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“Try Not-Extremism’: Extremist Republicans Don’t Want To Be Attacked For Extremism

The National Review‘s Andrew Stiles is still upset with Democratic messaging on reproductive rights:

Welcome to the scorched-earth phase of the Democrats’ “war on women” campaign, and the beginning of a ruthless offensive to hold their Senate majority, and possibly to retake the House, in 2014.

Democrats have nearly perfected the following exercise in cynical electioneering: 1) introduce legislation; 2) title it something that appeals to the vast majority of Americans who have no interest in learning what is actually in the bill, e.g., the “Violence Against Women Act”; 3) make sure it is sufficiently noxious to the GOP that few Republicans will support it; 4) vote, and await headlines such as “[GOP Lawmaker] Votes No On Violence Against Women Act”; 5) clip and use headline in 30-second campaign ad; and 6) repeat.

I’m not sure if Stiles knows this, but the Violence Against Women Act predates the Democratic “war on women.” It was first passed in 1994 by a vote of 61-38 in the Senate and 235-195 in the House. It was reauthorized in 2000, and again in 2005—with little opposition from Republicans. And indeed, Senate Republicans joined Democrats last year to reauthorize the new VAWA, with the included protections for Native American women and other groups.

The problem, as it has been for the last two years, is a conservative minority of the House Republican conference. Indeed, it’s the same minority that has rejected equal pay laws, and pushed anti-abortion bills that sharply reduce the reproductive autonomy of women. If the “war on women” has had any traction as a rhetoric framework, it’s because those things are unpopular with voters.

Stiles is free to complain that a political party is being unfair by playing politics, but if he wants to solve the problem, he should push his allies to abandon their current drive to make life more difficult for women.

The more interesting tidbit in Stiles’ piece is this:

Republican aides are increasingly convinced that taking the House back in 2014 is going to be Obama’s sole focus over the next two years. “Democrats are not presenting a good-faith effort to get legislation passed,” a Senate GOP aide says. “They simply want to have Republicans on record voting for or against, and to use those votes in political campaigns next year. They’re going to label us as obstructionists and extremists, and try to win back the House and a 60-vote majority in the Senate so they can push their real agenda.”

I doubt that Democrats can take back the House in 2014. It wouldn’t just run against the general pattern—where the president’s party loses seats in the midterm—but Democrats would have to fight an uphill battle against a large number of incumbent legislators, with all the benefits that come from incumbency. Then again, the public is unhappy with the Republican Party, and if the GOP’s position continues to deteriorate, a 2014 sweep is definitely on the table for Democrats.

Again, however, it’s worth noting the odd complaint behind Stiles’ observation. If Democrats are planning to label Republicans “obstructionists and extremists,” it’s because Republicans have been acting as obstructionists and extremists. In just the three months since the election, Republicans have:

  • Held the economy hostage to massive spending cuts (the fiscal cliff).
  • Launched a crusade against the administration on the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, with the clear goal of generating a scandal.
  • Filibustered a Cabinet nominee over aforementioned pseudo-scandal.
  • Threatened to allow a huge round of austerity (the sequester), if the president doesn’t agree to another round of spending cuts (which would also harm the economy).

In between, Republicans have continued to endorse the right-wing policies of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, and the newest star in the GOP—Ted Cruz—is a far-right ideologue.

Are Democrats exaggerating the extremism of congressional Republicans? Probably. But it’s easy to do when the GOP is so eager to help.


By: Jamelle Bouie, The American Prospect, February 21, 2013

February 23, 2013 Posted by | Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Enemy Within”: Who’s Trying To ‘Annihilate’ The GOP?

When John Boehner whined last week that Obama’s goal for his second term is to “annihilate the Republican Party” and “shove us into the dustbin of history,” he was working the party into a psychological state much like James Franco had to in 127 Hours: They’re getting ready to accept that they will have to sequester their arm with a dull knife.

Of course, Obama’s War on the GOP is about as real as the liberals’ War on Christmas—both are paranoid, apocalyptic fantasies marketed to drum up fear and self-pity on the right. Obama telling Republicans to “Please proceed” is no more tantamount to annihilating the GOP than chirping “Happy Holidays” is to eliminating Christmas.

Instead, this is a classic case of psychological projection. Paul Ryan, Newt Gingrich, Frank Luntz, and senators Bob Corker, Tom Coburn and Jim DeMint, among other right thinkers, actually held a meeting the night of the 2009 Inaugural to plot to undermine Obama’s newborn presidency with nonstop obstructionism. The next year, Mitch McConnell said, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” And yet, after these plans failed to block Obama’s re-election and instead cost the GOP a number of House and Senate seats to boot, here is Boehner saying his party is the victim of existential aggression.

Paranoid projection—whether subconscious or deliberate—is part and parcel of the GOP’s broader denial of so much of contemporary reality, whether it’s climate change, demographic change, macroeconomics or polls that don’t go their way.

But mostly, they deny who that black man claiming to be president really is. And so they’ve created an Imaginary Obama, who is just as crazily radical as the Ryan budget would be, if it were passed, or as Bush’s war in Iraq actually was. In one of the funnier attempts to portray Obama’s insidiously well-cloaked but devastatingly destructive nature, wrote that by supporting gay rights in his Inaugural speech, the president had “bullied” the Supreme Court justices on the dais into going gay-friendly in their upcoming decisions.

It’s a short step from believing that Obama wants to decimate your party to believing he’s making your party choose hard-right fringe policies that will alienate voters. And as Jonathan Chait writes, moderate Republicans like David Brooks and former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson, who resent the extremists but won’t break from their party, are particularly susceptible to this “pathological” notion.

The prevalent expression of this psychological pain is the belief that President Obama is largely or entirely responsible for Republican extremism. It’s a bizarre but understandable way to reconcile conflicting emotions—somewhat akin to blaming your husband’s infidelity entirely on his mistress. In this case, moderate Republicans believe that Obama’s tactic of taking sensible positions that moderate Republicans agree with is cruel and unfair, because it exposes the extremism that dominates the party, not to mention the powerlessness of the moderates within it.

Yes, Brooks wrote that Dems think Obama should “invite a series of confrontations with Republicans over things like the debt ceiling—[to] make them look like wackos willing to endanger the entire global economy.”


Worse, argues Brooks, Obama is nastily choosing an agenda intended only to harm Republicans. Obama’s proposals on gun safety and immigration, he writes, are “wedge issues meant to divide Southerners from Midwesterners, the Tea Party/Talk Radio base from the less ideological corporate and managerial class.”

Brooks asserts, but does not actually explain, that Obama chose these issues for the purpose of dividing the opposition—as opposed to trying to cut down on mass murders and fix a huge field of broken policy.

What Obama does do, by being a politically moderate and emotionally calm leader with a beautiful family, is hold a mirror up to the chaotic and hysterical Republican leadership. This strikes them as very mean, and they blame Obama for what they see, Man of La Mancha style.

So now they are struggling to dream an Impossible Dream: taking back the political momentum by simply agreeing to the “poison pill” plan that the sequester was supposed to be, cutting $1.2 trillion from the budget spread equally between defense and domestic spending. The corporate end of the party will scream at those cuts, and fear the economic impact of austerity; the ultra base, now increasingly gerrymandered into scarlet congressional districts with little incentive to compromise, would get, given the $1.2 trillion Obama has already agreed to cut from the budget, something like the Ryan budget’s $2.4 trillion in spending cuts over the next 10 years. “I think the sequester’s going to happen,” Ryan said today on Meet the Press.

In a game of chicken like this one, the GOP has to convince us all that they mean it in order to win, so there may be a lot of play-acting here. But they also need to concentrate the minds of every Republican in the House to make the threat real. And nothing does that like the threat of “annihilation.”


By: Leslie Savan, The Nation, January 27, 2013

February 1, 2013 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Strangling Our Nation: ‘A Self-Inflicted Wound Of Monumental Stupidity’

There are, regrettably, plenty of prominent media voices who insist on characterizing the Republicans’ debt-ceiling crisis as a disaster brought on by “both sides.” Yes, David Gergen, I’m looking in your direction.

But for all the complaining I do about this, it’s only fair to also note those who get it right, and resist the Village’s agreed upon narrative. Here’s Time’s Joe Klein yesterday, before last night’s breakdown in the House.

[S]o, here we are. Our nation’s economy and international reputation as the world’s presiding grownup has already been badly damaged. It is a self-inflicted wound of monumental stupidity. I am usually willing to acknowledge that Democrats can be as silly, and hidebound, as Republicans-but not this time. There is zero equivalence here. The vast majority of Democrats have been more than reasonable, more than willing to accept cuts in some of their most valued programs. […]

The Republicans have been willing to concede nothing. Their stand means higher interest rates, fewer jobs created and more destroyed, a general weakening of this country’s standing in the world. Osama bin Laden, if he were still alive, could not have come up with a more clever strategy for strangling our nation.

That last line was of particular interest, because it echoes a recent point from Nick Kristof. Indeed, the NYT columnist recently argued that Republicans represent a kind of domestic threat, possibly undermining the nation’s interests from within: “[L]et’s remember not only the national security risks posed by Iran and Al Qaeda. Let’s also focus on the risks, however unintentional, from domestic zealots.”

Are Klein and Kristof suggesting Republican extremism has become dangerous? It certainly sounds like it.

This is pretty bold stuff from media establishment figures. It also suggests the “both sides” nonsense hasn’t exactly achieved universal acceptance.


By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly, Political Animal, July 29, 2011

July 29, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Debt Crisis, Deficits, Democracy, Democrats, Economic Recovery, Economy, Elections, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Ideology, Jobs, Lawmakers, Media, National Security, Politics, Press, Public, Public Opinion, Pundits, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty, Terrorism, Voters | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ron Paul And The Civil Rights Act Of 1964

Last May, then-candidate Rand Paul’s (R) Senate campaign in Kentucky ran into a little trouble. The self-accredited ophthalmologist explained in newspaper, radio, and television interviews that he disapproved of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, because the private sector should be allowed to do as it pleases. “[T]his,” Paul said at the time, “is the hard part about believing in freedom.”

Asked specifically by Rachel Maddow, “Do you think that a private business has the right to say, ‘We don’t serve black people’?” Paul replied, “Yes.” Seven months later, he won easily.

Almost exactly a year later, Paul’s father, Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, explained his nearly identical beliefs about the milestone civil rights legislation.

MSNBC’s Chris Matthews asked the Texas congressman, “The ‘64 civil rights bill, do you think an employer, a guy who runs his shop down in Texas or anywhere has a right to say, ‘If you’re black, you don’t come in my store’?” And with that, Paul explained he would have opposed the Civil Rights Act, adding, “I wouldn’t vote against getting rid of the Jim Crow laws.”

Matthews noted, “I once knew a laundromat when I was in the Peace Corps training in Louisiana, in Baker, Louisiana. A laundromat had this sign on it in glaze, ‘whites only on the laundromat, just to use the laundromat machines. This was a local shop saying ‘no blacks allowed.’ You say that should be legal.”

Paul didn’t deny the premise, but instead said, “That’s ancient history. That’s over and done with.”

I’d note in response that this isn’t “ancient” history — millions of Americans are old enough to remember segregation, and millions more are still feeling the effects. For that matter, that era is “over and done with” precisely because of laws like the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The country didn’t just progress by accident; it took brave men and women willing to bend the arc of history.

Let’s also not lose sight of the larger context. In 2011, the United States has a member of Congress and a Republican presidential candidate who publicly expresses his opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And because we’ve grown inured to GOP extremism, this somehow seems routine.

Indeed, it’s unlikely Paul’s rivals for the Republican presidential nomination will feel the need to condemn his remarks, and probably won’t even be asked about them.

By: Steve Benen, Political Animal, Washington Monthly, May 14, 2011

May 14, 2011 Posted by | Businesses, Constitution, Democracy, Equal Rights, Freedom, GOP, Government, Human Rights, Ideologues, Ideology, Liberatarians, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, Tea Party | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Big Government Bailout Worked

Don’t expect to see a lot of newspapers and Web sites with this headline: “Big Government Bailout Worked.” But it would be entirely accurate.

The actual headlines make the point. “Demand for fuel-efficient cars helps GM to $3.2 billion profit,”declared The Post. “GM Reports Earnings Tripled in First Quarter, as Revenue Jumped 15%,” reported the New York Times.

Far too little attention has been paid to the success of the government’s rescue of the Detroit-based auto companies, and almost no attention has been paid to how completely and utterly wrong bailout opponents were when they insisted it was doomed to failure.

“Having the federal government involved in every aspect of the private sector is very dangerous,” Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) told Fox News in December 2008. “In the long term it could cause us to become a quasi-socialist country.” I don’t see any evidence that we have become a “quasi-socialist country,” just big profits.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) called the bailout “the leading edge of the Obama administration’s war on capitalism,” while other members of Congress derided the president’s auto industry task force. “Of course we know that nobody on the task force has any experience in the auto business, and we heard at the hearing many of them don’t even own cars,” declared Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) after a hearing on the bailout in May 2009. “And they’re dictating the auto industry for our future? What’s wrong with this picture?”

What’s wrong, sorry to say, is that you won’t see a news conference where the bailout’s foes candidly acknowledge how mistaken they were.

The lack of accountability is stunning but not surprising. It reflects a deep bias in the way our political debate is carried out. The unexamined assumption of so much political reporting is that attacks on government’s capacity to do anything right make intuitive sense because “everybody knows” that government is basically inefficient and incompetent, especially when compared with the private sector.

Government failure gets a lot of coverage. That’s useful because government should be held accountable for its mistakes. What’s not okay is that we hear very little when government acts competently and even creatively. For if mistakes teach lessons, successes teach lessons, too.

In the case of the car industry, allowing the market to operate without any intervention by government would have wiped out a large part of the business that is based in Midwestern states. This irreversible decision would have damaged the economy, many communities and tens of thousands of families.

And contrary to critics’ predictions, government officials were quite capable of working with the market to restructure the industry. Government didn’t overturn capitalism. It tempered the market at a moment when its “natural” forces were pushing toward catastrophe. Government had the resources to buy the industry time.

What’s heartening is that average voters understand that broad assaults on government provide better guidance for the production of sound bites than for the creation of sensible public policy. That’s why House Republicans are backpedaling like crazy on their plans to privatize Medicare — even as they pretend not to.

Conservatives really believed that voters mistrusted government so much that they’d welcome a chance to scrap Big Government Medicare and have the opportunity to purchase policies in the wondrous health insurance marketplace. Don’t people assume that anything is better than government?

But there were deep potholes on the road to a market utopia. Put aside that the Republican budget wouldn’t provide enough money in the long term for the elderly to afford decent private coverage. The truth is that most consumers don’t have great confidence in the private insurance companies, with which they have rather a lot of experience.

When it comes to guaranteeing their access to health care in old age, most citizens trust government more than they trust the marketplace. This doesn’t mean they think Medicare is without flaws. What they do know is that Medicare does not cut people off in mid-illness and that its coverage is affordable because government subsidizes it.

It’s axiomatic that government isn’t perfect and that we’re better off having a large private sector. It ought to be axiomatic that the private market isn’t perfect, either, and that we need government to step in when the market fails. The success of the auto bailout and the failure of the Republicans’ anti-Medicare campaign both teach the same lesson: The era of anti-government extremism is ending.

By: E. J. Dionne, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, May 8, 2011

May 9, 2011 Posted by | Big Government, Budget, Congress, Conservatives, Economic Recovery, Economy, GOP, Health Care, Jobs, Journalists, Labor, Media, Medicare, Politics, President Obama, Press, Pundits, Republicans | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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