Saturday, November 17, 2012

Sunday panel guests for Nov. 18, 2012

Meet the Press: Lindsey Graham, Dianne Feinstein, Mike Rogers, David Cote, Raul Labrador, Tom Friedman, John Podesta, Mike Murphy, Andrea Mitchell

Face the Nation: John McCain, Dick Durbin, Olympia Snowe, David Ignatius, Thomas Ricks, Margaret Brennan, Bob Orr, Maya MacGuineas, Mark Zandi

This Week: Nancy Pelosi, Carl Levin, Peter King, Xavier Becerra, Newt Gingrich, George Will, Donna Brazile, Jonathan Karl

Fox News Sunday: Saxby Chambliss, Joe Lieberman, Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, Bill Kristol, Bob Woodward, Kimberley Strassel, Charles Lane


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Everyone likes a winner

By Richard K. Barry

I suppose everyone likes to be on the winning side of things. It's human nature and applies in politics as much as anywhere else. It should therefore come as no surprise that President Obama is seeing his favourability numbers rise after the election. 

Gallup has a new poll finding Obama's favourability rating at 58%, which is his best in over three years since a 66% reading in July 2009. The 58% mark is three points higher than his pre-election standing of 55%:

He was more popular after his first election than he is now, with a 68% favorable rating just after the November 2008 election. His all-time high of 78% was measured shortly before his inauguration as president in January 2009.

Call it what you will -- a bandwagon effect or whatever -- everyone likes a winner. Sure, it's a meaningless stat, but maybe it tells us something about how easy in can be to influence the American electorate. 

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Mitt Romney is no George Foreman

By Frank Moraes

If you are as old as I, then you remember The Rumble in the Jungle. This was a boxing match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, the heavyweight champion at that time. This is documented in the excellent film When We Were Kings. It is an amazing story. Ali was an aging boxer who was neither as big nor as strong as Foreman. It looked like Foreman would tear Ali apart. But it didn't turn out that way. Ali -- apparently spontaneously during the fight -- invented what he later called "rope-a-dope": a technique where he allowed Foreman to exhaust himself throwing mostly impotent punches. Ali knocked out Foreman in the eighth round.

What I find remarkable about this is not that Ali was a great fighter and still a brilliant man. It is George Foreman. The gregarious man we know today seems totally different than the shy boxer in 1974. Defeat can do that to a man -- make him better. Or it can not.

A few years ago, I saw a book about Muhammad Ali that contained an introduction by George Foreman. In it, Foreman talked about their fight in what was then Zaire. He talked about how Ali had outboxed him. But then he said something that shocked me: he said knowing what he now knows, if they could go back and have that fight, Ali would still figure out some way to beat him.

I don't think that is necessarily true, but the statement shows two things. First, it shows that Foreman is a graceful man. Second, it shows that Foreman is a man who accepted his defeat. Not only did he admit that Ali beat him because he was better at that moment, he admitted that Ali was in a fundamental sense his better.

Contrast this with Romney's recent conference call. Don't even think about all that garbage about giving presents to poor people. Nowhere in that talk does he admit error. He did admit that Obama ran a great campaign, but he was quick to add that his campaing was good too. (All evidence to the contrary, not that it would have necessarily mattered.) The main thing is that Romney can't admit the most fundamental reason for his loss: the people did not like the message. And the truth is, if all the people had voted, the popular vote would have been a blow out just like the electoral college actually was: 55% to 45%.

I understand that it's only been a week. George Foreman was probably pretty bitter a week after the fight. But somehow, I don't see Mitt Romney ever making it to the high road. I suspect that he will hold a grudge toward Obama (and the Democratic Party) for the rest of his life. We'll see in the coming years, because I have a bad feeling that after perhaps a year of not seeing him, he'll become a Fox News regular. 

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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Our vote counted

By Mustang Bobby

Here's a bit of interesting news via Miami New Times:

Barack Obama might have gay voters to thank for his reelection, especially right here in Florida. A new analysis suggests that if only straight people went to the polls here, Romney would have pulled off a win by something like two percentage points.

"Similarly, analysis of preliminary returns from Florida show that the 420,000 total LGBT votes cast in the state may be a deciding factor in President Obama's projected lead in Florida," reads a new analysis by the Williams Institue. "Though final results aren’t yet known, an estimated 300,000 LGBT Floridians voted for the president — a margin many times larger than the current vote difference between the two candidates."

Nationally, 76 percent of self-identified LGBT voters voted for the President. Only 22 percent voted for Romney.

In Florida, Obama got 73 percent of the LGBT vote. 26 percent voted from Romney.

It's a little more than ironic that while the LGBT community may not have all the rights we're entitled to as citizens — marriage, inheritance, survivor benefits — we still have the one that matters on Election Day. And we used it well.

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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A toast to Twinkies

By Frank Moraes

I know what you're thinking, "What's the point of reading another blog post when soon there will be no more Twinkies and we will all starve?" I hear you. But I have good news! It is very possible that Twinkies will live on, coming out the same factories, albeit under a different name. And maybe for a higher price. But hell, what price is too high for a Twinkie?

As you must know, Hostess is going out of business. This is a big deal. Hostess currently employs 18,000 workers. But this is a typical story with a typical storyline. Of what I've read Dean Baker has the best analysis, "No Cupcake: Workers Turn Down Bad Deal from Hostess."

There are two narratives: conservative and liberal. The conservative narrative is that the greedy unions would not take one for the team and so brought down yet another Great American Business. This is not true at all. As Baker points out, the unions had very good reasons for turning down the deal. (Although it was only one of the unions that actually did so.)

The liberal narrative is incomplete but mostly true: Ripplewood Holdings, a private equity company, took over Hostess in 2009, saddled it with debt, and let it flounder. This is the process that Matt Taibbi laid out in his Rolling Stone cover article. And this one was pretty much by the numbers.

But Dean Baker argues that the biggest problem is that before and after the takeover, Hostess was badly managed. They did not change their products to move with the times. What's more, they kept a very limited product line. This was all bound to happen.

Peter Frase over at Jacobin points out another problem, "Hostess and the Limits of the Private Welfare State." The truth is that our country's lack of a single-payer health-care system, stable pensions, and limited unemployment make it far harder for both workers and companies. There is no doubt about that.

I am a great fan of junk foods. So I'm sorry to see Hostess go, even apart from the economic effects. Just the same, it might have been a good idea if they had worked to break into the Oroweat bread market. I'm sure there will soon be companies popping up to fill the junk food vacuum. And there is even hope that some of Hostess' existing factories will continue to pump out cream filled snack cakes—even if they are called Tweenies or Twankies and Wankers. I'd eat a product called Wankers, if only as a toast to the Hostess management.

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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A.M. Headlines

U.S. Politics

(ABC News): "Republicans mourning for Mitt? Not so much"

(New York Times): "At bipartisan budget meeting, familiar hurdles but a new attitude"

(Washington Post): "Both sides appear upbeat on opening round of "fiscal cliff talks"

(Politico): "David Patraeus affair scandal highlights e-mail privacy issues"

(Reuters): "Five Republican governors reject state-run health markets"

Other News

(CBS News): "Israel launches scores of airstrikes into Gaza"

(Reuters): "Judge refuses to halt progress of California high-speed rail"

(Reuters): "IRS says Sandy victims can tap retirement accounts"

(New York Times): "Drug shortages persist in U.S., harming care"

(ABC): "Grizzlies hand Knicks first loss, 105-95.


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Friday, November 16, 2012

Urban America is Democratic America

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Check out Emily Badger's piece at The Atlantic on "the real reason cities lean Democratic." Basically, it's about the public good, a more more significant, and much more real, concept in densely populated cities and suburbs than in rural areas.

Referring to the map above, perhaps the best representation of America's geo-political landscape I've ever seen (layering Census data on top of 2012 election results to show what the country's political leanings look like on a county-by-county basis in terms of population density), Badger writes:

[Chris] Howard's map underscores that the massive red block of the Great Plains actually has little political weight at all (curiously, electoral influence appears to dry up along with the rainfall abruptly west of the 98th meridian that commonly defines the Great Plains). Electoral power instead is concentrated in those blue-black patches, one of which strings all the way from southern Connecticut to Washington, D.C.

These are the places where people live densely together, where they require policies and an ideology that Republicans lately have not offered.

Some of the anger from cities this election season rightly pointed out that Republican Party leaders go out of their way to mock them. They denigrate urban ideas and populations because this has repeatedly proven an effective way to gin up enthusiasm among their base...

In a good piece on the GOP's problem with geography earlier this week, The New Republic's Lydia DePillis interviewed Princeton Historian Kevin Kruse, who made this point succinctly: "There are certain things in which the physical nature of a city, the fact the people are piled on top of each other, requires some notion of the public good," he said. “Conservative ideology works beautifully in the suburbs, because it makes sense spatially."

The real urban challenge for conservatives going forward will be to pull back from an ideology that leaves little room for the concept of "public good," and that treats all public spending as if it were equally wasteful. Cities do demand, by definition, a greater role for government than a small rural town on the prairie. But the return on investment can also be much higher (in jobs created through transportation spending, in the number of citizens touched by public expenditures, in patents per capita, in the sheer share of economic growth driven by our metropolises).

Conservatives, and Republicans generally, have a lot of challenges going forward. They need to appeal to urban America again, but they also need to break free of their overwhelming whiteness and embrace the country's rapidly changing demographics. And, of course, they also need to turn away from the radical right-wing ideology that has come to dominate their party and their movement.

I wouldn't count on them figuring out the importance of the public good anytime soon. 

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"What Has Movement Conservatism Accomplished in the Last 15 Years?"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

That's the question Conor Friedersdorf asked at The Atlantic yesterday.

Short answer: not much, if anything.

Longer answer:

Perhaps we'll see future triumphs from the conservative movement despite its present troubles. But have we seen any evidence of success since 1997 or so? George W. Bush created a new bureaucracy, expanded the federal role in education, approved a massive new entitlement, exploded the deficit, abandoned any pretense of a "humble foreign policy" that eschewed nation building, and left office having approved a massive government bailout of the financial sector. Then President Obama took office, presided over more bailouts and growing deficits, passed a health care reform bill that conservatives hate, and got reelected. Over this same period, the country has gotten more socially liberal. Gays can serve openly in the military and marry.

A majority now supports legalizing marijuana.

Circa 1997, if you'd told the average conservative that all those things would happen in the next 15 years, would they have declared the conservative movement finished? I suspect as much.

Basically, all conservatism has accomplished is profitable self-promotion:

But what has Fox News accomplished? What has the Tea Party accomplished? What has any movement institution accomplished in the last 15 years? Enough that the movement isn't a failure? Is a successful entertainment channel and a short-lived protest movement enough for conservatives? Is winning the 2010 midterms enough if it doesn't ultimately advance the agenda? If so, conservatives have chosen the right movement leaders. Think tank, talk radio and magazine pundits will keep getting paid and Fox profits will keep rolling in as Obama governs.

For them, the conservative movement is an end in itself.  

So let me repeat the question: What has conservatism accomplished beyond this self-satisfied money-making effort?

My answer? They've turned the Republican Party into an increasingly extremist party of the far right -- increasingly on the ideological fringe, increasingly detached from reality, and from America generally, and increasingly unelectable.

And that's an accomplishment that deserves a cheer or two from those of us who wish the Republican Party anything but well.

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Stay put, John Kerry

By Frank Moraes

(Ed. note: For my thoughts on the matter, see here. I'm generally fine with Kerry going to the Pentagon, though it would certainly help if the Democrats found a strong candidate to replace him. Like, someone who could beat Scott Brown. -- MJWS)

There is always a lot more that I want to write about than I have time for. For the past few days, I've been wanting to write about this rumor that Obama is going to appoint John Kerry as secretary of defense. If this is true, I am really worried about President Obama. It seemed that after the debt ceiling debacle, he learned that politics is a game that requires strategy. This could prove that he learned nothing.

Look, this is simple. In 2014, there will be 20 Democratic senators and only 13 Republican senators up for re-election. The Republicans have a very good chance of taking the Senate back in 2014. So the Democrats don't want to lose even a single seat in the Senate. If Kerry steps down, that seat could easily go Republican. And I think you know the Republican I'm talking about: that great defender of Native-American rights, Scott Brown.

I understand. If you are really bad at playing the game of politics, you might think, "The Democrats won't lose control of the Senate if they lose one seat." And this is true. But this is one more seat that the Democrats will have to hold in 2014. It doesn't make sense to make a hard election even harder.

Some will say that I am underestimating the president. They will use the 9-dimensional chess argument. They will claim that he knows what he's doing. But when people have made these claims in the past, they've been wrong. And even if the Democrats manage to hold onto Kerry's Senate seat, it will still have been a dangerous move.

Take one for the team, Senator Kerry: remain a lowly United States senator!

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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The Republican comeback -- what to watch for

By tmcbpatriot

I saw this brief story at Talking Points Memo that made me wonder about the Republican comeback and what that might look like: 

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), the highest ranked House Republican woman, said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union" that Republicans need to become more "modern" but not "moderate."

"I don't think it's about the Republican Party needing to become more moderate; I really believe it's the Republican Party becoming more modern," she said. "And whether it's Hispanics, whether it's women, whether it's young people, the Republican Party has to make it a priority to take our values, to take our vision to every corner of this country."

"I think it's more about the messenger and who's communicating our values to every corner of this country."

Such an interesting statement so soon after a significant defeat, but one that is to be expected. Should Republicans dare to go the moderate route and risk being laughed right out of town? Of course not. You can't go from hating everyone who is non-white and non-male, applauding the idea of someone without health care dying, and talking about rape being God's plan to all of a sudden supporting gay marriage, caring about poor people, offering amnesty for undocumented immigrants, and respecting a vagina. It is just not believable.

No, something else has to be done to woo these same demographics into the Republican fold. It is absolutely necessary for the GOP's survival, but it won't be easy.

What Republicans need to do, and what I expect they will do in the coming months, is to lay off the gays, immigration, vaginas, and poor people and instead focus solely on the economy and the size of government. These are steady, benign, non-racially-charged issues that poll well with all kinds of people. Had Republicans truly stuck to this meme and not strayed into rape talk and bashing 47% of the country, they may have actually pulled it off.

As a result of their huge loss, though, Republicans now have to lay low. They need to go to the mattresses on the hot-button issues on which they were soundly defeated this time around.

However, Republicans know that they still have the economy on their side. Nearly sixty million people voted for Romney to "fix" the economy. That issue has not gone away. I do not believe Obama was re-elected on the economy alone and do not believe the president was given a mandate on that issue. He actually still has a lot to prove to those red states and to those states where the vote was really close.

The reality is, Republicans did not lose on the economy. They lost on the crazy, and in keeping with Rep. Rogers's statement Republicans do not know how to be anything else. They have turned crazy into an art form and have worked too hard and too long to just give it up.

Nevertheless, as with any loss there is some sucking up to do in the short term while they save face and plan for a comeback. To get those people who moved away from them this year, Republicans may have, as Bill O'Reilly so eloquently put it, to give them stuff in the short term: gay marriage, legal pot, amnesty, abortions, school loans, higher taxes for rich people, leaving Big Bird alone. This will be bad medicine going down, but once they get past the foul taste they may find that the same people who would never vote (R) might see a party willing to ease up on social issues and truly work on what they are experts in: ruining the economy and starting wars. In terms of those two areas, crazy wins every time.

Of course, this is not going to happen in the short term. The recent crop of Republicans who were ousted in 2012 is a testament to that. But then Rep. Rodgers ended her comment with what could be the most telling aspect of this whole thing:

I think it's more about the messenger and who's communicating our values to every corner of this country.

She may be right. Rest assured, one day some actor or evangelist or smooth-talking, charismatic personality will arise once more to take back the party. It is inevitable. Once that happens, then everything I said is out the window. Let's face it, the only reason Romney won the first debate was that Obama didn't show. However, put Obama up against a Ronald Reagan or a plain-talking simpleton like George W. and things may not go so well for Dems next time.

Remember, if this was really about voting for a liberal agenda, then Al Gore and/or John Kerry would have defeated an obvious failure like Bush. But it was not to be. Remember too that Obama will not be running next time. Put someone like Joe Biden or Hillary Clinton up against a thinner Chris Christie or a good-looking Scott Brown type with a pickup truck and things may look a whole lot different in 2016.

For now, assume terrorist-looking Muslims will remain easy targets while Mexicans, gays, and vaginas will become a little less threatening. But if someone comes along who makes those nearly sixty million feel inspired once more, then look for the scales to tip back into the Republicans' favor. When that happens, look too for the crazy to return in full force.

Anytime you doubt this, just remember "freedom fries." That happened and will happen again. That's a promise. 

(Cross-posted at Take My Country Back.)

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Republican Power is White Power

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Jon Chait wrote an excellent post the other day on the emerging (or emerged, if you want to be more optimistic about it) Democratic majority. I recommend the whole thing, but this in particular stuck out to me:

What is going on is a change, rooted mainly in demographics, that is making the traditional conservative formula obsolete. The New Deal established a positive role for the federal government in taming the excesses of the market, and the consensus was strong enough that even Republican presidents didn't challenge it. But the politics of the New Deal began to fall apart in the mid-sixties over race, when middle-class whites began to see the Democratic agenda as transferring resources from people like themselves to undeserving blacks. The political strength of conservatism, which is not the same thing as its intellectual merits, has been its sublimated cultural appeal to white America. Starting in the mid-sixties, American politics entered a three-decade-long period of conservative dominance.

The pendulum has been swinging back, in part because "Bill Clinton helped Democrats to undercut the appeal of white backlash politics by repudiating racially tinged liberal positions on crime and welfare," essentially making the Democratic Party "safe" for soft racists again, but also because white America generally has been moving leftward along with the rest of the country.

But it's pretty clear that racial (and racist) politics is still a significant driving force in the Republican Party. Just look at what's been going on this week, with Romney blaming Obama's "gifts" to minorities (among others) and Ryan blaming urban (dog-whistle-speak for minorities) voters for their defeat. (And, much lower down the GOP hierarchy, the chairman of Maine's Republican Party talking about those "dozens, dozens of black people who came in and voted on Election Day.") And who can forget Bill O'Reilly on election night lamenting the demise of the white establishment?

One could go on and on. (Jon Stewart got into it last night, nothing that the perceived threat to whites, and specifically to the white establishment, Mr. O'Reilly, used to be the Irish.)

There has been a lot of discussion of demographics since the election, including changes to the ethnic composition of the country likely to help the Democrats going forward. But the other side of that, as has been clear for some time, is that the Republican Party is increasingly the party of white America, and more specifically of white rural America, a party stuck in the past, a dominantly white past, and completely at odds with where the country is headed. Yes, the country seems to be getting more and more liberal (e.g., on marriage equality), but it's also becoming less and less white. And that portends utter disaster for the GOP, which is why some, like Bobby Jindal, are rejecting Romney's ridiculous (and racist) explanation and seeking to move the party in a different direction.

But any such effort will take time, if it ever succeeds at all. The Republican Party is still the party of the Southern Strategy, after all, and racism pervades not just the ranks of the party's elected officials but the highest ranks of movement conservatism. Indeed, as Conor Friedersdorf wrote shortly after the election, Republicans must choose between Rush Limbaugh and minority voters.

What will they choose? Your guess is as good as mine. 

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Don't get too comfortable. The GOP could easily come back in 2016.

By Richard K. Barry

It's not that Rick Santorum will be any more credible a candidate for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016 than he was in 2012. But he will continue to be the kind of hard core, socially conservative presence that will make it harder for them to compete in four years. He's not going anywhere, and neither are those who agree with him. But he is on the losing side of this battle. 

In an interview to air on Piers Morgan Tonight on Friday, Santorum said this:

What Mitt Romney, in my opinion, didn't do was go out and vigorously defend the beliefs that he said he espoused and didn't go on the offense. And when you're playing defense, which is what I believe the campaign was doing and Republicans were doing generally throughout the course of this campaign you're not going to win.

He didn't make it about those two fundamentally different visions for America and I don't think we did a very good job either as Republicans pointing out those fundamental differences and what type of freedom we're talking about.

Many experienced political campaigners will smile at the notion that the only failing of a losing campaign is that they simply didn't "get their message out there effectively." Nothing wrong with the message, but somehow the mechanics broke down.

Those who argue President Obama simply had a better ground game, or smarter campaign managers, or a better media strategy, or was a better candidate, or that there were too many GOP debates are preparing not only to run the next campaign in a way ideologically consistent with the last one but to make the same mistakes.

This is the most interesting debate going on among conservatives right now. On the one side are those who think the message needs to change. On the other side are those who see no fault in the brand, only in the delivery system.

For example, to my ear Karl Rove is among those arguing for better mechanics. He had too much invested in the last campaign to suggest it was fundamentally flawed. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is arguing for a modification of the message itself, more populist, more apparently reasonable than a Mitt Romney could offer. There seems little doubt that Jeb Bush would offer a more pragmatic, moderate, conservatism. We will see where the other come in.

Some, like those in the incredible shrinking Tea Party movement, will suggest the party should move further to the right. I would guess they will lost that fight.

Many said that Mitt Romney would have to move towards the center once the nomination was wrapped up, and though it took him until the first debate, that is what he did. That particular Mitt Romney and that Republican Party might well have won the election if they hadn't already done so much damage to themselves and if they weren't up against such an incredible candidate and campaign team.

As a exercise, listen to the way various Republicans talk about their failed effort to take back the White House.  Is it about mechanics or is it about substance? If they are able to have a substantive debate about the future of their party, if they are able to come to grips that they failed because their message was too extreme, they could made a comeback sooner than many think.

I know some Democrats are saying that demographic changes will make elections harder for the GOP in coming years, but four years is, as they say, an eternity in politics. In 1976 few of us saw a Ronald Reagan coming on the scene in 1980.

It seemed obvious to me that if the Republicans had put up a candidate in 2012 who espoused boilerplate conservative economic ideas, while tempering his social conservatism, they might have won in a walk. We know that the strength of the Tea Party movement in the 2010 midterms made it hard for anyone to run as a reasonable conservative, but that likely won't be true in 2016.

I am simply saying there is nothing inherently toxic in American politics about conservative ideas if they are not deemed too extreme. There will be a struggle to see how far from the extreme edge the GOP can drag itself in time for 2016 to be credible. I'm guessing they get it done.

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What the Republican obsession with Benghazi is all about

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The American Prospect's Paul Waldman may be onto something -- scandal envy:

Republicans are indescribably frustrated by the fact that Barack Obama, whom they regard as both illegitimate and corrupt, went through an entire term without a major scandal. They tried with "Fast and Furious," but that turned out to be small potatoes. They tried with Solyndra, but that didn't produce the criminality they hoped for either. Obama even managed to dole out three-quarters of a trillion dollars in stimulus money without any graft or double-dealing to be found. Nixon had Watergate, Reagan had Iran-Contra, Clinton had Lewinsky, and Barack Obama has gotten off scott-free. This is making them absolutely livid, and they're going to keep trying to gin up a scandal, even if there's no there there. Benghazi may not be an actual scandal, but it's all they have handy.

There may be some truth to this, but I really don't think Republicans are thinking historically (nor, of course, rationally).

It's Obama Derangement Syndrome (and it's far, far worse than anything seen during the Bush years). There may be a few exceptions, but by and large Republicans despise the president with an intensity that is psychotic. It may be racism, it may be the view that he simply doesn't deserve to be president (for racist or other reasons), it may be lingering bitterness (as in the case of John McCain), it may be any number of other things, but the goal is the same: to bring him down, or at least to put him in his place (which of course has racial/racist connotations).

Which is to say, Republicans aren't focusing on Benghazi because they want Obama to suffer just as his predecessors did but because they want him to suffer period. They're desperate, particularly after his re-election win, and they think they can get him on Benghazi, even if there's nothing there.

Are they "livid"? Are they "trying to gin up a scandal"? Yes, of course. And if it doesn't work with Benghazi -- as it won't -- they'll try with something else. There's really no end to this psychosis.

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Annals of asshattery: John McCain and Lindsey Graham

By Mustang Bobby

I've always thought that Sen. John McCain has a mean streak to him, proven time and again by his intemperate outbursts, and that Sen. Lindsey Graham is his wimpy little me-too sycophantic sidekick.  They're proving it again by their incomprehensible attack on U.N. ambassador Susan Rice over the attack on Benghazi and her response to it.

President Obama is having none of it, and he's letting us know it:

Bristling with evident indignation during a news conference, Obama said Rice has "done exemplary work" with "skill, professionalism and toughness and grace."

He then made a pointedly and almost personal challenge to Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) who earlier Wednesday said Rice is unqualified to lead the State Department because she appeared either misinformed or ill-prepared to discuss the attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, on national political talk shows a few days after the attack.

"If Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham and others want to go after somebody they should go after me," Obama said. "For them to go after the UN ambassador who had nothing to do with Benghazi... to besmirch her reputation is outrageous."

Ironically, as Crooks and Liars reminds us, the last time there was a person named Rice up for Senate consideration, Mr. McCain and Mr. Graham were all over defending her from unwarranted attacks on her character:

Just for some memory refreshes, here is McCain and Graham's vigorous defense of Condoleeza Rice and her false claim that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

But in 2005, Graham was fiercely protective of Rice as she faced confirmation to take over the State Department, chaffing at terms used by Democratic lawmakers to describe her testimony.

"The words like 'misleading' and 'disingenuous,' I think, were very unfair," Graham said on Fox News.

Asked if then-Sen. Mark Dayton's use of the word "liar" was justified, Graham pounced.

"Yes, that's even more unfair. Because it was all in terms of weapons of mass destruction and misleading us about the war and what was in Iraq. Well, every intelligence agency in the world was misled. And to connect those two to say that she's a liar is very unfair, over the line."

Before the vote, McCain noted from the Senate floor that the chamber had enough votes to confirm Rice to the job, questioning why Democrats wanted to debate her nomination.

"So I wonder why we are starting this new Congress with a protracted debate about a foregone conclusion," he said, adding that Rice is qualified for the job. "I can only conclude that we are doing this for no other reason than because of lingering bitterness over the outcome of the election."

Yeah, speaking of lingering bitterness….

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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A.M. Headlines

U.S. Politics

(The Hill): "Obama, Boehner launch second efforts to reach grand fiscal deal"

(Washington Post): "GOP governors move to close Romney chapter"

(New York Times): "GOP governors meet, amid whispers of 2016"

(Wall Street Journal): "GOP resists calls to retool message"

(Associated Press): "States reveal their choices on Obama's health law"

Other News

(Fox News): "War looms over Gaza as Israel mobilizes troops near border"

(Voice of America): "Japan's PM dissolves Parliament"

(Reuters): "Exclusive: Less fortunate in US hit hardest by extreme weather - report"

(New York Times): "For Latin Grammy Awards, a giddy and gaudy whirl of style"

(The Associated Press): "Miguel Cabrera, Buster Posey win MVP awards"


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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Is President Obama getting ready to pick Rice to succeed Clinton?

Both Bloomberg and MSNBC's First Read are speculating that President Obama's strong defence of UN Ambassador Susan Rice might bode well for her eventually being named to succeed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

According to Bloomberg:

Speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations, administration officials said Obama's unusually blunt language was part political calculation, part trial balloon and part loyalty.

They also suggest there is a political calculation at work:

Said Democratic Party strategist Joe Trippi, Obama's ultimatum to Republicans may reflect confidence he could garner the 60 Senate votes necessary to move Rice to a vote in the Democratic-controlled Senate -- as well as a political calculation that Republicans are further marginalizing themselves by targeting her.

And First Read's take:

If you thought that Obama might decide to pass on nominating Susan Rice to be the next Secretary of State, think again. [Wednesday's] confrontation might have been the best thing to happen to her chances of being nominated. The president is a pragmatist and is usually someone who likes to avoid confirmation fights for his appointees. But the more the GOP attacks Rice, the more dug in the White House and president might get.

It would be a grand thing if McCain's and Graham's baseless attacks actually help bring about the thing they claim not to want. Also nothing like a strong election win to shake a few votes loose from the other side. 

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One toke over the line, sweet Jesus

By Richard K. Barry

Sure, some guy named Barack Obama was re-elected president last week, but the really good news was further down the ballot:

A record 48 percent of Americans support legalizing small amounts of marijuana for personal use, just one week after three states voted to legalize the drug under some conditions — including Colorado and Washington's historic votes to allow the personal use and sale of pot.

It's complicated, and I don't want to get into too much detail. Suffice it to say that those who partake in these states have something to cheer about. There are, however, some naysayers:

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat who opposed legalization, was less enthused. "Federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug, so don't break out the Cheetos or gold fish too quickly," he said.

Heh, heh. Cheetos, Goldfish. Good one.

Anyway, this all put me in mind of a song, suggested to me by a friend familiar with the ballot initiatives in these states. You may recall the Brewer and Shipley tune from 1970, "One Toke Over the Line." Unlike some songs like "Puff the Magic Dragon" or "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" that people suggest might be about drugs, "One Toke Over the Line" is about drugs. No doubt about it.

The best fun fact I found is that it was once featured on The Lawrence Welk Show by a couple of cast members, after which Lawrence applauded the pair's singing of this "modern spiritual." For those who don't know, one line in the song is "One toke over the line, sweet Jesus." Guess that was enough for Larry.

So here's the original, which is a really nice folky thing, followed by the version on Lawrence Welk, which is too funny. You'll note in the intro by Brewer and Shipley they actually refer to the Welk version. 

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Seriously funny

By Mustang Bobby

When you take away all the serious issues surrounding the Petraeus story — the possible breaches of security, the FBI digging into e-mails without a whole lot of probable cause, the probable break-up of marriages — and look at it with from just the perspective of characters and plot and story, this is a farce worthy of the best comedy writers.

Look at it: the dizzying connections between the leading characters, the jealousy between men and women fighting over their prizes, the FBI agent posing shirtless for photos, the society folks puffing up their resumes and connections, even the local TV coverage with the classic "oops" moment; it's an updated Feydeau farce. Or better yet, a Woody Allen sex comedy; after all, he knows something about fooling around with women on an inappropriate level.

I realize a lot of careers and important issues are on the line here, but perhaps the best way to look at it is to realize just how seriously funny all of this is once you get down to the fact that these alleged grown-ups were acting like a bunch of horny teenagers.

Stay tuned for scenes from our next episode of Covert Affairs

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Luke Russert should step aside for a qualified applicant

By Richard K. Barry

Come over here. I can't smack you from
where I'm standing.

I have a simple rule when watching news/public affairs programming. I don't like to be embarrassed by the reporter/interviewer. You can never tell how silly the guest might be, so you have to be prepared for what you get. But the "professional" on stage shouldn't make you squirm.

I tend to avoid Al Sharpton and Ed Schultz for this reason. I like their politics, just not the personality they bring to it. I don't doubt their intelligence or their experience as political commentators, watching them just makes me more nervous than I like to be.

Then there is Luke Russert, the kid who only got the job at NBC because his father died. And don't tell me there was any other reason. He is neither intelligent nor experienced, and man is he embarrassing.

The latest is that he asked Nancy Pelosi if maybe she wasn't too old to be leading her party in the House. Well, she smacked the young pup hard by pointing out that older men in Congress, like Mitch McConnell and Steny Hoyer, don't get asked questions like that. Then she turned on the lad and added, "Let's for a moment honour it as a legitimate question although it's quite offensive although you don't realize it I guess."

As Daily Kos put it, "she then went on to offer a lesson in what fighting your way to the top looks like as a mother of five born in 1940."

Yes, Luke Russert, who got a job in network television right out of college through nothing but nepotism, thinks Nancy Pelosi, who fought her way to success over a lifetime, should step aside for a younger person.

Maybe Luke should step aside for a qualified person. What a twit.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Tea Party played key role in Romney's defeat

By Marc McDonald

Shell-shocked Republicans are continuing to do a post-mortem on why Mitt Romney's bid for the White House was a flop. But in trying to understand their defeat, they really need to point the finger of blame at a section of the GOP itself: the Tea Party.

Since it sprang into action a few years ago, the Tea Party has prided itself on "re-energizing" the GOP base and returning the party to its core principles. And indeed, the Tea Party did inspire a lot of Conservatives who had been dismayed by the likes of big-spending George W. Bush (even though the Tea Party only started making a big fuss when President Obama entered the White House).

The Tea Party made itself into a force to be reckoned within the GOP. It was a force that could no longer be ignored by party leaders. Which meant that the "moderate" Romney was obligated to pick a Tea Party favorite as his VP selection.

Paul Ryan may have delighted the Tea Partiers. But his hard-line extremism scared the hell out of the rest of us. Far from enhancing the Romney ticket, it's clear that Ryan was a liability from Day One.

Ryan's presence on the ticket demonstrates that the GOP still hasn't grasped one of the cardinal rules of U.S. politics. That is: you don't screw with Medicare. No matter how much lipstick the GOP tried to put on Ryan's "voucher" pig, most non-Fox News-watching voters saw it for what it was: the first step toward ending Medicare entirely.

Frankly, the Tea Party should take much of the blame for Romney's failed White House bid. Yes, the movement did inspire a segment of the GOP. But in doing so, it poisoned the overall GOP brand.

In keeping Tea Party figures like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann out of the spotlight during the GOP convention, the GOP tried to downplay the extremist crazies in the party that scared middle-of-the-road voters. Oddly, though, the GOP didn't grasp that it'd be a problem if a Tea Party extremist was given the VP nod.

Tea Partiers have long claimed that they're working to "save" America and return the GOP to its roots. But really, all the movement has accomplished is to damage the Republican brand and to make average voters wary of an increasingly extreme GOP.

(Cross-posted at BeggarsCanBeChoosers.)

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Post-election, Romney still a privileged rich douchebag

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Go fuck yourselves, you 47 percenters... and you blacks... and you Hispanics... and you young ungrateful shits!

His concession speech was actually pretty good (perhaps because he didn't have much time to think about it given his delusional confidence despite everything the polls were saying), an expression of humility in stark contrast to the arrogant dishonesty of his campaign, but it would appear that Mitt Romney hasn't learned a fucking thing.

And is still the Mitt Romney we came to loathe.

Yes, with the election now well over a week behind us, Romney perspective hasn't changed at all, and he knows where to pin the blame:

Saying that he and his team still felt "troubled" by his loss to President Obama, Mitt Romney on Wednesday attributed his defeat in part to what he called big policy "gifts" that the president had bestowed on loyal Democratic constituencies, including young voters, African-Americans and Hispanics.

In a conference call with fund-raisers and donors to his campaign, Mr. Romney said Wednesday afternoon that the president had followed the "old playbook" of using targeted initiatives to woo specific interest groups — "especially the African-American community, the Hispanic community and young people."

"In each case, they were very generous in what they gave to those groups," Mr. Romney said, contrasting Mr. Obama's strategy to his own of "talking about big issues for the whole country: military strategy, foreign policy, a strong economy, creating jobs and so forth."

Right, it's young people and, of course, minorities, who were bought off by Obama and too stupid to see that they were being used. And some Republicans actually wonder why it is their party has such trouble appealing to demographic groups other than racist working-class whites and old white people, and specifically why they lose the "ethnic" vote so badly?

As if Romney wasn't trying to buy votes with every flip and flop of his shameless campaign, not to mention with his promise of tax cuts, particularly to his own super-rich kind.

And how was it that the president wasn't talking about "big issues" -- you know, like rescuing the auto industry, waging a campaign against al Qaeda that included the killing of bin Laden, ending the war in Afghanistan, and making significant investments in such areas education and alternative energy so as to be able to compete in the increasingly globalized marketplace of the 21st century? All this while Mitt was spewing right-wing platitudes, lying about his policy positions, and refusing to talk about the ugly details of his proposals.

But back to what Romney said. As Jonathan Chait writes, this confirms that Romney "still hates 47 percent of America" (and probably more, I would add):

I think the latest Romney donor remarks ought to put to rest the debate about his sincerity. When the 47 percent remarks emerged, I argued that it was the real Romney speaking. Some moderate Republicans suggested he was merely pandering to people whose donations he badly needed. I never thought this made much sense — surely Romney had ways of relating to wealthy Republicans without launching an extended analysis he didn't believe — but the latest version of essentially the same riff ought to put that debate to rest. He's never running again. He doesn't need these people. The real Romney is indeed a sneering plutocrat.

As I wrote way back in January, the Romney narrative for 2012 was "privileged rich douchebag with a plutocratic sense of entitlement." 

I'd say I've been proven right. Though of course you can add "loser" to that as well. 

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