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“Reality”: A Product Of The Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy

“Reality,” Stephen Colbert once famously said, “has a well-known liberal bias.”

It was one of those jokes that isn’t, one of those barbs that captures something painfully true, allows you to see it with clarity you never could if viewing straight on. It’s worth noting that Colbert said this years before that jump-the-shark moment last week when conservatives accused the Labor Department of conspiring against them. In case you missed it, it happened when the government released figures showing the unemployment rate has tumbled to 7.8 percent.

Most of us considered this good news. Because it validates President Obama’s narrative of a slowly-improving economy, many conservatives did not. They called the figure a fraud — “monkey business,” in the words of Donald Trump. Former GE CEO Jack Welch saw it as evidence of malfeasance from “these Chicago guys.” Fox “News” asked, “Is the number real?”

And so it goes in the conservative War on Reality.

Not that this was the first salvo in said war. Just before the numbers came out, conservatives were working to discredit polls that showed President Obama leading Mitt Romney. “Bogus,” said Rush Limbaugh.

You see, the war goes back a ways. Back to Sen. Jon Kyl saying that 90 percent of Planned Parenthood’s activities are abortion-related and, when called on that lie, issuing a statement that what he said was “not intended to be … factual.” Back to Sarah Palin sounding the alarm about death panels, back to Glenn Beck saying conservatives started the Civil Rights Movement, back to people pretending there is some mystery over the president’s birthplace.

Heck, it goes back to the Bush administration cutting inconvenient facts from government reports, back to Bush brushing aside a pessimistic report on Iraq by saying the intelligence community was “just guessing.”

The point here — this cannot be overemphasized — is not ideology. Rather, it is about the fact that we cannot effectively debate ideology if we do not have a body of facts in common.

Under such circumstances, political discourse must devolve into incoherence. We cannot discuss what color to paint the room if we cannot agree on what constitutes red or green — or the room. We literally have no shared language with which to even have the discussion.

This is the legacy of the War on Reality. Some of us live under a new ethos, fueled and abetted by Fox, the Internet and talk radio, which holds that facts are optional and reality, multiple choice — and that anyone who questions this is part of the conspiracy against you. The results have not been pretty. When, in the history of American political discourse, have conservatives — some, not all — seemed more paranoid, put-upon and ready to believe themselves the victims of outlandish plots?

Hillary Clinton was rightly derided for saying a “vast right-wing conspiracy” was out to get her husband. But if that one-time utterance made her sound ridiculous, what shall we make of this constant drumbeat from the political right? What shall we make of a mindset in which the answer to every criticism, the response to every unwelcome fact, is to point to a conspiracy of bias that exists mostly in their minds?

Now, we reach a sobering watershed. Who knew even the professional numbers crunchers in the Labor Department were part of this vast left-wing conspiracy?

Hearing that, one must believe one of two things: either math also has a liberal bias, or, it is time to ask ourselves what becomes of a country where problem-solving is paralyzed because problem solvers cannot agree on a common reality?

Math, should it need saying, has no liberal bias. So give that question some hard thought. After all, we have only the one country. We may not share the same reality, but we will certainly share the same fate.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, The National Memo, October 10, 2012

October 15, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The “Mau-Mauing” Of Mitt Romney

With Mitt Romney showing vulnerability yet again, it’s an interesting time to study the behavior of Republican elites. Most of them swarmed all over Newt Gingrich and denounced him as unacceptable after the South Carolina primary, when Gingrich had a window to win Florida and seize command of the race. In the course of doing so, many of them offered some kind words for Rick Santorum, who at the time was an also-ran. But you’re not seeing Party leaders try to rally around Santorum as the alternative to Romney. Instead they’re trying to jack up Romney for more policy concessions.

Romney’s plan for his campaign against Barack Obama is simple, and rooted in a clear-eyed reading of the data. He has one enormous asset, which is that Obama presided over an economic crisis. He wants to run against that. He does not want to run a campaign comparing the Republican vision to Obama’s vision, because Obama is both personally more popular than the Republicans, and his ideas are, in general, more popular as well. The House Republican budget is filled with wildly unpopular ideas — cutting taxes for the rich, privatizing and cutting Medicare, and deregulating Wall Street and the health insurance industry. Romney has endorsed the budget, which is now party scripture, but he does not want to run on it.

Conservative Republicans want to make sure that Romney isn’t just telling them what they want to hear only to get into office and govern the way he governed in Massachusetts. So they’re mau-mauing him, raking him over the coals for his timidity, and trying to force him to commit himself more publicly and openly to their agenda. The Wall Street Journal editorial page takes Romney to task today for proposing to index the minimum wage to inflation. (The minimum wage is set by law at a fixed dollar amount, so over time inflation erodes its value unless Congress passes regular increases.) Conservatives urge him to box out Santorum by adopting more right-wing position:

“There is not exactly Romney-mania right now,” Senate GOP Whip Jon Kyl told POLITICO, adding that the former Massachusetts governor “absolutely” must shore up the weaknesses with the GOP base that were on such vivid display Tuesday.

“Playing it safe, which Romney tends to do, is not going to get it for him,” said Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), a 2008 Romney supporter and a leading voice of his party’s conservative bloc, who called the results this week “a signal.”

And Paul Ryan, in a speech tonight to the Conservative Political Action Committee’s annual Washington crazy-fest, prods Romney to abandon his strategy of running against Obama simply on the theme that the economy stinks:

I know there are people in this town who are terrified at the prospect of an election with real alternative visions at stake. “Make it a referendum. Win by default,” they say. “Just oppose — we can win that way. Don’t propose bold ideas — that’s too risky.” I’ll admit, the easy way is always tempting. But my friends, if that’s all we stand for, then what are we doing at here CPAC — the place where so many giants of our movement came to advance their boldest ideas?  The next President will face fiscal and economic challenges that are huge, almost unprecedented. He can’t resolve these challenges if he wins by default. He needs a mandate — not just to displace Barack Obama, but to preserve and strengthen the very Idea of America.

This is, in fact, horrible advice. The bad economy is the only reason Republicans have a chance to defeat Obama in 2012, and Romney elevating the profile of Ryan’s ideas would be Obama’s best chance of hanging on if the recovery is still limping in November. Romney can still implement Ryan’s ideas if he wins without a mandate — look at George W. Bush in 2000, running as a compassionate, bipartisan critic of the GOP Congress, losing the popular vote, and implementing his agenda anyway.

I suspect conservatives don’t actually believe Romney needs to campaign on their ideas in order to implement them. They’d be perfectly happy with him running a stealth campaign, winning by being the out-party during a recession, and then implementing an agenda he soft-pedaled during the campaign. What they want is to ensure that Romney will really do it. So they’re trying to force him to shout it rather than whisper it. Once he wins the nomination, they’ll have no more leverage, so this is the time to make him do it.

 

By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intel, February 9, 2012

February 11, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mitch McConnell: GOP Isn’t “Here To Defend High-Income People”

The number two Senate Republican, Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl (R), last week decried attempts by Senate Democrats and President Obama to pay for a payroll tax cut extension with a surtax on millionaires. Despite the fact that payroll tax cut extension would keep an extra $1,000 in the pockets of the average American family, and despite the fact that the millionaire surtax would hit relatively few households, Kyl said he could only support extending the tax cut for working Americans if it was accompanied by massive tax cuts for the wealthy.

This morning on Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace asked Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) what he made of characterizations of the GOP as the party that defends millionaires, given that more than half of McConnell’s caucus has repeatedly voted against a tax cut for the middle class. McConnell laughed at the assertion before saying the GOP is “not here to defend high-income people.” As proof, McConnell told Wallace that the Republican plan took such drastic steps as to prevent millionaires from receiving unemployment benefits or food stamps:

WALLACE: Why are so many Republicans, including more than half of your Senate Republicans, why are they voting against the payroll tax cut?

MCCONNELL: Well the president’s comments, it’s hard not to laugh, because four out of five of the people they’re targeting, of “the rich people” they’re targeting, are actually business owners who create jobs. Look, we’re not here to defend high-income people. In this bipartisan package that we’re just discussing, we make sure millionaires don’t get unemployment, don’t get food stamps. […] It doesn’t do anything for millionaires, in fact, it goes after them on the benefits side.

McConnell’s assertions seem belied by the facts. Though he insists the payroll tax cut extension will pass, it was the GOP that opposed paying for it through a small surtax on the wealthiest Americans. It was the GOP that opposed any move to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans in efforts to reduce the deficit — leading to the first credit downgrade in American history and ultimately dooming the super committee. It was his party that nearly shutdown the government in April over the same issue — even though the wealthiest Americans are paying historically low tax rates.

And while McConnell claims the GOP plan “goes after” millionaires “on the benefits side,” it “goes after” low- and middle-income Americans “on the benefits side” even harder. While the GOP opposes any tax increase on millionaires, the House plan to extend the payroll tax cut guts unemployment insurance — one of the most effective means of economic stimulus the government has — reducing the number of weeks one can remain on the program from 99 to 79, and then from 79 to 59.

McConnell’s claims that “four out of five people” Democrats are “targeting” are actually “business owners who create jobs” is equally laughable. NPR last week tested that claim, asking Republican Congressional offices to help them find business owners who opposed the millionaire surtax. Unsurprisingly, since only 2 percent of those with business income would be affected by the surtax, the Republican offices and business lobbying groups couldn’t find anyone for NPR to talk to.

 

By: Travis Waldron, Think Progress, December 11, 2011

December 12, 2011 Posted by | Businesses, Middle Class | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Walking Napalm”: Jon Kyl’s Search-and-Destroy Mission

Jon Kyl is different from you and me.

In the days following Hurricane Katrina, the nation was reeling over the death and destruction in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast. But Kyl, now the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, saw opportunity: According to a voice-mail recording left at the time by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Kyl and Sessions were hoping to find a business owner killed in the storm so they could use that in their campaign to repeal the estate tax.

It was vintage Kyl: cold and ruthless.

So when the Arizonan was named as one of six Republicans on the debt supercommittee, Democrats feared the worst — and they got what they feared. It exaggerates little to say that Kyl thwarted agreement almost singlehandedly. While some Republicans on the panel — notably Reps. Dave Camp and Fred Upton — were, with House Speaker John Boehner’s blessing, prepared to strike a deal, Kyl rallied resistance with his usual table-pounding tirades.

The tragedy here is that Kyl, who has announced his retirement at the end of his term, could have risen above political pressures to strike an agreement to right the nation’s finances for a generation. Boehner’s House Republicans, aware that voters will hold them to account for inaction, were willing to deal. But Kyl’s Senate Republicans, hoping voters will evict the Democratic majority in the Senate, had no such incentive.

The sabotage began on the very first day the supercommittee met. While other members from both parties spoke optimistically about the need to put everything on the table, Kyl gave a gloomy opening statement. “I think a dose of realism is called for here,” he said. That same day, he went to a luncheon organized by conservative think tanks and threatened to walk (“I’m off the committee”) if there were further defense cuts.

When Democrats floated their proposal combining tax increases and spending cuts, Kyl rejected it out of hand, citing Republicans’ pledge to activist Grover Norquist not to raise taxes. Kyl’s constant invocation of the Norquist pledge provoked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to snap at Kyl during a private meeting: “What is this, high school?”

Kyl’s defenders say his motives were pure because he had every incentive for the supercommittee to succeed: He never has to face voters again and he desperately wanted to avoid the automatic Pentagon cuts that now loom. But there’s little doubt that he was doing Norquist’s bidding in killing any notion of higher taxes.

Norquist, who worked to defeat a compromise, brags about his control over Kyl. When Kyl made remarks in May that appeared to leave open the possibility of tax increases, Norquist called Kyl and adopted “the tone of a teacher scolding a second grader as he recalled the conversation,” Politico reported. Norquist boasted to the publication that, after he upbraided Kyl, the senator “went down on the floor and he gave a colloquy about how we’re against any tax increases of any sort. Boom!”

While other supercommittee members on both sides searched for a grand bargain, Kyl countered with suggestions that they focus on small items, such as selling off federal property. On Monday, when Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) made his last-ditch effort to salvage a deal, observers knew the effort was going nowhere for one simple reason: Kyl was in the room. He divided his time between the “negotiations” and barbed interviews with TV networks: “Can I make a point? . . . Your job isn’t to convince me. . . . Let me make this point to you. . . . Let me just finish my sentence.”

Kyl had demonstrated his distaste for negotiation before. In June, he joined House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) in walking out of budget talks with Vice President Biden. He had also displayed his disdain for fellow Republicans who were willing to negotiate. During the health-care debate, when Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) was negotiating with Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee, Kyl went on TV and said Grassley “has been given no authority to negotiate anything.” Amid hints that GOP leaders might punish Grassley by denying him the top Republican slot on the Judiciary Committee, Grassley reportedly told colleagues: “Maybe I should just go home and ride my tractor.”

“Walking napalm” is how one Democratic aide involved in the supercommittee described Kyl this week. And if the senator makes some mistakes as he burns down the village — well, that’s just a cost of doing business. Earlier this year, when Kyl was leading an effort to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood, he claimed on the Senate floor that abortion is “well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does.” The actual number is 3 percent. An aide to Kyl explained: “His remark was not intended to be a factual statement.”

As Kyl leaves the Senate, he will be remembered as a lawmaker who intended to be not factual but destructive.

By: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, November 22, 2011

November 24, 2011 Posted by | Federal Budget | , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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