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.
Slant Right's John Houk finds a Muslim in Europe who calls for violence against a bigot. So, naturally, John condemns all of Islam. After all, why use a broad brush if you can't paint everyone with it?
The World of Doorman-Priest watched a racist demonstration in a Muslim neighborhood in Britain. Protesters seemed disappointed at the bored reaction, although a group of Muslims did gather to pray for the continued health of the Queen. Here in the US, John Houk weeps at the thought.
Ned Williams at WisdomIsVindicated gets confused. With few exceptions, Democrats want to continue the modest Bush tax cuts for the middle class, yet want to end enormously generous cuts for the extremely wealthy. Ned concludes that Democrats "can't decide." Ned is also confused about where to find another word for "thesaurus."
- David Everitt-Carlson of The Wild Wild East Dailies in Vietnam, is really getting into wearing the latest fashions, but on a b-b-budget.
I certainly will take my message in a different venue out to the people of Arizona.
- - Governor Jan Brewer (R-AZ), September 3, 2010
On debating her opponent every again, after her televised opening
meltdown while debating Democrat Terry Goddard
For generations Georgia residents were allowed to vote after their funerals. It wasn't actually voter fraud. It was quite legal. The theory was loved ones of the recently deceased would know which candidate and ballot issues that voter would have wanted to support. The family would cast the ballot. The poll watchers would shake their heads sadly, commiserate with the grieving family and duly record the vote, just as if the dead voter was still alive. Dear old dad... sob... would have wanted it this way.
The practice was ended, in part through the opposition of State Senator and future President Jimmy Carter. Today, if a dead person votes in Georgia, a live person is eligible for prosecution.
So it is everywhere in the country. Voting fraud is almost never voter fraud. Paying a hundred or a thousand voters to march down to the local polling place to cast illegal ballots exposes each of them to being found out and charged, along with whoever puts them up to it. And the penalties are harsh.
My daddy used to say if you're going to sell your soul, always demand at least a million dollars. That was in the good old days when a dollar was worth a dollar and people died of starvation when they didn't have one. Same with voting fraud. You have a lot less risk of getting caught and a lot more votes to play games with if you fiddle with the results after the votes have been cast. So stuffing ballot boxes, or transposing numbers on tally sheets, or counting votes of dead people pretty much happens after the polls have closed and before the vote counting is official. In-person voter fraud just doesn't happen.
Republican Senator Kit Bond, here in Missouri, accuses countless black folks of risking prison each election in order to vote illegally. He wants to require voters to produce picture identification, even those who don't drive. His charges of voter fraud have been disproven by so many investigations his actual motive seems transparent. He wants to put non-driving folks through enough extra steps, enough additional effort, to discourage at least some from voting at all. The image of Kit Bond during the 2000 election is vivid in my mind. After an inept election board forced thousands of voters in the city St. Louis to stand in line for hours, Bond was furious that so many stayed around to vote. They MUST be up to something illegal.
Kit Bond's charges of voter fraud have been picked up by other Republicans. Making it harder for minorities to vote is a pastime more favored these days than baseball. Fictitious voter fraud provokes rage.
Contributor fraud is a different matter. Dead people can't vote in Georgia. But dead folks can, and apparently do, contribute to political campaigns in Louisiana. Senator David Vitter is now accepting campaign contributions from a voter who died late last year. Her husband donated more than the maximum allowed by law. So Vitter and a few conservative political action committees are accepting contributions from his deceased wife.
Requiescat In PACs.
In August of 2004 something unusual happened in Australia. A local ABC broadcast took an American controversy, determined that someone was lying, and kinda sorta reported it. On one side were the conservative funded attacks on the war record of decorated veteran John Kerry. On the other were Kerry and those who watched him in action.
Larry Thurlow had indeed served with Kerry for a few moments, the only attacker who actually saw him in Vietnam. Thurlow's swiftboat was near Kerry's as they came under fire. Thurlow claimed it didn't happen: that Kerry was lying. Certainly, one of them was on the wrong side of veracity.
Jim Rassmann, whose life Kerry saved, said flat out that Thurlow was not telling the truth. It was reported in what had become the standard of neutral reporting: he said/she said, but the juxtaposition of the two versions was compelling. In Australia.
Eventually someone thought to look at documents, and son of a gun, Thurlow was lying. A bronze star had been awarded to Thurlow for the same incident, the one he was insisting decades later never happened. In fact no other accuser had served with Kerry except in the sense that they were in the same war. The "doctor" who alleged he had treated Kerry only for minor wounds never had a glimpse of him. It turned out he was an orderly, not a doctor, at the time, and was in a different part of the hospital.
Most of the media of the day covered the story, not as verifiable truth or lie, but as an on-the-other-hand story of two equal sides. Documentation was available to demonstrate conclusively who was lying and who was telling the truth, but that would have violated political neutrality.
These days, exposing falsehoods is slowly becoming fashionable again. Richard Blumenthal, Democratic Senate candidate misleads voters in Connecticut about his military record. It gets reported as a lie. Mark Kirk, Republican Senate candidate lies to Illinois voters about his military record, his teaching career, policy issues, and his boyhood adventures and it all gets reported as a lie, another lie, another lie, and, holy mackerel, more lies.
And yesterday, the Denver Post dug into claims by Dan Maes, the Republican candidate for Governor of Colorado. It wasn't his charge that bicycles are part of a world wide plot, a secret plan of domination in which the city of Denver is a conspirator. No. It's his boast that he was an undercover police agent 25 years ago, helping to put away drug and bookmaking figures. A reporter asked authorities about Maes heroism. Everyone in charge at the time responded "Huh?" Maes says of his claims "Some people are probably taking that a little too literally." Well, duh.
In a few weeks Republicans will triumphantly put Democratic heads on electoral spikes. But there is some chance some future claims will be reported simply as true or false. Or as Dan Maes so succinctly put it, "Those comments might have been incorrect comments."