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“Bleed Until Bankruptcy”: Top Senate Republicans Want To Keep Playing Into Al Qaeda’s Strategy

Back in 2004, in a video addressed to the American people, Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden described his “bleed until bankruptcy” strategy. “All that we have to do is to send two Mujahedin to the farthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al-Qaeda in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human economic and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits to their private companies,” bin Laden taunted. “So we are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy.”

The twin goals of this strategy were to drain the U.S. of resources by baiting it into expensive, open-ended military interventions like those in Iraq and Afghanistan, with the resulting anger over those interventions causing more people to join Al Qaeda’s cause.

I was reminded of that by these specific remarks from President Obama’s speech on counterterrorism yesterday:

The AUMF is now nearly twelve years old. The Afghan War is coming to an end. Core al Qaeda is a shell of its former self. Groups like AQAP [Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] must be dealt with, but in the years to come, not every collection of thugs that labels themselves al Qaeda will pose a credible threat to the United States. Unless we discipline our thinking and our actions, we may be drawn into more wars we don’t need to fight, or continue to grant Presidents unbound powers more suited for traditional armed conflicts between nation states. So I look forward to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF’s mandate. And I will not sign laws designed to expand this mandate further. Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue. But this war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands.

There was a lot to chew on in the president’s speech, and obviously we’ll have to wait and see how much weight the president actually puts behind some of the reforms he suggested, but I think this core passage represents another important shift away from the rhetorical construct of a “Global War on Terror.”

Meanwhile, on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, four of the Senate’s leading hawks — Republican Senators John McCain (AZ), Lindsey Graham (SC), Saxby Chambliss (GA) and Kelly Ayotte (NH) — responded as you might expect to the prospect of the loss of that rhetorical construct, which has proven extremely politically beneficial to hawks over the last decade.

“I believe we are still in a long, drawn-out conflict with Al Qaeda. To somehow argue that Al Qaeda is ‘on the run’ comes from a degree of unreality that, to me, is really incredible,” said McCain, adding: “Al Qaeda’s ‘on the run’ is expanding all over the Middle East from Mali to Yemen and all places in between and to somehow think that we can bring the authorization of the use of military force to a complete closure contradicts the reality of the facts on the ground. Al Qaeda will be with us for a long time.”

“The President’s speech today will be viewed by terrorists as a victory,” Chambliss declared.

Graham took the chance to ding the president on Iraq: “Iraq is a country that went through hell, was inside the 10-yard line, the surge did work and it’s falling apart because the president chose not to leave any American soldiers behind when 10,000 or 12,000 would have made a difference.”

Leaving aside why Graham thinks 10,000 or 12,000 U.S. troops would have made a difference in Iraq when over 100,000 couldn’t stop it from descending into civil war in 2006 (not to mention the tension between claiming to support democracy in Iraq while bashing the president for not working harder to circumvent democracy in Iraq in order to keep U.S. troops there), it’s remarkable that these Congressional leaders essentially want America to keep playing into Al Qaeda’s “bleed until bankruptcy” strategy.

 

By: Matt Duss, Think Progress, May 24, 2013

May 27, 2013 Posted by | Terrorism | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“If You Can’t Beat’em, Change The Rules”: Georgia Republicans Seek Repeal Of The 17th Amendment

In the latest example of the GOP’s selective reverence for the Constitution, six Georgia Republicans are trying to end the election of U.S. senators by popular vote — just as a new poll shows that the GOP’s footing in the state’s upcoming Senate election is less secure than previously thought.

The Douglas County Sentinel reports that state representatives Dustin Hightower, Mike Dudgeon, Buzz Brockway, Josh Clark, Kevin Cooke, and Delvis Dutton — all Republicans — have introduced a resolution to repeal the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The 17th Amendment, which was adopted in 1913, mandated that senators be elected by popular vote; before its passage, senators were selected by state legislatures.

Cooke, who authored the resolution, told the Sentinel “It’s a way we would again have our voice heard in the federal government, a way that doesn’t exist now.”

“This isn’t an idea of mine,” he added. “This was what James Madison was writing. This would be a restoration of the Constitution, about how government is supposed to work.”

Successfully repealing the amendment would require two-thirds approval by both houses of Congress, followed by ratification by at least 38 states — giving the Georgia lawmakers next to no chance of accomplishing their goal. After all, most voters would prefer to keep the power to elect their own representatives — especially considering the pervasive corruption that has characterized the election process within state legislatures.

Still, the timing of the move is interesting. Coincidentally, on the same day that the Sentinel reported on the Republicans’ repeal plans, Public Policy Polling released a new poll showing that the GOP is in real danger of losing another Senate seat in 2014.

Despite the fact that Democrats have not won a major election in Georgia in 13 years, PPP finds that the race for the seat currently held by retiring Republican Saxby Chambliss is a complete toss-up. Democratic congressman John Barrow trails five likely Republican candidates — U.S. Representatives Paul Broun, Phil Gingrey, Tom Price, and Jack Kingston, and right-wing activist Karen Handel — by an average of just 0.4 percent.

If former senator Max Cleland (D) jumped into the race, he’d start out with a lead over all five Republicans.

Republicans should be deeply troubled by their weak numbers in Georgia, ostensibly a deep-red state. If they lose Chambliss’ seat, it would all but end their hopes of capturing a Senate majority in 2014. The six Georgia lawmakers’ solution to the problem appears to be taking the decision out of voters’ hands, which fits a broad pattern of Republican behavior since the 2012 election. Once again, the party’s prevailing strategy appears to be “If you can’t beat them, change the rules.”

 

By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, February 20, 2013

February 21, 2013 Posted by | Senate | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Doomed To Bloodletting”: The Republican Rabid Right Is Leading The Party To Ruin

Any credible account of the career of U.S. senator Saxby Chambliss, a Georgia Republican, must acknowledge this salient fact: He is conservative. He’s no maverick who managed to win a powerful office in a crimson state despite staking out positions that challenged the beliefs of his base.

He has opposed abortion rights, gay rights and government regulations on business. The American Conservative Union, whose ratings are considered the gold standard for grading elected officials on adherence to conservative dogma, gives him a lifetime score of 92.5 out of 100.

Still, Chambliss now finds himself under fire from right-wing extremists in the Republican Party — absolutists who believe that even a handshake with President Obama is a dangerous sign of collaboration with the enemy. So the senator will retire in 2014 rather than face a primary challenge from the right.

This is another unsettling development for the GOP, another sign of a party engaged in civil war. If Saxby Chambliss does not meet the standard for conservatism, then Republicans are doomed to bloodletting well into the foreseeable future. If a score of 92.5, which usually counts as an A, doesn’t pass muster, then the GOP is starting down the road to extinction.

The rabid right’s hostility to Chambliss grows out of his membership in the “Gang of Six,” a bipartisan group of senators who have toiled over the last couple of years to come to a compromise that would begin to eliminate federal budget deficits. Though he signed onto anti-tax activist Grover Norquist’s no-tax-increase pledge when he first sought a congressional seat, he has lately begun to voice doubt about its usefulness — as any reasonable person would.

If Tea Partiers were as worried about red ink as they claim, they would throw Chambliss a parade and hail him as a hero. But they’ve begun muttering about his conservative bona fides instead.

Last year, Georgia blogger Erick Erickson, a leader of the right-wing faction, wrote: “Saxby has consistently stabbed conservatives in the back and it is time to take him out.” By the time Chambliss voted in the earliest hours of New Year’s Day to support a tax hike on Americans earning more than $400,000 a year — a deal which, by the way, cemented in place George W. Bush’s tax cuts for everyone else — he was doomed among the absolutists.

Chambliss has said publicly that he’s not running from a primary challenge, but instead leaving a Congress that he finds dysfunctional.

But he is disingenuous — “The one thing I was totally confident of was my re-election,” he told reporters last week — in suggesting that the prospect of a primary challenge didn’t factor into his plans. He might have won, but he would have been forced to defend his decision to employ negotiation and compromise with his Democratic colleagues, strategies Republican extremists despise. He would have encountered rabid challengers willing to accuse him of grotesque crimes against party dogma. And he may have been forced to renounce the statesmanlike image he has spent the last few years building.

The senator is right about this much: Politics has become ugly and ruinous, especially inside the Republican Party. He joins a list of towering conservative figures who have left office — or been run out — after encountering the lunatic ravings of the crazed ultra-right. That includes Bob Bennett of Utah and Richard Lugar of Indiana, GOP stalwarts who lost to challenges by ultraconservatives.

And who might replace Chambliss? Several Georgia Republicans are eyeing the race, including U.S. representative Paul Broun, who told a church audience last year: “All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell.” Broun, by the way, is a physician who sits on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

Obama and other Democrats — as well as many moderate Republicans — have wondered how long it will be before the raging fever breaks on the rabid right. Well, by the time it does, the patient — the Republican Party — might be dead.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker, The National Memo, February 2, 2013

 

 

February 2, 2013 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Catastrophically Dangerous”: What Happens If The GOP Shoots The Hostage?

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R) of Georgia raised an interesting point this morning about the Republican debt-ceiling hostage crisis.

To translate this a bit, Chambliss is embracing the hostage strategy with both arms. From 1939 to 2010, the debt ceiling was raised without preconditions by both parties 89 times, but in 2013, Chambliss and his cohorts are demanding a ransom: painful-but-unspecified cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

And if the president refuses to meet the Republicans’ demands, and GOP policymakers follow through on their threats, Chambliss thinks it’s Obama who’ll “suffer the consequences.”

Except, whether he understands the issue or not, Chambliss is mistaken. If Republicans refuse to allow the nation to pay for the money it’s already spent, and in the process push the nation into default by trashing the full faith and credit of the United States, it’s not the president who’ll “suffer the consequences”; it’s the rest of us.

Obama will be fine. Chances are, Saxby Chambliss will get by, too. But if Republicans refuse to do their duty, conditions for the national and global economy will get “very bad, very fast,” including “financial-market chaos.”

“Think about what we’re talking about here,” Steve Bell, director of economic policy at the BPC, told Ezra Klein yesterday. “We’re talking about the reserve currency of the world. We’re talking about the deepest and most liquid markets in the world. And we’re sitting here wondering if we’ll cover our obligations?”

The consequences would be brutal and long-lasting. America’s reputation, global standing, and stability would very likely never — ever — be the same.

So, Sen. Chambliss should probably take five minutes to understand that the fire he’s playing with is catastrophically dangerous. Because at this point, the Republican senator isn’t just threatening to hurt America on purpose, he’s under the misguided impression that Obama’s the one who’ll suffer.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 7, 2013

January 9, 2013 Posted by | Debt Ceiling | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Pimp And His Pendulum”: Grover Norquist Still Calling Cadence In The GOP Ranks

At times, it has seemed that Republican lawmakers eyeing a fiscal compromise with President Obama were moving closer to a public split with Grover Norquist, author of the famous no-new-taxes pledge that has defined conservative politics for decades.

Yet Norquist, whose influence in the conservative movement spans well beyond his well-known fixation on taxes, remains an unwavering force in the GOP debate — and even some of the most prominent lawmakers publicly flirting with a break from Norquist have assured him in private that they remain loyal soldiers in the anti-tax cause.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), for example, might have seemed a perfect illustration of the trend away from Norquist’s hard-line views when he said recently that policies backed by Norquist would lead to more debt.

“I care too much about my country — I care a lot more about it than I do Grover Norquist,” the senator told a Georgia TV station.

But five days later, on the phone with Norquist, Chambliss was sounding a conciliatory tone. As Norquist read aloud a transcript of Chambliss’s earlier remarks, item by item, Norquist recalled later, the senator repeatedly assured him on each one that he did not mean to imply they had major differences when it came to GOP principles on taxes.

“He said he’d wished he hadn’t invoked my name and wished that he’d been clearer,” Norquist recalled from the Monday conversation.

Norquist said he came away from the conversation with this understanding of Chambliss’s position: “If he’d get a jillion dollars of spending cuts, he’d be willing to get rid of a deduction or two.”

Chambliss’s office said he was unavailable for an interview. A Chambliss aide later said that the purpose of the call was “most definitely not an apology.” In a written statement to The Washington Post, the senator said he and Norquist agree on “the vast majority of fiscal policy,” including that tax rates should not rise and spending should be reined in, though he added: “Grover disagrees with my longstanding position of using some revenue from closing special-interest loopholes to pay down our national debt, which is something I’ve never apologized for.”

For two decades, Norquist, 56, has been the most ardent enforcer of the Republican Party’s anti-tax theology. And Republicans have dutifully hewed close to that dogma.

But humbled by last month’s election results, and facing a ­determined President Obama in deficit-reduction negotiations with tax rates set to rise Jan. 1 for all Americans as part of the “fiscal cliff,” several Republicans in recent days have expressed a willingness to compromise. Some have suggested striking a deal with Obama to raise tax rates on higher-earning Americans, as the president has pushed for, or rolling back tax credits and closing loopholes as a way to increase revenue — stances that could well violate the Norquist pledge.

The debate over the fiscal cliff presents a test for Norquist, whose influence is likely to rise or fall depending on how the fight plays out in the coming weeks — and what punishment, if any, Norquist can exact on GOP lawmakers he views as transgressors.

“There are going to be some people who took that pledge that vote for tax increases, and the way he handles that will either preserve his influence or diminish it,” said Charlie Black, a veteran Republican lobbyist and strategist. Still, for now, Black acknowledged, “he is as influential as ever.”

More evidence of Norquist’s enduring influence in the GOP came last week in the way conservatives closed ranks around him during an unusually packed session of the regular meeting of activists and GOP officials Norquist hosts every Wednesday at his Americans for Tax Reform offices near Metro Center.

One after the other, par­ticipants rose to congratulate Norquist for his multiple television and radio appearances defending the tax pledge, and to assure the crowd that Republican activists and lawmakers would stand firm against Obama’s call to raise taxes. Attendees included emissaries from House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

“The fact they’re attacking Grover really shows the impact of what he’s doing,” Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), incoming chairman of the conservative caucus in the House known as the Republican Study Committee, said as the room burst into applause and cheers. Scalise then declared himself “proud to be a pledge signer.”

Norquist says he will not hesitate to support 2014 primary challenges against Republicans who violate the pledge. His group spent $15.7 million in the 2012 election, mostly against Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The threat of a primary fight is unnerving for many Republicans, and it helps explain why even some of Norquist’s apparent critics in the GOP — such as Chambliss, who is up for reelection in 2014 — want to smooth over any apparent tensions.

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) told ABC last week that Norquist was wrong to oppose finding new revenue by capping deductions and that “I will violate the pledge, long story short, for the good of the country, only if Democrats will do entitlement reform.”

The remarks did not faze Norquist. In an earlier private telephone chat, Norquist said, Graham had assured him that he would compromise on taxes only if Democrats agreed to entitlement changes “on a massive scale” — prompting Norquist to tell Graham that he would “never be tempted” to raise taxes because the left would never make such a concession.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who caused a stir when he urged House Republicans to consider letting taxes rise on the highest-earning Americans to preserve lower rates for others, later told CNN that “I admire Grover Norquist, I think he’s doing a lot of good,” and that he was “honored” to have signed the tax pledge. Cole said he did not think his idea violated the pledge.

Norquist said he also has had private conversations with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who said Sunday on “Meet the Press” that he was “not obligated to any pledge other than my oath.” Norquist, appearing on the same program, said Corker had been “seduced into thinking, well, maybe I’ll have a small, tiny tax increase and have real reform and we’ll move forward.”

Norquist’s influence extends beyond the famous anti-tax declaration. In addition to heading Americans for Tax Reform, which he launched at the behest of President Ronald Reagan to lobby for White House priorities during the 1986 tax debate, Norquist is closely aligned with some of the GOP’s most well-heeled and politically active groups.

He sits on the board of the National Rifle Association, for instance.

Americans for Tax Reform does not disclose its donors, but The Post reported in April that Crossroads GPS, the political organization co-founded by Karl Rove, gave Norquist’s group $4 million in 2010.

Norquist also has built clout among key activists and politicians in Washington and around the country through his regular Wednesday meetings. His focus on fiscal policy, a unifying issue across all facets of conservatism, has helped Norquist take on the additional role of a sort of orchestra conductor for the political right.

The meetings, begun in 1993 with a small group rallying opposition to President Bill Clinton’s health-care plan, now bring together fiscal hawks, social conservatives, tea party followers, home-schoolers, gun enthusiasts, opponents of same-sex marriage — even Republican gays and abortion rights backers — for invitation-only strategy sessions. Top GOP officials or their staff members attend each meeting, as do key conservative group leaders. During the George W. Bush presidency, the White House regularly dispatched senior aides to attend.

“I’ve never seen anyone who understands coalitions more fully,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, which raises money to elect women who oppose abortion rights, and a regular Wednesday attendee. “I’m in there with pro-choice Republicans.”

The off-the-record meetings have been replicated in 48 states. Norquist and his staff help coordinate those gatherings, giving him frequent and direct access to governors, state legislators and key activists on the ground far outside the Beltway — and in the back yards of GOP lawmakers considering a break from the tax pledge.

In 2009, Americans for Tax Reform moved locations, and Norquist custom-designed a meeting space with stadium seating and a giant glass wall to allow for sidebar conversations among participants who come to network as much as to listen to presenters.

At the 11 / 2-hour meeting, an intern counts participants every 15 minutes so Norquist can mon­itor the level of attendance throughout each session. Last week, with Norquist at the center of the fiscal-cliff debate, there were as many as 205 attendees.

Norquist used characteristically colorful language to warn Republicans that should they agree to raise taxes on wealthy people, pressure will mount for them to give even more ground. “The reason you don’t want your fingerprints on the murder weapon,” he said, “is that someone will ask you to use it again.”

Heads nodded in approval.

 

By: Peter Wallsten, The Washington Post, December 2, 2012

December 4, 2012 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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