If those present at the March on Washington imagined anything about the national conversation on race half a century hence, they might well have assumed it would at least be an adult conversation, because of course they had no way of knowing that the Republicans of the new millennium would so decisively abandon any pretense of maturity, emotional or intellectual.
The GOP Dog-Whistle Philharmonic haughtily eschewed the high-profile 50th-anniversary celebrations of the March, opting instead to stage a series of energetic but stridently off-key recitals by its few minority soloists, like Bobby Jindal and Ted Cruz.
In an op-ed supposedly penned to commemorate Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech, Jindal, stunningly, used the occasion to criticize – wait for it – minorities:
Jindal accused minorities of placing “far too much emphasis on our ‘separateness,’ our heritage, ethnic background, skin color, etc. We live in the age of hyphenated Americans…
“Here’s an idea: How about just ‘Americans?’ That has a nice ring to it, if you ask me. Placing undue emphasis on our ‘separateness’ is a step backward. Bring back the melting pot,” the governor opined.
Jindal underscored that waste of electrons with an appearance on Meet the Press last week that included a jaw-dropping rationalization for the tidal wave of bigotry to which the nation’s first not-entirely-white President has been subjected:
David Gregory asked Gov. Jindal about Colin Powell’s opinion that there is a dark vein of intolerance within the Republican Party. Jindal answered by comparing the Republicans’ Obama racism to Democratic treatment of George W. Bush.
The same day Jindal was pitching that idiocy, Senator Ted Cruz, touted, toasted, hyper-hyped Cuban-Canadian-American Demagogue Extraordinaire, appeared on CNN and claimed that his party’s vigorous efforts to destroy Obamacare are based in part on trying to help Hispanics and African Americans:
“… it’s not working and it’s hurting Americans,” Cruz insisted. “And by the way, the people that it’s hurting the most are the most vulnerable among us… The people who are losing their jobs are young people, are Hispanics, are African-Americans, are single moms. I don’t think that’s fair, I don’t think that’s right.”
Sure you don’t, Senator. Your party is all about minorities, after all. Case in point, the government’s figures for 2012 show African Americans at 13.1% as a percentage of total population, and Hispanic Americans at 16.9%, while a 2012 Pew study found that 31% of African Americans and 22% of Hispanic Americans have received SNAP benefits at some time in their lives. Yet, strangely, the party you and your doughy cohort of sophists insist is on the side of minorities has yet to reinstate food assistance funding after summarily stripping it out of the Farm Bill, the legislation through which SNAP money has traditionally been disbursed.
If it’s no longer mind-boggling that the stubbornly self-congratulatory “Party of Lincoln” is so utterly, offensively worthless on race and every other issue of minority rights, it’s only because everybody got used to it ages ago. And not a single po-faced minority conservative mouthing glib clichés in the direction of the nearest TV camera is going to do anything but make it worse.
TWO: Crass from the Past
Leave it to Republicans to keep their presidential campaigns in the news long after the campaigns have ended. You might remember a fellow by the name of McCain who ran against Barack Obama back in 2008. You know, the mavericky guy? Thought his long-suffering wife would be a fabulous “Miss Buffalo Chip”? Recklessly chose a running mate who had never heard of the Bush Doctrine and couldn’t name a single newspaper she read? A POW in Vietnam, although his campaign only ever mentioned it on days of the week with names ending in “y”?
Five years on, the FEC has managed to reach a “conciliation agreement” with “Five-Plane” McCain’s campaign for taking excessive campaign contributions and sundry other violations, all of which would have been easily avoided if anyone working on the campaign had cared enough to care. The agreement stipulates $80,000 in fines. Chump change in the grand scheme of things? Sure. And it certainly won’t be coming from the spouse-subsidized pockets of Senator “Keating Five” himself, but it’s a mildly gratifying little story nonetheless.
You might also recall that while the 2008 Obama campaign was running an impressively web-savvy operation (modeled on but expanding greatly on the blueprint of Joe Trippi’s groundbreaking work for Howard Dean in 2004), the hapless John McCain was reduced to admitting he relied on his wife and aides to get online, with the almost pathetically hopeful postscript:
“I am learning to get online myself, and I will have that down fairly soon, getting on myself…”
Well, times sure have changed. McCain’s just a regular old cybernaut nowadays, as he proved Tuesday at a Senate hearing on Syria. As his colleagues mulled over matters of life, death, international law, and scruffy old domestic politics, Senator McCain was photographed by the Washington Post‘s Melina Mara playing online poker on his iPhone.
There are three possible takeaways here, as I see it. One is that McCain is so fixated on the idea of raining explosive ordnance on Syria that he doesn’t give a nickel-plated crap what he might hear at a hearing intended to furnish him with the sort of information important decision-makers supposedly need to make their decisions. The second is that McCain is a goldbricking charlatan who owes his state and the nation a formal apology and his immediate resignation. The third is he’s both.
Then there’s Rick Santorum, whose granitic façade of moral rectitude has long been suspected of masking an inner sleazeball. Well, suspected by me, at least, but also by electoral watchdog groups Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center, who recently filed a formal complaint with the FEC alleging that Santorum directed a $1 million donation to the Red White and Blue Fund, a Super PAC, in violation of federal election law.
If true, it’s disgusting behavior for any politician, let alone one who wants the world to believe he invented ethics, but the most disturbing allegation is that Bill Doré, the Louisiana businessman whose donation is at the heart of the complaint, actually thought it was sensible to cough up a million bucks to try and get Rick Santorum elected President of the United States.
Last, and almost certainly least, there’s Michele Bachmann, whose ill-fated 2012 campaign has already resulted in a probe by the House Ethics Committee for possible financial violations, a lawsuit over an allegedly stolen mailing list, and an active investigation into Kent Sorenson, a state senator who chaired her campaign in Iowa and may have received improper payments for so doing, in addition to more recent allegations that he solicited money from the Ron Paul campaign in exchange for switching his support.
The newest Bachmann scandal-in-waiting revolves around possible illegal coordination between her campaign and the National Fiscal Conservative PAC, coordination that might have involved her husband Marcus Bachmann. The Justice Department subpoenaed financial and other records from the Super PAC last week. It seems Bachmann’s imminent retirement from Congress could prove fortuitous, freeing her to spend more time with her attorneys.
THREE: The Mire Next Time
And then there are the horrors and hilarity of Republican presidential campaigns yet to come. If you thought ’08 and ’12 were grotesque spectacles of dank depravity, untrammeled ugliness and anti-intellectual pandering to the scummiest side of human nature, you were right, but ’16 is going to be much worse. Or better, depending on how entertaining you find all this stuff.
Former centerfold model and temp Senator Scott Brown, having nothing much else to do these days, recently went to the Iowa State Fair, and explained to the Boston Herald why. He wants to find out if the country is collectively deranged enough to consider putting him in the White House:
“I want to get an indication of whether there’s even an interest, in Massachusetts and throughout the country, if there’s room for a bi-partisan problem solver… It’s 2013, I think it’s premature, but I am curious. There’s a lot of good name recognition in the Dakotas and here – that’s pretty good.”
Yeah, real good. Hey, maybe Cosmo can do a sort of “where are they now?” follow-up shoot, with a naked President Brown stretched out on an Oval Office couch, a copy of the Constitution barely preserving his modesty.
As I noted here a couple of weeks ago, Congressman Peter King of New York is on a jihad to neutralize what he calls the “Rand Paul isolationist wing” of his party, and if that means he has to get elected President to do so, well, so be it. At least he wouldn’t do any nude modeling, or so we can hope.
Ted Cruz, of course, has been running all over the country, most recently to New Hampshire, South Carolina and Iowa, pretending that a presidential run is the last thing on his mind, while hurriedly initiating the process to divest himself of the Canadian citizenship he pretends he didn’t know he had. If it were up to Texas Teabagger Christine Katok (a woman on record as doubting President Obama’s eligibility) Cruz wouldn’t need to bother:
“As far as I’m concerned, Canada is not really foreign soil…”
With no Democratic incumbent to face in ’16, Republicans, theoretically, have a shot at retaking the White House, but these early stirrings already hint at their determination to ensure it won’t happen. Continue reading Take Five (Way Stranger than Fiction edition)
With the House and Senate now shuttered until September, anyone seeking a quick fix of foolishness this week will have to look beyond the Beltway. Ames, Iowa would be an ideal place to start.
On Saturday, Ames hosts the second annual “FAMiLY LEADERSHIP SUMMIT,” where you’ll be able to hear a variety of speakers each “address a ‘singular’ and ‘major’ threat to America and to America’s families, along with the opportunity for leadership solutions to these threats,” and maybe even find out why “The FAMilY LEADER” organization exempted the “i” from their all-caps name. For a mere $49, you can savor speakers such as washed-up actor Stephen Baldwin, washed-up politican Rick Santorum, and tufted pink windbag Donald J. Trump, and your boxed lunch is included. I have no inside info, but I’m guessing that the “singular” and “major” threats to America will include minorities, gay people, SNAP recipients, Girl Scouts and Democrats.
If that shindig seems insufficiently compelling, you might consider Tuesday’s fundraiser for New Hampshire Republicans in Wolfeboro, headlined by someone named Mitt Romney, who apparently has a summer home there. It seems not all fools and their money are soon parted; as of this writing, there are still $1,500 VIP tix available.
Deputy Secretary of State William Burns has just wrapped up another Cairo trip after discussions with various Egyptian politicians and interest groups, and conjoined twits Lindsey Graham and John McCain are likely to head there this week at the behest of the Obama Administration. If their efforts falter, I hope the President sees fit to send reinforcements, like maybe the other 44 members of the Senate Republican Conference. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 8/5/13
This week marked the tenth anniversary of the illegal invasion of Iraq, illegal as in fraudulently undertaken, thereby invalidating any supposed sanction previously conferred either by Congress or the United Nations, and also incomprehensibly immoral, like all crimes against humanity.
There should be no surcease, ever, of denunciation of the criminal horror unleashed on Iraq by the Bush administration and those who helped enable it, the latter largely for shamefully political reasons. In a nation with such a bounteous supply of prisons, there’s plenty of room to house the guilty for the rest of their lamentably natural lives, and their accomplices for some fraction thereof.
I have no hope that either will ever happen.
This week, fifteen months after the last combat troops were withdrawn from Iraq, the anniversary was marked in George Bush’s “beacon of democracy in the Middle East” with a wave of lethal violence, tersely quantified by the New York Times:
… 57 dead and nearly 190 wounded in separate attacks that included 17 car bombs, 2 adhesive bombs stuck to cars, and a killing with a silenced gun.
This week, Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies released the results of a study conducted by its Cost of War Project. The study found:
The U.S. war in Iraq has cost $1.7 trillion with an additional $490 billion in benefits owed to war veterans, expenses that could grow to more than $6 trillion over the next four decades counting interest…
The war has killed at least 134,000 Iraqi civilians and may have contributed to the deaths of as many as four times that number…
When security forces, insurgents, journalists and humanitarian workers were included, the war’s death toll rose to an estimated 176,000 to 189,000, the study said.
Yes, effecting mass death, destruction and chaos is more efficient than ever, yet it still doesn’t come cheap. Of course, that’s not how the Bush junta made its sales pitch. In the run-up to The Decider’s trigger finger getting intolerably itchy, Mitch Daniels, his OMB director, nudged up the saturation on the administration’s already over-saturated blue skies, to obscure what it would really cost in borrowed cash to dust off Saddam Hussein as one would a garden pest and install a compliant regime straight out of whatever remained of Dick Cheney’s wet dreams:
Mr. Daniels would not provide specific costs for either a long or a short military campaign against Saddam Hussein. But he said that the administration was budgeting for both, and that earlier estimates of $100 billion to $200 billion in Iraq war costs by Lawrence B. Lindsey, Mr. Bush’s former chief economic adviser, were too high.
And then he added a scabrous little grace note:
Mr. Daniels cautioned that his budget projections did not mean a war with Iraq was imminent, and that it was impossible to know what any military campaign against Iraq would ultimately cost.
The viciously, deliberately dishonest math behind all this has long been known, although it has constantly been revised upwards. Contrasts were drawn between prediction and reality almost from the outset, despite the best efforts of White House propagandists, supine but incessantly talkative members of Congress, and the jitterbugging marionettes of the mainstream media. The immense gap between the predicted and actual numbers probably still provokes gales of rheumy cackling whenever the old gang gathers around the fireplace for a snifter of brandy or human blood in whatever dank privy the original PNAC signatories still hold their unholy soirées.
TWO: With Fiends Like These…
Over and above the rancor they directed at Democrats, progressives and various other favorite scapegoats for the deleterious effects of their own wretched ideas, participants at CPAC ‘s 40th anniversary shindig last week were also remarkably splenetic toward each other.
Rick Perry brought a McCain/Romney dartboard:
“Now, the popular media narrative is that this country has shifted away from conservative ideals, as evidenced by the last two presidential elections… That is what they say. That might be true if Republicans had actually nominated conservative candidates in 2008 and 2012…”
Rand Paul was even more bluntly insolent to his elders:
“The GOP of old has grown stale and moss-covered… I don’t think we need to name any names here, do we?”
Donald Trump’s post-speech press conference featured another of the oafish magnate’s swipes at Karl Rove:
“This is the same mind that spent $400 million and didn’t win a race. He’s the most overrated person in politics…”
Louie Gohmert discharged a lot of indiscriminate buckshot, some of which winged the Nixon administration:
“Vietnam was winnable, but people in Washington decided we should not win it.”
Sarah Palin continued her lupercalian vendetta against sort-of-Republican Mike Bloomberg:
“Bloomberg’s not around,” Palin joked as she slurped on a giant soda, “our Big Gulps are safe.”
Brent Bozell dragged in a whole sack of grudges. Against, for example, Paul Ryan:
“… your proposed budget that has the federal government spending $41 TRILLION over the next ten years, with more and more and more spending increases every single year, and assumes all the oppressive Obamacare taxes. Congressman, that’s what liberal Democrats do, not us.
“This is not conservatism. It is, literally, Democrat Lite…”
Against Haley Barbour:
“… my friend, when you call for unity and on conservatives to ‘sing from the same hymnal’ and then publicly trash good conservative groups like Club for Growth for supporting good conservatives, you’re out of tune, and you’re out of line…”
Against the House leadership:
“John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Kevin McCarthy… you, like virtually every single other Republican elected to Congress solemnly vowed to rid us of Obamacare, which you can do simply by refusing to fund it. Why haven’t you done so?
“You’ve done nothing for over two years but give us excuses and more commitments that tomorrow, yes tomorrow, you’ll honor your promises. Gentlemen, where promises are concerned, you are not what you promised to be.”
With all the heated infighting, it’s a good thing attendees could buy a Marco Rubio water bottle in the exhibit hall.
THREE: Minority Report I
Desperate to garner votes from minority groups they mostly would prefer not to have anything to do with, Republicans still don’t seem to understand the difference between genuine outreach and simple smash-and-grab.
Take the CPAC breakout session called “Trump The Race Card: Are You Sick And Tired Of Being Called A Racist When You Know You’re Not One?” chaired by K. Carl Smith, an African-American conservative. What could go wrong? Lots: Continue reading Take Five (Really, Really, Really Fuzzy Math edition)
“This Week” on ABC will feature House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, on to discuss the “fiscal cliff.” House Homeland Security Committee Chair Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., will discuss the . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 11/18/12
On ABC’s “This Week,” Stephanie Cutter and Newt Gingrich will discuss the current state of the race as well as ABC’s newest polling numbers. The roundtable will include ABC News’ George Will, PBS’ “Washington Week” moderator and . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 10/28/12
NBC’s “Meet the Press” will feature Chris Christie to talk about the upcoming presidential debates. In addition, Ralph Reed, former Governor Ed Rendell (D-PA), the BBC’s Katty Kay and MSNBC’s Chuck Todd will also discuss the upcoming . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 9/30/12
The September 16th edition of “Face the Nation” on CBS features Libyan Interim President Mohammed el-Megarif, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass and . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 9/16/12
On the eve of the Republican National Convention, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, and his wife Ann sit for an exclusive interview for “Fox News Sunday” that leads the Sunday television talk shows anchored largely . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 8/26/12
ONE: Issa Muggin’
Following his failure to bring down the Obama Administration with the Fast and Furious pseudo-scandal, Congressman Darrell Issa found himself faced with a choice: do something worthwhile with his time, or occupy himself with more ephemeral crap. Can you guess which he chose?
Issa has gone back and revived an idea that got no traction on multiple previous occasions; he’s trying once again to persuade fellow legislators to rename America’s coastal waters, to exchange the drab moniker “Exclusive Economic Zone” for the super-duper ain’t-that-America gee-whiz red-white-and-blue hyper-patriotic name “Ronald Wilson Reagan Exclusive Economic Zone.” Catchy, n’est-ce pas?
Other than sabotaging the nation’s future prosperity with voodoo economics and more than tripling the national debt, ruthlessly shutting down mental health facilities and leaving their patients to fend for themselves, trading arms for hostages and then lying about it, ignoring the AIDS epidemic, invading Grenada for the mucho macho cred, unleashing a crack plague on inner cities, and shrugging off global warming, just what did Reagan do to deserve Issa’s proposed encomium?
Well, back in 1983, he issued Proclamation 5030, which created the EEZ in the first place. The proclamation reads in part:
Within the Exclusive Economic Zone, the United States has, to the extent permitted by international law, (a) sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring, exploiting, conserving and managing natural resources, both living and non-living, of the seabed and subsoil and the superjacent waters and with regard to other activities for the economic exploitation and exploration of the zone, such as the production of energy from the water, currents and winds; and (b) jurisdiction with regard to the establishment and use of artificial islands, and installations and structures having economic purposes, and the protection and preservation of the marine environment.
Gosh. That sort of brings a patriotic tear to my eye, I’ll tell you. Yet the point of Issa’s exercise isn’t really to rename the EEZ, or even to honor the sainted, Grecian Formula-enhanced corpse of Ronald Reagan. It’s simply about Issa keeping himself busy with matters of absolutely zero benefit to the nation. That’s pretty much been his specialty since he was inexplicably elected to office, and in that, he has no end of company in the 112th Congress.
But what about the Exclusive Economic Zone? Isn’t it time a little creativity was brought to bear on this? Why should 12,500 miles of coastline all be named after one guy, even if he did tear down the Berlin Wall with his bare hands? Why not have a Slappy White Chesapeake Bay, to commemorate the legendary Baltimore-born comedian? Or a Biscayne Eat, Pray, Love Bay, in recognition of million-watt megastar Julia Roberts having a residence nearby?
Come to think of it, why not open up corporate bidding for naming rights to different areas? How about Puget Sound by Starbucks? Or the MGM Grand Banks? Sure, most of the latter is under Canadian jurisdiction, but if the Canucks put up a fuss, just invade ‘em, Congressman. That’s what the Gipper would have done, right? You could even call it the Ronald Wilson Reagan Commemorative Invasion and Total Ass-kicking of Canada. If you’re going to pretend to be doing the people’s business, at least pretend with a little vigor.
TWO: Drive, They Said
Speaking of Congressional wastes of space, ThinkProgress did an investigation recently into seven teabagging House freshmen, and found some fascinating information:
Though they campaigned on a platform of reducing the deficit and ridding wasteful spending, more than a half-dozen Tea Party congressmen have collectively spent over $100,000 in taxpayer money on personal vehicles.
ThinkProgress examined spending records for the 112th Congress and found seven GOP freshmen — Reps. Chip Cravaack (R-MN), Sean Duffy (R-WI), Bill Flores (R-TX), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Bill Johnson (R-OH), Mike Pompeo (R-KS), and Steve Womack (R-AR) — who had spent an average of $15,000 on cars for themselves. All together, their taxpayer bill totaled $106,643.
There is nothing illegal about the practice of using taxpayer money to lease personal-use cars, but it smacks of hypocrisy for Tea Partiers like Duffy who promised to “lead by example” when it comes to deficit reduction.
ThinkProgress tersely notes that the spending totals were:
… compiled from the House of Representatives’ official Statement of Disbursements, a quarterly publication regarding all expenditures for House offices, for the 112th Congress.
And when the lame duck session gets underway, don’t be surprised if the munificent seven propose eliminating the Statement of Disbursements in the interest of saving taxpayers some money…
THREE: Razing Arizona, part I
Of course, teabaggers in Congress can be fairly said to be mirroring the folks who sent them to Washington in the first place, a demographic characterized by astonishing ignorance, revolting bigotry, cringe-inducing paranoia, putrid hypocrisy and a world view as narrow as one would expect the vista from inside a colon to be. The recent dustup over Michele Bachmann and four other members of Congress accusing Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin of having ties to the Muslim Brotherhood leads to a case in point.
The controversy began outrageously enough, and went quickly downhill from there, reaching what one would fervently hope would be its nadir on Monday, when Wes Harris – who heads the Original North Phoenix Tea Party – told the Arizona Capitol Times that John McCain’s spirited defense of Abedin warranted a recall petition, and maybe more:
While Harris has many problems with McCain, a mass email he sent out focused solely on the senator’s recent defense of Huma Abedin…
Harris said he plans to circulate recall petitions against McCain. In his email, he said, “We must find a way to get rid of this embarrassment.”
The email Harris sent includes a forwarded item from the blog Bare Naked Islam that castigates McCain for defending “Islamic enemies of America” and attacking U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, a Minnesota Republican and tea party favorite. The blog piece ends by saying, “Go to hell, Senator, it’s time for you to take your final dirt nap.”
What specifically prompted the blog’s call for the Senator’s death were McCain’s remarks on the Senate floor:
“I have every confidence in Huma’s loyalty to our country, and everyone else should as well. All Americans owe Huma a debt of gratitude for her many years of superior public service. I hope these ugly and unfortunate attacks on her can be immediately brought to an end and put behind us before any further damage is done to a woman, an American, of genuine patriotism and love of country.”
Bare Naked Islam’s banner slogan, by the way, is: “It isn’t Islamophobia when they really ARE trying to kill you.” Now, if you’re like me, you absolutely despise taking John McCain’s side on anything, but it’s impossible not to here.
Harris had plenty more spleen to vent, of course:
“Have you ever read the Quran? I suggest you do so, because anyone that is a Muslim is a threat to this country, and that’s a fact…”
Harris said he believes Abedin has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. But ultimately, he said it doesn’t matter whether she’s linked to the group or not because he doesn’t believe Muslims should work for the federal government…
“Is she a Muslim? Is she an active Muslim?” Harris said. “I rest my case. That’s all she needs to be.”
Harris offered no definition of an “active Muslim” and I strongly suspect he couldn’t do so if challenged, but in the post-fact America Harris and his fellow bigots are working so hard to create, actual knowledge and a capacity for critical thought are unnecessary. Ironically, John McCain’s 2008 candidacy did a lot to move all this, uh, forward. Continue reading Take Five (Joke on the Water edition)