and (especially) 2016. Whatever the Supreme Court does in its upcoming evisceration of the Voting Rights Act will dovetail with this very, very nicely.

Thanks a lot, McClatchy.

Thursday, May 30, 2013


The wingnuttosphere is freaking about this bit of old news regurgitated today by the Daily Caller:
IRS's Shulman had more public White House visits than any Cabinet member

Publicly released records show that embattled former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman visited the White House at least 157 times during the Obama administration, more recorded visits than even the most trusted members of the president's Cabinet.

Shulman's extensive access to the White House first came to light during his testimony last week before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee....
Um, yeah -- which is when the Huffington Post's Paul Blumenthal tweeted this perfectly rational explanation:

Well, duh. A big, complicated new government program needs to be implemented -- and so there are many discussions of that at the White House. Imagine!

Of course, that explanation would strike the right as even more sinister, because "Obama will use Obamacare to target conservatives for death!" is the new birtherism, except that it's not a marginalized belief on the right -- it's mainstream Republican thinking. So it won't satisfy the vultures.


UPDATE, FRIDAY: At The Atlantic, Garance Francke-Ruta elaborates:
[Shulman] was cleared 40 times to meet with Obama's director of the Office of Health Reform, and a further 80 times for the biweekly health reform deputies meetings and others set up by aides involved with the health-care law implementation efforts. That's 76 percent of his planned White House visits just there, before you even add in all the meetings with Office of Management and Budget personnel also involved in health reform.

Complicating the picture is the fact that just because a meeting was scheduled and Shulman was cleared to attend it does not mean that he actually went. Routine events like the biweekly health-care deputies meeting would have had a standing list of people cleared to attend, people whose White House appointments would have been logged and forwarded to the check-in gate. But there is no time of arrival information in the records to confirm that Shulman actually signed in and went to these standing meetings.

Indeed, of the 157 events Shulman was cleared to attend, White House records only provide time of arrival information -- confirming that he actually went to them -- for 11 events over the 2009-2012 period, and time of departure information for only six appointments.
End of story.

There's a lot of talk about the fact that MSNBC's ratings have been way down for the past couple of months. A number of factors seem to be responsible for this: people are turning instead to CNN and HLN for real news (the Boston bombings) and fake news (the Jodi Arias trial); Chris Hayes's show isn't doing as well as Ed Schultz's show used to, and that's giving Rachel Maddow a weaker lead-in; and Fox's core audience is inspired to watch because of scandal stories involving the Obama administration, while MSNBC's core audience is disillusioned for the same reason.

Digby says she's sensed a general drop-off in her readership since the election. She quotes Salon's Alex Pareene:
Perhaps there just isn't a huge, permanent, year-round liberal audience for political news and discussion.... Young liberals tune in during election years. The rest of the time they keep up with the news online (or on "The Daily Show") and spend their evenings watching actual TV. Like, "Game of Thrones" and stuff.
I think it's a mix of Obama disillusionment and what Pareene is describing -- right-wingers are revved up nearly all the time, but we aren't. (Although it was only a couple of months ago that we were reading about big ratings declines at Fox News, which have since been reversed.)

You know what might turn this around? The appointment of a special prosecutor for the IRS scandal. You've got to figure that's inevitable -- a new Quinnipiac poll says Americans support the appointment of a special prosecutor by a 76%-17% margin.

This is where overreach will happen. When the White House itself is turning to non-ideologue Republicans as appointees (as I noted in my last post), what sort of prosecutor do you think we're going to get for this? It's got to be someone well to the right of, say, James Comey. Especially when you've got Bill Keller in The New York Times proposing the appointment of Kenneth Starr.

An IRS special prosecutor doesn't have to be a witch-hunter, but I think we're going to get a special prosecutor who is a witch-hunter. Republicans will howl at the mere mention of anyone who isn't a partisan hack, and so a partisan hack is what we'll get.

And that's going to be the big story of the foreseeable future. It'll be bad for Obama and America, but it'll be good for MSNBC.

You've probably heard that James Comey, the Bush-era Justice Department official who's been chosen to head the FBI by President Obama, was under serious consideration for the FBI post in 2011, before Robert Mueller was given a two-year extension. But did you know that some officials in the Obama White House were recommending Comey for the Supreme Court in 2009? So this has been a long courtship.

I understand why Comey has some appeal -- he interceded to prevent Alberto Gonzales and Andy Card from bypassing a hospitalized John Ashcroft to reauthorize warrantless wiretapping. But I'm reminded of Obama's appointment of Eric Shinseki as secretary of veterans affairs, a choice that seems to have been made largely because Shinseki publicly disputed Donald Rumsfeld's assertion that he could handle the consequences of the Iraq invasion with well under 200,000 troops. I'm also reminded of the decision to appoint Republican war critic Chuck Hagel as defense secretary. Defying the Bush administration and GOP from within counts for a lot in the Obama White House.

The Shinseki appointment has been a disappointment, of course -- his response to the backlog in processing veterans' benefit claims has been woefully inadequate. It's too soon to judge Hagel, of course.

On the surface, this has been a very bipartisan administration -- Obama's worked with Robert Gates and John Brennan and Jon Huntsman and David Petraeus and Ray LaHood. It hasn't helped Obama much -- Republicans hate "RINOs" almost as much as they hate Democrats. Appointing a Republican may make the approval process marginally easier for Obama, but it doesn't diminish the suspicions of angrier Republican officeholders or the GOP rank-and-file.

But the Obama administration clealy thinks this is a good approach. The New York Times notes that other candidates who were considered for the FBI post in 2011 were Ray Kelly (Mike Bloomberg's police commissioner), Patrick Fitzgerald (another GOP hero to liberals when he was prosecuting Plamegate), and Kenneth Wainstein (George W. Bush's last homeland security advisor).

I guess Comey will have a relatively smooth approval process (although I wonder if e'll hear about the moment when he was sent out by the Bush administration to criticize a proposed reporter shield law). But it all makes me wonder: who's going to be Obama's next Supreme Court pick? Chris Christie?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Michele Bachmann has decided not to run for another term in the House. She was facing a tough reelection fight against Democrat Jim Graves, and she's under an ethics cloud:
The most glaring problem for Bachmann, though, may be a swirl of investigations into her campaign finances. The Federal Election Commission and the Office of Congressional Ethics are investigating whether her campaign concealed payments to an Iowa state senator who did work for her 2012 presidential bid. (A state ethics law bars senators from doing paid campaign work.)

And late last week, reported that the FBI would be joining the investigation and interviewing a former Bachmann chief of staff.
Wait: a proud constitutional conservative and fervent believer in limited government is under investigation by the FBI -- part of Antichrist Eric Holder's Justice Department -- and the GOP and right-wing noise machine aren't rushing to her defense? No one's calling this a witch hunt? No one's claiming that this is part of the Obama jihad against True Patriots? No one's dismissing the other investigations as traffic-ticket stuff?

Well, obviously the GOP establishment considers Bachmann a liability -- it's done no pushback on her behalf. A couple of months ago there was speculation that she might run for the Senate against Al Franken (even though polls showed that she'd be crushed) -- but whether she ran for the Senate seat or just for reelection, she was likely to be a Todd Akin, a loose cannon saying things that would rub off on other Republican candidates across the country, at a time when party establishmentarians like Karl Rove are hoping to hold the House and win back the Senate by de-Akinizing their candidate list.

(Recall that just before the Iowa straw poll in 2011, a story appeared in the Daily Caller claiming that Bachmann engages in "heavy pill use" to combat severe migraines, after which Rove called for her to release medical records. She won the straw poll anyway, driving establishment favorite Tim Pawlenty out of the race, though her campaign imploded a few months later.)

So, yeah, the GOP wanted to nudge her out of the way, and not gently. She's outlived her usefulness.

You probably didn't dig into the numbers (PDF) of that Marist poll howing Anthony Weiner within 5 points of front-runner Christine Quinn. That headline number is somewhat shocking, and suggests that Weiner needs to be taken seriously. (Yes, if no candidate gets 40% in he primary and there's a Quinn-Weiner runoff, Quinn defeats him by 15 points -- but I think if he just gets to a runoff he might start seeming credible to people who are now wary of him, and the results could be closer.) But there's another set of numbers tht surprises me.

Quinn's approval rating among African-American voters is 64%. Among Latino voters, it's 60%. Among whites, it's only 53%. And in a runoff against Weiner, Quinn does best among Latino voters (53%-37%, as opposed to 46%-31% among whites, although it's a tighter race -- 44%-35% -- among African-Americans).

Quinn has been out as a lesbian for years. Non-white voters are supposed to be too "culturally conservative" to be comfortable with gay people, but that's not what these numbers suggest.

We'll see if this holds up. For now, though, it suggests that some of our preconceptions might need adjusting.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


The Atlantic's Philip Bump notes that Rand Paul got big laughs in a recent speech joking about the large number of diagnostic codes that will be used under Obamacare. It won't shock you to learn that there's a perfectly reasonable explanation for the new codes, but this is the right doing what it does best -- killing good ideas it doesn't like by making them seem ridiculous to the rubes -- and Senator Paul seems quite good at it:
At a Republican Party event in Iowa earlier this month, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky did a bit about the scale of Obamacare's diagnostic coding. It killed. The only problem was that Paul's critique of the new codes are a critique of codes that aren't new and aren't Obamacare. A lot of them aren't even American.

Paul delivered the bit as a small part of a long speech, but -- given the solid punchlines -- the routine has at last been picked up by the conservative media. An article at Glenn Beck's The Blaze walks through the jokes....

An excerpt:
I'm a physician, and when you come in to see me, I put down a little diagnostic code and there was 18,000 of these. But under Obamacare, they're going to keep you healthier, because now there's going to be 140,000 codes. Included among these codes will be 312 new codes for injuries from animals. 72 new codes for injuries just from birds. Nine new codes for injuries from the macaw. The macaw? I've asked physicians all over the country: Have you ever seen an injury from the macaw?
It turns out that these all come from a set of codes used worldwide, and developed by the World Health Organization. The specific codes cited by Paul have all been in the International Classification of Diseases since the 1990s. And as Bump explains, the switchover to this expanded set of codes is the result of a law that precedes the Obama presidency by more than a decade: "The new, expanded code set [ICD-10] is the intended replacement for ICD-9, as mandated by 1996's Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act."

But conservatism thrives in America by making people ignorant. Obama will be blamed for this the same way he's blamed for the "Obamaphone" program for the poor (which in reality is the current version of a program started in the Reagan years).

By the way, please note that Rand Paul -- once a regular on Alex Jones's show -- passed up the opportunity to say that these codes are a UN plot. (The World Health Organization is, of course, part of the UN.) That suggests to me that Paul is professionalizing his act, and getting his talking points from the mainstream right-wing noise machine rather than the Jones fringe. I'd say that makes Paul more dangerous -- if he's breaking with the lunatics, he's going to be a serious candidate in 2016. And please note that he made this speech in, um, Iowa. So watch out for him.


Today the San Francisco Chronicle has an AP story (also here) about efforts by gunners to recall the president of the Colorado Senate, John Morse, because he supported gun control and, naturally, must be destroyed. We're told:
The recall group's main funding comes from a $14,000 contribution from a nonprofit run by a local conservative consultant, Laura Carno. She said that contribution was made possible by some out-of-state donors.
"Nonprofit"? What kind of nonprofit?

I turn to a recent Denver Post story and learn that
the El Paso County Freedom Defense Fund -- a group seeking a recall of Morse -- has raised about $16,400 . About $14,000 came from the local group I Am Created Equal.
OK: I Am Created Equal (which is the nonprofit run by political consultant Laura Carno) is a 527, which means it has to record and report contributions -- it acknowledges that it's political. But I Am Created Equal gave to the El Paso Freedom Defense Committee, and when you click on "Donate" at that group's site, you go to the donation page for the Basic Freedom Defense Fund -- which, you're told, is a 501(c)(4), i.e., a "social welfare" nonprofit that doesn't have politicking as its primary purpose.

This is true even though the URL for the El Paso Freedom Defense Committee is -- a clear reference to John Morse, the guy targeted for recall. The entire site is about recalling Morse. Yet if you want to contribute, you're sent to a group that claims to be a tax-exempt "social welfare" group.

The Basic Freedom Defense Fund used to be called Colorado Accountability. There's an old Colorado Accountability page on the Web -- and that's all about recalling Democratic officeholders. And yet the group is a "social welfare" 501(c)(4).

The main group defending John Morse is A Whole Lot of People for John Morse (no, I'm not making that up). A Whole Lot of People for John Morse, we're told, "is an issue committee and not associated with any candidate committee." That's crazy, too.

People at the IRS may have mismanaged this system, but it's an insane system -- 527s are political but they can give to 501(c)(4)'s, which can assert that they're not primarily political even though any idiot can see that their resason for existing is to win elections. So if the system is mismanaged, maybe it's because the system is an utter disaster.

Dear Nancy Pelosi: When Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen of Politico agree with you, that may be a sign that you're wrong:
House Speaker John Boehner, who by title and position should be the second most powerful person in Washington, sure doesn't seem or sound like it.

He has little ability to work his will with fellow House Republicans. He has quit for good his solo efforts to craft a grand bargain on taxes and spending. And he hasn't bothered to initiate a substantive conversation with President Barack Obama in this calendar year.

All of this recently prompted Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, herself a former speaker, to declare on MSNBC that if Boehner were a woman, he would be known as the weakest speaker in U.S. history....

Boehner tested the lead-from-the-top model for more than a year, working with the White House to craft the grand bargain. It was a flop....

So, he has adopted an entirely different style this year, one of deference: deference to members, deference to committees, and deference to others in leadership....

This can make him look, well, weak. Or, at best, like a bystander in the House he runs....
A couple of weeks ago, VandeHei and Allen were telling us that President Obama is a pathetic loser and everybody in the Beltway hates him, nyah-nyah. Today it's Boehner's turn.

I have no great love for Boehner, but when the Beltway media suggests that deals could be made if President Obama would lead harder!, and Boehner would lead harder!, that's a way of continuing to live in denial about the rottenness of a system that's bigger and more powerful than either of the two men. Obama and Boehner aren't the most and second most powerful people in D.C.; the most powerful people in D.C. are Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes, and the right-wing billionaires whose talking points they use to set the terms of every debate, billionaires whose mission in life is to repeal the twentieth century, with their right-wing militias in the House, Senate, and state legislatures doing the grunt work, all enabled by a mainstream press that won't acknowledge what's really going on. I don't know how sincere Boehner is about making deals with the president, but that can't happen, and it couldn't happen with anyone else in his job.

VandeHei and Allen briefly allude to what's really going on:
Boehner runs a House in which many of the traditional levers of power are gone and of little use: earmarks for members' districts, important committee assignments and the backing of party leaders for reelection. Most young conservatives don’t care about any of the three -- and, in fact, see all of them as manifestations of what's wrong with and corrupt about Congress and their party. They get more mileage from snubbing their leaders.
But VandeHei and Allen still think Boehner's problems are mostly of his own making: He doesn't "lead from the top," he doesn't have substantive conversations with Obama....

But he has no room to maneuver, if maneuvering is what he wants. It's the billionaires and the tea party mob they've hired who run Washington. VandeHei and Allen know the fish stinks, but they won't say it stinks from the head.


UPDATE: Charlie Pierce has more:
...this was not a process that began with the 2010 midterms, let alone the election of Barack Obama in 2008. It is the logical end of the long march that began with the collapse of the Goldwater campaign and the movement of conservatism geographically to the South and West, and intellectually toward an outright philosophical resistance to the idea of a national government.

... Right now, we have a polarization based on the fact that an uncontrollable faction of one of our two political parties -- a faction with its own sources of money and power that exist outside conventional political accountability -- has decided that the only thing that the national government should do is nothing, a faction that is perfectly situated to make that at least part of a political reality, and a faction that is growing even faster out in the states than it is in Washington. What is leadership if there's more political profit in ignoring your leaders than in being led? Who, in that case, rules? The truly terrifying answer to that is that nobody does. Or, at least, nobody who is elected does.

Monday, May 27, 2013


It's easy to misread this....
A majority of Americans still oppose the nation's new health care measure, three years after it became law, according to a new survey.
...if you read only the lead paragraph, not what follows:
But a CNN/ORC International poll released Monday also indicates that more than a quarter of those who oppose the law, known by many as Obamacare, say they don't support the measure because it doesn't go far enough.

According to the poll, 43% of the public says it supports the health care law.... Fifty-four percent of those questioned say they oppose the law....

The survey indicates that 35% oppose the health care law because it's too liberal, with 16% saying they oppose the measure because it isn't liberal enough.
Digby says, "for once they asked the most relevant follow-up question." But a number of polls have asked similar follow-up questions -- and gotten results that make clear that health care reform is popular, and the GOP approach to health care isn't.

Polling Report has the numbers. For instance, A CNN poll from last November showed that 42% of respondents favored the law, while 9% opposed it because they didn't think it was liberal enough. That's majority support for improving the system. Only 37% opposed the law because they think it's too liberal.

A Kaiser Family Foundation poll from November also found only a third of Americans favoring GOP-friendly approaches to the health care law:
Expand it: 27%
Keep it as is: 22%
Replace it with a Republican-sponsored alternative: 14%
Repeal it and not replace it: 19%
Unsure/refused: 18%
In a Fox News poll from January, only 30% wanted to repeal the whole law, while 65% wanted to leave at least part of it intact (25%), leave it as it (20%), or expand it (20%).

A New York Times/CBS poll from September got more specific:
Expand: 22%
Leave as is: 15%
Repeal just the mandate: 26%
Repeal the entire law: 30%
Unsure: 7%
That last result is problematic for the administration -- yes, people think the mandate seems coercive, even though lots of people live with insurance mandates of various kinds at the state level. Still, even that poll makes clear that the GOP position (Obamacare is the worst law ever passed in the history of human civilization, and is the end of American civilization as we know it) has support well under 40% in every poll -- and majorities absolutely want our health care system improved.

Good story in today's New York Times:
... Representatives of [various] organizations have cried foul in recent weeks about their treatment by the I.R.S., saying they were among dozens of conservative groups unfairly targeted by the agency, harassed with inappropriate questionnaires and put off for months or years as the agency delayed decisions on their applications.

But a close examination of these groups and others reveals an array of election activities that tax experts and former I.R.S. officials said would provide a legitimate basis for flagging them for closer review.
The story offers a number of examples:
When CVFC, a conservative veterans' group in California, applied for tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service, its biggest expenditure that year was several thousand dollars in radio ads backing a Republican candidate for Congress.

The Wetumpka Tea Party, from Alabama, sponsored training for a get-out-the-vote initiative dedicated to the "defeat of President Barack Obama" while the I.R.S. was weighing its application.

And the head of the Ohio Liberty Coalition, whose application languished with the I.R.S. for more than two years, sent out e-mails to members about Mitt Romney campaign events and organized members to distribute Mr. Romney's presidential campaign literature.
This stuff is in plain sight. Here are a couple of photos at the Ohio Liberty Coalition's site, linked to a September 2012 blog post titled "Ohio Tea Party Group Counters Obama Visit" (click to enlarge):

And here, at the Wetumpka Tea Party site, there's a video of chapter president Becky Gerritson talking about just having attended a FreedomWorks "boot camp":

Here's part of the description of that boot camp, from FreedomWorks (emphasis added):
FreedomWorks will be hosting some of the top grassroots activists from across the country for a comprehensive training boot camp from June 24-27th in the FreedomWorks Headquarters. These activists will be leading the charge on numerous state and national battles in the months leading into the 2012 elections.

Saturday will be a policy training day, with breakout sessions on the debt ceiling debate, entitlement reform, the budget, and social media training. Sunday will be tactical training, with sessions such as Campaigning 101, FreedomConnector, town hall strategy, and our 2012 campaign and PAC targets....

"We think about the Tea party movement in phases," commented Matt Kibbe, President of FreedomWorks. "First it was a protest movement, and then it morphed into a get-out-the-vote-machine, and now we see a legislative cycle where tea party activists are getting engaged in specific agenda battles at both the federal and state level. We are here this weekend to unite these fiscally conservative community leaders, and give them the tools to create their own ground game that will win elections and transform conservative ideas into lasting political change."

Monday morning's press conference will be an excellent opportunity for members of the media to meet the local activists who will be leading limited-government initiatives in key battleground states. FreedomWorks will also announce exclusive details on new campaigns that will begin in the fall.

In the video, at about 6:53,Gerritson tells us this:
While we were there in Washington, we were able to do some actual on-the-ground grassroots protesting. We went along to support the Utah contingency that was there. They have a primary coming up there very soon against Orrin Hatch, and there are some other members in the race, but the Republican National Senatorial Committee is actully getting involved in the primary, and they're picking the winner, which they are supporting Orrin Hatch because he's the incumbent. He has a horrible voting record in regards to conservatype type of values, and the Utah folks were upset that the RNSC is picking the winner. They think the people should be picking who's going to be the next Senate.
I don't really care if they're defying the party establishment (with the help of deep -pocketed FreedomWorks) -- they're getting involved in campaigns, then whining that they're doing "social welfare." I'm sure they think it's OK because they're getting involved in campaigns based on abstract principles of social good, but still -- it's political campaigning. They need to stop lying to themselves that uttering "constitutional" or "conservative principles" in every other sentence puts what they're doing to get people elected on an exalted plane. It's still electoral politics.

Sunday, May 26, 2013


I suppose it's good that Bob Dole said this today, but it could be argued that he has some nerve complaining about GOP obstructionism:
Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) on Sunday sharply criticized both his own party and the Senate he served in for close to three decades.

Asked on "Fox News Sunday" if the Senate was broken, Dole responded that "it is bent pretty badly."

"It seems almost unreal that we can't get together on a budget, or legislation," said Dole, who served in the Senate from 1969 to 1996. "We weren't perfect by a long shot, but at least we got our work done." ...

"I think they ought to put a sign on the national committee doors that says closed for repairs, until New Year's Day next year, and spend that time going over ideas and positive agendas," Dole said about the current state of his party....
That would be this Bob Dole:
It was on Election Night 1992, not very far into the evening, that the Senate minority leader, Bob Dole, hinted at the way his party planned to conduct itself in the months ahead: it would filibuster any significant legislation the new Democratic President proposed, forcing him to obtain 60 votes for Senate passage.

This was a form of scorched-earth partisan warfare unprecedented in modern political life. Congress is supposed to operate by majority vote. It is true that the filibuster has a long and disreputable Senate history and that, over the years, it has been used more by Democrats than by Republicans. But only after 1992 did it become the centerpiece of opposition conduct toward an elected President. What the Republicans did in the Senate in 1993 amounted to an unreported constitutional usurpation. It should have been denounced as such at the time, but it wasn't. The punditocracy chose not to notice.

In any case, it worked. Little that the President proposed became law in the two years that he operated with Democratic majorities. There was no health care reform, no economic stimulus package.
I suppose what's upsetting Dole is that his party, which responded with obstructionism after the last four elections in which a Democrat was chosen as president, won't even allow the current Democratic president a fallback, greatly compromised version of his agenda. Bottle up the agenda of a Democrat? Sure, but not completely. Maybe 90 or 95 percent, but not the whole thing. That wouldn't be sporting!

If Dole really does have qualms about an approach to governance he once championed, and he thinks his party has gone too far, he should just quit the party. He should quit and Jon Huntsman should quit and Christie Whitman and Colin Powell and Arnold Schwarzenegger and every other Republican who's put off by the party's excesses should quit all at once, and run a full-page ad in The New York Times explaining why. If these gray eminences, respected as they are by the mainstream press, said the party had finally gone too far for them, maybe mainstream journalists would wake the hell up and recognize that both sides aren't equally responsible for the mismanagement of our government.

But that's never going to happen. Even Dole still believes both sides do it:
The former majority leader also said that President Obama had squandered an opportunity to govern better by not reaching out more to lawmakers during his first term.
So nothing's going to change.

In the spring of 2012, some people believed that Mitt Romney might beat Barack Obama and Republicans might win both houses of Congress. What would have happened then? What will happen in 2016 if Marco Rubio wins the White House and has GOP majorities in both houses?

Well, Republicans took control of the entire state government in North Carolina in 2012, and The Washington Post tells us what's happening:
Legislators have slashed jobless benefits. They have also repealed a tax credit that supplemented the wages of low-income people, while moving to eliminate the estate tax. They have voted against expanding Medicaid to comply with the 2010 federal health-care law. The expansion would have added 500,000 poor North Carolinians to the Medicaid rolls....

Lawmakers are also considering proposals to reduce and flatten income tax rates while expanding the sales tax, perhaps to even include groceries and prescription drugs -- which some advocates see as a first step toward eliminating the state income tax.....

There are also measures pending to require drug testing for low-income people applying for job training and welfare benefits....

The North Carolina House has passed a law requiring voters to have a government-issued identification card, and legislators are considering bills to roll back the state’s law allowing same-day voter registration and to sharply limit early voting....
Republicans have two ideas at this moment in time: massively increasing income inequality and massively decreasing the participation in democracy of Democratic-leaning groups. That's why I cut President Obama and other Democrats quite a bit of slack, even when they flat-out refuse to bring the financiers who destroyed the economy to justice, or pursue Bush-like national security policies, or otherwise let us down. To me, the #1 political issue in America is how badly the poor and middle class are going to be screwed. When Republicans have their way, their answer is: the poor and middle class are going to be screwed as much as we can get away with screwing them. They are far, far worse than Democrats.

The GOP takeover In North Carolina happened in a curious way:
The victories were aided by the strong financial support of Art Pope, a multimillionaire who spent heavily in support of the state’s GOP candidates. The Institute for Southern Studies, a North Carolina-based research organization, said Pope's advocacy network spent $2.2 million on 22 legislative races, winning 18. Overall, conservative organizations largely supported by Pope accounted for three-fourths of the outside money spent in North Carolina legislative races in 2010, according to the institute.

One of [Pat] McCrory's first acts after being elected governor was to install Pope, a former legislator, as the state budget chief.
Oh, nice. And, of course, this sort of buying of elections is what the federal courts continue to ratify. (The IRS scandal will only make election-buying by rich right-wingers easier.)

The Post story claims that North Carolinians have mixed feelings about what's happening in their state:
Liberals may be up in arms, but North Carolina conservatives are applauding the new direction of the General Assembly. After the state Senate unveiled its tax reform plan this month, the state chapter of Americans for Prosperity released a poll that it said showed widespread support across the state. Nearly two-thirds of respondents said the state tax code is in need of reform, and nearly half backed moving to totally eliminate the personal income tax within four years.
An Americans for Prosperity poll? Seriously?

The results of a recent Public Policy Polling survey are, um, rather different:
48% of North Carolinians disapprove of the Republican government to just 41% who approve. Republican legislators score even worse at 37% approval to 49% disapproval. The General Assembly overall gets a 25% positive rating to 51% negative and 24% unsure.... Voters believe by a 45% to 31% margin that the General Assembly is causing the state national embarrassment.

Specific Republican proposals are extremely unpopular. Voters oppose the House and Senate tax plans by 41%-11% and 44%-14%, respectively. When told the details of these plans, opposition soars to 68%-13% for the Senate’s plan and 55%-21% for the House's. 81% of North Carolinians oppose raising the sales tax on groceries from 2% to 6.5%. Only 10% support it.
Oh, and here's public opinion on a the GOP's gun agenda, which isn't mentioned in the Post story:
Respondents stated by a 73% to 17% margin that concealed weapons should not be allowed in bars. They oppose allowing concealed weapons in parks and on college campuses. Voters want to keep guns out of parks by a 65% to 29% margin and off of college campuses by 69% to 25%.
Of course, the GOP is the honey badger party -- it doesn't give a shit what voters think once it's in power.

I know a lot of you think the GOP can never win another presidential election. I think that's true if Hillary Clinton is up for the race and is in good health and is as much admired as she is now. Otherwise, it's a toss-up. I don't think I've seen a single poll in which any other Democrat beats one of the GOP's marquee names.

A GOP sweep can't be allowed to happen. If the GOP really had its way unfettered, America would become a Cayman Islands for the business community and a Bangladesh for workers. I don't think we'd fall that far in one term under an all-GOP national government. But that's the direction we'd be heading in.

Saturday, May 25, 2013


How wired is Washington for Republicans? So wired that when there's no actual evidence that the public is intensely focused on the Beltway's scandal stories, Republicans can get the D.C. press to write a story saying that the scandal stories are a big deal out in the heartland because Republicans are really, really sure that they are, even though Republicans have no intention of offering any proof that they are.

Thus we get this story, from The Hill:
GOP: Energy high on IRS

GOP lawmakers home for the Memorial Day recess predict they won't have to do anything to further fan the flames over the IRS's targeting of conservative groups.

Two weeks after the IRS's first apology on the matter, Republicans say they've only scratched the surface in their investigation of the matter, and believe that June will bring more hearings and developments to keep voters' attention on the issue.

In the meantime, lawmakers say that holding events at home will be unnecessary. In fact, constituents are so energized, members say, that they expect to be approached throughout their districts or states.

"In the grocery store," said Rep. Kevin Brady (Texas), a senior Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee. "At baseball practice."

...Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.), the chairman of the House Ways and Means oversight subcommittee, said he expects to be in frequent contact with D.C. aides, at the same time he gets peppered with questions about the issue back home.

"I think there will be a lot of talk about it," Boustany told reporters. "I'm sure our constituents are going to be very, very interested on this." ...
It's going to happen! Really! People are going to be incredibly angry! Take our word for it!

Oh, sure, we Republicans could schedule town halls on the subject to show you how angry people are. Or we could have waited until after the break to recount how angry people turned out to be. But instead, we're just going to tell you that we looked at the Magic 8-Ball, checked the Ouija board, and consulted with a highly regarded medium, and they all assured us that people will turn out to be just furious. That's all the proof you need in order to publish a story about this anger -- right?

Oh, and I like this:
In fact, Republicans on Capitol Hill believe the outrage over the IRS is so deep that they've already rolled out new ways to harness it. House Ways and Means unveiled an online form this week where the public can fill out their information and detail their run-ins with the IRS, as part of the panel's continued investigation into the matter.
That form is here, at the committee site. Notice what's not at the site? Any of the stories that have been collected -- even though the form asks, "May we share your story?" You'd think if the GOP members of the committee were getting all kinds of juicy horror stories, they'd be posting them immediately. So where are they?

Republicans aren't holding town meetings on this for one of two reasons: either they know the anger will be muted or they fear that the angry people will arrive with placards showing Obama with a Hitler mustache or a bone through his nose. (I keep telling you that, for all the tea party sob stories Republicans are telling now, they see the actual tea party as a liability.) Whatever Republicans think would happen, they're not going to take the chance of letting us see. But no worries, because the Beltway press is more than happy to treat their predictions as facts.

The IRS scandal goes straight to the top -- to the Obama White House. We know this for a fact because, um, the IRS unit responsible for tea party targeting also targeted group during the Bush years, according to The Wall Street Journal. Yes, Obama is so EEEEEVIL he had his thugs doing his dirty work before he was president:
... The IRS's questionable handling of the tea-party cases follows a long line of other groups selected for extra scrutiny.

In the mid-2000s, the IRS revoked or terminated the tax-exempt status of more than a dozen credit-counseling firms after finding they operated as businesses that weren't providing counseling or education.....

"Look for evidence in the organization's forms, transcripts of telephone calls, and elsewhere," said an IRS instruction memo.

IRS agents also listened in on calls between credit counselors and their clients to measure the interaction....

In 2006, the IRS took a close look at groups helping potential home buyers secure down payments, after finding some had been essentially for-profit entities working for home sellers....
In 2006! Wow -- the IRS goons must have known that their evil henchman, who'd just announced his long-shot bid to become the Democrat presidential nominee, was going to score an upset victory over Hillary Clinton and then be elected president, and so they wanted to get a jump on implementing his satanic agenda.


Oh, and there's also this in the Journal story:
Several years ago, a succession of scandals rocked Jewish charities in New York and New Jersey. A Brooklyn rabbi told clients he was using a charity to help broker the sale of black-market kidneys, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The agency also cracked down on other local charities with ties to money laundering, among other things.
This actually happened in 2009, after Obama was inaugurated. Hmmm, let's see: What was the IRS's involvement in this, and who was targeted?
An investigation into the sale of black-market kidneys and fake Gucci handbags evolved into a probe of New Jersey political corruption that produced mass arrests yesterday, including three mayors, two state legislators and several rabbis.....

Federal prosecutors said the investigation initially focused on a money-laundering network tied to Brooklyn, N.Y., Deal, N.J., and Israel that allegedly processed tens of millions of dollars through Jewish charities controlled by local rabbis....

Among the 44 arrests were the mayors of Hoboken, Ridgefield and Secaucus, Jersey City's deputy mayor, and two state assemblymen. A member of the governor's cabinet resigned after agents searched his home. All but one of the office-holders are Democrats.

Also, five rabbis from New York and New Jersey were accused of laundering millions of dollars, some of it from the sale of counterfeit goods and bankruptcy fraud.

Yesterday morning FBI and IRS agents raided a synagogue in Deal....
Ahhh, but this was six months into Obama's presidency, so I guess an FBI/IRS joint operation that netted a bunch of corrupt Democrats should be credited to Bush -- right?

Friday, May 24, 2013


CNN is scandalized:
President Obama forgets to salute

President Obama seemingly preoccupied forgot one piece of protocol as he boarded Marine One on his way to Annapolis Friday.

Obama walked past the Marine at the bottom of the helicopter's stairs and didn't give the traditional salute.

Realizing his mistake upon entering Marine One the president pivoted in the doorway, jogged back down, shook hands and spoke briefly with the Marine, before boarding the helicopter for a second time.
As is Politico:
President Barack Obama skipped a presidential tradition Friday, by not saluting the Marine standing guard outside of Marine One....

It's not the first time Obama's Marine salutation made news. In February 2009, Obama shook hands with the Marine outside of Marine One, when normally presidents just salute and board the helicopter.
Obama did not violate "protocol." He did not flout a deep-rooted American "tradition."

As Garry Wills explained in 2007:
That is an innovation that was begun by Ronald Reagan. Dwight Eisenhower, a real general, knew that the salute is for the uniform, and as president he was not wearing one. An exchange of salutes was out of order.
And as David Alexander of Reuters noted in 2008:
Reagan's decision raised eyebrows at the time....

John Kline, then Reagan's military aide and now a Minnesota congressman, advised him that it went against military protocol for presidents to return salutes.

Kline said in a 2004 op-ed piece in The Hill that Reagan ultimately took up the issue with Gen. Robert Barrow, then commandant of the Marine Corps.

Barrow told Reagan that as commander in chief of the armed forces, he was entitled to offer a salute -- or any sign of respect he wished -- to anyone he wished, Kline wrote....
So this became "protocol" simply because Ronnie wanted to play soldier. Out of deference to a president who happened to be an overgrown child, the Marine Corps commandant said, "Sure, whatever you want."

So if Obama failed to salute, I heartily approve. He should never salute under these circumstances. No president should.


AND: The Weekly Standard's Daniel Halper is also an idiot, as, apparently, is the entire White House press corps. From the pool report:
A few White House regulars were atwitter (and on Twitter) when the President walked directly up the steps of Marine One without saluting the Marine on duty.
Oh, please. Get a grip.

The Republican Senate candidate in Massachusetts is a real piece of work:
Massachusetts GOP Senate candidate Gabriel Gomez called his opponent, longtime Rep. Ed Markey, "pond scum" during an interview with an NPR reporter on Thursday.

"I don’t think there's anything more offensive," Gomez said, according to a YouTube clip of the exchange, which took place after an event at a local Chamber of Commerce. "You know I've got four young kids, and they gotta sit there and gotta see an ad with their dad -- who served honorably, talk to anybody I served with -- whether as a pilot or as a SEAL, anybody I worked with. And for him to be as dirty and low, pond scum, like to put me up next to bin Laden, he’s just gotta be called what he is. It's that simple."

Gomez was asked about an ad his campaign released earlier this week accusing Markey of comparing Gomez to Osama bin Laden in a Web video by juxtaposing images of the two.
Here's the Markey Web ad Gomez that has Gomez's knickers in a twist. You know why bin Laden shows up in this ad? Not because Markey is comparing Gomez to bin Laden. Bin Laden shows up because in 2012 Gomez was a spokesman for a group accusing President Obama of endangering the lives of U.S. servicemembers in the aftermath of the raid ordered by the president that killed bin Laden.

Gomez whines that he's "got four young kids, and they gotta sit there and gotta see an ad" that attacks him. Hey, you know who else has young kids? The president of the United States. And they "gotta sit there and gotta see" a group Gomez joined, and publicized, basically calling their father a murderer and a traitor to his country:

And yes, the group is still making these charges. For that matter, so is Gomez. Before using his kids as human shields in that NPR interview, he took the opportunity to accuse the president of life-threatening misconduct once again:

For a guy to come out, with his first Web video, to put me next to Osama bin Laden, a former SEAL -- maybe he doesn't understand who actually killed bin Laden. The SEALs did. All because I criticized the president and was critical of him because they released so much classified information regarding that raid that even Secretary Feinberg -- uh, Senator Feinstein -- came out and agreed with me....
Secretary Feinberg, Senator Feinstein -- you know all those people look alike.


People in Massachusetts are tough, but voters there don't like it when politicians get nasty. Scott Brown ran a nasty campaign last year and failed miserably. Right-wing Democrat John Silber was expected to win the 1990 gubernatorial race against socially liberal Republican William Weld until a Silber interview aired in which he attacked a local news anchor for asking him what he considered his weaknesses:

Brown lost last year. Silber lost in 1990. So Gomez is going to have a hard time walking back "pond scum."


UPDATE: Greg Sargent debunks the rest of what Gomez said in the interview.


It's way too early to be focusing on 2016 polls like this one, but I think the numbers tell us something about the long-term prospects of the GOP, a party most people think is doomed:
Hillary Clinton beats Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in potential 2016 match ups in Iowa, according to a new poll Friday.

Clinton, a Democrat, would best Rubio 48 percent to 37 percent and she runs ahead of Paul 46 percent to 42 percent, the Quinnipiac University poll found.

A closer look at a potential Clinton-Paul match-up shows Paul leading among Iowa independents 44 percent to 38 percent. He also leads among men 49 percent to 39 percent. Clinton wins among women 53 percent to 34 percent....
So there's a massive gender gap in a Clinton-Paul race. No surprise there. But there's also an age gap -- and it's not one that fits into the widely accepted "Demographics will kill the GOP" narrative.

Paul, it turns out, loses to Clinton in every group ... except 18-29-year-olds. Here are the numbers:
18-29: Paul 46%, Clinton 42%
30-44: Clinton 44%, Paul 41%
45-64: Clinton 48%, Paul 42%
65+: Clinton 48%, Paul 38%
Is this just Iowa? Is it a meaningless result because the subsample is small? Is there just more sexism among the young, especially young males? Or ageism?

If it's meaningful, it makes me think that the GOP just has to harness the "bros for hemp and economic Darwinism" message of Rand Paul and it can overcome its difficulties in appealing to younger voters, as the older ones die off. I think it's likely the GOP won't do this -- I still think Rubio is a much more likely 2016 nominee -- and he's actually weakest against both Clinton and Biden among young people, possibly because he is, as Michael Kinsley said about Al Gore a couple of decades ago, "an old person's idea of a young man," or possibly because he tries so damn hard to seem hip.

There isn't a significant age gap in the Joe Biden-Rand Paul matchup -- though that may be because Biden (or at least the Onion/Jon Stewart version of Biden) is seen as somewhat of a bro. Still, Paul beats Biden among the young (and overall).

Paulism is the GOP's future, though I'm not sure the GOP understands that. I'm not even sure Paul understands that -- the great drone-hater will probably vote to keep Gitmo open, assuming he sticks to the pro-Gitmo position he staked out in 2009. But the potential is there.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


I missed the president's speech, but I see that he was heckled by Medea Benjamin of Code Pink -- repeatedly:

As he spoke about wanting to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and mentioned being limited by Congress, Benjamin interrupted.

"Excuse me, President Obama, you are commander in chief ... it's you, sir," she shouted. As she continued, shouting about the hunger strikers there, Obama tried to keep speaking.

He got through a few more lines of his speech before Benjamin interrupted again. He spoke over her, "This is part of free speech, is you being able to speak, but also me being able to speak and you listening," he said.

Moments later, Obama added: "I'm willing to cut the young lady who interrupted me some slack because it's worth being passionate about."

Finally, after Benjamin again shouted, this time about Americans killed by drone strikes, including the 16-year-old son of Anwar al-Awlaki, security officers started guiding her out of the hall.

"Abide by the rule of law, you're a constitutional lawyer," she said as she was guided up steps out of the auditorium.

I think he wanted her there. I think he wanted her to stay there. It would not surprise me to learn that he knew she was there and asked the security detail to let her stay awhile. (She was eventually removed.) I think he wanted her kept there long enough to heckle him a few times. I think he wanted her there so he could triangulate.

After all, in this speech he rejected the term "global war on terror." He announced that he's putting some curbs on drone attacks and making moves toward greater transparency. he's also looking to Congress to stop blocking the closure of the Guantanamo prison, and he'd like to overturn the Authorization to Use Military Force that was passed a few days after 9/11.

So, even though he defended the drone program in general, and the notion of a continuing militarized response to Islamist violence, he is, naturally, making himself vulnerable to attacks from crazy, war-loving right-wingers -- or, as they're more commonly known, "the entire Republican Party apart from Ron Paul." (Paul is, needless to say, crazy on pretty much every other issue.)

And so we have this response:

The senior Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee said President Obama's national security speech will be "viewed by terrorists as a victory."

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (Ga.) made the remarks in a statement released moments after Obama's speech....


So that's one thing the heckling accomplished -- it helped create the image that Obama is in the center, somewhere between the GOP and Code Pink. But does heckling like this accomplish anything else?

There are those who think so:

But activism shouldn't be judged on some abstract scale of intensity. It should be judged on whether it's effective.

Was this in any way effective? Did it help increase the number of people in this country who are willing to move to the left of the acceptable range of opinions on post-9/11 foreign policy? (Making the same relatively small group of lefties cheer is meaningless. Did this win new converts, or at least get people to reconsider their positions?)

I don't know. I suspect not. I certainly don't think this is how you move public opinion on a large scale.

The very conventional efforts of the anti-Iraq War movement actually did help change minds on a fairly large scale; unfortunately, it took years, and too many lives were lost or ruined in the interim.

This? I think it just gave Obama a foil.


I assume most Americans get their news from some combination of mainstream and right-wing sources -- Chuck Todd and Bill O'Reilly, David Gregory and Sean Hannity. And that's one reason the IRS story really might not stick to President Obama.

The mainstream media has told us for a couple of years now that Obama could get a grand bargain on the budget and get Gitmo closed and get lions to lie down with lambs and get all sorts of other wonderful things to happen if he'd just lead harder! Meanwhile, the right-wing media says (at least part of the time) that Obama's a golf-obsessed, endlessly vacationing lightweight who wouldn't be much of a president if he actually did work hard enough because he too damn stupid to think or talk without the aid of a teleprompter.

I assume the average American processes these two narratives, blends in a third narrative that includes positive stories about Obama, as well as his more engaging public appearances and statements, and the resulting stew comes out as: Obama -- nice guy, not really able to deliver the goods. Some are more positive, others more negative, and people in the middle may be disgruntled but think his heart is more or less in the right place. Still, no one really thinks he's kicking ass and taking names.

Which is what makes the argument of this Mitch McConnell op-ed in The Washington Post a tough sell. McConnell is trying to tell us Obama is kicking ass and literally taking names:
The IRS scandal and Obama's culture of intimidation

... there is ample evidence to suggest that the culture of intimidation in which these tactics were allowed to flourish goes well beyond one agency or a few rogue employees.

For years, administration officials have used the power of the federal government to isolate their opponents....

The spread of the speech police under the Obama administration has long been apparent.... the administration has been extremely creative in employing throughout the federal government the sorts of intimidation tactics that were used at the IRS....
Even if you're a casual observer of politics, I don't know how you can process the notion that Obama's opponents are intimidated and isolated and crushed by speech police. They're on Fox every night. They're on pretty much every commercial AM radio station in America 24 hours a day. They run the House of Representatives and the Supreme Court, and have de facto control of the Senate. Whether you blame Obama's enemies for this or think his failure to lead harder! is the problem, how can you possibly imagine there's an Obama "culture of intimidation," unless you're a chronically self-pitying right-winger?

And then there's this, from McConnell's House counterpart:
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Wednesday said he believed it was "inconceivable" that President Obama did not learn sooner about the Internal Revenue Service's political targeting of Tea Party groups.

"It's pretty inconceivable to me that the president wouldn’t know," Boehner told Fox News's Greta Van Susteren. "I'm just putting myself in his shoes. I deal with my senior staff every day. And if the White House had known about this, which now it appears they've known about it for about a year, it's hard to imagine it wouldn't have come up in some conversation."...
John, you're talking to people who've watched five years of golf and teleprompter jokes on the very channel that's interviewing you. The audience you're talking to keeps being told he's an empty suit. And, a couple of channels over on the "mainstream" news, Americans are told Obama's not presidenting hard enough. So this idea of him contradicts pretty much everything they've been told. So good luck selling it, John and Mitch.

The first screening of this pro-gun propaganda documentary starring Ted Nugent, Wayne LaPierre, and other borderline-psychopathatic talking heads will be tomorrow -- followed by theatrical and DVD releases and, apparently, distribution through PBS:

The film itself is being funded via Kickstarter, but:

You know what, schmucks? If you hate government, and think that you guys and not the government should be responsible for protecting citizens from crime, then don't ask the damn government to spend money retransmitting your agitprop. But what do you expect from people who openly declare that they'd be delighted to overthrow the government -- and expect the government to give them the mans to do so?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Let's see: Two men who reportedly shouted "Allahu Akbar!" hacked a British soldier to death today, and there are reports that a Chechen man who was just killed by FBI agents in Florida was Tamerlan Tsarnaev's accomplice in a 2011 triple murder. Oh, and the U.S. has acknowledged the killing of four Americans in drone strikes.

So what does the homepage of look like right now? This:

And here I thought that violent Islamist extremism was absolutely the worst thing in the world, and that the fight against it was the most important story of our time.

Nahhhh -- the most important enemies are Democrats and liberals. The most important enemies are always Democrats and liberals.

This is a bizarre development in the Boston bombing case:
ORLANDO, Fla. -- An FBI agent shot and killed a man early Wednesday morning in Orlando who had ties to one of the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings, the FBI has confirmed.

According to officials, a special agent and two Massachusetts State Police troopers were interviewing the suspect regarding his connections to bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev and other extremists. The suspect, identified by the FBI as Ibragim Todashev, was originally cooperative, but he was shot after attacking the agent, the FBI said.

Investigators said Todashev confessed to the FBI that he played a role in a triple murder in 2011 in which three men were murdered in an apartment in Waltham, Mass. Their throats had been cut, and their bodies were covered with marijuana, authorities said. No suspects had been arrested in that case, but officials were investigating whether Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who knew at least one of the victims, was involved....
That's a story from Orlando TV station WESH -- and I must say I'm enjoying the story's comment thread, because it suggests that there's a conservative crack-up under way, pitting Alex Jones wingnuts who think the entire Boston story is a lie against Fox/talk radio/Atlas Shrugs wingnuts who think it's outrageous that we haven't begun an anti-Muslim genocide in America:
nothing to see here folks.


so wait people connected to the boston bombings, in florida were questioned early today...than released....and later killed by


Yes, and they need to gather up these 2 liars and all their connections and investigate every inch of their backgrounds and what they are doing here.


im more concerned at why the fbi is trying to eliminate every person involved...are they afraid of loose lips sinking ships?


Investigate these 2 lying dirtbags also, more Muslims in our country milking us while hating America.


...LOL, you are going to make a great slave, you main stream media loving, fact twisting, reality distorting, FOOL! Do yourself a favor and do 5 minutes of independent research on the Boston Bombings, instead of believing everything you see on the government controlled MSM!
More or less the same discussion is taking place in Michelle Malkin's comments:
Kill all Islamo-facists here and overseas.


Perhaps we should team up with the Russians and give it a go. They seem to have a lot of trouble with the muzzies too. Might be a good use of those nuke stockpiles.


Unfortunately, dead men tell no tales.


Things that make you go hmmm.


Too convenient. Too easy. Assassination


More and more suspicious events are transpiring. More and more evidence is going missing. This looks very suspicious.


If Obama wants a Stasi police state he might want to target actual enemies of America like this little darling and his friends.

Better yet, give out open-season licenses and ask us rednecks to clean things up for him. We'll have this settled in a few months. Then we could sit back in the rocker with our bourbon and cheroots and tell stories to the grandbabies.

BTW I want a sterling silver Texas-style Ranger badge. Pretty cool.


Why at the first shootout did the police keep shooting at the suspects when they yelled out , "chill out", "we didn't do it"

" we give up" ?

How was Dzhokhar Tsarnaev able to get away from police after the first shootout, after he yelled " we give up" ?

Why do the back packs that EXPLODED NOT MATCH either of the back packs carried by the Tsarnaev brothers ?

Why were there several Craft International Agents with BPs matching the exploded black nylon BPs running security at the Marathon? Exploded Black BPs with the white Craft International logo ? ...
The government is clearly evil -- but for completely opposite reasons, and, depending on which side you're on, you're either a Muslim dupe or a New World Order dupe.

As I watch this, I'm really sorry to see the IRS and journalist-targeting stories come along, because they're likely to unite these two wings of wingnuttery. I'd really enjoy the chance to kick back with a big tub of popcorn and watch them fight this out for the next few years.