An Immediate Defense?
by Deacon Blues
Yes, I am greatly alarmed at the news about ongoing Secret Service security breaches over the last several years, at a time when this president has encountered vastly more threats than his predecessors. But I am also alarmed frankly at the default position of this White House to immediately and publicly support the Secret Service director in the midst of yesterday’s congressional debacle.
Exactly how shaky are things inside the Service and inside the White House that such assurances are necessary?
Update: So why give such an immediate defense if she resigned anyway? Why did the White House make itself look stupid by coming out to defend her earlier in the day if it was already in the works that she was on her way out?
Giving Foreign Policy Back To the GOP
by Deacon Blues
When Obama told Steve Kroft for Sunday’s “60 Minutes” that blame for the rise of ISIL rests with collective failures of the intelligence community and the Iraqi Army, he continued a tradition under his administration of blaming others for the faults of his own White House team. There was immediate pushback from within the intelligence community, both here and abroad, and from the national security media, challenging the notion that the White House was somehow blindsided by ISIL’s rise and the failings of the Iraqi armed forces. Both the IC and the media were quick to point out that the White House could not have missed signals and reports going back to 2011 on the risks of a destabilized Syria and the failings of the Iraqi Army, and from 2012 on the gathering strength of ISIL in that vacuum. Yet as late as this week, Obama gave an unconvincing performance of a man six years into his tenure still trying to point the finger outward when in fact he needs to look within.
As a result of this terrible willingness to let his White House staff dictate policy based on polls and political considerations, something that permeated his first-term foreign policy as well, public opinion has suddenly shifted in the GOP’s favor for the remainder of his term. The public doesn’t believe Obama anymore when he talks about not putting boots on the ground, because they think he’s already let things get out of control so much in Iraq and Syria that we’ll need to go back in regardless of what Obama says. It should not be surprising that the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows the public expects America to take on the burden of fighting ISIL, by large numbers if the military leadership determines it necessary. The one part of government with large approval ratings over a discredited Congress and administration is the military. Once again, like on immigration and other issues, this White House has mishandled an issue so badly that they’ve handed the political advantage back to their opponents, and you can be sure that the GOP will ride this through November and into their new majorities in 2015.
Sure, there is internal finger-pointing going on now between those inside the administration who were obsessed at the time with getting rid of Assad and those who now claim they saw the danger inside Iraq all along, but the role of your National Security Advisor is not to make another Condi Rice pre-9/11 mistake, but to sort out and highlight urgent priorities for the president. Nothing of the kind happened here, again, and even if it did, there’s no indication from his record that Barack Obama would have acted. As a result, and ironically, he now finds himself saddled with his own dereliction of duty, just like George W. Bush did in August 2001.
Letter From California
09/29/14 0642.21 PST
San Jose, California
It has been noted more than once that in 1978 California made a mushy pivot to stingy hold-the-line fiscal spending in what had once been a proudly functional social service state. I was 15 at the time, and in all the alleged arc of my adult perception and growth California has sputtered along in an infuriating slow-motion degradation of social services and priorities.
Hopeful souls heralded the arrival of a Sacramento Democratic supermajority and alleged liberal Democratic governor as the beginning of a new era of government faith and investment, but it was not to be. Governor Brown is not a FDR liberal, not hardly, but he did spur a significant investment in education by putting a gun to our heads with terrible spending cut threats 2 years ago. Ugly, but it did happen.Continue reading "Letter From California"
by Deacon Blues
New York governor Andrew Cuomo made a surprise visit to Afghanistan overnight with other governors. I wasn’t aware there were that many New York Afghan American voters living in Kabul.
And should new Grandma Hillary Clinton decide to go ahead and run in 2016 and end up with the Democratic nomination, it looks more and more likely that her two probable GOP challengers would be Mitt Romney or Rand Paul. How would a Clinton-Romney campaign look? Please stop yawning.
An Apology and Holder Re-Assessment
by Deacon Blues
I'm starting this post with an apology to commenter Suresh, whom I went after in the comments thread yesterday on my Eric Holder post. My reaction to Suresh's complaint that attacking Holder and Obama was a holdover from the 2008 Clinton-Obama fracas was strong. Suresh, for what it's worth, you have my apology.
Holder, like the rest of Obama's cabinet is a reflection of the president. My big beef with Holder simply put is that his Department of Justice has given Wall Street a pass for destroying millions of lives. Whether that is a result of Holder's own assessment that he couldn't win convictions and then didn't try very much after one early failure, or a reflection of Obama's desire to avoid all out war with the banking sector, we may never know. To me, it doesn't matter: this administration has been derelect in its duty to hold Wall Street accountable, so I am blaming both for that.
Having said that, Holder has weathered a good deal of racially-driven opposition and outright hostility from hypocritical and morally-bankrupt Republicans these last five years. He has truly been Obama's "heat shield" on some issues that the president didn't want to advocate himself, and he is now leaving for legitmate health reasons. So he's earned the right to have some plaudits and move on. Ultimately, the president is responsible for what happens, or doesn't happen on his watch.
Good luck and Godspeed Mr. Holder.
by Deacon Blues
I’d like to tell you that I’m sad to see Eric Holder leaving as Attorney General, but I’m not. He did nothing to hold Wall Street accountable for the crash. He’s done virtually nothing to help consumers. And he’s led too much from behind on civil and voting rights. Given that there were far better choices for AG when Obama picked him, it’s more a commentary on the man who picked him than Holder himself, who was never as qualified for the job as any number of seasoned prosecutors or State AG’s.
It’s also folly for the mainstream media to call Holder a prominent liberal voice in the administration while in the same sentence saying he was such a voice in the second term. It’s not a virtue to talk up voting rights and gay rights in the second term after you spent the first term going soft on voter suppression and Wall Street convictions.
And as to the nonsense in the media that Obama may have trouble getting someone confirmed to replace Holder with this or the next Senate, don’t be ridiculous. Any president, even one so bad at political power as Obama can get an AG through a hostile Senate, if they have the balls to bludgeon their political opponents for blocking such a key law enforcement appointment in a time of war against terrorists. That’s why I wish Obama would make a solid pick for his last two years and then dare the Senate to block it. But Obama isn’t likely to make such a pick.
Google's "I'm Shocked, Shocked.." Moment
by Deacon Blues
In their own “your winnings, sir” moment, two giants of the social media economy have now decided that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is too controversial for them.
Facebook will possibly end its relationship with a controversial conservative policy organization over its stance on climate change, The Chronicle learned Tuesday.
The social media giant in Menlo Park would be the second Silicon Valley giant in recent days to sever ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council, known as ALEC. On Monday, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt told a radio show that the company would end its membership with the group.
Google’s departure “really puts Facebook and Yahoo in an uncomfortable position,” said Jay Riestenberg, a research analyst with Common Cause who follows ALEC.
Facebook may be next out the ALEC door, a company spokesperson told The Chronicle on Tuesday.
Really? Climate change was the tipping point for you with ALEC? Did you ever, you know, “google” ALEC to find out everything else they’ve been pushing all these years? Why is climate change a tipping point for Schmidt and Google, and now perhaps the rest of these new economy firms, when these same firms looked the other way all these years while ALEC did everything it could to throw minorities, seniors, and students off the voting rolls through bogus “voting fraud” campaigns?
Unfortunately, it seems that these titans of the new economy had gotten everything they could out of ALEC’s efforts to bulldoze state legislatures and deliver the goods for their companies. Whereas voter suppression didn’t bother Google, Facebook, or Yahoo, global warming seems to have been a step too far for their public images.
Despicable. The NAACP and the ACLU should be asking these companies why they tolerated ALEC this long. I know the answer.
Several Observations: Saying Less, and Jim Webb
by Deacon Blues
Several observations on some issues of the day:
Mr. President, if you have to go to war (and that's an "if"), sometimes it’s better to say less and do more. You don’t have to go out and make macho or cheerleading statements about your every action against a foe, just because your political opponents have cowed you into doing so as a test of your manhood. It’s simply enough for you to run a smart war silently that actually achieves your objectives, rather than the stupid and loud wars of your predecessors. Just tell the media that you’re keeping key members of Congress informed and coordinating any actions with our allies, and leave it at that. Lord knows the congressional GOP would soil its undies if it ever had to actually be responsible for anything.
On a related note, if that means doing more with Iran, again, just do it without the need to broadcast it. The last thing the Russians want to see is us building some regional relationship with Iran, and even the Saudis and Iranians are now working with each other. It only takes a maniacal force like ISIL to make foes work with each other, and with stability being the sole short-term objective here, statecraft needs to be as broadminded as possible.
Hamid Karzai, don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.
Although he is not a telegenic candidate, having Jim Webb in the 2016 Democratic primary campaign will be good for the party, and for Hillary Clinton. Webb sounds like Elizabeth Warren on economic issues while sounding like Rand Paul on foreign policy. Such a combination may prove appealing to Democratic and independent voters in 2016, and it’s necessary for the party to credibly offer that alternative.
Costs of War
As the sickening urgency and excitement of war ripples across our consciousness once again (livetweets from a bombing run witness!), it would be very well to illuminate the various costs to all of us from this endless violence. Many are hidden, all insidiously destructive as a grim new war settles in.
Of course the incredible fortune expended just to start can boggle the mind, $30 million jets firing $750,000 missiles from a $4 billion ship. The first war in all this insanity was in 1990, in all that time a trillion dollars has been spent that easily could have turned the United States into an Eden, every city transformed by employment and investment, real education and healthcare blooming wondrous souls and citizens in a peaceful place.Continue reading "Costs of War"
Finding the Narrative for Hillary
by Deacon Blues
I’ve been less than impressed at the initial stages of a likely Hillary Clinton presidential run in 2016. She was rusty on the early parts of the book tour, and even the recent appearances like at Tom Harkin’s last Iowa Steak Fry last weekend came across more as detached, regal appearances than those of someone comfortable in her skin and with the electorate. Having said that, Hillary is who she is, and asking someone in her sixties to remake herself into something she isn’t is a fool’s errand.
For his part Chris Matthews thinks Hillary will start in the middle and stay there, while assuming the base will eventually be there for her after she has taken advantage of the current state of the GOP to lock down the middle and independent voters. Her progressive critics assert she is an elitist, too close to Wall Street to credibly campaign as a progressive or populist leader. Even if she did start her campaign as a progressive, her critics would dismiss such moves as simply a move to the base for the primary campaign, to be followed by the inevitable move back to the center for the general election, to reveal as they would certainly say her true colors.
However, my own advice given her unique advantages would be to campaign on what she is: a female candidate committed to fighting injustice at home and seasoned enough to realistically pursue stability and freedom overseas. She’s already sending signals today that despite what her progressive critics think of her, she in fact plans to push for a focus on the midterms and women’s issues, and use her impending grandmother status as an opportunity to frame the debate around “family”. To further this along, and to deal with legitimate criticisms that she has yet to provide a narrative for why she’s running, I’d suggest starting with something overly simple, and building her policy preferences from there like hanging ornaments on a Christmas tree: “Growth and Justice at home; Stability and Freedom abroad.”Continue reading "Finding the Narrative for Hillary"
Gee, Obamacare Isn't That Unpopular After All
by Deacon Blues
Despite the Fox News and right wing noise machine drumbeat about the unpopularity of Obamacare, it will come as a surprise to many observers that a large majority of those polled were happy with their plans obtained through the ACA’s marketplaces for subsidized coverage.
In fact, 68% of those polled in a Commonwealth Fund study over several months earlier this year rated their plans as “good”, “very good”, or “excellent.”
Now, when you ask folks what they think about “Obamacare”, or the Affordable Care Act, the fruits of the right-wing smear machine are evident in such polls. But when asking folks what they think of the plans they were able to choose through the program, suddenly the negative stigma drops away.
Go figure. Cue the obligatory right wing effort to discredit this poll.
Donate to the DSCC
by Deacon Blues
Despite my pessimism yesterday about the Democrats' chances this fall, it remains crucial for the Senate to remain in Democratic hands, unless you'd be entertained by watching two years of endless investigations, hearings, impeachment talk, stonewalled nominees, and total inaction while the country crumbled. And we haven't yet talked about what a Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would mean for the Supreme Court.
Then last night, along comes Nate Silver to surprise us with the news that his latest statistical modeling shows the GOP's chances of taking the Senate slipping. Whereas Silver previously pegged those chances at 64% two weeks ago, it has now slipped to 55% in his current model, based in some degree on the improving chances for Democratic "holds" in North Carolina and Colorado. Silver believes that a Democratic money advantage is playing a part here, which I suspect is true based on earlier reports that the large conservative Super-PACs that flooded the 2010 cycle in the immediate aftermath of the treasonous Citizens United decision were not playing as heavily in this cycle. But what Silver doesn't address is that Democrats may have better candidates than some of the putrid choices the GOP is putting up in this midterm election.
Nonetheless, two things are true: If you have only limited resources to help the party and more importantly the country right now, your best investment is to donate to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. And it might help if the DSCC branded its efforts as its own agenda rather than Barack Obama's.
Second, if Hillary Clinton wants to do some real good for the party between now and the time she announces in January, she and Bill should focus solely on helping the Democrats keep the Senate. Any time spent doing anything else for herself or any other political cause is nonproductive, ill-chosen time that calls into question why Democrats should make an investment in a Clinton candidacy for 2016.
Giving the GOP Immigration
by Deacon Blues
It may sound like a broken record, but the Obama administration has found a way to undermine the Democrats’ long-standing advantage on immigration. And although I don’t think a Politico poll in battleground districts is necessarily the last word on the matter, it is indicative of how the president and his “political team” dealt a lethal blow not only to the party on the issue, but also to the chances of comprehensive reform any time soon.
In the first place, the president should never have threatened in June to act on his own before the election to slow deportations. For all of the worst reasons, he and his political team thought that doing so would get Democrats Latino support in key areas for the fall election. As I’ve said previously, no red or purple-state incumbent Democratic senator was going to benefit from a surge of Latino voters from any presidential action to make even the announcement of this threat worthwhile. Yet the president and White House thought they had the whip hand, at a time when the Republicans had already shown a willingness to run on unchecked executive action.
Then, when it becomes clear that your own team and Cabinet can’t agree on what to do and the external political pros convince you that it was a mistake to make the threat in the first place, you back away and manage to depress the base even more. A true master stroke of ineptness and self-inflicted wounds.
Spare me the legitimate gripes about how the GOP clearly used those kids as props to jack up the base. What people missed was that the real aim of the false GOP hysteria about the kids at the border was to turn public opinion against immigration reform just long enough to get through the election, especially in light of Obama’s growing unpopularity. Well, the GOP has succeeded at what it does so well: demonize victims and throw a legitimate debate into the sewer, and yet for some reason this president and White House still managed to stumble into this anyway out of some hard-to-figure delusion that they could win a debate on moral grounds simply because he was the president. Those days are over.
For all intents and purposes, Barack Obama is now a lame duck. The Democratic House and Senate congressional campaign committees know that a bludgeoning is coming, partly a result of gerrymandering, yes, but also partly a result of the political negligence from this White House. The sooner the party can get to January and let the GOP be saddled with their own rhetoric and lack of any further excuses to act, the better.
And as for Hillary, all the focus will be shifting to you the day after the party's midterm drubbing. Based on what I've seen and heard so far, you're not ready and your message and presentation is stale and out of date. Do better or forget it.
9/11 Did Not Herald A New Age of American Terrorism
I am always relieved when 9/11 has come and gone, re-living parts of that awful day is bad enough, but I vividly remember an America before 9/11 when flying was fun, casualty lists where not compiled from war reports, and the country was not disgraced for starting a war for lies.
I feel bad for the victims for 9/11 and their families, of course, my sorrow for them is not lessened by what we have become twisted into today.Continue reading "9/11 Did Not Herald A New Age of American Terrorism"