GOP Leadership Quagmire

GOP: Party of crybabies

GOP: Party of crybabies

The above headline caught my eye for its accuracy…

Salon

It’s time to call out a major Republican theme of how politics should be practiced in a democracy: the supposed right to be free from criticism. It may sell wonderfully inside the conservative closed-information loop, but it’s a nasty idea that sorts exceptionally badly with democratic politics.

In case you’re unfamiliar, the right to be free from criticism is the core idea behind what used to be complaints about “political correctness” and which have now morphed into the conviction that some accusations are too terrible to be made. See, for example, former Heritage immigration expert (or is that race-and-intelligence obsessive?) Jason Richwine. As he told conservative reporter Byron York:

The accusation of racism is one of the worst things that anyone can call you in public life … Once that word is out there, it’s very difficult to recover from it, even when it is completely untrue.

What does “difficult to recover” mean in this context? Richwine, after all, is the protégé of none other than Charles Murray, who has been accused of racist writings for … well, for decades. And yet Murray has “recovered” just fine, at least if book sales and think-tank posts and other traditional markers of success are concerned. Richwine surely knows that. So what’s his complaint? It is the same as most complaints about political correctness: that some people won’t consider his actions respectable.

(No doubt someone with a bit more imagination than Richwine might imagine even worse things to be called than “racist.” For example, someone could be called a member of an intellectually inferior race, genetically doomed to always be looking up to those races that have superior intelligence. But pointing that out would no doubt violate Richwine’s standards of civilized political discourse.)

Similarly, the Republican response to the Democratic “war on women” rhetoric hasn’t been so much that the criticism is wrong but rather that it’s — as one Republican member of the House said this week — “repugnant.”

One might say that whatever grievances one former Heritage think-tanker, or even some Republican politicians, might have are interesting but of little importance in the grand scheme of things. But it turns out that the exact same logic — the logic that conservatives should feel perfectly free to engage in political advocacy without any danger of someone criticizing them — has become central to the Republican platform on campaign finance.

John Boehner swings and misses on “Plan B”

Speaker of the House, John Boehner has some ‘splainin’ to do…

The Washington Post -Chris Cillizza

It’s hard to overestimate the significance of what happened — or, more accurately, didn’t happen — on the House floor tonight.

Roughly 24 hours after publicly pledging that the House would pass a bill that would extend the current tax rates for all but those earning $1 million or more, Speaker John Boehner was forced to admit defeat — putting out a statement explaining that the legislation lacked the requisite support to bring it up for a vote on the floor.

To be clear: This was a gambit by Boehner designed to be a show of force to President Obama. This was Boehner putting himself out on a limb in hopes wavering members would follow him. This vote mattered to Boehner.

And he lost it.

It’s not clear what the fallout within the chamber will be — there is no obvious challenger to Boehner as Speaker but one could, of course, appear in the wake of this moment — but here’s what we now know:

1. Any bargaining power Boehner had with Obama — or hoped to have — is gone.  The goal of passing “Plan B” was to be able to say to the president and Senate Democrats that House Republicans were the only people who had passed something that would avert the fiscal cliff. Now, not so much.  Obama already had the upper hand in these negotiations — he was reelected just over a month ago — and Boehner knew it. What happened on the House floor tonight made a bad bargaining situation for Boehner that much worse.

2. The Republican party is in a bad place.  Boehner is, ostensibly, the leader of the GOP right now since he is the Republican foil to the President. When that leader can’t rally a majority of votes in a chamber his party controls for a proposal he has made clear is personally and politically important to him, it suggests one thing: no one is at the controls.  It’s also the latest indicator that the party is deeply divided between establishment types like Boehner who are trying to find the best deal possible and the base of the party who isn’t interested in making those sorts of compromises.

3. Boehner has lost control of the narrative. The next few days will be filled with stories about how this happened and what it means for Boehner.  There are  – and will be more — quotes from conservative types questioning why he even sought to bring the bill to a vote. There will be those privately — and maybe publicly — raising concerns about his political relevance. Boehner has been around the political block before and knows all of this is coming. And, if a deal gets reached at some point between now and Dec. 31, he will likely (and smartly) declare victory and try to move on. But the next ten days (at least) are going to be very rough for him — and on Republicans more broadly.

 

House Votes To Defund Health Reform, Planned Parenthood.. Bans EPA From Regulating Greenhouse Gases

It’s doubtful that any of the above initiatives will pass the Democratic majority in the Senate.  However, the looming question remains for the Republican majority on the House side:  Where are the jobs?

Huffington Post

House Republicans voted on Friday to strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood, cutting money for contraceptives, HIV tests, cancer screenings and reproductive health services as part of an attempt to weaken the abortion provider. Planned Parenthood does not currently spend federal money on abortion services.

The vote, which passed, 240 to 185, came after an emotional, late-night speech by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), who revealed on the House floor that she had had an abortion. Speier criticized Republicans for vilifying Planned Parenthood and abortion-rights supporters.

“There is a vendetta against Planned Parenthood, and it was played out in this room tonight,” she said on the House floor. “Planned Parenthood has a right to operate. Planned Parenthood has a right to provide family planning services. Planned parenthood has a right to perform abortions. Last time you checked, abortions were legal in this country.”

Republicans argued that the amendment, which was introduced by Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), was necessary to prevent taxpayer money from funding abortions at Planned Parenthood. But the organization is already prohibited from using the money it receives under Title X, which funds reproductive health services, to perform abortions.

Planned Parenthood was a major recipient of Title X funding last year, when the organization estimated it received a quarter of the $317 million appropriated for Title X. The the organization also performs one-quarter of reported abortions in the United States last year, some of which Pence claims were funded through non-Title X funding.

“Nobody is saying Planned Parenthood can’t be the leading advocate of abortion on demand, but why do I have to pay for it?” Pence said on Thursday, adding that he hopes Roe v Wade is eventually overturned.   Continue reading here…

House GOP stumbles

Politico’s headline actually read: Growing Pains: House GOP Stumbles.

I  beg to differ with Politico, the really good political blog that tends to have more right leaning tendencies than left leaning traits. 

The GOP is not having growing pains with their two legislative failures and a repeat of their GOP members in Congress who talk family values and do just the opposite.  This is simply the norm for these people.  They do not know how to govern.  They are most effective at blocking legislation, not passing it.

 Having said that, here is the article…

Politico

It usually takes a lot longer for the party in charge to start with the finger-pointing, the failed votes and the backpedaling on campaign promises.

But the House Republican majority has already had two failed floor votes, is experiencing a backlash on the right over spending cuts and has bypassed the committee process it once praised for taking up major bills.

And that’s all just this week.

These initial flubs in the first month of the GOP majority are mainly public relations embarrassments — but Republicans may face much more substantial problems quelling an uprising over the debt limit and corralling conservative votes on the budget bill known as the continuing resolution, measures that are essential to keeping the government operating. The miscues indicate that House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and other Republican leaders have a harder job than they bargained for managing an unwieldy, activist group of nearly 90 freshman lawmakers.

And the sudden resignation Wednesday of New York Rep. Christopher Lee, just hours after suggestive photos of him appeared on a gossip website, further demonstrated a GOP conference that continues to bumble its way through the opening chapter of the 112th Congress.

“The new majority has different leadership than the last time we actually were the majority. [They] have to make their own way, they have to make their own decisions, set their own policies,” said Florida Rep. Bill Young, a 38-year veteran of the House. “There’s a learning curve for leaders. There’s a learning curve for members.”       Read more…

The Right’s Egypt Freakout

Apparently, the right wing noise machine no longer views the Middle East as the perfect place to instill democracy…

The Daily Beast

Glenn Beck blasts the uprising in Cairo as a threat to our way of life. Michelle Goldberg on how the rebellion is splitting U.S. conservatives—and the fallout for the 2012 presidential campaign. Plus, full coverage of Egypt’s protests.

Store food and prepare for the coming global insurrection: That’s the warning Glenn Beck issued Monday. The Muslim Brotherhood and American radicals, he informed us, are operating in tandem to bring about “the destruction of the Western world.” On his Fox show, Beck presented a clip of Mohamed ElBaradei calling for a “New Egypt that is democratic, that is based on social justice.”

The phrase “social justice” flashed on the screen, because in Beck’s world, it’s a code word for a totalitarian leftist agenda, just as the Egyptian protesters’ use of the phrase “day of rage” signals their kinship with Bill Ayers of the Weather Underground. “We’ve shown you tonight that Hamas, Code Pink”—the feminist anti-war group—”and the Muslim Brotherhood are all linked together.” With the future bleak, Beck called on his viewers to pray for “our way of life” and for Israel.

Since the war in Iraq, it seems, Beck, like others on the right, has changed his mind about the desirability of Middle Eastern democracy.

It was only a few years ago, you’ll remember, that conservatives were crowing about a new birth of freedom in the Muslim world. Gunning for war with Iraq, conservatives attacked earlier generations of foreign-policy realists for propping up Arab dictators, arguing that political oppression and corruption created stultifying societies were terrorism bred. George Bush made the rhetorical championing of Middle Eastern democracy a centerpiece of his presidency. In a 2003 speech at the American Enterprise Institute, he promised that a “liberated Iraq can show the power of freedom to transform that vital region, by bringing hope and progress into the lives of millions.”       More…

 

Better Angels and Killer Angels – (Re- Post)

A century and a half after Abraham Lincoln was elected, some truths go marching on. Take heed, Obama.

11-27-2010 As we approach the last two full weeks of 111th Congress, I felt this article should be re-posted.

Newsweek’s article on President Obama’s recognition and frequent use of Abe Lincoln’s term “better angels” brings to light, the unnerving fact that Obama also needs to realize what Lincoln understood: that there may be better angels in the nature of some people, but there are others who are willing to weaken, even destroy a nation to serve their own self-righteous self-interest, and they will do it in the name of the Constitution…

Newsweek

President Barack Obama loves to quote the lyrical closing lines of Abraham Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address, calling on “the better angels of our nature” to overcome partisan hatreds and political divisions. Obama cited those words in his own inaugural proclamation and rested his hand on Lincoln’s Bible when he took the oath of office. He has come back to those angels again and again ever since. A search of Google and the White House Web site turns up half a dozen examples. He used the phrase to eulogize Ted Kennedy, to chide a would-be Quran burner in Florida, and to say goodbye to chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. Obama, it seems, sees better angels just about everywhere. Even as he traveled in India this week he talked about his efforts to live up to the example of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and, yes, Abraham Lincoln.

But in light of today’s real-world politics, Obama should think a little harder about the context in which Lincoln summoned those better angels on March 4, 1861. Led by South Carolina (now home to Sen. Jim DeMint), seven of 33 states had already seceded from the Union to form the Confederacy at that point. Only days before Lincoln took office, he had to sneak into Washington in the lonely hours before dawn because of an assassination plot. The month after his inauguration, the South fired on the federal garrison at Fort Sumter to begin the Civil War in earnest.

If, in the end, Lincoln did manage to hold the Union together, it was not because of the better angels of human nature, but because he finally found the killer angels among his generals who could, and did, and at enormous cost, crush the secessionists.

These basic facts about a moment of history that Obama obviously holds dear are worth going over again right now because, in fact, the secessionists of 1860 are the ideological forebears of the Tea Party movement today. No, the United States is not on the verge of another violent breakup, not close at all, even if Tea Party icons like Gov. Rick Perry in Texas or some of Sarah Palin’s friends and relatives in Alaska may toy with the notion of secession. But there is in American politics today a discourse of such cupidity, bigotry, and self-delusion about the role of government that it would have been familiar to anyone following the rhetoric of the Southern “fire-eaters” pushing the country toward a conflagration 150 years ago.     Continue reading…

Who had the worst week in Washington? Michele Bachmann

The Washington Post – Chris Cillizza

Republican establishment 1, tea party 0.

That’s the post-midterm score after tea party darling Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) dropped her candidacy for a spot in the House Republican leadership roughly one week after announcing it.

Earlier in the week, Bachmann, who founded the tea party caucus in the House, was making bold proclamations about the power she wielded. She went so far as to tell Politico that she helped to “put that gavel in John Boehner’s hand.”

Her colleagues – at least some of the more influential ones – didn’t seem to agree. While a handful of conservative members backed her, GOP leaders sided almost unanimously with Rep. Jeb Hensarling (Tex.) for the No. 4 leadership role.

Sensing that the tea was – ahem – cooling, Bachmann ended things Wednesday, touting Hensarling as a “strong voice” for the tea party movement. (He has long been an outspoken conservative, an ideological position that had made Bachmann’s challenge to him a bit of a head-scratcher. )

Bachmann’s quick exit from the leadership race signals that while the tea party may have seized control from the GOP establishment outside Washington, the powers that be still have, well, power in the halls of Congress.

And with Hensarling’s victory now assured, there won’t be a single challenge to any member of the Republican leadership team – a sign that tea party might not have changed things within the party as much as people thought it had.

Michele Bachmann, for underestimating the (still) potent power of the party establishment, you had the Worst Week in Washington. Congrats, or something.

The GOP Civil War Will Be Televised

Get your popcorn ready, it’s going to be great watching the GOP eat their own for the next two years…

Media Matters

Everything on Election Day went pretty much as expected. Republicans are up, Democrats are down, and Dick Morris once again looks like a fool. But as big as Tuesday was politically, it lacked, as have past midterms, a feeling of punctuation. No sooner had the House changed hands than speculation began on 2012 Republican presidential candidates. This is in large part due to the obsessive political media (GOP pollster Rasmussen has already polled the likely matchups). One election cycle ends, and the next immediately begins.

And while we’re still about 14 months from the first votes being cast in the 2012 elections, we’re nonetheless going to get a protracted and dramatic look at the selection process for the Republican nomination. All we have to do is switch on Fox News.

The Murdoch network currently has on its payroll no fewer than four right-wingers whose names consistently pop up in discussions of President Obama’s putative GOP challengers: Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Mike Huckabee. Fox also frequently hosts former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, whose name has been tossed around as a dark-horse candidate. As the election cycle coverage heats up, Fox will be forced to make some awkward choices in how it covers the campaigns of their colleagues.

And the trouble has already begun.

While not a candidate himself, Fox News’ Karl Rove will be a key player in the 2012 GOP primaries, largely through his Wall Street-funded Republican piggy bank, American Crossroads. One can speculate as to which candidate he prefers, but one doesn’t have to guess who he doesn’t want to challenge Obama — Fox News’ Sarah Palin.

The feud between these two has been simmering since Palin injected herself into the Republican primaries of various Senate campaigns and helped Tea Party candidates snatch nominations from more electable Republicans, only to see them lose in the general election (see: Sharron Angle and, if trends hold, Joe Miller.)       Continue reading…

Mario Piperni: In Case You Still Don’t Understand What Happened November 2

Mario Piperni

David Broder gets this first part right.

What happened was that Obama ran into several crises that he and others had not anticipated, and the cumulative weight of those problems ended up frustrating him.

The biggest problem by far was the economy, the virtual collapse of the financial system starting in the autumn of 2008 while George W. Bush was still president. That eased Obama’s path to the presidency but it saddled him with a huge and lingering burden once he was in office.

He was also burdened by the legacy of two wars and a backlog of unmet domestic needs, ranging from a dysfunctional health-care system to undernourished infrastructure and energy sectors.

This part not so much.

Somewhere along the way, Obama lost sight of his campaign pledge to enlist Republican ideas and votes. Maybe they were never there to be had, but he never truly tested it. And the deeper he became enmeshed in the Democratic politics of Capitol Hill, the less incentive there was for any Republican to contribute to his success.

“Never truly tested it”?  Please.  If Obama has done anything wrong, it has been pursuing bipartisanship long after it became clear that Republicans had no intent of doing anything other than gum up the works.  If the President failed, they won.  End of story.  In the world view of Republicans, winning always takes precedence over everything and that includes the economic, emotional and intellectual well being of Americans.

Here’s a piece from the NYT written last March which explains the obstructionist plan laid out by Mitch McConnell and his gang of thugs.

Before the health care fight, before the economic stimulus package, before President Obama even took office, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader, had a strategy for his party: use his extensive knowledge of Senate procedure to slow things down, take advantage of the difficulties Democrats would have in governing and deny Democrats any Republican support on big legislation.

Mr. McConnell, 68, a Kentuckian more at home plotting tactics in the cloakroom than writing legislation in a committee room or exhorting crowds on the campaign trail, has come to embody a kind of oppositional politics that critics say has left voters cynical about Washington, the Senate all but dysfunctional and the Republican Party without a positive agenda or message.But in the short run at least, his approach has worked. For more than a year, he pleaded and cajoled to keep his caucus in line. He deployed poll data. He warned against the lure of the short-term attention to be gained by going bipartisan, and linked Republican gains in November to showing voters they could hold the line against big government.

In McConnell’s own words:

“It was absolutely critical that everybody be together because if the proponents of the bill were able to say it was bipartisan, it tended to convey to the public that this is O.K., they must have figured it out.”

“It’s either bipartisan or it isn’t.”

And if you need a visual for what you just read, here it is. Twenty-one months captured in a single illustration.

Beware the GOP Coronation

Clockwise from top left: Michelle Bachmann, Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio, Sharron Angle, Joe Miller, Meg Whitman and Rick Perry (Photos: Getty Images)
 

As Walter Cronkite would say at the end of his CBS Evening News program…“and so it goes…”

The Daily Beast

Republicans will win big, and the press coverage will be glowing. But don’t forget: At the 100-days mark in his presidency, Obama walked on water. Howard Kurtz on the media’s mood swings.

Less than two years after taking office on a wave of hope, Barack Obama is on the verge of being slapped down by the electorate.

The president is so battered, politically speaking, that some members of his own party are sprinting away from him while Republicans whack him like a piñata.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The media assured us that the guy was headed for greatness. The nation’s journalists watched him in action, and in the last days of April 2009, delivered their collective verdict.

MSNBC’s Howard Fineman said Obama was “born” to live “calmly and confidently on a global stage with the hottest lights and biggest audience…. He doesn’t seem needy, aloof or afraid. We used to call that ‘cool.’ ”

Carl Cannon, writing at Politics Daily, said this: “He is as velvety smooth as a cold glass of Guinness, this new president of ours… not to mention the good looks of a Kennedy, the even keel of a Roosevelt, the understated swagger of an Eisenhower.”  Continue reading…