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“It’s Not About Content Of Character”: Hey, Fox Pundits! How Blatant Must The Anti-Obama Racism Be?

I have a question for George Will.

If he can’t answer it, maybe Brit Hume can. Both men were recently part of a panel on Fox News Sunday to which moderator Chris Wallace posed this question: Has race played a role in the often-harsh treatment of President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder? Wallace was reacting to a clip of Holder strongly hinting that a testy encounter with House Republicans was part of a pattern of race-based abuse of himself and the president.

Some of the panelists framed their answers in political dimensions, i.e., what does this mean for the midterms? But Hume and Will responded directly.

Has race played a part? Heck no.

Said Hume: “This strikes me as kind of crybaby stuff from Holder. My sense about this is that both Eric Holder and Barack Obama have benefited politically enormously from the fact that they are African-American and the first to hold the jobs that they hold.”

“Look,” added Will, “liberalism has a kind of Tourette’s Syndrome these days. It’s just constantly saying the word ‘racism’ and ‘racist.’ It’s an old saying in the law: If you have the law on your side, argue the law, if you have the facts on your side, argue the facts. If you have neither, pound the table. This is pounding the table.”

And here, let us remove Holder from the equation because, frankly, the question I’m here to ask is more pertinent to his boss than him. I just wish Messrs. Will and Hume would explain one thing:

You say race has played no role in the treatment of President Obama? Fine. What would it look like if it did?

I mean, we’re talking about a president who was called “uppity” by one GOP lawmaker, “boy” by another and “subhuman” by a GOP activist; who was depicted as a bone-through-the-nose witch doctor by opponents of his health care reform bill; as a pair of cartoon spook eyes against a black backdrop by an aide to a GOP lawmaker, and as an ape by various opponents; who has been dogged by a “Tea Party” movement whose earliest and most enthusiastic supporters included the Council of Conservative Citizens, infamous for declaring the children of interracial unions “a slimy brown glop”; who was called a liar by an obscure GOP lawmaker during a speech before a joint session of Congress; who has had to contend with a years-long campaign of people pretending there is some mystery about where he was born.

There’s much more, but you get the drift. So I wish those men would explain how, exactly, the treatment of the president would differ if race were indeed part of the mix. What misbehavior would make them say: “OK, this is definitely about color of skin, not content of character”? Because from where I sit, much of the behavior toward Obama would need white hoods to be more blatantly racial than it already is.

Hume, by the way, says some critics have called his comments themselves “racist.” They’ve also scored the fact that this discussion was undertaken by an all-white panel. While the optics were odd, there was nothing in what he or Will said that would seem to merit that label. Those who slap him with it are likely motivated by the same knee-jerk reflex by which my critics — depend on it — will claim that I consider any disagreement with the president to be — sigh — “racist.”

That’s silly. But then, discussion of this seminal American fault line often reveals in some of us an unfortunate fondness for clownish superficiality. And yet that silliness does not detract from the criticality of the fault line itself. Nor can I share Will’s conviction that manly taciturnity is the best way to seal that fissure.

So what I ask is not rhetorical, not abstract, not a joke. It is a serious question.

And I’d appreciate the same sort of answer.


By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist, The Miami Herald; The National Memo, April 21, 2014

April 22, 2014 Posted by | Fox News, Racism | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Making The GOP Pay For Medicaid Obstruction”: National Democrats, Especially, Need To Stop Equivocating About The Benefits Of The Law

Jonathan Martin wrote a primer this weekend on why many nervous Democrats won’t take President Obama’s advice – or mine — and run on the Affordable Care Act in the 2014 midterms. To me, it seems like a chicken and egg problem: Vulnerable Democrats won’t run on the ACA because key groups of voters don’t like it. But why should voters like it if even Democrats won’t defend it?

But there is one ACA issue where Republicans seem to be on the defensive, and that’s on the question of Medicaid expansion. Even Georgia Democratic Senate candidate Michelle Nunn and gubernatorial candidate Jason Carter, who have been wishy-washy on the law, support Medicaid expansion – and that’s partly because polls show 59 percent of Georgians support it too. Gov. Nathan Deal has tried to pass the decision off to the state Legislature, which is widely seen as an effort to pass the buck. Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback just managed to do the same thing, on Friday signing a bill that gave the Republican-dominated Legislature the power to decide on Medicaid expansion – but they won’t meet again until 2015.

In Florida, newly minted Democrat Charlie Crist is hitting Gov. Rick Scott hard for his refusal to accept Medicaid funding. Much like in Georgia, 58 percent of Florida voters want to see their state take the federal funds. Crist leads Scott in the latest polling.

And Republican Senate candidates Scott Brown of New Hampshire (it seems wrong not to write Massachusetts, Scott), Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Terri Lynn Land of Michigan have all refused to take a stand on Medicaid expansion, which might make them the biggest cowards of all.

In Louisiana, Democrats are trying to bypass Gov. Bobby Jindal and let state voters decide whether to accept $16 billion in expanded federal Medicaid funding, to cover 242,000 newly eligible Louisianans. The federal funding would create 15,600 new healthcare jobs, according to Families USA. Vulnerable Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu has been hitting Jindal hard on the issue, and the New Orleans Times-Picayune just called on the state Legislature to back the referendum notion, blaming Jindal’s presidential ambitions for his decision to turn down the funds. Even conservatives, the paper suggested (perhaps with a little sarcasm), ought to back an effort to give voters a say on the matter. What are they afraid of? Well, the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity, for one thing, which has promised to campaign against Republicans who support Medicaid expansion.

Still, we know what Democrats are afraid of, at least in red states. Martin’s piece laid out some of the math. There’s a huge racial divide: In a December New York Times/CBS News poll, 41 percent of white voters said the ACA would hurt them while only 17 percent said it would help; those numbers were essentially flipped among African-Americans. You’d think that might help Democrats in Georgia, where 30 percent of registered voters are black. But because black turnout tends to fall at least 5 points in midterm elections from the presidential-year level, Nunn and Carter are wary about embracing the ACA as a whole, not just Medicaid expansion.

But there’s that chicken-and-egg problem again: Maybe black voter turnout wouldn’t fall as much if white Democrats weren’t so wishy-washy about Obama’s signature achievement?

David Axelrod says one problem is that unlike Medicare and Social Security, the ACA “is viewed more as a social welfare program than a social insurance program, but that’s not right because it is social insurance.” Axelrod means well, but there are two problems with his analysis. First, opponents hit Medicare and Social Security as welfare programs, too, back when they were being debated, and neither was immediately popular; Democrats had to defend and expand them. Two, the actual “welfare” portion of the ACA, Medicaid expansion, is actually pretty popular, according to polling even in red states. In Virginia, where Gov. Terry McAuliffe is working hard for expansion, even 55 percent of Republicans back Medicaid expansion.

National Democrats, especially, need to stop equivocating about the benefits of the law. Republicans will try to “welfarize” it, to use Brian Beutler’s term; that’s what they do. Democrats who run away from it are letting Republicans define it, and they probably won’t get away from it, anyway.


By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, April 21, 2014

April 22, 2014 Posted by | Democrats, GOP, Medicaid Expansion | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Remedial Education On Birth Control”: It Never Fails, Arrogance And Ignorance Often Go Together

You’d really think that an institution with as rich an intellectual history and educational capacity as the Roman Catholic Church could find ways to keep its national spokespeople from saying things as dumb as this:

Is the ability to buy contraceptives, that are now widely available — my Lord, all you have to do is walk into a 7-11 or any shop on any street in America and have access to them — is that right to access those and have them paid for, is that such a towering good that it would suffocate the rights of conscience?

That would be Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, on Face the Nation yesterday. It was Dolan who, as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops from 2010 until 2013, guided the bishops into a firm alliance with conservative evangelicals (and implicitly, with the Republican Party) in a crusade for “religious liberty” defined as the right of employers to refuse their employees insurance coverage for contraceptives–typically those they regard, in defiance of standard medical profession and scientific definitions, as “abortifacients.”

Dolan’s dismissive comments about contraceptives and 7-11’s are reminiscent of those of conservative Catholic layperson Justice Antonin Scalia, who said this during oral arguments in the Hobby Lobby case:

You’re talking about, what, three or four birth controls, not all of them, just those that are abortifacient. That’s not terribly expensive stuff, is it?

Well, yes, IUDs, the real crux of the “abortifacient” argument being made by Hobby Lobby’s lawyers, are quite expensive, and you cannot simply acquire them by strolling into a convenience store.

Arrogance and ignorance often go together, but you’d figure men as accomplished as Dolan and Scalia would have the wherewithal to avoid sounding like yahoos. Men–especially celibate men like Dolan–should go to the trouble of becoming at least marginally expert on reproductive science and economics before devoting so much of their time and attention to denying women reproductive rights.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, April 21, 2014

April 22, 2014 Posted by | Birth Control, Catholic Church, Reproductive Rights | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Stuck In The First Stage Of Grief”: GOP Reflexively Making Themselves Feel Better About A Reality That’s Causing Them Pain

At a press conference last week, President Obama announced a figure that was hard to even imagine a month ago: 8 million consumers signed up for private insurance through exchange marketplaces during the Affordable Care Act’s open-enrollment period. Obama also took a moment to chide Republicans for having been wrong about practically every aspect of the debate.

“I recognize that their party is going through the stages of grief,” he said, “and we’re not at acceptance yet.”

That sounds about right, though I’m not sure the GOP is “going through the stages of grief” so much as it’s stuck on the first one. If the process is believed to have five stages – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance – we have quite a ways to go before “acceptance” is even on the horizon.

Denial still dominates.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) said Monday he believes the uninsured rate in his state has increased since implementation of the 2010 health care reform law.

“It’s hard to get accurate numbers on anything,” Huelskamp told his constituents at a town hall in Salina, Kan., according to video posted by Eagle Community Television. “But the numbers we see today is that – as I understand them – we believe there are more people uninsured today in Kansas than there were before the president’s health care plan went into effect. And I thought the goal was to bring more people into insurance.”

There are a wide variety of counts when it comes to determining just how many uninsured Americans have been able to get coverage, but all of the reports have something important in common: they all show the rate of the uninsured going down, not up. We can discuss exactly how many, whether that’s in line with expectations, whether that’s enough to sustain the larger system, and why progress is happening faster in blue states than red states.

But to argue that the number of uninsured people is climbing is comparable to arguing that the federal budget deficit is getting larger; the planet is experiencing global cooling; and Obama has pushed use of executive orders to new heights.

Oh wait, conservative Republicans often believe all of those bogus claims, too.

Obviously, the problem isn’t limited to Huelskamp. On Friday, Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) said he doesn’t believe the Obama administration’s enrollment totals, calling the figures “all smoke and mirrors.” On Thursday, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) suggested consumers receiving ACA subsidies to defray the costs of coverage may be engaged in “fraud.”

Much of the Republican establishment quickly embraced the “cooking the books” conspiracy theory, which was soon after followed by the Census Bureau conspiracy theory.

The right doesn’t bother with evidence to bolster any of this – evidence is irrelevant. Denial isn’t about rationality; it’s about reflexively making one feel better about a reality that’s causing them pain.

That said, GOP officials aren’t just embracing denial, they’re swimming in it in the most self-indulgent fashion possible. Republicans almost seem to be enjoying their distaste for health care reality, seemingly eager to one up their far-right colleagues.

Let’s also not brush past the “heads I win, tails you lose” problem – “Obamacare” critics believe the numbers are correct and reliable when they point to facts Republicans want to hear. Enrollment totals are low? This is proof that conservatives were right all along and that the ACA is a failure. Enrollment totals soared in March? This is proof that the White House is perpetrating a fraud – because conservatives were right all along and that the ACA is a failure.

It’s become effectively impossible under conditions like these for the two sides to even have a conversation about health policy. Paul Krugman’s take over the weekend rings true:

Not a day goes by without some prominent Republican politician or pundit insisting that the enrollment numbers are phony, that more people are losing insurance than gaining it, etc.. I know that’s what the base believes, because it’s what they hear from Rush and Fox. But you would think that important people would have someone around who has a clue, who knows that enrollment data and multiple surveys are all telling the same story of unexpected success. OK, maybe not – if famous senators don’t have anyone to clue them in about BLS data, they might really still be living in the bubble. But that’s really their choice.

And the point is that with enrollment more or less closed for 2014, there’s not much point in spinning. OK, maybe if you can keep up the pretense all the way to November, you can slightly sway base voters for the midterms. But even that’s doubtful – by the fall, we’re going to have a very clear picture of how things went; and the shape of that picture has already been determined.

I guess that what gets me is the – to use the technical term – wussiness of it all. Isn’t there any space on the right for people who sell themselves as tough-minded, who condemn Obamacare on principle but warn their followers that it’s not on the verge of collapse? Is the whole party so insecure, so unable to handle the truth, that it automatically shoots anyone bearing bad news?

I’m going to assume those are rhetorical questions, because the answer seems pretty obvious.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 21, 2014

April 22, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, GOP, Obamacare | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Manly Men Condemn Obama’s Lack of Manliness”: An Immature, Infantile Conception Of Foreign Affairs

Here’s a question: If Hillary Clinton becomes president, what are conservatives going to say when they want to criticize her for not invading a sufficient number of other countries? I ask because yesterday, David Brooks said on Meet the Press that Barack Obama has “a manhood problem in the Middle East.” Because if he were more manly, then by now the Israelis and Palestinians would have resolved their differences, Iraq would be a thriving, peaceful democracy, and Iran would have given up its nuclear ambitions. Just like when George W. Bush was president, right?

It really is remarkable how persistent and lacking in self-awareness the conservative obsession with presidential testosterone is. Here’s the exchange:

DAVID BROOKS: And, let’s face it, Obama, whether deservedly or not, does have a (I’ll say it crudely) but a manhood problem in the Middle East: Is he tough enough to stand up to somebody like Assad, somebody like Putin? I think a lot of the rap is unfair. But certainly in the Middle East, there’s an assumption he’s not tough–

CHUCK TODD: By the way, internally, they fear this. You know, it’s not just Bob Corker saying it, okay, questioning whether the president is being alpha male. That’s essentially what he’s saying: He’s not alpha dog enough. His rhetoric isn’t tough enough. They agree with the policy decisions that they’re making. Nobody is saying– but it is sort of the rhetoric. Internally this is a question.

Because Brooks is a somewhat moderate conservative who writes for a paper read mostly by liberals, he naturally equivocates a little, distancing himself from the assessment even as he’s making it. Chuck Todd too trots out the passive voice, to impute this decision to nameless others. “Internally this is a question”—what does that mean, exactly? That members of the White House staff spend their days fretting about the President’s manliness?

This kind of infantile conception of foreign affairs, where countries and leaders don’t have interests or incentives or constraints that need to be understood in order to act wisely, but all that matters is whether you’re “tough” and “strong,” is distressingly common among people on the right who think of themselves as foreign policy experts.

And of course, neither Brooks nor Todd says exactly what form the manliness they wish to see in Barack Obama ought to take. Should he challenge a group of neighborhood toughs to a fight? Overhaul the transmission on the presidential limousine? Shoot an animal or two? (And by the way, a child can shoot an animal—if you want to convince me hunting is manly, I’ll believe it when you kill a mountain lion with your bare hands.)

As Todd says, “it is sort of the rhetoric,” meaning that the only bit of “toughness” they can imagine is rhetorical toughness. If Obama would start droppin’ his “g”s, maybe squint his eyes when he’s mad like Dubya used to do, and issue the occasional threat—”If you go any farther, you’re gonna be sorry, pardner”—then other countries would do exactly what we want them to. Oh wait, I know what he should do: land on an aircraft carrier, then strut around for a while in a flight suit.

Back in the real world, that isn’t just idiotic, it doesn’t actually work. Again, George W. Bush was about as “tough” as they come by these standards, and no sane person could argue that made his foreign policy brilliant and effective.

So the next time anyone says Obama should be “tougher” or “stronger” or “more manly,” they ought to be asked exactly what actions they’re recommending. And if they say it’s a matter of rhetoric, then the next question should be, “Do you believe that a change in Obama’s rhetoric would fundamentally alter the situation in [Ukraine, Syria, wherever]? They’ll probably respond, “Of course not, but…” And that’s all you need to hear.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, April 21, 2014

April 22, 2014 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Middle East, Ukraine | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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