When John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman join forces, you can be sure of one thing: It will involve state-sponsored violence. Today, they want us to arm Syrian rebels. Though, you know, what they really wanted to call for was actually bombing the hell out of Syria, until there is freedom. They’re just taking it slow.
The Senate’s three most predictable and least credible warmongering “moderates” frequently join forces to publish joint Op-Eds or hold press conferences and the one thing they always, invariably want is for the United States to have just a little bit more war than it currently has, somewhere far away. Sure, we could draw down in Iraq … or we could listen to McCain, Lieberman and Graham and draw back up. We could draw down in Afghanistan … or we could stay the course and keep sending troops there until we win! Americans may be tired of endless war with no coherent goal, but on the other hand, “only decisive force can prevail in [whatever country John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Joe Lieberman are talking about now].”
As the Hill recently explained in a story on how John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman were pushing for a resolution basically promising to make war with Iran, “Graham, Lieberman and McCain are considered some of the top foreign policy experts in the upper chamber,” because they always, invariably support military intervention everywhere for any reason, and that is invariably considered a sign of “seriousness” in Washington. If you don’t like waging wars everywhere, forever, you are a weird kooky hippie, and everyone laughs at you. If you believe that bombs and troops have the power to magically solve all problems, you are invited on all the Sunday shows every week to offer your sober analysis of the foreign situation.
You just never know which country these three will decide needs bombing next! One time the three amigos also took a trip to Tripoli to hang out with Moammar Gadhafi. (They invited Susan Collins along, though usually their sleepover parties are strictly “no girls allowed.”) Sadly, by April of last year, they were no longer friends with Gadhafi, and the three had decided that the United States should assassinate him. (That is not really legal but, you know, “war on terror” and “serious, muscular foreign policy” or something.)
One time Lieberman and Graham tried to hang out with a different senator and they all came up with an idea that didn’t involve bombing anyone but that made McCain mad and he yelled at them. Don’t hang out with John Kerry and try to solve climate change! Hang out with me and let’s try to convince everyone to bomb Russia or something!
Sadly, Joe Lieberman will be leaving the U.S. Senate soon, which means John McCain and Lindsey Graham will need to find a new fake-Democrat best friend to add a patina of “bipartisanship” to their endless demands for explosions and shooting and death.
By: Alex Pareene, Salon, March 29, 2012
If you keep trying something and it doesn’t work and you are a rational person, you change course. President Obama is a rational person. His rip-roaring budget speechwas a rational response to the failures of the past eight months. Republicans accused him of “class warfare” because he said the rich should pay more in taxes. When Republicans start saying “class warfare,” it almost always means that a Democrat is doing something right.
Obama’s aides insist that the president had little choice until now but to try to conciliate with the Republicans because they held in their hands the power to cause enormous damage. Obama made the budget deal early this year, they say, because he thought it would be bad for the economy to start off the new Congress with a government shutdown. And he had to make a debt-ceiling deal because the country couldn’t afford default. Now, they say, he has the freedom to bargain hard, and that’s what he doing.
There is something to this, although it doesn’t take into account other moments when the president engaged in a strategy of making preemptive concessions, giving away stuff before he even negotiated. (I’d argue that this tendency goes all the way back to the stimulus package.) But for now, it’s simply a relief for many — especially for the people who support the president — to see him coming out tough and casting himself as someone with a set of principles. And it was a political imperative, too. His image as a strong leader was faltering, and he was starting to lose support within his own party. He can’t win in 2012 (or govern very effectively before the election) if he looks weak and if his own party is tepid about him. On Monday, he began to solve both problems.
And as Ezra Klein and Greg Sargent point out, Obama may get more done by starting from a position of strength — by stating flatly and clearly what he’s seeking — instead of beginning with concessions and then having to concede even more. In the recent past, he allowed Republicans to control the terms of the debate. This time, he’s trying to set them. That’s usually a better way to get something closer to what you actually want. The Republican cries about “class warfare” reflect their awareness that if Obama can get them into an argument over why they don’t want to raise taxes on the wealthy, the GOP starts out behind.
Obama will get grief in some quarters over two decisions for which I think he deserves credit. The first was his giving up, for now at least, on the idea of raising the age at which Americans are eligible for Medicare to 67 from 65. The original rationale was that Americans in the age category who could not get private coverage would pick it up through the Affordable Care Act and its subsidies.
Put aside that (1.) it’s very hard for anyone to get affordable health insurance coverage once they pass 55 or 60, and (2.) we shouldn’t be doing anything that risks increasing the number of uninsured. The fact is, we don’t even know yet if the Affordable Care Act will survive long enough to take effect in 2014. We don’t know what the courts will do. And we don’t know if the president will be reelected. A Republican president with a Republican Congress will certainly try to repeal the law.
If the new health system takes effect, and if it can be strengthened with time, it may well make sense to move the younger and more affluent among the elderly to the new plan. (And who knows? Someday we may have a comprehensive national insurance plan.) In the meantime, let’s keep people in that category covered by keeping them in Medicare. There will be plenty of time to revisit the issue of health-care costs. It’s an issue we’ll be revisiting for years, maybe decades, anyway.
Obama is also getting hit for using the end of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to count up $1.1 trillion in savings. You can argue about how the math works, but I like the fact that this makes clear that there are big costs to continuing our interventions. It challenges those who say we should draw down our troops more slowly to come up with ways of paying for the wars. We should have passed a temporary war tax long ago. Obama is once again making clear that the days of putting wars on a credit card are over.
By: E. J. Dionne, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, September 20, 2011
Former U.S. president George W. Bush. (REUTERS) Former President George W. Bush might want to drop the superlatives.
In what is at least his second foot-in-the-mouth moment recalling the toughest moments of his presidency, Bush has said “the most nervous moment” of his presidency was throwing the ceremonial first pitch at the 2001 World Series.
According to an interview Bush gave to the producers of “Beyond 9/11: Portraits of Resilience,” a TIME documentary that aired over the weekend, and a clip provided by Gawker, the former president said:
The adrenaline was coursing through my veins, and the ball felt like a shotput. And Todd Greene, the catcher, looked really small. Sixty feet and six inches seemed like a half-mile. And anyway, I took a deep breath and threw it, and thankfully it went over the plate. The response was overwhelming. It was the most nervous I had ever been. It’s the most nervous moment of my entire presidency, it turns out.
The statement was reminiscent of another by Bush last year, in which he said the worst moment of his presidency is when rapper Kanye West called him a racist. “It was a disgusting moment, pure and simple,” Bush had said. “I didn’t appreciate it then [and] I don’t appreciate it now.”
Bush was referring to a Hurricane Katrina live telethon appearance by West in 2005, in which the performer launched into a an angry diatribe about race and aid efforts, including the accusation: “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”
The Guardian pointed out at the time that the comment came in spite of Bush having led “the U.S. into war and presiding over the beginnings of one of the greatest financial disasters in history.”
This time, Gawker provides a laundry list of things Bush should have found more nerve-wracking than a baseball pitch, including receiving a warning that Osama bin Laden was going to strike the United States or authorizing the torture of detainees in U.S. custody. “That was some … pitch, though,” Gawker writes sarcastically.
By: Elizabeth Flock, The Washington Post, September 12, 2011
After we honor the 10th anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, we need to leave the day behind. As a nation we have looked back for too long. We learned lessons from the attacks, but so many of them were wrong. The last decade was a detour that left our nation weaker, more divided and less certain of itself.
Reflections on the meaning of the horror and the years that followed are inevitably inflected by our own political or philosophical leanings. It’s a critique that no doubt applies to my thoughts as well. We see what we choose to see and use the event as we want to use it.
This does nothing to honor those who died and those who sacrificed to prevent even more suffering. In the future, the anniversary will best be reserved as a simple day of remembrance in which all of us humbly offer our respect for the anguish and the heroism of those individuals and their families.
But if we continue to place 9/11 at the center of our national consciousness, we will keep making the same mistakes. Our nation’s future depended on far more than the outcome of a vaguely defined “war on terrorism,” and it still does. Al-Qaeda is a dangerous enemy.
But our country and the world were never threatened by the caliphate of its mad fantasies.
We asked for great sacrifice over the past decade from the very small portion of our population who wear the country’s uniform, particularly the men and women of the Army and the Marine Corps. We should honor them, too. And, yes, we should pay tribute to those in the intelligence services, the FBI and our police forces who have done such painstaking work to thwart another attack.
It was often said that terrorism could not be dealt with through “police work,” as if the difficult and unheralded labor involved was not grand or bold enough to satisfy our longing for clarity in what was largely a struggle in the shadows.
Forgive me, but I find it hard to forget former president George W. Bush’s 2004 response to Sen. John Kerry’s comment that “the war on terror is less of a military operation and far more of an intelligence-gathering and law-enforcement operation.”
Bush retorted: “I disagree — strongly disagree. . . . After the chaos and carnage of September the 11th, it is not enough to serve our enemies with legal papers. With those attacks, the terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States of America, and war is what they got.” What The Washington Post called “an era of endless war” is what we got, too.
Bush, of course, understood the importance of “intelligence gathering” and “law enforcement.” His administration presided over a great deal of both, and his supporters spoke, with justice, of his success in staving off further acts of terror. Yet he could not resist the temptation to turn on Kerry’s statement of the obvious. Thus was an event that initially united the nation used, over and over, to aggravate our political disharmony. This is also why we must put it behind us.
In the flood of anniversary commentary, notice how often the term “the lost decade” has been invoked. We know now, as we should have known all along, that American strength always depends first on our strength at home — on a vibrant, innovative and sensibly regulated economy, on levelheaded fiscal policies, on the ability of our citizens to find useful work, on the justice of our social arrangements.
This is not “isolationism.” It is a common sense that was pushed aside by the talk of “glory” and “honor,” by utopian schemes to transform the world by abruptly reordering the Middle East — and by our fears. While we worried that we would be destroyed by terrorists, we ignored the larger danger of weakening ourselves by forgetting what made us great.
We have no alternative from now on but to look forward and not back. This does not dishonor the fallen heroes, and Lincoln explained why at Gettysburg. “We can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow this ground,” he said. “The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.” The best we could do, Lincoln declared, was to commit ourselves to “a new birth of freedom.” This is still our calling.
By: E. J. Dionne, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, September 7, 2011
Buried in this Saturday’s Washington Post Metro section was a short piece about the request from conservative Virginia Republican Gov. Robert McDonnell for $39 million in federal disaster relief for his state.
This was an initial request for 22 localities in Virginia hard hit by Hurricane Irene. According to the article, other local governments can request more aid and, in addition, McDonnell also asked for Hazard Mitigation Assistance for all Virginia localities.
This comes from a governor who, along with his Republican congressional counterpart Eric Cantor, rails against Washington and “government spending.”
What makes this quite interesting is the position taken by Cantor last week on Federal Emergency Management funding for disasters. We have had a record 66 natural disasters this year and Hurricane Irene was one of the 10 most costly ever.
Cantor, whose district was hit hard by the earthquake and the hurricane, has said that any spending for FEMA should be tied to cuts elsewhere, dollar for dollar, “Just like any family would operate when it’s struck with disaster,” says Cantor. Funny, that is not how he felt back in 2004 when he appealed for money for his district after another hurricane and voted against the amendment by Republican Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas to do require offsets.
Did Eric Cantor ask for dollar for dollar cuts to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Did he ask for dollar for dollar cuts to pay for the Bush tax cuts for the millionaires and billionaires? Did he ask for dollar for dollar cuts to pay for increases to homeland security? How about border agents?
Another very conservative congressman from Virginia, Leonard Lance, totally disagrees with Cantor. Help is needed now. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, no friend of government spending, talks as though Eric Cantor has lost his marbles: “Our people are suffering now, and they need support now. And they [Congress] can all go down there and get back to work and figure out budget cuts later.”
It is time for a host of protesters to go to Cantor’s district office and call him on his absurdity. Does he believe we should help the victims of these disasters? Is that what government has done for over 200 years? Does he just want to play politics and delay help? Does he represent the people of Virginia? Does he care about the others who have been the victims of tornadoes and floods across this country?
It reminds me of a Senate debate where a certain Republican from Idaho was complaining about a bill that included funding for rat control in New York City.
“In Idaho, we take care of our own rats,” to which the New York senator replied, “In New York, we take care of our own forest fires.”
That about sums it up.
By: Peter Fenn, U. S. News and World Report, September 6, 2011