Search result for 'Jane Hamsher'.

Jane Hamsher

Bush Administration

John at Crooks and Liars reports that Jane Hamsher is doing well after her recent surgery. Christy at firedoglake says she might be out of the ICU by tomorrow.

Miss Lucy, of course, commiserates. Miss Lucy is proof that with some TLC and plenty of attitude, a person (or cat, as it were) can come roaring back from breast cancer. The first few days after surgery is always a rough time, however, so keep sending Jane those healing thoughts.

Update: John at Crooks and Liars reports that Jane is out of the hospital entirely. Two days after major surgery and then dropped-kicked ot the door. Doncha love American health care?

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Did We Fail?


There’s a long conversation amongst leftie bloggers today over the failure of the progressive blog movement. My initial reaction was

1. There’s a progressive blog movement? (Well, yes, there was; see commentary below)
2. If we failed, precisely what did we fail at?

Much of this conversation was initiated by Ian Welsh, and let me say that Ian is a smart guy who, over the years, has been right about a few things that I misjudged. So I don’t want to be unnecessarily snarky here. If this topic interests you, here is the conversation thus far, by author, in sorta kinda chronological order:

Ian Welsh
Jerome Armstrong
John Cole (responding to Jerome Armstrong)
Booman (also responding to Jerome Armstrong)
Scott Lemieux (Responding to Ian Welsh and Jerome Armstrong)

With the caveat that I’m under big-time deadline pressure right now and don’t have time for the long and thoughtful post I’d like to write — A lot of good points are made by all authors, with the exception of Jerome Armstrong, who seems to think progressives should be joining forces with libertarians and Ron/Randbots. Um, no.

There was a time during the Bush Administration that progressive bloggers did seem to be a kind of movement, that we called Netroots, but this era of relative solidarity did not survive the 2008 primaries. Unlike others, I do not blame Barack Obama for that. It’s true that he did not cultivate the A-list bloggers as much as other candidates, such as Hillary Clinton, did, but he did speak at the Daily Kos convention in Chicago in 2007, so he didn’t ignore us entirely. I remember at the time there was a lot of buzz that the DK convention goers didn’t support him, but his break-out session was the first one to fill up. Lots of bullshit already was in the air, in other words.

What really killed the movement for me was the dismissive attitude of the kewl kids who were determined to make Hillary Clinton the nominee. Anyone who questioned their elite judgment was attacked as an “Obamabot.” I realize a lot of the Clinton supporters caught grief from the more rabid Obama supporters, but my impression was that the worst of the anti-Clinton snark was not coming from other bloggers. I found it impossible to have anything like a rational conversation with anyone, and even some actual fleshworld friendships did not survive the rancor. By the time the dust settled I considered myself out of the Netroots. I dropped out of the listservs and stopped cross-posting on other blogs. I also didn’t have the money after that to travel to conventions, anyway.

And as far as I’m concerned, that’s what ended the “movement.” But anyone who thinks Hillary Clinton represented True Progressivism and would have listened to us after she became President was deluded, IMO.

Now, is it true that we accomplished nothing? We did not become kingmakers, that’s for sure. But some of the candidates supported by large chunks of the blogosophere — Howard Dean and John Warner come to mind — were in most ways even less progressive than Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. So if the point was to elect more progressive candidates, even if we had succeeded, we would have failed.

I do think we helped make it possible to get a few progressive voices on national media. The biggest reason I started blogging in 2002 was that progressives were entirely absent from television and radio and mostly absent in print media as well. I was either going to yell at the television or blog, and I decided to blog. Now we have some presence in media, such as Rachel Maddow and Melissa Harris-Perry, and I think in an indirect way the strength of the progressive blogs helped made that possible. If nothing else it demonstrated that there were lots of people out there who were hungry more a more progressive perspective. Of course, news media still mostly suck.

There were many conversations back in the day of how the Netroots should relate to the Democratic Party. There was a general consensus that we must not be captured by the Democrats, but instead support more progressive candidates and work to push the Dems in a more progressive direction. In many ways the party has moved left at least a tad. There is much more robust support among Dems for reproductive rights, marriage rights, and economic populism than there was a decade ago. And I think progressive bloggers played a part in bringing those issues into our national political discourse.

However, I don’t blame Dems for wanting to keep us at arm’s length. More than anything else I think stunts like Jane Hamsher’s very visible and very hysterical anti-ACA campaign in 2009 and 2010 demonstrated that we couldn’t be counted on to support realistic and incremental progressive reform. Instead, too many of the A-listers harbored a completely fantastical notion that if we attacked the Democrats enough they would be scared into becoming more progressive.

In short, that was insane. And I still find it unfathomable how anyone bright enough to tie his own shoes could think that if the ACA had failed to pass, Congress would have opened its arms to single payer. Not on this planet.

So here we are, talking to ourselves, not influencing much of anything. I keep this blog going because I find it therapeutic, and I think some of you do, too, but I’m not kidding myself that I’m part of a movement any more.

Well, I’ve already gone on longer than I intended. Of the comments linked above, I second Athenae most of all. So for all the stuff I’m thinking and leaving out, read her.

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Is Truth Losing Its Liberal Bias?

liberalism and progressivism

Two weeks after the debunking of the rumor that the Department of Homeland Security co-ordinated the attacks on OWS encampments, Naomi Wolf publishes an article at The Guardian claiming that DHS was behind the attacks on OWS encampments. And no, she has no new evidence. She’s just pretending the old evidence wasn’t fabricated.

Via Angry Black Lady, please see Karoli, “How Bullshit Magically Turns Into Fact.”

Basically, Karoli documents that elements of the Left have gotten just as bad as most of the Right at taking hearsay, unsourced claims, quotes taken out of context, etc. etc., and spinning them into some reason why the Obama Administration Has Betrayed Us. And once these rumors are accepted on the Left as Revealed Truth, there’s not a dadblamed thing you can say or document to change people’s minds.

And this matters, Karoli says, because it the end, when people like Naomi Wolf, Jane Hamsher, Michael Moore (as much as I like him, he’s very fast and loose with facts sometimes), etc. etc., push this nonsense, the only people who benefit are the dreaded 1 percent.

We tend to exalt people who say things we want to hear, or who we know have been right about some things in the past, or who share our general outlook, so when such a person with a big public megaphone makes claims contrary to any provable fact we may overlook the lack of sourcing and accept what we’re told. But we’ve got to resist doing that, folks, because it’s hurting us more than helping us.

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Standing Applause

Obama Administration

Angry Black Lady speaks for me.

You see, on Wednesday I wrote a rant about the looming irrelevancy of the Professional Left aka firebaggers aka Obamabashbots. It was one in a series of screeds I have written about the destructive tactics of these self-appointed leaders of the left and their firebagger minions. It was also part of a collection of screeds written by liberals of all colors, each of whom views the attack dog tactics of the Professional Left (and the resulting rancor among the Professional Left Commentariat) as damaging to not only the President, but also the country. …

… Due to the growing sense that places like FireDogLake, Salon, and Daily Kos seemed more invested in endlessly criticizing the president than promoting a useful discussion about the ways in which liberals could advance their policy goals, people who were tired of surrounding themselves with nothing but negative commentary decided to branch off and form their own blogs. In these smaller communities, it is not considered a character flaw to express one’s support for the president. In these smaller communities, one does not have to qualify every expression of support for the president with “but I don’t agree with everything that he does.”

It is in these smaller communities that those of us who know how to walk and chew gum at the same time are able to support the president generally, while not supporting each of his policies specifically. It is in these smaller communities that people who, ironically, refuse to see everything in “black and white” are comfortable with infinite shades of gray.

Perhaps it is because of the smaller communities that have been formed over the last year that minorities who typically are ignored until we become convenient for political strategy have found our voice.

To be honest, I no longer feel connected to the Left Blogosphere community. Some of the rifts date back to the 2008 Dem primaries, when the “smart” people decided that only Hillary Clinton had a chance of winning the general election, and that those of us who preferred Barack Obama were “naive.” Or “emotional.” Or some such. This may provide a clue why so many of the same “smart” people morphed into Obamabashbots (love that).

These days, on some of the “big” sites, one may not say anything even mildly supportive of President Obama without being derided as an “Obamabot.” We may differ on which side the “bots” are on, however.

Angry Black Lady goes on to talk about the way some of the self-appointed spokespeople of the Left Blogosphere dismiss the concerns and opinions of us lesser folk who don’t get the ad revenue they do. I still haven’t gotten over the way financially comfortable Jane Hamsher, who has survived breast cancer because she had access to state of the art medical care, was so eager to kill the Affordable Care Act because it fell short of the ideal. If that Act hadn’t passed as it was, it’s insane to assume that Congress would have cranked out more progressive legislation before the new Congress took over. Killing the bill would have amounted to depriving millions of people of any hope of access to health care, possibly for many years.

When you’re the one who’s drowning, you really don’t appreciate the lifeguards wandering off to look for a better lifebuoy than the one they have at hand.

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Expect Insanity

abortion, Congress, Health Care, Obama Administration, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

First, everyone please call 1-888-876-6242. That’s the Families USA number that will route your pro-HCR phone call to your representative. Read about the right-wing threats against Families USA here.

Also, please note that the next several hours before tomorrow’s vote are going to be insane.

The anti-abortion block in the House remains the biggest threat. Steve Benen and Brian Beutler explain the contortions Nancy Pelosi is going through to get some of the Stupak gang on board. In a nutshell, the deal may be to allow for a separate vote on putting the Stupak amendment language back into the House bill.

Note that such a vote, if it happens, is extremely unlikely to pass, but that hasn’t stopped Jane Hamsher from using the issue to rally “progressives” against the bill.

Let us all reflect on how grand it is to have purity of principles when you’ve got plenty of money and insurance to pay for your cancer treatments.

Steve Benen writes that “There are still a few liberal Dems who voted for reform in November, including Massachusetts’ Stephen Lynch, who intend to vote with right-wing Republicans because they don’t see it as liberal enough.” If the more-progressive-than-thou types would stop grandstanding and get behind the bill, Pelosi wouldn’t need any of the Stupak votes. This is a wonderful example of how grandstanding is an indulgence progressives would be better off without most of the time.

If you aren’t disgusted enough yet, check out this Kate Pickert post at, which begins:

Marcelas Owens, a young boy who’s been appearing on TV and at press conferences with Democrats who are trying to sell their health care plan, is a new fascination for some right-wing pundits, who have been saying incredibly cruel things to and about the Owens’ family and tragic history. Owens’ mother died in 2007 of pulmonary hypertension – a rare condition that requires constant expensive medical care – after she lost her fast food restaurant job and her health insurance.

Pay special attention to the discussion in the comments on What Would Jesus Do about health care reform. My favorite:

Jesus wouldn’t go around forcing people to pay for someone else’s healthcare, either. Forced charity is theft, and it is not a Christian concept.

So who cares if a couple of talk-show hosts say something “mean” when the people they’re opposed to are committing evil?

In a just universe, the person who wrote that would spend eternity copying and re-copying the Beatitudes on parchment with a bad felt-tip pen.

Finally, Dana Milbank says a true thing — running on a promise to repeal health care reform is unlikely to be a successful strategy for Republicans.

Beyond that, it’s doubtful that opposition to the measure will ever again be as high as it is now. Fox News polling found that 45 percent of voters would favor repeal, while 47 percent say leave the reforms alone or add to them. With the big insurance subsidies years away, the initial changes stemming from the legislation would be relatively modest — and that should come as a surprise to an American public told by Republican foes of the legislation to expect a socialist takeover of the United States.

What Americans would see — or at least what Democratic ad makers say they’d put on Americans’ TV screens — are the benefits that would take effect this year: tax credits that encourage small businesses to offer health coverage; a $250 rebate to Medicare beneficiaries who hit the prescription-drug “donut hole” (the checks would start going out June 15); allowing young people up to age 26 to stay on their parents’ health policies; and, above all, a ban on refusing coverage to children with preexisting conditions.

There will certainly be ads this fall saying Republican Congressman X voted against tax breaks for small business and voted to deny Junior his life-saving treatments. These modest changes to the health system probably wouldn’t be widespread and noticeable enough to limit Democratic losses at a time of 10 percent unemployment. But, at the very least, voters would see nothing to justify the Republicans’ apocalyptic predictions.

I think that’s true, and I suspect enough of the troglodytes understand this is true, which is why they will stop at nothing to kill health care reform.

Update: I keep reading that there are something like 206 certain “yes” votes, and ten more are needed to pass. Wikipedia says there are 255 Dems in the House. If every Dem not in the Stupak gang would vote for the bill, then a compromise with Stupak would not be necessary to pass the bill. So why are people angry with Pelosi or Obama or me about Stupak? Why not get angry with the other holdouts?

Update update: It seems the Stupak attempt to use the HCR bill to further restrict abortion has been killed already. Everyone can stop hyperventilating.

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The System Is Broken

Congress, Obama Administration

We may be selling the original Manichaeism short — I wouldn’t know — but the word has come to refer to a way of looking at the world through a two-color prism that sorts everything and everyone into two piles — good/bad, right/wrong, light/dark, us/them. You might remember that Glenn Greenwald wrote an excellent book about Manichaeism in the Bush Administration. In short, looking at the world this way is a distortion of reality that lures people into doing terrible things in the name of Good.

Although Manichaeistic thinking is more pronounced on the Right, there’s a version of it common on the Left also. This is the view that sorts all Democratic politicians into one of two categories — they are either pure and noble defenders of the righteous liberal cause or blackhearted, corrupt sellouts to the moneyed Powers That Be. And while the default mood of righties is seething resentment, the default mood of lefties may be either annoying self-righteousness or deadening cynicism, or the two combined.

The recent much-discussed essay “Liberals Are Useless” by Chris Hedges is a good example. I have enjoyed much of Chris Hedges’s work over the years, but this essay could be an object lessons in How Progressives Marginalize Themselves. Although Hedges makes some valid points, too much of the essay amounts to his self-righteously lambasting “liberals” for not being liberal or cynical enough, and then proudly announcing that he remains pure because he voted for Ralph Nader.

Excuse me for being cynical, but I think Ralph Nader is useless, and cynics who vote for him are doubly so. It’s easy to stand outside the system and rail about how awful it is, which is all Nader does any more. Hell, I do it all the time. Ain’t nothin’ to it. But that’s about all progressivism did from the 1970s until very recently, and look how effective that was. As long as that’s all we do, nothing is going to change.

“Anyone who says he or she cares about the working class in this country should have walked out on the Democratic Party in 1994 with the passage of NAFTA,” Hedges says. In fact, with few exceptions progressive activists pretty much walked out on party politics altogether in the mid-1970s, and nobody noticed. It’s been only very recently that we’ve been putting our energies back into party politics, as opposed to standing around on street corners and handing out fliers for the cause du jour.

Whether we like it or not, the fact is that nothing gets done except through the system, and the system is two parties, and that’s how it’s going to be until we revise how we run elections. As I see it, we either play the game as it is or take our ball and go home. The former is going to be frustrating and messy, and we may fail. But if we do the latter, failure is certain.

I think the biggest problem we face right now is not that our political leaders aren’t as good as they used to be, but that the system is broken. This is bigger than just whether President Obama or Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid are trying hard enough. None of those people are beyond criticism, but simply carping at them as “sellouts” isn’t helping any of us.

Matt Taibbi’s Rolling Stone article “Obama’s Big Sellout” is a variation on the “It’s Obama’s Fault” meme that is currently popular on the Left. Brad DeLong — not exactly a rube — finds the piece riddled with errors, beginning with the positions on issues that Barack Obama took during the 2008 campaign. See also Tim Fernholz.

In a post called “Blame Obama First,” Matt Yeglesias explains that it’s the whole bleeping government, not just President Obama, that is not performing as hoped.

The implicit theory of political change here, that pivotal members of congress undermine reform proposals because of “the White House’s refusal to push for real reform” is just wrong. That’s not how things work. The fact of the matter is that Matt Taibbi is more liberal than I am, and I am more liberal than Larry Summers is, but Larry Summers is more liberal than Ben Nelson is. Replacing Summers with me, or with Taibbi, doesn’t change the fact that the only bills that pass the Senate are the bills that Ben Nelson votes for.

The problem here, to be clear, isn’t that lefties are being too mean to poor Barack Obama. The problem is that to accomplish the things I want to see accomplished, people who want change need to correctly identify the obstacles to change. If members of congress are replaced by less-liberal members in the midterms, then the prospects for changing the status quo will be diminished. By contrast, if members are replaced by more-liberal members (either via primaries or general elections) the prospects for changing the status will be improved. Back before the 2008 election, it would frequently happen that good bills passed congress and got vetoed by the president. Since Obama got elected, that doesn’t happen anymore. Now instead Obama proposes things that get watered down or killed in congress. That means focus needs to shift.

Michael Tomasky, writing for The Guardian

Watching American politics through British eyes, you must be utterly mystified as to why Barack Obama hasn’t gotten this healthcare bill passed yet. Many Americans are too. The instinctive reflex is to blame Obama. He must be doing something wrong. Maybe he is doing a thing or two wrong. But the main thing is that America’s political system is broken.

How did this happen? Two main factors made it so. The first is the super-majority requirement to end debate in the Senate. The second is the near-unanimous obstinacy of the Republican opposition. They have made important legislative work all but impossible.

The super-majority requirement – 60 votes, or three-fifths of the Senate, to end debate and move to a vote on final passage – has been around since the 19th century. But it’s only in the last 10 to 15 years that it has been invoked routinely. Back in Lyndon Johnson’s day – a meaningful comparison since American liberals are always wondering why Obama can’t be “tough” like Johnson – the requirement was reserved for only the most hot-button issues (usually having to do with race). Everything else needed only 51 votes to pass, a regular majority.

Steve Benen:

Over the last several months, the right has come to believe that the president is a fascist/communist, intent on destroying the country, while at the same time, many on the left have come to believe the president is a conservative sell-out. The enraged right can’t wait to vote and push the progressive agenda out of reach. The dejected left is feeling inclined to stay home, which as it turns out, also pushes the progressive agenda out of reach. …

… Remember: nothing becomes law in this Congress unless Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman approve. Literally, nothing. That’s not an encouraging legislative dynamic, and it’s not within the power of the White House to change it.

It is within the power of voters to change it.

Obama has asked Congress to deliver on a pretty large-scale agenda. For all the talk about the president’s liberalism or lack thereof, the wish-list he’s presented to lawmakers is fairly progressive, and it’s not as if Obama is going to start vetoing bills for being too liberal.

But Congress isn’t delivering. The two obvious explanations happen to be the right ones: 1) for the first time in American history, every Senate bill needs 60 votes, which makes ambitious/progressive policymaking all but impossible; and 2) there are a whole lot of center-right Democratic lawmakers, which, again, makes ambitious/progressive policymaking that much more difficult.

I think Jane Hamsher is just flat-out wrong when she writes that a health care reform bill with no public option and no Medicare buy-in — what Joe Lieberman wants — is “giving Obama what he wanted anyway.” Yeah, that’s what most of the Kewl Kids are saying. But I think what Obama wanted is whatever reform he could get from Congress. And as Steve Benen says, Congress isn’t delivering. It can’t deliver, because it’s broken. Yeah, there are lots of things Obama could have done differently, but had he done any of those things we may have been no better off than we are now.

The relationship between progressive activists/bloggers and Democratic politicians is, um, dynamic. The same figures might be on the “bad” side on one issue (David Jay Rockefeller, warrantless wiretaps) and the “good” side on another (Jay Rockefeller, health care). Sometimes characters are re-cast in relation to other characters; for example, Hillary Clinton’s miraculous makeover from corporate sellout to champion of progressivism during the 2008 primaries.

But this has always been so. People are a lot messier and complicated than archetypes. Earl Warren became a champion of civil rights, but before he became a Supreme Court Justice he was one of the chief proponents of the Japanese Internment during World War II. Likewise, FDR — champion of progressivism that he was — was complicit in the internment and also made a deal with southern Dixiecrats that left African-Americans out of the New Deal. Harry Truman got his start in politics through a friendship with one of the most corrupt city bosses of all time.

And the moral is, if you’re looking for knights in shining armor, rent some movies.

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More Slime

Democratic Party

[UPDATE: Greg Sargent has more on what a snake Lieberman really is.]

You may have heard of the recent encounter between Barack Obama and Joe Lieberman, in which the new leader of the Dem party let the former Democrat know that he was not pleased with the the “personal attacks and his half-hearted denials of the false rumors that Obama is a Muslim.”

Now the snake in the grass is fighting back, telling Mark Halperin of The Page that “If the Obama campaign thinks they are going to intimidate Joe Lieberman with these sleazy tactics then they are sorely mistaken.”

I agree with Josh Marshall:

…Lieberman’s days in the Democratic caucus, or more specifically, his days with a committee chairmanship courtesy of the Democratic caucus are numbered in months.

My assumption is that after the November election, regardless of the outcome of the presidential campaign, Joe will be stripped of his chairmanship. (This seems even more certain to me if Obama wins the general, but I suspect it will happen regardless.) Whether he’ll actually be expelled from the caucus I don’t know and probably doesn’t really matter. Once he’s stripped of the benefits he gains from it, presumably he’ll leave himself and become an actual non-caucusing independent or, more likely, start caucusing with the Republicans.

What that tells me is that Lieberman has no incentive not to make the maximum amount of trouble over the next five months both for his senate colleagues and for Sen. Obama.

Listen, Dems, we tried to tell you to support Ned Lamont. We almost got Creepy Joe out of the Senate for you, and you wouldn’t listen to us.

What’s even slimier than Joe is the fact that the Right is using this episode to add to their “Obama is anti-semitic” smear: “How smart is it of the Obama camp to antagonize a revered figure in the Jewish community?”

Shameless. And you know the righties won’t let go of this. They’ll be fabricating “evidence” of Obama’s alleged anti-semitism until the election.

Update: See also Jane Hamsher, “Lieberman Whines After Obama Kicks His Ass.

Update: Have you heard about the “veep vetter” controversy? One of the members of Obama’s vice presidential search team is being linked to mortgage industry lobbyists because he took a loan from a mortgage company whose lobbyists contributed to the Clinton campaign, and Obama had criticized the Clinton campaign for taking the lobbyists’ contributions, and somehow this make Obama a bad person. I haven’t had time to check all the details out myself, but unless there is something about this story nobody is telling me, I concur with Mark Adams’s opinion:

Now just for the record, the head of Obama’s VP selection team didn’t hand out fraudulent loans or anything, right? He wasn’t a lobbyist for Countrywide, was he, or one of it’s executives?

He was an extremely good credit risk who took out some loans with the company, and paid them back. So WTF?

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Hang on Tight

Bush Administration

Forget about Christmas sneaking up on you. Do you realize the Iowa Caucuses are a week from tomorrow? Enjoy this holiday week as the calm before the storm. Unless you live in Iowa, of course.

Most recent poll results basically say all the races in Iowa are tightening up. One poll says that Mike Huckabee is losing support — mostly to Ron Paul — among male voters. It may be that Huckabee peaked a bit too soon. Although he may not win in Iowa, I still say Mitt Romney is the most likely eventual winner of the nomination, because he seems to be the GOP establishment’s choice.

Regarding Huckabee, Quinn Hillyer wrote a couple of days ago,

Amazingly, Huckabee remains at the top of the polls despite receiving strong and repeated criticism from the entire spectrum of conservative leaders (yes, there is a spectrum; these are people who on intra-conservative-movement issues often disagree with each other). Lined up as strong critics of Huckabee are George Will, Fred Barnes, Charles Krauthammer, Robert Novak, Rush Limbaugh, David Limbaugh, Michael Reagan, Peggy Noonan, Phyllis Schlafly, Donald Lambro, Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter, Mark Levin; the vast majority of top conservative bloggers from sites such as Red State and Powerline; and most of the writers from the top conservative political magazines: the American Spectator, Human Events, National Review, and the Weekly Standard. National Review, the flagship of the great William F Buckley, has been particularly scathing about Huckabee, with Rich Lowry, Jonah Goldberg and Kathryn Lopez leading the way.

I wrote awhile back about Lowry’s consternation over Huckabee’s popularity. Hillyer continues,

The roots of this bizarreness lie in Washington. Since 1998, the majority of congressional Republicans have shown they have no clue about what motivates most right-leaning voters and even less of a clue about what constitutes good public policy. Pork-barrel spending that garners almost no votes, but plenty of campaign cash, still abounds. Ethical reforms are ignored or run around. With strong GOP support, Congress passes farm bills and energy bills and all sorts of other legislation that are monstrosities containing no internal logic, no discernible philosophical basis, and no serious provisions for efficiency or effective oversight. Meanwhile, President Bush never has been a fiscal conservative or a foe of big government, meaning the old Barry Goldwater wing of the party – still the largest subset of the conservative coalition – has had no champions in Washington except those toiling from the back bench.

Hillyer was writing for The Guardian of the UK; you don’t see this kind of bare-assed honesty about conservatism in US media.

It’s never been entirely clear to me what “big government” actually means. I infer from this Rich Lowry column from spring 2006 that “big government” means one with a big and inefficient bureaucracy. He argues that lean and efficient government would be stronger than cumbersome, bloated government. If those are your only two choices, then he’s probably right. However,

Some government programs actually promote strong government. A large, capable military is a foundation of national power. The Patriot Act and the National Security Agency spying program — by updating governmental capabilities to deal with a new national security threat — represent strong, flexible government. It is also possible to foster desirable values through government programs. Welfare reform promoted responsibility among welfare recipients.

On the other hand, spending money on domestic programs is bad.

It creates a self-perpetuating appetite for even more government. The prescription-drug plan hasn’t placated seniors, but whetted their appetite for an even more generous program. As spending increases, so does pressure for higher taxes.


When the GOP begins its post-Bush departure — roughly after the midterm elections in November, when the 2008 presidential nomination race begins — “big-government conservatism” will probably end up on the ash heap. The party will have to relearn what it used to know: A strong government is a limited government [emphasis added].

Except we don’t want to limit spending that’s going into the pockets of corrupt government contractors, and we don’t want to limit government violation of citizens’ rights. Those parts of government must be unlimited, Lowry says. Perhaps you can see why I am confused about the “big government” thing.

Anyway, I think what Lowry et al. don’t get is that their “movement conservative” ideology never was as popular as they believed it was. Hard-core movement conservatism always was a minority faction in America. Conservatives won elections by whipping up hysteria on some issue or another to drive the soft-headed and under-informed to the polls. In my lifetime I’ve seen one scoundrel after another elected by means of anti-Communist hysteria, racist hysteria, religious hysteria, anti-abortion hysteria, anti-gay hysteria, and most recently terrorist hysteria. Many of the voters who gave winning margins to conservative politicians didn’t give a hoohaw about Lowry’s precious if inscrutable notions of “limited government.”

Last week Amy Goldberg pointed out that many of the same conservatives running away from Huckabee’s religiosity sang a different tune in the recent past.

Rather than wringing their hands about the decline of reason in our civic life, right-wing opinion-mongers have, until now, heartily celebrated the volkish virtues of an archetypal Nascar-loving, megachurch-attending, Darwin-denying Ordinary American. Noonan has been the high priestess of mawkish religio-nationalist kitsch, titling her collection of post-9/11 columns, A Heart, A Cross and a Flag: America Today. In one piece, lamenting the fate of a man she encountered on an airplane, she writes: “I bet he became an intellectual, or a writer, and not a good man like a fireman or a businessman who says ‘Let’s Roll.'”

Last year Lowry ridiculed a spate of books about the growing political power of the religious right (including, I’m flattered to say, my own): “When the theo-panic passes, maybe a few of them will regret their hysteria.” In defending Christmas against its supposed antagonists, Krauthammer has chastised “deracinated members of religious minorities” who “insist that the overwhelming majority of this country stifle its religious impulses in public”.

Krauthammer these days is twisting himself into rhetorical pretzels trying to explain why Huckabee’s religious expression goes too far.

Here Goldberg is brilliant —

As mainstream conservatives recoil from what they’ve created, their cynicism is revealed – to us, but also, perhaps, to themselves. Obviously, some right-wing leaders always saw the pious masses as dupes who would vote against their economic interests if they could be convinced they were protecting marriage and Christmas.

But there there’s also a certain species of urbane Republican who live in liberal bastions and, feeling terribly oppressed by the mild contempt they face at cocktail parties, imagine a profound sympathy with the simple folk of the heartland. They’re like alienated suburban kids in Che Guevara t-shirts who fantasize kinship with the authentic revolutionary souls in Chiapas or Cuba or Venezuela. Confronted with the actual individuals onto whom they’ve projected their political hallucinations, disillusionment is inevitable. Whatever their nostalgie de la boue, the privileged classes never really want to be ruled by the rabble. They want the rabble to help them rule.

Spot on. See also Jane Hamsher on the Huckabee-Limbaugh feud.

Anyway, now we have Rush Limbaugh. He’s been putting out the message on behalf of the GOP to millions of the AM radio faithful so long he thinks he’s one of them, a “man of the people,” or as he likes to say, “part of the Cape Girardeau [Missouri]-Middle America axis.”

But Rush is no such thing. Unless his audience is composed of a lot more people making $35 million a year than I’m aware of, he’s an ugly weld spot between the corporatists and the rank-and-file within the party. Huckabee knows that audience rather better than Rush does, at least the Southern contingent, and given the fact that the GOP has become largely a regional party, that’s a significant portion of Rush’s base.

The Limbaughs of Cape Girardeau have been wealthy and prominent going back many years, btw. Cape Girardeau may well be in the “heartland,” but the Limbaughs were strictly privilege bubble people.

Rush eats left-wing hate like candy. It only makes him more popular with the true believers — it’s tribal, a sign that he’s “one of them.” But when Rush wasn’t looking, the left crafted a narrative about him (in a swift akido move employing many of the themes Rush himself popularized) that has now been picked up by Huckabee, who has the ability to carry it into the heart of the beast. Huckabee is a messenger who will be taken seriously in a way the left never could, and I imagine also in a way that Rush is going to have a hard time competing with.

Rush is betting that his listeners will see him as “part of the Cape Girardeau [Missouri]-Middle America axis.” The GOP elite have told him to take down Huckabee, and his ego is so engorged with money and seven years of right wing hegemony he thinks he can win that battle. He doesn’t see the weld spot preparing to crack.

Anyway, I take it the Right is gearing up to run the 2008 campaigns on illegal immigrant hysteria rather than terrorism hysteria, which is bad news for Rudy Giuliani. We’ll see how it works for ’em.

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Telecom Immunity Showdown

Bush Administration, Civil Rights

Senator Chris Dodd plans to begin a filibuster today. He will try to stop the Senate from granting retroactive immunity to telecoms that violated their customers’ privacy rights by sending billions of private domestic internet and telephone communications to the NSA. The vote on the bill that would grant immunity is scheduled for today. You can help out by contacting your senators to let them know what you think.

See also: Taylor Marsh, Jane Hamsher, Glenn Greenwald, Nicole Belle, the Anonymous Liberal.

Meanwhile, righties are hollering about fascism because a senior fellow emeritus at the Policy Studies Institute believes carbon rationing must be imposed to save the planet. Wholesale violation of the Fourth Amendment by Big Government and Big Corporation, however, is no big deal.

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Fighting Smart

Bush Administration, Congress, Democratic Party, Iraq War, Republican Party

Monday I published a post about building a veto-proof majority in the House and Senate to vote against the war. A number of commenters argued that since Democrats in Congress are the majority, they should simply refuse to pass any war funding bill, period. This would force Bush to bring the troops home, they said.

I doubt that cutting off funds would force Bush to do any such thing. He could take funds out of other parts of the Defense budget, for example —

“The Army is currently claiming that the supplemental needs to be enacted by the end of April to avoid such problems. In this year’s bridge fund, however, Congress provided $28.4 billion to meet the Army’s operational needs, some $7 billion higher than last year’s bridge fund. The additional funds could reduce the pressure to pass the supplemental quickly. Using DOD data, CRS estimates that the Army could cover its operational costs till about June or July 2007 by using war funds in the bridge, temporarily transferring procurement funds to operations, and tapping monies in its baseline budget that would not be needed until the end of the year,” the report says.

And we know the Bushies have few scruples about tapping into funds that were appropriated for something else, even though it’s illegal for them to do so.

We cannot underestimate how warped Bush is. He’s at least a pathological narcissist if not a full-blown psychopath. I do not believe anyone can force him to do anything he is determined not to do, authority or no authority. His ego is on the line, and if he’s a true psychopath he will have no compunction about sacrificing every U.S. soldier in Iraq rather than admit defeat. For that reason I’m opposed to playing chicken with Bush over the troops. Bush will not blink, no matter the risk.

For that matter, I do not believe for a minute that Bush would honor an act of Congress that stipulated a troop withdrawal, even if his veto were overridden. He’d just nullify the act with a signing statement and go his merry way.

Bush has made it clear many times that he isn’t concerned about what happens in Iraq once his administration is over. He just doesn’t want to be the president who admits defeat. Let the next president take the fall for losing Iraq.

So what can we do? Is it possible to force a troop withdrawal before Bush’s term is up?

Paul Krugman came up with the best analogy of our situation awhile back — our troops are Bush’s hostages. Here’s what Professor Krugman said:

There are two ways to describe the confrontation between Congress and the Bush administration over funding for the Iraq surge. You can pretend that it’s a normal political dispute. Or you can see it for what it really is: a hostage situation, in which a beleaguered President Bush, barricaded in the White House, is threatening dire consequences for innocent bystanders — the troops — if his demands aren’t met.

If this were a normal political dispute, Democrats in Congress would clearly hold the upper hand: by a huge margin, Americans say they want a timetable for withdrawal, and by a large margin they also say they trust Congress, not Mr. Bush, to do a better job handling the situation in Iraq.

But this isn’t a normal political dispute. Mr. Bush isn’t really trying to win the argument on the merits. He’s just betting that the people outside the barricade care more than he does about the fate of those innocent bystanders.

This is the way psychopaths operate. If you’ve ever had the unhappy experience of having to deal with a psychopath, you’ll know they can’t be reasoned with. Nor do psychopaths make compromises about anything they consider important. Once they get their minds fixed on X, nothing can persuade them to change to Y, even if Y is clearly in their own best interest. And they will do anything to have things exactly their way. They will go further than you can even imagine. You cannot beat a psychopath at his own game without becoming psychopathic yourself.

Bush must be dealt with like the deranged hostage taker he is. He will kill the hostage rather than surrender. On the other hand, giving him everything he wants won’t make him easier to deal with, either. He’ll just escalate his demands. And then maybe he’ll kill the hostage anyway, for the hell of it.

If Bush is as warped as I think he is, the only way to rein him in is to remove him (and Dick) from office and forcibly march him out of the White House. And this only Congress can do.

The ultimate goal is to isolate Bush by stripping away Republican Party support. Force Republicans to choose between loyalty to Bush and their own political careers. Build up veto-proof majorities. Put Bush on notice that he will obey Congress or be impeached. As I explained in the “Number Crunch” post, this is a reachable goal. Once it’s clear to Republicans in Congress that Bush is a stone around the neck of the Republican Party — and, believe me, that’s getting clearer every day — they’ll turn on him as they turned on Richard Nixon back in the day. Nixon, remember, didn’t resign until senior Republicans in Congress told him he had lost their support and had better go.

I’ve said we can’t beat Bush at his own game. That’s why the game should be changed from “Democrats versus Republicans” to “Congress versus the White House.” That’s the only way we’ve got a shot at forcing an end to the war before the next administration takes office. However, if Dems were to grandstand on defunding the war right now, Republicans would line up to support Bush and the war. They wouldn’t have to take a clear stand for or against Bush; they could unfurl their “support the troops” banners and skip the hard questions.

My understanding is that the current “emergency” appropriation is to cover costs until September, which is the end of the fiscal year. That’s when the White House will discover another “emergency,” probably when Bush returns from his August vacation. A number of Republicans in Congress have made noises about ending their support for the war if the “surge” has not produced significant improvement by August. I think that whatever the Dems do now has got to be done with an eye to dividing Republicans in Congress from Bush then.

I see a lot of support in the blogs for the sentiments expressed in this ad campaign, which was put together by John Edwards’s campaign staff:

We The People

The Edwards campaign is raising money to get this ad onto the airwaves in Washington, D.C., where the guilty will see it. Click here for more information, and to contribute.

Also, MoveOn is organizing rallies tomorrow to protest the veto.

I honestly don’t know what Reid and Pelosi will do next, although word is they will propose another funding bill without the timelines but retaining the benchmarks, which have more Republican support. This tactic is not a popular one here in Blog Land. Chris Bowers at MyDD and Jane Hamsher at firedoglake are not happy. They prefer Jack Murtha’s “short leash” proposal, which would force a new vote on appropriations every two months.

I would prefer the “short leash” tactic also. But I’m going to be a contrarian and say that sending a bill with fewer conditions to Bush now is not necessarily a disaster if Reid and Polosi can get a substantial number of Republicans to support some conditions, which is possible. Bush is nearly certain to either veto or nullify that bill, also, which would put him at odds with many in his own party. And there will be another “emergency” appropriation bill to vote on in about four months.

I’m watching Jim Webb on Countdown now. We sent Bush a vote of no confidence, Webb says, and Bush needs to start listening to this. He hopes that the Democratic leadership will keep the provision for standards of training and deployment of troops. A bill with benchmarks for Iraq and limits on how long troops can be deployed might sufficiently piss Bush off that he’d veto that, also.

John Kerry wrote today at DKos:

We are not going on offense for petty political reasons, not partisanship for politics’ sake, but because there are lives at stake here and a failed policy in Iraq to turn into something that makes sense morally and militarily.

But something stands in the way, and I don’t mean President Bush. To no one’s surprise, he vetoed the money for our soldiers and a new course in Iraq. Long ago he doubled down with the Wolfowitzes and the Perles and the Cheneys and the Rumsfelds of the neoconservative movement. Yes, the Congress voted to set a deadline to change course in Iraq, hold squabbling Iraqi politicians accountable, and give our troops the money they need. And yes, the American people are clamoring for this change. The President vetoed it, anyway.

But the President couldn’t remain in his ideological bunker without a whole host of enablers. It is Republican Senators who are blocking a change in course in Iraq and enabling the President; many who claim to be “independent” are in fact acting as a big roadblock to a real change of course.

But just as last year you defeated the Rubber Stamp Republicans, now it’s time to take on these Roadblock Republicans and show them the pressure a committed American public can put on them. And maybe, if we put enough pressure on the right places, they’ll rethink supporting the President over the change of course our troops deserve.

Kerry suggests starting with four senators — Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Norm Coleman (R-MN), Susan Collins (R-ME), John Sununu (R-NH) — to target for defeat next year. He’s got an ActBlue page set up to support whatever Dems run against them next year. Check it out if you are interested.

Other points to consider: I just got word that seven House “Democrats”voted to uphold Bush’s veto on the Iraq bill today. They are:

John Barrow, Georgia
Dan Boren, Oklahoma
Lincoln Davis, Tennessee
Jim Marshall, Georgia
Jim Matheson, Utah
Michael McNulty, New York
Gene Taylor, Mississippi

McNulty‘s toast. The Netroots will see to replacing him next year. The rest of these DINOs may be harder to reach. The seven were among the thirteen congresspersons who voted against the compromise bill last week. These gentlemen need to be made uncomfortable, I say.

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