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“An Apology To Bernie Sanders”: If I Ever Came Off As Not Respecting You, Bernie, I Apologize

Hardly a week goes by without some demand for an apology populating my inbox. I have never apologized for two reasons: The usual one is that I’m not sorry. The other is that calls for an apology have become an irritating tactic in American political discourse, a kind of bullying.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t regretted things I’ve said or the tone used. I have. So here’s a compromise: I will issue one apology a year.

And the winner for 2015 is … Bernie Sanders.

Why Bernie? Some liberal friends complain that I’ve been overly dismissive of the senator from Vermont’s candidacy. They have cause.

I was especially rough in pointing out the cracks in Bernie’s self-portrait of a national force for civil rights. Perhaps I overdid it.

But the fact remains that he fled the troubled New York of the ’60s for the whitest state in the nation. It baffles that he shares his campaign stage with Cornel West, a black academic who condemns Barack Obama in nasty racial terms.

On advancing civil rights, Bernie’s been totally on board. Still, one can see why ordinary African-Americans seem to relate better to Hillary Clinton.

Bernie, you’re really good on most concerns: Reining in Wall Street’s power. Expanding Medicare to all Americans.

You also rise over conventional liberal stances, opposing gun control measures that come off as more anti-gun than pro-control. You’ve clearly been talking to hunters in your rural state.

Your views on immigration are well-nuanced. You support a path to citizenship for otherwise law-abiding undocumented people. But you oppose calls for massive temporary-worker programs that would replace American workers — and not just farmworkers — with lower-cost substitutes.

The Democratic debates have shown you at your best. On Saturday, you graciously offered … an apology … over your campaign’s breach of Clinton’s proprietary data. (Hillary responded in kind, saying it was time to move on.) That was quite noble of you in light of the Democratic National Committee’s decision to temporarily cut your campaign’s access to its voter database. The DNC has not treated you fairly.

You’ve been taking the high road in this campaign, sticking to issues and even occasionally praising Hillary. Your dismissal of the right wing’s obsessive harping over Clinton’s use of private email while secretary of state will not be forgotten.

Bernie, the poll numbers show you slipping further behind Hillary among Democratic voters. That alone is not reason enough to downplay your quest for the presidency. Candidates have come roaring back, and Hillary’s performance over the years has not been flawless.

But there’s a big question besides “can you win?” That is, What would happen if you did? For all your solid thinking, you’ve never been able to work with others in Washington, and we’re not just talking about Republicans. You often can’t get along with liberal Democrats.

Your “holier than thou” attitude, as former Rep. Barney Frank put it, has kept you from actively participating in the formation of laws. That bill you negotiated with conservatives to improve veterans’ health care doesn’t count. Helping veterans is not a hard sell.

But let’s end the criticism here. I’m glad you’re running. Without you, hardly any attention would have been paid to the Democratic side. The other remaining challenger, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, simply isn’t original enough. (Sorry, Martin. This year’s apology has just been used up.)

Finally, I never tire of hearing you describe your smart liberal ideas with force and conviction. I still don’t think you’re going to be IT. But if I ever came off as not respecting you, Bernie, I apologize.

 

By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, December 22, 2015

December 23, 2015 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“God-Intoxicated Certitude”: When ‘Conservatives’ Become Radicals

If the self-styled Republican “Freedom Caucus” understood the first thing about the United States Constitution they profess to revere, they’d recognize that it’s a conservative document purposely crafted to frustrate radicals like them. As men of the 18th century, the Founding Fathers were deeply suspicious of what they called “enthusiasm,” most commonly defined as God-intoxicated certitude.

Certitude of the kind recently expressed by former Arkansas governor and putative GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee: “The race for Speaker of the House is not about Kevin McCarthy, it’s about burning the corrupt Washington political machine to the ground and rebuilding our country.”

Even granting that Huckabee, a Baptist preacher, was speaking metaphorically, his voice is that of a fanatic or a child. During the 1960s of legend and song, only the crackpot leftists of the SDS and the Progressive Labor Party talked about setting fires. Now it’s old white codgers listening to Mark Levin and shaking their fists at Fox News.

Huckabee’s not a “conservative” at all, except in the contorted meaning of the term brought into use by the Freedom Caucus, Chicken Little Brigade, or whatever they’re calling themselves this week. He’s also not a real presidential candidate. Huckabee has no more chance of being nominated than your humble, obedient servant here, who rarely leaves the farm. Like several Republican candidates, what he’s really about is peddling his dreadful ghost-written books. Presumably Huckabee himself knows all that, even if his gullible followers do not.

But let GOP-oriented New York Times columnist David Brooks explain: “Over the past 30 years, or at least since Rush Limbaugh came on the scene, the Republican rhetorical tone has grown ever more bombastic, hyperbolic, and imbalanced. Public figures are prisoners of their own prose styles, and Republicans from Newt Gingrich through Ben Carson have become addicted to a crisis mentality. Civilization was always on the brink of collapse. Every setback, like the passage of Obamacare, became the ruination of the republic. Comparisons to Nazi Germany became a staple.”

It was bad enough under President Bill Clinton, a moderate Southerner. But the election of Barrack Hussein Obama, a black man with a multicultural background and a funny name, drove the Chicken Little Brigade clear around the bend. The willingness of publicity seekers like Donald Trump to traffic in conspiracy theories about Obama’s birthplace and religion did the rest.

“Obama created the Tea Party,” a Republican lobbyist told The Nation’s William Grieder. “We told people that Obama was a dangerous socialist who was going to wreck America and he had to be stopped, when really we knew he was a moderate Democrat, not all that radical… But they believed us.”

The “Freedom Caucus” not only can’t govern, they don’t appear to believe in governance. Hence the 58 futile show votes to repeal Obamacare, which accomplished absolutely nothing in real political terms. “This hell-no caucus — the degree of purity that they’re looking for doesn’t exist,” former Senate GOP leader Trent Lott of Mississippi told the Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty. “I’m sure they’re nice people, but Washington is not a place where you can come in off the street and make it work.”

Trent Lott is a Mississippi Republican, but he’s not “conservative” enough for the Chicken Little Brigade! But then Lott accepts political reality: Obamacare repeal can’t pass in the Senate, and even if it did, President Obama — re-elected in 2012 by more than 5 million votes — would veto it.

See, that’s what we were all supposed to have learned in ninth-grade civics: That the whole point of having three branches of government — executive, legislative, and judicial — was to prevent the concentration of power, to make change incremental, and compromise essential.

As former Rep. Barney Frank puts it in a thoughtful essay in Politico: “We are at any given time governed by the results of the past three elections. The House of Representatives in Washington today contains only people elected in 2014, but they share power with a president elected in 2012, and senators chosen one-third in 2010, one-third in 2012 and one-third in 2014.”

But then if you’ve read this far, you already knew that. Unable to win by normal political means, the “Freedom Caucus” proposes government by televised melodrama: threatening yet another government shutdown or even a default on the national debt — risking a financial crisis far worse than 2008 — to blackmail the president into doing its bidding on issues from Obamacare to Planned Parenthood.

Cable TV news ratings would go through the roof! Until the roof fell in, that is. However, the U.S. Constitution allows for a simple remedy: There are a whole lot more Democrats in the House of Representative than “Freedom Caucus” members. All that’s necessary is for Speaker Boehner to exhibit the political courage to cut a deal with Nancy Pelosi, scheduling votes on issues of bipartisan agreement such as the debt limit.

And the show would be over — just like that.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, October 14, 2015

October 15, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, Founding Fathers, House Freedom Caucus | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Adultery For Me, But Not For Thee: A Master List Of Gingrich’s Hypocrisies

Newt Gingrich is no stranger to hypocrisies. It’s just that his own self-righteousness often gets in the way of admitting to them: “There’s no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate,” the family-values candidate once famously said about his multiple extra-marital affairs. So in the service of airing out other yawning gaps between Newt’s words and deeds that may have emerged when the candidate was too busy loving America, TNR has compiled the following index:

On Christian moralizing: Gingrich’s litany of infidelities has been widely reported, as has his habit of leaving wives for mistresses. Of the affair that he carried on with a volunteer during his first campaign in 1974, one of his aides said, “We’d have won in 1974 if we could have kept him out of the office, screwing her on the desk.” But that hasn’t stopped him from claiming positions of moral loftiness, decrying the impending downfall of our society, and penning books arguing, “There is no attack on American culture more deadly and more historically dishonest than the secular effort to drive God out of America’s public life.” His second wife, in a 2010 interview with Esquire, claimed, “He believes that what he says in public and how he lives don’t have to be connected. … If you believe that, then yeah, you can run for president.”

On shady book deals: In the late 1980s, Gingrich launched a vicious attack on Democratic Speaker Jim Wright, arguing that bulk sales of his book had been crafted to avoid laws limiting outside income for members of Congress. By the mid-90s, however, Gingrich found himself in a strikingly similar position, as it came to light that he had received a $4.5 million advance from HarperCollins in a two-book deal. Then, in the spirit of one doing one better, it later came out that one of Gingrich’s charities had bought the books en masse.

On Obamacare and death panels: In July 2009, Newt Gingrich was director of a health care think tank and a staunch advocate of so-called “death panels,” writing, “If [end-of-life-counseling] was used to care for the approximately 4.5 million Medicare beneficiaries who die every year, Medicare could save more than $33 billion a year.” But a year later, as he weighed his presidential aspirations, Gingrich took a different tack on Obama’s plan to reimburse doctors for such consultations: “You’re asking us to trust turning power over to the government, when there clearly are people in America who believe in establishing euthanasia.”

On the housing crisis: In the Bloomberg-Washington Post debate, Newt called, with a straight face, for the jailing of Chris Dodd and Barney Frank: “In Barney Frank’s case,” he advised, “go back and look at the lobbyists he was close to at—at Freddie Mac. … Everybody in the media who wants to go after the business community ought to start by going after the politicians who have been at the heart of the sickness which is weakening this country.” All that rage at lobbyists for the housing agencies … from a man whom Freddie Mac paid between $1.6 and $1.8 million for his “advice as a historian.” Which definitely isn’t lobbying, and would never qualify as the sort of relationship that he just suggested was worthy of being jailed for.

On drug policy: As a good child of the ’60s, Newt smoked pot, and as a young congressman in 1981, he authored a bill to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes. But Gingrich’s more recent stated methods for dealing with drug offenders might have placed his younger self in a tight spot. Just last week, he argued that when it comes to dealing with illegal drugs, “Places like Singapore have been the most successful at doing that,” ostensibly endorsing the idea that anyone caught with 18 ounces of cannabis face mandatory death by hanging.

On corruption: Newt led Republicans to power in 1994 in part by blasting Democrats as being hopelessly corrupt. But soon after, Gingrich engaged in his own congressional corruption, getting slammed by the House Ethics Committee on a multitude of charges: of laundering donations through charities, of using a charity called “Learning for Earning” to pay the salary of a staffer writing a Newt Gingrich biography, and of lying to the ethics committee. Gingrich eventually had to pay a $300,000 fine for his transgressions.

On the Clinton impeachment: While leading impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton for lying about an extra-marital affair, Newt was … having an extra-marital affair. When he was later asked whether he considered himself to be inhabiting a “glass house” during the proceedings, he reluctantly agreed, but defended himself by saying, “I think you have to look at whether or not people have to be perfect in order to be leaders. I don’t think I’m perfect. I admitted I had problems. I admitted that I sought forgiveness.”

 

By: Thomas Stackpole, Darius Tahir and Jarad Vary, The New Republic, December 5, 2011

December 10, 2011 Posted by | Election 2012, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , | 2 Comments

   

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