Cro Magnon Republicans

All the buzz is that President Obama mopped the floor with House Republicans yesterday at the Republican retreat in Baltimore. It was so good that Fox News cut away to begin presentation of the predetermined Republican rebuttal talking points a full 20 minutes early.

Marc Ambinder:

Accepting the invitation to speak at the House GOP retreat may turn out to be the smartest decision the White House has made in months. Debating a law professor is kind of foolish: the Republican House Caucus has managed to turn Obama’s weakness — his penchant for nuance — into a strength. Plenty of Republicans asked good and probing questions, but Mike Pence, among others, found their arguments simply demolished by the president. (By the way: can we stop with the Obama needs a teleprompter jokes?)

More than the State of the Union — or on top of the State of the Union — this may be a pivotal moment for the future of the presidential agenda on Capitol Hill. (Democrats are loving this. Chris Hayes, The Nation’s Washington bureau chief, tweeted that he hadn’t liked Obama more since the inauguration.)

During the presidential campaign, it was John McCain who proposed a form of the British Prime Ministers’ questions for the president. It was derided as a gimmick. This is no gimmick. I have not seen a better and perhaps more productive political discussion in this country in…a long time. 90 minutes worth!

The full video and transcript are here. Much of the question-and-answer part can be boiled down Republicans claiming they have better ideas and plans for solving the nation’s problems, and Obama saying that yes, I’ve seen your ideas and plans, and they sound grand, but nobody can tell me how they’ll work in the real world.

Here’s just a snip:

CONGRESSMAN PENCE: [Speaks to high unemployment and the President’s stimulus bill] … Now, Republicans offered a stimulus bill at the same time. It cost half as much as the Democratic proposal in Congress, and using your economic analyst models, it would have created twice the jobs at half the cost. It essentially was across-the-board tax relief, Mr. President. …

PRESIDENT OBAMA: [Discussion of what the stimulus bill accomplished] … And the notion that I would somehow resist doing something that cost half as much but would produce twice as many jobs — why would I resist that? I wouldn’t. I mean, that’s my point, is that — I am not an ideologue. I’m not. It doesn’t make sense if somebody could tell me you could do this cheaper and get increased results that I wouldn’t say, great. The problem is, I couldn’t find credible economists who would back up the claims that you just made.

Elsewhere, responding to the claim that the GOP has a great health care reform proposal —

It’s not enough if you say, for example, that we’ve offered a health care plan and I look up — this is just under the section that you’ve just provided me, or the book that you just provided me — summary of GOP health care reform bill: The GOP plan will lower health care premiums for American families and small businesses, addressing America’s number-one priority for health reform. I mean, that’s an idea that we all embrace. But specifically it’s got to work. I mean, there’s got to be a mechanism in these plans that I can go to an independent health care expert and say, is this something that will actually work, or is it boilerplate?

If I’m told, for example, that the solution to dealing with health care costs is tort reform, something that I’ve said I am willing to work with you on, but the CBO or other experts say to me, at best, this could reduce health care costs relative to where they’re growing by a couple of percentage points, or save $5 billion a year, that’s what we can score it at, and it will not bend the cost curve long term or reduce premiums significantly — then you can’t make the claim that that’s the only thing that we have to do. If we’re going to do multi-state insurance so that people can go across state lines, I’ve got to be able to go to an independent health care expert, Republican or Democrat, who can tell me that this won’t result in cherry-picking of the healthiest going to some and the least healthy being worse off.

So I am absolutely committed to working with you on these issues, but it can’t just be political assertions that aren’t substantiated when it comes to the actual details of policy. Because otherwise, we’re going to be selling the American people a bill of goods. I mean, the easiest thing for me to do on the health care debate would have been to tell people that what you’re going to get is guaranteed health insurance, lower your costs, all the insurance reforms; we’re going to lower the costs of Medicare and Medicaid and it won’t cost anybody anything. That’s great politics, it’s just not true.

So there’s got to be some test of realism in any of these proposals, mine included. I’ve got to hold myself accountable, and guaranteed the American people will hold themselves — will hold me accountable if what I’m selling doesn’t actually deliver.

Here’s a partial video:

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The thing is, I doubt very much if the extremist ideologues who make up the “House GOP” actually understand that a stack of paper containing bullet points that repeat the words “common-sense” and “affordable” a lot are not the same thing as a real policy proposal. The House GOP actually has a website called “GOP Solutions” that amounts to prettily presented air. Here’s the health care reform page, for example. It’s all unsubstantiated claims.

Do you remember the Bush Administration’s “strategy for victory in Iraq,” released with great fanfare in late 2005? (It doesn’t seem to be online any more, or at least my old link to it doesn’t work.) I wrote at the time that the thing presented no strategy at all; it was just a list of goals with no indication of how those goals would be achieved. I also said at the time that I doubted the Bush Administration had any clue what a real strategy looked like.

When I was a child I had a picture book about paleolithic cave paintings. The author speculated that Cro Magnon artists drew many, many pictures of game animals in caves to make game animals abundant. It was magic, see. I think the GOP is working on the same principle — produce many, many stacks of paper with many, many bulleted lists saying your plan will make everything better without costing any money, and it will magically happen.

Update: Reaction from the Right — Gateway Pundit writes a blog post titled “ANGRY Obama Lashes Out at House Republicans– Tells Them ‘I Am Not an Ideologue’ (Video).” Then he writes, “Look at how ANGRY he is while speaking to the House Republicans:” and posts this video —

Um, I’m not seeing any anger. The President is speaking truthfully but patiently. Of course, to Gateway Pundit he must be angry, because he is (1) a leftie (in a wingnut’s mind) and (2) black. But by dismissing the President as being “angry” he doesn’t have to address the substance of what he said.

24 thoughts on “Cro Magnon Republicans

  1. I watched the presentation last night, Obama slaughtered the Repubs.
    I don’t want to flog a dead horse, but I can only imagine G.W. Bush being in Obama’s position and looking like a deer in the headlights.
    I don’t agree, in fact I strongly disagree with many of Obama’s actions and inactions, but there is no denying he is one smart dude.

  2. The GOP has been since in full Obama slap down mode since before 1/20/08. It seems I’ve been listening to one Republican after another foam at the mouth over the deficit on a daily basis. “Won’t anyone think of THE CHILDREN?!” A common sense piece of legislation comes along and 40 votes in the senate are against it. I wish more MSM coverage would show to what extent it’s always “Party First” when it comes to the G(NO)P.

  3. Obama played this brilliantly, or, at least his staff did in asking for camera’s.
    You can see the vanity and ego in the House Republicans who said, “Yeah, let’s do that. We’ll make him look like a fool.”
    Add to the unemployment figures the poor individuals who decided to allow camera’s into this at the White House’s request. They will be blamed for the arrogance of the House R’s. After all, someone has to take the fall.
    Well played, Mr. President. You took them apart peice by piece. And the “Bloshevik” line killed me!
    Mike Pence looked like the idiot that he really is.
    No wonder FOX cut away. If they were covering boxing, in a bad analogy, they would have cut away from Ali vs. Forman to talk about how George is kicking Mohammed’s ass! They would decline to show the prostate Forman looking into the African night with his ass on the canvass, and, instead, they’d claim that the AMERICAN Forman BEAT that Muslim’s Ali on points!
    Of course, if Pence and the other House Republican idiots were kicking Obama’s ass, they would have stayed for every second.

  4. THIS is why I voted for Obama! He truly delivered, with clarity, ease and power. Anybody who listened heard the Republicans trying to make campaign ad speeches and getting their hats handed back. Now, if the Democrats will just get in line behind him, we will get somewhere! And yes, the sticker is still on the car.

  5. “Um, I’m not seeing any anger.” Me either, except he did look a little annoyed when that odious Blackburn woman in her nasal-toned question/speech kept referring to her experiences with the “Democrat Congress.” Only this gang would invite a President who belongs to the “Democratic Party” to their gathering and then insult him to his face by calling his party by the wrong name.

  6. This is so funny. No I do not see the anger but I have been labled the angry bitter one by my brother and sister because of my liberal views. What I find so funny is that they are the angry bitter ones going off on me after something I said that they don’t agree with! Pointing this out usually quiets them. I swear it’s like they start agreeing with me and they become angry becuase it’s not what they are told to believe. How could what they are told to believe be wrong? Then the “if I wanted socialists insurance I would move to Europe!” “No Government run health care for me!” remarks start popping out.

  7. I just ran across (snowed in today) a great Sara Robinson article that builds on the excellent job Obama did on handling the Republicans. She deals with ten things we need to be ready to let go of as progressive truisms of the last century. It reverberated with an idea I saw on a Buddhist blog about letting go of the raft after you have used it to cross the river. The link is : and I hope Maha can make it linky since I don’t know how.

  8. Silly Righties! YouTubez r 4 grown-ups!

    It’s amusing to me how the GOP obsesses over ACORN as its great enemy, when in fact YouTube, “humorous” emails, Facebook postings and Twitter tweets are turning out to be far more dangerous for them.

  9. More than a few wingnuts out there are trying to call Obama a sociopathic liar after his “performance”. I try to remind them that there’s a big difference between charming opponents by telling them everything they want to hear, and addressing questions in competent detail. And that most anybody who’s not a hard core wingnut can allow themselves to see this difference… which agitates them immensely.

    My wingnut in-law complained about being attacked by liberal peers at work. But I’d observed that he was the only one in any group always bringing up politics. Everybody else follows the “No religion, no politics…” wisdom. I finally told him that he’d quit “being attacked” if he quit bringing that stuff up. It’s worked so far. I say these people are agitated because Jesus, America, reality and modern conservatism don’t jive, and they know it, but cannot admit it. The confusion and anger has to go somewhere.

  10. Two or three reactions: this is the red meat we have all been waiting for. As a certain fast food chain is fond of saying, “I’m lovin’ it”.

    How I wish this kind of give and take would be a permanent fixture in our political discourse, much as the Brits have in theirs. I suspect it will be a long time before any Republican dares to show up in the same room with Obama and a TV camera.

    As for the wingnuts screaming about anger – project much? OTOH, listening to someone patiently making an argument and expertly refuting cherished talking points probably counts as anger in their hermetically sealed world – they’re just not used to it.

  11. Add the contrast between ‘Obama in the Republican den’ and bumbling Bush’s carefully orchestrated appearances. They’ve gotta be going bonkers right about now.

  12. My god (spoken in awe)… what astounds me is how well he compartmentalizes this stuff.

    I mean, if you can be compared to Adolf Hitler, and stand in front of the very people who not only refused to denounce it, but actively encouraged it – if you can stand in front of people who *enjoy* seeing you compared to Hitler, and come across as merely “lecturing”, you’re doing an amazing job, not just as a President, but as a human being.

    He really thinks he can set this country back on the right track, or at least, do a large part of the work.

  13. ‘Obama in the Republican den’

    You got that right!… 🙂

    I think of Bush with his,” It’s hard!” explanation in trying to use his challenged mind to lead our nation. I think hard, or at least frustrating would be dealing with the snipes from a pack rabid republicans…Boutiques?. I know I couldn’t exhibit the patience that Obama has… I would have given them a ” fuck you, idiots”

  14. Oh, man. No more speeches. No more sound bites. Just invite alternating groups of Dems and Repubs to some neutral location every month and let them debate the guy for 90 minutes, with no rules. People might actually show up prepared with well-thought-out positions and arguments, if only to keep from looking like morons. This just might change the nature of our democracy.

  15. Wow! Just. Wow.

    A whole lotta arrogant ignorance on the part of those Republicans, armed with pea shooters and thinking they were well-equipped to take on a gunslinger.

    If those are the best minds they’ve got, maybe they’re doing this country a favor by absenting themselves from the legislative process.

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  17. If you can stand in front of people who *enjoy* seeing you compared to Hitler, and come across as merely “lecturing”, you’re doing an amazing job, not just as a President, but as a human being.

    I can’t imagine what it was like to be the young Barack, growing up. At 48 he is one cool character. In spite of the frustrations many of us feel about his first-year decisions, I still find his calm demeanor to be a great strength. As it says on the cover of the Hitchhiker’s Guide, “Don’t Panic!” Except you, GOP… you guys can panic now. Really, g’head.

  18. I watched the whole thing – Obama was incredibly focused.

    What will it mean? Except for the Rep. from IL who was aquatinted with Obama, everyone was posturing for the GOP and the conservative voter, playing to the extreme right. Obama claimed the moderate position (and everything to the left). He’s crafting a narrative and because of his competence, it’s a much more effective narrative than the GOP has.

    The House democrats have to be impressed. Those democrats worried about reelection should want to ride Obama’s coattails now, and that gives him leverage. Hopefully, this will translate into a train of populist legislation that can pass the Senate by reconciliation (a simple majority) and save us from a fiasco in November – though I don’t predict gains because I can’t afford weed that good.

  19. “I would have given them a “fuck you idiots”.
    Me too, Swami, and that’s exactly why I’m so impressed with Obama’s performance. They could not break him.I’m impressed that Obama was SO cool that he didn’t hurl any insults at all( a lesson for me ), he was speaking to the equivalent of a group of petulant 2nd graders.

    Sadly, there is about 20% who will still write him off as an uppity black non birth certificate closet Muslium socialist baby killing threat to our freedom agent from hell.

  20. erinyes,
    You forgot “FASCIST.”
    Never forget that Obama’s a fascist!!!

    You gotta give Obama credit. He went into the “Lyin’s Din,” and walked out, not only with his dignity, but more credibility than when he had walking in.
    He didn’t “pity da fool’s,” he suffered ‘the fools.”

  21. Gulag, I thought about the fascist tag also, but is it possible to be both fascist and socialist at the same time?

    Bob K’s link sounds like another go at the PNAC.

    • is it possible to be both fascist and socialist at the same time?

      Not in objectively verifiable reality, but in Rightie World fascism and socialism are the same thing.

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