Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Fireside chat for August 14, 2010 (VIDEO)

On the 75th anniversary of Social Security, President Obama promises to protect it from Republican leaders in Congress who have made privatization a key part of their agenda. He makes clear that, especially in light of the financial crisis, gambling Social Security on Wall Street makes no sense.

"This is America..." (VIDEO)

From the President's prepared remarks:

As a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country and that they will not be treated differently by their government is essential to who we are. The writ of the Founders must endure.

We must never forget those who we lost so tragically on 9/11, and we must always honor those who led the response to that attack -– from the firefighters who charged up smoke-filled staircases, to our troops who are serving in Afghanistan today. And let us also remember who we’re fighting against, and what we’re fighting for. Our enemies respect no religious freedom. Al Qaeda’s cause is not Islam -– it’s a gross distortion of Islam. These are not religious leaders -– they’re terrorists who murder innocent men and women and children. In fact, al Qaeda has killed more Muslims than people of any other religion -– and that list of victims includes innocent Muslims who were killed on 9/11.

So that's who we’re fighting against. And the reason that we will win this fight is not simply the strength of our arms -– it is the strength of our values. The democracy that we uphold. The freedoms that we cherish. The laws that we apply without regard to race, or religion, or wealth, or status. Our capacity to show not merely tolerance, but respect towards those who are different from us –- and that way of life, that quintessentially American creed, stands in stark contrast to the nihilism of those who attacked us on that September morning, and who continue to plot against us today.

Greg Sargent:

A few quick thoughts about Obama's forceful speech yesterday expressing strong support for Cordoba House, which will go down as one of the finest moments of his presidency.

Obama didn't just stand up for the legal right of the group to build the Islamic center. He voiced powerful support for their moral right to do so as well, casting it as central to American identity. This is a critical point, and it goes to the the essence of why his speech was so commendable.

Many opponents of the project have been employing a clever little dodge. They say they don't question the group's legal right to build it under the Constitution. Rather, they say, they're merely criticizing the group's decision to do so, on the grounds that it's insensitive to 9/11 families and will undercut the project's goal of reconciliation. The group has the right to build the center, runs this argument, but they are wrong to exercise it. In response, Obama could have merely cast this dispute as a Constitutional issue, talked about how important it is to hew to that hallowed document, and moved on.

But Obama went much further than that. He asserted that we must "welcome" and "respect" those of other faiths, suggesting that the group behind the center deserves the same, and said flat out that anything less is un-American.

Michael Crowley:

One good way to measure Obama's performance as president, I think, is by the degree to which he meets this famous pledge:

The easiest thing in the world for a politician to do is to tell you exactly what you want to hear. But if we want to finally solve the challenges we're facing right now, we need to tell the American people what they need to hear.

Obama certainly hasn't always met that standard. But in declaring his support for allowing the so-called Ground Zero mosque to be opened in New York City, Obama has done something very much in defiance of public opinion and very much in line, it seems, with what is in his heart.

Nate Silver:

Essentially, public opinion on this issue is divided into thirds. About a third of the country thinks that not only do the developers have a right to build the mosque, but that it's a perfectly appropriate thing to do. Another third think that while the development is in poor taste, the developers nevertheless have a right to build it. And the final third think that not only is the development inappropriate, but the developers have no right to build it -- perhaps they think that the government should intervene to stop it in some fashion.

Obama's remarks, while asserting that "Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country," and that the "principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are," simply reflected the view that the developers had a First Amendment right to proceed with the project -- a view that at least 60 percent of Americans share. True, Obama could have hedged a little bit more, by saying something along the lines of "they have every right to build it, but I hope they will consider another location". On the other hand, it is not as though he said "this is a wonderful thing, and I'm going to make sure to take Sasha and Malia there once it's built." Instead, he acknowledged the sensitivity over the Ground Zero site, calling it "hallowed ground", but couched the controversy in terms of the First Amendment.

So it is not really so clear whether Obama has staked out an unpopular position or not. While it is almost certainly riskier than his remaining mum on the issue, the assertion that the developers have a Constitutional right to proceed with the project is not particularly controversial. Palin and Gingirch will scream and shout, but they may be doing little more than preach to the converted.

And back to Greg again:

Republicans are reportedly gleeful that Obama entered this dispute. Maybe they're right to be gleeful: Obama's entry will only further stoke passions and ensure that the battle continues, perhaps to his political detriment. But in another sense, this couldn't have come at a better time for Obama. His core supporters, frustrated, were badly in need of a display of presidential spine. They got one.

Ultimately, though, Obama's speech transcends the politics of the moment, and will go down as a defining and perhaps even a breakthrough performance. Obama recognized that this dispute is a seminal one that goes to the core of our running argument about pluralism and minority rights and to the core of who we are. He understood that the gravity of the moment required an equally large and momentous response. And he delivered.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Raining on today's good news.

Following up on the The South (and only the South) shall rise again, Jonathan Chait actually does rain on the parade.

I'm still waiting to hear what Nate has to say.

TPM: Alvin Greene Indicted.

Thanks, South Carolina!

More Elizabeth Warren.

Ezra Klein, following up on the possibility of appointing Elizabeth Warren to head Consumer Protection Agency. ( You should be familiar with itIt's not like we haven't been covering it).

Elizabeth Warren fans and Elizabeth Warren foes will both want to read Brady Dennis's profile of the consumer-protection advocate. To make the political point, it seems to me that the importance of Warren's nomination is being dramatically overblown. And that seems great for the administration.

I'd prefer to see Warren appointed, but it's hard to be incredibly confident about something as unpredictable as agency leadership. Think of it this way: You're a credit-card industry trade group and you're given two choices to lead the consumer protection agency: The first is an aggressive, charismatic and media-savvy regulator who seems likely to clash with the administration and thus is likely to lose some important bureaucratic battles. The other is a less charismatic and media-savvy regulator who is still substantively aggressive, skeptical of your business, but who has great internal administration relationships and seems likely to win a lot of internal battles on behalf of the agency. Who would you pick? The answer isn't obvious to me.

But the elevation of the Warren appointment into a major priority for liberals gives the administration something easy they can hand to their base. It's not like the public option, which seemed capable of sinking the health-care bill. Financial regulation has already passed. If Warren runs into Republican opposition in the Senate, then all the better: All eyes will focus on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and since the administration believes it hasn't gotten enough credit for financial regulation and also believes the CFPB is the most popular part of the bill, that's a gift for them -- particularly so close to the election.

It's of course possible that Republicans will filibuster her nomination and Democrats won't be able to break their hold. But so what? In that case, Warren will either be recess appointed or replaced. Which is why, at this point, it seems pretty likely that Warren will be appointed. If she's not, I think it'll be substantive fears -- there are those who think she's much too skeptical of financial products and her presence will chill lenders at a time when we want them to start pushing money out again -- not political concerns, that derail her. But given that the administration can't actually say "we believe Warren will protect consumers too much," it'll be hard for them to act on that concern.

One last point: It's worth taking a moment and marveling at how much one well-crafted policy proposal published in a little-read journal can lead to.

I still think she's the best candidate, but there are others out there. It's not a disaster if she's not appointed. But Ezra may be right, the fight may be worth it.

The South (and only the South) shall rise again?

Reading Jonathan Cohn this morning, he highlights this graph (courtesy Steven Benen):

In the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, Democrats enjoy the narrowest of leads over Republicans on the generic ballot, 44% to 43%. That's a slight improvement over June, when Republicans led by two, but the parties have effectively been tied on this question since last fall, trading small leads month to month.

What those top-line results don't show, however, is that there are some interesting regional differences. Taegan Goddard flagged this tidbit from the MSNBC report: "The GOP has a HUGE generic-ballot edge in the South (52%-31%), but it doesn't lead anywhere else. In the Northeast, Dems have a 55%-30% edge; in the Midwest, they lead 49%-38%; and in the West, it's 44%-43%."

I made another homemade chart to help drive the point home. (The lucrative world of blog-chart making awaits, right?)

Now, I'm not sure why the Republicans' 21-point lead in the South is all-caps "huge," but Dems' 25-point lead in the Northeast isn't, but nevertheless, it is a reminder that the playing field is not altogether level. The GOP's strength has been in the South for several years, and that clearly hasn't changed.

Of course, this is only a guide, pointing to regional differences -- it doesn't mean Democratic candidates outside the South have nothing to worry about. As First Read noted, "Many of the congressional districts Republicans are targeting outside of the South resemble some of those Southern districts they're hoping to win back in November -- where you have whiter and older voters. Think Stephanie Herseth's seat in South Dakota; Tim Walz' seat in Minnesota; Leonard Boswell's seat in Iowa; and Ike Skelton's in Missouri."

Still, we've been talking for years about the Republican Party becoming increasingly regionalized, and these trends are continuing.

Curious to see what Nate has to say about this.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

What really happened with Elizabeth Warren today

Everyone's was all (ha-ha) a-Twitter over the Elizabeth Warren sighting at the White House. But before you start jumping for joy over this development:

Warren's Congressional Oversight Panel released a new report today saying – unsurprisingly – that foreign firms benefited more from the $700 billion US bank bailout than US firms benefited from foreign rescue efforts.

The watchdog cited that the US bailout basically flooded money into as many banks as possible – including international ones – but other nations specifically targeted their rescue efforts towards their own domestic firms that had no US operations.

“As a result, it appears likely that America’s financial rescue had a much greater impact internationally than other nations’ programs had on the United States,” the panel said. “This outcome was likely inevitable given the structure of the TARP, but if the US government had gathered more information about which countries’ institutions would most benefit from some of its actions, it might have been able to ask those countries to share the pain of rescue.”

The most egregious case? AIG, naturally, where tens of billions of US taxpayer dollars went to Deutsche Bank and Societe Generale, among others. The US bore the entire $70 billion risk of the insurance giant’s capital injection program, far exceeding the size of France’s entire $35 billion overall stability program and nearly half the size of Germany’s $133 billion efforts.

Going forward, the panel said, an international plan should be developed to “handle the collapse of major, globally significant financial institutions.”

And now, before you get too depressed, the same Jake Tapper report also said:

Elizabeth Warren this afternoon met at the White House with David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett, where the possibility of her heading the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was discussed, but not decided on, a White House official confirms.

President Obama did not meet with Warren today.

“The President believes that Elizabeth Warren is a champion for middle class families and consumers and she, among others, is a strong contender for this position,” White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage said in a statement. “The President has not yet made a decision and no announcement is imminent.”

This week White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton echoed those sentiments during a press gaggle en route to Texas, saying that he has no update on timing beyond that an announcement wouldn’t be made this week. And Burton also downplayed the notion that Elizabeth Warren would be hard to confirm on the Hill, should she be the nominee.

“A lot of folks have opinions about Elizabeth Warren and other candidates,” Burton said Monday. “It’s the White House’s view that Elizabeth Warren would be confirmable.”

In effect, I reversed the priorities given in the Jake Tapper piece. (Kinda makes you think twice about the importance of the story. It did for me.)

What I think has honestly happened was that the Warren Commission was meeting anyway, so David and Valerie took a moment to feel her out on becoming head of the Consumer Protection Agency.

The time to get excited is when she meets with the President. That hasn't happened yet.

Again, I think she's the best choice. I would prefer it be her, though I have no idea of her capacities as an Administrator (a suitable No. 2 can be hired for that). With Christina Romer leaving the Council of Economic Advisers, there's a serious girl shortage on the Obama Econ team, and Prof. Warren would fill in that role nicely (or at the Fed).

Either way, Warren not getting this job is not the end of the freaking world. (Plus, she may want to go back to Harvard. Anyone consider that??)

It's all about the clicks...

I'm sorry, but here's further proof that all Huffington Post is interested in is getting you to click on a story so they can report that figure to their advertisers.

On the front page of the Huffington Post is this story:

Dennis Kucinich 2012?

Click to the Politics Page, you get this:

WATCH: Dennis Kucinich Won't Challenge Obama In 2012

Same website. Same news source. Same story.

Obama Tax Cuts vs. Bush Tax Cuts (VIDEO)

First, Beardy McIdiot:

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Deductible Me
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Everyone I normally read (Erza, Greg) seems to be talking about this chart from the Washington Post's Graphics department, so I decided to follow along:

Just bear in mind that that biiiiiggg grey dot is more important than the Deficit (or your grandchildren), just ask retired Syracuse Mascot, John Boehner.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Time Magazine: "Petraeus Wants More Time"

To quote, Joe Klein: "Well, of course he does."

I'm still betting on what Jonathan Alter said.

We love the Constitution, just hate them Amendments (VIDEO)

This was a fantastic (and funny) segment with Yale Law Professor Akhil Amar, who made point about the 14th Amendment I had not considered.

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It's the Amendment that protects the other Amendments.

By the way, here's the text of the 14th Amendment; which, for the record, was adopted by Congress on July 9, 1868.

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

Section 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may, by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

Section 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Another view from Harold Meyerson (of the Washington Post):

By proposing to revoke the citizenship of the estimated 4 million U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants -- and, presumably, the children's children and so on down the line -- Republicans are calling for more than the creation of a permanent noncitizen caste. They are endeavoring to solve what is probably their most crippling long-term political dilemma: the racial diversification of the electorate. Not to put too fine a point on it, they are trying to preserve their political prospects as a white folks' party in an increasingly multicolored land.

Absent a constitutional change -- to a lesser degree, even with it -- those prospects look mighty bleak. The demographic base of the Republican Party, as Ruy Teixeira demonstrates in a paper released by the Center for American Progress this summer, is shrinking as a share of the nation and the electorate. As the nation grows more racially and religiously diverse, Teixeira shows, its percentage of white Christians will decline to just 35 percent of the population by 2040.

The group that's growing fastest, of course, is Latinos. "Their numbers will triple to 133 million by 2050 from 47 million today," Teixeira writes, "while the number of non-Hispanic whites will remain essentially flat." Moreover, Latinos increasingly trend Democratic -- in a Gallup poll this year, 53 percent self-identified as Democrats; just 21 percent called themselves Republican.

To be sure, the wretched state of the economy could drive some otherwise Democratic-inclined Latino voters to the GOP this November. But Republicans are doing their damnedest to keep this from happening. Their embrace of Arizona's Suspicious-Looking-Latinos law and their enthusiasm for stripping Latino children of their citizenship will only hasten Latinos' flight.

Sentient Republican strategists such as Karl Rove have long understood that unless their party could win more Latino votes, it would eventually go the way of the Whigs. That's the main reason George W. Bush tried to persuade congressional Republicans to support immigration reform. But most lawmakers, reflecting the nativism of the Republican base, would have none of it.

By pushing for repeal of the 14th Amendment's citizenship clause, the GOP appears to have concluded: If you can't win them over -- indeed, if you're doing everything in your power to make their lives miserable -- revoke their citizenship.

And E.J. Dionne (Washington Post) from a couple of days ago:

Nothing should make Republicans prouder than their party's role in passing what are known as the Civil War or Reconstruction amendments: the 13th, ending slavery; the 14th, guaranteeing equal protection under the law and establishing national standards for citizenship; and the 15th, protecting the right to vote. In those days, Democrats were the racial demagogues.

Opponents of the 14th Amendment used racist arguments against immigrants to try to kill it, even though there were virtually no immigration restrictions back then. President Andrew Johnson played the card aggressively, as University of Baltimore law professor Garrett Epps reported in his 2006 book on the 14th Amendment, "Democracy Reborn."

"This provision comprehends the Chinese of the Pacific States, Indians subject to taxation, the people called Gipsies, as well as the entire race designated as blacks, people of color, negroes, mulattoes, and persons of African blood," Johnson declared. "Is it sound policy to make our entire colored population and all other excepted classes citizens of the United States?"

Republicans were taken aback that Gypsies were suddenly transformed into a great national peril as part of the campaign against the amendment. In his definitive book "Reconstruction," historian Eric Foner cites a bemused Republican senator who observed in 1866: "I have lived in the United States now for many a year and really I have heard more about Gypsies within the past two or three months than I have heard before in my life."

The methods of politics don't change much, even if the targets of demagoguery do.

Yglesias: Some sympathy.

This marks the only middle path I've seen in the "Professional Left" meme:

Longtime readers and followers of various squabbles with FDL bloggers will know that I have some sympathy with the substance of what Gibbs has to say here. But you don’t improve your relationship with same-team ideological activists by attacking them in red-baiting terms. What’s more, we’re seeing a serious confusion here on the role of political activists in the system. As I said during the health care debate, it’s not the job of the President of the United States to stand up for a pure ideological vision—his job is to cut compromises to implement policies that improve on the status quo. But by the same token, it’s not the job of activists to be “satisfied” with compromises premised on the current boundaries of political feasibility.

I’m excited about the Affordable Care Act, but it’s completely true that I won’t be “satisfied” with American health care policy until it’s made much much better. What’s wrong with that? Being satisfied with the status quo never got anyone anywhere.

I want to paraphrase something I said to a commenter not too long ago.

The President is trapped between the Party of "No" on the right, and the Party of "Right Now!" on the left. We're not going to make it as the party of "Right Now". We will make it as the Party of "What's Next?"

If we need to revisit Health Care, so be it. Let's fix what we didn't get to the first time. You want to improve Financial Regulation, get out of Afghanistan, pass Card Check, repeal DADT? Fine, but all of these things require at least some action from Congress. Time has proven you can move the Democrats on these issues, you can't move Republicans. Giving them Congress is not an option.


Back to the nonsense.

Andrew Sullivan thinks Gibbs is "backpedaling furiously". Is he?

Speaking publicly for the first time since he disparaged the "professional left," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said he stands by his comments, has no plans to resign and that he fully expects progressive voters to go to the polls in 2010.

"I don't plan on leaving and there is no truth to the rumor that I've added an inflatable exit to my office," the press secretary said during Wednesday's briefing, referencing the recent incident in which a Jet Blue flight attendant bolted his plane in frustration.

Taking the podium after a day off to tend to a sore throat, Gibbs said he has not reached out to any Democrats to discuss his remarks, in which he chastised liberals for wanting to "eliminate the Pentagon" and pursue Canadian-style health care reform. Nor, he added, has he talked to the president about the matter.

Does he stand by the comments? "Yes," he replied.

Via HuffingtonPost (but we all know how I feel about them).

Six things happening on Financial Regulation

Back to business.

ProPublica has a fantastic piece on all the moving parts, regulations and discussions that are forming around the Financial Regulation Bill.

Here are some of the subheaders (which should give you a taste):
  • Regulators discuss how to shift away from reliance on credit rating agencies.  (Always a good thing.)
  • The FDIC is restructuring.  (Ditto)
  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is still headless.  (This should be temporary.)
  • The big banks are contemplating the most profitable way to comply with the Volcker Rule.  (Are you surprised?)
  • Oil companies don't like the part of financial reform that affects them.  (See note above.)
  • A Congressional committee will take another look at the SEC FOIA exemption.  (Interesting read.  FoxBusiness is involved, and not necessarily the bad guy for one.)

Of course, the devil is in the details, and that's why you should read the ProPublica piece.

My Star Wars expertise is finally recognized by the Mainstream Media!

For the record, in this Ezra Klein piece, I was the reader in question.

A wasted Special Comment

Overall, Keith’s Special Comment didn't reach a new low point, but it was a waste of time. If you want to see it, find it your damn self.

First off, as I feared, he made the lead story about him, and not the death of Ted Stevens, which was the headline on virtually every other News Organization across America, including

Now, granted, the late Sen. Stevens was a corrupt scumbag. He only got off because Attorney General Holder discovered his case had concerns over prosecutorial misconduct. (Note: Next time, if there’s a piece of evidence that the opposition is supposed to have, it’s best to let them see it.) Still, despite all the negative feelings I have about the man, he was still a U.S. Senator, he still deserved at least a moment on the show. It didn’t happen.

So let’s be honest, Keith made the Professional Left about Keith. He wasn’t claiming hurt feelings, but he was going to tell the President that he isn’t doing “it” right. I thought it was a wasted exercise, so I fast-forwarding through a lot of it. Still, there were two moments in the show that really got on my nerves:

First was this from Michael Moore:

I think that what's bothering them is that Liberals and the Left have been right from the beginning. From the beginning of this Administration, what did people on our side of the fence say? You should take over these banks temporarily and fire all the thieves who stole our money. But instead what did they do? They enabled them. They called for more offshore oil drilling. They expanded the war in Afghanistan. The stimulus package, they caved into the republicans. Everything that we've been trying to push them to do has now come back to bite them in a profound way to the point where they're very frightened, as they should be, about the election in a couple of months.

Michael, you weren't even right in this statement. How could you be right from the beginning.

First off, you didn’t need to take over these banks even temporarily. History has borne that out. First, there’s the matter of which banks to nationalize. Some banks were on their ass (Citi) others were half-dead/half-alive (B of A) only to be made worse by taking on other Banks. And the rest were generally healthy, but still being dragged down by the overall collapse. So the notion of nationalization being a magic bullet is something even Paul Krugman has backed off from (thought I still think he would have preferred it), and he knows more about the economy than you do, Mr. Moore.

Can’t argue with the Offshore Drilling comment. That was a political calculation. At the same time, we’re still going to need more oil in this country till at least 2025, and something needs to be done.

The Afghanistan comment is sheer asshattery. If Mr. Moore wasn’t paying attention to virtually everything the man said on the campaign trail, then that’s his damn fault.

The Stimulus Package. Again, let me quote Ruth Marcus:

Excuse me, but can these people not count to 60? Have they somehow failed to notice that Mitch McConnell and John Boehner have not exactly been playing nice? That while the left laments Obama's minor deviations from party orthodoxy, the right has been portraying him, with some success, as an out-of-control socialist?

I'm not even a fan of Ruth Marcus, this is how much Michael Moore pissed me off.

Again, his position is that he has all the answers, and they're all so simple, but he's never had to get a vote in his life.

What has been getting on my nerves about the "Professional Left" more and more is the notion that for some reason they can’t get off, that somehow, the alternative to weak legislation is better legislation.

No. In this Congress, the alternative to weak legislation is no legislation.

Next, Keith blathered with this:

The Professional Left didn't start the Health Care Negotiations by moving to the right of the Single Payer and then the Public Option, the Administration did. The Professional Left didn't try to grease some skids with the minority by taxing union benefits, the Administration did.

Again, I’m glad Keith enjoys his cheap shots as much as the next guy, but I was under the impression he had paid attention to the Health Care debate, not just its hyperbole.

The tax on Cadillac Plans was not about screwing the Unions, it was a cost containment measure.

And second, as much as I personally want frickin’ Socialized Medicine in this country, the actual enemy is already calling this quote-unquote half-measure socialism, a plan that relies heavily on the Free frickin’ market.

Again, what part of 60 votes does Keith not understand??!?!

There was never anything close to 60 votes for Single Payer in the Senate. You maybe had 43 votes, not even a majority. That’s 17 (or more) Democrats being against Single Payer. And if you don’t have 60 votes in your own caucus, you don’t have a proposal.

Mr. Moore, Mr. Olbermann...what exactly is it you want to do?

I think you need to remember that the midterm elections ain't a video game. You’re not “rewarding” President Obama with "points" (in the form of Democratic Represenatives and Senators) because he’s been such a good guy. You’re trying to get a Liberal Agenda passed, and what you think is going to happen to that Agenda if the GOP takes over Congress?

For all the money being spent and plans being made, the single action that matters most is people (like you) voting. If the people who showed up in 2008 carry vote in 2010, we're going to win, and keep making progress. If they don't, we won't. And for the record, I think the Professional Left is helping depress that cause.

I agree with Robert Gibbs, Part 4

Now, the Washington Post's Ruth Marcus chimes in, this time on my side:

Indeed, for all the derision from the left about the Bush administration not being "reality-based," many lefty bloggers and talking heads have failed to be reality-based in assessing the Obama administration.

Health-care reform, in this glass-half-empty world, is a disappointment because it lacks a public option. The president's failure to close Guantanamo or end the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy is a betrayal. If only President Obama was willing to bang heads, name names, stand tough, he would have been able to get -- fill in the blank -- a bigger stimulus, tougher financial reform, new legislation to help unions organize.

Excuse me, but can these people not count to 60? Have they somehow failed to notice that Mitch McConnell and John Boehner have not exactly been playing nice? That while the left laments Obama's minor deviations from party orthodoxy, the right has been portraying him, with some success, as an out-of-control socialist?

Apparently not. Responding to Gibbs, Jane Hamsher, of the blog Firedoglake, derided Obama's record of "corporatist capitulation" and noted, "Spiro Agnew -- sorry, Robert Gibbs -- says ‘the professional left is not representative of the progressives who organized, campaigned, raised money and ultimately voted for Obama.' Well, the Obama in the White House is not representative of the Obama who organized, campaigned, raised money and ran for office, so I guess it's a wash."

Spiro Agnew? Gibbs is going to have to work on his alliterative skills to come up with anything as memorable as nattering nabobs of negativism. Carping cavilers of cyberspace?

That the left would fall out of love with Obama was entirely predictable. "After eight years without the White House, and two years in which a Democratic majority in Congress found itself stymied in delivering on its promises, the leftward precincts of his party are not inclined toward either compromise or patience," I wrote just after the election.

What surprises me, though -- and, no doubt, what set off Gibbs -- is the venom of the liberal critics, even in the face of the sustained attack on Obama from the right and a legislative record longer and more impressive than I would have guessed back then.

In the old days of press-bashing, it was sound advice not to argue with people who buy ink by the barrel. The Gibbs backlash shows how foolhardy it is to argue with people who don't even have to buy ink.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I agree with Robert Gibbs, Part 3

Greg Sargent put it another way (while completely disagreeing with me):

With the controversy still simmering over Robert Gibbs' slam on the "professional left," the Dem firm Public Policy Polling offers a reality check on what liberals think of Obama. They overwhelmingly approve:

On the national poll we'll release this week 85% of liberals approve of the job Obama is doing to 12% disapproving. 88% support his health care plan looking back with only 7% opposed.

Not only are those numbers good, but they're steady. Obama's favor with liberals hasn't been on the decline. In May his approval with liberals was 87/10. In February it was 81/15. In November it was 87/4. Even as his ratings have declined overall he's stayed in that sort of mid-80s range with liberal voters.

The volume of the voices of liberals who don't like Obama is much greater than the volume of their numbers, which probably means Robert Gibbs shouldn't let the select few get him so irritated.

This bears out what other polls have found. It suggests that Gibbs was right when he said that rank and file liberals still like Obama, and some will point to this as proof that Obama's liberal critics don't speak for the left and just get attention because they have big megaphones.

But there may be another conclusion to be drawn here. If criticism of the White House from the left isn't meaningfully depressing Obama's support among liberals, than what's the harm? Seems to me that the liberal rank and file are capable of listening to left-leaning opinionmakers taking issue with various aspects of the Obama presidency without concluding that they should stop supporting the president entirely.

In other words, liberal voters appear capable of keeping two ideas in their heads at the same time. First, Obama does not always live up to their expectations, whether or not he should bear the blame for this unfortunate reality. And second, this isn't grounds to abandon him completely.

If anything, this demonstrates that lefty critics should keep it up. They can keep pressuring the White House and Dems to try to expand the realm of what's politically possible, and keep trying to hold the president accountable to his promises and to the expectations he has created for his own leadership. After all, the President himself has told us he wants us to keep doing that. And if liberals aren't turning on him in advance of the midterms, what's the downside?

UPDATE, 1:38 p.m.: One other thing: Given that Obama is still polling extremely well among liberals in multiple polls, it's unclear why the White House overreacts to liberal criticism.

I agree with Robert Gibbs, Part 2

If Keith is really going to lead his broadcast with "Professional Left" story, and not the waaay more obvious one (the death of former Senator Stevens), he's lost his way as well.

I agree with Robert Gibbs

The "Professional Left" story has gotten a lot of traction today. Keith Olbermann is doing a Special Comment about it (which I think it going to be full of @#$%). Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) is calling for Press Secretary Robert Gibbs to resign, (again?) which is so full of @#$% it almost deserves it own post as to how full of @#$% it is.)

Let me say that as a Liberal, I've had my own disagreements with the so-called professional left. I think Huffington Post cares only about generating clicks, not doing actual journalism. I think Markos Moulitsas, Jane Hamsher and Glenn Greenwald write, talk and act like they've never had to get a vote (on the floor of any legislature) in their lives; and live in an ideological bubble every bit as pernicious as the one the Bushies live in. (Though Markos has gotten on my nerve waaaay less as of late). Ed Schultz has let the Klieg Lights go to his head. Keith is under the impression that he can always speak for me, and he doesn't (Jon Stewart on the other hand??). And the less political insight the President gets from Arianna Huffington (winner of .55% of the vote in her one shot at actual office), the happier I am.

So the long and short of it is, I agreed with Robert Gibbs.

I probably agree with Dennis Kucinich 98% of the time (the idea for a Department of Peace is just ridiculous) but it doesn't mean I like him, nor does it mean I trust him. The same goes for the others. Watching the Professional Left's behavior over the last two years has frankly been the thing that turned me into a Liberal who hates other Liberals.

I think there is a responsibility for those of us on Left to hold the President accountable, as he has asked. But there is also a responsibility for those of us on Left to deal in facts, to understand that ideology is a way of looking at the world, not a purity checklist (again, Republican behavior), to understand how, where and why a piece of legislation goes wrong, to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and most of all, to keep working.

Again, just because Health Care passed without a Public Option, doesn't mean it has to stay that way.

Simply put, for the last two years, the Republican Party and their Conservative base have been our enemies (and to any Republicans and Conservatives out there reading this, sorry...but the behavior of your ideological extreme has been nothing short of repulsive). The second that any Liberal starts confusing the President with your enemies,they've lost their way.

Thank God he's soon to be former Governor David Patterson


Honestly, is there a way this guy doesn't screw something up? He does have a unique talent. (And yes, I realize I'm talking about a Black Democrat...supposedly two of my favorite things, since I'm both.)

What worse is, he thinks he's helping in the Cordoba "Mosque" matter by offering them New York state land to, in effect, go away. (I put Mosque in quotes, because it's really a community center more than a place of worship.)

Via Greg Sargent:

How daft is this idea? Let us count the ways.

First, it puts Mayor Bloomberg in a weird spot. The mayor, you may recall, eloquently defended the religious freedom of the developers and stood up for their right to build on a site of their choosing in the face of withering national criticism. Now the governor's position is that, yes, there's something to that religious freedom thing, but let's give away some state land to make the whole mess go away? What is Bloomberg supposed to say in response? I'm told City Hall won't be commenting on the governor's idea.

Second, let's say for the sake of argument that the center's developers would support this scheme. Who gets to decide how far away from Ground Zero is an appropriate distance, and why should they be accorded that power? Should the governor appoint Sarah Palin or Abraham Foxman to a newly-created post of Mosque Exclusion Zone Czar?

Third, this sets an awful precedent. Other religious groups in New York will be asking why they aren't being given state land to build their own cultural centers. Will the state cheerfully throw free land at the next group whose plans spark controversy?

Separately, opponents of Cordoba House will no doubt be psyched by a new poll finding a majority of New Yorkers opposes the project near Ground Zero. But you know what? This is about protecting the rights of a minority. Polls, by definition, should have no bearing whatsoever on this debate. Unless of course the real goal of opponents is to score political points.

Monday, August 9, 2010

This is why I stopped reading Huffington Post, Part 348

Swear to God, this is one of the headlines on the Huffington Post right now:

WATCH: Obama Campaigned On Net Neutrality -- Has He Lived Up To His Promise?

Lemme get this straight. Two private Companies get together and decide to impose a tiered-system on at least part of the internet (something, last I checked, Obama's FCC doesn't like), and it's the President's fault??

It's worse. (Julian Assange remains a clown - Part IV)

Again, what did I say?

The latest WikiLeaks flap raises, once again, the problem of revealing classified information. Some of the WikiLeaks Afghanistan material—the names of individual Afghans who are working against the Taliban, some of whom are now sure to die as a result—represents exactly the sort of stuff that any government would reasonably try to keep secret. The other classic examples are "order-of-battle" information, negotiating instructions, intelligence sources and methods, and technical details about the capacities and vulnerabilities of specific weapons and about how to create them.

I'm just glad its getting noticed. My fellow Liberals on the blogosphere have been too quick to paper this over.

Once again, if you're going to release classified material, fine...but do your due diligence and redact all the names of those involved. If you can't do that, don't release the stuff. Period.

"As Long As Someone Else is on the Bottom", the racist history of the Tea Party

Nothing has quite gotten under my skin in recent weeks than being told, by Tea-Parties of course, that the Tea-Party is not racist.

Personally, I felt the NAACP was being horribly polite when they asked the Tea-Party to only denounce the “racist elements” in their ranks. You might as well have asked them to hand over their right arms, because racial animus is what’s driving the movement in the first place.

Proof of inherent racism on their part has always been there. It screams to me at every protest or a rally. Then again, I've been living with crap like this all my life, so I know what I’m looking for. You only have to look at the long, sordid history of this country to see it as well.

There have been, and always will be right-wing movements who stand in opposition to anything a Democrat does; but none seems so driven by personal animus as the Tea Party. None seems as incoherent, as lacking in policy ideas as this one is.  (Until they delineate their spending cuts, they remain incoherent in my book).

Spending under the Bush Administration (wiping out a Clinton-era Surplus) was far more profligate than it was under this President, yet Tea-Party anger did not show itself until Obama. Why? The continual chant of “they’re coming to take your guns” has never been louder, but gun rights have expanded under the Obama Administration (in ways that even I as one of his supporters, find alarming). Why? I remain an advocate for actual Socialized Medicine, but what passed earlier this year was nowhere near anything like what they have in Canada, France or the United Kingdom (I would have settled for any one of the three). What actually passed was similar to something passed by former Republican Governor (and newly minted hyper-conservative) Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, yet its passage sent these people into apoplexy. Why?

Could it be that Tea Party rage has more to do with the man that the policies, or should I say…the idea of the man?

Listen to the words they choose to assault the President: “threat to our way of life” “he can’t do that”, “he’s taking our liberty away” or its remix: “our freedom away” (freedom to do what, exactly?). The word slavery is used quite often, with the President in the role of the Slave Master.  Former Governor Palin went so far as to intimate that President Obama was a “threat to our children” at one point. They rarely say the President’s actions are wrong. Instead, they call him names: Socialist, Marxist, Fascist, Statist. Never mind that those three political philopshies have nothing to do with each other.

And mind you this is before we even get to the images of the President made up as the Joker, a Witch Doctor or a Pimp.

This is not about the President's agenda. This is about him. It doesn't seem enough to defeat him at the polls, the very idea of him has to be wiped outEverything he and this Congress have done does has to be repealed...everything.

I tell friends who were born abroad that to truly understand America, you have to understand our Civil War. The motivations around the war are important, but certain character traits that we’re now seeing first reared their ugly head back then.  In effect, the genesis of the Tea Party was back then, and not in a harbor in Boston.

Abraham Lincoln, ran for President as an Anti-Slavery Republican. All the while, the South threatened succession if he was elected.

Think about that. The South was telling the North it had no say in the matter. It’s choice wasn’t going to count (which clearly was to vote for Lincoln). It was saying that the North had no right to be a part of National Governance. “You have to do what we say”, it was telling the North. “Only our interests matter.”

If you think about the Tea Party, after having lost not one, but two elections, and their constant whine of how “they’re not being listened to?” What’s the difference?  They are telling the majority of Americans (again, Barack Obama won more votes than any President in history) that only Tea Partiers need to be listened to.

It goes back to something Jon Stewart said a while ago: “You're confusing tyranny with losing.”

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It’s a theme we’ll be seeing again.

The next irony about the Civil War was that while it was fought (by the South) in defense of the slavery, the majority of the people fighting for slavery couldn’t afford a slave themselves in a million years. Poor white men were fighting and dying for the right of rich white men to keep slaves.  (Some disagree with the shading of that statistic, but still...)

Why the hell would they do this?  It seems like a lot to ask, until you remember that the poor white man’s sense of self was on the line here.  (This is there the Andy Hall piece, linked to above, and this one dovetail perfectly.  He uses the word "vested".  The author says "sense of self."  Same difference.)

The poor white man may not have been able to afford a slave of his own. He might not have a lot of money (if any), land, or a steady job. He had one thing, though.  He knew he was better than a slave. Or put in the colloquialism of the time: “I may be poor white trash, but at least I ain’t no n----r.”

In 2006, while promoting his book Conservatives Without Conscience, John Dean dropped this little bit of knowledge in an interview with Keith Olbermann:

I ran into a massive study that has really been going on 50 years now by academics. They've never really shared this with the general public. It's a remarkable analysis of the authoritarian personality. Both those who are inclined to follow leaders and those who jump in front and want to be the leaders. It was not the opinion of social scientists. It was information they drew by questioning large numbers of people -- hundreds of thousands of people -- in anonymous testing where [the subjects] conceded their innermost feelings and reactions to things. And it came out that most of these people were pre-qualified to be conservatives and this, did indeed, fit with the authoritarian personality.

The authoritarian personality, those more likely to do the following (or demand to be followed) are more likely to be Conservative. 

Think about that in relation to those poor white Soldiers fighting for the rights of Slaveholders in the Confederacy.  Think about that in relation to those Tea-Partiers protesting on behalf of Insurance Companies during the Health Care fight.

It is the idea that the person above you, should be above you as if by divine providence. They’re above you for a reason. Just accept it.

Of course, any hierarchy is a lot easier to accept when it’s not you at the bottom. Thanks to slavery, there would always someone else at the bottom.

But what happens when the hierarchy is challenged? What happens when someone says “we don’t like you keeping other human beings in perpetual servitude”? We get the Civil War. What happens when someone decides they should have the right to vote? First you get Reconstruction, and an eighty year delay until the Civil Rights movement.

What happens…if you get a Black President?

We get the Tea Party.

When the hierarchy is challenged, people benefiting (or vested in it) from it will always erupt to madness and rage. Watch this segment from Eyes on the Prize, focusing on the Little Rock Nine in 1957. Watch toward the 7:00 minute mark when the black students finally get into the school.

(For the record, the white lady who saved Elizabeth Eckford’s life wasn’t identified in the film. Her name was Grace Lorch. Her husband, Lee, is still alive today, and is a friend of the family.)

Look at the reaction of the crowd and tell me it doesn’t remind you of some of the lower moments of the Tea Party Movement.

Where is this rage coming from? There’s nothing about the mere presence of black people that should offend. Black people are a constant presence in their lives. They’re in their homes, preparing their food, serving their food, handling their children, cleaning up after them. They are everywhere. In a major sense, nothing about the lives of these angry White People has changed.

Yet everything has changed. The idea of what their lives are like has changed. The moment the Little Rock Nine enter that High School, they’re not at the bottom anymore. They’re the equals of a lot of white folk, maybe more.

And when true equality starts to be achieved, what do the people who have benefited from inequality do?  What do these authoritarians do?

They turn on the authority.

My favorite part was the little woman, her face scrunched up in anger, shoving that Police barricade, then turning away in shame, because she doesn’t want to look like that for the camera. The hierarchy is great when it insures that you’re up, and someone else is down. The nano-second it can’t guarantee that, what good is it?

And now we return to the Tea Party already in progress.

The President of the United States is, in most respects, the ultimate authority figure for this country. Constitutional realities dictate equal roles for Congress and the Courts, but the relationship between any citizen and their Government is really formed between the citizen and the President, through the Television.

And now that ultimate authority figure staring at them through the tube is a black man.  Don't tell me that that's not making a difference..

If the normal position of the Authoritarian Conservative is that the man at the top must be respected, what do authoritarians do when that person can’t be respected because he is, because of his nature, allegedly beneath them?

The President may have been elected over a two-year time frame, with every move subjected to public scrutiny, and every mistake magnified a thousand-fold but if you're one of these Authoritarians, he must have somehow cheated his way into office (Birthers). This is where the racism begins.  Even if he didn’t cheat his way, he cannot be allowed to do anything while in office (Tenthers; Deficit Chickenhawks). In any case, we will make him listen to us, despite the fact there was an Election, and he gained more votes than anyone in American History.  And if he does something without my permission (once again, only the consent of the quote-unquote Southener matters), then we will leave this union (Rick Perry, and too many others).

How else could an obvious inferior been elected to the highest office in the land?  "Above me," in the authoritarian mind.

When you hear a Tea-Partier say, he’s a “threat to our way of life” how does that sound now?

We you hear one of say “he can’t do that”, isn’t he’s really saying “He can’t tell me what to do”? (And you can replace “he” with the six letter epithet of your choice).

We one of them pipes up with “he’s taking our liberty away” or the equally logic-free “he’s taking our freedom away”, you can assume it means, he’s taking away my place in order of things. Hell, it was said in a New York Times poll, Tea Partiers said yes to the question of whether too much been made of the problems facing black people?

African-Americans have been listening to white people for a long time. We’ve been doing it for four-hundred years. Our lives have depended on it.

When you are thought of first and foremost as chattel, your lives aren’t valued very much. The prospect of near-instaneous death was a daily fact of life. Thus, listening to White people isn’t a hobby. It can’t be.

We know how to listen to you. We know when a threat is at hand. We know when our lives are in danger. It is a fear that is passed on from generation to generation. I have grown up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., nowhere near any ghetto or slum in the world, and I am telling you, my children (when I have them) will learn this as well.

When I look at the Tea Party, I know what I’m hearing. I know where they stand, because I have heard it all before.

Dangerous hypocrisy of being against the "Ground-Zero" Mosque (Part 2)

What I said on Thursday:

There are about 1,900 mosques in the United States, which run the gamut from makeshift prayer rooms in storefronts and houses to large buildings with adjoining community centers, according to a preliminary survey by Mr. Bagby, who conducted a mosque study 10 years ago and is now undertaking another.

A two-year study by a group of academics on American Muslims and terrorism concluded that contemporary mosques are actually a deterrent to the spread of militant Islam and terrorism. The study was conducted by professors with Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy and the University of North Carolina. It disclosed that many mosque leaders had put significant effort into countering extremism by building youth programs, sponsoring antiviolence forums and scrutinizing teachers and texts.

Radicalization of alienated Muslim youths is a real threat, Mr. Bagby said. “But the youth we worry about,” he said, “are not the youth that come to the mosque.”

Duke and North Carolina, working together.

The President's Speech at a Chicago Ford Plant on the re-born Auto Industry (VIDEO)

TPM: "Conservapedia: E=mc2 Is A Liberal Conspiracy"

We're doomed, as a species.

NOTE: (I couldn't superscript in the title, so forgive me if the formula looks off.)