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

“Up To His Eyeballs In Alligators:” Mitch McConnell Flirts With The Tea Party Crazies On The Debt Ceiling

Sen. Mitch McConnell is so up to his eyeballs in alligators, he’s long since forgot about cleaning the swamp.

No question the senator hears the steady, galloping horses from the tea party extremists closing fast. To be sure, he faces a tough general election against Kentycky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes – some polls even show him behind.  But before he gets to next November he faces the threat of a challenge from within his own party.  Wealthy tea party candidate Matt Bevin is definitely nipping at his heals.

Maybe that is why McConnell is showing signs of joining the “crazy caucus” – that large band of Republicans who are ready to see a default on the debt, a shutdown of the government, a continuation of the sequester and the defunding of Obamacare – and by virtue of such insane policies, an economic meltdown.

They profess to be worried about the deficit and spending yet their policies so far, and their future plans, would see drastic reductions in tax revenue as they stall the recovery, put more people out of work and send us back into a recession.

Bad politics, bad economics and bad for America’s middle class.

Yesterday, McConnell expressed the need to use the debt for “leverage” against Obama.  “It’s a hostage worth ransoming,” McConnell has said.  He embraced the tea party call for not raising the debt limit and watching America default.  Sorry – been there, done that, didn’t work.

Maybe the Republicans should follow the example of their hero, President Reagan.

Here is what Ronald Reagan wrote to Congress when it came to raising the debt ceiling in 1983:

The full consequences of a default – or even the serious prospect of default – by the United States are impossible to predict and awesome to contemplate. Denigration of the full faith and credit of the United States would have substantial effects on the domestic financial markets and the value of the dollar in exchange markets. The Nation can ill afford to allow such a result. The risks, the costs, the disruptions, and the incalculable damage lead me to but one conclusion: the Senate must pass this legislation before the Congress adjourns.

Reagan, after all, raised the debt ceiling 18 times.

So, let’s play this out. If McConnell is so intent on joining the tea party in their efforts what is he risking if Obama calls the bluff of the “crazy caucus”? The full weight of responsible economists, editorial writers, business leaders, reasonable elected officials would come crashing down on him. As the minority leader in the Senate he would not be the engineer of a compromise but rather the creator of chaos.

The crazy caucus would become the chaos caucus, led by Mitch McConnell.

In short, he would have drunk the Kool-Aid and end up paying for it at the ballot box. He would be loudly criticized as the man who allowed what Reagan warned against to become a reality. Some legacy.

My guess is that President Obama has had about enough from the threats, the in-your-face tactics of the tea party. He’ll put his foot down, not be intimidated and let the chips fall.

And if I were betting, the Republican “crazy caucus” would morph rather quickly into the “suicide caucus.” And Mitch McConnell would be part of the carnage.


By: Peter Fenn, U. S. News and World Report, September 18, 2013

September 19, 2013 Posted by | Debt Ceiling, Government Shut Down | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“One Track Delusional Minds”: GOP Can’t Take Its Eyes Off Benghazi

A government-shutdown deadline is 12 days away, and Congress also needs to tackle a debt-ceiling increase, the farm bill, immigration, and a series of other pending nominations and pieces of legislation. Naturally, then, House Republicans remain preoccupied with Benghazi questions that have already been answered.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) slammed the State Department Wednesday for not firing anyone in relation to the terror attack in Benghazi, Libya.

“We’re here today because, at the end of the day, nobody was held accountable,” Royce told Patrick Kennedy, the under secretary of State for management. “Reassignment just doesn’t cut it in terms of addressing that issue.”

Kennedy tried to explain that four State Department officials were already relieved of their senior positions, but Republicans’ enduring outrage remained unaffected.

Indeed, GOP lawmakers will be able to keep their focus on Benghazi — and presumably send out more fundraising letters about how they’re “keeping the ‘scandal’ alive” — because this was one of only three Benghazi hearings House Republicans have scheduled this week.

Imagine what would be possible if GOP lawmakers invested a small fraction of these energies in actual governing.

Since that’s apparently not going to happen, let’s also note that the House Oversight Committee has finally released the full transcripts of the testimony lawmakers heard from Ambassador Thomas Pickering (pdf) and former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Admiral Mike Mullen (pdf).

And why is that important? I’m glad you asked.

Soon after the attack that left four Americans dead in Benghazi, Pickering and Mullen co-chaired an independent Accountability Review Board to scrutinize what transpired in great detail. When the House Oversight Committee launched a series of hearings, both men told Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) they’d be happy to answer lawmakers’ questions.

That proved to be difficult. Issa claimed that these officials “refused to come before our committee,” but the congressman was lying. Issa eventually said Pickering and Mullen could testify, but only in secret, behind closed doors, so the public couldn’t hear their remarks.

Sure, Issa held a variety of public hearings in the hopes of generating headlines, but when it came time to hear from the two officials who oversaw an independent investigation — officials with experience in the Reagan and Bush administrations — the California Republican was afraid to let Americans hear from them. I’ll leave it to you to speculate why.

But in time, Pickering and Mullen did appear, and after months of delays from Issa, their testimony is now available for public review. Why did the committee chairman delay the release of the transcripts for months? Probably because Pickering and Mullen reject and thoroughly discredit every wild-eyed theory Issa and his fellow Republicans continue to push in the hopes of creating a political controversy where one does not exist.

I realize this may seem like a dog-bites-man story — “credible, independent voices disprove right-wing conspiracy theories” isn’t front-page news — but I think it’s fair to say that if Pickering and Mullen had said anything to bolster the Republican agenda, Issa would have released the transcripts a long time ago, and it would have been a huge story.

The political media establishment shouldn’t be in the habit of saying the only developments that are newsworthy are the ones that reaffirm preferred GOP narratives.


By: Steve Benen, The Madow Blog, September 18, 2013

September 19, 2013 Posted by | Benghazi, GOP | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Not This Time”: Government Shutdown Report, How Republicans Play Chicken And Lose

Republicans are likely to incur serious political damage in their effort to hold hostage continued funding of the government in exchange for deep spending cuts. This routine has become an annual ritual, and in the past President Barack Obama has been the first one to cave. The 2011 Budget Control Act, which includes the automatic sequester, is one bitter fruit of the president’s past failure to hang tough in the face of Republican extremist demands.

But this time is different.

The Tea Party Republicans, who dominate the GOP House Caucus, are demanding that President Obama de-fund the Affordable Care Act in exchange for their willingness to fund ordinary government spending in the new fiscal year, which begins October 1. But they picked the wrong demand. In the past, Obama was willing to make deep cuts in federal spending in order to get a budget deal with Republicans. The Affordable Care Act, however, is a nonnegotiable for the president. It’s his personal crown jewel, the centerpiece of his legacy. For Tea Party Republicans, however, Obamacare is evil itself, and opposition to it is a loyalty test.

Moreover, the president has told Democrats in both the House and Senate caucuses that he has no intention of negotiating over the debt ceiling. If the Republicans want to play cute with America’s full faith and credit, they will bear the political responsibility for the consequences.

Happily, the test over the shutdown comes first. We don’t need a vote to extend the debt ceiling until mid-October. If the Republicans gamble and lose big on the shutdown, they may well back off the debt-ceiling threat.

Another nice break for Democrats: In the past, voters’ eyes have glazed over when it came to budget details, and much of the mainstream press has played budget standoffs as “partisan bickering,” as if it were the equal responsibility of both parties. Equal blame is a mantra promoted by such Wall Street groups as “Fix the Debt.”

This time, however, the press is reporting on the sheer extremism of the GOP. Polls suggest that in the case of a government shutdown, or worse, a debt default, Republicans would reap most of the blame. A CNN poll released last week found that 51 percent of people would blame Republicans for a shutdown, while 33 percent would blame President Obama. Twelve percent would blame both parties.

Ordinarily, Obama might offer other cuts in order to prevent a shutdown, but other cuts won’t do it this time; the Tea Party wants the scalp of ObamaCare. So a president who is ordinarily reluctant to hang tough may well let the Republicans shut down the government—and let them bear the responsibility. It worked for Bill Clinton in 1996 when Gingrich shut down the government and his Republicans took the fall.

Another nice break for the Democrats is that the Republicans are split several ways. The relative realists, including many GOP senators and the House Republican leadership, grasp just how much damage a shutdown or a debt default would do to their party. It would display to voters once and for all the sheer nuttiness of the Tea Party faction that now controls the House. Going into an election year, this sort of debacle could help the Democrats take back majority control in 2014.

But House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, nobody’s idea of political moderates, have failed utterly in their efforts to persuade the Tea Party Republicans of their folly—setting the stage for a donnybrook.

The GOP is also split between the congressional Tea Party and several conservative Republican governors who actually like Obamacare. Astoundingly, despite the right-wing animus toward anything connected to the Affordable Care Act, conservative governors in key states have accepted the provision in Obamacare to expand Medicaid mostly at the federal government’s expense.

These GOP turncoats include Rick Scott in Florida, Jan Brewer in Arizona, Ohio’s John Kasich, and Michigan’s Rick Snyder. Why the reversal? These are swing states, and the Medicaid expansion would reach well into the working middle class—people who are losing their health coverage. Medicaid is popular. Expanding Medicaid is not just sensible policy; it’s good politics.

So the Tea Party is on a collision course with both the congressional leadership and with Republican governors in several key states.

All of this opens up new possibilities for 2014. There are only about 25 contestable House seats thanks to gerrymandering. But if Democrats can pick up most of these, they can take back the House. It would take something big for that to happen, but shutting down the government and playing chicken with a debt default—that’s big.

It is said that most Tea Party Republicans don’t mind suicidal legislative politics because their own seats are safe. On the other hand, they don’t want to wake up in January 2015 as part of the House minority.

There’s only one glitch in this happy scenario. If Republicans do force a government shutdown, at some point they will have to back down and allow the government to reopen. And at that point, there would be pressure on President Obama to give them some cover by offering other cuts. Not Obamacare, of course—just minor stuff like Social Security, Medicare, education, food stamps, Head Start, and the rest.

But that’s a depressing column for another day, and maybe Obama will even enjoy the benefits of toughness and resist further cuts. For today, let’s enjoy the box the Republicans have put themselves in.


By: Robert Kuttner, The American Prospect, September 18, 2013

September 19, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Government Shut Down | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Shot Not Heard”: How President Obama Left The Neocons Feeling Foolish

“To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war.”

–Winston Churchill, June 26, 1954

Before you make the mistake of taking President Obama’s most strident critics regarding the Syrian deal too seriously, ponder this: With few exceptions, those calling the Russian-American agreement to eliminate Bashar al-Assad’s nerve gas arsenal a capitulation, a sellout, and a shameful retreat also think bombing Damascus wouldn’t have been nearly enough.

Nothing short of a boots-on American invasion of Syria would have satisfied these jokers. Prominent among them is Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who views the diplomatic breakthrough as “an act of provocative weakness on America’s part.”

McCain, who has vigorously supported all nine of the nation’s last three wars on about 316 TV talk shows, is never happy unless the U.S. is attacking somebody. Only violent solutions strike him as realistic. That’s probably the single biggest reason he never became president.

Then there’s Eliot A. Cohen, founding father of the Project for a New American Century, a now-defunct Washington pressure group whose messianic schemes for a U.S. empire stretching from the Mediterranean to Afghanistan inspired the Iraq War. Featuring such luminaries as Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, to these geniuses, overthrowing Saddam Hussein was only the beginning. Next on their agenda was Iran, in case you wonder why the mad ayatollahs have been tinkering with nukes.

So anyway, just as President Obama was getting ready to ask Congress to endorse a punitive strike against Syrian chemical weapon sites, Cohen published a Washington Post column scolding Americans for their cowardice. The families of the war dead, he allowed, were entitled to their sorrow.

“But for the great mass of the American public,” he wrote “for their leaders and the elites who shape public opinion, ‘war-weariness’ is unearned cant, unworthy of a serious nation and dangerous in a violent world…Americans can change the channel if they find the images too disturbing.”

Got that citizens? Shut up, pay your taxes and avert your eyes.

Next the Obama administration pulled a large Russian rabbit out of its hat, leaving the neocons feeling foolish. For all the hugger-mugger about “red lines” and the White House’s odd decision to position a naval task force within striking range of Damascus before deciding to ask congressional permission, the end result was nevertheless remarkable.

Clumsy? Definitely. But it’s not a Bruce Willis movie; it’s a foreign policy.

“By hook or by crook,” Kevin Drum writes “Obama (a) raised the issue of Assad’s chemical weapons to an international level, (b) got Vladimir Putin (!) to take a lead role in reining them in, (c) got Assad to join the chemical weapons ban and agree to give up his stockpiles, and (d) [did] it all while keeping military pressure as an active option, but without ever firing a shot.”

In other words, for all the nonsensical talk of “appeasement,” the very crafty President Putin and the Syrian dictator now own this deal. Meanwhile, U.S. military options remain unchanged. President Obama has bought himself considerable freedom of action.

Mike Tomasky has it right: “If Assad is mad enough to use [chemical weapons] again, Obama won’t mess with Congress or even Russia. He’ll be credited by most observers…for having shown restraint the first time, and more people will agree at that point that Assad must be punished.”

Then there’s Charles Krauthammer, the Post columnist who accuses Obama of “epic incompetence,” complaining that the Russians prefer to keep Bashar al-Assad in power. He worries that “Assad is the key link in the anti-Western Shiite crescent stretching from Tehran through Damascus and Beirut to the Mediterranean.”

Hmm… Isn’t something missing here? Let’s go to the maps. It’s roughly 900 miles from Tehran to Damascus via, oh yeah… Baghdad. See, it’s precisely the U.S. invasion of Iraq championed by Krauthammer and his chums that created this supposedly scary alliance. Sectarian strife among Sunni and Shiite Muslims has erupted there at irregular intervals for almost 1,400 years. Shouldn’t these brilliant thinkers have thought of that before now?

So what do the Russians want? In a word, stability. Unlike the U.S., Russia has a large Muslim minority. Roughly 1 in 6 Russians is Muslim. Like the Tsarnaev bothers of Boston, MA, nearly all are Sunni. What Putin definitely doesn’t want is Chechen separatists getting their hands on nerve gas. Driving overland, Syria’s roughly as close to Chechnya as to Iran.

Can Putin be trusted? To do what’s good for Russia, yes. As President Obama explained to George Stephanopoulos, the Cold War is over. “I don’t think that Mr. Putin has the same values that we do,” he said. “But what I’ve also said to him directly is that we both have an interest in preventing chaos, we both have an interest in preventing terrorism. The situation in Syria right now is untenable.”

And he also quoted Ronald Reagan: “Trust, but verify.”


By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, September 18, 2013

September 19, 2013 Posted by | Middle East, Syria | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Is America Crazy?”: Just Another Manic Monday

Is America crazy?

Twelve people killed at a secure naval installation virtually on the front porch of the federal government, eight others hurt, the shooter shot to death, and it’s just another manic Monday, another day in the life of a nation under the gun. So yes, maybe it’s time we acknowledged that gorilla in the back seat, time we asked the painfully obvious.

Is America crazy?

You know, don’t you, that Muslims watched this unfold with a prayer on their lips: “Don’t let him be a Muslim. Don’t let him be a Muslim. Please don’t let him be a Muslim.” Because they know — the last 12 years have forcefully taught them — how the actions of a lone madman can be used to tar an entire cause, religion or people.

In the end, almost as if in refutation of our ready-made narratives and practiced outrage, the shooter turns out to be a black Buddhist from Texas. It is a uniquely American amalgam that defies our love of easy, simplistic categories.

As we are thus deprived of ready-made cultural blame, the story will likely fall now into a well-worn groove. Someone will disinter Wayne LaPierre of the NRA from whatever crypt they keep him in between tragedies and he will say what he always does about how this could have been avoided if only more people in this secure military facility had been armed. And we will have the argument we always have about a Constitutional amendment written in an era when muskets were state of the art and citizen militias guarded the frontier. And politicians will say the things they always say and nothing will change.

Is America crazy?, the online version of the old Information Please almanac, maintains a list of school shootings and mass shootings internationally since 1996. Peruse it and one thing leaps out. Though such tragedies have touched places as far-flung as Carmen de Patagones, Argentina, and Erfurt, Germany, the list is absolutely dominated by American towns: Tucson, Memphis, Cold Spring, Red Lake, Tacoma, Jacksonville, Aurora, Oakland, Newtown. No other country even comes close.

In 1968, when Robert Kennedy became the victim of the fifth political assassination in five years, the historian Arthur Schlesinger famously asked a question: “What sort of people are we, we Americans? Today, we are the most frightening people on this planet.”

Forty-five years later, we may or may not still be the most frightening. But we are surely among the most frightened.

Indeed, for all our historical courage, we are in many ways a terrified people. Scared of the face at the window, the rattle at the door, the Other who wants to take our stuff. Scared of the overthrow of one of the most stable governments on earth.

So we arm ourselves to the tune of a reported 300 million guns in a nation of 316 million souls — no other country has more guns per capita. Americans, you see, don’t just like and use guns. We worship guns, mythologize guns, fetishize guns. Cannot conceive of ourselves without guns.

Thus, the idea of restricting access to them threatens something fundamental. Apparently, we’d rather endure these tragedies that repeat themselves that repeat themselves that repeat themselves as if on some diabolical loop, than explore reasonable solutions.

Is that a quantifiable malady, a treatable disorder?

Is America crazy?

Last week, the Des Moines Register reported that the state of Iowa issues gun carry permits to blind people. And people began debating this on grounds of constitutionality and equal access as if the very idea were not absurd on its face.

Is America crazy?

Look at those people fleeing the Navy Yard, look at the Senate on lockdown, look at the blind man packing. Ask yourself:

Does that look like sanity to you?


By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., The National Memo, September 18, 2013

September 19, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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