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“A Walk Down Memory Lane On Republican Obstruction”: A Consciously Thought-Out Strategy To Create Dysfunction

For some of us its pretty galling to hear Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggest that the way to end dysfunction in Washington is for President Obama to move to the “middle,” or to have to listen to a Republican presidential candidate opine about the lack of “adult conversations” in D.C.

For the record, here’s a little walk down memory lane of Republicans talking publicly about their strategy for obstruction:

1993Bill Kristol writes a memo outlining a strategy for Republicans on President Clinton’s health care reform proposal.

Faced with forceful objections in the past, the [Clinton] Administration has generally preferred to bargain and compromise with Congress so as to achieve any victory it can. But health care is not, in fact, just another Clinton domestic policy. And the conventional political strategies Republicans have used in the past are inadequate to the task of defeating the Clinton plan outright. That must be our goal…

Simple, green-eyeshades criticism of the plan…is fine so far as it goes. But in the current climate, such opposition only wins concessions, not surrender…

Any Republican urge to negotiate a “least bad” compromise with the Democrats, and thereby gain momentary public credit for helping the president “do something” about health care, should also be resisted.

2003Governor Deval Patrick recalls Grover Norquist’s comments on plans for a “permanent Republican majority.”

At our 25th college reunion in 2003, Grover Norquist — the brain and able spokesman for the radical right — and I, along with other classmates who had been in public or political life, participated in a lively panel discussion about politics. During his presentation, Norquist explained why he believed that there would be a permanent Republican majority in America.

One person interrupted, as I recall, and said, “C’mon, Grover, surely one day a Democrat will win the White House.”

Norquist immediately replied: “We will make it so that a Democrat cannot govern as a Democrat.”

2009 – As Michael Grunwald reported, these two ideas coalesced into a Republican plan on how to respond to the election of President Barack Obama.

…the Republican plot to obstruct President Obama before he even took office, including secret meetings led by House GOP whip Eric Cantor (in December 2008) and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (in early January 2009) in which they laid out their daring (though cynical and political) no-honeymoon strategy of all-out resistance to a popular President-elect during an economic emergency. “If he was for it,” former Ohio Senator George Voinovich explained, “we had to be against it.”

2010 – Having implemented that plan in response to President Obama’s proposal to reform health care, former speech-writer for President George W. Bush – David Frum – is ejected from the party for writing this:

At the beginning of this process we made a strategic decision: unlike, say, Democrats in 2001 when President Bush proposed his first tax cut, we would make no deal with the administration. No negotiations, no compromise, nothing. We were going for all the marbles. This would be Obama’s Waterloo – just as healthcare was Clinton’s in 1994…

Could a deal have been reached? Who knows? But we do know that the gap between this plan and traditional Republican ideas is not very big. The Obama plan has a broad family resemblance to Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts plan. It builds on ideas developed at the Heritage Foundation in the early 1990s that formed the basis for Republican counter-proposals to Clintoncare in 1993-1994.

Barack Obama badly wanted Republican votes for his plan…Too late now. They are all the law.

2011 – Former Republican Congressional staffer Mike Lofgren explains the strategy.

A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption. Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congress’s generic favorability rating among the American people. By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner.

So let’s be clear…this was a consciously thought-out strategy by Republicans to create dysfunction in Congress that never fit the “both sides do it” meme embraced by much of the media.

As I’ve pointed out before, President Obama has engaged a lot of different strategies to deal with this obstruction that have each had various amounts of success at different times. But as we head into the next presidential election, we’re likely to hear a lot about how Washington doesn’t work.

That will be the big challenge for the Democratic nominee in 2016. I only wish it was possible for them to take Paul Waldman’s advice.

So imagine if a candidate in the general election, or a president in his inaugural speech, said, “This is my program. I realize that the folks in the other party don’t like it. There may be a few places where we can compromise, and if so, that would be terrific. But I’m going to treat the voters like adults and tell them that I’m not expecting a whole lot of cooperation. I’m going to fight for what I promised to do when I ran, and if you don’t like the results, you can turn me out in four years.”

That would at least be honest, and nobody would be disappointed when the result is partisan fighting.

Of course he’s right when he says that would be honest. The question is…are American voters ready for honesty?


By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 1, 2015

February 2, 2015 Posted by | GOP Obstructionism, Health Reform, Mitch Mc Connell | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Active Republican Insider”: Not So ‘Fresh’; Political Careerist Scott Walker Has Been Running For A Quarter Century

When Mitt Romney, who is anything but a fresh face in the Republican hierarchy decided to forego a third run for the presidency, he announced that, “I believe that one of our next generation of Republican leaders — one who may not be as well-known as I am today, one who has not yet taken their message across the country, one who is just getting started — may well emerge as being better able to defeat the Democrat nominee. In fact, I expect and hope that to be the case.”

Full-on Republican presidential contender Scott Walker just presumed that the man who Republican primary voters rejected in 2008, and who the rest of the American electorate rejected in 2012, was talking about a certain governor of Wisconsin.

Never mind that, in his book, Unintimidated: A Governor’s Story and a Nation’s Challenge, Walker ripped the party’s 2012 campaign – and, by extension, its nominee – for doing a “lousy job of presenting a positive vision of free market solutions to our nation’s problems in a way that is relevant to people’s lives.” Never mind that Walker griped just days before Romney quit the race that a 2016 run by the 2012 loser would be “pretty hard” to justify. Never mind that Walker, one of the most relentlessly negative campaigners in contemporary American politics, was more than ready to beat up on Romney if that has been necessary to advance his own 2016 run. With Romney’s decision to sideline himself, Walker chirped, “I would love to have his endorsement.”

Walker actually went a step further, going on Twitter to suggest that he was precisely the sort of “next generation” leader Romney was referring to. “Had a great conversation w/ @MittRomney,” Walker announced. “He’s a good man. Thanked him for his interest in opening the door for fresh leadership in America.”

There’s only one problem with this calculus.

Scott Walker isn’t fresh.

The governor is a political careerist who has sought office – as a winner and loser – more times that Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz combined.

In a permanent campaign that began a quarter century ago – when he quit college and launched a losing state legislative campaign against future U.S. Congresswoman Gwen Moore – Walker has run 24 primary and general election races. That doesn’t include a 2006 bid for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in Wisconsin, which he scrapped after national party officials elbowed him aside in favor of another candidate, or his all-but announced 2016 presidential run.

Hyper-ambitious yet strikingly disciplined, Walker has used every office he has ever held as a platform from which to run for the next. Even when scandals have led to the arrests, indictments and convictions of campaign donors, campaign aides and official staffers, Walker has maintained a steady focus on climbing the political ladder that is perhaps most comparable to that of former President Bill Clinton.

As a state legislator, Walker backed an effort to recall the sitting Milwaukee County Executive and then jumped into the race for that job. After winning his first full term as county executive in 2004, Walker immediately began running for the 2006 Republican gubernatorial nomination.

When that run was scuttled, Walker sought and secured a second term as county executive in 2008, only to immediately begin running for the 2010 Republican gubernatorial nomination. After securing the governorship, Walker quickly began positioning himself on the national stage – not just by picking high-profile fights with Wisconsin unions that would, ultimately, lead to a rare gubernatorial recall challenge but by jetting around the country to court the wealthiest campaign donors and to appear in the first caucus state of Iowa and the first primary state of New Hampshire.

Before his 2014 reelection race was complete, Walker was already visiting Las Vegas with other 2016 Republican presidential prospects seeking the favor of billionaire campaign donor Sheldon Adelson. Despite the fact that he said during that 2014 race that he intended to serve the full term he was seeking — “I want to be governor and that’s the only thing I’ve been focused on,”  “My plan — if the voters approve — is to serve as governor for the next four years” – Walker was already actively preparing a 2016 run. He even wrote (well, sort of wrote, with the help of a politically-connected DC insider who had worked as a speechwriter for George W. Bush) an autobiography/manifesto that was so transparent in its ambition that Glenn Beck’s The Blaze described as “the archetype of a book for a future Presidential candidate (written) without ever so much as hinting as to any intent to run for President.”

Walker is now well beyond the hinting stage. And the run is going well, so far, with the governor beginning to climb in the polls. One survey even puts him in first place among Iowa Republicans, one point ahead of Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and further ahead of prominent prospects such as Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. No surprise there: Walker has a lot more experience contending for public office than most of the other Republicans who are preparing to run in 2016.

Walker ran his first campaign for elective office four years before Jeb Bush and eight years before Rubio. Walker was an elected official in Wisconsin seventeen years before Rand Paul was elected in Kentucky and nineteen years before Ted Cruz was elected in Texas. Walker was running even before party elders such as Mike Huckabee, who won his first election in Arkansas in the summer of 1993 – a month after Walker was first elected to the Wisconsin legislature.

It’s worth noting that, even when he was running in 1993, Walker was not considered “fresh.” When it endorsed him that year, the conservative Milwaukee Sentinel referred to Walker not as a newcomer but as what he already was decades ago: “an active Republican insider.”


By: John Nichols, The Nation, February 1, 2015

February 2, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Republicans, Scott Walker | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Wall Street’s Threat To The American Middle Class”: Do We Really Need To Be Reminded About What Happened Six Years Ago?

Presidential aspirants in both parties are talking about saving the middle class. But the middle class can’t be saved unless Wall Street is tamed.

The Street’s excesses pose a continuing danger to average Americans. And its ongoing use of confidential corporate information is defrauding millions of middle-class investors.

Yet most presidential aspirants don’t want to talk about taming the Street because Wall Street is one of their largest sources of campaign money.

Do we really need reminding about what happened six years ago? The financial collapse crippled the middle class and poor — consuming the savings of millions of average Americans, and causing 23 million to lose their jobs, 9.3 million to lose their health insurance, and some 1 million to lose their homes.

A repeat performance is not unlikely. Wall Street’s biggest banks are much larger now than they were then. Five of them hold about 45 percent of America’s banking assets. In 2000, they held 25 percent.

And money is cheaper than ever. The Fed continues to hold the prime interest rate near zero.

This has fueled the Street’s eagerness to borrow money at rock-bottom rates and use it to make risky bets that will pay off big if they succeed, but will cause big problems if they go bad.

We learned last week that Goldman Sachs has been on a shopping binge, buying cheap real estate stretching from Utah to Spain, and a variety of companies.

If not technically a violation of the new Dodd-Frank banking law, Goldman’s binge surely violates its spirit.

Meanwhile, the Street’s lobbyists have gotten Congress to repeal a provision of Dodd-Frank curbing excessive speculation by the big banks.

The language was drafted by Citigroup and personally pushed by Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase.

Not incidentally, Dimon recently complained of being “under assault” by bank regulators.

Last year JPMorgan’s board voted to boost Dimon’s pay to $20 million, despite the bank paying out more than $20 billion to settle various legal problems going back to financial crisis.

The American middle class needs stronger bank regulations, not weaker ones.

Last summer, bank regulators told the big banks their plans for orderly bankruptcies were “unrealistic.” In other words, if the banks collapsed, they’d bring the economy down with them.

Dodd-Frank doesn’t even cover bank bets on foreign exchanges. Yet recent turbulence in the foreign exchange market has caused huge losses at hedge funds and brokerages.

This comes on top of revelations of widespread manipulation by the big banks of the foreign-exchange market.

Wall Street is also awash in inside information unavailable to average investors.

Just weeks ago a three- judge panel of the U.S. court of appeals that oversees Wall Street reversed an insider-trading conviction, saying guilt requires proof a trader knows the tip was leaked in exchange for some “personal benefit” that’s “of some consequence.”

Meaning that if a CEO tells his Wall Street golfing buddy about a pending merger, the buddy and his friends can make a bundle — to the detriment of small, typically middle-class, investors.

That three-judge panel was composed entirely of appointees of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

But both parties have been drinking at the Wall Street trough.

In the 2008 presidential campaign, the financial sector ranked fourth among all industry groups giving to then candidate Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee. In fact, Obama reaped far more in contributions from the Street than did his Republican opponent.

Wall Street also supplies both administrations with key economic officials. The treasury secretaries under Bill Clinton and George W. Bush – Robert Rubin and Henry Paulson, respectfully, had both chaired Goldman Sachs before coming to Washington.

And before becoming Obama’s treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner had been handpicked by Rubin to become president of Federal Reserve Bank of New York. (Geithner is now back on the Street as president of the private-equity firm Warburg Pincus.)

It’s nice that presidential aspirants are talking about rebuilding America’s middle class.

But to be credible, he (or she) has to take clear aim at the Street.

That means proposing to limit the size of the biggest Wall Street banks;  resurrect the Glass-Steagall Act (which used to separate investment from commercial banking); define insider trading the way most other countries do – using information any reasonable person would know is unavailable to most investors; and close the revolving door between the Street and the U.S. Treasury.

It also means not depending on the Street to finance their campaigns.


By: Robert Reich, The Robert Reich Blog, January 26, 2015

February 2, 2015 Posted by | Big Banks, Campaign Financing, Wall Street | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“GOP Struggles With Phony Deficit Pretense”: Literally The Same People Who Ignored The Deficit In The Previous Decade

The perception of the Republican Party as the anti-deficit party used to be 100% true. A couple of generations ago, the GOP actually saw the deficit as a legitimate concern, and shaped their policy agenda accordingly. During the Eisenhower era, Republicans kept very high tax rates in place, first approved to pay for WWII, in the name of fiscal conservativism. Many Republicans balked at JFK’s tax breaks out of fear of higher deficits.

Obviously, those eras are long gone. The GOP’s shift began in earnest under Reagan, but became almost ridiculous under George W. Bush – an era in which Republicans put the cost of two wars, a Wall Street bailout, massive tax cuts, and Medicare expansion on the national charge card for some future generation to worry about.

But once the Obama era began, GOP leaders decided they cared about the deficit again. It was impossible to take seriously – we’re talking about literally the same people who ignored the deficit in the previous decade – but Republicans actively pretended they had both credibility and genuine concerns about budget shortfalls.

It’s hard not to notice, however, that much of the new congressional Republican agenda has a common thread. See if you notice what these measures have in common. On health care:

A Republican bill to change how Obamacare defines a full work-week would raise the deficit by $53.2 billion over the next decade.

And abortion:

The official budget scorekeeper of Congress says the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban abortions after 20 weeks, would increase Medicaid costs by as much as $400 million…. CBO officially estimates that the bill increases federal deficits by $75 million between 2014 and 2018, and $225 million between 2014 and 2023.

And immigration:

Senate Democrats threatened Thursday to block action on legislation funding the Homeland Security Department until Republicans jettison House-passed provisions that reverse President Barack Obama’s key immigration policies…. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the measure would increase the federal deficit by $7.5 billion over a decade.

How would Republicans prevent these proposals from increasing the deficit? With offsetting cuts? Higher taxes? Neither, actually – GOP lawmakers are content to approve their priorities regardless of the impact on the budget shortfall.

It seems about once a week or so, GOP lawmakers unveil some new priority, they learn their idea would make the deficit worse, and they quietly make clear they couldn’t care less.

All of which made it quite amusing to see Republicans complaining about President Obama’s upcoming budget plan, claiming that it – you guessed it – doesn’t go far enough to reduce the deficit that Republicans created in the Bush/Cheney era.

Danny Vinik is absolutely right:

Republicans shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this two-faced policymaking. If they care about the deficit, they have to care about it in all contexts. If not, then they shouldn’t justify their opposition to Obama’s policies on grounds that they increase the deficit. When Republican congressmen react to Obama’s budget and undoubtedly invoke the deficit, the media should ask them why they didn’t care about the deficit last year. Maybe there will be some accountability for a change.

Well, there certainly should be some accountability for a change, but Republicans seem awfully confident that that they’ll face no consequences whatsoever for their incoherent whining about the deficit. Given recent history and misplaced public perceptions, I suspect their expectations are probably correct.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 29, 2015

February 2, 2015 Posted by | Deficits, Federal Budget, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Bobby Jindal’s Public Humiliation”: Why There’s A Nasty Side To His Thirst For Power

Of the many rituals that accompany U.S. politics, one of the least-important but most-discussed is the spectacle of watching a hopeless, clueless and joyless presidential campaign falter on the runway before swiftly concluding in a fiery crash. Every four years, there’s at least one — and often more than one — such campaign. The candidate is usually already a figure of derision among the press, and it’s often not clear to outsiders whether even they truly believe they will, or even should, become the president. The whole quadrennial enterprise tends to be either a guilty pleasure or a cause for sorrow, depending on how idealistic (and sadistic) you are already.

Some recent examples: In 2004, Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich was the at least somewhat earnest candidate that the press preemptively dismissed, while Rev. Al Sharpton was the one whose sincerity was widely questioned. Kucinich reprised the role somewhat in 2008, but had competition from former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel; Sen. Joe Biden, meanwhile, was the guy the press didn’t take seriously enough to let voters decide for themselves. On the Republican side in 2008, Rep. Ron Paul ran a heartfelt campaign that the media deemed unserious, while one-time ambassador Alan Keyes provided comic relief. And in 2012, one of the media’s favorite punching bags, Rep. Michele Bachmann, was a kind of right-wing Kucinich, while pizza mogul Herman Cain left many wondering whether he was engaged in an elaborate form of performance art.

At this point, it’s too early to know for sure who will fill these designated roles in the 2016 presidential race. And if former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton nabs the Democratic nomination with little effort, as many expect, the potential cast of characters will be smaller than is the norm. Still, it’s starting to look like there will be at least one presidential candidate who will waste everyone’s time by pursuing the White House. I’m thinking, of course, about the nascent presidential campaign of Gov. Bobby Jindal, who has begun flirting with some noxious forces in our society, and who is otherwise completely undeserving of anyone outside of Louisiana’s attention. Jindal will never be president — but whether his campaign is remembered as a routine failure, or a shameful disgrace, is far less certain.

Most of the worst stuff Jindal’s done lately has flown under the radar, so here’s a primer for those of you who haven’t paid much attention to the Louisiana pol since 2009, when he blew his State of the Union response by reminding everyone of “30 Rock’s” Kenneth. While Jindal still hasn’t formally announced his intention to run for president — and hasn’t even launched the pro forma exploratory committee, either — his desire to live at 1600 remains one of Louisiana’s “worst-kept” secrets. Yet ever since that embarrassing introduction to the television-watching public, Jindal’s had a problem: beyond his own ambition, a reason for him to run has been hard to find. And with each new iteration of a pre-campaign shtick, Jindal gets worse and worse.

Initially, Jindal wanted to be seen as a new kind of Republican, a GOPer for the Obama era. Needless to say, Jindal’s Indian ancestry was a component of this framing. But so was his allegedly fearsome intellect, which earned him degrees from Brown and Oxford and made him a Rhodes scholar. When his disastrous TV debut necessitated he shed that persona in favor of another, however, Jindal decided to go the other way, presenting himself as the ultimate anti-tax governor. He proposed Louisiana scrap income taxes altogether, but in part because his plan made up the revenue difference with sales taxes, which disproportionately hit the middle and working classes, the policy achieved little beyond sinking his approval rating. It remains low to this day.

After President Obama’s reelection in 2012, Jindal seemed to think he had another chance to claim the mantle of Sensible Republican. He charged out of the gate in 2013 with a call for the GOP to “stop being the stupid party,” which was, as you might imagine, not particularly well-received by the people who thought he was calling them stupid. Having seen his latest attempt fizzle out nearly as soon as it had started, Jindal proceeded to lay low for a while, but did little to change the perception that he still intended to run for president. Over the past few weeks, though, we’ve gotten a sense of what the latest version of Bobby Jindal might look like. And it isn’t pretty.

Lately, the man who urged his fellow Republicans to stop being stupid has grabbed headlines by pandering to the Islamophobic sentiment that’s widespread among the fundamentalist Christian bloc of the GOP base. The first sign was Jindal’s embrace of a paranoid fantasy that’s increasingly popular among far-right Christians, the supposed prevalence in the United Kingdom and Europe of “no-go” zones. These zones, according to the McCarthyite narrative, are neighborhoods or regions that have become so dominated by Muslim immigrants (and, of course, Shariah Law) that non-Muslims dare not enter them. The whole idea is a hysterical exaggeration, so much so that even Fox News has apologized for disseminating it. But Jindal has refused to downplay the no-go threat, despite being unable to point to any real examples.

If Jindal had left it there, you could have chalked it up as a momentary lapse in judgment, coupled with the typical arrogance of powerful men who are not accustomed to admitting they’re wrong. But he didn’t leave it there; he took it much further. He not only went on to flaunt his defiance on Fox News, promising he would never “tiptoe around the truth” when it came to “radical Islamic terrorism,” but also made clear that his turn to angry tribalism was no accident by grousing that he was “ready for us to stop calling ourselves hyphenated-Americans.” What connection there was between these two fearful mental spasms (it would be too charitable to call them thoughts) was unclear — until, that is, Jindal was able to get to what seemed to be his real message, which was little more than a nativist rant:

My parents came over here 40 years ago, they wanted their kids to be Americans, they love India, they love our heritage, if they wanted us to be Indians, they would have stayed in India. We also need to be teaching our kids in civics, in our schools about American Exceptionalism. We need to insist on English as our language in this country. I have nothing against anybody who wants to come here to be an American, but if people don’t want to come here to integrate and assimilate, what they’re really trying to do is set up their own culture, their communities, what they’re really trying to do is overturn our culture.

Unsurprisingly, the governor’s attempt to explicitly intertwine the conservative base’s dual fears of Muslims and immigrants was met with cheers from some of the more xenophobic and fear-stricken of conservatism’s leading lights. National Review’s Andrew McCarthy, for example, took a break from promoting torture to praise Jindal for his “Reaganesque” vision and willingness to call out the Islamic enemy within. But if Bobby Jindal wants his impending campaign for president to resonate outside the confines of National Review, his new persona is his most embarrassing miscalculation yet. Pretending to be a combination non-white Joe Arpaio and Christian Pamela Geller may do wonders for Jindal’s standing among the religious fundamentalists in the GOP, but to those of us who think America has more serious concerns than creeping Shariah, it makes him look like a fool. At best.


By: Elias Isquith, Salon, January 30, 2015


February 2, 2015 Posted by | Bobby Jindal, Christian Conservatives, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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