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“Get A Grip”: GOP Senator Warns Of ‘Anarchy’ And ‘Violence’

Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele appeared on msnbc yesterday, and when host Alex Wagner asked what kind of advice he’d give his party’s leaders in Congress, Steele offered some sound advice. “The first would be, ‘Get a grip,’” he said.

Steele’s comments came to mind after reading this report published last night by USA Today.

Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn warns there could be not only a political firestorm but acts of civil disobedience and even violence in reaction to President Obama’s executive order on immigration Thursday.

“The country’s going to go nuts, because they’re going to see it as a move outside the authority of the president, and it’s going to be a very serious situation,” Coburn said on Capital Download. “You’re going to see – hopefully not – but you could see instances of anarchy. … You could see violence.”

The far-right senator went on to say, “Here’s how people think: Well, if the law doesn’t apply to the president … then why should it apply to me?”

It’s hard to know what to make of such an odd perspective. If Coburn is correct, why weren’t there similar outbursts of anarchy and violence when Presidents Reagan and Bush took very similar executive actions? If the masses are so deeply concerned about separation of powers and the often-ambiguous lines surrounding executive authority, wouldn’t we have seen instances of pandemonium before?

As a practical matter, I’m not even sure how this would work. The Obama administration has limited resources, so it appears likely to prioritize deportations for criminals who entered the country illegally. So, in Coburn’s vision, anti-immigrant activists will become violent, perhaps literally rioting in the street, until more unobtrusive families are broken up?

Brian Beutler reminded Republicans overnight that “just because right-wingers are blind with rage doesn’t mean Obama’s immigration action is illegal.”

It turns out that the laws on the books actually don’t say what you might think they say. Other presidents have discovered this, too. And since nobody wants to write a “maybe I should’ve asked some lawyers first” mea culpa column, they shifted the debate from the terrain of laws to the murkier terrain of political precedent, norms, and procedure. […]

What’s new is that Republicans have perfected a strategy of rejectionism with the help of a media amplification infrastructure—Fox News, Drudge, Limbaugh—that the left hasn’t adopted and doesn’t yet enjoy. Rather than simply fight to reverse the policy in Congress and on the campaign trail—as liberals do when Republicans weaken environmental enforcement—the right can also now scream “Caesar!” without reference to any objective standards, and get a full hearing.

“Get a grip,” indeed.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, November 20, 2014

November 21, 2014 Posted by | Immigrants, Immigration Reform, Tom Coburn | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Unbridled Opportunism”: Republicans Want You To Be Terrified Of Ebola—So You’ll Vote For Them

The first transmission of Ebola within the United States, from Liberian visitor Thomas Eric Duncan to a Dallas nurse, marked a turning point in the political dialogue surrounding the virus toward an unbridled opportunism. The subsequent diagnosis of a second nurse and other revelationsthat she took a flight shortly before she began showing symptoms, apparently with Centers for Disease Control’s approvalhave only accelerated it. Obviously a degree of paranoia and sensationalism has colored the Ebola story since long before this week. But this week’s developments provided conservatives the psychological ammunition they needed to justify using the specter of a major Ebola outbreak as an election-year base-mobilization strategy.

Republican candidates like Scott Brown are now in on the game, and so is House Speaker John Boehner. Fox News, with the exception of Shepard Smith, is ginning up more Ebola terror than CNN, which had been the vanguard of Ebola hysteria until this week. Matt Drudge’s call to panic was not only deranged

but unintentionally self-defeating, as one cannot vote if one is self-quarantined.

Engaging in the politics of fear requires a pretense. You can find people who hype mortal danger, without a sheen of plausibility, shouting into bullhorns on street corners. Politicians and their enablers need persuasive stories that make the threats sound real. And the story that many conservatives are telling about Ebola goes something like this: We’d love to eschew hysteria, and we’d love to believe our public health officials can break the chain of transmission within the U.S., but the Obama administration has proven itself untrustworthy.

“This is an episode when people want to trust the government, people need to trust the government and they can’t,” columnist George Will intoned on Fox News earlier this month. “What was happening exactly 12 months ago? A government shutdown and the disastrous rollout of Healthcare.gov. Since then we’ve had intelligence failures regarding ISIS; we’ve had the debacle of the veterans handling of healthcare; and the Secret Service that couldn’t lock the front door of the White House. So people think this is a gang that can’t shoot straight.”

University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds repackaged Will’s basic argument in USA Today on Monday. Among those he cited was “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd, who added lost IRS emails, Edward Snowden’s NSA disclosures, and the child-migrant crisis to the litany. Members of the media are enabling this opportunism. They should be anathematizing it.

The competence argument is appealing because it doesn’t require dabbling in pseudoscience or xenophobiajust healthy skepticism of our governing institutions. Moreover, I’m certain this sort of skepticism does help explain why a large minority of people in the U.S. feels at risk of contracting Ebola. But they are at no great risk. That the risk is provably infinitesimal underscores the fact that the issue with Ebola isn’t the virus itself so much as paranoia about it.

Even if each of the failures and crises enumerated above were as unambiguous and damning as the administration’s critics claim, it doesn’t follow that federal health officials aren’t up to the task of controlling Ebola, or that the public at large faces any meaningful risk. It might follow that we shouldn’t believe this season’s Affordable Care Act enrollment period will be glitch-free, and that the Vetrerans Affairs’s problems won’t be solved with new management alone. The point is not that we should never draw inferences from this administration’s previous failings. But it’s a fallacy to arbitrarily extend that second-guessing to the Ebola containment effort, while at the same time happily taking it for granted that the vast majority of things we entrust the government to do will continue apace.

Ebola carries a crucial mix of novelty, visibility, and lethality that ripens it for demagogy. But conservatives have selected a familiar line of demagogythat you can’t trust the government to administer things and solve problemsand imposed it on to a situation where stoking reflexive distrust of the government tugs at the lid of a big Pandora’s box.

The sad irony is that state and local institutions, so beloved on the right, were apparently out to sea when Ebola arrived in Dallas, and health officials there would have let things drift further into chaos had the federal government not intruded further. Not that they’ve performed flawlessly, but we need more of their expertise and involvement, not less. Texas Governor Rick Perrywho in gentler times plays footsie with secessionis grateful for this intrusion, and has “great faith” that their efforts will succeed. Perhaps he’ll surprise us further by dismissing the idea that the federal officials who’ve stepped up against Ebola shouldn’t be trusted because about a year ago, some federal healthcare website was beset by glitches.

 

By: Brian Beutler, The New Republic, October 16, 2014

October 17, 2014 Posted by | Ebola, Midterm Elections, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Black and Right”: Conservative Variation’s On High School

So much of politics can be described as an elaborate game of “I know you are, but what am I?” One side makes an attack, and the other side tries to mirror or echo it. For a prime example of this, look no further than yesterday’s attempt by conservative bloggers to turn a five-year-old Barack Obama speech into a campaign scandal, following the “47 percent” video that has inflicted huge damage on Mitt Romney’s campaign.

In 2007, then-Senator Barack Obama spoke to students at Hampton University, where he discussed the alienation felt by lower-income African Americans and others in inner cities. He critiqued the federal government for its poor response during Hurricane Katrina, while also emphasizing ways in which the black community could improve itself. For Obama, this was boilerplate. The thing that made it interesting—for the right’s purposes, at least—was the fact that Obama slipped into an African American accent during the speech. If you pay attention to politicians at all, you know this isn’t unusual. When George W. Bush talked to Southern Evangelicals, he dropped his “g’s” and added a little twang to his voice. Likewise, when Hillary Clinton spoke to black audiences during the 2008 primaries, she sometimes began to mimic a preacher’s cadence. It happens, and it usually becomes an occasion for good-natured ribbing.

For Matt Drudge, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity & Associates, however, Obama’s accent was evidence of his racial “divisiveness” and contempt for ordinary Americans. Here’s how Carlson saw the speech: “He’s saying: ‘They don’t like you’ because they are black. That is the theme of the speech from front to back, from beginning to end: ‘They don’t like you because of your skin color.’ And that is a shockingly— that’s a nasty thing to say. It’s a divisive thing to say. It’s a demagogic thing to say.”

Anyone who has watched or listened to the speech will tell you that this is the opposite of what Obama said. The dominant tone, in fact, sounded like this: “We can diminish poverty if we approach it in two ways: by taking mutual responsibility for each other as a society, and also by asking for some more individual responsibility to strengthen our families.”

To many on the right, it seems, there’s no way that a black person can talk to other black people without being “divisive.” It’s as if they’re angry at the fact that sometimes, African Americans say things to each other, for each other. If the political world is a variation on high school, then conservatives are the people asking—every day—”Why are the black kids all sitting together at lunch?”

 

By: Jamelle Bouie, The American Prospect, October 3, 2012

October 4, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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