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“Winking And Nodding”: Method To Madness In GOP Talk Of Obama Impeachment

In times past, Sarah Palin’s blunt call for the impeachment of President Obama for his alleged bungling of the border crisis would have been laughed off, as it deservedly should. Simply consider the source to understand why. But Obama didn’t laugh it off. During his recent swing through Texas, without referring to Palin directly, he derisively mocked her impeachment call with the shout to an audience, “Sue me! Impeach me!”

Obama has heard this call before, many times, from the legion of right-wing bloggers, websites, and talk-show gabbers, and from a motley group of tea-party-affiliated GOP House reps. Though House Speaker John Boehner and GOP establishment leaders quickly squash any talk of impeachment, the truth is that the call is very much on their table, for very good cynical, crass, and politically chilling reasons. It’s the perfect ploy to further hector, cower, and intimidate Obama into backpedaling fast from the use of executive orders to get even faint action on his major initiatives on gun control, health care, jobs, education and transportation-spending measures, and of course immigration reform. The GOP-controlled House has repeatedly declared these measures “DOA” the instant they come from the White House. The GOP set this up nicely by hammering away on the myth that Obama is recklessly ignoring the Constitution by skirting Congress and going it alone in wielding the executive pen.

This is a gross falsehood. Obama is near the bottom on the list of presidents in the number of executive orders issued. The last president who issued orders at a lower rate than Obama was Grover Cleveland. GOP Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush issued far more executive orders per day in office than Obama. But then the issue is not, nor has it ever been, executive orders but intimidation, pure and simple.

The GOP knows that crying, “Obama is cavalierly using his executive power to bypass Congress and legislate from the Oval Office!” will trigger a powerful public backlash and reinforce its usual charge against him of dictatorial abuse. It has played this card with maximum skill in its fierce fight to wrest back control of the Senate. In this, the GOP can have it both ways on impeachment. Boehner and Arizona Sen. John McCain, who has also sharply dismissed talk of impeachment, can take the high ground on the issue by insisting that their goal is to get more Republicans elected in November — that’s Senate Republicans. But that’s exactly the point of tossing out the word. The hope is that this will stir more doubt and skepticism about Obama among many voters in the key states where GOP senatorial candidates and some House candidates are gunning to unseat Democratic incumbents.

The incessant talk of impeachment has yet another cynical plus for the GOP. It implants the ever-widening notion in the media that Obama is making a mighty effort to impose an “imperial presidency” on the nation. This charge is almost always accompanied by tossing out the words “arrogant,” “indifferent,” and “callous” to describe his alleged thumbed nose at Congress. Boehner played hard on this with his frivolous lawsuit against Obama over the use of executive orders. He self-righteously claimed that his aims were noble and pristine and designed only to protect the rights of the legislative branch against the alleged unconstitutional assault by Obama. This crude campaign to rock Obama and the Democrats back on their heels has gotten traction from a dozen court rulings that have rapped Obama on the issuance of executive orders.

Obama demanded to know how the GOP can sue and impeach him for doing his job. That’s the point. He’s done his job too well. A case in point is the hike in the minimum wage. The GOP adamantly opposes Obama’s proposal to hike the minimum wage. He had absolutely no chance of getting this through the House. Instead he issued an executive order that boosted the minimum wage only to new federal contracts issued, and then only if other terms of a contractual agreement change. This was entirely legal but had little overall effect on the nation’s wage structure. Yet it was significant in another respect.

It was a frontal challenge to the GOP to cease its relentless, dogged, and destructive campaign of dither, delay, deny, and obstruct anything that has the White House stamp on it. There’s always the possibility that the GOP’s loose talk about impeachment could backfire and turn off more voters than it turns on. It could make the GOP look even more rigid, rightist, and desperate to do and say anything to tarnish Obama, even at the risk of making itself look and sound even more ridiculous. The GOP’s hedge against this is to wink and nod at Palin’s call for impeachment while publicly disavowing it but still relentlessly assailing Obama as the “imperial president.” There’s a method to the madness in this ploy.


By: Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Author and Political Analyst, The Huffington Post Blog, July 15, 2014

July 16, 2014 Posted by | House Republicans, Impeachment, John Boehner | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Right-Wing Xenophobes Are Spreading Lies About Migrant Diseases”: Latest Chapter In An Ugly History Of American Nativism

Citing the “potential threat of communicable diseases,” the city council in League City, Texas, voted last week to ban undocumented children from entering the Houston suburb. In Murrieta, California, Mayor Alan Long claimed that the government was placing “ill and contagious” kids in its midst. Even national politicians who should know betternamely, House Republicansare spreading lies and paranoia. Phil Gingrey, in a letter to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, wrote that “deadly diseases” threaten “Americans who are not vaccinatedand especially young children and the elderly.” And Randy Weber said, “We’re thinking these are diseases that we have eradicated in our country and our population isn’t ready for this, so for this to break out to be a pandemic would be unbelievable.”

There’s a legitimate policy debate to have over the border crisis, but it must begin with the facts. Doctors have debunked claims of diseased-ridden children: The migrants tend to be middle class with updated vaccines. By engaging in this right-wing fear-mongering, the aforementioned elected officialsand many othersare earning their ignominious place in a long, ugly history in American nativism that demonizes immigrants under the guise of public-health concerns.

With each wave of immigration, nativists have made public-health excuses for keeping out migrants. In the 1830s, cholera was described as an “Irish disease,” and in the late 1800s Tuberculosis was portrayed as a “Jewish disease.” In 1891, Congress banned any immigrant “suffering from a loathsome or dangerous contagious disease.” Even at Ellis Island, a site we celebrate as America’s front door for the “tired and weary,” medical inspections were a weapon aimed at immigrants who traveled on second and third class and were commonly used to quarantine and turn back unwanted immigrants.

Public-health nativism was also used to justify violence against immigrants. After a Chinese immigrant died of the bubonic plague in 1900, San Franciscans quarantined Chinatown and threatened to burn it down. Mayor James Phelan said that Chinese immigrants were “a constant menace to the public health.” Later, he ran for the Senate under a pledge to “Keep California White.”

More than a century later, the overt racism is gone but the underlying sentiment is the same. The ugly rhetoric we’ve seen over the past few weeks didn’t emerge out of thin air. In 2005, Lou Dobbs’s CNN show falsely reported that there had been 7,000 leprosy cases over the previous three yearsone of immigration’s “deadly imports,” he said. The following year, Pat Buchanan claimed that “clearly the illegal aliens” were to blame for the rise in bedbug infestations. And so on.

Time and again, the public health opposition to immigration has been exposed as nothing more than a socially accepted form of xenophobia. That’s true again today. Ignoring the expertise of public-health officials, congressional Republicans and other conservatives continue to invent their own “facts” to prop up, once again, the idea that our country is pure and that foreigners who are trying to enter it are impure. The real disease here, though, is what Democratic Congressman Luis Guitterez called the right’s “demonization” of these desperate children.


By: Samuel Kleiner, a Fellow at the Yale Law and Information Society Project; The New Republic, July 15, 2014

July 16, 2014 Posted by | Border Crisis, House Republicans, Immigrants, Public Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“As Long As He Draws Breath”: Dick Cheney’s Awfulness Is Here to Stay

People seem mystified by Dick Cheney. What on earth is he doing, popping up with such regularity defending a wholly discredited position, as he did again Monday at a Politico forum? Why would he continue to say things like invading Iraq was “absolutely the right thing to do”? The track record of utterances he compiled as vice president—all of them collected on video for our present-day delectation, like his famous “weeks rather than months” prediction to CBS’s Bob Schieffer right before we started the Iraq war—would have a person of decency and modesty hiding in self-imposed exile in the Pampean Andes.

I contend that there’s nothing mysterious about him at all. Incredible as it may seem, he does still think he was right. The tactical mistakes, if there were any, were mere details. But the invasion of Iraq was the right thing to do, he still undoubtedly believes. And it’s important that we understand the real reason he thinks it was the right thing to do, because Iraq failure or no Iraq failure, Rand Paul or no Rand Paul, Cheney’s view will always be dominant in the Republican Party’s higher echelons.

There were always a lot of misperceptions about the Iraq war, in the mainstream media and among liberal opponents of it. Oversimplifying a bit, the media bought that it was about 9/11; that we had to strike back. It was also, in this narrative, about Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons of mass destruction and his even more alleged nuclear capabilities. These were the reasons the Bush administration put forward to scare the public, and the media, to their everlasting dishonor, bought those arguments.

On the broad left, people tended toward the fundamental explanations of political economy: that it was about oil, or Halliburton, or, in Michael Moore’s interpretation, the Carlyle Group. Oil was a factor, a side benefit. But it wasn’t about oil, and it certainly wasn’t about Halliburton or Carlyle.

It was about establishing global American hegemony. To get this fully you have to go back to 1992, when Cheney was the secretary of defense. Cheney’s world view was wholly formed by the Cold War. The bipolar world of U.S. v. USSR, good v. evil, was all he’d known. It was the rubric under which all thought was organized. Then, suddenly, the USSR was gone! Now what?

Cheney’s Pentagon—including figures such as Paul Wolfowitz and even Colin Powell, who may be a good guy now but was fully implicated in all this at the time—set to pondering that question, and by the spring of 1992, it came up with an answer: The Defense Planning Guidance (DPG), a white paper outlining future U.S. defense policy. Now that we were the only superpower in the world, it said, our main job was to make damn sure things stayed that way. This would require a certain new tough-mindedness. We might have to thumb our noses at traditional allies. We certainly would have to expand our global reach. And the DPG introduced, for the first time ever in American history, the idea that preemptive war should be an official part of our policy. (Yes, it’s been unofficial policy plenty of times, but this was different.)

The DPG was enormously controversial at the time. Amid some media tumult, the first President Bush had to come out and say in essence, hey, kidding. But Cheney & Co. certainly weren’t. (For a lot more on this history, read the great Harpers magazine piece by David Armstrong from 2002, “Dick Cheney’s Song of America,” still one of the finest pieces of Iraq war journalism we have.)

The Republicans lost the White House in 1992, of course, and were out of power for eight years. So they didn’t have a chance to act on their scheme. But then they got back in. And then came 9/11. Lo and behold! What a gift! Of course I’m not saying they were happy it happened, but imagine: If ever there were an event that could frighten the American people into embracing an aggressive foreign-policy posture that set out to establish the United States as the single global hegemon, 9/11 surely was it. It still didn’t frighten the people enough, quite, which is why the Bushies had to lie about WMD and nukes and “weeks rather than months,” but the hegemonists knew that this was their only shot to act on those 1992 schemes, and bam, they took it.

That’s why we went to war in Iraq. (We chose Iraq because of the “unfinished work” of the Gulf War, because it looked ripe for the taking, and because it was a medium-size dog whose quick whipping would scare the larger ones.) It wasn’t about terrorism or anything like that. It was about, as James Bond once sighed to Dr. No, “world domination, the same old story.”

It’s important to understand that history today because the dream of establishing global American hegemony is much more enduring and powerful on the right than all the stated reasons. Al Qaeda has receded; terrorism too; WMD was just a handy thing lying around. But the idea that the United States must maintain its hegemonic status in a unipolar world—on the right, that has staying power. And modern conservatism is organized in such a way that thousands of people are paid millions of dollars to make sure the staying power stays.

The Tea Party base, as we know, is less than enamored of these ideas. Sen. Paul articulates their views. So the feud between Paul and Cheney—and John McCain and others—is really a feud between the base and the elites. Paul is a savvy politician, and I certainly don’t count him out as the possible 2016 nominee, but we all know that in both parties, especially the GOP, the elites usually win such feuds. So Cheney will keep at it as long as he draws breath. And someday, something awful will happen, and the Cheney wing will step up to the plate and swing for the fences again.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, July 15, 2014

July 16, 2014 Posted by | Dick Cheney, Iraq War, Neo-Cons | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Right’s Ahistorical Look At Global Turmoil”: According To John McCain, We Haven’t Invaded Enough Countries

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) made yet another Sunday-show appearance yesterday and offered some historical perspective that stood out as interesting. Asked about the disagreement over foreign policy between Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), McCain replied:

“So I’m not particularly interested in getting between Senator Paul and Governor Perry, but I do believe that the things we’re seeing in the world today, in greater turmoil than at any time in my lifetime, is a direct result of an absence of American leadership.”

Now, for McCain, the “absence of American leadership” roughly translates to “we’re not engaged militarily in enough foreign countries,” so this is obviously easy to dismiss.

But to believe the world is in “greater turmoil” than at any time in McCain’s lifetime is an amazing claim. I suppose there’s some subjectivity to this – one observer’s turmoil may be another’s unrest – but John McCain was born in 1936.

I mention this because his lifetime includes the entirety of World War II and the beginning, middle, and end of the Cold War. McCain wants to talk about global “turmoil”? We can have a spirited chat about Hitler taking swaths of Europe while Japan invaded China. That’s “turmoil.” By comparison, today’s global stage is almost tranquil.

McCain added in the same interview, “I would argue that given conditions in the Middle East, this might be more dangerous than any time in the past.”

Really? Any time? Conditions are more dangerous now than during any Arab-Israeli conflict, the Iran-Iraq war, the Iranian revolution, the Egyptian revolutions, every Islamic uprising and civil war of the 1970s, and the rise of al Qaeda?

This is not to say the Middle East is a model of stability right now, but to say that it’s “more dangerous” than at “any time in the past” is a little over the top.

Let’s also note that McCain has made curious historical arguments like these before. In 2008, at the height of his presidential campaign, the senator said the conflict between Russia and Georgia was the first “serious crisis internationally since the end of the Cold War” – overlooking 9/11, both wars in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, two conflicts in the Balkans, multiple crises in Israel, Darfur, and the rise of a nuclear North Korea, among other things.

But it seems this general train of thought is nevertheless common. The Wall Street Journal reports today:

A convergence of security crises is playing out around the globe, from the Palestinian territories and Iraq to Ukraine and the South China Sea, posing a serious challenge to President Barack Obama’s foreign policy and reflecting a world in which U.S. global power seems increasingly tenuous. […]

The chaos has meant that the Obama administration finds itself in the middle of a second term reacting to rather than directing world events.

Remind me, when was this era in which U.S. officials were capable of “directing world events”? Here’s a hint: there was no such era. This is an ahistorical Republican talking point working its way into a purported news story.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 14, 2014

July 16, 2014 Posted by | Foreign Policy, John McCain, Right Wing | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Republicans Rant But Offer No Solutions”: There’s A Contest Among Republicans To See Who Can Be More Shameless And Irresponsible

Apparently there’s a contest among Republicans to see who can be more shameless and irresponsible in criticizing President Obama’s foreign policy. So far, Chris Christie is winning.

The New Jersey governor alleged Saturday that “the unrest you see in the Middle East is caused in some measure — not completely, but in some measure — by the fact that this president has not acted in a decisive, consistent way.”

If you disregard the rantings of unserious provocateurs such as Sarah Palin, Christie’s attack represents a new low. He accuses the president of the United States of actually being responsible “in some measure” for violence between Israelis and Palestinians, Sunnis and Shiites, dictators and rebels — conflicts and antagonisms that began, I seem to recall, well before Obama took office in January 2009.

One might assume that Christie offered specific ideas about what Obama should be doing differently. Nope.

The president should be “trying to bring stability to that region by having America be a forceful voice in favor of a democracy like Israel and be condemning, in the strongest terms and in actions, the things that are being done by Hamas against Israel.” All of which Obama has already done.

Asked whether Obama should take some kind of military action in the region, Christie answered, “I’m not going to give opinions on that. I’m not the president.”

Very helpful, Governor. Please return to your intensive study of traffic patterns on the George Washington Bridge.

Other Republicans who, like Christie, are running for president offer equally vague and useless criticisms of Obama’s policies in the Middle East and around the world. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who’s going for the bookish intellectual look these days — he has started wearing glasses and stopped wearing cowboy boots — wrote an op-ed in The Post on Saturday accusing Obama of “confused leadership and passivity” that “enabled groups such as the Islamic State to grow.”

What exactly, in Perry’s view, did Obama do wrong? We’ll never know, I guess, because “the window to shape events for the better passed years ago.” It would have been helpful had Perry let us know at the time he saw that window passing, or perhaps closing, or something.

Perry does suggest there is still time for the United States to provide “meaningful assistance” in Iraq and Syria, including “intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance sharing and airstrikes.” But he neglects to specify whom we should meaningfully assist: one of the also-ran rebel groups in Syria, the sectarian Shiite-dominated government in Iraq, the Islamic theocracy in Iran . . .

In fairness, Perry’s prime target wasn’t Obama. He was aiming at Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, whose “isolationist” policies Perry sees as a potentially grave threat to our national security. The fact that Paul also poses a potentially grave threat to Perry’s presidential ambitions — he leads most polls for the GOP nomination — is pure coincidence, I’m sure.

Paul responded Monday with an op-ed in Politico, saying of Perry that “apparently his new glasses haven’t altered his perception of the world, or allowed him to see it any more clearly.” He notes that during the 2012 campaign, Perry advocated sending troops “back into Iraq” to counter the growing influence of Iran — but now seems to advocate helping Iran against the Islamic State extremists.

In the Politico piece, Paul refrains from gratuitous criticism of Obama. But in a National Review essay this month, Paul blasted the White House for urging Israel to show “restraint” in responding to the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers.

Paul called for a cutoff of U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority. He should be smart enough to understand that this would only strengthen the position of Hamas. But perhaps his real aim is to dispel the notion that he is insufficiently pro-Israel.

The Republican critique of Obama’s foreign policy that has achieved the most traction — undeservedly so, in my view — comes from a non-candidate: Mitt Romney. The basic thrust: “I told you so.”

But what was Romney so right about, except the blindingly obvious? That a large, permanent U.S. residual force in Iraq could have prevented the gains by the Islamic State? Of course, but the American public didn’t support keeping troops there and the Iraqi government said no. That it would be better if the “moderate” rebels were winning in Syria? Certainly, but shaping the outcome of that multi-sided civil war would require a robust intervention.

People who see easy options really should have their eyes checked.


By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, July 14, 2014

July 16, 2014 Posted by | Chris Christie, GOP Presidential Candidates, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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