Friday, November 30, 2012

White, Working-Class Males of America, Unite!

Okay, I get why white, working-class males in America vote overwhelmingly Republican: They are an easily manipulated group of undereducated, somewhat disappointed, disillusioned people who, because of religious beliefs and general guy-based longings for guns, power, and pliant chicks, are fodder for the Tea Party and the "epistemic closure" crowd of Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, O'Reilly, and Fox in general.

Good. Now that I've thoroughly insulted my target audience for this pitch, I'd like to suggest that our white, working-class stiffs have got it all wrong (there you go again!). Here's what they should consider:
  • They can remain essentially conservative and still come over to the Democratic side. For example, fiscal conservatism in not antithetical to Democratic Party ideals, nor is conservatism antithetical to environmentalism.
  • Progressive income tax structures are good for the lower middle classes in which most of this group resides (if not identifies with). Government expenditures favor the advancement of the working class, and progressivity has little impact on their tax brackets.
  • Unions, long a target of conservatives, favor the working class, and even if white, working men hold hopes of moving up to management, there is little proof that unions harm the lives of the management classes in any way. In fact, rising wages among blue-collar groups lifts all groups.
  • Republicans favor cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid and have worked to resist health-care reform, all of which is valuable to working-class males. Despite denials to the contrary, we can avoid cuts to these programs in ways that will guarantee them to be helpful now and to be there in the future to support everyone's retirements. Democrats fight to save these valuable programs, and progressives even seek to expand them.
  • Republicans have never made much of an attempt to control the national debt and have generally run up bigger deficits than Democrats. This is historically accurate. The Clinton administration is but one example.
If I could offer white, working-class males two charts that should let them know why low taxes for the rich and a continually eroding social safety net are not good for the average American, here they are:

Thanks, The Big Picture. Click charts for bigger images. And:

Thanks, Mother Jones.

So, white, working-class males of America, unite with your brothers and sisters of all creeds and colors who work for a goddam living, okay? Fight for your rights, that is, right up until you're filthy, stinking rich and then cross over to the dark side. That's fine. That's your right. But for now -- until your vastly improbable great leap forward -- your bread is buttered by the Democrats and the progressives that want to work with you to increase your slice of the pie right now. Capiche?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

How's That Self-Reflection Workin' Out for Ya?

The moment these Republican supporters realized Obama would win. (via TPM)

The bit of schadenfreude implicit in the title was irresistible but nonetheless apt, in as much as that Palin-style prose was the fuel in the afterburners of backlash and contempt for, of all people, the winners. Sarah wore her scorn on her sleeve -- if not penned on her palm -- and for a few wobbly days in what will now be known as Obama's first term (Gotcha!) the snark from the mistress of the bus did sting. Now, not so much, as she can see the backside of her career from her porch in Alaska.

No, she and her ilk are ill-prepared for the kind of reflection leading to deep resolve and on to real change. They don't have it in them. And a recent article by Democratic guru Robert Shrum framed well the dilemma the Grand Old Party faces as they attempt to assimilate the New. As Atrios would say, na ga ha pen. Here's Shrum in the Daily Beast:
So here is the Republican Party reinventing itself. The GOP majority in the Ohio legislature rushes to defund Planned Parenthood in its post-election session. The orange-tinted speaker of the House proposes to undo Obamacare through “oversight” in the name of “solving our debt and restoring prosperity.” Never mind that health-care reform doesn’t raise the deficit but reduces it. Or that “a new low,” 33 percent of Americans, the anti-Obama bitter-enders, still favor repealing the law (PDF). And a rising star in the GOP future, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, offers a dim view out of the pre-Darwinian past that maybe the Earth was created in seven days—and that since “theologians” disagree, we should teach “multiple theories.
This doesn’t sound like rethinking, or thinking at all, but like the reflex and revanchism of a party that doesn’t comprehend or simply can’t respond to the dimensions of its 2012 defeat. There’s not just the delicious irony that maladroit Mitt Romney, the 47 percent man, will end up with 47 percent of the vote. Outside the South, President Obama defeated his opponent 55 to 45 percent, winning a landslide there as well as in the Electoral College. The bottom line: Romney got elected president of the old confederacy.
The aggrieved and deluded suggest secession—a question that was definitively settled four score and seven years ago. The fantasist who founded conjures up a new website,, “proving” that the president stole Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Florida. Sensible Republicans—perhaps even Boehner, who has to fear the Tea Party and a coup from Eric Cantor, his House majority leader—know this is self-defeating nonsense. So do smart GOP strategists, who for speaking truth to the loss of power were promptly denounced by the grand inquisitor Rush Limbaugh as heretics who want “to get rid of conservatism.”
Of all of this nonsense, Marco Rubio's anti-science stance was -- as I've pointed out -- the least productive in terms of what a revitalized Republican Party requires. Stop with the dog whistles for the Southern evangelicals, okay!? Ronald Reagan kicked off his 1980 campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, and it didn't take a Lee Atwater to figure out the message there; and George W. Bush did the same in 2000 with an appearance at Bob Jones University. That shit's kind of over, boys, don't you think?

Maybe, maybe not:
Schmidt was blunt. The GOP had to abandon the ceaseless pursuit of the last white guy in Mississippi at the expense of alienating the mainstream. He argued a case in point: Republicans should be “a pro-life party,” but not “the anti-contraception” party, which is how Romney sometimes came across as he felt forced to match the ├╝ber-purist Rick Santorum in the primaries. Castellanos mentioned that since Republicans believe in states’ rights, the answer on abortion might be to reverse Roe v. Wade but then leave the decision on the issue to each state.
That wouldn’t bring over those who care deeply about reproductive rights. And it would incite fierce resistance from those who believe life begins at fertilization. But at least such moves would provide the substance and not just the slogans of a party repositioning from the edge.
Obama pollster Joel Benenson responded that such shifts may require two or three more cycles of presidential loss. It took the Democrats that long in the wilderness in the 1970s and 1980s, when only one Democrat won the White House for only one term, and then only in reaction to the Watergate scandal.

Romney supporters learn it's not going to be Mitt. (via TPM)

The problem for the GOP is that they might only be able to reposition themselves at the edges of their slim coalition. Their core base might be immovable. For the Democrats to take three terms during the 32 years from 1976 to 2008 they turned to Southerners, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. What's the GOP going to do, find a professor in economics from Princeton or a pot grower from Washington state who are pro-life, pro-business, and adamant supply-siders, and who will promise a bag of weed and a path to citizenship to our brown brothers from south of the border? Hard to picture.

But it's even harder to picture the New Republicans as anything but the Old Republicans dressed up like Bob Barker, offering Hispanics, blacks, Asians, single women, and young people the chance to "come on down!" and win prizes or "gifts," as Romney put it, that would convince these demographic groups that the GOP wasn't the party that's ignored their needs for over thirty years, in fact insulted and degraded them at every turn.

It just won't wash.

Now what do we do, now that we've driven everyone else out of our party? (via TPM)

An authentic look at the immediate reaction by Republicans to the thumping they withstood Nov. 6th was on display at the meeting of the Republican Governors Assn. last week. Here are the opening graphs to the LA Times report:
A week's worth of soul-searching among Republicans has yielded no shortage of explanations for the party's failure to win the White House. They point to the Obama campaign's early and aggressive effort to disparage Mitt Romney. They admit Democrats had a superior voter-turnout operation. Some point to Superstorm Sandy, saying it robbed Romney of momentum.
What they won't say is that President Obama won a mandate for his vision, or that the GOP has veered too far right in its outlook.
"The president won the election. But I think it wasn't on the issues," Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said Thursday at the annual Republican Governors Assn. conference. "He ran a heck of a good grass-roots organization and was able to basically convince enough people that they couldn't trust Gov. Romney." [Boldface mine.]
Progressive partisans like me hope the Republicans hang out in their epistemic closure cloud for as long as they want, even if it's damaging to the country in the short term. In the long term, besides us all being dead, there may be some future where policy choices are not limited by discredited conservative malarkey. In fairness to true conservatives -- unsullied by the unhinged coalition of Christian fundamentalists and Galtian libertarian me-me-me-ers -- I submit they're welcome to come back to the fold of rational humans. As for the Republican core dead-enders, I hear there's a lot of wild frontier up in Alaska.

"Real" America? These Obama supporters think so.

Update. Incoming Republican Ted Cruz of Texas warns that even the Lone Star state could go blue if nothing is done about the Hispanic vote. Read about it here.

To drive the point home, the Democratic mayor of San Antonio, Julian Castro, also warns of the same trend. Read about it here.

The potential nails in the coffin of red-state Texas -- the home of George W. Bush and Rick Perry, gasp! -- are illustrated by these two charts, compliments of The Big Picture:

Click images for large versions.

A blue Texas? Holy crap.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Marco Rubio Sounds the Death Knell of the Republican Party

Had to go and say it, didn't you.

GQ: How old do you think the Earth is?
Marco Rubio: I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I’m not a scientist. I don’t think I’m qualified to answer a question like that.
At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.
Some might believe it's wishful thinking, but I take Marco Rubio's statement above to disqualify him from the office of the presidency. It may be that other deficiencies hurt his chances or that even to consider him as presidential material is highly premature, but since he's already haunting the political spaces of Iowa, we know what he's got in mind. And since he is already the de facto Solution to the Hispanic Problem for the Republican Party, his hat is automatically in the ring.

What's disqualifying about his "I'm not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says..." remarks? It's that he has, by this statement, firmly presented his anti-science credentials to his core conservative Christian base, full stop. He's already amassing his list of dog whistles and already begun to blow them. Good base politics? Sure. Good way to attract 51 percent of the vote? Unlikely. Not impossible, just unlikely.

That's why it's not wishful thinking or hyperbole to say Rubio has quite likely, in the YouTube/social media/web-pages-never-die reality of the Information Age, ended his chances as a serious candidate for We the People. For his shrinking party, sure. The rest of us? Nah.

Now, if his Republican Party decides "Hey, this good Christian Latino boy is our man!" then both he and they live or die as the anti-science party. Good for a decent run from Ronnie to George W.? Sure. Good for a durable life in the 21st century? Don't think so.

Nice art, nice story. Teach it as possibly factual? Please.

Another part of Rubio's answer -- "It's one of the great mysteries" -- is also terrifically dismissive of science. No, Marco, it's not one of the great mysteries. We can know the age of stuff quite accurately, you know, by measuring. Using radiometric age dating we discover that the Earth is 4.54 ± 0.05 billion years old. That's accurate to within one percent.

I'm adamant about this, but that doesn't mean I'm absolutely right. Checking in with the latest Gallup poll on the popularity of the biblical story of creation, we find that 46 percent of Americans believe that God created man in his current form some time in the last 10,000 years. Yikes!

Behind the headline answers, we find that more Republicans than Democrats or Independents believe in creationism without an evolution component. Also, the more educated an American is, the less likely he or she is to believe in the biblical view. Still the vast majority of Americans, 78 percent, believe that God was involved in the process.

I really shouldn't be surprised at these findings. I grew up believing in God and science, and thus I believed in the God-induced evolutionary scheme. By sixteen I still believed in science. In God, not so much.

But the point here is not whether you're a Christian, believe in God, or believe that God created man in His image about 6,000 years ago. We have Marco Rubio, a senator and a serious candidate for president, rejecting science as the true arbiter of facts surrounding the origins and age of the Earth.

I find his views disqualifying, but of course the Republican Party, by and large, does not. So he can win the Republican nomination. And he can always Etch-A-Sketch his anti-science views with a statement like "What I meant was we're free to believe whatever we like because it's America," which is good as far as it goes. But it's still anti-science, anti-intellectual, anti-inquisitive, anti-education.

Paul Krugman's comments influenced me here and here. And, yes, there are policy implications when considering a candidate for president who rejects overwhelming scientific evidence out of hand. That candidate would be almost required by his core constituents to base his decisions not on science but on a biblical view. This is how politics work, after all.

Krugman also linked to a PDF that tells the story of John Hutton, the Scot who can be credited for laying out the first credible scientific view of how the Earth and its rocks were formed and the probable length of time involved. And this in 1785. It's a great story and well told.

John Hutton looked at the rock formations in the picture above and knew that the Earth was older than 6,000 years. Marco Rubio looks at it and says, "It's one of the great mysteries." Sorry, Marco, we need more than that in a president, and it would be one of the great mysteries if you were ever to be so elected.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Civil War II Is Already Underway

A new Southern strategy?

The Republican Party did in fact enter a period of post-election self-reflection. After about ten minutes, its various guiding lights -- they have guiding lights? -- figured out what went wrong: There was nothing wrong with its message, there was something wrong with its messaging.


So it's back to business as usual, which as we all know is that of stopping the Black Muslim Kenyan, you know, the one with the better messaging.

However, as I had suggested in a couple of earlier posts, we face a new incarnation of the Civil War. Its framework is already starting to take shape. A few bits and pieces:
  • Petitions for secession emanating from all fifty states reached the federal government's web portal for grievances, We the People. At last count, seven of those petitions reached the 25,000-signature level that requires an answer from the government. Unsurprisingly, the top petitions were from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. Remind you of anything?
  • Many Republican governors have announced that they will not participate in building the state health-insurance exchanges necessary to enacting Obamacare. Among those states are Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Ohio, Wisconsin, Maine, Nebraska, and Alaska. Although a number of Southern states are on the list, the real line of demarcation is that all are run by Republican governors. Oddly, refusing to set up the exchanges and thus forcing the feds to set them up runs counter to any states' rights arguments we ordinarily hear from red states.
  • Some of these same state governors have also rejected federal Medicaid money that would help them pay for the uninsured. The Supreme Court's decision allowing Obamacare to move forward did declare the Medicaid mandate to be illegal, giving these states the right to opt out. How long will these states hold out after the near-certain uproar occurs when Obamacare goes on line a year from now? It's anyone's guess.

Map remind you of anything?

Right. Got it. (Thanks, BuzzFeed.)

Without question, the suggestion that an actual Civil War 2.0 is underway is at best hyperbolic and at worst incendiary. Still, there is a steady stream of crazy talk -- and a fair amount of crazy Republican action on the state level -- and to not notice the venom that still flows freely in the right-wing nut-o-sphere would be nearly impossible. Kos over at Daily Kos sampled a comment thread over at World News Daily that defied imagination. Is the right wing really this crazed? I offer a couple of samples:
Forget about the white wash job here, Secession is the only way to permanently deal with the know nothing and do nothing politics.  The NWO is running scared now realizing the Republic is rising up and fighting back from is lame grips.  Sound the battle cry you Patriots and keep pushing, lift up your voices you people of the land the stage has been set, the irons forged, it is time to plunge the sword into the fire and GOD renew the Republic in blood. A patriot 's call to the Constitution and the many that have died before us defending its values, and to those that what security and safety by giving up liberty deserve neither. BF
if 0bama really loved his country he would step aside so [a civil war] wouldn't happen but he won't.   he doesn't care enough about the country and is more concerned about being the person who won.
Check out the original article -- which was about using the Electoral College to negate Obama's victory, which couldn't happen, by the way -- and its entire comment thread here.

How can we miss you if you won't go away?
But wait, there's more. Although Ron Paul rides off into the sunset this coming January, he's still at it with his crazy talk. He now maintains, coincidentally, that secession is in the great American tradition and is somehow patriotic?? Yep:

Paul wrote that secession must still be an option to be used as leverage to make sure the government doesn’t “encroach” on Americans’ liberties.

“In fact, the recent election only further entrenched the status quo. If the possibility of secession is completely off the table there is nothing to stop the federal government from continuing to encroach on our liberties and no recourse for those who are sick and tired of it.”

Paul wrote that secession is a form of American freedom.

"At what point should the people dissolve the political bands which have connected them with an increasingly tyrannical and oppressive federal government?” Paul wrote.

He added: “And if people or states are not free to leave the United States as a last resort, can they really think of themselves as free? If a people cannot secede from an oppressive government, they cannot truly be considered free.”
I'll add to this post as more examples of this crazy talk emerge. Trust me, they will.

Update. This is a couple of days old, but the gun shop owner in Arizona who banned Obama voters from spending money in his shop deserves his fifteen minutes.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Fiscal Policy and Fiscal Politics: Is There Hope for the U.S.?

The Unperson.
Because it was an election year, throughout 2012 I admittedly became obsessed -- like countless others -- with fighting the possibility that Mitt Romney might become president of the United States. Further, I had hoped against hope that Karl Rove, Grover Norquist, Dick Armey, and the Club for Growth wouldn't be allowed to take money from the likes of the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adleson, Bob Perry, Foster Friess, Harold Simmons, and the rest of the billionaires club and turn it into a permanent funding source through super PACs to crush democracy as we know it.

Mitt Romney was defeated, and the super PAC money looks to have largely failed to have much influence. If anything, the 2012 election proved that, for now, bullshit talks and money walks. Who knew?

We are still, however, largely a country at the mercy of moneyed interests, and the fundamental failure of our government to provide the kind of advanced services most mature democracies provide is evident everywhere. We should, as an advanced democracy, be providing the following:
  • A strong, mandatory savings program that provides for a proper pension for every citizen in his or her retirement.
  • A strong and secure disability system, for all citizens, not just veterans, who because of illness or injury are unable to contribute to the welfare of themselves and others.
  • A comprehensive, single-payer healthcare system that allows no citizen to fall through its cracks, that recognizes healthcare as not only an individual right but also tacitly accepts that a healthy society is a productive one.
  • A robust set of programs that provide research and development in a range of endeavors, from medicine to sciences to technology.
  • An employment program that makes sure those who are unemployed have sufficient income to maintain basic human needs, while seeking to train or otherwise reemploy those out of work.
  • A welfare program that provides food, living expenses, and shelter to citizens in times of need.
  • An educational system, from preschool through college, that offers the opportunity for all citizens to learn about our country's history, culture, mores, and traditions, and that of the world in general, as well as the opportunity to garner skills that allows each and every citizen to contribute to the well-being of themselves, their families, and the society in which they all live and prosper.
  • A program of public works that builds infrastructure such as roads, bridges, harbors, and port facilities and refurbishes and replaces obsolete water, sewer, and gas lines throughout the nation.
  • A system of laws and courts that encourages due process and equal protection to all citizens without fear or favor.

The Netherlands has all of the above and high wealth and productivity.

Are we providing all of the above? As a country among the community of nations we've made strides in some realms, but our attempts in many areas are weak and, frankly, embarrassingly limited. We are not a mature state. Many nations in the developed world easily outpace us in proper government services, and the health and welfare of our citizens show it. Why is that?
  • Americans have a longstanding tension between individualism and communitarianism. Because of this, we are prone to adopting distorted public policy, which leads to many ineffective programs.
  • Americans are, in so many areas of life, including education, energy, healthcare, consumer and environmental protections, worker safety, and labor laws, at the mercy of moneyed interests.
  • Religion and religious institutions and traditions have had a deleterious influence on the goods and services available to Americans from both the public and private sectors. Religious views have had an undue stranglehold on the proper development of a secular government as originally envisaged by the founding fathers.
  • Americans have yet to recover fully from the specter of our early years of prospering by a race-based, legal system of slavery. We all share and participate in a heritage, wrought by history and its aftermath, of racism, savage inequities, and cultural tensions that roil our civilization to this day. This heritage is not confined to our feelings about African Americans but also shapes our feelings toward newcomers and immigrants to our shores. Every race and culture has undergone this tumult, from the Irish to the Italians to the Poles to Hispanics, in every decade of our existence. Slavery was only the original and greatest cause of the rift that extends to this day throughout our society.

Yes, it did look just like this. This was the slave trade.

The 2012 election was only the latest demonstration of the tensions and rifts that divide our country and limit our ability to develop as an advanced nation. Just look at what divides our electorate:
  • The chasms between the rich and poor.
  • The clash between urban and rural cultures.
  • The divide between our original white, Anglo-Saxon roots and the groups of minorities that are driving white America to become a subset of political power and influence.
  • The struggle for women to achieve parity in nearly every realm of life: in the home, in the workplace, in education, government, and the development and implementation of public policy.
  • The struggle by men -- to a great extent by white, Christian men -- to adapt and grow into willing participants in a diverse society not constrained by racial, religious, cultural, ethnic, and gender divides.
Copenhagen, Denmark: progressive, productive, wealthy. Also big-ass safety net.

Yes, all of these currents flowed through the dialogue of the 2012 election. Almost no corner of American life was spared the consequences of this dialogue, though little, if any, progress has been demonstrated. There are currents of hope running through our country, and I haven't even begun to talk about the area of foreign policy that these beliefs and struggles have such a powerful influence on. This discussion has mainly focused on domestic policy and the development of a proper role for government in the daily lives of the citizens of what is without question a great, if imperfect, nation.

The election of 2012, at least on the federal level -- and, from my perspective, in state governments, especially those of California, Washington, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, and Maryland -- was a vindication, albeit a distinctly limited one, of the forces for social justice. It is far from a game-set-and-match-style victory. To stay with the tennis metaphor, 2012 was something of a hard-fought 7-6 fourth-set win that has staved off defeat at the hands of reactionary forces. Can we -- the social communitarian elements of our nation -- hold on for an early-21st-century final-set victory?

San Francisco: progressive, productive, wealthy. Safety net? We're getting there...

Stay tuned. The American Human is dedicated to finding out and, if possible, influencing the outcome. The health and heart of any great nation rests on the cornerstone of philosophy, morality, religion and its derivative culture and tradition. But its construction rests on fiscal policy. In the end, money does indeed talk. Thankfully, for now, it wasn't Karl Rove's.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Falling Off the Fiscal Curb

There is no better time in recent memory for the Democratic Party -- and its core constituencies -- to stand firm on the almost entirely Republican-manufactured fiscal "cliff" by stonewalling the Republican leadership and allowing, if necessary, the Bush tax cuts to expire on January 1st.

If we keep smiling, will they let us keep our tax cuts? Sorry, not this time.

There are, for once, very good signs that the Democrats' core constituencies are closing ranks preemptively by drawing hard lines, something Barack Obama is loath to do. Why the president hedged his bet at the recent post-election press conference I don't know, since a lot of the usual suspects are gone, such as Ben Nelson, Kent Conrad, Olympia Snowe, et al. Few are left to pull the rug out from under a tax increase coalition. There's no Lucy left to humiliate Charlie Brown with her usual antics. Here's the buildup of support:
  • Labor has announced a "keep your hands off our Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid." There should be no connection between fiscal solvency and entitlements.
  • Bernie Sanders, representing the real Left, said as much.
  • Nancy Pelosi said, "Why are we relating revenue to Medicare, or Medicaid, whatever? Those issues, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, they should be in their own realm." Amen.
  • Barack Obama made it clear taxes on the wealthy were going up, although I wish he'd drawn a "red line," whatever that is. (Actually, the term has been misused recently by a number of leaders, from Bibi to Barack.)
That's worrisome talk from Obama because we don't need to placate the blue dogs anymore. We've got a bill passed already in the Senate, and we just don't need uncertainty. Here's the money quote from the president's press conference:
So that's my concern. I'm less concerned about red lines per se. What I'm concerned about is not finding ourselves in a situation where the wealthy aren't paying more or aren't paying as much they should; middle-class families, one way or another, are making up the difference.
That sounds strong, but it leaves an opening that John Boehner could drive a truck through. Mr. President, stop with the equivocating and let the Republicans run themselves off the fiscal cliff of their own making. Do you think the American people won't punish them for their folly?

I'm sure they would. Dare them, Mr. President, then sit back and enjoy the fun. The bonus is that you'll get you way, for once, when it counts.

You laid your marker down. Now, stand your ground. We've got your back.

Update. AARP weighs in and joins the coalition opposing cuts to Social Security and Medicare as part of debt talks.

Update 2. President Obama calculates an outside game:
President Barack Obama is preparing to expand the fiscal cliff fight beyond the confines of Washington, traveling the country and leaning on Democratic activist groups to help apply political pressure.

The goal, organizers said, is to keep engaged the activists and followers who have stood with Obama through two campaigns, and to begin applying external pressure to the president's negotiations with congressional Republicans.
 Stay tuned, and watch for a way to participate.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Scandal Is Dead. Long Live the Scandal.

I didn't know Paula Broadwell before a couple of days ago. I guess I didn't watch the Daily Show that night. Now she's a little famouser. Good for her.

I give the scandal another week, maybe two if Congress really wants to ride the sexytime train. Who knows? Who cares?

Best line so far about the scandal? You can count on Atrios of Eschaton:

Kind Of Obvious

But I haven't seen it said yet. Looks like a corrupt abuse of the surveillance state took down the CIA chief.

Nailed it.

Beyond that is the simple fact that a Great Man -- and potential presidential candidate in the eyes of many Republicans -- has decided that unlike the rest of the world he can have sex with the wrong women and NEVER get caught. Right. Now he has to resign because honor.

Hate to say it, but who's next? Power is so cool! And just how was the war-hero general guy brought low?
Ms. Kelley, a volunteer with wounded veterans and military families, brought her complaint to a rank-and-file agent she knew from a previous encounter with the F.B.I. office, the official also said. That agent, who had previously pursued a friendship with Ms. Kelley and had earlier sent her shirtless photographs of himself, was “just a conduit” for the complaint, he said. He had no training in cybercrime, was not part of the cyber squad handling the case and was never assigned to the investigation.
But the agent, who was not identified, continued to “nose around” about the case, and eventually his superiors “told him to stay the hell away from it, and he was not invited to briefings,” the official said. The Wall Street Journal first reported on Monday night that the agent had been barred from the case.
Later, the agent became convinced — incorrectly, the official said — that the case had stalled. Because of his “worldview,” as the official put it, he suspected a politically motivated cover-up to protect President Obama. The agent alerted Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, who called the F.B.I. director, Robert S. Mueller III, on Oct. 31 to tell him of the agent’s concerns.
The official said the agent’s self-described “whistle-blowing” was “a little embarrassing” but had no effect on the investigation.
[emphasis added by Josh Marshall, TPM]
 Maybe the Agent Who Will Be Named Later brought down the Great Man or not. Maybe I do want the scandal to have legs if it's got entertainment value like this.

Cast of characters:

The Great Man in happier times, you know, when he was fighting a war.

The Wrong Woman being interviewed by Jon Stewart. Must-see TV? His next show.

The other Wrong Woman: totally called the right FBI agent.

Not really in the cast of characters, but seen drooling earlier today.

In the process of writing this post I've come full circle: Let's ride this scandal for all it's worth. Let's whip this beast and run it right off the fiscal cliff!

I am so recording Stewart and Colbert tomorrow.

Update. Okay, this is too good not to include. Of course, it'll be old news soon, but it's still fun:

Update 2. Okay. No way this scandal was going to do this. Really. But it has. Seems a top general in Afghanistan is involved with the other Wrong Woman in some small way. Like in some small way that involved 20,000 to 30,000 pages of emails. Or something. The NY Times:
Gen. John Allen, the top American and NATO commander in Afghanistan, is under investigation for what a senior defense official said early Tuesday was “inappropriate communication” with Jill Kelley, who was seen as a rival for David H. Petraeus’s attentions by Paula Broadwell, the woman who had an extramarital affair with Mr. Petraeus.
This other Great Man, who is connected to the other Wrong Woman, is currently back in Washington for hearings leading to being appointed the commander of American forces in Europe and the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO when his command in Afghanistan is over. For now, that's really not happening. Stay tuned to the Little Scandal That Could. Go. Nuts.

New cast member, General John Allen. Who's next?

Update 3. We don't have to wait for the Stewart rerun this evening:

And Jon, don't beat yourself up about not being a good journalist. You're doing fine, just fine.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Election Postmortem

There's a tradition in sports and politics to be magnanimous in victory. The last thing anybody expected to hear in 2008 from a victorious Boston Celtic like Paul Pierce was "I think Kobe Bryant is bullshit" in a post-series interview, and of course nobody said such a thing. It just isn't done.

And so it was with Barack Obama. He congratulated Mitt Romney for his "spirited campaign" and started to work on his victory speech, which was pretty good, by the way. He left it up to conservative pundits to do the postmortem on Mitt Romney, which has been mixed.

I am, however, not on Obama's team or compelled in any way to be magnanimous. I think Mitt Romney and his campaign were complete bullshit. In fact, I've never witnessed a campaign more based on the Big Lie approach to winning votes. George W. Bush's "compassionate conservative" and "reformer with results" was also bullshit, but that bit of chicanery had the saving grace of having worked, however cynical a ploy it represented.

I'm not the only progressive blogger to declare that about Romney and his campaign, and there is a profound reason why the assessment is true: they were complete bullshit, and I say that without an ounce of hyperbole.

I bought into Camelot hook, line, and sinker.
I'm the same person who as a twelve-year-old kid worshiped John F. Kennedy and was crushed when he was assassinated. I'm the same person who at fifteen went door-to-door for Lyndon Johnson in 1964. And I'm the same person who, in college, was devastated as Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. were assassinated in 1968. I was deeply antiwar then and had been invigorated as the civil rights movement was making great strides year after year. I believed, in spite of the setbacks, that the arc of history was indeed long, that it did bend toward justice, as MLK had put it.

Hardball, but he delivered.
I learned mostly after the fact that the Kennedys, Johnson, and King were all flawed human beings -- as we all are -- and that elements of their lives and careers were studies in various human frailties, which I don't have to detail here. Their legacies, however mixed, did contain profound accomplishments that impact us even today. Our American society owe them a great debt. Powerful men like LBJ played politics like it was hardball, but his victories gave us substantive change.

King's message will long outlive him.
Now, a day before my sixty-fourth birthday, I'm proud to have witnessed -- and supported -- the reelection of Barack Obama. His legacy, so far, is also mixed, but he saved us from a recession, kept Detroit alive, gave us a substantive beginning to solving health care, is getting us out of two very dubious wars, and, well, did kill Osama bin Laden. More needs to be done, and I hope he does it. One thing's for certain, though: What he does is not bullshit, even as he bends the truth to his own advantage. His bullshit, if you will, is mild and it bends toward justice, not blind ambition.

With victory, Barack Obama has a chance to add to his legacy. He may play out his final four with small ball a la Bill Clinton, and that would be a shame. But Clinton did deliver a balanced budget and a surplus, did some righteous things in the Balkans and showed us, like many of the greats, that keeping it in his pants is a bridge too far. Oh well. He's still delivering, and we've forgiven his peccadilloes, and so we move on.

Like him or not, Obama's world is real and filled with love. He's genuine.

You can't fake this.

This moment in the campaign speaks for itself. It's so, well, un-Romney.

(Pictures by Scout Tufankjian for Obama for America.)

When they write the history of the 2012 campaign, a big piece of it will be that the Obama campaign rocked the ground game, that the economy was on the mend at the right time, that Bruce Springsteen stepped up in Ohio, that Hurricane Sandy -- with all its devastation -- intervened and, with Chris Christie's help Obama played it just right as Commander-in-Chief, that a harmonic convergence of epic proportions brought a host of minority interests together at a precise -- and anticipated -- moment in time, but without a doubt the final piece of the 2012 puzzle was that Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and their whole operation, from the Super PACs to the tea-party ferrets, were complete bullshit.

America dodged a bullet.

Now go away and ride Ann's Cadillacs up and down your car elevator.

The words Mitt Romney appeared too often in this blog. Never again would be too soon.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Craven Gatherer: The Thumping

xkcd's usual brilliance:


The conservative movement and its various voices -- official, like the Republican Party, and corporate, like Fox News, and unofficial, like conservative/libertarian bloggers -- have gathered around Internet connections large and small to offer their excuses reasons why they fell to the Obama juggernaut. Here are some samples:
  • Let's face it: Romney sucked.
  • Everyone knows that the mainstream media was in the tank for Obama.
  • Fact checkers had it in for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, in spite of their honorable character and general truthiness.
  • Next time we'll just have to prevail by getting more extreme.
  • It was great to see Ralph Reed back out there again. He was such a help.
  • Maybe it really was Hurricane Sandy. I mean, it couldn't have been Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney, Linda McMahon, Allen West, Joe Walsh, Darrell Issa, Dan Lundgren, Michelle Bachmann, John Sununu, Donald Trump, Haley Barbour, and Ed Gillespie, could it?
  • I suppose next cycle we'll need to find some Hispanics we don't want to deport.
  • The War on Women™, though a righteous concept, might have been bad politics, especially because there are so goddam many of them. You know, women.
  • Shit. Too bad Jennifer Lopez is a Democrat. Maybe Rosie Perez? Nah. Forget it, just go with Rubio next time, with a black vegan female Hispanic for veep. I mean, they gotta be out there.
  • Next time we're going to need better false ads.
  • @MittRomney i'm running 4 president, 4 pete's sake #let-detroit-go-bankrupt #self-deportation #insanelyfuckingstupid
  • Wait. Jeb Bush speaks Spanish, right? 2016!

Problems might arise if Jeb Bush ran in 2016, but I can't think of any offhand.

As the Republican Party looks to move forward, it would be extremely wise to listen carefully to their old lions, like Rush Limbaugh, for instance:

(h/t Atrios)

This kind of reasoned insight is really going to help reshape the New Republican Party™. Any other examples? Here's one:

Bill O'Reilly's cogent analysis: Barack Obama won because blacks, Hispanics, and women want "stuff." You know, Bill, it's too bad that the white establishment didn't think up something like earmarks, and even worse that they devoured their way of winning votes, which was earmarks. Yep, the white establishment was the part of America that didn't want "stuff." Qu'est que c'est le bridge to nowhere? Yes, Bill, let's hope the New Republican Party™ listens carefully to you.

Here's another pearl of wisdom, this one from Jonah Goldberg at NRO:
In fact, I have a different view from some about the coming wave of recriminations: I welcome it. I don’t know that things need to be vicious or personal, but they do need to be honest. And honesty requires we say things that may feel personal to our friends. This is one of the great and abiding strengths of the conservative movement and the thing I love about it most. Contrary to the conventional wisdom among liberals, conservatives are actually far more willing to examine their dogma and their first principles than liberals or “centrists” are. This has been the source of conservatism’s lasting strength. [Emphasis mine.]
 Good, Jonah, you just keep saying that. It's really going to help with the honest appraisal to come.

Right on cue, the corporate voice of the Republican Party, Fox News, shows its wisdom and leadership:

Who cares if sane market analysts say it's a reaction to Europe, with a dash of the fiscal cliff? Which ain't Obama's fault in the first place.

Here we have Mark Steyn explaining the demise of the Western World because of the "Obama phone":


Finally, let's hope the GOP follow their faithful Rottweiler, Charles Krauthammer:

Talking Points Memo, in it inimitable style, puts it all together:


This will work out very well for the New Republican Party™, don't you think?

Eric Cantor, Majority Leader of the House.

Now underway, I'm told, is the rehabilitation of the Republicans...

Two New Republicans, caught in their native habitat.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Barack Obama May Be Headed for Victory. Why?

A slew of polls -- and a number of "admissions" by top Republicans that Hurricane Sandy helped stall Mitt Romney's "momentum" -- show that Barack Obama may have taken charge in the final days leading to tomorrow's election. If so, why?

Beyond the reality shown in the photo up above -- which palpably exudes compassion amid an overwhelming sense of desolation on all the faces, most especially Obama's and that of the lady he's comforting -- there exists an understanding among most Americans, enough Americans, that Barack Obama cares about people like us.

Mitt Romney has not successfully conveyed in any sense that he deserves such trust in him with our path forward. Why not? It's quite simple: He refused to tell us just who he actually is and what he truly believes. In fact, I've never witnessed in over a half century of watching political contests as cynical and contemptuous a display by a contestant in an election cycle. Who did he think he was kidding? The American people, that's who.

Timothy Geithner: Where did he go to, anyway?
At this point in an argument -- academically speaking, or not -- the other side would say something like, yeah, but Obama, blah, blah, and so on. I agree, a case can be made against him. What would that be?

I have felt a considerable amount of disappointment in the accomplishments of Barack Obama over the last four years, believe me. The stimulus was too small; his attempts, through Timothy Geithner and others, to mitigate the foreclosure crisis was ineffectual; Eric Holder's Department of Justice has been AWOL both in its approach to crimes of the previous administration as well as toward the frauds of both Wall Street and the banks; and I've been troubled, too, by the moral questions that surround the surreptitious black-ops war at hot spots around the world and the use of drones as a tool of assassination. These are all troubling.

Eric Holder: Not my favorite in the cabinet.
There are answers to many of these questions. In a financial crisis, maybe you have to save the big guys to stabilize the credit markets, even if the little guys get the shaft. Maybe you can't take over the government and arrest the last one. (Talk about turning into Greece.) Maybe in this era of asymmetrical warfare, black ops and drone strikes are necessary and beat the hell out of carpet bombing terrorist-supporting countries into oblivion.

But what Barack Obama has accomplished overwhelms these failings. He and his team did stabilize the credit markets. They did save the auto industry, which was no small feat. They did turn around the economy, turning losses of 800,000 jobs a month into 23 straight months of job gains, however inadequate the number to provide true economic growth. They did mitigate the pain on the state and local level and prevented the American educational system -- which depends on public dollars -- from imploding. And, of course, Obama's health care reform, though also flawed, is a good and necessary step toward providing affordable care for all, including millions and millions of uninsured that had been falling through the cracks for years. And by falling through the cracks, I do mean suffering and dying.

We also shouldn't forget that Barack Obama appointed two credible, moderate justices to the Supreme Court, and his appointment of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state has led to an era of undeniably competent and effective diplomacy. And Obama's general competency has been demonstrated by successes across many government agencies, big and small. As was shown in his Hurricane Sandy performance, we have a competent government, something we could not say about his predecessor.

Oh, Mitt, we hardly knew ye.
What did Mitt Romney offer? Aside from not being black -- admit it, this was at the core of the wholesale rejection of Barack Obama by a wide swath of the American public -- sorry, Mitt, not much. Mitt Romney has not established his authenticity or his credentials to lead the country. That's it in a nutshell. Where did he fail?

He thought he was the man to create jobs because Bain. He thought I don't have to show you my tax returns because Democrats. He thought he didn't have to tell us how his tax cut plan worked with out exploding the deficit because trust me. He thought he could say he was severely conservative because I'm not moderate except now yes I am. He said he was going to reform education because look over there a pony. You get the point.

You get it because Mitt Romney never made his point. He let Barack Obama define him using Bain Capital not because Obama was unfair but because it's hard to stand on a record of making millions picking winners and losers and then winning no matter what and stashing the money in the Cayman Islands or Swiss bank accounts. You can't offer a five-point plan and when people notice it's as empty as your suit just turn around and say he's going to burn down your churches and let Italians ship our Jeep jobs to China, which, if you don't mind my saying, just about sizes up his whole campaign, other than choosing Paul Ryan for the conservative tea partiers and then going wink, wink, I don't embrace the Ryan plan after all, or his beliefs on abortion. Sorry, Mitt, but that was a pretty sorry set of moves.

There's no question that it's possible -- Nate Silver puts the chances at about 15 percent -- that Mitt Romney might yet pull off an upset, but it would have to be just that, an upset. If he doesn't do that, and I suspect he won't, both he and his Republican Party should spend a long hard winter figuring out what went wrong and what they should do to fix it.

The Republican Party: No direction home?

But they won't do that. The Republican Party and its conservative base will explode, I suspect, in wholesale contempt toward Barack Obama and government in general. They may attack the entire process of elections and likely will say that the election was stolen. There is no end to the number of things the Republican Party might do before it begins to self-reflect. It's possible they never will and just as possible that they might not survive the process.

As for Mitt Romney, he's finished. He's toast, politically. He'll go back to his car elevators and his lakeside vacations with his fabulous wife and kids and grandkids. And when he does it, we won't know him any better than we did when this whole thing started.

Why? Because he never told us.