"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“When Policy No Longer Has Value”: Pat Toomey’s Candor Sheds Light On The Post-Policy Republican Party

When Senate Republicans last week killed expanded background checks on firearms purchases, they were taking a political risk. After all, it was only four months after a massacre at an elementary school, and the bipartisan proposal enjoyed overwhelming support from the public. Some of the senators who supported the Republican filibuster are now paying a steep price.

So why did GOP senators put aside common sense and popular will? According to Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who co-authored the bipartisan measure, it wasn’t just about the gun lobby — some of his Republican colleagues didn’t want to “be seen helping the president.”

“In the end it didn’t pass because we’re so politicized. There were some on my side who did not want to be seen helping the president do something he wanted to get done, just because the president wanted to do it,” Toomey admitted on Tuesday in an interview with Digital First Media editors in the offices of the Times Herald newspaper in Norristown, Pa.

Later, Toomey tried to walk that back a bit, saying he was referring not just to Senate Republicans, but also Republican voters, but I think in this case, Toomey’s original line was his honest assessment. Indeed, the clarification doesn’t even make sense — GOP voters “did not want to be seen helping the president”? C’mon.

I think the senator’s candor is important for a couple of key reasons. The first, of course, is that it puts the debate over gun reforms in a fresh light. You’ll recall that two weeks ago, much of the political commentary surrounding the Senate vote focused on holding President Obama responsible — he didn’t “twist arms” enough; he didn’t “lead” enough; he didn’t act like an Aaron Sorkin character enough. Blame the White House, we were told, for Republican intransigence.

According to Toomey — who presumably has a pretty good sense of the motivations of his own colleagues in his own party — the media’s blame game had it backwards. No amount of presidential arm-twisting can overcome the will of lawmakers who want to defeat the president’s agenda because it’s the president’s agenda.

The second angle to keep in mind is the post-policy thesis I’ve been harping on for weeks.

If you’re just joining us, Rachel used the phrase on the show two months ago, asking whether Republicans have become a “post-policy” party. This was the exchange between Rachel and Ezra Klein:

MADDOW: Does that mean that [Republican policymakers are] post-policy, that the policy actually — even some things that seem like constants don’t actually matter to them, that it’s pure politics, just positioning themselves vis-a-vis the president, and they’re not actually invested in any particular outcome for the country?

KLEIN: I would like to have an answer where that isn’t true. I really would.

In context, they were talking about budget issues, but note how well the thesis applies to just about every contemporary policy debate in Washington.

Indeed, according to Toomey, some Senate Republicans might have considered simple steps to prevent gun violence, but it was more important to them to play a partisan game — they were invested in pure politics, positioning themselves vis-a-vis the president, and the GOP was unconcerned with any particular outcome for the country.

This is unsustainable. The American system of government is dependent on a series of compromises — between the two parties, between the two chambers of Congress, between the executive and legislative branches — and governing breaks down when one party decides policy no longer has any value and there’s simply no need to consider concessions with those on the other side of the aisle.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 1, 2013

May 2, 2013 Posted by | Background Checks, Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“History Is A Cruel Judge Of Overconfidence”: Ten Years Ago, Bush Declared “Mission Accomplished” And The Media Swooned

Today marks the tenth anniversary of Mission Accomplished Day, or as it might better be known, Mission (Not) Accomplished Day. Sadly, it comes amid another upheaval in sectarian violence in Iraq—two days ago The New York Times warned of a new “civil war” there—and a week after the attempts at Bush revisionism upon the opening of his library. We’re also seeing aspects of the run-up to the Iraq invasion playing out in the fresh, perhaps overheated, claims of chemical weapons in Syria.

In my favorite antiwar song of this war, “Shock and Awe,” Neil Young moaned: “Back in the days of Mission Accomplished/ our chief was landing on the deck/ The sun was setting/ behind a golden photo op.” But as Neil added elsewhere in the tune: “History is a cruel judge of overconfidence.”

Nowhere can we see this more clearly than in the media coverage of the event.

On May 1, 2003, Richard Perle advised, in a USA Today op-ed, “Relax, Celebrate Victory.” The same day, President Bush, dressed in a flight suit, landed on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and declared an end to major military operations in Iraq—with the now-infamous “Mission Accomplished” banner arrayed behind him.

Chris Matthews on MSNBC called Bush a “hero” and boomed, “He won the war. He was an effective commander. Everybody recognizes that, I believe, except a few critics.” He added: “Women like a guy who’s president. Check it out. The women like this war. I think we like having a hero as our president. It’s simple.”

PBS’ Gwen Ifill said Bush was “part Tom Cruise, part Ronald Reagan.” On NBC, Brian Williams gushed, “The pictures were beautiful. It was quite something to see the first-ever American president on a—on a carrier landing.”

Bob Schieffer on CBS said: “As far as I’m concerned, that was one of the great pictures of all time.” His guest, Joe Klein, responded: “Well, that was probably the coolest presidential image since Bill Pullman played the jet fighter pilot in the movie Independence Day. That was the first thing that came to mind for me.”

Everyone agreed the Democrats and antiwar critics were now on the run. The New York Times observed, “The Bush administration is planning to withdraw most United States combat forces from Iraq over the next several months and wants to shrink the American military presence to less than two divisions by the fall, senior allied officials said today.”

Maureen Dowd in her column did offer a bit of over-the-top mockery, declaring: “Out bounded the cocky, rule-breaking, daredevil flyboy, a man navigating the Highway to the Danger Zone, out along the edges where he was born to be, the further on the edge, the hotter the intensity.

“He flashed that famous all-American grin as he swaggered around the deck of the aircraft carrier in his olive flight suit, ejection harness between his legs, helmet tucked under his arm, awestruck crew crowding around. Maverick was back, cooler and hotter than ever, throttling to the max with joystick politics. Compared to Karl Rove’s ”revvin’ up your engine” myth-making cinematic style, Jerry Bruckheimer’s movies look like Lizzie McGuire.

“This time Maverick didn’t just nail a few bogeys and do a 4G inverted dive with a MiG-28 at a range of two meters. This time the Top Gun wasted a couple of nasty regimes, and promised this was just the beginning.”

When Bush’s jet landed on the aircraft carrier, American casualties stood at 139 killed and 542 wounded. That was over 4,300 American, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi, fatalities ago.


By: Greg Mitchell, The Nation, May 1, 2013

May 2, 2013 Posted by | Iraq War | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Ugly And Getting Worse”: A Republican House Divided Against Itself

It didn’t get much attention last week, but House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) suffered a significant defeat last week. The Virginia Republican, as part of a larger rebranding campaign, crafted something called the “Helping Sick Americans Now Act,” which intended to transfer money from the Affordable Care Act to high-risk pools for the uninsured.

Democrats saw through the scheme, but more importantly, House Republicans hated the idea, seeing it as a plan to “fix” Obamacare. Humiliated, Cantor was forced to pull his bill without a vote.

The overlooked fiasco was a problem House GOP leaders saw coming.

Less than two weeks ago, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy walked upstairs to Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s Capitol office to discuss a sensitive issue: Why did Cantor schedule a vote before McCarthy had the chance to survey Republican support?

The meeting — described as “tense” by several people familiar with it — ended with McCarthy abruptly standing up and storming out of the room. Aides downplayed the exchange. But a week later, it turned out that McCarthy’s pique was merited: The health care-related bill was suddenly pulled from the floor in what was the most recent stumble for House Republicans.

If this was a rare misstep, and the Republican-led House ran like a well-oiled governing machine, it’d be easy to overlook. But the trouble with Cantor’s bill appears to be evidence of a much larger and deeper problem.

We talked a month ago about House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) “Make the Senate go first” rule that effectively takes the House out of the governing process altogether, but Jake Sherman’s report makes it seem as if Boehner doesn’t have much of a choice — this is a House “in chaos.” Republican leader are “talking past each other”; the House conference “is split by warring factions”; and influential outside groups are fighting their ostensible allies.

It’s ugly, and it’s getting worse.

There appear to be a series of factions, which clearly don’t see eye to eye. Right-wing lawmakers want to invest their time and energy into combating Democrats and voting on health care repeal; Cantor and his allies are focused on rebranding and conservative-friendly solutions; and Boehner has some big-ticket items in mind as he weighs the future of the so-called “Hastert Rule.”

In the meantime, four months into the new Congress, the House has no policy agenda, and according to the Politico report, GOP leaders even consider immigration reform a “long shot” in the lower chamber.

I’m not entirely convinced that the House is so far gone that governing is literally impossible, especially if the Speaker’s office is willing to forgo the “majority of the majority” and start passing bills with Democratic votes. Boehner has already done this four times this year, and if he’s willing to do it some more, this Congress may not be a complete disaster.

But clearly House Republicans are divided against themselves. There’s no meaningful leadership; no interest in cooperation or compromise; and post-policy nihilism rules the day. The demise of Cantor’s health care bill was a reminder that House Republicans will reject their own party’s policy ideas with nearly the same speed as they’ll reject Democratic ideas.

For many Beltway pundits, the inability of House Republicans to act like a governing caucus is mainly President Obama’s fault — if only he’d schmooze with them, form personal relationships, and act like a character in an Aaron Sorkin movie, maybe these radicalized nihilists would be more likely to get something done.

But all available evidence suggests the collapse of the House GOP is out of Obama’s hands. The House Republican conference is simply broken.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 1, 2013

May 2, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Politics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“One More Sleazy Christian”: Bob McDonnell Is Never Going To Be President

This is so sleazy and cowardly, what he said about the $15,000 from the CEO who helped to pay for his daughter’s wedding:

In Virginia, gifts to family members don’t need to be reported. The governor says that’s why he did not report the $15,000 gift from Williams to help pay for his daughter’s wedding. The FBI is now looking into the details of that gift.

“My daughter indicated that she wanted to pay for the wedding. She and her husband Chris. It’s something my wife and I did 37 years ago,” said Gov. McDonnell.

“As I’ve said publicly, I signed the initial contract, we put down some initial deposits, but my daughter and her husband wanted to pay for the wedding, in fact…they paid a significant amount, in fact, almost all the other expenses and they wanted to do this. Now they accepted the gift from Mr. Williams. And I believe under the reporting laws that this would be a gift to my daughter and not to me,” explained Governor McDonnell.

Is he out of his mind? This is a bribe, pure and simple. It may not be legally or technically, but morally, he accepted a bribe. And now he’s shoving it off on his daughter? I wonder if he had the decency to tell her before he decided to throw her under the bus in public. Unbelievable.

Why do these people always think they’re not going to get caught? And what power on earth could make him think that accepting this $15,000 was okay? It’s mind boggling. And doesn’t this man purport to be a good Christian?

Virginia governors are limited to one term. McDonnell supposedly fancies himself a presidential candidate and sees his path to the GOP nomination as through the Christian right (he studied at Pat Robertson’s Regent University), which is why he proposes all those laws policing vaginas. Those are bad enough, at least to some of us. But this. This is like some corrupt Bronx pol in the 1950s. And it will stick. One more sleazy Christian.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, May 1, 2013

May 2, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Gotta Nuke Something”: House Republicans Eyeing New Hostage Opportunity

The House Republicans are contemplating a new budget-hostage strategy, the Washington Post reports in a story that is both highly useful and inadvertently Onion-esque. The hallmark of Onion news reporting is conveying insanity as if it were sane in a completely deadpan way. The news contained within the story is that the House GOP is thinking of tying the next increase in the debt ceiling to tax reform. Under this proposed strategy, the Post reports, “The debt limit might be raised for only a few months, with the promise of another increase when tax reform legislation passes the Senate.”

If you didn’t fall out of your chair when reading that apparently anodyne sentence, let me explain why you should have. In 2011, House Republicans undertook a novel and radically new dangerous political tactic of using the debt limit as a political bargaining chip. Before, the opposition party had treated the debt limit increase as a necessary step, though one they would posture over and use to flay the administration. (Senator Barack Obama followed this pattern.) The Republicans instead decided to actually threaten not to raise the debt ceiling unless Obama granted them policy concessions. This was extraordinarily risky. By mixing together a vote that was needed to prevent economic calamity with inherently contentious debates over the size of government, it turned routine budget disputes into a financial Cuban Missile Crisis.

The official party rationale for this extraordinary tactic was that, risky though it may be to fail to lift the debt ceiling, failing to reduce the debt was even riskier. An extreme imminent crisis justified extreme tactics. The risk of becoming Greece outweighed the risk of a debt-limit snafu (though it was not, of course, high enough to justify even a partial repeal of the Bush tax cuts).

President Obama has taken these arguments at face value, offering to meet the opposition halfway, or more than halfway, in order to strike a deal. He has publicly offered significant cuts to spending on retirement programs. But some Republicans don’t want that deal, the Post reports, because “The proposals, included in the president’s budget request, outraged seniors, and some Republicans fear that embracing them would be political suicide.”

Oh! So you threaten to melt down the world economy unless Obama agrees to cut spending on retirement programs, and then he offers to do that, and then you decide it’s too unpopular?

The decision that they no longer care about the thing they were prepared to unleash worldwide economic havoc to achieve has not caused them to abandon the debt ceiling as a hostage. (It’s the party’s Nelson Muntz–ian approach to resolving policy disagreements: “Gotta nuke something.”) If obtaining retirement cuts went from so urgent it was worth threatening to nuke the world economy over to “meh,” the next step is to figure out the next thing to nuke the world economy over. That thing, the Post reports, is tax reform.

But what is the GOP position on tax reform? It’s that tax reform must cut tax rates and not raise any revenue at all. So House Republicans are prepared to refuse to raise the debt ceiling unless Democrats agree to let them cut tax rates without increasing revenue. Their extraordinary threat, first presented as a way to force a reduction in the deficit, is now being wielded to prevent a reduction in the deficit.


By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, April 29, 2013

May 2, 2013 Posted by | Debt Ceiling, GOP | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: