National Journal

Remember the pundits who urged Obama to cave?

MSNBCSteve Benen

Even as the American mainstream turned against congressional Republicans during the recent crises, there were quite a few Beltway pundits who urged President Obama to give in to GOP demands. We talked earlier about what lessons Republicans may have learned from this fiasco, but I can’t help but feel curious about what, if anything, commentators learned, too.

Let’s take National Journal’s Ron Fournier, for example, who argued just last week that Obama “must negotiate” with GOP leaders. He said it was necessary as a “matter of optics,” adding that Republican “obstinacy” is “no excuse.” (Remember, in context, “negotiating” with Republicans meant exploring what concessions the president was prepared to offer – in exchange for nothing – because GOP lawmakers said it was a precondition to their willingness to complete their basic responsibilities.)
Obama ignored the advice, showed some real leadership, and prevailed. A week later, with the benefit of hindsight, Fournier’s advice appears rather misguided.
Which is what made the National Journal writer’s new column that much more interesting.
Just as he did to John McCain in 2008 and to Mitt Romney in 2012, President Obama defeated a lame Republican political team. The GOP’s right wing foolishly shuttered the government and threatened default in exchange for an unreasonable and unattainable concession: Scrap Obamacare. He refused. The GOP caved.
It was all so predictable.
Hmm. If it was all so predictable that the president would stick to his guns and Republicans would cave, why did Fouriner argue – literally just last week – that Obama should stop sticking to his guns and start making concessions to Republicans?
The rest of Fournier’s argument is somewhat confusing. He wants to know, for example, if Obama can “lead.” Didn’t Obama just prove that he could “lead” quite well by winning this fight? In this case, Fournier suggests “lead” means “making Republicans do what they refuse to do,” which doesn’t seem like an altogether fair definition of the word.
The column goes on to ask if Obama “has the guts to anger liberal backers with a budget deal on Social Security and Medicare,” failing to mention that Obama has already angered liberal backers by offering a budget deal on Social Security and Medicare. Fournier also asks, “Is he willing to engage sincerely with Republicans?” overlooking all of the efforts the president has already made to do exactly that.
The columnist also wants to know if Obama wants “a legacy beyond winning two elections and enacting a health care law,” overlooking the Recovery Act, ending the war in Iraq, decimating al Qaeda and killing Osama bin Laden, rescuing the American automotive industry, reforming Wall Street safeguards, advancing civil rights, and scoring several major foreign policy victories.
Fournier says there are “any number of conservative Republicans with a pragmatic streak,” overlooking the fact that each of them have already rejected the notion of a balanced compromise on the budget. Fournier says facts about the shrinking deficit are “both technically wrong and selectively misleading” when they are in fact both technically correct and objectively true.
Fournier also uses words like “governing” and “success” as synonyms for “a center-right debt-reduction deal that most credible economists consider wholly unnecessary.”
The piece goes on to argue, “There is already a lack of seriousness in the air.” On this, I heartily agree.
Update: Fournier believes the item above takes his post from last week out of context. I disagree, but I’m eager for fair-minded readers to consider the relevant pieces and reach their own conclusions. Here’s his piece from last week, in which Fournier argues that Obama “can’t cave,” while also arguing that Obama “must negotiate” with Republicans who were demanding he cave. Here’s his piece from this morning, in which Fournier argues that the president’s posture against negotiation led to a “predictable” victory.
I continue to believe a fair and informed reading supports the observations published above, but I would encourage interested parties to read further and evaluate the arguments on the merits.

GOP May Hold Debt Ceiling Hostage To Enact Paul Ryan’s Budget

Think Progress

House Republicans will hold the national debt ceiling increase hostage until President Obama agrees to mandatory spending cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, the National Journalreports, and will seek to use the leverage of default to force Democrats to enact the policies in Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget.

Since slashing discretionary spending to historic lows — the discretionary side of the ledger has grown at a slower rate than inflation since 2007 and now makes up a smaller share of the economy than it did before the Great Recession — the GOP has shifted from demanding dollar-for-dollar immediate spending cuts and is now focusing on drafting a range of options to significantly restructure mandatory benefit programs.

The idea is to throw in the “kitchen sink” and allow Obama to pick and choose the cuts. “If what makes it easier to find the deal is to go in and pick and choose among a dozen different programs and just grab a little bit from all 12 — instead of a lot from one them — then that works just fine,” Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA), who heads the Republican Study Committee’s budget and spending task force, told the Journal:

For a long-term deal, one that gives Treasury borrowing authority for three-and-a-half years, Obama would have to agree to premium support. The plan to privatize Medicare, perhaps the most controversial aspect of the Ryan budget, is the holy grail for conservatives who say major deficit-reduction can only be achieved by making this type of cut to mandatory spending. “If the president wants to go big, there’s a big idea,” said Rep. Steve Scalise, chairman of the Republican Study Committee.

For a medium-sized increase in the debt-limit, Republicans want Obama to agree to cut spending in the SNAP food stamp program, block-grant Medicaid, or tinker with chained CPI.

For a smaller increase, there is talk of means-testing Social Security, for example, or ending certain agricultural subsidies.

While the menu includes plenty of variables, the underlying strategic goal is to reduce mandatory spending — whatever the scope of the deal. Even at the smallest end of the spectrum — another months-long extension of debt-limit — there is talk of pushing back the eligibility age for Social Security by an equal number of months.

For 50 years, Congress routinely increased the debt ceiling as needed, including seven timesunder President George W. Bush. But in 2011, Republicans decided the debt ceiling was “a hostage worth ransoming. The brinksmanship caused the first-ever downgrade of the U.S. credit rating by Standard & Poor’s and cost the country a million jobs and $19 billion.

The Treasury Department has not yet said when the nation will hit its debt ceiling and has repeatedly moved back the deadline as a result of “lower spending levels and higher tax revenues.”

Pew Founder: Republican Party Estranged From America

Alan Colmes’ Liberaland

Andrew Kohut says the only other time a party was this far from the center was the Democratic Party of the late ’6o’s and early ’70′s.

The Republican Party’s ratings now stand at a 20-year low, with just 33 percent of the public holding a favorable view of the party and 58 percent judging it unfavorably, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. Although the Democrats are better regarded (47 percent favorable and 46 percent unfavorable), the GOP’s problems are its own, not a mirror image of renewed Democratic strength…

The party’s base is increasingly dominated by a highly energized bloc of voters with extremely conservative positions on nearly all issues: the size and role of government, foreign policy, social issues, and moral concerns. They stand with the tea party on taxes and spending and with Christian conservatives on key social questions, such as abortion rights and same-sex marriage…

According to our polling, three factors stand out in the emergence of the GOP’s staunch conservative bloc: ideological resistance to President Obama’s policies, discomfort with the changing face of America and the influence of conservative media…

Race has loomed larger in voting behavior in the Obama era than at any point in the recent past. The 2010 election was the high mark of “white flight” from the Democratic Party, as National Journal’s Ron Brownstein called it — the GOP won a record 60 percent of white votes, up from 51 percent four years earlier.

Norquist: Republicans Will Impeach Obama If He Doesn’t Extend Bush Tax Cuts

This is absurd.  The GOP will stop at nothing to harass, humiliate and blackmail President Obama into conceding to their demands.

However, throwing around the word “impeachment” is mere hyperbole since they would need a majority in the Senate to succeed and although it may be by the narrowest of margins, the GOP do not have that majority and won’t have it in the near future.

Think Progress

Anti-tax activist Grover Norquist has long held a tight grip on the marionette strings of the GOP. Wielding undue influence as the head of the Americans for Tax Reform, Norquist ensures that Republican lawmakers sign his anti-tax pledge and threatens them with electoral defeat  should they even think of deviating from it. Norquist has marked a successful few years, killing the deficit super committee agreement,batting down  a tax increase on millionaires, and, of course, ensuring the extension of the Bush tax cuts.

Pleased with his headway, Norquist is now mapping out how he can ensure further anti-tax victories by securing Republican majorities. In an interview with the National Journal, he mused that a GOP mandate would obviously enact an extension of the Bush tax cuts, work to maintain a repatriation holiday for corporate profits, and even pass House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) plan that jeopardizes Medicare. But when asked what Republicans should do if faced with a Democratic majority that won’t keep the tax cuts, Norquist had a simple answer: “impeach” Obama .

NJ: What if the Democrats still have control? What’s your scenario then?

NORQUIST: Obama can sit there and let all the tax [cuts] lapse, and then the Republicans will have enough votes in the Senate in 2014 to impeach. The last year, he’s gone into this huddle where he does everything by executive order. He’s made no effort to work with Congress.

Norquist certainly revels in his power , but suggesting Republicans impeach the president over tax cuts is wildly outlandish. According to the constitution , the president, vice president, or public officials can only be impeached for “treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors.” Preserving a tax cut that gives more to the top 1 percent than the average income of the 99 percent hardly qualifies. But if Norquist’s only goal is to “crush the other team ,” it seems he’ll stop at nothing to do so.

Santorum: Obama ‘Doesn’t Deserve Credit’ For Killing Bin Laden

Rick Santorum - Caricature

Image by DonkeyHotey via Flickr

If anyone had any questions as to why Rick Santorum is at the bottom of the GOP Primary polls with Huntsman (who I really like) and Bachmann, here’s the reason why:

Think Progress

Last week President Obama responded to his Republican critics who say he is the 21st century’s version of Neville Chamberlain. “Ask Osama bin Laden and the 22 other out of 30 top al Qaeda leaders who have been taken off the field whether I engage in appeasement,” the President said during a news conference.

GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum regularly lobs the inane “appeasement” charge at Obama. “At every single turn the president has appeased those who would do us harm,” the former Pennsylvania senator said on Sunday. So naturally, Santorum probably isn’t convinced that Obama even had anything to do with killing bin Laden and he said so last night on CNN (as he has before), calling the president’s comment last week “pathetic”:

SANTORUM: Osama bin Laden was a continuation of President Bush’s policy. It had nothing to do with a contingency or a problem that came up on his watch. He simply followed through, which we have been trying to do for 10 years.

KING: Deserves no credit for that?

SANTORUM: Any more — no, the people who deserve credit for that were the military whose mission it was to find them. And the president doesn’t deserve credit for doing — he didn’t make a decision, if you will, as to go after bin Laden. That decision had been made 10 years ago.

Santorum eventually relented after host John King noted that Obama “gave the go-ahead” to raid bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. “I do give him credit for that,” Santorum said.   Watch the clip:

President Bush himself tried to sneak this narrative by the press too but the reality is that Obama nabbed bin Laden in spite of the former president’s policies, not because of them.

The conservative claim that Bush is the one responsible for the bin Laden raid “couldn’t be further from the truth,” the National Journal’s Michael Hirsch wrote in May. “Behind Obama’s takedown of the Qaida leader…lies a profound discontinuity between administrations — a major strategic shift in how to deal with terrorists,” from Bush’s bombastic and overly expansive “war on terror,” to Obama’s “covert, laserlike focus on al-Qaida and its spawn.”

“Shortly after I got into office,” Obama said in an interview after bin Laden’s death, “I brought [then-CIA director] Leon Panetta privately into the Oval Office and I said to him, ‘We need to redouble our efforts in hunting bin Laden down. And I want us to start putting more resources, more focus, and more urgency into that mission.’”

Mark Block, Cain’s Chief-Of-Staff, Falsely ‘Confirms’ Accuser’s Son Works For POLITICO

This is indicative of the sloppiness and dishonesty in the Cain camp….  Herman Cain should personally come out and correct this lie as quickly as possible.

The Huffington Post

(See video here…)

Herman Cain’s campaign may want to verify facts before confirming anything on television.

Mark Block, Cain’s chief-of-staff, spoke to Sean Hannity on Fox News Tuesday, and wrongly claimed that the son of a woman who accused Cain of sexual harassment in the 1990s works at POLITICO.

“At the press conference it was brought up that Karen Kraushaar had come out as one of the women, so we’ve come to find out that her son works at POLITICO, the organization that originally put this story out,” Block said.

When Hannity asked if the information about Kraushaar’s “son” was confirmed, Block said: “We’ve confirmed that he does indeed work at POLITICO and that’s his mother, yes.”

Josh Kraushaar, the man Block appears to be talking about, denied these claims. On Tuesday, Kraushaar posted numerous messages on his Twitter page that refuted Block’s “confirmed” allegations.

Kraushaar acknowledged working at POLITICO from 2007 to 2010, but said he had been at the National Journal for over a year. His Twitter bio lists his current job title as the executive editor of the publication’s blog The Hotline. He’s also not related to Cain’s accuser.

“For a presidential spokesman to go on TV and make up blatant falsehoods doesn’t speak well for his boss, either,” Kraushaar wrote.

Kraushaar did manage to keep his sense of humor about the whole situation. “The only positive benefit about being smeared by Mark Block on Hannity is I’m getting 100 new Twitter followers a minute.”

According to CNN’s politicalticker blog, Karen Kraushaar accused Cain of sexual harassment when he led the National Restaurant Association in the late 1990s. She was the second woman to come forward publicly with allegations about the GOP presidential candidate, but only did so after her identity was revealed by the iPad news site, The Daily.

Karen Kraushaar, 55, is a registered Republican who works at the Treasury Department. Through her attorney, she has described the alleged harassment as “a series of inappropriate behaviors and unwanted advances from the CEO,” NPR reported. She reportedly received a payout in 1999.

Related articles

GOP Presidential Candidates Ignore S&P’s ‘Blast At Republicans,’ Pin Downgrade Blame on Obama

The GOP’s ultimate goal is to make President Obama a one-term president.  Their strategy is simply to blame him for everything, even though the electorate and everyone in the media knows this current fiscal crisis is on them…

Think Progress

On Friday, the credit rating agency Standard & Poorsdowngraded the U.S. from AAA to AA+ in the first downgrade in U.S. history. In its release, S&P took Republicans to task for using the debt ceiling as a political football and refusing to consider new revenues as an option for reducing the country’s long-term deficit. As National Journal put it, “it’s hard to read the S&P analysis as anything other than a blast at Republicans.”

However, you wouldn’t know that from reading the statements the GOP presidential candidates released in the wake of S&P’s announcement. In their world, the downgrade was entirely due to government spending, and the way to turn things around is to balance the budget without raising any additional revenue:

MICHELE BACHMANN: “We were warned by all of the credit agencies that a failure to deal with our debt would lead to a downgrade in our credit rating, but instead he submitted a budget that had a $1.5 trillion deficit and then requested a $2.4 trillion blank check. President Obama is destroying the foundations of the U.S. economy one beam at a time. I call on the President to seek the immediate resignation of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and tosubmit a plan with a list of cuts to balance the budget this year, turn our economy around and put Americans back to work.”

MITT ROMNEY: “Standard & Poor’s rating downgrade is a deeply troubling indicator of our country’s decline under President Obama. His failed policies have led to high unemployment, skyrocketing deficits, and now, the unprecedented loss of our nation’s prized AAA credit rating.”

JON HUNTSMAN: “Out-of-control spending and a lack of leadership in Washington have resulted in President Obama presiding over the first downgrade of the United States credit rating in our history. For far too long we have let reckless government spending go unchecked and the cancerous debt afflicting our nation has spread.”

McConnell: Stopping Obama’s re-election still ‘single most important’ goal

This topic should stay on the frontline of political news.  It is the reason for the turmoil in the debt crisis and other Obama set agenda including jobs bills that the republicans refuse to pass for partisan reasons.

The GOP is willing to literally tank the economy of this country so that they could win in the next general election.

Crooks & Liars

Even with the country on the brink of default, the Senate’s highest ranking Republican says his “single most important” goal is to make Barack Obama a one-term president.

“The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told National Journal‘s Major Garrett in October.

Fox News’ Bret Baier asked McConnell Sunday if that was still his major objective.

“Well, that is true,” McConnell replied. “That’s my single most important political goal, along with every active Republican in the country.”

“But that is in 2012,” he added. “Our biggest goal for this year is get this country straightened out and we can’t get this country straightened out if we don’t do something about spending, about deficit, about debt and get the economy moving again. So our goal is to have a robust vibrant economy to benefit all Americans.”

McConnell told Baier that a “Grand Bargain,” where Republicans agree to tax hikes in exchange for cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits, was likely off the table.

“I think it is. Everything they told me and the Speaker is to get a big package would require big tax increases in the middle of the economic situation that is extraordinarily difficult with 9.2% unemployment. We think it’s a terrible idea. It’s a job-killer.”

“Nobody is talk about not raising the debt ceiling,” McConnell later insisted.

Taking a break from debt limit talk, the Senate’s top Republican also said that it was time to send more terrorism suspects to the detention center at Guantanamo Bay.

“They are going the try a couple of foreign terrorists in Kentucky, my state, whose fingerprints were found on IED’s in Iraq. These foreign terrorists are enemy combatants. They should be taken to Guantanamo. They should be tried in military commissions.”

Obama: Gaddafi Must Go

The Daily Beast

Just when it seems the heat on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi couldn’t get any higher, President Obama has again bashed him. “You have seen with great clarity that he has lost legitimacy with his people,” Obama said during a White House press conference with Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

“So let me just be very unambiguous about this. Colonel Qaddafi needs to step down from power and leave. That is good for his country. It is good for his people. It’s the right thing to do.” Obama added: “It’s time for Gaddafi to go.” In addition, he said that humanitarian concerns have led him to approve the use of U.S. military planes to airlift Egyptians who are trapped in the country and have fled to the Tunisian border. The administration previously suspending diplomatic relations, seized Libyan assets, and backed sanctions.

 

Divided We Fail (NYT Editorial by Paul Krugman)

New York Times – Paul Krugman

Barring a huge upset, Republicans will take control of at least one house of Congress next week. How worried should we be by that prospect?

Not very, say some pundits. After all, the last time Republicans controlled Congress while a Democrat lived in the White House was the period from the beginning of 1995 to the end of 2000. And people remember that era as a good time, a time of rapid job creation and responsible budgets. Can we hope for a similar experience now?

No, we can’t. This is going to be terrible. In fact, future historians will probably look back at the 2010 election as a catastrophe for America, one that condemned the nation to years of political chaos and economic weakness.

Start with the politics.

In the late-1990s, Republicans and Democrats were able to work together on some issues. President Obama seems to believe that the same thing can happen again today. In a recent interview with National Journal, he sounded a conciliatory note, saying that Democrats need to have an “appropriate sense of humility,” and that he would “spend more time building consensus.” Good luck with that.

After all, that era of partial cooperation in the 1990s came only after Republicans had tried all-out confrontation, actually shutting down the federal government in an effort to force President Bill Clinton to give in to their demands for big cuts in Medicare.

Now, the government shutdown ended up hurting Republicans politically, and some observers seem to assume that memories of that experience will deter the G.O.P. from being too confrontational this time around. But the lesson current Republicans seem to have drawn from 1995 isn’t that they were too confrontational, it’s that they weren’t confrontational enough.

Another recent interview by National Journal, this one with Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, has received a lot of attention thanks to a headline-grabbing quote: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

If you read the full interview, what Mr. McConnell was saying was that, in 1995, Republicans erred by focusing too much on their policy agenda and not enough on destroying the president: “We suffered from some degree of hubris and acted as if the president was irrelevant and we would roll over him. By the summer of 1995, he was already on the way to being re-elected, and we were hanging on for our lives.” So this time around, he implied, they’ll stay focused on bringing down Mr. Obama.    Continue reading…