Nel's New Day

July 31, 2017

The Shrinking Republican Brain

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 9:51 PM
Tags: ,

In the mid-twentieth century, Republicans represented the elite and intelligentsia. President Dwight D. Eisenhower was a rational person who managed to provide the United States with the interstate. With the onset of actor Ronald Reagan, the GOP joined the evangelicals for power and lost its smarts—and its ability to lead. In his column, Paul Krugman asks, “Who ate Republicans brains?” and covers the changes in the past half century. 

When the tweeter-in-chief castigated Senate Republicans as “total quitters” for failing to repeal the Affordable Care Act, he couldn’t have been more wrong. In fact, they showed zombie-like relentlessness in their determination to take health care away from millions of Americans, shambling forward despite devastating analyses by the Congressional Budget Office, denunciations of their plans by every major medical group, and overwhelming public disapproval.

Put it this way: Senator Lindsey Graham was entirely correct when he described the final effort at repeal as “terrible policy and horrible politics,” a “disaster” and a “fraud.” He voted for it anyway — and so did 48 of his colleagues.

So where did this zombie horde come from? Who ate Republicans’ brains?

As many people have pointed out, when it came to health care Republicans were basically caught in their own web of lies. They fought against the idea of universal coverage, then denounced the Affordable Care Act for failing to cover enough people; they made “skin in the game,” i.e., high out-of-pocket costs, the centerpiece of their health care ideology, then denounced the act for high deductibles. When they finally got their chance at repeal, the contrast between what they had promised and their actual proposals produced widespread and justified public revulsion.

But the stark dishonesty of the Republican jihad against Obamacare itself demands an explanation. For it went well beyond normal political spin: for seven years a whole party kept insisting that black was white and up was down.

And that kind of behavior doesn’t come out of nowhere. The Republican health care debacle was the culmination of a process of intellectual and moral deterioration that began four decades ago, at the very dawn of modern movement conservatism — that is, during the very era anti-Trump conservatives now point to as the golden age of conservative thought.

A key moment came in the 1970s, when Irving Kristol, the godfather of neoconservatism, embraced supply-side economics — the claim, refuted by all available evidence and experience, that tax cuts pay for themselves by boosting economic growth. Writing years later, he actually boasted about valuing political expediency over intellectual integrity: “I was not certain of its economic merits but quickly saw its political possibilities.” In another essay, he cheerfully conceded to having had a “cavalier attitude toward the budget deficit,” because it was all about creating a Republican majority — so “political effectiveness was the priority, not the accounting deficiencies of government.”

Every weekday, get thought-provoking commentary from Op-Ed columnists, the Times editorial board and contributing writers from around the world.

The problem is that once you accept the principle that it’s O.K. to lie if it helps you win elections, it gets ever harder to limit the extent of the lying — or even to remember what it’s like to seek the truth.

The right’s intellectual and moral collapse didn’t happen all at once. For a while, conservatives still tried to grapple with real problems. In 1989, for example, The Heritage Foundation offered a health care plan strongly resembling Obamacare. That same year, George H. W. Bush proposed a cap-and-trade system to control acid rain, a proposal that eventually became law.

But looking back, it’s easy to see the rot spreading. Compared with Donald Trump, the elder Bush looks like a paragon — but his administration lied relentlessly about rising inequality. His son’s administration lied consistently about its tax cuts, pretending that they were targeted on the middle class, and — in case you’ve forgotten — took us to war on false pretenses.

And almost the entire G.O.P. either endorsed or refused to condemn the “death panels” slander against Obamacare.

Given this history, the Republican health care disaster was entirely predictable. You can’t expect good or even coherent policy proposals from a party that has spent decades embracing politically useful lies and denigrating expertise.

And let’s be clear: we’re talking about Republicans here, not the “political system.”

Democrats aren’t above cutting a few intellectual corners in pursuit of electoral advantage. But the Obama administration was, when all is said and done, remarkably clearheaded and honest about its policies. In particular, it was always clear what the A.C.A. was supposed to do and how it was supposed to do it — and it has, for the most part, worked as advertised.

Now what? Maybe, just maybe, Republicans will work with Democrats to make the health system work better — after all, polls suggest that voters will, rightly, blame them for any future problems. But it wouldn’t be easy for them to face reality even if their president wasn’t a bloviating bully.

And it’s hard to imagine anything good happening on other policy fronts, either. Republicans have spent decades losing their ability to think straight, and they’re not going to get it back anytime soon.

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May 10, 2017

Jason Chaffetz: Epitome of the GOP

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 11:10 PM
Tags: , , , , , ,

Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) may be almost gone, but he will live on as the epitome of the GOP leadership. Vinson Cunningham describes some of his characteristics, and photographer Bill Clark captured a representative image.

Chaffetz seemed like an independent person last October when Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) revealed his privileged sense of depravity by talking about indiscriminately  grabbing “pussy.” In response, Chaffetz seemed to take the high road when he rescinded his endorsement of DDT:

“My wife and I, we have a fifteen-year-old daughter, and if I can’t look her in the eye and tell her these things, I can’t endorse this person.”

At that time he also had much more to say about the “awful place” the nominee had put the country in and his “abhorrent and offensive” language, but his position about DDT lasted only two and a half weeks before the 180-degree turned Chaffetz into a DDT supporter. His excuse was that Hillary Clinton was “that bad.” As House Oversight chairman, he has focused for years on trying to make Clinton’s life miserable in endless Benghazi inquisitions. None of the expensive endeavors turned up any illegal action, but Chaffetz isn’t through. Returning from re-election this past January, Chaffetz opened an investigation into Clinton’s emails, hoping for criminal charges, and Comey’s firing inspired him to expand the scope of his search for something—anything—that might be illegal in Clinton’s private server.

Faced with unconstitutional conflict of interest charges for DDT, Chaffetz mentally shrugged his shoulders and said, “He’s already rich. He’s very rich. I don’t think that he ran for this office to line his pockets even more. I just don’t see it like that.” Pushed to investigate the $400 million deal between Jared Kushner’s family and the Chinese, Chaffetz said:

“I don’t see how that affects the average American and their taxpayer dollars. Just the fact that a staff person’s family is making money? It’s not enough.”

Chaffetz referred to “these other little intrigues about a wealthy family making money” as “a bit of a sideshow.”

Soon after DDT’s inauguration, Chaffetz proposed a bill that would allow Republicans to sell off public lands. A bipartisan backlash caused him to say that he was withdrawing the bill because his constituents objected. That was February 2. Eight days later the bill was referred to a subcommittee.

During public appearances during “Trumpcare”s first attempt this year, Chaffetz maintained that people could pay for their health care if they didn’t buy a new iPhone. First, the cost of an iPhone won’t pay for health care. But then came the discovery that Chaffetz’s $738 iPhone—and its services—came from campaign funds. This would be illegal if he used it for person business, but he hasn’t answered any questions about whether he does. Then came his attack on Rosie O’Donnell after Chaffetz’s Democratic opponent for 2018, Kathryn Allen, raised over $200,000 in just two days.

Another part of Chaffetz’s history is his failure to become a Secret Service agent. He claimed that he was rejected because he was too old, but then-Assistant Director Edward Lowery sent an email saying about his application, “Some information that he might find embarrassing needs to get out. Just to be fair.”

The kitchen apparently got too hot for Chaffetz at an April town hall meeting in his home Utah district. The people who attended scolded him for not investigating administration corruption, including DDT’s appointment of Michael Flynn for national security adviser. Chaffetz whined about how his constituents in his deep red district were there only to “bully and intimidate” him and called them “paid protesters.” Then he said he wouldn’t run for re-election in 2018 and might even leave Congress before then. Chaffetz claimed that he wanted to return to the private sector and be with his family. “I started poking around to see what I might be worth and what sort of possibilities are there,” he said in an interview. And then he avoided Congress and his constituents by a month-long leave after foot surgery. Distancing himself from DDT at this time could let him run for governor or even president in 2020.

The House was so desperate for votes on their cruel “repeal and replace” health care bill that Chaffetz showed up on an expensive metallic scooter to cast his vote denying tens of millions of people the same health insurance that he will keep. His district is in the top ten of districts with the most people relying on the Affordable Care Act. Clark’s photograph perfectly presents the GOP cruelty of a “repeal and replace” vote for ACA in the House with the slick, gleeful Chaffetz framed against marble walls and elaborate chandeliers.

With Clinton in the White House, Chaffetz could have stayed gleeful while the Fox network filmed him constantly leading highly visible investigations about Clinton’s conflicts of interests and abuses of power. Like many other Republicans, Chaffetz hasn’t figured out how to work in a government controlled by the GOP. They are accustomed to dealing with opposition in a world where they preen in front of the cameras as victims; they don’t know what to do when the opposition comes from within. Even worse for the Republicans is that the corruption comes their own party—and much of it from their own president.

Stephanie Mencimer writes: “Jason Chaffetz is so ambitious that his last name is a verb.” She explains that “to Chaffetz” means to throw a former mentor under the bus to move ahead, something that people such as presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr. and House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy. Other Republicans carry Chaffetzing farther. DDT claimed that Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, and Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, had come to DDT asking for Comey’s firing, but people familiar with the occurrence said that DDT summoned the two of them to the White House after he decided to fire Comey. They followed his orders, and DDT tried to put the blame on them when the scheme backfired.

According to over 30 White House officials, however, DDT had become increasingly furious about Comey’s appearing in public, especially to talk about Russian involvement in U.S. politics, especially during the past week. The Washington Post has provided extensive information about events leading up to the firing and such questions as why Sessions was involved in the firing when he recused himself from anything dealing with Clinton’s emails, the ostensible reason for the firing, and Russia, the probably reason behind the firing.

The firing and the GOP support behind him reflects how Chaffetz views his job—that he has sworn allegiance to the Republican party over any loyalty to his country. The question is how long the Republicans will continue to support DDT over their country’s best interests. In an analysis of senators’ responses, only 12 of them actively defended DDT for the firing while another fifteen said that DDT’s actions raised concerns about a lack of information or the timing of the firing. Another 21 senators were vague, likely waiting to see which way they should jump after the dust settles. This is the congressional body responsible for confirming the replacement for Comey. Much to DDT’s amazement, the Democrats were overwhelming angry about the firing because of its apparent intent to stop the investigation into his relationship with Russia.

DDT’s possible business dealings with Russia may be the major issue that emerged from Monday’s Senate hearing and Comey’s firing. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) asked former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper if he had any “concern” about a DDT business interest in Russia. Clapper’s ultimate answer upon being pressed is that he could not comment on that question “because that impact an investigation.” That was an open hearing; the Judiciary Committee may pursue the question in closed meetings.  Thus far, there is a murky background to DDT’s Russia business interests that he has denied.

Basically, Chaffetz well represents the Republican leadership—cruel, self-centered, hypocritical, cowardly, dishonest, ignorant, and loyal only to those who can give him something. We’ll watch him to see where he pops up next.

August 24, 2015

The GOP Created Trump’s Adoring Public

 

Unlike the general media, I’ve avoided writing much about Donald Trump. The media, while decrying all the attention that he gets, have been using up the oxygen in the GOP presidential candidate field with its concentration on The Donald. Prime example is Meet the Press, with “I-hate-the-Trump-attention” Chuck Todd who talks about little else now.

Personally, I think that Trump has done a service by showing how they will say anything to get public approval. His position that babies born in the United States to immigrants—as Jeb Bush would say, “anchor babies”—should not be citizens despite the edict of the U.S. Constitution infected most of the GOP field. Just one candidate, Scott Walker, switched his opinion on the subject three times in the past week. Last Monday, MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt asked Walker if he wanted to end the 14th Amendment’s automatic citizenship to all children born in the U.S.  He answered, “Yeah, absolutely, going forward.” He said, “It’s about enforcing the laws in this country.” By Friday, he wouldn’t take a position on the question, and on ABC’s This Week yesterday, he stuck to “enforce the laws.” This time, however, he picked the U.S. Constitution, opposite to his laws a week ago. Once first in Iowa, Walker has dropped to third of fourth.

Like others, Walker imitates Trump with claims that he is not part of the GOP Washington establishment and wants to build a wall to keep out immigrants. Despite his assertions, he’s adopted these positions since Trump’s popularity. Walker also plans to be more spontaneous—not exactly a spontaneous comment.

Ben Carson said that he wanted to use drones against undocumented immigrants although he backed down to say he didn’t want to intentionally kill them. Bobby Jindal wants to arrest mayors of the so-called “sanctuary cities” that don’t exist. Rick Santorum joined Jindal and Lindsey Graham in jettisoning the 14th Amendment for citizenship. More despicable comments came from Iowa radio host, Jan Mickelson, who first wanted to make undocumented immigrants “assets” and then “slaves.”

Rand Paul attacked Trump for being a “fake conservative” and lacking substance. Trump would fail, according to Paul, just like Silvio Berlusconi—who served three terms as Italy’s prime minister. Pretending to be the leader in the race, Jeb Bush first ignored Trump, then he patronized him, and finally attacked Trump, perhaps under directions by his donors. Bush’s ratings just keep going down. Having watched the venom directed at other attackers, Ted Cruz stays nice to him and agrees with him about doing away with blanket citizenship for babies born in the U.S.

No matter what the opposition does, Trump’s ratings keep going up. An online survey showed 32 percent of Republicans backing Trump, up from 24 percent last week, and double the support for Bush. Carson comes in at 8 percent. A CNN survey shows that 45 percent of Republicans think that Trump is the best candidate to improve the economy while Bush, the next closest contender, trails at 8 percent.

A month ago, Timothy Egan wrote a piece for the New York Times that is rather prescient when he explained that Republicans so terrified and appalled by Trump actually created the campaign monster that they cannot control. Those protesting denigrating veterans, immigrants, and anyone who isn’t rich, fail to recognize that the protesters have ignored facts and reason in their march toward an oligarchy. When the GOP tries to make itself look respectable, they claim that they are the party of Abraham Lincoln, but that claim is true in name only—not ideology. As Republicans in Congress work to start another war in the Middle East, they neglect GOP President Eisenhower’s warning about the dangers of the U.S. becoming influenced by a military industrial complex.

Trump is the brand of the crazies cherished by the GOP media. Early in President Obama’s first presidential term, the media cheered when a GOP representative, Joe Wilson, stood up at the president’s State of the Union speech to shout, “You lie!” Brian Williams wrote about the “change in mood” surrounding the president’s speeches after the most recent SOTU:

“[J]ust the general din, the chatter, people making comments, the laughter that followed the applause after he said he was not running for office anymore, his line designed to answer back, I don’t know, in the windup of the speech, looking at the wording, was intended to be a call to our better selves, a call to a better era from a system thoroughly broken.”

Just as Republicans justified the right to rudeness toward the president, Trump gains ratings with the same offensive disrespect toward anyone who tries to get in his way. The GOP supported the hatred pointed at the president, but Trump has made it intramural. Trump said that POW John McCain was not a war hero, and Republicans fought back. Bush demanded “respect and admiration” for McCain. Yet 11 years ago, the Republicans smeared a Navy veteran with a Bronze Star, a Silver Star, and three Purple Hearts, and no Republicans supported John Kerry’s war record. As Florida governor, Jeb Bush used official stationery to praise the men who orchestrated the smear campaign against then-presidential candidate Kerry.

The last Republican to show any “respect” was McCain when he refuted a woman’s claim that presidential candidate Barack Obama was an “Arab” during the 2008 campaign. The crowd booed McCain’s response that his opponent was “a decent person.”

Trump knew that his racist comments about Mexicans would not cause him problems because Rep. Steve King was re-elected after he said undocumented immigrants had “calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.” Yet half the presidential candidates spoke at King’s Freedom Summit in January. In July, Rick Perry called the public response to Trump, “a toxic mix of demagogy, meanspiritedness and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if followed.” He was one of King’s speakers and said nothing about King’s racist remarks. Perry was also the governor who said that Texas might have to secede from the United States.

Comments to Egan’s piece:

“I’m old enough to remember that back when I was a child, the democrats preached hate. Then all the bigots changed parties, I think because when LBJ became president he signed the civil rights act, and all the bigots fled to the republican party. Same philosophy, different party. Trump like all white male politicians of the 50s and 60s, says to blame minorities for everything, crime, poverty, etc., so that people do not blame the politicians, the white males in power, for their actions. I was amazed in the 60s when I went to Berkeley and found that people said the same things about Mexicans there that the people here in the South said about blacks. Always blame anyone but the white male politicians is the rule. And it works too often.”

“They fail to understand that what they sense—the complete failure and fiction of 40-years of ‘trickle down’ economics which has resulted in the decimation of a once vital middle class—is actually the result of a deeply flawed, failed Republican ideology. So they scapegoat. They blame the people who have even less—the ‘takers,’ the ‘moochers’—you know, the poor, immigrants, people on disability, the unemployed. Their self-loathing and their ignorance makes them vote against their own interests, and has them looking for a savior–a rich, self-made man.”

“I’m a Vietnam vet. The line we crossed was Vietnam. We waged war for the profit built into every bullet. There is nothing we won’t do for money. What goes around comes around. The insanity in our society is the result of living with that elephant in the room for several generations.”

“Sen. Graham asked other Republicans to call out Trump’s initial hateful comments because they are bad for the party. But how about calling them out because they simply are toxic for the country? How about saying that it is wrong to encourage fear of immigrants and of Mexicans, that no group deserves to be reduced to rapists and drug dealers?”

“The news media has finally found something that scares them more than a nuclear- armed Iran, ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Taliban, and his name is Donald Trump.”

With Trump consuming the media, GOP standard bearers such as George Will, Charles Krauthammer, and Michael Barone are forced to spend valuable newspaper inches fighting him while Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, and Breitbart form the cheering section for Trump’s lack of “political correctness” (aka incivility). The establishment is failing to support its positions of cutting Social Security, increasing immigration, and expanding free trade. A past GOP would have a backroom with people who could destroy Trump, but now the Tea Party is the tail wagging the elephant. People don’t want rules and don’t want to be careful of what they say. Trump gives them permission to follow their basest needs, and the GOP doesn’t know what to do about it.

In another piece of craziness, Bill Kristol suggests Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, among others, to be the 18th GOP Presidential candidate, joining ten governors and four U.S. senators. Think Progress has called Alito, “the most partisan justice” on the current court.

August 4, 2015

We Should Fear GOP Ignorance

Filed under: Foreign policy — trp2011 @ 7:37 PM
Tags: , ,

During some of the darkest days of the United States, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” As William Saletan writes in this article about the congressional debate on the Iran deal, we now need to fear the possibility of the Republicans winning the White House and taking over the entire federal government. I have paraphrased his article below.

Instead of showing that they are ready for responsibilities of national security and foreign policy, Republicans have participated in “a spectacle of dishonesty, incomprehension, and inability to cope with the challenges of a multilateral world.” According to Saletan, the danger comes from the interrogators.

“In challenging [Secretary of State John] Kerry and [Energy Secretary Ernest] Moniz, Republican senators and representatives offered no serious alternative. They misrepresented testimony, dismissed contrary evidence, and substituted vitriol for analysis. They seemed baffled by the idea of having to work and negotiate with other countries. I came away from the hearings dismayed by what the GOP has become in the Obama era. It seems utterly unprepared to govern.”

“Here are the lowlights of what you missed” in the 11 hours of hearings on July 23, 28, and 29:

  1. North Korea. In all three hearings, Kerry explained how the inspection and verification measures in the Iran deal are designed to rectify flaws that led to the failure of the North Korean nuclear agreement. He spent much of his opening statement outlining these differences. This made no impression. When the Senate held its next hearing a week later, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the presiding Republican, dismissed the Iran agreement with a quip: “How did that North Korean deal work out for you?”
  2.  Israel. As evidence that the Iran deal is bad, Republicans point to criticism from Israel. But they seem more interested in the rhetoric of Israeli politicians than in the judgments of Israeli security experts. Kerry read from an article that quoted supportive statements about the deal from the former leaders of two Israeli intelligence agencies. Republicans batted the quotes away. Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming scoffed, “That wasn’t even in the newspaper. That was a blog post.” Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina dismissed the statements as irrelevant because they didn’t come from elected officials. Why listen to experts when you can rely instead on quotes from politicians?
  1. The IAEA’s “secret deal.” Kerry and Moniz have repeatedly explained that the International Atomic Energy Agency, which enforces nuclear conduct agreements, publicly evaluates each country’s compliance but keeps some details about inspection logistics private. The IAEA briefs other governments about its procedures but doesn’t give them the logistical documents. Republicans, having shrugged at this policy for decades, are suddenly outraged. Many of them seem to think the Obama administration is colluding with Iran and the IAEA. They claim that Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser, has seen the IAEA’s Iran documents but won’t show them to Congress. Rep. Ted Poe of Texas asserted that Rice “said that she has seen this deal with the IAEA.” Kerry corrected him: “Susan Rice’s quote is, ‘We know their contents, and we’re satisfied with them. We will share the contents of those briefings in full and classified sessions with Congress.’ She has not seen them. She has been briefed on them.”

Kerry’s clarification should have settled the matter. But it didn’t. The next day, Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma grilled Kerry” and constantly insisted that Rice had said she say the deal with IAEA. In attempting to quote Rice, Inhofe actually quoted Congressman Poe and then refused to understand, saying, “Who is quoting her. This is quotation marks.” He was actually quoting Poe’s misinterpretations.

  1. EMPs. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin asked Moniz about a 2008 commission report on EMPs, electromagnetic pulses, which could be triggered by nuclear detonations and could knock out the U.S. power grid. Moniz, the former chairman of MIT’s physics department, has spent his career working in nuclear science. He told Johnson that he was unfamiliar with the report but that “if you look at our Quadrennial Energy Review published in April, we do identify EMP as a risk to transformers, and we are beginning to try to work up a response to that.” Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas used this exchange to portray Moniz as an idiot. (Cruz finished his grilling by not allowing Moniz to answer a question and then saying, “OK. You’re refusing to answer the question.”
  1. Sanctions. Kerry uses the phrase snapback to describe how sanctions are automatically re-imposed if any permanent member of the U.N. Security Council (the United States, United Kingdom, France, China, or Russia) decides Iran has violated its obligations. Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska berated Kerry for using this term, since, although the agreement outlines this procedure, it doesn’t literally include the word snapback. Sullivan also argued that the term was misleading because, in originally building the sanctions, it “took years to get countries to divest out of the Iranian economy. It’ll take years to do it again.” But Sullivan ignored the implication of his own argument: As Kerry has said all along, the unhappiness of our allies about having to enforce these sanctions, let alone China and Russia, is why the sanctions won’t last if we reject these countries’ terms for the deal.
  1. Pariahs. Republicans accuse Kerry and Obama of isolating them by agreeing to terms that suit our allies but don’t suit Congress. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee told Kerry, “You have turned Iran from being a pariah to now Congress being a pariah.” Sen. James Risch of Idaho offered the same complaint: “These negotiations have taken us from a situation where we had Iran exactly where we wanted them to now, if we don’t go along with this, then we are going to be the isolated pariah character.” The Iran talks involved seven countries. Corker chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Rep. Ed Royce chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Yet Royce protested that the deal gave Russia and China “a say in where inspectors can and cannot go,” failing to understand that international sanctions require international support. When everyone else in the talks finds terms they can agree on, we can’t hold out for our own terms and expect sanctions to persist.
  1. Bad guys. Republicans think that because Iran is dangerous, we shouldn’t negotiate with it. Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, one of the most outspoken critics of any deal, has consistently hammered this point. Rep. Randy Weber of Texas repeatedly used the phrase “bad actor” to dismiss Iran and the idea of negotiating with it. Rep. Dave Trott of Michigan invoked a motto from his business career: “You can’t do a good deal with a bad guy.” These are people who revere Ronald Reagan, who negotiated with the Soviet Union.
  1. Indifference. Republicans think it’s weak and softheaded to care what Iran thinks. Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania told Kerry we should demand a better deal, “and if the ayatollah doesn’t like it and doesn’t want to negotiate it, oh, ‘boo-hoo.’ We’re here for America.” Weber, speaking for others in his party, ridiculed Kerry’s concerns about Iranian distrust of the U.S.: “Me and my colleagues were up here thinking, ‘Who cares?’ ” When Kerry replied that the Iranians wouldn’t have negotiated on Weber’s terms, the congressman scoffed, “Oh, my heart pains for them.” A negotiator’s job consists of understanding, caring about, and accommodating the other side’s concerns.
  1. Winning. Graham is running for president as a foreign-policy expert. But three hours of testimony on Wednesday about the difficulties of using military force to stop Iran’s nuclear program taught him nothing. Wrapping up the hearing, Graham demanded that Defense Secretary Ashton Carter answer a simple question: “Who wins the war between us and Iran? Who wins? Do you have any doubt who wins?” When he didn’t get the prompt answer he wanted, Graham thunderously answered the question himself: “We win!” He sounded like a football coach delivering a pep talk. The differences between football and war—what “winning” means, and what it costs—didn’t enter into his equation.
  1. Patriotism. You might think that Kerry’s service in Vietnam—a Silver Star, Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts—would deter Republicans from challenging his patriotism. But you’d be wrong. At the House hearing, Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York lectured Kerry: “A lot of Americans have fought and died to make our country the greatest nation in the world. And you, sir, respectfully, you don’t have the power to surrender our greatness.” Cruz, who has never served a day in uniform, ended the Wednesday Senate hearing with this remarkable assault on the secretary of state:

Cruz: Gen. Soleimani, the head of the al-Quds forces, has more blood of American service members on his hands than any living terrorist. Under this agreement, the sanctions under Gen. Soleimani are lifted. Now, Secretary Kerry said to the families of those men and women who gave their lives, who were killed by Gen. Soleimani, we should apologize. …

Kerry: Sir, I never said the word apology. I never mentioned apologize. I said we should thank them for their extraordinary service. I never said the word apologize. Please, don’t distort my words.

Cruz: Secretary Kerry, it is duly noted you don’t apologize to the family members of the service members who were murdered by the Iranian military.

Kerry: That’s not what I said, senator. [I said] I thank them for their extraordinary service and I would remind them that the United States of America will never take the sanctions off Qasem Soleimani.

Cruz: Sir, I just want to clarity. Do you apologize or not?

Saletan finished, “There’s plenty more I could quote to you. But out of mercy, and in deference to the many dead and retired Republicans who took foreign policy seriously, I’ll stop. This used to be a party that saw America’s leadership of the free world as its highest responsibility. What happened? And why should any of us entrust it with the presidency again?”

October 6, 2012

Crazy Congressional Candidates

It’s crazy season once again on the campaign trail. Nationally, conservatives are trying to figure out how to prove to the country that things couldn’t possibly be getting better. Those who don’t outright state that President Obama cooked the books are trying to explain that a lower unemployment figure is no big deal. But the insanity goes far deeper when one considers the men running for Congress. (Somehow the males are far crazier than the females, except perhaps for Michele Bachmann.) And some of these people are already in Congress!

Two years ago, one of the craziest candidates was in South Carolina when Democrat Alvin Greene ran against incumbent Sen. Jim DeMint. The unemployed Greene had no funds, no signs, and no website, yet in the primary he defeated Vic Rawl, a former judge and state legislator with a $186,000 war chest. Later it was discovered that at that time he faced felony obscenity charges for supposedly showing obscene photos to a University of South Carolina student and had been kicked out of the Army and Air Force. Some Democrats thought he might have been a plant, but that was two years ago. The memory of Alvin Greene is now very dim.

This year, however, the awards for stupid statements go to Republican candidates, perhaps the most visible being Rep. Todd Akins (R-MO) who is currently running for the Senate. Although Akin’s fame has come more recently from his claim that women cannot get pregnant from “legitimate rape,” he has a history of idiotic declarations: banning hate crimes, as in the anti-hate-crime legislation, actually increases them “by elevating one group over another group”; a defense spending bill legalizes bestiality (although he didn’t explain how); voting for health insurance for poor children is a worse wreck than the Titanic; the Civil War took away state’s rights; and President Obama is the Anti-Christ because he taxes employers.

Delving deeper into Akin’s history, American Bridge 21st Century also found video in which Akin declares that doctors in abortion facilities perform abortions on women who aren’t pregnant. According to Akin, these places also don’t follow “good sanitary procedures,” and they cheat on taxes and misuse anesthetics “so that people die or almost die.” It’s almost as if he might be predicting the future if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

After it was discovered that he had failed to disclose $130,000 in pension funds from his time in the Missouri House, Akins amended his financial reports.

A strong supporter for Akins,  Rep. Steve King (R-IA) said he’d never heard of a child getting pregnant from statutory rape or incest. “Well, I just haven’t heard of that being a circumstance that’s been brought to me in any personal way,” he said in an interview with King with KMEG-TV. According to a 1996 review by the Guttmacher Institute, “at least half of all babies born to minor women are fathered by adult men.'”

Along with vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan, King and Akin co-sponsored the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” (H.R. 3), which sought to change the exception for rape in restricting public funding for abortion to “forcible rape.” If this bill had passed the Senate, a 13-year-old girl impregnated by a 24-year-old man would have to prove she was “forcibly” raped before she could use Medicaid funds to terminate the pregnancy.

King also promised to single-handedly defeat President Obama’s policy implementing parts of the DREAM Act and warned that Islamic terrorist groups are using America’s southern border to smuggle terrorists into the United States. In a speech, King characterized minority students as people “who feel sorry for themselves.” In comparing immigrants to dogs, he said, “You get the pick of the litter and you got yourself a pretty good bird dog. Well, we’ve got the pick of every donor civilization on the planet.” When criticized for this statement, he said that it was a compliment. He also proposed legislation to allow dog-fighting because “It’s wrong to rate animals above human beings.”

Tom Smith, Pennsylvania candidate for Senate, claimed that pregnancy from rape is similar to “having a baby out of wedlock” before he made another another sexist remark to two women at a campaign event for VP nominee Ryan. After asking him what they were discussing (the response was “the power of petite women”), he told them, “My guess would have been you were talking about shoes.”

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) also entered the rape discussion by declaring that a tiny, tiny percentage of raped women get pregnant. These men need to do a bit of research. A study in 2003 “found that a single act of rape was more than twice as likely to result in pregnancy than an act of consensual sex.” The scientists speculated that rapists are more attracted to fertile and ovulating women who not rebuke their advances.

Earlier Bartlett warned people about nuclear terrorism and urged the 80 percent of the people to relocate to rural areas. He also stated that federally-issued student loans were unconstitutional; disregarding the Constitution could lead down a “slippery slope.” Bartlett cited the Holocaust as an example of what could happen when a country heads down a wrong path.

Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), previously infamous as “the deadbeat dad” for refusing to pay his wife over $100,000 of child support, now seems to be comfortable attacking his opponent, Tammy Duckworth. He has mocked her for not being a “true hero,” despite her experiences as a Black Hawk helicopter pilot in Iraq when she lost both legs. Before Duckworth’s speech at the Democratic National Convention, he said, “It has become abundantly clear that at this point the only debate Ms. Duckworth is actually interested in having is which outfit she’ll be wearing for her big speech.” After the convention, he said that he was telling Sandra Fluke to get a job. Fluke was another convention speaker who had earlier been called a “slut” by Rush Limbaugh because she had protested for free birth control for women.

Walsh also accused Rev. Jesse Jackson of “oppressing African Americans.” At a town hall meeting, Walsh warned that there is “a radical strain of Islam in this country…trying to kill Americans every week.”  Following the congressman’s remarks, two attacks were launched against houses of worship in suburban Chicago, near Walsh’s district. California-based cell phone company CREDO‘s super PAC has targeted Walsh among a group of 2012 candidates whom they consider the “most odious members of Congress.”

Earlier this year he said that President Obama was elected only because he is black. After re-districting, Walsh left his safe, red district to move to another one, possibly because he was allegedly offered $3.5 million in general election fundraising help from House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). Duckworth is ahead of Walsh by 14 points, 52-38.

Joe Walsh’s Ohio neighbor, Samuel “Joe” Wurzelbacher (aka Joe the Plumber), went to Arizona to call for building a fence and “start shooting” as a solution for undocumented people coming into the United States. One of his ads blames the Holocaust on gun control in Germany and warns of this situation in the United States. Currently he seems to have violated campaign finance laws when he used donations to buy clothes.

Wurzelbacher had good racist company in Arizona with candidate Gabriela Saucedo Mercer, a Mexican immigrant who ranted about the people coming across the border into Arizona. “That includes Chinese, Middle Easterners,” she said. “If you know Middle Easterners, a lot of them, they look Mexican or they look, you know, like a lot of people in South America, dark skin, dark hair, brown eyes. And they mix. They mix in. And those people, their only goal in life is to, to cause harm to the United States.” Mercer’s comments were so vicious that Arizona’s Gov. Jan Brewer backed out of attending a fundraiser for her.  

Mercer became briefly infamous for comparing giving food stamps to poor people to feeding animals. For a short time, her Facebook page had a statement about the large number of people receiving food stamps and how the government asks that animals not be fed in parks because they will become dependent on this food and not take of themselves. She concluded, “This ends today’s lesson.”

Rep. Gohmert (R-TX) claimed that President Obama’s foreign policy is trying to establish a new Ottoman Empire. This is evidently not a new theory among far-right politicians.  

Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA), a member of the House committee on science and a physician, said in the Liberty Baptist Church, “All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell.”

Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO) has accused nuns of wanting “to try and divide” the country.  This was after he conceded that climate change exists but said that admitting it would “divide the country.”

 

Farther out on the wacko scale than Bachmann is another Minnesota candidate, Allen Quist. He not only believes that people and dinosaurs lived at the same time but is also convinced that women are “genetically predisposed” to be subservient to men, basing his belief on what he perceives the behavior of wild animals. While he was a state representative, Quist compared a gay counseling clinic to the Ku Klux Klan because both were breeding grounds for evil. He actually went “undercover” at an adult bookstore and a gay bathhouse, trying to prove that they had become a “haven for anal intercourse.”Quist is Bachmann’s mentor.

And I almost forgot about our own homegrown Oregonian! Art Robinson, House candidate, has a doctorate in chemistry from UC-San Diego and believes that nuclear waste should be disposed of by diluting it and sprinkling it in the ocean or putting it in the foundations of houses. He also thinks that global warming is a myth. A 2001 profile of Robinson in the Independent Scientist begins:  “Matthew Robinson, 13, has a Colt .45 strapped to his waist as he practices the piano in the living room. He lives on a 350-acre farm in southern Oregon, with his brothers and sisters, and his father, the scientist Art Robinson.”

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. For much, much more, Google “crazy congressional candidates.”

May 21, 2012

Republicans Set to Destroy Country

The Republicans have repeatedly stated that they have one purpose, to stop the reelection of President Barack Obama. From their actions they are so focused on this outcome that they are willing to destroy the country.

Last year, they nearly destroyed the economy with their manufactured crisis over raising the nation’s debt ceiling. The spending cuts from that compromise slowed the economy and lost people in this country hundreds of thousands of jobs—over one million in the government sector alone. The Economic Policy Institute, a top nonpartisan think tank, estimated after the deal settling the debt ceiling that it would cost the economy 1.8 million jobs by 2012.

Polls have showed that half of the people in the nation agree that Republicans are sabotaging the economy only to damage the president’s chances of reelection. Last fall three separate polls found that half the people agreed with this statement: “Republicans are intentionally stalling efforts to jumpstart the economy to insure that Barack Obama is not reelected.”

Perhaps that conclusion came from what Republicans have said. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) vowed, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Last week House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) continued the vendetta by claiming that Republicans will take the economy hostage again in order to get their way at the time of raising the nation’s borrowing limit.

Even the right-leaning Associated Press agreed about the Republicans’ attempt to sabotage the economy and that it seems to be working. An article published two days ago included this statement: “There’s evidence that unceasing partisan gridlock and the prospect of big tax increases and spending cuts in January are causing some companies to postpone expansions.”

At the same time that Boeher made his threats, The Washington Post published a list of military contractors, hospitals, and universities that are delaying hires and bracing for cuts because of the Republicans’ mean-spirited actions. As Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein wrote, “partisan gridlock” is code for Republican extremism and intransigence. “Republicans are the problem,” they added.

The budget according to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) was bad enough, but Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has come up with one that is far worse. According to Dana Milbank, “The tea party darling’s plan would, among other things, cut the average Social Security recipient’s benefits by nearly 40 percent, reduce defense spending by nearly $100 billion below a level the Pentagon calls ‘devastating,’ and end the current Medicare program in two years–even for current recipients, according to the Senate Budget Committee staff. It would eliminate the education, energy, housing and commerce departments, decimate homeland security, eviscerate programs for the poor, and give the wealthy a bonanza by reducing tax rates to 17 percent and eliminating taxes on capital gains and dividends.” And that’s the position of the Republican party.

Republicans have a two-pronged attack, however. If they don’t actually destroy something, they claim that Republican administrations are far better than those with a Democratic president. Take for example, the way that they have continually attacked the president on the unemployment rate despite the methods that Republicans have used to decrease employment.

A Bloomberg Government analysis shows that during the last half century job growth was twice as much with Democratic presidents than with Republican ones: non-government payrolls have grown by almost 42 million jobs under Democratic presidents as compared to the 24 million jobs for Republican presidents.

President Obama has continued the trend. Job loss during his first 3.5 years is far less than the same period of time during George W. Bush’s first term. From January 2001 through March 2004, the country lost more than 1.6 million jobs overall, and more than 2.4 million jobs in the private sector, meaning that Bush made up for part of the total job loss by adding 800,000 jobs to the government. Meanwhile, from January 2009 through March 2012, the country lost an estimated 740,000 jobs in total with about 161,000 jobs in the private sector. By last month there were more private sector jobs than when the president took office despite the horrible recession that he inherited as well as the gridlock from the obstructionist Congress.

And this plan to destroy the country is not a recent endeavor.  Robert Draper, contributing writer for The New York Times, gives some of the background in his new book Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives. According to the book, top Republicans met at the same time as President Obama’s inauguration to destroy the economy so that they could portray the president as a failure.

The four-hour private, invitation only, meeting was attended by Republican propaganda expert Frank Luntz and twelve leading congressmen: Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, Pete Sessions, Jeb Hensarling, Pete Hoekstra, Dan Lungren, Jim DeMint, Jon Kyl, Tom Coburn, John Ensign, and Bob Corker. Newt Gingrich also attended, the only attendee other than Luntz who was not a legislator.

Luntz is well known as a speaker at Republican meetings, teaching how to use terminology that helps turn public opinion to their advantage. Because of Luntz, Republicans always use the term “job creator” when they actually mean people who will fleece the bottom 99 percent by getting lower taxes for the wealthy. He moved the term “Orwellian” from its original meaning of totalitarian state to “speak with absolute clarity, to be succinct.” “Oil drilling,” no; “energy exploration,” yes. “Healthcare reform,” no; “government takeover,” yes. And that’s the Republican party approach.

Fortunately, more and more people in the United States, both Democrats and Republicans, are learning the that the current federal conservative approach is not ideological; it is evil. Conservatives continue to strip everyone in the country of their meager earnings to give to the wealthy while increasing the deficit so that they can destroy all parts of the government except the Department of Defense. And people notice.

“A system designed to govern through compromise stops working when an entire political party refuses to make concessions. Policymakers have honored certain norms for generations, but once those norms have been abandoned–filibustering every bill of any consequence, for example–institutions begin to break down.”—Rachel Maddow

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