Category Archives: politics

Right Wing Syllogism Du Jour

Shorter NY Times Caucus blog on conservative reactions to the pay-for-play scandal in Illinois: Obama is from Illinois. Blagojevich is from Illinois. Blagojevich is a scumbug. Therefore Obama must be a scumbag.

Repeat ad nauseum until 2012 or until something else rises from the murk. At least it gets Sean Hannity off of Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright. For a little while.

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Your Cheap Shot of the Day

The NY Times reports that Alan Colmes will be leaving “Hannity & Colmes” to pursue other projects or spend time with his family or find his spine. That leaves open the fate of the show:

So what will happen to “Hannity & Colmes?” Sean Hannity, the popular conservative commentator, may become the sole host of the program….

In other words, nothing.

I love this anecdote:

In the interim the production crew called the show “Hannity and LTBD.” LTBD stood for “Liberal to Be Determined.” “It was fill in the blank,” said Mr. Colmes, who grew up in Lynbrook, New York loving all progressive causes. “I was the blank.”

He said it. Not me.

Daddy Bears, Mommy Bears

In Tom Schaller’s talk with Republican pundit-strategist-talking heads, media consultant Alex Castellanos discusses how the election was good news and bad news for Republicans:

There was some good news this election and that is, it takes a lot to elect a Democratic president in this country. How much worse can it get? To elect a Democratic president, you have to have an unpopular Republican brand, you have to have an unpopular Republican administration, you have to have gas that’s hit five bucks a gallon, you have to have a housing bubble pop. And then that’s still not enough, then you have to have an economic meltdown. McCain was tied coming out of the convention until the economy melted down. And that’s still not enough. Then you have to have a Democratic candidate who moves toward the center and proposes tax cuts for 95 percent of Americans, who says oil drilling might be OK, who says that what the unpopular president is doing in foreign policy and defense is terrible but he’s going to keep the same people. The secretary of defense, General Petraeus. Even Bush’s policy of preemption in Iran. Barack Obama said he would do anything, anything, anything to keep Iran from getting nuclear weapons.

That’s the good news. [But I also said that] if we took refuge in [how hard it is to] elect a Democratic president, it would be false comfort. Because we still don’t know where the Republican Party is going. And I don’t think our problems are ideological. I think America is still a center-right country and that’s why Republicans frankly hung in there. Look, the president is a daddy-bear job. He’s the guy who’s supposed to lock the door at night, bring in the paycheck for the country; he’s the head of the American political household. That’s why Republicans have done well electing presidents and why Democrats have done well electing the mommy bear to Congress and to the redistributing job. Redistributing public money to help people. Our problem is generational. And by that I mean, and I think Reihan hit it on the head, it’s a very different country. What used to be this silent majority is now the silent minority and the old Republican appeals are not enough.

Wait, aren’t mommy bears supposed to be the more protective of their cubs? Either way, the archaic gender roles grafted here upon government responsibilities are profoundly paternalistic, very “nanny state.” Whether nanny is nursing the citizenry or is locking the door and guarding it with a shotgun, if this kind of framing of the role of government is at the base of Republican thinking, then the party has bigger problems than it acknowledges.

Castellanos’ description of the conditions and the pragmatic centrism that pushed Obama to victory is not innaccurate; it’s just not complete. He neglects the significant voter turnout, higher than in any previous election in the last 50 years, and the importance of citizen involvement in the process. Citizens were not looking to install a new set of parents. We were trying to make government more responsive to our basic needs, to use government as a means to an end, a collective tool for larger social benefit. I don’t know if that translates into a necessary “center-left” or “liberal” mandate. But voters want health care, jobs, economic stability, and a secure and mature-minded foreign policy. We can’t get it at Wal-Mart. The private sector in general — from the health insurance industry, through the finance and investing industries, to, say, Blackwater — is sorely lacking as a provider of our economic and national security; indeed, much of the private sector has been turning to government for help, too, sucking the public coffers dry and putting us further in debt.

We turn to government for help because it is the one institution which we have some control over; theoretically, it is answerable to us. Eight years of blustering, chest-thumping incompetence has finally convinced the “low-information” segment of the voting public (at least for now) that what we really need is a serious-minded competent leader who knows how to listen, to evaluate conflicting data, and to act strategically. I don’t rule out the future possibility of another cowboy-affectin’ politician riding in on a white horse of xenophobic paranoia; nor am I blind to the instances when Obama has done some chest-thumping himself during the campaign season. Indeed, presidential campaigns will continue to have some element of the penis-measuring contest, the gender politics of which candidates of either sex will feel compelled to negotiate. For now, however, this weird psychological aspect has succumbed to more pressing needs.

As the country becomes more ethnically and culturally diverse, as gays and lesbians assert more political power, as issues of gender become more recognizably fluid, as certain baby boomers with their 1950s hang-ups about the proper roles Mom and Dad fade away (i.e., die off), as more men become nurturing fathers and more mothers become principal “bread-winners” — maybe, just maybe, the United States of America will grow out of its current Daddy Complex. Are either Democrats or Republicans remotely prepared for that?

In Contempt (11/14/2008): Pooper Scooper

Depress your mouse button to reveal the secrets held within.

Sorry for the late post. Things happened.

Does Anyone at the Wall Street Journal Know How to Read?

Former Representative Dick Armey (what a name) shakes his fist at “compassionate conservatism” in the WSJ, declaring Bush’s so-called political philosophy a “mistake.” If by that term Armey means “incoherent ruse,” he’s right. But, no, this is the Republican argument that the party, once in power, has lost its way; that its corporate-loving, anti-government ideology is not inherently corrupting. As with Lynndey England and Charles Graner at Abu Ghraib, the fault of abuse lies with a few “bad apples.”

What sticks out to me is this bit of Armey’s dismay that the “truth” (my irony quotes) about Obama’s tax policy proposals has not got out:

A Rasmussen poll of Oct. 30 reported that 31% of likely voters believed that “taxes will go down” under an Obama administration versus just 11% under a McCain administration. Shockingly, 19% of self-described conservatives believed Mr. Obama would cut taxes; only 12% thought Mr. McCain would.

Perhaps this minority of conservatives believed this way because, I dunno — they read nonpartisan reports like this from the Tax Policy Center:

Compared to current law, TPC estimates the Obama plan would cut taxes by $2.9 trillion from 2009-2018. McCain would reduce taxes by nearly $4.2 trillion. Obama would give larger tax cuts to low- and moderate-income households and pay some of the cost by raising taxes on high-income taxpayers. In contrast, McCain would cut taxes across the board and give the biggest cuts to the highest-income households.

That’s just from the abstract. (Emphass-is mine.) The entire report is available in annoying PDF form (seriously, is HTML really that hard?) if you feel up to reading it. I know I may be assuming a lot, but perhaps these shockingly 19% of conservatives take tax policy seriously, really want tax cuts, and really want them for average schmucks like, say, Joe Not-a-Real-Plumber. So what did they do? They took time to find non-partisan reports (after all, the media has a “liberal bias”) and actually read them.

This inability to read has probably affected Armey’s grasp of history.

What will be the fate of free market capitalism in America? Will the 2008 election look more like 1932 — or 1992?

On both occasions, Republican presidents had abandoned their party’s principles for bigger government policies that exacerbated difficult economic times. On both occasions, Democrats took control, largely hijacking the small-government, fiscally responsible rhetoric of their opponents. Of course, FDR’s election ushered in the New Deal, the most dramatic expansion of government power in American history, together with policy changes and economic uncertainty that inhibited investment and growth and locked in massive unemployment for nearly a generation.

Say whatty-what? More of that ole-time revisionism. Oh, wait – to revise a theory based on new information is legitimate. To turn reality upside-down to fit the narrow confines of one’s ideology, what is that called again? Sticking one’s head up one’s ass? Close enough.

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Kevin Phillips on Bill Moyers’ Journal

BILL MOYERS: There’s an argument apparently going on within Obama’s inner circle even as we speak. Some of his advisors say it would be politically and economically disastrous if those billions of taxpayer dollars in the bailout were just to sit in the vaults of the bank. On the other hand, the Wall Street and the corporate types, according to the press this morning, are pushing back. They say leaving the money in the banks would help stabilize them and prevent a further crisis in the credit market. What do you think?

KEVIN PHILLIPS: Well, I think basically that’s the most screaming set of self-interested analyses that I can remember. When this thing was passed, they basically had people on television saying that if this bailout doesn’t go through, you’re not going to be able to get money out of your ATMs, all sorts of dire things were going to happen. And now it turns out that, well, maybe they weren’t expected to spend that money after all. Maybe that was all a great camouflage outfit.

Because what they want to do with the money and seemingly it’s okay by a lot of the people involved is use it for bonuses, for dividends, for sitting around so they feel comfortable, for mergers. It’s mind boggling. They created a panic psychology, which has taken a lot of people’s 401(k)’s and savings accounts and pension opportunities and pointed them right toward the toilet. And now they got their bailout, scaring everybody to death, and what do they want to do with it? Nothing.

Full transcript at pbs.org.

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Katrina Vanden Heuvel Has a List

As you may expect, liberal Democrats have a long list of actions and programs they would like President Barack Obama execute once he assumes office. Katrina Vanden Heuvel proposes a realistic progressive agenda for the first 100 days (in some cases, first 1,000).

David Sirota proposes a change of attitude — a growth of backbone, if you will — among progressive Democrats wielding political power.

To meet the challenge, Democrats have to abandon their worst habits.

They must, for instance, acknowledge their progressive mandate, rather than denying it like Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) did on Tuesday. “This is not a mandate for a political party or an ideology,” he fearfully told reporters.

They should also retire the Innocent Bystander Fable — the myth about being powerless onlookers. Democrats first cited this fable as reason the Iraq War continued during their congressional majority — expecting the country to forget that Congress can halt war funding. Today, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) says “there’s not much we can do” to amend the sputtering bank bailout. In 2009, such mendacity will metastasize from banal dishonesty into grist for scathing comedy-show punch lines.

Democrats need to discard other lies, too — especially those about Bill Clinton. To hear pundits tell it, Clinton’s first-term pitfalls underscore why the next administration should avoid “governing in a way that is, or seems, skewed to the left,” as the Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus most recently asserted. History, of course, proves the opposite. Recounting Clinton’s early years to Politico.com, a lobbyist correctly noted that the new president didn’t move left — he pushed conservative policies like NAFTA, thereby demoralizing his base and helping Republicans take Congress.

If anyone has any reservations that this is somehow “too radical” or “too partisan” or whatever, Paul Krugman explains that Obama has, in fact, a strong mandate for a progressive agenda:

About the political argument: Anyone who doubts that we’ve had a major political realignment should look at what’s happened to Congress. After the 2004 election, there were many declarations that we’d entered a long-term, perhaps permanent era of Republican dominance. Since then, Democrats have won back-to-back victories, picking up at least 12 Senate seats and more than 50 House seats. They now have bigger majorities in both houses than the G.O.P. ever achieved in its 12-year reign.

Bear in mind, also, that this year’s presidential election was a clear referendum on political philosophies — and the progressive philosophy won.

Maybe the best way to highlight the importance of that fact is to contrast this year’s campaign with what happened four years ago. In 2004, President Bush concealed his real agenda. He basically ran as the nation’s defender against gay married terrorists, leaving even his supporters nonplussed when he announced, soon after the election was over, that his first priority was Social Security privatization. That wasn’t what people thought they had been voting for, and the privatization campaign quickly devolved from juggernaut to farce.

This year, however, Mr. Obama ran on a platform of guaranteed health care and tax breaks for the middle class, paid for with higher taxes on the affluent. John McCain denounced his opponent as a socialist and a “redistributor,” but America voted for him anyway. That’s a real mandate.

All of this sounds great. Next week I will be posting a cartoon on unrealistic expectations I have heard liberals heap on Obama’s shoulders in only the last couple days. Yet there is nothing in the articles I link to in this post that I believe is unfeasable. So long as Democrats take Sirota’s advice, of course. Perhaps the kind of disappointment many of us have felt in the recent past has prompted Obama to appoint Rahm Emmanuel as his bull dog. Cross yer fingaz!

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