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“No Hope Or Maturity”: The United States Congress, A Confederacy of Losers

On Sunday, Senator Joe Manchin (L-West Virginia) took to the floor of the United States Senate to issue a dramatic understatement of the obvious, saying, “ It is absolutely inexcusable that all of us find ourselves in this place at this time … with no plan and no apparent hope.”

While Senator Manchin’s remarks were intended to express the frustration and annoyance that so many Americans are feeling today, I note that his comments were ‘understated’ because, were he to actually say what many Americans of all political stripes are feeling, he would have found it completely impossible to avoid using the word ‘losers’ in his presentation.

This is, after all, what the legislative body of the world’s greatest superpower has become—a confederacy of losers.

With less than 24 hours remaining in a fiscal cliff drama that anyone and everyone should, by now, recognize as having become all about a craven need for attention being acted out by a bunch of people all too willing to make us pay for their never having been quite popular enough in high school, it should be clear that—no matter what sort of agreement these folks might manage to concoct before midnight tonight, if any—Congress has failed and failed in truly epic fashion.


If you doubt this for a moment, I offer up yesterday’s Sunday morning television talk show circuit as Exhibit A.

On a Sunday morning where every single, solitary elected official drawing a federal paycheck should have been locked inside the U.S. Capitol or the White House busily engaging in the process of finding a solution, there was no shortage of politicians who found time to parade themselves before the cameras for the purpose of repeating accusations of blame that have been overused to the point where the sting of recrimination was long ago lost.

It began with President Obama’s appearance on “Meet the Press” where he devoted far too much of the interview placing the blame for this travesty onto the shoulders of the Congressional Republicans.

As much as I might agree with the President—and I do—I’ve done enough negotiating to know that if you really want to get to a deal, you are going to find it extremely counter-productive to throw accusations and blame into the air during the final hours of the negotiation. Every moment of Obama’s interview would have been better spent selling his fellow Americans on why his approach is the best path for the nation to take.

Naturally, the Congressional Republicans—for whom “maturity” is as much a four-letter word as “compromise”— could not help but take the bait as they fanned out through the TV landscape to hurl accusations at the President.

My favorite pre-school tongue lashing came from the mouth of Senator John Barrasso (L-Wyoming) who, appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union”, chiming in with, “The president is doing nothing about the addiction that his administration has to spending. He’s the spender in chief.”

Is anyone else troubled by the fact that this childish bit of overused hyperbole is the best one of our elite group of 100 can muster at a time of national trouble?

Even those politicians clever enough to keep their mugs off the screen—so as to at least appear to be working on a deal—had to be heard.

Speaker John Boehner (L-Ohio) could not resist returning the President’s fire with a statement reading, “I am pleased Senators from both parties are currently working to find a bipartisan solution that can finally pass that chamber. That is the type of leadership America needs, not what they saw from the president this morning.”

One would think that Speaker Boehner and his staff would have had more important things to do on this particular Sunday morning than wasting time engaging in a useless school yard fight.

After watching these elected officials publicly waste their time and our tax dollars filling the Sunday morning airwaves with recriminations, I could not help but draw a comparison between these Congressional losers posing on Sunday morning television and those who do their jobs in the public view after the talk shows end and the remainder of a Sunday’s entertainment begins.

How, I wondered, would we respond if NFL players behaved like our elected officials?

Make no mistake-Congress is a team, even if it is one filled with players with differing points of view when it comes to the game plan. I know it is difficult to view them in this manner, as one can barely remember a time when Congress played like a team, but that is precisely what they are intended to be.

Imagine if players on an NFL squad behaved like those who comprise the team we call the United States Congress. Imagine how you would feel if the players on an NFL team went into a critical game more focused on laying blame on team members in anticipation of a loss than coming together to accomplish a critical win?

This would be completely unacceptable to any NFL fan.


Because even if you hate the quarterback, you are always going to root for the team to win.

For the simple reason that we would never tolerate it, player behavior that is commonplace in Congress is exceedingly rare in the NFL. It is rare because we expect—and we get—more professionalism, maturity and team play from our football players than we do from our elected officials.

No matter what your political preferences, that is a fact that should deeply disturb you.

Now, if you’ve noticed that throughout this article I have replaced the traditional “R” and “D” party identification that typically follows the name of an elected officials (ie. (R-OH) with a designation of “L”—rest assured that these were not typos.

Until our elected officials grow up and accept the responsibility that comes with holding power—whether they be Republicans or Democrats—I prefer to give them the designation they truly deserve—“L” for loser.

I suggest you do the same.


By: Rick Ungar, Contributor, Forbes, December 31, 2012

December 31, 2012 Posted by | Congress | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Deeply Irresponsible”: It’s Clear Now Why The “Boehner Rule” Is Such A Terrible Idea

The GOP’s insistence on using the debt ceiling as “leverage” is deeply irresponsible.

But politics and philosophy aside, let’s quickly examine the practicality of the GOP’s stance in these negotiations.

In 2011, when the GOP made its debt ceiling stand, there emerged a concept now known as “The Boehner Rule” which basically says that any debt ceiling hike has to be matched dollar for dollar with cuts. So a $1 trillion hike to the debt ceiling must see $1 trillion in cuts, and so forth.

Already, everybody hates the fruits of the 2011 fight, because now we have the “sequester” which caps spending on defense and other domestic programs — which is something that everybody wants to undo.

But even though everyone hates what came out of the 2011 fight, the GOP is at it again.

Senator Bob Corker said this weekend that a good trade will be a debt ceiling hike for cuts to Medicare.

From Burgess Everett at POLITICO:

Tennessee Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander pitched a plan on Friday to cut federal spending by $1 trillion — much of it from Medicare — in exchange for increasing the nation’s borrowing limit by that amount. The plan would raise the Medicare eligibly age to 67 and require wealthier Medicare users to pay higher premiums. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has estimated extraordinary measures can push the necessity of Congress addressing the debt ceiling until perhaps February.

“Here we are on Dec. 29 without a serious proposal before us to deal with the biggest issue, which is entitlements,” Corker said. “There’s been a lot of discussions about figuring out a way to deal with the … revenue side and at least getting that portion out of the way. Since we know it’s going to happen either before the 31st or after.”

(As an aside, remember that less than two months ago, the GOP was still bashing Obama for Medicare cuts, so… yeah.)

Tonight Corker is talking about tying a debt ceiling hike to Social Security cuts.

So okay, let’s imagine Obama caves on this (something he’s already pledged not to do). So we hike the debt ceiling and cut medicare. Then in a year or so, we hike the debt ceiling again by another $1 trillion and cut Social Security. These programs can’t be cut forever. If we raise the Medicare eligibility age to 67 now, we’re not going to come back and raise it to 68 or 69 the next time the debt ceiling fight comes up.

There just aren’t that many times you can keep squeezing another $1 trillion in spending cuts. The “Boehner Rule” might give you a couple of whacks, but as an actual policy it will quickly fail.

So practically, risking the U.S. full faith and credit every time this comes up, to being able to agree on new spending cuts is unrealistic. And as a matter or principal it’s awful.


By: Joe Weisenthal, Business Insider, December 30, 2012

December 31, 2012 Posted by | Budget | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Choir Preaching Problem”: The GOP’s Lost Year In The Fox News Bubble

Suffering an election hangover after having been told by Fox News that Mitt Romney’s victory was a sure thing (a “landslide” predicted by Dick Morris), some Republicans have promised to break their addiction to the right-wing news channel in the coming year. Vowing to venture beyond the comforts of the Fox News bubble, strategists insist it’s crucial that the party address its “choir-preaching problem.”

Good luck.

This grand experiment of marrying a political movement around a cable TV channel was a grand failure in 2012. But there’s little indication that enough Republicans will have the courage, or even the desire, to break free from Fox’s firm grip on branding the party.

For Fox News chief Roger Ailes, the network’s slash-and-burn formula worked wonders in terms of catering a hardcore, hard-right audience of several million viewers. (Fox News is poised to post $1 billion in profits this year.) But in terms of supporting a national campaign and hosting a nationwide conversation about the country’s future, Fox’s work this year was a marked failure.

And that failure helped sink any hopes the GOP had of winning the White House.

From the farcical, underwhelming GOP primary that Fox News sponsored, through the general election campaign, it seemed that at every juncture where Romney suffered a major misstep, Fox misinformation hovered nearby. Again and again, Romney damaged his presidential hopes when he embraced the Fox News rhetoric; when he ran as the Fox News candidate.

Whether it was botching the facts surrounding the terrorist raid on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, parroting the Fox talking point about lazy, shiftless voters who make up “47 percent” of the electorate, or Romney’s baffling embrace of reality TV show host-turned Fox News pontificator Donald Trump, the Republican candidate did damage to his chances whenever he let Fox News act as his chief campaign adviser.

Fox viewers didn’t fare much better. Fed a year’s worth of misinformation about the candidates, and completely misled about the state of the race (all the polls are skewed!), Fox faithful were left crushed on Election Night when Romney’s fictitious landslide failed to materialize.

“On the biggest political story of the year,” wrote Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic, “the conservative media just got its ass handed to it by the mainstream media.”

Indeed, Fox’s coverage of the campaign has been widely panned as an editorial and political fiasco. The coverage failed to move the needle in the direction of its favored Republican candidate, and the coverage remained detached from campaign reality for months at a time. (Megyn Kelly in July: The Obama campaign is “starting to panic.” That was false.)

Following another lopsided loss to Obama, Republican strategist Mike Murphy urged Republicans to embrace a view of America that’s not lifted from “Rush Limbaugh’s dream journal.” (The Fox News dream journal looks nearly identical to Limbaugh’s.)

And San Francisco Chronicle columnist Jon Carroll wondered if Romney’s defeat marked the end of a Fox News era:

You had to wonder about Fox. This is the third presidential election in which Fox has been a major player, and the Democrats have won two of them. A combination of big money and big propaganda was supposed to carry the day for Romney and the Republicans, but it didn’t. Could it be that the Fox model has played out?

Is the Fox model of a cable paranoia played out in terms of ratings? It is not. Is the Fox model of cable paranoia played out as an electoral blueprint? It sure looks that way.

Of course, conservatives should have thought that through before handing over the control of a political movement to Ailes and his misinformation minions. They should have thought twice about the long-term implication of having irresponsible media outlets like Fox supersede leadership within the Republican Party, and should have figured out first if Fox News had an off switch to use in case of emergencies.

It doesn’t.

Yet as Fox News segued into the de facto leader of the Republican Party, becoming the driving electoral force, and with Ailes entrenched in his kingmaker role, candidates had to bow down to Fox in search of votes and the channel’s coveted free airtime.

And Andrew Sullivan noted in January:

The Republican Establishment is Rush Limbaugh, Roger Ailes, Karl Rove, and their mainfold products, from Hannity to Levin. They rule on the talk radio airwaves and on the GOP’s own “news” channel, Fox.

There’s a reason New York magazine labeled Ailes “the head of the Republican Party.” And that’s why a GOP source told the magazine, “You can’t run for the Republican nomination without talking to Roger Every single candidate has consulted with Roger.”

That meant campaigns were forced to become part of the channel’s culture of personal destruction, as well as to blanket itself in Fox’s signature self-pity. (Here was Mitt Romney adopting the right-wing whine that the conspiratorial press was out to sink his campaign.)

Still, the right-wing bubble was a comfortable place to inhabit if you thought of Obama as an historic monster, or if you required to be reminded of that fact many time a day, every day of the year. The bubble is the place where followers for four years were fed the feel-good GOP narrative about how Obama’s presidency was a fiasco, that the Americans suffered a severe case of 2008 buyer’s remorse, and that the president’s re-election defeat was all but pre-ordained.

The one-part-panic, one-part-denial message may have cheered obsessive Obama-haters, but it didn’t prepare conservatives for the reality of the campaign season. And it cost the GOP a lost year in the Fox News bubble.


By: Eric Boehlert, The Hufington Post Blog, December 30, 2012

December 31, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Leaping Lizards And Other Reptiles”: Senate Showdown Set For Today On Fiscal Cliff

Fiscal talks took a step backwards earlier today when Republicans insisted on including chained CPI in the agreement. A Senate Democratic aide told me this afternoon, “We believed it was mutually understood that chained CPI was off the table for a smaller-scale agreement, and see Republicans’ continued insistence on including it as a major setback.”

Democrats held firm, and soon after, GOP members backed off — at least on this one provision.

Negotiations over a last-ditch agreement to head off large tax increases and sweeping spending cuts in the new year appeared to resume on Sunday afternoon after Republican senators withdrew a demand that any deal must include a new way of calculating inflation that would lower payments to beneficiary programs like Social Security and slow their growth.

Senate Republicans emerged from a closed-door meeting to say they agreed with Democrats that the request — which had temporarily brought talks to a standstill — was not appropriate for a quick deal to avert the tax increases and spending cuts starting Jan. 1.

To hold the line against raising taxes on high-income households while fighting for cuts to Social Security was “not a winning hand,” said Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona.

Imagine that. Republicans were, in effect, arguing, “We’ll raise middle class taxes unless Democrats accept Social Security cuts.” It would seem “not a winning hand” is an understatement.

But while the GOP’s shift in posture helped keep the talks from collapsing entirely, the remaining areas of disagreement — estate taxes, the sequester, extending jobless benefits, a debt-ceiling extension — have not been, and may ultimately not be, resolved.

With this in mind, the stage has been set for an interesting Senate showdown tomorrow.

On the one hand, there are the ongoing efforts to reach a compromise. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had nothing more to offer Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), so the Republican has now begun negotiating with Vice President Biden.

If they can work something out — what such an agreement might look like is hard to imagine at this point — the bill would be brought to the Senate sometime after 11 a.m. tomorrow. And if it were to pass, the House would have a half-day, or perhaps a little less, to consider the agreement, bring to the floor, and vote on it.

On the other hand, if no Senate deal emerges, Reid will take President Obama’s advice, bring the White House’s original offer — lower rates on income up to $250,000 and extended unemployment benefits — and dare Senate Republicans to filibuster it.

And what about the House? Leaders in the lower chamber aren’t saying much at this point, in large part because they have no idea what the Senate will do, but the House is already prepared to waive its three-day rule — the measure intended to give members time to read a bill before voting on it — and House Speaker John Boehner has already committed to both sides that he will bring to the floor any bill that passes the Senate.

We’ll know a bit more by morning.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 30, 2012

December 31, 2012 Posted by | Senate | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Collection Of Nutballs”: Republicans Still Can’t Grasp Why They Lost

One of the latest tidbits from Tiger Beat On The Potomac is that the Republican National Committee is going to convene a gathering of its wisest heads to try and determine what in the hell happened this year. This is my opinion — your party, in a perfect expression of everything that it has stood for over the past three decades, threw up a collection of nutballs, thereby making it inevitable that the guy with all the money whom nobody liked got to be the nominee. There. Can I have 150 large now?

The Growth and Opportunity Project is going to be chaired by RNC committee member Henry Barbour, longtime Jeb Bush adviser and political operative Sally Bradshaw, former George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer, Puerto Rico RNC committee member Zori Fonalledas, and South Carolina RNC member Glenn McCall. Priebus, who is running for a second term, is holding a call with committee members to roll out the plan this afternoon.

And there we have it, your Republican equivalent of the platoon in one of the old World War II movies — Haley Barbour’s nephew, C-Plus Augustus’s paid liar, a couple of ladies, one of them the lady from Puerto Rico at whom all the Ron Paul people yelled in Tampa, and a black guy from South Carolina. And all of them working (for the moment, at least) under the direction of obvious anagram Reince Priebus who, against all odds, has not yet been sent back to work the Notions counter at the five-and-dime in Mukwonago. And what will this group of super friends be about?

Still, the source insisted that “the GOP has problems but they are solvable. We have to look at what we are doing right and what we’re doing wrong and lay out our vision and plans for Americans so everyone knows what we stand for. 2010 was the biggest mid-term win for one party since the 1938 election. Our ideas still resonate, but we need to examine what’s working and what isn’t. We have 30 Governors right now, but we want to listen and learn so we do better in presidential years as well.”

It’s becoming increasingly clear to everyone, except this source, that the 2010 election now has all the historical aspects of the last-gasp of the old order. (The GOP seems to realize this, too, deep in its lizard brain. It is taking this whipping a helluva lot more seriously than it did 2006 or 2008. There seems to be no appetite for pure retrenchment this time around.) It seems still to have blinded the Republicans to the fact that, absent gerrymandering in the various state houses, their only chance in elections outside the deep South involving more than, say, 30,000 people is to do all they can to depress turnout, and this past election showed nothing if it didn’t show that the people are onto that particular game. Eventually, though, we get to the nub of their gist — the fact that those “ideas” that “still resonate” do so right now in echoes in which the country says almost as one, “Holy god, are you people kidding?”

Still, given the complaints about the party, the composition of the committee includes at least one Priebus ally – Barbour – and others with ties to Bush-world. It includes demographic diversity, but less so ideologically. Officials said the review will include a broad swath of people within the party, including donors and grassroots members, but it remains to be seen how conservative activists react.

I can tell you how they’re going to react. You’re seeing it now, as one generation of conservative grifters moves aside to make room for another, and as his caucus has John Boehner’s balls for breakfast. They’re going to go completely mad, and there’s nobody at the RNC, not even this new pet committee, that is going to be able to rein them in, because they are where all the party’s money and energy is right now. The party is all independent centers of power, many of them nutty, and all of them with their own agendas. That’s what’s going to happen. You can send my check along any time.


By: Charles P. Pierce, Esquire Politics Blog, December 11, 2012

December 31, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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