mykeystrokes.com

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

“You Take Goodwill Where You Can Find It”: Americans Already Like Boehner More Now That He Is As Tired of Congress As They Are

House Speaker John Boehner still has to cross a few things off his to-do list before he’s allowed to say good-bye to Congress forever: (1) Find replacement. (2) Save economy. However, many Americans already seem to like him better now that they know the Ohio Republican is as sick of dealing with Congress as they are.

According to a new Gallup survey, Boehner’s approval rating has jumped from 23 percent in August — the lowest point it ever reached during his tenure — to 31 percent, heights he hasn’t seen since the beginning of last year. His approval rating remained unchanged among the nation’s Republicans, but independents and Democrats are suddenly much more fond of him.

Now, 45 percent of the country still has an unfavorable opinion of the soon-to-be-retired elected official, but when many of your colleagues have spent months griping about how much they hate you, you take goodwill where you can find it. However, the shiny-happy forgiveness of the American people may not last if Congress fails to raise the debt limit in the upcoming weeks — the last big vote that Boehner will have to force-feed his fractious party before he lets it all go, turning away and slamming the door, realizing that distance makes everything seem small.

If that wasn’t difficult enough on its own, a Cutthroat Kitchen–style handicap has been thrown at Congress. Treasury secretary Jack Lew warned Congress today that the U.S. is set to hit the debt ceiling two days earlier than he expected. Now Congress has only until November 3, taking away valuable time to wait until the last minute before rushing to stave off the “political equivalent of a dumpster fire” that awaits us if the debt ceiling isn’t raised. If the debt ceiling isn’t raised, the federal government won’t be able to pay bills, its workers, or soldiers and Social Security checks. Raising the debt ceiling doesn’t give the federal government a thumbs-up to start spending money on new things — it only makes sure that the federal government is able to fulfill its obligations and pay for things it has already approved.

In case that didn’t sound scary enough, Lew wrote a letter to Boehner, who planned on leaving D.C. on October 30, noting that “In the absence of congressional action, Treasury would be unable to satisfy all of these obligations for the first time in the history of the United States.” Or, translated out of bureaucrat-ese, “Dude, this would be a historically bad way to end your career.”

Congress is on recess this week, but Politico reported yesterday that Boehner is planning to quickly do something about the debt limit next week. A few GOP politicians think the debt-limit deadline, growing ever closer, is just the Obama administration’s way of forcing legislators to do what it wants. Senator Susan Collins told Politico, “It is interesting, which is a polite word, that all of a sudden the administration moved up considerably the timing of when the debt limit needs to be extended. What I’ve found over the years is that the date on which the debt limit truly has to be increased seems to be a very squishy date that often changes depending on the political winds.”

Congressional Republicans usually try to get a few spending decreases legislated along with a debt-limit increase, but there may not be time for that this year — which is not going to make his conservative colleagues happy. A Boehner spokesperson told the AP yesterday, “the Speaker has made it clear that he wants to solve some outstanding issues before he leaves. No decisions have been made, but a resolution on the debt ceiling is certainly possible.”

The Wall Street Journal asked 64 economists whether they thought the government was screwed and definitely on the verge of default. “Not enough wackos to do that,” one said, another added, “They are not THAT irresponsible.”

With only a few weeks left for things to be resolved, we’ll see if they’re right.

 

By: Jaime Fuller, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, October 15, 2015

October 20, 2015 Posted by | Congress, Debt Ceiling, John Boehner | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Taking Stock Of The Global Dysfunction On The Right”: Raising The Debt Ceiling Won’t Prove House Republicans Are Sane

After House Speaker John Boehner announced his decision to resign at the end of October, and then more urgently when the Treasury Department alerted Congress that the deadline to increase the statutory debt limit had advanced to the beginning of November, a sense of dread momentarily overwhelmed official Washington.

Budget experts, economists, and anyone with a political memory going back at least four years were abruptly consumed with the likelihood that the responsibility for increasing the debt limit would fall to an untested new speaker—and, more troublingly, a speaker whose election would require him to placate House hardliners with dangerous promises.

The solution to the dilemma was obvious at the time, and remains so: An unencumbered Boehner could place legislation to increase the debt limit on the House floor, and it would pass. But until this week it was unclear how aggressively he intended to clean house before his departure, or whether he’d leave multiple obligations to his successor.

Though the speakership crisis and the debt-limit crisis remain unresolved, the sense of alarm has drained out of the story almost as rapidly as it emerged. Cooler heads have seemingly rescued the debt limit from conservative hostage-takers. And that has created a temptation to celebrate averted catastrophe as a triumph of political reality over right-wing fanaticism.

Succumbing to that temptation would be a huge mistake. It is crucial at this point to take stock of the global dysfunction on the right, and appreciate just how badly it has imperiled our system of government.

We owe the prospect of an uneventful debt limit resolution to a deus ex machina. Boehner’s heir presumptive, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, abandoned the race for speaker to the tune of Yakety Sax, denuding the House Benghazi Committee along the way and compelling Boehner to consider increasing the debt limit—either without precondition, or as part of a genuinely bipartisan agreement—before he leaves Congress.

Despite rumblings from the other chamber, this should go down fairly smoothly in the Senate. Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s chief deputy, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, said in a recent CNN interview that he’s “ready to raise the debt limit ‘until 2017’ in order to get the matter off the table during an election year. McConnell, sources say, feels the same way, and the two sides are discussing the possibility of raising the debt limit until March 2017, just two months after a new president and Congress are sworn in.” Crisis deferred.

Debt-ceiling dramas like this aren’t borne of necessity. They’re concocted to appease reactionaries in the House. In this way, they’re an artifact of the Tea Party insurgency five years ago, and the untenable promises GOP leaders made to conservatives after President Obama was first elected. The legislative landscape is littered with such artifacts—past hostage crises, consensus immigration legislation, even the Benghazi committee itself—and it’s our good fortune that several of them are now at the forefront of U.S. politics simultaneously.

The fact that Republicans revealed the Benghazi Committee to be an elaborate farce, just in time for Hillary Clinton to testify before it, and that the’re likely to extend the Treasury Department’s borrowing authority without incident, can both be construed as side-effects of overreach—a natural political check on extremism that prevents the legislature from becoming completely weaponized. “Whether or not Boehner actually ends up sparing us the needless drama of a protracted confrontation,” writes Greg Sargent at The Washington Post, “the fact that he’s looking to resolve this without one itself confirms how this will ultimately end, no matter what has to happen along the way. And there’s no need for anyone to pretend otherwise.” 

There’s something comforting about that interpretation, and at a general level, it’s basically correct. But it doesn’t account for the enormous role coincidence played in saving the country from another near-catastrophe, or outright default, in this particular instance.

It would thus behoove us to be mindful of how badly things could have gone if events had transpired slightly differently—if the debt limit deadline hadn’t budged, if McCarthy had succeeded Boehner, by promising confrontation with the White House—before moving on to the next big story. Republican dysfunction has never caused the U.S. to default, but it does create a much higher-risk environment. One plausible remedy lies in the hope that the confluence of events—the speakership crisis, the debt-limit drama, the Benghazi admissions, the Republican primary meltdown—will, in James Fallows’ words, eliminate “the discomfort of reporters, old and young alike, with recognizing that the United States doesn’t currently have two structurally similar political parties approaching issues on roughly comparable terms [but] one historically familiar-looking party, and another converting itself into something else.”

In an interview with Bloomberg View, the political scientist Thomas Mann—who, along with his coauthor Norm Ornstein, has been at pains for years to awaken the press to the reality of modern American politics—explained that “the solution … must focus on the obvious but seldom acknowledged asymmetry between the parties.”

Under quieter circumstances, that would be a pipe dream. Under the extreme circumstances of the moment, it’s a little more plausible. First, though, everyone must resist the temptation to disaggregate these stories and chalk them up individually to dramatic, but ultimately normal, politics.

 

By: Brian Beutler, Senior Editor at The New Republic, October 16, 2015

October 18, 2015 Posted by | Debt Ceiling, House Freedom Caucus, House Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Crazies And The Con Man”: Hoodwinking The News Media And Self-Proclaimed Centrists

How will the chaos the crazies, I mean the Freedom Caucus, have wrought in the House get resolved?

I have no idea.

But as this column went to press, practically the whole Republican establishment was pleading with Paul Ryan, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, to become speaker. He is, everyone says, the only man who can save the day.

What makes Ryan so special?

The answer, basically, is that he’s the best con man they’ve got. His success in hoodwinking the news media and self-proclaimed centrists in general is the basis of his stature within his party. Unfortunately, at least from his point of view, it would be hard to sustain the con game from the speaker’s chair.

To understand Ryan’s role in our political-media ecosystem, you need to know two things.

First, the modern Republican Party is a post-policy enterprise, which doesn’t do real solutions to real problems. Second, pundits and the media really, really don’t want to face up to that awkward reality.

On the first point, just look at the policy ideas coming from the presidential candidates, even establishment favorites such as Marco Rubio, the most likely nominee given Jeb Bush’s fatal lack of charisma. The Times’ Josh Barro dubbed Rubio’s tax proposal the “puppies and rainbows” plan, consisting of trillions in giveaways with not a hint of how to pay for them — just the assertion that growth would somehow make it all good.

And it’s not just taxes, it’s everything.

For example, Republicans have been promising to offer an alternative to Obamacare since the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, but have not produced anything resembling an actual health plan.

Yet, most of the media, and most pundits, still worship at the church of “balance.” This creates a powerful demand for serious, honest Republicans who can be held up as proof the party does too include reasonable people making useful proposals. As Slate’s William Saletan, who enthusiastically touted Ryan but eventually became disillusioned, wrote: “I was looking for Mr. Right — a fact-based, sensible fiscal conservative.”

And Paul Ryan played and in many ways still plays that role, but only on TV, not in real life. The truth is his budget proposals always have been a ludicrous mess of magic asterisks: assertions that trillions will be saved through spending cuts to be specified later, that trillions more will be raised by closing unnamed tax loopholes. Or, as the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center put it, they’re full of “mystery meat.”

But Ryan has been very good at gaming the system, at producing glossy documents that look sophisticated if you don’t understand the issues, at creating the false impression his plans have been vetted by budget experts. This has been enough to convince political writers who don’t know much about policy, but do know what they want to see, that he’s the real deal. (A number of reporters are deeply impressed by the fact he uses PowerPoint.) He is to fiscal policy what Carly Fiorina was to corporate management: brilliant at self-promotion, hopeless at actually doing the job. But his act has been good enough for media work.

His position within the party, in turn, rests mainly on this outside perception.

Ryan certainly is a hard-line, Ayn Rand-loving and progressive-tax-hating conservative, but no more so than many of his colleagues. If you look at what the people who see him as a savior are saying, they aren’t talking about his following within the party, which isn’t especially passionate. They’re talking, instead, about his perceived outside credibility, his status as someone who can stand up to smarty-pants liberals — someone who won’t, says MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, be intimidated by “negative articles in The New York Times opinions page.”

Which brings us back to the awkward fact that Ryan isn’t actually a pillar of fiscal rectitude, or anything like the budget expert he pretends to be. And the perception he is these things is fragile, not likely to survive long if he were to move into the center of political rough and tumble. Indeed, his halo was visibly fraying during the few months of 2012 he was Mitt Romney’s running mate. A few months as speaker probably would complete the process, and end up being a career-killer.

Predictions aside, however, the Ryan phenomenon tells us a lot about what’s really happening in American politics.

In brief, crazies have taken over the Republican Party, but the media don’t want to recognize this reality. The combination of these two facts created an opportunity, indeed a need, for political con men.

And Ryan has risen to the challenge.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, October 12, 2015

October 16, 2015 Posted by | House Freedom Caucus, House Republicans, Paul Ryan | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“There’s Nothing But Chaos In The Republican Ranks”: GOP Leader Shocks Colleagues, Withdraws From Speaker’s Race

Thirteen days ago, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) shocked the political world by announcing his plan to resign. This morning, Boehner’s successor followed up with a shock of his own.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has abruptly pulled out of the race for Speaker of the House on the same day that he was widely expected to be nominated for the position.

The nominating contest in the GOP conference set for Thursday afternoon in the House has been postponed.

There is a degree of irony to all of this: Benghazi didn’t bring down Hillary Clinton, but it did prevent Kevin McCarthy from becoming Speaker.

The California Republican faced two challengers for his party’s Speaker nomination, but by all appearances, he had the support he needed to go to the floor as his party’s official choice. As recently as last night, McCarthy’s bid was on track to move forward.

The problem was the looming floor vote on Oct. 29 – the opposition to his promotion from the far-right was significant and he faced a real challenge in pulling together 218 GOP votes.

Even if he prevailed, McCarthy would have immediately taken the gavel and become an even weaker Speaker than Boehner.

A week ago, the landscape seemed relatively clear. The GOP establishment had rallied behind McCarthy, and though there were some questions about the other top posts, we’d have a sense of the new Republican leadership team by this afternoon.

Now, however, there’s nothing but chaos in the Republican ranks. It’s reminiscent of late 1998, when then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) resigned in disgrace, and his successor, Speaker-designate Bob Livingston (R-La.), also had to resign in disgrace after a sex scandal came to light.

The difference now is, the only scandal is the radicalization of Republican politics.

So what happens now? All of the leadership elections that had been scheduled for today have been postponed. The date of the new elections is unclear. McCarthy reportedly intends to stay in Congress – indeed, he apparently wants to keep his Majority Leader position – though it seems everything is unsettled right now.

The party’s establishment will have to rally behind a new standard bearer, though no one has any idea who that might be. All eyes will, of course, quickly turn to Paul Ryan, but the far-right Wisconsin congressman reiterated again this morning that he does not want to be Speaker of the House.

Because House rules allow members to elect anyone for Speaker – including those who are not current lawmakers – don’t be too surprised if GOP officials start looking to potential leaders outside of Capitol Hill.

What’s more, let’s not discount the possibility that John Boehner himself may stick around, indefinitely, while the chaos continues, House Republicans turn on each other, the chamber unravels, and Congress struggles mightily to find a suitable leader.

Finally, I heard one rumor a short while ago, which is admittedly hard to believe, about some less-conservative Republicans turning to Democrats to try to elect a “coalition-style Speaker,” in a scheme that would disempower the chamber right-wing extremists.

It’s far-fetched, to be sure, but after the last 13 days, it’s now best to expect the unexpected.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 8, 2015

October 9, 2015 Posted by | GOP, House Republican Caucus, John Boehner, Kevin McCarthy | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Chaffetzed!”: A “Grandstanding Charlatan” Who Seems To Have A Tiny Problem With The Truth

It’s not a real good sign when your name is turned into a synonym for political backstabbling. That seems to have happened beyond retrieval to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who wants to be the next Speaker of the House. Here’s a Tweet from the guy who first lifted Chaffetz from obscurity to power in Utah:

Here’s the essential background from the Salt Lake Tribune’s Paul Rolly:

Chaffetz fell into the chief-of-staff position under then-Gov. Jon Huntsman almost by accident. He had left a sales job with the multilevel marketer Nu Skin in 2004 to be the press liaison for the Huntsman campaign. The campaign manager abruptly resigned. So Chaffetz was promoted to that job, even though his only previous experience in political campaigns was as Utah co-chairman of Democrat Michael Dukakis’ presidential campaign in 1988.

It was one of those Peter Sellers’ “Being There” moments for Chaffetz. A Huntsman victory was practically guaranteed, so Chaffetz success was all but certain. His work as campaign manager earned him the lofty role as the governor’s chief of staff.

Chaffetz’s first real public action was to gather a number of veteran employees of the governor’s economic-development office into a room and fire them. He had them escorted out by armed guards.

Huntsman took some heat, but administration officials blamed Chaffetz for how the shake-up went down.

Chaffetz quickly earned a reputation as a jealous guardian of the governor’s time, often telling legislative leaders who wanted an audience with Huntsman that they must talk to him instead.

More than one critic complained that Chaffetz seemed to think he was the governor.

Chaffetz left the job well-before Huntsman’s first term ended amid rumors that fellow staffers wanted him and his power plays gone.

It’s not a good sign when you are compared to the Chauncey Gardner character in Being There, either.

I dunno exactly when Huntsman decided to rethink his opinion of Chaffetz, but it’s likely the absolute latest date would have been in 2012 when his protege endorsed Mitt Romney for president instead of Himself.

At Salon today Digby calls Chaffetz a “grandstanding charlatan” who “seems to have a tiny problem with the truth,” especially during his disastrous interrogation of Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards last week. Odds are, he will return to relative obscurity in a few days. But it’s hard to keep a backstabbing parvenu down for long.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 6, 2015

October 8, 2015 Posted by | House Republican Caucus, Jason Chaffetz, Jon Huntsman | , , , , | 1 Comment

%d bloggers like this: