Mouse: What is that all about? How is simply asking the extremely wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes soaking them? How is asking those who have benefited the most from the past 30 years of economic policy to pay up soaking them?
Doesn’t the middle class deserve a break? A chance to share in the wealth of the country they help make great? And what about the poor? Don’t they deserve a break and a chance too?
How ridiculous did the Republicans look sitting there like statues during President Obama’s SOTU speech? They refused to applaud anything that would help the average American. I’m sure that was on orders from the Koch brothers.
Grumpy: Oh, don’t get me started on the Koch brothers. We’ll be here for a month before I finish my rant.
You are absolutely right about tax fairness. The conservative side likes to point out that the wealthy pay the majority of the taxes, but they never talk about whether those at the top are paying proportionally the same as the average middle-income workers pay. In some cases under today’s tax system, many of the wealthiest (I’m looking at you, Mitt) pay less than the doorman at their fancy Park Avenue digs or the mechanics that install their car elevators.
Mouse: I could speak for a month on Willard and his never-seen tax statements. I wonder what he’s hiding? Too many offshore bank accounts?
Grumpy: The Teapublicans didn’t always sit on their hands, though. Remember that moment when President Obama said he didn’t have to campaign for office anymore. Why, I think that brought a standing ovation.
Mouse: That was my favorite part of the SOTU. President Obama could beat the Republicans a third time. What a shame he doesn’t get to try. I bet Republican heads popped with a dry, dusty sound when they once again attempted to disrespect the President and didn’t succeed.
So, Grumpy, what do you think about two years of community college being paid for by the government? How many people currently stuck in low-wage jobs might have a glimmer of hope of improving their lives with a bit of education?
Grumpy:I have a couple of grandchildren who will soon be ready to take advantage of such a program. It will certainly give them a leg up whether they go on to a four-year college or not.
Of course the Teapublicans never saw an Obama idea that they like and they have been grumbling about this one since he first mentioned it before the SOTU. Grumbling is what they seem to do best. And they call me Grumpy! Meh!
Mouse: Teapublicans hate education. They hate to think anyone might be smarter than them. After all, it’s elitist to be educated, don’tcha know? And then of course someone who is educated is less likely to vote Republican. They know the only way they can stay in power is to keep people ignorant of what is happening in the world. Continue reading Soak the Rich?
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
I personally enjoy observing social behavior, looking for patterns, finding tendencies and connections at hidden levels that make things work they way they do. I have a fondness for truth and putting ideas to the test.
Which one of the two traits above make me unlikely to be a Republican?
Actually, both traits are at the heart of the Republican paradox—the idea that you can lie and win elections, that truth doesn’t matter, but correctly analyzing social behavior contributes to victory. Like the double helix of DNA, Republicans take these twin strands which seem to be at odds, and from their different functions create the twisting rungs of a winning strategy.
Democrats take heed.
For Republicans, lying is big business, especially for elected officials and media personnel. But the new lie is not the old lie.
The new lie incorporates new, multiple functions and has improved deniability and staying power. Among the most important of its new functions is that the new lie sanitizes itself. Newly sworn House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana is a practitioner and high expert of the new lie. He denied knowing he had once spoken to a white supremacist group organized under the patronage of Louisiana’s most famous white supremacist and former state senator, David Duke. The Scalise new lie: “I didn’t know who the group were or what the group stood for.” Could I have spoken to a group of Black Panthers in South Carolina and not known who they were? Continue reading Prepare for the New Lie
New Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – man, it makes me queasy to type that – will try to move authorization of the Keystone XL pipeline forward today after last week’s House vote to approve it.
Tuesday, Chris Christie takes a time-out from mourning his beloved Dallas Cowboys to deliver his State of the State address. Spoiler alert: the state of the state is rife with corruption, with the worst of it centered around 354 Stockton Street in Princeton. Governor Christie will likely avoid that topic, though, to concentrate on lying and blustering, the two things he does best.
Senate Democrats will be in Baltimore Wednesday and Thursday for their annual policy retreat (and no, I will not go for a cheap laugh here). They’ll be doing so without Minority Leader Harry Reid, who’s still recovering from his recent injuries and remains in Washington on doctors’ orders. House and Senate Republicans, meanwhile, will gather in Hershey, Pennsylvania for a joint two-day retreat, presumably to synch up their respective ideas for destroying the country as efficiently as possible.
Wednesday at noon, the Londonderry Fish and Game Club in Litchfield, New Hampshire hosts a one-hour “conversation” on the Second Amendment with crackpot Senator Rand Paul, followed by a Q&A session where it’s pretty much guaranteed Senator Paul will not be asked pertinent questions like “Why the hell do you think you’re qualified to be President?” and “Where’d you get that hair?”
The President kicks off his week with a visit to the Federal Trade Commission on Monday, followed by a Tuesday bipartisan confab with Congressional leaders to discuss what Reuters laughably describes as “common goals,” and a visit to the DHS National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center. Wednesday he heads to Iowa for a speech about expanding broadband access for more Americans. He’s also expected to drop by the Democrats’ Baltimore get-together on Thursday. Thursday evening, he dines with British PM David Cameron; the two will confer at the White House on Friday. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 1/12/15
Republicans, unconcerned with progress or sensible public policy, have plenty of free time to devote to other pursuits. Like feigning outrage. For that, and only for that, Barack Obama has been their ideal President. The apparent unflappability, exotic background, swift rise from obscurity, technocratic approach to governance and pigmentary uniqueness among Chief Executives are all ideally pitched to prompt sputtering Republican ire. It doesn’t even matter that it’s mostly as forced and insincere as a junior high production of a fifth-rate operetta; the GOP’s stenographic corps in the mainstream media reliably take it at face value.
Autobiographical revelations of madrassa attendance and youthful drug use, cherry-picked Jeremiah Wright sermons, the mythical “Whitey” tape, the remarks about “clinging to guns and religion,” the “57 states” gaffe, the “terrorist fist jab” with wife Michelle, the Middle Eastern and European “Apology Tour” and those faux-classical columns at the convention provided all the warm-up necessary.
Once the President took office, Republicans went on to being incensed by the Beer Summit (racism!), the auto bailout (socialism!), the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (big socialism!), Cash for Clunkers (socialism, sorta!), Obamacare and its attendant “death panels” (huge socialism!), vacations in Hawaii and Martha’s Vineyard (elitism!), withdrawal from Iraq (cowardice!), new CAFE standards (tyranny, tree-hugging!), IRS-gate (abuse of power!), Benghazi (treason, cowardice and abuse of power!), golfing (shiftlessness!), tan suits (um… gauche!) coffee cup salutes (arrogance, shiftlessness, with a soupçon of elitism!), and a host of other non-scandals so contrived and picayune most Republicans don’t even remember them.
Each of these tantrum-ticklers, it turns out, was mere prelude to Republican reaction to the President’s recent executive actions on immigration. Note to aspiring conservative naysayers out there: churlish and peevish are passé; this season, nothing but full-on hysteria will do.
Felon-in-waiting Michele Bachmann believes the immigration measures are a ploy to produce an army of illegal but dependable Democratic voters:
“The social cost will be profound on the U.S. taxpayer — millions of unskilled, illiterate, foreign nationals coming into the United States who can’t speak the English language… Even though the president says they won’t be able to vote, we all know that many, in all likelihood, will vote.”
Rabies-afflicted Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who also discussed with a caller to his radio show the idea that Hispanics could undertake “ethnic cleansing” in America, had his own variation on this theme, with bonus points for working in the S-word:
“There is still a decided bias in favor of bigger government not smaller government. So maybe this strategy of replacing American voters with newly legalized aliens, if you look at it through an ethnic lens… you’ve got a locked in vote for socialism.”
Tom Coburn, that poster child for gravitas, warned of civil unrest:
“The country’s going to go nuts, because they’re going to see it as a move outside the authority of the president, and it’s going to be a very serious situation… You’re going to see — hopefully not — but you could see instances of anarchy… You could see violence.”
Rick Santorum’s evident distress stemmed from his deep concern for minorities and the working poor. Or so he wants everyone, including himself, to believe:
“You know who gets hurt the most by this? Hispanics in America. Lower-income workers in America. You’re adding 5 million mostly unskilled workers into a labor pool where wages are declining, when median income in America is declining… We’re going to flood the labor market and we’re going to hurt Hispanics, we’re going to blacks and lower-income whites, and he does this out of compassion? He’s doing this as a slap-in-the-face to every working American.”
Hugh Hewitt’s plaint was similar:
“The people in the country illegally will know shortly that this stunt… does not help them and may in fact hurt them – badly… The president’s lawless act will have the apparently contradictory impact of both making life harder for ‘those in the shadows’ by increasing the reluctance of employers to hire the obviously illegal, while at the same time attracting millions more north across the fenceless border.”
Though Hewitt too rushed to the defense of the document his beloved GW Bush once described as “a goddamn piece of paper”:
“… a disfigurement of the Constitution which will lead to future disfigurements. Wait until the environmentalists learn that a GOP president can suspend enforcement of their beloved if crazy Endangered Species Act. Wait until all sorts of special interests realize that their special interest legislation can be suspended at a stroke of a pen.”
Mike Kelly, an obscure Republican Congressman from Pennsylvania, believes the President’s actions are unprecedented:
“The country is witnessing something right now that I don’t think in our entire history we’ve ever looked at, a constitutional crisis…”
Or perhaps precedented. It’s a little hard to tell:
“Right now in the history of our country we have never had such an internal crisis as we’ve had, not since the mid-1800s, of what we’re going through right now. Why would this president choose this issue and cause a constitutional crisis?”
Peter Wehner, who worked in the White House under Reagan, Bush and Bush the Lesser and has thus seen, up close, more constitutional violations than almost anyone alive, took a similar tack: Continue reading Time Mismanagement
Well. With last week’s little unpleasantness out of the way, it’s at least a small relief that the cable news networks have mothballed their portentous horn-laden stings and seizure-inducing election-themed graphics. Until shortly before the first ’16 primary, anyway.
It’s less comforting that their energies now shift to helping Republicans craft their Grand Obstructionist Lame Duck narrative for the last half of the last term of Barack Obama, one where the “deeply unpopular” President, still diligently portrayed as a disengaged and feckless weakling, will nonetheless also be vilified as a stubborn, unreasoning bulwark against the bold (though coincidentally asinine) policy ideas of Republicans, through his preternatural command of a microphone and a veto pen.
Unless Republicans impeach him, of course, in which case… well, who the hell knows? Personally, I’d be delighted if the President were to veto everything the new Republican majorities stink up the inbox of the Resolute Desk with, and publicly call them all out as mendacious shitweasels in his next SOTU before daring them to start impeachment proceedings. Alas, that’s not going to happen.
As is his wont, the President will pick his battles with a seeming overabundance of caution, especially early on as the parties begin to square off in Congress. And that very well might entail his signature on some misshapen, though – one hopes – not monstrous legislation. In a landscape this ugly, there’s no reason to believe this is going to be anyone’s finest hour, and whatever compromising there is, I’m sadly sure most of it will be done by Democrats.
Magnitudes worse, though, is the effect of more Republicans in state legislatures and governors’ mansions. The appalling consequences of this sort of thing were vivid in the wake of Republican state-level gains in 2010, and they’re going to get a whole lot worse come January. Progressive or even moderate victories in the Obama Era have been muted, blunted or outright denied to citizens of red states via Republicans in charge there, with the ready assistance of ALEC, Koch money, and a “free press” soundly asleep at its post. Continue reading Consequences
Grumpy: Well Mouse, I’m not feeling too well this week. In fact I think I’m about to have a two-year hangover after Tuesday night’s election results. Austerity will be the name of the game for the foreseeable future. Obama can use his veto pen, but I can’t see him using it on a budget which would effectively shut down government again. This time the blame will go to him, fairly or not. Filling vacant federal court seats? Don’t even think about it, they’ll never make it out of committee.
Mouse: And don’t forget about the Supreme Court. If any Justices should need to be replaced in the next two years expect the Republican Senate to create problems like we’ve never seen before. They will filibuster, drag their feet, and do anything and everything they can to prevent the President from seating a liberal-leaning Justice.
Grumpy: It isn’t just the Congress we have to worry about either. Teapublicans held onto and even gained governorships. Ohio should have gone to Democrats but we had a very weak candidate in Ed Fitzgerald. He had so much dirt on him the Teapublicans couldn’t shovel fast enough. He ended up dragging the entire statewide Democratic ticket down with him. The Republicans even hold a 6-to-1 majority on Ohio’s Supreme Court. Ohio may be a deeper red than ever before after the debacle of 2014.
Sadly, Ohio isn’t the exception this year. Governorships in four states (Arkansas, Maryland, Massachusetts and Illinois) switched to Teapublican control and only Pennsylvania switched to Democratic control. I think we can expect many more attempts at voting restrictions in all the states. In the past the Democrats have been reactionary about Teapublican attempts at voting restrictions. I think it is time for the Democrats to get off their behinds and get proactive about using referendums, lawsuits and any other legal means of securing the voting rights that people died to win for us.
Mouse: As a former Pennsylvanian, I’m happy for my old home state to have returned to the Democratic fold. As a current Arizonan, I’m not surprised at all that this state stayed on the crazy train and elected yet another unqualified Republican along with a whole slate of other Republican disasters for state offices.
The next two years will be a struggle to maintain the right for ALL Americans to vote.
Grumpy: You know, I don’t blame Teapublicans for the sorry state of affairs we find ourselves in for at least the next four years. They did exactly what they needed to do to win. Whatever it took, they did it. They lied, cheated, sowed confusion, deflected blame and used any devious means at their disposal to secure victory. All the Democrats did was cry to the referee(s) that the Teapubs were hitting below the belt. In many, if not most, cases the referees just told them to keep fighting. Continue reading Midterm Hangover
The 2014 Values Voter Summit wrapped up Sunday in Washington, and Omni Shoreham Hotel staff must be working hard to expunge the building of the heavy stench of gunpowder and cliché. Like previous editions, this year’s version was a consummate freak show with a gaggle of grotesques worthy of Todd Browning, but even speakers making their second, third or fourth appearance seemed to bring a little extra Republican bile, guile and vile to the festivities this time around.
The theme this year was “Defending the Dream, Defining the Future,” a phrase so vague it could be used for a corporate training seminar, a high school valedictory address, or a Shriners convention. But VVS organizers know what they’re defending and defining; they proudly state their intention is to “inform and mobilize citizens across America to preserve the bedrock values of traditional marriage, religious liberty, sanctity of life and limited government that make our nation strong.”
Yes, that’s right. The same snake oil they’ve been peddling since the first iteration of the conclave back in 2006. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s terse description of the VVS really summarizes it much better: “An annual political conference bringing together some of the most extreme groups on the religious right.” That includes host organization and lead sponsor, the Family Research Council (which the SPLC calls a hate group), along with other America-hating organizations like Liberty Counsel (shouldn’t that be “council”?) and the American Family Association (which wants to destroy your family, if you’re gay).
But of course the real, ahem, elephant in the room is, as always, the Republican Party, which coyly maintains no “official” connection to the VVS even as elected Republicans madly stampede to its podium year after year to pander, preen and pose. Why, there’s even a presidential straw poll conducted, which purulent demagogue Ted Cruz topped for a second consecutive year, with up-and-coming conservative clod Ben Carson a close second and perennial pious pseudo-Christian Mike Huckabee a distant third.
As always, though, the real “attraction” was the speechifying. The Values Voter Summit showcases more know-nothing arch-conservative blowhards than any venue outside the even bigger freak show known as the United States House of Representatives, and VVS speakers don’t even have to make a pretense of obeisance to parliamentary decorum. Nor do attendees, who seem to spend much of their time whooping like gibbons on nitrous oxide. Thanks to the event’s video archives, which get sadly more generous every year, we can all experience the horror of being at an event we wouldn’t actually be caught dead attending.
The “values voters” were thrilled by lame duck Congresswoman and future convicted felon Michele Bachmann, who described herself, unasked, as “a normal, real person.” She decried the bailout that saved the automobile industry as “gangster government,” said that the “trillion dollar” stimulus that prevented the economy from collapsing “didn’t work so well,” and bragged about introducing “the very first repeal bill” against Obamacare.
She waxed nostalgic about her “deep dive into the leading foreign policy and national security issues of our day.” She also griped about Benghazi, the Bergdahl prisoner swap, and Iran “racing toward completing nuclear weapons,” called Barack Obama “the first anti-Israel President in American history,” averred that Hillary Clinton will be defeated in 2016, and thundered that “it is never too late to save the country.” The fierce urgency of whenever, you might say.
Ted Cruz smirked more than anyone I’ve ever seen not named Bush. He called Obamacare a “disaster,” which I suppose it is if you hate seeing the number of Americans without health coverage drop by 26% and counting. He made a Cat in the Hat joke harking back to his ludicrous “faux-libuster” last year, to show how charmingly self-deprecating his handlers have coached him to be. He served up a tasteless quip about the White House fence-jumper (which he admitted he stole from Jimmy Fallon), and then added one of his own. He called for a debate between Hillary Clinton and the Little Sisters of the Poor. He called the Democratic Party an “extreme radical party.” In short, he said not a single truthful, worthwhile or remotely intelligent thing. Naturally, the crowd loved his speech.
Rick Santorum has appeared at every one of these things so far, and so most of his speech was heavily recycled from his previous heavily recycled speeches. He spent a little of his time hawking his upcoming book, Bella’s Gift, about raising a special needs child. (Will Bella’s gift be saving her old man from having to get a real job for yet another year? Probably not, but we’ll see.) Santorum called the President “a descendant of the French Revolution,” which – bien sûr – was a refreshing change from years of ridiculous allegations about Kenya. Mostly, though, he stuck with the self-evident and obvious, as in his observing at one point that: “You don’t have any Baptist ministers going on jihad.” Continue reading A Good Year for the Poses
If members of any political party can lay legitimate claim to the ill-defined moral high ground represented by wooly catchphrases like “personal responsibility” and “family values,” they sure as hell aren’t Republicans.
Amid all the cataclysm and calamity of this summer’s news, the spectacle of the Bob and Maureen McDonnell trial has stood out garishly. Good God, I hate being embarrassed for Republicans, but it’s impossible to read coverage of Virginia’s former First Couple having their turgid day in court without blushing on their behalf. The trial has been a cavalcade of cringing.
Maureen was described by her chief of staff, under oath, as a “screamer” and a “nutbag,” who once accused the chef at the Executive Mansion of sabotaging Christmas with “bad shrimp.” Bob, once considered a future Republican presidential contender, has been portrayed by his defense team as a well-meaning but hapless boob who couldn’t have conspired with his wife to do anything because, darn it all, she only spoke to him when he pissed her off, so he mostly kept his mouth shut to avoid ugly scenes. An e-mail from the then-Governor to his wife in September 2011 was trotted out in court to bolster this narrative:
I know I am a sinner and keep trying to do better. But I am completely at a loss as to how to handle the fiery anger and hate from you that has become more and more frequent. You told me again yesterday that you would wreck my things and how bad I am. It hurt me to my core… I admit that I do keep away from you sometimes and don’t talk to you about important things or problems to avoid confrontation.
Of course the McDonnells are just following a trail – if you’ll forgive the metaphor – blazed by their former counterparts in South Carolina. The meltdown that was the marriage of Mark and Jenny Sanford first came to public notice with a weird episode where nobody could find the then-Governor, who had his own cheering section drooling at the prospect of a future White House run. Despite claims that he was impulsively hiking the Appalachian Trail, it turned out he was merely hiking the skirts of his Argentine mistress. But that was only preamble.
Sanford’s fall was swift, but so was his political resurrection. Despite Jenny Sanford filing a trespassing complaint against her estranged husband in February 2013, in which she alleged “a pattern of entering onto Plaintiff’s property, both at her former and current residences, without her permission and against her wishes,” voters in the SC 1st District nevertheless saw fit to elect this clod their Representative in DC in a special election three months later by a margin of almost 9% over Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch. Of course, given the utter pointlessness of the 113th Congress, as scurrilous and useless as any in American history, maybe that’s exactly where he belongs. Continue reading All in the Family Values