A typical State of the Union Address tells us less about a presidency than the other party’s official response to it does. This has been especially true during the Obama years. More crucially, though, it’s an opportunity for the opposition party to try to tell viewers about itself, to trot out one of its best and brightest young up-and-comers to dazzle the camera with a mouthful of startlingly white teeth, to pluck the heartstrings of Ma and Pa Viewer, and to remind us all of that mythical time when the backbone of the economy was 5-cent lemonade stands and the nation’s greatness was embodied by Juicy Fruit and the Marshall Plan. And to try and make the case, with occasional faint praise, that the President is an America-hating disaster.
Bobby Jindal was the first such nine-day wonder thrown into the breach, although he was actually responding to a non-SOTU address before a joint session of Congress, delivered barely a month into Barack Obama’s first term. In and of itself, the choice of Jindal to deliver the response seemed to reflect the flimsy state of GOP political strategizing at the time: Youthful mixed-race President? No problem! We got a young Indian feller right here, and – bonus! – he talks like Forrest Gump. Multi-cultural or what?
Jindal’s uncannily awful performance was so widely panned even by Republicans that, six years on, he has yet to regain “rising star” status in a party still desperately searching for one. Which goes some way toward explaining the GOP’s choice to respond to the first official Obama SOTU the following year, Smilin’ Bob McDonnell. Governor McDonnell was just 11 days into his term and was a Republican matinee idol, reassuringly white, Southern but not too Southern, telegenic in a megachurch preacher kind of way, and articulate without being wonkish. Back in 2010, some in his party envisioned the Oval Office in his future; he was most recently in the headlines a couple of weeks ago after receiving an outrageously lenient prison sentence on 11 counts of corruption.
Things got a little more interesting in 2011, when not one but three Republicans were tapped to try and rebut the SOTU. There was Paul Ryan, an intellectual bantamweight with a fondness for moth-eaten Randian ideas (in other words, the sort of Republican other Republicans actually consider a serious policy guy). There was Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, an archconservative Florida Congresswoman and cable news darling, summoned to speak to Hispanics after it finally occurred to the RNC that Hispanics don’t much care for Republicans. And then there was Michele Bachmann. Her “official” response on behalf of the Tea Party Express is the only one anybody remembers, less for its predictable teabagger platitudes than for the fact that she appeared to spend six minutes and 36 seconds speaking to someone standing unseen a couple of feet to the left of the camera.
Republicans got back to basics the following year, sending out Mitch Daniels to deliver an aggressively contrary response that took the President to task for high unemployment and “an unprecedented explosion of spending,” Daniels apparently having missed the invasion and occupation of Iraq, not to mention Medicare Part D. Straight-faced, Daniels assailed the President’s “grand experiment in trickle-down government” and “constant efforts to divide [Americans].” Daniels was soon on the short list for Mitt Romney’s running mate, but – perhaps sensing the coming electoral debacle – he publicly made clear that he had no interest in the position. He left politics the following year to serve as president of Purdue University, and good riddance to him.
2013’s SOTU response, by contrast, was insanely entertaining. As in 2009, Republicans trotted out a highly touted, non-WASP go-getter, Marco Rubio, who obligingly made a bigger fool of himself than Bobby Jindal had. Rubio prated on about the sanctity of life, about immigrants like his parents pursuing the American dream, about “tax-and-spend” Democrats, about the evils of big government, regulation, taxes and debt, about Obamacare, about the President’s supposedly divisive rhetoric, about securing the borders, about the “moral breakdown of our society.” And nobody cared; his misadventures with a water bottle were all anyone talked about the moment Rubio wrapped up his 14-minute-plus English speech and an even longer Spanish one. Actually, his willingness to laugh at himself over the whole thing would be admirable, if he weren’t still milking it for applause two years later. Continue reading Prate of the Union
Funeral services for Lowell Steward, a Tuskegee Airman, will be held Monday morning in Los Angeles. Steward earned the Distinguished Flying Cross for his service in Italy in 1944. He died of pneumonia last Wednesday, aged 95.
The World Health Organization reported last week that western Africa’s death toll from Ebola is approaching 7,400. Nearly half the deaths have occurred in Sierra Leone, where there are an estimated 8,800 active cases (6,900 confirmed). As an anti-contagion measure, Sierra Leone and Guinea have imposed bans on New Year’s Eve celebrations. In related medical news, those politicians who went into a frothing-at-the-mouth frenzy over the supposed threat of Ebola to Fortress America have apparently all been struck miraculously mute, though, sadly, only on this particular topic.
Friday, the Obama family arrived in Hawaii for a winter vacation, or, as the President characterized it, a “quiet time-out” before the fourth quarter of his tenure in office. The President is scheduled to return to Washington on January 4, two short days before Republican Congressional majorities start trying to legislate and deregulate the nation back to the 19th century.
Vacation notwithstanding, the President is expected to announce tomorrow that Sally Yates, US Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, is his pick for next Deputy Attorney General, replacing James Cole.
The Satanic Temple’s “Snaketivity” holiday display went up yesterday outside the Michigan Capitol in Lansing, two days after state Senator Rick Jones erected a traditional nativity scene at the same venue. Jones boldly declared, “I’m not afraid of the snake people. I’m sure that Jesus Christ is not afraid.” Both displays have to be dismantled every night. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 12/22/14
This afternoon, the Senate will probably attempt a vote on an omnibus amendment to the comprehensive immigration bill, following last week’s agreement on inclusion of border security measures. If the amendment passes, the bill moves one large step closer to Senate approval. This coincides with a TV ad sponsored by the US Chamber of Commerce debuting today, featuring Rand Paul and Marco Rubio (and someone named Paul Ryan) pitching the need for reform to skeptical Republican viewers. Presumably, Rubio was plenty hydrated before the cameras rolled.
Yesterday, Paul told CNN’s Candy Crowley that the failure of his proposed amendment granting Congress final authority to decide if border security is adequate will lead him to vote against the bill. Pendejo.
Speaking of immigration, Edward Snowden is said to be seeking asylum in Ecuador, aided by legal advisers provided by WikiLeaks. The leaker’s passport has supposedly been revoked, but he traveled to Russia on Sunday from his previous fastness in Hong Kong.
Tuesday, Massachusetts voters will fill John Kerry’s Senate seat with either Democratic House veteran Ed Markey or self-described “moderate Republican” Gabriel Gomez. The latest polls put Markey up by eight to 12 points, which Gomez tacitly acknowledged on Fox News over the weekend by discussing his intention to make another run for office if he loses this one.
With Congress as useless on climate change as it is on most other issues, the President will lay out a series of executive measures in a Tuesday speech at Georgetown University. Details of the speech have been closely guarded, but the fate of the Keystone XL Pipeline will apparently not be part of the subject matter, and might not be announced until 2014. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 6/24/13
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)
ONE: Brainy Nights in Georgia
In the wake of the Newtown massacre and other recent mass gun murders, the NRA helpfully busied itself with supporting secession for Wisconsin, decrying the “vicious, violent videogames” that they insist provoke (conveniently well-armed) people to indulge in vicious violence, and, um, rolling out their new videogame.
In vivid contrast, Georgia legislator Paul Battles, being a pragmatic guy, thought and thought and thought about how best to protect children, and after all that thinking came up with House Bill 35:
The Georgia House of Representatives Rules Committee will consider a bill this week that would let school systems arm their staff members. House Bill 35 allows school systems to designate administrators, teachers, or other staff members to carry concealed weapons.
Now, before you go making any mistaken assumptions about Battles, a – surprise! – Republican, he emphatically rejects the suggestion that he’s, you know, a gun nut or something:
“From the very beginning, I’ve said this is a school security piece of legislation,” said Battles. “It’s not about guns. It’s about securing our schools.”
House Bill 35 immediately made me think of Mrs. Hale, my 6th grade teacher, who had a pronounced esotropic strabismus. Forgive me, Mrs. Hale, but I’m very glad you were never packing in our placid Savannah classroom. That I know of, anyway.
The bill passed out of the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee last week. And Rep. Battles says that was the biggest hurdle, adding, “I’m sure we’ll have a lively debate on the floor, but I feel like it has great momentum.”
Oh. Great, then.
But inane legislation in Georgia is often a bipartisan thing. State Rep. Earnest Smith, a – crap! – Democrat, is all riled up about Photoshop, especially when it’s used to make fun of Earnest Smith:
… Smith pointed, as proof of the problem, to a picture of his head that was recently edited onto a porn star’s body. That image was created by a blogger who used the image to mock Smith.
Last word to Andre Walker of Georgia Politics Unfiltered, the pixel surgeon responsible for the digital transplant:
“I cannot believe Rep. Earnest Smith thinks I’m insulting him by putting his head on the body of a well-built porn star.”
TWO: “Nothing has changed.”
Attendees at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference can expect to see the likes of Rand Paul, Scott Walker, Allen West and Marco Rubio whip up the sort of rank gumbo of exaggerations, distortions, outright falsehoods and nutrition-free bromides that has kept previous CPAC crowds in drooling thrall.
But wait, there’s more!
Someone named Mitt Romney, who apparently once ran for President, will speak, as will someone named Sarah Palin, who apparently once ran for Vice President.
Of course, I’m being facetious. While I really have no idea who Mitt Romney is, I do remember Sarah Palin. She’s the former mayor of Wasilla who burdened the town with astonishing municipal debt, before going on to become the former Alaska governor who resigned halfway through her term, after burning through many thousands of dollars of public money for no good reason. She did leave her successor a tanning bed, though.
Indications are that Alaska voters have put down their bongs and would now prefer Hillary Clinton over Palin by a 16-point margin in a hypothetical presidential election cage match. Even better, Public Policy Polling also asked respondents to choose their preference of Congress or Palin, and Congress, for all its legendary disapproval ratings, beat Palin 50% to 35%.
And wait, there’s less!
AMERICABlog pointedly notes that CPAC 2013 will again feature the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre, a man determined to live the rest of his wretched life being less popular than gonorrhea, but the conclave has once again barred GOProud, a high-profile gay conservative organization.
“We got kicked out last year because we are gay,” tweeted GOProud Executive Director Jimmy LaSalvia. “Nothing has changed. We won’t be at CPAC.”
However unintentionally, Mr. LaSalvia has just given CPAC a perfect new slogan. “Nothing has changed,” indeed.
THREE: Squawking Heads Redux
In light of recent news that Palin and Fox News have parted company, followed shortly after by the network axing Dick Morris (the World’s Wrongest ManTM), you might be concerned that Fox is going to suffer an acute stupidity deficit. Fear not. They’ve announced with great fanfare that both Herman Cain and Scott Brown have joined the Fox conservative commentator crew.
Proving that he has never actually watched the network, Cain enthused:
“I’m excited about joining the FOX family as a contributor because it is an opportunity to be one more voice for intelligent thinking in America.”
Cain hit the ground running, which is to say he ran aground, in his first appearance with Bill O’Reilly. When the discussion turned to President Obama’s popularity, Cain gave viewers this taste of his intelligent thinking:
“We have a severe ignorance problem with the people who are so mesmerized by his popularity that they are not looking at the facts…
“Martin Luther King Jr. said 50 years ago in 1963 something that is so appropriate to today… There is nothing more dangerous than serious ignorance, and that’s what we have and he gets away with it with the help of establishment media.”
Really? Cain’s new employer has spent more than a decade atop the cable news network heap, which strikes me as pretty much about as establishment as you can get, but maybe I just have a severe ignorance problem.
As to Brown, his first appearance was with Sean Hannity, who asked him why he didn’t want to run for John Kerry’s vacated Senate seat:
Brown… told Hannity that the pace of special elections would have put him in five campaigns in six years and that he might have had to raise another $30 to $50 million, only to “participate in a Congress that’s really dysfunctional and extremely partisan.” Instead, he said, “I felt I could make a difference being on this show…”
Mm-hmm. Far better to participate in a “news” network that’s really dysfunctional and extremely partisan than a Congress that is. Presumably, the Fox gig pays better. Continue reading Take Five (Busyness as Usual edition)
On “Meet the Press” on NBC, Marco Rubio (R-FL) will discuss the final days of the campaign. David Axelrod and Rob Portman (R-OH) will discuss preparations for the third and final Presidential debate between President Obama and Governor Mitt . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 10/21/12
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 at the . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 8/26/12
This week sees a triple treat of Darryl Issa. Oh goody…..
The nation’s growing Hispanic vote and the House investigation of the Fast and Furious gunwalking operation top the lineups for this Sunday’s television talk shows, with Rep. Darrell . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 6/24/12
Republicans have rushed to embrace the distraction of possible running mates for Mitt Romney, probably because it beats sitting around lamenting that their nominee is going to be Mitt Romney. The good news for the GOP is there’s no shortage of potential names; the bad news is that all of them are wretched.
Speaking of wretched, Senator John McCain was recently asked by CBS if he had any bright ideas for VP. “I think it should be Sarah Palin,” he said, and then he giggled like a schoolboy on nitrous oxide. Make of that what you will.
There’s no question that Palin still has a solid core of support among a certain type of no-information Republican voter. The party powers-that-be, however, might have reason to feel differently:
At the website for… Sarah PAC, donors are assured that funds they give to the PAC will be “dedicated to building America’s future by supporting fresh ideas and candidates who share our vision for reform and innovation.” According to Politico, however, those funds are currently doing nothing of the sort.
The committee’s [April 11] filing says that Sarah PAC raised $388,000 between January and March and spent $418,000 over the same time period, most of it on further fundraising and a bevy of political consultants, as well as a down payment on building space in Tampa, Florida near the site this summer’s Republican National Convention.
None of the funds have been spent on candidates or donations to other conservative causes…
And if Palin’s “ask not what you can do for your party” approach isn’t off-putting enough to the Republican establishment, there’s also the fact that she hasn’t come up with any new material in four years. In an interview with Sean Hannity about Hilary Rosen’s completely justified characterization of Ann Romney, for example, Palin’s contribution to the “nontroversy” was the same old same old:
“The comments that Hillary Rosen made today certainly have awakened many mama grizzlies across the nation,” the former Alaska governor asserted.
Mama grizzlies, Governor? Really? Palin won’t say one way or the other whether she’s interested in being a two-time failed VP candidate, but she did toss out an intriguing name in a March interview on Fox News:
“You know who I’d like to see… Colonel Allen West. Colonel Allen West, who’s been to the school of hard knocks, he should be the one who should be considered seriously for VP.”
Why, yes, he should be, by any party determined to lose 50 states this November. Yet Palin’s not the only one who thinks West’s jib is sufficiently well cut to take up residence at the Naval Observatory. Nikki Haley, who has herself been mentioned as a possible Romney running mate, echoed Palin, albeit a little tepidly:
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a top surrogate for GOP front-runner Mitt Romney, suggested Wednesday night that controversial Tea Party freshman Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) could be a “good” choice as the party’s vice presidential nominee.
“You’ve got great ones. You have heard Gov. Palin talk about West, and he’s good.”
And if the Palin and Haley endorsements aren’t enough to persuade the Republicans to go West, maybe that of novelty presidential candidate and serial philanderer Herman Cain will:
“Colonel Allen West out of Florida. Here’s why. He is well-spoken, he is direct, people in Florida love him, he has a huge following. He is from Florida. Florida is going to be one of those key states… But more importantly, Colonel Allen West is a dedicated patriot. He served in the military, and he is willing to serve his country some more.”
And a vice president isn’t subject to Article 15 proceedings, which is a huge plus, but if Romney wants to tap West as his running mate, he might need a time machine. The Congressman was most recently spotted hanging out in the year 1954:
… at a town-hall event in Palm Beach, he told supporters that he has “heard” that up to 81 Democrats are, in fact, communists, the Palm Beach Post reports.
In the video… someone asks West how many members of the Democratic Party are “card-carrying Marxist Socialists.”
“I believe that there are about 78 to 81 members of the Democratic Party that are members of the Communist Party,” West responds…
When pressed for specifics, a spokeswoman for the West campaign said that West was referring to the 76 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Some days later, West proffered more implausible specifics:
I think that if you would take the time to study the political spectrum of ideologies, you’d understand that at the turn of the [20th] century, American Communists renamed themselves as progressives. If you study the Woodrow Wilson administration, people referred to the Woodrow Wilson administration as a progressive administration…
There’s a very thin line between communism, progressivism, Marxism, socialism — or even, as Mark Levin has said, statism. It’s about nationalizing production, it’s about creating and expanding the welfare state. It’s about this idea of social and economic justice. And you hear that being played out — you know, now with fairness, fair share, economic equality, shared sacrifice, ad nauseam, ad infinitum.
I’m starting to think Palin, Haley and Cain are onto something here. That’s certainly one of the most forthright, unequivocal attacks on social and economic justice I’ve ever seen. Sadly, this courageous asininity landed West in hot water with another bunch of America-hating Bolsheviks: Continue reading Slouching Towards Tampa (Veep Doo-doo edition)
The Secret Service scandal in Colombia dominates this Sunday’s television talk shows, as the Republican presidential race turns to the field of possible running mates for the likely nominee, Mitt Romney.
“Fox News Sunday” and CBS’s “Face the Nation” . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 4/22/12