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How A Birther Thinks: A Demonstration

Mike Huckabee’s defenders have made much of the fact that he’s never endorsed the idea that President Obama wasn’t born in the United States. Therefore, he’s not a “birther” and his comments on a conservative radio show earlier this week are those of a man who either “didn’t mean it” and “clearly misspoke” or who is guilty of an “odd” but relatively benign ignorance about Obama’s biography.

As I’ve noted, these defenses fall flat on several levels. Even if you put the birther issue aside, It should be obvious that Huckabee didn’t just misspeak when he claimed that Obama grew up in Kenya; after all, he went into detail about the effect that a Kenyan upbringing filled with stories from relatives about the horrors of British colonial rule and the glory of the Mau Mau uprising would have had on Obama’s worldview and his actions as president today. Nor is this benign ignorance akin to (as Dave Weigel suggested) Obama being fuzzy on the details of Huckabee’s life story. Obama, to my knowledge, is not promoting an inflammatory indictment of Huckabee’s basic worldview and policy instincts that is based on an entirely and laughably false understanding of the circumstances of his upbringing.

Then there’s the matter of birtherism. Yes, it’s true, Huckabee is not claiming that Obama was born in Kenya — or in Indonesia or in any country other than the United States. But, as Jonathan Bernstein pointed out earlier this week:

This is where birtherism gets tricky. In its wildest forms, birtherism is about a massive conspiracy to install a conscious, deliberate enemy of the United States in the White House. It’s nice that Mike Huckabee doesn’t subscribe to that. But in its more plausible, and presumably more popular forms, it’s really just a way of saying that Barack Obama isn’t a “real” American.


Which brings me to the e-mails we’ve been receiving in response to our coverage of Huckabee, which (as you might have noticed) has been on the critical side. Plenty of readers are upset with Huckabee’s comments, to be sure, but I’ve also noticed an unusually large number of virulently anti-Obama e-mails written in Huckabee’s defense. I’ll readily admit that I don’t know any of the people who are sending these individually; for all I know, some or all of them are fake. But I’ve gotten so many expressing the same basic sentiments that I think it’s worth running one in its entirety:


Where were you when Obama had to think so hard that it hurt-his-brain when he stated he went to 57 states in his campaign?

You continued supporting Obama and covering up his mistakes because of his skin color.

Because you are white, You are So Racist and bigoted and can’t help it.

So why should you worry when someone thinks Obama was born in Kenya—especially when the Kenyan official government states he was born there.

Instead, Obama claims to be born in the last state to enter the Union, so how could Obama claim 57 states?

Is it because he is stupid?

Since you never brought it up, you must agree with someone that ignorant and stupid.

And why does Indonesia have a school enrollment certificate that categorically states Obama is a Muslim? And why can Obama recite the muslim evening call to prayer from memory if he is a Christian, but he is a member of the “God Damn America” church of the most reverend Wright.

You can deny facts all you want, just like the hide the decline global warmest conspirators but that does not make you right.

Smug maybe, because you like attacking selected people because you are bigoted and racist.


Again, I don’t know the person who sent this to me. Who knows — it could be a mischievous liberal having some fun by assuming the voice of a right-winger. But the points this e-mailer makes are representative of the points that many, many others have expressed to me this week. In that sense, I think this e-mail demonstrates how Huckabee’s comments — even though they didn’t endorse birtherism in any literal sense — encourage the exact kind of attitude that has led a majority of Republicans likely to participate in next year’s primaries to express doubt over whether their president was even born in this country.

Note that the e-mailer didn’t get the part where Huckabee resisted endorsing full-on birtherism. “[W]hy should you worry when someone thinks Obama was born in Kenya?” he/she asks. And note how quick the e-mailer is to latch onto the false equivalency that Huckabee has been promoting since the interview blew up — that he committed a “slip of the tongue” no different from the slip of the tongue Obama committed as a candidate in 2008 when he said he’d visited 57 states. The difference between these episodes, as I noted yesterday, ought to be blindingly obvious.

Not all of the anti-Obama e-mails I received this week were as specific and detailed as this one. But almost all of them seemed to be written with the conviction that the president of the United States is a fundamentally un-/anti-American figure. Yes, the slice of the Republican Party base that actually bothers to send e-mails to Salon writers is very, very small. But the basic feelings expressed to me this week are more widespread. What Huckabee has done is to reinforce those feelings.

By: Steve Kornacki-News Editor, Salon, March 3, 2011

March 3, 2011 Posted by | Bigotry, Birthers, Racism | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Republicans Stampede Toward The Cliff

Interesting findings from the NBC/WSJ poll. Asked about deficit reducing options, the options the public overwhelmingly favors are ones Democrats favor, and the options they overwhelmingly oppose are ones Republicans are promising to propose:

[The survey] listed 26 different ways to reduce the federal budget deficit. The most popular: placing a surtax on federal income taxes for those who make more than $1 million per year (81 percent said that was acceptable), eliminating spending on earmarks (78 percent), eliminating funding for weapons systems the Defense Department says aren’t necessary (76 percent) and eliminating tax credits for the oil and gas industries (74 percent).

The least popular: cutting funding for Medicaid, the federal government health-care program for the poor (32 percent said that was acceptable); cutting funding for Medicare, the federal government health-care program for seniors (23 percent); cutting funding for K-12 education (22 percent); and cutting funding for Social Security (22 percent).

But the public demands deficit reduction, right? Well, actually, they care more about jobs:

In the poll, eight in 10 respondents say they are concerned about the growing federal deficit and the national debt, but more than 60 percent — including key swing-voter groups — are concerned that major cuts from Congress could impact their lives and their families.

What’s more, while Americans find some budget cuts acceptable, they are adamantly opposed to cuts in Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security and K-12 education.

And although a combined 22 percent of poll-takers name the deficit/government spending as the top issue the federal government should address, 37 percent believe job creation/economic growth is the No. 1 issue.

Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who conducted the survey with Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, says these results are a “cautionary sign” for a Republican Party pursuing deep budget cuts.

He points out that the Americans who are most concerned about spending cuts are core Republicans and Tea Party supporters, not independents and swing voters.

“It may be hard to understand why a person might jump off a cliff, unless you understand they’re being chased by a tiger,” he said. “That tiger is the Tea Party.”

By the standards of these things, those are extremely sharp comments from McInturff. Leaders are usually more worried about internal threats than external threats. Boehner needs to make sure he doesn’t get deposed as speaker before he worries about winning a showdown with Democrats.

The specifics of the fight — Republicans promising to cut overwhelmingly popular programs, being willing to shut down the government, and pushing a plan that private analysts predict will reduce jobs — put them in a very tough position. Republicans are working really hard to buck each other up and ignore data about public opinion. Democrats have the upper hand here. President Obama may decide to cut a deficit deal, but both the politics and the policy say he should hand the Republicans their head first.

By: Jonathan Chait, The New Republic, March 3, 2011

March 3, 2011 Posted by | Deficits, Economy, Federal Budget | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No Glory For Governors Trying To Do The Right Fiscal Thing

If you want to get national attention as a governor these days, don’t try to be innovative about solving the problems you were elected to deal with – in education, transportation and health care. No, if you want ink and television time, just cut and cut and cut some more.

Almost no one in the national media is noticing governors who say the reasonable thing: that state budget deficits, caused largely by drops in revenue in the economic downturn, can’t be solved by cuts or tax increases alone.

There is nothing courageous about an ideological governor hacking away at programs that partisans of his philosophy, including campaign contributors, want eliminated. That’s staying in your comfort zone.

The brave ones are governors such as Jerry Brown in California, Dan Malloy in Connecticut, Pat Quinn in Illinois, Mark Dayton in Minnesota and Neil Abercrombie in Hawaii. They are declaring that you have to cut programs, even when your own side likes them, and raise taxes, which nobody likes much at all. Rhode Island’s Lincoln Chafee has warned of possible tax increases too.

Indeed, to the extent that Quinn received any national press coverage, he got pilloried in conservative outlets in January when he signed tax hikes that included a temporary increase in Illinois’ individual income tax rate from 3 percent to 5 percent.

Despite all the commotion around whether the federal government will shut down, the clamor in the states may be even more important than what’s happening in Washington, which is missing in action on the moment’s most vital fiscal question.

What states are doing to ease their fiscal agonies will only slow down our fragile economic recovery, and may stop it altogether. The last thing we need right now are state and local governments draining jobs and money from the economy, yet that is what they are being forced to do.

As the last three monthly reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed, an economy that created a net 317,000 private-sector jobs lost 70,000 state and local government jobs. Cutbacks are dead weight on the recovery.

In a more rational political climate, President Obama would have resurrected the lovely old Republican idea of federal revenue sharing. Washington should have continued replenishing state budgets for two more years, until we were certain the economic storms had passed. Instead, anything that might be called “stimulus” – “S” is now a scarlet letter in politics – was rejected out of hand.

The federal government could also help the states by picking up more of their Medicaid costs. In the long run, health-care spending should be a responsibility of the national government – as it is in almost every other wealthy democracy. A national commitment would end the specter of states forcing already financially beleaguered citizens off the health insurance rolls.

Such ideas are off the table because the current rage is not for figuring out how to make government work better – a cause that once united governors of both parties – but for cutting back even its most basic and popular functions.

Consider the new budget Gov. Scott Walker announced in Wisconsin on Tuesday. Among other things, he proposed cutting state aid to schools by $834 million over the next two years, a 7.9 percent reduction.

On top of that, Walker would make it harder for localities and school districts to make up for the shortfall by limiting their ability to raise property taxes. This isn’t about education reform. It’s about forcing larger class sizes, layoffs, reductions in extracurricular activities or cuts in teacher pay and benefits. But, hey, if it’s labeled “government,” let’s slash it.

What’s truly amazing, as reported recently, is the number of governors who are cutting taxes at the same time they are eviscerating programs. A particularly dramatic case is Florida’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott. He faces a $3.5 billion budget gap – and is pushing for $2 billion in corporate and property tax cuts.

Historically, times of fiscal stress forced states to make useful economies in programs that didn’t work or were not essential. But what’s happening in so many places now is a reckless rush to gut the parts of government that all but the most extreme libertarians support – and that truly deserve to be seen (one thinks of education and programs for poor children) as investments in the future.

And those governors doing the hard work trying to balance cutbacks and tax increases get ignored, because there’s nothing sexy about being responsible.

By: E. J Dionne, Op-Ed Columnist, The Washington Post, March 3, 2011

March 3, 2011 Posted by | Budget, Deficits, Economy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Hollow Cry of ‘Broke’

“We’re broke! We’re broke!” Speaker John Boehner said on Sunday. “We’re broke in this state,” Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin said a few days ago. “New Jersey’s broke,” Gov. Chris Christie has said repeatedly. The United States faces a “looming bankruptcy,” Charles Koch, the billionaire industrialist, wrote in The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.

It’s all obfuscating nonsense, of course, a scare tactic employed for political ends. A country with a deficit is not necessarily any more “broke” than a family with a mortgage or a college loan. And states have to balance their budgets. Though it may disappoint many conservatives, there will be no federal or state bankruptcies.

The federal deficit is too large for comfort, and most states are struggling to balance their books. Some of that is because of excessive spending, and much is because the recession has driven down tax revenues. But a substantial part was caused by deliberate decisions by state and federal lawmakers to drain government of resources by handing out huge tax cuts, mostly to the rich. As governments begin to stagger from the self-induced hemorrhaging, Republican politicians like Mr. Boehner and Mr. Walker cry poverty and use it as an excuse to break unions and kill programs they never liked in flush years.

On Wednesday, to cite just the latest example, House Republicans successfully pressured the Senate to approve a bill cutting $4 billion in spending just to keep the federal government from shutting down for the next two weeks. In a matter of days, the Senate will be forced to take up the House bill to make more than $61 billion in ruinous cuts over the next seven months, all under the pretext of “fiscal responsibility.” (At least the White House says it will be involved in the next round.) Many Republican governors are employing the same tactic.

But now voters are starting to notice the effects of these cuts and to get angry at the ideological overreach. A New York Times/CBS News poll published on Tuesday showed that Americans oppose ending bargaining rights for public unions by a majority of nearly two to one. And the poll sharply refutes the post-Reagan Republican mantra that the public invariably abhors all tax increases. Nearly twice as many people said they would prefer a tax increase to cutting benefits of public employees or to cutting spending on roads.

A Gallup poll last week showed that 61 percent of respondents nationwide reject Mr. Walker’s attempt to revoke collective-bargaining rights for public unions, including 41 percent of the Republicans polled. Like the Times/CBS poll, Gallup found a mixed result about the overall popularity of unions, suggesting that labor is on firm ground in defending its basic rights but still needs to negotiate with the public good in mind.

Before the union uprising, Wisconsin voters might not have noticed when Mr. Walker approved business tax cuts earlier this year that made his budget gap worse. But now, with his cries of being “broke,” they should listen more closely. On Tuesday, he unveiled a budget that would cut aid to school districts and local governments by nearly $1 billion over two years, while preventing those jurisdictions from raising property taxes at all to make up for the loss.

Perhaps because of the economic downturn, voting among union households was sharply down last November, which may help explain some of the Republican gains. Mr. Walker and his fellow Republicans, may wind up turning that around next year.

By: The New York Times, Editorial-Opinion Page, March 2, 2011

March 3, 2011 Posted by | Budget, Deficits, Economy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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