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“Creators Of Iran Situation Should Stay Out Of It Now”: They Have No Compunction With Being Repeatedly Wrong

Last Wednesday, in a thoughtful and persuasive speech on the merits of the Iranian nuclear agreement, President Barack Obama chastised Dick Cheney and his ilk. He didn’t mention the former vice president by name, but few in the audience would have missed the reference.

Noting that many critics of the Iranian deal also supported the invasion of Iraq, President Obama said they “seem to have no compunction with being repeatedly wrong.” Tellingly, the former vice president, who still insists that deposing Saddam Hussein was a good idea, has been among the most vociferous critics of diplomacy with Iran. “(The agreement) will in fact, I think, put us closer to the actual use of nuclear weapons than we’ve been at any time since Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II,” Cheney recently told Fox News.

He’s not the only one. Those curiously unselfconscious denunciations of the Iranian agreement continued in last Thursday’s GOP presidential primary debates. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee said the deal would make the world “an incredibly dangerous place.” (That was at least less hysterical than his assertion a few days earlier that Obama was “marching Israel to the door of the oven.”)

Wisconsin governor Scott Walker pledged to rip up the deal on “Day One” of his hoped-for administration. In the earlier debate for second-tier candidates, former business executive Carly Fiorina said she would telephone “my good friend, Bibi Netanyahu, to reassure him we will stand with the State of Israel.”

Given our history with Iran, it’s no surprise that this deal has attracted many skeptics — including some from the president’s own party. New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, prominent among Senate Democrats, has announced his opposition.

But it is the Republican Party that remains a refuge of historical revisionism, full of prominent politicians who refuse to admit that the Iraq war left the Middle East worse off. Indeed, the toppling of Saddam Hussein significantly bolstered Iran, giving it more power in the region.

After all, Saddam was an enemy of Iran’s ayatollahs, a counterweight that kept them in check. That’s why the United States was a tacit ally of his for many years, supporting Baghdad in its eight-year war against Tehran. (Remember that 1983 photo of Donald Rumsfeld, then President Reagan’s special envoy to the Middle East, shaking Saddam’s hand?)

Even if the GOP wants to pretend that its military adventurism hasn’t had a downside, many voters remember anyway. A college student had the gumption to confront Jeb Bush at a campaign stop last May as he blamed President Obama for the rise of the self-proclaimed Islamic State. “Your brother created ISIS” when he disbanded the Iraqi Army, said 19-year-old Ivy Ziedrich.

So it is simply mindboggling to watch the politicians who’ve done the most to empower Iran denounce Obama’s diplomatic efforts to limit its nuclear power. They were wrong when they rattled their sabers to gin up public support for the invasion of Iraq, a strategic misfire with consequences that will ripple for decades. And they’re just as wrong now. Why would anyone listen to them?

Prominent Republicans are quite aware that the American public is weary of war, wary of any armchair hawks who would insist that U.S. military strength would carry the day in any conflict. Even core Republican voters are reluctant to use force; only 21 percent of GOP voters — and 14 percent of voters across the board — support military action against Iran rather than a diplomatic solution, according to an April Washington Post poll. So Republican leaders insist that they’re not pushing for military strikes against Iran.

“That’s never been the alternative,” Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told the Post. “It’s either this deal or a better deal, or more sanctions.”

But that’s a far more naive proposition than depending on the inspections regime to limit Iran’s nuclear program. President Obama persuaded China and Russia to join sanctions against Iran, but they’re ready to ink this deal. They won’t be pressed into tightening the financial noose around Tehran. And without their cooperation, sanctions won’t work.

Because America’s military might has limits, diplomacy ought to always be the first and second options. History makes that clear; the war in Iraq was merely a reminder.


By: Cynthia Tucker Haynes, Pulitzer Prize Winner for Commentary, 2007; The National Memo, August 8, 2015

August 9, 2015 Posted by | Dick Cheney, Iran Nuclear Agreement, Iraq War | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Tithes And Offerings”: A Well-Established Fad Among The Glenn Beckish, Conspiracy-Theory Oriented Christian Right Types

As long as we are talking about flaky but popular-among-conservatives tax plans, Ben Carson’s allegedly Bible-based “tithe” tax, which he got to tout in last night’s debate, is among the flakiest. It’s really just an unusually low flat tax, which means (a) it wouldn’t come even close to paying for anything like the government we have, and (b) it represents an incredibly huge windfall for the rich along with significantly higher taxes for the poor (plus loss of refundable tax credits).

What it is, however, is a well-established fad among the Glenn Beckish, conspiracy-theory oriented Christian Right types that represent Carson’s real ideological home. Here’s RightWingNews’ Peter Montgomery on flat taxes and “biblical values:”

The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer has declared, “God believes in a flat tax.” On his radio show last year, Fischer said, “That’s what a tithe is, it’s a tax.”

Of course, that kind of flat tax would amount to a massive tax cut for the richest Americans and a tax hike on the poorest. So it’s not terribly surprising the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity has teamed up with the Religious Right to promote the idea that progressive taxation is an un-Christian idea. AFP joined Religious Right groups to create the Freedom Federation, one of the right-wing coalitions that sprung up in opposition to Barack Obama’s election as president. The coalition’s founding “Declaration of American Values” declares its allegiance to a system of taxes that is “not progressive in nature.”

David Barton, the pseudo-historian, GOP activist, and Glenn Beck ally, is a major promoter of the idea that the Bible opposes progressive taxes, capital gains taxes, and minimum wage. Barton’s views are grounded in the philosophy of Christian Reconstructionism, a movement whose thinking has infused both the Religious Right and Tea Party movements with its notion that God gave the family, not the government, responsibility for education — and the church, not the government, responsibility for taking care of the poor.

That’s how we have Republican members of Congress supporting cuts in food stamps by appealing to the Bible. And how we get Samuel Rodriguez, the most prominent conservative Hispanic evangelical leader, saying that a desire to “punish success” — i.e. progressive taxes — “is anti-Christian and anti-American.”

A lot of people still think of the conservative movement as a combo platter of “conservative Christians” who don’t care about economic issues, and “economic conservatives” who are indifferent or even hostile towards “social issues,” and then Tea Party People who only care about fiscal probity and constitutional issues. It’s actually all a stew. And in particular, the Christian Right is composed in large part of people who have divinized private property and think the Constitution permanently addressed social and family policy along with taxation and government structure. That’s part and parcel of Ben Carson’s strange gospel of American unity: it was all resolved by the Founders, and we’ll all get along if “politically correct” people weren’t causing trouble with their secular socialist schemes.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, August 7, 2015

August 8, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Conservatives, Religious Right | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Republican Party Can’t Escape Its Past”: Trapped At The Center Of A Tug-Of-War Between Its Own Ego And The Conservative Id

A lot can happen through three hours of political debate, enough to carry multiple headlines and just as many different analytical perspectives. Even before the main-stage debate Thursday night, a consensus gelled that Carly Florina had distinguished herself among the also-rans, that Rick Perry continues to struggle to communicate extemporaneously, and that most of the seven candidates who didn’t make the top 10 didn’t make it for a reason.

But nothing that any individual candidate—including Donald Trump—said or did tonight stuck out as more significant than the thematic fact that Republicans are still tripping over the long tail of the 2012 election.

Part of what makes this process so awkward for them is that the GOP never really reached consensus about what it needed to do differently in 2016 to avoid the result it achieved four years ago. Some of them think the biggest error Republicans committed in the last election was racing to a rightmost position on immigration at the beck and call of xenophobes. Others think it was Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan’s breezy willingness to disparage “takers”—and Romney’s statements about the 47 percent specifically. Still more thought the party’s only error was nominating a candidate whom conservatives didn’t instinctively trust.

Every single opposing viewpoint in this dispute is represented in the current primary—and among the Fox News moderators and other conservative journalists who have the greatest access to the candidates—and the result is deeply unstable equilibrium between factions. The Republican Party is trapped at the center of a tug-of-war between its own ego and the conservative id.

Donald Trump personifies this dynamic more than any other candidate. Surrounded by Republicans who vowed not to run independent candidacies, he refused to take the same pledge, making explicit reference to the leverage his threat gives him against a cowering GOP establishment. He swatted away questions about his crude sexism by attacking political correctness and reiterated his view that the government of Mexico is sending rapists and murderers to the United States. And nobody was willing (or able) to take issue with any of the substantive claims he made, except insofar as he represented himself as a true Republican.

This isn’t the issue that most Republican Party leaders wanted center stage in the first 2016 primary debate. And it’s arguably only there because the party retreated from its tepid commitment to pass an immigration bill in 2013, and chose instead to pander to the same nativists, while surrendering their power to influence policy.

During the undercard debate, one moderator structured a question about labor market weakness in America around the premise that too many people are choosing to idle about on the dole rather than work for a living. She clearly believed everything Romney said in the 47 percent video and wanted the dark horse candidates to vouchsafe all of it. To their modest credit, none of them took the bait, exactly. They framed the issue instead as a problem with government spending fostering dependency—a slightly less dismissive, slightly more infantilizing way of describing the same, mostly imagined phenomenon. Certainly many of them still see the issue exactly the same way they did four years ago. And though nobody used the most damaging possible language in this instance, the 47 percent idea, and the fierce certainty many Republicans have that Romney was exactly right about it, litters the conservative mindshare like unexploded ordnance.

What you saw tonight—and the vastness of the field made this tension more vivid—are several candidates who want to hew to a new line of some kind, only to be pulled back, like the Godfather, into a morass they were trying to escape.


By: Brian Beutler, Senior Editor, The New Republic, August 6, 2015

August 8, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, Donald Trump, Immigration Reform | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Ted Cruz Loves Freedom, Liberty, And Dictators”: Loving Freedom While Applauding Ruthless Dictatorship

Republican presidential candidate and coloring book star Ted Cruz loves Egyptian dictatorship almost as much as he loves freedom and Candy Crush.

At Thursday night’s WWE-style Republican debate, the junior senator from Texas took a moment to praise the leadership skills and “courage” of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

“We need a president that shows the courage that Egypt’s President al-Sisi, a Muslim, when he called out the radical Islamic terrorists who are threatening the world,” Cruz said to an applauding audience.

It’s not the first time he’s praised Sisi—it’s is a common conservative meme to compare President Obama’s alleged weakness to the supposed manliness of strongmen abroad. And Cruz is far from the only Republican lawmaker to join the Sisi fan club. (Fellow 2016 contenders Mike Huckabee and Jeb Bush are pretty much on the same page.) But for all of Cruz’s talk about liberty and democratic freedoms at home, he is giving Our Man In Cairo a hell of a pass abroad.

Sisi—a strongman ruler practically minted in the U.S.A.—came to power in a 2013 coup that ousted the democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi, a leading member in the Muslim Brotherhood. Sisi’s armed forces then began a trigger-happy crackdown on Brotherhood members and supporters, and commenced the typical authoritarian kick of going after the press and imprisoning the opposition. (Morsi himself is waiting to see if his execution is imminent.)

Additionally, in an apparent effort to prove that his regime is even more “Islamic” than the Islamists he deposed, Sisi has presided over a campaign of persecution, prosecution and public shaming of LGBT Egyptians. It’s yet another brutal crackdown that has made Sisi’s Egypt a worse environment for gays than Morsi’s Egypt ever was.

And for all the repression and human-rights violations, his government has not managed to make the Egyptian republic any safer. “Sisi came to power on a platform of security and stability and clearly he’s failing—by any measurable standard, Egypt is more vulnerable to insurgency today than it was two years ago,” Shadi Hamid, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told The Daily Beast last month.

So what’s not to love, Senator Cruz?

The Cruz campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding how the senator squares loving freedom with applauding ruthless dictatorship.


By: Asawin Suebsaeng, The Daiyl Beast, August 7, 2015

August 8, 2015 Posted by | Dictators, Human Rights, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Jindal Generating Between 0% And 1% Support”: Nation’s Least Popular Governor To Seek Presidency

A poll was released in Louisiana about a month ago that showed President Obama’s approval rating in the Pelican State is down to 42%. It didn’t come as too big of a surprise, of course – Louisiana is a deep-red state in the Deep South, and the president lost his re-election bid here by 17 points.

What was surprising, though, was that the same poll found that Obama was four points more popular in Louisiana than Gov. Bobby Jindal (R). Indeed, by some measures, Jindal is the single least popular governor in the United States.

With such ignominy in mind, one might assume the far-right governor would want to run away. Jindal, however, has decided to run for president – yes, of the United States. MSNBC’s Jane C. Timm reported this morning:

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is expected to declare his candidacy for president here on Wednesday, which would make him the 13th Republican to get into the race, after years of injecting himself into the national conversation on everything from terrorism in the Middle East to education.

Speaking from Kenner, in the Louisiana district that first elected Jindal to Congress in 2004, Jindal is set to pitch himself as the candidate who can offer a viable Republican alternative to everything from Common Core to Obamacare.

It’s safe to say Jindal, who’s wrapping up his second term this year, faces incredibly long, Pataki-like odds of success. Nearly all recent polling shows the Louisianan generating between 0% and 1% support, putting him roughly last in a crowded GOP field, and effectively guaranteeing that he will not participate in the upcoming Republican primary debates.

And to a very real extent, this is a rare example of political meritocracy working effectively. Candidates for national office aren’t supposed to parlay failure into promotions.

I’ve kept an eye on Jindal for a long while, marveling at his bizarre approach to governing, but I still believe the best summary of the governor’s troubles came just a few months ago.

Campaigning in April in New Hampshire, Jindal offered an amazing explanation for his lack of popularity in his home state.

“[W]hen I was elected to my first term we won in the primaries, something that had never been done before by a non-incumbent. My second election, my re-election, we got the largest percentage of the vote ever, over two-thirds.

“And I’m here to tell you, my popularity has certainly dropped at least 15 to 20 points because we’ve cut government spending, because we took on the teacher unions.

”But we need that kind of leadership in D.C.”

As we talked about at the time, Jindal has an unintentionally amusing take on his own political story. He ran for statewide office, promising voters to pursue a conservative policy agenda, and he won easily. Once in office, Jindal kept his promise, cut spending, and governed as a far-right ideologue.

And according to Jindal, people hated it. According to his own version of events, his constituents – residents of a ruby-red state – saw their governor implement his vision, causing Jindal’s public support to drop “at least” 15 to 20 points.

The people of Louisiana got a chance to see Jindal govern up close, and they concluded that he’s simply awful.

“We need that kind of leadership in D.C.”?

Writing at the American Conservative in February, Rod Dreher reflected a bit on Jindal’s national ambitions. “I keep telling my friends in the national media that if you think Bobby Jindal has a chance in hell of becoming president, send a reporter down to spend a few days in Louisiana, seeing what condition he’s leaving his state in,” Dreher said.

There are plenty of other reasons to question Jindal’s candidacy on the merits – his brazen opportunism, his unprincipled flip-flops, his ugly partisanship, his ridiculous policy positions (“no-go zones” and the like), his needlessly divisive approaches to every culture-war fight he could pick – but it’s probably fair to say these issues won’t matter.

His failed gubernatorial tenure effectively ends the conversation about his national ambitions.


By: Steve Benen, The Madow Blog, June 24, 2015

June 25, 2015 Posted by | Bobby Jindal, GOP Presidential Candidates, Louisiana | , , , , | Leave a comment

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