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“Dick Cheney’s Transcendent Cynicism”: Using The Same Self Serving Game, That’s How He Rolls

Dick Cheney’s cynicism knows no end.

Yet, it still has the power to amaze—especially when Cheney’s political machinations go to extremes.

Consider his current embrace of the Tea Party movement.

At a point when the Republican Party’s favorability ratings have collapsed to the lowest point in the history of Gallup polling, just about everyone who has an interest in the future of the Grand Old Party is fretting about the damage done by a movement so politically tone deaf that it thought the American people would embrace a politics of government shutdown and debt-ceiling brinksmanship in order to advance the impossible dream of “defunding Obamacare.”

But here’s Dick Cheney—taking time out from pitching his new book, Heart: An American Medical Odyssey—to rally to the defense of the movement.

Hailing the Tea Party as a “positive influence” on the Grand Old Party, he announced on NBC’s Today show that “it’s an uprising, in part, and the good thing is it’s taken place within the Republican Party.”

Despite the chaos it has unleashed within and around the party for which the 72-year-old former vice president serves as a grouchy grand old man, Cheney declared: “I don’t see it as a negative. I think it’s much better to have that kind of ferment and turmoil and change in the Republican Party than it would be to have it outside.”

“These are Americans,” he says of the Tea Partisans. “They’re loyal, they’re patriotic and taxpayers, and they’re fed up with what they see happening in Washington. I think it’s a normal, healthy reaction and the fact that the party is having to adjust to it is positive.”

That’s rich coming from Cheney.

No matter what anyone thinks about the Tea Party movement in its current managed and manipulated form, many of its most sincere adherents joined what they thought was a grassroots challenge to the Republican establishment.

And no one says establishment like Dick Cheney: a permanent fixture in and around Republican administrations since Richard Nixon turned the key at the White House. No one has fought harder than this guy has to maintain the crony capitalist project that has made the modern GOP a lobbying agency for Wall Street speculators, bailout-seeking bankers and defense contractors like his own Halliburton.

Cheney’s everything Tea Party activists say they are fighting against.

So what’s the former vice president up to?

The same self-serving gaming of the process in which the man who arranged his own nomination as George W. Bush’s running mate has always engaged.

Asked about Ted Cruz, Cheney declined to criticize the Texas senator who steered the party off the charts when it comes to disapproval among the great mass of voters.

That’s because Cheney doesn’t at this point have any interest in the great mass of American voters. He’s interested in the handful of Wyoming Republican primary voters who will decide the fate of daughter Liz Cheney’s challenge to Republican Senator Mike Enzi.

Enzi is a steady conservative whose only “sin” was to get in the way of Cheney-family ambition. But he is in the way, so Dick Cheney is quite willing to remake himself as the Tea Party’s ardent defender in order to aid Liz Cheney’s campaign.

Indeed, instead of ripping Cruz—as he would have done in his former days as a White House chief of staff, GOP congressional leader, secretary of defense and vice president—Cheney now compares Cruz with daughter Liz.

“I think [Cruz] represents the thinking of an awful lot of people obviously in Texas,” says Dick Cheney. “But my own daughter is running for U.S. Senate in Wyoming partly motivated by the concern that Washington is not working, the system is breaking down and it’s time for new leadership.”

Shameless? Well, yes.

But that’s how Dick Cheney rolls.

The Republican Party is just a vehicle.

The state of Wyoming is just a political playground.

What matters to Cheney is the Cheney brand. And if he has to attach a Tea Party label in order to advance it, why Richard Bruce “Dick” Cheney is more than willing to oblige.

By: John Nichols, The Nation, October 22, 2013

October 23, 2013 Posted by | Dick Cheney, Tea Party | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Press And The ‘Leadership’ Charade”: Pundits Are Professionally Wed To Faulting President Obama For Republicans Shortcomings

Just days after the government shutdown came to an end, and with public opinion polls continuing to show that the Republican Party paid a grave price for its radical and shortsighted maneuver, Meet The Press host David Gregory wanted to discuss President Obama’s failure to lead.

Pointing to a mocking National Journal piece by Ron Fournier, that was headlined “Obama Wins! Big Whoop. Can He Lead?” Gregory pressed his guests about when Obama would finally “demonstrate he can bring along converts to his side and actually get something meaningful accomplished.” Gregory was convinced the president had to shoulder “a big part of the responsibility” for the shutdown crisis, due to the president’s failed leadership. New York Times columnist David Brooks agreed Obama is at fault, stressing “The question he’s never answered in all these years is, ‘How do I build a governing majority in this circumstance?'”

Gregory, Brooks and Fournier were hardly alone in suggesting that Obama’s a failed leader. Why a failure? Because a Democratic president beset by Republicans who just implemented a crazy shutdown strategy hasn’t been able to win them to his side.

In her post-shutdown New York Times column, Maureen Down ridiculed Obama, claiming he “always manages to convey tedium at the idea that he actually has to persuade people to come along with him, given the fact that he feels he’s doing what’s right” (i.e., Obama’s too arrogant to lead.)

And in a lengthy Boston Globe piece last week addressing Obama’s failure to achieve unity inside the Beltway, Matt Viser wrote that Obama “bears considerable responsibility” for the Beltway’s fractured, dysfunctional status today (it’s “his biggest failure”) because “his leadership style” has “angered countless conservatives, who have coalesced into a fiercely uncompromising opposition.” That’s right, it’s Obama’s fault his critics hate him so much.

Talk about blaming the political victim.

As an example of Obama’s allegedly vexing “leadership style,” Viser pointed to the fact Democrats passed a health care reform bill without the support of a single Republican. That “helped spur the creation of the Tea Party and a “de-fund Obamacare” movement,” according to the Globe. But that’s false. The ferocious anti-Obama Tea Party movement exploded into plain view on Fox News 12 months before the party-line health care vote took place in early 2010. Obama’s “leadership style” had nothing to do with the fevered right-wing eruption that greeted his inauguration.

The GOP just suffered a humiliating shutdown loss that has its own members pointing fingers of blame at each other. So of course pundits have turned their attention to Obama and pretended the shutdown was a loss for him, too. Why? Because the Beltway media rules stipulate if both sides were to blame for the shutdown that means both sides suffered losses. So pundits pretend the crisis highlighted Obama’s glaring lack of leadership.

But did it? Does that premise even make sense? Isn’t there a strong argument to be made that, by staring down the radicals inside the Republican Party who closed the government down in search of political ransom, Obama unequivocally led? And that he led on behalf of the majority of Americans who disapproved of the shutdown, who deeply disapprove of the Republican Party, and who likely did not want Obama to give in to the party’s outlandish demands?

Doesn’t leadership count as standing up for what you believe in and not getting run over, not getting trucked by hard-charging foes?

Yet so many pundits are professionally wed to faulting Democrats for Republicans shortcomings that the agreed-up script is that the GOP’s stunning implosion meant Obama failed to lead by not bringing the two parties together. He wasn’t persuasive enough. And if he had just tried a little harder, asked a little nicer, Republicans would’ve totally come around.

Much of the current leadership commentary is built on the tired trope that Obama “promised” to change the tone and culture of Washington; to break down partisan barriers. And since he hasn’t, that’s botched leadership. Of course what Obama did do, like virtually every presidential candidate before him has done, is vow to try to change the culture in Washington, and to try to get both parties together.

The fact that Republicans plotted as far back as January 2009 to make it their primary goal to thwart Obama’s attempt at bipartisanship, is now used as a weapon against the president under the lazy premise he “promised” to change Republican behavior. By failing to lead, by failing to change Republicans’ deeply extremist behavior, Obama must shoulder the blame, goes the faulty Beltway logic.

“Despite polarization, Obama’s two predecessors managed to find common ground with their obstinate opposing parties,” Fournier recently wrote, in a sentence that almost perfectly encapsulates what’s wrong with the trolling about “leadership.” It’s predicated on a completely outdated premise, which suggests that since previous presidents were able to work, at times, with the opposing party that means Obama should too. And if he can’t, that means he’s not leading. That claim entirely omits all the context about today’s radicalized Republican Party. It entirely omits everything that’s happened in American politics since 2009.

For instance, did Obama’s predecessors face opponents who launched an unprecedented campaign to scuttle a Secretary of Defense nomination? Did they face political foes who shut down the federal government in a comically doomed attempt to defund a three-year-old law, who didn’t blink at denying Americans disaster relief aid, or who obstructed legislation that garnered 90 percent support among voters?

They did not.

When Obama’s immediate predecessor was sworn into office, President Bush was soon greeted by liberal Democrat George Miller (D-CA) who promised to help him secure the votes he needed to pass an education bill. And it was liberal Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) who personally guided Bush’s No Child Left Behind legislation through Congress.

Memo to media: Thanks to extremist Republicans, that Washington, D.C. world no longer exists, so stop pretending that it does. And stop penalizing Obama for arriving too late to experience it.

Why doesn’t it exist? Because Republican re-wrote the rules and pundits keep scoring Obama against the old one. They keep scolding him for not winning over purposefully un-persuadable Republicans.

“We’re saying there’s a reason Republicans almost certainly can’t be won over,” noted Washington Post writer Greg Sargent, who regularly pushes back against the media’s “leadership” charade. “And that this reason resides not in the failure of presidential persuasion but in basic realities about today’s GOP.”

Just ask Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA). After he defied his party and tried to help get a bipartisan background gun check bill through Congress last winter, he explained its defeat: “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.”

And with that, Toomey, a Republican senator, gave away the game. He pulled back the curtain and confirmed how the Republican Party actually functions under Obama: It fights him on every conceivable front, withholding the slightest bit of support not necessarily because of ideology, but because most members do not want to see Obama succeed.

Ever.

That represents a stunning lack of leadership. And it’s not coming from the Oval Office.

 

By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America, October 22, 2013

October 23, 2013 Posted by | Media, Politics, Press | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“A Failure Of Democracy”: Judge Richard Posner’s Unforced Error On Voter ID And Non-Existent Voter Fraud

Two weeks ago, Richard Posner, one of the most respected and iconoclastic federal judges in the country, startled the legal world by publicly stating that he’d made a mistake in voting to uphold a 2005 voter-ID law out of Indiana, and that if he had properly understood the abuse of such laws, the case “would have been decided differently.”

For the past ten days, the debate over Judge Posner’s comments has raged on, even drawing a response from a former Supreme Court justice.

The law in question requires voters to show a photo ID at the polls as a means of preventing voter fraud. Opponents sued, saying it would disenfranchise those Indianans without photo IDs — most of whom were poor, elderly, or minorities. State officials said the law was necessary, even though no one had ever been prosecuted for voter fraud in Indiana.

Judge Posner claimed, during an Oct. 11 interview with HuffPost Live, that at the time of the ruling, he “did not have enough information … about the abuse of voter identification laws” to strike down the Indiana statute. But he also said the dissenting judge on the panel, Terence Evans, had gotten it “right” when he wrote that the law was “a not-too-thinly-veiled attempt to discourage election-day turnout” by certain voters who tended to vote Democratic. (It was passed on a straight party-line vote by a Republican-controlled legislature.)

Last Thursday, former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens sounded several of the same notes, telling the Wall Street Journal that while he “isn’t a fan of voter ID,” his own 2008 opinion upholding Judge Posner’s ruling was correct — given the information available at the time. Incidentally, Justice David Souter dissented for roughly the same reasons as Judge Evans, and Justice Stevens now says that “as a matter of history,” Justice Souter “was dead right.”

But all the judges had the same record in front of them at the time. So what information did the dissenters rely on that Judge Posner and Justice Stevens did not? That’s the question raised in a smart critique by Paul M. Smith, who argued the plaintiffs’ case before the Supreme Court.

Mr. Smith pointed out that there was never any doubt the law would make voting harder for potentially tens of thousands of voters, and that the plaintiffs submitted numerous affidavits from voters who explained how they would be harmed by the law. Even if the actual number was lower, it was certainly higher than zero, which is the number of voter-fraud incidents recorded in Indiana when the law was enacted.

In other words, both the Seventh Circuit and the Supreme Court got the balance of burdens wrong, as Indiana University law professor Fran Quigley rightly noted. Given that voting is a fundamental right, Quigley wrote, “the burden should have been on the State of Indiana to prove the law was necessary, not the challengers to prove how it would trigger abuse.”

Judge Evans put it more pungently in his 2007 dissent, saying the law was effectively using “a sledgehammer to hit either a real or imaginary fly on a glass coffee table.”

Rather than acknowledge this reality, Judge Posner’s original opinion dismissed the importance of the voters’ claims, contending that since no election gets decided by a single vote, the “benefits of voting to the individual voter are elusive.”

That bizarre logic suggests that the judge’s problem was not a lack of information, but what former White House counsel Bob Bauer called “a failure of democratic imagination.”

Particularly in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in June gutting the Voting Rights Act, it would be nice if Judge Posner extended his fuller understanding of the true nature of voter-ID laws to his legal opinions, and not simply to online interviews.

 

By: Jesse Wegman, Editors Blog, The New York Times, October 22, 2013

October 23, 2013 Posted by | Federal Judiciary, SCOTUS, Voter ID | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Armed Robbery Is No Petty Crime “: The $13 Billion JPMorgan Settlement Is A Good Start, Now Someone Should Go To Jail

JPMorgan Chase, the star of mega-banks, is up against the wall at the Justice Department, trying to settle its myriad crimes for $13 billion. That’s real money, even for a trillion-dollar bank. So this is progress. After years of scandalous indifference, the Obama administration appears to have found its backbone.

Better late than never, grumpy citizens can say. But that doesn’t settle the matter. Four years ago, Senator Ted Kaufman of Delaware crisply described the more fundamental problem posed by the wantonly reckless behemoths of Wall Street.

“People know that if they rob a bank they will go to jail,” Kaufman said. “Bankers should know that if they rob people they will go to jail too.” Can we hear an amen on that? Not yet. But the complaint Kaufman voiced repeatedly is now on the table. “At the end of the day,” the senator warned, “This is a test of whether we have one justice system in this country or two. If we do not treat a Wall Street firm that defrauded investors of millions of dollars the same way we treat someone who stole $500 from a cash register, then how can we expect our citizens to have any faith in the rule of law?” (See my piece from April 2011, “How Wall Street Crooks Get Out of Jail Free.”)

Attorney General Eric Holder was stung, his reputation severely damaged. His lieutenants in the criminal division explained repeatedly that while the megacrimes seemed obvious, it is fiendishly difficult to locate the people in a huge, complex financial organization who can be successfully prosecuted as criminals. The popular anger did not go away, however, because in JPMorgan’s case the outrages only got larger and more obvious.

So here we are four years later and leading newspapers report that Justice is on the brink of a record-setting settlement—$13 billion. Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan CEO and formerly the president’s favorite banker, has personally negotiated the terms with the attorney general. The Morgan bank started with an offer of $1 billion and quickly raised it to $4 billion. Holder’s office kept saying, no, not enough. According to The New York Times, seven federal agencies are investigating the bank, plus state banking regulators and a couple of foreign governments.

The offenses include an all-star list of duped victims—of mortgage fraud against home-buyers, investor fraud against people and pension funds that purchased the rotten mortgage securities and defrauded the federal agencies (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) that bought the mortgage bonds and applied federal guarantees to them. Nevertheless, if there is no identifiable “criminal” who can be sent to jail, the case could be treated as merely another bureaucratic crime and adjudicated with lots of cash, a very familiar exercise in this era of high-flying capitalist buccaneers and bandits.

But here is the exciting and suspenseful element in this story. Eric Holder and his prosecutors have so far refused to settle on such amicable terms. Federal prosecutors in Sacramento believe they have established the personal linkage—who ordered the dirty deals, who carried them out—that could support criminal indictments of individuals or against the corporate “person” known as JPMorgan Chase. That would be truly unprecedented—a “game changer” in Wall Street/Washington parlance—and with threatening potential for the defendant bank.

In the negotiations, Holder has refused to give Dimon what he seems to want most—an agreement to drop the criminal charge and settle for bigger money instead. That might weaken the storm of private lawsuits already filed by the victims of JPMorgan’s fraudulent profiteering. The star banker kept raising his bid. The AG kept saying no way. Americans should stay tuned and maybe send fan mail to the Justice Department, urging the prosecutors to hang tough.

But you can’t send a bank to jail, can you? No, but you could place it under court supervision and empower a federal judge to order and supervise internal reforms in the megabank, perhaps even downsizing. Does that sound too harsh? If the feds can do this to a corrupt labor union like the Teamsters, why not to an outlaw bank like JPMorgan?

 

By: William Greider, The Nation, October 21, 2013

October 23, 2013 Posted by | Big Banks, Financial Institutions, Wall Street | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“That’s Not What ‘Ransom’ Means”: Demanding Something In Exchange For Nothing Is A Deeply Unserious Argument

During the most recent Republican debt-ceiling crisis, the White House used a provocative word grounded in fact: the GOP was demanding a “ransom” before they’d allow the federal government to pay its bills. In an odd twist, now it’s Republicans trying to flip the script.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) sat down with National Review’s Robert Costa last week, and condemned Democratic demands as part of a “grand bargain.” In recent years, the Obama White House has told Republicans that he’d consider entitlement “reforms” if they’d consider new tax revenue as part of a broader compromise. McConnell told Costa, “[W]e don’t think we should have to pay a ransom to do what the country needs.”

Yesterday, McConnell used the same line.

President Barack Obama was holding up a bipartisan fiscal deal by demanding a “ransom” of $1 trillion in new tax revenues, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell charged on Sunday.

“Unfortunately, every discussion we’ve had about this in the past has had what I would call a ransom attached to it: $1 trillion in new tax revenues,” the Kentucky Republican said on CBS’s “Face The Nation.”

This reinforces fears that Republican leaders quite literally don’t understand what a compromise is.

If I go to my favorite sandwich shop for lunch, and then try to take the sandwich without paying, the guy behind the counter wouldn’t be too happy. “Let’s complete our transaction,” he’d say. “I’ll give you your lunch and you give me $5.” It’d be kind of odd if I replied, “Why are you demanding a ransom for my sandwich?”

But that’s effectively McConnell’s argument. Obama is prepared to complete the transaction: Democrats will make a concession on entitlements if Republicans make a comparable concession on revenue. The Senate Minority Leader’s argument is that the president is being unreasonable – to insist on a compromise is to insist on a “ransom.”

What is McConnell prepared to trade in exchange for entitlement cuts? By all appearances, nothing, since he’s under the impression that entitlement cuts are necessary anyway.

For one thing, they’re not necessary, at least not right now. For another, demanding something in exchange for nothing usually isn’t a recipe for bipartisan cooperation.

That said, McConnell’s argument seems to be winning some folks over. The editorial board of the Washington Post this morning compares Democrats’ reluctance to cut social-insurance programs to Republicans’ reluctance to raise the debt ceiling.

That’s a deeply unserious argument, but it’s music to McConnell’s ears.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 21, 2013

October 23, 2013 Posted by | Budget, Mitch Mc Connell | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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