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

“Where’s My War?”: Spoiling The War With Iran That GOP Hawks So Fervently Desire

Last week I predicted that a lot of conservatives would wind up opposing the president’s request for a use-of-force resolution aimed at limited objectives based on a revival of the ancient “no-win-war” meme: that only a big, brawling unlimited war based on imposing America’s will unilaterally is worth fighting. Now that the threat of a military strike is being explicitly linked to the possibility of a diplomatic solution, neocons and regular old-school defenders of the military-industrial complex look to be stampeding in that direction.

Mitch McConnell has released his draft speech opposing a use-of-force resolution, and it relies very heavily on the no-win-war meme (even if his real motives are inveterate Obama-hatred and fear of getting out of synch with his most crucial ally is his primary battle back home, Rand Paul).

On the deepest level, I think it comes down to a fundamentally different view of America’s role in the world. Unlike the President, I’ve always been a firm and unapologetic believer in the idea that America isn’t just another nation among many; that we’re exceptional. As I’ve said, I believe we have a duty, as a superpower without imperialistic aims, to help maintain an international order and balance of power that we and other allies have worked very hard on over the years.

This President, on the other hand, has always been a very reluctant Commander in Chief. We saw that in the rhetoric of his famous Cairo speech, and in speeches he gave in other foreign capitals in the early days of his administration. The tone, and the policies that followed, were meant to project a humbler, more withdrawn America … and, frankly, I’m hard pressed to see any of the good that’s come from it.

He goes on and on, but the bottom line is that he won’t support a limited war and doesn’t think this president is capable of anything else.

Since neocons like John McCain and Lindsey Graham were already furious at Obama for failing to commit fully to war in Syria, and stayed on the reservation only when the use-of-force resolution was amended to aim at a change of the balance of forces between Assad and the rebels, it will be interesting to see if they defect as well (they have not so far) if the diplomatic initiative doesn’t collapse right away.

But neocon blogger Jennifer Rubin, who previously managed to support the use-of-force resolution while continuing to hurl insults at its prime proponent in the White House, has had enough of this peace talk:

This is fitting in a way. The president went to Congress for political cover. Then he went to Putin. Congress at this point is entitled to tell the president to solve his own mess.

Yeah, it’s sad that Obama may be in the process of spoiling the war with Syria that was supposed to pave the way to the war with Iran that so many GOP “hawks” actually want. So many of them may well move from a tactical alliance with Obama to a tactical alliance with Rand Paul, squawking belligerently all the way.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, September 10, 2013

September 11, 2013 Posted by | Foreign Policy, GOP | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“No, Poverty Is Not The Fault Of The Poor”: Remember Folks, The Banks Crashed The Economy

We’re starting to prep for “poverty day” around these parts–it’s next Tues, 9/17–the Census Bureau will release the poverty and household income results for last year. There’s lots of rich data and both CBPP and yours truly will have much to say about the results.

But in prepping for a presentation on this stuff for tomorrow, I made the graph below, just showing the sharp increase in the official poverty rate over the great recession. I’ve noted in many posts the limits of the official measure, most importantly re the dates shown in the figure, how it leaves out many of the safety net benefits that expanded to offset the downturn.

But to explain what struck me in gazing upon this simple figure below, we’re actually better off looking at the incomplete official rate. How can it make any sense to blame the poor themselves, as per Charles Murray, Paul Ryan, along with pretty much the rest of the House R’s caucus, for this increase in poverty in the midst of the worst downturn since the Great Depression?

How is it that those of us trying to argue on behalf of providing the poor with the opportunities they need are so often back on our heels, defending the increase in the SNAP (i.e., food stamp) rolls against those who claim the safety net is a hammock? Did the poor come up with the financial “innovations” that inflated the housing bubble? You know, the one that imploded and took the economy down with it…how about the bubble? Was that also the dastardly work of the bottom 20%?

Perhaps I’m a little sensitive after this debate earlier today on CNBC. Or maybe it’s the juxtaposition of the finance sector’s recent profitability and the flack the $15/hr fast-food strikers are getting from the economic elites.

But really, it’s time to get on offense here, my friends. Listen, elites: you want less people on food stamps? Fine…then stop screwing up the economy. Then we’ll talk. Until then—until we’re back around full employment, until you stop blowing bubbles, I really don’t want to hear from you about hammocks and the bad decisions of the poor. You want to talk job creation, infrastructure investment, skills training, mobility, opportunity—I’m all ears. Otherwise, quiet down and get to work.

OK…rant over.




By: Jared Bernstein, Salon September 10, 2013

September 11, 2013 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Poverty | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Leading By Weather Vane”: Mitch McConnell Sticks His Finger In The Wind, Makes Up His Mind

In August, as Senate Republicans argued among themselves over budget strategies, their ostensible leader, Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell (R), stayed on the sidelines. Worried that bold stands might hurt his re-election chances, the Senate Minority Leader was too afraid to take a stand.

In September, as GOP lawmakers have argued among themselves over U.S. policy in Syria, McConnell has again been afraid to lead. Yesterday, the Minority Leader didn’t even want to be on the Senate floor for fear he might have to take a position on the issue of the day.

This morning, after carefully waiting for his pollsters to tell him what to say pondering the issue for three weeks, McConnell spoke up.

Breaking his silence on Syria, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell revealed Tuesday that he will oppose a resolution giving President Barack Obama the authority to unleash military strikes.

“I will be voting against this resolution — a vital national security risk is clearly not at play” McConnell said in a speech prepared for delivery on the Senate floor that painted the White House strategy as muddled and rife with “unintended consequences.

McConnell added, “It’s not exactly a state secret that I’m no fan of this president’s foreign policy.”

That’s certainly true, though it’s also not exactly a state secret that McConnell has spent his congressional career as a hawk, broadly supportive of using force abroad and backing military intervention to address national security crises.

So what changed? In case it’s not obvious, McConnell is terrified of losing.

He has a credible primary opponent, an equal credible general-election challenger, and poll numbers that suggest McConnell is one of the least popular senators in the nation. It made for an easy calculus — the Minority Leader will abandon his foreign policy principles because neither the president nor intervention in Syria are popular. Sure, it’s craven to approach U.S. foreign policy this way, but McConnell apparently doesn’t care.

This also, incidentally, creates an unexpected intra-party division — the top two House Republicans (Boehner and Cantor) support the president’s position, while the top two Senate Republicans (McConnell and Cornyn) do not.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, Deptember 10, 2013

September 11, 2013 Posted by | National Security, Syria | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Let’s Defund America”: The Tea Party’s Silliest Push Yet

Washington will be visited today by tea party members rallying to urge Congress to “Defund Obamacare.” Here’s the most interesting (and ironic) thing about the #DefundObamacare effort: Even if they convince congressional Republicans to hold hostage America’s budget, it won’t defund Obamacare – but by stopping funding to critical programs, it would defund America.

That’s right. A government shutdown would not shut down Obamacare. That’s what the Congressional Research Service reported when asked by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.  How is that possible, you ask? Because much of Obamacare is funded by multiyear and mandatory funding. Such funding is unaffected by the annual appropriations that the tea party wants House Speaker John Boehner to shut down. The state marketplaces (known more commonly as “exchanges”), the subsidies for low-income people to buy insurance, the individual mandate and all the new rules prohibiting insurance company discriminations and abuses (remember the days of pre-existing conditions)? They’ll all go forward even if the tea party succeeds in disrupting this year’s federal budget. That’s why Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., called the defund plan “the dumbest idea” he ever heard, and why Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called it “Shenanigans.”

Okay, so the entire goal of the tea party’s rally isn’t even possible.

But guess what?  Even the rationale for the tea party’s rally is mixed up. They claim the reason to “exempt America” from the Affordable Care Act is that Congress is already exempted from it and because large employers are as well. But, here’s the problem:  Neither point is factually true. Facts are stubborn things, as John Adams famously said.

First, the federal Office of Personnel Management ruled a few weeks ago that members of Congress and their staffs will, indeed, receive their insurance through the state Marketplaces. But, heck, tea party leaders apparently figure, people are already on their way to the rally and haven’t heard the OPM news, so let’s just leave them in the dark.  No need to actually correct the record. Why let facts get in the way of a good rally on the Mall?

And large employers? Ninety-six percent of large employers already offer health insurance because that’s what the market demands. Only 4 percent of large employers aren’t yet covered. But they didn’t get an “exemption” as the tea party contends; they simply got a temporary delay in having to provide insurance. Obama simply said he didn’t need to fight with a tiny handful of businesses if they honestly needed a few more months to get organized to offer insurance. So neither Congress nor big business is “exempt” from Obamacare.

In short, what are we looking at? The tea party’s rationale isn’t valid, and its goal isn’t even doable.

Nevertheless, whether or not Boehner will cave to the tea party remains very much in question. Boehner may indeed try to defund America. After all, his speakership rests in part on his ability to keep the extremists in his caucus supporting him – not always easy with Eric Cantor breathing down his neck.

What would happen if the tea party won and shut the government down? What impact would they have? Here are some examples of who would get hurt if Republicans defund America:

Recent veterans returning from Afghanistan who try to file new claims with the Veterans Administration. Although VA hospitals would presumably remain open in a shutdown, the staff who normally handle new claims wouldn’t be at their desks.

Parents sending their kids back to school, who want to know that federal food inspectors will be on the job making sure peanut butter and hamburgers are not contaminated.

College students who have questions about federal student loans, including vets using the GI Bill (which is often late or incorrect in its disbursement) – but who will find no staff at the Department of Education or VA desks to answer their questions.

Grandparents who are finally old enough for Social Security and want to file a new claim will find that there aren’t Social Security staff around to get them started. (But Americans should rest assured that existing Social Security will continue to be sent out on time – that is, unless the tea party also succeeds in convincing the GOP to push America into a default crisis at the beginning of October, when the credit card payments come due that Congress has racked up; then nobody knows what will happen.)

Americans of all ages who get hit by the flu season or an outbreak of whooping cough, because there won’t be Centers for Disease Control and Prevention staff at their desks to track and warn us about the flu or any other disease.

One tea party leader recently wrote in USA Today that she is “undeterred by the consequences.” Really?

No wonder only seven percent of Americans agree with the tea party’s idea of shutting down the government over Obamacare. Nobody wants to Defund America. Americans need a federal budget that creates jobs and grows the economy. But to whom are Speaker Boehner and his caucus listening? Americans might consider speaking up to counter the tea party’s megaphone. Business leaders who want a stable economy and predictable federal budget should remind Speaker Boehner that America’s budget is not the place for political stunts.


By: Carrie Woffard U. S. News and World Report, September 10, 2013

September 11, 2013 Posted by | Government Shut Down, Tea Party | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Coming To A Head Very Soon”: Syria Isn’t The Only Crisis On Congress’ To-Do List

It seems like a long time ago, but as recently as mid-August there was a spirited fight within the Republican Party about the looming budget crisis. Far-right lawmakers wanted to use the threat of a government shutdown to pressure Democrats into defunding the federal health care system — an idea destined for failure — while party leaders balked.

U.S. policy in Syria quickly became the dominant issue on the political landscape, but in the back of our minds, there was an awkward realization: the budget fight had been pushed from the front page, but it hadn’t gone away. Indeed, folks stopped talking about this, but nothing had changed — GOP extremists still demanded a shutdown; the GOP mainstream still hated the idea.

This is coming to a head very soon, and the House Republican leadership has an idea on how to get themselves out of this mess. As Sahil Kapur reports, GOP leaders will make their pitch to the caucus today.

First, the House would pass a continuing resolution to continue funding the government at sequester levels, coupled with an amendment to defund Obamacare. When the package is sent to the Senate, it would be required to vote on the defunding measure first. If the Senate votes it down, and then passes the CR with Obamacare funding, it goes straight to President Barack Obama’s desk.

No confrontation. No attempt to force Democrats to back down. No need to go back to the House for a vote on a clean continuing resolution. But conservatives get a vote.

Just to clarify, there would be only one vote in the House — members would vote for the spending measure, with the anti-Obamacare measure tacked on as a sort of appendage. The Senate, meanwhile, would hold two votes — one to reject the House package, the other to approve the House package without the healthcare add-on.

In effect, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and the rest of the leadership want to put on a little political theater in the hopes of making their far-right colleagues feel better about themselves. Everyone would know in advance that the Senate would reject the effort to defund the Affordable Care Act, but the plan allows for Republicans to cast this vote with the knowledge that they wouldn’t actually have to shut down the government.

It’s a win-win, right? Conservatives get to say they voted to “defund Obamacare”; Democrats would get to keep the government’s lights on; and GOP leaders would get to placate the radicals among them without any real adverse consequences.

At least, that’s the idea. The trouble comes when we take a closer look.

First, there’s a very real possibility that right-wing lawmakers won’t appreciate feeling patronized by their own leaders, and simply won’t accept the plan as a credible solution. Indeed, this isn’t just idle speculation: “Conservative Republicans who caught wind of the plan on Monday told The Hill it was unacceptable.”

These folks don’t want a symbolic, feel-good gesture; these folks actually want to force a budget crisis in the hopes of denying millions of Americans access to affordable health care. Republican leaders are afraid of the fallout of a government shutdown, but rank-and-file Republicans don’t give a darn.

And if House Republicans balk at their own leadership’s ploy, it means Boehner & Co. will find themselves dependent on House Democratic votes to avoid a shutdown. Do you think Dems might want a little something out of this deal to save the Speaker’s butt? Count on it.

Which then leads us to the second problem: under this approach, spending levels are still at sequestration levels. Why is that important? Because the sequester is a painfully stupid and destructive policy that’s hurting the country for no reason.

In August, Boehner said “none of us like” the sequestration policy. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said the sequester “is not the best way to go about spending reductions.” House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said the sequester is “unrealistic,” “ill-conceived,” and a policy that “must be brought to an end.”

And yet, the Speaker’s plan is to effectively tell the right, “You’re not getting the shutdown you wanted, but at least you’re getting the destructive sequestration cuts we pretend not to like.”

There’s a real chance that rank-and-file Republicans oppose the idea because they want to shut down the government, while rank-and-file Democrats balk because they hate the sequester.

All of this will have to be dealt with fairly soon, since the government runs out of money on Sept. 30. Once that’s done, we then get to move on to congressional Republicans threatening to crash the global economy on purpose with another debt-ceiling hostage crisis.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 10, 2013

September 11, 2013 Posted by | Budget, Congress | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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