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“On Behalf Of The Inner Circle”: Earning The Contempt Of The Foreign Policy Establishment

Whenever I see an article by James Poulos, I have to admit that I approach it with a certain amount of disgust. That’s because, back in 2012 he wrote what I consider to be the most misogynist column I’ve read in a long time. You’ll get some idea of just how obnoxious it was from the title: What Are Women For? But his content and conclusions were equally horrible. Rather than rehash all of that here, you can go read what I wrote about it at the time.

I say all of that by way of introduction to the reason I was intrigued when I saw that Poulos had written something titled: The contemptuous certainty of Barack Obama. You might recall that recently I used President Obama as the prime example in suggesting that uncertainty is a liberal value. So of course I was intrigued to find out how someone would accuse him of “contemptuous certainty.”

It seems that for Poulos, it is the President’s rejection of the “Washington Playbook” that is the problem. And he finds proof of that in the much-disputed profile of National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes by David Samuels.

It appears that President Obama decided very early on that the Beltway’s foreign policy establishment was not to be trusted to do the right thing — or even to think independently about what the right thing might be…

This crew, of which Rhodes is just one member, simply does not care that it has torched its reputation with a broad swath of D.C.’s most reasonable and experienced foreign policy makers and analysts…

To a key set of mainliners, Democrats included, whom Clinton will need to rally, Rhodes’ words came off as a bizarre and unseemly end zone dance on behalf of an inner circle whose deep disrespect for the foreign policy establishment is an open secret in Washington.

It is not often that one actually finds comfort in the analysis of right wing conservatives. But that was exactly my reaction to reading this. During the Cold War, even Democratic Presidents didn’t do much to distinguish themselves from perpetuating the mistakes of the Washington Playbook. To see a conservative accurately depict the current occupant of the White House as someone who has been willing to earn their contempt is a great relief…finally!


By: Nancy  LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 13, 2016

May 14, 2016 Posted by | Ben Rhoads, Foreign Policy, Right Wing | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Don’t Cry For John Boehner”: An Old King Who Couldn’t Keep Up With The Palace Intrigue

Don’t cry for John Boehner, Washington.

Oh, no, the Ohioan doesn’t want to stay another day in the Capitol. The House speaker, who announced his resignation on Friday, had brought Pope Francis to address Congress. The soaring visit, a beautiful intermission for the city, represented the zenith of his career. His time as speaker has been a world of hurt – for President Barack Obama, too, who made a serious mistake in trying to work with Boehner early on.

Boehner clearly felt he could give no more. Besides, he’s 65, retirement age. Golf courses are out there. He’s always been more about politics than policy. Now he is like an old king who can’t keep up with palace intrigue. In a way, the pope, whom Boehner wept over, gave him spiritual permission to leave the fray.

For nearly five years, he was a strange bird flying through the halls, the House speaker who could not speak for his House Republican caucus. A rambunctious bunch, the right-wing element openly defied Boehner. He got no respect and as a result, accomplished next to nothing.

Not that Boehner’s a progressive – far from it – but he tried to keep order. The “conservative” rebels, a few degrees away on the ideological spectrum, were not having any sense or sensibility from their leader. In their latest great idea, they are flirting with shutting down the government of the United States over Planned Parenthood funding.

Look how well their government shutdown worked in 2013. The sequester, too, was a painful episode

The right-wing brigade also nurses fond hopes of getting rid of the Export-Import Bank, a perfectly good institution that more than pulls its weight.

The truth is, Boehner is a creature of the politics he practiced since the harsh days of Newt Gingrich’s speakership. He was an acolyte in that Republican Revolution of 1994, and this is what it’s come to: a houseful of angry white men in charge. More disarray is surely on the way.

Boehner, a jaundiced fellow, never took Obama’s outstretched hand. In the old school, when someone is elected president of the United States, it’s sporting to cut the guy some slack. No such luck. Over Obama’s presidency, Boehner refused to give ground on ending the Bush tax cuts, for starters. That set a hostile tone for other fiscal and budget issues.

Obama’s downfall with Boehner was believing he could charm him. That was never going to happen. Their was never any jovial Irish jokes between them, as there was between Republican President Ronald Reagan and Democratic Speaker Tip O’Neill.

Just yesterday, the speaker started speaking some truth; on the CBS News show “Face the Nation,” Boehner called the destructive right-wing faction “false prophets.” His tongue set free, he got religion. Perhaps he’s darkly hinting, “Be careful what you wish for.” If so, he might be right.

At last, a few words about “the barkeep’s son.” Boehner is too often summed up that way. What’s so great about that? Boehner himself says he’s just a regular guy – this is true. We in the press should not romanticize him. Let’s also remember he has cultural streaks of a Southern good ole boy, coming from the cusp of Ohio that borders the South.

Don’t cry for me, John Boehner, and I won’t cry for you.


By: Jamie Stiehm, U. S. Newsa and World Report, September 28, 2015

September 30, 2015 Posted by | House Republican Caucus, John Boehner, Right Wing | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Bad For The Party, Bad For The Country”: The GOP’s Clamorous, Counterproductive 2016 Circus

Another day, another trio of new candidates for the Republican presidential nomination.

A brain surgeon with no particular feel for politics. A business executive who lost the only election she ever entered. And the most famous graduate of Ouachita Bible College, who made a stop in the Arkansas’ governor’s house before becoming a talk-show host. Just throw Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and Mike Huckabee on the pile.

It’s already a big pile: Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio are official. Jeb Bush is officially unofficial, just as Rick Santorum, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie, Rick Perry, and George Pataki are. Lindsey Graham and John Kasich are unofficially unofficial. But they are thinking about it! A few of these would-be candidates are sure to find the likelihood of embarrassment too great, and will stop before they officially start. But I’m betting that the first debates will include 10 or more candidates.

So has the addition of this week’s candidates added to the ferment of ideas? No, not really.

In some ways, Fiorina understands the minds of many modern primary voters. She’s all but promised to be a paladin of the existing orthodoxy of her party’s conservative base. So she sells herself on her ability to sell. And she sells her identity. On day one of her campaign, she rattled off the talking points her nomination would cross off Hillary Clinton’s list. She told reporters: “Because I am a woman, there are many things she can’t say. She can’t play the gender card. She can’t talk about being the first woman president. She can’t talk about the war on women.” Mutually assured decorum, I guess.

In a lineup of politicians, the non-politician Ben Carson is easily the most impressive and accomplished person in the room. But his charm is almost entirely in being charmless. He speaks with great poise, which is refreshing. But his professed political views, and his manner of expressing them, are distinguishable only in volume and lack of spittle from the apocryphal “paranoid right-wing uncle” that is the foil of every annual Thanksgiving advice column.

Mike Huckabee is the most plausible of the three, actually having been elected to a statewide office. He also performed not-terribly when he ran for president in 2008. As a bonus, he offers some good and some bad populist critiques of the party’s establishment. Is the magic still there? I’m not sure. Ted Cruz has already soaked up so much of the “I hate the Establishment and they hate me” cred. And Cruz is going directly after Huckabee’s base of evangelical voters, while Huckabee himself has yet to prove he can win the middle-income Catholics and moderate voters of the Midwest. It’s Iowa or bust for Huck.

Is any of this good for the party or the nation? No, not really.

There is broad agreement among elite Republicans that the sheer number of serious and unserious candidates may hurt the party. It crams the debate stage, elicits shallow questions, and reduces the nationally televised answers to the tiniest sound-bites or hand-raises. It’s bad for the party, and the country. It’s also a can’t-lose deal for any would-be candidate willing to endure flights to Des Moines and house parties in Nashua.

A losing campaign can generate new interest in your career. It connects you with the wealthiest backers of your party. And it generates mailing lists and emailing lists of people who are not quite as wealthy but whose contacts can be useful for selling books, or filling up a local venue and making you seem like an important voice in the life of the Republic. Because the Republican Party has a para-party shadow in the institutions of the conservative movement and conservative-media complex, even a failed presidential campaign can be quite a successful life-proposition.

And hey, if worse comes to worst, and the bottom falls out of your “candidacy,” you can just rent or sell outright the names and whatever data you collected to the highest-bidding erection pill or diabetes-treatment interests. I see you voted for Ben Carson. Are you interested in seeds that will help you survive the collapse of our currency?


By: Michael Brendan Dougherty, The Week, May 5, 2015

May 6, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, GOP Presidential Candidates, Right Wing | , , , , , | 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

“It’s Always 1938”: The Right’s Lazy, “Ridiculous Neville Chamberlain Obsession”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) turned to a familiar comparison to condemn international nuclear talks yesterday. “I believe we are hearing echoes of history,” the senator said. “I believe we are at a moment like Munich in 1938.”

Of course he does.

Right-wing critics of the talks have been talking like this for months, though conservatives seem to be pushing the thesis with increased vigor now that an agreement appears more likely. Last week, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial speech to Congress, Mike Huckabee even celebrated the Israeli leader as “a Churchill in a world of Chamberlains.”

I’m reminded of a Peter Beinart piece from a while back.

Over the past quarter-century, there’s hardly an American or Israeli leader the Kristol-Netanyahu crowd hasn’t compared to Chamberlain. In 1985, Newt Gingrich called Reagan’s first meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev “the most dangerous summit for the West since Adolf Hitler met with Neville Chamberlain in 1938 in Munich.” When Reagan signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, hawks took out newspaper ads declaring that “Appeasement is as unwise in 1988 as in 1938.”

Then, when Israel moved to thaw its own cold war with the Palestine Liberation Organization, Yitzhak Rabin assumed the Chamberlain role…. Then it was Bill Clinton. “The word that best describes Clinton administration [foreign] policy is appeasement,” explained Robert Kagan and Kristol in 1999. Then, of course, it was the opponents of war with Iraq. “The establishment fights most bitterly and dishonestly when it feels cornered and thinks it’s about to lose. Churchill was attacked more viciously in 1938 and 1939 than earlier in the decade,” wrote Kristol in a 2002 editorial, “The Axis of Appeasement.”

Simon Maloy had more along these lines today, taking a closer look at the right’s “ridiculous Neville Chamberlain obsession” and “all the times conservatives accused Barack Obama of appeasing the world’s many Hitlers.” It’s not a short list.

With this in mind, the latest nonsense from Cruz and Huckabee isn’t just wrong and offensive; it’s lazy.

As we discussed a while back, during the 2008 presidential race, far-right radio host Kevin James accused Obama and other Democrats of Chamberlain-like “appeasement” policies in the Middle East. When msnbc’s Chris Matthews asked James what, specifically, happened in Munich in 1938, the conservative host simply had no idea – James thought it’d be provocative to throw around buzzwords popular with the right, but he never bothered to gain even a cursory understanding of his own rhetoric.

It seems the political world is witnessing a repeat of the same circumstances, only this time it’s on a much larger scale. Instead of one confused radio host being exposed as ignorant on national television, we see many leading Republicans – including likely presidential candidates – following the same example, pushing a comparison they don’t understand.

Let’s make this plain: every attempt at diplomacy with a foreign foe is not Munch. Every enemy is not Hitler. Every international agreement is not appeasement. Every president or prime minister conservatives don’t like is not Chamberlain.

There’s all kinds of room for spirited debate about how best to shape U.S. policy towards Iran, but if Republicans want their concerns to be taken seriously, they’ll have to do better than this.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 13, 2015

March 14, 2015 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Right Wing, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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