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“Joe Drifts Away”: Lieberman’s Misguided Causes Lead To A Career That Descended Into Incoherence

David Lightman, who spent nearly two decades covering Joe Lieberman when he was with the Hartford Courant, pens a fairly long farewell to the retiring heresiarch, with this nut graph:

He exits as a voice often without an echo, an independent without a comfortable spot in either political party, a man in the middle of a political system that prizes partisanship over moderation.

Well, that’s the nice way to put it. Here’s how I explained it in a TDS post when Lieberman announced his retirement early last year:

Lieberman’s trajectory since his appearance on the Democratic ticket in 2000 has been in the steady direction of representing traditions he’s misinterpreted, and constituencies that no longer exist. It was fitting that when he crossed every line of political propriety and endorsed the Republican ticket in 2008, he embraced his friend John McCain precisely when McCain was reinventing his own political identity at the behest of the conservative movement, which in turn vetoed Lieberman as a possible running-mate.

I’ve never been a Lieberman-hater like a lot of progressive bloggers (though I did recommend he get booted out of the Senate Democratic Caucus after his endorsement of McCain), and remain gratified by his late renaissance in helping repeal Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell. But treating the man as a victim of polarization is just wrong. He went his own way, repeatedly and deliberately, beginning with his more-Catholic-than-the-Pope advocacy of the Iraq War, intensifying with his refusal to respect the decision of Connecticut Democrats to deny him renomination in 2006, and then culminating in the McCain endorsement, which violated basic rules of political loyalty that existed long before the current era of polarization. If he was isolated, he was self-isolated, and he was never “independent” of the varying and mostly misguided causes he chose to embrace as his career descended into incoherence.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, January 4, 2013

January 5, 2013 Posted by | Politics, Senate | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Misleading The People”: The Deeper Problem With Media Acceptance Of Republican Irresponsibility

Alarms are going up all over the progressive commentariat about the early signs of Beltway complacency–particularly in the MSM–about Republicans threats to wreak holy havoc on the economy by taking the debt limit hostage to their spending demands (more for the Pentagon, less for everything else).

TNR’s Alec MacGillis, quoting WaPo’s Greg Sargent extensively, lays out the complaint most efficiently:

It is striking to what degree the Washington establishment has come to normalize Republican hostage-taking of the debt limit, to see it as a predictable and almost natural element of the political landscape. Greg Sargent argues convincingly why this is a problem, noting that the debt ceiling must be raised to pay for past spending, and should not be used as a chip in negotiating future budgets: “In the current context, conservatives and Republicans who hold out against a debt limit hike are, in practical terms, only threatening the full faith and credit of the United States — and threatening to damage the economy — in order to get what they want. Any accounts that don’t convey this with total clarity — and convey the sense that this is a normal negotiation — are essentially misleading people. It’s that simple.”

What bears stating even more strongly, though, is how far we’ve come from 2011, when the Washington establishment viewed the Republicans’ threat of credit default as the utterly brazen and unprecedented step that it was. Even those who supported the gambit recognized it as a newly deployed weapon.

I agree with all that, and with MacGillis’ assessment of early media coverage of the debt limit fight as just another episode of the usual partisan follies.

But there is a deeper problem that makes adequate media treatment of GOP posturing very difficult: an inability to grasp and explain the underlying radicalism of conservative doctrine on federal domestic spending. Exhibit One, of course, was the frequent refusal to understand the fundamental change in the role of the federal government that was the object of the Ryan Budget, particularly its first iteration. And rarely did major MSM writers and gabbers bother to suggest that immediate implementation of the Ryan Budget via the budget reconciliation process would have been the predictable result of an election where Romney won and Republicans won control of the Senate.

But Exhibit Two, and far more relevant today, is the baseline for conservative positioning on the debt limit, the Cut, Cap and Balance Pledge, signed by Mitt Romney himself in 2011 and championed by the powerful House Study Committee, to which 165 Republicans in the 112th Congress belonged (there’s no updated list for the 113d, but there’s no reason to think the RSC has lost its grip on the House GOP Caucus).

I’ve gone through this a number of times over the last two years, but will once again post the basics of the CCB proposal:

1. Cut – We must make discretionary and mandatory spending reductions that would cut the deficit in half next year.

2. Cap – We need statutory, enforceable caps to align federal spending with average revenues at 18% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), with automatic spending reductions if the caps are breached.

3. Balance – We must send to the states a Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA) with strong protections against federal tax increases and a Spending Limitation Amendment (SLA) that aligns spending with average revenues as described above.

And the whole idea of this proposal (and the specific subject of the CCB Pledge) is to make any vote for a debt limit increase strictly contingent on all three planks of the proposal, which means a radical and permanent reduction in federal spending, far beyond anything contemplated in the Ryan Budget.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, Jabuary 4, 2013

January 5, 2013 Posted by | Budget, Politics | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Not Even Close”: Conservatives Can’t Win At The Negotiating Table What They Lost At The Ballot Box

The final, final results from the 2012 presidential election are now in. While we already knew President Obama won (and the House certified that result today when it tallied the electoral votes), it’s worth revisiting the final totals and reminding ourselves of one important fact: It wasn’t particularly close.

Sure the election was widely expected to be a nail-biter, but it wasn’t. But in the days and weeks afterward you still heard the occasional GOPer insist that it was—see Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling last month saying it was a tight, 51-49 race, for example.

Here are some final stats about Obama’s victory, courtesy of Bloomberg’s Greg Giroux:

Obama got 51.1 percent of the popular vote to Mitt Romney’s 47.2 percent, a four point margin. (Let’s all pause for a moment and savor the fact that history will show that Romney won … 47 percent.) That’s a wider margin than George W. Bush won by in 2004 (51-48), when pundits on the right like Charles Krauthammer declared that he had earned a mandate.

That makes Obama the first president to crack 51 percent since Dwight Eisenhower more than a half-century ago. (Sorry, conservatives, Ronald Reagan only reached 50.75 percent in 1980.)

Obama won 26 states and the District of Columbia, piling up 332 electoral votes. You can think of it another way: There is no state in Obama’s column which would have swung the election to Romney had he won it. In other words, if Romney had pulled a stunning upset and won California’s 55 electoral votes … he’d still have lost.

There were only four especially close states in the 2012 election. Only Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia were decided by less than 5 percentage points. (Note: Romney won one of them, North Carolina; had he swept those four states … he’d have still lost the election as Obama totaled 272 electoral votes in the rest of the country.) Four is the smallest number of close states in a presidential election since Reagan trounced Walter Mondale nearly 30 years ago.

So no matter how you slice or dice the election results, this was not a close race. It wasn’t a landslide, but it wasn’t a coin flip. The voters selected Obama and his vision over Romney and his, and they did it decisively.

And you can layer onto that the fact that, against all expectations, Democrats picked up seats in the U.S. Senate and also in the U.S. House. And while the GOP did retain control of the House, nearly 1.4 million more people voted for Democratic House candidates than for Republicans. 1.4 million—remember that figure the next time someone says Americans voted for divided government last year.

All of which brings me to a great point that the Maddow Blog’s Steve Benen made yesterday. He noted that South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham vowed that the upcoming fiscal fights, over raising the debt ceiling at the end of February and over funding the government a few weeks later, would be “one hell of a contest about the direction and vision of this country.”

Benen writes:

…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…

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.

Obama won. Republicans lost. And, again, it wasn’t especially close.

So it is not only tiresome but more than a little undemocratic for conservatives to suggest that, having lost at the ballot box, they should be able to dictate the direction and vision of the country at the negotiating table.


By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, January 4, 2013

January 5, 2013 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“People Are More Than Numbers On A Page”: The Healthcare Lessons Mark Kirk Learned From His Stroke

Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.

But how many of us actually do that? At least by choice?

Over a year ago Sen. Mark Kirk suffered a debilitating stroke. And his medical condition has sparked his interest in the experience of people on Medicaid. Kirk reminds me of the character William Hurt played in the movie The Doctor, a tale of a physician with no bedside manner who suddenly cares about his patients, once he himself becomes the patient, suffering with cancer.

Well D.C. isn’t Hollywood and Senator Kirk’s stroke was not something manufactured by Hollywood studios. The Illinois Republican had an opportunity he now realizes not everyone who suffers a stroke has: the opportunity to get his life back. Senator Kirk had that opportunity this week as he returned to Capitol Hill for the first time in a year, joining the new 2013 Senate.

Kirk’s illness made him realize that the unlimited medical care, access, and not to mention ability to have as many rehabilitation sessions as he needed to have a complete recovery from the stroke he suffered, is not available to most people, especially the poor—those who are on Medicaid. In the state of Illinois, if you are on Medicaid, you are only eligible for 11 rehab sessions following a stroke.

In an interview with the Chicago Sun Times, Senator Kirk said, “Had I been limited to that [referring to the 11 rehabilitation sessions], I would have had no chance to recover like I did. So unlike before suffering the stroke, I’m much more focused on Medicaid and what my fellow citizens face…I will look much more carefully at the Illinois Medicaid program to see how my fellow citizens are being cared for who have no income and if they suffer from a stroke.”

Senator Kirk has, by no choice of his own, walked a mile in another’s shoes…but not entirely. As a senator, he benefits from the very best medical care. He had undoubtedly the best doctors and access—and that access included unlimited rehabilitation sessions—as many as he needed. Each of us is unique and individual—our bodies respond differently one from another, even if we share the same illness or injury.

Although it is admirable that Senator Kirk has woken up to the reality that so many Americans face daily and struggle with so frequently, it’s sad that it took a stroke for him to come to this realization. So we must ponder the question: Does every GOP member of the House and the Senate need to become ill or have a family member become ill to fully understand that it is not only a right, but a necessity that any American have access to not only healthcare, but more so, proper healthcare? What type of society are we if only the rich are allowed to survive such things as a stroke? Or dare I say, only a politician?

Senator Kirk realized this. I know there are those critics out there who feel that Kirk is tapping into a group of potential voters that the GOP has largely ignored, and the GOP largely voted against legislation which would help this group of people.

As a liberal, a progressive, and a Democrat, who is married to a physician and who believes that all of us are truly created equal and should have equal access to the best medical care possible, it saddens me that it seems only when it affects an individual or someone they love, especially those politicians on the right, that they can see what we on the left have been speaking of: fairness.

It isn’t fair that a senator has a stroke and returns to work one year later, when so many in Illinois and elsewhere may not be able to return to work or their lives as they knew them; and some don’t survive at all.

Senator Kirk at one time, as his colleagues, never looked at the people behind the term ‘patient,’ for they were just numbers to slash in cutting spending. Let’s hope that those in the GOP don’t need to suffer as Senator Kirk did to come to the realization that people hurting and in pain are more than numbers on a page.


By: Leslie Marshall, U. S. News and World Report, January 4, 2012

January 5, 2013 Posted by | Health Care | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“President Obama Is So Mean”: Conservative Projection Takes a New Angle

Peggy Noonan is, without doubt, America’s most hilariously ridiculous opinion columnist, someone forever pleading that we ignore piffle like “facts” and focus instead on the collective emotions that are bubbling just out of our awareness until she identifies them. But in her column today, she does something that we ought to take note of, because I suspect it will become a common Republican talking point. Noonan asks why Obama is so darn mean to Republicans, and answers the question thusly:

Here’s my conjecture: In part it’s because he seems to like the tension. He likes cliffs, which is why it’s always a cliff with him and never a deal. He likes the high-stakes, tottering air of crisis. Maybe it makes him feel his mastery and reminds him how cool he is, unrattled while he rattles others. He can take it. Can they?

He is a uniquely polarizing figure. A moderate U.S. senator said the other day: “One thing not said enough is he is the most divisive president in modern history. He doesn’t just divide the Congress, he divides the country.” The senator thinks Mr. Obama has “two whisperers in his head.” “The political whisperer says ‘Don’t compromise a bit, make Republicans look weak and bad.’ Another whisperer is not political, it’s, ‘Let’s do the right thing, work together and begin to right the ship.'” The president doesn’t listen much to the second whisperer.

Ah yes, we keep having these fiscal crises because Obama “likes cliffs.” Don’t you remember when he convinced conservative Republicans to hold the national economy hostage over the debt ceiling in 2011? And you do know that he’s forcing them to do the same thing in a couple of months, right? They don’t want to, but he’s making them. Those congressional Republicans are desperate to compromise with him, but he just won’t accept all their generous offers! And he sure is “polarizing.” After all, if a majority of Republicans have consistently believed that Obama is lying about being born in Hawaii and is a foreigner, and if his opponents regularly charge that when he adopts Republican ideas on things like health care it’s because he is a socialist motivated by a hatred of America, then there’s really only one person to blame. And when a member of the Republican Senate leadership writes, “It may be necessary to partially shut down the government in order to secure the long-term fiscal well being of our country,” that just shows how much Obama loves creating these crises! And what do you know, in that op-ed, Senator John Cornyn makes the same argument, that in all of the crises of the last couple of years, “the White House has purposefully slow-walked the process in a shameless attempt to score cheap political points.”

Mark my words, over the next couple of months we’re going to be hearing this a lot: Republicans will argue that these crises are all Obama’s fault not so much because his ideas are substantively wrong (they’ll mention that too, of course), but because he just wants it that way. And because he’s so mean.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, January 4, 2013

January 5, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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