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“Texas Jerk Ted Cruz”: Joe McCarthy May Have Simply Been Many Years Ahead Of His Time

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) can barely contain his glee at being criticized for being a jerk, as reflected in this Reuters report from Corrie MacLaggan.

First-term Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas on Tuesday staunchly defended his aggressive, in-your-face style that already is raising eyebrows in Washington and has led a Senate Democrat to suggest his tactics reminded her of McCarthyism.

“Washington has a long tradition of trying to hurl insults to silence those who they don’t like what they’re saying,” Cruz told reporters on a visit to a Texas gun manufacturer. “I have to admit I find it amusing that those in Washington are puzzled when someone actually does what they said they would do.”

Employees at LaRue Tactical near Austin cheered the senator enthusiastically during his appearance.

Cruz, 42, raised eyebrows in Washington by aggressively criticizing former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, President Barack Obama’s nominee for defense secretary, during a Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing.

Cruz angered lawmakers in both parties by suggesting, without giving evidence, that Hagel might have taken money from countries such as communist North Korea.

Charges that Cruz was being a lying bully were, of course, all mixed up with claims that he wasn’t being a good do-be freshman Senator who waits his turn and kisses up to those with more seniority. You get the impression his colleagues think he should have to earn the right to behave like Joe McCarthy.

But in any event, how much would Cruz pay to get that kind of reputation outside the Senate itself? Congress’ job approval rating is stuck in the mid-teens. He’s a member of a party that has raised hysterical unfounded attacks on the opposition into a virtually obligatory exercise (one of his critics, Lindsey Graham, was as unhinged in dealing with Hagel as Cruz himself), and part of an intra-party faction that thinks the GOP has been repeatedly betrayed by the civility (sic!) of its elected representatives. There is virtually no down-side to his current behavior.

Come to think of it, Joe McCarthy may have simply been many years ahead of his time.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, February 20, 2013

February 21, 2013 Posted by | Senate | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“If You Can’t Beat’em, Change The Rules”: Georgia Republicans Seek Repeal Of The 17th Amendment

In the latest example of the GOP’s selective reverence for the Constitution, six Georgia Republicans are trying to end the election of U.S. senators by popular vote — just as a new poll shows that the GOP’s footing in the state’s upcoming Senate election is less secure than previously thought.

The Douglas County Sentinel reports that state representatives Dustin Hightower, Mike Dudgeon, Buzz Brockway, Josh Clark, Kevin Cooke, and Delvis Dutton — all Republicans — have introduced a resolution to repeal the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The 17th Amendment, which was adopted in 1913, mandated that senators be elected by popular vote; before its passage, senators were selected by state legislatures.

Cooke, who authored the resolution, told the Sentinel “It’s a way we would again have our voice heard in the federal government, a way that doesn’t exist now.”

“This isn’t an idea of mine,” he added. “This was what James Madison was writing. This would be a restoration of the Constitution, about how government is supposed to work.”

Successfully repealing the amendment would require two-thirds approval by both houses of Congress, followed by ratification by at least 38 states — giving the Georgia lawmakers next to no chance of accomplishing their goal. After all, most voters would prefer to keep the power to elect their own representatives — especially considering the pervasive corruption that has characterized the election process within state legislatures.

Still, the timing of the move is interesting. Coincidentally, on the same day that the Sentinel reported on the Republicans’ repeal plans, Public Policy Polling released a new poll showing that the GOP is in real danger of losing another Senate seat in 2014.

Despite the fact that Democrats have not won a major election in Georgia in 13 years, PPP finds that the race for the seat currently held by retiring Republican Saxby Chambliss is a complete toss-up. Democratic congressman John Barrow trails five likely Republican candidates — U.S. Representatives Paul Broun, Phil Gingrey, Tom Price, and Jack Kingston, and right-wing activist Karen Handel — by an average of just 0.4 percent.

If former senator Max Cleland (D) jumped into the race, he’d start out with a lead over all five Republicans.

Republicans should be deeply troubled by their weak numbers in Georgia, ostensibly a deep-red state. If they lose Chambliss’ seat, it would all but end their hopes of capturing a Senate majority in 2014. The six Georgia lawmakers’ solution to the problem appears to be taking the decision out of voters’ hands, which fits a broad pattern of Republican behavior since the 2012 election. Once again, the party’s prevailing strategy appears to be “If you can’t beat them, change the rules.”


By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, February 20, 2013

February 21, 2013 Posted by | Senate | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Simpson-Bowles Rebaked”: Playing To The Peanut Gallery

Simpson and Bowles have returned to the stage with a far worse plan than the one they had before. Their old formula sought $2.9 trillion in cuts and $2.6 trillion in revenues, while this new one that they touted at a Politico breakfast this morning seeks just $1.3 trillion in revenues and jacks the cuts up to $3.9 trillion.

The change is driven not so much by any kind of ideological shift or decision that we need more pain as it is driven, or so says Ezra Klein, by their apparent decision this time not to create their own new thing wholly from scratch irrespective of what the pols are saying, but to use Obama’s and Boehner’s latest offers as sort of starting points and guides:

This isn’t meant to be an update to Simpson-Bowles 1.0. Rather, it’s meant to be an outline for a new grand bargain. To that end, Simpson and Bowles began with Obama and Boehner’s final offers from the fiscal cliff deal. That helps explain why their tax ask has fallen so far: Obama’s final tax ask was far lower than what was in the original Simpson-Bowles plan, while Boehner’s tilt towards spending cuts was far greater than what was in the original Simpson-Bowles.

That said, while this plan doesn’t include more tax increases than Obama asked for, it does include significantly more than the $1 trillion in spending cuts than Boehner asked for — about $500 to $700 billion more, if I’m reading it right. In increasing the total deficit reduction, Simpson and Bowles have put the weight on the spending side of the budget.

But why would they shift so dramatically in the Republicans’ direction? Derek Thompson of The Atlantic sees two reasons:

First, there aren’t enough people in Washington who want to raise taxes on anybody making less than $250,000 to make the original $2.6 billion figure work. Second, Congress has demonstrated a fairly strong appetite for scheduling budget cuts.

Well, alas, he’s undoubtedly right about that. But really, this is not to be taken seriously. I’m not usually part of the Entitlement Chicken Little Caucus, because I concede that something needs to be done, provided that “something” is first and foremost to change the way Medicare reimbursements are made, which would save many trillions over the years, and then see what else needs to be done. But to be “responsible” people inside the Beltway you must thirst for seniors and future seniors and poor people and future poor people to sacrifice more. Simpson and Bowles are just playing to that peanut gallery, for which a Politico breakfast is the perfect audience.

One might generously say that Simpson and Bowles are just bowing to the extant political reality. But I thought their job was to suggest the most responsible way forward. They of all people should be standing up to GOP intransigence, not accepting it.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, February 19, 2013

February 21, 2013 Posted by | Budget | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Party Of John C. Calhoun”: The Fall Of The GOP True Believers

Political parties rarely vanish altogether, and hardly ever over a single election cycle. So the demise of the Republicans as a national organization is probably exaggerated. At minimum, its strength across the old Confederacy and what Mencken called the “Cow States” should enable the GOP to keep Congress semi-paralyzed and the shrinking Fox News audience in a state of incipient hysteria even as it fights internal battles of surpassing nastiness.

In that sense, the fight over Sen. Chuck Hagel’s nomination as Secretary of Defense and Sen. John McCain’s erratic quest to turn the Benghazi tragedy into a huge scandal are symptomatic: all word-games, question-begging and make-believe indignation aimed not at governance, but TV appearances.

For all the theatrics, Republican senators apparently won’t filibuster their former colleague’s nomination indefinitely. I expect most are privately appalled at seeing Ted Cruz, the freshman senator from Texas, question Hagel’s loyalty—something I doubt he’d have the temerity to say anywhere except in front of a TV camera.

On Meet the Press, David Gregory asked McCain to stipulate what he thinks the Obama administration’s hiding about the Benghazi incident.

“A cover-up of what?”

“Of the information concerning the deaths of four brave Americans,” McCain sputtered.

What else could he say? The idea that the White House refused to call the assault on the U.S. Consulate a terror attack has been a media put-up job driven by the dark arts of selective quotation and malicious paraphrase. People who really care have long since figured that out; those who haven’t probably can’t.

Beyond mischief-making, however, there are signs that conservative thinkers are beginning to challenge moribund Republican orthodoxy. The water is moving under the ice. Heterodox opinions once limited to former GOP operatives like David Frum and Bruce Bartlett have started appearing all over.

Consider this shocking passage about tax rates by National Review editor Ramesh Ponnuru in the New York Times:

When Reagan cut rates for everyone, the top tax rate was 70 percent and the income tax was the biggest tax most people paid. Now neither of those things is true: For most of the last decade the top rate has been 35 percent, and the payroll tax is larger than the income tax for most people. Yet Republicans have treated the income tax as the same impediment to economic growth and middle-class millstone that it was in Reagan’s day.

Ponnuru adds that GOP “tight-money” fundamentalism and scare talk about runaway inflation make absolutely no sense after five years of near-non-existent inflation. When it comes to fiscal matters, in short, Republicans are confronting today’s problems with yesterday’s solutions, substituting dogma for problem solving, and excommunicating heretics instead of encouraging independent thought. If Ponnuru can’t quite bring himself to agree with President Obama about the need for economic stimulus, at least he doesn’t sound like a parrot.

Far less polite is former GOP congressional staffer Michael S. Lofgren, who delivers himself of a veritable jeremiad in the Huffington Post. “As with many religions,” Lofgren writes, “political parties have a tendency to start as a movement, transform into a business, and finally degenerate into a racket designed to fleece the yokels. One organization which has gone out of its way to illustrate this evolution is the Republican Party.”

If that doesn’t clear your sinuses, Lofgren’s title might do it: “Scientology for Rednecks: What the GOP Has Become.” Now, as a matter of principle, I dislike the term “redneck,” an offensive ethnic insult like any other. A writer is on shaky ground objecting to racially coded attacks upon President Obama while using a term like it to characterize Republican voters.

Lofgren’s larger point, however, is well-taken. “Compared to the current crop of congressional GOP freshmen and sophomores, even George W. Bush looks like Henry Cabot Lodge.” Republicans have allowed themselves to become the anti-science party, indebted to tycoon-funded “think tanks” and in thrall to paranoid talk-radio ravers who encourage its dwindling voter base to see themselves as a “martyr-like… persecuted remnant of Real Americans.”

In consequence, GOP True Believers have rendered themselves incapable of noticing “the complete failure during the last 30 years of tax cuts for the wealthy to increase revenue, kick-start economic growth, or help the middle class.” They’re getting screwed, and blaming the wrong people.

Writing in The New Republic, Sam Tanenhaus launches an even more fundamental critique. “Conservatism Is Dead,” he writes, replaced by “inverse Marxists” preaching backward-looking utopianism that promises a return to an America that never existed.

In a companion piece entitled “Original Sin,” he laments that “the party of Lincoln—of the Gettysburg Address, with its reiteration of the Declaration’s assertion of equality and its vision of a ‘new birth of freedom’—has found sustenance in Lincoln’s principal intellectual and moral antagonist. It has become the party of [John C.]Calhoun.”

That is to say, of “nullification” and the Confederate States of America.


By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, February 20, 2013

February 21, 2013 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“An Angry Old Man”: John McCain Plants His Flag In The Fever Swamps

It wasn’t that new or surprising, but Sen. John McCain’s insistence on Meet the Press yesterday that the Obama administration was engaged in a “massive coverup” of Benghazi! is an indication that conspiracy-shouting on the subject among Republicans won’t go away any time soon, or perhaps ever.

Now maybe I’m wrong, but it seems any line of inquiry about a past event that consists solely of questions rather than any specific allegations or even suspicions is designed to be eternal. All the semi-legitimate concerns about what happened and why should have been resolved by the State Department’s December report. Does it explain every utterance about the event by administration figures? No, because they really just don’t matter except in terms of some master narrative of Obama knowing the War on Terror is a more urgent priority than ever and deliberately hiding the evidence because he’s soft on Muslims or hates Israel or something.

Perhaps this is just McCain being an angry old guy who can’t let go of anything; he is, after all, about to vote against Chuck Hagel’s confirmation for Secretary of Defense because Hagel won’t admit he was wrong about McCain’s precious Iraq “surge.” But it also illustrates how fiercely today’s Republicans will hold onto any topic that leads into the soggy turf of vague but infamous fears about the 44th president.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Editor, Washington Monthly Political Animal, February 18, 2013

February 21, 2013 Posted by | Iraq War, Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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