Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele appeared on msnbc yesterday, and when host Alex Wagner asked what kind of advice he’d give his party’s leaders in Congress, Steele offered some sound advice. “The first would be, ‘Get a grip,’” he said.
Steele’s comments came to mind after reading this report published last night by USA Today.
Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn warns there could be not only a political firestorm but acts of civil disobedience and even violence in reaction to President Obama’s executive order on immigration Thursday.
“The country’s going to go nuts, because they’re going to see it as a move outside the authority of the president, and it’s going to be a very serious situation,” Coburn said on Capital Download. “You’re going to see – hopefully not – but you could see instances of anarchy. … You could see violence.”
The far-right senator went on to say, “Here’s how people think: Well, if the law doesn’t apply to the president … then why should it apply to me?”
It’s hard to know what to make of such an odd perspective. If Coburn is correct, why weren’t there similar outbursts of anarchy and violence when Presidents Reagan and Bush took very similar executive actions? If the masses are so deeply concerned about separation of powers and the often-ambiguous lines surrounding executive authority, wouldn’t we have seen instances of pandemonium before?
As a practical matter, I’m not even sure how this would work. The Obama administration has limited resources, so it appears likely to prioritize deportations for criminals who entered the country illegally. So, in Coburn’s vision, anti-immigrant activists will become violent, perhaps literally rioting in the street, until more unobtrusive families are broken up?
Brian Beutler reminded Republicans overnight that “just because right-wingers are blind with rage doesn’t mean Obama’s immigration action is illegal.”
It turns out that the laws on the books actually don’t say what you might think they say. Other presidents have discovered this, too. And since nobody wants to write a “maybe I should’ve asked some lawyers first” mea culpa column, they shifted the debate from the terrain of laws to the murkier terrain of political precedent, norms, and procedure. […]
What’s new is that Republicans have perfected a strategy of rejectionism with the help of a media amplification infrastructure—Fox News, Drudge, Limbaugh—that the left hasn’t adopted and doesn’t yet enjoy. Rather than simply fight to reverse the policy in Congress and on the campaign trail—as liberals do when Republicans weaken environmental enforcement—the right can also now scream “Caesar!” without reference to any objective standards, and get a full hearing.
“Get a grip,” indeed.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, November 20, 2014
“Republicans Will Now Taste Their Bitter Harvest”: The “Party Of No” Has No Agreement On What Is Yes
In the early 3rd century B.C., after King Pyrrhus of Epirus again took brutal casualties in defeating the Romans, he told one person who offered congratulations, “If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined.” In his more sober moments, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), about to achieve his lifelong ambition of becoming Senate majority leader, may wonder whether he, too, has achieved a pyrrhic victory.
Republicans are still crowing about the sweeping victories in 2014 that give them control of both houses of Congress. They will set the agenda, deciding what gets considered, investigated and voted on. Their ideas will drive the debate.
But Republicans have no mandate because they offered no agenda. Republicans reaped the rewards of McConnell’s scorched-earth strategy, obstructing President Obama relentlessly, helping to create the failure that voters would pin on the party in power. But the collateral damage is that the “party of ‘no’ ” has no agreement on what is yes. Instead of using the years in the wilderness to develop new ideas and a clear vision, Republicans have used them only to sharpen their tongues, grow their claws and practice their backhands.
Republicans paid no penalty for obstructing every measure that might have given the recovery more juice, blocking even the infrastructure spending that has been a bipartisan response in every downturn. They paid no penalty for shutting down the government and forcing mindless austerity that cost jobs. They paid no penalty for their perfervid hysteria on foreign policy issues – screeching about phantom terrors of pregnant immigrants helping Islamic State terrorists and Ebola victims slip in the country to kill us here at home. They never needed to fill in the magic asterisks in Rep. Paul Ryan’s risible budgets, enabling him to deny the damage to Medicare, education, food stamps and the most vulnerable that his plans would require.
The result is that McConnell leads into a power a party truly unfit and unready to govern. Indeed, the wingnuts at its base want it only to dismantle, not to govern. As Terrance Heath reported, the ever-apoplectic Rush Limbaugh announced that Republicans have a mandate to “stop Barack Obama” and “were not elected to govern.” Fox News host Megyn Kelly fantasized that Obama would “offend” Republicans into impeaching him; Phyllis Schlafly argued the first priority should be blocking all Obama’s judicial nominees. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) pledged once more to repeal Obamacare. The dyspeptic Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) will use his chairmanship of the Armed Services Committee to demand more “boots on the ground” in Iraq and Syria, harsher sanctions to undermine negotiations with Iran and more macho posturing over Ukraine. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) will use his likely chairmanship of the Environment and Public Works Committee to deny the existence of catastrophic climate change even while allocating billions for cleanup in the wake of floods, droughts and storms to come.
McConnell portrays Republicans as ready to embrace a conservative Chamber of Commerce agenda, repaying the big money that helped bring them victory. This would include giving multinationals a massive tax break on money that they stashed abroad to avoid taxes, passing fast-track trade authority, pushing ahead the Keystone XL pipeline, weakening the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and repealing the tax on medical devices, first of the salami-style effort to slice up Obamacare.
But the zealots in the House and Senate expect more fire and less compromise. They want Obamacare repealed. They want the scorched-earth obstruction to continue: Obama’s nominations blocked, scandals real and delusional investigated, Dodd-Frank financial regulation reversed and taxes and domestic spending slashed.
It isn’t at all apparent that McConnell and Boehner can corral Republican majorities for any measures that Obama might accept. But even if McConnell could put the Chamber of Commerce’s bills on the president’s desk, one thing is apparent: None of these will do anything to address the profound crises the country faces. There is no relief for the sinking middle class and impoverished low-wage workers, no strategy for addressing climate change, no response to the destructive excesses of banks too big to fail.
McConnell won his majority by brilliantly waging a partisan, dishonest, unrelenting policy of obstruction. But now, the absence of any ideas or of any clue will be exposed. And next time, when voters sensibly want to throw the bums out, they may have a far clearer view of just who the bums are.
By: Katrina vanden Heuvel, The Washington Post, November 11, 2014
“Under the Dome”: How The Conservative Media Are Keeping The GOP From Moving Past The Same-Sex Marriage Debate
Over the weekend, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee issued a call to arms to conservatives not to give up the fight against same-sex marriage, based on his bizarre belief that no decision of the Supreme Court has the force of law unless Congress passes legislation to confirm it. Because of that, Huckabee says, the fight can continue unhindered no matter what the court does. “I’m utterly disgusted with fellow Republicans who want to walk away from the issue of judicial supremacy just because it’s politically volatile,” he said. “Here’s my advice: Grow a spine!” Huckabee’s legal analysis may be idiosyncratic (to put it kindly), but his position — that this isn’t a fight conservatives should abandon just because they’ve nearly lost it — is one with plenty of purchase among the Republican faithful. And he’s hardly the only one with a media pulpit from which to preach it. In fact, the division within the GOP has a parallel in the conservative media. The presence of hard-liners (or dead-enders, if you prefer) like Huckabee is going to make it all the more difficult and painful for the party to evolve in the way its more sober strategists know it must.
Conservatives worked very hard over a period of decades to build up their own media to serve as an alternative and a counterweight to a mainstream press they saw as biased against them. This project was spectacularly successful, particularly with the explosion of right-wing talk radio in the 1980s and early 1990s, and the launch of Fox News in 1996. It wasn’t until the last couple of years that people began questioning whether it was doing the movement more harm than good by encasing conservatives in a self-reinforcing bubble from which it became increasingly difficult to see the outside world clearly.
Just as there are divisions within the GOP, there are divisions within the conservative media. And just as the party’s conservatives make it hard to make strategically necessary shifts — or simply avoid moving too far to the right — the continued power of hard-line media figures can keep the party from modernizing.
Since 2012, Republicans have been fretting about how they can “reach out” to minority groups, particularly Latinos, in order to widen their appeal beyond the older white folks who are the core of the party. The trouble is that it’s hard to reach out when elected officials within your party keep loudly proclaiming their anti-immigrant views. The same is true on gay marriage. The party’s national strategists would like nothing better than for the issue to go away. They know that the policy outcome is inevitable and public opinion is not turning back, so there’s little point in mounting some kind of rear-guard action against it, one that will only make the party look outdated and out of touch. But as Greg and I both pointed out last week, potential future presidential candidate Ted Cruz is going to force a debate on it in 2016 whether other Republicans like it or not.
Some parts of the conservative media will do the same thing. Eric Boehlert of Media Matters observes that in most of its programming, Fox News has all but stopped talking about same-sex marriage. But that’s not going to silence Huckabee (whose show runs on Fox on the weekends), or Rush Limbaugh, or many of the other radio hosts with huge audiences. As long as they press the issue, the Republican base will still demand that candidates proclaim their objections to the changes taking place in the country, and the harder it remains for the party to move past its vehement opposition to marriage equality. Everyone knows that evolution will have to take place eventually, but the conservative media have the power to make the transition inordinately painful.
Fox’s abdication of the marriage issue demonstrates that the network functions as the semi-official organ of the Republican Party. Roger Ailes may be in business to make money, but he won’t do so in ways that harm the interests of the GOP. The same, however, can’t be said of everyone with a large conservative audience. On a whole range of domestic issues, from immigration to marriage equality to reproductive rights, they’re going to continue pulling the party to the right even when it has to turn back to the center or risk electoral disaster (like, say, the election of a certain former secretary of state to the White House). Conservative media have been great at keeping the rabble angry and excited, getting them to the polls and getting them to open their wallets. But when the party needs to take a cold hard look at reality and evolve or get left behind, the same media are going to be an albatross holding it back.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect; The Plum Line, The Washington Post, October 13, 2014
One afternoon two weeks ago, I did my best to calm a friend who’d become fearful that her son would contract Ebola in Syria. The young man had enlisted in the National Guard. She knew the U.S. was bombing ISIS terrorists there, and that people were talking about “boots on the ground.” She thought she’d heard about a Syrian Ebola outbreak on TV.
Because others were listening, I didn’t want to embarrass her. I suggested she’d misheard a reference to Sierra Leone, a tiny country in the tropical forest of West Africa where the Ebola epidemic rages — thousands of miles from Syria, which borders on Israel. The road to Damascus and all that.
The Bible reference helped. A guy in a John Deere cap backed me up. Syria was definitely not in Africa. My friend was mollified.
I’m sure she’s heard plenty more about Ebola since then, possibly even about Sierra Leone, a nation of which most Americans have zero knowledge. A lifelong map nut, I’d have had to search for it myself.
Although my friend is an intelligent person with a lively wit, it wasn’t her ignorance of geography I found so surprising. After all, polls showed only 17 percent of Americans could locate Iraq on a map back when the U.S. invaded in 2003. Rather, it was her unreasoning dread of Ebola, a tropical disease wholly limited at that time to three countries in West Africa.
Now that a single Ebola victim from neighboring Liberia has made his way to Dallas, isn’t that fear more justifiable? Shouldn’t we be running around with our hair on fire like the talking heads on cable TV? Isn’t it time for our government to do something drastic, such as banning all travel from West Africa to prevent Ebola-stricken refugees from bringing this terrifying plague to America?
Actually, no and no. Freaking out never helps when there’s real danger. For once, I felt sympathetic toward Gov. Rick Perry, who, because the Liberian victim ended up at Texas Health Presbyterian in Dallas, was compelled to act like a competent government official instead of a carnival barker.
“Rest assured that our system is working as it should,” Perry said during a hospital press conference. “Professionals on every level of the chain of command know what to do to minimize this potential risk to the people of Texas and this country.”
Of course that wasn’t strictly true. Due to a communications snafu too common in hospitals, the first physician who examined the victim wasn’t told he’d traveled from Liberia, misread the chart, and bungled the diagnosis.
But that still doesn’t mean the sky is falling. Medical experts agree that while deadly in Third World environments, Ebola is both treatable and relatively hard to catch. Patients aren’t contagious until they’re visibly ill. Even then direct contact with a symptomatic person’s bodily fluids — saliva, vomit, stool, urine, etc. — is necessary. Unlike a cold, it can’t be transmitted through the air.
Writing in The New Yorker, brilliant surgeon and author Atul Gawande documents a South African case in which some 300 hospital workers treated an undiagnosed Ebola patient for 12 days without contracting the disease.
Isolate patients, monitor their intimate contacts, dispose of their waste properly, and Ebola can be stopped. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) the likelihood of a mass Ebola outbreak in the United States is remote.
Perhaps that makes the disgraceful performance of so many self-styled “conservative” pundits and GOP politicians a bit less disturbing. Going all Chicken Little and doing everything possible to use a public health crisis for partisan ends would be even more contemptible if the danger were as great as they pretend.
As usual, Fox News personalities led the charge. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee sought to use Ebola to foment petulant mistrust of government in general and President Obama in particular.
It all somehow reminded him of Benghazi.
“The Ebola scare,” Huckabee claimed “goes to the heart of a simple question: do you trust the government. Audience, do you trust the government?”
Fox News and ABC News contributor Laura Ingraham hosted crank medical conspiracy theorist Dr. Elizabeth Vliet, who accused Obama of downplaying Ebola for political reasons. Rush Limbaugh suggested that the president sees Ebola as a punishment for slavery, and won’t ban travel to and from West Africa out of political correctness.
Several GOP politicians, including Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, have suggested basically quarantining entire countries, a “solution” that sounds sensible until you think about it for 30 seconds.
For example, would that mean volunteer doctors, nurses, missionaries and soldiers couldn’t come home? And then what? A catastrophically worsening epidemic in Africa, that’s what.
I’ll say this too: If Ebola were happening, in say, Denmark or Belgium, we’d be having a far saner conversation.
But then it couldn’t, which is part of the point.
By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, October 8, 2014
Two years ago this week, the nation’s unemployment dipped below 8% for the first time since the start of the Great Recession. Almost immediately, Republicans were outraged – the good news couldn’t be real, they said, but rather must be the result of an elaborate conspiracy.
Friday we learned that the nation’s jobless rate has dipped even lower, dropping below 6% for the first time in over six years. Rush Limbaugh told his audience that the 2012 data was “entirely made up” and “artificially manufactured,” and the 2014 data is worse.
“[T]his today is just as illegitimate. This 5.9% number is even more illegitimate than the 7.9% number. There’s no way that this country has an economy producing jobs with an unemployment rate of 5.9%. It just isn’t happening…. [I]t isn’t real.”
Over the course of two years, from Jack Welch to Rush Limbaugh, we just haven’t seen much in the way of progress on the scourge of denialism among President Obama’s critics.
Indeed, this has come up quite a few times. Whenever the economy improves, a few too many on the right don’t celebrate; they reflexively deny the evidence and point to a conspiracy that exists only in their imaginations.
I’m reminded of this piece from Alex Seitz-Wald, now an msnbc colleague, written when Fox News first began pushing these conspiracy theories in earnest: “If it weren’t improper to psychologically analyze strangers, one might think the Fox hosts are displaying a textbook example of cogitative dissonance here, a psychological phenomena in which people who hold a strong belief about something, invent (sometimes farfetched) explanations for new evidence that conflicts with their existing views. Obama is bad for the economy, the jobs numbers show the economy is doing better, so there must be something wrong with the jobs numbers.”
If nothing else, Limbaugh’s assessment was helpful in its candor: in his mind, there’s just “no way” that reality is real. It can’t be real, therefore, it’s not real, evidence be damned.
I can appreciate where the denial comes from. Republicans just know that last year’s tax increases on the wealthy are slowing the economy; they just know that “Obamacare” is destroying the job market; they just know federal regulations are strangling economic vitality.
And when reality presents proof that they’re mistaken, well, reality must be wrong, too. “Those Chicago guys” must be at it again.
The right was so certain the Affordable Care Act would fail that it literally couldn’t believe the enrollment numbers. The right was equally certain that Mitt Romney was cruising towards a landslide victory, so it seemed obvious to them that pollsters conspired to ensure that survey results were “skewed.”
Climate data is politically inconvenient, so it must be rejected. The job numbers are politically inconvenient, so they must be ignored, too.
Such systemic hostility towards empiricism just isn’t healthy.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 6, 2014