FEMA chief Craig Fugate and National Weather Service director Jack Hayes recently wrote an op-ed about preparations for hurricane season. They noted the coordinated efforts of “the entire federal family, state, local and tribal governments, the faith-based and non-profit communities, and the private sector.”
This wouldn’t be especially interesting, except as reader J.M. noted via email, Republican media outlets are apparently worked up about the phrase “federal family.”
Here, for example, is a Fox News report that ran on Monday:
[B]efore Irene fizzled, the Obama White House wanted to make sure that Irene was no Katrina and that, in fact, the president and his aides would be seen in compassionate command of the situation.
Hence the introduction of what may be the most condescending euphemism for the national government in its long history of condescending euphemizing: “federal family.”
This new phrase was supposed to, [Fox News’ Power Play] supposes, make anxious East Coasters feel the love of a caring federal government — tender squeeze from the Department of Homeland Security, a gentle embrace from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The phrase was a centrally distributed talking point, appearing in op-eds, press releases and statements from across the administration.
No major hurricane had hit the U.S. mainland in the Obama era, and the “federal family” had obviously been saving up a lot of new approaches to differentiate itself from the clan under President George W. Bush.
National Review’s Andrew McCarthy was also troubled by the “federal family” phrase, as was Doug Powers at Michelle Malkin’s site, though both appeared to be working from the assumptions of the Fox News report.
There’s just one problem: Fox News’ report is completely wrong and based on lazy assumptions, which could have been avoided if it had taken 30 seconds to check.
Fox News said the “federal family” phrase was “introduced” by the Obama administration, adding that it’s a “new phrase” intended to draw a distinction between Obama’s team and Bush’s. What Fox News didn’t bother to find out is that the Bush administration also used the “federal family” phrase, many times, as did the Clinton administration, many times. It simply refers to a group of federal agencies that work together on emergency response.
It’s not “new”; it wasn’t “introduced” by the Obama administration; it’s not part of a “condescending” liberal scheme to make Americans love the government; it has nothing to do with embarrassing the Bush administration, since the Bush team used the same rhetoric. Fox News just didn’t bother to get its facts straight before misleading its audience.
There’s a good reason those who rely on Fox News seem so confused, so often — they’re routinely lied to.
By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, August 31, 2011
I found a lot to disagree with in Thomas Friedman’s column today, but his criticism of the Republican Party’s base rings true.
The Tea Party … is so lacking in any aspiration for American greatness, so dominated by the narrowest visions for our country and so ignorant of the fact that it was not tax cuts that made America great but our unique public-private partnerships across the generations. If sane Republicans do not stand up to this Hezbollah faction in their midst, the Tea Party will take the G.O.P. on a suicide mission.
This strikes me as fair, and it got me thinking about a question a friend of mine asked me the other day: where are the “sane Republicans” willing to “stand up to this Hezbollah faction in their midst”? Where are Bob Dole and John Warner? Why can’t John Danforth and Colin Powell express their disapproval for what their party is doing? Maybe some of Reagan’s old guard, like Ken Duberstein, could speak up?
The party is not without elder statesmen and women. They couldn’t possibly see their party’s antics on Capitol Hill and feel a sense of pride. Maybe it’s time they say so?
A regular reader recently passed along this item from Robert Prather, published a week ago on the center-right Outside the Beltway blog, about his sense of what’s become of the GOP.
I’ve been moving to the left for a few years now, but these idiots are radicalizing me. I’ve never voted for a Democrat in my life (full disclosure: I didn’t vote the last two elections due to moving), but I doubt I’ll ever vote for a Republican again. They’re either stupid or evil, but either way they’re dangerous and bad for the country.
I don’t know much about Prather’s political background, and maybe he’s an anomaly. But shouldn’t there be a legion of Republicans — former office holders, party loyalists, life-long members, all of the above — who are sympathetic to this perspective?
We’re not talking about GOP officials taking a hard line on some random piece of legislation, or nominating some radical for a key public office. We’re talking about congressional Republicans who’ve decided to play a game of chicken with the full faith and credit of the United States — something no American institution has ever done in more than two centuries — and who are fully prepared to trash the constitutional principle next week as part of a hostage strategy gone horribly awry?
Are there no noteworthy Republicans watching this, willing to say, “My party is simply going too far”?
By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, July 27, 2011
Legal training is not a requirement to serve in Congress, although many of the members are, and have been, lawyers. Nor is it necessary for a House or Senate member to have served in another government post, although many have, and their experience at forging alliances and compromises has been helpful. We no longer have literacy tests for voters, a technique southern states used until the 1960s, effectively to disenfranchise African-American voters.
Yet, it might not be a bad idea to require incoming members of Congress to take a basic test in civics.
How else, other than an alarming misunderstanding of the basic of American government, to explain the effort of House Republicans to shut the Senate out of the budget process? Their sanctimoniously titled “Government Shutdown Prevention Act” would do just that, deeming that if the Senate failed to pass a measure to keep the government running amid the current budget dispute, that the House-passed version would become law.
The idea is bizarre on so many levels—not least because the Senate would actually have to pass the Government Shutdown Prevention Act for the House to assume a dictatorial role in one of the three branches of the world’s greatest democracy. The current fashion of anti-intellectualism in politics aside, do the House Republicans not understand the elementary-school fundamentals of how a bill becomes a law.
The freshman GOP lawmakers are annoyed with the Democratic-controlled Senate, this time for failing to cave in on the dramatic cuts the House Republicans want in the budget. Join the club, folks: The House has long been irritated by the Senate. Ask the House Democrats, who approved more than 300 bills in the last Congress that ended up dying in a Senate that failed to pass them or even consider them.
But the rudimentary lesson of lawmaking (FYI—a bill has to be passed by both the House and the Senate, then signed by the president, to become law. If the president vetoes a bill, each chamber of Congress must summon a two-thirds majority to override the veto) are nowhere near as important as the lesson about getting things done in a country of diverse interests. The Tea Party crowd ran campaigns of anger and frustration, blaming Congress for its failure to get balanced budgets and myriad other things. There’s a reason for that, and it’s not because members are stupid (they’re not, and some of them are absolutely brilliant) or lazy (they work longer hours than most Americans imagine) or weak. It’s because this is a country of wildly divergent attitudes and perspectives, reflected in the lawmakers those citizens send to Congress. The Tea Partyers believe they were sent to Washington with a mission, and they likely were. So were Nancy Pelosi and other liberal members whose constituents have drastically different perspectives than those in the Tea Party team’s districts. And their views are no less valid.
Legislating requires compromise, and compromise is hard, especially during times of economic stress. Being a congressman is a difficult job, forcing them to balance their districts’ needs with the national interest. The new members signed up for this job. They should do it.
By: Susan Milligan, U.S. News and World Report, April 1, 2011
Everybody has questions and anxieties about our policy in Libya. My own position is this: I oppose the policy the Obama administration has described in various public statements. I support the policy the administration is actually executing.
The intellectual, cultural and scientific findings that land on the columnist’s desk nearly every day.
The policy the administration publicly describes is constricted and implausible. The multilateral force would try to prevent a humanitarian disaster from the air, but then it remains maddeningly ambiguous about what would happen next: what our goals are; what our attitude toward the Qaddafi regime is; what an exit strategy might be.
Fortunately, the policy the Obama administration is actually implementing is more flexible and thought-through.
It starts with the same humanitarian purpose. People sometimes think of President Obama as a cool, hyper-rational calculator, but in this case he was motivated by a noble, open-hearted sentiment: that the U.S. cannot sit by and watch tens of thousands of people get massacred when it has the means to prevent it.
President Obama took this decision, I’m told, fully aware that there was no political upside while there were enormous political risks. He took it fully aware that we don’t know much about Libya. He took it fully aware that if he took this action he would be partially on the hook for Libya’s future. But he took it as an American must — motivated by this country’s historical role as a champion of freedom and humanity — and with the awareness that we simply could not stand by with Russia and China in opposition.
In this decision, one could see the same sensitive, idealistic man who wrote “Dreams From My Father.”
As president, of course, one also has to think practically. The president and the secretary of state reached a hardheaded conclusion. If Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi is actively slaughtering his own people, then this endeavor cannot end with a cease-fire that allows him to remain in power. Regime change is the goal of U.S. policy.
There are three plausible ways he might go, which inside the administration are sometimes known as the Three Ds. They are, in ascending order of likelihood: Defeat — the ragtag rebel army vanquishes his army on the battlefield; Departure — Qaddafi is persuaded to flee the country and move to a villa somewhere; and Defection — the people around Qaddafi decide there is no future hitching their wagon to his, and, as a result, the regime falls apart or is overthrown.
The result is a strategy you might call Squeeze and See. The multilateral forces ratchet up the pressure and watch to see what happens. The Western nations are reaching out to senior Libyan figures to encourage defection (the foreign minister has already split, and more seem to be coming). There is an effort to broadcast television signals into Libya to rival state TV. In the liberated areas, the multilateral alliance is sending aid to build civil society and organize the political opposition. The U.S. is releasing billions of confiscated Libyan dollars to the opposition to ensure its staying power.
Eric Schmitt had a fabulous piece in The Times this week detailing what the air assault actually involves. It’s not just hitting Libyan air defenses. It also involves psychological warfare inducing Libyan soldiers to defect. It involves messing with Libyan communications systems, cutting off supply lines and creating confusion throughout the command structure.
All of this is meant to send the signal that Qaddafi has no future. Will it be enough to cause enough defections? No one knows. But given all of the uncertainties, this seems like a prudent way to test the strength of the regime and expose its weaknesses.
It may turn out in the months ahead that we simply do not have the capacity, short of an actual invasion (which no one wants), to dislodge Qaddafi. But, at worst, the Libyan people will be no worse off than they were when government forces were bearing down on Benghazi and preparing for slaughter. At best, we may help liberate part of Libya or even, if the regime falls, the whole thing.
It is tiresome to harp on this sort of thing, but this is an intervention done in the spirit of Reinhold Niebuhr. It is motivated by a noble sentiment, to combat evil, but it is being done without self-righteousness and with a prudent awareness of the limits and the ironies of history. And it is being done at a moment in history when change in the Arab world really is possible.
Libyan officials took Western reporters to the town of Gharyan this week to show them the grave of a baby supposedly killed in the multilateral bombing campaign. But the boy’s relatives pulled the reporters aside, David D. Kirkpatrick reported in The Times. “What NATO is doing is good,” one said. “He is not a man,” another whispered of Qaddafi. “He is Dracula. For 42 years it has been dark. Anyone who speaks, he kills. But everyone wants Qaddafi to go.”
By: David Brooks, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, March 31, 2011