Friday, January 31, 2014


I've got some personal stuff to deal with this weekend and Monday, but there'll be some guest posts while I'm gone, so drop by. See you on Tuesday.

This is a game-changer, I think:
The former Port Authority official who personally oversaw the lane closings on the George Washington Bridge in the scandal now swirling around Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey said on Friday that "evidence exists" the governor knew about the lane closings when they were happening.

In a letter released by his lawyer, the former official, David Wildstein, a high school friend of Mr. Christie's who was appointed with the governor's blessing at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which controls the bridge, described the order to close the lanes as "the Christie administration's order" and said "evidence exists as well tying Mr. Christie to having knowledge of the lane closures, during the period when the lanes were closed, contrary to what the governor stated publicly in a two-hour press conference" three weeks ago.

"Mr. Wildstein contests the accuracy of various statements that the governor made about him, and he can prove the inaccuracy of some," the letter added....
Can't really top this as an explanation:

Assuming this evidence is produced, New Jersey's going to have a new governor soon, I'd say. But I think a Christie resignation will be the end of it for him -- only occasionally do we jail pols at Christie's level, at least around these parts (Eliot Spitzer escaped jail, as did Jon Corzine).

Even if he does do a few months in a minimum-security country-club pen, you know where he'll be come 2016? On Fox, doing commentary on the presidential race. If not, maybe doing a Morning Joe style show on Fox Business. Roger Ailes will hire him for something -- Ailes tried to get Christie into the 2012 race, and while Murdoch's New York Post bailed on Christie a while ago, and The Wall Street Journal has been dogging Christie on his various scandals since November (at least on its news pages), Fox has remained loyal:
Fox News has been one of the few places to mount any kind of sustained defense on his behalf. That defense has alternately come in the form of downplaying the scandal at first, invoking Benghazi as often as possible, blaming a "feminized atmosphere" for the governor's troubles, and championing Christie's alleged brand of "leadership" in response to the scandal.
Screen shot from that last link:

Disgrace of various kinds is rarely an impediment to a Fix gig -- see, e.g., Ollie North, Judith Miller, Mark Fuhrman, Dick Morris, etc., etc. Between his resignation as governor and election to the House, Fox employed Mark Sanford as a commentator.

So Christie will fit right in. And I think he'll be pretty good at Fox's brand of telegenic awfulness.

Have you been following this story?
On January 30, Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman Reince Priebus announced a boycott of MSNBC by RNC officials after the network posted an offensive tweet, which was later deleted, which stated "Maybe the rightwing will hate it, but everyone else will go awww: the adorable new #Cheerios ad w/ biracial family." After Priebus demanded an apology and corrective action from MSNBC President Phil Griffin, he apologized for the tweet and fired the employee responsible for writing it later that day.
A lot of lefties are angry at Griffin for caving without a fight. I understand that position. But I'm angry at the rest of the media for accepting this sort of GOP blackmail without questioning it, while holding Democrats to a completely different standard.

You'll recall that, back in 2009, there was a much-publicized Obama administration "war on Fox." Did reporters and commentators remain silent while the White House took on Fox, as they did when Priebus took on MSNBC? Just the opposite -- every concern troll in the media wagged a finger at the White House and said the Fox war was a terrible idea, if not a totalitarian one.

Ruth Marcus, Washington Post:
The Obama administration's war on Fox News is dumb on multiple levels. It makes the White House look weak, unable to take Harry Truman's advice and just deal with the heat. It makes the White House look small, dragged down to the level of Glenn Beck. It makes the White House look childish and petty at best, and it has a distinct Nixonian -- Agnewesque? -- aroma at worst.
Chris Rovzar, New York magazine:
Recognizing Fox as an enemy worth fighting is an admission of weakness for a president whose appeal has been partly predicated on the promise of unity.... it makes it seem as though they're actually wounding the president. When you're winning, acknowledging the enemy isn't necessary.
Louis Menand, The New Yorker:
... wars of words are distracting, and Obama campaigned as a listener -- a contrast with his supremely deaf predecessor that was evidently welcomed by the electorate. Why are his spokespersons throwing red meat to Fox's angry white men? Wouldn’t it be better to supply them with only tofu smoothies?

... The dubious efficacy of a war on Fox News is not the only reason to feel qualms. It's hard to kill the press, but it is not hard to chill it, and this appears to be the White House's goal in the case of Fox.... The state may, and should, rebut opinions that it finds obnoxious, but it should not single out speakers for the purpose of intimidating them. At the end of the day, you do not want your opponents to be able to say that they could not be heard. It may be exasperating, but that is what the First Amendment is all about.
Did any off these oh-so-concerned observers say anything similar about Priebus? Did they say the MSNBC boycott was a sign of weakness, or argue that it was a jackbooted effort to silence MSNBC?

Yeah, the MSNBC tweet offended some people (and led others, in what sure looked like a coordinated campaign, to feign outrage). But recall what led up to the White House "war on Fox":
Prominent among Fox's numerous examples is former host Glenn Beck calling President Obama a "racist" who has "a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture" in July 2009. In contrast to how MSNBC handled this offensive tweet, Beck's statement was defended by [Sean] Hannity himself, by Rupert Murdoch, the CEO of Fox's parent company, and according to a new book, Fox News CEO Roger Ailes privately agreed with Beck.
The MSNBC tweeter was instantly fired. Beck remained on Fox for a year after those remarks, Hannity is still on Fox, and Ailes signed a new contract in 2012 that will keep him at Fox for four more years.

But Obama was the bad guy in 2009, according to the hand-wringing pundits. Priebus this week? Not so much.

House Republican leaders have released an immigration reform blueprint, which isn't going over well ... with House Republicans:
The House Republican leadership's call on Thursday to provide legal status for 11 million undocumented workers, and possible citizenship for those brought to this country as children, caused sharp division within the party....

Many Republicans rejected the one-page "standards for immigration reform" outright, and others said now was not the time for a legislative push on a number of contentious issues in an election year with trends going their way....

A closed-door discussion on immigration at the retreat was described by a House member as "very passionate," with a "sizable bloc" opposing the leadership's position. Members took turns expressing their distrust of President Obama and Senate Democrats as negotiating partners, and many of the Republicans said they were torn over whether to turn the principles into an actual legislative effort.
I love that last bit -- "many of the Republicans said they were torn over whether to turn the principles into an actual legislative effort." In other words, let's make a show of support for immigration reform, but let's not try to pass an actual law that will achieve it. Oh, and let's say that our unwillingness to pass a law is the fault of President Obama and the rest of the evil Democrats.

The House leadership is trying to force the proposal on a party that doesn't want it. Opposing action are not just knuckledraggers like Ann Coulter and Ted Cruz, but also "respectable" righties such as Bill Kristol and National Review.

Even Republicans who favor the reforms don't really care about immigration except as it relates to vote-getting. They're asking themselves, is it worse to risk tea party primary challenges by floating an immigration proposal, or risk alienating Hispanics by sticking to a hard line? -- and they're trying to thread the needle, by at least seeming to care.

But this is the sort of thing Republicans are doing on several fronts.

On health care, some Republicans have announced an Obamacare alternative -- an alternative that makes everything Republicans don't like about Obamacare worse and costs everyone more money, but hey, it's an alternative! It means that Republicans no longer seem to be the Party of No on health care, just as they no longer seem to be the Party of No on immigration.

And then there are the phony efforts at dealing with poverty and inequality being floated by the likes of Rand Paul, Paul Ryan, and Mike Lee -- it's unlikely that any of the proposals would work, and it's highly unlikely that Paul, Ryan, and Lee actually give a crap about inequality and poverty, but at least Republicans seem to care about the have-nots.

Walk around these facades, and you'll see them for the stage sets they are. They're for show. Republicans care about winning. They don't care about governing or legislating, except if as a way to transfer more money from ordinary people to the rich. This is Potemkin concern about actual issues. Don't take it seriously, because Republicans don't.

Thursday, January 30, 2014


This is the first thing you see when you go to Steve Stockman's campaign site right now:

So is Stockman just trolling for email addresses and contributions? Or is he really going to try to do this? Needless to say, he can't impeach Obama singlehandedly, though his fans may not be smart enough to know that. I guess he can try to file formal articles of impeachment, ridiculous though they may be -- eleven House Republicans filed impeachment articles for Eric Holder in November, though nothing's been heard about this effort ever since.

Jonathan Bernstein used to believe that the filing of formal impeachment articles against Obama was only a matter of time, and he ran a contest asking people to guess who'd file first and when. Bernstein no longer expects this, but I say that if it's going to happen, it'll be Stockman doing the filing, sometime the week before the Texas Senate primary, which will be March 4. So I'm going with February 27.

Politico's Ben White looks at the freakout of the super-rich and scratches his head:
The co-founder of one the nation’s oldest venture capital firms fears a possible genocide against the wealthy. Residents of Manhattan's tony Upper East Side say the progressive mayor didn't plow their streets as a form of frosty revenge. And the co-founder of Home Depot recently warned the Pope to pipe down about economic inequality.

The nation's wealthiest, denizens of the loftiest slice of the 1 percent, appear to be having a collective meltdown....

In the latest example, Thomas Perkins, co-founder of legendary Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, wrote a letter to The Wall Street Journal over the weekend comparing Nazi Germany’s persecution and mass murder of Jews to "the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the 'rich.'"

He went on to say he feared a progressive "Kristallnacht" ...
I don't want to minimize the possibility that the super-rich really think they're going to exterminated en masse by jackbooted have-nots, but to some extent, the juxtaposition in the first two sentences of White's story -- Perkins "fears a possible genocide against the wealthy" while one-percenters in New York City "say the progressive mayor didn't plow their streets" -- suggests a different explanation: that the rich think they're suffering like Jews under Hitler when they're merely inconvenienced. They have no perspective on the massive gap between the horrors of the Holocaust and what's happening to them now (a little criticism here, a modest tax increase there) because what's happening to them now is pushing them to the limits of their endurance, which is very limited, given how accustomed they've become to having their own way at all times.


Meanwhile, the rich's lackeys in the commentariat are doubling down on the notion that liberalism is Nazism -- not in embryonic form, but in full flower, right now. It's not just the defense of the Thomas Perkins letter on The Wall Street Journal's editorial page, titled "Perkinsnacht"; it's Glenn Reynolds, as guy who's made a second career of unseriousness, who responds to an Atlantic piece titled "Why Do the Super-Rich Keep Comparing Obama to Hitler?" with the following:
Um, Glenn? Haven't you and all your wingnut friends been telling us for years that a small, insular minority controls everything and must be punished -- namely, us evil liberals? So is it OK if we call you Hitler?

Reynolds goes on to link a post by PJ Media colleague Ed Driscoll, which argues that Kristallnacht already happened a year and a half ago, and any attempt to reason with the new Nazis is corporate Neville Chamberlain-ism:
Incidentally, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers quickly distanced themselves from its co-founder's original remarks, presumably in the hopes that should Occupy Wall Street rise up again, it will devour them last. It’s vaguely reminiscent of the Occupy-friendly appeasement tactics of the Oakland Mens Warehouse in November 0f 2011, before their own storefront windows were shattered, during what might be described as an evening of wanton socialist violence and destruction characterized by million of crystalline shards of broken glass.

For lack of a better term, of course.
Yeah, a Men's Wearhouse in Oakland did put a "We stand with the 99%" sign its its window before an Occupy demonstration in Oakland that turned violent, and the window itself was smashed.

But do you know what else happened during that demonstration? Multiple arrests, as well as other police acts against demonstrators and journalists that have been described as excessive force.

I'm not going to address the particulars of what the police did. I'm just pointing this out because, if there are window-breakers in the streets and the government is unambiguously on the opposite side, then YOU ARE NOT LIVING THROUGH KRISTALLNACHT.


So Nielsen tells us that the TV ratings for this year's State of the Union address were down. As Entertainment Weekly notes:
President Obama's State of the Union Address drew the fewest viewers of his presidency Tuesday night. In fact, the annual live prime-time speech was the least-watched SOTU by any president since Bill Clinton’s final address in 2000.

Obama's speech to the nation was seen by 33.3 million viewers, according to Nielsen.
The right-wing schadenfreude is palpable. Newt Gingrich tweets:

Gingrich is now the co-host of CNN's Crossfire. The State of The Union address had 33.3 million viewers. Know how many viewers Crossfire had on Tuesday, a few hours before the State of the Union?

Um ... 264,000.

Gateway Pundit's headline is "NO ONE IS LISTENING... Nielson [sic] Ratings for Obama's SOTU LOWEST IN 20 YEARS." This from a blogger who boasted a few years ago about getting 1,266,001 blog visits -- in a month. (About 28 months of readership at that rate would add up to the State of the Union's viewership.) Even more amusing: this headline from the blog of Doug Ross, which used to be known as Director Blue: "I GUESS WHINY, DEPRESSING LIARS AREN'T GOOD FOR RATINGS: State of the Union Nielsens Lowest Ever." This from a guy who averages about 5,000 visits a day.

Before the State of the Union, a lot of Republicans were posing with one of the stars of Duck Dynasty, which is one of the top-rated shows on cable. Know how many viewers watch Duck Dynasty? Well, the most recent episode had 6.6 million viewers -- one-fifth the State of the Union's ratings.

And we know Fox is the top-rated news channel on cable. Know how many people watch its top-rated show, The O'Reilly Factor? 2,720,000 in January -- less than one-tenth of the State of the Union's viewership.

Yes, the State of the Union address has been a much bigger draw in the recent past. Yes, its ratings dropped even though it's on multiple channels. But in a way, it's amazing anyone watches the damn thing -- why watch a president list for an hour all the things he wants to do that Republicans will block by any means necessary?

The point is, in a thousand-channel, streaming-video, game-console world, this year's State of the Union address still had a huge viewership -- a bigger audience than the average episode of NCIS or American Idol or Sunday Night Football. As a niche blogger myself, I say niche media types would kill for an audience the size of Obama's.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Are we really taking this nonsense seriously?
President George W. Bush's former speech writer said that President Barack Obama plagiarized his former boss in Tuesday's State of the Union address.

Speaking to Fox News's Megyn Kelly, Marc Thiessen, the lead writer on Bush's 2007 State of the Union address, said he found Obama's speech Tuesday night "eerily familiar."

"Barack Obama has gone from blaming George W. Bush to plagiarizing George W. Bush," Thiessen said.

Thiessen then read phrases from the 2007 speech which focused on the theme "hope and opportunity."

"It was eerily familiar. There were lines like 'Our job is to help Americans build a future of hope and opportunity, a future of hope and opportunity begins with a growing economy, a future of hope and opportunity requires that all citizens have affordable and available healthcare, extending opportunity and hope depends on a stable supply of energy,' all of that came from the 2007 State of the Union from George W. Bush," Thiessen said.
Of course, it turns out that the word "plagiarized" doesn't exactly mean to Thiessen what it means to you and me and all other users of the English language:
A quick text compare shows that no lines were directly lifted from Bush's 2007 speech in the one Obama gave on Tuesday. There are some minor similarities between the two: Obama use a version of the word "opportunity" more than ten times in his speech, Bush used the word at least eight times. Both speeches also ended with a moving story about a wounded veteran.
So no passages were copied? Then it's not plagiarism. No one has a copyright or trademark on the word "opportunity." Bush doesn't have a patent on the word "hope" (which, by the way, appears ten times in Bush's 2007 speech and only once, pluralized, in the speech Obama delivered last night).

But if we're going to follow Thiessen's standard -- that State of the Union addresses are "plagiarized" if they merely contain the same words or ideas -- then I think there's a pretty good case to be made that Bush's '07 speech was plagiarized ... from Jimmy Carter's 1978 State of the Union address.

BUSH, 2007: "The rite of custom brings us together at a defining hour -- when decisions are hard and courage is needed. We enter the year 2007 with large endeavors underway, and others that are ours to begin. In all of this, much is asked of us. We must have the will to face difficult challenges and determined enemies -- and the wisdom to face them together."

CARTER, 1978: "Each generation of Americans has to face circumstances not of its own choosing, but by which its character is measured and its spirit is tested.... There are ... times when there is no single overwhelming crisis, yet profound national interests are at stake.... It becomes the task of leaders to call forth the vast and restless energies of our people to build for the future.... We live in such times now, and we face such duties."

BUSH, 2007: "A future of hope and opportunity begins with a growing economy -- and that is what we have. We're now in the 41st month of uninterrupted job growth, in a recovery that has created 7.2 million new jobs -- so far. Unemployment is low, inflation is low, and wages are rising. This economy is on the move, and our job is to keep it that way, not with more government, but with more enterprise."

CARTER, 1978: "Last year was a good one for the United States. We reached all of our major economic goals for 1977. Four million new jobs were created -- an all time record and the number of unemployed dropped by more than a million. Unemployment right now is the lowest it has been since 1974, and not since World War II has such a high percentage of American people been employed.... private business and not the Government must lead the expansion in the future."

BUSH, 2007: "For too long our nation has been dependent on foreign oil.... It's in our vital interest to diversify America's energy supply -- the way forward is through technology. We must continue changing the way America generates electric power, by even greater use of clean coal technology, solar and wind energy, and clean, safe nuclear power.... Let us build on the work we've done and reduce gasoline usage in the United States by 20 percent in the next 10 years.... as we continue to diversify our fuel supply, we must step up domestic oil production..."

CARTER, 1978: "Every day we spend more than $120 million for foreign oil. This slows our economic growth, it lowers the value of the dollar overseas, and it aggravates unemployment and inflation here at home. Now we know what we must do -- increase production. We must cut down on waste. And we must use more of those fuels which are plentiful and more permanent."
See? Plagiarism, by Thiessen's standards.

Or maybe we talk about the same damn things year after year (and president after president) in the State of the Union address because the same problems keep coming back, or never go away?

(Via Memeorandum.)

Perhaps you know about this already:
Staten Island Rep. Michael Grimm physically threatened NY1 political reporter Michael Scotto at the conclusion of an interview in the Capitol Rotunda following Tuesday night's State of the Union address.

Grimm's threats came at the end of a brief interview in which he discussed the president's speech, calling the address "divisive."

Scotto then tried to ask the congressman about the ongoing federal investigation into his 2010 campaign fundraising....

"I'm not speaking to you off-topic, this is only about the president," said Grimm, before walking off camera.

... But as the camera continued to roll, Grimm walked back up to Scotto and began speaking to him in a low voice.

... Grimm: "Let me be clear to you, you ever do that to me again I'll throw you off this f-----g balcony."

Scotto: "Why? I just wanted to ask you..."

... Grimm: "No, no, you're not man enough, you're not man enough. I'll break you in half. Like a boy."
Grimm followed up with a statement that didn't even include a pro forma apology, and made reference to the reporter's lack of "respect."

Good thing Michael Grimm is white, or people might call him a "thug."

Grimm was elected to Congress in the tea party wave of 2010. He was reelected in 2012 despite the fact that the corruption allegations in question were hanging over his head.

Such as? I listed them in a post I wrote shortly before Election Day in 2012:
He has, um, a few blemishes on his record:
The New York Republican enlisted a well-connected Israeli citizen, Ofer Biton, during his 2010 campaign. Mr. Biton allegedly helped candidate Grimm solicit large sums from donors, including several pornography distributors, frequently breaking campaign contribution limits in the process, all in the hope that, once in office, Rep. Grimm would help him procure a green card.
... the New York Times and Post reported that the ex-business partner of New York Republican Rep. Michael Grimm has close ties to the imprisoned don of the Gambino crime family, according to federal prosecutors. The old partner, whom Grimm started a restaurant with in 2006 after ending his colorful career as an undercover FBI agent, reportedly visits Anthony "Fat Tony" Morelli in prison and calls the crime boss his "uncle."
Rep. Michael Grimm's former fund-raiser who is currently fighting immigration fraud charges was a suspect in a major ecstasy drug investigation, federal officials announced last week
So why did Grimm win that 2012 race, in a district that went to Obama? Well, maybe because the best the Democrats could do for a challenger was a crooked politician's son who wouldn't campaign, and who had a mockable past:
Mark Murphy, the Democratic challenger ..., is a congressman's son, a fourth-generation Staten Islander, and handsome enough to have enjoyed a minor career in television....

[But he] has held few news conferences, is rarely spotted at the ferry terminal, and is still trying to introduce himself to the 13th District....

"People are asking me, 'Who is the Democrat running in the congressional race?'" said Vincent J. Gentile, a Democratic city councilman from Bay Ridge who supports Mr. Murphy. "That's probably the question I get asked the most."

... Videos posted to YouTube -- and linked from a Grimm campaign site -- include snippets from his Hollywood days. In one, labeled "Mark Murphy Gets Clubbed by a Blonde," a bikini-clad woman swats him over the head with a wooden two-by-four. "Hey Mark," reads a caption, "did you win an Emmy for that?"

... Mr. Murphy also has to grapple with the legacy of his father, John M. Murphy, who represented Staten Island in Congress for nearly 20 years before serving a 20-month prison sentence in the 1980s after he was convicted in a corruption scandal. The two remain close, and Mr. Murphy wears his father's lapel pin, with a facsimile of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, as a good-luck charm.
There's a lesson here, and it extends beyond Grimm's district: Democrats should run a plausible candidate in every House and Senate race. I don't mean that the party should throw money away in unwinnable contests. I mean that the party should be ready with a plausible alternative whenever a Republican takes dead aim at his or her own foot.

Because that's a very, very serious risk for Republicans.

Republicans live in their own bubble, where they get used to communicating with one another in ways that they consider perfectly acceptable, but many of the rest of us consider shocking. Whether it's this sort of Roger Ailes-esque tough-guy talk, or discussions of rape and reproduction a la Todd Akin and Mike Huckabee, or racist tweets and text and emails, Republicans are in the habit of going over the line, and not prepared for the fact that people outside the right-wing bubble notice these communications at campaign time. And if it's not a seasoned Republican incumbent in a safe red district, it could be a loose-tongued tea party upstart who defeated that Republican in a primary and doesn't know when to shut up.

So be ready to take advantage. Run a real candidate wherever possible, not a Mark Murphy.

Not only that, but Americans is telling pollsters that they're so angry right now they want to vote their own representatives out of Congress, at rates not seen even in past moments of anti-incumbent anger. So take advantage, Democrats. Try to score some upsets.

And run some fresh faces -- why shouldn't our side have a tea party, too?


ALSO: There's this, which (allegedly) happened a year after Grimm was reelected:
A Republican congressman spent the Friday before the government shutdown drinking and behaving boorishly at a constituent bar in Brooklyn, two witnesses told us -- including disappearing into a restroom with a woman for at least 15 minutes. Michael Grimm, who represents Staten Island and part of Brooklyn, spent the evening at the Bay Ridge bar with two couples and a woman in whose back pocket he repeatedly placed his hand, and whose ass he slapped more than once, the witnesses said....

The three couples also each slipped in turn into the bar's only restroom, including the congressman and his female companion, who stayed in there together for "a long fucking time," one witness said -- 15 minutes or more, so long that people at the bar were talking about it. "I was surprised someone so sleazy could be a congressman," one witness said....

(Via Kalli Joy Gray.)


UPDATE: Grimm gets around to apologizing.

At the end of his State of the Union address last night, President Obama brought down the house with the story of one speech attendee:
I first met Cory Remsburg, a proud Army Ranger, at Omaha Beach on the 65th anniversary of D-Day....

A few months later, on his 10th deployment, Cory was nearly killed by a massive roadside bomb in Afghanistan. His comrades found him in a canal, face down, underwater, shrapnel in his brain.

For months, he lay in a coma. And the next time I met him, in the hospital, he couldn't speak; he could barely move. Over the years, he’s endured dozens of surgeries and procedures, hours of grueling rehab every day.

Even now, Cory is still blind in one eye. He still struggles on his left side. But slowly, steadily, with the support of caregivers like his dad Craig, and the community around him, Cory has grown stronger. Day by day, he’s learned to speak again and stand again and walk again, and he’s working toward the day when he can serve his country again.

"My recovery has not been easy," he says. "Nothing in life that's worth anything is easy."
The president's conclusion:
... men and women like Cory remind us that America has never come easy. Our freedom, our democracy, has never been easy. Sometimes we stumble; we make mistakes; we get frustrated or discouraged.

But for more than two hundred years, we have put those things aside and placed our collective shoulder to the wheel of progress: to create and build and expand the possibilities of individual achievement; to free other nations from tyranny and fear; to promote justice and fairness and equality under the law, so that the words set to paper by our founders are made real for every citizen.

The America we want for our kids -- a rising America where honest work is plentiful and communities are strong; where prosperity is widely shared and opportunity for all lets us go as far as our dreams and toil will take us -- none of it is easy. But if we work together; if we summon what is best in us, the way Cory summoned what is best in him, with our feet planted firmly in today but our eyes cast towards tomorrow, I know it's within our reach.
I understand that these shout-outs to special guests are, since the Reagan era, all but mandatory in State of the Union speeches; I understand that the president wants to appeal -- and wants to be seen as appealing -- to the better nature of congressional obstructionists.

But this is a terrible metaphor for what we're going through.

Cory Remsburg's struggle to recover from war injuries (after -- God help us -- ten deployments) really is hard. But what we have to do in this country isn't hard at all; it's relatively easy. Republicans simply have to meet Democrats partway; they have to hash out a few bills in conference committees and cast a few votes. They have to stop acting as if losing a primary to a tea party challenger is a life-altering disaster comparable to, well, the incident in which Remsburg suffered his injuries -- a defeated member of Congress leaves office with health intact, with great benefits, and with many, many opportunities to make very nice money.

But the biggest problem with this analogy is that it plays into the notion that our political problems are caused by lack of effort. We could solve them if we just tried harder. This is particularly damaging to the president himself -- he's blamed for the brick wall of Republican resistance he faces every day. He's not trying hard enough. He's not leading hard enough. The problem isn't that you can't knock down a brick wall of resistance by repeatedly running into it headfirst; the myth is that he really could knock it down if he made a few more runs at it, or ran faster.

America isn't in trouble because the president and other politicians lack guts and persistence. America is in trouble because Republicans are malignant and willful and have terrible ideas. It would be easy for Republicans to do the right thing if they wanted to, but they simply don't want to -- they've dug in their heels and chosen to do the wrong thing until they win the White House, and then they're going to do even more appallingly wrong things, because those appallingly wrong things are what they believe in, and what their donors believe in. And our system lets them do that. In our system, they're free to destroy the country if that's what they decide to do, and if the voters keep voting them back in. Obama can't stop them with greater effort.

Cory Remsburg's story is a stirring one. But it's not America's story. Our politicians make a tremendous effort every day. It's just that some of our politicians treat the rest of us as the enemy.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


Just wanted to draw your attention to this, from the National Association for Gun Rights:

I've got good news.

This upcoming Wednesday the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs is scheduled to take up a post office reform bill (S.1486).

U.S. Senator Rand Paul is once again leading the pro-gun fight by proposing an amendment to eliminate the Post Office Gun Ban once and for all!

But ending this gun ban won't come easily.

You see, several anti-gunners serve on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee, and they're preparing to fight tooth-and-nail against Senator Paul's proposal.

That means it's up to pro-gun patriots like you to stand with Senator Paul by taking action right away.

Please contact the members of the committee right away....
(Emphasis as in original.)

If you want to contact the committee members and tell them that supporting this idea is competely insane, their contact info is at the link.

Please recall that some reasonable people believe Rand Paul is the front-runner for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.

This is not going over well on the right:
MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell recalled on Monday some of the most impactful State of the Union addresses in the recent past, focusing primarily on George W. Bush's post-9/11 speech in which he called North Korea, Iraq, and Iran members of an "Axis of Evil." Mitchell ripped into Bush and former Secretary of State Colin Powell for approving that remark which alienated Iran, a country she said had been "more or less an American ally." ...

"State Department, with all due respect, Colin Powell did not focus enough on those words and get them taken out of the State of the Union," she continued. "Up until that moment, Iran was cooperating with the United States on the border of Afghanistan, it was post 9/11, Iran was more or less an American ally." ...
Bryan Preston of PJ Media says this is not true because slogans:
Iran had been an enemy of the United States since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. What part of "Death to America!" and "Death to the Great Satan!" [does] Mitchell ... not understand?
Over at Twitchy, Michelle Malkin's Twitter aggregator, the evidence that Mitchell is wrong boils down to a collective "LOLWUT," supplemented by a "WTF" from Mediaite right-winger Noah Rothman, who wrote the story quoted above.

Hmmm ... if only we could assess the truth value of this by looking into the actual historical record. Is it possible to know, for instance, whether Iran gave the U.S. help on Al Qaeda after 9/11?
Iran Gave U.S. Help On Al Qaeda After 9/11

Iran rounded up hundreds of Arabs to help the United States counter al Qaeda after the Sept. 11 attack after they crossed the border from Afghanistan, a former Bush administration official said Tuesday. Many were expelled, Hillary Mann Leverett said, and the Iranians made copies of almost 300 of their passports.

The copies were sent to Kofi Annan, then the secretary-general of the United Nations, who passed them to the United States, and U.S. interrogators were given a chance by Iran to question some of the detainees, Leverett said in an Associated Press interview.

Leverett, a Middle East expert who was a career U.S. Foreign Service officer, said she negotiated with Iran for the Bush administration in the 2001-3 period, and Iran sought a broader relationship with the United States. "They thought they had been helpful on al Qaeda, and they were," she said.

For one thing, she said, Iran denied sanctuary to suspected al Qaeda operatives....

James F. Dobbins, the Bush administration's chief negotiator on Afghanistan in late 2001, said Iran was "comprehensively helpful" in the aftermath of the 9-11 attack in 2001 in working to overthrow the Taliban militias' rule and collaborating with the United States to install the Karzai government in Kabul....
That was from a 2008 CBS story partly based on an AP report. More here, from a Politico Magazine story by Barbara Slavin, which was published last November:
It took the 9/11 attacks to break the ice. Iranians, virtually alone among Muslim-majority countries, expressed sympathy for the victims, and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei even suspended the usual “Death to America” chants at Friday prayers. The United States and Iran also shared the geopolitical aim of removing the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.... American and Iranian officials held more than a dozen meetings from the fall of 2001 through May 2003 in Paris and Geneva....

Retired U.S. diplomat Ryan Crocker, who participated in those talks, ... found the Iranians "very positive and forthcoming and really interested in what we could put together in Afghanistan that would be better for both of us," he said. Iran, which had almost gone to war with the Taliban in 1998 after the radical faction murdered eight Iranian diplomats and a journalist in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif, was "very anxious for us to get on with the war," Crocker noted, going so far as to provide the United States with accurate maps of Taliban positions (as opposed to the Pakistanis, who tried to get the Americans to bomb the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance)....

The talks ended in May 2003... former Secretary of State Colin Powell ... told me in 2006 that they "should have been restarted." ...

"After the 'axis of evil' [speech], the heart went out of the negotiations," Crocker told me....
Oh, and Iran also turned over at least 15 detainees to Afghan custody in 2002 knowing they'd become part of the CIA's extraordinary rendition program. If that doesn't constitute love for the Bush-era U.S., what does?

So Mitchell may have been engaging in a bit of hyperbole, but not all that much. You could acknowledge that, righties -- oh, but it's so much more fun to put Mitchell's picture right next to your vintage-1979 Khomeini dartboard and let a few darts rip, isn't it?

Omigod! Can you believe that a president and his administration would do something as tyrannical as this?

Trying to control the narrative! With website features!


You know who else tried to control the narrative of major speeches, don't you...?


(And no, the White House site does not have the headline "Get Ready for teh Speech" -- 'the" is spelled correctly.)

President Obama can't get anything through Congress, and that's not likely to change between now and the end of his term, so he's going the executive-order route. One proposal:
President Obama plans to sign an executive order requiring that janitors, construction workers and others working for federal contractors be paid at least $10.10 an hour, using his own power to enact a more limited version of a policy that he has yet to push through Congress.

The order, which Mr. Obama will highlight in his annual State of the Union address on Tuesday night, is meant to underscore an increasing willingness by the president to bypass Congress if lawmakers continue to resist his agenda, aides said....

With prospects for congressional action still slim, Mr. Obama is using the executive order covering federal contractors to go as far as he can go on his own....
I'd love to think this would be broadly popular. I'd love to think that the Americans who now overwhelmingly favor an increase in the minimum wage will see this as a doing the right thing for at least some people.

But I suspect this won't be popular. Because neither the mainstream press nor the Democratic Party will explain to the public that Republicans are the cause of our political dysfunction -- though some people have begun to figure it out -- there's still the myth that the president could get more if he'd just lead harder (or, alternately, that he could have done a better job getting what he wanted if he'd done more outreach to the GOP, but now he's poisoned the well). If you don't really understand the extent of right-wing intransigence, this looks like a failure on Obama's part, a half-measure when he should be able to get an across-the-board minimum wage hike passed.

It also looks like a special deal for History's Greatest Monsters -- public sector workers, the same people Scott Walker (now polling quite well in his reelection bid) and Chris Christie (still getting decent job approval ratings in his state) made their careers attacking.

The permanent squeeze on ordinary citizens takes its toll on empathy -- hell, polls even show that Christie's ratings are higher among people who don't use the George Washington Bridge. New Jersey residents don't even have fellow feeling for victims of deliberate traffic sabotage on a route they happen not to take.

On the Fox/talk-radio right, of course, Obama's plan to use executive orders is described as pure fascism. (Charles Krauthammer on Obama's efforts to bypass Congress: "This is how they do it in Venezuela.") I don't know how much that viewpoint is going to influence what people in the center are thinking, but I'm sure it has an impact, even though it's 180 degrees removed from the view of Obama as a guy who can't get bills through Congress. (Barack Obama: impotent and fascistic!)

The right will respond to this by selling the image of struggling, overwhelmingly white small businessmen who contract with the federal government and are now losing sleep, the poor dears, wondering how they'll cope with this horrible edict. The right has this propaganda down to a science. I suppose it's no different from the propaganda against a minimum wage increase in general, and that isn't working anymore, but if this is for just one group of workers -- government workers, paid with your tax dollars! -- there'll be some impact.

I'm not saying that this will be a serious problem for Obama. I'm just saying that if he thinks this will be widely cheered, he may be in for a disappointment.

Monday, January 27, 2014


Gerald Molen is afraid:
Gerald Molen, the producer of Dinesh D'Souza's documentary film "2016: Obama's America," says he never feared his government before he learned that D'Souza is under federal investigation for election fraud....

Some, including Molen, believe the indictment is political payback for D'Souza's film, which was critical of President Barack Obama....

Asked by [radio host Steve] Malzberg if he ever felt threatened or had any feelings they should not have been making the film, Molen answered, "No. This is America. I've never had that feeling," adding, "I've never had the occasion to think that I had to fear my government. I never had the thought that I had reason to think I had to look over my shoulder until now." ...
Yeah, Molen's never felt afraid -- oh, except that one time, two years ago (when was it again? oh yeah, just before the 2012 election), when 2016 was about to be released and Molen, knowing that the best way to get the rubes riled up and ready to (a) vote Republican and (b) buy tickets to a right-wing documentary was to claim awareness of the sound of jackboots in the distance, wrote this for Breitbart:
If you would listen carefully you would recognize the woeful sounds of America gasping for its very breath of life and its inner soul....

An event took place in 2008 that changed the world we live in. It changed the face of America, it changed the direction of our moral values, it changed how we view the future and how we see ourselves as human beings and it changed the make up of our basic freedoms that we so irreverently tossed aside for entitlement freebies and empty promises by the engineers at the helm.

Thus, I have some questions; As we sit at the precipice of financial collapse from debt and entitlements, how much time do we have? Can we reverse course? What can we as individuals do? Who best to bring us back from the brink? Or are we too late? ...

The event I speak of, of course, was the presidential election of 2008. We put a man in office, a man not really qualified to be a dog catcher, much less the most powerful man in the world....

Once again, our ears failed us. Our eyes failed us. We failed to hear that horrific sucking sound of our falling into the vortex of calm voices pushing us ever so gently but with assured and deft platitudes, into the hell of our own making....
(To give him the benefit of the doubt, maybe he would say now that he really didn't feel afraid then. Maybe he'd say he heard the "horrific sucking sound of our falling into the vortex" and thought, "Meh.")

2016 was released in August 2012, two and a half months before the presidential election. In the trailer for the follow-up to 2016, titled America, D'Souza begins by telling us that the movie will be released on the Fourth of July; he clearly wants you to believe that this is because he, his producer, and their film are so gosh-darn patriotic, and not because the purpose of the film is to turn out angry wingnuts in the 2014 midterms, by telling them that votes for the likes of Mary Landrieu, Kay Hagan, and Mark Pryor are votes for ... er, Noam Chomsky?


"America" Trailer from Dinesh D'Souza on Vimeo.

In America, D'Souza -- who wrote and produced the film -- makes the claim that 1960s radical leftism is more or less indistinguishable from current mainstream liberalism, a doctrine that he says preaches the United States is the product of "stealing and plunder" from Native Americans, Mexicans and African-American slaves.

"I want to take this progressive, leftist critique head on," D'Souza says in the trailer. The movie will include re-creations of some of the major events in American history.
And so D'Souza interviews ... Chomsky. Let's see: who is the most prominent Democrat in American politics right now? Barack Obama -- the subject of D'Souza's last film. What does Chomsky think of Obama? Let's pull a few headlines from Google:
* Noam Chomsky: Obama is 'dedicated to increasing terrorism'
* Noam Chomsky: Obama's Attack on Civil Liberties Has Gone Way Beyond Imagination
* Noam Chomsky: Obama Trade Deal A 'Neoliberal Assault' To Further Corporate 'Domination'
* Chomsky: Palin was right about Obama's 'hopey-changey' gimmick
Yup, they're two peas in a pod!

Oh, and is D'Souza actually going to challenge the notion that white Americans took Indians' land and took the labor of the slaves without compensation? Are these controversial assertions, as far as he's concerned? Well, I'm not sure what he'll say about Native Americans -- but I'm sure he'll shrug off slavery by saying that all those slaveowners were filthy Democrats.

A final thought: D'Souza's indictment? Good career move. He and his producer got a huge gift -- after all, you know how hard it can be to get audiences to turn out for a sequel that just promises to be more of the same.


I know some of you will agree with what Frank Rich is saying here about Fox News, but sorry, it's way too early to declare victory this way:
In truth, Fox News has been defeated on the media battlefield -- and on the political battlefield as well.... The only people who seem not to know or accept Fox's decline, besides its own audience, are ­liberals, including Barack Obama, whose White House mounted a short-lived, pointless freeze-out of Fox News in 2009, and who convinced himself that the network has shaved five points off his approval rating.

Ailes would like the president and everyone else to keep believing he has that clout. But these days Fox News is the loudest voice in the room only in the sense that a bawling baby is the loudest voice in the room. In being so easily bullied by Fox's childish provocations, the left gives the network the attention on which it thrives and hands it power that it otherwise has lost....

The most interesting news about Fox News is that for some years now it has been damaging the right far more than the left. As a pair of political analysts wrote at Reuters last year, "When the mainstream media reigned supreme, between 1952 and 1988, Republicans won seven out of the ten presidential elections," but since 1992, when "conservative media began to flourish" (first with Rush Limbaugh's ascendancy, then with Fox), Democrats have won the popular vote five out of six times. You'd think they'd be well advised to leave Fox News to its own devices so that it can continue to shoot its own party in the foot.
Yeah, Frank, I'm sure the fact that Democrats keep winning (or, in 2000, "winning") presidential elections is great comfort to women under Republican state governments who have to drive a hundred miles to get a legal abortion (and face multiple restrictions beyond that), or poor people in the same states who can't take advantage of the Medicaid expansion in the Affordable Care Act, or blacks who've voted for decades and now can't because they don't drive and can't obtain a birth certificate, all because Fox and other right-wing media outlets keep motivating right-wingers to vote for state and local Republican candidates who spout Fox talking points, even in states Democrats win handily at the presidential level.

I'm sure affected citizens think these are just trivial issues compared to one big Democratic victory every four years -- a victory that inevitably gives us a president who faces a brick wall of Republican intransigence, and who is viciously attacked by the party on minor matters, all because Heartland America keeps voting in Congresses that hew to the Fox line. Yes, why should the poor care whether there's ever an increase in the national minimum wage, or the jobless care that unemployment benefits aren't extended, or the rest of us care that our bridges are falling down and the people who fix them are still unemployed, all thanks to a Congress full of wingnuts sent to office by Fox-fueled rageoholics? Our guy won in 2012! He won four years earlier, too! That's all that matters! Fox is dead!

Ahhh, but we're superior to the right because they got 2012 wrong, Rich says:
When the reality-based data of actual votes came in on Election Night, it only followed that Fox Nation would be shocked, as most dramatically revealed by Karl Rove's famous on-camera meltdown. Anyone who had spent the entire year in the Fox News cocoon -- repeatedly hearing happy-news polls from Rasmussen and the even more egregious Dick Morris, repeatedly being assured that Benghazi was the silver bullet certain to take out Obama -- knew the election was in the bag....

Rather than waste time bemoaning Fox's bogus journalism, liberals should encourage it. The more that Fox News viewers are duped into believing that the misinformation they are fed by Ailes is fair and balanced, the more easily they can be ambushed by reality as they were on Election Night 2012.
Did Fox encourage the right to misread the national mood in 2012? Yeah, sure. But what about our side? Haven't we done some misreading of our own? Didn't we think after the 2008 election that Reaganite conservatism was deader than the Monty Python parrot, and that we might be at the dawn of a decades-long era dominated by Democratic liberalism, with Obama as our FDR? Didn't a lot of us agree with the president that his reelection in 2012 might lead to the breaking of the tea party "fever"? Didn't we think the 2012 election would at least compel Republicans to sign on to immigration reform? And then didn't we think America was at a tipping point on gun control after Sandy Hook?

Yes, I suppose we have Fox where we want it: It's driving its presidential contenders to unelectable extremism, while struggling with a viewer base that's elderly (though not all that much older than MSNBC's -- average age 68 vs. 60) and small. But the old bastards who watch Fox vote -- and unlike us, they vote in House and Senate races, in races for governor and state legislators, in special elections to recall gun-control supporters.

So, yeah, we've cornered Fox. But cornered rats are very, very dangerous.

Sunday, January 26, 2014


The GOP has been telling us for years now that there's no racism in America anymore (except anti-white racism) and anyone who thinks otherwise is a dupe living on the "liberal plantation." You can see the success of that in the massive black vote Republicans are able to run up in every election.

Since that talking point is working so well for Republicans, Rand Paul figures it'll work even better with The Ladiez:
Sen. Rand Paul said Sunday that Democrats are failing in their attempts to frame the GOP as a party that wages a war against women.

"The whole thing of the 'war on women,' I sort of laughingly say, 'Yeah, there might have been -- but the women are winning it,'" the Republican senator from Kentucky said on CNN's "State of the Union." He said women have made great strides and, as an example, now make up more than half the students at medical and law schools.
He likes this talking point so much he also also used it on Meet the Press:
SENATOR RAND PAUL (R-KENTUCKY):... This whole sort of War on Women thing, I’m scratching my head because if there was a war on women, I think they won. You know, the women in my family are incredibly successful. I have a niece at Cornell Vet school and 85 percent of the young people there are women. In law school, 60 percent are women. In med school, 55 percent. My younger sister is an ob-gyn with six kids and doing great. You know, I don't see so much that women are downtrodden. I see women rising up and doing great things. In fact, I worry about our young men sometimes because I think the women really are out-competing the men in our world.

... The women in my family are doing great, and that's what I see in all the statistics coming out. I have, you know, young women in my office that are the leading intellectual lights of our office. So I don't really see this, that there's some sort of war that's, you know, keeping women down....
A successful guy in a suit -- a guy who, moreover, got where he is on Daddy's name -- gets up on national TV and says, "Hey, every woman I know is doing just fine": do average people relate to that? Average women who are struggling with a crap economy as well as sexism?

Some will, I suppose. Some hear complaints about sexism and think, "Are you telling me I can't succeed in a man's world?" But those are women who, if they vote, are likely to vote GOP anyway. Rand is supposedly doing outreach for a 2016 presidential campaign in which Republicans need to pick off voters from Democratic voting blocs. This isn't going to get it done.

Bonus quote from Meet the Press:
DAVID GREGORY, HOST: But my question about whether you think it's appropriate for the Party, key figures in the Party to be talking about women, women's health, women’s bodies and the role of the federal government related to those things.

PAUL: I try never to have discussions of anatomy unless I'm at a medical conference.
Ick! Ladyparts!

Maybe in 2020 these guys are finally going to acknowledge that Leave It to Beaver is off the air? Lose the squeamishness, boys. We all have HBO.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Sunday accused former President Bill Clinton of "predatory" sexual behavior, saying he used the Oval Office to take advantage of Monica Lewinsky.

"I think, really, the media seems to have given President Clinton a pass on this," Paul said on NBC’s "Meet the Press." "He took advantage of a girl that was 20 years old and an intern in his office. There is no excuse for that and that is predatory behavior and ... we shouldn't want to associate with people who would take advantage of a young girl in his office."
Did you know about this Clinton thing? I never read about it! Why did the press bury this story? Why wasn't this in any of the papers at the time?

Yes, Rand, really, this is what you want to do: attack a guy with a favorability rating of 66%-71%, depending on the poll. Genius move.

Saturday, January 25, 2014


Alec MacGillis draws our attention to this preposterous letter to The Wall Street Journal from Tom Perkins, founder of the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers:
... Writing from the epicenter of progressive thought, San Francisco, I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its "one percent," namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the "rich."

From the Occupy movement to the demonization of the rich embedded in virtually every word of our local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, I perceive a rising tide of hatred of the successful one percent. There is outraged public reaction to the Google buses carrying technology workers from the city to the peninsula high-tech companies which employ them. We have outrage over the rising real-estate prices which these "techno geeks" can pay. We have, for example, libelous and cruel attacks in the Chronicle on our number-one celebrity, the author Danielle Steel, alleging that she is a "snob" despite the millions she has spent on our city's homeless and mentally ill over the past decades.

This is a very dangerous drift in our American thinking. Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendent "progressive" radicalism unthinkable now?
Look, I'm not sure about tactics like slashing Google buses' tires, but if Perkins is going to have the bad taste to equate his fellow richies with the victims of the Holocaust, tell me: Who's the Hitler in all this? Where's the state power?

Oh, but I know what the right's answer to this will be, because the Murdoch press has been working on it for a while: Here's Fox Nation with a compendium of stories collected under the headline "Is There A COORDINATED, VAST LEFT-WING CONSPIRACY?" Evidence, real or imagined: investigations of Chris Christie's Bridgegate, the indictment of Dinesh D'Souza, alleged IRS targeting of a right-wing Hollywood group, New York State asking James O'Keefe's group to provide standard employer tax documents, etc., etc. The New York Post's Kyle Smith throws in the jailing of the filmmaker who made "Innocence of Muslims" and Bill de Blasio wanting a tax increase on the rich for universal pre-K. Before that, it was de Blasio inadequately plowing the Upper East Side. Y'know, just like Hitler in the Jewish ghettoes.

Meanwhile, gays in Russia actually are experiencing violent repression by gangs of thugs encouraged by the state, and it's even worse for gays in many African countries. Gays in Russia and Africa aren't tossing off letters to the editor in between yacht-building sessions, like Perkins, or fretting to the San Francisco Chronicle's society columnist about criticism of their landscaping, like Perkins's ex-wife, Danielle Steel.

Steel, you see, bought a landmark San Francisco mansion, but it was across from a city park, so she maintains a hedge around it that a Chronicle writer called "comically off-putting." Her version of Kristallnacht: one additional nasty Chronicle column, in which, yes, she was called a snob -- in part for the hedge, and in part for this explanation, from a 2011 Wall Street Journal interview, for why she spends more time in Paris than in San Francisco:
"San Francisco is a great city to raise children, but I was very happy to leave it," she said. "There's no style, nobody dresses up -- you can't be chic there. It's all shorts and hiking boots and Tevas -- it's as if everyone is dressed to go on a camping trip. I don't think people really care how they look there; and I look like a mess when I'm there, too."
Oh, but I'm sure the gay people who are being brutalized, with state encouragement, in Russia and Africa feel Steel has suffered far more.


ALSO, TOO: Here's a novel Tom Perkins wrote (and got published by a division of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, back when Perkins was on the News Corp board):


The Atlantic's Molly Ball says Republicans don't think they have to do any rebranding -- and, unfortunately, I agree with them:
Without changing a thing, Republicans are very well positioned for the midterm elections this year and even for the 2016 presidential election. As the University of Virginia political analyst Larry Sabato recently noted, Republicans are almost guaranteed to keep the House of Representatives in November; they have about a 50-50 chance of taking the majority in the U.S. Senate; and they are likely to keep their majority of the nation's governor's mansions. The erosion of public trust in Obama and Democrats spurred by the botched introduction of the healthcare exchanges continues to reverberate in public polling of contests up and down the ballot, erasing the public-opinion edge Democrats gained from the government shutdown and tilting more and more contests in the GOP's favor, according to Sabato, who on Thursday revised his ratings of three Senate contests, tilting all of them more toward Republicans.
Notice that this is not because the Republican Party is popular -- congressional Republicans, in particular, are staggeringly unpopular. Notice that it's not because Republicans are proposing ideas that reverberate with the public, nor is it because the existing Republican agenda is in sync with what the American public thinks. Americans support a higher minimum wage and extended unemployment benefits and higher taxes on the wealthy and universal firearm background checks and, these days, same-sex marriage. Republicans support none of these things. And yet they're in great shape.

What's working for Republicans is precisely what always works for Republicans: having a noise machine that flings one charge after another at Democrats, waits for Democratic errors so they can be exploited (no thought is ever given to actually fixing any such problems), and creating or exacerbating other problems so they can be blamed on Democrats. The Republican "agenda" is to make swing voters distrust Democrats (for economic hardship that Republicans don't want alleviated, for Obamacare flaws that Republicans don't want corrected) and to make the base despise Democrats (for Benghazi, for IRS scrutiny of the tea party, for a mythical vendetta against the likes of Chris Christie and Dinesh D'Souza, for a thousand more things betwen now and the next election).

So next time you hear that Republicans "can't just be 'the party of no,'" the correct response is: apparently they can.

Ahh, but what about the presidential election in 2016? Ball says they're looking pretty good there, too:
The political scientist John Sides recently ran a back-of-the-envelope calculation using a model that, taking into account just three factors -- economic growth, the president's approval rating, and whether there’s an incumbent on the ballot -- previously predicted the result of the 2012 election within a percentage point.... If the first two factors look in 2016 the way they look now, and with no incumbent a given, Republicans will have a 64 percent chance of victory, according to the model.
By blocking or watering down any measure that would strengthen the middle class and help the poor, Republicans can limit economic growth (note, for instance, how their refusal to renew extended unemployment benefits reduced GDP). So that's factor #1. Factor #2 is the president's approval rating, and the GOP is determined to demonize him by any means necessary.

On the other hand, BooMan says the deck is stacked against Republicans in presidential elections, so Republicans do have to keep thinking about rebranding:
The bigger reason for rebranding is to do something about the structural advantage the Democrats have in the Electoral College.
Yeah, maybe. My sense is that Democrats have the inside track for 2016, at least if Hillary Clinton is their nominee.

But does that even matter? BooMan goes on to say this:
When a party holds the White House for twelve or more consecutive years, it changes the country. We saw that when the Dems had a twenty-year reign from 1933-1953, and we saw it when the Republicans held the White House from 1981-1993. There is a ripple effect that is felt decades down the line.
But I think that's true only if the party in the White House for twelve or more years is actually allowed to govern. Democrats certainly were for most of the FDR-Truman era, as were Republicans under Reagan and Poppy Bush.

But Barack Obama has been mostly stymied, apart from his health care law (which Republicans have tried to hobble dozens of different ways). If Hillary Clinton wins in 2016, it won't be because America wants more of the same -- it'll be because we still want what we voted for in 2008 and 2012, but never got.

And we still won't get it after 2016, because Republicans will stymie Hillary, too.

And then they'll probably score big gains in the 2018 midterms, running against "the failed Hillary Clinton presidency."

Friday, January 24, 2014


It's been argued -- even in my comments -- that there was a big difference between what Mike Huckabee just said about women and what Rush Limbaugh said about Sandra Fluke two years ago. As one of my commenters put it:
Limbaugh said without qualification that Fluke is a slut and a prostitute. Huckabee is saying, Democrats patronize women and believe that they have uncontrollable libidos and need handouts.
Yeah, but he didn't just say that Democrats attempt to sell this line to women. He said that large numbers of women fall for it, and become dirty sluts as a result.

Here's what he said in context -- and I'm going to add some emphasis:
Our party stands for the recognition of the equality of women and the capacity of women. That's not a war on them; it's a war for them. And if the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it, let's that that discussion all across America, because women are far more than Democrats have made them to be.
Notice who doesn't have agency here? Women. Women need to be saved; the way they'll be saved is by means of a Republican "war for them." Why do they need to be saved? Because Democrats are "making them believe that they are helpless" without government-provided birth control. Please note: Huckabee didn't say that Democrats are trying to persuade women that they're helpless without "Uncle Sugar" -- in other words, he's not saying that Democrats are insulting women's intelligence. He's saying that Democrats are making women believe this horrible thing; Democrats are poisoning women's tiny little minds with this, and women are helpless to resist the effects of the poison, which is having its intended effect.

Huckabee said something similar on his TV show last weekend -- here it is, again with emphasis:
The ridiculous claim that a pro-life position is a "war on women" is an insult to the millions of women who make extraordinary sacrifices for their children.

For Democrats to reduce women to beggars for cheap government funded birth control is demeaning to the women that I know who are far more complicated than their libido and the management of their reproductive system.
Notice that it's not all women who "are far more complicated than their libido" -- it's "the women that I know." It's the women in his tribe of social conservatives. Outside his tribe, Democrats quite successfully "reduce women to beggars" for contraception -- they don't try to do this, they actually do it. Outside his tribe, women have actually allowed this to happen to them (the cheap sluts).

Apart from the tone, the only difference between this and Rush Limbaugh's rants about Sandra Fluke is that Huckabee is saying that all pro-Democratic women are gullible, brainwashable tramps. He's extended the Sandra Fluke slur to millions of women.

Nicely, of course.

Rick Santorum is misinformed:
Rick Santorum ... said Thursday that he thinks former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's (R) headline-grabbing remarks about women's libidos was poorly worded because Huckabee speaks "off the cuff."

CNN's "Crossfire" host Stephanie Cutter asked Santorum whether he agreed that Democrats tell women "they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of government," as Huckabee told an audience at the Republican National Committee's winter meeting....

"I think Gov. Huckabee would probably have phrased it differently," he [said]. "Mike speaks off the cuff, as some of us are known to do, and probably would have chose different words to communicate that."
Sorry, but no. As Dave Weigel pointed out yesterday, Huckabee was repeating a canned line he'd used before:
Reporters were a little rattled by the line, but Huckabee's used it before -- he used it on the latest episode of his Sunday show.
The ridiculous claim that a pro-life position is a "war on women" is an insult to the millions of women who make extraordinary sacrifices for their children.

For Democrats to reduce women to beggars for cheap government funded birth control is demeaning to the women that I know who are far more complicated than their libido and the management of their reproductive system.
So it's a crowd-pleaser, if only to a select audience.
I'm not sure why it matters. Huckabee wasn't ambushed in a hallway and asked for a spontaneous comment -- he was delivering a speech. And if the controversial bits had been an improvisation on written remarks, so what? Wasn't Huckabee formerly a preacher by trade? The guy's been a preacher, a politician, and a TV and radio host -- how many more careers involving public speaking does he have to pursue before it's fair to hold him accountable for his own words? Whatever happened to personal responsibility, Rick?

Yeah, it's nice that Dinesh D'Souza has been indicted for campaign finance fraud, but a little perspective, please -- the guy allegedly laundered a mere $20K, and to a candidate who got clocked, 72%-27%. Schadenfreude's fun, but we have a ridiculous patchwork of campaign finance laws, and practices that are far more corrupt than sidestepping $5000 individual donation limits are perfectly legal. (And what D'Souza did will almost certainly be made legal after the Supreme Court does some more legislating from the bench sometime this year.)

D'Souza is insufferable, but it's not as if he's been rolling up victories lately, for himself or his side. A year and a half ago he was exposed as a horndog moral hypocrite when his adultery became public (an embarrassment for a guy who at the time was the president of a Christian college). D'Souza is a self-styled intellectual, but his best-known literary effort of the past year was a racist tweet referring to the president as "Grown-Up Trayvon." In the run-up to the last presidential election, D'Souza wrote an Obama-bashing book that he turned into an Obama-bashing movie that he turned into another Obama-bahing book -- and it had no effect, as Obama managed to beat Mitt Romney by five million votes.

So D'Souza's not really one of the people destroying this country, though that's not for lack of trying. Let me know when they get one of those SOBs.


Did I say that D'Souza's not riding high these days? Follow the link in this tweet. I'm almost embarrassed for the guy (almost).