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“Forcing The Contradictions Of The GOP”: With Immigration Action, Obama Calls His Opponents’ Bluff

Obama’s decision to back away from our government’s policy of ripping apart the families of undocumented immigrants has called forth utterly contradictory responses from Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and progressives. It should now be clear that the two sides don’t see the facts, the law or history in the same way.

Conservatives say the president’s executive actions on immigration are uniquely lawless and provocative. Progressives insist that Obama is acting in the same way that President Reagan and both presidents Bush did. They recall that after the second President Bush’s immigration reform bill failed in the Senate in 2007 — it was very similar to the 2013 bill Obama supports — White House spokeswoman Dana Perino declared flatly of the administration’s willingness to use its executive powers: “We’re going as far as we possibly can without Congress acting.”

Yet perhaps facts are now irrelevant. There was an enlightening moment of candor when Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) visited MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on the morning of Obama’s immigration speech. “The president ought to walk into this a lot more slowly, especially after an election,” Coburn said. “This idea, the rule of law, is really concerning a lot of people where I come from. And whether it’s factual or perceptual, it really doesn’t matter.”

Yes, for many of the president’s foes, the distinction between the “factual” and the “perceptual” doesn’t matter anymore.

But mainstream Republicans seem as angry at Obama as the tea partyers. They argue repeatedly that by moving on his own, Obama has made it impossible for Congress to act.

You’d think that Republicans who genuinely support immigration reform would want to prove the president wrong in a different way: by passing a comprehensive bill. That only a few of them are saying this is an obvious sign to the president’s supporters that Obama is right in suspecting that the House GOP would continue to bob and weave to avoid the issue — as it did for the one year, four months and 24 days between the passage of the genuinely bipartisan immigration reform bill in the Senate and Obama’s announcement.

In a superb reconstruction of why the president decided to move on his own, Washington Post reporters Juliet Eilperin, Ed O’Keefe and David Nakamura note that the last straw for Obama was House Speaker John Boehner’s refusal to say after the election that he would bring up an immigration bill if the president agreed to postpone executive action. In the absence of concrete pledges that something would get done, there was no point in waiting any longer.

All this explains the jubilation among progressives. They not only agree with the substance of what Obama did but also see him as finally calling his opponents’ bluff. He has forced the contradictions of the Republican establishmentarians into the sunlight.

Such Republicans were counting on Obama to be an enabler. He’d once more accept their quiet (and now obviously hollow) promises of goodwill and thus allow them to avoid a straight up confrontation with the right wing of their party.

Now, they can no longer have it both ways. Many of them claim they agree with the substance of what Obama did and also that Congress should pass a broader immigration bill. If this is true, then why should they spend all their energy trying to undo the constructive steps he has just taken? If they punt and simply join the rancid attacks on Obama as an “emperor” and a “monarch,” they will demonstrate for all to see that the GOP really is dominated by its right wing and that those of more measured views are simply too timid to take on their internal adversaries.

No wonder they’re so angry with the president.

For the six years since Obama’s election to the presidency, the Republican right has been on offense, continually blurring those distinctions between the “factual” and the “perceptual.” They keep charging that Obama is a dangerous radical even when he pursues middle-of-the-road policies. Their supposedly more temperate colleagues go along because they don’t have to pay a price.

Obama has just told them their free ride is over. The stakes in American politics will be much clearer because he did.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, November 23, 2014

 

 

November 25, 2014 Posted by | Executive Orders, Immigration Reform, John Boehner | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Matter Of Routine”: The Republicans’ Lust For Impeachment

If you attack the president repeatedly for law-breaking, executive overreach and deceiving the public and Congress, do you have an obligation to impeach him? This is the logical question Republicans are now trying to duck.

There is a reason why impeachment is a big deal in Washington this week. It’s not just because a call to defend President Obama motivates the Democrats’ base, although it surely does. John Boehner is having trouble countering fears that House Republicans will eventually try to oust the president because the speaker’s colleagues have spent years tossing around impeachment threats as a matter of routine.

At issue are not merely the open demands for throwing Obama out from Sarah Palin, Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Tex.) and many others on the right wing. The deeper problem lies in the proliferation of loose impeachment talk linked with one overheated anti-Obama charge after another.

As far back as May 2010, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said the allegation that the White House had offered then-Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) a job so he wouldn’t oppose Sen. Arlen Specter, a Republican-turned-Democrat, “is in fact a crime and could be impeachable.” (Sestak beat Specter in a primary and then lost to Republican Pat Toomey.)

During a hearing on “Operation Fast and Furious” in December 2011, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) accused the Justice Department of withholding information and said that “if we don’t get to the bottom of this,” Congress might have to resort to the “only one alternative” it had, “and it is called impeachment.” In this case, involving a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives sting operation that went wrong, the impeachment threat was directed at Attorney General Eric Holder. Indeed, 20 House Republicans filed to impeach Holder.

In May 2013, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said that, because of allegations of a White House Benghazi coverup, “people may be starting to use the I-word before too long” about Obama. Also in 2013, Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-Mich.) said it would be his “dream come true” to author Articles of Impeachment against the president, while Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said the nation was “perilously close” to circumstances that might require impeachment.

Only space limitations prevent me from multiplying such examples.

Boehner claims that “this whole talk about impeachment is coming from the president’s own staff and coming from Democrats on Capitol Hill . . . trying to rally their people to give money and to show up in this year’s election.”

But if impeachment is a sudden Democratic invention, why did the New York Times’ Jennifer Steinhauer write a detailed news story in August 2013 under the headline: “Ignoring Qualms, Some Republicans Nurture Dreams of Impeaching Obama”? Why did my Washington Post colleague Dana Milbank publish an equally fact-rich column in December 2013 titled: “Republicans see one remedy for Obama — impeachment”?

Boehner’s other difficulty is that, in defending his lawsuit against Obama, which the House approved Wednesday on a near-party-line vote, the speaker has used arguments that could as easily be invoked to justify impeachment.

“In the end, the Constitution makes it clear that the president’s job is to faithfully execute the laws,” Boehner wrote on CNN’s Web site in early July. “And, in my view, the president has not faithfully executed the laws when it comes to a range of issues, including his health care law, energy regulations, foreign policy and education. There must be accountability.”

So what will Boehner do on behalf of “accountability” if the suit fails? Is it any surprise that House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), when pressed on Sunday by Fox News’s Chris Wallace, declined to rule out impeachment?

Yes, Democrats are happy to use the danger that the House will go there, by way of dramatizing the GOP’s refusal to work with Obama on issue after issue and the right wing’s open hatred for a president they cast simultaneously as a power-hungry lawbreaker and a weak steward of the nation’s interests. But the underlying cause is a breakdown among conservatives of the norms and habits that governing requires in a system of separated powers.

The last time the country reelected a Democratic president, House Republicans impeached him despite strong public opposition. With many in the ranks already clamoring for a replay of those glory days, it’s fair to wonder if Boehner will hold fast and resist the impeachment crowd this time. His record in facing down his right wing is not encouraging.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, July 31, 2014

August 1, 2014 Posted by | GOP, House Republicans, Impeachment | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The GOP’s 20-Year War On Health Care”: Republicans Are Going To Extraordinary Lengths To See That More Americans Die

Stop the presses: John Boehner admitted Thursday that the Republican Party’s long-awaited alternative to Obamacare needs a little more time in the oven. “You know, the discussions about Obamacare and what the replacement bill would look like continue. We’re trying to build consensus around one plan,” the Speaker told Hill reporters. “Not there yet.”

As if you even needed me to tell you, rest assured: It could be six months from now, a year from now, five years from now, or the day Bibi Netanyahu and Khaled Mashal share a Nobel Peace Prize—they aren’t going to have a plan. Oh, they might have a “plan.” They had a “plan” last year, or at least Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn and two others did. For about two days, they were really tooting its horn. Then it dawned on people that paying for it would involve a hefty middle-class tax increase, on higher-end insurance plans. You may have noticed since then that the Coburn “plan” has not exactly become a leading Republican talking point.

As conservatives continue to hail the Halbig decision, some historical context is called for. In my last column,  I wrote that conservatives and Republicans are going to extraordinary lengths to see that more Americans die. Not every reader was won over by that opinion, as you might imagine. But I think it’s beyond dispute, as a little discussion of political history should show.

The problem of millions of uninsured has existed in this country since—well, since forever. But as a running news story that the media paid attention to, for the last 25 or 30 years. I remember when the then-horrifying number was 15 million uninsured. Then 20 million, then 30 million, on up to the 46 million figure we often saw bandied about before the Affordable Health Care was enacted (10 million new Americans are insured as a result of it—a very respectable dent, for just one year). So, 30 years, a full generation, tens of millions of people adversely affected. And what, in all that time, has the Grand Old Party proposed to do about it all?

Not. One. Thing. Republican presidents had (if we go back to 1984) 16 years to pass some kind of health-insurance law. But none of the three ever even proposed one. George W. Bush did pass his Medicare law, but that was about adding prescription-drug coverage for seniors; it didn’t insure any previously uninsured citizens. What the GOP did instead, of course, was to fight tooth-and-nail to stop the two Democratic attempts to insure more people, succeeding the first time, failing the second.

And “tooth-and-nail” hardly begins to describe the demented and nearly sociopathic reality of Republican and conservative opposition to trying to make health insurance affordable for working-class people. Opposition to doing so has been one of the four grand accomplishments of the Republican Party of our time, which I would rank as follows, one scratched on each side of the obelisk: one, start disastrous wars and commit torture; two, make people despise the government; three, nearly cause a new Depression; and four, deny health insurance to as many people as possible, as aggressively and nastily as possible. It’s a grim record generally, and with regard to health care specifically, inarguably one that has promoted insalubriousness and suffering and, indeed, deaths that might have been avoided or delayed if people had had insurance.

It is true that some conservative intellectuals have offered up some ideas—as we know, the same individual mandate that the right now calumniates was a conservative idea at first. And John McCain actually had a decent-ish health-care platform plank in 2008. But if McCain had been elected, it’s very unlikely that the constellation of interests and power centers in the GOP would have permitted him ever even thinking about pursuing it. It was just something he felt he had to say to have credibility with middle-of-the-road voters. And in any case he wasn’t elected, and those conservative intellectuals’ ideas were never seriously proposed by elected Republicans, so the historical record is what it is.

The 20-year war on health care—since their 1993 defeat of the Clinton plan—has been about Republicans’ hatred of government; their view of people who don’t have insurance as lazy or flawed and not worth lifting a finger for; and their fear that if a law is passed and succeeds in bringing health care to millions, they and their whole vision of society will be discredited in the eyes of millions. Of course, these days, all that is shot through with one more element: a heavy dose of Obama hatred.

I was on Hardball Wednesday evening with David Corn, and Chris Matthews showed poll numbers during our segment that surprised even me. The topic was “rooting for failure.” Back in 2006, he said, Democrats were asked in a Fox News poll whether they wanted President Bush’s policies to succeed or fail. Answers: 40 succeed, 51 fail. Not particularly generous. But earlier this year, he said, CNN asked Republicans  the same question about President Obama. Answers: 14 succeed, 73 fail.

Think about that. Three-quarters of regular Republicans want Obama to fail. And just one in seven wants him to succeed. We pundits spend most of our time blaming politicians for inaction, but maybe it’s time to start blaming the people. If regular Republicans feel like this, there’s no way the elected officials who represent them are going to do anything that looks remotely like compromise or cooperation.

And no, they’re not going to offer a real health-care plan either. They first promised that in 2010, during the campaign season, so they could say “repeal and replace” instead of just “repeal” and sound like they had a positive side. Then they dropped “and replace,” and now that it’s election time again, it’s back. But it’s not in their DNA to do anything constructive about health care. Or—the VA crisis, the border crisis, the Middle East crisis, the wage-and-inequality crisis, et cetera—about much of anything.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, July 25, 2014

July 26, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Health Reform, John Boehner | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Doomsday Prepper Economics”: The Weird Obsession That’s Ruining The GOP

Call it doomsday prepper economics. For more than five years, many Republicans and conservatives have warned that catastrophe is nigh. Washington’s deficit spending and the Federal Reserve’s excessive money printing will lead to a financial crisis worse than the Great Recession, they prophesied. Inflation will skyrocket, the dollar will collapse, and the Chinese will dump treasuries, they swore. As Ron Paul, the libertarian former GOP congressman and presidential candidate, said back in 2009: “More inflation is absolutely the wrong way to go. We’re taking a recession and trying to turn it into a depression. We’re going to see a real calamity.”

Many GOP politicians have since echoed Paul’s prediction. But the Next Great Inflation never happened. The Consumer Price Index, including food and energy, has risen by an annual average of just 1.6 percent since 2008, below the Fed’s 2 percent inflation target. During the Great Inflation of the 1970s and early 1980s, by contrast, prices rose five times faster.

This information isn’t a secret. The Labor Department releases inflation data monthly on its website. Yet inflation fears still rage on the right. Those concerns are a big reason why Republicans continue to push for a balanced budget ASAP. They’re why the GOP wants to saddle the Fed with restrictive new rules.

Regardless of the potential merits of those policy ideas, the inflation alarmism driving them is taking a weird turn. Some Republicans and conservatives now argue that Washington is figuring inflation all wrong, maybe even intentionally. Better, they say, to trust independent outside sources such as the website ShadowStats, which “exposes and analyzes flaws” in government economic data. According to one set of ShadowStats calculations, the true inflation rate is nearly 10 percent today. The inflation truth is out there.

In a recent National Review Online article, conservative author Amity Shlaes approvingly cites ShadowStats as supporting her thesis that “inflation is higher than what the official data suggest.” Others fans include conservative intellectual Niall Ferguson, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), and a good chunk of the conservative blogosphere.

ShadowStats’ popularity on the right is crazy — because the site’s methodology has been roundly ridiculed by both economists and business journalists. Critics also note that the subscription price for the ShadowStats newsletter has remained unchanged for years. Inflation for thee, but not for me. Beyond that, MIT’s Billion Price Project, which tracks prices from online retailers every day, puts U.S. inflation at just over 2 percent. And consider this: If inflation were really 10 percent, that would mean the real economy, adjusted for inflation, has been sharply shrinking — yet somehow still adding 2 million net new jobs a year.

If GOP inflationistas had their way, the weak U.S. recovery would almost surely be even weaker. Just look at Europe. Unlike the Fed, the inflation-phobic European Central Bank sat on its hands despite weak growth. The result has been an unemployment rate nearly twice America’s and a nasty double-dip recession. Of course, inflation is lower than in America — so low, in fact, that the region risks a dangerous deflationary spiral of falling prices and falling wages.

Why this GOP inflation obsession? Maybe it’s a legacy of how rapidly rising prices in the 1970s swept conservatives into power in both America and Great Britain. Maybe it’s how many conservative talk radio shows are sponsored by gold companies who stand to benefit from inflation hysteria. Maybe it’s a belief that every single economic metric must be a nightmare under President Obama.

But whatever the reason, the GOP’s preoccupation with phantom price increases is distracting it from the actual problems afflicting the U.S. economy — such as low social mobility, stagnant wages, and the decline of middle-class work. The price of not addressing those issues is rising every year. And that is the kind of inflation worth obsessing over.

 

By: James Pethokoukis, DeWitt Wallace Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute: The Week, July 23, 2014

July 24, 2014 Posted by | Deficits, GOP, Inflation | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Addicted Republicans Wage War On Latino Voters”: The GOP Is Rolling The Dice While Standing On Quicksand

It’s an addiction. Republicans really can’t help themselves — when they see an opportunity to irritate the Latino electorate, they go for it with gusto.

Republicans have transformed the humanitarian crisis of children at our southern border into an “invasion” that must be repelled with soldiers.

This is war!

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), speaking on Glenn Beck’s program, said “We are under invasion, and this president will not protect our country, and he will not step in and enforce the law as it is.”

Of course, it’s President Obama’s fault. Because anything that goes wrong in this world is either Obama’s overreaching or disengagement. There is no issue to which the Republicans will not attach one of these labels — a cognitive dissonance that seeks to depict Obama simultaneously as a power-mad dictator and, in Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) unfortunate depiction, a president who sleeps through crisis.

Playing on this meme, Michael Reagan, son of the president that signed the amnesty bill in 1986, wrote recently: “Emperor Obama is the culprit in chief.”

Yet the law is being enforced. According to the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, passed unanimously by both houses of Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush, these kids have a right to due process. They cannot simply be shoved into a bus and dropped like cargo in Mexico. Or sent first class on a plane, as Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn (R) suggested as a bizarre solution.

Republicans’ aggressive response against these kids is baffling as both a matter of policy and politics. The border kids crisis is not about immigration. The flows of unaccompanied minors over the last few months (estimates put the number of kids at over 57,000) has many causes: brutal violence, chaos, mortal fear and hope.

The violence and related mayhem in Central America has reached a critical juncture. The toxic cocktail of narco-mafias, violent gangs, acute poverty and corrupt governments has created dangerous instability and the subsequent need to flee from a life-threatening situation.

Ironically, much of this instability can be directly traced to America’s multi-decade, failed and wildly expensive “War on Drugs” that has made these countries transit points for America’s illegal drug imports.

The narco-mafias are multi-billion dollar “enterprises” with the economic capacity to cripple governments, field heavily armed guerrilla armies and an addiction to violence that terrorizes a vulnerable population that has been largely abandoned to fend for itself by the weak governments in the region.

Politically, the GOP is like a man standing on quicksand. After killing immigration reform in Boehner’s House of Representatives, voting to deport the Dreamers and urging the faster deportation of the border kids, the party’s chances of attracting a sizable percentage of Latino voters needed to win national elections recedes with every acrid declaration by Republican politicos seeking to court the far-right midterm election voters they need to win the Senate in November.

The GOP is rolling the dice with its future by seeking the older white vote while simultaneously repelling large swaths of the electorate – women, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, gay people, young people, Latinos, etc. — with its antediluvian policies.

While some analysts on the right have concluded that this is the optimum approach to win the midterm election — an assumption predicated on the expectation of low turnout of those same constituents that have largely voted for Democrats in past elections — that’s an awfully big bet when the very future of the GOP is at stake.

What happens if the unthinkable becomes reality? What’s the future of the GOP if come November 2014 furious Latinos turn out at the same rate as they did in the 2012 election? Or women outraged by the Supreme Court’s decision that a corporation’s newly “discovered” religious rights trump a woman’s right to control her own health?

Yes, the projecting of voter turnout is based on past voter participation. But as Mitt Romney’s failed campaign for president in 2012 showed, predictions of turnout can be wrong — very wrong.

In particular, Republicans underestimate the blowback from Latinos. This year in the California congressional primaries, I endorsed a moderate Republican, part of the reform wing of the party. The reaction from the audience of my radio program, and especially through social media, was swift and brutal. Hundreds of Latino voters told me I was crazy – and that they would never vote for Republicans after they killed immigration reform in the House.

As Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas) and other big name Republicans continue to call for a military response to this crisis by deploying the National Guard, the image of a GOP actively vilifying children and comparing them to foreign invaders is bound to further crystalize Latino anger and voting patterns.

Whatever else, should the National Guard be deployed because of these GOP demands, the effect on public opinion could further sink the Republican Party.

Republicans will crash with a harsh reality of their own making: soldiers versus 10-year-olds is a “battle” with the optics of Birmingham, Ala. in 1963.

 

By: Fernando Espuelas, The Huffington Post Blog, July 20, 2014

July 22, 2014 Posted by | Border Crisis, GOP, Humanitarian Crisis | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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