I've been told by businesses that if we would stop the tax increases the best thing that could happen for business after that is complete gridlock. At least gridlock is predictable.
What happens in the Senate is the Republicans sink to the lowest common denominator. People want an alternative to some kind of watered-down Republican philosophy.
- - Senator Jim Demint, in Bloomberg Businessweek, September 15, 2010
On why Republicans will shut down the government to send a message
to the American people
We don't have time for messaging. We don't have time anymore. This country is really hurting.
I happen to believe these small-business people can't get money to save their souls.
- - Senator George Voinovich (R-OH), September 9, 2010
On why he broke with Republicans who were blocking financial help
for small businesses
Sadly, all Andrew offers us is status Cuomo...
- - Carl Paladino (R-NY), GOP nominee for Governor, September 14, 2010
On his Democratic opponent for Governor, in his victory speech the night
of the Republican primary
The Republican Party is about to experience its biggest congressional election victory in decades, greater, even, than the tsunami of 1994. And yet the drumbeat of attacks on the Grand Old Party continues. It's like watching Spiro Agnew going after 1970s hippies, except in reverse. But it isn't liberals or Democrats doing the attacking.
Well, okay it is liberals and Democrats. But it isn't only us.
"We are the party of Abraham Lincoln, and yet we act and behave as if we are the party of Nathan Bedford Forrest," says David Frum, one of the old guard. Conservative Charles Johnson quit the GOP and began a political website, Little Green Footballs. He believes the party will be marginalized "unless people start behaving like adults instead of angry kids throwing tantrums and ranting about conspiracies and revolution." Senator Bob Bennett (R-UT) is about as conservative as a future former Senator can be, and still be defeated by even harsher conservatives. He believes his party has gone over the edge. "It’s like rooting for the 49ers or the Patriots in the Super Bowl but it really means nothing for the future of the country." Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) urges moderation. "Republicans have to rebrand themselves credibly with the candidates they run, and what they espouse."
In Delaware, those in charge of the Republican Party have taken the criticism to heart. They took a stand, battling hard against extremism. They ran moderate Mike Castle for Joe Biden's old Senate seat. Did I say Mike Castle is a moderate Republican? You have to stretch the term moderate to encompass today's Republican definition. Anyone who slips up and misses even one midnight round of yowling at the moon is a moderate.
Mike Castle has been a conservative stalwart since before the American Civil War. Okay, that's an exaggeration, but it seems that long. Mike Castle is a pro-abortion rights, pro-gun control Republican. He's represented conservatives in Delaware in a variety of offices since the mid 1960s. He's conservative right down to the tips of his wiggling toes. But he sometimes works with Democrats and so he was marked as a traitor.
The GOP establishment fought for him as fiercely as they had ever fought for anything. His opponent is a rabid right wing ideologue, one of the roaring hoard. The party used every traditional tool, which is to say tons of money and the political black arts. They devoted their considerable resources to digging into Christine O'Donnell's past. They discovered she once had problems with the IRS. Financial difficulties almost cost the loss of her home to foreclosure. The college she once attended says she owes them money. She may even live on a b-b-budget.
O'Donnell fought back as a traditional Republican. She spread the story (by denouncing the story over and over again) that Mike Castle is gay, that he cheats on his wife with very loving men. "Did I mention that I won't repeat the rumor that Mike Castle is gay? I just resent his unmanly tactics."
Mildly moderate Mike Castle was resoundingly beaten by extremely extreme extremist Christine O'Donnell. It's a shame both couldn't lose last night.
John F. Kennedy didn't really get a lot done legislatively. But he still got a lot done. Presidents set fashion in many ways. Some are more effective than others. When Kennedy was elected, lynching was already widely abhorred. Jim Crow was seen as unjust. But more casual racism had been regarded as the province of harmless curmudgeons, the addled uncle, or the crazed grandmother. The town bigot might provoke disagreement, but it was often the polite, socially inclusive sort. We're all still friends, right?
Kennedy made racism ... well ... unfashionable. It became, in polite circles, less a social oddity and more a toxic evil. When he died, the loss was palpable. LBJ accomplished much more than JFK had dared to dream. But when Nixon took office, it was not Johnson we missed, it was Kennedy.
Nixon was seen as a temporary aberration, a rough patch on the road to progress. His rollbacks of social justice were to be resisted until some heir to the Kennedy legacy could be found. In the end, the Nixon legacy was picked up by Ronald Reagan. Reagan was not some bump in the road. He was the monster demon, come to sharply bend the arc of the moral universe away from justice. The lesson was harsh. Democrats needed to adjust.
Obama is to the far right as Nixon was to us. The similarity isn't absolute, not entirely a mirror image. The right's obsession is not a longing for a fallen champion, as was our mourning of Kennedy. But, as was Nixon, Obama is viewed as an interloper, someone who simply shouldn't be there.
Newt Gingrich makes headlines by his endorsement of a ham handed analysis. He says Obama demonstrates a “Kenyan, anti-colonial” worldview. He unveiled his new "predictive model" in an interview published in the conservative Weekly Standard:
“What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]?” Gingrich asks. “That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior.”
Newt doesn't actually call the President a foreigner or an alien, or claim Obama is actually possessed by the spirit of "a Luo tribesman who grew up in Kenya." He merely finds a model useful in a predictive sense. Kind of like a scientific postulate by Newt Galileo. He ain't sayin'. He's just sayin'.
Gingrich resonates with today's GOP. Obama is an aberration, an accident of history, to be resisted and survived until an authentic human being can be elected to replace this half-man. At heart, this forms the core of Republican resistance against every possible advance, like blocking health care for 9/11 heroes, or attacking tax cuts for small business. The viral picture of Obama dressed as a witch doctor is now a poster for the "predictive model" of the former Speaker of the House and future Presidential hopeful.
Not calling anyone a racist. But the "predictive model" of Republican behavior, and that of its most famous intellect, is obvious. Just sayin'.
Here’s the question, though, for the rest of us: Why do Forbes (which presumably has many choices of cover material) and Gingrich imagine that such a message will resonate with their conservative audience? Nothing more offends conservatives than liberal accusations of racial animus. Yet here is racial animus, unconcealed and unapologetic, and it is seized by savvy editors and an ambitious politician as just the material to please a conservative audience. That’s an insult to every conservative in America.
- - David Frum, conservative personality, September 13, 2010
On the Newt Gingrich "model" of Obama as an anti-colonial Kenyan
And I should like to assure you, my Islamic friends, that under the American Constitution, under American tradition, and in American hearts, this Center, this place of worship, is just as welcome as could be a similar edifice of any other religion. Indeed, America would fight with her whole strength for your right to have here your own church and worship according to your own conscience.
This concept is indeed a part of America, and without that concept we would be something else than what we are.
- - President Dwight David Eisenhower, June 28. 1957
At the dedication of the Islamic Center in Washington, DC
When Geraldo Rivera joined Fox News, it was widely viewed as another instance of selling out for money. Everyone does it. No surprise. Yawns. But I saw it as an aging diva yearning to become again the center of attention.
In dozens of ways, Rivera had made himself a bit of stock footage. The "Mystery of Al Capone's Vault" still provokes laughter for those with long memories. Hard to believe it was a quarter century ago. The man is the Dick Clark of Newsploitation, forever youthful. I wonder if he has an aging portrait of himself locked away somewhere.
Less remembered in a later Geraldo series is a show that was devoted to interracial relationships. The focus was on couples in which the men were black and the women were white. Guests included black men, white women, and black women. The level of sensitivity exhibited by the show's producers and by Rivera himself was breathtaking. The title said it all. "White Women Who Say They Can Teach Black Women a Thing or Two About Loving Black Men." Oh yeah. The quality of discourse followed right along. Racial animus and sexual tension provoked screaming bouts as the ever-young Rivera kept the combatants away from actual assault. Geraldo was the sanest person there. He was only in it for the ratings.
I thought of this precursor of Jerry Springer as I read an account of the very beginnings of the current fashion rage: hating Muslims. Alissa Torres lost her husband in the 9/11 attacks nine years ago. She first heard of the proposed Islamic center when she got an email message in May. The message came from a TV reporter. "I'm doing story today about the proposed mosque project at the WTC site. I am interviewing the developers but I am also trying to look for family members who think building a mosque at the site is a bad idea."
Alissa Torres missed the Fox coverage that began last December, with an interview between extreme conservative Laura Ingraham and Daisy Khan, the wife of one of the Imams backing the center. "I like what you're trying to do," said Ingraham. Indeed most conservatives who had heard of it liked this anti-terrorist demonstration of American interfaith unity.
Torres writes, in Salon, "I thought it was a no-brainer. Of course it should be built there." An Islamic Center would put a thumb in the eye of radical Muslim bigots, and expose as a lie the blood libel that America is at war with Islam. But conservatives who could not resist the lure of television cameras ready to focus on those "who think building a mosque at the site is a bad idea" adopted the al Qaeda lie as their very own dogma. They show all the enthusiasm of unwitting guests of the Geraldo show.
Rivera journalism, once a disreputable novelty, has become a reporting tradition. Fanning the flames of what had been latent bigotry is now on par with reporting documented lies and verifiable truth as two sides of a balanced controversy. On the one hand, the plans of a radical Christian cleric in Florida to burn holy Islamic texts is off then on then off. But the other side is equally provocative as American Muslims unreasonably insist on actually worshiping as Muslims and demand to be treated ... you know ... like other Americans.
The main voice opposing religious radicalism seems to be heroic Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who has been traveling the Middle East arguing against extremist hatred. He needs to come home to America. Perhaps a televised discourse on the Mosque. "Muslims who can teach Christians a thing or two about loving their neighbors." Geraldo Rivera can moderate.
James Wigderson waxes eloquently about political accusations and inaccurate voting records. He briefly bows to conservative concerns about voter fraud, but he writes thoughtfully and nobody's perfect. He does accurately refer to "vote fraud," although it's hard to know if he's aware that voter fraud (as opposed to vote fraud) is extremely rare.
Slant Right's John Houk believes that if the crazed cleric in Florida does not burn the Koran, Muslims will win and Christians will lose, thus closing the circle in Houk's miserably small zero-sum spiritual world. So much for the Prince of Peace.
- Chuck, at Chuck Thinks Right, is white-knuckle scared because he heard the UN is planning to take over the worrrrrrrld.
Have a safe weekend. Pray for salvation from bigotry. Work and vote for recovery. Let's be careful out there.
This week the staff of a Democrat, incumbent Congressman Tom Perriello of Virgina, called his Republican opponent a carpetbagger. So the Republican National Campaign Committee got the home addresses of several staffers working for Democrat Perriello.
Republicans were hot to demonstrate that the Democrat was disloyal to his district, hiring workers who lived in other areas. Sometimes any campaign issue will do, and turnabout being fair play, Republicans published the names of half a dozen workers, all living outside the district. One of them was Perriello's chief of staff. Republicans said the he should fire them all.
It all reminded me of a small town I once did some business in. I made a few friends, but there was a reserve that bordered on iciness from some others. One new friend explained it with a story of local parochialism. He had once voiced a mild disagreement on some minor matter during a group discussion. It was not a sharp rebuke, rather an on-the-other-hand sort of comment. "Oh, that's right," said a woman in the group. "You're not from around here." He had lived in the community all his life, but she was using her "you" in the plural. She meant that his family had not been multi-generational residents.
So last week, Republicans published the names of those half a dozen staff members. They. Added. Their. Exact. Home. Addresses. As in HOME.
This is not the first experience this Congressman has had with home addresses. Last year, some enterprising Republican published the Congressman's home address and urged conservatives to "drop by" and pay their respects. Well, it was almost his address. Seems there was a mistake and the address was wrong. It was actually that of the Congressman's brother. One person who dropped by the brother's home in the dead of night did not ring the bell, but rather cut the gas line leading to the house.
This sort of address publishing thing has become a pattern. Remember Congressman Mark Foley, who hit the headlines in 2006, after making suggestive advances on young Congressional pages? Conservative bloggers were outraged, but not all of them were angry at the Congressman. One published the names and home addresses of the minors who were the objects of the Congressman's desires. Seems they were guilty of tattling. Major conservative sites then linked to the article containing the addresses.
The following year a couple of small children in Maryland became living examples of what government assisted health care could do. The little kids had been in a serious car accident. One of them would almost certainly have died of brain injuries had not medical care been available under a government program. Conservatives got angry. They not only published the address of the kids, but included driving directions to their door.
This new approach may seem harsh. But the well being of staff members, the privacy of the young objects of Congressional urges, and the safety of injured little kids must not stand in the way of conservative principles.
It has to be affecting when a political leader cries real tears while begging for the votes of those being led. John Boehner pleaded with fellow Republicans to search their souls. He wept as he extended his earnest supplication to Democrats, making no partisan distinction as be beseeched his colleagues to help avoid disaster. He tearfully asked them all to put the nation's best interests first.
These are the kind of votes that we have to look into our soul, and understand, and ask ourselves the question, "What is in the best interest of our county?" I believe what's in the best interest of our country, as I stand here today, is to vote for this bill.
He had good reason. The President of the United States, George W. Bush, had made it plain. The country was about to go under. The notion of unemployment rates higher than that experienced by working people during the Great Depression was sobering. That the hardship would last for years made every policy maker's blood run cold. Will it help at all if we panic?
Republican Pete Sessions was there. He listened to Boehner's emotional presentation and worked behind the scenes, supporting the President's effort to save the country from collapse. In the end, Boehner and Sessions were unable to get most Republicans to support President Bush. But Boehner's choked up presentation convinced a majority of Democrats and just enough Republicans to get the unpopular financial bailout passed.
One of those Democrats persuaded by the Boehner/Sessions effort was Representative Joe Donnelly of Indiana. He gulped hard and voted to support the Boehner/Sessions bailout of too-big-to-fail corporations. It was unpopular. It represented a "moral hazard," the principle that those guilty of risky and dishonest practices could count on being rescued by taxpayers. But leadership convinced him to go along.
Life goes on. John Boehner will be the next Speaker of the House. Pete Sessions is in charge of the effort to elect enough Republicans to make that happen. Joe Donnelly is running for re-election.
Pete Sessions is launching ads that attack Joe Donnelly for supporting what the ads call the "Wall Street bailout." Yeah, that bailout. The same bailout John Boehner tearfully begged Representatives to support even though it was unpopular. The same bailout Pete Sessions worked behind the scenes to convince Donnelly and others to pass. For the good of the country.
It is the very model of contemporary Congressional bipartisan cooperation.
The old story has a couple on a shopping outing setting a time to meet outside a fishing equipment store. The fellow finishes first and bides his time browsing through tackle, rods, reels, and lines. He eventually makes conversation with the fellow behind the counter, holding up a gaudy lure, large and multicolored.
"Do you sell many of these?" he asks.
"Quite a few," the counterman answers.
"I wouldn't have thought bass would go for something like that."
"We don't sell them to the bass. We sell them to the suckers."
Most mainstream economists agree with some form of Keynesian theory. It is counter intuitive, which makes it a hard sell to voters, but it has pretty much worked over time. The idea is that in times of recession, money in the economy is important. But money circulating in the economy is more important. So the emphasis is on getting as much cash as possible into the hands of folks who will need to spend it. Tax cuts for the middle class tend to stimulate more than tax cuts for the wealthy. Unemployment benefits stimulate more than tax cuts. Jobs stimulate most of all.
Deficits are important, but only in the long term. Deficits lead to inflation and add to the national debt. Getting the economy moving is the surest way to cure deficits. The priority is to get the economy moving, and only when that succeeds, go after deficits.
But all that goes against voter intuition. More government spending, even resulting in higher deficits, boosts the economy. Boosting the economy reduces deficits. So deficits cure deficits? It makes no intuitive sense, and yet it works.
Hooverism, the theory that the highest priority must be eliminating deficits, has been discredited by experience. But it survives because it seems to make sense. We don't want to leave debt to our grandchildren. Families have to tighten their belts, so government should, too. After all, fair is fair.
The stimulus has kept the absolute worst from happening. But, political realities being what they were, it was not big enough or distributed soon enough. Since Republicans were saying no to everything, even Republican proposals, conservative Democratic votes were needed, especially in the Senate, where arcane rules made Republican obstruction possible. So the stimulus kinda sorta worked up to a point. But voters cast ballots for more than keeping the worst from happening.
Republicans return to what works for them. "American families are tightening their belts. But they don't see government tightening its belt," says GOP House leader John Boehner. "And I think that we can get through this year and lead by example and show the American people that the government can go on a diet as well." He's Herbert Hoover, right down to to his socks.
But another comment by the Republican House Leader may be more revealing. "Well, I don’t need to see GDP numbers or to listen to economists. All I need to do is listen to the American people..." Boehner's solutions don't have to work. He sells them to the suckers.
... the balancing of the Federal Budget and unimpaired national credit is indispensable to the restoration of confidence and to the very start of economic recovery...
A “public works” program such as is suggested by your committee and by others... creates at once an enormous further deficit.
- - President Herbert Hoover, May 21, 1932
Blocking recovery programs designed to put the country back to work
I don’t see them presenting any alternatives, any new options or any new thinking. If the Republicans get back in power, what are they going to do? There is no articulation. It’s just a ‘no no no, I’m against Obama because he’s a socialist and he’s taking America in the wrong direction.’ That’s certainly an opinion, but what about you, Mr. Republican? What would you do?
- - Chuck Hagel (R-NE), former US Senator, September 1, 2010
It is the latest of a series of laments from very conservative Republicans who would be considered too liberal for today's GOP. He is also wrong. Mr. Republican has been articulating a vision of America. It has not really taken with an electorate that is increasingly possessed by a blind rage against a desperate economic condition. But it is there nonetheless. One New Age Republican after another comes up with some variation of the same mantra.
Social Security was a bad idea and should be privatized.
Deep water drilling regulations designed to prevent oil disasters like the BP catastrophe are unreasonable. Such disasters will not happen because corporations already have a terrific incentive to take safety precautions. Think of the damages BP is paying out. No further need there.
Work safety regulations should be abolished. Mining and other safety rules can be enforced by the marketplace. Corporate employers already have plenty of incentive to care for the safety of workers, since low accident rates and a minimal level of on-the-job deaths help in employee recruitment.
Food Safety should be left to industries. If consumers get sick or children die, it would hurt business, so they already have enough incentive.
Hedge Fund managers are unfairly targeted. Although their manipulations triggered America into financial trouble, they should still be a uniquely protected class. They should get tax breaks that are normally reserved only for investors. Tax breaks for hedge fund managers as if they were risking their own savings. A 15% tax cap on wealthy tax fund managers.
Economic policies that were once the province of President Herbert Hoover should be brought back and rigidly followed. Just because they didn't work in the 1920s or in the last Bush administration shouldn't discredit the theory.
But overall, Republicans have not refused to stake out positions. Voters and media, for the most part, have simply not noticed.
Michael Medved was once a movie critic with a reputation for stretching pretty far to preach conservative political commentary in his reviews. I saw Million Dollar Baby, directed by Clint Eastwood, on cable. It was a bit of a downer, I thought. I later came across a Michael Medved review that I had missed. It should have contained a spoiler alert. He didn't like what he saw as a right-to-life violation in the movie, so he gave away the ending. He later explained, "there are competing moral demands that come into the job of a movie critic. We have a moral and fairness obligation to not spoil movies. On the other hand, our primary moral obligation is to tell the truth."
It's hard to find Medved's review on line anymore, so I'm going by memory here. I recall his summary of the theme as having the title character, Hilary Swank, needing to prove her self-worth by boxing. It supported Medved's attack, though not his giving away the ending. But there was another problem. It lacked the virtue of truth. I remember trying to recall anything in the movie that would suggest such a thing.
And that is a serious drawback to political passion. The temptation to veer away from truth is a powerful one. Lately, Medved has been a frequent victim. Driving to the office a few weeks ago, I listened to an interview with Medved concerning the Islamic Cultural non-Mosque in Manhattan.
The point of the Cultural Center was, in part, to put a thumb in the eye of terrorists. This show of American unity was to be a rebuke to the bigotry of Islamic extremists, a demonstration that American Muslims not only pointed an accusing finger at bin Laden, but were supported by mainstream America. Conservatives and liberals joined in supporting them, until American bigots parroted al Qaeda bigots. Medved chuckled at the controversy. It would be so simple to solve, he said. Just move the center a few more blocks away than the 12 block distance now planned. Opposition would vanish.
Then Medved had another chuckle at the self-contradiction of President Obama, who questioned the wisdom of the planners, but who had originally said, according to Medved, "Opponents of the mosque (sic) want to take away religious freedom." Medved added "No we don't." Strangely, Obama neither questioned the wisdom of planners of the center, nor characterized opponents in any way. Medved was simply not telling the truth.
Medved is sincere in his conservative beliefs. He argues that those who see American slavery as historical evil exaggerate. His reasoning is that slavery was unfortunate, but not that bad. More recently, he says if God voted, the ballot would be for Republicans only. His reasoning there is that conservative evangelists have invested more study in God's word, so they should know best. They tend to support Republicans, so there you have it. Liberals sympathize with the poor while biblical law supports equal treatment of both.
Biblical scholars, friends as they are of Michael Medved, may forever debate the unusual ethic that conservative politics demands. The Ten Commandments are important and people should hold to them. Except the one about false witness. It's always okay to lie in service to the Lord.