Friday, December 10, 2010

Palace Coup: Bubba Takes Over as President Heads For The Punch Bowl

President Clinton briefs the press on why Democrats should back the current President's tax deal with Republicans, as if ... well, as if he never left!

Chris Matthews hosted Clinton insider Mark Penn, aptly described by Howard Fineman of Huff Post as "the geometry professor of triangulation." President Obama isn't the second coming of FDR; he's already pivoted to Clinton triangulation as the best Republican president Democrats can get. The economic policy is trickle-down Reaganomics. House and Senate Democrats will get few concessions. Even in endorsing it editorially the New York Times described it as "odious." Here are a few reasons why:

The tax cut for millionaires and billionaires, always advertised as essential for job creation actually resulted in a net loss of 600,000 jobs lost between 2001 and 2007, before the economic collapse. As Bernie Sanders noted, it's just a payoff by Republicans to their rich donors, and they should admit it. The unconscionable estate tax, as Senator Sanders indicated, benefits exactly 3/10 of 1 percent of families; 99.7 percent of American families will pay not a nickel on their estates. ONLY 39,000 VERY EXCLUSIVE families (the Waltons, Paris Hilton) will get a total tax windfall of $27 billion. It's an outrageous transfer of wealth to America's oligarchy. The deal actually raises taxes on the poor and seriously threatens the solvency of Social Security beyond Mr. Obama's possible second term.

As Bernie Sanders said to the "hypocrites" on the other side. "Don't you dare lecture us on deficits" any longer, after thrusting an odious tax cut for millionaires and billionaires down our throats that rips a $900 billion hole in the deficit with modest stimulus but serious structural economic damage to the poor, the elderly, and the middle class built in to the President's negotiated "framework."

White House Deploys The Bubba Weapon, Flips Tiny Eddie

While Bernie Sanders was fighting the good fight on the Senate floor with his "long speech" (technically not a) filibuster, President Obama trotted out the Big Bubba weapon today to sell his craven tax compromise. MSNBC's Ed Schultz was there. He did his show from outside the White House, looking well fed, and not uttering one negative word about the tax deal. Instead, he stressed how "passionately" people at the White House, from the President on down, care about the unemployed. So what, Ed? Nobody disputes that. You can ask any Republican that, and they'll say the same thing.

But the most obvious, and glaring omission, was not a single mention of Bernie Sanders' 8-hour (and counting) filibuster. I remember Ed asking the Senator last week, directly, if he would filibuster this deal, then giving him words of encouragement, to "keep up the good fight." Now that he has, not a word from Ed. It looks like the White House flipped Big, er Tiny Eddie, the self-described "fighter for the middle class" and turned him into a little lamb. Ed, they might have turned you with the VIP treatment but you can't fool your audience. You know that.

Stand With American Patriot Bernie Sanders!

Send the President a message: NO DEAL WITH HOSTAGE TAKERS! has a petition drive to block the millionaire bailout. You can sign it here. Other progressive groups are mobilizing to support Bernie's courageous FILIBUSTER of the President's craven tax cut for millionaires and billionaires. (Six hours and counting, as Bernie Sanders gives the American people a lesson in civics, democracy, history, and the REAL politics of class warfare being waged on multiple fronts against the middle class — Bernie Sanders speaking TRUTH to power.)

Here's The Ransom Note to The American People From The GOP Leadership.
Join Bernie in saying ENOUGH! No craven compromise with the hostage-taking Senate Republican leadership, behind closed doors, with no input from the President's party, let alone from the American people. Let your senators and congresspersons know how you feel about this deal.

Senator Sherrod Brown (the GOOD Senator Brown) of Ohio is supporting Bernie's historic filibuster with an "Open Letter to President Obama" urging the President to stand his ground with Senate Democrats and fight the  Republicans. Senator Brown is willing to stay in session for as long as it takes to get a JUST deal for the American people. Sign Sen. Brown's letter here.



The U.S. has the HIGHEST child poverty rate in the industrialized world; check our RED LINE MISERY INDEX FOR CHILD POVERTY, THANKS TO REPUBLICANS:


At this hour, Senator Bernie Sanders, Independent socialist of Vermont, is filibustering the craven compromise, Obama's tax cut bill. When was the last time a Democratic senator (Bernie caucuses with the Democrats) filibustered a bill on the Senate floor, a bill negotiated by his President? This is a historic moment. The C-SPAN caption says: "SEN. SANDERS BEGAN WHAT HE CALLS A TAX CUT FILIBUSTER AT 10:25am ET."


Bernie BLASTS the Estate Tax Cut Giveaway to Paris Hilton; BLASTS corporate "citizen" EXXON that raked in $19B in profits and is getting
a $150M tax cut from the U.S. Treasury, but a DISABLED VET cannot get a miserable $250 dollars from the Republican Senate.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

What Price Leadership

Why are progressives blaming President Obama, asked the caustically obnoxious “socialist” Lawrence O’Donnell. Simple. President Obama isn’t just the titular leader of the Democratic Party; he is the leader of the Democratic Party and most significantly the leader of our nation as its highest elected official.

Some people, O’Donnell included, may find all this redundancy a distinction without a difference. The President himself said he had to think of what was best for the country in reaching his craven compromise with Republicans, in which the still-majority Democrats were left out of the negotiations, in the cold. That by itself is bush league politicking that calls into question the competence of the President’s political advisers.

The White House negotiators included Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner who had actually enabled the Bush trickle-down policies which got us to this place. In another ironic twist, Obama’s economic pied piper Larry Summers, another Clintonian facilitator of our current economic woes, issued an Olympian pronouncement that failure to capitulate to his Bush-era tax policies will result in a double-dip recession.

Joan Walsh of Salon said, in effect, we are “enshrining” the Bush tax cuts, George W. Bush’s signature legislative accomplishment. More than that, we are enshrining three decades of disastrous Reaganomics 1.0, 2.0, 3.0. It’s a big deal. And for the President to negotiate it all away behind closed doors with Republicans, then tell his Democratic Congressional allies, ‘you have no choice but to swallow this deal, hook, line and sinker' is a HUGE political blunder of Jimmy Carter proportions. Part of the test of successful presidential leadership is navigating the political waters with competence.

The White House’s failure to anticipate the reaction of House Democrats is baffling. Rep. Peter DeFazio said the entire Democratic House Caucus, not just the Progressive Caucus, voted “with near-unanimity” to reject the President’s deal. Even if it’s a nonbinding resolution, this united front by House Democrats is a shade more serious than what the White House might expect.

Interesting how those who stand to get a tax cut windfall will presume to lecture progressives on our motives. And while the Lamborghini red “socialist” proffers to speak for the lowest bracket from his perch atop the highest, the dispossessed of this society, the armies of the 99ers, give or take seven million, stand to gain nothing. What about them? Has anyone asked a 99er whether he or she supports the craven compromise, the Bush-Obama tax cuts?

The answer might be different: Let’s end this trickle-down madness right here, right now and course correct. The alternative is crushing debt to foreign creditors China, Japan, and Saudi Arabia, slashing entitlement programs, defunding healthcare before it has even had a chance to take hold, and spiraling poverty among all demographic groups, including seniors, in the middle to lower classes.

For what — not enduring short-term economic pain, but at least shared sacrifice? Because the true measure of leadership, FDR- or Truman-style, would be to ask the American people to sacrifice in the short-term for the nation’s long-term health and prosperity and take this fight to the ballot box. The President’s “preferred option” however, is Clintonian triangulation.

Different times. For Americans who suffered through a Great Depression and a world war with casualties not in the thousands but in the millions, taking a tax bracket hit (back to the days of our greatest boom cycle economic expansion, the Clinton years) or a short-term cut in unemployment insurance is pain that can be endured.

Americans do not support this deal. Most polls show this and the President has conceded as much. Standing on principle and asking all Americans to share in the sacrifice to put our economic house in order is not playing an economic game of chicken with Republicans. This is not something FDR or Truman would have shied away from.

Interestingly, the President became publicly angry for the first time in his presidency, not at Republicans or the Tea Party, but at progressives. What an honor, however dubious and unfulfilling. We know the history. Gibby grousing about the “professional left” and before that Rhambo’s lovely parting shot. But even if the anti-progressive outbursts of locos like Lawrence O’Donnell take on the character of a barroom brawl — the fact is, we were right all along.

Our advice to the President was right, on the politics and on principle. Recalling the President’s indifferent support for the public option, the Nation’s Ari Berman said, “The Obama administration’s posture on the tax cuts is eerily similar to its stance on the public option during healthcare reform — the president says he wants the policy, but does absolutely nothing to fight for it, either through his own bully pulpit or on Capitol Hill.” Bingo.

Mr. President, please cut to the chase. Instead of pretending to “pick a fight” with a Republican Congress and dysfunctional Senate, just make your tax cuts for the rich permanent. Period. Take ownership of them: The Obama Tax Cuts. Then you won’t have to force a Republican veto override of permanently ending the Bush-Obama tax cuts for the rich. No theatrical reelection gambit. Run a ‘I told-you-so’ campaign blaming Republicans, having caved to every single one of their “hostage-taker” demands. The American people are an understanding bunch.

And should your modest tax stimulus for the middle class work, you might want to embrace the Frank Luntz talking points and just go with the Republican party line that the filthy rich “job creators” ultimately drove this recovery all along. They might even give you that cherished second term to play War Chief. As long as you agree to a little Republican-style infrastructure spending: erect a statue to Ronald Reagan on the capital mall. And of course, relegate that distant slogan — “change we can believe in”— to the dustbin of history.

Where Are Progressives Going to Go? I'll Tell You

In view of the largely symbolic vote of the House Democratic Caucus in opposition to the President's craven compromise, one beltway pundit carrying water for the President, asked smugly, "where are they [progressives] going to go?" I'll tell 'em. The Idiot Punditocracy tends to think in linear terms about politics, reflecting the narrow Washington milieu in which they ply their useless chatterbox noise. Regarding the extension of the Bush-Obama tax cuts for the rich and favorite sons (and daughter Paris Hilton):

Idiot Punditocracy Myth No. 1 — A Democratic primary challenge against a sitting president results in a split within the party and ultimate defeat of a President, wounded and weakened politically by a bitter challenge from the party's left flank. The template for this particular scenario is Ted Kennedy's challenge of  President Jimmy Carter in 1980. The problem with drawing generalizations from the 1980 contest between Kennedy and Carter is that it was, first and foremost, a bitter grudge match. The two men did not like each other and made no bones about it. The result was a knock-down, drag-out fight that indeed split the party and facilitated Ronald Reagan's election.

What the idiot pundits fail to cite is the other race of the 1980 campaign on the Republican side, because (a) they just don't know the history that well (likely), or (b) this particular model doesn't comport with their far more dramatic narrative involving party revolts, sound and fury on the Left, and various lines in the sand. The candidate was, by today's standards at least, a liberal Rockefeller Republican: Rep. John Anderson of Illinois. Anderson wanted to provide a center-left alternative to a GOP that he felt had strayed too far to the right. He waged a campaign of ideas and gained instant popularity when, unlike the other candidates, didn't evade the question of what was his biggest regret. Anderson said flat-out it was his vote for the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, leading to the bloody and divisive Vietnam war without a formal declaration of war from Congress. (Ironically, we saw this scenario play itself out in 2008, like a ghost from the past, with Hillary trying to explain her vote on the Iraq invasion.)

Anderson had some success in the primaries, finishing second to George H.W. Bush in Massachusetts, and in Vermont to Ronald Reagan, losing both contests by fewer than 1,000 votes. After Carter defeated Kennedy, Anderson launched an independent third-party bid with support from prominent progressives, as an alternative to the two major party contenders. But his campaign fizzled once Kennedy endorsed Carter. Still, he finished with 7 percent of the vote and was a precursor of the campaign of ideas waged decades later by Ron Paul from his (solo) libertarian GOP perch.

Liberals, progressives, the netroots are highly organized, and it was this organization that delivered the election for President Obama. The notion of waging a symbolic "challenge" to the President that is at the same time substantive, a campaign of ideas in which progressives unite behind one candidate that could best articulate core principles and ideas, to carry the message, appeals to progressives. The primary process would be a means  of discussing progressive ideas and priorities, and ensuring that the President engage in the debate with specifics, not generalities, all the way to the convention. It would be like holding the President's feet to the fire at every step along the way while having a respecful debate, discussion, and conversation about the future course of the nation.

Idiot Punditocracy Myth No. 2 — The President's approval rating is 80 percent among Democrats, therefore liberal base disaffection with him is a small sampling of the "silent Democratic majority." What the idiot pundits fail to recognize is that progressives can have an argument with our President on core principles and still support him in the main, though perhaps with less enthusiasm. Three words: Supreme Court appointments. Do these idiots think we're going to ditch the President willy-nilly? No. Have they ever had a family argument? Yes. Has the final result been a permanent break? No. End of story.

Idiot Punditocracy Myth No. 3. — "Where will progressives go?" This is typical of the condescending attitude toward progressives that permeates the beltway elites, from the White House, that sets the tone, to the media noisemakers and chatterboxes. Essentially, this is the nuclear option. Unlikely, but possible. Probable even, depending on what New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg decides to do. He says he's not running. For now. But that could change at any moment. It will hinge, as they say, on political conditions on the ground. Today, those conditions are more favorable than before November 2.

A Mike Bloomberg independent bid for the presidency is not some pie-in-the-sky scenario. All the necessary ingredients are there: A twice-elected big BIG-city mayor with creds, gravitas, UNLIMITED FUNDS, and the best campaign team money can buy. Furthermore, he is articulating a "third way" in politics outside of the two major parties, intended to have broad appeal, emphasizing results, pragmatism, fiscally responsible and socially liberal, with a ready-made slogan derived from the phrase "political centrism." Nothing about Mr. Bloomberg's recent moves says "quixotic" or "book tour."

Mayor Bloomberg is in an exploratory phase, but it's a serious exploration. Most progressives would still prefer to cast a vote for President Obama's reelection. Yet very few would consider a vote for Mike Bloomberg one for which they'd have to hold their noses.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Message to Chris Matthews From Frank Rich ...

For doubling down AGAIN! on the Ralph Kramden SLIME.

He's Running All Right ...

With a NYT headline to warm Chris Matthews's heart. New York city mayor Mike Bloomberg delivered a major policy speech on the Brooklyn waterfront, fueling speculation that he is preparing to launch an independent bid for president. Or maybe not. Technically, Mr. Bloomberg (described as a "billionaire media mogul" although his profile in this regard is a lot less prominent than Rupert Murdoch's) is still a RepublicanInNameOnly.

Realistically, he'd never make it through the wacked-out wingnut Republican primary process. But with his unlimited funds, Mr. Bloomberg's independent presidential bid, assuming President Obama is the Democratic nominee, would in most Nate Silver scenarios and "models" practically guarantee to, oh a 76 percent certainty of complete metaphysical predictability, the Republican nominee's election. Including Sarah Palin. In the name of centrism. Whoops.

Bloomberg is already booked to appear on Meet The Press and will be asked the obvious question, to which he'll say "no" with a wink-and-a-nod ... or maybe, "yes"? He will also be asked about the craven compromise $900 billion deficit-busting tax deal, and it will be interesting to see what he says about that. Really interesting ("fascinating" to the MSNBCistas) to see how Bloomberg calibrates his assessment of President Obama.

Well, Mr. President. That takes care of the center-right flank you have been so rabidly courting of late. Are any more throwaway statements meant to infuriate the liberal base in the offing? First, we were "sanctimonious purists." Now progressive Democrats are being isolated by President Obama's "Democrats writ large" who don't feel "quote unquote betrayed" and presumably just love the President's latest capitulation.

It seems to me, Mr. President, that dissing the base while encouraging Mayor Bloomberg to rip the "centrist" rug right out from under you does not a successful reelection strategy make. Nor does burning bridges with liberals in a fit of presidential pique based on the shaky assumption we have nowhere else to go. Barring a possible primary challenge, Mayor Bloomberg sounds like a reasonable alternative.

New York Rep. Gary Ackerman was blunt about the President's dealmaking: "We got screwed." Welcome to the world of unprincipled caving/craven "compromise," Mr. President.

Remembering John Lennon

The first intimation I had that John Lennon had universal appeal, that he wasn’t just someone who spoke to me and my generation, was when some friends of my mom’s startled me one time waving a paperback in the air saying this Beatle fellow John Lennon, “he is such a wit, such a creative writer, hilarious!” They were dumbfounded and I was slightly miffed, thinking, ‘so … would you expect anything less? Have you listened to his songs at all?’

The book was ‘In His Own Write’. It’s an eclectic collection of short stories, poems, drawings, linguistic explorations and deliberate misspellings, disjointed narrative, weird and absurd imagery and dark humor … an early feast of John’s wonderfully creative mind. Here are some excerpts:
No Flies on Frank

“I carn’t not believe this incredible fact of truth about my very body which has not gained fat since mother begat me at childburn. Yea, though I wart through the valet of thy shadowy hut I will feed no norman. What grate qualmsy hath taken me thus into such a fatty hardbuckle.”

“He journeyed downstairs crestfallen and defective – a great wait on his boulders – not even his wife’s battered face could raise a smile on poor Frank’s head – who as you know had no flies on him.”

Good Dog Nigel

“Arf, Arf, he goes, a merry sight,
Our little hairy friend,
Arf, Arf, upon the lampost bright
Arfing round the bend.
Nice dog! Goo boy,
Waggie tail and beg,
Clever Nigel, jump for joy

Because we’re putting you to sleep at three of the clock, Nigel.”

The Wrestling Dog

“One upon a tom in a far off distant lad far across the sea miles away from anyway over the hills as the crow barks 39 peoble lived miles away from anywhere on a little island on a distant land.”

I Wandered

“Past grisby trees and hulky builds
Past ratters and bradder sheep
In a resus baby stooped
I wandered hairy as a dog
To get a goobites sleep.”

All Abord Speeching

“2. Sing you with long voice.
For discharge
Deep breathing is Nescafe for a dark voice, deep breeding and in haley is very impotent for broadcastle and out-lying ariels… visibility nil in Rockall and Fredastaire?
Practice daily but not if you’re debb and duff.”

I Sat Belonely

“I sat belonely down a tree,
humbled fat and small.
A little lady sing to me
I couldn’t see at all.

I’m looking up and at the sky,
To find a wonderous voice.
Puzzly puzzle, wonder why,
I hear but have no choice.”

Taken from ‘In His Own Write’ by John Lennon.

Sometime after John was murdered there was a candlelight vigil in Central Park, on the spot known as 'Strawberry Fields'. I don't remember so well now, but I think they played this, which is still my favorite of John's songs, as close to perfect as a song can be. First, a beautiful rendition of it by Allison Crowe:

Rolling Stone Magazine found the lost John Lennon tapes from his last interview given just three days before his death and never published until now. Listen to them here. It's a real treat.

What "KO" Said. Left Hook, And Down For The Count Goes Craven Compromise!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

OH, NOOOOOOOOOO ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !


President Obama’s Poetic Moment: Channeling Ted Kennedy, Inspired By Bobby

It happened. Last question, the President gave us a glimpse of his core values. And it was the best moment, by far, of President Obama’s press conference today:
“My job is to make sure that we have a North Star out there: What is helping the American people live out their lives; what is giving them more opportunity; what is growing the economy; what is making us more competitive. And at any given juncture, there are going to be times where my preferred option, what I’m absolutely positive is right, I can’t get done. And so then the question is, does it make sense for me to tack a little bit this way or tack a little bit that way, because I’m keeping my eye on the long term, and the long fight. Not my day-to-day news cycle, but where am I going over the long term. And I don’t think there’s a single Democrat out there who if they looked where we started when we came into office, and look at where we are now, would say that we have not moved in the direction that I promised … And so to my Democratic friends, what I suggest is, let’s make sure that we understand this is a long game. It is not a short game.”
Robert F. Kennedy, our North Star. Nicely done, Mr. President.*
“And then the full darkness descends. Seldom is there another boat in sight. And that is the truly magical time of sailing, because the North Star appears: the North Star, which has been the guiding star for all seamen through time. The North Star guides you through the evening. Its light is the most definite thing you can see on the surface of the dark water. And so you have the North Star, and the sound and swell of the shifting water. And sometimes the fog will come in and you must go by the compass for a period. But you are always waiting to see the North Star again, because it is the guide to home port; it is the guide to home. And so the voyage becomes all-inclusive; you are enveloped in the totality of it: you are a part of the beginning, you are a part of the end. You are a part of the ship and a part of the sea. I gazed at the night sky often on those voyages, and thought of Bobby.

Senator Ted Kennedy, True Compass
* Even if we believe the President tacked too far to the right and lost the wind at his sails. But at least we applaud the sentiment.

President's Defiance Is Welcome, Even If Most of It Is Directed At The Left

My favorite lines:

"The Republicans are hostage-takers." The hostages are the American people. Considering the "collateral damage" of standing up to their demands, Mr. Obama's choice was to capitulate. Okay, at least as a Latino saying goes, he's CHARGING Republicans the cost of being "hostage-takers." That Ed Rollins got hot under the collar (representing GOP views) at least is a moral victory for the leader of the Democratic Party on behalf of all Democrats. Small "v" victory but at least the President was in their face, for once.

Most puzzling line: I read the polls, "the American people are on my side of the argument." Then why in the world didn't you press your advantage, Mr. President? Why all the early deference to your opponents. This was a great presser, sir, but it was the first I recall in which you came out swinging, defiant, decisive, presidential, mostly against the Left, but we'll take it.

The question is, where was this President Obama when the debate was being dominated by the narrative of Republican intransigence? Why give up all your negotiating power at the start, then rally in the end, when it's a done deal? With all due respect, Mr. President, that's not what they would have said of FDR, in characterizing the Social Security debate. When you say of your rich adversaries (one of them, reactionary comic Stephen Colbert mocked you saying, "face it Mr. President, Republicans are just not that into you") as FDR did, "I welcome their hatred," then you can claim FDR's mantle.

Funniest Line: "This is a big, diverse country. Not everybody agrees with us. I know that shocks people. The New York Times editorial page does not permeate across all of America." That editorial page said, "Mr. Obama still seems coolly unperturbed about Republican intransigence." At this moment in Mr. Obama's presidency it's somewhat astonishing that we'd be celebrating the notion the President's persona finally switched from Mr. Spock to Captain Kirk. 

Second funniest line (for me) chiding the Left: "This is the public option debate all over again." I love this line. President Obama's argument, taking the long view, is that if we don't get the public option this time around, we'll get it sometime down the road. We don't share the President's optimism. Not with this Republican Party. That's why we cautioned President Obama from the very beginning he would get nowhere trying to reach out to Republicans on healthcare; only weaken the final product. That is exactly what happened. 

Our argument was and continues to be, once we lost this fight to corporate money and entrenched special interests, it's gone, deep-sixed, finito, kaput. FDR essentially passed his New Deal programs unsullied by huge concessions to special interests because of his unique leadership skills and capacity to hold the party together and strongly make his case to the American people. No one back in 1934 was talking about defunding the SEC the way Republicans are talking of emasculation the modest Consumer Financial Protection Agency today; no one then was talking of repeal of Social Security the way the GOP is talking of repealing healthcare today. Successfully defending their "holy grail" is a measure of presidential leadership. Great presidents, such as FDR and TR, laid down their markers then took the necessary steps to protect them. You don't do it being overly deferential and conciliatory to those who would destroy you, Mr. President, nor compromising without a fight.

Because the result is, even if you think in your heart you've gotten the best deal for the American people, you still lose the argument once the perception is you've been rolled by the opposition. Mr. President, this isn't a labor negotiation in which you hold a weak hand. We have yet to see you make full and effective use of the bully pulpit. Today's presser was a good start. Even if the presidential ire directed at progressives would best be aimed at Republicans.

Cost to our deficit: $900 billion. How come no one raised this thorny factoid in the presser?

Craven Compromise Post-Capitulation Landscape: A Primary Challenge Looms For Obama

Dan Rather raised the specter on MSNBC’s Jansing & Co. in his inimitable colorful language:
“This is a political nightmare for Barack Obama as president. The more-left portion of his party hates this with a passion. And politically, within his own party, if this goes through, Barack Obama will be in a position to have his shirttail on fire, his back to the wall, and the bill collector at the door. Which is metaphorically a way of saying he's almost guaranteed -- if this goes through -- to have a serious challenge in a Democratic primary for president in 2012.”
According to Matt Lewis, the President has about a six-month window to flip the perception that he “won’t fight for anything” before major Democratic contributors start shopping around for a 2012 alternative. Of Course, Ted Kennedy’s primary challenge of Jimmy Carter in 1980 is the template the Idiot Punditocracy will seize upon as a narrative for disaster with a split in the Democratic Party which will hand the election to the generic Republican candidate. The problem with this predictable analysis is that the generic Republican is not Ronald Reagan. It’s rather doubtful that even had Kennedy sat out the 1980 election and thrown his support to Carter it would be enough for the unpopular president to  defeat Reagan.

Second, this President’s craven compromise enhances the probability of a third-party independent challenge. From the Left, one could easily envision a challenge to the President by Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a socialist. From the center-right, New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg, with his unlimited personal wealth, is probably contemplating an independent presidential race much more seriously today than he was a week ago, or before November 2. 

Possible top-tier Democratic challengers place defeated Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold at the very top of the list. Feingold may have lost his star power in his home state but remains a stalwart favorite of progressives for his independence and principled positions. Defeated Ohio Governor Ted Strickland is another possible challenger. His unusually harsh criticism of the President, similar to Ted Kennedy's criticism of Carter in 1980, came as a surprise to Democratic insiders. Strickland's favorite son base in "big state" Ohio gives him an instant electoral springboard advantage over other contenders. Finally, there is always the tantalizing if unlikely possibility that Hillary might be “drafted” and convinced to  challenge the President if his political fortunes take a nosedive in the next six months. To make it happen, a high-level delegation of Democratic Party elders would prevail upon Hillary to run "for the good of the country" with Bill Clinton pulling the strings in the background.

This is no longer the idle speculation that it was after the Democrats' Nov. 2 drubbing. Ultimately, President Obama has no one to blame but himself for the growing buzz within restive and angry Democratic ranks of a primary challenge. In politics, perception is reality. And the perception today is that the President has capitulated to Republicans and, worse, the nagging suspicion among progressives that Mr. Obama is a risk-averse conciliator who negotiates from a position of weakness and is unlikely to stand up to the GOP in the looming political battles ahead.

Monday, December 06, 2010

GOTCHA! Wingnut Media Is All A-GAGA Over Obama "Deal"

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.

Most creative explanation in liberal talk radio for President Obama's capitulation: He's running for the REPUBLICAN nomination for President!

This Time Matthews GROSSLY Misrepresents Frank Rich of The New York Times

In discussing President Obama's capitulation with his pals at POLITICO Chris Matthews SLIMED Frank Rich, the erudite New York Times columnist, by claiming Rich was comparing the President to Ralph Kramden of the Honeymooners (FALSE, the analogy was to NJ Governor Chris Christie) and playing "theater director" (whatever that means). This is what Rich ACTUALLY said, in context, which Matthews rarely provides. The key graph is the last one, in italics (added for emphasis) in which Rich EXPLICITLY states that no one "expects Obama to imitate Christie's [Kramden, in Matthews's confused and irrational dialectic] in-your-face, bull-in-the-china-shop shtick." So the "theater director" put-down is a total low blow on Matthews's part:
Christie’s popularity among national right-wing activists and bloggers has been stoked by a viral YouTube video where he dresses down a constituent in a manner that recalls Ralph Kramden sending Alice “to the moon.” But the core of Christie’s appeal at home is that he explains passionately held views in concrete, plain-spoken detail. Voters know what he stands for and sometimes respect him for his forthrightness even when they reject the stands themselves. This extends to his signature issue — his fiscal and rhetorical blows against public education. He’s New Jersey’s most popular statewide politician despite the fact that a 59 percent majority in the state thinks public schools deserve more taxpayer money, not less.

G.O.P. propagandists notwithstanding, Christie’s appeal does not prove that New Jersey (and therefore the country) has “turned to the right.” It does prove that people want a leader with a strong voice, even if only to argue with it.

No one expects Obama to imitate Christie’s in-your-face, bull-in-the-china-shop shtick. But they have waited in vain for him to stand firm on what matters to him and to the country rather than forever attempting to turn non-argumentative reasonableness into its own virtuous reward.
"Ralph Kramden" where, Chris? Shame on you. Imbecile.

The Buck Stops With ... Speaker Nancy Pelosi

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is reportedly "very unhappy" with the imminent deal to be struck between the Capitulator-in-Chief and spineless Senate Democrats with the Republican minority on extending tax cuts for the rich. This House has to ratify anything the Senate agrees to. Capitulating to Republican demands is nothing for the President compared to real negotiations with Speaker Pelosi to convince her to go along with his craven deal. Wouldn't you like to be a fly on that wall?

In the meantime, Chris Matthews hosted another disgraceful gabfest with fellow elitist insiders making self-serving arguments about all the smart reasons THEIR tax cuts should be retained. This guy's bullshit knows no limit (beginning with a rehash of the "every man a king" elitist myth using as an example the ONLY country in the developed world, Great Britain, whose upward mobility is worse than the U.S.*; then citing a partisan "outlier" Gallup poll released on the cusp of the tax debate with bogus figures to make his bogus point; calling the NY Daily News a "liberal" publication; this the newspaper owned by plutocrat Mort Zuckerman, last seen on MSNBC's Ed Show whining about how mean Obama was to the rich; the newspaper that endorsed George W. Bush in 2004 passes for "liberal" in Chris's head) not to speak of the glaring omission in his AIDS day comment of the Catholic Church's backward and destructive role in 40 years of the AIDS epidemic, only now in the 21st century stepping into the 20th with the Pope saying, Oh okay maybe we were wrong to oppose condoms to prevent AIDS — Chris Matthews's bullshit in these representative examples encapsulates much of what is wrong with the media today.

One of his early promos, which echoed an email of mine, is that news and commentary should be about educating the viewer. Sadly, the teaching moments are few and far between. As for "yelling from their gut and calling people names," as usual Matthews has it all wrong. The model isn't Ralph Kramden, it's Harry Truman. And you cannot anticipate what's going to happen will redound to the President and the Democrats' disadvantage. That's intellectually dishonest, and it results in paralysis of analysis. Guess what, Chris. The other alternative is that Republicans back down, that the American people rally round a President with backbone who is willing to fight for them on principle. Hmm, let's see, what's the teachable example? Ah, the election of 1948 in which Harry Truman vetoed a slew of Republican bills, then ran against the "do-nothing Congress" to win the greatest presidential electoral upset in history.

 Who are YOU, Mr. Matthews, to claim the economy is going to Hell if the President doesn't cave? Where did you get your economics degree? Are you a smarter economist than Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman, whose column today is "LET'S NOT MAKE A DEAL?" How about David Stockman, Reagan's former budget director, a conservative who said the other night on Olbermann's show the President should quite simply wield the veto pen and USE IT. In announcing this craven compromise the President struck the right TONE once the horses had left the barn. As if addressing Krugman directly, the President said two million unemployed losing their benefits at the end of the month "is not an abstraction." That's powerful argument if one believes the President fought as hard as he could for the unemployed. For him to come out at the 11th hour and say it, just doesn't cut it.

Mr. Obama should have done this from the very beginning to exact a price from Republicans instead of schmoozing the bastards with dinner at the White House then during a sit-down with Colin Powell breezily dismissing the "negotiations" as posturing for a deal that had already been worked out. At least the President sounded a little bit pissed at the Republicans for working him over like a piƱata. Well, golly gee-whiz.

One more thing, Chris. Your emphasis on the liberal bloggers taking a 'machismo' line is OFFENSIVE to those of us who feel strongly about this and, unlike you, take principled and not self-serving positions. So why don't you take your tax cut for millionaires, Mr. Matthews, and go on a two-month safari to Africa. It's winter now and hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens will be wanting for shelter and enough to feed their families. Better yet, do us a favor, and take a three-month safari. You can afford it.
*A CAP study of 2006 found that:
By international standards, the United States has an unusually low level of intergenerational mobility… Among high-income countries for which comparable estimates are available, only the United Kingdom had a lower rate of mobility than the United States.

If President Obama Were More Like Harry Truman, Part II

The President would address the nation and say:

"My fellow Americans:

When I campaigned on a pledge to end the Bush tax cuts for the top two percent millionaires and billionaires and a return to the rates that were in force under President Clinton, it was not a question of ideology but of fairness to the hard-hit middle class, and more important, of what is best for the country. Adding another $100 billion to our deficit is unsustainable. The damage done to our economy from these irresponsible fiscal policies enacted under the previous administration is enormous. 

As your President, I will not acquiesce with the party whose policies drove us into this economic ditch in perpetuating those failed policies. Our economy is too fragile and we cannot afford to borrow more money from our creditors overseas to give the richest two percent a tax cut they do not need. As your President, it is my responsibility to stay the course toward economic recovery and build on the progress we have already made. 

It's time for the minority party to act responsibly and compromise to give all Americans a tax cut we can afford on incomes of up to $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples. The top two percent will pay a modest tax on incomes above these levels. This is a fair compromise that both parties should agree to for the good of the nation. A recent poll shows  53 percent of the American people support this policy while 14 percent favor letting the tax cuts expire altogether. That is an overwhelming 67 percent of the American people who oppose the intransigent Republican posture of extending tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires we cannot afford to give. 

Let me be clear. Any bill that reaches this desk that does not include a cap on tax cuts for the top two percent as I have outlined, and does not also include an extension of unemployment insurance benefits for two million Americans whose benefits expire at the end of the year, will be subject to [opens drawer and pulls out presidential pen] a presidential veto. 

I sincerely hope it will not come to this, but no one should question my resolve. I appeal to the Republican leadership to act responsibly, for the good of the country.

God bless you and God Bless the United States of America.

President Barack Obama 

This is fiction, I know. The reality is this President is about to sign on to a craven "compromise" with the Republicans to extend tax cuts for the rich for another two years in exchange for releasing two million unemployed Americans held hostage by Republicans. And that clown, Newt Gingrich had the gall to say the Democrats are playing "class warfare?" That's their default position, a kind of Orwellian doublespeak to neutralize the argument. The "class warfare" is being waged by the Republican Party against the middle class.

Senator Robert Menendez is right to equate negotiating with Republicans to "negotiating with terrorists." Stretching the metaphor to its logical path, Frank Rich of the New York Times speculates the President is suffering from a form of the 'Stockholm Syndrome'. If the President cannot draw a line in the sand now, when he still has Democratic majorities in both chambers of Congress, what happens when the new Republican Congress is sworn in next year?

It's so outrageous to see these Republican bullies, "successful blackmailers" says the New York Times, roll the President, the Democratic Party and the nation, without a fight. Here's what you do, here's what Harry Truman would do: JUST SAY NO! Stand up to bullies and THEY WILL BACK DOWN!


Sunday, December 05, 2010

Bill Maher, As Usual, Is Spot-ON

For Those Holdouts Who Think We've Been Too Hard on The President ...

Here's what the Gray Lady's been saying lately, after Krugman now Frank Rich, too:
Mr. Obama still seems coolly unperturbed about Republican intransigence, and his negotiators are apparently willing to consider trading an extension of the tax cuts for votes on the treaty and the unemployment benefits, now more vital than ever. But imagine if he had taken to the airwaves, raised his voice and said he would not allow tax cuts for the top 2 percent of households when the money could better be spent on creating jobs?

There are limits to this kind of jawboning, of course, and he might still have lost the battle. But at least the public would know the president has core positions. Unlike the complexities of health care reform, a tax cut for the rich is easy to understand at a time of high unemployment. A new CBS News poll shows that only 26 percent of Americans support continuing the high-end tax break, which in the 2008 campaign Mr. Obama unambiguously vowed to end.

In the absence of presidential leadership, the Republicans have a much stronger hand. The dismal November jobs report, which showed that average wages grew by a Scrooge-like penny an hour and unemployment rose to 9.8 percent from 9.6 percent, made unemployment benefits a more valuable hostage.

This need not have happened if Mr. Obama and Congressional Democrats had forcefully asserted their agenda before the midterm election and held a vote on the tax cuts. Now, if Democratic negotiators are going to trade the jobless benefits and the New Start treaty for the high-end tax cuts, they should at least ensure that expiring tax credits for low- and middle-income working Americans from the stimulus program also be extended.

It may be that Mr. Obama still believes that bipartisan gestures can overcome extreme policy differences. But the rest of Washington woke up from that dream long ago. It has become a snare. Mr. Obama will have to spend the next two years contesting an implacable opposition. It would be a terrible mistake to begin by offering up core principles.

New York Times Editorial, Dec. 3, 2010
Frank Rich is less diplomatic in his language. He posits the President is being held hostage by Republicans and suffering from the 'Stockholm Syndrome' of identifying with his captors:
THOSE desperate to decipher the baffling Obama presidency could do worse than consult an article titled “Understanding Stockholm Syndrome” in the online archive of The F.B.I. Law Enforcement Bulletin. It explains that hostage takers are most successful at winning a victim’s loyalty if they temper their brutality with a bogus show of kindness. Soon enough, the hostage will start concentrating on his captors’ “good side” and develop psychological characteristics to please them — “dependency; lack of initiative; and an inability to act, decide or think.”