Today John Boehner declared that any talk of Republicans impeaching President Obama is a sinister plot originating in the White House, from which so many other sinister plots have come. “It’s all a scam started by Democrats at the White House,” he said. “This whole talk about impeachment is coming from the president’s own staff and coming from Democrats on Capitol Hill. Why? Because they’re trying to rally their own people to give money and show up in this year’s elections.” Which is partially true. Democrats do want to talk about impeachment, and it does help them raise money (though while an actual impeachment would certainly get Democratic voters to the polls in November, it’s much less likely that just talking about it will do so). But that’s only part of the story.
Boehner and other Republican leaders are now trying to walk an impossible tightrope. On one hand, they’re arguing that they have no interest in impeaching the president — they know that it would be a political catastrophe if they did — and any suggestion to the contrary is nothing but Democratic calumny. On the other hand, they’re arguing that Obama is a lawless tyrant who is trampling on the Constitution. If that contradiction has put them in a difficult situation, they have no one to blame but themselves.
Like so many of their problems, this one has its roots in the uncontrollable Tea Party beast that they nurtured but can’t control. It’s true that the only prominent Republicans explicitly calling for impeachment are ones like Michele Bachmann, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.), or Sarah Palin. But you can see the quandary in people like Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), who was on Fox News Sunday this week, and when Chris Wallace tried to pin him down to say that Republicans wouldn’t impeachment Obama, Scalise wouldn’t do it.
It’s probably because Scalise knows that impeachment isn’t supported just by his party’s fringe. According to a YouGov poll taken earlier this month, 89 percent of Republicans think “Barack Obama has exceeded the limits of authority granted a President by the US Constitution,” and 68 percent think there is “justification for Congress to begin impeachment proceedings against President Obama at this time.” Even when given a number of options including “President Obama has abused his powers as president which rise to the level of impeachable offenses under the Constitution, but he should not be impeached,” 63 percent still said he ought to be impeached. A CNN poll found a smaller number of Republicans saying Obama should be impeached, but still a majority of 57 percent.
So the idea that Boehner characterizes as a crazy Democratic slander is the majority position among Republican voters. And they didn’t get the idea from nowhere. They got it because the people they trust — Republican politicians and conservative media figures — have been telling them for years, but with particularly ferocity in the last few months, that Barack Obama is a lawless tyrant who is trampling on the Constitution. They’ve been hearing this not just from the Sean Hannitys and Steve Kings of the world, but from every Republican, up to and including the GOP congressional leadership, on a daily basis. Of course those Republican voters think he should be impeached. It’s absurd for people like Boehner to turn around and say, “Whoa now, who’s thinking of impeachment? That’s just Democrats saying that.”
And consider the odd situation in which that leaves the President. As much as he has been under attack from Republicans over executive authority, he has a political incentive to bait Republicans into talking more about impeachment, which would both build pressure for it within the GOP and force them to deny it to the media. The best way for him to do so is to take more unilateral action on issues like immigration. That would incense Republicans, who would then rush to the cameras to decry his lawlessness, which would lead journalists to ask them whether they’re going to impeach him, which would lead them to tie themselves in knots denying it. Obama would get both the policy results he wants and the political benefit of making his opponents look like they’re about to drag the country into a repeat of the farce of 1998.
So yes, the talk of impeachment is in part a plot by the White House. But they’re only exploiting the pressure that exists within the GOP — pressure that John Boehner and the rest of the party leadership helped create. And if you think you’ve seen Republicans squirming uncomfortably over the question up until now, just you wait.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect; The Plum Line, The Washington Post, July 29, 2014
According to the Brookings Institution there are some 47,000 unaccompanied children in the USA from Central America, almost all of whom arrived this year. There is no question that the numbers have overwhelmed an already out-of-date system and there is no question, or should not be any question, about our responsibility to care for these children while our legal process takes its course and they are either deported or granted asylum.
But now Congress, which has been the most grid-locked Congress in history, is about to adjourn for the rest of the summer without taking the actions necessary to assure that these children are cared for and that their legal process is managed properly and efficiently.
This nation has always been built on compromise. This nation became a beacon to the entire world because we had a legislative process that worked. This nation grew great and strong because we elected people to “GOVERN” and to “REPRESENT THE BEST INTERESTS OF ALL AMERICANS.” Now all of this has been thrown out the window and our system is absolutely derelict in its duty to our people, our principles and our heritage.
Maybe I am a heretic — I have been called worse — but I do not care if you are a Democrat or Republican, I do not care if you are an arch liberal or a Tea Party conservative, there are 47,000 children languishing in this country without proper care, without beds to sleep in, without medical attention or schooling. Now, 435 Representatives and 100 Senators are leaving for vacation where they will party, sun themselves, drink too much and eat some of the best food available…all while these 47,000 children languish.
Shame on all of you!
You have abdicated your right to be called “legislators.” You should be called “abdicators” for that is what you are.
In the military one gets court martialed for dereliction of duty, but in Congress one gets re-elected for another term. It is time for the American people on all sides of the aisle to speak up and tell these overpaid abdicators that they dare not leave Washington until they take care of these children!
By: Harry Leibowitz, World of Children Award Co-Founder & Board Chair; The Huffington Post Blog, July 29, 2014
When I was young, a mantra among progressives was that America had to stop operating as global policeman. Vietnam was the signal episode of arrogant and ultimately self-defeating American overreach. But there were plenty of other cases of the U.S. government doing the bidding of oil companies and banana barons, and blithely overthrowing left-democratic governments as well as outright communists (or driving nationalist reformers into the arms of communists.)
As the late Phil Ochs tauntingly sang, “We’re the cops of the world.” Or as Randy Newman mordantly put it, “Let’s drop the big one and see what happens.“
At the same time, I viewed myself as sensible left. I was the guy at the Moratorium demonstrations of the late 1960s and early 1970s (actually covering them for Pacifica) hoping to make prudent withdrawal from Vietnam a majority cause, not the guy chanting “Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh.”) I liked Norman Thomas’s line: Don’t burn the flag, wash it.
Overthrowing elected leaders like Chile’s Allende, staging coups against Mossadegh in Iran and Arbenz in Guatemala, blocking the elected presidency of Juan Bosch in the Dominican Republic—those were outrages. Yet the basic containment of Soviet expansionism seemed necessary and smart policy to me.
As a lapsed political scientist, I agreed with the received wisdom that global anarchy and American isolationism led to 20th century war and chaos. I thought people who preached world government were naïve. I was, if you will, on the left wing of the realist camp. Yes to benign use of American power, no to marginal Cold War adventures and corporate-led foreign policy. Pick your battles and don’t assume unlimited power; give colonies their liberty but with very limited forays into “nation building.”
I understood that much of the pent-up rage in the global South was a delayed reaction to earlier Western imperialism, both political and economic. But I did not romanticize every Third World uprising.
Later, I thought Bill Clinton got it about right with his intervention in the former Yugoslavia, warm embrace of Mandela, diplomacy in Northern Ireland, realistic anti-terrorism policies, and relative restraint generally. I applauded Clinton’s Mid-East peace efforts, but thought both parties were far too indulgent of Israeli settlement-building on the West Bank.
Today, the legacy of the Cheney-Bush regime has underscored the folly of overreach. Every place where America intervened under the Cheney doctrine, we’ve left a worse mess than the one we attempted to fix.
In a sense, the Left has gotten its wish. Events have made crystal clear that America can’t intervene everywhere. It’s not even apparent that we can constructively intervene anywhere.
Challenges to global peace and stability are hydra-headed and localized, not the work of a central conspiracy. Not even Henry Kissinger could cut a deal with non-state militias, and there’s not much to negotiate with the ISIS caliphate.
Despite the partial culpability of Western excesses during the last century, it’s hard to argue that Jihadists are therefore the good guys and Yankee imperialists the bad guys. On the contrary, radical Islam is at war against the Enlightenment, not to mention the rights of religious others, women, and basic political democracy. (So, for that matter, are ultra-orthodox Zionism and ultra-fundamentalist Christianity.)
Despite its omissions, limitations, and the central role of dead white Europeans, I’m rather fond of the Enlightenment. Its basic ideals are worth defending.
Many Jihadists would surely use nuclear weapons if they could get them, making the events of 9/11 look like a mere prologue, and requiring U.S. global vigilance.
So, Left friends, be careful what you wish for. America’s power today is humbled—and the world is more of a cauldron than ever. Even for lefties inclined to “blame America first,” as the Right likes to put it, U.S. intervention is often a lesser evil.
So if you were Czar, as the old saying went, exactly what foreign policy would you venture?
Given the limited options, is Obama getting it mostly right? Or is he pursuing the correct policies but somehow projecting weakness (as he surely does with Republicans at home)?
Where does it make sense to exit the game, even if the vacuum is filled by true crazies and sectarian wars, as in Afghanistan and Iraq?
Where must we conclude that we have little constructive role to play despite humanitarian outrages, because of limited resources and leverage, as in Syria?
Where are truly vital interests at stake (Ukraine, and China?) and what’s the possible policy? Where is robust diplomacy a substitute for brute force?
How do we deal with the true menace of nuclear proliferation, when it’s no longer feasible to police the world?
I’m a big fan of Elizabeth Warren. I hope she runs for president. However, several progressive Democrats, not unreasonably, have lately said to me: But she has no foreign policy experience. Do we have any idea of her views, or whom she’d appoint? With the world in crisis, would people vote for someone like Warren solely on pocketbook issues?
Well, Cheney and Rumsfeld had plenty of foreign policy experience, and look what it got us. Obama had none whatever, but Kerry and Biden seem to be doing about as well as anyone could, given the terrible hand that history has dealt them. Clinton, if memory serves, had been governor of Arkansas, a state without a foreign policy.
Here is one more story from my youth. At my Oberlin graduation, in 1965, the Commencement speaker was Martin Luther King, Jr. The College trustees, perhaps to balance Dr. King, were also giving an honorary degree to Secretary of State Dean Rusk, architect of the Vietnam escalation.
One faction of students wanted to boycott or picket Commencement, but that would have insulted Dr. King. Moderate lefties like me proposed a compromise. If Rusk would meet with us and listen to our proposal, we would not stage a demonstration. The meeting was duly brokered. The few far lefties groused that the student leaders had sold them out.
At the meeting, we pitched the following proposition. Ho Chi Minh was first and foremost a nationalist. His real enemy was China. South Vietnam was corrupt, non-democratic, and in any case not viable as a state. Why not allow Ho’s National Liberation Front to take power, as America should have done when Ho won his anti-colonial war with France in 1954, and guarantee Vietnam’s neutrality in exchange for Vietnam’s non-intervention elsewhere?
Rusk smiled indulgently. What did we know? We were a bunch of kids.
As events turned out, we were better realists than Rusk. Today, half a century later, the communist government in Hanoi prizes trade deals with America, practices semi-capitalism, does not threaten its neighbors, and relies on the U.S. as a counterweight to China. We might have had roughly the same outcome in 1965, with 50,000 fewer American combat deaths.
But I digress. Here are two concluding thoughts.
First, despite far-left fantasies, American can’t simply exit the world stage. There are too many menaces that require our constructive engagement. But America’s room to operate is very limited.
Secondly, better to have a thoughtful and well-read progressive leader with limited foreign policy experience than an experienced right-wing zealot like Cheney, or even a misguided experienced moderate like Rusk.
By: Robert Kuttner, Co-Founder and Co-Editor, The American Prospect; The Huffington Post Blog, July 27, 2014
Three weeks ago, President Obama presented a pretty credible solution to the humanitarian crisis at the U.S./Mexico border. The White House requested $3.7 billion in emergency funding that would build detention centers, add immigration judges, and beef up border security, all while expediting deportations to discourage an additional influx.
A week later, asked if his chamber would approve Obama’s plan, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters, “I would certainly hope so,” though he cautioned against optimism.
My Grand Unified Theory of Boehner has long held that the Speaker’s political instincts are fairly sound, but he invariably has to take a less reasonable course because his radicalized caucus will tolerate nothing else. In the case of the border crisis, Boehner wanted to approve Obama’s proposed solution, but House Republicans ruled out the possibility, and with two days remaining before Congress takes a five-week break, they finally came up with a counter-offer.
Republicans hope to pass $659 million in supplemental spending for the border crisis before leaving for the August recess, Speaker John A. Boehner said after a GOP conference meeting Tuesday.
The Ohio Republican said the House will “attempt to move this bill” on Thursday and that he anticipated the measure would have “sufficient support,” but that there was still “a little more work to do to” to shore up the votes.
This is not a bill anyone should take pride in. After complaining literally for months about this crisis, the fact that this proposal is the best the House GOP could come up with is pretty powerful evidence to bolster the post-policy thesis.
To address the crisis, the White House wants to spend nearly $4 billion, while Senate Democrats are writing a related package that would spend nearly $3 billion. House Republicans, meanwhile, want to spend $659 million – about a fifth of the original total eyed by the Obama administration – two-thirds of which would go to border security.
Apparently, no one told the GOP lawmakers that the current crisis doesn’t really have anything to do with border security. That, or lawmakers were told, but they didn’t care.
Making matters just a little more absurd, the House bill will run through Sept. 30. In other words, it’s a bill to tackle the problem for the next two months, at which point Congress would have to start over.
Why can’t the House GOP pass a real legislative response to the crisis they claim to take seriously? It gets back to something we talked about last week.
There is a group of far-right lawmakers in the House who don’t want to approve anything, in part because they don’t want to address the problem and in part because if the lower chamber does pass a bill, it might lead to a compromise with the Senate,
And House Republicans really don’t like compromises.
It led Boehner to pursue a bizarre strategy, in which he demanded that the White House urge House Democrats to support a Republican bill, since the Speaker couldn’t round up enough GOP support on his own. Dems, not surprisingly, balked.
Which in turn led Republicans to create an even worse proposal, intended to please far-right members, who wouldn’t support anything else.
So what happens now? The House will try to pass this weak bill before leaving town. As best as I can tell, there are no reliable headcounts yet, and it remains a distinct possibility that the GOP-led chamber will defeat the GOP-written bill.
If, however, the House manages to pass its measure, it would need support from the Senate and White House, which would have to decide fairly quickly whether the bill is better or worse than nothing. In theory, the Senate would approve its alternative and the two chambers would work on a possible compromise, but with lawmakers ready to leave town in a couple of days for a month off, there simply isn’t time.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 29, 2014
In a typically thoughtful piece today, Jonathan Chait explains why he has “grown less pro-Israel over the last decade.” I want to push back on this a bit, not because I disagree with any of the particular points Chait makes, but because of the broad framing. The idea of “pro-Israel,” like its mirror “anti-Israel,” is the enemy of rational thought and debate on this topic. Unless you’re talking about whom you’re rooting for in the Olympics, talking about who’s pro-Israel and who isn’t, and to what degree, almost never helps illuminate anything. This is something I brought up a few months ago, but it has a new urgency now, because this conflict is going to cause a lot of people to reevaluate how they feel about Israel.
One of the interesting things about Chait’s post is that he mentions an emotional connection to the country, but the specifics he brings up are all practical questions, on things like the Netanyahu government’s sincerity when it says it’s committed to a two-state solution. Since we’re talking about a democracy where the government and its policies are open to change, in theory that shouldn’t bear much on one’s basic commitment to the country. But of course it does.
So let’s step back for a moment. What do we mean when we say someone is pro-Israel? At the most basic level, we mean that she believes Israel ought to exist (there was a time when this was a matter of some debate in the West, but it isn’t any longer, at least not in mainstream circles). Beyond that though, you can take varying positions on almost any particular area of disagreement and still be pro-Israel. You can think Israel ought to exist within its pre-1967 borders, or that it should hold every inch of land it took since then (and retake what it gave away), and both positions can be “pro-Israel.” You can think that West Bank settlers are heroes for holding the land God granted the Jewish people, or that they’re a bunch of bigots and thugs who make peace infinitely more difficult, and both positions can be “pro-Israel.” You can think that Netanyahu’s decision to launch this war was the only appropriate reaction to the murder of those three teenagers, or you can think that decision was a disaster, and both positions can be “pro-Israel.”
In other words, the idea means almost nothing, unless you’re using it to indicate that someone is laboring to put aside their own capacity for reason and morality in order to justify whatever their side happens to have done, either lately or decades ago. And frankly, that’s how I’ve come to think about it. When I think of someone who’s “anti-Israel,” I think of someone who apologizes for terrorism committed by Palestinians and thinks that there’s only one country in the world where human rights abuses occur; in other words, a moral idiot. And when I think of someone who’s “pro-Israel,” I’m increasingly likely to think of some Palinesque dolt who believes that the Israeli government is perfect in all things, and that that very terrorism gives Israel a pass to treat every Palestinian man, woman, and child with as much cruelty as it likes; in other words, another moral idiot.
Once you stop worrying about whether you’re pro-Israel or anti-Israel, you can judge the Israeli government’s decisions, developments within Israeli society, and other questions related to the country each on their own terms. You can also make judgments about the conflict that are freed from the necessity so many feel to continually compare the Israeli government’s actions to Hamas’ actions, or the opinions of the Israeli public to the opinions of the Palestinian public, with the only important question being which side comes out ahead. Those comparisons end up dulling your moral senses, because they encourage you to only think in relative terms.
If you’re still stuck being pro-Israel or anti-Israel, you end up asking questions like, “Which is worse: for Hamas to put rockets in a school in the hopes that Israel will bomb it and kill a bunch of kids, therefore granting Hamas a momentary PR victory; or for Israel to bomb the school anyway, knowing they’re going to kill a bunch of kids?” If you’re pro-Israel, you’ll answer that Hamas’ action is worse, while if you’re anti-Israel, you’ll answer that Israel’s action is worse. But if you’re neither, then you’ll give the only moral answer, which is: who the hell cares which is worse? They’re both wrong. Questions like that end up only being used to excuse one side’s indefensible decisions.
Believe me, I realize that it isn’t easy to get rid of the pro-Israel/anti-Israel dichotomy. I grew up in a home where Zionism was our true religion. Israel is different than other countries; no matter how much you love going to Paris, eating French food, and reading French literature, it would be weird to describe yourself as “pro-France.” That’s because it makes sense only in the context where there are other people taking the opposite position; while there are people who don’t like France, there isn’t a significant “anti-France” movement.
But you don’t have to buy into the dichotomy. And once you step outside it and stop worrying about which team you’re on, it can become easier to see things clearly.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, July 29, 2014