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“It’s Official, The Tea Party Is Back”: Once Again, Fantasies Of A Pragmatic GOP Prove Illusory

Say what you will about Politico, but aside from the many bits of useful phenomenological data its vast minions gather each day, it serves as a sort of public utility in instantly and thoroughly expressing the shifting perspectives of the MSM. Today, having misinterpreted and buried the Tea Party Movement a thousand times, Politico (in this piece by Tarini Parti) now takes judicial notice of its return on Capitol Hill:

The Tea Party Caucus is back in action with a new strategy and a growing membership.

Roughly 20 House Republicans attended a closed-door meeting Thursday evening in the Rayburn House Office Building, along with staffers from nearly 40 congressional offices, including those of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and fellow Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul.

It comes as conservatives continue to flex their muscle, making life difficult for GOP leaders in the House on issues like Obamacare, and as the debate on immigration legislation heats up.

Conservative mainstays such as Reps. Paul Broun (R-Ga.), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Tom Price (R-Ga.), Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and Steve King (R-Iowa) were among those at the meeting. A source said the entire GOP House delegation from South Carolina was there as well.

Mike Shields, chief of staff to Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, spoke at the meeting – an indication that the GOP establishment is making an effort to work with the tea party lawmakers.

Also in attendance: Conservative radio talk show host Rusty Humphries and representatives from organizations including the Tea Party Express and U.S. Chamber of Commerce. organized the meeting, which was closed to press.

The possibility that high attendance at the caucus meeting might reflect a continuing presence rather than a sudden resurgence was indirectly addressed by this quote from Louie Gohmert:

“I thought it was the energy we had when we first started things,” Gohmert told POLITICO after the meeting. “The Tea Party beliefs and movement never really went away. It was just that the caucus wasn’t really having meetings.”

True dat. You could make the case, in fact, that the relative quiescence of the Tea Party Caucus was attributable to its consolidation of power within the Republican “Establishment.” Now that strategic disagreements within the congressional GOP are re-emerging, it’s time to get loud and proud again. But the whole phenomenon shows how shallow all the talk about the GOP “rebranding” and “adjusting to new circumstances” really was–much less the fatuous chatter about “bipartisan breezes wafting through Congress.”

It’s entirely possible, not soon but in the foreseeable future, that the Republican Party and even the conservative movement can genuinely move beyond the “Spirit of 2010” and begin to act like a political party rather than a wrecking crew. But anyone who has paid genuine attention to the Tea Party Movement must understand that these are people who violently oppose the idea of “moving on” or “adjusting to circumstances.” The whole point of “constitutional conservatism” is the belief in an eternal, perhaps even divinely ordained, governing model that never, ever, goes out of season. Maybe they’ll lose influence in the GOP and the country as a whole, but they aren’t going away or changing. Their periodic rediscovery by the MSM when once again fantasies of a “pragmatic” GOP prove illusory is one of the maddening but abiding aspects of contemporary political journalism.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, April 26, 2013

April 28, 2013 Posted by | Media, Teaparty | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Morose Middle Class”: At Best, Treading Water And At Worst, Sinking

The Middle Class is in a funk, its view of the future growing dim as fear rolls in like a storm.

An Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll released Thursday found that while most Americans (56 percent) hold out hope that they‘ll be in a higher class at some point, even more Americans (59 percent) are worried about falling out of their current class over the next few years. In fact, more than eight in 10 Americans believe that more people have fallen out of the middle class than moved into it in the past few years.

The poll paints a picture of a group that is scared to death about its station in life.

By the way, 58 percent of respondents in the poll viewed themselves as either middle class (46 percent) or upper middle class (12 percent).

According to the poll, Americans see a middle class with less opportunity to get ahead, less job security and less disposable income than the middle class of previous generations.

Respondents were most likely (52 percent) to say that losing a job would put them at the greatest risk of falling out of their current class, followed by an unexpected illness or injury in the family.

Most of those polled believe that higher education is the key to staying in the middle class, but many worry about its prohibitive cost and inaccessibility.

And who did most of them say is responsible for making it worse for the middle class? Congress, chief executives of major corporations and big financial institutions.

Of those who blame politicians, there is some evidence that Republicans get more of the blame than Democrats. A CNN/ORC poll released last month found that 32 percent of respondents thought that Democrats favor the middle class compared with 27 percent who believed the same of Republicans. Sixty-eight percent of those polled believed that Republicans favor the wealthy, compared with 24 percent who believed that Democrats do.

This anxiety about a shrinking middle class is understandable.

A Pew Research Center study, “The Lost Decade of the Middle Class,” released in August, found that “since 2000, the middle class has shrunk in size, fallen backward in income and wealth, and shed some — but by no means all — of its characteristic faith in the future.”

According to the report, “Fully 85 percent of self-described middle-class adults say it is more difficult now than it was a decade ago for middle-class people to maintain their standard of living.”

The report continued:

“Their downbeat take on their economic situation comes at the end of a decade in which, for the first time since the end of World War II, mean family incomes declined for Americans in all income tiers. But the middle-income tier — defined in this Pew Research analysis as all adults whose annual household income is two-thirds to double the national median — is the only one that also shrunk in size, a trend that has continued over the past four decades.”

It’s important to note that many of the people who describe themselves as middle class would not be placed under that rubric by most objective observers. For instance, the Pew study found that 35 percent of people making $30,000 and under and 46 percent of those making $100,000 and over self-identified as middle class. (Meantime, six percent of those making $30,000 and under self-identified as upper class, and six percent of those making $100,000 and over self-identified as lower class. Go figure.)

As Pew pointed out, over the last decade, “middle-tier median household income” fell and median net worth plummeted, and people in the middle class said it was becoming harder to maintain their lifestyles.

To add insult to injury, another Pew report, released this week, found that “during the first two years of the nation’s economic recovery, the mean net worth of households in the upper 7 percent of the wealth distribution rose by an estimated 28 percent, while the mean net worth of households in the lower 93 percent dropped by 4 percent.”

As The Washington Post reported in September after the release of a frightening Census report: “The vise on the middle class tightened last year, driving down its share of the income pie as the number of Americans in poverty leveled off and the most affluent households saw their portion grow.”

The wealthy have come surging back, riding record stock market highs, but many in the middle class are at best treading water and at worst sinking.

In his State of the Union speech in February, President Obama said that the “true engine of America’s economic growth” is “a rising, thriving middle class.”

It certainly looks as if that engine has stalled.


By: Charles M. Blow, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, April 27, 2013

April 28, 2013 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Middle Class | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“It’s Not Poor People”: A Lesson In Who Actually Matters To Washington

Last night, after just several days of complaints from flyers—who had to deal with airline delays—the Senate rushed to pass the Reducing Flight Delays Act of 2013, which give the Federal Aviation Administration the power to avoid sequestration by shifting money and avoiding furloughs for air traffic controllers. The House did the same today. Given the number of flights, and the time lost from delays, it’s a decent solution to a real problem.

It’s also incredibly frustrating.

The sequester has been a disaster. The indiscriminate cuts to discretionary spending have harmed kids in Head Start, workers on unemployment benefits, and families in Section 8 housing. It’s on track to remove tens of billions from the economy, both in spending cuts and in lost output, as people lose jobs and cut back on their consumption.

But none of this has moved Congress to act. Instead, Republicans continue to use the sequester as a political tool, attacking Obama for cutting spending they like, and touting it when it cuts spending they don’t.

That is, until the sequester begins to harm valuable constituents, i.e., businesspeople and other frequent flyers affected by the FAA furloughs. Then, Congress—and Republicans in particular—will rush to fix the damage. It doesn’t help that this comes just a day after lawmakers skipped a hearing on mass, long-term unemployment—one of the key problems facing the country.

Whenever pundits or politicians call for cuts to the social-safety net, it usually includes a pitch for “shared sacrifice.” The idea is appealing; if we have to make painful decisions, it’s only fair if everyone is affected. But the fact is that there is no shared sacrifice. As soon as the wealthy and connected begin to feel discomfort, Congress is there, ready to address their concerns.

If only the rest of us were so lucky.


By: Jamelle Bouie, The American Prospect, April 26, 2013

April 28, 2013 Posted by | Politics, Sequester | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Red Carpet For Ugly People”: White House Correspondents Dinner Has Nothing To Do With Journalism

Reading Peggy Noonan got me into a bad mood, and it was just terrible luck that the next cookie on the plate was this earnest Politico piece by Patrick Gavin on the anniversary of the “controversy” over the annual White House Correspondents Dinner. It seems Tom Brokaw has again broken the silence by expressing the quiet angst of the Beltway press corps at the pollution of this hallowed event by Hollywood celebrities:

Tom Brokaw blames it all on Lindsay Lohan.

Last year, Brokaw became one of the biggest critics of the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner after he saw Washington buzzing around and about the troubled Hollywood actress, who was a guest of Fox News’s Greta Van Susteren.

“The breaking point for me was Lindsay Lohan,” Brokaw told POLITICO during a recent interview in his office in the NBC News Rockefeller Plaza headquarters in New York. “She became a big star at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Give me a break.”

Reading the whole article, it’s unclear to me whether Brokaw is primarily concerned about gate-crashing by Hollywood types, or understands that the whole idiotic phenomenon of journalists dressing up like celebrities to schmooze with the rich and powerful people they are supposed to be writing critically about is itself a tad bit sick-making:

“They [the Great Unwashed] were making their own decisions in their own states, in their own communities, and the congressional ratings were plummeting,” he added. “The press corps wasn’t doing very well, either. And I thought, ‘This is one of the issues that we have to address. What kind of image do we present to the rest of the country? Are we doing their business, or are we just a group of narcissists who are mostly interested in elevating our own profiles?’ And what comes through the screen on C-SPAN that night is the latter, and not the former.”

That is exactly right, but it has nothing to do with the admixture of entertainment industry figures in the proceedings. All the borrowed Hollywood glitter does is to make it clearer than ever that if politics is “show business for ugly people,” as the old saying goes, then the White House Correspondents’ Dinner is their red carpet event. Let the stars of E! take over the whole damn thing, and stop pretending it has anything to do with journalism.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, April 26, 2013

April 28, 2013 Posted by | Journalism, Media | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Decider’s Poor Decisions”: George W Bush’s Legacy Keeps Getting Worse

In retrospect, George W. Bush’s legacy doesn’t look as bad as it did when he left office. It looks worse.

I join the nation in congratulating Bush on the opening of his presidential library in Dallas. Like many people, I find it much easier to honor, respect and even like the man — now that he’s no longer in the White House.

But anyone tempted to get sentimental should remember the actual record of the man who called himself The Decider. Begin with the indelible stain that one of his worst decisions left on our country’s honor: torture.

Hiding behind the euphemism “enhanced interrogation techniques,” Bush made torture official U.S. policy. Just about every objective observer has agreed with this stark conclusion. The most recent assessment came this month in a 576-page report from a task force of the bipartisan Constitution Project, which stated that “it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture.”

We knew about the torture before Bush left office — at least, we knew about the waterboarding of three “high-value” detainees involved in planning the 9/11 attacks. But the Constitution Project task force — which included such figures as Asa Hutchinson, who served in high-ranking posts in the Bush administration, and William Sessions, who was FBI director under three presidents — concluded that other forms of torture were used “in many instances” in a manner that was “directly counter to values of the Constitution and our nation.”

Bush administration apologists argue that even waterboarding does not necessarily constitute torture and that other coercive — and excruciatingly painful — interrogation methods, such as putting subjects in “stress positions” or exposing them to extreme temperatures, certainly do not. The task force strongly disagreed, citing U.S. laws and court rulings, international treaties and common decency.

The Senate intelligence committee has produced, but refuses to make public, a 6,000-page report on the CIA’s use of torture and the network of clandestine “black site” prisons the agency established under Bush. One of President Obama’s worst decisions upon taking office in 2009, in my view, was to decline to convene some kind of blue-ribbon “truth commission” to bring all the abuses to light.

It may be years before all the facts are known. But the decision to commit torture looks ever more shameful with the passage of time.

Bush’s decision to invade and conquer Iraq also looks, in hindsight, like an even bigger strategic error. Saddam Hussein’s purported weapons of mass destruction still have yet to be found; nearly 5,000 Americans and untold Iraqis sacrificed their lives to eliminate a threat that did not exist.

We knew this, of course, when Obama became president. It’s one of the main reasons he was elected. We knew, too, that Bush’s decision to turn to Iraq diverted focus and resources from Afghanistan. But I don’t think anyone fully grasped that giving the Taliban a long, healing respite would eventually make Afghanistan this country’s longest or second-longest war, depending on what date you choose as the beginning of hostilities in Vietnam.

And it’s clear that the Bush administration did not foresee how the Iraq experience would constrain future presidents in their use of military force. Syria is a good example. Like Saddam, Bashar al-Assad is a ruthless dictator who does not hesitate to massacre his own people. But unlike Saddam, Assad does have weapons of mass destruction. And unlike Saddam, Assad has alliances with the terrorist group Hezbollah and the nuclear-mad mullahs in Iran.

I do not advocate U.S. intervention in Syria, because I fear we might make things worse rather than better. But I wonder how I might feel — and what options Obama might have — if we had not squandered so much blood and treasure in Iraq.

Bush didn’t pay for his wars. The bills he racked up for military adventures, prescription-drug benefits, the bank bailout and other impulse purchases helped create the fiscal and financial crises he bequeathed to Obama. His profligacy also robbed the Republican Party establishment of small-government credibility, thus helping give birth to the tea party movement. Thanks a lot for that.

As I’ve written before, Bush did an enormous amount of good by making it possible for AIDS sufferers in Africa to receive antiretroviral drug therapy. This literally saved millions of lives and should weigh heavily on one side of the scale when we assess The Decider’s presidency. But the pile on the other side just keeps getting bigger.


By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, April 25, 2013

April 28, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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