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“Conservatives’ Contradictions On American Power”: Forgetting Where A Strong America Came From

Do conservatives still believe in American greatness?

The question is not intended to discourage the healthy debate being pushed by Rand Paul and his allies over whether Republicans in the George W. Bush years were too eager to deploy our country’s armed forces overseas. After the steep costs of the Iraq war, it is a very necessary discussion.

But Paul has inadvertently called our attention to a deep contradiction within American conservatism.

Those who share Paul’s philosophical orientation are quite right in seeing the rise of American power in the world as closely linked to the rise of the New Deal-Great Society state at home. But this means that those who want the United States to play a strong role in global affairs need to ask themselves if their attitudes toward government’s role in our country, which are similar to Paul’s, are consistent with their vision of American influence abroad.

After World War II, there was a rough consensus in America, confirmed during Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency in the 1950s, in favor of an energetic national government.

We emerged from the war as a global power that had learned lessons from the Great Depression. Government action could lessen the likelihood of another disastrous economic downturn and build a more just and prosperous society at home by investing in our people and our future.

Thus did the Marshall Plan and the GI Bill go hand in hand. The Marshall Plan eased Western Europe’s recovery from the devastation of war, thereby protecting friendly governments and opening new markets for American goods. The GI Bill educated a generation of veterans, spurring prosperity from the bottom up by enabling millions to join a growing middle class.

Eisenhower built on these achievements by creating the first college loan program and launching the interstate highway system. It’s no accident that the former was established by the National Defense Education Act while the latter was known as the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act.

Lyndon Johnson operated in the same tradition. It’s worth remembering that passage of the landmark civil rights acts was helped along by our competition with the Soviet Union. We realized we could not appeal to the nonwhite, nonaligned parts of the world if we practiced racism at home.

And we fought poverty — for moral reasons but also because we wanted to show the world that we could combine our market system with economic justice. We forget that we succeeded. A strengthened Social Security system combined with Medicare slashed poverty rates among the elderly. Food stamps dealt with a real problem of hunger in our nation while Medicaid brought regular health care to millions who did not have it before.

Through it all, Keynesian economics kept our economy humming while widely shared prosperity created the sense of national solidarity that a world role required.

Paul and his allies deserve credit for consistency. They are against the entire deal.

“As government grows, liberty becomes marginalized,” Paul declared at the Conservative Political Action Conference, which announced Saturday that the libertarian senator from Kentucky had placed first in its 2016 presidential straw poll. I think the evidence of all the years since World War II proves Paul flatly wrong. But then I am not a conservative.

But what of conservatives who endorse continued American global leadership but would drastically reduce government’s investments in our citizens and our infrastructure, in economic security and in health care?

Do they honestly think voters will endorse the military spending they seek even as they throw 40 million to 50 million of our fellow citizens off health insurance and weaken health coverage for our elderly? Can they continue to deny that their goal of an internationally influential America demands more revenue than they currently seem willing to provide? Have conservatives on the Supreme Court pondered what eviscerating the Voting Rights Act would do to the image of our democracy around the globe?

And do conservatives who say they favor American greatness think they are strengthening our nation and its ability to shape events abroad with an ongoing budget stalemate created by their refusal to reach agreement with President Obama on a deal that combines spending cuts and new taxes? Would they rather waste the next three years than make any further concessions to a president the voters just reelected?

Rand Paul is very clear on the country he seeks. Conservatives who reject his approach to foreign policy need to consider where the strong America they honor came from in the first place.


By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 17, 2013

March 18, 2013 Posted by | American History, Conservatives | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“After The Flimflam”: Little By little, Washington’s Fog Of Fiscal Austerity Seems To Be Lifting

It has been a big week for budget documents. In fact, members of Congress have presented not one but two full-fledged, serious proposals for spending and taxes over the next decade.

Before I get to that, however, let me talk briefly about the third proposal presented this week — the one that isn’t serious, that’s essentially a cruel joke.

Way back in 2010, when everybody in Washington seemed determined to anoint Representative Paul Ryan as the ultimate Serious, Honest Conservative, I pronounced him a flimflam man. Even then, his proposals were obviously fraudulent: huge cuts in aid to the poor, but even bigger tax cuts for the rich, with all the assertions of fiscal responsibility resting on claims that he would raise trillions of dollars by closing tax loopholes (which he refused to specify) and cutting discretionary spending (in ways he refused to specify).

Since then, his budgets have gotten even flimflammier. For example, at this point, Mr. Ryan is claiming that he can slash the top tax rate from 39.6 percent to 25 percent, yet somehow raise 19.1 percent of G.D.P. in revenues — a number we haven’t come close to seeing since the dot-com bubble burst a dozen years ago.

The good news is that Mr. Ryan’s thoroughly unconvincing policy-wonk act seems, finally, to have worn out its welcome. In 2011, his budget was initially treated with worshipful respect, which faded only slightly as critics pointed out the document’s many absurdities. This time around, quite a few pundits and reporters have greeted his release with the derision it deserves.

And, with that, let’s turn to the serious proposals.

Unless you’re a very careful news reader, you’ve probably heard about only one of these proposals, the one released by Senate Democrats. And let’s be clear: By comparison with the Ryan plan, and for that matter with a lot of what passes for wisdom in our nation’s capital, this is a very reasonable plan indeed.

As many observers have pointed out, the Senate Democratic plan is conservative with a small “c”: It avoids any drastic policy changes. In particular, it steers away from draconian austerity, which is simply not needed given ultralow U.S. borrowing costs and relatively benign medium-term fiscal projections.

True, the Senate plan calls for further deficit reduction, through a mix of modest tax increases and spending cuts. (Incidentally, the tax increases still fall well short of those called for in the Bowles-Simpson plan, which Washington, for some reason, treats as something close to holy scripture.) But it avoids large short-run spending cuts, which would hobble our recovery at a time when unemployment is still disastrously high, and it even includes a modest amount of stimulus spending.

So we could definitely do worse than the Senate Democratic plan, and we probably will. It is, however, an extremely cautious proposal, one that doesn’t follow through on its own analysis. After all, if sharp spending cuts are a bad thing in a depressed economy — which they are — then the plan really should be calling for substantial though temporary spending increases. It doesn’t.

But there’s a plan that does: the proposal from the Congressional Progressive Caucus, titled “Back to Work,” which calls for substantial new spending now, temporarily widening the deficit, offset by major deficit reduction later in the next decade, largely though not entirely through higher taxes on the wealthy, corporations and pollution.

I’ve seen some people describe the caucus proposal as a “Ryan plan of the left,” but that’s unfair. There are no Ryan-style magic asterisks, trillion-dollar savings that are assumed to come from unspecified sources; this is an honest proposal. And “Back to Work” rests on solid macroeconomic analysis, not the fantasy “expansionary austerity” economics — the claim that slashing spending in a depressed economy somehow promotes job growth rather than deepening the depression — that Mr. Ryan continues to espouse despite the doctrine’s total failure in Europe.

No, the only thing the progressive caucus and Mr. Ryan share is audacity. And it’s refreshing to see someone break with the usual Washington notion that political “courage” means proposing that we hurt the poor while sparing the rich. No doubt the caucus plan is too audacious to have any chance of becoming law; but the same can be said of the Ryan plan.

So where is this all going? Realistically, we aren’t likely to get a Grand Bargain any time soon. Nonetheless, my sense is that there is some real movement here, and it’s in a direction conservatives won’t like.

As I said, Mr. Ryan’s efforts are finally starting to get the derision they deserve, while progressives seem, at long last, to be finding their voice. Little by little, Washington’s fog of fiscal flimflam seems to be lifting.


By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, March 14, 2013

March 18, 2013 Posted by | Budget | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Can You Hear Me Now?”: A Moment Of Real GOP Clarity In The Fiscal Debate

As you regulars know, I’ve been hoping and hoping that reporters will press top Republicans on a simple question: Is there any ratio of entitlement cuts of your choosing to new revenues you’d accept? Three to one? Four to one? Five to one?

Well, John Boehner was asked something very close to that question on ABC News today:

MARTHA RADDATZ: Is there any ratio of entitlement cuts to new revenues that you would –

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: The president got his –

MARTHA RADDATZ: — say that the is three to one, four to one –

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: — tax hikes. The president –

MARTHA RADDATZ: — nothing?

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: — got his tax hikes on January the 1st.

MARTHA RADDATZ: So, the answer to –


MARTHA RADDATZ: — that is no?

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: — he ran his election on taxing the wealthy. He got his tax hikes. But he won’t talk about the spending problem and that’s the problem here in Washington.

We’ll take that as a No. House GOP majority whip Kevin McCarthy was also asked that question on NBC today:

DAVID GREGORY: Is there any ratio that you could accept?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY: There are no new tax increases because you don’t need it. If you look at this report –

DAVID GREGORY: But you’re never going to get entitlement reform –

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY: You’re going to get nothing.

DAVID GREGORY: — without tax increases. Is that political reality?

Again, until we hear otherwise, we’ll take that as a No.

And so it’s now sinking in that: 1) Republicans are not getting the entitlement cuts they want without agreeing to new revenues; and 2) Republicans are explicitly confirming that there is no compromise that is acceptable to them to get the cuts they themselves say they want. The GOP position, with no exaggeration, is that the only way Republican leaders will ever agree to paying down the deficit they say is a threat to American civilization is 100 percent their way; they are not willing to concede anything at all to reach any deal involving new revenues to reduce the deficit, or to get the entitlement reform they want, or to avert sequestration they themselves said will gut the military and tank the economy.

But … but … but … Obama needs to lead and prove he’s Serious by offering still more entitlement cuts than he already has!

Come on. Is the situation clear enough now?


By: Greg Sargent, The Washington Post, The Plum Line, March 17, 2013

March 18, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Sequestration | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Guilty”: In Steubenville, A Powerful Blow Against Rape Culture Has Been Struck

Something happened today that is exceedingly rare in America, and the world — justice was served in a rape case. News outlets are reporting that 17-year old Trent Mays and 16-year old Ma’lik Richmond, both of whom are star football players at Steubenville High School in Ohio, were found guilty of raping a 16-year old girl last August.

On the one hand, the guilty verdicts shouldn’t be surprising. This case became so notorious largely because there was so much corroborating evidence. Eyewitnesses tweeted about the assault and, horrifyingly, posted photos of the passed out victim on Facebook. There was DNA evidence. Consent was never an issue, because the victim was either unconscious or to intoxicated to give meaningful consent.

On the other hand, many in the town rallied to the rapists’ defense and vilified the victim — a fairly classic move in these cases, particularly in cultures that valorize sports heroes. I’ll never forget an infamous rape case that occurred in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, a town close to where I grew up. In 1989, a gang of high school jocks raped a developmentally disabled girl (she had an IQ of 64) with a baseball bat — and yet the town rallied around the jocks and viciously attacked the girl’s reputation. It was sick. The rapists were convicted, though, and the case was the subject of an acclaimed book.

Getting back to Steubenville, it’s notable that the case was decided not by a jury but by a judge. I have to wonder whether if the case had gone to a jury composed of members of the Steubenville community, the verdict would have been the same.

And again, it bears repeating that rape convictions are exceedingly rare. Using statistics from the Justice Department and the FBI, RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) reports that out of every 100 rapes that occur, 46 get reported to police, 12 lead to an arrest, 9 get prosecuted, 5 lead to a felony conviction, and 3 see the inside of a prison cell. The other 97 lucky rapists walk free.

While at some level, it’s sad to see two such young men — or (almost) anyone, really — spend time in our awful prison system, prison sentences serve an extremely important purpose. It’s not even about them or their victim as individuals, it’s about the message that is sent. Jll Filipovic has noted that research shows that “cultural opposition to rape myths makes men less likely to commit assault, and acceptance of those myths makes sexual assault more likely.”

I believe that the same thing holds for how rape is treated in our criminal justice system. We have to show that rape is never minimized, excused or tolerated by a decent society, and that rapists must pay for their crimes. Today’s conviction in Ohio has probably prevented countless rapes from occurring, by unambiguously demonstrating the consequences.. A powerful blow against rape culture has been struck.


By: Kathleen Geier, Washington Monthly Political Animal, March, 17, 2013

March 18, 2013 Posted by | Violence Against Women, Women | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“CPAC’s Peddlers Of Resentment”: Calls For Fresh Ideas Followed By The Same Stale Shtick

Upon arriving Thursday at CPAC, the first thing said to me, squealed by a cheerful young conservative activist, was an admonition to “go upstairs, because Dick Morris is about to speak!” The following day, I could listen to the musings of Donald Trump (I skipped this, as did almost every other attendee). And Saturday, to end on a rousing and inspirational note, a speech by Sarah Palin. While Trump has the Apprentice on NBC, Morris and Palin have recently been fired from Fox News.

As I wrote on Friday, the ossified ideas offered by the former Fox heads were loudly challenged by Sen. Rand Paul’s insurgent movement of socially-tolerant Republicans. While the old guard complained about being unfairly treated by the press corps, Paul excited the crowd with a heavy dose of libertarian ideas slickly packaged for a conservative audience. CPAC organizers kept out New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and the gay activist group GOProud; perhaps they should have been paying more attention to Paul and the party’s libertarian wing.

On Saturday, Palin was dismissing as a liberal media slander the idea that conservatives were locked in an internecine ideological battle. The conference was full of reporters, she complained, “here to write their annual ‘conservatives in crisis’ story.” She doesn’t believe that the Republican Party is rudderless and beset by infighting—in a state of crisis—but there she was, the not-even-one-term governor turned reality television star, excoriating Republican consultant Karl Rove from the stage, along with the rest of those faux conservative quislings and quitters. From the big name speeches to the small panels discussions, there was virtually no mention of the Bush presidency (though conservative fossil Phyllis Schlafly managed an attack on George W. and George H.W. Bush from the dais). But there is most certainly not a crisis within the conservative movement.

“Fresh ideas,” one young Republican told me, “we need fresh ideas.” Yes, well. The conference would effectively close with the rather stale Palin, whose folksy incoherence always manages to always fill the seats, and a panel at which those who has been “uninvited” by CPAC (meaning not that they were barred, but that they weren’t invited to speak this year) could complain about the horrible mistreatment they’d endured at the hands of the conference organizers .Among that group was semi-pro conspiracy theorist and blogger Pamela Geller, who’d earlier charged that the annual conservative gathering had been “corrupted” and “compromised by Muslim Brotherhood activists.”

Palin’s speech was standard fare in comparison. There was the star of “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” mocking the “reality television” world of Washington DC. Reading off of a TelePrompTer, she asked the president to “step away” from his TelePrompTer and “do your job.” And then she hoisted a 7-11 “Big Gulp” — evidently unaware that the drink would have been the one exception to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s stupid regulation of big sugary drinks (thankfully halted at the last minute by a local judge).

Palin’s speeches are routinely described by her foes in the “lamestream media” (possibly the most irritating political neologism of the past decade) as “entertaining” and “crowd-pleasing”—descriptors that conservatives deploy too, and which the reader should always translate as “hopelessly devoid of ideas.” The “aw-shucks” tone, surplus of words ending with an apostrophe (the “amen, sista’’’ she offered to Margaret Thatcher, for instance), heavy reliance on one-liners that would make Shecky Greene cringe, and endless references to gun racks, dog sleds, and moose were all intended as a reminder just in case you forgot that she was from, to use her own, tired phrase, “real America.”

It’s transparent shtick, but for reasons this fake American fails to understand, the audience loves it.

And that’s always the takeaway from CPAC: it’s an event for activists (not intellectuals) who manage the rote recitation of keywords and fulsome references to conservative heroes. Sure, there were some interesting “breakout sessions” that transcended the rah-rah stump speech, but the stimulating ones I attended were sparsely attended.

This isn’t a conservative problem so much as it’s a problem with American politics. After Rand Paul’s 13-hour filibuster, even those pundits who disagreed with the Kentucky senator expressed relief that real ideas were being substantively debated on the senate floor. It’s a perennial suggestion that Washington needs something approximating Prime Minister’s Questions, in which Britain’s parliamentarians pepper their leader with questions and insults. Palin might be a hypocrite on this point, but American politics does indeed all too often resemble a reality show. (In comparison, the United Kingdom’s defense minister, William Hague, wrote a critically-acclaimed biography of Pitt the Younger, while Tory star and London mayor Boris Johnson is a newspaper columnist, former editor of The Spectator, and author of a novel and a work of history).

Like many CPAC attendees, Palin believes that the party doesn’t need new ideas, because those ideas—immigration reform and gay marriage, for instance—would supposedly betray conservative principles. Keep losing elections, but lose with dignity.

But it’s also that Palin isn’t in the ideas business. She is, as loudly reaffirmed in her CPAC speech, a peddler of resentment, and a worldview of conservative victimology obsessively focused on the media gatekeepers and corrupt political consultants they see distorting a political message that, if not interfered with by liberal ideologues, would be embraced by most all Americans. It’s a common theme at CPAC: it’s not our ideas, it’s how the media distorts our ideas. Circling the conference center was a truck sponsored by the Media Research Center, a conservative watchdog group, displaying the message that the “liberal media” was “censoring the news.”

Perhaps Palin is correct that events like CPAC get a tough time from the media, but spending some time in the company of right-leaning journalists one realizes that CPAC skepticism is a bipartisan thing. Indeed, there were few conservative journalists or intellectuals—excepting the ideological insurgents of the Breitbart crew and assorted right-wing blogs—I spoke to that held the conference (or, in some cases, its attendees) in high esteem. As one conservative journalist told me, the conference had successfully transformed from “a conservative freak show into a general freak show.”

After three days at CPAC, one could have almost forgotten that the previous decade of Republican politics ever happened, when the party prepared for a permanent majority and a long war against Islamic extremism, circled the wagons in defense of George W. Bush, and believed complaints about civil liberties were deployed as a cudgel to undermine the president. If CPAC is an indicator of the state of conservatism—and I’m not entirely convinced that it’s much more than a poorly executed media event—then expect this civil war to be long and bloody.


By: Michael Moynihan, The Daily Beast, March 17, 2013

March 18, 2013 Posted by | CPAC | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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