Posts tagged ‘Republicans’
Last Wednesday night there was no hiding the joy of the MSNBC anchors at the total and utter failure of the Republican attempt to bring the country to its knees over Obamacare. Schultz had his usual swagger. Maddow took the usual analytical approach and had an index card for every “ransom” demand the Republicans made and lost, reading each one aloud and tossing it in the air with a “didn’t get that” and a grin on her face.
But for sheer over the top drama betraying a clear animosity for conservatives, the prize must go to Martin Bashir. Martin quoted Oliver Cromwell from his address dismissing Parliament in 1653. Martin said the words apply today. I could not find a link to an intact video of Bashir’s closing moment of his show but I did screen capture the text of Cromwell that Bashir read from in his best theatrical British accent.
It is really hard to gauge how one should react to this. I viewed the Republican shut-down tactic as plain stupid. It didn’t really inspire any animosity in me. So at first blush I found Martin’s dramatic recitation absolutely hilarious. But if we bother to take Bashir seriously, then we must conclude he has a real hatred for at least part of the Conservative movement.
In fact, if we look at the entire “drop dead” reaction of the left to the Ted Cruz inspired revolt, one must draw a much bigger conclusion. The days of liberals saying “I’m a lover, not a fighter” appear to be long gone. We have a government in which each side (with exceptions of course) truly hates the other. While the people of this great nation just want to get up in the morning and go to work, our government is engaged in a multi-level civil war — Democrats against Republicans and Old School Republicans against the Tea Party. The only thing we have not yet witnessed (unlike in other legislative bodies around the world) is an actual fist fight breaking out on the floor of the House. At his point, I wouldn’t rule that out in the not-so-distant future.
“When the people fear the government there is tyranny, when the government fears the people there is liberty.” Thus began Michael Steele, quoting Thomas Jefferson, in his address at Benedictine University Wednesday night. I was fortunate to have the former head of the RNC and current analyst on MSNBC speaking a mere twenty minutes from my home. As I sat there among a cross-section of students and the general public, I got that instinctive chill that Founding Father quotes always give me when spoken by Republicans. I thought to myself, “uh oh, here we go again with a speech that compares Barack Obama to King George III”. Of course, this was not the Michael Steele I had come to admire from his appearances on MSNBC and to my great relief his address did not go in the Obama-as-tyrant direction.
Steele did say, however, that he sensed a fear among Americans as he traveled the country, a fear borne mostly of economic uncertainty. He commented that people want to work for their own dreams, not for others and that no one wakes up in the morning saying “I think I’d like to be poor today”. Although it has been stated by both candidates and might be considered hyperbole by some, I agree with Steele when he says this election is about no less than what kind of country we want to be:
- Redistribution of wealth vs ownership of wealth
- Public sector vs private sector
- Big government vs limited government
This is when Steele broached what I would say was the overarching theme of his talk, accountability. He finds that neither campaign is specifically tackling these alternative visions of what our country will be. Neither party is comfortable with accountability. Each prefers to play the blame game or kick the can down the road. Steele shared a prescription for better accountability. He said that when politicians get elected they should treat their term as the only chance they will get to effect change. This is contrary to the current mode of running for your next term as soon as you win the current election. Steele recounted his time as Lieutenant Governor of Maryland, a position that was a long shot victory in the traditionally Democratic state. His attitude was that his good fortune at being elected made it imperative that he treat the term as potentially his only term and get stuff done. It is almost reminiscent of Martin Luther King’s “fierce urgency of now.”
Staying on this theme of accountability, Steele reminded the audience that George W. Bush increased federal spending by 41% in his eight years without apology and Barack Obama has followed suit by accelerating this spending. Hand in hand with the spending was lots of borrowing and the bank note will come due someday. Steele expressed some frustration with both political conventions, suggesting that the lesson learned from the GOP convention is you don’t give Clint Eastwood a spotlight on the evening of the nominee’s acceptance speech. He was equally unimpressed with the Democratic convention which he implied pandered to Hispanics by promoting Julian Castro as the Democratic answer to Marco Rubio.
Steele offered two political lessons that he lives by:
- You can’t do it all at once but you have to start. He has zero tolerance for folks who say “we can’t do it because it’s never been done that way.”
- You can’t please everyone but you can piss everyone off at the same time. If this happens remember lesson 1.
Of course, as a liberal, I would contend that “Obamacare” is a fine example of Steele’s lessons. It is a start and it certainly pissed off just about everyone.
In closing his prepared remarks, Steele returned to accountability one last time, this time audience accountability. He reminded us of the gravity of this election and that the direction of this country will be decided by our vote. If we don’t vote, we cannot complain.
I took note of a few audience questions, including one from your’s truly. I’ll paraphrase the questions and Michael’s answers.
Q. What are your thoughts on the new voter id laws and do you believe they disenfranchise potential voters?
A. Steele opined that voter fraud is real, citing cases of votes being found in trunks of cars. He said that the primary problem with the voter id “clean up” efforts is poor communication and poor implementation demonstrated by the huge push-back the laws are getting. Having politicians explicitly tie the laws to Romney’s election only made matters worse, a clear reference to Mike Turzai of Pennsylvania. Registration of valid voters should be made as easy as possible. His bottom line was “If they take the vote away then you are not free.” (It is worth noting that votes being found in the trunks of cars is not solved by the current voter id laws. A good follow-up question for Mr. Steele would have been, is there any evidence of an identification problem at the polls and if so, what is the incidence of it?)
Q. Your thoughts on government spending?
A. Steele rejected the guns or butter paradigm saying that we can come up with the appropriate spending priorities that don’t neglect military or non-military issues. However it cannot be done without a budget. He lauded Paul Ryan for at least putting something on the table (see political lesson #1 from his prepared remarks) and he scolded Senate Majority Lead Harry Reid for failing to produce a budget for several years.
Q. What about a third party?
A. Steele said that the powers that be within both the Democratic and Republican parties have made it next to impossible for an independent candidate to succeed on a national scale. The focus needs to be on third party candidates at the local and state level.
Q. I asked Steele about Romney’s recently revealed remarks about the 47% of the electorate who are not worthy of his time. I asked whether this fueled the already bad reputation of Romney as out of touch, and the reputation of the Republican Party in general.
A. Steele said that it is very valid to question the degree of dependence fostered by a too-powerful federal government. However he acknowledged that 47% cited by Romney cast the net a bit too wide, even including some Republicans. “We compete for every vote. I do not want to see this party marginalized,” said Steele. He suggested that Romney is not getting the best advice from his campaign team.
As the night drew to a close, I pondered how different a night it would have been had the speaker been Reince Priebus, the current RNC Chairman. As far as I am concerned Priebus exemplifies what is wrong with the current GOP. He is divisive, confrontational, tactless and comes across as an Obama-hater. Michael Steele in person, confirmed my impression of him on the political shows. Steele demonstrates humor, class and a positive agenda for our future. If anyone could seduce me to “change sides”, it would be Steele. Sadly, I get the impression that his party has left him behind. His victory in architecting the massive Republican wins of 2010 turned out to be a triumph of quantity over quality. Even Steele thought aloud to the crowd Wednesday night, talking to the Congressional class of 2010, “what have you done for us lately?”
While I felt that the lack of appreciation he gets from his own party still stings, I am impressed by his refusal “to go away”. It is ironic that the uber-liberal MSNBC is providing a forum for one of the saner voices in conservative politics. And true to his sensible political style, Steele welcomes the forum and takes full advantage of it.
At the risk of being labeled a “suck-up” I prefaced my question to the Chairman by saying he should have his own show on MSNBC. If the President of MSNBC, Phil Griffin happens to read this … the ball is in your court Sir.
Photo credit: R. Lawson
I have stated more than once in the comment threads of this blog that David Frum is one of the few sane voices left in the conservative movement. In fact, Joan Walsh of the liberal Salon.com, was quoted as saying, “FrumForum is the clubhouse for conservatives no longer willing to humor the crackpot fringe.” The reaction I get from my conservative readers is that Frum is a joke, a traitor, etc. etc. Conservative disappointment with Frum is not lost on the man himself. A year ago he wrote an examination of how he arrived at his views and as usual it made sense. Damn, it almost made we want to become a conservative.
Frum’s predilection toward criticizing his fellow conservatives can be broken into two categories:
Financial irresponsibility and bought politicians:
I moved to Washington, D.C., in 1996. And there I began to notice something disturbing. While the congressional victory of 1994 had ceased to produce much in the way of important conservative legislation, it sure was producing a lot of wealth for individual conservatives. They were moving from the staff offices of Congress to lobbying firms and professional associations. Washington (to quote something I’d write later) began to feel like a giant Tupperware party, where people you had thought of as friends suddenly seemed always to be trying to sell you something. Acquaintances of mine began accepting all-expense-paid trips to the South Pacific from Jack Abramoff.
George Bush narrowly won the presidency in 2000, and I was recruited to join the administration as a speech-writer. My initial brief was domestic policy and economics, and it soon become impossible to avoid noticing that the administration’s economic policies were not working very well.
Even as it fought wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the administration dramatically increased domestic spending (including the first permanent new entitlement program since 1974, the hugely costly prescription drug benefit for senior citizens). Taxes were cut in 2001 and 2003. Big deficits ballooned and a great consumption boom exploded. The stock market and the housing market soared — but median wages stagnated.
Conservative economic policies, which had saved the United States and the other advanced democracies from stagnation in the 1980s, suddenly seemed bereft of answers for the economic challenges of the 21st century.
This worried me. What worried me even more was how little it seemed to worry so many of my friends and colleagues from the conservative world and the Bush administration. A quarter century before, Ronald Reagan’s budget director David Stockman had famously said that it was the job of conservatives to attack weak claims, not weak claimants. We would creatively use the power of freedom to improve conditions for everyone. What had happened to that idealistic drive?
Even my conservative readers who hold Frum in disdain express disappointment about the Republican’s fiscal record between 2001 and 2007. So while they are annoyed at the messenger, they can’t deny the truth of the message. Fiscal conservatism during the 2000′s was a joke. Yet they hold fast to the belief that a GOP win this coming November will somehow change things. It will somehow put our economy on the right course. If past is prologue, as the saying goes, this is a pipe dream. But did conservatives simply lose their way financially in isolation? No, there were other factors, social factors that gave conservatives a pre-historic stench. The fact that Frum addresses this, the second category of his critique is really what pisses conservatives off.
Futile social reactionism and failure to change with the times:
So much of our energy was being absorbed instead by cultural battles left behind from the unfinished business of the 1960s and 1970s. Here, too often, we were on the wrong side of history: Back in the 1960s and 1970s, we’d been fighting to protect the common-sense instincts of ordinary people from elite interference. Now, in the Terri Schiavo euthanasia case, with stem cell research, on gay rights issues, it was we who had become the interfering elite, against a society that was reaching its own new equilibrium.
Of course, that’s not how conservatives saw it. We saw a country divided in two, red states and blue, NASCAR vs. NPR, real America against the phonies in the cities. A movement that had begun as an intellectual one now scornfully pooh-poohed the need for people in government to know anything much at all. But expertise does matter, and the neglect of expertise leads to mismanagement and failure — as we saw in Iraq, in Katrina and in the disregard of warning signals from the financial market. It was under a supposedly pro-market administration that the United States suffered the worst market failure of the post-war era, and that should have sobered us. Instead, we rallied to Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber.
Disregarding evidence and expertise, we shrugged off warnings of environmental problems. One consequence: In 1988, the elder George Bush beat Michael Dukakis among voters with four-year degrees by 25 points. In 2008, Barack Obama won the BA and BSc vote, the first Democrat to do so since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.
Conservatives stopped taking governance seriously — and so Americans ceased to trust conservatives in government.
… on environmental issues, we have to follow the evidence where it leads — and on social issues we have to take our society as it is. If the world changes, we have to change with it. The refusal of so many of my fellow conservatives in the United States to adapt their thinking to facts and realities does not demonstrate their adherence to principle. It demonstrates a frivolous indifference to the responsibilities of political leadership.
The argument in which I’ve been engaged … is an argument (as I see it) over what conservatism should be: Is it a philosophy of government? Or is it an expression of cultural alienation? Is it politics or is it protest?
With horrible irony, I see my fellow conservatives in the United States opting out of politics at exactly the moment when they are most needed. The Obama administration is careening toward a more expensive and interventionist government, toward reckless spending and destructive taxation. This is where I came into politics 30 years ago, and I will stand again on the same side I stood then. But now as then, my side will only be successful to the extent it is knowledgeable, to the extent it is public-spirited, to the extent that it is based on evidence and research, to the extent that it advocates the greater good rather than the narrow interests and values of one class or one geographic section.
I don’t think of myself as having gone squishy. I think of myself as having grown sober. And my conservative critics? On them, I think the most apt verdict was delivered by Niccolo Macchiavelli, 500 years ago: “This is the tragedy of man. Circumstances change, and he does not.” [Bold emphasis added by me.]
Frum is dead on here. Intellect has been replaced by emotion. Regional, ethnic and racial self-interest has replaced a sense of service to the country as a whole. Ignorance has been embraced to the point that we stand by helplessly and can only laugh as a comedian uses a politician’s exact words to mock her. Well not everyone laughed. Those embracing the ignorance were offended. Suddenly the “little guy”, the ordinary guy, the real American is synonymous with the ill-informed ignoramus.
To put Frum’s argument another way, while our country is in the worst financial straits it has been in since the 1930′s, we are arguing about evolution vs creationism, whether gays should marry and Washington DC’s resemblance to 18th century British monarchy. To paraphrase Frum and broaden his statement a little, our government has ceased to take governance seriously and as a result many Americans no longer trust their government.
Frum is unfair to conservatives in only one way. We get what we tolerate. We eat up the foolishness spewed by Sarah Palin and Louie Gohmert as entertainment. It seems in this media age, that is all some of us want from government, to be entertained. If we demand serious governance by throwing out the Gohmerts and Bachmanns and relegating Palin to the gossip column then things might change. Frum doesn’t lay enough of the blame on the voter. But to get back to Frum’s point, since the GOP knows that the voting public is not sufficiently discriminating, then it falls upon them to clean up their act on their own. Republicans should openly hold the nonsense of Michele Bachmann up to public scorn. The more outrageous claims of Limbaugh should be explicitly repudiated by GOP politicians who wish to be taken seriously.
If conservatives don’t change their act soon, one of two things will happen. They will either lose in November, or perhaps even worse, they will win with nothing to bring to the table but social divisiveness and financial hypocrisy. David Frum has been trying to save Republicans from themselves. It is a shame they refuse to listen.
Well, my friends, I’ll tell you what’s gonna happen. Today Barack Obama showed that the Republicans are not interested in increasing ACCESS to health care. They talk a great line about tort reform and cost cutting (with penny ante foolishness like eliminating paperwork) but when it comes to making insurance coverage available to MORE people, they come up completely empty. This is now clear to the American people. The GOP has got nuthin’.
Now the House will pass the Senate bill and then any adjustments that need to be made will be done through reconciliation. Then come November, the Democrats will run on having gotten something DONE and they will show how the Republicans tried to get nothing done.
With that said …. Obama has given the Democrats the green light to get this thing finished. If the Dem’s fail now, they are toast and utterly, completely incompetent.
This is what the Republican members of the Senate did tonight. They voted unanimously that health care reform in this country was not worth debate. Period. No tort reform. No interstate sales of insurance. None of their other supposed solutions that sidestep the public option. Nothing. No debate. Just kill it.
A bunch of irresponsible bastards who will have your children’s blood on their hands if heaven forbid your children 20 years from now can’t get a job with health care and suffer a catastrophic illness. You have today’s ignorant Republicans to blame for your children’s future suffering.
As much as I disdain Joe Lieberman, at least he voted in favor of debate. That’s all we wanted tonight was a chance to carry the ball forward, to debate and amend. That is the American way. Well that is unless you are a Republican dead set on bringing down the Presidency of Barack Obama.
Well guess what, suckers. We had the votes, the votes came through and the debate will commence. I hope the obstructionist punks keep saying no all the way down the line so that true patriotic Conservatives can take notice and throw their sorry asses out of Congress in November of 2010.
I don’t have to write much tonight. The images and sound bites speak for themselves. The House Minority Leader stands in front of the latest Tea Party gathering in Washington and tacitly gives his support for distasteful and hateful messages. This was no ordinary Tea Party. This one was not instigated by right-wing think tanks or Glenn Beck. This one was organized by an elected official, a woman with whom we trust the important task of governing our nation, Michele Bachmann. Ms. Bachmann has gone from a punch line to a dangerous instigator as she encourages the crowd to walk the halls of Congress and confront supporters of health care reform, to look at them “in the whites of their eyes” in her words. Fighting words. Fighting words coming from an elected official who is sworn to uphold our Constitution and protect the citizens of this country. Instead, she instigates discontent and discord.
Usually, my focus on this movement centers around its sheer stupidity and ignorance. This was on full display as John Boehner, the House Minority Leader waved what he called the Constitution and then quoted from the Declaration of Independence:
Then as the “press conference” neared its end, Representative Bachmann gave the crowd its marching orders, inciting disruption within the Capitol:
But ignorance wasn’t the only thing on display today. Once again, we had a full dose of hatred, the most jarring example of which was this protest sign, which read:
“National Socialist Health Care, Dachau Germany 1945″.
This is your Republican Party, ladies and gentlemen. This is what John Boehner condones by his presence at this rally. This is what your Congressmen and women celebrate while people die from lack of health care, die defending our country overseas, and lose their homes because they can’t find a job. While we twist in the wind, this is what your Congress is spending their time on. Standing in front of the Capitol egging on a hate rally.
To paraphrase the attorney at the McCarthy hearings of the 1950′s, at long last have we lost all sense of decency?
The utter foolishness of today’s Tea Party protests simply abounds. A bunch of folks who, if they bothered to look at their paycheck this week, would have seen that they got a tax reduction are yelling and screaming about tax increases.
These same folks whose roads and bridges are falling apart, are yelling and screaming about unnecessary stimulus.
These same folks who were silent during the last eight years of the Bush administration now have their panties in a knot about a huge deficit.
I’d call these “teabaggers” hypocrites but quite frankly I don’t think most of them have the intelligence to deserve that label. When I looked at coverage of the Tea Parties today, it seemed that most of the folks assembled really just wanted to party, and not much more.
Embarrassing for all concerned.
Kudos to my wife who supplied the dialog for this strip in a tweet on Twitter today!
Partisanship as Cosmetic Surgery
You have to hand it to the Republican party. They have found a can’t-lose approach to our current economic crisis.
Case 1: The economy recovers. The Republicans, only three of whom voted for the stimulus package, will say that markets are “self-healing”. The economy has rebounded in spite of the stimulus package. The natural ups and downs of the market have manifested themselves. Boy are we lucky the stimulus package didn’t do more harm!
Case 2: The economy continues to sink. Ah, we said it wouldn’t work! You see, that stimulus package has made matters worse. It’s 2010 folks, vote for lots of Republicans!
Do you need proof of their strategy? Look at Karl Rove’s warning to his party in the Wall Street Journal:
But if Republicans predict economic doom, they will overplay their hand. The Democratic stimulus will slow recovery, but not stop it. Recessions don’t last forever and, if history is a guide, sometime late this year or early next the economy will rebound on its own. When that happens, Democrats will argue that their untargeted, permanent spending actually revived the economy.
The emphasis in the above quote was added by me. Of course Rove here accuses the Democrats of doing the inverse of what the Republican plan is. The Democrats will take credit for an inevitable upturn to which they have made no real contribution.
Am I the only one who sees an incredible smugness and cynicism to this line of thinking? First, it confounds me how Republicans can advocate doing next to nothing while the markets self correct. How many people have to lose their jobs and their homes while we wait for this economic theory to materialize? The cynicism comes from this idea of unanimously opposing the President’s initiatives so if they don’t work, the GOP will look like geniuses who were ignored.
While I may not like the idea, partisanship is probably the best play the Republicans can make in this government ruled by contention. In six of the last eight years, they betrayed their creed, they spent us into the ground (partly on a war we shouldn’t have been fighting) and now they have their chance to be self righteous. In the words of Rove, “Over the past month, House Republicans have used the stimulus bill to redefine their party”. Doesn’t it comfort you that our nation’s dismal state provides the Republican party with an opportunity for a makeover? They can focus on their image while the rest of us struggle.
Hurry Up, I’m Late for My Plane!
Democrats are no saints in this mess either. Today on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”, Boston based columnist Mike Barnacle expressed understandable outrage at one of the motivating factors for the rush to sign the stimulus bill. Joe Scarborough agreed with him and so did I. You see, it’s vacation time for Congress right now. Our representatives had a choice to cancel their planned vacations and read the bill more carefully and perhaps negotiate it to a better standard or they could go ski in the Rockies. They chose the latter.
According to a pundit I watched on TV last week, this mindset is not at all unusual and it is exclusive to no party affiliation. You don’t get in the way of Congress and their vacation. So when you watch congressional hearings where the various representatives rake bankers and corporate big wigs over the coals for “not getting it”, you’re actually witnessing the pot calling the kettle black.
When an election concludes, I’m used to seeing the losing party make some simple excuse for their loss and then look toward the next election with a new candidate. Not so in 2008. Never have I seen a party go through such an open breakup with itself as with the Republicans this past two weeks. This was epitomized by the Republican Governor’s Association (RGA) conference last week in Miami. The conference might as well have been subtitled, “It’s not you, it’s me” as the Republican governors fell on their swords in this breakup from their past.
It was funny to watch the two different world views at play. One view (amplified by Pat Buchanan and represented by his girlfriend Sarah Palin) was that Republicans lately haven’t been Republican enough. They need to go further to the right, more conservative, and to hell with the broad cross section of voters who no longer understand them. Those voters are never coming on board anyway. Then there was the Tim Pawlenty and Bobby Jindal view that the party must re-invent itself to appeal to the current American demographic.
All I can say is at the rate they’re going with all this self-analysis, the Republicans may transform to the degree that in 2012, we’ll really be voting for two different flavors of Democrat!
Obama’s First “Viral Radio Address”
On Saturday, November 15, Barack Obama did what so many of us who have followed his campaign could have expected. He took his weekly radio address (which will continue up to and after his inauguration) and video taped it for upload to YouTube. This is the FDR “fireside” chat pulled into the 21st century. I was hoping for this example of transparency from the Obama White House and I expect we’ll see more of it, not less.
As a service to my small cadre of loyal readers, you can find Obama’s address here every week. I will do my best to post it on the Saturday it is released. Depending on its content I may or may not add my own commentary.
For now, I give you, the President-elect:
My wife, whom I recently nominated for an independent party Vice Presidential slot, has long had the theory that the Republican party, seeing what a mess they’ve made of things in the past eight years, wants no part of the next four. So, they are doing everything in their power to throw the election. It started back in the primary season where not one single candidate was compelling. Then, the nominee wound up being John McCain, a man the GOP doesn’t even like. Then, just to put the final kibosh on things, they nominate an unknown Governor from a remote and sparsely populated state as the VP.
Ah, but ladies and gentlemen, it is that latest move that may have backfired on them. In the popular Broadway musical, “The Producers”, two con men produce a musical called “Springtime for Hitler”, being absolutely sure the production will bomb big time and that they can then skedaddle off with the investment money they’ve gotten for the show. Unfortunately for them, the musical is a smash hit.
Similarly, the Republican party nominates the lackluster McCain and his “Alaska is next to Russia”-foreign-policy running mate, and despite the best efforts of the evil left wing media, they have a major hit on their hands.
If my wife’s theory is right, then the GOP didn’t realize that the American public couldn’t tell the difference between an election and “American Idol”. (I swear if you listen to the Charles Gibson interview of Sarah Palin with your eyes closed, you’d bet dollars to donuts you’re actually hearing the interview portion of the Miss America Beauty Pageant.)
If my wife’s theory is right, and yet the ‘Pubs still win in November, I can hear Karl Rove and the other GOP big wigs echoing the words of slick producer Max Bialystock:
How could this happen? I was so careful. I picked the wrong play, the wrong director, the wrong cast. Where did I go right?