Michael Tomasky at the Guardian and Paul Krugman at the New York Times both point to the same phenomenon within the GOP — that the Republican presidential candidates are nearly all promising to continue George Bush’s policies, even though the public hates those policies.

Krugman writes,

All in all, it’s an economic and political environment in which you’d expect Republican politicians, as a sheer matter of calculation, to look for ways to distance themselves from the current administration’s economic policies and record — say, by expressing some concern about rising income gaps and the fraying social safety net.

In fact, however, except for Mike Huckabee — a peculiar case who’ll deserve more discussion if he stays in contention — the leading Republican contenders have gone out of their way to assure voters that they will not deviate an inch from the Bush path. Why? Because the G.O.P. is still controlled by a conservative movement that does not tolerate deviations from tax-cutting, free-market, greed-is-good orthodoxy.

And Tomasky writes,

It’s pretty astonishing, really – we’re at the tail end of a failed presidency, and the people running to succeed it are promising to continue its failed policies.

Now, many observers would say, well, they’re just pandering to their party’s rightwing base, and once one of them secures the nomination, he will tack to the centre. Undoubtedly, he will, for tactical reasons. But the real question is how the next Republican will govern should he happen to win. And the answer to that question is that there’s every reason to assume that he will be just as a conservative as Bush for one simple reason: the interest groups that run the GOP will not brook much deviation from the standard line.

Those interest groups are three. The neocons run foreign policy – the Iraq disaster has not affected their influence in the GOP one whit. The theocons run social policy. And the radical anti-taxers run domestic policy. Until forces inside the GOP rise up to challenge these interests, any Republican administration will be roughly as conservative as Bush. The candidates have slightly different theories of stasis, they will tinker around this edge or that, but that’s about all you can say.

Both Tomasky and Krugman point to John McCain as someone who has utterly sold out. Krugman writes,

Mr. McCain’s lingering reputation as a maverick straight talker comes largely from his opposition to the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, which he said at the time were too big and too skewed to the rich. Those objections would seem to have even more force now, with America facing the costs of an expensive war — which Mr. McCain fervently supports — and with income inequality reaching new heights.

But Mr. McCain now says that he supports making the Bush tax cuts permanent. Not only that: he’s become a convert to crude supply-side economics, claiming that cutting taxes actually increases revenues. That’s an assertion even Bush administration officials concede is false.

Oh, and what about his earlier opposition to tax cuts? Mr. McCain now says he opposed the Bush tax cuts only because they weren’t offset by spending cuts.

Aside from the logical problem here — if tax cuts increase revenue, why do they need to be offset? — even a cursory look at what Mr. McCain said at the time shows that he’s trying to rewrite history: he actually attacked the Bush tax cuts from the left, not the right. But he has clearly decided that it’s better to fib about his record than admit that he wasn’t always a rock-solid economic conservative.

(See also “McCain’s Unlikely Ties to K Street.” The boy has utterly sold out every principle he ever had. He stood up to torture but not to the GOP Powers That Be.)


And yet, by and large, the Republican candidates are running on exactly the same policies that Bush has pursued. Consider this list. All the major Republican candidates want to “stay the course” in Iraq, denouncing any discussion of withdrawal as evidence of pusillanimity. All see the fight against terrorism in more or less Bushian terms. All want to make the Bush tax cuts, now scheduled to sunset in 2010, permanent – even John McCain, who at the time voted against them. All have promised the leaders of the Christian right that they will appoint supreme court judges “in the mould of” Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

What this euphemistic language means is that whatever a candidate’s previous positions on abortion and gay rights – Rudy Giuliani, for instance, has supported both – the leaders of the religious conservative movement have exacted commitments from all the Grand Old Party candidates to appoint the kind of judges they want, and that matters far more than past positions.

There’s more. Healthcare is a priority in this election. But to hear these Republicans, you’d never know it. Their healthcare plans range from cynical to inadequate. Climate change? They barely acknowledge the problem and are particularly loath to acknowledge that human activity has contributed to it. They continue to insist, as Republicans since Ronald Reagan have, that the only real domestic enemy the American people face is the federal government, which they continue to want to starve.

Of course, the GOP candidates are not coming out and saying they are going to continue George Bush’s policies. From what I’ve seen (from a distance, here in New York), they are pretending George Bush doesn’t exist. But they’re singing the same old song Republicans have been singing since Reagan — cut taxes, shrink government, love God, hate minorities, and kick foreign ass.

These viewpoints long have been sponsored by the Moneyed Elite, who have used their vast media infrastructure to persuade un-elite Americans that these are the opinions they should have, too. And they’ve gotten away with this for a long time. But E.J. Dionne says there’s a different wind blowing in Iowa:

Us-vs.-them economic rhetoric is often said to be out of date, impractical, even dangerous. But in the closing days of a very tight race, Edwards has his opponents, particularly Barack Obama, scrambling to make sure a trial lawyer from North Carolina does not corner the market on populism.

Obama is vying with Edwards for the non-Clinton vote, and the Illinois senator was on the air yesterday with an Edwards-like television ad assailing the flow of American jobs abroad. Obama spoke last week of “Maytag workers who labored all their lives only to see their jobs shipped overseas; who now compete with their teenagers for $7-an-hour jobs at Wal-Mart.” He had heard from seniors “who were betrayed by CEOs who dumped their pensions while pocketing bonuses, and from those who still can’t afford their prescriptions because Congress refused to negotiate with the drug companies for the cheapest available price.”

Even Hillary Clinton, whose discourse is typically longer on policy details than egalitarian wrath, told an appreciative crowd in Story City last week that the “interests of working middle-class families” had been “subordinated to the interests of the wealthy and well-connected” and that the Bush administration acted on the mortgage crisis “only after Wall Street began to feel the credit crunch.” She promised to “end the student loan industry’s scams, which have ripped off families” and condemned “no-bid contracts,” “cronyism” and “corruption.”

Since the Reagan era, the heroes of the nation’s economic story have been valiant entrepreneurs who “took risks” and “created wealth.” This narrative advanced the Republican cause and seeped deeply into the Democratic Party. If Iowa is any indication, there is a new narrative in which the old heroes are cast as the goats of the story and the new heroes are people like “the guy in Orange City.” There is a thunder out of Iowa, and it is shaking both parties.

Of course, the majority of the punditocracy, especially the ones who are incessantly on television, will not notice this trend. They will continue to insist the American people want tax cuts more than they want health care, and if economic populism does determine the outcome of the 2008 elections, the bobbleheads will be caught totally off guard. And then they’ll come up with a reason why the elections weren’t really determined by economic populism. Just watch.

What is harder to predict is what will happen to the GOP if it loses the White House and more seats in Congress by a decisive margin in November. In a normal world, such a defeat would cause a massive re-alignment of power within the Republican Party, allowing “moderate” (i.e., possibly not crazy) Republicans to come to the forefront and take over party leadership. But the Moneyed Elite will still own the party, so it’s possible that can’t happen no matter what.


If you had trouble opening the site yesterday — I’m upgrading the web host account, and somehow the site got lost while being moved from one server to another. Scary stuff. I don’t think the technical problems are resolved, exactly, but the site is online this morning, so I feel better.

Soylent Green Is People

In another sign of how the country is going to hell in a handbasket, Robert Pear writes in today’s New York Times:

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said Wednesday that employers could reduce or eliminate health benefits for retirees when they turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare.

The policy, set forth in a new regulation, allows employers to establish two classes of retirees, with more comprehensive benefits for those under 65 and more limited benefits — or none at all — for those older.

More than 10 million retirees rely on employer-sponsored health plans as a primary source of coverage or as a supplement to Medicare, and Naomi C. Earp, the commission’s chairwoman, said, “This rule will help employers continue to voluntarily provide and maintain these critically important health benefits.”

Let us pause and reflect upon Ms. Naomi C. Earp’s words. In fact, I was so taken with what Ms. Naomi C. Earp said that I went to the EEOC web site for more. And lo, there’s a press release with the head:

Implementation of Final Rule Ensures Age Bias Law is No Barrier to Employer Insurance

And in the body of this press release I read:

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced the publication of a final rule allowing employers that provide retiree health benefits to continue the longstanding practice of coordinating those benefits with Medicare (or comparable state health benefits) without violating the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The regulation, which safeguards retiree health benefits, was published in today’s Federal Register and is available on the EEOC’s web site at

“Implementation of this rule is welcome news for America’s retirees, whether young or old,” said Commission Chair Naomi C. Earp. “By this action, the EEOC seeks to preserve and protect employer-provided retiree health benefits which are increasingly less available and less generous. Millions of retirees rely on their former employer to provide health benefits, and this rule will help employers continue to voluntarily provide and maintain these critically important benefits in accordance with the law.”

The EEOC proposed the rule in response to a controversial decision in 2000 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Erie County Retirees Association v. County of Erie. The court held that the ADEA requires that the health insurance benefits received by Medicare-eligible retirees be the same, or cost the employer the same, as the health insurance benefits received by younger retirees. After the Erie County decision, labor unions and employers alike informed the EEOC that complying with the decision would force companies to reduce or eliminate the retiree health benefits they currently provided – leaving millions of retirees aged 55 and over with less health insurance, or no health insurance at all.

Ah, I see. The Bushies are protecting retired people from discrimination by allowing their former employers to cut off their health benefits. Robert Pear continues,

Premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance rose an average of 6.1 percent this year and have increased 78 percent since 2001, according to surveys by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Because of the rising cost of health care and the increased life expectancy of workers, the commission said, many employers refuse to provide retiree health benefits or even to negotiate on the issue.

In general, the commission observed, employers are not required by federal law to provide health benefits to either active or retired workers.

Because health care costs are ballooning, the burden of providing health insurance for retirees is too much for many businesses to bear — no doubt this is true — so the EEOC says it’s OK for the companies to cut the retirees loose and let them fall back on Medicare. But because Bushies are Bushies, they can’t just come out and say it that way. Instead, they crank out some Orwellian doublespeak pretending this is all for the retirees’ own good.

And, of course, wingnuts want to eliminate Medicare also. As Rich Lowry so well explained, spending on big government programs like Medicare siphons off money that could be better put to use maintaining a big military to spread American hegemony around the planet and allow all people to enjoy our superior way of life. Until, of course, they are too old to be productively making money for Halliburton. I believe the plan at that point is to set the old folks adrift on ice floes, although given global warming I’m not sure how that’s going to work, either.

Robert Pear continues:

AARP and other advocates for older Americans attacked the rule. “This rule gives employers free rein to use age as a basis for reducing or eliminating health care benefits for retirees 65 and older,” said Christopher G. Mackaronis, a lawyer for AARP, which represents millions of people age 50 or above and which had sued in an effort to block issuance of the final regulation. “Ten million people could be affected — adversely affected — by the rule.”

The new policy creates an explicit exemption from age-discrimination laws for employers that scale back benefits of retirees 65 and over. Mr. Mackaronis asserted that the exemption was “in direct conflict” with the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.

Seems that way to me. Weirdly, the AFL-CIO supports the Bushies’ plan. I say they have some ‘splainin’ to do.

Just yesterday I stumbled on a group discussion on single payer health care. Righties wittily asked if the government would also provide them with free lunches and congratulated themselves on having the prescience to get jobs with health benefits. Spoken like people who have no experience whatsoever dealing with the health care system. And the wingnuts have no clue what the current “system” is doing to our economy. Ultimately a single payer system would be better for employers and entrepreneurship generally. Righties can’t see anything beyond their own limited experiences and needs, which is what makes them righties.

Speaking of the AARP and Medicare, I found this press release on the AARP site —

“The American people deserve better. It is a shame that our elected officials will go home for the holidays without helping low-income beneficiaries get the care they need by strengthening programs directly targeted at the most vulnerable older Americans.

“It also is discouraging to millions of older Americans that the administration was unwilling to consider any reductions in the billions of dollars in excess payments to Medicare Advantage plans—particularly to private fee-for-service plans, which do not have to coordinate care and have been the subject of widespread marketing abuses—in order to help improve Medicare.

Bushies don’t see old folks as citizens; they see them as an exploitable resource. But I guess as long as they’re an exploitable resource they won’t be marched off to the Soylent Green factory.

Hang on Tight

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.

Team Players

Sarah Baxter writes for the Times of London:

THE CIA chief who ordered the destruction of secret videotapes recording the harsh interrogation of two top Al-Qaeda suspects has indicated he may seek immunity from prosecution in exchange for testifying before the House intelligence committee. Jose Rodriguez, former head of the CIA’s clandestine service, is determined not to become the fall guy in the controversy over the CIA’s use of torture, according to intelligence sources.

It has emerged that at least four White House staff were approached for advice about the tapes, including David Addington, a senior aide to Dick Cheney, the vice-president, but none has admitted to recommending their destruction.

Vincent Cannistraro, former head of counterterrorism at the CIA, said it was impossible for Rodriguez to have acted on his own: “If everybody was against the decision, why in the world would Jose Rodriguez – one of the most cautious men I have ever met – have gone ahead and destroyed them?”

That’s the downside of a life in a reviled lame duck administration — the fall guys stop falling.

Larry Johnson, a former CIA officer, believes the scandal could reach deep into the White House. “The CIA and Jose Rodriguez look bad, but he’s probably the least culpable person in the process. He didn’t wake up one day and decide, ‘I’m going to destroy these tapes.’ He checked with a lot of people and eventually he is going to get his say.”

Johnson says Rodriguez got his fingers burnt during the Iran-contra scandal while working for the CIA in Latin America in the 1980s. Even then he sought authorisation from senior officials. But when summoned to the FBI for questioning, he was told Iran-contra was “political – get your own lawyer”.

Not that I expect much to happen if Rodriguez does name Addington, but having facts on the record is better than nothing. Jeralyn at Talk Left has more analysis.

On the same subject — the Washington Post gives us a terrifying glimpse into the mind of Bob Novak. The Reptile writes,

Chairman Silvestre Reyes and other Democrats on the intelligence committee join Hoekstra in demanding investigation into the tape destruction in the face of the administration’s resistance, but the Republicans stand alone in protesting the CIA’s defiant undermining of President Bush. In its clean bill of health for Iran on nuclear weapons development, the agency acted as an independent policymaker rather than an adviser. It has withheld from nearly all members of Congress information on the Israeli bombing of Syria in September. The U.S. intelligence community is deciding on its own what information the public shall learn.

It appears that the Bush Administration was complicit in the Israel-Syria operation. One suspects someone in the Agency is still loyal to the Bushies.

The Reptile insinuates there are traitors in the CIA:

Intelligence agencies, from Nazi Germany to present-day Pakistan, for better or for ill, have tended to break away from their governments. The Office of Strategic Services, the CIA’s World War II predecessor, was infiltrated by communists. While CIA tactics were under liberal assault in Congress during the Watergate era, current accusations of a rogue agency come from Republicans who see a conscious undermining of Bush at Langley.

Then the Reptile falls back on revisionist history.

The CIA’s contempt for the president was demonstrated during his 2004 reelection campaign when a senior intelligence officer, Paul R. Pillar, made off-the-record speeches around the country criticizing the invasion of Iraq. On Sept. 24, 2004, three days before my column exposed Pillar’s activity, former representative Porter Goss arrived at Langley as Bush’s handpicked director of central intelligence. Goss had resigned from Congress to accept Bush’s mandate to clean up the CIA. But the president eventually buckled under fire from the old boys at Langley and their Democratic supporters in Congress, and Goss was sacked in May 2006.

I’m sure you remember Porter Goss and The Saga of Dusty Foggo. Conventional wisdom says the primary reason Goss was fired was that he butted heads with John Negroponte. And I’m sure the Reptile knows this perfectly well. Yet he still spins the Goss episode into “evidence” that the CIA is disloyal to the Bush Administration.

Goss’s successor, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, restored the status quo at the CIA and nurtured relations with congressional Democrats in preparation for their coming majority status. Hayden, an active-duty four-star Air Force general, first antagonized Hoekstra by telling Reyes what the Democrats wanted to hear about the Valerie Plame-CIA leak case.

What Democrats wanted to hear? Like the truth, Bob?

There is no partisan divide on congressional outrage over the CIA’s destruction of tapes showing interrogation of detainees suspected of terrorism. Hoekstra agrees with Reyes that the Bush administration has made a big mistake refusing to let officials testify in the impending investigation.

Yes, Bob, the Bush Administration refused to let CIA officials testify.

Republicans also complain that the National Intelligence Estimate concluding that Iran has shut down its nuclear weapons program was a case of the CIA flying solo, not part of the administration team. …

…In a June 21 address to the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, Hayden unveiled the “CIA’s social contract with the American people.” Hoekstra’s explanation: “The CIA is rejecting accountability to the administration or Congress, saying it can go straight to the people.”

Bob is miffed because some parts of the Washington bureaucracy are no longer willing to lie, cheat and steal for his team, but have decided that the integrity of the nation is more important. See, Bob, ultimately the CIA does not work for the President, but for We, the People of the United States of America. And wouldn’t we all be better off now if the CIA hadn’t been such good team players before the invasion of Iraq?

Update: See also Larry Johnson at No Quarter.

On Hair and Privilege

There’s no better illustration of the intellectual bankruptcy of the Right than a comparison of Mitt Romney and John Edwards.

And yes, I’m talking about the hair. Righties cannot speak of Edwards without calling him the “Breck girl.” Surely Mitt goes through as much shampoo as John. The point, of course, is to feminize Edwards, but I say if either of these two leans more toward yin than yang, Mitt’s the guy. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

And speaking of guys with hair …

We could analyze all of the presidents and their coiffures, but I suspect there is little correlation between hair quality and job performance. Or masculinity, for that matter. John Kennedy’s alleged lasting contribution to men’s fashion was the death of the hat (Snopes questions this). Whatever the cause, fedoras for daytime wear did disappear suddenly about the time JFK was elected — the better to see a guy’s hair, my dears. But no one has ever questioned JFK’s manliness, as far as I know.

No matter. Someone introduced the “Breck girl” comment into American political discourse, and righties (plus Mo Dowd) picked it up and can’t let go of it.

And then there’s the wealth issue. David Leonhardt writes in today’s New York Times that Edwards and Romney both made fortunes in the 1980s. Yet Edwards is running on economic populism an Romney is a “free markets” guy.

The two men represent a clear divide between the Democratic and Republican parties over whether the government should redistribute more wealth, from the rich downward, now that economic inequality is greater than it has been since the 1920s.

I’d like to point out that ordinary working people created most of that wealth. Inequality doesn’t grow because the wealthy are somehow more deserving and working stiffs less so; it grows because the wealthy are able to control the wealth distribution system to their advantage. The role of government is not to take money away from the rich to give to the poor, but to keep the wealthy from gaming the system.

And this is good for us all in the long run, primarily because a nation with a large and upwardly mobile middle class is likely to be a politically stable nation; a nation in which most of the population is shut out of enjoying the wealth they create with their labor is asking for revolution.

Mr. Romney and Mr. Edwards also represent a divide among the affluent themselves. Many of the new wealthy — the great majority, in all likelihood — see their success as a sign of this country’s economic strength. Yet there is also a minority — including Mr. Buffett and William H. Gates Sr., Mr. Gates’s father, who have both opposed eliminating the estate tax — worried about inequality. …

… Every leading Democratic candidate has proposed rescinding the Bush administration’s tax cuts on households making at least $250,000, saying the money can be better used on programs to help the middle class. Every leading Republican candidate favors making the tax cuts permanent, saying that tax increases would hurt economic growth and, by extension, the middle class.

It may be significant that Edwards is the son of a mill worker and Romney is the son of an automobile executive. Romney explicitly denies there are two Americas, but it’s possible he’s never lived in America. Instead, he has lived his whole life in the Privilege Bubble.

Yet, on the Right, Edwards is called out for being a prissy poseur. Byron York wrote in September:

By the way, Edwards’s line, “I was brought home to a two-room house in a mill village” was carefully crafted, a reflection of his years of experience as a personal injury lawyer. Yes, after he was born he was brought home to a small house. But within a year his family moved to a better house as his father, a mill worker, began a rise that eventually made him a supervisor.

Did I mention Mitt’s dad was an auto executive? But the implication is that because Edwards has money now, he can’t possibly be sincere about wanting to help working people get a fair deal. Or else people who wish to help the poor are supposed to be poor. Or something. But in American history there have been other well-off people who fought plutocracy and tried to even the playing field.

Theodore, in fact, made a point of stepping out of the privilege bubble to hang out with cowboys and woodsmen. Franklin’s point of view likely was shaped by polio. Along with the various Roosevelts, the Kennedys — wealthier, I believe, than the Roosevelts — also came to be a fairly liberal/populist group.

The Right cannot honestly debate Edwards’s proposals, or much of anything else, so they fall back on criticizing Edwards’s looks and lifestyle without bothering to examine their own guys in the same light. Did I say something about intellectual bankruptcy? I believe I did.

Update: An editorial from the Concord Monitor — “Romney should not be the next president.”