Day: July 26, 2010

Maureen Dowd: You’ll Never Believe What This White House Is Missing

Maureen Dowd’s sets the tone of her Sunday, July 25, 2010 op-ed with this opening sentence:  The Obama White House is too white.

In my opinion, Ms. Dowd is spot on!   Here is her piece:

 

The New York Times

The Obama White House is too white.

It has Barack Obama, raised in the Hawaiian hood and Indonesia, and Valerie Jarrett, who spent her early years in Iran.

But unlike Bill Clinton, who never needed help fathoming Southern black culture, Obama lacks advisers who are descended from the central African-American experience, ones who understand “the slave thing,” as a top black Democrat dryly puts it.

The first black president should expand beyond his campaign security blanket, the smug cordon of overprotective white guys surrounding him — a long political tradition underscored by Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 when she complained about the “smart-ass white boys” from Walter Mondale’s campaign who tried to boss her around.

Otherwise, this administration will keep tripping over race rather than inspiring on race.

The West Wing white guys who pushed to ditch Shirley Sherrod before Glenn Beck could pounce not only didn’t bother to Google, they weren’t familiar enough with civil rights history to recognize the name Sherrod. And they didn’t return the calls and e-mail of prominent blacks who tried to alert them that something was wrong.

Charles Sherrod, Shirley’s husband, was a Freedom Rider who, along with the civil rights hero John Lewis, was a key member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee of the ‘60s.

As Lewis, the longtime Georgia congressman, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he knew immediately that something was amiss with the distorted video clip of Sherrod talking to the N.A.A.C.P.

“I’ve known these two individuals — the husband for more than 50 years and the wife for at least 35, 40 — and there’s not a racist hair on their heads or anyplace else on their bodies,” Lewis said.

We may not have a “nation of cowards” on race, as Attorney General Eric Holder contended, but we may have a West Wing of cowards on race.

The president appears completely comfortable in his own skin, but it seems he feels that he and Michelle are such a huge change for the nation to absorb that he can be overly cautious about pushing for other societal changes for blacks and gays. At some level, he acts like the election was enough; he shouldn’t have to deal with race further. But he does.

His closest advisers — some of the same ones who urged him not to make the race speech after the Rev. Jeremiah Wright issue exploded — are so terrified that Fox and the Tea Party will paint Obama as doing more for blacks that they tiptoe around and do less. “Who knew that the first black president would make it even harder on black people?” asked a top black Democratic official.

It’s the same impulse that caused Obama campaign workers to refuse to let Muslim women with head scarves sit in camera range during a rally. It’s the same impulse that has left the president light-years behind W. on development help for Africa. In their rush to counteract attempts to paint Obama as a radical/Muslim/socialist, Obama staffers can behave in insensitive ways themselves.

“I don’t think a single black person was consulted before Shirley Sherrod was fired — I mean c’mon, “ said Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina, a black lawmaker so temperate that he agreed with an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal on Friday by Senator James Webb of Virginia, which urged that “government-directed diversity programs should end.”

“The president’s getting hurt real bad,” Clyburn told me. “He needs some black people around him.” He said Obama’s inner circle keeps “screwing up” on race: “Some people over there are not sensitive at all about race. They really feel that the extent to which he allows himself to talk about race would tend to pigeonhole him or cost him support, when a lot of people saw his election as a way to get the issue behind us. I don’t think people elected him to disengage on race. Just the opposite.”

Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.’s House delegate, agreed: “The president needs some advisers or friends who have a greater sense of the pulse of the African-American community, or who at least have been around the mulberry bush.”

And why does the N.A.A.C.P. exist if not to help clear a smeared champion of civil rights who gave a stirring speech about racial reconciliation at an N.A.A.C.P. banquet? Its president, Ben Jealous, shamefully following the administration’s rush to judgment, tweeted Monday night that Shirley Sherrod was a racist without even calling his Georgia chapter president or reviewing the N.A.A.C.P.’s own video of the speech.

It was Donna Brazile, a Democratic strategist, who, after hearing the entire speech, pushed to get it out and helped clear Sherrod’s reputation on CNN.

The president shouldn’t give Sherrod her old job back. He should give her a new job: Director of Black Outreach. This White House needs one.

Ken Buck: Tea Partiers Questioning Obama’s Citizenship Are ‘Dumbasses’

Well, maybe he’s got a point there, although I expect a retraction at any moment since he’s a Tea Party backed candidate…

Huffington Post

A Tea Party-backed Senate candidate in Colorado was caught on tape Friday referring to ‘birthers’ who question President Obama’s citizenship as “dumbasses.” Republican Ken Buck, who has harnessed Tea Party support to become the front-runner for the GOP Senate nomination, made the comment unsolicited to a Democratic staffer after an event in Pueblo, Colorado.

He was unaware that the conversation was being recorded.

“Will you tell those dumbasses at the Tea Party to stop asking questions about birth certificates while I’m on the camera,” Buck said to the staffer. “God, what am I supposed to do?”

Buck told the Denver Post he regretted the language he used, but maintained that he has become frustrated by so-called ‘birthers’ who question the validity of Obama’s birth certificate.

Buck said he considers ‘birthers’ to be a distraction.

“After 16 months of being on the campaign trail, I was tired and frustrated that I can’t get that message through that we are going to go off a cliff if we don’t start dealing with this debt,” Buck said.

Buck’s Republican opponent, Jane Norton, was quick to capitalize on the comments, calling Buck, “two steps short of a fraud.”

“He’s a self-proclaimed Tea Partier who trashes tea partiers when he thinks no one is looking,” a Norton spokesman said in a statement.

This is the second time in a week that Buck has been caught on camera making controversial statements. Last week, video surfaced of Buck jokingly telling a questioner at an event that they should vote for him because “he doesn’t wear high heels.”

Franken: Republicans ‘Don’t Want People To Get Jobs Before The Election’

I just don’t understand the logic in this stratergy. 

Think Progress

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) fired up progressive activists as the closing speaker at the fifth annual Netroots Nation conference on Saturday evening. He jokingly called the gathering “the most exciting political gathering of the year without guns” and told the gathering to keep fighting and pushing elected officials.

A few hours before the event, ThinkProgress sat down with Franken and asked him about the public’s frustration with the Senate’s gridlock. Franken told us that the new Senate will likely take up filibuster reform next year, an effort that he supports. He also discussed the need for other procedural reforms:

TP: Is there any other ideas that aren’t being talked about as much that you think would help the Senate be more productive?

FRANKEN: Well, I think there are, you know, a lot of this is procedural reform on how you offer amendments, and again, obviously, on cloture, and filibusters, and how many hours you have to have of debate even after cloture. One easy idea is, you have to wait 30 hours after a cloture vote to vote, because there’s supposedly 30 hours of debate. Well, sometimes they’ve had cloture votes where it’s — we’ve had to vote cloture on something that isn’t controversial at all, like a nominee who ends up passing 98-nothing. There’s no debate over the next 30 hours. So, you could say, I mean, one easy reform would be, say, either side or both sides can give up 15 hours. So, instead of it being 30 hours, it’s 15 hours. I mean, a lot of all of this was just to slow-foot, to slow things down.

In a clear example of Republicans trying to “slow things down,” the Washington Post notes today that the Senate GOP — along with a few conservative Democrats — “have blocked measures that would offer summer jobs to teenagers, give aid to states to prevent layoffs of teachers and other state employees, and expand funding of Pell grants — arguing that all would raise the budget deficit.” Franken attributed their obstruction to crass partisan motives:

And Republicans sort of take this stance that the best thing we can do is slow everything down so as little can happen as possible, so that we can both blame Democrats for not having stuff happen, like jobs bills and stuff like that. And so that, you know, I mean sometimes it’d be a legitimate difference of opinion on something, but sometimes it’s been ridiculous. But I do think that this whole approach of slowing everything down, in many ways I think it’s so that, they don’t want a jobs bill because they don’t want people to get jobs before the election. It’s a harsh thing to say, and I don’t want to impugn the motives of my colleagues, but I don’t get what they’re doing otherwise.

Continue reading…

Netroots disappointed in Obama, but want him to succeed

McClatchy

The netroots, the liberal Democrats who’ve been instrumental in making the Internet an important political tool, are disappointed in President Barack Obama.

While the left is hardly abandoning a man they helped elect, the 2,000 Democratic bloggers, activists and organizers who wrapped up four days of Netroots Nation meetings at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino Sunday are sending him a message: It could be harder to generate the kind of passion in this November’s congressional elections that was so crucial to his 2008 victory.

“A lot of people woke up every day in 2008 and asked, ‘What can I do to get Obama elected?’ ” said Adam Green, a co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. “We want him to succeed, but unfortunately what we’ve seen so far is an unwillingness to truly fight the powerful interests.”

2008 was a milestone for the netroots, their biggest victory since they began emerging as a political force roughly a decade ago.

In 2009, however, reality bit.

“The process of how do you deal with power has been a learning process, and a lot of people have struggled with it,” said veteran liberal activist Robert Borosage.

Obama understands the political stakes and the frustration, and on Saturday he made an unscheduled four-minute video appearance to try to soothe the crowd.

“It’s important the president is speaking with us and staying connected to our movement, and I like how he’s promoting the successes,” said Charles Chamberlain, Democracy for American political director. “But too often it feels like he’s capitulating rather than winning.”

With congressional elections about three months away, the netroots’ immediate problem is that criticizing Obama publicly could give more ammunition to a fired-up Republican Party. “It’s a nuanced time,” said Richard Eskow, a Los Angeles-based senior fellow at the Campaign for America’s Future, a liberal activist group.

Perhaps that’s why much of the talk in the dozens of seminars on the convention schedule were less about how to push favored congressional candidates this November and more about building lasting coalitions. While some November candidates appeared, no stars emerged and no buzz developed over anyone.

Instead, the conversation often turned to how network building starts back home, not in Washington, with an eye not necessarily toward November, but the Novembers of the future.

That’s why one seminar was devoted to “moving a national progressive message through state policy.” Others had people discussing “building bridges with people of faith to win progressive change.”

Two issues that have stirred liberal passions for years, Social Security and financial regulation, illustrate the problems and the promise the netroots face in their new political world.

They shudder at the prospect of Social Security’s political fate. A bipartisan deficit commission is examining ways to reduce the national debt, and some leaders of both parties recently have suggested raising the Social Security retirement age to 70 as one way to start.

Read more: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/07/25/98106/netroots-disappointed-in-obama.html#ixzz0ultuTGgm

An open letter to conservatives – Redux

Recent news events call for a reposting of Russell King’s “An Open Letter To Conservatives” in its entirety.

Dear Conservative Americans,

The years have not been kind to you. I grew up in a profoundly Republican home, so I can remember when you wore a very different face than the one we see now.  You’ve lost me and you’ve lost most of America.  Because I believe having responsible choices is important to democracy, I’d like to give you some advice and an invitation.

First, the invitation:  Come back to us.

Now the advice.  You’re going to have to come up with a platform that isn’t built on a foundation of cowardice: fear of people with colors, religions, cultures and sex lives that differ from your own; fear of reform in banking, health care, energy; fantasy fears of America being transformed into an Islamic nation, into social/commun/fasc-ism, into a disarmed populace put in internment camps; and more.  But you have work to do even before you take on that task.

Your party — the GOP — and the conservative end of the American political spectrum have become irresponsible and irrational.  Worse, it’s tolerating, promoting and celebrating prejudice and hatred.  Let me provide some examples — by no means an exhaustive list — of where the Right as gotten itself stuck in a swamp of hypocrisy, hyperbole, historical inaccuracy and hatred.

If you’re going to regain your stature as a party of rational, responsible people, you’ll have to start by draining this swamp:

Hypocrisy

You can’t flip out — and threaten impeachment - when Dems use a parliamentary procedure (deem and pass) that you used repeatedly (more than 35 times in just one session and more than 100 times in all!), that’s centuries old and which the courts have supported. Especially when your leaders admit it all.

You can’t vote and scream against the stimulus package and then take credit for the good it’s done in your own district (happily handing out enormous checks representing money that you voted against, is especially ugly) —  114 of you (at last count) did just that — and it’s even worse when you secretly beg for more.

You can’t fight against your own ideas just because the Dem president endorses your proposal.

You can’t call for a pay-as-you-go policy, and then vote against your own ideas.

Are they “unlawful enemy combatants” or are they “prisoners of war” at Gitmo? You can’t have it both ways.

You can’t carry on about the evils of government spending when your family has accepted more than a quarter-million dollars in government handouts.

You can’t refuse to go to a scheduled meeting, to which you were invited, and then blame the Dems because they didn’t meet with you.

You can’t rail against using teleprompters while using teleprompters. Repeatedly.

You can’t rail against the bank bailouts when you supported them as they were happening.

You can’t be for immigration reform, then against it .

You can’t enjoy socialized medicine while condemning it.

You can’t flip out when the black president puts his feet on the presidential desk when you were silent about white presidents doing the same.  Bush.  Ford.

You can’t complain that the president hasn’t closed Gitmo yet when you’ve campaigned to keep Gitmo open.

You can’t flip out when the black president bows to foreign dignitaries, as appropriate for their culture, when you were silent when the white presidents did the same. Bush.  Nixon. Ike. You didn’t even make a peep when Bush held hands and kissed leaders of countries that are not on “kissing terms” with the US.

You can’t complain that the undies bomber was read his Miranda rights under Obama when the shoe bomber was read his Miranda rights under Bush and you remained silent.  (And, no, Newt — the shoe bomber was not a US citizen either, so there is no difference.)

You can’t attack the Dem president for not personally* publicly condemning a terrorist event for 72 hours when you said nothing about the Rep president waiting 6 days in an eerily similar incident (and, even then, he didn’t issue any condemnation).  *Obama administration did the day of the event.

You can’t throw a hissy fitsound alarms and cry that Obama freed Gitmo prisoners who later helped plan the Christmas Day undie bombing, when — in fact — only one former Gitmo detainee, released by Dick Cheney and George W. Bush, helped to plan the failed attack.

You can’t condemn blaming the Republican president for an attempted terror attack on his watch, then blame the Dem president for an attempted terror attack on his.

You can’t mount a boycott against singers who say they’re ashamed of the president for starting a war, but remain silent when another singer says he’s ashamed of the president and falsely calls him a Maoist who makes him want to throw up and says he ought to be in jail.

You can’t cry that the health care bill is too long, then cry that it’s too short.

You can’t support the individual mandate for health insurance, then call it unconstitutional when Dems propose it and campaign against your own ideas.

You can’t demand television coverage, then whine about it when you get it.  Repeatedly.

You can’t praise criminal trials in US courts for terror suspects under a Rep president, then call it “treasonous” under a Dem president.

You can’t propose ideas to create jobs, and then work against them when the Dems put your ideas in a bill.

You can’t be both pro-choice and anti-choice.

You can’t damn someone for failing to pay $900 in taxes when you’ve paid nearly $20,000 in IRS fines.

You can’t condemn criticizing the president when US troops are in harms way, then attack the president when US troops are in harms way , the only difference being the president’s party affiliation (and, by the way, armed conflict does NOT remove our right and our duty as Americans to speak up).

You can’t be both for cap-and-trade policy and against it.

You can’t vote to block debate on a bill, then bemoan the lack of  ‘open debate’.

If you push anti-gay legislation and make anti-gay speeches, you should probably take a pass on having gay sex, regardless of whether it’s 2004 or 2010.  This is true, too, if you’re taking GOP money and giving anti-gay rants on CNN.  Taking right-wing money and GOP favors to write anti-gay stories for news sites while working as a gay prostitute, doubles down on both the hypocrisy and the prostitution.  This is especially true if you claim your anti-gay stand is God’s stand, too.

When you chair the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, you can’t send sexy emails to 16-year-old boys (illegal anyway, but you made it hypocritical as well).

You can’t criticize Dems for not doing something you didn’t do while you held power over the past 16 years, especially when the Dems have done more in one year than you did in 16.

You can’t decry “name calling” when you’ve been the most consistent and outrageous at it. And the most vile.

You can’t spend more than 40 years hating, cutting and trying to kill Medicare, and then pretend to be the defenders of Medicare

You can’t praise the Congressional Budget Office when it’s analysis produces numbers that fit your political agenda, then claim it’s unreliable when it comes up with numbers that don’t.

You can’t vote for X under a Republican president, then vote against X under a Democratic president.  Either you support X or you don’t. And it makes it worse when you change your position merely for the sake obstructionism.

You can’t call a reconciliation out of bounds when you used it repeatedly.

You can’t spend taxpayer money on ads against spending taxpayer money.

You can’t condemn individual health insurance mandates in a Dem bill, when the mandates were your idea.

You can’t demand everyone listen to the generals when they say what fits your agenda, and then ignore them when they don’t.

You can’t whine that it’s unfair when people accuse you of exploiting racism for political gain, when your party’s former leader admits you’ve been doing it for decades.

You can’t portray yourself as fighting terrorists when you openly and passionately support terrorists.

You can’t complain about a lack of bipartisanship when you’ve routinely obstructed for the sake of political gain — threatening to filibuster at least 100 pieces of legislation in one session, far more than any other since the procedural tactic was invented — and admitted it.  Some admissions are unintentional, others are made proudly. This is especially true when the bill is the result of decades of compromise between the two parties and is filled with your own ideas.

You can’t question the loyalty of Department of Justice lawyers when you didn’t object when your own Republican president appointed them.

You can’t preach and try to legislate “Family Values” when you: take nude hot tub dips with teenagers (and pay them hush money); cheat on your wife with a secret lover and lie about it to the world; cheat with a staffer’s wife (and pay them off with a new job); pay hookers for sex while wearing a diaper and cheating on your wife; or just enjoying an old fashioned non-kinky cheating on your wife; try to have gay sex in a public toilet; authorize the rape of children in Iraqi prisons to coerce their parents into providing information; seek, look at or have sex with children; replace a guy who cheats on his wife with a guy who cheats on his pregnant wife with his wife’s mother;

Hyperbole

You really need to disassociate with those among you who:

History

If you’re going to use words like socialismcommunism and fascism, you must have at least a basic understanding of what those words mean (hint: they’re NOT synonymous!)

You can’t cut a leading Founding Father out the history books because you’ve decided you don’t like his ideas.

You cant repeatedly assert that the president refuses to say the word “terrorism” or say we’re at war with terror when we have an awful lot of videotape showing him repeatedly assailing terrorism and using those exact words.

If you’re going to invoke the names of historical figures, it does not serve you well to whitewash them. Especially this one.

You can’t just pretend historical events didn’t happen in an effort to make a political opponent look dishonest or to make your side look better. Especially these events. (And, no, repeating it doesn’t make it better.)

You can’t say things that are simply and demonstrably false: health care reform will not push people out of their private insurance and into a government-run program ; health care reform (which contains a good many of your ideas and very few from the Left) is a long way from “socialist utopia”; health care reform is not “reparations”; nor does health care reform create “death panels”.

Hatred

You have to condemn those among you who:

Oh, and I’m not alone:  One of your most respected and decorated leaders agrees with me.

So, dear conservatives, get to work.  Drain the swamp of the conspiracy nuts, the bald-faced liars undeterred by demonstrable facts, the overt hypocrisy and the hatred.  Then offer us a calm, responsible, grownup agenda based on your values and your vision for America.  We may or may not agree with your values and vision, but we’ll certainly welcome you back to the American mainstream with open arms.  We need you.

(Anticipating your initial response:  No there is nothing that even comes close to this level of wingnuttery on the American Left.)

Written by Russell King

RedState’s Erickson to GOP: ‘Stop lying’ and admit that you’re the ‘Party of No.’

Oh my…

Think Progress

Since President Obama first took office, Republicans have stood lock-step in opposition to his legislative agenda. In March 2010, Republican senators waged a record number of filibusters for a two-year term – after just 14 months. Given the GOP’s dearth of ideas, it’s understandable that Rep. Peter King (R-NY) told radio host Bill Bennett that Republicans shouldn’t “lay out a complete agenda,” because it could become “a campaign issue.”

Despite their blanket rejection of virtually everything President Obama has proposed, many prominent conservative leaders have urged the GOP to develop a substantive agenda instead of simply accepting their “Party of No” label.

Yesterday, ThinkProgress caught up with RedState founder Erick Erickson and asked his thoughts on the “Party of No” moniker. Erickson took the GOP to task for clouding the issue. He advised them to “stop lying” about being the “Party of No” because “everyone knows you are”:

TP: They are saying, if you accuse them of being the party of no or not having ideas, they will say “oh no!”

Erickson: That’s such crap. Say you’re the “Party of No.” Of course you are. Everyone knows you are. Stop lying

Enough right-wing propaganda – E.J. Dionne

Washington Post – E.J. Dionne

The smearing of Shirley Sherrod ought to be a turning point in American politics. This is not, as the now-trivialized phrase has it, a “teachable moment.” It is a time for action.

The mainstream media and the Obama administration must stop cowering before a right wing that has persistently forced its propaganda to be accepted as news by convincing traditional journalists that “fairness” requires treating extremist rants as “one side of the story.” And there can be no more shilly-shallying about the fact that racial backlash politics is becoming an important component of the campaign against President Obama and against progressives in this year’s election.

The administration’s response to the doctored video pushed by right-wing hit man Andrew Breitbart was shameful. The obsession with “protecting” the president turned out to be the least protective approach of all.

The Obama team did not question, let alone challenge, the video. Instead, it assumed that whatever narrative Fox News might create mattered more than anything else, including the possible innocence of a human being outside the president’s inner circle.

Obama complained on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack “jumped the gun, partly because we now live in this media culture where something goes up on YouTube or a blog and everybody scrambles.” But it’s his own apparatus that turned “this media culture” into a false god.

Yet the Obama team was reacting to a reality: the bludgeoning of mainstream journalism into looking timorously over its right shoulder and believing that “balance” demands taking seriously whatever sludge the far right is pumping into the political waters.

This goes way back. Al Gore never actually said he “invented the Internet,” but you could be forgiven for not knowing this because the mainstream media kept reporting he had.

There were no “death panels” in the Democratic health-care bills. But this false charge got so much coverage that an NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll last August found that 45 percent of Americans thought the reform proposals would likely allow “the government to make decisions about when to stop providing medical care to the elderly.” That was the summer when support for reform was dropping precipitously. A straight-out lie influenced the course of one of our most important debates.

The traditional media are so petrified of being called “liberal” that they are prepared to allow the Breitbarts of the world to become their assignment editors. Mainstream journalists regularly criticize themselves for not jumping fast enough or high enough when the Fox crowd demands coverage of one of their attack lines.

Continue reading…