If you were going to quit your governorship in mid-stream, and you were a winger, who would you call? If you're Sarah Palin, add Rudy Giuliani (hopefully he didn't propose to her too much... or drool into the phone about how much she reminds him of his cousin...) Dick Cheney (who apparently discussed the ogre-like family's possible vacation trip to Alaska, during which 'm sure Sarah and her kin will keep their whale guns at the ready...) [sidebar: Jesus, Republicans are creepy!] ... and Florida's very own Charlie Crist to the list. Reports ABC News:
Palin's phone calls are shown on her official schedule for May 2009, obtained by Alaskan Andree McLeod through an open-records request with the state and shared with ABC News. McLeod has filed numerous open-records requests for Palin-related documents, as well as four ethics complaints against the governor and her aides.
"GOV: Telephone Call Into Governor Crist," reads a May 4 entry in Palin's schedule. A spokeswoman for Crist said she did not know who had initiated contact, or what the subject of conversation was to have been, but the two did not speak. "It was a courtesy call. They know each other, both being governors," said Crist spokeswoman Erin Isaac.
Crist may have had his own reasons to chat with Palin: to promote his candidacy for U.S. Senate, which Crist launched one week after Palin's phone call. Nine days later, Crist announced an endorsement by Sen. John McCain, Palin's 2008 GOP ticket-topper.
So will the Barricuda endorse the tan guy in Tallahassee over the RedState base's choice, Marco Rubio, or will she "go rogue" again and oppose McCain's choice and add fresh drama to the Florida GOP Senate primary? (Hell, at least their party HAS primary drama ...) The plot thickens...
When the going gets tough, the tough get going, also
(...and by going, I mean "gone.")
Sarah Palin shocked the political (and grammatical) world yesterday, by pulling a Ross Perot (just as nasally, but much less succinctly,) and quitting her job as governor of Alaska. To add insult to the injury she's now done to her political career (and the voters who elected her,) she tried and failed to pull what I'm sure she thought was a clever maneuver: scurrying out of the 18 months remaining in her term on the Friday before July Fourth. I guess nobody explained to Sarah the concepts of "slow news day" and "sSunday shows...") Here's a small part of Miss Wasila's rambling exit speech (which made Mark Sanford look like the sound bite king):
Watch the whole, tortured 14 minutes here. Or read the transcript if you dare, and good luck not getting a headache from all the verb splitting. Now, of course, basketball analogies aside, there seem to be about three possible scenarios that might cause Sister Sarah to quit on her base so suddenly:
1. Dead presidents. Palin said during her ramble that she and Todd have built up about $500,000 in legal bills defending Sarah's multiple ethics charges. By quitting as governor, she frees herself to hit the lecture (shudder) and TV circuit and make some cash. Hell, she may even get her own talk radio show (can you just imagine listening to her talk for three hours straight? Scary!)
2. The hounds are advancing. Some big, major ethics or criminal probe was about to hit her, so Sarah's getting out of dodge to avoid it. Maybe she even made a deal with prosecutors or investigators to resign rather than face the music. Wouldn't be the first time a politician did that one!
3. Cooped up in Alaska. Sarah loves the fame she's accumulated, and you get the feeling Sarah thinks she's way too big a star to be stuck in the governor's mansion. Her public needs her, and now she's free to give them her all, without the chirping of annoying "ethics complaints" every time she leaves the state. She'd much rather travel the country, stump for Republican candidates and build up some favors in advance of a hilarious 2012 run (personally, I'm hoping for this one.)
4. She and Todd have decided to go ahead and take that secessionist party national. Okay, just kidding on that one. Maybe. Actually, one Huffpo contributor, journo Geoffrey Dunn reminds that she quit her last statewide office too, suggesting she might just be a serial quitter.
5. She's figured out that despite her devoted following, her 15 minutes are waning. So she's decided to cash in while the gettin's good. After all, why should that little shit Levi get all the reality show love. The move also gives Sarah time to rush her book out before Levi's, since Levi's book clearly won't be helpful...
Of course, it could also be all three. Or she might be insane.
Meanshile, the pundits react:
... but Politico leaves off the best reaction of all, by Ed Rollins:
And while Sarah's biggest devotee, Roger Simon, apparently couldn't bear to write a critical word about his Sarah, the rest of the staff at Politico had at it. Jonathan Martin reports Republicans divided ... Glenn Thrush has five questions ... Mike Allen provides some back-up for my scenarios 1 and 3 ...
More good stuff:
The Anchorage Daily News reports on the thrills and chills Palin's decision is sending through Alaska politics.
The stimulus money-hating South Carolina governor (and would-be 2012 GOP presidential contender???) has flown the coop. So it's time to ask: "Have You Seen This Man?" If you have, kindly tell his wife...
Thousands of supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi, the man they consider the true winner of Iran's disputed presidential election, have held a rally in Tehran to mourn the recent deaths of protesters.
Thursday's gathering took place at the capital's Imam Khomeini Square in spite of a statement by the highest legislative body that it would meet the candidates to discuss their complaints about the vote.
... Mousavi had issued a statement on his website calling for Thursday to be observed as a day of mourning for those killed during the protests against the election result.
Chanting "Peace be upon (Prophet) Muhammad and his family", the opposition supporters, many dressed in black, marched in south Tehran, the witnesses said.
Mousavi had urged his supporters to wear black as a sign of remembrance and remain peaceful.
One witness said the marchers carried pictures of Mousavi and placards like "We have not had people killed to compromise and accept a doctored ballot box" and "Silent, keep calm".
Mousavi somehow managed to reach the venue and addressed the huge crowd.
He announced that a rally scheduled for Friday had been cancelled, and that his supporters should prepare for a major march planned for Saturday afternoon from Tehran's Revolution Square to Freedom Square.
Mousavi has applied for a permission at the interior ministry but it is unclear whether this would be issued.
About 100 people gathered outside the United Nations building in Tehran earlier on Thursday urging the Guardian Council to take action over the disputed poll. Officials have barred the foreign media from covering such "unauthorised" events. However, they are expected to ensure a heavy turnout for a special sermon to be delivered by Ayatollah Ali Khameini, the country's supreme leader, at the Tehran University campus on Friday. ...
For now, the only thing I'd criticize Obama for is stating that there's not much difference between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi. That may have been true before the election, but it's probably not now. Although, his saying what he did had the effect of distancing the U.S. from the opposition, which is probably what the administration wanted, and in the end, most probably the right thing to do. Let's let the Iranians speak for themselves. The neocons' days of treating Muslims like wayward children who must be given democracy by their western benefactors (usually at the barrel of a gun) is over.
"For someone who is of Latin background, personally, I understand what she is trying to say," Martinez said after meeting with Sotomayor today. "Which is, the richness of her experience forms who she is. It forms who I am."
I believe Martinez is the first Republican senator to actively defend Sotomayor. This could be one of those symbolic turning points.
Martinez also said he expects Sotomayor to be confirmed "with pretty good numbers."
Newt Gingrich, the disgraced former House speaker who would dearly love to be president ... but who never will ... is one of those conservatives who has spent their adult life tisk-tisking Black and Brown people for calling people who look and think like him, "racist," and for "playing the race card," also known as "race hustling." Well, a funny thing happened when Newt did a little race hustling of his own. He got backslapped by reality. So now, Newt is walking back his "Sonia Sotomayor is a racist" tweet, while also learning that Twitter can be dangerous to the verbally impuslive. Newt emailed the following mea culpa to supporters:
My initial reaction was strong and direct -- perhaps too strong and too direct. The sentiment struck me as racist and I said so. Since then, some who want to have an open and honest consideration of Judge Sotomayor’s fitness to serve on the nation’s highest court have been critical of my word choice.
With these critics who want to have an honest conversation, I agree. The word “racist” should not have been applied to Judge Sotomayor as a person, even if her words themselves are unacceptable (a fact which both President Obama and his Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, have since admitted).
He then goes on to try and re-explain his opposition to Sotomayor like an adult, rather than an angry, screaming kid in the mall, like he and his winger friends have done so far. Good luck with that. So why the change of heart? Why, people whose support he just might need when he runs for president in 2012 -- you know, the ones who actually have jobs in the Republican Party -- were not amused.
Here's a brief look at the Republican 40-40 club (with 2010 election info courtesy of Electoral-Vote.com and demographic data from StateMaster.com.) Specifically, take a look at where the "hope to be re-elected" stand, so far, on Judge Sotomayor. Those running for re-election or other office in 2010 are starred. The Hispanic population rank -HPR- for the states where a Senator is up for re-election are in red.)
John Barrasso (WY) - Barrasso is as doctrinaire a right winger as there ever was, but so far he has released no official statements on Sotomayor. Maybe she could win him over by toting a firearm into the hearings?
*Jim DeMint (SC) / HPR: 35 - Up for re-election in a safe seat. Has said Sotomayor's writings raise "serious questions," but that he'll withhold judgement until the hearings.
John Ensign (NV) - Says he'll work through the process, to make sure the former Yale law review editor and Princeton Summa Cum Laude has the "right intellect" to be a Supreme Court justice. Riiiight.... Someone must have pointed out how odd that sounds, because the official statement on his website is a lot more clipped.
Michael Enzi (WY) - Enzi was a "no" vote in '98. And he's from Wyoming...
Lindsey Graham (SC) - Miss Lindsey issued a sunny statement about how much he looks forward to "meeting" and questioning Judge Sotomayor. He wasn't there in '98, and his best buddy John McCain was a "no" back then, so it's hard to know which way he'll go (no pun intended.)
John Kyl (AZ) - He voted no on Sotomayor in '98, because he said he couldn't be sure she wouldn't decide cases based on "preconceived ideas." Plus, every time I see him on television, he comes across as kind of a jerk (he's already floated the idea of mounting a filibuster against Sotomayor's nomination.) I'm putting him down as a "no."
Richard Lugar (IN) - Another yes vote for Sotomayor back in '98, and someone who has been singled out as an ally by President Obama. It would be hard to imagine him voting down her nomination.
Mel Martinez (FL) - Melly Mel is retiring from the Senate, but if he ever wants to show his face in this state again, he'll vote "aye."
Mitch McConnell (KY) - He was a "no" vote in '98, and if he thinks as much of Judge Sotomayor as he does of U.S. auto workers, he's probably a "no" again this time.
*Lisa Murkowski (AK) / HPR: 42 - Up for re-election after being appointed by her dad. She's a smart pol, though, and on Sotomayor, probably the most open minded of the GOP Senators, especially given the fact that there's not a significant Hispanic population in her state. She firmly opposes any attempt to filibuster the nomination.
James Risch (ID) - Who is james Risch? No, sorry, he and Crapo say they'll think it over.
Richard Shelby (AL) - Up for re-election but considered safe. He voted no on Sotomayor in '98 but has been pretty non-committal so far this time. Let's hope he can restrain himself from demanding Sotomayor's birth certificate...
Olympia Snowe (ME) - Voted "yes" in '98. Will probably vote as Collins does, and that's probably a yes.
*David Vitter (LA) / HPR: 33 - Up for re-election in 2010. His state ranks #33 in Hispanic population and he's running against a former porn star. Still, Mr. Magic Pants would be a prime Democratic target, if only the D's could find someone to run who isn't related to Mary Landrieu. On Sotomayor, our saucy friend praises the historic nomination, and says he looks forward to giving her a "thorough review." You know ... that wouldn't sound gross coming from was someone else...
George Voinovich (OH) - Retiring after two terms. Non-committal, but so far not negative on Sotomayor.
Roger Wicker (MS) - Just got elected last year after being appointed by Haley Barbour in 2007, so not up for re-election until 2014. Still, on Sotomayor, says "treat her fairly."
For more analysis on how the Senate GOPers might vote in a futile attempt to stop Sotomayor, click here and here.
Okay, so who was the RNC genius who came up with this one:
She’s the 69-year-old speaker of the House of Representatives , second in the line of succession and the most powerful woman in U.S. history. But when you see Nancy Pelosi, the Republican National Committee wants you to think “Pussy Galore.”
At least that’s the takeaway from a video released by the committee this week – a video that puts Pelosi side-by-side with the aforementioned villainess from the 1964 James Bond film “Goldfinger.” The RNC video, which begins with the speaker’s head in the iconic spy-series gun sight, implies that Pelosi has used her feminine wiles to dodge the truth about whether or not she was briefed by the CIA on the use of waterboarding in 2002. While the P-word is never mentioned directly, in one section the speaker appears in a split screen alongside the Bond nemesis – and the video’s tagline is “Democrats Galore.”
The wisdom of equating the first woman speaker of the House with a character whose first name also happens to be among the most vulgar terms for a part of the female anatomy might be debated – if the RNC were willing to do so, which it was not. An RNC spokesperson refused repeated requests by POLITICO to explain the point of the video, or the intended connection between Pelosi and Galore.
Supah ... genius... here's the video:
So far, the hit count is pretty low, but I'm sure the POlitico story will help Mike Steele and his merry band of fools out.
The Republican Party is in a sure-fire pickle. They can't stand moderates -- really they can't -- but the available evidence for the last two election cycles suggests they can't get their preferred candidates (namely, anti-taxation, pro-corporate, illegal immigrant hunters who think Barack Obama is a foreign Muslim and who stockpile guns in their mother's basements) elected.
In fact, most of the successes the party has had in winning elections in recent years have been with candidates who at least tried to appear moderate (former Gov. Christie Todd Whitman in New Jersey, former Gov. Pataki in New York, the ousted John Sununu in New Hampshire, Senators Snowe and Collins in Maine, and even the Bushes: Jeb, who dropped the "probably nothing" approach to ethnic politics, sucked up to black and Hispanic voters and moderated his way to victory in 1998, and George W, who ran as a "compassionate conservative" for president in 2000...) Here in Dixie, where the Republican Party is now almost exclusively based, and where Saxby Chambliss (one of the many veteran-smearing GOPers to slime their way into office in recent years) still has a job, it's looking dicey for the GOP when they try to go the Club for Growth route, rather than the Bush (pre governing) route.
Enter Marco Rubio ... the young, Cuban-American Republican of the Future. He's good looking ... he can rip into Democrats in Spanish, just like Jebbie, and he's running on those vaunted "conservative principles," like refusing to take federal aide that could help salve a yawning, $6 billion statewide deficit run up by Republicans -- that wingers cherish (at least now that George W. Bush is out of office.) And yet, he can't catch a break. The National Republican Senatorial Committee, let by Texan John Cornyn, took less than 15 minutes to shove him aside and endorse yet another squishy "moderate," Barack Obama's fave GOP governor, Charlie Crist, for Melly Mel Martinez's Senate seat -- without even checking in with El Rushbo first -- and causing much head scratching and consternation among the qaida ("the base," for those of you not caught up on the lingo) who are rightly wondering whether a party leadership that has utterly failed to advance the winger cause for so many years, and which so thoroughly screwed up the country for the last eight, should get to pick Florida's GOP Senate candidate. For shame! And now, the Florida GOPers, who, like Dick "pick the stranger's car over his, kid" Cheney, would take El Rushbo over Colin Powell, are in mini-revolt:
Anti-Crist 'backlash' brewing
So national Republican party leaders have blessed Gov. Charlie Crist's campaign for the U.S. Senate and the chairman of Republican Party of Florida is ready to do the same. Case closed?
Not so fast. Sharon Day, the party's national committeewoman, is refusing to sign off on a statement that would allow the state party to start providing Crist with support even though he's running in a contested primary against former House Speaker Marco Rubio and other lesser-known candidates.
The Hillsborough and Brevard local parties have passed resolutions protesting the state party's efforts to close ranks, and Palm Beach Republicans are considering the same.
Throw in the RedStaters, who are pledging to starve the NRSC of cash as payback for not towing the Club for Growth line, all because of their love and support for Hispanics (stop that laughing!) and you've got yourself a veritable teabag party of right wing fury! OMG, wait till Cornyn finds out the guy is gay! God, I love politics!
BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!
With all the media excitement over Charlie Crist apparently becoming the next Senator from Florida before a single primary vote has been cast ... ahem ... and despite all the attention Marco Rubio is getting for getting the shaft from the NRSC, Charlie and Marco aren't the only candidates in the race. Dr. Marion Thorpe, an African-American physician who frankly, has been running for the Republican Senate nod before either of the other two guys, issued this statement today (for which he helpfully tagged me on Facebook...)
THORPE For US SENATE Statement: The Protocol and Fairness of the 2010 Race
Dr. Marion D. Thorpe, Jr., candidate for U.S Senate in the state of Florida remains 100% committed to all laws and notions affording open and fair election processes in our Nation. In response to the growing disagreement between the state-wide Republican Party of Florida and Florida's County Republican chapters and grassroots activists, Dr. Thorpe has issued the following statement:
I support efforts of party activists to pass resolutions throughout the state of Florida in support of an open and fair Primary Election process.
While I welcome the Governor into the race, I do so with the hopes of having a spirited debate about who can be the best standard-bearer for the Republican Party, the state of Florida and the Nation as a whole.
In a free republic we have elections, not coronations.
I do so hope that Governor Crist and Speaker Rubio will join me in support of these resolutions.
Marion D. Thorpe, Jr. MD MPH
Chief Medical Officer (Former) Agency for Health Care Administration State of Florida
Thorpe is also a conservative, who last time around ran against Alcee Hastings for Congress. We'll see if the media -- or the qaida -- gives him any love.
My investigations have revealed to me--vividly and clearly--that once the Abu Ghraib photographs were made public in the Spring of 2004, the CIA, its contractors, and everyone else involved in administering "the Cheney methods of interrogation", simply shut down. Nada. Nothing. No torture or harsh techniques were employed by any U.S. interrogator. Period. People were too frightened by what might happen to them if they continued.
What I am saying is that no torture or harsh interrogation techniques were employed by any U.S. interrogator for the entire second term of Cheney-Bush, 2005-2009. So, if we are to believe the protestations of Dick Cheney, that Obama's having shut down the "Cheney interrogation methods" will endanger the nation, what are we to say to Dick Cheney for having endangered the nation for the last four years of his vice presidency?
Likewise, what I have learned is that as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002--well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion--its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qa'ida.
So furious was this effort that on one particular detainee, even when the interrogation team had reported to Cheney's office that their detainee "was compliant" (meaning the team recommended no more torture), the VP's office ordered them to continue the enhanced methods. The detainee had not revealed any al-Qa'ida-Baghdad contacts yet. This ceased only after Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, under waterboarding in Egypt, "revealed" such contacts. Of course later we learned that al-Libi revealed these contacts only to get the torture to stop.
There in fact were no such contacts. (Incidentally, al-Libi just "committed suicide" in Libya. Interestingly, several U.S. lawyers working with tortured detainees were attempting to get the Libyan government to allow them to interview al-Libi....)
Tomorrow, barring a direct hit lightning strike or some other unforseen event, Charlie Crist will call a press conference and announce that he's running for Senate. That's no big surprise, since polls show he would be the instant favorite in a race that currently features not a single statewide name brand. What will be interesting will be to see if the popular politician with the permanent tan is ready for what comes next: the brutal beating he's going to take from both Marco Rubio on the right (for supporting Barack Obama on the stimulus package) and from the Democratic contenders, who are already slamming him as akin to a father abandoning his family during a hurricane, for quitting his job to run to Washington "when the going gets tough."
Crist has positioned himself perfectly for the win: he's still a popular figure, known statewide by his first name, and he's been ideologically malleable enough that he hasn't generated animosity where it counts: in the middle. I can tell you that among my black Democratic friends, I know several who say they will support Crist, give him money, and vote for him. None of them are Republicans, and ALL of them gave money to, supported, and voted for, Barack Obama. Crist is pals with the state NAACP president, Adora Obi Nwezi, he retains good will among black voters for supporting the right of two wrongfully convicted men, Pitts and Lee, to be compensated for their suffering, and there's that lovefest with President Obama when he thanked the governor lavishly for supporting the stim.
But that won't stop the s---storm that's coming Charlie's way. Including the fact that he's about to be outed, yet again... (wife notwithstanding, and by the way every source I have who works in Tallahassee says he's gay, too...) with the full assent of the political right, putting them, ironically, in the same tent with the Perez Hilton wing of the gay rights movement, which is going to pour money, time and energy into defeating him as payback for his opposition to gay marriage and adoption (which they see as hypocritical...) Throw in Florida resident Rush Limbaugh, who hates Charlie's kind of moderate Republican, Marco Rubio and his band of Elianeers who will torch him on Spanish-language radio to cut into his South Florida numbers, plus the right wing of the GOP, the Club for Growth wierdos and probably Jeb Bush and his "devious planning," and you begin to get the picture.
Charlie's in for a rough ride.
That said, my party would be crazy to believe he can't still win that seat. For one thing, Barack Obama won't be on the ballot this time, though he'll probably be called on to campaign for the Democratic nominee. For another, about four in ten Floridians are unafiliated with any political party, and Charlie has positioned himself as something of an Indie. The wingers may own this state by virtue of the headcount in the legislature, but Florida ain't Alabama... well much of it isn't, anyway... so the fight for the center will be fierce. ... and by fierce, I cast no aspersions on Miss Charlie or her peoples.
Meanwhile, there could be another consequence of Charlie vacating his governor's chair: open seats ... everywhere ... (which is great news for Democrats.)
It's no secret that there hasn't been much love lost over the years between Colin Powell and Dick Cheney. When it comes to the moderate military man, the chickenhawk cabal who hijacked George W. Bush's presidency and crashed it into the ground (sorry, couldn't resist the 20th hijacker reference...) no likey. In fact Cheney, who opted out of Vietnam himself, doesn't seem to have much use for people who actually serve. But fellow Vietnam service dodgers like Rush Limbaugh? Them, he likes:
And if you look at the latest Gallup Poll, it appears the Republican Party will soon be made up only of draft dodgers, pill heads and wacked out talk show hosts (and Michael "Fo Sheezy" Steele.) Wow.
The GOP's pick for ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee has a rather colorful history when it comes to race... the recollections of a former Sessions subordinate, a Black man named Thomas Figures, are particularly interesting:
Figures recalled one occasion in which the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division sent them instructions to investigate a case that Sessions had tried to close: "We had a very spirited discussion regarding how the Hodge case should then be handled; in the course of that argument, Mr. Sessions threw the file on a table, and remarked, 'I wish I could decline on all of them.'"
All of them, according to Figures, meant civil rights cases generally. As he explained at one point: "[T]he statement, the manner in which it was delivered, the impression on his face, the manner in which his face blushed, I believe it represented a hostility to investigating and pursuing those types of matters."
Figures said that Sessions had called him "boy" on a number of occasions, and had cautioned him to be careful what he said to "white folks. "Mr. Sessions admonished me to 'be careful what you say to white folks,'" Figures testified. "Had Mr. Sessions merely urged me to be careful what I said to 'folks,' that admonition would have been quite reasonable. But that was not the language that he used."
In response to these allegations, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) asked him if he'd ever objected to this behavior. Senator "Did you ever say anything to them? Did you ever say, knock it off, or quit it?"
Figures admitted he hadn't: "Senator, I felt that if I had said anything or reacted in a manner in which I thought appropriate, I would be fired. I always felt that my position was very tentative around Mr. Sessions."
No love for Charlie: Marco socks the gov en los cojones
It's Tan vs. Pretty in the Florida Republican race for U.S. Senate. Starting for the Tan team: Charlie "Tooootally Straight Guy" Crist. For Pretty: genetically blessed, bilingual right winger Marco Rubio.
Charlie Crist is the front runner in the race for Sideshow Mel's Senate seat according to all the polls, and he isn't even in the race yet. But that hasn't stopped both the Democrats, and the Club for Growth wing of the Republican Party from kicking him in the can.
First the DSCC launched a TV ad against the guvnah, accusing him of abandoning the state in its time of need by ... not ... declaring that he's running for Senate... an ad clearly meant to send Crist a message in advance, that the Democratic Party is willing to go to war against even an Obama-friendly GOP governor, who has supported the president when it counted, in order to get that seat.
Charlie (center) and Marco (left) in happier looking times
Now, a pair of Democratic strategists have outed Rubio for doing the old Spanish-language double take -- saying one thing about Charlie in English and another en Espanol (hey, don't we often accuse terror-luvin' Arabs of doing that?) Generation Miami reports:
Two Marco Rubios announced their intention to run for Senate today. One Marco Rubio spoke in English and said his campaign will be “based on ideas” and isn’t “against anyone or anything.” The other was a Spanish-speaking Marco Rubio that accused President Obama on Univision of wanting to implement “American socialism here in the United States.” This wouldn’t be the first time you see this linguistic dichotomy. In May of last year, Rubio told former Herald reporter, Rui Ferreira, that Obama was a socialist.
And now for the juciest bit of all: the possibility that Jeb Bush, the miserable, but astonishingly, still sought after former governor (who has no love for Charlie,) could jump into the race on the side of the current GOP underdog, Rubio. Question: if Jeb jumps in and puts his money, name and rep on the line for Marco and Charlie still wins, does that mean that there IS still a moderate wing of the Republican Party, but it, like the crazy right wing part, is located only in the South...? Or does it just mean that the GOP really is dead as a doornail?
According to The Hill, step one for Marco is to Obamatize Crist:
Rubio has already begun trying to bring Crist’s numbers down, and he’s getting a big assist from Democrats wary of Crist’s bipartisan appeal in the general election.
For his part, Rubio has been indirectly hitting Crist for not offering an alternative to the Democrats — a nod to the stimulus — and repeatedly referring to him as “famous” — a line of attack similar to a Democratic tactic that has portrayed Crist as a golden boy lacking substance or results.
Um... doesn't his bipartisan appeal make him MORE electable, rather than less? Purity over electability strikes again...
And now for a blind item: behind the scenes, could someone or other be trying to talk Charlie into abandoning a Senate run, re-upping for governor, and reaping his blessings when Bill Nelson retires? (If I'm Charlie, I read the polls and I don't take that deal, but that's just me...) The cross-partisan plot thickens...
In case you missed it, the New Yorker's Hendrik Herzberg makes the case for secession:
For the old country, the benefits would be obvious. A more intimately sized Congress would briskly enact sensible gun control, universal health insurance, and ample support for the arts, the humanities, and the sciences. Although Texas itself has been a net contributor to the Treasury—it gets back ninety-four cents for each dollar it sends to Washington—nearly all the other potential F.S. states, especially the ones whose politicians complain most loudly about the federal jackboot, are on the dole. (South Carolina, for example, receives $1.35 on the dollar, as compared with Illinois’s seventy-five cents.) Republicans would have a hard time winning elections for a generation or two, but eventually a responsible opposition party would emerge, along the lines of Britain’s Conservatives, and a normal alternation in power could return.
The Federated States, meanwhile, could get on with the business of protecting the sanctity of marriage, mandating organized prayer sessions and the teaching of creationism in schools, and giving the theory that eliminating taxes increases government revenues a fair test. Although Texas and the other likely F.S. states already conduct some eighty-six per cent of executions, their death rows remain clogged with thousands of prisoners kept alive by meddling judges. These would be rapidly cleared out, providing more prison space for abortion providers. Although there might be some economic dislocation at first, the F.S. could remedy this by taking advantage of its eligibility for OPEC membership and arranging a new “oil shock.” Failing that, foreign aid could be solicited from Washington. But the greatest benefit would be psychological: freed from the condescension of metropolitan élites and Hollywood degenerates, the new country could tap its dormant creativity and develop a truly distinctive Way of Life.
And Sarah Palin could finally rule! Texas, are you listening?
Michael Steele whines: he didn't even call me! ... and the now two-time loser RNC chair (after his Limbaugh agonistes and that NY-20 debacle) adds that Specter's mama didn't raise him right... (note to Steele: it's not that Specter doesn't respect you, it's that ... well ... no one does.)
The Club For Greed Growth, whose out-going president Pat Toomey is in large part responsible for this mess, is at first speechless, then downright miserable:
“Senator Specter has confirmed what we already knew – he’s a liberal devoted to more spending, more bailouts, and less economic freedom. Thanks to him, Democrats will now be able to steamroll their big government agenda through the Senate. ..."
If the Democrats do succeed in pushing through national health insurance, they really should set aside a little extra money to erect a statue to Pat Toomey. They couldn’t have done it without him!
Pat Toomey is of course the former president of the Club for Growth who planned to challenge Arlen Specter in the 2010 Pennsylvania Republican primary. Polls showed Toomey well ahead – not because he is so hugely popular in the state, but because the Pennsylvania GOP has shriveled to a small, ideologically intense core. Toomey now looks likely to gain the nomination he has sought – and then to be crushed by Specter or some other Democrat next November.
The Specter defection is too severe a catastrophe to qualify as a “wake-up call.” His defection is the thing we needed the wake-up call to warn us against! For a long time, the loudest and most powerful voices in the conservative world have told us that people like Specter aren’t real Republicans – that they don’t belong in the party. Now he’s gone, and with him the last Republican leverage within any of the elected branches of government.
For years, many in the conservative world have wished for an ideologically purer GOP. Their wish has been granted. Happy?
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) a fellow moderate, didn’t seem surprised. On the national level, she says, “you haven’t certainly heard warm encouraging words of how they [Republicans] view moderates. Either you are with us or against us.”
“Ultimately we’re heading to having the smallest political tent in history they way things are unfolding,” Snowe said. “We should have learned from the 2006 election, which I was a party of. I happened to win with 74% of the vote in a blue collar state but no one asked me how did you do it. Seems to me that would have been the first question that would have come from the Republican party to find out so we could avoid further losses.”
“I don’t want to be a member of the Club for Growth,” said Graham. “I want to be a member of a vibrant national Republican party that can attract people from all corners of the country — and we can govern the country from a center-right perspective.”
“As Republicans, we got a problem,” he said.
Look, of course Specter made the switch to save his political hide. What 79-year-old do YOU know who'd want to wade back into this particular job market? Politicians exist for one reason only: re-election. And they'll do just about anything to see it done. Specter played realpolitik, and so did the Dems who wooed him. Get over it, GOPers. You've got Specter, we're still stuck with Lieberman.
Meanwhile, the WaPo's Dan Balz is among the many members of the press who are still trying to shake the GOP awake (and put an end to all that useless "RINO hunting...") Good luck with that. As former New York Gov. Pataki intimated to CQPolitics, with a few rolls of the eyeballs, you can't help a party that doesn't WANT to be helped. Case in point: RedStaters are already warning the Republican Senate Campaign Committee not to even THINK about backing the most viable GOPer probably in PA: Tom Ridge. It's purify all the way, baby. All the way to oblivion.
The WaPo culls more GOPer reaction here, including a Newt missive and a full statement from Sen. Snowe.
Housekeeping: BTW, kudos to The Fix's Chris Cillizza for breaking the story. I linked originally to a different iteration of the story, but the scoop was his.
He'll nip it in the bud, he will! Then again, maybe gay marriage will give Rudy a little nip!
Meanwhile, Rudy's anti-gay marriage stance, as he preps for a run for governor (perhaps against Andrew Cuomo after Cuomo smacks down Guv Patterson in a primary???) hasn't stopped his gay former roommates from looking forward to tying the knot:
While Rudy Giuliani is waging war on gay marriage, his pals Howard Koeppel and Mark Hsaio are planning to go to Connecticut next month to tie the knot.
They see no contradiction in the ex-mayor's opposition to gay marriage and the fact he roomed with them for six months in 2001.
"Rudy doesn't discriminate. I should know. I lived with him for six months," Koeppel, 68, a car dealer, said yesterday outside his West Side apartment.
Koeppel, a Republican, said he believes that Giuliani's opposition to gay marriage stems from his religious and political beliefs, not his personal ones.
"He isn't an advocate for gay marriage because of his religious beliefs," he said of Giuliani, who has supported abortion rights. "He is a traditional Catholic. Those teachings say marriage should be between a man and a woman."
Koeppel said Giuliani told him that if gay marriage ever became legal in New York, "he would marry us himself."
That last bit won't look good on a Giuliani campaign poster ... nor will the part about Rudy living with them because he had committed the sins of adultery and divorce. But on a more important note, will Rudy get an invite to the wedding, and will he wear blushing pink or bridal white???
What an inauspicious day to unveil your plans for America. However in this case, I think they're actually serious. From the CSM, we discover that the fresh, new ideas contained in the Republican budgetfudge-it consist of tax cuts, tax reductions, and then opening your arms to heaven, throwing your head back with a hearty grin and waiting for the rainbows!
Compared with the Obama administration’s 10-year budget projection, House Republicans propose spending $4.8 trillion less, borrowing $3.6 trillion less, and zeroing out $1.5 trillion in proposed tax increases over the next 10 years.
To get there, the GOP alternative would rescind the Obama administration’s $787 billion stimulus package, beginning in fiscal year 2010 – with the exception of unemployment insurance for those who have already lost their jobs.
It would also repeal the omnibus spending bill for FY 2009, thus rolling back spending – with the exception of defense and veterans spending, “our nation’s primary discretionary responsibilities” – to the levels of FY 2008.
Looking forward, the GOP plan proposes freezing nondefense, nonveteran spending for five years, followed by a “modest annual increase” for the next five years.
Instead of scheduled tax increases in 2010, the Republican budget would permanently extend the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts and permanently fix the alternative minimum tax.
And did I mention there's tax cuts? There's a whole bucket-load of tax cuts in there! Says the DNC:
"If House Republicans had their way and the budget they outlined today were adopted, President Obama's economic recovery program, which is already saving and creating jobs throughout the country, would be gutted, Medicare as we know it would all but be eliminated, Social Security checks would be slashed and a proposed spending freeze on discretionary programs would cut essential services - from health care and support for veterans to education to job training - that Americans most depend on when the economy is in crisis.
"Not surprisingly, while House Republicans are proposing to cut essential initiatives in the areas of health care, education, energy, medical research and economic recovery, they are proposing to make permanent the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest of Americans and expand those tax breaks even further. It's just these type of failed, trickle down economic policies that led to the current economic downturn and led Americans to vote in overwhelming numbers against GOP candidates in the last two elections.
"If you expected a GOP alternative to the failed policies of the past that got our country into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, then I have two words for you: April Fool's," said Kenneth Baer, OMB communications director.
Put forward by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee, the 10-year plan seeks to trim $3.6 trillion altogether from the accumulated deficits projected for Obama’s budget by the end of the decade. But given the generous tax cuts, deficits would still be large, and debt as a percentage of the gross domestic product would grow to 62.5 percent compared to 40.8 percent in 2008.
Has anybody ever explained to these guys that when you eliminate the federal government's revenue via massive tax cuts, the government runs an even bigger deficit because it ... has ... so ... much ... less ... revenue...??? Oh, and they privatize Medicare, as ThinkP explains:
Republicans are taking Americans under 54 out of Medicare and leaving them in the hands of private insurers. Americans under 54 would chose a new private insurance plan that provides a standard Medicare benefits package or some other managed care option.
Which should work out well, especially if they can get that great company AIG to get into the health insurance biz! Old, sick people derivatives for everybody!
Under the Republican plan, the top marginal tax rate would be slashed from 35 to 25 percent, facilitating a dramatic transfer of wealth up the economic scale. Anyone making more than a $100,000 would pay the top rate; those under would pay 10 percent.
"Two nights ago, the president said, 'We haven't seen a budget yet out of Republicans.' Well, it's just not true, because here it is, Mr. President," said House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), waving a blue document in the air.
Surprise! BTW the document Boner ... I mean Boehner ... was waving around? It contained no numbers, no details, no nothing. Eric Cantor skipped out on most of the press conference. I guess he had to catch up on his Britney Spears, thus taking yet another one for the team. Or maybe, just maybe, he no likey:
House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) objected to an abbreviated alternative budget "blueprint" released today -- but were told by House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) they needed to back the plan, according to several Republican sources.
... Ryan, the ranking Republican on the budget committee, plans to introduce a detailed substitute amendment for the Democrats' spending plan next Tuesday or Wednesday -- and still intends to do so.
But he and Cantor were reportedly told by Boehner and Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.) they needed to move more quickly to counter Democrats' charge they were becoming the "Party of No," according to House GOP staffers.
“In his egocentric rush to get on camera, Mike Pence threw the rest of the Conference under the bus, specifically Paul Ryan, whose staff has been working night and day for weeks to develop a substantive budget plan," said a GOP aide heavily involved in budget strategy.
"I hope his camera time was gratifying enough to justify erasing the weeks of hard work by dozens of Republicans to put forth serious ideas," the person added.
And what was Robert Gibbs' assessment of the "blueprint"?
"It took me several minutes to read it," he quipped, saying Obama was "absolutely" disappointed it didn't include more details.
"I think the 'party of no' has become the party of no new ideas," he added.
Republicans on Capitol Hill have enough on their plates just pleasing Rush Limbaugh every day. The last thing they want is Dick Cheney running around without his shock collar on... From The Hill, word that Congressional GOPers feel they'd have a better shot at reinventing the party without the Man from Hopeless (hat tip to ThinkProgress):
Rep. John Duncan Jr. (R-Tenn.) said, “He became so unpopular while he was in the White House that it would probably be better for us politically if he wouldn’t be so public...But he has the right to speak out since he’s a private citizen.”
Another House Republican lawmaker who requested anonymity said he wasn’t surprised that Cheney has strongly criticized Obama early in his term, but argued that it’s not helping the GOP cause.
The legislator said Cheney, whose approval ratings were lower than President Bush’s during the last Congress, didn’t think through the political implications of going after Obama.
Cheney did “House Republicans no favors,” the lawmaker said, adding, “I could never understand him anyway."
Cheney responded to requests for comment with the following statement: "GRRRRRRRRR...."
On Rachel's show last night, Chuck Hagel slammed Dick Cheney's accusations about the Obama administration as "ridiculous," and paddled his Republican Party for its conduct over the previous eight years.
RACHEL: What do you make of Vice President Dick Cheney's allegation that President Obama has made the U.S. less safe? He's been rather bellicose about that recently.
HAGEL: Well, that's ridiculous. It has no merit on fact, or by any measurement. Come on, this guy hasn't even been in office two months!
The mess that the Bush Administration left the Obama Administration....I'm a Republican! We ran up more than a third of the nation's national debt under a Republican President and a Republican Congress six out of the last eight years. We got America into two wars. We've done great damage to our economy, to our force structure, to our standing in the world. And for a Vice President who participated in that, who LED in that, to come on and say that this new administration has really put America in danger is just folly.
Now, maybe in four years that will be the case. I don't know, we'll see. But to say that now makes no sense and I'm sorry the Vice President said that.
How do you not love this guy? He also discussed the new threats from Russia, which appears to be preparing to see our missile shields in their backyard, and raise it some bombers in ours.
The Republican lawmaker's harsh comments came during an interview Monday with Cedar Rapids, Iowa, radio station WMT. They echo remarks he has made in the past about corporate executives and public apologies, but went further in suggesting suicide.
"I suggest, you know, obviously, maybe they ought to be removed," Grassley said. "But I would suggest the first thing that would make me feel a little bit better toward them if they'd follow the Japanese example and come before the American people and take that deep bow and say, I'm sorry, and then either do one of two things: resign or go commit suicide.
"And in the case of the Japanese, they usually commit suicide before they make any apology."
Grassley's spokesman later "clarified" his statement to mean that he wants only rhetorical death to AIG execs. I think this guy might be the most interesting Twitterer going! Follow the Chuckster here.
Not to be outdone, the folks at Faux News suggest "exemplary hangings" in Times Square for AIG execs, and boiling them in oil...
Meanwhile the AIG fallout will mean new regulations (finally). And New York A.G. Andrew Cuomo has issued subpoenas, probing whether AIG made the bonus contracts without even knowing whether the company would have the money to pay them.
As for the bonuses, Cuomo said, "Our information is the checks were sent out on Friday."
They eventually found the money ... in all of our wallets...
In the Michael Steele flameout, a peek under the curtain
A passage from the Politico top story (until they switch to the Cramer beat-down by Jon Stewart) offers a glimpse into the hall of mirrors that is the right wing of the Republican Party. As we all now know, Steele stepped in it again, this time in a GQ interview in which he seemed to express disturbingly tolerant, mildly pro-life views on abortion (and gays). Well, the abortion comments are sending the religious right into full-on revolt, according to Politico. Among the complaints:
"Michael Steele has just walked away from the Reaganesque position of strong moral clarity on abortion to personify why the Republican Party continues to be in a 'free fall',” said another activist, Jenn Giroux, the executive director of the conservative group Women Influencing the Nation. “It is amazing that he cannot see and learn from the fact that Sarah Palin's position on abortion and her unapologetic defense of every conceived child drew crowds by the thousands on that issue alone.”
Hm. So Sarah P's special needs baby, and the fact that her having him demonstrates her pro-lifeyness, is the real reason wingers are so ga-ga about Sarah? It really is all about abortion in the end? That would certainly explain why the wingerati are even gung ho (no pun intended...) on her preggers teenage daughter (who isn't marrying her "f-in redneck" baby daddy anymore, now that ma ain't gonna be vahce president...) And speaking of Bristol, you've got to love this:
The story first emerged in the tabloid Star magazine, which quoted Mr Johnston’s sister Mercedes saying that Ms Palin and her mother were to blame for the break-up. The couple had been due to marry this summer.
“Levi tries to see Tripp every single day, but Bristol makes it nearly impossible,” Mercedes Johnston is quoted as saying.
“She tells him he can’t take the baby to our house because she doesn’t want him around ‘white trash’. The worst part, Ms Johnston tells the magazine, is that Governor Palin supports her daughter’s treatment of Mr Johnston.
Ms Palin said in a statement issued through her mother’s political action committee that she was devastated by the report in Star. “Unfortunately, my family has seen many people say and do things to ‘cash in’ on the Palin name. Sometimes that greed clouds good judgment and the truth.”
Jesus, his sister's name is Mercedes? Yeah. That IS ghetto...
Okay, so Michael Steele is pro choice now? His GQ interview might be the nail in the RNC leadership coffin for Steele, who might want to reconsider the priesthood. Per ThinkP:
GQ: Are you saying you think women have the right to choose abortion?
STEELE: Yeah. I mean, again, I think that’s an individual choice. […]
GQ: Are you saying you don’t want to overturn Roe v. Wade?
STEELE: I think Roe v. Wade—as a legal matter, Roe v. Wade was a wrongly decided matter.
GQ: Okay, but if you overturn Roe v. Wade, how do women have the choice you just said they should have?
STEELE: The states should make that choice. That’s what the choice is. The individual choice rests in the states. Let them decide.
Huh? Wha??? And wait til Boss Limbaugh and company get a load of this:
On whether homosexuality is a choice: "Oh, no. I don't think I've ever really subscribed to that view, that you can turn it on and off like a water tap. Um, you know, I think that there's a whole lot that goes into the makeup of an individual that, uh, you just can't simply say, oh, like, 'Tomorrow morning I'm gonna stop being gay.' It's like saying, 'Tomorrow morning I'm gonna stop being black.'"
Can this guy possibly survive another week? Signs point to maybe not... and he might want to take out a restraining order against one Katon Dawson...
UPDATE: Surprise! After taking incoming fire since Hardball and other media outed the GQ interview yesterday, Steele has now reversed himself on abortion ... per Politico:
Steele said in a statement through an RNC spokesman:
I am pro-life, always have been, always will be.
I tried to present why I am pro life while recognizing that my mother had a "choice" before deciding to put me up for adoption. I thank her every day for supporting life. The strength of the pro life movement lies in choosing life and sharing the wisdom of that choice with those who face difficult circumstances. They did that for my mother and I am here today because they did. In my view Roe vs. Wade was wrongly decided and should be repealed. I realize that there are good people in our party who disagree with me on this issue.
But the Republican Party is and will continue to be the party of life. I support our platform and its call for a Human Life Amendment. It is important that we stand up for the defenseless and that we continue to work to change the hearts and minds of our fellow countrymen so that we can welcome all children and protect them under the law.
Steele has also been reaching out to anti-abortion leaders to damp down the controversy, a source said.
The undertaker: Richard Shelby tries to provoke a run on Citibank
Richard Shelby proved that he is far too crazy to be in the United States Senate, when this morning on "This Week," he suggested a surprising fix to the banking crisis: close down Citigroup and other major banks. Writes George Stephanopoulos:
Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., the top Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, said today on "This Week" that the government should let trouble banks fail.
"I don't want to nationalize them, I think we need to close them," Shelby told me this morning. "Close them down, get them out of business. If they're dead, they ought to be buried," he said. "We bury the small banks; we've got to bury some big ones and send a strong message to the market. And I believe that people will start investing [again] in banks."
Shelby didn't explain, nor was he asked, by the way, how pulling a Lehman Brothers on potentially dozens of megabanks would inspire investors to re-enter the markets, nor did he explain the particular free market principle behind having the federal government come in with the padlocks and shut down a private bank. George did ask Shelby if he had a particular hit list in mind:
I asked Sen. Shelby if he was referring specifically to Citigroup, the struggling bank that has received about $45 billion in taxpayer money.
"Well whatever. Citi's always been a problem child," said Shelby, who has long opposed giving federal TARP money to struggling banks.
But Thomas Donohue, head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, disagreed. "It's not practical to talk about closing a bank that is integrated throughout the whole global economy," he said. "It is practical to talk about buying some of those assets away from those banks and holding them in an institution that would have both public and private money."
Question: is it responsible, in the middle of a recession, for a United States Senator to suggest killing off major banks, by name? If there is a run on Citi, or a major sell-off, on Monday, would Shelby be to blame?
The pain without gain keeps coming for the GOP, and this time, it's coming to Florida, home of the fat one with the golden microphone...From Jen O'Malley Dillon, the new executive director of the DNC:
If you're anything like me, then you've had the urge to talk back to a right-wing talk radio host more than a few times. Now you can.
Rush Limbaugh has made waves lately about his desire to see President Obama fail. And he's unapologetic, even though Americans voted in November for the very kind of change the President is bringing to Washington. As even Limbaugh must know, if the President fails, America fails.
Incredibly, Republican leaders have yet to condemn Limbaugh for his destructive comments. In fact, Republicans like Congressman Eric Cantor, a leader in the House, have adopted the Limbaugh strategy, telling the Washington Post recently that their strategy on the President's jobs plan was "just saying no."
The only Republican leader to challenge Limbaugh -- the chairman of the Republican National Committee -- even called Rush to apologize just a few days later.
But we have no apologies for Rush, just a message. We need you to come up with a slogan, in ten words or less, that we'll put on a billboard where he can't miss it -- in his hometown of West Palm Beach, Florida.
Meanwhile, a Dem party source points out that Florida Republican Party chair Jim Greer was a big supporter of Steele's going into the RNC leadership showdown (he also strongly opposed the whole "Barack the magic negro" thing...) So does Greer feel good about his guy having to bend over and grab the ankles, as Rush would say? Who can tell... Perhaps it's time to ask Mr. Greer whose side he's on: the side of "failure"/Rush, or the side of the American people...
If you'd like to suggest a slogan for the billboard, go here.
Michael Steele's first 30 days as RNC chair have been an unmitigated disaster. But I suspect that there would be grumbling about him as "head of the party" whether he's referenced one armed midgets or not. Steele is not the fire breathing right winger that the "base" wants him to be, and he comes to the job with little proof that he has the organizational skills to fix the party's other problem: a lack of infrastructure outside a handful of southern and western states.
In an e-mail to fellow RNC members obtained by The Hill, Dr. Ada Fisher, North Carolina's national committeewoman, said Steele is "eroding confidence" in the GOP and that members of his transition team should encourage him to step aside. Fisher added Steele's personal e-mail address to the e-mail.
Oh and before you even go there, Ms. Fisher is black...
UPDATE: Dr. Fisher appeared on Rachel Maddow's show tonight. Here's the video courtesy of "the Youtubes":
Conservative direct mail guru Richard Viguerie spells out the bottom line for the GOP and its many, many problems:
"The 'Rushification' of the GOP is the natural and inevitable result of the fact that those who are supposed to provide leadership -- Republican elected officials and party officers -- are doing little to bring the party back," said Viguerie, Chairman of ConservativeHQ.com. "Nature abhors a vacuum, and there is no vacuum in nature as empty as the leadership of the Republican Party today."
Ouch. And the air head currently standing at the mouth of the vacuum is none other than our good friend Michael Steele, who is quickly turning out to be almost as golden for Democrats as El Rushbo himself. Steele has quickly gone from the Great Brown Hope of the GOP (oh, sorry, that was Bobby Jindal...) the Great Black Hope of the GOP, to a national punch line (even Morning Joe got at him on Wednesday.) And Politico reports that besides providing endless hilarious sound bites for the ankle biters online, such as myself, and on late night TV, Steele isn't even getting his organization together. So much for the logic in making him RNC chair just because he's not white ...
Of all the people on Fox News, I've always suspected that Shep Smith is the one guy who purses his lips and only pretends to drink the Kool-Aid. Whether it's his exasperated response to Hurricane Katrina, or his actually coherent news take, Smith really doesn't belong on that channel. The latest Shep: ThinkProgress catches him sounding like a pro-Constitution American on the subject of holding people indefinitely without charges -- something the Bush administration made de regeur for the Republican Party (though some righties managed to figure out out that it was a bad idea.)
SMITH: He has been held in a military prison for more than five years — not Chris Wallace — this next person. And he wasn’t ever charged. Think about that. I mean just think about it fundamentally. You are held for five years in prison, and you’re never charged! Oh well it was an al-Qaeda suspect, suspected al-Qaeda operative. Who cares who it is?! You don’t get to — this is America; you do not get to hold people for five years without — actually, you do. But he’s getting its day in court now.
Way to go, Shep. For more on the charging of America's last (we hope) enemy combatant, Saleh al-Marri, click here. The indictment itself, which was filed in Illinois, can be found here.
He hammers a hapless Republican (California Rep. Darrell Issa) for the idiotic, perennial put down of referring to the "Democrat Party." Transcript:
Issa: “What's scarier, though, President Obama proposed that these budgets -- these deficits created under a Democrat Congress, he's going to cut them in half over a long period of time…”
Matthews: “Well, I think the Democratic Party calls itself the Democratic Party, not the Democrat Party. Do we have to do this every night? Why do people talk like this? Is this just fighting words to get the name on?
Issa: “No this isn’t intended to be fighting words…”
Matthews: “They call themselves the Democratic Party. Let’s just call people what they call themselves and stop the Mickey Mouse here - save that for the stump. Seriously…I want to get back to Congressman Frank and some English here…”
Mining the WaPo: Robin Hood and the budget showdown to come
The House got cold feet on mortgage modifications. The key paragraph in the WaPo story:
Under the provision, a bankruptcy judge would be able to cut the principal on a homeowner's mortgage, lower the interest rate and extend the terms, provisions known as "cramdowns." Judges are already allowed to modify mortgages for vacation or second homes but not for a borrower's primary residence.
In other words, bankruptcy will continue to be rich man's relief, at least for now. This time, Democrats tied to the financial services sector also opposed the change.
Meanwhile, the right is howling about President Obama's budget proposal, which gives real world figures for our debt and deficit for the first time. And yes, it's not looking good. But Republicans will have a hard time running away from the record of the president and Congress who got us here. (Spoiler alert: Both of them are Republican.)
From Dan Froomkin, we get the coming GOP narrative: that Obama is playing Robin Hood:
"You know, there are times where you can afford to redecorate your house and there are times where you need to focus on rebuilding its foundation," Obama said this morning "Today, we have to focus on foundations."
What he didn't mention was that he was also ripping out some of the foundations that were laid by the previous administration.
Obama's budget would dramatically increase taxes on the wealthy, while cutting payments and subsidies to insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, agribusiness and defense contractors -- and mandating a system to charge polluters for their carbon emissions.
It would, in short, reverse the redistribution of wealth that took place during the Bush era. This time, the rich will be subsidizing the poor, not the other way around.
The revenue increases -- supplemented by staggering deficit spending -- would pay for tax cuts for non-wealthy Americans and hugely ambitious plans in the areas of energy, health and education that, as Obama insisted on Tuesday night are necessary to assure the country's long-term prosperity.
And the problem with that would be...? I recall that rich people did pretty well under the Clinton tax rates, which is what we're returning to.
Meanwhile, Bill Kristol, trying to reinvent himself at the WaPo, advises Republicans to try and smother the Obama agenda soon:
Obama's aim is not merely to "revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity." Obama outlined much of this new foundation in the most unabashedly liberal and big-government speech a president has delivered to Congress since Lyndon Baines Johnson. Obama intends to use his big three issues -- energy, health care and education -- to transform the role of the federal government as fundamentally as did the New Deal and the Great Society.
Conservatives and Republicans will disapprove of this effort. They will oppose it. Can they do so effectively? Perhaps -- if they can find reasons to obstruct and delay. They should do their best not to permit Obama to rush his agenda through this year. They can't allow Obama to make of 2009 what Franklin Roosevelt made of 1933 or Johnson of 1965. Slow down the policy train. Insist on a real and lengthy debate. Conservatives can't win politically right now. But they can raise doubts, they can point out other issues that we can't ignore (especially in national security and foreign policy), they can pick other fights -- and they can try in any way possible to break Obama's momentum. Only if this happens will conservatives be able to get a hearing for their (compelling, in my view) arguments against big-government, liberal-nanny-state social engineering -- and for their preferred alternatives.
Michael Steele: taking a bad thing and making it worse
It was bad enough that Bobby Jindal absolutely sucked giving the Republican response to President Barack Obama's address to Congress. Now, Michael "the hip-hop chairman" Steele has taken the critique to a new low, with the help of a true idiot, Curtis Sliwa. From Ben Smith at Politico:
In an interview with Curtis Sliwa on ABC Radio last night, the host and RNC Chairman Michael Steele jokingly linked Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal to the film "Slumdog Millionaire." Steele offered Jindal "slum love.
Here's the transcript:
SLIWA: Now, using a little bit of that street terminology, are you giving him any Slum love, Michael?
SLIWA: Because he is — when guys look at him and young women look at him — they say oh, that's the slumdog millionaire, governor. So, give me some slum love.
STEELE: I love it. (inaudible) ... some slum love out to my buddy. Gov. Bobby Jindal is doing a friggin' awesome job in his state. ...
Bobby Jindal and the perils of excessive folksiness
Jindal's folksy response to Obama, in which he calls himself a "pre-existing condition."
I know everyone wants to talk about President Obama's powerful performance last night in his non-SOTU SOTU address, but sorry, I just can't get Bobby Jindal's response out of my mind. Yes, yes, it was problematic in that it lacked specific remedies to our economic woes that could confer credibility on the party out of power or make America want to give the GOP another chance at leadership, which is the essential critique over at The Moderate Voice. Sure, it's insane and nihilistic, as David Brooks put it, to simply stand there and say "no, no, NO, let the country crash and burn while we pray for better days!" And yep, it "stunk on ice" in terms of delivery, as this booty-obsessed GOPer opined (one Republican strategist said watching Obama then Jindal was "like watching the Rolling Stones open for Air Supply." Ouch!) But WHY did it stink so badly?
In short: it's the GOP's obsession with appearing to be "just folks." They can't get enough of it. The party that since the late 19th century has represented big business, from Standard Oil to Halliburton to Lehman Brothers, has so denuded itself of a middle class message, that it is left to panhandle for lower middle class white voters in Appalachia and the rest of the NASCAR circuit. How to do it? By trying to marry the interests of poor whites to the interests of rich whites. Somewhere along the line, the GOP decided that the way to do that was to feign a king of false populism -- an "us against them" brocade that pits "real Americans" -- hardscrabble, indepedent folks who don't want no darned Social Security (as Joe the Plumber bravely asserted during the campaign) and don't need no government welfare disguised as "stimulus money" ... even though the states they live in are, to a one, net welfare states that take in more federal money than they pay in taxes.
The incredible trick of getting poor people to stand up for the rights of the rich -- sort of like getting the masses to storm the Bastille on behalf of Marie Antoinette -- is a neat one, performed in large part thanks to the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, which allowed people like Rush Limbaugh to own AM radio, a key transmitter of information to folks who still use rabbit ears on their television sets and prefer huntin' and fishin' to reading a newspaper.
The other way the GOP operates, is to create these characters -- people whose backgrounds suggest wealth, success and sophistication: a self-made governor of Alaska; a Rhodes Scholar, first generation American, 37-year-old governor of Louisiana; even the son of a president -- but whose demeanor suggests "aw, shucks, fellers, ahm just lahk you!" George W. Bush, Yale graduate, male cheerleader and scion of great wealth, purchased a ranch in Crawford just before running for president. Immediately upon leaving office? He and Laura moved into an exclusive, comfortable neighborhood of Dallas that had racial covenants in place just a few years ago. Nobody knows how intelligent Sarah Palin actually is, but during the campaign she came off as a cross between Ellie Mae Clampett and Donna Reed. Michael Steele, a former lieutenant governor Maryland, and now the Official Black Man of the 99 percent white Republican Party, feels the need to drop the word "baby" at the end of every sentence, and promises to give his party a "hip-hop makeover." And now, there's poor Bobby Jindal, an impressive man, if you read his resume, but whose demeanor and delivery last night were so stilted and ... hell ... just plain wierd ... that he has ensured only one thing: a cameo on South Park. Other than that? 2012 is a wash.
Watch: Bobby Jindal's Country Bear Jamboree:
Democrats have their folksy characters, too. Bill Clinton, who like Jindal was a Rhodes Scholar, is as folksy as they come. And even Barack Obama comes across as a purely suburban Mr. Rogers, which was part of his appeal to white voters. But both of these men were and are unafraid to flaunt their intellectual heft and command of policy. Meanwhile, the so-called "conservatives" of the GOP exhibit a disdain for anyone who sounds too smart or educated (essentially telling their least educated voters, "see, that guy thinks he's better than you...) And it seems, the Grand Old Party has developed a total aversion to actual ideas. Instead, what they're selling is the old salt of tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts! ... coupled with this strange, "aw shucks" pandering to a shrinking database of voters in a confined geographic area, and at a long-term demographic disadvantage. (Steele is even hinting that his RNC will sabotage the re-elections of the last remaining northeastern GOP Senators, as if a far right candidate could possibly win in Pennsylvania or Maine today.)
Unfortunately for the GOP, as one of the few authentic folksy guys in the party -- Mike Huckabee, who was rejected by the leaders of the right wing revolution -- might say, "that dog won't hunt." Not when most Americans realize that we desperately need more education, more intellectual curiosity, and less pandering to the lowest common denominator, in order to move the country forward.
He looked shell shocked. He spoke in a monotonous, hokey voice, that reminded me of one of those old fashioned "Your body and you" films we were forced to watch in seventh grade. And that accent! I mean, the guy sounded like an Indian Barney Fife! But what was truly lame about Bobby Jindal's response to President Obama's commanding address tonight was the content. In short: there was none.
Jindal invoked Hurricane Katrina (which caused billions of federal dollars to be sucked into his state) to pooh-pooh government spending. He then waxed creepy, referring to an "old saying" about half of Louisiana being "under water" and the other half being "under indictment." Sorry, but even so many years after Katrina, that under water shit's just not funny, man.
He snickered at investments in a new fleet of federal government automobiles that would ostensibly be built in Detroit ... hence creating jobs ... and high speed rail "from Las Vegas to Disneyland," which even if it were true, would also ... wait for it ... create (in this case, infrastructure) jobs.
He told hokey story after hokey story, about his dad, about the wonders of the supermarket, peppering a terrible speech with "Americans can do anything." It sounded like he should end each sentence with "Ma" or "Pa." Truly, this guy is the male Sarah Palin!
He invoked the shop-worn GOP tactic for appealing to ... well I'm not sure who at this point ... by droning on and on about slavery. As if! Barack Obama is already president, dude. Moving on, now!
He claimed Republicans in Congress "went along with" big government spending during the six years they controlled EVERY BRANCH OF GOVERNMENT, instead of allowing his buddies in D.C. to take responsibility. And then he talked about re-asserting personal responsibility. Somebody get me a hammer for my head!
And those eyes! Staring, unmoving, into the camera... I felt hypnotized, and not in a good way...
If that guy is the future of the Republican Party, all I can say is Barack Obama: four more years.
Rachel Maddow's review was priceless: "bah bah bah ... I know I talk for a living, but I'm not sure I'm capable of doing what I get paid to do right now. I'm absolutely stunned."
I just wish Jindal's speech contained more substance.
Instead, the governor stuck to the tried-and-true attacks on Democrats as the spend, spend, spend party. That's basically true.
But what's the alternative from the GOP? Exactly how do Jindal and the Republicans want to get America out of its fiscal mess?
Look closely, and Jindal's speech contained little that shows he and his party have a lot of good clues about how to do that.
Yeah, well you should have seen it, brother! Even before Jindall got started, Chris Matthews muttered "Oh God..." (with the mic still hot...) setting up the hilarity to follow.
More Youtube fun. Jindal repeats debunked claims on high speed rail. Watch those eyes and tell me you are not entertained:
UPDATE: ThinkProgress compiles the Jindal pannery (from the Fox News panel, no less) and throws in some choice clips from Jindal Fife's little talk with America (and yes, he did call himself a "what folks in the in-SUR-ance industry call a 'pre-existing condition'...") God help us all...
I thought his delivery was weak. The content will play well with the party base but seems unlikely to expand it. . . . That said, it is hard for anybody to come out well from responding to a presidential speech to a joint session of Congress.
On the up-side, the Giant Fur Hat Lady, the Hair Tail off the Side Lady and Joe the Plumber's dad thought he was "exemPLARY." I suppose Frank Luntz can't afford to be picky these days...
Then Steele was asked by Fox’s Neil Cavuto: “Will you, as RNC head, recommend no RNC funds being provided to help them?”
Steele confirmed that he would “talk to the state parties about.” When pressed on whether he was open to it, Steele said: “Oh, yes, I`m always open to everything, baby, absolutely.”
This is obviously about throwing red meat to the base, but it’s pretty interesting, because it sets the RNC up to take a hit from the right if he doesn’t follow through with this.
Whatever you say, baby.
Meanwhile, over in the real world, the governor of Utah declares Washington Republicans irrelevant:
The Republican governor of Utah on Monday said his party is blighted by leaders in Congress whose lack of new ideas renders them so "inconsequential" that he doesn't even bother to talk to them.
"I don't even know the congressional leadership," Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. told editors and reporters at The Washington Times, shrugging off questions about top congressional Republicans, including House Minority Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. "I have not met them. I don't listen or read whatever it is they say because it is inconsequential - completely."
And how's this for crazy: hero pilot Chesley "Sully " Sullenberger testified on the Hill today, and had this to say:
The pilot who safely ditched a jetliner in New York's Hudson River said Tuesday that pay and benefit cuts are driving experienced pilots from careers in the cockpit.
US Airways pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger told the House aviation subcommittee that his pay has been cut 40 percent in recent years and his pension has been terminated and replaced with a promise "worth pennies on the dollar" from the federally created Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. These cuts followed a wave of airline bankruptcies after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks compounded by the current recession, he said.
The reduced compensation has placed "pilots and their families in an untenable financial situation," Sullenberger said. "I do not know a single, professional airline pilot who wants his or her children to follow in their footsteps."
And if they'd kneecap Sully...
Meanwhile, the doctors and nurses treating the Travis the chimp victim are so traumatized by what they witnessed, they now need therapy:
Much of Charla Nash's face was chewed off in the horrific attack, requiring a team of surgeons to operate for seven hours to save her life.
Now, those same surgeons along with other doctors and nurses at Stamford Hospital have a group of outside experts available to them for counseling.
"While Stamford Hospital is a level two trauma center, we typically don't see cases of this magnitude," said hospital spokesman Scott Orstad.
"The hospital felt it was possible that this could have an impact on them, and it may not be something they initially realized in the first 24 hours."
Orstad said counseling sessions were first made available to hospital staff in the day's following the tragedy.
The savagery of the attack on Nash, 55, even left seasoned EMTs stunned.
Stamford EMT Bill Ackley said Nash's head injuries "involved her entire face and scalp" and both of her hands were torn apart.
Nash's eyes were injured, but Ackley would not say how extensively. Her hair had been ripped out.
Whether it's Michael "Bling Bling" Steele or Ken Blackwell or, for a moment at least, Sideshow Mel Martinez, the GOP is desperate to prove that brown people can be Republicans, too. The latest lone chip in the cookie: conservative superstar Bobby Jindal. Chris Cillizza tells of his wonders (and completely misses the story of how his swarthiness makes him more attractive to the GOP.) ... I wonder if Crazy as a Bedbug Alan Keyes ever feels shunted aside...
Apart from spending, the legislation provides Democrats in Congress and Obama an opportunity to reverse Bush-era policy on selected issues.
It loosens restrictions on travel to Cuba, as well as the sale of food and medicine to the communist island-nation.
In another change, the legislation bans Mexican-licensed trucks from operating outside commercial zones along the border with the United States. The Teamsters Union, which supported Obama's election last year, hailed the move.
Meanwhile Bobby Jindal was on MTP this weekend, and still trying to convince thinking people that his state doesn't want to take the stim money. By the way, Jindal's argument is that he has to look out for the business owners and "taxpayers" of Louisiana, which is why he doesn't want unemployment insurance help from Uncle Sam. In other words: screw the broke. Jindal represents the "winners."
SC's Mark Sanford is trying to boost his GOP star power by saying he doesn't want the money either, (unless of course he DOES want the money...) to which I say, "make my day." (Paul Begala agrees. Any Republican governor or Senator who doesn't want the money should just leave it on the table (and good luck getting re-elected.) Arnold Schwarzenegger, who the Daily Beast reports nearly left the GOP over his insistence on pragmatism, said on "This Week" that the Obama administration can "give the money to Cali." And Charlie Crist, who did a great job on MTP and looked incredibly reasonable, hammered home the fact that he's in office as a public servant, not a party servant, and he answers to the people of Florida, not the GOP. If the Republican Party had any brains left (which it apparently doesn't,) it would be more Arnold and Charlie, and less Bobby, Mark, and crazy Shelby.
Ideology first: Jindal fires the first shot for 2012
Per ThinkP - Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal just says no to $100 million in stimulus money for unemployed residents of his state. Now THERE's a great way to improve his changes of getting the 2012 GOP presidential nomination by ... ensuring he is not re-elected governor of Louisiana???
And other Republican governors are preparing to follow suit, even as the White House goes around their colleages in Congress, dealing directly with more amenable governors and mayors. But can someone explain how punishing the people of one's state improves a politician's political fortunes? The GOP has caught itself in a hell of a trap: they can either be hypocrites and beg for the money they voted against, or be ideologues and hurt their own constituents.
Charlie Crist expects Florida to benefit from his support of the stim. And that's all well and good. He did lend critical Republican support to President Obama when he needed it, and Florida does need the cash. But what's with the nine House GOPers who voted against the bill, and who are now clamoring for stim cash for their districts??? Hm??? From Politico's Glenn Thrush:
We're getting into broken record territory here on Republicans clamoring for stimulus money.
Indeed. The nine co-signed a letter with nine Democrats (all of whom voted "yes" on the stim" asking for a waiver so that Florida can receive the dough. The letter read:
“This critical funding is vital to protecting our schools from budget cuts and teacher layoffs. Because Florida has been hit especially hard by a rise in foreclosures, unemployment, and recent natural disasters, we are experiencing a crippling budget crisis. Now more than ever, we must invest in our state’s future,” said the letter.
The Republican co-signers: Adam Putnam, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Tom Rooney, Mario Diaz-Balart, Ginny Brown-Waite, Cliff Stearns, John Mica and Bill Posey.
The Dems: Suzanne Kosmas, Ron Klein, Alcee Hastings, Robert Wexler, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Kathy Castor, Kendrick Meek, Alan Grayson and Corrine Brown.
It should be noted that the Diaz-Balarts, Hastings, Meek and Wasserman Schultz are longtime allies, and even had a non-aggression pact that kept the Dems from campaigning against the Repubs during the last campaign. But this is just unseemly.
Why the need for the waiver? Um... it's the cuts to education spending, stupid... In other words, Florida's notorious, constant education cuts, dating back to the Jeb Bush era, are now biting us in the butt. Florida may get a break, because part of the problem is a significant drop in enrollment in the state's schools. But we shall see.
Remember the story of the little red hen? The one who refused to participate in gathering the wheat, threshing it, making the flour, mixing the mash or baking it up, but was right ready to partake in eating the bread? Apparently, the little red hen was a Republican.
First, the House GOPers and all but three Republican Senators voted "no" on the economic recovery bill. Then, of course, we all found out that some of those same wingers are sending out press releases touting the goodies in the bill for their home districts. Hm. Nothing new. Well now, some governors, having caught on to the irony, are trying to de-hen themselves by turning down stimulus money. The better to be ideologically consistent (truthfully, I'd like to see Arizona and other states whose delegations opposed the bill get nothing, and then let's see what happens in 2010...) But here's the catch: many of the Republican governors (of some of America's poorest states, by the way,) are considering saying no to the money, knowing their states will get it anyway.
U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., the No. 3 House Democrat, said the governors _ some of whom are said to be eyeing White House bids in 2012 _ are putting their own interests first.
"No community or constituent should be denied recovery assistance due to their governor's political ideology or political aspirations," Clyburn said Wednesday.
In fact, governors who reject some of the stimulus aid may find themselves overridden by their own legislatures because of language Clyburn included in the bill that allows lawmakers to accept the federal money even if their governors object.
He inserted the provision based on the early and vocal opposition to the stimulus plan by South Carolina's Republican governor, Mark Sanford. But it also means governors like Sanford and Louisiana's Bobby Jindal _ a GOP up-and-comer often mentioned as a potential 2012 presidential candidate _ can burnish their conservative credentials, knowing all the while that their legislatures can accept the money anyway.
Gregg tries to explain his sudden exit, not just from Commerce, but also from the Senate (he suddenly won't be running for re-election...)
It's "not his personality"??? That's the explanation? Come on, Judd. What's this really about? Some options:
Gregg withdrew because he discovered he could no longer use the position to blow up the Census... Actually this is a serious issue that came up almost immediately upon Gregg's nomination (or self-nomination, depending on whom you believe...) The issue is about Congressional apportionment after 2010:
In addition to not being a fan of the Commerce Department in the past, President Obama’s Commerce Secretary nominee, New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg, wasn’t a fan of spending a lot of money on the 2000 Census.
Especially given than Census undercounts tend to favor the GOP, The New York Times editorializes about whether or not Obama has thought through all the political ramifications of the Gregg nomination.
Good example. Texas is expected to gain as many as three House seats.
What if undercounts cost the D/FW Metroplex, or Houston, a seat, and a Democratic one at that?
Politico reports that our friends the "Do Nothing" Republicans will attempt to turn their economic recovery lemons into lemonade by airing anti-legislation ads in 30 Democratic districts. Fair enough. But then, the online mag commits the cardinal old media sin: writing the narrative, instead of the facts. And usually, the MSM narrative favors the Republican position, whatever it happens to be (remember the "is it spending or stimulus" debate?) Politico's Patrick O'Connor writes:
The party’s campaign arm will start airing radio ads Friday in approximately 30 Democratic districts to argue that the bill violates the lawmakers’ campaign pledge to restore fiscal responsibility to Washington.
Public opinion, though slipping, currently favors President Barack Obama and his package of spending and tax cuts to bolster the retreating economy. So Republicans are making a long-term gamble that opposition to the package will look prescient two years from now if the economy is still struggling.
Slipping? Really? No, not really. Actually, public opinion favoring the economic recovery package is growing. Per Gallup:
Obama Has Upper Hand in Stimulus Fight Obama’s 67% approval rating on the stimulus is more than twice that of Republicans
PRINCETON, NJ -- The American public gives President Barack Obama a strong 67% approval rating for the way in which he is handling the government's efforts to pass an economic stimulus bill, while the Democrats and, in particular, the Republicans in Congress receive much lower approval ratings of 48% and 31%, respectively.
And more Gallup, which finds today that support for the plan is up among all party groups:
Public support for an $800 billion economic stimulus package has increased to 59% in a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted Tuesday night, up from 52% in Gallup polling a week ago, as well as in late January.
Over the same period, support for the stimulus package held steady among independents, with a slight majority in favor of it. The percentage of Republicans favoring the package rose slightly from 24% to 28%, but remains below the 34% support received in early January, before Congress began its formal consideration of the package.
The problem for the GOP is that because they spent eight years repudiating these core principles, they have no credibility now embracing said principles. Without the protection of those principles, the GOP simply looks like it wants to oppose for the sake of opposition at a time when the country is crumbling.
... after working most of Tuesday night, members and staff were plainly exhausted, and continued disputes over Obama’s school construction initiative delayed a planned meeting of the formal House-Senate conference on the bill.
“Like any negotiation this involved give-and-take, and if you don’t mind my saying so, that’s an understatement,” said Reid. Down to the end, the school modernization funds were a bone of contention for Sen. Susan Collins (R.-Maine), whose vote is pivotal to the president.
Last Friday, she had successfully eliminated all such money from the Senate bill. Wednesday she agreed to allow $10 billion as part of a $54 billion fiscal stabilization fund but argued that the $10 billion should not be confined to this single dedicated purpose.
After Reid’s announcement, an administration official said the issue was resolved, as did Collins. But House leaders, who had grown resentful of the Maine Republican’s veto power over the bill, remained unhappy—forcing the delay.
So what is Collins' problem?
The constructions funds are especially sensitive in poor, often minority school districts less able to finance new schools. Among the many spending cuts made last week in the Senate, the school construction issue was perhaps the most ideological.
For the Obama camp, it brings back New Deal memories of the Public Works Administration creating construction jobs and building schools across the country. But Collins has always resisted arguing that, in today’s world, it represents an expansion of the federal role in state and local affairs.
Uh-huh... yeah, why help those poor minority kids, when you can just move to Maine, where there are no poor minority kids...
BTW it appears that the Senate has also screwed over urban districts, in favor of the rural folk who don't like Barack Obama anyway, and who from what I can tell, don't want an economic stimulus plan... and of course, they've also screwed over the poor.
... House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D., Cal.) said the tentative deal calls for 65% of the money to be distributed according to the Senate’s more rural formula; 35% as the more urban House wanted.
In the same talks, the House appears to have preserved its higher 65% subsidy to help laid- off workers meet COBRA payments to maintain employer-provided health insurance; the Senate had proposed 50%. But the House agreed in turn to drop its proposal to increase Medicaid coverage to help lower income individuals face the same insurance dilemma and can’t afford to pay even a subsidized COBRA payment.
One issue is that liberals in the House are objecting to the amount of money in the bill for school construction. Sources say the bill includes $6 billion for school construction. Negotiators worked hard to find a way to put the provisions back in after the Senate eliminated all $16 billion in school construction money. But some key House Democrats say that's not enough.
Another problem, sources say, is that some House Democrats say the bill gives states too much discretion on how to use some of the money intended for education. Some Congressman are concerned that governors will not use the money to help poor school districts.
Some Senate Democrats are unhappy, too. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, says there is just not enough money in the bill for school construction.
"Every school in America will get 10,000 bucks if they're lucky," Harkin said, guessing that might be enough to buy two energy efficient windows. "And what's that going to do for them?" he asked. "We're trying to add new heating facilities. We're trying to add renovations. And doing it by formula doesn't do it."
Harkin says he'd ultimately vote for it, but he doesn't like the concessions made to get the support of the moderate Republicans.
WASHINGTON - Moving with lightning speed, key lawmakers announced agreement Wednesday on a $789 billion economic stimulus measure designed to create millions of jobs in a nation reeling from recession. President Barack Obama could sign the bill within days.
"The middle ground we've reached creates more jobs than the original Senate bill and costs less than the original House bill," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, one of the participants in an exhausting and frenzied round of bargaining.
The bill includes help for victims of the recession in the form of unemployment benefits, food stamps, health coverage and more, as well as billions for states that face the prospect of making deep cuts in their own programs.
It also preserves Obama's signature tax cut — a break for millions of lower and middle income taxpayers, including those who don't earn enough to pay income taxes.
However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was conspicuously absent from the news conference in which members of the Senate announced the agreement, and it was not clear whether she stayed away out of unhappiness or a scheduling conflict.
Officials had said previously that one of the final issues to be settled was money for school modernization, a priority of Pelosi as well as Obama and one on which they differed with Collins and other moderates whose votes will be essential for final Senate approval.
The WaPo reports on the new D.C. Don Corleone, Susan Collins' ... take:
"I'm particularly pleased that we have produced an agreement that has the top line of $789 billion," she said. "It is a fiscally responsible number that reflects our efforts to truly focus this bill on programs and policies and tax relief that will help turn our economy around, create jobs and provide relief to the families of our country."
Collins, one of three Republican senators whose votes for the bill yesterday gave it a filibuster-proof majority, also said that in the final version, "we were able to increase the amount of infrastructure spending," which she called "the most powerful component in this bill to create jobs." She said the bill contains about $150 billion for infrastructure including transportation, environmental, broadband and other projects.
More than 35 percent of the funding goes for tax relief, Collins said.
And a bit more on what they were fighting over:
Before the House-Senate conference, Democratic negotiators convened a final meeting with Senate centrists who had forced steep cuts in the spending portion of the stimulus plan -- which at one point last week had grown to almost $940 billion in new tax cuts and domestic spending.
Even after the Senate scaled down its version to $838 billion, approved 61-37 yesterday, the centrists continued to demand more reductions. Senate aides said the targets were reducing Obama's "Make Work Pay" tax cut of $500 a year for most individuals and $1,000 a year for most families, paring it down to $400 and $800, respectively.
Other reductions were likely in a $15,000 tax credit for all home purchases in the next year as well as a tax credit for the purchase of new cars, both of which were added to the Senate bill after little debate.
House Democrats have objected to wholesale deletions from their original bill during the Senate debate, but they appeared likely to see some return of aid to states that totaled $79 billion in their plan. The Senate reduced that figure to $39 billion. Senators also zeroed out a fund that would finance school construction, another priority for which House Democrats are pushing to restore funds.
The wrangling may be the reason that not just Pelosi, but also the White House, have withheld the kudos from what just might be a moderate mish-mash bill:
... in a bewildering _ if temporary _ turn of events, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the White House withheld immediate expressions of support, and the formal meeting of congressional bargainers who will need to ratify the deal was delayed.
At a news conference in the Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, flanked by moderate senators of both parties, said agreement had been reached on a compromise that "creates more jobs than the original Senate bill and costs less than the original House bill."
“Usually you go to conference and split the difference between the two houses — that may not be the case here,” Pelosi said. “At these conferences, my experience has been that the White House has a seat at the table — that they weigh in.”
Both Obama and Pelosi are hoping to restore significant stimulus spending eliminated by the Senate, especially $21 billion in school construction and technology grants, $10.3 billion in COBRA insurance and $8.6 billion in new Medicaid coverage for the unemployed.
Personally, I blame Harry Reid, who has given virtual veto power over the bill to Susan Collins.
Step one: take out everything House Republicans asked for
The negotiations are moving along on the House-Senate economic revitalization conference bill. Andrea Mitchell just reported that the gist of the changes are to add back in state grants that were stripped in the Senate (and we know the White House wants school construction money restored as well) and cutting back some tax cuts requested by Republican House members who wound up not voting for the bill. As Mitchell put it, the House GOP provisions were "the first to go." After all, Democrats got nothing in exchange for them.
Sunday best: Michael Steele says work is not a job
On "This Week" today, the RNC's new, black face, confused the hell out of the rest of us, telling George Stephanopoulos that a job created by the government isn't really a job at all. It's "work," and work is most definitely NOT ... a job ... Confused? Read on:
STEELE: You've got to look at what's going to create sustainable jobs. What this administration is talking about is making work. It is creating work.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But that's a job.
STEELE: No, it's not a job. A job is something that -- that a business owner creates. It's going to be long term. What he's creating...
STEPHANOPOULOS: So a job doesn't count if it's a government job?
STEELE: Hold on. No, let me -- let me -- let me finish. That is a contract. It ends at a certain point, George. You know that. These road projects that we're talking about have an end point.
As a small-business owner, I'm looking to grow my business, expand my business. I want to reach further. I want to be international. I want to be national. It's a whole different perspective on how you create a job versus how you create work. And I'm -- either way, the bottom line is...
STEPHANOPOULOS: I guess I don't really understand that distinction.
STEELE: Well, the difference -- the distinction is this. If a government -- if you've got a government contract that is a fixed period of time, it goes away. The work may go away. That's -- there's no guarantee that that -- that there's going to be more work when you're done in that job.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, but we've seen millions and millions of jobs going away in the private sector just in the last year.
STEELE: But they come -- yes, they -- and they come back, though, George. That's the point. When they go -- they've gone away before, and they come back.
Huh? Watch it and see if it makes more sense that way...
Now it appears what Steele was trying to say is that government-created infrastructure jobs, i.e., construction, road and bridge engineering and planning, etc., aren't "real jobs" because they're temporary, unlike the permanent, sustainable jobs created by the private sec...tor ... which just laid off 600,000 people last month... ohhhh.... hmmm.... problemo...
And just in case you think Steele just made that up on the fly, think again. He has said it before, and added that government has never ... EVER ... in the history of mankind... created a job. Seriously.
Obama finally fires back (Senate Dems, not so much...)
After taking weeks of crap from Republicans who are busy braying for more tax cuts for the rich, while the country literally falls apart, President Obama finally hit back yesterday, while signing the State children's healthcare bill Dubya vetoed twice. Said Obama:
"In the past two days, I have heard criticisms of this plan that, frankly, echo the very same failed theories that helped lead us into this crisis in the first place," Obama said, before signing a children's health insurance bill.
He took aim at the "notion that tax cuts alone will solve all our problems" and warned against the idea that the economic crisis could be tackled with "half steps, and piecemeal measures and tinkering around the edges."
Obama also faulted unnamed opponents he said believe "that we can ignore the fundamental challenges like the high cost of healthcare and still expect our economy and country to thrive."
"I reject these theories, and by the way so did the American people when they went to the polls in November and voted resoundingly for change," the president said, in his most edgy partisan language in his two weeks in office.
Meanwhile, guess who is emerging as the face of the opposition in the Senate? John "Defeated in the Last Election" McCain. He had this to say about the bill:
"No bill is better than this bill, because it increases the deficit by over a trillion dollars," Senator McCain told CBS News, a day after Democratic leaders sent signals that they did not yet have the votes to pass the measure.
Really? No bill? And who might be blamed for the tanking economy if no bill passes? That's right: Republicans. Oh, and the spineless Democrats, led by the even more spineless Harry Reid, who purportedly form the Congressional majority. As this post by Tommy Christopher over at Political Machine puts it:
I had to chuckle a little when I saw Matt Lewis' similarly titled article (actually, it was less a chuckle, and more of a singular "Ha!"), because I was preparing to blast Senate Democrats for their utter lack of balls. As my trip to the inauguration proved, Democrats are more than willing to dance at them, but completely disinterested in having any of their own.
The Huffington Post reports that Senate Democrats are wandering around, decrying their lack of votes to pass the stimulus plan...
Only they don't need 60 votes. All they need is for Harry Reid to do his job and impose the old fashioned fillibuster rules. Which Republican will be willing to take the bait? And if they don't, the bill would pass on a straight up or down vote. Grow a pair, Dems.
Meanwhile, Obama floats an op-ed, reiterating his opposition to old, stale, failed tax cut policy.
Tired of getting your stimulus information from Rush Limbaugh? Here's what the stimulus package really contains, state by state. Download the file here. The Florida goody bag is as follows:
AMERICAN RECOVERY AND REINVESTMENT PLAN: THE IMPACT FOR FLORIDA
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan is a nationwide effort to create jobs, jumpstart growth and transform our economy for the 21st century. Across the country, this plan will help businesses create jobs and families afford their bills while laying a foundation for future economic growth in key areas like health care, clean energy, education and a 21st century infrastructure. In Florida, this plan will deliver immediate, tangible impacts, including:
• Creating or saving 218,300 jobs over the next two years. Jobs created will be in a range of industries from clean energy to health care, with over 90% in the private sector.
[Source: White House Estimate based on Romer and Bernstein, “The Job Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan.” January 9, 2009.]
• Providing a making work pay tax cut of up to $1,000 for 6,890,000 workers and their families. The plan will make a down payment on the President’s Making Work Pay tax cut for 95% of workers and their families, designed to pay out immediately into workers’ paychecks. [Source: White House Estimate based on IRS Statistics of Income]
• Making 195,000 families eligible for a new American Opportunity Tax Credit to make college affordable. By creating a new $2,500 partially refundable tax credit for four years of college, this plan will give 3.8 million families nationwide – and 195,000 families in Florida – new assistance to put college within their reach. [Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis of U.S. Census data]
• Offering an additional $100 per month in unemployment insurance benefits to 761,000 workers in Florida who have lost their jobs in this recession, and providing extended unemployment benefits to an additional 170,000 laid-off workers. [Source: National Employment Law Project]
• Providing funding sufficient to modernize at least 485 schools in Florida so our children have the labs, classrooms and libraries they need to compete in the 21st century economy. [Source: White House Estimate]
In addition to this immediate assistance for Florida, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan will help transform our economy by:
• Doubling renewable energy generating capacity over three years, creating enough renewable energy to power 6 million American homes.
• Computerizing every American’s health record in five years, reducing medical errors and saving billions of dollars in health care costs.
• Launching the most ambitious school modernization program on record, sufficient to upgrade 10,000 schools.
• Enacting the largest investment increase in our nation’s roads, bridges and mass transit systems since the creation of the national highway system in the 1950s.
Sheeeit, Florida's got a deficit, man! So Miss Charlie is backing (ahem) the stimulus plan, as are most of the nation's governors, R and D (and Ahnold, too.) See, governors are actually seeing the economic shitstorm close up, and many of them, including Crist, have balanced budget amendments that are forcing them to make deep cuts to things like education and health care. Bottom line: anything that puts money back into bleeding state coffers is welcome. Watch this MSNBC segment and by the way, tell me you don't think this guy is running for Senate...
Charlie Crist won the governorship with about 18 percent of the black vote, and a not insignificant share of white Democrats. Now that he's through auditioning to be John McCain's running mate, he has ditched the "drill here" crap and is returning to the bipartisan themes that got him in the door. Of course, Crist does have problems, including a certain European junket, and despite the wife, he's still gay. But the old model of red meat winger doesn't win beyond House races, and this guy has already proved he can win statewide. My take: he's running.
Call me a horrible person if you want, but these are the things I could do without, news-wise... 1. Tom Daschle's tax problems. Sure, he was forced to withdraw his name from the HHS nomination spot, but why? Whether or not he paid taxes for a car somebody loaned him, has much less to do with the job he sought than Tim Geithner's tax problems had to do with his new job; in fact, they had nothing to do with it. Besides, Daschle was uniquely qualified for the job, which will involve muscling a universal healthcare plan through a Congress where he knows where the bodies are buried. Now that he's gone, next stop, (Dr.) Howard Dean? And does the New York Times now hold the whip hand over Obama nominations?
2. Michael Phelps' drug use. Oooh, a 23-year-old guy who used pot? Knock me over with a feather. His endorsers are right to stick with him. There's a lot worse he could have done, given the state of professional athletics these days. Besides, the guy who caught the winning touchdown pass in the Superbowl? He sold drugs for a short time in the tough neighborhood of Belle Glade. Does that make him any less a football hero?
3. Bank failures. President Obama issued yet another dire warning this week about more possible bank failures. Well ... you know where I am right now? I'm at the "let them fail" stage. Americans forked out $350 billion to banks who spent the last two decades creating liars loans, worthless, overpriced derivatives, and ephemoral, paper "wealth" that sucked in scads of pensioners and 401K holders. Now that they have our money, the bastards are hoarding it, giving it out in bonuses and dividends, and even partying with it. So you know what? The next time a bank comes whining to Washington saying they're on the brink of failure, I think Congress and the president should tell them, "see ya. Wouldn't wanna be ya."
4. Ann Coulter. Why are major news outlets like NBC and CBS paying a whit of attention to her? She's obnoxious, not very smart, not very interesting, and damned if she's not a really skinny bitch...
5. Bipartisanship. What's the point? Barack Obama has done everything but buy wedding rings for the House and Senate GOP, and all he's gotten for his trouble has been a Super Bowl party dis from Arizona jerks John McCain and John Kyl, zero GOP votes for the stimulus bill in the House, and endless warbling for more and more and more tax cuts. Republicans need to learn a valuable lesson that they themselves taught Democrats for six years, from 2000 to 2006: he who wins the election rules the day. A majority of Americans voted AGAINST the endless tax cuts for the rich that the GOP is still hawking. They voted FOR Obama's and the Democrats' policies. So guess whose "ideas" should be implemented? Hm? Come on... you know which ones...! Bottom line: let it go, Barack. As Rachel Maddow said last night, they're just not that into you.
Dear Harry: Don't be a wuss. Make the bastards filibuster
If Republicans, led by the eyebrowless Mitch McConnell plan to try and derail the economic stimulus bill in the Senate to try and stick the Democrats up for more Bushian tax cuts for the rich, here's an idea, Harry: make them filibuster it, the old fashioned way. In other words, no wimpy cloture vote. If they want to filibuster, make the bastards stand in the well of the Senate for as many hours as they're willing to talk. Just like their Democratic forebears did in efforts to stop civil rights legislation in the 1960s (before they all jumped ship and became Republicans.)
My most recent memory of Mr. "Drill baby, drill!" was a rather testy conference call he held on behalf of John McCain with two or three other Black Republicans, in which he rebuked me for asking about GOP attempts to keep foreclosure victims from voting in Detroit. Natch. Now, disenfranchising black voters will be HIS job. By the way did you catch the number of black and brown folk at the RNC confab, where it took what, half a dozen ballots to give Steele the win? The answer is two: Steele and Blackwell, although the guy from the Virgin Islands may or may not make it three, and he also nabs the best quote from the confab:
“The party has got to turn from vanilla to butterscotch,” said Holland Redfield, a committeeman from the U.S. Virgin Islands. Steele is also a break with tradition because he isn’t a member of the committee, which usually elevates chairmen from within its ranks.
The economic stimulus plan passes with not a single Republican vote
Surprise! Bipartisanship doesn't exactly rule the day... but the package passes anyway:
With no Republican support, the House approved an $819 billion stimulus plan that will serve as the cornerstone of President Obama's efforts to resuscitate the economy, an early victory for the new president but still a disappointment because of the lack of Republican votes.
The measure passed 244 to 188, with 11 Democrats and 177 Republicans voting against it.
The two-year economic package includes $275 billion in tax cuts and more than $550 billion in domestic spending on roads and bridges, alternative-energy development, health-care technology, unemployment assistance, and aid to states and local governments. It would also provide up to $500 per year in tax relief for most workers and more than $300 billion in aid to states for funding to help rebuild schools, provide health-care to the poor and reconstruct highways and bridges.
Despite a last-minute lobbying campaign by Obama -- including coming to the Capitol yesterday for separate closed-door meetings with House and Senate Republicans -- Republicans opposed the measure and argued that it spent hundreds of billions of dollars on Democratic initiatives that would do little to stimulate the economy or create jobs.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) heralded the legislation as the first down payment on Obama's pledge, in his inaugural address, to provide "bold and swift" action to revive an economy that is losing more than 500,000 jobs a month, including 65,000 layoffs announced just this week.
"He said he wanted action, bold and swift, and that is exactly what we are doing," Pelosi told reporters before the vote.
A $475 billion Republican alternative, which focused heavily on reducing individual and business taxes, was rejected largely on party lines. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), a member of the GOP leadership team, ridiculed the Democratic plan as a "typical bill that is full of wasteful spending." ...
The GOP now has to hope that it doesn't work. Next up: the Senate debates their version (tomorrow) and then it's on to conference committee. What fun!
Dick Armey just made what might be the single most outrageous statement I've ever heard on 'Hardball,' MSNBC, or cable news, for that matter. In a heated discussion over economic policy with the wonderful Joan Walsh of Salon.com, whom I'm proud to say gave me my first editorial writing break and my first paid opinion writing job, back in 2000, he had the cheek to tell her he's ... wait for it ... glad she's not his WIFE. Watch:
Unfreaking believable. Bob Herbert of the New York Times came on in the next segment and said what's clearly true: that oaf owes Ms. Walsh, Chris Mathews, and the 'Hardball' viewers, an apology. If quizzling Phil Gingrey can go groveling to Rush Limbaugh over quite reasonable comments he made on Hardball and in Politico, surely Dick, who is very appropriately named, can manage to fashion a reasonable apology.
One of the things I used to hate about the right during the Bush years was their demand that everyone in the country give total fealty and obeisance to the president. Sites like the Free Republic and RedState routinely banned users who did not express complete, utter and rapturous affection for George W. Bush, or who dared to disagree with his policies, particularly when it came to the "war on terror." Democrats would do well to avoid that kind of totalitarian nonsense when it comes to Barack Obama, although the temptation to worship is there, given the historic nature of his candidacy, his command of the media and personal magnetism. That said, Democrats must also avoid trying so hard to appear indpendent that they wind up nit picking every little thing Obama does (as happened with his selection of Rick Warren to give what turned out to be a perfectly nice opening prayer at his inauguration.) [Photo at left: House Minority Leader John Boehner tees off.]
That said, I'm worried about my friends on the right.
It seems that with every passing day, they are fading more and more into irrelevancy. My Friday column in the South Florida Times will address this, but in a nutshell, the problem is this: Republicans haven't figured out how to oppose a popular president, any more than Democrats did during the years when Bush worship was the order of the day (from 9/11 to Hurricane Katrina.) And Republicans have invested in what surely is a losing strategy: opposing the very thing Americans want most: an economic recovery package -- a big one.
Worse, Republicans are opposing the Obama plan without offering a credible alternative. All they've got is all they've ever had: an almost manic obsession with tax cuts -- for wealthy individuals and corporations. That's it. That's the entire Republican economic platform -- oh, that and more deregulation. In other words, the Republican Party is demanding that the new president pursue the exact same policies as the old president; you know, the ones that have failed miserably, sunk the U.S. and global economy, and caused the Republican Party to lose the last two national elections.
If that doesn't make sense to you, you must not be a Republican.
The inherent risk in this strategy for the GOP is that it could somehow work -- the Republicans despite their paltry numbers on the Hill could find a way to obstruct or water down the plan. And then what? If the economy continues to sink, as it inevitably would, they would get the blame. On the other hand, if and when the plan passes -- and let's face it, the plan can pass without them -- the GOP has stood so firmly against it, they can't hope to get any credit for any economic improvements that follow. How that strategy makes sense is beyond me. Meanwhile, Republicans look postively foolish, going around demanding more tax cuts, when Americans have long since rejected trickle down economics and all its related calamities. It's like stumping for Herbert Hoover in the age of FDR.
And then there are the chatterers, like Rush Limbaugh, who was dumb enough to admit this week that he really does want Obama to fail -- something we all knew, but which few thought anyone would be bone headed enough to say out loud. Even Glenn Beck, as dim as he is, isn't dumb enough to admit that he hopes for Obama's failure (and by extension, the failure of the U.S. economy.) Beck has resorted to utter foolishness of his own, however, this week moaning about Che Guevara T-shirts and Mao handbags, and something about a "Drunken Negro cookie" in Greenwich Village, New York. How the hell does he even know about that?
I suppose eventually, Republicans will find their way, and strike a balance between obstruction and intelligent opposition (and then, maybe they'll let John McCain in on it.) But for now, the party of Hoover is looking for all the world like irrelevant, sapped Tories, lost in a Laborite America.
It's all part of a media busting "documentary" being filmed by a guy named John Ziegler, who according to a caller on the Stephanie Miller Show today, was seriously picked on in high school, poor thing. He wants you to know that Sarah is not an idiot! It's the evil liberal media that's making you THINK she's an idiot... Also there too, she tells Ziegler that the media bias there, and also too Keith Olbermann, that guy's evil!
Anyhoo, gotta sign off now, cause it's time to practice my fancy pageant walkin'!
Update: Sarah says the mainstream media elite are taking her Ziegler interview out of context. No seriously, she's really saying that...
And U.S. News' Robert Schlessinger says that for her own good, Sarah needs to just go away.
I mean ... he's black, right wing, and certifiably nuts! He's what you call "the package." The comedy circus that is the race for Republican National Committee chair rolls merrily along:
After Chip Saltsman, a candidate for chairman, sent party members a CD that included the song "Barack the Magic Negro," he received sharp criticism from former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) and other Republicans who worry that the party is losing touch with the moderate, suburban voters who are key to winning national elections. But nearly all of the candidates are facing intense scrutiny from party factions, as GOP officials view the next chairman as a vital figure in the post-Bush era.
The hopefuls are campaigning as though they were running for president, bombarding RNC members with calls and e-mails, appearing on national cable shows, enlisting allies to rally support and, in Saltsman's case, piloting his Piper Arrow plane around the country to meet with committee members.
Sorry... "flies" along... so besides Chip the Magic Dumbass, who are the contenders? A regional divide has emerged between North and South, with former Maryland lieutenant governor Michael S. Steele and Michigan GOP Chairman Saul Anuzis pitted against Saltsman of Tennessee and Katon Dawson, the South Carolina party chairman. While not criticizing the candidates or party members from the South, Steele and Anuzis have emphasized the importance of competing in states where the GOP has struggled in recent years.
"If we are a party that can speak to Utah, South Carolina and Kansas, but can't reach voters in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan, we will be a losing party," Anuzis has said. "We must adopt a strategy that carries our message to every state." The Michigan leader has also tried to cast himself as a different kind of Republican, noting that he is a member of the Teamsters union and a rider of a Harley-Davidson Road King.
The two black candidates are perhaps the most ideologically divided. Former Ohio secretary of state J. Kenneth Blackwell has long been embraced by conservative groups such as the anti-tax Club for Growth, while Steele has faced criticism for being, until recently, a leader of the Republican Leadership Council, which urges party members to be more tolerant of candidates who support abortion rights.
Steele emphasizes the need for the GOP to appeal to African Americans and other minority groups, while Blackwell dismissed the Saltsman controversy as "hypersensitivity" and has stressed his experience as an elected official over concerns about diversity.
Dawson has spent weeks highlighting his efforts to get blacks involved in South Carolina politics, following revelations that until this fall he had belonged to an all-white country club. I mean you really can't make this stuff up. Continuing:
And Kentucky's Mike Duncan, the current GOP chairman, is running for reelection despite sharp criticism from some party activists who wonder how he could be rewarded with another term after presiding over the November defeat. Gingrich has blasted what he believes are Duncan's overly aggressive efforts to link President-elect Barack Obama to the scandal surrounding Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), while DeLay, who is close to Blackwell, mocked Duncan's "horrible idea" of creating a think tank in party headquarters.
But Duncan has been emboldened by post-Election Day victories in congressional runoffs in Georgia and Louisiana, giving him a clear message: The party was defeated by an unusually strong Obama organization and appeal that cannot be replicated.
"Obama was a phenomenon," Duncan said in an interview. "We know how to win elections."
Several GOP officials said Duncan's strong relationships with GOP leaders, fundraising ability and competence running the party make him the favorite, despite the Election Day results.
I still like Alan Keyes, but if they pick Ken "Shady Elections" Blackwell, who is despised by black people in Clarence Thomas proportions, and who is best known for stealing Ohio by disenfranchising black voters in 2004, and who is a true religious nut, same difference.
Two dozen conservative luminaries will announce today their support for former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell for Republican Nation Committee chairman.
The group, which mixes leading economic conservatives, including Steve Forbes and Pat Toomey, and leading social conservatives, including James Dobson and Tony Perkins, had agreed to endorse and campaign together for a candidate based on a questionnaire assembled by veteran GOP activist Morton Blackwell (no relation).
"The conservative endorsers noted that there were other good candidates, but all agreed that Ken Blackwell is the best choice. They intend to contact grassroots conservatives across the country and ask them to urge the three RNC members from each state and U.S. territory to vote for Ken Blackwell for RNC chairman," they said in a press release going out shortly.
I can just see Steve Forbes, with that glassy-eyed look, telling fellow conservs that it's high time the party appeared in blackface, in order to appeal to the hip hoppers, and getting quite serious affirmation rather than gasps.
The White House plan to use $17 billion in TARP funds to provide short-term loans to automakers was greeting with cheers on Capitol Hill, and in the boardrooms of General Motors and Chrysler, the two companies who will split the cash. But the UAW isn't cheering, and neither should American workers, including in the South, because at the end of the Republican rainbow is plan to not just bust the United Auto Worker union, and paralyze it politically, but also, and more important to conservatives, a plan to break the middle class wage itself, for workers north ... and south. You see, the Bush plan calls on the union to accept wages comparable to those paid by foreign automakers, located down South. But what is it that those automakers really want? They want to pay workers what's called a "prevailing wage," and they want the UAW to be forced to do the same. Why? I'll explain in a moment. First, let's look at the specific terms of the White House rescue plan, which I'll add, needed to be passed, only I wish it hadn't been passed in this form. The details, courtesy of the White House website:
Terms And Conditions
The binding terms and conditions established by the Treasury will mirror those that were supported by a majority of both houses of Congress, including:
Firms must provide warrants for non-voting stock.
Firms must accept limits on executive compensation and eliminate perks such as corporate jets.
Debt owed to the government would be senior to other debts, to the extent permitted by law.
Firms must allow the government to examine their books and records.
Firms must report and the government has the power to block any large transactions (more than $100 million).
Firms must comply with applicable Federal fuel efficiency and emissions requirements.
Firms must not issue new dividends while they owe government debt.
The terms and conditions established by Treasury will include additional targets that were the subject of Congressional negotiations but did not come to a vote, including:
Reduce unsecured debt by two-thirds via a debt for equity exchange.
Make one-half of Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association (VEBA) payments in the form of stock.
Eliminate the jobs bank.
Work rules that are competitive with transplant auto manufacturers by December 31, 2009.
Wages that are competitive with those of transplant auto manufacturers by December 31, 2009.
Sounds good, right? Limits on executive pay, scaling back on the corporate jets, and the federal government gets stock. Great. But look at the last two provisions again:
Work rules that are competitive with transplant auto manufacturers by December 31, 2009.
Wages that are competitive with those of transplant auto manufacturers by December 31, 2009. [Emphasis added]
What does that mean? Let's go to the Los Angeles Times, and an op-ed by Unite Here food service union president Bruce Raynor, which takes us back to last week's failed Senate vote on an auto bailout that looks suspiciously similar to what Bush announced today:
The foreign nonunion auto companies located in the South have a plan to reduce wages and benefits at their factories in the United States. And to do it, they need to destroy the United Auto Workers.
Last week, Senate Republicans from some Southern states went to work trying to do just that, on the foreign car companies' behalf. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sen. Bob Corker ( R-Tenn.) and Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) -- representatives from states that subsidize companies such as Honda, Volkswagen, Toyota and Nissan -- first tried to force the UAW to take reductions in wages and benefits as a condition for supporting the auto industry bailout bill. When the UAW refused, those senators torpedoed the bill.
Again, these are American Senators, colluding with foreign auto companies, many of whom are so heavily subsidized by their home governments, they practically are part of those governments, to LOWER THE WAGES OF WORKERS IN THEIR OWN STATES, not just the workers in Detroit. The L.A. Times piece continues:
When one compares how the auto industry and the financial sector are being treated by Congress, the double standard is staggering. In the financial sector, employee compensation makes up a huge percentage of costs. According to the New York state comptroller, it accounted for more than 60% of 2007 revenues for the seven largest financial firms in New York.
At Goldman Sachs, for example, employee compensation made up 71% of total operating expenses in 2007. In the auto industry, by contrast, autoworker compensation makes up less than 10% of the cost of manufacturing a car. Hundreds of billions were given to the financial-services industry with barely a question about compensation; the auto bailout, however, was sunk on this issue alone.
UAW President Ron Gettelfinger realized that the existence of the union was under attack, which is why he refused to give in to the Senate Republicans' demands that the UAW make further concessions. I say "further" because the union has already conceded a lot. Its 2007 contract introduced a two-tier contract to pay new hires $15 an hour (instead of $28) with no defined pension plan and dramatic cuts to their health insurance. In addition, the UAW agreed that healthcare benefits for existing retirees would be transferred from the auto companies to an independent trust. With the transferring of the healthcare costs, the labor cost gap between the Big Three and the foreign transplants will be almost eliminated by the end of the current contracts.
These concessions go some distance toward leveling the playing field (retiree costs are still a factor for the Big Three). But what the foreign car companies want is to level -- which is to say, wipe out -- the union. They currently discourage their workforce from organizing by paying wages comparable to the Big Three's UAW contracts. In fact, Toyota's per-hour wages are actually above UAW wages.
However, an internal Toyota report, leaked to the Detroit Free Press last year, reveals that the company wants to slash $300 million out of its rising labor costs by 2011. The report indicated that Toyota no longer wants to "tie [itself] so closely to the U.S. auto industry." Instead, the company intends to benchmark the prevailing manufacturing wage in the state in which a plant is located. The Free Press reported that in Kentucky, where the company is headquartered, this wage is $12.64 an hour, according to federal labor statistics, less than half Toyota's $30-an-hour wage.
If the companies, with the support of their senators, can wipe out or greatly weaken the UAW, they will be free to implement their plan.
So you see, southerners, you've been had ... again. Your Senators want to crack your wages IN HALF, and make you take the pay cuts with a smile (you beat those dirty old unions, hooray! The South shall rise again...!)
But of course, a provision in the Bush plan makes that plan unlikely to succeed, at least not unless Hank Paulsen has a Jeb Bush style "devious plan" to crush the UAW by January 20th. The provision is married, paragraphically speaking, to an afterthought of the deal: making the other major stakeholders, besides labor, share the load:
These terms and conditions would be non-binding in the sense that negotiations can deviate from the quantitative targets above, providing that the firm reports the reasons for these deviations and makes the business case that it will achieve long-term viability in spite of the deviations. In addition, the firm will be required to conclude new agreements with its other major stakeholders, including dealers and suppliers, by March 31, 2009. [Emphasis added by the White House, not me]
The union can, and will, appeal the work rules and pay "targets" in an appeal to the Obama administration. And Barack Obama has done us the considerable favor of nominating a true friend of the labor movement, California Rep. Hilda Solis, to be his next labor secretary (witness the frothy-mouthed reaction of anti-unionites here), not to mention Bill Richardson, who will be heading the Commerce Department, and his in-coming financial team. Un-American mission (by the Dixie Axis of Corker, McConnell and Shelby, et.al.) not accomplished.
The WaPo columnist offers the most comprehensive, succinct explanation of why Republicans hate unions (and by inference, the middle class) this side of Thom Hartmann. To whit:
... by the early 1950s, the UAW had secured a number of contractual innovations -- annual cost-of-living adjustments, for instance -- that set a pattern for the rest of American industry and created the broadly shared prosperity enjoyed by the nation in the 30 years after World War II.
The architects did not stop there. During the [Walter] Reuther years, the UAW also used its resources to incubate every up-and-coming liberal movement in America.It was the UAW that funded the great 1963 March on Washington and provided the first serious financial backing for César Chávez's fledgling farm workers union. The union took a lively interest in the birth of a student movement in the early '60s, providing its conference center in Port Huron, Mich., to a group called Students for a Democratic Society when the group wanted to draft and debate its manifesto. Later that decade, the union provided resources to help the National Organization for Women get off the ground and helped fund the first Earth Day. And for decades after Reuther's death in a 1970 plane crash, the UAW was among the foremost advocates of national health care -- a policy that, had it been enacted, would have saved the Big Three tens of billions of dollars in health insurance expenses, but which the Big Three themselves were until recently too ideologically hidebound to support.
Narrow? Parochial? The UAW not only built the American middle class but helped engender every movement at the center of American liberalism today -- which is one reason that conservatives have always held the union in particular disdain.
Over the past several weeks, it has become clear that the Republican right hates the UAW so much that it would prefer to plunge the nation into a depression rather than craft a bridge loan that doesn't single out the auto industry's unionized workers for punishment. (As manufacturing consultant Michael Wessel pointed out, no Republican demanded that Big Three executives have their pay permanently reduced to the relatively spartan levels of Japanese auto executives' pay.) Today, setting the terms of that loan has become the final task of the Bush presidency, which puts the auto workers in the unenviable position of depending, if not on the kindness of strangers, then on the impartiality of the most partisan president of modern times.
Meyerson explains that while Republicans cry that labor costs are killing Detroit, labor contributes just 10 percent of the cost of a new car, while on Wall Street, salaries and bonuses represent 60 percent of expenses, though those "legacy costs" weren't an issue in the $700 billion Paulsen bonus-fest. And so:
In a narrow sense, what the Republicans are proposing would gut the benefits of roughly a million retirees. In a broad sense, they want to destroy the institution that did more than any other to raise American living standards, and they want to do it by using the power of government to lower American living standards -- in the middle of the most severe recession since the 1930s. The auto workers deserve better, and so does the nation they did so much to build.
Indeed. The Bush years have represented the largest transfer of wealth from the middle class to the upper class in American history. The heart and soul of this runaway theft ring, which actually dates back to Reagan, but which was partially interrupted by Bill Clinton's unexpected presidency (which the GOP tried its best to overturn, using sex as a weapon) is the breaking of unions, from PATCO under Reagan to the UAW today. Unions impact on the supply and cost of labor reaches beyond their own members, and the upward pressure they place on wages is felt throughout the economy, even at Wal-Mart. Hence, the GOP, the party of low wages, sees killing the UAW as an imperative to letting their clients, the very rich, steal more money. It's just that simple.
A majority of Americans continue to oppose help for the U.S. auto industry. But inside the new Washington Post/ABC News poll, is the number that a Democratic majority Congress, if it has any brains (or courage, which is doubtful on any given day) whatsoever, will pay attention to:
Democrats are among the most wary of the economic impact of failure, with 42 percent saying it would hurt the economy. They are more apt to advocate federal aid — 52 percent support it, up from 42 percent support for previous versions of the rescue bill. But they, too, are deeply critical of company managers — 72 percent fault Detroit's strategies, not the overall economy.
And the poll shows strong regional differences in support for bridge loans, with southerners and those out West opposing helping Detroit. Big surprise. Bottom line: Democrats, for once, should listen to THEIR base. Most Americans have no clue what the economic impact of the simultaneous unemployment of 3 million people, and the bankrupting of multiple industry suppliers would mean. That's what we elected you guys for.
GOP Exposed: the 'first shot' against organized labor
Courtesy of Countdown, proof that the Dixie Axis engaged in a plot to kneecap organized labor, even if it meant killing off the American automotive industry, and even if it cost 3 million Americans their livelihoods.
Countdown has obtained a memo entitled "Action Alert - Auto Bailout," and sent Wednesday at 9:12am, to Senate Republicans. The names of the sender(s) and recipient(s) have been redacted in the copy Countdown obtained. The Los Angeles Times reported that it was circulated among Senate Republicans.
The memo, with the subject line: "Action Alert -- Auto Bailout" reads in part (emphasis added):
Today at noon, Senators Ensign, Shelby, Coburn and DeMint will hold a press conference in the Senate Radio/TV Gallery. They would appreciate our support through messaging and attending the press conference, if possible. The message they want us to deliver is:
1. This is the democrats first opportunity to payoff organized labor after the election. This is a precursor to card check and other items. Republicans should stand firm and take their first shot against organized labor, instead of taking their first blow from it.
2. This rush to judgment is the same thing that happened with the TARP. Members did not have an opportunity to read or digest the legislation and therefore could not understand the consequences of it. We should not rush to pass this because Detroit says the sky is falling.
It goes on to call on the recipients to circulate their own press releases and hold press conferences asap, and concludes: "the hardest thing for the democrats to do is get 60 votes. If we can hold the Republicans, we can beat this."
Ron Gettelfinger, who heads the UAW, got a look at the memo, too, and took his own shots during a press conference today:
And, just to add to your cynicism about the actions of the Dixie Axis, the Los Angeles Times adds this:
By standing in the way of an auto industry bailout, GOP senators appear to have bitten the hand that fed them.
Over the last decade, General Motors has given $1.50 to Republican candidates for every $1 it has given to Democrats. That same pattern has been followed by Chrysler and Ford, which year after year have favored the right side of the aisle, sometimes by more than a 3-to-1 ratio in dollar terms.
Since 1990, the auto industry as a whole -- including suppliers, dealers and manufacturers -- has cut $100 million in checks to Republicans, compared with just $34 million to Democrats.
On Thursday night, the carmakers discovered just how little loyalty that investment strategy had bought them.
So why attack their patrons?
In doing so, analysts said, Republicans were planting the seeds for a fundraising appeal to big business -- other than the Big Three, of course -- as they gear up for a major political fight next year over expected legislation that would make it easier for unions to organize.
"They may lose money from the auto industry, but a union fight will get them a lot of money from the rest of the business community," Sabato said.
And it may also be a sign that the GOP is digging in in Dixie, and giving up the Great Lakes region for good. Either that or the desperation to break the back of organized labor is the only "principle" the GOP has left.
Could Norm Coleman win the recount and then get indicted?
It's possible ... that he could get indicted, anyway... from the Huffpo:
Did Norm Coleman's financial problems compel him to turn to friends and GOP donors for help with his living situation?
That's what a new story out of Minnesota alleges. Friday morning, a local Fox News affiliate reported that at the time that Coleman allegedly received $75,000 in unreported payments from a prominent Republican businessman, he was also struggling to make payments for the restructuring of his home.
Good government officials wondered whether there was something more than coincidental to the financial exchange. And, indeed, there is other compelling -- and up to this point, unnoted -- evidence to suggest that Coleman was soliciting monetary favors from his GOP backers.
Around the same time that Coleman and/or his wife were allegedly receiving three $25,000 payments from businessman Nasser Kazeminy, the Senator was also getting cheaply discounted rent from a major Republican figure who served as his landlord in Washington D.C.
In July 2007 -- months after lawsuits assert that $75,000 was secretly funneled to the Colemans -- the Senator began paying $600 a month rent on his one-bedroom apartment on Capitol Hill, way below market value. His landlord, Republican operative and communications guru Jeff Larson, also was covering Coleman's utilities (under an apparent agreement that the Senator would be billed with an estimate once the year was over).
At the time, the D.C. arrangement raised a variety of eyebrows, mainly because Coleman had helped Larson secure millions in business related to the Republican Convention in St. Paul. The new revelations, however, suggest that the rent may have been more a favor that Larson was offering to Coleman than any sort of bribery.
Ah, bribery. Apparently, the FBI is looking into it. And the upshot is, if Coleman did take bribes, his corruption is a step beyond even Blago's colorful stuff, since in the latter case, there's no evidence (yet) that actual money or favors changed hands. So if Coleman does squeak through in the recount, which at this point is by no means certain, could we see our first indictment of a sitting U.S. Senator for the new year ... before the first quarter closes?
Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) said it was "un-American" for senators to have voted against approving a bailout of troubled automakers last night, saying their vote may cause a recession to become a depression.
"It is unacceptable for this un-American, frankly, behavior of these U.S. senators to cause this country to go from a recession into a depression," Granholm said during a radio interview Friday morning.
Negotiations over an agreement to assist Michigan's Big Three stalled last night in a 52-35 vote on a procedural motion to bring up the package for a vote. Republicans largely opposed the bill after it failed to win concessions from the United Automotive Workers union on wages and benefits.
“It is such an unbelievable stab at workers across the country,” Granholm added. “You give this big bailout to these financial institutions–don’t ask a single question, they can do what they want–and then you lay the blame for the auto industry, which is a victim of this financial meltdown, on the backs of the people who are working on the line.”
Bottom line: there is a party of working men, and a party of capitalists, and the latter's mantra is "low prices, low wages, maximum profits."
UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said today that U.S. automobile companies are being put at a disadvantage by government in competing against Volkswagen’s new auto assembly plant in Chattanooga.
The union leader questioned why government leaders in Tennessee are willing to provide assistance to the German-based Volkswagen while the state’s U.S. senators declined to back a federal loan to help the Big Three U.S. car makers.
Mr. Gettelfinger said that trying to equalize UAW pay with what foreign car makers pay in the United States, as urged by U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., is like comparing apples to oranges. In its home country, Germany provides government-paid health care for Volkswagen workers, and VW is receiving $577.4 million in tax breaks and direct assistance from Tennessee governments to build an automobile plant in Chattanooga.
“They use taxpayer dollars to subsidize our competition,” Mr. Gettelfinger said during a news conference. “It doesn’t help our industry.”
The GOP has, officially I think, lost the Great Lakes region for at least a generation. Ohio included. Good luck being the party of the former Confederacy, boys.
ThinkProgress has the list of Senators who said "oh yeah!" to bailing out Wall Street bankers to the tune of $700 billion, but who couldn't find it in their little coal colored hearts to help the American auto industry. Here they are:
Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) Sen. Robert Bennett (R-UT) Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) Sen. Kay Hutchison (R-TX) Sen. John Isakson (R-GA) Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL) Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) Sen. John Thune (R-SD)
There were another 10 Senators who voted for the TARP but were absent for last night's vote on the automakers:
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR) Sen.Ted Stevens (R-AK) Sen. John Sununu (R-NH)
Some had better excuses than others for not being around:
iden was tending to transition duties, while Kerry was in Poznan, Poland, participating in U.N. climate change talks. Alexander was home recovering from surgery. Why did these other Senators feel auto workers weren’t as deserving as Wall Street? We’d like to know.
The White House appears ready to step in to prevent General Motors and Chrysler from collapsing on George W. Bush's watch. From the WaPo:
The Bush administration said today it is willing to consider using funds from other sources to provide emergency aid to the nation's Big Three car companies following the Senate's rejection Thursday night of a congressional bailout plan.
The statement from White House spokeswoman Dana Perino marks a shift in tone for the administration, which has so far rejected the idea of using money from the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program or other sources under its control to help the auto industry survive. After the collapse of negotiations in Congress, however, the White House said all options are on the table to help keep the automakers in business. GM and Chrysler have said they are in critical need of help, while Ford's position is less dire.
"Under normal economic conditions we would prefer that markets determine the ultimate fate of private firms," the White House statement said. "However, given the current weakened state of the U.S. economy, we will consider other options if necessary -- including use of the TARP program -- to prevent a collapse of
"A precipitous collapse of this industry would have a severe impact on our economy, and it would be irresponsible to further weaken and destabilize our economy at this time," the statement said.
An official at the Treasury Department, which administers the TARP, said separately that the agency was "ready to prevent an imminent failure" of the auto companies, the Reuters wire service reported.
The reason for the urgency: suppliers to GM can't extend credit to the company so it can keep producing cars, so GM will have to ... stop producing cars. And the reason for that? The banks who received hundreds of billions of your tax dollars, refuses to lend the money out, including to the suppliers.
DETROIT -- Cash-starved General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC within weeks will be hit by $9 billion in bills for already-delivered auto parts, a tab they likely can't afford to pay without emergency government assistance.
Parts suppliers, hammered in recent months by a severe downturn in U.S. auto sales, face shortfalls of their own if the auto makers fail to pay.
The impending payments to suppliers, which in GM's case account for nearly half the cash the company had available at the end of the third quarter, present the most immediate threat to the auto makers as they plead for a lifeline from the Bush administration following the defeat of a $14 billion auto loan package late Thursday by the Senate.
Concerns are rising that parts manufacturers now could take steps to tighten payment terms, which would accelerate the cash burn that threatens the viability of the auto makers.
"We need to satisfy suppliers that there is going to be a tomorrow," United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger said Friday at a news conference.
"If suppliers believe they can't operate, what are they going to do? They aren't going to deliver the goods. If they don't deliver the goods, the plants go down," the UAW chief added.
The reality is that many of the suppliers are just as challenged as GM and Chrysler, which have said they need more than $10 billion in government assistance by year's end to avoid collapse. Just as the auto makers rely on their suppliers and the trade credit they provide, parts manufacturers have suppliers of their own.
Meanwhile, in one of those patented "strange bedfellows situations," the UAW is now putting its faith in President Bush, having been failed by a weak Senate majority leader, and a wicked bunch of Dixiecans whose goal, after all, was to crush the UAW.
UPDATE: Dubya has apparently been warned by George Voinovich that if he doesn't act, he'll be known as "George Herbert Hoover Bush," and apparently, the Dark Lord sent the same message to his party ...
Asian markets are down sharply this morning after southern Republicans tank the auto bailout. From CNN Money, proof that Shelby, Corker and McConnell's scheme to tank Detroit in order to
help Japan and Germany didn't quite work that way:
A week of solid gains ended on a sour note for Asian markets Friday as stocks across sectors got hammered after a $14 billion government bailout of the Big Three automakers collapsed in the U.S. Senate.
Regional car makers such as Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Hyundai Motor Co., who depend heavily on the U.S. market, plunged in afternoon trading.
Major global currencies also plunged against the yen as risk-averse investors reversed their short sales of the Japanese currency after Senate Majority leader Harry Reid said the Democratic and Republican Senators failed to reach a compromise on the bailout package, which cleared the House of Representatives Wednesday night.
Left to right: Senators Bob Corker (R-TN), Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Richard Shelby (R-Bama.) Are they acting as agents of foreign governments?
The pared down, $14 billion Big Three bailout loan deal, passed the House today, but appears dead in the Senate after talks broke down late tonight, mostly because of the objections of a trio of southern Senators, who had vowed to kill the bill there with a good old fashioned, Old Dixie filibuster, unless the auto workers' union agrees to "bring their members' wages and benefits in line with those of Japanese automakers.' And while you digest the fact of American Senators calling for U.S. workers to bow and scrape for whatever foreign companies have on offer, ask yourself these questions:
Why would three southern Senators want to kill the American automotive industry? Would United States Senators really attempt to crush a crucial part of our homegrown industrial base on behalf of foreign automakers? And if so, shouldn't Richard Shelby of Alabama, Bob Corker of Tennessee and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky have to register with the attorney general as agents of foreign governments? After all, Japan and Germany heavily subsidize their auto industries, and both countries provide universal healthcare, which is one big reason Toyota, Honda, Volkswagon, et.al have much lower legacy costs than the Big Three. And when these companies earn profits, what they don't pay in federal and payroll taxes, goes right back to their home governments, hence our three Senators are in essence, lobbying on behalf of Tokyo and Berlin.
To backtrack, these three gentlemen, and I use the term very loosely, all-but promised to kill a deal to bail out the Big Three in Washington, even though one of them, McConnell, was key to passing the much bigger bank bailout. The problem? Again, not bailouts, per se. They're for them when it comes to the banks (except Corker, who voted against the Wall Street handout.) The trouble here, is that all three of these guys have major foreign automakers implanted in their states, those automakers having been drawn to places like Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee by billions of dollars in ... you guessed it ... (state) government handouts. Crippling Detroit, even at the cost of millions of American jobs, could only help the Senators' foreign clients out, in no small part by breaking the United Auto Workers union, and preventing it from attempting to unionize southern auto workers, thereby reserving the preferred status conferred on the Toyotas, Hondas and Volkswagons of the world. From the Detroit Free Press:
Alabama is home to plants for Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Hyundai and Toyota. Tennessee is getting a new Volkswagen plant and is home to Nissan’s North American headquarters and other manufacturing facilities.
Georgetown, Ky., in McConnell’s home state, is the site of Toyota’s biggest plant outside Japan.
Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, a supporter of the auto industry rescue plan, said he’s still waiting for specifics on what the legislation’s critics are demanding.
“I think it’s antiunion. I think that’s the motivation behind it,” said Mike Kennedy, 44, of Warren, a member of UAW Local 961 who works at Chrysler’s Detroit Axle plant on Lynch Road. “They want us to file for bankruptcy so they can walk away from their obligations.”
Kennedy said he’s hearing a lot of anger toward Southern senators among rank-and-file members, likening it to a civil war ready to break out again, North against South.
And then there's the small matter of politics: the UAW is a big booster of Democratic Senate candidates, and who needs that, right boys?
What this crisis has created is the unbelievable spectacle of supposedly loyal Americans, starting with Mssrs. Shelby and Corker, demanding that American auto workers accept whatever wages foreign automakers pay their employees, essentially reducing these United States Senators to bag men for the former Axis powers. In fact, freshman Senator Corker's plan read like a World War II appeasement letter:
Corker's four-point plan requires existing bondholders to accept 30 cents on the dollar to help reduce automakers' debt, and force the car companies and United Auto Workers to bring wages immediately in line with foreign automakers. It also would drop supplemental unemployment payments to workers. He also wants the UAW to agree to take half of the payments they are owed from Detroit's automakers to fund a trust the union would manage beginning in 2010 to pay for retiree health care. In exchange, General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC would get up to $14 billion in emergency loans immediately to help them fund their operations. If they didn't get concessions by March 15, they would have to file for bankruptcy.
He grew up in Chattanooga, a city that was repeatedly rejected by U.S. auto makers as a site for new plants. But Volkswagen turned around Chattanooga’s fortunes in July by agreeing to build a $1 billion assembly plant near the city–the German auto maker’s first assembly plant in the U.S. Volkswagen plans to build hundreds of thousands of vehicles there in the next few years, providing 2,000 manufacturing jobs as well as countless more jobs in supply and logistics. So, where the Big Three had let the city down, Volkswagen capped the city’s long-desired industrial revival. As Corker told the Associated Press at the time, the city “will never be the same again.” Volkswagen is building the plant to compete with Toyota Motor, which puts Chattanooga inside the most competitive dynamics in the global auto industry.
McConnell, the Senate minority leader, has made no secret of his eagerness to see the American auto industry say "sayonara" so that the Japanese can keep greasing up non-union Kentucky:
“We also have other auto manufacturers who are doing quite well,” McConnell said, naming Toyota’s Georgetown, Ky., operation. “It happens not to be American companies and that is sad. But it’s not like we don’t have success in the auto industry. We do.”
And Shelby, the ranking Republican on the Senate banking committee, has been equally skeptical of the absolute need to have a strictly "American" automobile industry:
WASHINGTON (Nov. 19) - Sen. Richard Shelby, who represents a state with 134,000 people who help build cars for Asian and European companies, was unpersuaded Tuesday when American auto executives asked Congress for emergency financial aid to stay afloat.
"Are we here in the Senate being asked to facilitate a stronger, more competitive auto manufacturing sector, or to perpetuate a market failure?" Shelby asked at the opening of a standing-room-only hearing on Capitol Hill.
After the hearing, he concluded that it was the latter.
And about those state subsidies, you know, the government money being thrown at an auto industry, only the governments are former Confederate states and the automakers are NOT American? Well ... it's a LOT of money:
Shelby's position is not merely that of a fiscal conservative. His home state has provided millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to lure Honda, Hyundai, and Mercedes-Benz to build huge plants there. Indeed, some critics believe that without the incentives from Alabama - and similar tax breaks given by a number of other states to a dozen foreign automakers - the Detroit companies would not need a federal bailout.
The foreign-based automakers have received relatively little attention during the debate over the auto bailout bill because they have not asked for money from Con gress. Yet their role is immense: In 2007, for the first time, foreign firms produced a majority of cars sold in the United States. While Detroit's auto industry is shutting plants and slashing union jobs, the foreign-based auto companies have been booming, particularly in the South, with new nonunion plants slated to open in Tennessee and Georgia.
House Financial Services Committee chairman Barney Frank of Massachusetts, who is playing a key role in hammering out a loan deal, said in an interview that some opponents are "completely hypocritical" because they back local tax incentives to lure foreign companies that now pose some of Detroit's stiffest competition. Frank also denounced those members of Congress who oppose the assistance for the Detroit automakers as a matter of fiscal prudence at the same time they fight for agricultural subsidies for their states.
So how much money are we talking?
It is difficult to ascertain the exact amount of tax subsidies provided to the foreign automakers because they are provided by so many localities and in different ways, including property tax breaks and corporate tax abatements. One study found that the total subsidies to foreign automakers exceeded $2 billion.
Alabama paid more up front per job in tax subsidies to the foreign automakers than Detroit is asking per job with the loans, said Cole of the automotive center.
I've heard figures of upwards of $250,000 per job gained. Meanwhile, the GOP is about to preside over the flushing of 3 million jobs and the pensions of 850,000 retirees ... many in swing states. For Shelby, Corker and McConnell, who live in ruby red states, that may not matter. But it will matter to their party, which will be blamed ... make no mistake about it ... if the Big Three, or even just General Motors, vanish under Bush's watch. Believe it.
I say all of this, by the way, as one who is no fan of the "built in obsolescence" crowd that's been running the U.S. auto industry for a generation (and the moron politicians who heaped SUV tax break largesse on them), and as somebody who specifically detests the Ford Motor Company (my three-year-old Expedition having literally exploded in my driveway a couple of years ago, and the company having sniveled out of responsibility for it, and sent me a nice letter about the ignition switch recall the NEXT DAY.) My mother had a Chevy Cavalier when I was growing up that was a piece of shit, too. In fact, all our cars when I was growing up were made by General Motors, and the only one that was worth a plug nickel was my gigantic 1974 Buick Apollo that my mom's best friend gave me for $300 my senior year in high school (in 1986. Hey, you can fit a lot of friends in a Buick Apollo...) I have, on occasion, vowed out loud to never buy another mother-bleeping American car. And yet, at my house, we have one foreign and one domestic -- an Acura and a Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited. I drive the Jeep. And I must admit, I love the bloody thing. But what's most important is that for all their faults, and I think all of the management should be fired, I believe that whatever Shelby, Corker and McConnell might think, America simply cannot remain an industrial power without a homegrown manufacturing industry, and right now, the auto industry is the biggest manufacuring sector left. If we let it go, even 10 million Honda jobs in Dixie at Wal-Mart wages won't buy us back our economic clout.
In the 1950s, we made all our own toys, clothes, shoes, bikes, furniture, motorcycles, cars, cameras, telephones, TVs, etc. You name it. We made it.
Are we better off now that these things are made by foreigners? Are we better off now that we have ceased to be self-sufficient? Are we better off now that the real wages of our workers and median income of our families no longer grow as they once did? Are we better off now that manufacturing, for the first time in U.S. history, employs fewer workers than government?
We no longer build commercial ships. We have but one airplane company, and it outsources. China produces our computers. And if GM goes Chapter 11, America will soon be out of the auto business.
Our politicians and pundits may not understand what is going on. Historians will have no problem explaining the decline and fall of the Americans.
Thom Hartmann, who's probably the smartest guy in radio, had a great segment on his show today about the natural state of capitalistic socieites, which is to have a very small, but exceedingly powerful, wealthy class, a tiny middle class (shopkeepers, farmers, the "butcher, baker and candlestick maker" who have just a handful, or even one, employee) and a massive class of working poor. He pointed out that during the 19th Century, as during the Middle Ages in Europe and even in ancient societies, some 95 percent of people fell into that last class. Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" was a tale of the tension between a member of the working poor and Ebeneezer Scrooge -- a middle-class, merchant with just one employee: Cratchet.
The point Hartmann was making is that capital will always seek to get labor for the cheapest possible price, and that when the supply of labor is abundant, the cost of labor is just that: cheap. There are only three ways to raise the cost of labor (meaning, wages) and to force a large middle class into being:
1) Dramatically reduce the supply of labor (see the "Black Plague" that killed off 1/3 of the European workforce, and the subsequent Rennaissance);
2) Dramatically increase the supply of wealth (often by expansionism, like when Europe swept across the Americas grabbing land, or when Americans swept across the plains and West in the 18th and 19th centuries); or
3) Tax capital and "spread the wealth around" (the good old progressive tax code.)
The New Deal's most important outcome was to implant and grow a substantial American middle class: something that is not a natural state, since capital's goal is to fatten itself off of the cheapest labor possible. As America's middle class grew, especially during the 1950s, the high wages and great benefits paid by companies like General Motors, and the "jobs for life" offered by American manufacturers like IBM, were a thing of pride for most Americans, and the envy of the world.
But the expansion of the American middle class, including building the kind of buying power that fueled the "kitchen rush" of the '50s, when families bought Frigidaires and televisions and gadgets galore, back when we still made the stuff here at home, is an also why the GOP, the party of capital, hates labor unions so much. Unions do two things that capital hates: they create scarcity of labor, by restricting the time availability of workers, and they raise the cost of labor by negotiating the highest possible wages and best possible benefits for workers. So-called "conservatives" hate that, and usujally to kill it, they call such outrages upon the dignity of rich folks, "socialism."
Hartmann pointed out correctly that from "Reaganomics" onward, the GOP has been engaged in a war against the middle class, on behalf of the "capital class." There was, in fact, nothing new about Reaganomics. It's simply the reassertion of the age-old imperitive of capital,, which seeks to accumulate wealth for a few people, and expand, vastly, the pool of the working poor. And since Americans have recoiled against the idea of importing cheap labor from South and Central America (why do you think Reagan signed on to Amnesty back in the 80s, and don't think for a second that Dubya wanted to revive the idea because he cares about the Latino vote...) the clearest way to expand the cheap labor pool is to bleed the middle class, and suck as many people out of it as possible.
That's the plan. The question is, can Democrats beat it back.
Consider it a foregone conclusion that Mitt Romney no longer believes he can carry Michigan in 2012 (that election may be a throwaway for Republicans anyway.) His recent op-ed on the virtues of sending Detroit automakers into bankruptcy won't help him in the state where he was born and where his dad used to govern.
Even more instructive is this poll, from our leading local right wing station, WIOD, two days ago. It was put up, and followed up, during the morning news show, hosted by longtime journalist (and loyal Republican) Jimmy Cefalo. Asked why they think the U.S. auto industry is in such bad shape, WIOD viewers had this to say:
Mismanagement - 20.00 % Concessions to Unions - 59.17 % Failure to change with the times - 10.42 % American cars aren’t as good as imports - 7.08 % Its the economy stupid - 3.33 %
Now, the webmaster was clever enough not to mention how many people voted. It could be 150 people, or 15,000, but the point is the same: three times more "conservative" talk radio listeners believe that concessions to the United Auto Workers Union, meaning high wages, health benefits, and retiree pensions, are the biggest problem for U.S. automakers, than the number who believe the problem is poor management. And six times more, in this poll, fault the workers than target the industry's inability to change its products to suit the times. That's a stunning conclusion, and bad news for the GOP.
Why? Because Republicans will never again be a national party with real viability outside of Appalachia if they continue to push, via their politicians, their talk radio hosts and Fox News, that the problem in the American manufacturing economy isn't a lack of innovation or piss-poor management -- it's American workers, who are "greedy" for wanting high wages and decent benefits for themselves and their families, and the wicked unions who force American manufacturers to offer such evil, horrible things to "lazy" unionists. The GOP has become the party, not just of big business, but more directly, of the scornful rich. Fabulously wealthy talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh, who lives in a lavish Palm Beach manse next door to the old Kennedy compound, and Sean Hannity, who travels only by private jet -- just like a Big Three auto executive -- feed middle and lower-middle class listeners a steady harangue of fake "Joe the Plumber" populism, anti-elitism and "don't envy people like me, worship people like me, and work hard to keep people like me rich...!" diatribes, convincing them to rail in favor of tax cuts and government handouts for people of Hannity and Limbaugh's economic class, and to disdain the strivings of people in their own class. It's one hell of a magic trick -- sort of like Marie Antoinette convincing the rabble to revolt on her behalf, against the other peasants.
The wizardry is so powerful, bling worship has infected the Christian church -- so thorough that you can have a guy like Joe Wurzelbacher look into a camera and say, with a perfectly straight face, that he doesn't want Social Security "forced on him," even though at $40,000 a year and no plumbing license, unless that's one hell of a book he's coming out with next month, or he's a damned good country singer, he'll need Social Security just to keep from having to live on dog food if and when he ever gets to retire.
The Reupblican party, and so-called "conservatives," actually believe -- or at least they have taught their followers to believe -- that the rich are better than the rest of us. They should receive the full benefit of the wealth they earn off the labor of others, and even get a tax cut, while those whose labor makes them rich should suck it up and take whatever pay "trickles down to them." Of course that pay must be as low as possible, to improve the profit margins, and since there shall be no unions involved, their betters can turn them out the door at will, and cut off their benefits -- if they bother to give them any -- whenever the stock price dips. Call it the Wal-Mart ethic, because in turn, the rich give us low, low prices, that after all, are all the idiot, low-wage working stiff can afford.
I don't begrudge Limbaugh and others the right to be damned good negotiators. I say get the most money you can. More power to you! But shouldn't regular wage earners have that right too?
Nope. In the Wal-Mart ethic of the GOP, which echoes the ethos of the 19th Century robber barons, who thought it good and proper to employ children for 12 hours a day at pennies per hour, employees should use their "right to work" wages to purchase whatever healthcare they can afford on the free market, just like the rich people do -- only we all know the rabble have no business in Cleveland Clinic -- a plain old clinic will do.
The right believes that CEOs who make 400 times the wages of their employees should get a tax cut, while the "greedy" workers should take a pay cut, for the team. The spectacle has become so maddening, that it has touched off a kind of regional "race to the bottom warfare," whereby a Republican Congressman actually bragged on "Hardball" today that auto workers in Kentucky make half the wages of auto workers in Detroit (something that isn't even true anymore,) and ordinary righties insist that the "greedy" unionized Detroit workers should bring their wages down to the level that the Japanese automakers pay people with no union strictures down South -- which, by the way, is the poorest region in America. That way, American cars will cost less, see? "My state's wages are lower than your state's wages" is a hell of a thing for an elected official to brag about, but that's where we are with today's "conservatives." (By the way, if Japanese automakers are the truth, then why is Toyota laying Americans off, too?) It might be worth asking that Congressman, and the other wingers, just how low would you like to see American working stiff's wages go? To the levels of Japanese workers? Or workers in Singapore, or Bhopal?
We're in sorry shape as a nation if we are willing to do a blind bailout, to the tune of $700 billion, for a white collar banking industry whose employment figures we don't even know, but whose malfeasance we surely do, but hard hearted when it comes to saving the jobs of 3 million Americans who toil in the Detroit-based, U.S. auto industry. The Big Three screwed up, no doubt. But it was management who decided to fight against seatbelts, airbags, better feul economy, green fuels and electric cars. It was management -- the ones for whom Jimmy Cefalo's and Rush Limbaugh's and "private jet only" Hannity's listeners are willing to fight for endless tax cuts -- that made those decisions, not the working stiffs whose union was good enough at negotiations to get them $70 an hour.
Besides, I haven't yet seen the poll that finds that any of those wingers would believe that they themselves are overpaid for the work they do, or that the radio jocks feeding them cake are, either. As Pat Buchanan, an actual, living, breathing, old fashioned conservative, separate from the neocons, kleptocrats and "boogedy-boogedy" types (kudos, Kathleen Parker, and John Cole, too...) currently torching the Republican Party, eloquently explains:
By the choices we make, we define ourselves and reveal what we truly care about. Thus, consider:
We bail out the New York and D.C. governments of Abe Beame and Marion Barry. We bail out a corrupt Mexico. We bail out public schools that have failed us for 40 years.
We bail out with International Monetary Fund and World Bank loans and foreign aid worthless Third World regimes.
We bail out Wall Street plutocrats and big banks.
But the most magnificent industry, the auto industry that was the pride of America and envy of the world, we surrender to predator-traders from Asia and Europe, lest we violate the tenets of some 19th-century ideological scribblers that the old Republicans considered the apogee of British stupidity.
Amen. And good luck every winning Ohio, Michigan or Pennsylvania in my lifetime if you keep telling working men and women that it is they, and not the fat cats flying to Washington on private jets with their hands out for taxpayer money, who are greedy. 51 percent of voting Americans have figured you out. More are finally getting the picture every day.
Chuck Hagel let's it rip during a forum at the Johns Hopkins School of Advances International Studies, going after a choice few GOPers, including El Rushbo:
"We are educated by the great entertainers like Rush Limbaugh," said Hagel, sarcastically referencing the talk radio host who once called him "Senator Betrayus." "You know, I wish Rush Limbaugh and others like that would run for office. They have so much to contribute and so much leadership and they have an answer for everything. And they would be elected overwhelmingly," he offered. "[The truth is] they try to rip everyone down and make fools of everybody but they don't have any answers."
And adding this gem:
"There is always going to be a certain know-nothing element to democracy," said Hagel. "That is their choice. But in a world that is so vitally interconnected, it does help if you try to understand the other side... Ask them: 'What is it that scares you about the French so much?'"
As to what he'll do next, after leaving the Senate, Hagel brought the funny:
There is news today that [Obama] is in serious negotiations with Warren Buffet for Buffet to buy the entire United States government," Hagel joked in the opening of his speech. "I applaud that. I am seeking the job of buffet's driver. He is the only one who has money. Obviously we think highly of warren and we take great pride that he is a cornhusker."
Is SecDef filled yet? This guy's great. Brace yourself for El Ego's response tomorrow.
Does listening to Sarah Palin talk make you dumber?
A Facebook commenter on CNN said she feels dumber every time she hears the Wasila Queen speak. Here, listen to the titular leader of the Republican Party (smirk) speaking to fellow GOP governors in Miami and see for yourself:
According to CNN's Rick Sanchez, netowork reporter Dana Bash was at the Intercontintal Hotel for the earlier, awkward press conference during which she was flanked by a smattering of unhappy looking conservative fellow governos and which was abruptly cut off after a few minutes by Rick Perry (heretofre to be referred to as Ellie Mae and the Socially Conservatie Pips.)
Not a lot of clapping went on during what sounded an awful lot like Sarah's campaign stump speech. Hell, she even mentioned Joe the Plumber, Tito the Builder, (What? No Bob???) Jack the Dishwasher, there, Pip the pit bull trainer, Jack the Janitor and not to be forgotten: Sweetie the laid off teacher turned call girl. Okay, maybe not ALL of those, also.
... from a partisan perspective ... The more Palin the better. But I think we also need to think about this from the broader perspective of national dignity. And simple human decency. You're at a party and someone's drinking too much and starting to do embarrassing things. Even you don't like them, and even if the unlovely part of you thinks it's kind of funny, still someone should step in. On the other hand, if Rush and Sean, are up for it, maybe we just tap another keg?
In other words, somebody pull her away from the cameras. Please.
Sarah Palin will be in Miami for the Republican Governors Association meeting this week there, and, you know, she'll be doing a lot of media and press conferences also, and well, when she ... rears her head ... in Miami ... where will she be? So, and ... she wants to be president in 2012 also. You betcha!
When she gets here, on Wednesday I think, Sarah will be welcomed by a chastened Charlie Crist and a battered Republican Party:
In 2006, when the GOP governors gathered in Miami, Crist was dubbed a ''rock star'' at the meeting. He was one of only three nonincumbent Republicans to win governor races in a nation that started leaning Democratic.
This time, the Republican Governors Association meeting comes on the heels of John McCain losing in Crist's state, a Republican must-win, on Election Day.
And the number of real jobs lost is troubling Crist even more. Florida lost 115,000 jobs -- the most in the nation -- in the past year on Crist's watch. The state budget is hemorrhaging money. And Crist's strong poll numbers have slipped slightly in recent months.
The losses have fueled worries about Republican leadership in Florida as well as the nation, targeting every leader from President Bush to Crist himself to Crist's hand-picked state party chief, Jim Greer.
''Crist can't be blamed for McCain running a crummy campaign and being weighed down by the burden of President Bush,'' said national Republican strategist Ed Rollins. ``But Crist needs to rebuild his own party in Florida because it's not as safe for Republicans as it once was.''
Few places are, leaving Republicans to debate which way the party should go. Among the questions: How much can the party push social issues, and how can Republicans attract more minority voters like Hispanics? Hispanics flocked to the Democratic side amid the immigration debate in 2006.
Crist said governors ''traditionally'' have provided the leadership to solve these problems. The RGA spotlight will be on that other fresh-faced Republican governor's race winner from 2006: Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, whose sharp tongue and social conservatism set her apart from the affable centrist from Florida.
''I look forward to seeing her this week'' Crist said Tuesday. ''I think she'll be a significant factor in the future of our party. I certainly hope so.'' What of his own poll numbers and political fortunes? ''I'm not thinking about that. I'm thinking about Florida,'' Crist said, pledging to ``stay focused on the people of our state.''
Crist will likely run for reelection in 2010. Republicans like J.M. ''Mac'' Stipanovich say Crist will beat any Democrat ``like a rented mule.''
But others, like lobbyist and McCain Hispanic outreach chief Ana Navarro, fault Crist for appearing to help himself more than the party or McCain.
''Charlie Crist milked this campaign for all it was worth, used it to enhance his national profile, and never put in any sweat equity. When there were cameras he would show up,'' she said. ``We begged Jeb Bush to come out the last few weeks because we realized Charlie Crist had no coattails. It's clear that any Republican running statewide is more vulnerable than they were four years ago. There's clearly a kink in the organization.''
A chief Florida fundraiser for Crist and McCain, lobbyist Brian Ballard, dismissed Navarro's broadside as hard feelings left over from her support of Crist's Republican opponent in 2006. Ballard said Republicans should credit Barack Obama for a win, and should credit Crist for governing effectively and showing the party how to win.
''There are some who want fire-breathing, red-meat-eating conservatism and are proud to lose with honor. We'll remain in the minority as a result,'' Ballard said. ``I like to win.''
The last time Sarah and Charlie hung out, she was caterwalling about Obama "palling around with terrorists" and being introduced by a 1950s-era southern sheriff. Now, things are slightly different, also.
By the way, many Republicans here in the sunshine state are still sore at Miss Charlie for extending early voting hours, and for restoring many felon voting rights, both of which helped Democrats. But Charlie shouldn't be blamed for McCain's losses here. Obama handed him an historic drubbing among Hispanics statewide, winning 57 percent. And black turnout was overwhelming enough that had Crist not extended early voting hours, he probably would have been sued, and the state would have become a 2000 style embarassment (after which I believe Obama still would have won.) But Republicans have to hang someone, and at the moment, Crist is in the crosshairs. And yet, it is moderates like Crist who represent the future of the party, if it has one, no matter how much Rush and Beck and Hannity squeal. They take pot shots at him at their peril.
In the wake of yesterday’s bruising result, the Republican party faces an excruciating and divisive choice between two very different futures.
The first choice is the choice on display at the excited rallies that cheered Sarah Palin all through the fall. This is a choice to fall back on the core base of the Republican party. The base is almost entirely white, almost entirely resident in the middle of the country, moderately affluent, middle-aged and older, more male than female, with some college education but not a college degree. Think of Joe the Plumber and you see the core of the Republican party. ...
... There’s another. It’s the path that begins by facing up to the arithmetic that says – Joe is no longer enough. God bless him, he’s the GOP base, and no Republican wants to lose him. But he needs reinforcements.
For Frummy, those reinforcements are not Latinos or Black folk ... they're long gone for the GOP. For Frum, the reinforcements are, in two words, smart people:
College-educated Americans have come to believe that their money is safe with Democrats – but that their values are under threat from Republicans. And there are more and more of these college-educated Americans all the time.
So the question for the GOP is: Will it pursue them? To do so will involve painful change, on issues ranging from the environment to abortion. And it will involve potentially even more painful changes of style and tone: toward a future that is less overtly religious, less negligent with policy, and less polarizing on social issues. That’s a future that leaves little room for Sarah Palin – but the only hope for a Republican recovery.
Yeah, good luck with that, Dave. The GOP has made a conscious decision to reject smart people, in favor of blunt-edged jingoism, social issues, and convincing less educated, low income white voters to cheerlead for wealth hoarding by rich people who wouldn't let those same lower income white voters mow their lawns. That's their thing, and they're most likely going to stick to it. ... That and saying "Ronald Reagan" a lot...
Meanwhile, National Review misses the point on the Prop 8 win in California (and the Amendment 2 win in Florida, if they were paying attention to it.) The actual lesson is, when record numbers of Black voters go to the polls, they take their conservative religous values with them. Most Americans could give a damn whether gay people get married.
The myth was born, the myth was hyped by the mainstream media, the myth met Katie Couric and Tina Fey, and the myth was shattered. The unkindest cut of all comes from Fox News, where Carl Cameron reveals behind-the-scenes details about Ms. Palin, including her diva-like behavior, temper tantrums, and the fact that she didn't know Africa is a continent, not a country, let alone which countries are in NAFTA ... the ... North ... American ... Free Trade Agreement. Shep Smith, at the anchor desk, asks the obvious question: "how could they end up with a running mate who doesn't know that Africa is a continent and they don't know that in advance?" Watch:
And then there's the new twist in Wardrobe-gate ... no, not the extra $40 grand for close for the First Dude. This one involves a towel:
At the GOP convention in St. Paul, Palin was completely unfazed by the boys' club fraternity she had just joined. One night, Steve Schmidt and Mark Salter went to her hotel room to brief her. After a minute, Palin sailed into the room wearing nothing but a towel, with another on her wet hair. She told them to chat with her laconic husband, Todd. "I'll be just a minute," she said.
Newsweek also reports she dove into the William Ayers attacks without authorization from the campaign, and that Schmidt vetoed her request to speak during McCain's concession in Arizona Tuesday night.
Palin has pushed back against attempts to blame her for McCain's defeat, including in an interview with CNN"s Dana Bash:
BASH: One more question about the election that just ended yesterday. If you look at some of the polls and you talk to people who are really crunching the numbers and specifically who voted what way and who was swayed one way or the other. Independent voters, suburban voters, some of the people -- women. People who the campaign thought you would be able to help, actually looked at your presence on the ticket and said, I'm going to vote the other way. What do you make of that?
PALIN: Well, you know, I don't think anybody should give Sarah Palin that much credit that I would trump an economic, woeful time in this nation that occurred about two months ago that my presence on the ticket would trump the economic crisis that America found itself in a couple of months ago and attribute John McCain's loss to me.
But now having said that, if I cost John McCain even one vote, I am sorry about that because John McCain, I believe, is the American hero. I had believed that it was his time. He being so full of courage and wisdom and experience. That valor that he just embodies. I believe he would have been the best pick. But that is not the Americans' choice at this time.
But it's just not working. Exit polls show she was, along with George W. Bush and the crappy economy, a serious drag on the ticket:
But among the things that will dog her into 2012, if her political celebrity lasts that long, is the association between her rallies and a particularly vitriolic kind of hate, with a strong racial tinge, that are now linked forever in history. Also from the Newsweek web piece:
The Obama campaign was provided with reports from the Secret Service showing a sharp and disturbing increase in threats to Obama in September and early October, at the same time that many crowds at Palin rallies became more frenzied. Michelle Obama was shaken by the vituperative crowds and the hot rhetoric from the GOP candidates. "Why would they try to make people hate us?" Michelle asked a top campaign aide.
Can't you be struck by lightning for stuff like this?
A Detroit-area Palinite turns away trick-or-treaters whose parents support Obama. Seriously. Hat tip to RawStory:
Shirley Nagel of Grosse Pointe Farms gave out treats Friday evening, but only to those who share her support of John McCain and running mate Sarah Palin.
Fox 2 News reports a sign posted outside Nagel's house, about 12 miles west of Detroit, served notice to all trick-or-treaters. It read: "No handouts for Obama supporters, liars, tricksters or kids of supporters."
Nagel told a Fox 2 reporter that "Obama's scary." When asked about children who'd been turned away empty-handed and crying, she said: "Oh well. Everybody has a choice."
Contrast the praise for Palin with the back of the hand given to the lamentable Harriet Miers. Nominated to the Supreme Court by George W. Bush, she encountered fierce resistance from, of all people, conservatives. They questioned her ideological fervor and wondered about her legal acumen. "There is a gaping disproportion between the stakes associated with this vacancy and the stature of the person nominated to fill it," wrote a certain Kristol in the Weekly Standard. As luck would have it, he was right.
But why such keen objectivity regarding Miers and not Palin, for whom the phrase "gaping disproportion" would seem to have been coined? The answer is obvious. It is not "the stature of the person nominated" that matters, it is the person's ideology. Miers not only had questionable credentials but questionable ideological purity as well -- what the National Review called "the substance and the muddle of her views." Palin is a down-the-line rightie, so her inexperience, her lack of interest in foreign affairs, her numbing provincialism and her gifts for fabrication (Can we go over that "bridge to nowhere" routine again?) do not trouble her ideological handlers. Let her get into office. They will govern.
Aha. There's the rub.
Like George W. Bush: Sarah Palin is seen by the neoconservative coterie as the simple-Simon (or is that Simone...) faux populist rube whom they hope to set up as the popular vessel through which they will govern. She mollifies the "crazies" (the religious right, the rural right, and the more self-determined fiscal right,) and they get to keep foisting their Middle East think-tankery on a hapless public. The payoff to the fiscons is that they get to loot the Treasury and hoard the money through obscene tax cuts for the rich. Sadly, the religious right and the rural "real American" Limbaugh listeners get nothing but jingoistic cheerleading, empty promises (I'm sure the GOP is gonna get right on that federal banning of gay marriage and abortion thing... any minute now...) and frightening tales of shotgun confiscation and scary brown people lurking at the Mall of the Americas! to keep them in line...) As for Sarah, in the neocons' estimation, like George, they need only flatter her and promote her and suppress opposition to her within the Republican Party, and it's a go. In that sense, it is she, and not John McCain (the neocons' original candidate in 2000 and again this year) who truly is Bush II.
He really is better than the network he finds himself on ...
The Fox News anchor forced to live through yet another strange Joe the Plumber interview as the Average Superstar bungles more precious moments of his 15 minutes of fame with Palinite babbling. Here's a bit of Joe's eternal wisdom. Asked if he really meant it when he "went ahead and agreed with" a McCain supporter who suggested a vote for Barack Obama would mean the death of Israel...
PLUMBER: No, that is just my personal opinion that I've come up with by looking into different facts and what I think. That is what my message has been about. I haven't been telling people to go out and vote. Listen, you don't want my opinion on foreign policy. I know just enough about foreign policy to probably be dangerous.
SMITH: That is what I was wondering. I wonder if you think it is dangerous at all for people to say that a vote for Barack Obama is the same as a vote for Israel, if you think that is dangerous for people to start believing. What happens if the polls are right and he becomes President of the United States and people start thinking that this means the death of Israel. Are you worried about what people might do if they actually believe something like that?
PLUMBER: That goes back to what I just got done saying. Some people believe it wholeheartedly. This gentleman I spoke to is Middle America. Therefore...it is very important to him -- important to me, but especially important to this gentleman. He is Middle America and he was able to get on there and make his point, and I agreed with him. I have no idea where John McCain's position is on that. John McCain is his own person, just like I am.
JTP is all McCain's now -- he's campaigning for him, dontcha know! Which should work really well with swing voters ... did I mention that he doesn't want his Social Security checks when he retires? Maybe he could sit next to "Jomama" on the bus and keep her company, since apparently, John McCain has fallen for Joe, and out of love with her.
One McCain aide describes Sarah Palin as "going rogue," and going off script, perhaps on purpuse, on everything from her $150,000 wardrobe to whether the campaign should have pulled out of Michigan. Meanwhile...
A second McCain source says she appears to be looking out for herself more than the McCain campaign.
And this anonymous tipster goes further:
"She is a diva. She takes no advice from anyone," this McCain adviser said. "She does not have any relationships of trust with any of us, her family or anyone else.
"Also, she is playing for her own future and sees herself as the next leader of the party. Remember: Divas trust only unto themselves, as they see themselves as the beginning and end of all wisdom."
Not ever her own family??? Oh, those small town values!
Is the Republican Party destined to become the dunce party? Maybe so... having spurned "big city America", science, and intellectual elitism in favor of small-town, "real America", the Party of Palin is losing the major metropolitan areas that Ronald Reagan once coopted. Worse, by courting anti-intellectualism and pandering to the worst instincts in American life: jingoism, racism, tribalism and regionalism, including questioning the patriotism of whole coasts, how does the party grow, especially since Hispanics (especially non-Catholic Hispanics,) are running away from them in droves, turned off by the race-baiting, "whites in the White House," anti-immigrant rantings of the right; and African-Americans barely give the GOP a second look? I think it's clear which way the tide in this country is turning, and it's not in the direction of the Limbaugh-Buchanan-Hannity party.
More on election demographics here. You don't even have to click on the link to figure out that Palinism, which appears to be the dominant element within the GOP right now, is incredibly destructive to the Republican Party.
Brad Blakeman summarizes GOP values as well as anyone this century: he defends the RNC's spending the cost of a single family home in some states on a Saks and Neiman Marcus shopping spree for Sarah Palin (and her kids) while sneering at Barack Obama flying home to Hawaii to visit his ailing grandmother. Here you go:
Do you know what the translation for the term "the base" is in Arabic? It's "al-Qaeda."
And now for the post. Christopher Buckley has resigned from the National Review, and his resignation was accepted in what might be called a "New York minute" (except that the right hates New York, except that they mostly live there ... so, maybe a "Wasila minute???) His crime: he endorsed Barack Obama, and in doing so, enraged the base. ... And so now, the son of NR's founder, the really, very delightful William F. Buckley Jr., is on the outs. He writes at The Daily Beast (Tina Brown's new blog home):
Since my Obama endorsement, Kathleen and I have become BFFs and now trade incoming hate-mails. No one has yet suggested my dear old Mum should have aborted me, but it’s pretty darned angry out there in Right Wing Land. One editor at National Review—a friend of 30 years—emailed me that he thought my opinions “cretinous.” One thoughtful correspondent, who feels that I have “betrayed”—the b-word has been much used in all this—my father and the conservative movement generally, said he plans to devote the rest of his life to getting people to cancel their subscriptions to National Review. But there was one bright spot: To those who wrote me to demand, “Cancel my subscription,” I was able to quote the title of my father’s last book, a delicious compendium of his NR “Notes and Asides”: Cancel Your Own Goddam Subscription.
Within hours of my endorsement appearing in The Daily Beast it became clear that National Review had a serious problem on its hands. So the next morning, I thought the only decent thing to do would be to offer to resign my column there. This offer was accepted—rather briskly!—by Rich Lowry, NR’s editor, and its publisher, the superb and able and fine Jack Fowler. I retain the fondest feelings for the magazine that my father founded, but I will admit to a certain sadness that an act of publishing a reasoned argument for the opposition should result in acrimony and disavowal.
My father in his day endorsed a number of liberal Democrats for high office, including Allard K. Lowenstein and Joe Lieberman. One of his closest friends on earth was John Kenneth Galbraith. In 1969, Pup wrote a widely-remarked upon column saying that it was time America had a black president. (I hasten to aver here that I did not endorse Senator Obama because he is black. Surely voting for someone on that basis is as racist as not voting for him for the same reason.)
My point, simply, is that William F. Buckley held to rigorous standards, and if those were met by members of the other side rather than by his own camp, he said as much. My father was also unpredictable, which tends to keep things fresh and lively and on-their-feet. He came out for legalization of drugs once he decided that the war on drugs was largely counterproductive. Hardly a conservative position. Finally, and hardly least, he was fun. God, he was fun. He liked to mix it up.
So, I have been effectively fatwahed (is that how you spell it?) by the conservative movement, and the magazine that my father founded must now distance itself from me. But then, conservatives have always had a bit of trouble with the concept of diversity. The GOP likes to say it’s a big-tent. Looks more like a yurt to me.
Buckley goes on to say that it's really no biggie, since conservatism doesn't mean much in the wake of eight years of gigantic government, Terri Schiavo intervention and an ill-conceived war in Iraq. Besides, as many conservatives (including George Will, David Brooks, and when he's not being a peevish, duplicitous little prick, even David Frum have admitted, the Republican Party is becoming increasingly a hostile place for intellectuals (except for neocons. They're always welcome.) And so, welcome to the winning team, Chris. We're glad to have you.
Tens of thousands of eligible voters in at least six swing states have been removed from the rolls or have been blocked from registering in ways that appear to violate federal law, according to a review of state records and Social Security data by The New York Times.
The actions do not seem to be coordinated by one party or the other, nor do they appear to be the result of election officials intentionally breaking rules, but are apparently the result of mistakes in the handling of the registrations and voter files as the states tried to comply with a 2002 federal law, intended to overhaul the way elections are run.
Still, because Democrats have been more aggressive at registering new voters this year, according to state election officials, any heightened screening of new applications may affect their party’s supporters disproportionately. The screening and trimming of voter registration lists in the six states — Colorado, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Nevada and North Carolina — could also result in problems at the polls on Election Day: people who have been removed from the rolls are likely to show up only to be challenged by political party officials or election workers, resulting in confusion, long lines and heated tempers.
Some states allow such voters to cast provisional ballots. But they are often not counted because they require added verification.
Although much attention this year has been focused on the millions of new voters being added to the rolls by the candidacy of Senator Barack Obama, there has been far less notice given to the number of voters being dropped from those same rolls.
So what's behind this? The Orwellian "Help America Vote Act," pushed through by a Republican congress to satisfy the GOP's constant need to pretend there is massive voter fraud going on in Democratic strongholds -- a mania that was also behind the firing of U.S. attorneys unwilling to embark on Karl Rove inspired witch hunts.
The Times' article takes a while to get to Florida, where our Republican Secretary of State, Kurt Browning, is having the 67 supervisors of elections across the state enforce a 2006 law that sifts voter registrations through the Social Security database, as well as state driver's license records. Initially, there were at least 16,000 people who were stricken from the rolls due to our "no match, no vote," law, though most were restored after a court order last December. Now that the order has been set aside, the Sunshine State purge is back on, and we simply don't yet know how many will face problems on Election Day.
More from the Times' story:
The six states seem to be in violation of federal law in two ways. Some are removing voters from the rolls within 90 days of a federal election, which is not allowed except when voters die, notify the authorities that they have moved out of state, or have been declared unfit to vote.
Some of the states are improperly using Social Security data to verify registration applications for new voters.
In addition to the six swing states, three more states appear to be violating federal law. Alabama and Georgia seem to be improperly using Social Security information to screen registration applications from new voters. And Louisiana appears to have removed thousands of voters after the federal deadline for taking such action.
Under federal law, election officials are supposed to use the Social Security database to check a registration application only as a last resort, if no record of the applicant is found on state databases, like those for driver’s licenses or identification cards.
The requirement exists because using the federal database is less reliable than the state lists, and is more likely to incorrectly flag applications as invalid. Many state officials seem to be using the Social Security lists first.
In the year ending Sept. 30, election officials in Nevada, for example, used the Social Security database more than 740,000 times to check voter files or registration applications and found more than 715,000 nonmatches, federal records show. Election officials in Georgia ran more than 1.9 million checks on voter files or voter registration applications and found more than 260,000 nonmatches.
Officials of the Social Security Administration, presented with those numbers, said they were far too high to be cases where names were not in state databases. They said the data seem to represent a violation of federal law and the contract the states signed with the agency to use the database.
Greg Palast was on with Stephanie Miller this morning talking about his and Robert Kennedy Jr.'s new comic handbook, "Steal Back Your Vote." Download it and use it -- take it with you to the polls. And if you're in Florida, where I am: VOTE EARLY. Using early vote is the best way to find out if you have a problem, while giving yourself time to fix it, rather than being pushed to vote on a provisional ballot on November 4th, which has less chance of being counted.
If Newt is the roaster, is John Boehner the weenie?
John Boehner went all-in on the bailout bill, and got hosed. He failed to deliver more than 65 GOP votes, and looks like he can't whip worth a damn. Some are even questioning whether he could lose his leadership post to a more "conservative" conservative.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was working aggressively behind the scenes to defeat the Wall Street rescue plan minutes before he himself released a public statement in support of the package, NBC's Andrea Mitchell reported on Tuesday.
Gingrich was whipping up votes for the opposition, Mitchell said, apparently without the knowledge of the current GOP leader, John Boehner, who was responsible for recruiting enough support from his caucus to help ensure the bill's passage. Ultimately, the GOP was only able to rally roughly a third of its members.
"Newt Gingrich," she said on MSNBC, "I am told reliably by leading Republicans who are close to him, he was whipping against this up until the last minute, when he issued that face-saving statement. Newt Gingrich was telling people in the strongest possible language that this was a terrible deal, not only that it was a terrible deal, it was a disaster, it was the end of democracy as we know, it was socialism -- and then at the last minute [he] comes out with a statement when the vote is already in place."
After the vote, Gingrich played the phony and lamented the non-passage of the bill. But not everybody was buying it, especially since Newt was one of the righties urging John McCain to kill the bill, and send out a press release... From the July 23 edition of The Hill:
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said Tuesday that any lawmaker who votes for the Bush administration's $700 billion bailout package, which he called a “dead loser,” will face defeat in November.
Gingrich (R-Ga.) said he thinks Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is trying to scare lawmakers into passing the bailout plan quickly and without thorough study.
“I think what Paulson hopes to do is say, ‘If you don’t do exactly what I want you to do, the whole world’s going to collapse on Tuesday’,” Gingrich said.
The former Speaker, talking to reporters at a lunch, added that he expects Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) to back the plan. He predicted that, if Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) ends up opposing the administration proposal, there will be an overnight “emergence of a McCain/reform wing of the Republican Party.”
Gingrich said that occurrence would turn the election on its head, with Republicans running ads that feature Obama with President Bush on the same team in pushing for a “nightmare” bailout plan.
Newt also predicted, 6 days before the vote, that if the bill failed to pass on Friday, it would fail because lawmakers would read it on Saturday and cringe. How clairvoyant...
So what could Newty be up to? Is he preparing to run for president in 2012, as Mike Barnacle accused on "Morning Joe" yesterday? Could be. His big "Drill Here, Drill Now" gambit is heavily funded by the oil industry, whose money would also be useful in a national election, not to mention in key states like Louisiana, Florida and out West. If he runs, the scandal-plagued Gingrich would need to build a firewall on the libertarian right, to mitigate against any evangelicals who won't be able to force themselves to stomach him, as they are with McCain because of Sarah Palin. And he very much shored up that firewall with the 130 Republicans he denied to John Boehner. Now, they listen to Newt.
And Boehner? I'm sure Newt is saying, to hell with him. After all, they have a history:
House members are no strangers to political treachery either, although you need to go back nearly a decade to find a world-class example. To get rid of House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), a loosely organized band of co-conspirators proved less deft than their Roman legislative forebears did in mounting their secret scheme. Although the coup fell apart the day after it was launched, the reputations of almost all those involved -- including their intended victim -- never fully recovered.
A core group of rebels, drawn mostly from the large GOP class of '94, sought to find a way to oust the imperious speaker. But to do so, they needed help from the top Republican leadership. It soon came from Majority Leader Dick Armey (Texas), Majority Whip Tom DeLay (Texas), GOP conference Chairman John Boehner (Ohio) and Rep. Bill Paxon (N.Y.), then a trusted Gingrich capo.
The plan was to have Armey, DeLay, Boehner and Paxon -- each an independent actor with his own power base -- confront Gingrich with a fait accompli: step down or face being voted out of office. Armey, however, backed out when it appeared that Gingrich wanted Paxon to succeed him. In the murky aftermath, DeLay confessed his role, which helped to rehabilitate his reputation. Armey never did. And Paxon -- who was to Gingrich what Brutus was to Caesar -- was out of a leadership job. After the 1998 midterm elections, waged by congressional Republicans as a (failed) referendum on impeaching President Clinton, Gingrich himself was soon gone. (after spending some time in political purgatory, the former Speaker has once more become a hot commodity.)
With Armey and DeLay long gone, could this be Newt's little payback for the fourth member of the wolf pack, while enhancing his own presidential / populist portfolio in the process? You've got to wonder...
I don't know if I agree with E.J. Dionne about the innate intelligence of the American voter, but here you go:
All of a sudden, the culture war seems entirely beside the point, an unaffordable luxury in a time of economic turmoil. What politicians actually believe about the economy, what fixes they propose, whether they side with the wealthy few or the hurting many -- these become the stuff of elections, the reasons behind people's votes.
And nothing more exposes the hypocrisy of financial elites riding the coattails of those who revere small-town religious values than a downturn that highlights the vast gulf in power between the two key components of the conservative coalition. Even cultural conservatives will start to notice that McCain's tax policies are geared toward the wealthy investing class and Obama's toward the paycheck crowd. Even the most ardent friends of business have begun to argue that a re-engagement with sensible regulation is essential to restoring capitalism's health.
For some time, McCain's strategists figured they could deflect attention from the big issues by turning Palin into a country-and-western celebrity and launching so many ill-founded attacks on Obama that the truth would never catch up. The McCain strategists' approach reflected a low opinion of average voters, and some Obama supporters began worrying that their opinion might be right.
But those so-called average voters understand the difference between low- and high-stakes elections. They develop a reasonably good sense of who is telling the truth and who is not. And though it sometimes takes a while -- and a shock like this week's economic news -- these voters almost always turn on politicians who manipulate cultural symbols as a way to escape the consequences of their policies.
We'll see if he's right. I surely hope he is. But I suspect that even in the face of clear evidence that the GOP, McCain's party (whether he wants to admit it these days or not ...) is, and will continue to, pursue policies that benefit the monied elite at their expense, many lower-middle and middle class white voters, especially in the industrial heartland and certainly in the south, will continue to vote social issues and "culture," especially with a black man on the "European" ticket. These voters don't get, or simply don't care, what Republican party policies do to them, or to their finances, because they culturally ignore government. What they want is a president who "shares their values," and with whom they are personally comfortable. After that, the government can do its worst. They just keep trodding on. That, unfortunately, is America -- or at least a good 50 percent of it.
Five things the left doesn't understand about 'conservatives'
Whether you're talking about "fiscons," who want tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts! ... and the elimination of social spending; "socons," social conservatives who care mostly about abortion, stem cell research (read "abortion,") teaching the Bible's precepts in school instead of wicked "science," and a curious obsession with gays; or "neocons," whose main goal is to go to war with every country whose name starts with a vowel but isn't Israel -- people on the left just don't understand who they're dealing with. Liberals continue to think they can reason with or bring right wingers around, when in fact, they can't. Not ever. There is too stark a difference between the core beliefs of "red state" and "blue state" people, to bridge the divide.
In the end, what liberals, progressives, Democrats, whatever you want to call them, don't understand about the right can be summed up in 5 points:
1) Conservatives don't care about public policy. They care about social policy. The impact of their plans on the economy, working men and women, the middle class, families, whatever, is irrelevant to them. They care about regulating behavior to make it conform to Biblical law (or to prevent outbursts of dissent, too much free speech, etc.) and they care about winning elections and holding onto power. Public policy is for Democrats. 2) Conservatives don't care about governing. They hate government, except to the extent that it provides people aligned with them with lucrative contracts and/or cushy jobs. Talk to any black Republican for instance, and of the first two reasons they'll give you for why they became Republicans, one will be "contracts." (The other will be either "tax cuts" or "school vouchers." Somewhere down the road, the really creative ones will throw out "Abraham Lincoln." Other than that, all conservatives really care about is winning elections and holding onto power (so that they can get more lucrative contracts and cushy jobs.)
3) Conservatives could care less if what their leaders are saying is true or not. It sounds true enough to them on talk radio and Fox News, so what's it to you? Modern conservatism has a strong authoritarian streak, so whatever the leadership says is gospel, and the followers' only job is to repeat the "truths," ridicule dissenters, and do everything possible to ensure that the leadership wins elections and holds onto power.
4) Conservatives don't give a flying rat's backside about the future. Many of them believe we're in the end-times anyway, so who cares if global warming shrinks the ice caps, or the Supreme Court reinstates the Salem Witch Trials or permits evangelical gun owners to shoot pro-choicers on sight. The world is disposable and meant for mankind to use, enjoy, and profit from. That's why the conservative response to global warming is denial, snidery, and bigger SUVs.
5) Conservatives don't care about substance. In fact, substance, detail and subtlety are seen as "elite" and effeminate. What the right cares about is symbolism, and the power of symbolism, combined with aggressive messaging, sensory bombardment (and when necessary, dirty tricks,) to help them win elections and hold onto power. Symbolism is why some women, including some who supported Hillary feel compelled to support Sarah Palin. Symbolism is the sum and total of the McCain-Palin campaign. It's not about policy, (i.e., what the Moose Mavericks might actually DO.) it's about making their followers feel good, vindicated and exhilarated about helping the powerful interests behind the GOP to ... wait for it ... win elections, and hold onto power. (On the flip side, Barack Obama has chosen not to use the symbolism of his run as the first black man to vie seriously for the presidency, for fear it would alienate white voters. That hasn't stopped some more open bigots on the right from calling him "uppity" for thinking himself above his station, but it tells you something the right may not know about the left: liberals hate symbolism.)
Most of all, conservatives hate everyone who isn't conservative. For all their self-pity over the "angry left's" demonization of all things Bush, the right is driven more by their hatreds than by their ideas (which can pretty much be boiled down to tax elimination (cuts are for bitches,) abolishing public programs that give their "hard earned money" to "lazy," poor, disabled and old people (though many of them are poor, disabled and old,) privatization to produce maximum wealth for corporations (because they do the trickling down,) deregulation of business and guns, extensive regulation of private behavior (including government surveilance and outlawing of abortion,) and frequent war, to replenish the stock value of war-releated manufaturers while keeping the country focused on fear and jingoism, rather than on the flaws of "conservative" leadership. Just listen to right wing vs. left wing talk radio. Notice how angry the right sounds; how hyper. Scroll down to the posts under any story about Barack Obama, and note the venom. This morning on "Imus," the WaPo's religion writer said the most vicious, frightening emails she gets when she dares to critique Sarah Palin are from professed Christians. And yet, the right delights in styling itself as the victim of left-wing "hatred."
But what the right doesn't understand about the left is that liberals don't necessarily hate conservatives. They just think they're narrow minded, selfish and stupid (a point on which much of the world, sadly, agrees,) and that their beliefs subject America to caricature and ridicule.
More reactions to Palin: snidery doesn' always sell
My gut reaction to the Palin speech (one shared by Josh Marshall and in even more depth by James Fallows of The Atlantic,) that it was delivered fine, but way too snide, seems to be getting confirmation in various places. My take was that so far, the GOP convention is SO red meat, so "everybody but evangelicals and gun nuts GTFO!" that it can't possibly attract Independents, much less Democrats, who can't have felt "reached out to" by a night full of over the top insults, not just to Barack Obama (who's been more than gracious to Palin) but also to Democrats as a whole. First there was the Nevada focus group where women expressed dismay at Palin's negativity, and now this:
The Detroit Free Press invited a panel of Michigan voters to weigh in on Gov. Sarah Palin's speech last night. Their reactions run the gamut, but the independents didn't seem to care for her very much.
... George Lentz, 66, Southfield independent: “I was completely underwhelmed. She was a Republican novelty act with a sophomoric script. It was not even a speech I would expect for someone running for the local PTA, much less for vice president.”
Diane Murphy, 42, Sterling Heights independent: “It appears that once she makes up her mind, that is the end of it. We live in a gray world, not every answer is black and white.”
Jan Wheelock, 58, Royal Oak independent: “Nothing worked for me. I found her barrage of snide remarks and distortions to be a major turnoff. She is not a class act. The most important point she made is that she will be an effective attack dog.”
In fact, Palin's speech will only serve to deepen the antipathy of Democrats to her and to McCain, while not helping the ticket with Indies. A couple more from the Freep panel:
“Palin is a far better orator than McCain. But the tone of her speech is sarcastic, mean-spirited and divisive. Apparently, her role is to look good and throw out red meat for the base. …
“Palin has repeated her lie about ‘saying no’ to the bridge from nowhere. Has she no shame?”
-- James Melton, 45, Detroit Democrat
"Sarah Palin is a self-described ‘pitbull with lipstick.’ She spent little time helping Americans learn who she is. She is a cool, poised speaker, but her speech contained few statements about policy or the party platform. … I am not convinced that Palin's experience as a mayor or governor in Alaska meet the qualifications to be vice president much less one stroke or heart attack away from being commander in chief.”
-- Ilene Beninson, 52, Berkley independent
“Sarah got as much applause as Hillary did, and had a friendly, appealing appearance. Her delivery style reminded me of a high school valedictorian who also might have been a cheerleader. I thought she would appear more professional, more stateswomanly. She's no match for Joe Biden.”
Another issue with the speech is that there's nothing in it that will be memorable; no "yes we can" (the New Hampshire speech that will go down in history, I think, as one of the finest political speeches ever given...) no "America's promise" or "this is the moment," from Obama's acceptance speech, not even "morning in America." In fact, the most memorable lines from Ms. Palin's speeches will all be attack lines against Obama -- which may be good for McCain in the short run in that thos lines will energize the base; but as I've said repeatedly, just how big does John McCain think the red meat Republican base is? Like his gamble with Palin given her lack of experience, John McCain is betting everything on 50 percent plus one American voters being Dittoheads.
Jack Cafferty calls Republicans irrelevant, saying of their truncated convention:
It is entirely fitting that the headliner for this masquerade is a feeble looking 72-year-old white guy who doesn't know how many homes he owns. ...
... In a way, the perfect storm of a rapidly changing population -- old white people aren't going to be in the majority very much longer (and isn't that who most of the Republicans are?) -- has combined with the total abdication of principles, Republican or otherwise, of arguably the worst president in the nation's history to mark the beginning of the end of the Republican Party as we know it.
And Richard Cohen snickers at the GOP's silly defense of its vice presidential nominee:
John McCain's selection of Palin, which I first viewed with horror, could now be seen in a different light. Based on various television interviews over the Labor Day weekend -- and a careful reading of the transcripts -- it is possible that this is McCain's attempt to make fools of his fellow Republicans. He has succeeded beyond all expectations.
Gingrich's point about Palin being commander in chief of the Alaska National Guard has been echoed throughout the GOP. In fact, even Cindy McCain pointed out -- rightly enough -- that Alaska is across the Bering Strait from Russia and so Palin, by deduction, has been on the front lines of the Cold War . . . had it not ended in 1989.
Still, you have to admit that in all that time, especially since Palin became governor about two years ago, no Russian invasion force has come across the strait, maybe because she was in charge of the Guard, maybe because she herself is a hunter and an athlete. The record is unclear because no high-ranking Russian appeared on any of the weekend talk shows to say how they had considered an invasion of Alaska and then backed off when Sarah Palin became commander in chief of the Alaska National Guard. Who could blame them? ...
... Probably the most depressing thing about Palin is not her selection but the defense of it. It has produced a parade of GOP spokesmen intent on spiking the needle on a polygraph. Looking right into the camera, they offer statement after statement that they hope the voters will swallow but that history will forget. The sum effect on the diligent news consumer is a feeling of consummate contempt for the intelligence of the American people -- a contempt that will be justified should Palin be the factor that makes McCain a winner in November.
He also reminds us that Bill Kristol made a name for himself working for Dan Quayle...
And McCain flak Tucker Bounds fails to slip Sarah Palin past, of all people, Campbell Brown.
Has anyone checked David Gregory's car for a McCain '08 bumper sticker?
Reinforcing why I would literally quit watching "Meet the Press" if he became the moderator, David "Stretch" Gregory, who has made a faux reputation as a tough Washington reporter while simultaneously serving as Dubya's sweetheart, did an entire segment with surrogates for Barack Obama and John McCain (Tim Kaine, who did very well, by the way, and the very strange Bobby Jindal, who does the creepy eyes, if you know what I mean...) on the subject of Georgia, without once asking Jindal the following question (or something like it):
"Is it appropriate, in your opinion, for John McCain to have as his top foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann, who not only lobbied on behalf of the Georgian government, but who also lobbied John McCain?"
Nor did Gregory quiz Jindal on the McCain campaign's crass politicization of the Georgia crisis, After all, his own network has reported on it, and in the previous segment, Gregory had just talked to Condi Rice ... about Georgia... Another issue that went un-asked, and thus un-answered, McCain's newly minted ties to Jack Abramoff scandal-tainted "Christian" lobbyist Ralph Reed, another issue reported by his very own network, NBC.
Instead, Gregory lobbed such softballs at Jindall as, "are you going to be vice president? ... are you sure ...? Is that a Shermanesque 'no' or a fakey-fake one...?"
Just for giggles, let's check out the first question to Kaine and Jindall this morning. First, Kaine. Gregory asked him:
Let's get right to it. We both heard Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice talking about the situation in Georgia, Governor Kaine. Senator Obama was criticized by the McCain campaign this week, particularly for his comments that there should be restraint on both sides after the invasion. Was he too weak in his initial response?
...a fine imitation of Stephen Hayes or Bill Kristol, but trotting out the RedState.com meme of the month is not an auspicious start for a so-called "straight reporter." Now, let's take a look at Jindal's first at-bat, which came moments later:
Governor Jindal, just as Senator Obama's criticized, Senator McCain, too, was criticized by an adviser to Senator Obama, who said that some of his initial tough talk was shot from the hip and was actually belligerent, in the words of one of Obama's advisers.
Okay, not bad, although it was a bit more than just Obama advisers that were having a go at McCain for trying to restart the Cold War ... anyway, now let's look at the next 10 questions Gregory asks the two surrogates, and I'm going to put them in the exact order in which they appeared in the program and transcript, without the responses, for the sake of time. Here we go...
1. MR. GREGORY: Let's turn to domestic matters in this campaign, and The New York Times reporting some criticism of Senator Obama now. And the headline reads like this: "Allies Ask Obama to Make Hope More Specific. [Democratic] party leaders in battleground states say the fight ahead against Senator John McCain looks tougher than they imagined, with Mr. Obama vulnerable on multiple fronts. ...
"These Democrats - 15 governors, members of Congress and state party leaders - say Obama has yet to convert his popularity among many Americans into solutions to crucial electoral challenges: showing ownership of an issue, like economic stewardship of national security; winning over supporters of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton; and minimizing his race and experience level as concerns for voters. ...
(plays some tape)
2. MR. GREGORY: Governor Kaine, has Senator Obama wasted time here?
3. MR. GREGORY: But understands the economy, but has Senator Obama owned this issue?
4. MR. GREGORY: Are some of these criticisms of Obama coming out of the Clinton camp in your judgment?
5. MR. GREGORY: But is unity a problem right now in the party?
6. MR. GREGORY: There may be agreement there, but that doesn't sound like there's unity within the party, to hear some of the criticism about Obama.
(Kaine says you'll see unity in Denver)
7. MR. GREGORY: But it's not there yet.
Okay, now, for question number 8, with the set-up:
MR. GREGORY: Let me turn to Governor Jindal and Senator McCain.
In some of his ads, this is how he's talking about America today, watch.
(Videotape, campaign ad)
Announcer: Washington's broken. John McCain knows it. We're worse off than we were four years ago.
8. MR. GREGORY: That's a pretty direct swipe at President Bush, isn't it, Governor?
Say WHAT??? So Gregory spends about five minutes haranguing Tim Kaine about Democratic disunity, Obama squandering bad economic news and general doom and gloom for November, and then serves up a golden ticket for Bobby Jindal to distance his candidate from President Bush, which just happens to be precisely the McCain campaign strategy??? namely, DISTANCING THE CANDIDATE FROM PRESIDENT BUSH? Gregory, are you serious?
Let's go on:
9. MR. GREGORY: Governor, do you agree with Senator McCain that America's worse off than it was four years ago?
Again, nothing about McCain's comment, just the night before, about $5 million in income being the floor for being rich. Nothing about his 95-100 percent voting record with President Bush, in contrast to the message in the ad Gregory just ran; in short, nothing at all that an actual reporter, and not another campaign surrogate, would ask. Do we dare try question number ten? Oh, why the hell not. It's late and I'm an insomniac...
10. MR. GREGORY: You've talked about the crisis within the Republican Party, that it lost its way, that it used to be the party of big ideas. And now you back Senator McCain. What's the big idea Senator McCain is campaigning on?
Okay, here's where I start poking sharp sticks in my eyes. Why not just ask, "Governor Jindall, what is John McCain's plan to make America a better place for all of us to live?" Jesus, Mary and Joseph! Well, at least there was a follow up:
GOV. JINDAL: Well, I think there's several, but certainly when it comes to domestic issues, he understands the energy crisis is probably the biggest economic obstacle we face and he understands that it's not one silver bullet, that we do need more domestic oil and gas production. We do need nuclear power. We need clean coal. We need conservation. We need renewables.
MR. GREGORY: But those were Bush-Cheney big ideas in 2000. Where are the new big ideas of the Republican Party that John McCain is, is championing?
Wow. Give that man a Pullitzer.
Of course, after that, Gregory went right for the Jindal jugular with his very next question:
MR. GREGORY: Governor Jindal, would you like to be vice president?
Well that's it, folks. David Gregory: crack reporter, killing "Meet the Press" in 11 questions or less.