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“That Other Country, Right Or Wrong”: Republicans Are Saying They Are More Solicitous Of Israel’s Interests Than America’s

There’s a new Bloomberg poll out that shows the strange behavior of Republican politicians towards Benjamin Netanyahu and everything having to do with Israel is in fact a pretty good reflection of the GOP rank-and-file’s proclivities.

Yes, the poll shows the depth of the GOP base’s antipathy towards Barack Obama, with Republicans saying they are more sympathetic to Netanyahu than to Obama by a 67/16 margin.

But here’s the most startling question and answer: given the choice of agreeing that “Israel is an ally but we should pursue America’s interests when we disagree with them,” or that “Israel is an important ally, the only democracy in the region, and we should support it even if our interests diverge,” Republicans choose the latter proposition by a 67/30 margin. That’s with no mention of Obama or any particular dispute, mind you.

Now I guess the word “support” in this context is a bit ambiguous. But it sure appears Republicans are saying they are more solicitous of Israel’s interests than America’s.

I find that hard to square with self-defined patriotism, frankly. You can have all sorts of disagreements over what constitutes your country’s interests, of course. But flatly asserting they should be subordinated to another country’s interests is hard to accept from people who have a bad habit of thinking of themselves as the only real Americans.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April, 15, 2015

April 16, 2015 Posted by | Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel, Republicans, United States | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Obama Legacy May Even Help Her”: Why Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Need To “Distance” Herself From Barack Obama

For a number of reasons, it has proven extremely difficult in recent history for a presidential candidate to win after eight years in which his party controlled the White House. Only one candidate has done it since 1948—George H.W. Bush in 1988. This fact would make a Hillary Clinton victory next year an unusual event, and there will be lots and lots of discussion between now and next November about how her candidacy is affected by the complex legacy of the Obama administration. The early form that discussion is taking seems to be that Clinton’s essential challenge is to “distance” herself from Barack Obama, which will be difficult because she served in his administration for four years. Comparisons are being made to John McCain, who was dragged down by George W. Bush in 2008 despite the fact that McCain hadn’t actually worked for Bush, but was just a senator (and a “maverick” at that, an idea that was essentially bogus but ubiquitous), as well as to Al Gore, who never found quite the right way to describe how his candidacy related to the administration in which he served.

This is a topic that I’m sure I’ll be returning to, because how the electorate thinks about Barack Obama and feels about the last eight years is going to be a central theme of the campaign. But my feeling right now is that it might not be as much of a problem for Clinton as so many people seem to think.

First, let’s dispense with the two main comparisons everyone is making: 2008 and 2000. Barack Obama’s popularity right now is pretty middling, in the high 40s. Would it be better for Clinton if it were higher? Sure. But it’s still worlds away from where George W. Bush was in 2008. In Gallup’s last poll before the 2008 election, Bush’s approval was at 25 percent. His administration was judged by Democrats, independents, and even many Republicans as an abysmal failure, because of both the disaster in Iraq and the financial cataclysm that had just hit. McCain was one of the war’s biggest supporters, and was offering essentially the same economic policies as Bush. That’s why it was easy for Obama to say that McCain offered more of the same, while he offered change—not only was there substance to the charge, but “more of the same” was something almost everyone agreed they wanted to avoid.

Today, people are less than satisfied with the way many things are going, but we aren’t in the throes of a disaster. The economy is recovering rather nicely, and attention has turned to long-standing problems like inequality and wage stagnation. Republicans can say that Obama didn’t fix these problems and Clinton won’t either, but they’ll have much more trouble saying that their remedy—essentially a return to George W. Bush’s economic policies—will produce something better.

As for 2000, the comparison is even less apt. Al Gore struggled to get out of Bill Clinton’s shadow and prove he was his own man, and because of the Lewinsky scandal he had a certain reluctance to embrace the successes of the administration. But nobody is going to plausibly say that Hillary Clinton isn’t her own woman or would just reproduce everything about the Obama years.

Nevertheless, in many ways, a Hillary Clinton presidency would probably look like a combination of her husband’s and the one she worked in. If you’re a Republican you think that sounds dreadful, if you’re a Democrat you think it sounds great, and if you’re an independent there are probably some things you’d like about it and some you wouldn’t. But it isn’t some nebulous mystery onto which Republicans can project a bunch of fears. A Hillary Clinton presidency is, as Donald Rumsfeld would say, a known known.

Things can change, of course—maybe there will be another recession, or some huge scandal that covers Obama in eternal shame. But if we proceed along as we’re going now, I doubt the Obama legacy is going to prove much of a problem for Clinton. It may even help her.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, April 13, 2015

April 16, 2015 Posted by | Election 2016, Hillary Clinton, President Obama | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“The GOP Primary Is Where Ideas Go To Die”: You Can’t Be A Smart Candidate In A Party That Wants To Be Stupid

So now we have us some candidates, on the Republican side. Who’s the big kahuna? Jeb Bush? He keeps getting called front-runner, and I suppose he is, even though the polls sometimes say otherwise. Scott Walker? Certainly a player. Rand Paul? Pretty bad rollout, but he has his base. The youthful, advantageously ethnicized Marco Rubio? Some as-yet-unannounced entrant who can hop in and shake things up?

Each has a claim, sort of, but the 800-pound gorilla of this primary process is none of the above. It’s the same person it was in 2008, and again in 2012, when two quite plausible mainstream-conservative candidates had to haul themselves so far to the right that they ended up being unelectable. It’s the Republican primary voter.

To be more blunt about it: the aging, white, very conservative, revanchist, fearful voter for whom the primary season is not chiefly an exercise in choosing a credible nominee who might win in November, but a Parris Island-style ideological obstacle course on which each candidate must strain to outdo his competitors—the hate-on-immigrants wall climb, the gay-bashing rope climb, the death-to-the-moocher-class monkey bridge. This voter calls the shots, and after the candidates have run his gauntlet, it’s almost impossible for them to come out looking appealing to a majority of the general electorate.

You will recall the hash this voter made of 2012. He booed the mention of a United States soldier during a debate because the soldier happened to be gay. He booed contraception—mere birth control, which the vast majority of Republican women, like all women, use. He lustily cheered the death penalty. He tossed Rick Perry out on his ear in part because the Texas governor had the audacity to utter a few relatively humane words about children of undocumented immigrants. He created an atmosphere in which the candidates on one debate stage were terrified of the idea of supporting a single dollar in tax increases even if placed against an offsetting $10 in spending cuts.

He is a demanding fellow. And he is already asserting his will this time around. Why else did Bush endorse Indiana Governor Mike Pence’s religious freedom bill in an instant, only to see Pence himself walk the bill back three days later? Bet Jeb would like to have that one back. But he can’t. The primary voter—along of course with the conservative media from Limbaugh and Fox on down—won’t permit it.

Now, as it happens, some of these candidates come to us with a few serious and unorthodox ideas. We all know about Rand Paul and his ideas about sentencing reform and racial disparities. He deserved credit for them. He was a lot quicker on the draw on Ferguson than Hillary Clinton was. But how much do we think he’s going to be talking up this issue as the Iowa voting nears? Time might prove me wrong here, but Paul has already, ah, soul-searched his way to more standard right-wing positions on Israel and war, so there’s reason to think that while he might not do the same on prison issues, he’ll just quietly drop them.

More interesting in this regard is Rubio. I read his campaign book not long ago, along with five others, for a piece I wrote for The New York Review of Books. Rubio’s book was the best of the lot by far. It was for the most part actually about policy. He put forward a few perfectly good ideas in the book. For example, he favors “income-based repayment” on student loans, which would lower many students’ monthly student-loan bills. It’s a fine idea. The Obama administration is already doing it.

Beyond the pages of the book, Rubio has in the past couple of years staked out some positions that stood out at the time as not consisting of fare from the standard GOP menu. He’d like to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit to more childless couples. Again, there are synergies here with the current occupant of the house Rubio wants to move into—the Obama administration is taking up this idea.

Now, there is to be sure another Rubio, one who’d feel right at home on Parris Island. He is apparently now the quasi-official blessed-be-the-warmakers candidate, with his reflexive hard lines on Iran and Cuba. Along with Senate colleague Mike Lee of Utah, he also has put forth a tax plan that would deplete the treasury by some $4 trillion over 10 years—for context, consider that George W. Bush’s first tax cut cost $1.35 trillion over a decade—in order that most of those dollars be placed in the hands where the Republicans’ God says they belong, i.e., the 1 percent of the people who already hold nearly half the country’s wealth.

I think it’s a safe bet that we’ll see the neocon Rubio and the supply-side Rubio out on the stump. But the Rubio who wants to make life better for indebted students and working-poor childless couples? Either we won’t see that Rubio at all, or we will see him and he’ll finish fourth in Iowa and New Hampshire and go home. You can’t be a smart candidate in a party that wants to be stupid.

Might I be wrong about the primary voter? Sure, I might. Maybe the fear of losing to Hillary Clinton and being shut out of the White House for 12 or 16 consecutive years will tame this beast. But the early signs suggest the opposite.

After all, how did Scott Walker bolt to the front of the pack? It wasn’t by talking about how to expand health care. It was by giving one speech, at an event hosted by one of Congress’ most fanatical reactionaries (Steve King of Iowa), bragging about how he crushed Wisconsin’s municipal unions. That’s how you get ahead in this GOP. I’d imagine Rubio and Paul and the rest of them took note.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, April 15, 2015

April 16, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, GOP Primaries, Republican Voters | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Beating Heart Of The Republican Party”: Right-Wing Extremism; Not Just For Radicals Anymore

On Sunday, it will be 20 years since the morning a bomb destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City and took 168 human lives. Nineteen of those lives belonged to children.

Maybe it takes you by surprise that it has been so long. Maybe you wonder where the time went. And maybe you remember…

…the ghastly pictures of that building, the front of it sheared away.

…the firefighter emerging from the rubble, tenderly cradling that dying baby.

…the bloody and lacerated people wandering dazedly from the wreckage.

…the breathless speculation that surely the culprits had to be Muslims.

And maybe you remember, too, that sense of vertiginous shock some people felt when we got our first look at the man who planted the bomb and discovered him to be, not a swarthy Muslim with a heavy beard and hard-to-pronounce name, but a clean-cut, apple pie-faced young white man named Timothy McVeigh. People could not have been more nonplussed if Richie Cunningham had shot up a shopping mall.

But the tragedy was to contain one last surprise. It came when we learned why McVeigh committed his atrocity. It seems he hated the government.

That revelation was our introduction to a world whose very existence most of us had never suspected. Meaning the so-called patriot movement, the armed, radical right-wing extremists who refuse to recognize the authority of the nation’s duly constituted and elected government. Maybe you remember the news reports of how they spent nights and weekends drilling in the woods, playing soldier in anticipation of the day ZOG — the Zionist Occupied Government — ceded the country to the United Nations and soldiers of the New World Order came rappelling down from black helicopters to seize everybody’s guns. Maybe you remember how crazy it all sounded.

But that was then. Twenty years ago, the idea of anti-government resistance seemed confined to a lunatic fringe operating in the shadows beyond the mainstream. Twenty years later, it is the mainstream, the beating heart of the Republican Party. And while certainly no responsible figure on the right advocates or condones what he did, it is just as certain that McVeigh’s violent antipathy toward Washington, his conviction that America’s government is America’s enemy, has bound itself to the very DNA of modern conservatism.

It lives in Grover Norquist’s pledge to shrink government down until “we can drown it in the bathtub,” in Chuck Norris’ musing about the need for “a second American revolution,” in Michele Bachmann’s fear that the census is an evil conspiracy. It lives in dozens of right-wing terror plots documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center since the 1995 bombing, including last year’s murder of two police officers and a Walmart shopper by two anti-government activists in Las Vegas. It lives in Cliven Bundy’s armed standoff with federal officials.

These days, it is an article of faith on the political right that “government” is a faceless, amorphous Other. But this government brought itself into being with three words — “We the people” — and they are neither incidental nor insignificant. Our government may be good, may be bad, may be something in between, but as long as we are a free society, the one thing it always is, is us. Meaning: a manifestation of our common will, a decision a majority of us made. We are allowed to be furious at it, but even in fury, we always have peaceful tools for its overthrow. So there is never a reason to do what McVeigh did.

We all know that, of course. But 20 years after the day they brought babies out of the rubble in pieces would be an excellent time to pause and remind ourselves, just the same.

 

By: Leonard Pitts., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, April 15, 2015

April 16, 2015 Posted by | Anti-Government, Republicans, Right Wing | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Princely CEO’s Of Corporate Larceny”: Scurrilous Corporate Thieves Are Stealing Workers’ Comp

They say there’s honor among thieves, but I say: That depends on the thieves.

Your common street thief, yes — but not those princely CEOs of corporate larceny. America’s working families have learned the elites in the top suites are rewarded for being pickpockets, swindlers, thugs, and scoundrels, routinely committing mass economic violence against the majority of America’s working people to further enrich and empower themselves.

But now comes a cabal of about two-dozen corporate chieftains pushing a vicious new campaign of physical violence against workers. The infamous anti-labor bully, Walmart, is among the leaders, but so are such prestigious chains as Macy’s and Nordstrom, along with Lowe’s, Kohl’s, and Safeway. Their goal is to gut our nation’s workers’ compensation program, freeing corporate giants to injure or even kill employees in the workplace without having to cover all (or, in many cases, any) of the lost wages, medical care, or burial expenses of those harmed.

Started more than 100 years ago, workers’ comp insurance is one of our society’s most fundamental contracts between injured employees who give up the right to sue their companies for negligence when injured on the job and employers who pay for insurance to cover a basic level of medical benefits and wages for those harmed. Administered by state governments, benefits vary, and they usually fall far short of meeting the full needs of the injured people. But the program has at least provided an important measure of help and a bit of fairness to assuage the suffering of millions.

But even that’s too much for the avaricious thieves atop these multi-billion-dollar corporations. Why pay for insuring employees when it’s much cheaper just to buy state legislators who are willing to privatize workers’ comp? This lets corporations write their own rules of compensation to slash benefits, cut safety costs — and earn thieving CEOs bigger bonuses.

But who, you might ask, would help these corporate crooks in their callous and calculating scheme to rob workers of their hard-earned benefits? Why, that would be the work of ARAWC — the Association for Responsible Alternatives to Workers’ Compensation.

When you come across a corporate lobbying group claiming to be pushing “Responsible Alternatives to Such-and-Such,” you can rightly assume that it’s really pushing something totally irresponsible, as well as malicious, shameless, self-serving and even disgusting. Mother Jones magazine reports that ARAWC is a front group funded by these hugely profitable retail chains and corporate behemoths that want to weasel out of compensating employees who suffer injuries at work. By law, corporations in nearly every state must carry workers’ comp insurance, but the ARAWC lobbying combine is pressuring legislators to allow the giants to opt out of the state benefit plans and instead substitute their own, highly restrictive set of benefits.

What a deal! But it’s a raw deal for injured workers. In Texas, which already has this write-it-yourself loophole, more than half of the corporate plans — get this — pay nothing to the families of workers who’re killed in job accidents! Similarly, under an ARAWC-written opt-out provision that a Tennessee senator sponsored this year, employers wouldn’t have to cover artificial limbs, home care or even funeral expenses of on-the-job accident victims.

Also, the Tennessee bill lets a company simply walk away from maimed workers after just three years or after paying only $300,000 in expenses. Corporations always claim to “value” their employees — and this tells us exactly how little that value is.

By the way, the CEO of ARAWC also happens to be the head of “risk management” at the mingiest of workplaces: Walmart. And that’s what this opt-out scam amounts to — corporate profiteers hoping they can manage to escape paying for risking the lives of America’s workforce. Yes, this shifty move is a scurrilous crime, but it’s a crime that pays richly for those at the top. And the money can fill the hole in their souls where their honor used to be.

 

By: Jim Hightower, The National Memo, April 15, 2015

April 16, 2015 Posted by | CEO'S, Corporations, Workers | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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