“The GOP’s Obsession With Words”: Those Who Suggest Obama Doesn’t Use The Words They Prefer, ‘He’s Not One Of Us’
I am truly fascinated with the GOP’s obsession with words over actions. It actually goes back much further than the recent nonsense about what President Obama calls the members of ISIS.
Does anyone remember this?
Even people who acknowledge George Bush’s failings point to that as one of the great moments of his presidency. But by 2002, here’s what he said at a press conference.
Asked about the hunt for Bin Laden at a March, 2002 press conference, Bush said, “I truly am not that concerned about him. I am deeply concerned about Iraq.” “I really just don’t spend that much time on him, to be honest with you,” Bush added.
By that time, President Bush wanted to invade Iraq and wasn’t that interested in the “people who knocked these buildings down.” That task was left to President Obama.
Ten years after 9/11 came the attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi. Republicans immediately became obsessed with whether or not President Obama had called the perpetrators “terrorists.” It has never mattered much to them that – under this President’s leadership – the U.S. captured the mastermind of that attack.
And now, Republicans have convinced themselves that President Obama doesn’t take the threat from ISIS seriously because he won’t call them “Islamic terrorists.” Recently Peggy Noonan attempted to argue why that is important. She draws her case mostly from an article by Graeme Wood in The Atlantic titled: What ISIS Really Wants. But when Noonan is done quoting what Wood says about the religious beliefs of ISIS, she turns to what he has to say about how to defeat them.
A U.S. invasion and occupation, Mr. Wood argues, would be a propaganda victory for them, because they’ve long said the U.S. has always intended to embark on a modern-day crusade against Islam. And if a U.S. ground invasion launched and failed, it would be a disaster.
The best of bad options, Mr. Wood believes, is to “slowly bleed” ISIS through air strikes and proxy warfare. The Kurds and the Shiites cannot vanquish them, but they can “keep the Islamic State from fulfilling its duty to expand.” That would make it look less like “the conquering state of the Prophet Muhammed.” As time passed ISIS could “stagnate” and begin to sink. Word of its cruelties would spread; it could become another failed state.
Hmmm…that sounds exactly like President Obama’s “degrade and destroy” strategy.
Noonan simply ignores all that and – in the end – suggests that we should be respectful of ISIS.
It is, ironically, disrespectful not to name what they are, and what they are about.
Talk about PC madness!!!!
I have to admit that when I approach all of this from a logical standpoint, my head starts spinning. That’s when I know it’s time to leave the logic aside and go in search of root causes.
Of course part of this is fueled by those who want to suggest that because President Obama doesn’t use the words they prefer – he’s not one of us. That ignites the underlying racist fears of the GOP base.
But it also feeds into the desire for a “holy war” of Christianity vs Islam – the very same thing ISIS wants. That is exactly why President Obama’s words of caution at the National Prayer Breakfast were so important – and why his refusal to buy into this dangerous language is exactly the right call.
By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, March 1, 2015
“Upending The Status Quo”: How Obama Is Shrewdly Using Partisanship To Sideline Netanyahu And Save The Iran Nuclear Deal
The conventional wisdom is that partisanship in Washington, D.C., is one of the biggest obstacles to solving America’s most entrenched problems, from fixing the immigration system to closing the inequality gap. But if the fallout from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s forthcoming address to Congress is any indication, partisanship can be a pretty useful tool when it comes to upending the status quo.
Throughout the controversy, the White House has been happy to run its relationship with Netanyahu through the partisan vortex, helping splinter a bipartisan consensus that was once the most potent domestic threat to a U.S. rapport with Iran — a deal that would constitute the crowning accomplishment of President Obama’s foreign policy legacy.
Of course, Netanyahu has himself to blame more than anyone. By accepting an invitation from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to essentially hammer the administration before a joint session of Congress, without notifying the White House or the State Department, he took his longstanding disdain for Obama to new heights. When even Fox News anchors are questioning your treatment of the president, this may be a sign you have crossed a line.
He exacerbated his problems by rejecting an invitation from Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin (Ill.) and Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) to privately meet with Democrats, in what they said was an attempt to “balance the politically divisive invitation from Speaker Boehner.” Netanyahu explained that the meeting would “compound the misperception of partisanship regarding my upcoming visit,” but it seems his rejection accomplished that just fine on its own.
“Since when does an Israeli prime minister say no to a meeting with Democrats?” bemoaned a former Israeli official to The New York Times. And referring to Durbin and Feinstein, he said, “By the way, their Israeli voting record is impeccable. Not good, not very good, impeccable.”
This gets to the crux of the problem for Obama, as he potentially heads into the final stretch of a years-long attempt to reach a deal on Iran’s controversial nuclear program. He not only has to fend off opposition from Republicans, but staunch pro-Israel members of his own party, some of whom seem intent on passing additional sanctions on Iran to scuttle any deal. The problem is so acute that, as recently as January, Obama faced the prospect of a united Congress overriding his veto for the first time in his presidency.
But that has changed. By aligning himself so plainly with the GOP, Netanyahu may have made it impossible for Democrats to join the Republicans. As Dov Zakheim writes at Foreign Policy, “Netanyahu’s determination to address Congress has all but destroyed any chance the Hill’s passing new sanctions and overriding a presidential veto. The deal will therefore go ahead.”
The Obama administration appears to realize this, taking the fight to Netanyahu in a highly public way. The White House made clear it would snub Netanyahu, saying both Obama and Vice President Joe Biden would not meet with him. It still has not said who (if anyone) will be attending the annual summit this weekend of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the powerful pro-Israel lobby. [Update: Rice and Samantha Powers, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., will attend.] Then this week, National Security Advisor Susan Rice said Netanyhu’s speech was “destructive” to U.S.-Israeli relations — not “unhelpful” or any other boilerplate diplomatic language, but “destructive.”
Then Secretary of State John Kerry used his testimony on Wednesday to the House Foreign Affairs Committee to remind everyone that Netanyahu supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Never mind that Kerry was for it before he was against it — he noted that Netanyahu is a hysterical hawk and associated the Israeli prime minister with the most divisive foreign policy issue of the last generation. After all, everyone knows that there is little rank-and-file Democrats hate more than the Iraq War and those who egged the Bush administration on. (Kerry’s attack was all the more remarkable given the fact that his friendship with Netanyahu goes back to the 1970s.)
This is all bad news for those who believe that a U.S. accord with Iran would spell doom for Israel. But for those who believe that diplomacy and negotiations are far better than the alternatives, they might have partisanship to thank.
By: Ryu Spaeth, The Week, February 27, 2015
“Rolling Out The Welcome Wagon For The Bad Guys”: It May Be Speaker John Boehner And The GOP Who Do Not Love America
Rudy, oh dear Mr. Former Mayor, it seems that that you got it all wrong when you accused the president of not loving America. It’s so hard to watch you spout such stuff because you were such a respected man. In fact, you were one of the icons that had helped lead America through the tragedy of 9/11. Hope that the PR was worth it. Obama not only loves this country and its people dearly, but is doing his best to keep us safe.
If someone is guilty of not loving America, sadly it’s probably Speaker John Boehner together with the right wing of the House GOP. You know that actions speak volumes, and they appear to want to do this country great harm and jeopardize national security. This was the wrong message to send to our allies, and moreover, to our enemies. They have literally rolled out the welcome wagon for the bad guys worldwide. It’s like saying come on down, folks, because we don’t have our act together.
What an embarrassment he and his merry band of new legislators have wrought — before signing an eleventh hour reprieve of one week to cut off funding for the Department of Homeland Security. This makes you want to weep because it is politically motivated. It is no wonder that nationwide polling for Congress is in the toilet, and voter turnout was at an all-time low this past November. Former leader, Eric Cantor, must be breathing a deep sigh of relief or dancing a happy dance. It is despicable that the funding for the Department of Homeland Security is being held hostage, particularly during these times.
And sadly, it will only get worse next week with the Speaker’s scheduled visit to Congress of the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It has broken protocol with the White House and created a great big rift in the American Jewish community and between the members of the Congress — which was so unnecessary. The United States continues to be Israel’s strongest ally, and its support has never wavered. There is an old Yiddish saying which amounts to “don’t go looking for trouble because unfortunately it will find you.” So Speaker Boehner, maybe it’s okay that you and your cohorts don’t love America, but we beg – do no further harm.
By: Michelle Kraus, The Blog, The Huffington Post, March 1, 2015
“Obamacare By Any Other Name”: An Unnecessarily Complicated Way To Undo Harm Caused By A Crisis Of Their Own Creation
This is kind of brilliant; it might be the perfect illustration of the state of the modern GOP. The Examiner’s Byron York is reporting that a group of GOP senators is working on a plan to undo the damage that would be done if the Supreme Court rules against the government in King v. Burwell.
For those not familiar with it, the case, which the court will hear next week, turns on the question of whether people who buy health insurance in federal exchanges (in the 34 states that didn’t set up these Obamacare-mandated marketplaces) are eligible for tax subsidies to help pay for health care.
If the court does knock out the subsidies, it could cause havoc in insurance markets – a recent RAND Corporation study estimated that 8 million people could lose their insurance, while the American Academy of Actuaries warned Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell this week that companies could be facing insolvency if the King ruling drives the markets into death spiral territory.
So on the one hand conservatives would come close to achieving their goal of wrecking Obamacare at any cost; on the other hand, they’re starting to realize there would actually be, you know, a cost, both in human and political terms. “We’re worried about ads saying cancer patients are being thrown out of treatment, and Obama will be saying all Congress has to do is fix a typo,” one senior GOP aide told York. (No doubt the actual fact of cancer patients being thrown out of treatment would also be upsetting to this aid.)
So Republicans are looking for a way to restore the government expenditures they have worked so hard to eliminate. Well, not the actual expenditures; a totally different set that would perform the same function but – this is important – would be called something else that didn’t have the word “Obamacare” in it. “GOP lawmakers have decided to keep the money flowing,” York wrote. “Maybe the payments won’t be called subsidies, but they will be subsidies. The essence of Obamacare – government subsidizing the purchase of health insurance premiums – will remain intact.”
Of course, the senior GOP aide’s hypothetical Obama would be correct: All Congress would have to do to fix a harmful King decision would be to pass a law saying that people in the federal exchanges are in fact eligible for the subsidies. But the modern GOP isn’t big on taking the most direct route to the conclusion at which they’ll inevitably arrive. (See, for example, the current ritualistic huffing and puffing from House Republicans – yes, we’ve seen this show before – and various fallback positions en route to the inevitable full, clean funding of the Department of Homeland Security.)
This is the apotheosis of the 21st century GOP Congress: It is seeking an unnecessarily complicated way to undo or prevent harm caused by a crisis of its own creation. This is the fiscal cliff, again; this is the shutdown fight, again; this is the debt ceiling fight(s) all over again.
And it’s also important to keep in mind that this effort to undo the GOP’s avowed goal is angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin stuff. Five years on, the GOP has yet to produce a plan encompassing the latter half of their “repeal-and-replace” mantra; merely ensuring insurance for 8 million people is presumably an easier lift, but no one should hold their breath waiting for a unified Republican plan. This is especially true given that the party’s activist base will label any such effort as an embrace of Obamacare.
Probably nothing will see the light of day. But if the GOP can produce a bill to fix its problem, you can bet that first we’ll repeat the same kabuki where GOP hardliners dream up the demands they’ll make in exchange for ending ongoing harm to the economy. To borrow a maxim from “Battlestar Galactica,” all of this has happened before, and will happen again.
By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, February 27, 2015
“Strength, Toughness & Resolve Is All It Takes”: On Display At CPAC; How The Presidential Primary Makes GOP Candidates Simple-Minded
The Conservative Political Action Conference is always guaranteed to produce head-shaking moments, as one future presidential candidate after another tells the crowd of activists what they want to hear, and then some. It’s a concentrated version of the long Republican primary process, with everything that characterizes contemporary American conservatism cooked down to its viscous essence over the course of a few days.
You may have already heard about Scott Walker’s comments yesterday at the conference, in which he made an analogy between his fight to crush unions in Wisconsin and the fight against ISIS and other terrorist groups. I’ll get to that in a moment, but first I want to look at something Marco Rubio said this morning, because they go together in a way that tells us a lot about what we’re going to be hearing from these candidates for the next year and a half.
Speaking from the CPAC stage, Rubio said that “if we wanted to defeat [ISIS] militarily, we could do it.” But we haven’t done that, because President Obama “doesn’t want to upset Iran.” I’m sure many in the crowd nodded their heads. First you have the implication that despite the thousands of air strikes we’ve launched against ISIS, we’re not really trying to defeat them, and that doing so would be simple if only Obama had the backbone. But he won’t, because he’s so solicitous of another of our enemies, Iran. If you know that this president is a Muslim-coddling, terrorist-sympathizing weakling, it makes perfect sense.
But in reality, Iran, a Shiite country, despises the Sunni extremists of ISIS. ISIS threatens the government of Iraq, which is Iran’s ally (or lapdog, depending on how you look at it), which is why Iran has sent troops there to fight the terrorist group. Eliminating ISIS is exactly what Iran wants us to do.
Perhaps Marco Rubio understands that, and if given the chance he’d revise his comments. But doing so wouldn’t play too well with the people whose votes he needs, because it would be an acknowledgement that — guess what — things can get pretty complicated in the Middle East. We can be trying to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons yet still have shared goals with them when it comes to another issue.
That simplifying impulse is what got Walker in trouble, too. When he said yesterday in answer to a question about ISIS, “If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world,” the problem wasn’t, as many people said, that he was comparing Wisconsinites exercising their free speech rights in opposing his efforts to crush unions to brutal terrorists (he clarified later that that isn’t what he meant to say). The problem was that he was arguing that serious problems, whether it’s your own constituents who disagree with you or a terrorist organization, have essentially the same solution: strength, toughness, resolve. That’s all it takes, and he’s got it. He may not know a lot about foreign affairs, but he doesn’t need to know a lot about foreign affairs.
This is hardly new in the GOP. In 1964, Ronald Reagan said in a speech supporting Barry Goldwater, “They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong. There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right.” Republicans have seldom veered from the conviction that in foreign affairs in particular, there are nothing but simple answers.
The trouble is, we’ve seen where that gets you. George W. Bush knew in his gut that every problem had a simple answer. Just as Rubio sees Iran and ISIS in a fictional alliance, Bush thought that Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda must have been working together, because they’re all Bad Guys, right? And once we show our strength and resolve, the problems will melt before us. We all know how well that worked out.
Try to imagine a Republican presidential candidate who saw the world as a complicated place where sometimes we have to choose between bad options, being strong only gets you so far, and you have to consider the possibility that your actions could have unintended consequences. Would he be willing to say that to his party’s primary voters? Or would he tell them that actually, the answers are all simple, if only we have the courage to see them clearly and act?
I think we all know the answer to that. Campaigns in both parties are seldom going to be full of nuanced exploration of policy issues. But the GOP primary campaign forces its contenders to be particularly simple-minded, whether that’s who they really are or they’re just pretending.
By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, February 27, 2015