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“Really Retroactive Amnesia”: The Election Lindsey Graham Might Have Missed

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) didn’t seem especially thrilled with the bipartisan fiscal agreement negotiated by Vice President Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, but like nearly all of his colleagues, the South Carolina Republican grudgingly voted for it.

But once the fight was over, Graham quickly shifted his attention to the next looming crisis his party is eager to create, on everything from the debt ceiling to sequestration to funding the government itself.

[I]n early March would come another deadline: the $110 billion cut in spending, half from the Pentagon, delayed as part of this deal.

A month or so later — on March 27 — a short-term measure that funds government agencies will lapse. Without a renewal, the government will shut down, setting up another possible showdown.

“Round two’s coming,” said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.). “And we’re going to have one hell of a contest about the direction and the vision of this country.”

I feel like I hear this from GOP lawmakers fairly regularly: they keep creating crises, on purpose, because they’re eager for an epic fight over “the direction and the vision of this country.” At a certain level, that’s understandable — in a democracy, these fights over the future can be healthy and necessary.

But what Graham and too many of his allies seem to forget is that we already had “one hell of a contest about the direction and the vision of this country.”

It was a little something called “the 2012 election cycle,” and though Graham may not have liked the results, his side lost.

Memories can be short in DC, but for at least a year, voters were told the 2012 election would be the most spectacularly important, history-changing, life-setting election any of us have ever seen. It was quite common for Republicans to argue publicly that the 2012 cycle would be the most critical for the United States since 1860 — the election before the Civil War.

Election Day 2012, in other words, was for all the marbles. It was the big one. The whole enchilada was on the line. The results would set the direction of the country for a generation, so it was time to pull out all the stops and fight like there’s no tomorrow — because for the losers, there probably wouldn’t be one.

And then President Obama won fairly easily, Senate Democrats defied expectations and expanded their majority, and House Democrats gained seats.

Two months later, we’re told what the nation really needs is “one hell of a contest about the direction and the vision of this country.”

Not to put too fine a point on this, Lindsey Graham seems to be missing the point of the democratic process. In this country, we have elections in which candidates present their ideas about the direction and the vision of this country, and the American people express a preference. Then, once that’s over, there’s an expectation that the fight over the direction and the vision of this country would end and governing would begin.

Graham, I’m afraid, is confused.

But wait, Republicans say, didn’t the electorate also elect a right-wing House majority? To a certain extent, yes, but in raw vote totals, Americans cast 1.362 million more votes for Democratic House candidates than GOP House candidates, which hardly points to a powerful Republican mandate.

We had an epic fight, and one side won. To pretend the election didn’t happen, and then say it’s time for another epic fight that disregards the will of American voters, is bad for the country — and for democracy.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 3, 2013

January 4, 2013 Posted by | Democracy, Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Nothing But Contempt”: One Man’s Disaster Relief Is Another Man’s Pork

In all the attention paid to the drama over the fiscal cliff, most people momentarily forgot that there were a few other important things the 112th Congress was supposed to take care of before its ignominious term came to an end. But yesterday, thanks to a couple of prominent politicians criticizing their own party—something always guaranteed to garner plenty of media attention—everybody remembered that states in the Northeast, particularly New York and New Jersey, are still waiting on federal disaster aid. First New Jersey governor Chris Christie came out and gave a blistering press conference in which he blasted House Republicans for not taking up the relief bill, saying, “There is only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims: the House majority and their speaker, John Boehner.” Christie also said he called Boehner multiple times, but Boehner wouldn’t return his calls. Then Representative Peter King, a Republican from New York, delivered a rather extraordinary statement on Fox News, not only urging people in New York and New Jersey not to donate to members of his party, but referring to them as “these Republicans,” as though they were from a group of which he was not a part. “These Republicans have no problem finding New York when they’re out raising millions of dollars,” King said. “I’m saying right now, anyone from New York or New Jersey who contributes one penny to Congressional Republicans is out of their minds. Because what they did last night was put a knife in the back of New Yorkers and New Jerseyans. It was an absolute disgrace.” Yow!

Obviously, it’s good politics to plead on behalf of the folks back home, but King seemed genuinely pissed off (it’s harder to tell with Christie, since pissed off is pretty much his default mood). And the GOP is about as popular as syphilis right now, so criticizing them is also good politics. That will always be true for Christie, which could complicate his potential 2016 presidential run—he can’t look too close to the national party or his popularity at home will suffer, but he can’t be too antagonistic if he’s going to win over Republican primary voters. (King won his last election without too much trouble, but his district has plenty of Democrats). But this is a good reminder that one man’s absolutely necessary emergency government expenditure is another man’s pork.

This mini-revolt also reminds us just how far south the center of gravity within the Republican party has moved. New Jersey, which has an independent commission draw its congressional districts, will have a 6-6 split in its delegation in the new Congress. But head north, and it’s tough to find a Republican. Only six of New York’s 27 members are Republicans, and there are a grand total of zero Republican representatives from the New England states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Christie and King are criticizing a party in which they as Northeasterners are a vanishing breed.

The fact that Sandy hit a couple of states that many members of the House GOP caucus would just as soon see go straight to hell anyway went a long way to mitigate their enthusiasm for disaster relief. This problem is both regional and ideological. The time is gone when most or all members of Congress saw Americans suffering from a natural disaster, no matter what part of the country it occurred in, and said, “Of course the federal government will help.” After all, the fact that people are looking for help from the federal government just shows that they’re 47-percenters who deserve nothing but contempt.

All that being said, there’s only so much pressure an embattled Speaker can take. After emerging battered and bruised from the fiscal cliff debacle, by the end of the day yesterday Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor basically sued Christie for peace, declaring that the new Congress will take up a Sandy relief bill on the first day of its session.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, January 3, 2012

January 4, 2013 Posted by | Congress, Disasters | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Who Are They Kidding?”: The NRA Loves Violent Movies

When Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association made his dramatic statements about the Newtown shooting, he placed the blame on some familiar suspects: not just insufficient militarization of elementary schools, but movies and video games. “Media conglomerates,” he said, “compete with one another to shock, violate, and offend every standard of civilized society by bringing an ever more toxic mix of reckless behavior and criminal cruelty into our homes.” But Matt Gertz of Media Matters discovered that the NRA is not so opposed to movies that feature people shooting each other. In fact, the NRA’s National Firearms Museum features an exhibit called “Hollywood Guns,” in which you can check out the actual guns used in some of your favorite films (go to the end of this post for a video of the NRA museum curator proudly showing off the movie guns).

You might respond that the NRA is full of crap when it points the finger at Hollywood, which of course it is. But let’s take them at their word for a moment and examine the claim. If movies featuring a lot of gunplay cause real-world violence (there’s no actual evidence that this is the case, by the way, but never mind that), then what is it exactly that the NRA believes produces this effect? Is it that the narratives of action films convince people that the most serious problems can be solved with the use of firearms? Is it that movies portray a world in which people are constantly called on to use guns, when that isn’t the case in real life? Is it that movies portray gun use not as a horror or a tragedy but as something to be enjoyed? Is it that movies fetishize guns, making them seem like not just practical tools but objects that imbue those who wield them with power and sexiness?

Because it seems pretty clear that rather than thinking those ideas are a problem, the NRA believes them to be true. Not only that, it wants everyone else to believe them, too. Do they think people are dumb enough to buy the argument that the NRA would like to see fewer guns in movies? That they’re displeased that every other movie poster features the star holding a gun, as a signal to the potential audience that this is a film with action and excitement? Give me a break.

(Video Link: )


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, January 2, 2013

January 4, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Fools On The Hill”: “Nothing” Is Why Some Members Of Congress Went To Washington

We used to have a ship of state, and now we have a ship of fools.

To call what happened on Capitol Hill over the past few days Kabuki is to insult Kabuki. What actually happened was more like ancient farce when actors used to come out and hit each other over the head with socks full of cowpies.

Contrary to what you have heard, we did not face up to a financial or economic or budgetary crisis. All Congress and the White House did was slog through another political crisis.

And the way they did it was comical: a 2 a.m. vote in the Senate followed by an 11 p.m. vote in the House. This is drive-by government.

That the White House was going to win was never in doubt. Barack Obama won reelection in November by nearly 5 million votes. According to CBS News, his approval rating is at 57 percent.

The members of Congress, on the other hand, are close to being put in stocks and pelted with vegetables. According to CBS, congressional job approval is at 11 percent. Any lower than that and Congress might as well move to Canada and try there.

One of the reasons our politicians are held in such low regard is that what they do is so divorced from reality.

What was the No. 1 issue of the last election? What did both sides promise the American people? As I recall, it was jobs, jobs and more jobs. But what did the recent fiscal cliff law do about creating more jobs? Nothing.

Some politicians like nothing. Nothing is why they went to Washington. They want to shrink government, in the famous words of Grover Norquist, “down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”

Why? Because as Mitt Romney said in the campaign, 47 percent of voters “believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”

(If you haven’t heard much from Romney since the election, it’s probably because he has been down in the Cayman Islands visiting his money.)

In this view, the government spends far too much on “entitlements” like Medicare. Medicare costs are strangling America, we hear, and according to the Congressional Budget Office, spending for Medicare in 2012 was a very hefty $555 billion.

But Medicare recipients are not exactly rolling in dough. In 2006, the last study my ace research team (Wikipedia) could find, the “average household income of Medicare enrollees was $22,600 compared with a U.S. median income of $48,201.”

Yet these people are viewed as greed-heads sucking up precious dollars that could be better spent on … defense contractors!

The defense budget for 2012 was more than $600 billion, which is nearly twice as much as the rest of the planet combined. We outspend China, the next biggest military power in the world, by about 6-to-1.

Maybe this wild spending would not be so bad if it bought us quick and easy victories over ill-armed opponents. But it doesn’t. We have poured more than a trillion dollars into the war in Afghanistan over the past 11 years — to say nothing of more than 2,000 precious U.S. lives lost — and we are still fighting there.

Some say this is good for the U.S. economy because it means we have to buy more and more bullets and bombs and drones, but personally I’d rather buy more liver transplants for the 47 percent.

Yet nobody in Washington is talking about serious cuts to the defense budget. On the contrary, they are talking about ways to avoid making serious cuts to the defense budget.

In the meantime, the government borrows more and more money, which means it keeps bumping up against the debt ceiling. The debt ceiling was invented as a way to keep Congress from spending too much, but it doesn’t work.

So we keep raising the debt ceiling. We raised it 18 times under Ronald Reagan, four times under Bill Clinton, seven times under George W. Bush and three times, as of August 2011, under Barack Obama.

As Obama points out, the debt ceiling does not allow Congress to spend more money. It merely allows the government to pay the bills Congress has already racked up.

In just a few weeks, we will face another crisis over the debt ceiling. It shouldn’t be a crisis, but politics will make it a crisis.

It’s a broken system. It’s why Americans hate politics.

Late on Jan. 1, President Obama briefly addressed the nation from a nearly empty White House briefing room. “I think, hopefully, in the new year we’ll focus on seeing if we can put a package like this together with a little bit less drama, a little less brinksmanship, not scare the heck out of folks quite as much,” he said.

A little bit less drama? Drama is what government is about these days. Drama is the only thing our elected leaders seem good at.

So you bring the socks. I’ll bring the cowpies.

By: Roger Simon, Politico, January 3, 2013

January 4, 2013 Posted by | Congress | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Terminally Angry Man”: John McCain’s Dark Quest For Relevancy Has Turned Him Into A Comic Book Villain

It’s a story as old as literature and as modern as a current edition of a Marvel comic book.

A once young and talented protagonist sets out on the road to glory, intent on using his special abilities for the good of mankind in his noble quest to become a hero of mythic proportion.

Along the way, life deals our hero a catastrophic blow—one that turns our protagonist away from the road of righteousness and onto the very different and destructive path of the antagonist. Suddenly, his clarity altered by the indignities, disappointments and tragedies life has unexpectedly visited upon him, our hero resolves to prove to the world the terrible mistake they made when casting him aside—no matter what it takes to do so.

You see, in our character’s mind, he is not the evil one. It is the world that is to blame for failing to accept the greatness our once heroic figure so generously offered to us, something the world will finally understand when our protagonist—now the antagonist—forces us to acknowledge his worthiness, even if it means using dark and dastardly methods to make us appreciate the terrible error the world or, in this case, his country has made in rejecting him.

Earlier this week, as I watched Senator John McCain threaten, during a CNN interview with Wolf Blitzer, to lead an effort to take the world’s economies hostage by refusing to raise the debt ceiling until he accomplishes the spending cuts he desires, I could not help but be reminded of this classic, “hero to villain” literary scenario just as I could not help but feel profound sadness for the transformation that has taken place in this man I once respected—a transformation that can be traced directly to the disappointment McCain suffered when losing his life’s objective, the presidency of the United States.

If you doubt the impact of McCain’s threat, you need only consider the words of Mark Zandi, Chief Economist at Moody’s Analytics and one-time senior economic advisor to John McCain’s presidential campaign:

The cornerstone of the global financial system is that the United States will make good on its debt payments. If we don’t, we’ve just knocked out the cornerstone and the system will collapse in turmoil.”

This is, indeed, very serious business.

And yet, the 2013 version of John McCain was giddy with joy as he filled the television screen with his warnings of the havoc he plans to rain down upon the American and world economies via the hostage drama the Senator and his accomplices are cooking up, a drama that could aptly be billed as “Debt Ceiling II- Revenge Of The Republicans.”

I have no objection to Senator McCain having his position on spending reduction, although I think he would be far more credible on the subject if he was willing to, at the least, choose to consider spending cuts in all government programs— including his beloved defense budget—rather than looking solely to entitlements as the object of his chainsaw’s desires.

I also recognize that a majority of Americans likely share the GOP’s belief that spending cuts are required if we are to get the nation on a more realistic and sustainable financial footing. And while the timing of such cuts remains a critical question—lest we bring our economic recovery to a screeching halt by cutting too deeply and too quickly—getting things on the right track will no doubt involve changes to our entitlement programs just as we will need to alter our defense spending habits.

However, using the threat of destroying the world’s economies to accomplish the direction preferred by McCain, and those who share his objectives, is a plot line far better suited to an old James Bond movie than it is to a rational policy discussion among the leaders of the world’s largest economic power, the United States of America.

Certainly, no American should be willing to stand for anyone who would adopt the tactics of fictional villains as the means to accomplish their wants and desires—even if they believe that their desires are in the best interests of the nation. There is no shortage of leverage points available to Senator McCain in pursuing his agenda—none of which involve taking our nation, and by extension, the nations of the word, hostage by threatening to do unspeakable damage in order to get his way.

You have to ask yourself whether—prior to suffering the loss of the presidency—the one-time “Maverick of the Senate” would have so much as considered blackmail as an acceptable tactic in pursuing a policy direction he believed to be in the nation’s interest.

I truly do not think so.

McCain of old would have hit the television talk show circuit and done his best to sell his countrymen on the merits of his position—not hold a gun to the nation’s head until we cried ‘uncle’. The McCain of old would have campaigned for his point of view with the self-effacing charm and reasonableness we came to expect of him, maybe even dropping by “Saturday Night Live”—the comedy program he used to regularly appear on for a quick cameo—in an effort to bring us around to his point of view.

But that John McCain has disappeared, replaced by a terminally angry man who would now be completely out of place in any environment designed to remind us that it is precisely because he did not take himself too seriously that we should take him all the more seriously.

I have no doubt that Senator McCain believes he is acting in the best interest of the nation. Isn’t that always the way of the ‘hero turned villain’ who believes that imposing his will on the world—by doing whatever it takes—is what is required of him? Don’t these characters always persuade themselves that, while the medicine they are forcing down our throats may be painful, illegal or immoral, we will all thank them for it in the end when we’ve finally seen with our own eyes just how right they are?

It’s tragic that this is the path that John McCain has chosen to pursue. However, it is not a path that we, as a nation, can tolerate from McCain or anyone else.

No matter how much you may agree with Senator McCain’s cost-cutting objectives…no matter how strong your belief that extreme cuts to any particular government program is essential to our financial survival… our national survival cannot be accomplished by giving in to those who would threaten to take us down if we fail to give in to their blackmail.

If Senator McCain— and those who share his point of view— wish to hold up every bit of legislation or appointment offered up by the President or the Democratic leadership in Congress, or utilize any of the many legitimate levers of power that come with the roles they have been granted by way of their being elected to office, that is their right.

It will then be up to the American people to determine whether or not the behavior of those willing to legally obstruct government in furtherance of their conscious was appropriate and in the best interest of the nation—an opinion that will be expressed by the voters during the 2014 election cycle and beyond.

However, threats to create an economic cataclysm as a means to accomplish a political or policy goal is not such a permissible tactic as such are the tactics of thugs and blackmailers. They are the tactics best left to the characters of comic literature and the movies—not the elected officials of a great democracy.

The President is right when he says he will not have a debate nor negotiate with those who seek to blackmail the nation into doing things their way. And whether you support this president or not, every Americans should stand up and reject this profoundly disturbing behavior on the part of Senator McCain and his cohorts. In America, we don’t negotiate with anyone who would threaten to destroy our country, no matter how much they have convinced themselves that it is, in some sick way, in the nation’s best interest to do so.


By: Rick Ungar, Op-Ed Contributor, Forbes, January 2, 2013


January 4, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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