mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“House Freedom Caucus Demands”: Granting The Insurgents Continuing Power To Be Disruptive

It is looking likely that Rep. Paul Ryan will be elected Speaker of the House next week. Who knows what has transpired behind closed doors, but the word is that he and the Freedom Caucus reached a deal that won enough of them over for him to be elected.

What we also know is that the Freedom Caucus designed a questionnaire for speaker candidates. Kevin Quealy and Carl Hulse have done us all a service by translating those demands from Congressional legalese into plain English.

In looking at the list of 21 items, a lot of the things they are pushing for would simply undo the reforms instituted by Newt Gingrich that put power in the hands of the House Leadership – specifically the Speaker. In that way, they grant the insurgents continuing power to be disruptive.

But there are a few things that would mean pretty immediate chaos. For example, item 13 asks: are you willing to hold the debt limit hostage until we prevail on other issues? Specifically, the Freedom Caucus wants “structural entitlement reforms” in the 2016 budget and the Default Prevention Act (which President Obama has promised to veto) included in any legislation that raises the debt ceiling.

Given that the Treasury has informed Congress that the debt limit will be reached November 3rd – exactly one week after the House votes for a new Speaker – that doesn’t give Paul Ryan a lot of time to work this one out.

Making that job even harder is item 7 which seeks to institutionalize the so-called “Hastert Rule.” It would require that Republicans consider only legislation that has the support of the majority of their party. That would eliminate the possibility for Ryan to develop a coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats to raise the debt ceiling.

If all that weren’t bad enough, item 15 demands that the new Speaker refuse to pass a budget that contains funding for Planned Parenthood, “unconditional amnesty,” the Iran deal and Obamacare. In other words…”We demand a government shutdown!”

There are several other interesting items, like a demand to impeach the IRS Commissioner, turn the highway program over to states, stick to the spending caps in sequestration, etc. But in a deliciously hypocritical move, item 6 demands that Republicans who signed the discharge petition to fund the Ex-Im Bank be punished, while items 4 & 5 demand that members who oppose rule changes and/or vote their conscience not be punished.

If Rep. Ryan has in any way agreed to these demands, things are going to blow up in the House very quickly. If he and the Freedom Caucus simply put off dealing with them, things are going to blow up in the House very quickly. Get my drift?

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 24, 2015

October 25, 2015 Posted by | Debt Ceiling, House Freedom Caucus, Paul Ryan, Speaker of The House of Representatives | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“This Hearing Was A Dreadful Mistake”: GOP’s Benghazi Committee Comes Unglued

It’s easy to forget that when the Republicans’ Benghazi Committee initially sought testimony from Hillary Clinton, GOP officials wanted her to provide private, closed-door testimony. The former Secretary of State was eager to answer questions publicly, for all the world to see, but Republicans desperately wanted the discussion to be kept far from public view.

And after watching this farce unfold today, we now know why.

It’s hard to say exactly when today’s hearing descended into total farce, but it was arguably when Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), for reasons that didn’t appear to make any sense, quizzed Clinton repeatedly on her correspondence with informal adviser Sidney Blumenthal. The New Republic’s Brian Beutler highlighted the problem.

Republicans have intoned darkly about this relationship and played up, in deceptive fashion, Blumenthal’s influence over Clinton’s policy in Libya – despite the fact that he has no Libya expertise, and has apparently never been there. Republicans even deposed him for hours. But here’s the catch: while they continue to make an issue of Blumenthal’s relationship with Hillary Clinton, and their email correspondence, they’ve refused to release the transcript of that deposition, where he had a full opportunity to contextualize it.

Today, after Gowdy pressed Clinton on this – reinforcing every suspicion about the entire exercise being brazenly partisan and political – Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) couldn’t take it anymore. The Maryland Democrat insisted that if Republicans are going to reference Blumenthal’s role, then the committee has a responsibility to release the full transcript of Blumenthal’s testimony to the public.

Gowdy refused and a shouting match ensued. The far-right chairman, however, simply couldn’t defend his position or explain why GOP lawmakers insisted on keeping relevant information hidden from view.

It was arguably a low point in the hearing, but it had plenty of competition in the category.

It’s practically impossible to go through the several hours’ worth of exchanges we’ve seen so far, but I sincerely hope that it’s dawned on Republicans that this hearing was a dreadful mistake.

Whether GOP lawmakers realize it or not, they created a platform for the leading Democratic presidential candidate to speak before the nation and appear knowledgeable, articulate, compassionate, and competent. Simultaneously, the committee’s Republicans, who spent months preparing for today’s epic showdown, were hopelessly clueless and small.

Which strategic genius in Republican Party thought it’d be a good idea to pit Hillary Clinton against obscure, unprepared, far-right members of Congress? Why on earth would the GOP go out of its way to make the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination look like the adult in the room?

Clinton has often been blessed by incompetent opponents, but this is ridiculous.

What’s more, it’s too common. In early August, congressional Republicans scheduled hearings on the international nuclear agreement with Iran, and despite having months to prepare their best arguments and sharpest questions, they had nothing. Slate’s William Saletan attended all three hearings and came away flabbergasted: “Over the past several days, congressional hearings on the deal have become a spectacle of dishonesty, incomprehension, and inability to cope with the challenges of a multilateral world…. I came away from the hearings dismayed by what the GOP has become in the Obama era. It seems utterly unprepared to govern.”

A month later, congressional Republicans scheduled hearings on Planned Parenthood, and once again, they had months to prepare, organize their thoughts, coordinate their lines of attack, read their own charts, etc. And yet, they again seemed hopelessly lost.

As we discussed in September, conservative partisans should see congressional Republicans as poor allies, in large part because they don’t seem to do their homework especially well. They create opportunities to advance their interests, but then let those opportunities pass as a result of negligence and incompetence.

Disclosure: My wife works for a Planned Parenthood affiliate, but she played no role in this report and her work is unrelated to the September congressional hearing.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Madow Blog, October 22, 2015

October 23, 2015 Posted by | GOP, Hillary Clinton, House Select Committee on Benghazi, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Obama Facing The World As It Really Is”: A Smiling Pope, A Fallen Speaker And Two Tough Guys — Obama’s Crazy Week

The week began with President Obama on the tarmac of a military base in Maryland, waiting to welcome a global celebrity far more popular than he. It ended with him raising a toast to a hard-nosed world leader who has repeatedly challenged American interests and Obama’s resolve.

Along the way, the president’s most frequent legislative sparring partner in Washington relinquished his post on Capitol Hill, finally surrendering to the sharp polarization that has come to define American politics in the past five years. And abroad, another of Obama’s persistent antagonists — the Russian president — suddenly wanted a face-to-face chat about Syria and Ukraine.

The week’s events seemed like political surrealism. When Pope Francis arrived at the White House on Wednesday, the weather was so gorgeous it put Obama in a hopeful, reverential mood.

“What a beautiful day the Lord has made,” he said.

Two days later, Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived on the South Lawn to a much stiffer, more martial ceremony, complete with a 21-gun salute and lengthy remarks read from thick binders. Behind the scenes, the two leaders grappled over questions of economic hacking and Beijing’s military adventurism in the South China Sea.

But amid the piety of the pope and the provocations by China loomed the potential of another government shutdown. The surprise announcement by House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) on Friday that he would step down provided the week’s surpassing piece of political drama.

In Obama, Boehner has faced a determined adversary, but it was a mutiny within his own caucus that finally drove him to the exit. And as tempestuous as the Obama-Boehner relationship has been, the speaker’s departure signals that Obama may face an even more fractious GOP majority Congress in the remaining months of his presidency.

More than some of his predecessors, Obama is acutely aware of the contrast between his lofty ideals and the reality facing him. He talks about it all the time.

“Ultimately, global leadership requires us to see the world as it is, with all its danger and uncertainty,” the president told graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in May 2014. “But American leadership also requires us to see the world as it should be — a place where the aspirations of individual human beings really matters ; where hopes and not just fears govern; where the truths written into our founding documents can steer the currents of history in a direction of justice.”

The past week was a single lens into both those worlds, with their maddeningly uplifting complexity.

In Francis — and his progressive message on inequality, immigration and climate change — Obama saw the world as he wanted it to be. In everything else — Xi’s visit, Boehner’s resignation and a decision to meet with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin during the upcoming U.N. General Assembly session in New York — the president faced the world as it really is.

The president has had only a modest impact on three of the protagonists who dominated the week, although he has sought to engage all of them at different points. Xi and Obama have found a common cause in tackling climate change, but on many other important policy issues, they are at odds. Putin, like Xi, has joined the United States in pressuring Iran to scale back its nuclear program. But he defied American calls to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and has ignored the U.S. push to sideline Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as part of a political solution to the ongoing Syrian civil war. Obama sought to enlist Boehner’s help in forging fiscal and immigration reforms, but the GOP leader was never able to bring along enough members of his party to make the deals happen.

Still, Obama was at the center of all of the action over the past week.

Stanford University’s Michael McFaul, who served as U.S. ambassador to Russia for three years under Obama, returned a few days ago from Beijing. He said he was struck by the massive coverage in China of Xi’s visit to the United States, as he was by Putin’s desire to speak with Obama during the U.N. meeting. China’s and Russia’s dealings with the United States rank as each of those countries’ “most important bilateral relationship,” he said.

“It seems to me [Obama is] still pretty engaged in international affairs, and people want to engage him,” said McFaul, who directs Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. “We’re still the central power in the international arena.”

During a news conference with Xi in the White House Rose Garden on Friday, Obama delivered a brief lecture on the many responsibilities that accompany China’s rise from the “poor, developing country” it once was to its current status.

“It is now a powerhouse. And that means it’s got responsibilities and expectations in terms of helping to uphold international rules that might not have existed before,” the president said.

But on several issues, Xi asserted that China would not mimic other world powers. “Democracy and human rights are the common pursuit of mankind,” he said. “At the same time, we must recognize that countries have different historical processes and realities, and we need to respect people of all countries in the right to choose their own development path independently.”

Although the White House has emphasized the value of the time Obama and Xi have spent “outside the glare of the klieg lights,” in the words of press secretary Josh Earnest, experts cautioned that that sort of schmoozing has its limits.

Patrick M. Cronin, senior director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, said there’s an “American tendency to believe in the personalization of relations.”

“It’s all generally true, but the president of China doesn’t come as a person,” he said. “He comes here as the leader of the Communist Party, and the leader of China.”

Obama’s exchanges with the pope were less charged.

Obama and Francis chatted amiably as the choir of Washington’s St. Augustine Catholic Church sang “Total Praise” on the South Lawn, and in their public remarks, the president and the pontiff emphasized their common values.

The pope said he found it “encouraging” that Obama was cutting carbon emissions linked to climate change. Meanwhile, the president not only praised Francis’s vision of “empathy,” but also said his “unique qualities as a person” gave the world “a living example of Jesus’s teachings, a leader whose moral authority comes not just through words but also through deeds.”

On Friday, after word of Boehner’s resignation became public, Obama said he hoped lawmakers would “really reflect on what His Holiness said,” especially the idea “that we listen to each other and show each other respect, and that we show regard for the most vulnerable in society.”

Seven decades ago, with Eastern Europe in turmoil, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin dismissed the Vatican’s influence in the world with this question: “How many [military] divisions does the pope of Rome have?”

Michael Ignatieff, a professor at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School, described Obama as “a realist and a pragmatist” with reasons to align himself with Francis.

“A ‘realist’ fact about the modern world is Pope Francis has divisions,” said Ignatieff, who led Canada’s Liberal Party in opposition between 2008 and 2011. “He has articulated a longing for justice, the care of nature, the care of the poor — that’s very powerful stuff.”

 

By: Juliet Eilperin, White House Bureau Chief, The Washington Post, September 26, 2015

 

September 28, 2015 Posted by | John Boehner, Pope Francis, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Fiorina And Trump”: Rivals Who Deserve Each Other

Republicans always say nobody respects America anymore. No kidding. Given that CNN televised last week’s GOP presidential debate to a waiting world, it’s no wonder we don’t command respect.

After all, it’s one thing to see the most powerful nation on Earth choosing its leaders via a television game show. It’s quite another to contemplate the parade of grotesques and mountebanks enlisted as contestants.

The spectacle was enough to induce dread that’s less political than downright existential. “As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods,” Shakespeare wrote. “They kill us for their sport.”

The good news is that former Treasury official under Ronald Reagan, Bruce Bartlett, is probably correct when he says: “Any Republican who can win the White House can’t win the nomination, and no Republican who can win the nomination can win the White House.”

There the 11 candidates stood in front of the sainted Reagan’s presidential airplane with massive wildfires roaring only a few miles away — climate change deniers every one of them. Marco Rubio, supposedly one of the smart ones, made a dumb joke about bringing his own water.

That would be the same President Reagan who sent a birthday cake to Iran’s Ayatollah and sold him guided missiles. Today’s GOP unanimously opposes President Obama’s multinational arms control agreement with Iran.

Of course, Reagan also once claimed to have taken part in liberating the Nazi death camp at Buchenwald, although the closest he got to Europe during WWII was a French restaurant in Beverly Hills.

But why be churlish? Pundits and voters have always judged politicians by varying standards. Reagan probably got a pass because people believed his emotional response to newsreel footage of concentration camps was sincere. Yet Al Gore got lampooned for something he never actually said about inventing the Internet.

Besides, by the standard of last week’s GOP debate, Reagan was a veritable apostle of truth. You thought Donald Trump was a braggart and a blowhard? Then you probably cheered to see Carly Fiorina take him on.

Look at that face!” Trump told Rolling Stone. “Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!”

Of course he came under fire for saying that. Why he didn’t simply say the reporter misunderstood him is hard to guess. It’s not as if people take Rolling Stone at face value. Maybe there’s a tape. But pretending he was talking about her grating personality didn’t fool anybody.

During the GOP debate, Fiorina’s deadpan response was a perfectly timed masterpiece of understatement.

“Women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.”

Silence.

“She’s got a beautiful face and she’s a beautiful woman,” Trump replied. Yeah, right. Did anybody watching believe him?

But then being Donald Trump means never being able to say you’re sorry. I’d estimate his emotional age at 12.

So now Carly Fiorina is the newest GOP sensation, whose secrets of corporate success she put fully on display. Fiorina gives a great interview, having mastered the art of appearing decisive even when she has no clue what she’s talking about.

Certitude’s easily faked with memorized talking points. For example, Fiorina vowed to shake a fist in Vladimir Putin’s face by holding military exercises in the Baltic. Evidently she was unaware that the U.S. and NATO have conducted joint maneuvers there yearly since the 1970s. The most recent 17-nation Baltic war games ended last June. The Russians complained.

Virtually everything she said about national defense was similarly nonsensical — not that GOP game-show viewers knew.

But when things start to go bad — as they did during her doomed tenure as Hewlett-Packard’s CEO — Fiorina evidently begins making things up. Who could not be moved, for example, by her horrifying description of a videotape supposedly exposing Planned Parenthood?

“I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes,” she said. “Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.”

Terribly dramatic, but also, as Michael Hiltzik documented in the Los Angeles Times, purely imaginary. No such Planned Parenthood video exists. Challenged on ABC’s Good Morning America, Fiorina simply doubled down, challenging her critics to prove a negative, which ain’t how it works.

Similar stonewalling, accompanied by personal attacks on her questioners’ motives, ultimately resulted in Hewlett-Packard’s board of directors voting unanimously to give Fiorina a $21 million “golden parachute” and show her the exit. Trump appears mostly right about Fiorina’s dubious business record, just as Fiorina was correct about the casino tycoon’s multiple bankruptcies.

It’s a mystery why Trump failed to mention that Fiorina’s whole rags-to-riches, secretarial-pool-to-executive-suite story is also totally bogus. Her father was Dean of the Duke School of Law and a Nixon-appointed federal Appeals Court judge.

It’s possible Trump’s saving ammunition for the next exciting GOP matchup. Alternatively, he may be reluctant to have Fiorina bring up his inheriting $200 million from his real estate mogul father.

Either way, the two GOP frontrunners clearly deserve each other.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, September 23, 2015

September 24, 2015 Posted by | Carly Fiorina, Donald Trump, GOP Primary Debates | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Batten Down The Hatches!”: A Perilous Week Ahead For Our Republican Friends

There’s really only one way to say it: the week of September 21, 2015 could be unpleasant for a Republican Party struggling to find its way in the runup to a big, high-stakes election.

Its presidential field remains nearly as large and definitely as unwieldy as ever. Initial polling after last week’s second CNN debate shows that the long-awaited, fervently prayed-for decline in support for Donald Trump isn’t happening just yet. The main result of the debate was instead to consolidate the powerful position of three dubiously qualified “outsiders,” Trump, Ben Carson, and the star of the moment, Carly Fiorina. All three of them continue to say and do things that aren’t particularly troubling to the angry Republican “base” but are very problematic in a general election.

Over the weekend Trump batted away criticism over his silence in the face of a supporter who loudly insisted in the candidate’s presence that the president is a Muslim born outside the United States (an assertion an alarming percentage of Republicans believe against all evidence). Trump says it’s not his job to defend the hated Obama. Carson is in the spotlight for insisting against the rather explicit language of the U.S. Constitution that there should in fact be a “religious test” for the presidency, barring Muslims. Meanwhile, Fiorina is being besieged by the facts she ignored in her debate presentation–especially with respect to the Planned Parenthood videos she discussed to the delight of Christian Right voters–and by the long-overdue MSM scrutiny of her arguably catastrophic record as CEO of HP, her primary credential for high office (see Jeffrey Sonnenberg’s refutation of her debate remarks about him and her HP tenure).

But even as the three zero-experience front-runners lose friends and alienate people, it’s not like the rest of the field is moving on up. One early favorite, Scott Walker, is by all accounts in desperate condition, and having decided to drop everything else to go try to shore up his horrendous standing in Iowa, made a poor impression on his first post-CNN-debate public appearance there.

Off the campaign trail, congressional Republicans are snarled in separate yet equally dangerous internal disputes over the extent to which they will court a government shutdown to express unhappiness with the Iran Nuclear Deal–which they strangely consider a big political winner for themselves–and to cut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Budget wizard Stan Collender has now raised his estimate of the odds of a government shutdown to 75%. It’s a particularly bad sign that Republicans are already resorting to the tired and notably ineffective tactic of arguing that it’s Obama who would be shutting down the government by rejecting GOP demands.

If that’s not enough for you, keep in mind the Pope is coming to town this week, and whatever comfort conservatives take from his inevitable condemnation of legalized abortion, he is certain to bring a message on climate change and corporate greed that will make conservative Catholics go a little crazy.

And stimulating craziness will definitely be like bringing coals to Newcastle for the GOP right now. Batten down the hatches!

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 21, 2015

September 22, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Government Shut Down, Republicans | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

%d bloggers like this: