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“No, Really – I Mean It”: The Same-Old Same-Old Paul Ryan

One of the reasons that Barack Obama was elected president in 2008 is that the Republican agenda had been shattered. After eight years of Bush/Cheney, our economy crashed due to deregulation, while the federal deficit soared because of unfunded wars and tax cuts for the wealthy. Similarly, our foreign policy was a mess because, after invading Afghanistan, we pretty much ignored those who were actually responsible for 9/11 and went on to invade Iraq based on lies that were meant to gin up a “global war on terror.” We abandoned basic universal values with an embrace of things like torture and the prison at Guantanamo Bay. Americans were ready to abandon all of what the Republican Party stood for in the modern era.

That’s what led the GOP to become “post-policy.” Instead of fighting for what they wanted to do to address the challenges America faced, they decided to fight President Obama and obstruct anything he attempted to accomplish. The result is that their current presidential nominee is the one who best captured post-policy nihilism.

Obviously that approach doesn’t sit well with House Speaker Paul Ryan. As the guy who impressed a lot of the Washington press corp with his wonkishness, he is determined to take Republicans back to the the agenda that failed in the past. This week Ryan announced that starting next week, Congressional Republicans will release six policy papers that he calls their “Confident America” agenda.

As Steve Benen noted, you can hear Ryan saying, “No, really – I mean it,” in this quote:

“What you will see with these [releases] are detailed policy papers,” the Wisconsin Republican said. “We’re not talking about principles here. This is substance. It’s going to be a clear explanation of the policy changes that are needed in these areas.”

The six areas to be covered include: poverty, taxes, healthcare, national security, regulations and constitutional authority. In case anyone is tempted to think that they will be any different from the failed Republican policies of the past, there’s this:

Ryan declined to detail the contents of the policy papers, other than offer a few hints: anti-poverty proposals will transition existing programs from “a work replacement system to a work encouragement system”; deficit reduction proposals will not affect seniors in or near retirement; and a healthcare overhaul will involve repealing the Affordable Care Act despite recent member proposals that wouldn’t involve full repeal.

In other words, we’ll see social programs block-granted to states (with significant reductions in revenue), voodoo economics with tax cuts for the wealthy, privatization of entitlement programs and the elimination health care coverage for millions of people. Sound familiar? Of course, Ryan will dress all of that up with language that pretends it will actually help working Americans. But it will all be the same-old same-old that failed so miserably in the past.

Yesterday I described the dance that is currently going on between Ryan and Trump – mostly from the perspective of what Trump is looking for (submission to his enormous ego). This is what Ryan wants. It is the classic post-truth/post-policy battle that has been going on among Republicans over the last few years. To the extent that Ryan makes any headway in that dance, it would provide a contrast for the 2016 election. Do Americans want to return to the failed policies of the Bush/Cheney years? Or do they want to continue the policies that have worked during the Obama administration?

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 27, 2016

May 27, 2016 Posted by | Bush-Cheney Administration, Paul Ryan, Republicans | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Change Takes Continuity”: Hillary Clinton Is The Change America Needs

Over the coming weeks and months, Democrats in caucuses and primaries around the country will choose between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders to be the party’s nominee. Some are now casting the decision as one between “continuity” and “change,” with Clinton representing a continuation of President Obama’s agenda and Sanders representing a shift toward the transformational change that escaped Obama.

This binary is completely false.

Ours is a historical era in which continuity and change are one and the same. Obama ended the wars of the George W. Bush administration, normalized relations with Cuba, and prevented the ascent of an Iran armed with nuclear weapons. In the last week alone, his administration declined to renew licenses to coal mining operations on federal lands, declared a ban on solitary confinement of minors in federal penitentiaries, and ordered police departments around the country to give back military surplus equipment being misused by law enforcement. And on Tuesday, news came of the White House preparing to issue an executive order that would require any firm doing business with the federal government — virtually all giant corporations — to disclose its campaign contributions.

We need more of the same. We need the unbroken continuation of Obama’s domestic and foreign policies to bring about the laws, rules, and regulations that advance progress. It may not be “transformational,” but real change is rarely that sexy. It may not feel all kumbaya, but politics almost never does.

Let’s remember the Democrats saved the economy, passed the Affordable Care Act, and reformed Wall Street — with nearly unanimous opposition from Congressional Republicans. Since 2010, we have seen more job growth since no one remembers. More Americans have health insurance. And, while it took a while, the Dodd-Frank financial reforms are now being felt.

That’s real change.

Yes, wages are not what they used to be, health care is still run by private insurance companies, and Wall Street still rakes in more money than God. But those are not reasons to break the chain of real progress. Change takes continuity.

Consider Bernie Sanders’ call for “Medicare for all.”

In the hours before the final Democratic debate, Sanders released a plan for creating a single-payer health care system of the kind found in rich European countries that have managed to keep costs down while ensuring the right of all citizens to access to quality health care. Ever since Obama proposed health care reform that kept intact the role of private health insurance companies, the Democratic Party’s left wing has demanded nothing short of “Medicare for all.”

That’s fine. Most left-liberals would prefer that. But it doesn’t represent change so much as wishful thinking.

Hillary Clinton was not, during the debate, just wrapping herself in Obama. She was speaking the truth: Democrats can’t go back and restart the fight over universal health care because they have no hope of winning. Now is the time, however, for policy reforms addressing rising costs, insurance exchanges, and private profit. Yes, this is change by a thousand tweaks, but it is still change.

Is there a risk in voting for Clinton? Yes, of course. You don’t really know what kind of president you’re getting until she’s elected. But Hillary Clinton may be the exception. She’s long been in the public eye. We know her strengths as well as her weaknesses. Most important, we know she can be forced to listen to progressive demands. That cannot be said of Republicans.

I like Bernie Sanders and would support him in another context, and I don’t personally like Hillary Clinton. But my dislike isn’t as important as my country transcending the long conservative malaise that began before I was born.

 

By: John Stoehr, The Week, January 29, 2016

February 2, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Primary Debates, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“From ‘Lame Duck’ To ‘Fourth Quarter'”: One For The History Books, As President Obama Plays Through To The End Of The Game

It seems to me that the job of political scientists is to identify patterns in political history as a way to predict the future. One of those patterns that has been pretty generally accepted is that once a presidential campaign begins to replace a second-termer, the White House occupant goes into “lame duck” status. That is certainly what everyone was expecting from President Obama after the huge losses Democrats suffered in the 2014 midterms.

But as we all know by now, the President decided he’d start a new pattern…one that saw his remaining two years as a “fourth quarter” in which he vowed to play to the end. His success in being able to do that hinged on several factors.

1. A scandal-free presidency

During my lifetime, no two-term president has managed to escape the drag of either scandal or terribly flawed policies at the end of their second term. Johnson had Vietnam. Nixon had Watergate. Reagan had Iran/Contra. Clinton had impeachment. Bush had the war in Iraq and the Great Recession.

Recently David Brooks noted that the current administration is the exception to that pattern.

I have my disagreements, say, with President Obama, but President Obama has run an amazingly scandal-free administration, not only he himself, but the people around him. He’s chosen people who have been pretty scandal-free.

That means that not only does the President maintain the good will of most Americans, but he doesn’t have to devote an inordinate amount of time to defending himself or attempting to fix policy failures.

2. Previous work is bearing fruit

Last December President Obama sat down for an interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep. In response to questions about some of the bold moves he’d already taken since the 2014 midterms, the President said this:

But at the end of 2014, I could look back and say we are as well-positioned today as we have been in quite some time economically, that American leadership is more needed around the world than ever before — and that is liberating in the sense that a lot of the work that we’ve done is now beginning to bear fruit. And it gives me an opportunity then to start focusing on some of the other hard challenges that I didn’t always have the time or the capacity to get to earlier in my presidency.

The major things he is referring to are that the economy was recovering, healthcare reform was working and ground troops were out of both Iraq and Afghanistan. But in addition to all that, diplomacy had opened the doors in Cuba, brought Iran to the negotiating table and led to an agreement with China about climate change.

3. Pen and phone strategy

A lot of the assumption about President Obama’s pending lame duckness had to do with the intransigence of Congress that was only bolstered by the 2014 midterms. But in January of 2014, the President instructed his Cabinet to bring him ideas he could implement via executive order or through persuasion with business leaders and local/state governments. Thus began his “pen and phone” strategy that led to everything from DAPA to new rules for overtime pay to working with local governments to provide paid sick/family leave.

4. Big events

Political pundits are often guilty of assuming that whatever is happening today will be a permanent narrative. But national/international events have a way of changing the current dynamic. Nowhere has that been more evident than the handwringing over President Obama’s assumed irrelevance when House Democrats handed him a “humiliating” defeat on TPA a couple of weeks ago. We all know how that one turned out. Just as the House and Senate re-grouped to pass TPA, the events in Charleston, SC were unfolding and the Supreme Court was preparing to hand down rulings affirming Obamacare, marriage equality and disparate impact. As Michael Cohen wrote, we’ve recently been witness to ten days that turned America Into a better place. From an affirmation of his policies to his Amazing Grace eulogy, President Obama has been front and center on it all.

But big events can help or hurt a presidency. The lesson we should all learn from their recent trajectory is that things can change in a heartbeat. President Obama still has a year and a half to go. There are a few things we know are coming up, like whether or not he is able to work with Iran and P5+1 to reach a deal on nuclear weapons. This December we’ll learn whether or not the agreements the Obama administration has crafted with countries like China, India and now Brazil will lead to an international agreement on climate change at the UN Conference in Paris. Both of those would be historic achievements. And then, of course, there are the unknown events that could be on the horizon.

This may very well be the first time in the modern era that a sitting president has as much influence on a presidential campaign as any of the candidates who are running for office. The increasing size of the clown car on the Republican side means that it might be months before any one candidate is able to break through all the noise. That leaves the stage pretty wide open for a Democratic message. And Hillary Clinton has wisely chosen to run with President Obama and his record rather than against it. That means she’s looking pretty good right about now.

Whatever happens, this will be one for the history books as lame duckness is tossed aside and President Obama plays through to the end of the fourth quarter.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, July 1, 2015

July 2, 2015 Posted by | Congress, Lame Duck, President Obama | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

   

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