Let’s Laugh at the People Who Told Obama to Give in to Republicans

I’m no fan of “winners and losers” breakdowns of complicated fights, because I think they’re simplistic, and I hate getting heavy Internet traffic for my articles. But it would be irresponsible to move on from Shutdown 2013 without remembering how badly the GOP underestimated Barack Obama. The White House said all year that the president would refuse to negotiate on the debt limit. The president himself said this whenever asked. Republicans didn’t buy it.

“Oh, nobody believes that,” said Rep. Paul Ryan in a Sept. 28 interview with National Review. “Nobody believes that. He himself negotiated Bowles Simpson on the debt limit with Democrats. That was Kent Conrad’s requirement. He himself negotiated the Budget Control Act with the debt limit. Graham Rudman [sic]. Bush Andrews Airforce Base. Clinton Gore ‘97. All of those major budget agreements were debt limit agreements. I see this time as no different and I believe he does too. I think most people believe he’s just posturing for now.”

He was not posturing. Republicans failed to appreciate the president’s strengthened position vis-à-vis 2011, when he had lost the House and needed to win re-election. They had a theory that the world had changed since 1995, and the “optics” of a shutdown were changeable. Republicans didn’t realize that Obama was doing his best impression of Rorschach after he gets jailed in Watchmen. He wasn’t locked in with them. Theywere locked in with him.*

Let us also raise our glasses the pundits who completely misread the situation.

– Ron Fournier, Oct. 7: “Why Obama Must Talk to the GOP.”There is the matter of optics. Voters want to believe that their leaders are open-minded, a trait they particularly expect in a president who promised to change the culture of Washington. Obama simply undermines his credibility by stiff-arming the GOP. Their obstinacy is no excuse for his. During the last protracted government shutdown, President Clinton talked almost every day with GOP rivals Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole.”

– Piers Morgan, Oct. 8. “There comes a point, if you’re the President of the United States and it’s your government that shuts down, you’ve got to be the big guy. You want to get in the room and do business.”

– Michael Kinsley, Oct. 10: “Obama Should Just Give in to the Republicans,” an instant classic that ofered the president the cave-in speech he needed to give. “I have sent a letter to Speaker Bohner, saying that I will agree to a year’s postponement of the Affordable Care Act, if he will agree to a rise in the debt limit that is at least big enough to spare us another episode like this for a year. I can’t pretend that this is not a defeat for common sense, good government, and democracy. And if people wish to see it as a defeat for me, so be it. I have more important things to worry about.”

Why were they so wrong? I don’t think they were cynical enough. It was easy for the White House to keep the onus on the party that made demands in order to fund the government, and when the story turned last week, the one-way talks that brought members of Congress to the White House fixed the “optics” problem. There remains no good way for a party in control of Congress to make the president look like an aggressor in a shutdown. I am sure, in the long run, this will be blamed on liberal media bias.

*In this analogy, Ted Cruz is the guy that Rorshach splatters with hot fat. Cruz’s emergence as a foil was a great benefit to Obama. Republicans like John Boehner, and as poorly as the speaker polls, he comes off as a regular guy. None of this is true with Cruz, the champion debater who knows exactly how smart he is.

 

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Here Are the Republicans Who Voted to Stop the Shutdown and Will Be Primaried Tomorrow

The roll calls for last night’s shutdown-ending compromise offer us the umpteenth look at the GOP’s at-risk members, their hard-liners, and their break-glass-in-case-of-emergency Boehner allies. I’ve been critical of the various listicle attempts to portray the shutdown as the fault of some small, nebulous band of Bolsheviks. Those “30 Republicans caused the shutdown” theories don’t appreciate how conservative the median Republican is now.

So: 144 House Republicans, or 62 percent of the conference, voted against the final deal that gave Republicans nothing but income verification for Obamacare recipients. Eighteen Republican senators, 39 percent of their caucus, voted against the deal — appointed New Jersey Sen. Jeff Chiesa voted “aye” as he literally headed out the door, and Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe was absent, recuperating from surgery.

The Senate “no” votes were basically divvied between the vocal hard-liners like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and the silent partners like Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson — the guys who did not join in the fight. 

– The blue-staters split at random. New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Maine Sen. Susane Collins, both of whom having criticized the “defund” strategy, were ayes. Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley and Nevada Sen. Dean Heller voted no.

– The survivors of Tea Party primary challenges voted aye. After the vote, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski passed by Arizona Sen. John McCain, who was conducting an interview with NPR in a scrum of reporters.

“Next time, be more constructive, huh?” heckled Murkowski, as a joke. McCain and the reporters cracked up. “Thank you, good leadership,” said Murkowski.

In 2010, Murkowski survived a narrow primary loss and won re-election as a write-in candidate. Sarah Palin has intermittently threatened to run against her. McCain fended off a primary challenge, too, as did Indiana Sen. Dan Coats (he survived a crowded primary with two more right-wing candidates), Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, and Ayotte. They were joined by a few senators who faced challenges in 2014, like Lindsey Graham and Lamar Alexander. This is the downside of the conservative revolt — if the target stops fearing you, he goes from ignoring you to not taking you seriously. When I asked Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker what he made of the Club for Growth scoring his “aye” vote against him, he smiled and replied: “I confess, I didn’t see that.”

The House votes were more complicated.

– Most Senate candidates voted no. Mostly. Arkansas Rep. Tom Cotton and West Virginia Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, who are trying to take over seats now held by Democrats, voted for the deal. But Louisiana Rep. Bill Cassidy and all of the Georgia Republicans running for Senate (Broun, Gingrey, Kingston) voted no, as did Montana Rep. Steve Daines, who might run. Cotton and Capito have scared off primary challengers. Those still worried about primaries went with the Club for Growth’s position.

 Republicans in blue seats voted aye. 16 Republicans now hold districts that voted for Barack Obama in 2012. Fourteen of them voted for the deal; retiring Florida Rep. Bill Young did not vote. The exception: California Rep. Jeff Denham. This might all be obvious, but I want/need to poke the “gerrymandering doesn’t matter” crowd as often as I can.

Van Jones to Ted Cruz: “Do You Feel Like You Owe Your Party an Apology?

CNN’s Thursday night episode of Crossfire became a shootout as Former White House adviser Van Jones began grilling Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) about his responsibility for the government shutdown over Obamacare.

It is widely acknowledged, even by members of his own party, that Sen. Cruz was one of the engineers of the government shutdown. His 21 hour long pseudo-filibuster of Obamacare publicity stunt several weeks ago forced Republican hands and gave them no clear way to avoid a shutdown without appearing as if they lost something. He is now on the front lines of a contingent of Republicans who think they should not back down even after the shutdown has caused the Republican image to drop to its lowest point in the history of polling.

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So it was that Thursday night Jones found himself trying to get inside the mind of the man. At one point Jones asks Cruz: “Do you feel like you owe your party an apology? Listen, you have people who believed in you, they believed that you were somehow going to be able to defund Obamacare, they believed the strategy of shutdown might have a chance. They followed you into a ditch. And now, there’s obviously no chance Obamacare will be defunded and we’re on the brink of a horrific default.”

Instead of answering, Sen. Cruz deferred to the usual GOP talking points of the “millions suffering under Obamacare” and anecdotes of people whose hours have been cut by corporations trying to avoid paying their worker’s basic healthcare.

Jones countered with the fact that in Sen. Cruz’s state of Texas alone there were millions of uninsured who were surely suffering more without Obamacare than with it. Also adding: ““You’re demagoguing the problems with the rollout,” Jones told Cruz. “In a couple of years, when this thing is a standard part of our country, when insurance companies can no longer dump people, can no longer deny people, are you going to acknowledge that you were on the wrong side of this thing?”

It is unlikely that Sen. Cruz will change his position on Obamacare, after all it is cause that has made him a Tea Party superstar and national figure). But, while Jones’ lament for facts instead of “demagogy” will probably go unheeded by the Texas Republican, it does lay bare just how shallow the argument is against insuring the millions of Americans whose previous options for healthcare have been “go bankrupt or die”. Ted Cruz tries to nitpick his way to justifying his opposition to universal healthcare, but in his never-ending hatred of the law there is the persistent strain of a fanatic being confronted by the question: “What if I’m wrong?” 

Republicans Have Proven They Shouldn’t Be Elected To Be A Dog Catcher

There have been many words used to describe the Republican party’s actions as of late: Sedition.  Extortion.  Dangerous.  Insane.  Scorched earth policies.  Extremist.

The reality is that what we are seeing today is the inevitable conclusion when you elect people who are either detached from reality or are so beholden to wealthy interests that they stop working towards the interests of the people they pretend to be speaking on behalf of.  Unfortunately – in today’s media environment … the average every day Republican is also calling for a government shutdown and NOT raising the debt ceiling.  The “experts” on Fox News and voices in the conservative media have reassured Republican voters that it’s not really a government shutdown … it’s a “slimdown” and that there is no way that the government can default on their debt unless President Obama chooses to.

THEY ARE LYING.  This viewpoint comes from the right wing media and elected Republican officials alike.

The average everyday person doesn’t really understand what’s going on and they certainly won’t know who to blame if everything goes up in flames.  The common mistake is to repeat the notion that “they’re all to blame”, “they’re all responsible”.  That’s a false equivalency and it’s really just the lazy person’s way of saying they have no fucking idea what they’re talking about.  No matter what poll you look at – 35% to 50% of Americans blame the Democratic party for the government shutdown impasse.  That’s anywhere from 100 to 150 million people.  And the law requires safety warnings on products so we can’t let Darwin’s law work itself out.  That’s a LOT of misinformed, uninformed people and it’s frightening.

Some polls show that Americans are holding the GOP responsible for this extreme behavior and others are showing that they’re more evenly distributing blame.  The only way to stop this madness is to vote these irresponsible charlatans out of office because “hanging them high” isn’t an option no matter how ridiculous these folks are.  President Obama CAN NOT give in to the demands of this extreme party under any circumstances.  I am a firm believer in negotiating and compromise; however at the core of it – the Republican party isn’t really negotiating … they’re hostage taking.  They are using the threat of an economic default and tremendous damage to the world economy as their point of leverage.  They’re putting a gun to Obama’s head.  And he can’t afford to negotiate with terrorist tactics.

By giving in to the demands of the American Taliban – he will set a precedent that in order to simply operate government … it will require significant concessions from the Democratic party in return for NOTHING other than to have a government that operates.  The Republican party has passed several smaller bills to fully fund various departments like the Center for Disease Control or veterans etc; they do this to appear reasonable and wiling to compromise.  But this is simply a tactic to shut down the parts of the government that the Republicans do not want to fund but will impact millions and millions of Americans.  To allow Republicans to fund government programs in a piecemeal process is not only no way to fund a government but it would also leave the Republican party getting EVERYTHING they wanted.  That’s not compromise.

And President Obama can’t allow a minority of a minority party that controls only 1/3 of Congress despite having fewer votes to completely run ramshod over the interests of the majority of Americans.  We may have to resolve this via a dual like Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr.

As Jim Cramer from CNBC said this Morning Joe – a failure to raise the debt ceiling would leave the government failing to pay anywhere from $50 to $100 billion in bills in NOVEMBER alone, would destroy capital markets along with the world economy, would precipitate a transfer from the U.S. being the world’s reserve currency and would lead to a recession within 2 to 6 months.

Republican after Republican continues to minimize the impact of a failure to raise the debt ceiling.  Senator Tom Coburn said the government will not default if they fail to raise the debt ceiling (source); many Republicans are espousing that view point.  Except this is bullshit.  If the U.S. government give a preference to the needs of the banker class and foreign governments who own U.S. treasuries (along with the SSA and various mutual funds etc) – then the government will fail to fully pay either Social Security, Medicare and/or the  military.

Payments to recipients of Social Security and Medicare are contractual obligations of the U.S. government since the government is simply following through on it’s commitment via a mechanism like an annuity or insurance company.  Any failure to comply with the terms of Social Security which just operates as an annuity – a financial instrument and contract … would be DEFAULT.  Standard and Poors and other various ratings agencies would downgrade America’s debt and our borrowing costs would go up.  That means it would cost more to borrow more money simply because of a manufactured crisis spurred by ignorance, stupidity and ideology.

The Republican party is filled with a bunch of anarchists intending to burn the house down.  As this GOP Rep was quoted in the NY Times HERE: “Economists, what have they been doing? They make all sorts of predictions,” said Representative John Fleming, Republican of Louisiana. “Many times they’re wrong, so I don’t think we should run government based on economists’ predictions.”

Seriously – WHAT THE FUCK?  There is only one answer.  Americans need to rise up and vote against every single Republican – no matter what.  Every time you vote for a Republican – you’re giving support to a party that would irreparably damage the American economy leading to millions and millions being out of work.  Whatever issues I have with the Democratic party – they pale in comparison to the actions of the Republican party.  We need to kill this cancer.  Vote against every single Republican. 

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Would a House Vote on Ending the Shutdown Doom the Republican Party?

Throughout the federal shutdown, President Obama has challenged House Speaker John Boehner to call an up-or-down vote on legislation to reopen the government. Mostly, Obama has done this in the name of good policy. Today, he sharpened the attack. He’s telling Boehner to call the vote so that congressmen who oppose the bill can be exposed and thrown out of office.

Many House Republicans have proudly affirmed that they won’t reopen the entire government unless Obama agrees to change his health care law. But others have ducked or hedged. They haven’t been forced to vote up or down on a “clean” resolution to continue funding the government—which the Senate has already passed—because Boehner has kept that resolution off the House floor. In effect, this protects them from accountability in next year’s elections. They can’t be convicted of choosing to extend the shutdown.

In the week since the shutdown began, the White House has pounded Boehner for refusing to bring up the bill. Look at the headlines on the White House blog. Thursday: “President Obama: Just Vote and End This Shutdown.” Friday: “West Wing Week: 10/04/13 or ‘#JustVote and End This Shutdown.’ ” Monday: “President Obama: ‘Call A Vote Right Now.’ ” In speechesstatements, and interviews, Obama has called out Boehner and demanded a vote.

But Obama’s tone has changed. In last week’s volleys, he accused Boehner of blocking the vote to hide the fact that Republicans opposed the shutdown. According to the president, the speaker was trying to prolong the impasse “to hold out to see if he can get additional concessions.” Boehner, knuckling under to “extremists in his party,” was thwarting moderate Republicans who wanted to reopen the government. If “every congressman could vote their conscience, the shutdown would end today,” said the president.

On Sunday, Boehner denied that the bill would pass. “There are not the votes in the House to pass a clean CR,” he insisted. When George Stephanopoulos pointed out that all Democrats and 21 Republicans were already on record endorsing such a bill, Boehner changed the subject. He had no answer.

Today, Obama called a press conference and turned up the pressure: “Speaker Boehner keeps on saying he doesn’t have the votes for it. And what I’ve said is, put it on the floor. See what happens. And at minimum, let every member of Congress be on record. Let them vote to keep the government open or not. They can determine where they stand and defend that vote to their constituencies. And let them vote on whether or not America should pay its bills or not. And if in fact some of these folks really believe that it’s not that big of a deal, they can vote no. And that’ll be useful information for voters to have. And if it fails, and we do end up defaulting, I think voters should know exactly who voted not to pay our bills, so that they can be responsible for the consequences that come with it.”

Ouch. Be on recordDefend that vote to their constituenciesUseful information for voters. That’s not a policy message. It’s a political message. Obama isn’t asking Boehner to free House Republicans so they can vote their consciences. He’s telling Boehner to stop protecting them from having to cast a vote that might hurt them in the next election.

Why the shift? I’d guess two reasons. One, the appeal to conscience hasn’t worked. Not enough House Republicans have come forward to ask for a vote. Two, the most recent polls have convinced Obama that the electorate is on his side. He’s confident that if Republicans cast this vote based on political fallout rather than conscience, he’ll win. And if he doesn’t get their votes, he’ll get their scalps.

Supreme Court Set to Hear GOP’s Argument for Allowing More Money in Elections

The Supreme Court is back in session on Monday and the very next day they will hear a case that could have huge implications for the role of money in politics. Both sides of the political spectrum should take notice because as we’ve seen before in politics, money is absolutely power. Politico.com explains: “McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the lawsuit challenging the total amount of money a single donor can give to all federal candidates could have far-reaching implications for the way campaigns and political parties are financed. The court’s 2010 Citizens United decision has entered the vernacular as shorthand for the explosion of money in politics. That case, along with another that allowed the creation of super PACs, led to donors writing multimillion-dollar checks. Because of the way modern campaigns are financed — by candidates partnering with federal, state and local parties — McCutcheon’s lawsuit could have the consequence of allowing politicians to ask a single donor for $1 million a pop, or more.

It’s important to remind ourselves of what has changed by Citizens United allowing exponentially greater sums of money to be entered into the electoral process. The 2012 Presidential election was the first real test of the new laws and the ultra-rich were predictably giddy with the possibility of spending their fortunes on their favored candidate.

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Sheldon Adelson alone spent an estimated $70 million on Republican candidates in the 2012 election, and has said that he wants to double that during the next election. During the election the New York Times reported just how mind boggling large the money had gotten: “Conservative groups alone, including a super PAC led by Karl Rove and another group backed by the brothers Charles and David Koch, will likely spend more than a billion dollars trying to take down Barack Obama by the time November rolls around. The reason for this exponential leap in political spending, if you talk to most Democrats or read most news reports, comes down to two words: Citizens United. The term is shorthand for a Supreme Court decision that gave corporations much of the same right to political speech as individuals have, thus removing virtually any restriction on corporate money in politics. The oft-repeated narrative of 2012 goes like this: Citizens United unleashed a torrent of money from businesses and the multimillionaires who run them, and as a result we are now seeing the corporate takeover of American politics.

Now, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission wants to further remove the barriers from money into campaigns by allowing single donors to spend millions on a political party group. It’s important to note that this form of over the table bribes were warned about during the Citizens United arguments. During the ruling, Justice Kennedy worried that allowing unfettered donations to a single group or candidate directly from a donor could easily wind up with, as he called it, “quid pro quo corruption.” The danger being the pressure a big money donor could exert over a candidate if that candidate knew the donor was solely responsible for the large sums of money that were keeping his campaign afloat. Bribes be any other name.

Should the ruling go in favor of the plaintiffs (surprise, surprise, one of which is the Republican National Committee) then it could also have a domino effect on other questions of campaign finance. Poltico.com again: “Though the case deals only with the total donation cap, the court could use the opportunity to undercut — or toss — the laws governing contribution limits to candidates. Or, more likely, it could crack open the door for other challenges that would further roll back the campaign-finance system that has been in place since the early 1970s. “That could potentially throw a lot of things into question” said Larry Norton, an election-law expert with the law firm Venable and a former general counsel at the Federal Election Commission.”

Needless to say, people should be worried about what this ruling could lead to. As the case is argued on Tuesday, it will be interesting to see how the Supreme Court tackles it. Perhaps with the shutdown and looming debt ceiling showdown most people will not being paying attention as their democratic voices become weaker and weaker, drowned out by the noise of money, but people like the Koch brothers will certainly be paying attention. 

CA REPUBLICANS: “KFC HILLARY SPECIAL – 2 FAT THIGHS, 2 SMALL BREASTS, LEFT WING”

It’s understandable that the GOP feels threatened by a potential Hillary Clinton 2016 Presidential campaign, but this is absolutely disgusting. Anti-Clinton buttons were found the California Republican Party Convention reading “KFC Hillary Special: 2 Fat Thighs, 2 Small Breasts, …Left Wing”.

It’s baffling to think of who thought that these buttons would be a good idea at a time when women are increasingly turning away from the Republican party’s anti-women platform. It’s amazing when a single picture can so completely sum up what is wrong with the modern Republican party but this might be it. Republicans, I think it’s time you accepted you might just have a problem with women.