Thursday, June 30, 2011

Mr. Subliminal? Bubba Big Dog Praises Michele Bachmann ...

A day or so after Michele Bachmann accused the media of wanting "to see two girls come together and have a mud wrestling fight, and I am not going to give that to them" (mud-wrestle Sarah Palin) ... Bill Clinton created a mini-buzz within the punditocracy by praising Bachmann: "I've been watching her speak at some of these conventions on ESPN, [?] you know, she comes across as a real person."

What's he up to? They asked, speculating that he wanted to help the White House and remain relevant by messin' with the Republican field. Hmm ... Maybe. Or ... maybe not so much?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Channeling His "Inner Truman"? Not Quite Yet.

Somehow, a presser delivers more punch than a tweet or an e-mail. President Obama delivered his strongest rebuke of Congress to date telling them to "get to work" and "get this (agreement on the debt ceiling) done" from the bully pulpit of the presidential press conference. The President tried to shame Congress into action by noting that his two daughters, 10 and 13, do their homework one day ahead of time.

Politically, it was an astute remark sure to rankle Republicans, casting him as the adult in the room, his children as responsible young people, and the Republicans as ... well, thumb-sucking infants? President Obama also drew a line in the sand — of sorts — slamming Republicans for protecting tax breaks for “millionaires and billionaires, oil companies and corporate jet owners” implying he will not tolerate such antics at the expense of Medicare, education, food safety, and weather forecasting, among other essential government investments.

But the President also said some things that do not inspire confidence in the liberal "elites" as the trenchantly quotable Chuck Todd described the base. (To Chuck, who harks from Miami, hotbed of right wing conspiracies, the liberal "elites" must seem like the vanguard of a Marxist revolution.) Concerns remain over whether the President will stand strong against the Republicans, as Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders persistently pleaded, when they dig in their heels and prepare to push off the precipice, taking the country and the world along for the fall. As of now, the scuttlebutt in Republican circles is the President will "cave." Despite this press conference, the GOP hostage takers have reason to be more than confident, cocky, that once again they'll transform President Obama into the doormat on which their radical right wing policy prescriptions will stomp.

As usual, the President treated his liberal/progressive base as a whackin' piñata to curry favor with Independents and the Beltway types, or as Savannah Guthrie noted, people of Chris Cilizza's "ilk," by throwing out the gratuitous line that he'll make some tough choices sure to have his base give him "a hard time." Shameless but we're used to it. Still, except for the examples cited above, the President was fuzzy on the specifics of any agreement, other than a broad "balanced solutions" bullshit.

This business site implies the President is willing to swap the specified revenue increases for $600 billion in Medicare cuts proposed by right wing senators Tom Coburn and "Independent" TRAITOR Joe Lieberman. THIS MUST BE A COMPLETE NON-STARTER FOR DEMOCRATS. The notion that the embittered Joe Lieberman will exit the Senate having stuck ANOTHER KNIFE IN OUR BACKS is totally beyond the pale. Take heed, Mr. President. If you cave to the Coburn-Lieberman proposal there will be HELL TO PAY WITH YOUR BASE. You cannot afford another "enthusiasm gap" in 2012.

Curiously, the President was "very amused" at critics (Mitch McConnell) who said he must "lead" on this issue. He ticked off a litany of presidential activites which included lengthy meetings with the leaders of both parties, caucuses, working groups, etc., none of which the public outside the Beltway were privy to, as an illustration of his engagement with the issues on a semi-granular level — and presidential leadership.

With all due respect, Mr. President, that's the Jimmy Carter excuse. President Carter is remembered not only for ineffective leadership but getting into the weeds on every issue, often to the annoyance of Congress. President Obama has yet to decide whether to be aloof or engaged. The right answer is to take his case to the people, Harry Truman-style. Mr. President, these Republicans will not hand you a "win" even if it's the country that wins. Conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks analyzed the President's leadership style this way:
"Far from being a heroic quasi Napoleon who runs the country from the Oval Office, Obama has been a delegator and a convener. He sets the agenda, sketches broad policy outlines and then summons some Congressional chairmen to dominate the substance. This has been the approach with the stimulus package, the health care law, the Waxman-Markey energy bill, the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill and, so far, the Biden commission on the budget.

As president, Obama has proved to be a very good Senate majority leader — convening committees to do the work and intervening at the end.

All his life, Obama has worked in nonhierarchical institutions — community groups, universities, legislatures — so maybe it is natural that he has a nonhierarchical style. He tends to see issues from several vantage points at once, so maybe it is natural that he favors a process that involves negotiating and fudging between different points of view.

Still, I would never have predicted he would be this sort of leader. I thought he would get into trouble via excessive self-confidence. Obama’s actual governing style emphasizes delegation and occasional passivity. Being led by Barack Obama is like being trumpeted into battle by Miles Davis. He makes you want to sit down and discern."
While I disagree with David's self-serving analogy — the alternative is not liberals pleading with the President to be more like Howard Dean, whatever that means, but more like Harry Truman — his analysis of the President's leadership style has merit. For the President to mention all those meetings he attended is enough to make non-politico eyes glaze over with inside Washington-speak. President Obama whiffed on many levels with this definition of leadership — a variation on, '90 percent of life is showing up'.

Frankly, what David Brooks hopes for President Obama is what most concerns liberals and progressives:
"If he can overcome his aloofness and work intimately with Republicans, he may be able to avert a catastrophe and establish a model for a more realistic, collegial presidency."
The President, in his presser, leaned in this direction, which I'm sure warmed David's heart. “Call me naïve,” said President Obama, “but my expectation is leaders are going to lead.” Okay, Mr. President. Regarding this Republican Congress and this GOP leadership, we’re calling you naïve.

Anchoring NBC's coverage of the presidential presser, Brian Williams remarked on an e-mail he received that said the President was "channeling his inner Harry Truman." Not quite. It might yet come to this, but Harry Truman invoked his presidential authority to covene a special session of Congress:
"On 27 occasions, presidents have called both houses into session to deal with a crisis. The most recent of these special sessions -- and the first one since 1856 -- met at the behest of President Harry S. Truman on this day in 1948.

With less than four months remaining before Election Day, Truman's approval rating stood at 36 percent. His GOP opponent, New York Gov. Thomas Dewey, looked like a sure winner.

So in search of a bold political gesture, the president turned to the provision in the Constitution that allows the president "on extraordinary occasions" to convene one or both houses of Congress. And Congress at that time was controlled by the GOP.

In accepting the Democratic presidential nomination at 1:45 a.m. in a stifling Philadelphia convention hall, Truman stunned delegates by calling on the Republican majority to live up to its party platform by passing laws that bolstered civil rights, extended Social Security and created a national health care program. "They can do this job in 15 days if they want to do it," he said.

Republicans reacted with scorn. Sen. Arthur Vandenberg (R-Mich.) said, "No good can come to the country from a special session of Congress which obviously stems solely from political motives." Nevertheless, some key GOP figures -- including Vandenberg -- favored action to widen the party's electoral appeal.

The gesture went only so far when Sen. Robert Taft (R-Ohio), chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, accused Truman of abusing his presidential prerogatives and blocked all votes.

That decision presented Truman with a campaign theme: He railed against the "do-nothing 80th Congress." Against all odds, Truman went on to win in November in a four-way race against Dewey, Strom Thurmond of South Carolina and former Vice President Henry Wallace."
President Truman stood his ground against a Republican Congress and pushed back HARD, TAKING HIS CASE TO THE PEOPLE. As a result he won the presidency in the greatest upset in the history of presidential elections and reclaimed his Democratic majorities. That's presidential leadership. Will President Obama be Harry Truman or ... Jimmy Carter? The jury's still out.


The New York Times, widely seen by those in the know, with derision by the conservative Beltway Idiot Punditocracy or fearful contempt by the wingnut propaganda machine as an instrument of imagined left wing conspiracies and paragon, epitome, archetype of “liberal media” bias, published a fawning orgasmic profile of right wing “blogger provocateur” Andrew Breitbart, recalling the hero-worship masturbatory coverage of Paul Ryan by stimulated Beltway bacchanalists. Amid breathless descriptions of Breitbart’s physicality, his “jowly” face — “as he barreled his husky, 6-foot-1 frame through the halls of the Hilton”— the aroused reporter dropped this bit of defamatory falsehood, because, you know, those poverty-stricken ACORN people can’t touch the Times:
"Some of his reader-generated scoops have reverberated all the way to the halls of the United States Capitol, like the Weiner photos and undercover video he released of Acorn workers offering advice on how to evade taxes and conceal child prostitution. After the videos went viral Congress ended grants to Acorn, and federal agencies severed ties with the group."
California's Attorney General, now Governor Jerry Brown, had a different view of events. This is from the AG's press release, after looking into the same videos and exonerating ACORN of any criminal misconduct:
"Evidence obtained by Brown tells a somewhat different story, however, as reflected in three videotapes made at ACORN locations in California. One ACORN worker in San Diego called the cops. Another ACORN worker in San Bernardino caught on to the scheme and played along with it, claiming among other things that she had murdered her abusive husband. Her two former husbands are alive and well, the Attorney General's report noted. At the beginning and end of the Internet videos, O'Keefe was dressed as a 1970s Superfly pimp, but in his actual taped sessions with ACORN workers, he was dressed in a shirt and tie, presented himself as a law student, and said he planned to use the prostitution proceeds to run for Congress. He never claimed he was a pimp."

"The evidence illustrates," Brown said, "that things are not always as partisan zealots portray them through highly selective editing of reality. Sometimes a fuller truth is found on the cutting room floor."
Evidently, the cutting room floor evidence that would exonerate ACORN from Breitbart's despicable smear didn't make the cut with this Times article, either. Interestingly, while the ACORN double down hit job by the Times was ignored (because poor people do not have the means to sue), the following  misrepresentation regarding Shirley Sherrod, whose lawsuit against Breitbart is moving through the courts, was expeditiously addressed by the Times editors:
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: June 29, 2011

An article on Monday about the conservative author and blogger Andrew Breitbart described incorrectly the reaction of an N.A.A.C.P. audience to a remark by Shirley Sherrod, a black Agriculture Department official. In a short video clip of the speech, which Mr. Breitbart released as evidence that Ms. Sherrod acknowledged not helping a white farmer, some audience members nodded and murmured in apparent approval; they did not applaud, although Mr. Breitbart stated that they did. (The full video showed that Ms. Sherrod’s speech was about overcoming racial prejudice, and that she did go to great lengths to help the white farmer.)

Founding Fathers "TIRELESSLY" Fight Slavery As "Founding Father" John Quincy Adams, 9, PUKES

During the momentous days of July 1776 in America, the birth of a nation was at hand. Delegates to the Continental Congress gathered to debate Thomas Jefferson’s immortal Declaration of Independence. The “ringing climax” of the document, an indictment of King George for the horrors of the slave trade — a Republican-style stretch — was the first to be deleted. South Carolina and Georgia objected. (Gee, sounds awfully familiar … racism down through the ages.) Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, a master of moral compartmentalization, was defensive about his Southern brethren's embrace of slavery: Some Northern delegates were “a little tender” on the issue too, he said later, “for though their people have very few slaves themselves yet they had been pretty considerable carriers …”

Historian David McCullough wrote of the state of slavery in America at the time of the Declaration of Independence:
“In truth, black slavery had long since become an accepted part of life in all of the thirteen colonies. Of a total population in the colonies of nearly 2,500,000 people in 1776, approximately one in five were slaves, some 500,000 men, women, and children. In Virginia alone, which had the most slaves by far, they numbered more than 200,000. There was no member of the Virginia delegation who did not own slaves, and of all members of Congress at least a third owned or had owned slaves. The total of Thomas Jefferson’s slaves in 1776, as near as can be determined from his personal records, was about 200, which was also the approximate number owned by George Washington.” ~ Emphasis mine. From David McCullough's John Adams (It's a great read. Try it sometime, Michele. You might learn something.)
Even opponents of slavery did not escape its stain. Benjamin Franklin had once owned two house slaves and had traded in slaves from his Market Street print shop, advertising “a likely wench of about 15 years old.” To his everlasting credit, John Adams had never owned slaves nor hired slaves of others to work on his farm. He called it “a foul contagion in the human character.” But as an attorney in slave cases he had always represented the slave master, never the slave. Jefferson, as we have seen, was of two equally contradictory minds, perfectly reconciled by his awesome intellect with tortured but elegant rationalizations.

Meanwhile, as America experienced its birthing pangs in Congress assembled in Philadelphia, PA, hundreds of miles to the north in Braintree, MA, Abigail gathered up the Adams clan and headed for Boston to get her children inoculated for smallpox. Among them was NINE-YEAR-OLD “FOUNDING FATHER” John Quincy Adams whose inoculation ordeal went largely unreported, although Abigail said “The little folks are very sick then and puke every morning, but after that they are comfortable.”

The fantastical claim by fantasy “historian” Michele Bachmann that the Founding Fathers “worked tirelessly” to end slavery isn’t only an absurd invention but, in factual historical terms, the exact opposite of the Founding Fathers’ failure to substantively tackle slavery head-on. In today’s terminology, their prevarications and moral timidity would be called “kicking the can down the road” or “caving” to the powerful commercial interests in the Southern states as well as in Northern ports like Boston whose economy depended on the slave trade. The risk of dissolution of our young republic and fragile union was too great in the minds of the Founding Fathers, mostly from the Northern states, who actually opposed slavery, to take a principled stand in favor of abolition.

So they kicked the can down the road for a couple of generations, for Lincoln and his contemporaries to deal with, at the cost of 600,000 lost American lives. Yet the Founding Fathers’ legacy remained largely intact; secession and civil war didn’t happen on their watch. It may be a comforting fantasy for Teabaggers to contemplate our founding history as an “immaculate conception” and our founders as saintly Christian demi-gods.



The TRUTH, though, is different and far more compelling. Our Founding Fathers were flawed human beings, which to my mind renders their achievement all the more spectacular. And despite his original AMERICAN SIN, Thomas Jefferson remains my favorite Founding Father … Because, I think while he was of his time, he was, innately a decent man, with lasting transcendental qualities that soften the sin. And he wrote so beautifully.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Michele Bachmann Announces In WATERLOO, Iowa ... Uh-Oh

The presidential hopeful — who was born and grew up in Waterloo as a child before moving to Minnesota — said, "Well, what I want them to know is just like, John Wayne was from Waterloo, Iowa. That's the kind of spirit that I have, too."

The Washington Times points out one slight problem with the Tea Party favorite's remarks: The John Wayne with roots in Waterloo is John Wayne Gacy, a serial killer who was executed by lethal injection in 1994 after being convicted of 33 murders.

John Wayne — the late movie star, director and producer — was born in Winterset, Iowa, but appears to have no specific connection to Waterloo.

And, of course, one cannot overlook the PREGNANT SYMBOLISM of launching a presidential campaign from WATERLOO, a name forever synonymous with TOTAL, COMPLETE, CRUSHING DEFEAT of grandiose PROPORTIONS — be they military or political campaigns, or just about anything. It helps if one has Napoleonic delusions of grandeur, like for example, "GOD SPOKE TO ME AND TOLD ME TO MARRY MR. BACHMANN ... THEN HE SAID: RUN, BABY, RUN!"

Elvis Has Left The Courtroom, Heads For The BIG HOUSE!

Dedicated to Rod "ELVIS" Blagojevich:

MSNBC Revives Old FIRING LINE Format With Michael Steele On Hardball

I thought Jon Stewart had put that animal out of its misery. Stewart may be pressed into action again now that MSNBC in its infinite wisdom saw fit to hire the former GOP Chairman as a pundit. Naturally, given Steele's combative nature and his total immersion in partisan politics, the transition to "analyst" has been disastrous. I should add in the interest of balance I'm no big fan of former Democratic Chairman Ed Rendell, either. He may be marginally more candid than Steele but neither is going to impart any inside baseball info of any interest.

Meanwhile, we're denied the analysis of a sharp journalist like, e.g., Howard Fineman, who I'm pretty sure is far more attuned to the inner dynamics of the Republican field, including Michele Bachmann than Michael Steele is. For the very simple reason that whatever Steele knows, if anything (I doubt it), he's not telling.

Then Chris dropped the hilarious line that what transpires on his show is of educational value for young people wanting to go into politics. What we learned from Michael Steele:
  • Michele Bachmann didn't really mean to question the President's patriotism; we just didn't know that much about then-Senator Obama to form an opinion on whether he was a clear and present danger to the republic;
  • Amid "you guys" this and that (us "guys" liberals), it's now okay to use the pejorative "Democrat" for "Democratic" heard on MSNBC twice in so many days from wingnuts — the other being Daily Caller super-sophist Matt Lewis. Bashing the Democratic Party and telling lies about the President is OK, but just make sure to use its proper name. It's been around since Jefferson. Neither Matthews nor Cenk corrected their "guests." In Steele's case, shunning the juvenile partisanship should be a condition of employment;
  • Michele Bachmann is not a flake but she's made FLAKY statements (David Corn, a sharp progressive from Mother Jones who, as is our wont, has a low tolerance for bullshit);
  • The science isn't in on global warming ... WHAT!? (Matthews and Corn).

Suggest dropping Steele on Moron Joe — he'll find a receptive audience there. And MSNBC is running the ridiculous promo claiming Moron Joe is "revolutionary." Peas in a pod. For folks who like raucous, chaotic, anything goes political hardball, Steele has some entertainment value. Enlightening or educational? NADA.