Hot Air For Nothing
by Deacon Blues
I think it’s safe to say that given the mood of the likely 2016 electorate, foreign policy may not be a determinative issue. Americans seem to generally be more focused on pulling back overseas and wanting more engagement on domestic issues like the overall economy and jobs. As such, the upcoming presidential election will turn on which candidate can effectively address that mood and speak to those issues, while demonstrating to voters their aptitude to handle the job based on their experience to date. This makes the GOP effort to tear down Hillary Clinton on Benghazi all the more questionable.
That doesn’t mean it didn’t work a little. According to a just-released poll done for Politico, the GOP attack machine was partly successful in tearing down any benefit Hillary gets from being Secretary of State. Politico made a big deal today about the poll’s finding that 63 percent of those polled felt her record was “excellent”, “good”, or “fair”, with 32% rating her performance as “poor”. That’s the expected level of Hillary hate in the land, but when you read the fine print behind the poll, you find out that the poll was only done in purple districts with a sample that was 43% self-identified conservative, and 47% with a household income of more than $75,000 annually. That’s not a representative sample of the likely 2016 electorate, but the GOP did manage to dent Hillary’s foreign policy armor with the Benghazi obsession.
But will it matter? Gallup reports that Hillary is the best known and best-liked of all potential 2016 candidates, and she finds herself in a stronger position now than she did at the same point in the 2008 campaign. And Quinnipiac’s poll shows that even after the months of Benghazi pounding, she still runs 7-9 points ahead of all possible GOP rivals. And yet the GOP just spent months of their prime attack machinery going after Hillary on foreign policy with only this to show for it, with a likely 2016 electorate more interested in domestic issues?
Shut Up John
by Deacon Blues
John McCain long ago reached the "get off my lawn" stage of irrelevancy, mostly as a result of his unending bitterness over losing the 2008 election to an inexperienced and well-talking African American colleague. As usual with Republicans, they want to blame everyone else for their plight, and McCain needs to look in the mirror as to why he wasn't president with a Vice President Palin.
But McCain is especially despicable of late, taking whatever credibility the Beltway bestowed upon him for allegedly being a military and foreign policy expert, and flushing it down the toilet with stupid-ass comments, where he (wait for it, wait for it) . . . blamed Obama for the crimes committed by Vladimir Putin and his Russian separatist goons in the downing of the Malaysian Air flight yesterday.
It was just yesterday that McCain pointed the finger correctly at Putin's ultimate responsibility for fomenting the unrest in eastern Ukraine, and providing Russian-supported goons with the weapons to shoot planes from the sky. But McCain couldn't let it stop there. He had to go further into mentally-unhinged mode and then assert to a friendly Fox TV audience yesterday that Obama was cowardly and to blame because the administration didn't provide weapons to the Ukrainian defense forces.
Naturally, McCain didn't really explain how arming the Ukrainians to the teeth would have prevented the Russian-backed separatists from shooting down the plane yesterday, but no matter. McCain has lost the ability, if he ever had it, for outlining a coherent policy or thought process that has a logical conclusion. He's always been overrated at his so-called expertise, which largely derives from the respect he deserves for surviving the horrors of the Hanoi Hilton. But asking McCain to formulate a front-to-back policy or approach on any major military issue (Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia) is beyond him.
Just Another Political Prop
by Deacon Blues
Is anyone surprised that after John Boehner and the rest of the GOP browbeat the president earlier this month over the “invasion” of immigrant children rushing our borders, that Boehner now says the House GOP can’t be bothered to actually send their solution over to the Senate before they all run off to recess?
If Obama had real political skills, and knowing as he does that a significant part of the Democratic caucuses in both houses are against amending the 2008 law that contributed to this problem, he would hammer the GOP for the remainder of July over their inhumane and craven treatment of these kids as nothing more than political props, and attack the GOP for not really wanting to do anything other than score political points. He’d also point out that he’s ready to take on his own party over the 2008 law to get this issue addressed, and yet he’s still sitting ready to sign something from Congress to deal with the problem, if only the House GOP gave a damn about something more than their vacations.
A Real Disgrace
by Deacon Blues
Today, the Senate GOP managed to filibuster a Democratic attempt to overcome the harm done by the "Catholic Five" on the Supreme Court in the Hobby Lobby case. What's surprising in the 56-43 failed vote was that Democrats picked up the support of three GOP senators to fix the discrimination sanctioned by the Catholic Five.
What isn't surprising is that the GOP, including the endangered Mitch McConnell and the deceitful Kelly Ayotte tried to skirt the fallout by misdirecting the issue to cover their asses. Ayotte wants you to give the GOP points for simply allowing women access to contraception.
"Our bill will reaffirm that no employer can prohibit an employee from purchasing an FDA-approved drug or medical device, including contraception," Ayotte said.
See the misdirection? I'm not aware that Hobby Lobby was pleading to be allowed to prohibit their employees from purchasing medications on their own dime, yet to believe Ayotte and McConnell, they'll fix this by making sure that no big, bad employer does such a thing. The Hobby Lobby case, as Lying Kelly knows was not about an employer prohibiting their employees from purchasing drugs, but instead was about a private company using religious objections to target women and avoid covering contraception as part of a required benefit package, even in cases where a physician deems it medically necessary.
This nuance doesn't matter to Ayotte, because she has no problem throwing her gender overboard and sanctioning different treatment for women and men. She just don't want to be exposed for doing it, so she hides behind the false issue of "access" when the real issues were disparate treatment, and employer coverage for women's medically necessary services. A valid case could have been made for Hobby Lobby to avoid covering pregnancy-terminating devices or drugs based on religious beliefs, yet the ignorant and intolerant Catholic Five on the SCOTUS and even Ayotte are quite comfortable going right past that distinction and flatly discriminating against women.
I don't expect the Catholic Five to know any better, because they are simply robe-wearing right wing political hacks who wouldn't know women's health if it bit them in the ass, but Ayotte has no such excuse.
Where The Hell Is Eric Holder?
by Deacon Blues
Two former Utah Attorney Generals were arrested and charged with felonies today involving bribery, obstruction of justice, running a pay-to-play operation with donors, and witness tampering. Both are Republicans, in a deeply red state. But note that although the FBI arrested the two today, the cases were not pursued by the federal Department of Justice but rather by the Salt Lake District Attorney, after a two-year investigation.
Republicans John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff are accused of establishing a pay-to-play culture in office, and of taking bribes to look the other way or offer protection when donors to their political campaigns ran into legal trouble.
"This has been a complex, nuanced, large investigation and there are multiple players in it," Salt Lake District Attorney Sim Gill said at a news conference. "We have filed what we think are appropriate charges. We could have filed more."
Sounds pretty bad, huh? Except that Eric Holder’s Department of Justice declined to prosecute these infractions back in 2013, leaving it to the FBI agents working with state and local law enforcement to make these arrests today, again in a red state.
Just what the hell is going on with the Attorney General of the United States, when the FBI has to work with red-state law enforcement to arrest red-state officials for multiple counts of official corruption?
We're Back in Iraq - Except It's The Kurds
by Deacon Blues
You should interpret this late-breaking story this afternoon as significant for two reasons:
1. It signals that the United States has given up on Iraqi PM al-Maliki and any hope for a united Iraq going forward; and
2. It signals that the United States has decided to re-establish a regional presence through a new Kurdish state.
We're back in Iraq kids, just not the Iraq we knew. The oil companies and the defense/intelligence community will love this, because it gives us a beachhead with a welcoming host and secure oil fields. And the drones can pick apart ISIS at will and keep the Iranians under watch.
You can almost hear the giddiness from Langley and the Pentagon from here.
Mock Their Sorry Asses
by Deacon Blues
"You hear some of them: ‘Sue him! Impeach him!’”. Really? For what, doing my job?"
--President Obama yesterday, in open "mock-their-asses" mode
Several weeks back in these parts, we suggested that the best way to deal with the House and Senate GOP was to openly mock and deride them. Despite my frustrations with the president over how he and his staff have mishandled various issues, I was glad to see him use humor and derision against the House GOP and John Boehner yesterday.
For months, Democratic polling has shown that when Obama says “Congress,” people hear “Republicans.” Thursday, he made that explicit, saying that while Democrats in Congress aren’t perfect, he believed Americans knew it was Republicans who weren’t on their side.
“The best thing you can say about” the House GOP, Obama said, is that, so far this year, “they haven’t shut down the government. … But it’s only July.”
The best thing about that remark is that Obama just preemptively kneecapped the GOP from doing just such a thing later this year.
And then he launched into an extended mocking of them for the lawsuit House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is threatening to bring against him for using executive action. He also offered stats that show George W. Bush signed many more executive orders and pulled in a quote from Mark Wahlberg’s character in Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed.”
“I’m the guy doing my job,” Obama said, getting the line almost right. “You must be the other guy.”
“Think about that,” he told the crowd. “You’re going to use taxpayer money to sue me for doing my job while you don’t do your job.”
Keep it up, Mr. President. And take it on the road into GOP districts.
We Could Get Out of the Middle East
I am discouraged at flinging out there the most obvious of truths and would normally meander along, but at the encouragement of Professor Juan Cole I will put forth the most elemental solutions for our problems inå the middle east: get out and stay out.
Huffing realists would instantly inform this hippie treehugger that of course we need the middle east for petrochemical fuel, we can’t survive without it, in the last 30 years 2 wars in Iraq, an unending war in Afghanistan and an incredible drone war encompassing lord knows how many countries and costing at least $3 trillion dollars is totally completely worth it. Really.Continue reading "We Could Get Out of the Middle East"
Obama Has Blown The Immigration Issue
by Deacon Blues
I find myself agreeing with Democratic Representative Henry Cuellar of Texas, and yes, many GOP critics of President Obama regarding his visit to Texas today. Given Texas governor Rick Perry's documented critique of the administration on immigration going back to 2012, specifically on the issue of the humanitarian crisis caused by minor children coming across the border unaccompanied by parents, was the White House so politically and optically tone deaf that they thought Obama could drop in and do fundraising and leave the state without getting tagged for not caring?
Or is this White House so convinced of its rightness that they feel anything negative said about them is nothing more than political posturing?
It's easy for Obama supporters and immigration reform advocates to downplay the reaction from the right wing fringe about the issue of minors coming across the border, especially when the face of that opposition is what we saw in Murrieta, California last week. However, the concerns from border areas and states about safety and security are real, and have been real for several years. Yes, Rick Perry was running for president in 2012 and is now again running in 2016, but that doesn't mean the administration can therefore chalk up his complaints and those of any Republican officeholder as nothing more than politics.
Fresh off of a resounding reelection victory in 2012, it would have been easy and politically smart for the president to tour the border states and consult with those GOP governors in early 2013 about what the federal government can do to address the real problems that were already manifesting themselves. It would have built pressure from those states for the House and Senate GOP to act. Instead, the White House sent lower level officials to do photo ops and filed lawsuits to stop state immigration restrictions, thereby making it easy for the GOP to spring this narrative of a White House indifferent to the issue and incompetent after five years of being in charge.
Some may bristle at the suggestion that this represents Obama's "Katrina". I don't. To me, this is just one more issue that this White House and president have mishandled, either through arrogance or political and management incompetence, or both. I was quite critical of eight years of Bush/Cheney indifference, arrogance, and/or inability to multi-task. Fairness and consistency requires the same scrutiny and critiques of this administration.
It's Time for the "Gimmick Speech"
by Deacon Blues
A floundering presidency can always benefit from the mistakes of its opponents. John Boehner has crafted a nifty trick, whereby he allows his House GOP caucus to abdicate its responsibility and do nothing, only to then threaten the Executive with litigation for trying to do something without them. With the White House seemingly caught in a bind no matter which way it turns, I suggest it’s time for what I call The Gimmick Speech, a maneuver that will look political and yet will still draw blood from an overconfident opponent.
You’ll recall that back in 2002, Andrew Card and Karl Rove amped up the drive for the Iraq war during the summer congressional recess, during the media coverage vacuum inside the Beltway when Congress was out of town and the Executive had the airwaves all to itself. John Boehner has already told the world that his caucus plans to do nothing the rest of this session before the midterms, and he thinks he’s cleverly locked the president out of any further executive action through his litigation threat. But what would happen if Obama addressed the nation from the Oval Office this week to invite House and Senate Republicans over to the White House to show him what they’d support and get through both houses on the issues of the day, like immigration reform, a highway/infrastructure bill, and the veteran’s healthcare reform bill?
In essence, Obama should throw the attention back onto Boehner and McConnell and make them blow off the offer, or make them come to the table this month before the recess. I’m betting that neither Boehner nor McConnell have any interest in coming over to the White House and presenting solutions because they have no intention of doing anything except blaming the White House for their own dereliction of duty. That doesn’t mean Obama should let them slink away this session and get away with it.
The speech itself can be very simple:
“My fellow Americans, House Republicans have controlled the House since January 2011, nearly three and a half years. Yet while many problems facing the country have gone unaddressed by Congress during that time, I have been accused by the Republican leadership of both houses with acting by myself illegally and without congressional approval. While I could spend the next several weeks debating the merits of such allegations, it would still result in Congress doing nothing during this term.
Instead, I am announcing tonight that I will open up my calendar over the next ten days for the Republican leadership of both houses to come over and present me with real solutions to our actual problems, solutions that can pass both houses of Congress in this session before Congress goes on recess at the end of July. I’m hopeful that Speaker Boehner and Minority Leader McConnell will take advantage of this opportunity to bring over legislative solutions that can directly add thousands of jobs, address bipartisan desires for immigration reform, reform our veteran’s healthcare system, and fund our infrastructure and highway needs. There’s no reason why several weeks of intensive bipartisan work between the Executive and legislative branches can’t result in actual solutions that House and Senate Republicans would be proud to take to the voters this November.
To that end, I will open up my calendar and inform my staff to be ready to work with congressional Republicans on any solutions that are brought over that can pass Congress and address these real problems.
Thank you, and God bless America.”
Either way, Obama and the Democrats are covered. If the GOP does what they’re expected to do and call it nothing more than a stunt, then Obama gets to blow their brains out during the August recess and set the narrative of a "do nothing GOP congress" for the remainder of this cycle. If Boehner and McConnell do come across with something that is workable, Democrats get credit for doing something while the two GOP leaders deal with the intraparty implosion in each of their caucuses that will result from governing instead of posturing.
Holding SCOTUS and the "Faithful" Accountable
by Deacon Blues
The recent Supreme Court decisions on contraception have debased that body for years to come. What Sam Alito and the rest of the Brat Pack are telling us is that discrimination by allegedly religious entities is OK, in pursuit of religious freedom, even if those beliefs are discriminatory and inconsistent (Hobby Lobby doesn’t have a problem paying for men to do whatever they want, whether that be Viagra or vasectomies). OK, then I and thousands of others also have a right to object to a private company acting in such a manner like Hobby Lobby; they should be called out and identified as such, and forced to endure scrutiny for these beliefs and behaviors, without any expectation of privacy. If you want to profit from your discrimination, then you must be accountable for the consequences and cannot complain about boycotts or political correctness.
Furthermore, I as a taxpayer shouldn’t have to subsidize such targeted discrimination either. If you are a religious entity employing such targeted discrimination, then such entities must immediately lose their state and federal tax exempt status. I’m not underwriting targeted discrimination. The original Supreme Court decisions affirming the appropriateness of nonprofit tax exempt status for churches was based on the assumption that these entities were “dedicated to social betterment”. But what if these religious entities were not interested in social betterment but instead focused on walling themselves off from change and society as a whole? Why should I as a taxpayer have to foot the bill for churches and other entities whose sole interest is in fighting societal change and keeping away people they don't agree with?
The Roberts court majority is nothing more than a cabal of political actors masquerading in robes, an unelected mob that has now sanctioned targeted discrimination over “liberty and justice for all”. As such, it's time for the country to start treating the conservative majority, including Anthony Kennedy, with scorn as just another political body pursuing an extremist agenda. Just because they may have ruled with compassion regarding gays doesn't give them a pass to discriminate against blacks, students, women, or consumers. Roberts and the rest of them should be treated as politicians and nothing more, subject to the same pressure and derision as other GOP extremists. Respect is earned, and Scalito and the boys have earned none.
GOP Runs The Country Without White House
by Deacon Blues
I don’t want to be too pessimistic on the day before Independence Day 2014, especially with a decent jobs report hitting the street today. But in the wake of this staggering poll result yesterday, it appears that the American electorate is rating Barack Obama harshly, partly as a result of his own shortcomings, and partly due to a successful long-term effort by a GOP minority to destroy a Democratic presidency. It should be noted that Gallup finds Obama beating George W. Bush's ratings at this point in their presidencies, but beating W and Nixon isn't exactly a ringing endorsement.
I don’t usually like to ascribe too much strategic intelligence to the GOP, in light of their record during the Bush/Cheney administration, but Democrats need to confront the possibility that what we’re seeing play out right now is the execution of a long-range strategy to ensure that a political minority despite national voting patterns and all demographic evidence, will remain in power through a manipulation of the two branches of government not controlled by Democrats. How would the GOP do this? First, they craft a strategy that accommodates their inability to win a national election anytime soon by maximizing their control over the other two branches of government. They do this by taking over the governorships and legislatures to ensure gerrymandered House districts so that a conservative minority can be locked in for a generation to thwart progressive action at the national level, and to employ an obstructionist program to shut down the House and Senate. This has the effect of making Democrats look ineffective to their base and independents while doing no damage whatsoever to those same Republicans with their base.
Second, with the legislative branch effectively in minority control to ensure the Executive is neutered, the GOP sets about to take advantage of its decades-long effort to stack the federal courts disproportionately with conservatives committed to a pro-corporate, anti-progressive political agenda couched in a false judicial dogma of “original intent” or strict adherence to the Constitution. They do this by intentionally deciding which cases to launch in which circuit court of appeals to undermine progressive laws through anticipated victories at the highest court in the land, usually through convoluted and inconsistent legal decisions that are pure politics and not grounded in any identifiable constitutional theory. With control of the courts in hand, the right wing lays waste to the last one hundred years of progress, knowing that Democrats can never undo the damage through new federal legislation or constitutional amendments because the GOP already controls the statehouses and the Congress. Of course, this assumes the Democrats had a clue on how to carry out a strategy of their own.
Instead, Democrats falsely assumed that because they had a telegenic Chief Executive who could win national elections, it would be enough to use their demographic advantages with the emerging electorate to cement into place majority party status for years. What that naïve and inexperienced Chief Executive didn’t count on was the willingness of the opposition to declare total political war against him and his agenda from the two branches of government they could directly manipulate. Then, in the midst of that intentional lockdown of the legislative branch, you wait for the executive’s management ineptitude and lack of political ruthlessness to sink him, and Bingo! You end up with a failed presidency and damaged political party tied to that president, both saddled with the ashes of a signature policy initiative that is destroyed by poor administrative legal work, craven judicial undermining by the opposition, and the administration’s own management ineptitude. Along the way, that management and political ineptitude combined with a malignant legal overreach destroys the Democratic Party advantages on key issues, and what you’re left with is a successful effort by the GOP to drag both parties into the gutter of public opinion, with the difference being that the GOP base will continue to vote for their scoundrels while the Democratic base and independents will simply stop voting for Democrats.
And what you have, on the eve of Independence Day 2014, is the likelihood that the GOP minority will maintain control of this country for years, to the detriment of the majority, unless Democrats suddenly get smart on how to deal with an opposition governing the country without the Executive Branch.