By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, January 26, 2012
Yesterday rocker Ted Nugent announced that he would attend President Obama’s State of the Union speech — and then hold a press conference afterward to comment.
Nugent will attend at the invitation of Republican Congressman Steve Stockman of Texas. But the message he sends is toxic for the Republican Party.
Ted Nugent is a board member of the NRA — and an avid spokesman for the right of every American to buy, carry and use military style weapons. Graciously, he will arrive at the capitol without military style weapons. He told the New York Times he would “go in at least 20 pounds lighter than I normally walk,” … “I will be going in sans the hardware store on my belt. I live a well-armed life, and I’ve got to demilitarize before I go.”
He will be attending the State of the Union speech along with 100 relatives of the victims of gun violence invited mainly by Democratic Members of Congress and sponsored by Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Among them will be former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords who was almost killed in a gun attack in Tucson.
The contrast could not be starker. During last year’s Presidential campaign Nugent said:
“If Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.”
In 2007 he said:
“I think that Barack Hussein Obama should be put in jail. It is clear that Barack Hussein Obama is a communist. Mao Tse Tung lives and his name is Barack Hussein Obama. This country should be ashamed. I wanna throw up,” he said, adding “Obama, he’s a piece of s**t. I told him to suck on my machine gun.”
As for his view of women:
“Obama, he’s a piece of shit. I told him to suck on my machine gun. Hey Hillary,” he continued. “You might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless bitch.”
“What’s a feminist anyways? A fat pig who doesn’t get it often enough?”
In a 1994 Rolling Stone interview Nugent said:
“You probably can’t use the term `toxic c**t’ in your magazine, but that’s what she is. Her very existence insults the spirit of individualism in this country. This bitch is nothing but a two-bit whore for Fidel Castro.”
On Asians and “foreigners” in general:
“…Yeah they love me (in Japan) — they’re still assholes. These people they don’t know what life is. I don’t have a following, they need me; they don’t like me they need me… Foreigners are a******s; foreigners are scum; I don’t like ‘em; I don’t want ‘em in this country; I don’t want ‘em selling me doughnuts; I don’t want ‘em pumping my gas; I don’t want ‘em downwind of my life-OK? So anyhow, and I’m dead serious…”
And then there are his comments on race:
“My being there (South Africa) isn’t going to affect any political structure. Besides, apartheid isn’t that cut-and-dry. All men are not created equal.”
“I use the word n****r a lot because I hang around with a lot of n****rs, and they use the word n****r, and I tend to use words that communicate,” he said.
Let’s just say that Ted Nugent is not the face of the new Republican Party “brand” that many Republican leaders have been trying so desperately to project since their November election disaster.
Nugent presents the same problem for Republicans as Todd Aiken did when he explained how the female body shut down pregnancies that resulted from “legitimate rape.” Even though many Republicans don’t entirely agree with people like Nugent and Aiken, their comments are toxic for the Republican Party brand. They drive away women, African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, young people.
And when it comes to the issue of gun violence, who would you rather have as your spokesperson, Gabby Giffords or Ted Nugent? Which of these two do you think would poll more favorably among the vast majority of Americans?
Nugent’s mouth is like a machine gun that riddles his own troops with friendly fire. The problem is that it is very hard for the Republican establishment to stop people like Nugent and Aiken. In fact tonight, we will be treated not only to the traditional Republican response to the State of the Union address — but two additional Republican responses: one by Tea Party Senator Rand Paul and the other by ultra-extremist Ted Nugent.
From Nugent’s point of view, it makes perfect sense to grandstand at the State of the Union and to go around making violent, outrageous statements. It drives his popularity and visibility among the narrow strata of the population that share his point of view — his fan base.
Recently the NRA posted a video that criticized the President for having tougher security for his children than ordinary people have for their kid’s schools. Most people thought the commercial was over the top — that bringing the President’s children into the political debate was out-of-bounds — and was ineffective in moving persuadable voters.
But that wasn’t the point. The video was not intended to persuade. It was intended as red meat for NRA supporters. It was intended to recruit members, raise money and mobilize the NRA’s base.
And that is the Republican problem — with the gun violence issue and so many others.
Tea Party activists have every incentive to stoke the anger of their base, make outrageous statements, and mount primary challenges that drive the Party out of the country’s mainstream — even though those actions simultaneously weaken the attractiveness of Republican Party candidates in general elections. And worse yet for the Republicans, those actions destroy their chances of attracting young people who will determine the Party’s future.
In the near term, people like Ted Nugent are dangerous to a Democratic society. Ted Nugent is a hateful, demagogic figure that builds his own career by belittling and attacking others. In hard times, his scapegoating and racism can find a following.
But every time Nugent opens his mouth he also helps to create lifelong Progressives who would never dream of being associated with the hatred he espouses — or with the political party that countenances him.
The Republican establishment funded and fueled the revival of the Tea Party after Barack Obama was elected. They did everything they could to legitimate otherwise fringe points of view. Now they are paying the price.
What is it they say about riding the tiger? The odds are good that you might be consumed by it. Or in the case of Nugent perhaps the better analogy would be a mountain lion. Nugent was once quoted saying:
“Vegetarians are cool. All I eat are vegetarians — except for the occasional mountain lion steak.”
By: Robert Creamer, The Huffington Post, February 12, 2013
If you heard a loud “gulp” Tuesday night after President Obama’s State of the Union address, it probably came from Republican political strategists as they realized their party’s odds of capturing the White House this fall are getting longer. Obama may be no Ronald Reagan, but he’s no Jimmy Carter, either.
The obligatory list of accomplishments and initiatives was embellished with bits and pieces of what will likely be Obama’s standard campaign speech. At the heart of his argument for a second term is his assertion that the American dream of upward mobility has been hijacked — that the rich and the powerful have rigged our economic and political systems to favor their interests over those of the average citizen.
Obama sounded this theme several times, perhaps most effectively when he decried policies that allow billionaire Warren Buffett to pay a lower income-tax rate than does his longtime secretary, Debbie Bosanek, who sat with first lady Michelle Obama in her box Tuesday night:
“We don’t begrudge financial success in this country. We admire it. When Americans talk about folks like me paying my fair share of taxes, it’s not because they envy the rich. It’s because they understand that when I get a tax break I don’t need and the country can’t afford, it either adds to the deficit or somebody else has to make up the difference — like a senior on a fixed income, or a student trying to get through school, or a family trying to make ends meet.
“That’s not right. Americans know that’s not right. They know that this generation’s success is only possible because past generations felt a responsibility to each other, and to the future of their country, and they know our way of life will only endure if we feel that same sense of shared responsibility.”
There are some Republicans who can’t wait to take the issue of Buffett’s tax rate vs. Bosanek’s head-on. They are eager to argue that one of the world’s richest men deserves to pay a lower rate because his income derives from job-creating investments. These Republicans presumably consider his secretary a mere salaried employee who spends her money on such fripperies as, you know, food, shelter, clothing and transportation.
“The issue I think that’s going to play out this election is that question of Warren Buffett’s secretary,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said Wednesday on CNN. “We want her to make more money, we want her to have more hope for the future. . . . [But] this notion that somehow the income that Warren Buffett makes is the same as a wage income for his secretary, we know that’s not the same.”
In other words, it’s not just that the rich are better than the rest of us but also that their money is better than our money.
Is this really an argument the Republican presidential nominee is going to make? Not in so many words, surely. Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum seem to understand that taking Cantor’s line would constitute political malpractice.
Mitt Romney may get it, too, but he has little room to maneuver. Romney’s wealth must be very special, indeed, to deserve vacations in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands, where he likes to park his money. But I digress.
Perhaps more of a political problem, from the GOP’s point of view, is Obama’s riff on shared responsibility. Republicans seem eager to double down on a “greed is good” ethos that has more resonance when the economy is booming, real estate values are soaring and everybody feels rich. Obama, by contrast, envisions a return to an America where the successful and fortunate lend a helping hand to those down on their luck, rather than coldly leave them behind. This seems much more in tune with the times.
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, delivering the Republican response, offered an alternative that many voters might find cogent and unthreatening. He didn’t provide a lot of new ideas — basically, Daniels supports the same laissez-faire policies that got us into this crisis — but at least he didn’t sound like some kind of Ayn Rand acolyte who believes that economic Darwinism must always be allowed to run its course.
Daniels isn’t running for president, though, and the pragmatic conservatism he described — one that imagines a role for government — is out of touch with the radicalism that dominates his party. The Republicans who are running the party laugh at the concepts of fairness and collective responsibility. Soon they may find the joke’s on them.
In Tuesday night’s State of the Union Address, President Obama called on the Senate to “put an end” to the unprecedented obstruction of his judicial and executive branch nominees, insisting that “neither party has been blameless in these tactics.” He was right to call out the problem, but he was wrong that it’s a bipartisan issue. It’s fine for the president to be magnanimous, but the fact is only one party has systematically held hostage even the most basic tasks of governing in the hopes of making minor political gains. And that party is not the president’s.
The nominations crisis that we face today exists largely because it can easily fly under the radar—and the GOP politicians behind it know that. This Republican Congress’s intransigence has caused harm beyond the very public battles over the debt ceiling and tax cuts for millionaires. Under the unglamorous cover of judicial and executive branch confirmations, the Senate GOP has launched a campaign of strategic obstruction to prevent parts of the federal government from functioning at all.
This became clear in the relatively public battle to confirm Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Senate Republicans admitted they had no problem with Cordray himself. Instead, all but two stated in a letter to the president that they would refuse to confirm him unless the new, congressionally created agency he was nominated to head was first substantially weakened. It was an unprincipled attempt to legislate via the Senate’s power of advice and consent, which the president rightly sidestepped by installing Cordray with a recess appointment.
But the Cordray nomination was just the tip of the iceberg. With far less public attention, the GOP has been decimating the nation’s courts, causing the judicial branch to face a historic vacancy crisis and Americans seeking their day in court to face unconscionable delays. This crisis is largely due to the chronic inaction of the Senate, which has been crippled by the Republican minority’s abuse of the chamber’s rules to block even consensus nominees from getting a yes-or-no vote.
More than 10 percent of all district and circuit court seats in the country are now or will soon be vacant, in what is the longest period of historically high vacancy rates in 35 years. Thirty-two of these open seats have been labeled “judicial emergencies” by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. The term isn’t bureaucratic hyperbole. As the number of criminal cases surges—a 70 percent increase in the past decade—civil cases are necessarily put on the back burner, resulting in often years-long delays for Americans seeking justice in consumer fraud, copyright infringement, discrimination, civil rights, and other civil claims. Judges in their 80s and 90s have continued working to keep the system running. One told the Washington Post last year, “I had a heart attack six years ago, and my cardiologist told me recently, ‘You need to reduce your stress.’ I told him only the U.S. Senate can reduce my stress.”
Outside of the Senate, there’s near-unanimous agreement that the current pattern of obstruction needs to end. Legal groups and prominent judges across the political spectrum—including Chief Justice John Roberts—have urged that partisan politics be set aside for the good of the justice system. But instead, Senate Republicans have dug in their heels. Once being confirmed by the Judiciary Committee—usually without opposition—President Obama’s circuit court nominees have waited a staggering average of 136 days for a vote from the full Senate, compared to just 30 days for President Bush’s nominees at the same point in his presidency. For district court nominees, historically confirmed quickly and easily except under the most extraordinary of circumstances, the average wait after committee approval has been 90 days under Obama, in contrast to 22 days under Bush. Even among the nominees who were fortunate enough to be confirmed last year, more than a quarter were holdovers from 2010, denied votes from the full Senate until the year after they were approved by the Judiciary Committee.
Meanwhile the dry numbers of the vacancy crisis obscure its devastating impacts. Cases that require urgent resolution face grueling delays and occasionally put on indefinite hold. In Utah, Dave Calder’s two-year-old daughter died in 2005, when a gas can exploded inside his trailer, leaving him with severe burns over a third of his body. After he sued the maker of the faulty can in 2007, he had to wait two and a half years for a jury verdict. In Merced, California, 2,000 citizens who filed suit over toxic chemical contamination stemming from a 2006 flood are still awaiting resolution, and only one civil trial has been held in the matter.
Republicans in this Congress have again and again put the politics of obstruction over the good of the American people. President Obama was right to call out the problem, but he should have put a name to it. Americans deserve a Senate that, at the very least, does the basic job it was hired to do. When it comes to confirming nominees, it is clear which party has been shirking its duties.
By: Marge Baker, U. S. News and World Report, January 27, 2012
The State of the Union was upbeat and positive, and that’s saying a lot from me, a pessimist. Now I know those on the right will tell you everything that was wrong with the president’s speech; heck, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Gov. Mitt Romney told America what they thought of the president’s speech before he even uttered a word!
Personally, I felt the president hit it out of the park—his best State of the Union speech and hopefully his fourth, not his last.
Starting out with thanking the U.S. military, he pointed out that for the first time in nine years we’re no longer in Iraq, and more importantly, that we’re safer and we’re more respected throughout the world. And of course, there was the huge applause when he mentioned that for the first time in over two decades, we’re no longer fearful of the wrath of Osama bin Laden.
I personally loved when the president referred to how our military operates, and how we as a nation and how the government should operate: focus on the mission at hand and do it working together. With the lowest approval rating of Congress ever and polls showing that Americans clearly want both sides of the aisle to work together to get things done, the president, I believe, was speaking to all Americans and to all of our frustrations with our government.
I also liked how the president painted a picture of what could be. He pointed out America’s values; except for one remark about the administration that preceded him, he didn’t blame former President Bush, which I found refreshing and necessary.
He was bold when he specifically stated that the banks were wrong and irresponsible in lending money to people who couldn’t afford to pay it back.
He gave facts about job loss: 4 million jobs lost before he entered office, millions more before his policies were implemented.
I found that the president was being humble when he spoke of the jobs that businesses created–not he, his administration, or Congress.
When the president spoke of American values, it didn’t have to do with church or religion; it had to do with our work ethic—from American manufacturing to GM regaining its title as the number one automaker in the world. Even the Republicans had to clap on that one.
And for a president who is constantly accused of wanting to tax America to death, he was talking about a lot of tax credits going around: tax credits for making products here in America, tax breaks for small business owners—rewarding those who keep and develop jobs here, and stopping the rewards going to companies that send their jobs overseas. (Sidenote: Eric Cantor looked angry about that–hmm…)
Then the president went on to other things America values, other things that make our nation great, and what could make us greater: education. He linked education with the ability to increase a person’s income in the future. And he made it personal when he spoke of every person in the chamber who has a teacher they liked, remembered, etc. I found myself nodding at that remark.
He reached out to Hispanics with the DREAM act, although never mentioning it by name. He touched the unions in speaking about manufacturing, teachers, and the auto industry. And he even gave a shout out to us ladies with the desire for us to earn equal pay for the jobs we do that men do. (Woo hoo!)
The bottom line is, although this speech is about governing, it is a campaign year. I felt the president reminded Americans of where we are, how far we’ve come, and where we could be headed with him at the helm. He spoke of the facts rather than the fiction Americans so often hear in the media. And if America were a ship, he showed us with his words that he is more than up to the task of being the ship’s captain for the next four years.
By: Leslie Marshall, U. S. News and World Report, January 25, 2012
The most important figure in Tuesday night’s State of the Union address wasn’t on the House floor. In fact, he hasn’t taken a seat in front of the chamber in 13 years.
But as he campaigned for the Republican presidential nomination in Florida, former House speaker Newt Gingrich was doing more to boost President Obama’s reelection prospects than anything Obama himself could do.
Obama’s address, which marked the unofficial start of his campaign, aimed to take the economic misery that threatens to doom his reelection and turn it into class resentment: the privileged wealthy against ordinary Americans. “We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by,” he said, in remarks prepared for delivery. “Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”
Gingrich assisted in making this case by helpfully arranging for Republicans to serve as fat-cat foils. The former speaker, whose allies had already branded Mitt Romney a job-destroying “predatory capitalist,” successfully goaded the former Massachusetts governor into releasing tax returns that reveal him to be making millions of dollars per year from investments and paying paltry tax rates — while tucking money in the Cayman Islands, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac stock and a Swiss bank account. Gingrich exulted Tuesday that the already rich Romney is “getting richer off Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.”
Romney, suddenly faltering in his bid for the nomination, found himself declaring in Florida on Tuesday that “banks aren’t bad people” — a version of his earlier claim that “corporations are people.” He continued to characterize Gingrich as an “influence peddler,” a tool of K Street and an exorbitantly compensated Freddie Mac lobbyist. Gingrich’s campaign, in turn, answered with the implausible claim that it “can’t find” all of the lucrative contracts the candidate had with Freddie. (Did they look under the sofa cushions?)
Obama strategist David Axelrod couldn’t have arranged it better: On the very day the president tried to turn the campaign into a contest between the 1 percent and the 99 percent, the Republicans launched an all-out war between the Gingrich haves and the Romney have-mores.
A new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows the damage done. Two weeks ago, Romney was viewed favorably by 39 percent of Americans and unfavorably by 34 percent. Incredibly, he is now viewed favorably by only 31 percent and unfavorably by 49 percent. Among independents, who will decide the outcome in November, Romney is viewed unfavorably by a margin of 2-to-1.
By no coincidence Obama has grown in public esteem over that time. His favorable rating is up to 53 percent from 48 percent in December, and his unfavorable rating has dropped to 43 percent from 49 percent.
Gingrich himself remains so unpopular that his own chances of beating Obama seem dim: His 29 percent favorability rating is about where it was before he was dumped as speaker by his House colleagues in 1998. But by making Romney as unpopular as he is, he has made Obama look good by comparison.
Gingrich has long regarded himself as a “transformational figure” in world history, and now he’s about to prove it: For the second time in his career, he is about to reelect a Democratic president.
After he led Republicans to victory in 1994 and became House speaker, his ill-advised standoff with President Bill Clinton led to a government shutdown and allowed Clinton to rebound to an easy reelection in 1996. Now, just two years after Republicans swept to power in the House, Gingrich is again providing a Democratic president with an unexpected path to victory.
To press his Gingrich-given advantage Obama made plans to highlight the “Buffett Rule” and invited to the speech Warren Buffett’s secretary, who supposedly pays a higher tax rate than Buffett does. “Let’s never forget,” Obama said in his prepared text, “millions of Americans who work hard and play by the rules every day deserve a government and a financial system that do the same. It’s time to apply the same rules from top to bottom: No bailouts, no handouts, and no cop-outs.”
But it was hardly necessary for Obama to make the case. Gingrich had already turned the Republican candidates into a club of coddled millionaires.
By: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, January 24, 2012