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“Full Credit Or Blame On Gas Prices”: Republicans Must Be Awfully Impressed With Obama Right Now

It was just a couple of years ago that Republicans positioned gas prices one of the nation’s most important political issues. Mitt Romney, during his failed presidential bid, argued President Obama “gets full credit or blame for what’s happened in this economy, and what’s happened to gasoline prices under his watch.”

The argument was always a little silly. Gas prices were extremely low when Obama first took office in early 2009 because there was a global economic crisis underway, weakening demand and pushing prices at the pump much lower. Consumers were paying more in 2012 than 2009, but that was because the economy had recovered.

But if Romney was correct, and the president deserves “full credit” for the price of gas, Republicans must be awfully impressed with Obama right now.

The average cost of filling up at the gas pump will soon be less than $3 a gallon across the U.S., according to projections from AAA on Friday.

The auto group said that the average price of gas may drop below $3 “sometime in the next couple of weeks” for the first time in four years.

About half of all U.S. gas stations are now selling gasoline for less than $3 per gallon. The most common price is $2.99 per gallon, AAA said.

This is easily a three-year low for gas prices, largely the result of weaker foreign demand.

Just so we’re clear, I’m not arguing that Obama deserves the credit for lower prices. He doesn’t. I’m arguing that it was lazy dumb for Republicans to argue that Obama deserved the blame for higher prices, and the right shouldn’t try to have it both ways.

Indeed, let’s not forget that Republicans actually spent a fair amount of time in the president’s first term arguing that Obama was deliberately trying to raise the price at the pump as part of a specific environmental agenda.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), during his vice presidential run, said in September 2012, “[T]he Obama administration’s policies are they’ve gone to great lengths to make oil and gas more expensive.”

In 2011, with gas prices rising, Republicans again insisted Obama was doing this on purpose. This odd line was pushed by Haley Barbour and the Koch brothers’ AFP, among others. When prices dropped, the argument went away. Then prices rose again, and the theory made a comeback, with prominent Republicans like Newt Gingrich, former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, and assorted Fox News figures insisting higher gas prices are the “conscious policy of this administration.”

By this reasoning, do Republicans believe Obama is still trying to raise gas prices, and just failing miserably in his goal?

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 24, 2014

October 26, 2014 Posted by | Gas Prices, Politics, Republicans | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Chris Christie’s Conservative Problem”: A Great Many Never Trusted Him In The First Place

What is the greatest fear of conservatives when they warn against the dangers of big government? It is that a leader or the coterie around him will abuse the authority of the state arbitrarily to gather yet more power, punish opponents and, in the process, harm rank-and-file citizens whose well-being matters not a whit to those who are trying to enhance their control.

This, of course, is a quite precise description of what happened when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s aides ordered the closure of some access lanes to the George Washington Bridge in September. Their motivation was political payback. The result: thousands of commuters along with emergency vehicles, school buses and pretty much the entire town of Fort Lee, N.J., were thrown into gridlock.

Using public facilities for selfish ends is the very definition of corruption, which is why this scandal bothers people far outside the conservative orbit. It took months for the episode to hit the big time because so many (the governor claims he’s one of them) had difficulty believing that government officials would act as recklessly as Christie’s gang did — and with such indifference to how their actions would affect the lives of people in northern New Jersey who were bystanders to an insider game.

Christie was finally moved to condemn the indefensible only after the smoking gun emerged in the form of e-mails from his staff and his appointees. Their contents reflected a vindictive urge to squelch all resistance to the governor’s political interests.

And this is the problem Christie hasn’t solved yet. At his epic news conference Thursday, he focused again and again on how loyal staff members had “lied” to him and how he felt personally victimized. What he never explained was why he did not press his staff earlier for paper trails so he could know for certain that all his vociferous denials were true. He didn’t deal with this flagrant foul until he had no choice. Saying he had faith in his folks is not enough. Christie still has to tell us why he did not treat the possibility of such a misuse of power with any urgency.

Even assuming that Christie’s disavowal of complicity holds up, he faces a long-term challenge in laying this story to rest. History suggests that beating back a scandal requires one or more of these assets: (1) a strong partisan or ideological base; (2) overreach by your adversaries; or (3) a charge that doesn’t fit people’s perceptions of you. Christie has trouble on all three fronts.

If Christie has a base, it consists of Wall Street donors, a media fascinated by his persona and relative moderation, and some but by no means all members of the non-tea-party-wing of the Republican Party.

He does not have the committed ideological core that Ronald Reagan could rely on to overcome Iran-Contra. He does not have the Democratic base that stuck with Bill Clinton during his sex scandal because the excesses of a special prosecutor and then of a Republican House that impeached him came to enrage Democrats even more than Clinton’s misbehavior.

What of Christie’s base? Wall Street is fickle and pragmatic. The media can turn on a dime. And the Republican establishment, such as it is, has alternatives. Oh, yes, Christie also has support from some machine Democrats in New Jersey who have made deals with him. But they will be even more pragmatic than Wall Street.

Overreach by one’s enemies is always a possibility, but there are no signs of this yet. Christie’s detractors have every reason to take things slowly and methodically. They will enjoy dragging this out.

And as has already been widely noted, the Christie operation’s penchant for settling scores is legendary. This charge fits the existing narrative about the guy so well that Christie had to say the words, “I am not a bully.” Denials of this sort usually have the opposite of their intended effect.

Christie has one other obstacle, and this may be the most important. A great many conservatives never trusted him, and a tale that plays so perfectly into their critique of government could make things worse. Erick Erickson, the right-wing writer, captured this rather colorfully. People sometimes want a politician to be “a jerk,” Erickson wrote on Fox News’ Web site, but “they want the person to be their jerk,” not a jerk “who tries to make everyone else his whipping boy.”

To win Christie some sympathy on the right, defenders such as former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour quickly deployed the GOP’s first-responder technique of attacking “the liberal media.” But liberals are the least of Christie’s problems.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, January 12, 2014

January 14, 2014 Posted by | Chris Christie, Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“We Are A Nation Of Immigrants”: Immigration Reform Is Both Compassionate And Practical

Marco Rubio, Florida’s junior senator, is pushing immigration reform because he needs a major legislative accomplishment to cement his credentials as a rising GOP star.

Haley Barbour, former GOP governor of Mississippi, is campaigning for an immigration overhaul because he knows that the Republican Party will be doomed if it does not make peace with growing numbers of Latino voters.

John McCain, Arizona’s senior senator and former GOP presidential nominee, is once again advocating a path to citizenship for undocumented workers because, well, his ego won’t allow him to be outdone by a young upstart named Rubio.

Whatever their reasons, they have found the right cause: The time has come to offer an estimated 11 million people living in the shadows a path to citizenship. Political calculations can produce lasting accomplishments, and few issues are more in need of ambitious pols looking to burnish their resumes than immigration reform.

For decades now, Mexicans, Guatemalans, Indians, Koreans, and even a few Irish and Norwegians, among others, have lived and worked among us, paying taxes, buying homes, sending their children to school — all the while without the protections afforded by legal documents.

Their labors are easily exploited by greedy employers. They can’t drive or board airplanes legally. They are not eligible to collect Social Security upon retirement, even if they have paid into the system through fake papers. They live in fear of those routine disruptions that can spiral downward into devastation for those without proper documents: the routine traffic stop, which can lead to deportation; the death of a parent in a distant land, which urges travel across borders; the teenager’s approaching 16th birthday and its shattered promise of a driver’s license, which can’t be obtained.

Jose Antonio Vargas, a former reporter who has become an advocate for immigration reform, wrote about learning of his status as an undocumented immigrant only when he went to apply for a driver’s license as a teenager. His grandparents, who were naturalized citizens from the Philippines, had never told him that they had conspired to bring him into the country illegally in order to give him a better life. He was as American as any other California teenager, so he was shocked to learn he stood on the other side of an invisible line.

But some of the most compelling reasons to put people like Vargas, Americans in almost every respect, on the path to citizenship have to do with the benefits that would accrue to the rest of us. Yes, immigration reform is a compassionate policy. It’s also a very practical one that provides substantial assistance to the economy, which is good news for everyone.

Business executives already know that, which is why so many of them are campaigning for comprehensive immigration reform. They depend on well-educated immigrants for their science and engineering expertise; they also depend on low-skilled immigrants to do the jobs that Americans don’t want to do, including farm work.

In addition, there is a broader benefit provided by immigrants, both legal and illegal: They have helped the United States to remain youthful, in contrast to its rapidly aging peers among industrialized nations.

Just look at Japan, a vast geriatric ward. A stunning 23 percent of its population is 65 or older. A cultural resistance to outsiders has exacerbated its problems: It remains hostile toward immigrants, despite the fact that it needs younger workers.

Several Western European countries haven’t fared much better. In Greece, for example, 19 percent of the population is 65 or older. That helps to explain its dismal economy, which doesn’t have enough younger workers paying taxes to support its retirees.

The United States, by contrast, sees itself as a nation of immigrants (despite the fact that history shows waves of discontent over the issue). Because of more recent waves of newcomers — whether they crossed the border with or without legal documents — this country’s retirees account for just 13 percent of the population. Just imagine how vicious the fights over cuts to Social Security and Medicare would be if we had fewer young workers to pay the tab.

Most of America’s undocumented workers have shown their allegiance to this country. We ought to show our appreciation by putting them on a path to citizenship. After all, we need them.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker, The National Memo, April 27, 2013

April 27, 2013 Posted by | Immigration Reform | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Dwelling In Sequesterland”: Once The Sequester Is Solved, Rand Paul Will Go Back To Being An Oddball

This is a weird moment in American politics. The sequester has just chopped $43 billion out of this year’s defense budget and Republicans are pretending not to care. Now Senator Rand Paul is winning kudos for conducting an old-fashioned talking filibuster against drone warfare from Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus (“I think it was completely awesome”). (Click here in the unlikely event you want to watch all 13 hours of Paul’s filibuster, and here for a video abridgement from the Washington Post.) With Politico‘s Lois Romano gushing that the filibuster has abruptly “vaulted [Rand] into the top tier of Republican power players,” Paul now says he’s “seriously” pondering a 2016 run for president. “I think our party needs something new, fresh and different,” Paul told Romano.

We have to figure out how to appeal to the West Coast, New England [and] around the Great Lakes area. We need to figure out how to appeal to the blue-collar voters that voted—that were Democrats that voted for Reagan and I think are drifting back because they see us as the party of the wealthy. … I do want to be part of making the Republican Party again more of a national party, less than a regional party, which I think we’re in danger of becoming.

Paul’s specific objection to drones is that they might be used to kill U.S. citizens on U.S. soil. His apparent preference for civil liberties over civil rights is one problem he’ll likely have running for president. (Paul recently voted against the Violence Against Women Act largely on states-rights grounds, and as recently as last year he argued that the 1964 Civil Rights Act was a cruel imposition on property rights.) Paul inhabits approximately the same niche as Haley Barbour, another seemingly strong candidate with a civil rights problem who ultimately decided not to run in 2012. But that isn’t the biggest obstacle to a plausible Paul candidacy. The larger problem is Paul’s opposition to the U.S. national-security establishment.

In ordinary times, it would be unwise for a Republican seeking the presidential nomination to deny this establishment the right to kill an enemy combatant on U.S. soil—even if that combatant were a U.S. citizen. But these aren’t ordinary times. We dwell in Sequesterland, a Brigadoon-like place where the GOP feels free not to define itself though toughness on defense. Even here in Sequesterland, Paul didn’t escape condemnation from the Wall Street Journal editorial page (“If Mr. Paul wants to be taken seriously he needs to do more than pull political stunts that fire up impressionable libertarian kids in their college dorms”) and from Sens. John McCain (“totally unfounded”) and Lindsay Graham (“To my party, I’m a bit disappointed that you no longer apparently think we’re at war”). But since this is Sequesterland, most other Republicans gave Paul a pass lest they give the public occasion to wonder why, if they’re so darned desperate to defend national security, they’re bleeding the Pentagon.

They are bleeding the Pentagon, incidentally. As Fred Kaplan has argued forcefully in Slate, the mere likelihood that $43 billion could be sliced out of the Pentagon budget without compromising national defense does not mean that this $43 billion cut is a breeze. As with the civilian cuts, the sequester cuts are across the board and don’t really give managers any leeway to prioritize this at the expense of that. Here’s Kaplan:

What about the $179 million allotted for modifications to the AH-64 Apache helicopter? How do the Army’s managers parse that? And how does anyone, whether in Congress or the Pentagon’s comptroller office, perform oversight of that feat, this year and in the near future? Not only is the exercise disruptive and in some cases absurd, it also creates excuses for contractors to bilk the Pentagon after the budget crisis is over, claiming that they suffered cost overruns as a result of inefficiencies brought on by sequestration.

Because this can’t possibly last, it won’t. One way or another, the GOP will be transported out of Sequesterland, and when that happens Paul will lose his get-out-of-jail-free card.

Remember Chuck Hagel? Former Republican senator from Nebraska? Just before the sequester hit Hagel was confirmed as defense secretary, but his margin was historically narrow because nearly every Senate Republican opposed him. (Paul was one of only four GOP yeas.) The president named a Republican to be secretary of defense, and Senate Republicans (including, for very foggy reasons, Paul) actually gave serious thought to filibustering the nomination. Much of the Republican resistance to Hagel was based, childishly, on the mere fact that Obama wanted him. But much of it was based on Hagel’s having taken positions on national security issues that his fellow Republicans judged unacceptably dovish—and Hagel isn’t nearly as dovish as Paul is. If Hagel proved unacceptable to the GOP, it’s inconceivable that Paul—who less than one month before the 2012 election published an op-ed condemning Mitt Romney for being too hawkish in the Middle East and too willing to increase Pentagon spending—will ever pass muster. And by “the GOP” I don’t just mean GOP politicians. I mean voters, too. Those Reagan Democrats whom Paul thinks he can woo in California, New England, and the Great Lakes? They’re pretty hawkish. They won’t vote for a candidate who’s weaker on defense than Barack Obama is.

New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait writes that Paul’s libertarianism on national security issues “will remain cool with his party only as long as the GOP remains out of the White House.” I disagree. I think it will remain cool with his party only as long as the GOP dwells in Sequesterland. Once that little matter gets resolved, Paul will go back to being an oddball. I’m not saying he won’t try to get elected president—after all, it runs in the family—but he will never inhabit the “top tier of Republican players.” That it looks like he might right now is just a quirk of circumstance.

 

By: Timothy Noah, The New Republic, March 10, 2013

March 11, 2013 Posted by | Sequester | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“We the People” are Bald-Faced Hypocrites

President Obama receiving briefing on Gulf Oil Spill shortly after initial explosion

 

Let me get this straight…. First, we want to reduce the size, scope and power of government at all levels, and on all issues, AND  oppose increasing the size, scope and power of government at any level  AND  for any purpose.  When asked,   “What is the role of government”, we respond “No role”.  We say that government that governs least,  governs  best.   We want the government to keep its hands off our Medicare and Medicaid.   We want the federal government to keep its boot heels off the throats of Big Banks and Wall Street. We say “Drill Baby Drill”. We say that our freedom and liberty are seriously threatened or has even been abolished in some cases.  We want everything under the sun but we don’t want to pay for anything.  What raise my taxes? Forget it. We feel that if only I can portray myself as being more angry or can just shout louder than the other guy, either through distortion or just outright lying, no matter the circumstance, I win.  For those in the media, you  circle the wagons whenever one of your colleagues is questioned or chastised when they are called out for endorsing or propagating half truths or capitalizing on individual’s personal pains, sufferings and tragedies.

Now there is a massive oil leak corrupting the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  This leak is a catastrophic event that will cause devastating results for generations to come.  And now, you say that the government’s response to this Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill has been too slow. Others say that the response has been completely non-existent.   The federal government has not solved this problem.  All I hear now is “I want the government to end my nightmare”.  All of a sudden, we want “Big Government”, that same government that many of you have been hell-bent on abolishing.   I have heard criticism from Ed Schultz, Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, James Carville and Donna Brazille on the Left, and Billy Nungesser, Bobby Jindal, Haley Barbour to wackoo’s Glen Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh on the Right. Many of these criticisms have been outright lies and distortions. I say “We the People” are bald-faced hypocrites.

For anyone who has an interest, fact based information is readily available and can easily be obtained. Any media outlet worth its weight,  could have and should have set the record straight on the time-line of the government’s response to this disaster.  No.  Instead, none of these people really want to recognize the fact that a major disaster has occurred and all forces must be brought to bear to resolve the problem. Some have suggested that the government kick BP aside and take over all aspects of the operation.  So much for “freedom” from the government…. and exactly what do you think that would accomplish?  Someone even suggested that we just send divers down and plug the hole.  This one has to be my favorite. Unless you are a Sperm of Bluenose whale, good luck with that stupid idea.   For anyone to suggest that the federal government, our federal government, is not taking this catastrophe seriously or is not bringing all forces to bear to completely resolve and recover from this event is terribly misguided and obviously has their own agenda.

Until the leak is stopped, we are all in this oil-slicked boat together.  Posturing and playing politics is not helping nor is it going to help….not one iota.  So for all of you, who still believe that you can stake out a long term position for furthering your political agenda, padding your wallet or trying to increase your ratings, strap on your life-vest and jump out of the boat.  Once you start gulping oil and gasping for breath, it’s going to be very difficult and quite slippery trying to get back in, if you survive that long.  I’m betting that you won’t make it.   When it comes to having “freedom” without government or even “freedom” from government, small or large, be careful what you wish for….you can’t have your cake and eat it too. 

In our efforts to develop solutions, we should strive not to become part of the problem.  If nothing else, we should realize that we are not in a position today or in the foreseeable future to continue to pursue off-shore oil drilling.

May 25, 2010 Posted by | Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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