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“Boehner’s Empty Suit”: An Emperor On An Island With No Exit Bridge

A day in the life of the emptiest suit in Washington:

7 a.m. You wake up, light a Camel. Read a pink Post-it left on the refrigerator by your wife: “John, don’t ever forget, YOU REALLY ARE THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE!!! Also, we’re out of bagels.”

7:30 a.m. You lie in your tanning bed meditating about the government shutdown, wondering if it was such a brilliant idea to let it happen. You put on some Pink Floyd, “Dark Side of the Moon,” but that doesn’t help.

8:00 a.m. On the ride to Capitol Hill, your driver remarks that there’s not much traffic in the city, no tourists lined up to see money being inked at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. You smoke another Camel.

8:11 a.m. From the car you call the police to report that some jerk on D Street is selling “Boehner is a Bum” T-shirts — no, wait, he’s giving them away! Worse, he’s wearing a national park ranger’s uniform.

9:07 a.m. Staff meeting. The assistant in charge of reading all your hate mail insists she’s not crying, it’s just allergies.

On a more upbeat note, three Tea Party activists in Arizona tweeted that the shutdown is a smashing success, and that if you cave in to moderate Republicans who want to end it, then you are lower than lily-livered liberal scum.

9:30 a.m. You deliver your regular morning blame-Obama-for-everything soundbite, which goes pretty well, all things considered. Your wife calls to say you looked totally reasonable on TV, not the least bit satanic, and asks if you’d please swing by the grocery store on the way home.

10:46 a.m. Fox News wants to interview you about the 800,000-plus federal workers being laid off. How are they supposed to pay their mortgages, keep up their car payments, yada, yada, yada….

And this is Fox? They’re supposed to be on your side.

You tell your assistant in charge of turning down hard-hitting media interviews to say you’re too busy trying to end this dire national crisis caused entirely by the Democrats and the president.

11:07 a.m. Three discreet drags on a Camel before sneaking into another tanning bed that you’ve installed in a dark alcove near the Speaker’s office. You put on some Zeppelin, “In Through the Out Door,” but can’t stop thinking about the havoc you’ve created by not letting the shutdown come to a vote on the House floor.

At the Department of Defense, 400,000 civilian workers furloughed with no pay. Same story at NASA, the Department of Justice, Treasury, Commerce, Labor, Energy, even Veterans Affairs.

And this was totally your call, as some unhappy colleagues have pointed out. One word from you and a clean spending bill would have passed, no problem, if only you weren’t such a wimp.

“I hate that word!” you start to holler, fogging up the Plexiglas.

12:30 pm. Lunch with a carefully chosen group of supporters. They try to brighten your mood with news that the signup website for the Affordable Care Act — sorry, Obamacare — is plagued with glitches.

What better proof that the president’s healthcare law is a total disaster, right?

“So cheer up, Mr. Speaker!” they say.

“Cheer up?” you snap back. “Didn’t you see the headline in the New York Daily News? ‘House of Turds.’ With my picture!”

“You’re definitely not a turd, Mr. Speaker.”

“Gee, thanks. Get the check.”

2:15 pm. You cancel the daily session with your charisma coach and go to the driving range to hit a bucket of balls. Out of nowhere comes a thundering downpour!

Turns out you didn’t receive the storm alert on your cell phone due to layoffs at the weather service caused by the you-know-what, that you yourself allowed to happen.

You stub out your Camel, go back to the office and sulk.

4:00 p.m. Your regular afternoon blame-Obama-for-everything soundbite is postponed because the assistant in charge of making sure you’re never photographed with Ted Cruz has spotted the lunatic Texan roaming the halls.

5:45 p.m. Quick trip to the tanning bed, then moisturize.

You’re preparing for a live interview with Diane Sawyer. The producer says Diane’s going to remind you that you’re the one person who could stop the government shutdown tomorrow, if you wanted to.

Suddenly you remember a dentist appointment.

6:30 pm. On the ride home you phone the NSA and ask if someone could please hack the Google site and remove all the mean stuff being written about you. Unfortunately, the hacker in charge of that department has just been furloughed.

So you light up another Camel, and call Harry Reid.

 

By: Carl Hiaasen, The National Memo, October 8, 2013

October 9, 2013 Posted by | Government Shut Down | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Concerted Right Wing Effort”: We Are The Ones Who Shut The Government Down

There are still some dead-enders on the right, who go through the motions and pretend Democrats should be blamed for the government shutdown, but it’s awfully difficult to take them seriously. At times, it doesn’t even seem as if those repeating the talking points believe their own rhetoric.

A fair number of Republicans, meanwhile, are admitting what is plainly true. Take Rep. Peter King’s (R-N.Y.) comments on “Fox News Sunday.” Watch on YouTube

For those who can’t watch clips online, King said:

“I’ve been against this government shutdown form the start. Now, I disagree with [Georgia Republican Tom Graves], we are the ones who did shut the government down. Charles Krauthammer called it the “suicide caucus.” I mean, Wall Street Journal said they were “kamikazes.” You don’t take the dramatic step of shutting down the government unless you have a real strategy and has a chance of working. It’s never had a chance of working; we’re now almost pushing ‘Obamacare’ to the side and we’re talking about other issues, and people are still out of work and the government is still shut down.”

When prominent Republicans appear on Fox to say Republicans are responsible for the shutdown, it’s safe to say the “maybe we can pin this on Democrats” gambit has run its course.

It’s not just King, either. The American Bridge super PAC put together a collection of Republicans holding their own party responsible for this fiasco. It’s not an especially short list.

What’s more, new reports over the weekend brought into focus how the right shaped its shutdown strategy months ago, and then carefully stuck to the game plan.

Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Mike McIntire had this report on Saturday.

Shortly after President Obama started his second term, a loose-knit coalition of conservative activists led by former Attorney General Edwin Meese III gathered in the capital to plot strategy. Their push to repeal Mr. Obama’s health care law was going nowhere, and they desperately needed a new plan.

Out of that session, held one morning in a location the members insist on keeping secret, came a little-noticed “blueprint to defunding Obamacare,” signed by Mr. Meese and leaders of more than three dozen conservative groups.

It articulated a take-no-prisoners legislative strategy that had long percolated in conservative circles: that Republicans could derail the health care overhaul if conservative lawmakers were willing to push fellow Republicans — including their cautious leaders — into cutting off financing for the entire federal government.

The piece included a familiar cast of right-wing characters — Heritage Action, FreedomWorks, Club for Growth, et al — adding the billionaire Koch brothers “have been deeply involved with financing the overall effort.”

In other words, it’s time for the nonsense over who bears responsibility for this to end.

A month ago, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) wanted to pass a clean spending bill to the White House to avoid a shutdown. At the time, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) pushed the argument — in writing — that a clean CR was a win for Republicans. When they’re being at least a little honest, some House Republicans are willing to admit that Senate Democrats already compromised when they accepted the lower spending levels far-right lawmakers demanded.

And given all of this, those who continue to suggest Democrats deserve the blame are clearly working from the assumption that you and other Americans are easily suckered into believing nonsense.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 7, 2013

October 9, 2013 Posted by | Government Shut Down | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Defining Default Down”: Conservatives Have An Eccentric Definition Of What Constitutes A “Default”

An important detail to keep in mind when one is trying to reconcile Republicans claims that they won’t allow a debt default but also won’t allow a vote on increasing the debt limit unless Democrats make concessions is this: conservatives tend to have a rather eccentric definition of what constitutes a “default.” National Journal‘s Tim Alberta and Michael Catalini offered a reminder yesterday:

Not only do some conservatives say Oct. 17 is an artificial deadline—”Nobody thinks we’re going to default on Oct. 17th,” said Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan.—but they also are attempting to narrowly define what would constitute default.

In interviews with more than a dozen GOP lawmakers, the Republicans rejected the notion that Washington could default on its debt unless a borrowing increase is approved before Oct. 17. For the United States to actually default, these Republicans argue, the Treasury Department would have to stop paying interest on its debts—something GOP lawmakers claim is inconceivable….

If this sounds familiar, it’s because it has been Republicans’ line of attack since their debt-ceiling battle with Obama in the summer of 2011.

Then, as now, the GOP argues it’s not the debt limit that would cause default, it’s Obama. The country would have the funds to pay its creditors if the administration would just delay payments to certain agencies.

This “prioritization” argument, of course, rests on a distinction without a difference in the real world.

“I don’t know any serious person who doesn’t think this will be cataclysmic,” said Steve Bell, a former Republican staff director of the Senate Budget Committee and now senior director with the Bipartisan Policy Center.

The assumption that the U.S. will honor all of its debts—and honor them on time—is the foundation for much of the global financial system, Bell argues. So the fundamental problem with the Republican position is that Treasury makes between 3 million and 5 million financial transactions a day, and if the federal government starts to pick and choose which it will honor, it will land the economy in chaos.

In any event, journalists reporting all these “We won’t allow a default” assurances from John Boehner and others need to go to the trouble of insisting on a definition of terms. If the reference is to a narrow, “technical” default along the lines that Republicans often use, the assurances are virtually worthless.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, October 7, 2013

October 9, 2013 Posted by | Debt Ceiling, Default | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Nazis, Lynching And Obamacare”: In An Era Of Metaphors Gone Mad

You might think that the methodical extermination of millions of Jews by a brutal regime intent on world domination would resist appropriation as an all-purpose metaphor. You might think that genocide, of all things, would be safe from conversion into sloppy simile.

After Paul Ryan’s fact-challenged address at the Republican National Convention last year, the chairman of the Democratic Party in California actually compared him and his compatriots to the Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. A short time later, the chairman of the Democratic Party in South Carolina likened that state’s Republican governor, Nikki Haley, to Adolf Hitler’s mistress, Eva Braun.

At that point Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, did what he shouldn’t need to do even once, let alone the multiple times that he’s been forced to. He implored politicians and pundits to stop it already.

No matter. Allusions to Nazi Germany were back for debates over gun control and, of course, Obamacare. Ted Cruz, the Senate’s prince of tirades, compared people who claim that the new insurance program can’t be stopped to those who rolled over for Hitler and the Third Reich. This prompted a public reprimand from John McCain, who has developed something of a sideline career of swatting Cruz on the nose. They’re like a hapless master and his hopeless dachshund. The former keeps trying to housebreak the latter, while the latter just beams at every mess he makes.

It’s not only Nazis who are flourishing in this era of metaphors gone mad, of analogy bloat. Lynch mobs are also having a good go of it. A senator who was quoted anonymously in The Times last week used that term to describe the Republican lawmakers who had lit into Cruz during a private luncheon, and lynching was invoked more disturbingly by the chief executive officer of A.I.G., who recently said that public complaints about Wall Street bankers’ bonuses were intended “to get everybody out there with their pitchforks and their hangman nooses.” This, he added, was “sort of like what we did in the Deep South.”

How absolutely bonkers. And yet how unsurprising. We’re awash these days in metaphors as overworked as our political debate is overwrought, and it’s impossible not to wonder how much one contributes to the other. When nuance and perspective exit the language, do they exit the conversation as well? When you speak in ludicrous extremes, do you think that way, too?

Obamacare has proved to be not just ideologically divisive but linguistically fertile. There’s seemingly no event or passage in American history to which it can’t be compared.

The terrorist attacks of 9/11? Check. Back when Mike Pence, Indiana’s Republican governor, was still in Congress, he summoned that day’s horror to characterize the Supreme Court ruling that upheld the Affordable Care Act.

Slavery? Check. Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican candidate for governor of Virginia, has described opposition to Obamacare in terms of stands against fugitive slave laws.

The hyperbole and hysteria make any constructive debate impossible, and they insult the past, robbing important events of the specific meaning and individual detail they deserve. Consider our recurring “-gate” mania. We equate each new scandal, whether extra-large or fun-size, with Watergate, and by willfully misremembering President Richard Nixon’s crimes, we dilute them. It’s just a suffix for the taking, a point of comparison for such wildly unrelated matters as the spilled secrets of Arkansas law enforcement officers who were supposedly privy to Bill Clinton’s private life. Troopergate, that was called.

For President Obama, Benghazi was supposed to be his Watergate, and so was the I.R.S.’s scrutiny of conservative groups, and so were a bunch of other things I can’t even remember anymore. They blur and fade, which is not to say they didn’t matter. It’s to say that when everything is supposedly like everything else, nothing’s distinctive. It’s all one big mush.

For that reason, among others, we should watch our words. They have consequences. As irresponsible and detestable as the recent actions of the most conservative wing of House Republicans have been, we’d be better off without figurative talk of hostage taking and guns to heads, without headlines like one in The Huffington Post that said: “Boehner Threatens to Shoot the Hostage.” That sort of language only turns up the heat.

And I cringe at how pointlessly hurtful it must have been for a 9/11 widow or widower to listen to the right-wing moralist Gary Bauer exhort voters to fight back against President Obama’s agenda the way passengers on United Flight 93 fought back against hijackers. Or for Holocaust survivors to hear all this gratuitous Nazi talk.

You know what’s just like Germany in the 1930s? Germany in the 1930s. We’re in an unfortunate place, but we needn’t travel back there to describe it.

 

By: Frank Bruni, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, October 7, 2013

October 9, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Boehner Bunglers”: The Truly Incompetent Can’t Even Recognize Their Own Incompetence

The federal government is shut down, we’re about to hit the debt ceiling (with disastrous economic consequences), and no resolution is in sight. How did this happen?

The main answer, which only the most pathologically “balanced” reporting can deny, is the radicalization of the Republican Party. As Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein put it last year in their book, “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks,” the G.O.P. has become “an insurgent outlier — ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”

But there’s one more important piece of the story. Conservative leaders are indeed ideologically extreme, but they’re also deeply incompetent. So much so, in fact, that the Dunning-Kruger effect — the truly incompetent can’t even recognize their own incompetence — reigns supreme.

To see what I’m talking about, consider the report in Sunday’s Times about the origins of the current crisis. Early this year, it turns out, some of the usual suspects — the Koch brothers, the political arm of the Heritage Foundation and others — plotted strategy in the wake of Republican electoral defeat. Did they talk about rethinking ideas that voters had soundly rejected? No, they talked extortion, insisting that the threat of a shutdown would induce President Obama to abandon health reform.

This was crazy talk. After all, health reform is Mr. Obama’s signature domestic achievement. You’d have to be completely clueless to believe that he could be bullied into giving up his entire legacy by a defeated, unpopular G.O.P. — as opposed to responding, as he has, by making resistance to blackmail an issue of principle. But the possibility that their strategy might backfire doesn’t seem to have occurred to the would-be extortionists.

Even more remarkable, in its way, was the response of House Republican leaders, who didn’t tell the activists they were being foolish. All they did was urge that the extortion attempt be made over the debt ceiling rather than a government shutdown. And as recently as last week Eric Cantor, the majority leader, was in effect assuring his colleagues that the president will, in fact, give in to blackmail. As far as anyone can tell, Republican leaders are just beginning to suspect that Mr. Obama really means what he has been saying all along.

Many people seem perplexed by the transformation of the G.O.P. into the political equivalent of the Keystone Kops — the Boehner Bunglers? Republican elders, many of whom have been in denial about their party’s radicalization, seem especially startled. But all of this was predictable.

It has been obvious for years that the modern Republican Party is no longer capable of thinking seriously about policy. Whether the issue is climate change or inflation, party members believe what they want to believe, and any contrary evidence is dismissed as a hoax, the product of vast liberal conspiracies.

For a while the party was able to compartmentalize, to remain savvy and realistic about politics even as it rejected objectivity everywhere else. But this wasn’t sustainable. Sooner or later, the party’s attitude toward policy — we listen only to people who tell us what we want to hear, and attack the bearers of uncomfortable news — was bound to infect political strategy, too.

Remember what happened in the 2012 election — not the fact that Mitt Romney lost, but the fact that all the political experts around him apparently had no inkling that he was likely to lose. Polls overwhelmingly pointed to an Obama victory, but Republican analysts denounced the polls as “skewed” and attacked the media outlets reporting those polls for their alleged liberal bias. These days Karl Rove is pleading with House Republicans to be reasonable and accept the results of the 2012 election. But on election night he tried to bully Fox News into retracting its correct call of Ohio — and hence, in effect, the election — for Mr. Obama.

Unfortunately for all of us, even the shock of electoral defeat wasn’t enough to burst the G.O.P. bubble; it’s still a party dominated by wishful thinking, and all but impervious to inconvenient facts. And now that party’s leaders have bungled themselves into a corner.

Everybody not inside the bubble realizes that Mr. Obama can’t and won’t negotiate under the threat that the House will blow up the economy if he doesn’t — any concession at all would legitimize extortion as a routine part of politics. Yet Republican leaders are just beginning to get a clue, and so far clearly have no idea how to back down. Meanwhile, the government is shut, and a debt crisis looms. Incompetence can be a terrible thing.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, October 6, 2013

October 9, 2013 Posted by | Debt Ceiling, Government Shut Down, John Boehner | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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