If you ever wondered what the 1% really thinks of the 99%, now Mitt Romney has provided an answer—at least of what many of well-healed 1% think about about a good half of the country. Joe Klein compares Romney’s candid camera moment with the much repeated Obama gaffe about crackers clinging to their guns and religion:
In context, Obama was talking about small-town America, a place where the jobs“have been gone for 25 years now” and “nothing has replaced them.” Both Republican and Democratic administrations have failed to address this central economic problem, he said, and so the residents grow “bitter” and start to cling to their guns and Bibles. But Obama, the Whole Foods arugula shopper, ignored the fact that a great many gun owners are not bitter but joyful in the hunt — indeed, that they derive as much pleasure from their sport as Obama does from basketball or golf. Nor did he understand that in many small towns religion is a source of service and good deeds and community, of drug treatment and food banks, as well as the pure peace of prayerful meditation. But Obama was right about the larger picture: there was a fear and bitterness in white small-town America that had its roots in the changing economy and expressed itself in anger that some people — immigrants, welfare recipients (and especially, now, those on Social Security Disability) and those lazy folks at the Department of Motor Vehicles — were getting over. Those sentiments, obviously, gave rise to the Tea Party. They are undiminished today. And clearly, Obama was saying something he really believed, although — to borrow a Romney locution — inelegantly.
I’m not so sure about Romney. I’m pretty sure he’s smart enough to know that the 47% he summoned was in the category of “damned lie” statistics. I’m pretty sure he knows that the vast majority of those people work their butts off, pay federal payroll taxes (and a raft of state and local levies) or are senior citizens receiving Social Security and Medicare. I’m not sure that he has put two and two together: that a great many of the 47% — the white working-class voters and senior citizens — are Romney voters. Or that they don’t pay income taxes because of Republican tax cuts and Republican child and earned-income tax credits. But I am absolutely convinced that Mitt Romney has been inured to Republican fat-cat audiences complaining about how much they have to pay to keep the American enterprise afloat, and that he was well aware of the Fox-Rush echo-chamber formulations about food-stamp growth and dependency and people not paying federal taxes, and he was playing to those prejudices. The exigencies of fundraising have forced him to spend more time with plutocrats than average citizens this year. It’s not surprising that he’s lost track of the world as most people see it. Hell, he’s spending today — the day after this momentous gaffe — fundraising rather than trying to change the topic.
The Republican Convention was at a definite disadvantage. They went first. Never ideal. They lost a day, thanks to Isaac. And they built their entire convention on a lie. They are running against a figment of their collective imaginations. The Obama who hates success, hates America and hates taking responsibility for the economy. It is an Obama as nonexistent as the straw man floating above Clint Eastwood’s empty chair.
The Democrats, by contrast, are building their convention on Obama’s record and agenda: expanding opportunity. Equal pay for equal work, equal access to healthcare, Pell grants for greater college opportunity, the rescue of jobs tied to the US auto industry and the overturning of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell so homosexuals can openly fight for the country they love. These are accomplishments that move the country forward. And accomplishments tend to make for better speeches than trumped up fear mongering. But what was striking about the first night of the Democratic convention was the unbridled patriotism of it all. The Democrats’ love of country is positively passionate! Just as the Republicans tried to build an entire convention around a gaffe in an Obama speech, this convention is taking Romney’s premise that the best we have felt about Obama was the day we cast our vote for him and deftly turned it on its head. The Democrats feel just fine about Obama. And some seem as smitten with him as the First Lady, who, as it turns out, may be the best orator in the Obama household.
The Republicans who ran on fixing the economy are saying their recommended cuts may kill more jobs. Obama’s budget is cutting education programs but hanging tight on defense dollars. Wait, what? Andrew Sullivan is calling foul:
Obama just said that even the Republicans’ small cuts in defense would “undermine … national security.” Just to let all of you Obama voters in 2008: yes, he’s arguing for a bigger military budget than the Republicans. He has moved the withdrawal date from Afghanistan to 2014 and if Petraeus asks for longer, how can we trust he won’t get it?
If this is the president’s attitude toward the debt crisis, made so much worse by the recession, it means this country’s pressing problems have been deferred until he gets re-elected. Change? This is not just more of the same; it’s far worse – and with every year, more dangerous.
The birthers have long questioned whether Obama’s presidency isn’t breaking the law of the land. Now Wendy Wright is floating the idea that Obama’s new health care law is breaking all ten commandments. After all, doesn’t it promote coveting? She writes: “As with many bills, politicians sold ObamaCare by stoking envy.” Well, whatever was stoked, providing those without with what they are without likely decreases coveting. Right? Am I missing the point? Or does Ms. Wright not understand the sin of coveting? Next, she addresses bearing false witness. Again, her accusation has nothing to do with the health care law itself, only with some of the over-the-top examples of people’s health needs. Like those “thousand points of light” the President resorted to rhetorical hyperbole. Then comes “Thou shalt not steal.” This is where the right wing consistently confuses taxation with governmental stealing. My Savior took the position that we should render unto Washington that which is Washington’s. So I think we can move on. My Jesus trumps her Moses. ObamaCare, according to Ms. Wright apparently also encourages adultery. Finally, she deals with the actual law. Apparently, sex education provisions will lead to greater fornication. All we have to do is look at the rate of out of wedlock births in the Bible Belt to know that sexual immorality is rampant even where sex education is not provided. “Thou shall not kill” is next. This of course, focuses on the subject of “government funding of abortions.” Of course, there is no tax-payer funding of abortions in the health care law that was passed thanks to pro-life Democrats. So again Wright is off the mark. And shouldn’t the life of the child be considered in the high rate on infant fatalities that we currently have because of inadequate health care available to the poor? “Honor your father and mother.” Children should decide a parent’s health care. Here again, Wright, bears false witness: “Under ObamaCare, that privilege will be stripped from us and given to unaccountable bureaucrats. They will ultimately decide what health care our parents can get.” This is more of that death panel nonsense that the right spews out with abandon. Simply untrue. Okay this one is a stretch; “Keep the Sabbath holy.” The final health care vote happened on a Sunday. I guess Joe Lieberman thought that Saturday was the Sabbath.”You shall not take the name of the Lord in vain.” Another real stretch. She writes:“President Obama gave a pen with which he signed ObamaCare to Sister Carol Keehan, the nun who runs the Catholic Health Association. Why? Her seal of approval appeared to give a Catholic blessing to a bill that her superiors, the bishops, rejected.“ Still don’t know what this has to do with honoring Yahweh. “No graven images.” The thought here is that health care is an idol to the left. You know, like “lower taxes” and “school vouchers” are to the idolatrous right? Idolatry has no party affiliation. ”The Lord your God is One.” Wright concludes with this scathing indictment: ”ObamaCare sets up government as the one who will supply our needs and provide for our health.” Well, considering that the new health care law requires me to buy insurance coverage from the private sector, I am not sure how government becomes my great Jehovah-jireh. It is God who provides and He provides through various means: doctors, hospitals, drug companies and pastoral counselors. And yes, He even provides, occasionally, through the government. He is that big.
Sure, this has been edited for effect. Sure, there are probably other people that could have been interviewed that wouldn’t make the Tea Party come off sounding so stupid. However, for this Glenn Beck-sponsored rally, I’ve got to believe this is pretty representative of the crowd. Why do I say that? Because, everything these flag-waving solid citizens are saying I’ve heard before. On the Glenn Beck show.
Marc Ambinder makes a legitimate criticism of the madness of the Republicans:
Serious thinkers on the right have finally gotten around to a full and open debate on the epistemic closure problem that’s plaguing the conservative movement. The issue, to put it in terms that even I can understand, because I didn’t study philosophy much in college: has the conservative base gone mad?
This matters to journalists, because I really do want to take Republicans seriously. Mainstream conservative voices are embracing theories that are, to use Julian Sanchez’s phrase,
“untethered” to the real world.
Can anyone deny that the most trenchant and effective criticism of President Obama today comes not from the right but from the left? Rachel Maddow’s grilling of administration economic officials. Keith Olbermann’s hectoring of Democratic leaders on the public option. Glenn Greenwald’s criticisms of Elena Kagan. Ezra Klein and Jonathan Cohn’s keepin’-them-honest perspectives on health care. The civil libertarian left on detainees and Gitmo. The Huffington Post on derivatives.
I want to find Republicans to take seriously, but it is hard. Not because they don’t exist — serious Republicans — but because, as Sanchez and others seem to recognize, they are marginalized, even self-marginalizing, and the base itself seems to have developed a notion that bromides are equivalent to policy-thinking, and that therapy is a substitute for thinking.
But here’s the rub. Even though it is getting harder and harder to take the Republicans seriously, it is hard to argue with success. And what Ambinder misses is this. The Republicans are going to pick up seats come November and possibly take back both houses. So is the GOP crazy? Yep, like a fox.
Obama needs to take a page out of the Reagan playbook according to Newsweek:
After a year of haggling, Obama is left with a measure that Republicans circa 1993 and 1994 would have proposed, and yet he’s accused of perpetrating a socialist takeover of the health-care system
Obama inherited a more complicated situation, and his appeal is loftier and more abstract. At this point in his presidency, Obama has a better economic story to tell than Reagan did, but he hasn’t conveyed it with the artistry and clarity that could keep people believing in him. The Dow Jones index has regained 60 percent of its value, the banks are paying back the government with interest, and passage of a health-care-reform bill would give middle-class Americans more economic security. The economy is on the upswing and, to borrow a slogan from the Reagan era, it’s time to “stay the course.”
Obama said during the campaign that he would like to emulate Ronald Reagan—not because he agreed with Reagan’s policies, but because he changed the country in ways that endured. Reagan has been mythologized, but he wasn’t larger than life during his first two years, as economic conditions worsened. His policies, dubbed Reaganomics, were not working in ways that people could see, and unemployment peaked at 10.8 percent on Election Day in 1982. In the summer and fall of that year, his poll ratings were in the mid 40s to high 40s, much like Obama’s today.
Through the force of his personality and the confidence he projected, Reagan kept Republican losses in that midterm election to a minimum (27 seats in the House; none in the Senate). He had run in 1980 on the slogan “Let’s Make America Great Again” and his ability to connect with the heart of the country. By embodying optimism, he kept people believing in him. Reagan also had a very simple message to get across: he wanted to get the economy going and rebuild the nation’s defense.
Liz Cheney has a passion for Eric Holder that positively gives me the vapors. Her war on the Attorney General’s prosecution of the War on Terror is fascinating. The Department of Justice has been dubbed the Department of Jihad. The tea partyists are calling for a lynching. But there has been a backlash. Eugene Robinson writes:
Presumably they know that “the American tradition of zealous representation of unpopular clients is at least as old as John Adams’ representation of the British soldiers charged in the Boston Massacre”—in other words, older than the nation itself.
That quote is from a letter by a group of conservative lawyers—including several former high-ranking officials of the Bush-Cheney administration, legal scholars who have supported draconian detention and interrogation policies, and even Kenneth W. Starr—that blasts the “shameful series of attacks” in which Liz Cheney has been the principal mouthpiece. Among the signers are Larry Thompson, who was deputy attorney general under John Ashcroft; Peter Keisler, who was acting attorney general for a time during George W. Bush’s second term; and Bradford Berenson, who was an associate White House counsel during Bush’s first term.
“To suggest that the Justice Department should not employ talented lawyers who have advocated on behalf of detainees maligns the patriotism of people who have taken honorable positions on contested questions,” the letter states.
But maligning is apparently the whole point of the exercise. The smear campaign by Cheney, et al., has nothing to do with keeping America safe. It can only be an attempt to inflict political damage on the Obama administration by portraying the Justice Department as somehow “soft” on terrorism. Even by Washington’s low standards, this is unbelievably dishonest and dishonorable.
Has Obama been neutered by the Massachusetts election? Not hardly. He is back with a vengeance. And although Obama is the first president since Carter to resist the tacky trotting out people props to underscore some policy goal, there was something vaguely Reaganesque about the speech. Son of Bill, Chris Buckley observes;
Tonight Mr. Obama proved—once again—that he hears the American music and can play it like a maestro. As well as Ronald Reagan. Both presidents had—have—have music in their souls. The other people in the room where I watched the speech were in tears by the end—the kind that stream down the face. I managed to hold those back. But I could not hold back my admiration at the performance, in particular of Mr. Obama’s deep humanity, as evinced by his profound, almost Lincolnesque humor. Oh dear, are tears streaming down my face, one way or the other?
He proved himself capable, too, of drama, as when he (figuratively) pointed a finger at the Supremes, sitting in their courtly robes directly in front of him, hands demurely folded, and accused them (in my opinion, unjustly, to say nothing of injudiciously) of allowing “foreign enemies” to influence our elections. I had been under the impression that it was called “free speech.” But never mind. It was an electrifying moment. Thank you, Mr. President.
A great many people voted for Obama simply because he was black. All of the people responsible for the appointment of Michael Steele did it because he was black. He was born out of crass cynicism. The same naive cynicism that put a woman on the McCain ticket. And clearly, Caribou Barbie got more traction than Mr. Steele. Now these GOP cynics want him gone. Me too. I don’t like the idea of any black man in national leadership until they produce a birth certificate. After all, this Steele guy looks a little foreign to me.
The Daily Beast outlines how pro-life Democrats and a fairly moderate President Obama have been promising a Health Care Reform that would avoid using public money to fund abortions all along. So why are pro-choice Democrats so shocked? Maybe they were listening to the distortions of Glenn Beck and the Tea Party crowd.
In a July interview with Katie Couric and on the floor of Congress in September, President Obama promised there would be no public financing of abortion in health reform, meaning the procedure would not be available to women who opt in to any potential new public insurance plan. That pushed the goalposts closer to the pro-life position.
Others are pointing at the pro-choice groups themselves. Jane Hamsher, who runs the Netroots blog Firedoglake, says the organizations have gotten too cozy with the Democratic Party establishment, which often seeks to avoid public discussion of abortion. In the health-reform fight, NARAL and Planned Parenthood were less effective in advocating for their agenda than were proponents of the public insurance option, Hamsher said. “We went out and got commitments from members of the House to vote against any bill that doesn’t have a public option,” Hamsher told The Daily Beast. “They weren’t doing the same thing.”
Richards, of Planned Parenthood, said she wasn’t aware of any efforts, before Saturday’s vote, to extract promises from legislators to vote against a health bill that restricts abortion access. “Frankly, this issue came out Friday night,” she said. Yet Stupak has been on the warpath since July, when he released a letter signed by 19 Democrats demanding a ban on abortion coverage in the exchanges.
Obama’s handpicked general, Stan McChrystal, has been lionized by the right wing media as a military genius who can win the Afghanistan war. As troop fatalities rose over the past weekend conservative radio was all henny penny that we need more troops and we need them now (even when at least two of the deaths result from “friendly backfire”––one American helicopter collided into another U.S. helicopter, suggesting there are, perhaps, too many American soldiers in Afghanistan, at least at that particular moment.) So while Obama “dithers,” to quote our former Vice President, let’s consider what General McChrystal is smoking. Scott Ritter sums it up:
McChrystal operates under the illusion that American military power can provide a shield from behind which Afghanistan can remake itself into a viable modern society. He has deluded himself and others into believing that the people of Afghanistan want to be part of such a grand social experiment, and furthermore that they will tolerate the United States being in charge. The reality of Afghan history, culture and society argue otherwise. The Taliban, once a defeated entity in the months following the initial American military incursion into Afghanistan, are resurgent and growing stronger every day. The principle source of the Taliban’s popularity is the resentment of the Afghan people toward the American occupation and the corrupt proxy government of Hamid Karzai. There is nothing an additional 40,000 American troops will be able to do to change that basic equation. The Soviets tried and failed. They deployed 110,000 troops, operating on less restrictive lines of communication and logistical supply than the United States. They built an Afghan army of some 45,000 troops. They operated without the constraints of American rules of engagement. They slaughtered around a million Afghans. And they lost, for the simple reason that the people of Afghanistan did not want them, or their Afghan proxies.
Perhaps we need to listen to our historians, as much as we listen to our generals.
Prosecuting the war on terror has always required a steely resolve, a heart of courage and a complete disregard for history, facts or anything approaching reality. It is a shame that the Nobel Prize committee can’t cough up a Nobel War prize. John McCain and the neo cons would be shoo ins. Frank Rich of the New York Times explains:
Perhaps the most surreal aspect of our great Afghanistan debate is the Beltway credence given to the ravings of the unrepenant blunderers who dug us into this hole in the first place.
Let’s be clear: Those who demanded that America divert its troops and treasure from Afghanistan to Iraq in 2002 and 2003 — when there was no Qaeda presence in Iraq — bear responsibility for the chaos in Afghanistan that ensued. Now they have the nerve to imperiously and tardily demand that America increase its 68,000-strong presence in Afghanistan to clean up their mess — even though the number of Qaeda insurgents there has dwindled to fewer than 100, according to the president’s national security adviser, Gen. James Jones.
But why let facts get in the way? Just as these hawks insisted that Iraq was “the central front in the war on terror” when the central front was Afghanistan, so they insist that Afghanistan is the central front now that it has migrated to Pakistan. When the day comes for them to anoint Pakistan as the central front, it will be proof positive that Al Qaeda has consolidated its hold on Somalia and Yemen.
To appreciate this crowd’s spotless record of failure, consider its noisiest standard-bearer, John McCain. He made every wrong judgment call that could be made after 9/11. It’s not just that he echoed the Bush administration’s constant innuendos that Iraq collaborated with Al Qaeda’s attack on America. Or that he hyped the faulty W.M.D. evidence to the hysterical extreme of fingering Iraq for the anthrax attacks in Washington. Or that he promised we would win the Iraq war “easily.” Or that he predicted that the Sunnis and the Shiites would “probably get along” in post-Saddam Iraq because there was “not a history of clashes” between them.
What’s more mortifying still is that McCain was just as wrong about Afghanistan and Pakistan. He routinely minimized or dismissed the growing threats in both countries over the past six years, lest they draw American resources away from his pet crusade in Iraq.
Two years after 9/11 he was claiming that we could “in the long term” somehow “muddle through” in Afghanistan. (He now has the chutzpah to accuse President Obama of wanting to “muddle through” there.) Even after the insurgency accelerated in Afghanistan in 2005, McCain was still bragging about the “remarkable success” of that prematurely abandoned war. In 2007, some 15 months after the Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf signed a phony “truce” ceding territory on the Afghanistan border to terrorists, McCain gave Musharraf a thumb’s up. As a presidential candidate in the summer of 2008, McCain cared so little about Afghanistan it didn’t even merit a mention among the national security planks on his campaign Web site…
…Americans, meanwhile, want to see the fine print after eight years of fiasco with little accounting. While McCain and company remain frozen where they were in 2001, many of their fellow citizens have learned from the Iraq tragedy. Polls persistently find that the country is skeptical about what should and can be accomplished in Afghanistan. They voted for Obama not least because they wanted a new post-9/11 vision of national security, and they will not again be so easily bullied by the blustering hawks’ doomsday scenarios. That gives our deliberating president both the time and the political space to get this long war’s second act right.
The Holy Scriptures warn us of false messiahs promising “Peace, peace” when there is no peace. However, the Good Book says precious little about folks who receive Nobel Peace prizes when they have no peace accomplishments to merit it. President Obama has been awarded this honor after a mere nine months on the job, with America embroiled in two land wars and, most recently, having just bombed the moon. The event is rich with irony. But our President accepted the award with appropriate humility and understood it as a reminder of what he has yet to be accomplished, rather than a metric of “mission accomplished” achievements to quote his Nobel-prizeless predecessor. Whether Obama’s over-the-top apologetic rhetoric on foreign soil has emboldened terrorists remains to be seen. What is certain is his turning sabre-rattling into multilateral cooperation has at least emboldened our European allies. Which after the last eight years , is worth, at least, an honorable mention.