Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Lawrence Unplugged: Decoding The Decoder

The Politics Of Arrogance And Condescension . . . Last Friday Lawrence O’Donnell became Larry-O yet again, just when I thought that obnoxious Lawrence was buried. For some unfathomable reason, Lawrence used the President’s presser as the vehicle to double-down on his weird theories about the President’s superior political skills while lecturing his audience —he called us “civilians” — on how government really works.

Lawrence renewed his disdain for the liberal blogosphere, netroots progressives, and others on the left who are skeptical of the President’s commitment to protect Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. As if we didn’t have cause. This “professional” political analyst who brags of 1990s inside knowledge of the “politics of governing” and made the hapless Tim Pawlenty his top choice to win the Republican nomination — yup, Ti-Paw or should I say, typo — doubled down on his ridiculous portrait of President Obama as a brilliant, Machiavellian political chessmaster who would think nothing of placing the Big Three (Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid) on the chopping block in a $4 trillion cut & slash package in exchange for modest tax increases because he knew a priori it couldn't pass. Lawrence postulates the President has god-like powers of divination that the Republican leaders could never take the deal or control their caucuses.

Well, now it seems the Gang of six Seven, once another Republican senator, Lamar Alexander, joined the corporatist Democrats, reconvened to re-propose the President's "Big Deal." The new nomenclature for right wing DINO corporatist reactionary “Democrats” is the “adults in the room,” according to Chris and Lawrence-the-faux-liberal/socialist and the Idiot Punditocracy. Interestingly, the most liberal Democrat in the room, my Senator Dick Durbin said, hopefully I think, because it’s such a raw deal for the people, that their plan will not be ready for prime time by the August 2 deadline.

Typical of how these things work, the Democrats who hold the White House and the Senate majority were outnumbered in the “Gang of Seven” four-three, sort of like the Supreme Court. What kind of deal can we expect from these right wing corporatists, hmm? President Obama was enthused. He lectured kids on the "politics of governing" that you can never get 100 percent of what you want. The President will push hard on our behalf for about 40. And it looks like Lawrence has pie on his face. (Of course, the deal has a 50-50 chance or less of passage, so Lawrence may end up claiming victory with another West Wing episode.) But the real adults know better. Even his suck-up guest Jonathan Alter wouldn’t go as far in The West Wing direction; the part where he said he disagreed with Lawrence was redacted from the transcript:
“I think [President Obama] was genuine when he wanted a big deal because it would create a sense of certainty that could help boost the economy in the next several months, which would help his reelection.”
[APPLAUSE] Yay, Jonathan. You can still be somewhat objective about Mr. Obama. Put your head together with Frank Rich, who gave Lawrence his hang-dog look, and you might yet be objective. The President is enthused about signing on to the package. Meaning, if he does, his legacy would forever be that of the first Democratic President to sink a dagger into the heart of the New Deal. I think he’s OK with that.

Larry-O's Pearls of Wisdom . . . Excerpted, from Lawrence, unhinged, lecturing his audience:
O‘DONNELL: OK, for people who want to believe every word Barack Obama is true, my Republican friends have said they are not willing to do revenues. My Republican friends—you know he doesn’t have any Republican friends. This press conference today is filled with language like that, political language, that isn‘t in any important way actually true.
Um, Lawrence FYI, when I wrote on this blog you were our “friend,” I was being ironic. Anyone in your dwindling audience, as you persist in turning viewers off, knows that “my Republican friends” is neither unique to the President or Democrats nor uncommon. It is a vestige of the institutional comity of our legislative branch, particularly among senators. Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders typically prefaces his harsh attacks on Republicans with “my Republican friends”... President Truman set the standard for irony, by saying “if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” Next.

The president‘s willingness to discuss raising the retirement age in Medicare or Social Security has met rage from some who don‘t know that the eligibility age of Social Security has already been raised, that a gradual increase of a retirement age was enacted in 1983, increasing the full retirement age from 65 to 67, and that increase had the support of liberals in the House and the Senate.
By conflating Social Security and Medicare, two complementary but different programs (the first is a government retirement benefit and the second provides health care for seniors), O’Donnell makes a sophistic argument that insults his audience’s intelligence. The President not only expressed his willingness to “discuss raising the retirement age in Medicare and Social Security,” he actually proposed raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67, according to USA Today which cited Eric Cantor as a (dubious) source but also Sam Stein of the Huffington Post, who noted categorically:
According to five separate sources with knowledge of negotiations — including both Republicans and Democrats — the president offered an increase in the eligibility age for Medicare, from 65 to 67, in exchange for Republican movement on increasing tax revenues.
As for Social Security, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (S.C.) was joined by two Teabaggers, Rand Paul (Ky.) and Mike Lee (Utah) who unveiled a plan to raise the Social Security retirement age to 70, and means-test it by cutting benefits to the wealthy. They falsely claim Social Security is "broken" although it would remain solvent on its current trajectory for the next 26 years.
"The senators said that their plan would gradually raise the retirement age from 67 to 70 and would not affect individuals age 56 or older. Graham said that the proposal uses the same formula Congress used to raise the retirement age from 65 to 67, so that people born in 1970 would become the first group to have a retirement age of 70. The early retirement age would also go from 62 to 64 by 2032."
These aren’t just negotiating points from Larry-O’s imagination — they are concrete GOP proposals embraced by President Obama to effectively begin undoing the New Deal under the guise of addressing our deficit. ‘Traitor’ Joe Lieberman and Republican Tom Coburn (a member of the Gang of Seven) propose to increase the Medicare eligibility age, now 65, for two months each year, beginning with people born in 1949, until it reaches 67 in 2025. The age would then remain 67. Despite Larry-O’s misleading and illogical rant, this increase in Medicare’s eligibility was not part of the Social Security Amendments of 1983, but it’s been kicked around by Republicans for years.

This is what I wrote on the President’s presser; I specifically referred to Medicare, and was careful not to conflate it with Social Security:
The President reiterated that he wants the "big deal" and it's still possible to cut it. He also said it will only require "modest changes" to entitlements, throwing out the dreaded code for major slash-and-burn (depending on one's definition of what's necessary) that "current beneficiaries" will not be affected. Emphasis on CURRENT. Translation: The President is on board with means-testing Medicare and raising the eligibility age from 65 to 67.
I cannot speak for liberals on the blogosphere, but it seems to me Lawrence is the one who is confusing the two in order to make a specious point about progressives. He continues his childish attacks, dripping with condescension:
Some of the new-found liberal defenders of Social Security that will reject any discussions of any adjustments in the program to maintain insolvency were voting Republican back in the ‘80s when the retirement age was raised or were not voting at all, not even bothering to register to vote. Some, of course, were not yet of voting age. They are all capable of getting up to speed on these issues reasonably quickly, but until they know more history, until they know where we have been, they will not have any comprehension of where we might be going.
I'll tell you. One of the reasons I still have faith in this country is that young people who were born after Larry-O's arbitrary Age of Reason, would so valiantly fight for programs they came to know of through their parents and grandparents. Most of the progressives I know have never missed a vote and have done great grassroots work registering other young people to vote. Republicans? I don't think so.

The reference to history is scatter-shot and idiotic. I don't know to whom Lawrence refers, since it's so obvious that the history-challenged aren't liberals and progressives but the wingnut zombie imbeciles in RightWingVille. In fact, I would argue that what distinguishes the right from the left, liberals from conservatives, is that our knowledge and understanding of history is much deeper than theirs.
The president’s been attacked today for considering the means testing of Medicare, as you heard him describe, the possibility of rich people like him paying a little more on premiums or co-pays on Medicare. As rich people on Medicare already know, that‘s nothing new, they already pay more. The president is willing to entertain a discussion in which they might pay even more. And suddenly some liberals have found what is, in effect, a small tax increase on the rich that they can oppose.
Really. I don't think we'd have much argument from those who follow the House that California Rep. Henry Waxman is probably its single most distinguished consumer advocate and an expert on so-called entitlements. Means-testing Medicare would not only change the nature of the program but could have severe unintended consequences. Would you trust Tom Coburn and Joe Lieberman proposing such a scheme? Here's Henry Waxman:
Further changes to Medicare at the expense of the wealthier or middle class seniors may push them to leave the program and end up with Medicare costing more because it would still have the sickest and poorest people left. In other words, this idea may undermine Medicare and cost beneficiaries more at the same time. Medicare is a social insurance program where you get back for paying in, whether you are middle class, poor, or rich. If Mr. Boehner wants to have the wealthy contribute more to deficit reduction, he should look to the tax code.
Lawrence takes great umbrage that Adam Green's Progressive Change Campaign Committee collected 200,000 signatures of former campaign contributors and workers warning that cuts in the Big Three would keep their campaign contributions and support at bay. Of course, with wealthy contributors like Jon Corzine and Lawrence himself, Mr. Obama may feel he does not need the grassroots this time around. Here's Lawrence crowing prematurely:
These protestors (Adam Greene's Progressive Change Campaign Committee — a "friend" of the show) are actually helping the president‘s negotiating position, strengthening it, as well as his public appearance of being reasonable in the eyes of independence and swing voters by adding credibility to statements like this.
No, 200,000 signatures indicate a great deal of unease in the base about this President's imminent sellout of the Big Three. As Big Eddie in his inimitable style advised the "basers," we should brace ourselves for bad news. We're hip. We know it don't come easy.

Finally, this bit of silliness from Larry-O:
The politics of governing are far more complex than the politics of campaigning. Indeed, it is the unwritten volume. There are a few great books out there about the politics of campaigning. There is not one about the politics of governing.
Really? Two books come to mind almost immediately: The Best And The Brightest, by the late, great David Halberstam, a compelling journalistic narrative of the "politics of governing" inside the JFK White House; and The Promise, by Lawrence's guest on the segment, Jonathan Alter. It is an inside account of President Obama's first year in office. Oops, had to be an oversight. Lawrence and Jonathan must have been too busy to notice as they jumped in the tank for Obama, stomping on those wine grapes to keep producing the nectar of their demigod.

Lawrence reminds me of a pretty good line from a cyberbullying TV movie I was watching: "Dude, check your ego. There's a lot more going on here."

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