"The Republican leadership in the House right now is constantly trying to play a political game every day to try and get a headline, and I don't think that's going to take us anywhere," said the critic.
Pundits and politicians, moderates and liberals, independents and Democrats have complained about Republican scorched earth tactics. It's been a murder-suicide strategy. It will seriously harm the GOP, but if it hurts Democrats worse, Republicans might gain some advantage in next year's elections. Such is the logic of zero-sum game politics.
The critic this time around was arch-conservative Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA). The conversation was mostly about healthcare. "All of these changes that we could make to have improved our healthcare system we didn't do during the Bush years when we had both houses in Congress." But he expanded the discussion from time to time to point out the conflict between Country Club Republicanism and the conservatism of the street. "And either we side with regular Americans -- the patriots -- or we won't win."
Karl Rove type plans to motivating the base more than the opposition can motivate theirs can indeed win in some off-year elections. But it doesn't work well in years divisible by 4, and it comes at a terrible price over the long term. Just when it seems the party had hit rock bottom, with only one fourth of voters being Republicans, a newer poll shows the sinking continuing. The proportion has shrunk down to 20%. Just 19% have confidence in GOP judgment, while 79% say they don't. 19% is about the same percentage as those who think the X-files is a documentary. It is about the percent who are skeptical that the earth goes around the sun.
Those burdened with the responsibility of leading the party back to viability have an easier task going into the next election than they do over the next several years.
Florida functions as something of a case study. Moderate candidate Charlie Crist had been positioning himself for the general election. He presented a public face of moderation, reassuring the electorate that he was that rare creature, the safe, nonthreatening Republican. He was for the public interest over hard edged conservative ideology. But the hard core GOP is swinging hard against him. He has been forced to tack hard to the right, denying his very public record of moderation.
Political tides do ebb and flow. Off year elections do favor emotional fervor more than pure numerical support. But over the long term, Crist symbolizes the hobsian choice of freezing or burning.
GOP candidates can walk to their doom in the primaries or fly to oblivion in the general. Whichever death panel they choose is up to them.
America was once their country. They sense they are losing it. And they are right.
- - Pat Buchanan, October 20, 2009
"It's not that we want health care to fail,. We don't," a GOP Senator assures President Obama in a Saturday Night Live skit. "We just want you to fail."
The piece was already going out of date even as humor when it aired this past weekend. So far, when conservative Democrats compromise, adopting Republican suggestions for weakening reform, GOP Senators dance away. Just go a little weaker. I recall a cold war political cartoon. President Kennedy says to Premier Khrushchev "Why don't we try to meet halfway?" Khrushchev answers, "You first." Kennedy walks to a halfway point, and says, "Your turn." Rather than walking to Kennedy, Khrushchev goes about half of the remaining distance. "It's your turn again," he says.
Republicans are changing their public face. They are still for some sort of improvement in a vague sort of way. But they want the insurance industry to handle it themselves. And they don't see much urgency in finding solutions. They are simply for the sort of efficiency that free markets generate. "I'm not sure that it's a fact that more and more people die because they don't have health insurance," said Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) this past Sunday, "but because they don't have health insurance, the care is not delivered in the best and most efficient way." He suggests the best way is to "use the market that we have today, focusing on patients and trying to insure that we can both bring down costs and increase access to care without totally reforming the entire healthcare system."
Michael Steele, GOP Chairman agrees, engaging in tautology. We don't need "a comprehensive overhaul" because our nation's health care system is "the best in the country..." That actually parallels my experience. Looking in the mirror this morning, I observed that my nose is the best on my face.
Roll Call confirms the change. "Senate Republicans, acknowledging they lack the votes to block a health care reform bill outright, have implemented a comprehensive political strategy to delay, define and derail."
It's politics over policy. And it is denial of easily found fact. Just last month Harvard Medical School researchers found that 45,000 Americans die each year because they do not have health insurance. In one publicized case, a large insurance company was legally barred from canceling coverage for individuals just because they submit large claims. So the corporation did an end run and canceled entire lines of coverage altogether, leaving very ill people to die. Documents were produced in which executives laughingly referred to patients, who would die as a result, as "dogs." Oddly enough, former Governor Sarah Palin has not protested this death panel.
But the public is noticing. 61% say they will be disappointed if Congress doesn’t pass health care reform this year and the system continues as it is. It is possible Americans recoil from a system of care that discards seriously ill health insurance clients because they are seen as animals.
She's perfectly healthy, yet she has become a statistic. There's no reason for her to be a statistic as a non-insured person.
- - Rachel Bates on her infant daughter, October 19, 2009
Aislin Bates was 6 pounds, 6 ounces at birth.
At two years old, she now weighs 22 pounds.
Her insurance coverage has been denied after
an insurance chart listed her as underweight
We have a compelling proposition posed, in the aggregate, by Fox News.
Does an administration that pointedly refuses to grant interviews to, or even targets for political attack, a legitimate news outlet reveal its own intolerance of critical questioning?
- Do competing news networks who fail to condemn such attacks or interview refusals reveal their own lack of legitimacy?
At issue is criticism by the Obama administration aimed at Fox News Channel. First, the President excluded Fox from a weekend of news interviews. Then Anita Dunn, Robert Gibbs, and Dan Pfeiffer were joined by Rahm Emanuel in a barrage of administration criticism of Fox News.
“It is extraordinary that the White House would go and target a news channel,” says Fox personality Steve Doocy. "I can’t imagine a Republican doing this without, you know, a media outcry," says Fox's Sean Hannity.
In 2004, a researcher documented blatant conservative bias by Fox. Host Neal Gabler summarized the collective defense by a group of Fox panelists. Fox is definitely not biased toward conservatism. It merely has a pronounced Republican viewpoint. "I mean, look, to say that this network promotes the Republican view, not the conservative view, but the Republican view is like saying that the pope is Catholic. It's self-evident." He explained it as an innocent result of audience demographics. "... the overwhelming plurality of viewers are self-identified Republicans. So it programs to that group. And I think this is pretty much undeniable. My question is, so what? What's the big deal about it?"
Throughout the Bush Presidency, the administration boycotted the New York Times, giving interviews to all major competitors. In 2008, the Bush administration pointedly attacked NBC news for what it considered critical coverage. The following is the total protest against the Bush administration by Fox News: "..." Nothing. Zero. In fact, Fox commentators enthusiastically endorsed the attacks and urged the administration to boycott NBC.
So, according to transcripts of Fox programs in 2008, the network does not meet the 2009 Fox definition of a legitimate news channel. That is because news networks who fail to condemn political attacks or interview refusals on legitimate news outlets reveal their own lack of legitimacy. The Obama administration has not attacked a legitimate news organization.
And according to transcripts of Fox programs in 2004, Fox is, in fact, an arm of the Republican party. The network precisely meets the description suggested by the Obama administration.
Quod erat demonstrandum.
When a fox preaches, take care of your geese.
- - Ancient Proverb, said to originate in Denmark
It lasted over an hour. The anger was palpable, the crowd boisterous. Those gathered at Furman University in South Carolina screamed, calling Republican Senator Lindsay Graham everything but a child of God.
Senator Graham, more conservative than the majority of Republican members of the Senate, was being attacked by fellow conservatives as too liberal. You can find perhaps 16 Senators more conservative than Graham. They are the kooks who are quite off the map.
Conservatism in the United States has fallen off the rails to the extent that leaves the rest of the world gasping. Margaret Thatcher's political party, the Conservatives of Great Britain, used to collaborate with the conservative wing of the Republican Party. Last year, someone took a poll consisting only of Conservative Party candidates running as prospective members of Parliament. These Conservative candidates for public office stated their hopes for the United States presidential election. A common sentiment was that American conservatives had gone berserk. About half hoped Barack Obama would become President. This was not the common view of British citizens. This was the opinion of publicly declared Conservatives.
The Republican Party has taken conservatism to absurd lengths. In a recent vote, 3/4 of Republican Senators backed Halliburton after the company locked up a teenage female employee in a shipping container where she was kept under armed guard. This was to keep her from reporting to authorities that she had been drugged and gang raped by other employees. Republicans insisted the matter should be handled by company sponsored arbitration rather than criminal investigation. That is the current state of contemporary conservative thought. Fortunately, the Senate did not buy it.
The base is attacking the most extreme of these conservatives, the right wing side of the right wing party, as insufficiently right wing. Graham, in his disrupted meeting, defended his vote to confirm Sonia Sotomayor, for science in dealing with the Global Climate crash, and for looking to find conservative answers to social problems. He was shouted down as a party traitor and ideological apostate. He bravely shouted back, defending himself.
Then came the common cheap shot of the conservative right. His religious faith was attacked. He was unChristian, in fact anti-Christ. “God does not compromise,” he was lectured. The point was silly and offensive on the face of it. The position of Jesus on global warming, Latinos in office, the public option in health care, and other issues, may not be clear to those folks or anyone else. But the Christian right no longer argues doctrine. They promote group identity. That is what Graham betrays by following rational, although extreme, conservatism.
It is not Christianity that has the Republican Party in a death spiral.
It is Christian tribalism.
They must remain intolerant because intolerance has been given a makeover: It's now the most readily observable hallmark of the virtuous and courageous conservative Christian. While intolerance was considered a grave sin back when America was marching towards civil rights instead of away from them, today that vice has become-presto!-a virtue. This means that conservative Christians must become increasingly intolerant in order to demonstrate their faith, and the more in-your-face the intolerance is, the better.
- - Dr. Teresa Whitehurst, January 25, 2005
Nuggets of internet gold:
Friendly nemesis Ned Williams at WisdomIsVindicated proves that health care reform is a scam because everyone knows it: Everyone being Fred Thompson, Matt Drudge, Jonah Goldberg, and a radically out-of-context quote from Senator Reid, who was actually talking about savings from reform, not cost of reform.
Chuck Thinks Right is outraged by a case of child abuse and says its caused by abortion rights and and an out of context quote by Obama.
- Vigilante at Sozadee doesn't care for staying in Afghanistan.
Pray for someone in pain. A lot of them out there. Any moment can find any of us hurting. Be careful out there.
If they’re too big to fail, they’re too big. In 1911 we broke up Standard Oil -- so what happened? The individual parts became more valuable than the whole. Maybe that’s what we need to do.
- - Alan Greenspan, former Federal Reserve Chairman, October 15,2009
unexpectedly speaking on the side of the angels.
When college student Matthew Shepard was killed in Laramie, Wyoming for being gay, it was not a hate crime. It should have been.
My conservative friends, for the most part, don't care for hate crimes legislation. A few are a bit irrational about it, seeing it as a nefarious plot to crush conservative thought or religious freedom. Particularly offensive is the extension of protection to sexual orientation. Unless you view religious freedom as including the right to send gays to the hospital or the morgue you don't have much to worry about. Bigotry is a constitutionally protected right.
People don't go to jail for refusing to join integrated country clubs. Churches don't lose their tax status when pastors refuse to officiate at gay weddings. Hate crime involves violence motivated by group hatred. If you target folks for being black or white, or Muslim or Christian, or of Middle Eastern or Middle European descent, then you may be in additional legal jeopardy.
When someone goes cruising for some minority member to attack, it puts a larger number of people at extraordinary risk. It is more than a violent crime. It affects the ability of an entire group of people to go about the routine activities of life in peace. It is a form of terrorism.
Some of my liberal friends join my conservative pals in disapproving of the idea of adding penalties for violent crime because of what is in the mind of the perpetrator. There is discomfort with what can be viewed as thought control, even as an aggravating factor.
I'm fine with the debate. If you view the burning of a cross on my front lawn as the rough equivalent of a Halloween prank, we can argue the point. We can continue until you concede or we run out of time. I really don't mind. I can see how an honorable person can go the wrong path on the issue.
Last week, House Republican Leader John Boehner raised objections to hate crime protection. "All violent crimes should be prosecuted vigorously, no matter what the circumstance. The Democrats' 'thought crimes' legislation, however, places a higher value on some lives than others. Republicans believe that all lives are created equal, and should be defended with equal vigilance." Pretty strong stuff. The law was passed by Congress anyway.
Then reporters from CBS News began asking questions. It turns out Boehner does not really oppose hate crimes protection for minorities. He does not oppose protection from attacks motivated by religious hatred either. He just opposes protection against violence motivated by sexual orientation.
Members of my family will have the good offices of Congressman Boehner behind them if some race-motivated attack occurs. If my wife or daughter is attacked because someone hates women, Boehner will stand with us.
Matthew Shephard? He's on his own.
I would like nothing better than to see you die, Mr. McKinney. However, this is the time to begin the healing process. To show mercy to someone who refused to show any mercy. To use this as the first step in my own closure about losing Matt.
Mr. McKinney, I am not doing this because of your family. I am definitely not doing this because of the crass and unwarranted pressures put on by the religious community. If anything, that hardens my resolve to see you die.
Mr. McKinney, I'm going to grant you life, as hard as that is for me to do, because of Matthew.
- - Dennis Shepard, November 4, 1999
Speaking in court to one of the murderers of his son Matthew
It was encouraging to see Republican Olympia Snow (Maine) buck the harsh pressure put on her by fellow GOP Senators and vote for at least some sort of health reform. Denial of important committee assignments and a downgrading of campaign support were the tip of the iceberg, by all reports.
But courage only goes so far in politics. "I'll Vote Yes Today," she said. "Tomorrow Is Another Issue." She gave her opposition to the public option as a bellwether. In this, she echoes the current conservative wisdom.
The public option would provide a choice for consumers, should they opt for it, of government provided health insurance in place of private insurance. It seems to many of us like a fail safe proposition. If as opponents say government is hopelessly inefficient and unable to keep up with the private market, consumers will find a better deal in the marketplace and the government option will fade away. On the other hand, if government can genuinely come up with better coverage for less, then consumers will feel the benefit. It's a no lose, possible win proposition.
Another advantage is seldom mentioned outside of wonkishly detailed analysis. If the program does succeed, bulk buying of coverage, medical supplies, prescriptions, and health care itself would drive down costs. It's partly the cheaper-by-the-dozen rule, partly that gouging is harder against big guys. Try purchasing individual insurance coverage as opposed to group insurance, and you will notice the difference right away. A big purchaser driving down costs would also benefit smaller purchasers. So people going with private carriers would also see lower premiums and better coverage.
But opponents twist themselves into knots by insisting that opposite arguments are simultaneously true. On the one hand, government is hopelessly inefficient and incapable of providing health coverage competently. FedEx competes against the Post Office, thank you very much. On the other hand, government is extremely efficient and has the ability to provide such good service at such low cost, consumers would be foolish to turn down the public option. Think fire fighters and police officers. So private companies would be unable to compete, since the deal would be so good for ordinary people. That's why voters overwhelmingly want the public option.
A coin can't really land on both it's sides at once, and both conservative sides can't be true. But Olympia Snow managed to state them at once in explaining why she might change her mind and cave on reform. "I'm against a public option because I think the government would be another vast new bureaucracy, and also create a disproportionate advantage in the marketplace. And inevitably government's not going to do it better."
There you have it. Up is down, in is out, and good is bad. It's conservatism at its most hypercubic, multidimensional, mobeus strip best. Quantum policy to go with the GOP parallel political universe.
All the naysayers weren’t looking at what is happening on the ground, which is that moderate members are open to a public option.
- - Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), October, 2009
Promoting the Public Option favored by 77% of voters
Long simmering arguments about Afghanistan are just now making their way to the surface of public awareness. General Stanley McChrystal, commander of US forces in that embattled country, has been giving the President a series of options. At the high end is a number of around 80,000 additional troops. The low end is 10,000. The General's personal recommendation, released in a leaked 66 page report, is 40,000. Presumably the figure is not arrived at by some golden mean. 21,000 more have been sent so far. The administration has reportedly rejected the high and low ends of the spectrum.
Michael Moore has what he considers an ideal figure. Zero. Nice round number, the one favored by conservative columnist George Will. It is below what the President has already rejected as too low. The 40,000 recommendation made semi-publicly by General McChrystal provoked the Speaker of the House to advise him to go through channels and make his case directly to President Obama who, after all, is his ...you know... boss. Republicans have their own public recommendation. It is that General McChrystal answer the Speaker by putting the little lady "in her place."
President Obama's 21,000 troops, and General McChrystal's 40,000 are aimed at the same overall objective, which is to avoid failure. Failure would push the country into chaos, with the Taliban establishing a foothold. al Qaeda would be the likely beneficiary. So failure is to be avoided.
The initial invasion of Afhganistan, the one that went through flower strewn paths through adoring crowds of cheering citizens, has a clear purpose. It was to capture or destroy the organization and its leader that had engineered the brutal murder of 3,000 people on American soil. The harsh fundamentalist religious theocrats that had taken over Afghanistan were in the pocket of the wealthy bin Laden and they quickly made clear they were not about to give over al Qaeda. Our clear aim was disrupted by the urge to invade the unrelated dictatorship in Iraq. When the Bush administration let al Qaeda get away at Tora Bora, the entire effort lost focus.
Decades ago in Vietnam, it became clear that the only viable alternatives were to go in with whatever it took to end the conflict militarily or leave quickly. The Johnson administration, followed by Nixon then Ford, tried to follow a middle muddle. The disaster that resulted could have been predicted.
Unless we adopt clear, limited, achievable objectives, we will lose in Afghanistan. The most likely objective is to get back to basics. Crush the organization and the leader who started this, then get out. To do that, we will need to ignore borders, and forget propping up corrupt governments, except as temporary exigencies in the main effort.
At the moment, victory in Afghanistan is falling to its default definition: not losing. For an occupying power it is a definition that leads to destruction. Not losing is how insurgents win. Not winning is how occupiers lose.