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“Borderline Behavior”: GOP Demands Action, Blocks Solutions — And Always Complains

Listening to Republicans in Washington (and Texas and Arizona) scream about the “crisis” of migrant children arriving from Central America on our southern border, it is puzzling to realize that they don’t actually want to do anything to solve the problem. Nor do these hysterical politicians – led by that down-home diva Rick Perry, the governor of Texas – want to let President Obama do anything either.

Except that they insist the president absolutely must visit the border, in person, preferably with a thousand members of the National Guard (who could join the Border Patrol and local police in accepting the children as they surrender). Strangely enough these Republicans, along with a few Texas Democrats, seem to believe that is the most important action Obama could undertake.

Understandably, the president is skeptical. “This isn’t theater,” he responded tartly. “This is a problem. I’m not interested in photo ops. I’m interested in solving a problem.” As he knows, this episode is only the latest in a long sequence of similar clown shows, with Republicans citing ridiculous reasons to delay or prevent government action.  His irritation is fully justified.

But perhaps Obama should have gone down to the border anyway, stood in the blazing sunlight with the dim governor for as long as Perry wished – and allowed the television cameras to show that their presence had accomplished exactly nothing. Of course, if Obama showed up at the border, the Republicans assuredly would criticize him for wasting time on a photo op. They have become the party of perpetual whining.

When they aren’t bleating about Obama, they’re concocting weird theories about his secret plans to destroy America. Only last week, Perry coyly hinted – although he said he didn’t want to be “conspiratorial” — that the White House must be “in on” the border crossings, because migrant kids couldn’t have showed up en masse without “a highly coordinated effort.” Later, he tried to persuade CNN’s Kate Bolduan that he didn’t really mean what his idiotic words said – an explanation everyone has heard from him before.

While Perry has taken the lead, he isn’t the only elected official whose mouth spews absurdities on this subject. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) offered a policy approach that would please any simpleton, when he explained why the President’s request for $3.7 billion in emergency funding looks far too big to him. “I’ve gone online and have taken a look on Orbitz and taken a look at what does it cost to fly people to El Salvador and Guatemala and Honduras. You have fares as low as $207. There’s nonstop flights at $450. You take those numbers and it costs somewhere between $11 million and $30 million to return people in a very humane fashion,” he opined.

Evidently nobody informed the Wisconsin senator about the myriad other costs involved in rounding up and caring for these terrified children, who are entitled to a court hearing and other consideration under an anti-trafficking law signed by George W. Bush. Anyone who wants to expedite their removal – a disturbingly inhumane and unnecessary policy – must first provide more courts, judges, and lawyers. And anyone who wants a decent policy, which includes action against the drug warlords who are threatening and killing these innocents, must be prepared to spend more than the cost of an Orbitz ticket.

Some Republicans, notably Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), are urging the president to include their pet projects in his spending bill, such as electronic verification requirements for employers and at border crossings. And many GOP lawmakers, having demanded action on the border issue from Obama, are equally adamant that the funding must be “offset” by cuts in other programs.

None of these geniuses appears to realize that all their barking and carping and mooning are frustrating the president’s attempt to address the “crisis” that is agitating them so fiercely. Or more likely they know exactly what they’re doing — and the point, as usual, is to embarrass Obama.

But not every Republican talks total nonsense about the border and immigration. Alfonso Aguilar, who headed the Office of Citizenship under Bush, recently wrote: “Contrary to the narrative of some opportunistic politicians and pundits, this unfortunate situation is not the result of the Obama administration failing to enforce the law. In reality, most would-be-migrants believe that crossing the border has become much more difficult, and in the last decade, the U.S. government has greatly strengthened border security and interior enforcement.”

Meanwhile, the majority of Americans is increasingly repulsed by the primitive nativism and partisan opportunism of Republican leaders on immigration. Democrats, independents, and even many rank-and-file Republicans want a more decent and constructive policy. Ultimately voters must grasp that the GOP is the greatest single obstacle to every vital reform. That day cannot come too soon.

 

By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, July 11, 2014

July 11, 2014 Posted by | Border Crisis, Immigration, Immigration Reform, Rick Perry | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“You Don’t Bring A Lawsuit To A Gunfight”: It’s Clear Republicans Have Found Yet Another Area For Intra-Party Arguing

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has heard members of his party call for President Obama’s impeachment for reasons that are unclear, but yesterday, he made clear that he’s not on board.

When asked Wednesday by NBC News what he thought about the failed vice presidential nominee and half-term Alaska governor’s demand that Congress remove Obama from office, the Ohio Republican said, “I disagree.”

Boehner is leading a charge to sue the Obama administration over what he sees as an abuse of executive power, but the speaker has said the lawsuit is not a step toward impeachment.

Got it. The House Speaker is prepared to file a lawsuit against the president for reasons Boehner can’t explain, but presidential impeachment isn’t part of the House Republican leadership’s plan.

So, does that put the matter to rest? Not yet, it doesn’t.

Former half-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) told Fox News, “You don’t bring a lawsuit to a gunfight and there’s no room for lawyers on our front lines.” (One hopes that Palin was speaking metaphorically and that she doesn’t actually see political disagreements with the White House as a “gunfight.”) The comments came on the heels of a written piece in which the Alaska Republican said conservative voters should “vehemently oppose any politician” who “hesitate[s] in voting for articles of impeachment.”

What we’re left with is the latest wedge dividing the party. It’s not yet a litmus test for the right, but four months before the 2014 midterms, it’s clear Republicans have found yet another area for intra-party arguing.

The Hill ran an interesting piece yesterday noting that much of the disagreement is about tactics, not ideology.

Staunch House conservatives are quashing calls for President Obama’s impeachment.

They argue an impeachment trial would be a doomed effort, with a Democratic Senate, that could hurt Republicans in the midterm elections.

For those who see the far-right impeachment crusade as silly, this may seem reassuring, but I’d like to pause to note a relevant detail: rank-and-file GOP lawmakers aren’t balking at impeachment because it’s dumb and unnecessary; they’re balking because they doubt it’ll advance their broader political goals.

The piece in The Hill is filled with quotes from House Republicans who are sympathetic to the idea of impeachment, but who worry about the electoral consequences and/or have no hopes that the Senate would remove Obama from office.

I emphasize this because, at least so far, I haven’t seen any GOP lawmaker say something like, “I disagree with impeachment because the president hasn’t committed an impeachable offense.” For much of the Republican Party, that Obama is guilty of serious wrongdoing is apparently a foregone conclusion, for reasons only they understand.

Byron York, meanwhile, suggested yesterday that the Speaker, arguably the top Republican official in the federal government, may ultimately have to simply declare whether impeachment is on or off the table. It’s what Nancy Pelosi did in 2006, and it’s what Boehner may have to do in 2014.

That sounds about right, though it’s worth remembering that the weak Speaker isn’t necessarily the final word on the subject. As we talked about the other day, the Speaker didn’t want to create a debt-ceiling crisis, but the far-right insisted and Boehner went along. The Speaker didn’t want a government shutdown, but the far-right insisted and Boehner went along. The Speaker didn’t want to hold several dozen “repeal Obamacare” votes, but the far-right insisted and Boehner went along. The Speaker didn’t want to kill immigration reform, but the far-right insisted and Boehner went along.

Now the Speaker is cool to impeachment. Whether others in his party care about Boehner’s preferences remains to be seen.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 10, 2014

July 11, 2014 Posted by | Impeachment, John Boehner, Sarah Palin | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Koch Brothers”: The Extremist Roots Run Deep

Some women and men spend their lives rebelling against their father or mother, but others follow in their footsteps or yearn for their approval. Some become friends.

A few spend millions to make their parents’ vision a reality.

Charles and David Koch are among those few.

Raw ideas that were once at the fringes have been carved into ‘mainstream’ policy through their wealth and will.

According to the lore, a lawsuit against his company by big oil companies forced their dad, Fred Koch, into helping Stalin build refineries, fueling his anti-communist/anti-government views.

The truth is less tidy.

A company called Universal Oil Products sued Fred Koch’s company for patent infringement in 1929.

Four years earlier, in 1925, the 25-year old Koch formed the Winkler-Koch Engineering Company, with Lewis Winkler. After studying at Rice and MIT, the Texan-born Koch joined Winkler and another man in launching the company in Wichita.

Before that, Winkler had worked as the chief engineer at Universal Oil Products, a firm that held patents on the fuel processing methods developed by Jesse Dubbs. Before joining up with Koch, Winkler had helped Dubbs’ son Carbon install one of the first thermal “cracking” stills that used the pressure and heat process that Koch’s firm would later deploy with slight modification, according to the expert testimony of the chairman of MIT’s chemical engineering department, as noted in Dan Schulman’s “Sons of Wichita.” Ultimately, though, after a bribery scandal involving an appellate judge the verdict against the Koch firm would be overturned and Universal Oil Products’ successor firms would pay the company damages.

But back in 1929 – before the sudden stock market crash and nearly three years before the patent case went to trial — Koch’s firm signed contracts to build cracking stills in the U.S.S.R.

The communist regime didn’t recognize intellectual property rights, but it did pay well.

America had broken diplomatic ties with Russia nearly twelve years earlier, after the bloody Bolshevik revolution. Koch’s firm was not the only U.S. company doing business there. Henry Ford inked a deal, too.

Koch spent a few months in the Soviet Union to help fulfill the terms of the $5 million contract. He claimed the experience made him deeply anti-communist, but that didn’t stop him from cashing in on Stalin’s rubles.

Five million in revenue in today’s dollars would put an American small business — like Koch’s firm was back then — in the top 1%, after the stock market crashed.

The average American’s net income in 1930 was $4,887 and one penny, according to the IRS. That was back when five cents could buy a Rocky Ford cigar and 500 bucks could buy a basic Model A Ford. The average gross revenue of companies that year was about $177,000. Koch’s soviet contract was worth millions more than that.

Flush with riches, in 1932 Koch was playing polo at the Kansas City Country Club when he met Mary Robinson whom he wooed and married, according to Fortune magazine. Four sons soon followed. Over the years, they imbibed many doses of their adamant father’s rightwing political and economic diatribes.

Koch expressed deep antipathy toward the New Deal policies that helped pull the country out of the Great Depression.

He was not alone. By 1950, Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy began accusing workers at the State Department, veterans, playwrights, actors, and others of being communist sympathizers dedicated to the overthrow of the U.S. government. McCarthy even accused President Harry S. Truman and Democrats of being in league with communists.

The Progressive repeatedly wrote against McCarthyism and published a special issue in April 1954 entitled “McCarthy: A Documented Record,” helping to expose him for the fraud he was. A month later journalist Edward R. Murrow criticized McCarthy on national TV, noting “We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty.”

His fellow Senators censured McCarthy later that year.

Disgraced, by 1957 he was dead.

But McCarthy’s paranoid worldview was not.

In 1958, Robert Welch invited Fred Koch and a handful of other businessmen to his home to create the John Birch Society, as Schulman noted.

At that secret meeting, Welch practically channeled McCarthy on communism:

“This octopus is so large that its tentacles now reach into all the legislative halls, all of the union labor meetings, a majority of religious gatherings, and most of the schools of the whole world.”

Koch quickly signed up for the national council of the new John Birch Society.

That year, according to archives, Koch worked with fellow Kansan Robert Love, of the Love Box Company, to help amend the Kansas Constitution to limit the rights of workers and unions, making it a so-called right to work state.

In 1960, Koch published a pamphlet based on his speeches called “A Businessman Looks at Communism.” The booklet, which was reprinted in 1961, ranted and raved that the National Education Association was a communist group and public-school books were filled with “communist propaganda,” paranoia that extended to all unions, and the “pro-communist” Supreme Court. Fred Koch also claimed that African Americans would engage in a “vicious race war,” echoing the words of white supremacists–including Birchers–who opposed desegregating public schools.

Koch also claimed that President Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of the U.S. and allied forces in World War II, was soft on communism.

Such red-baiting might be ancient history if fifty years later Fred’s son David were not calling President Obama a “scary” “hard-core socialist” and spending millions on groups trying to defeat him.

Koch’s fanaticism echoed claims of his Bircher buddy Welch, who had written: “Could Eisenhower really be simply a smart politician, entirely without principles and hungry for glory, who is only the tool of the Communists? The answer is yes . . . it is difficult to avoid raising the question of deliberate treason.”

Treason? (That charge has a familiar hollow ring, as rightwing pundits and Tea Party pals fling it at President Obama and Birchers also flung it a President Kennedy, before he was assassinated.)

Eisenhower’s face is now engraved on every American dime.

After the CIA’s invasion of Cuba spectacularly foundered, David Koch and his twin brother, William, led a “May Day” party at their MIT frat house that hanged Fidel Castro in effigy. A riot broke out and thirty people were arrested, as noted by Brian Doherty in Radicals for Capitalism. (There’s no record the Koch boys were among those booked.)

That was the year that Charles had moved home to Kansas to be groomed to take over the family firm, after finishing engineering degrees at MIT and a short gig designing cigarette filters.

Charles was not only his dad’s choice to succeed him at the company.

He was also the heir to his extreme anti-government politics. By the time Charles stepped in as CEO in 1966, he’d been steeped in Fred’s Bircher outlook and enthralled with the Austrian economics books lining his dad’s library walls, providing an academic rationale for the free market fundamentalism he’s peddled with millions of dollars ever since.

That year, his father Fred helped form and fund another Birch front group, the “1776 Committee,” to try to recruit Eza Taft Benson, one of the leaders of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, to run for president as an independent, along with U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond, the racist segregationist politician from South Carolina, to run for vice president. (This fact was discovered in the national archive review of the Center for Media and Democracy, but also discovered by other researchers like Ernie Lazar.)

Both Benson and Thurmond had routinely echoed Bircher attacks on the civil rights movement. The effort was ultimately rebuffed, although it underscores how central to the John Birch Society was its animus toward government efforts to challenge racial segregation and anti-discrimination laws.

Month after month in publications to its members and promoted in its bookstores, attacking the civil rights movement and lauding its opponents were the Birchers’ top domestic agenda items throughout the 1960s. Challenging the United Nations and opposing communism abroad were its foreign policy focal points.

Although years later Fred’s wife Mary claimed to the press that Fred had abandoned the John Birch Society as too extreme, archived letters show that Fred Koch continued to support it and its mission until he met his end, although his failing health made it harder for him to keep up the pace of its executive committee. His family also asked that memorials (donations) be given in his name to only a handful of organizations, including the John Birch Society bookstore in Wichita.

Archived documents also show that Charles continued his role in the John BIrch Society into the year after his father’s death.

Decades later, perhaps it should come as no surprise that Charles and his brother David have fueled operations that attack progressive policies and those who defend them as “communists,” “collectivists,” or “socialists.”

Such smears are not new, but with the Kochs’ doubling of their personal fortune during the Obama administration while most Americans’ wages have stagnated, such claims seem like grand misdirection. The volume of the revival of these attacks has grown dramatically, and will soon grow louder still, fueled by Koch cash and U.S. Supreme Court decisions that have unleashed billionaires to spend unlimited funds influencing American elections.

 

By: Lisa Graves, The Center for Media and Democracy, July 10, 2014

July 11, 2014 Posted by | Koch Brothers, Plutocrats | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Good Obamacare News And The Republican Dilemma”: To The Broader Electorate, GOP Positions Just Don’t Make Sense

Today the Commonwealth Fund released a new survey on the performance of the Affordable Care Act, and it adds yet more data to the tide of good news on the Affordable Care Act. As a number of people have noted, the law’s evident success is making it increasingly hard for Republicans to sustain their argument that Obamacare is a disaster and must be immediately repealed. But it’s actually a little more complicated than that, and the ways different Republicans are changing—or not changing—their rhetoric on health care is a microcosm of the GOP’s fundamental dilemma.

But before we get to that, let’s look at what the survey showed:

The uninsured rate for people ages 19 to 64 declined from 20 percent in the July-to-September 2013 period to 15 percent in the April-to-June 2014 period. An estimated 9.5 million fewer adults were uninsured. Young men and women drove a large part of the decline: the uninsured rate for 19-to-34-year-olds declined from 28 percent to 18 percent, with an estimated 5.7 million fewer young adults uninsured. By June, 60 percent of adults with new coverage through the marketplaces or Medicaid reported they had visited a doctor or hospital or filled a prescription; of these, 62 percent said they could not have accessed or afforded this care previously.

That’s a whole heap of good news, and there are a number of interesting results buried in the details, one of which relates to how happy people are with the insurance they have. One of the arguments conservatives have made is that people who ended up changing plans will hate the new ones they had to get because of Obamacare. Well, it turns out that among people who previously had insurance but are on a new plan they got through the exchanges or Medicaid, 77 percent say they’re satisfied with their new plan, compared to only 16 percent who aren’t satisfied, and the results are almost exactly the same for those who were previously uninsured. Not only that, 74 percent of Republicans with new plans say they’re satisfied.

As more and more good news comes in about the implementation of the ACA, one would expect Republicans to talk about it a lot less, particularly given all their prior predictions of doom. And that is happening, but it’s not happening in the same way everywhere. If you’re a candidate in a swing state, it makes less and less sense, particularly as you move from your primary to the general election, to spend your time and ad dollars talking about how awful Obamacare is and pledging to vote to repeal it another 50 or 100 times should the voters send you to Washington to do the nation’s business.

But the calculation is very different if you’re running in a more conservative state, and there are lots of close Senate races in those this year, including Kentucky, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Georgia. In many of those places, the GOP candidate knows he can almost win solely with Republican votes. And for base Republicans, the emotional power of Obamacare is immune to factual refutation. No matter how much data we get demonstrating that the law is working well, those voters will still get angry every time the word is spoken. So it’s in the candidates’ interest to keep on talking about it, in the same apocalyptic terms.

This is where we get to the parallel with the larger Republican dilemma. On issue after issue, the interests of the national GOP are at odds with the interests of the bulk of the party’s officeholders, because the latter come from conservative districts or states where political calculations look very different. The national party would like to pass immigration reform to woo the growing Hispanic electorate; individual Republicans need to take a hard stance on immigration to satisfy nativist voters in their districts. The national party knows it should moderate its stance on marriage equality to keep up with evolving public opinion and appeal to young voters; individual Republicans dependent on older voters and evangelical Christians need to hold the line for “traditional” marriage. In the broadest terms, the national party knows it should modernize, but a Republican congressman who won his last general election by 40 points doesn’t see much reason to change.

The context where this dynamic will play out most visibly is, of course, in the presidential race, where Republican candidates will face two dramatically different electorates; It’s as though they’ll be running in Mississippi in the primaries, then in Ohio in the general election.

It’s possible that in the next two years things will change in health care, and the ACA will look much worse than it does today. But it seems more likely that current trends will continue, and it’ll look even better. Even if that happens, Republican candidates will still need to tell primary voters the law is an abomination that must be cast back into the fiery pits of hell from whence it came. To most voters in the broader electorate, that won’t make a lot of sense.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, July 10, 2014

July 11, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, GOP, Obamacare | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“No Will To Legislate”: The GOP’s Completely Incoherent Stance On The Border Crisis

Republicans are furious about the flood of children streaming across the US-Mexico border, and are criticizing the president for not deporting the children fast enough. But now that Obama has asked for nearly $4 billion to help kick the kids out more quickly, they don’t want to fund the emergency measures.

The $3.7 billion Obama requested would boost border security as well as housing and legal services for the children, the majority of whom are fleeing violence in Central America. According to Texas Governor Rick Perry, who has become the GOP’s figurehead on the issue, too much of that money is going to shelter, healthcare and legal assistance, and not enough to enforcement. “President Obama’s appropriations request only deals with one aspect of the current crisis on our southern border, while barely addressing its root cause: an unsecured border,” Perry wrote in an op-ed on Wednesday. He wants Obama to send surveillance drones and 1,000 National Guard troops to the border.

Most minors are simply handing themselves over to border patrol agents, suggesting that a porous border isn’t really the problem. And even if the border were completely sealed, there’s still the question of what to do with the tens of thousands of children here already. Perry ignored the fact that the Obama administration is bound by the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which bars the government from immediately deporting children from countries that do not share a border with the United States—such as Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, where the bulk of the children are from. The law requires border patrol to turn the children over to Health and Human Services and entitles them to due process so they may apply for humanitarian relief. Obama is trying to speed up deportations, to the consternation of immigrant rights and humanitarian groups. But unless Congress changes the trafficking law, the only way to do so is to make the legal system work faster by paying for more lawyers and judges.

Republicans are considering all sorts of roadblocks to the emergency funding bill. Some want any spending to be offset with cuts elsewhere. Others are insisting that Congress amend or repeal the trafficking law before they authorize any funding, a move that would deny children due process and, even if it were ultimately blocked by Democrats in the Senate, would at the very least hold up resources that are badly needed in the shelters where the children are housed.

Republicans, Perry included, are paying lip service to the idea that the crisis is a humanitarian one, but they don’t want to provide any humanitarian relief. As Jackie Calmes and Ashley Parker suggest in The New York Times, that’s because approving such funding “would help get [Obama] out of a situation that they believe is of his own making.” According to Perry, it’s more important for Obama to visit the border than it is for Congress to do something to address the situation. For Republicans, it’s more palatable to perpetuate the crisis and blame it on the president than to do anything that could be considered a “win” for the Democrats. Certainly it won’t be kids who win if Congress does agree to fund a smoother pathway to mass deportation.

It’s ironic that the same people who are apoplectic about Obama’s use of executive authority are now claiming that he’s the one not doing enough to fix the border crisis. Even House Speaker John Boehner, who is suing the president over his unilateral moves, had the gumption to attack the White House for not acting on its own in this instance. “He’s been president for five years! When is he going to take responsibility for something?” Boehner reportedly shouted at a press conference on Thursday morning. “We’re not giving the president a blank check.”

Republicans complain that Obama is cutting them out of the legislative process. As the border crisis demonstrates, however, it’s hard to detect real will on the part of the GOP to legislate.

 

By: Zoe Carpenter, The Nation, July 10, 2014

July 11, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Immigration, John Boehner | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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