The Stupid War

I was in Manhattan yesterday and saw a group of protesters in Times Square. They were waving Palestinian flags and carrying signs denouncing Israel and the U.S. for the current bombing of Gaza. And I’m thinking, this is what comes of idiot American politicians and right-wing gasbags saying there should be no space between the U.S. and Israel (and they still aren’t winning the Jewish vote). I’m also thinking that anyone who actually lives here ought to have noticed that the realities of both politics and international relations force President Obama to walk a very fine line regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, simultaneously voicing support for the security of Israel while signalling Bibi Netanyahu to stop being a dick.

But I guess U.S. righties are not the only ones who don’t get nuance. The firebagging twit who accuses the President of “eliminationist racism” is just the mirror image of the wingnut who calls Netahyahu “the leader of the free world” and accuses the President of embracing Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and all those other “A-rabs” who melt into one pernicious stereotype in the rightie mind. Neither one of these guys is bright enough to find his own feet, and it’s this kind of brainless reaction to events that gets in the way of applying anything resembling constructive thought to what are very complex situations.

One more time — bias ultimately is a strategy for conserving cognitive resources. It’s so much easier to just accuse people of being evil than to actually think things out.

That said, Juan Cole says that the bombing is not really about defending Israel.

Actions such as the assault on Gaza can achieve no genuine long-term strategic purpose. They are being launched to ensure that Jewish-Israelis are the first to exploit key resources. Rattling sabers at the Palestinians creates a pretext for further land-grabs and colonies on Palestinian land. That is, the military action against the people of Gaza is a diversion tactic; the real goal is Greater Israel, an assertion of Israeli sovereignty over all the territory once held by the British Mandate of Palestine.

It ought to be obvious that a land war is not in anyone’s best interests, including (in the long run) Israel’s, but of course “obvious” is too subtle for Israeli hawks. Juan Cole explains just a few of the really bad consequences of an Israeli invasion of Gaza.

And of course U.S. news media aren’t providing the full story to the American public, because doing so would draw the wrath of the U.S. Right. So as far as most people here know, Israel is just defending itself, and I doubt many Americans could easily be persuaded otherwise. And this very much ties the hands of any American president, who has little room even in foreign policy to completely ignore the consensus of Congress.

So, stupid wins time after time, mostly because it yells louder.

Update: Another perspective from Rabbi Michael Lerner.

First step: the international community, led by the U.S., should impose an immediate cease-fire on all sides of the struggle, and should introduce an international peace force to restrain and if necessary arrest anyone involved in any side of this struggle who is acting to continue the violence. That force should be equally charged with arresting any military figures on the Israeli side or guerrilla forces on the Palestinian side that are attempting to engage in hostilities.

That works for me, although I suspect Congress would mostly throw a fit about it. Still, if President Obama were to ever support such an action, the time to do it would be now, when he’s just won re-election and when the next mid-terms are more than two years away.

Just How Stupid Is Jennifer Rubin, Really?

The inexplicably still employed Jennifer Rubin, still pumping Benghazi as a scandal, posted this in the early evening yesterday:

BREAKING: The president knew the truth about Benghazi

By Jennifer Rubin

In a blockbuster report, John Solomon, the former Associated Press and Post reporter, has ferreted out the president’s daily brief that informed him within 72 hours of the Sept. 11 attack that the Benghazi attack was a jihadist operation.

Please proceed, Ms. Rubin.

Citing officials directly familiar with the information, Solomon writes in the Washington Guardian that Obama and other administration officials were told that “that the attack was likely carried out by local militia and other armed extremists sympathetic to al-Qaida in the region.”

Overlooking the fact that there’s some space between “likely carried out” and “was a jihadist operation,” let’s look at what our old buddy David Petraeus told Congress yesterday. This is from an Associated Press story posted yesterday on the WaPo website:

Testifying out of sight, ex-CIA Director David Petraeus told Congress Friday that classified intelligence showed the deadly raid on the U.S. Consulate in Libya was a terrorist attack but the administration withheld the suspected role of al-Qaida affiliates to avoid tipping them off.

The recently resigned spy chief explained that references to terrorist groups suspected of carrying out the violence were removed from the public explanation of what caused the attack so as not to alert them that U.S. intelligence was on their trail, according to lawmakers who attended Petraeus’ private briefings.

He also said it initially was unclear whether the militants had infiltrated a demonstration to cover their attack….

;;;After the hearings, lawmakers who questioned Petraeus said he testified that the CIA’s draft talking points in response to the assault on the diplomatic post in Benghazi that killed four Americans referred to it as a terrorist attack. Petraeus said that reference was removed from the final version, although he wasn’t sure which federal agency deleted it.

Adding to the explanation, a senior U.S. official familiar with the drafting of the points said later that a reason the references to al-Qaida were deleted was that the information came from classified sources and the links were, and still are, tenuous. The administration also did not want to prejudice a criminal investigation in its early stages, that official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the process publicly.

Even the John Solomon article Rubin cites explains what happened pretty well —

Most of the details affirming al-Qaida links were edited or excluded from the unclassified talking points used by Rice in appearances on news programs the weekend after the attack, officials confirmed Friday. Multiple agencies were involved in excising information, doing so because it revealed sources and methods, dealt with classified intercepts or involved information that was not yet fully confirmed, the officials said.

“There were multiple agencies involved, not for political reasons, but because of intelligence concerns,” one official explained.

The rightie blogosphere (collective IQ: 12) is still screaming that Obama lied to the American people. As Kevin Drum pointed out a couple of days ago, this is a conspiracy in search of a motive.

As best I can tell, the suggestion from the right has been that Obama didn’t want to admit that Benghazi was a terrorist attack because….well, I’m not sure, exactly. Something about how this would blow a hole in his claim to be decimating al-Qaeda via drone attacks. Or maybe it would remove some of the luster from being the killer of Osama bin Laden. Or something. But one way or another, the story is that Obama was deeply afraid of admitting that terrorists are still out there and want to do us harm.

This has never made a lick of sense. If anything, the continuing existence of terrorists justifies his drone attacks. And it certainly wouldn’t do him any harm in an election. The American public routinely rallies around a president responding to a terrorist attack.

Of course, if George W. Bush were still in the White House and running for re-election when this happened, he and his minions would be screaming TERRORISTS TERRORISTS TERRORISTS GONNA GITCHA IF I’M GONE BOOGA BOOGA BOOGA even if it meant throwing sources and methods under the bus.

If you didn’t already know Petraeus pretty much shot down the claim that the Obama Administration was engaged in some kind of political coverup, just watch John McCain immediately after the testimony:

He was deflated like an old, tired balloon. McCain’s no genius, but we now know he’s a few shades brighter than Jennifer Rubin. Given enough time he actually can add two and two together and come up with four.

Cirque du Benghazi

First, anything having to do with David Petraeus gives me a headache. Just sayin’.

Petraeus testified about Benghazi to a congressional panel today. All of the news stories about his testimony are quoting Peter King as their main source, which means it’s highly likely all the news stories are wrong.

Regarding the Benghazi Buffoons — Apparently Club for Growth plans to “primary” Lindsey Graham next year, which accounts for why he and his bud John McCain are displaying their manliness by beating up Susan Rice. It’s to save Graham’s ass. See also “The Benghazi Circus.”

POTUS Presser

I didn’t catch the President’s press conference today, and it’s getting mixed reviews on the subject of the Bush tax cuts. Some commenters are saying the President was tough on the subject of upper-income tax cuts, and other commenters are saying he was not tough at all.

I’ve read the transcript of the President’s remarks, and while he appeared open to compromise, he also seemed to be clear that extending the Bush tax cuts for upper-income earners is not on the table. This is from the Q and A:

Q: Mr. President, on the fiscal cliff — two years ago, sir, you said that you wouldn’t extend the Bush-era tax cuts, but at the end of the day, you did. So respectfully, sir, why should the American people and the Republicans believe that you won’t cave again this time?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, two years ago the economy was in a different situation. We were still very much in the early parts of recovering from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. And ultimately, we came together, not only to extend the Bush tax cuts, but also a wide range of policies that were going to be good for the economy at the point — unemployment insurance extensions, payroll tax extension — all of which made a difference, and is a part of the reason why what we’ve seen now is 32 consecutive months of job growth, and over 5 1/2 million jobs created, and the unemployment rate coming down.

But what I said at the time is what I meant, which is this was a one-time proposition. And you know, what I have told leaders privately as well as publicly is that we cannot afford to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. What we can do is make sure that middle-class taxes don’t go up.

Then a bit later:

So there is a package to be shaped, and I’m confident that parties — folks of good will in both parties can make that happen. But what I’m not going to do is to extend Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent that we can’t afford and, according to economists, will have the least positive impact on our economy.

Q: You’ve said that the wealthiest must pay more. Would closing loopholes instead of raising rates for them satisfy you?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I think that there are loopholes that can be closed, and we should look at how we can make the process of deductions, the filing process easier, simpler.

But when it comes to the top 2 percent, what I’m not going to do is to extend further a tax cut for folks who don’t need it, which would cost close to a trillion dollars. And it’s very difficult to see how you make up that trillion dollars, if we’re serious about deficit reduction, just by closing loopholes in deductions. You know, the math tends not to work.

And I think it’s important to establish a basic principle that was debated extensively during the course of this campaign.

I mean, this shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody. This was — if there was one thing that everybody understood was a big difference between myself and Mr. Romney, it was, when it comes to how we reduce our deficit, I argued for a balanced, responsible approach, and part of that included making sure that the wealthiest Americans pay a little bit more.

I think every voter out there understood that that was an important debate, and the majority of voters agreed with me, not — by the way, more voters agreed with me on this issue than voted for me.

So we’ve got a clear majority of the American people who recognize if we’re going to be serious about deficit reduction, we’ve got to do it in a balanced way.

The only question now is, are we going to hold the middle class hostage in order to go ahead and let that happen? Or can we all step back and say, here’s something we agree on. We don’t want middle- class taxes to go up. Let’s go ahead and lock that in. That will be good for the economy. It will be good for consumers. It will be good for businesses. It takes the edge off the fiscal cliff. And let’s also then commit ourselves to the broader package of deficit reduction that includes entitlement changes and it includes, potentially, tax reform, as well as I’m willing to look at additional work that we can do on the discretionary spending side.

So I want a — a big deal. I want a comprehensive deal. I want to see if we can, you know, at least for the foreseeable future provide certainty to businesses and the American people, so that we can focus on job growth, so that we’re also investing in the things that we need.

But right now what I want to make sure of is, is that taxes on middle-class families don’t go up, and there’s a very easy way to do that. We could get that done by next week.

Sounds pretty firm to me.

The Short Road From Lee Atwater to Paul Ryan

I haven’t had time to listen to the whole thing, but The Nation has an audio of the infamous Lee Atwater interview from 1981 in which he explained the Southern Strategy:

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

Fast forward — Now Paul Ryan is saying that he and Mittens did not lose the election because voters rejected his policies. They lost the election because of all those “urban” voters.

I think he needs to get a lot more abstract.

The Petraeus Fling Thing

The Petraeus resignation doesn’t seem that much of a BFD to me. “Alpha Male Has Affair” is right up there with “Dog Bites Man” or “Cat Catches Mouse” as a shocker. Nor does it shock me that the FBI and DOJ knew about the affair last summer and didn’t say anything to Congress about it. At least one other CIA director was worse.

Since there may be a connection to Benghazi, the righties are certain this affair ties into whatever they think the White House is covering up. Peter King is calling it a “crisis of major proportions.” I guess it’s a nice detraction from post-election soul-searching (nothing found, I hear). Of course, if Petraeus let his guard down and allowed his paramour to see classified information he needs to be called to account for that.

Also, too, people may be going ballistic because they were emotionally invested in Petraeus as a hero. You might remember the way Move On was set upon by howling virtual mobs of Petraeus admirers because of its “Petraeus Betray Us?” ad. Some right-leaning blogs are now calling him “General Betray Us.” I’m not emotionally invested in him at all, one way or another, so the whole thing is kind of a snooze for me. Do wake up up if anything significant happens.

Bernard Finel and Kevin Drum has some interesting observations, if you want to explore the topic further.

Con Artists Getting Conned

I don’t know that I’ve ever recommended reading something at RedState. But this is fascinating — “Campaign Sources: The Romney Campaign was a Consultant Con Job.” It sounds as if some of the consulting firms working for the Romney campaign were just faking it. The article claims they were running a con job on Romney.

They say that the truth is the consultants essentially used the Romney campaign as a money making scheme, forcing employees to spin false data as truth in order to paint a rosy picture of a successful campaign as a form of job security.

Zac Moffatt, Digital Director for the Romney campaign, was specifically named as having “built a nest egg for himself and co-founder of Targeted Victory, Mike Beach,” and that they “didn’t get social” media and ignored objections from other consultants and staffers in the campaign.

You may have seen some of the criticism of ORCA, a smartphone app that was supposed to be Mitt’s high-tech poll-monitoring system. Apparently it was an epic fail.

Sources also said that arrogance played a big role, saying that the Romney campaign was a hostile battlefield of egos in which these consultants viewed any opposition to their world view as coming from an enemy. This apparently led to the ORCA program “receiving no stress test, no usage during super saturdays and no ability to have a Plan B or C when everything hit the fan.”

“The brain trust of the Romney campaign was so arrogant that they refused to change strategy. It was clear in June were SOL,” said one email.

Another source that closely studied the Obama campaigns GOTV efforts as compared to ORCA said bluntly that “the Obama training manuals made ORCA look like a drunken monkey slapped together a powerpoint” adding that we must duplicate and improve what they accomplished to have any hope for the 2014 & 2016 ground game.

But the failures in what was described as a “tightly wound consultant culture” didn’t stop there.

Stu Stevens of the Stevens and Schriefer Group was said to not be chasing poll numbers with the media buy strategy and appeared instead to be doing little more than “throwing darts at a dartboard.” At best using false numbers provided by ORCA; at worst milking the cash cow of the Romney campaign.

Can’t you just see it? By the way, we won Florida. See also “The Oracle’s Debacle.”

Leeches of the GOP

Aw, heck, let’s gloat some more. It’s a nice change of pace for us.

Somewhere last week I heard a couple of journalists covering the campaigns say that in the days before the election the Romney people were jubilantly confident while the Obama people were hopeful but nervous. Of course, you could also say “deluded” and “realistic,” respectively.

Anyway — by now you’ve probably seen the video clip of Ann Coulter saying “If Mitt Romney cannot win in this economy, then the tipping point has been reached. We have more takers than makers and it’s over. There is no hope.” I infer that Coulter considers herself to be one of the “makers.” But what exactly does she make?

The fact is, Coulter is a professional leech. She is one of several “personalities” who make a good living by leeching off the climate of hate and divisiveness that is the lifeblood of “movement conservatism” and the Republican Party. Every year or so she re-writes the same polemical book and gets it republished under a new title — some variation on Be Afraid: How Liberals Hate God and America and Want to Eat Your Babies. I don’t know who actually reads this stuff, but somebody buys it. Then she does a speaking tour and rakes in fees. Her weekly toxic waste dump of a “column” is still being syndicated. And people still go to her for her “insights” into the direction of conservatism.

But Coulter’s main function within the GOP it to keep pumping the hate so that she can continue to make a living as a leech.

A few days ago Rick Perlstein published an article at The Baffler called “The Long Con: Mail-order conservatism.” Although a bit rambling and unfocused, the article provides a fascinating view of how a culture of leeching has attached itself to “movement conservatism” and the Republican Party. All manner of people are making themselves rich by fanning the flames of alarm and then sucking money out of the rubes who believe them. It’s so blatant that conservative “media” such as Newsmax and Current Events are being subsidized by sucker schemes for Making Big Money Without Actually Having to Do Anything to Earn It.

So you’ve got individuals like Richard Viguerie and groups like the NRA that mostly specialize in fundraising by scaring people. Usually they’re sucking money out of ordinary folks, but we see now that Karl Rove managed to suck money out of the very wealthy, which makes him master of the game, I suppose.

Perlstein describes the standard come-on:

There is the bizarre linguistic operation that turns “liberal” (or, in Coulterese, “pink”) into a merely opportunistic synonym for “stuff you don’t like.” There’s the sloganeering alchemy that conflates political and economic magical thinking (“freedom”!). There’s shorthand invocation of Reagan hagiography. And then, presto: The suggestible readers on the receiving end of Coulter’s come-on are meant to realize that they are holding the abracadabra solution to every human dilemma (vote out the Democrats–oh, and also, subscribe to Mark Skousen’s newsletter for investors, while you’re at it). …

… Miracle cures, get-rich-quick schemes, murderous liberals, the mystic magic mirage of a world without taxes, those weapons of mass destruction that Saddam Hussein had hidden somewhere in the Syrian desert–only connect.

The Republican Party isn’t just being challenged by changing voter demographics. As long as people with inordinate influence in what’s called “conservatism” are milking it like a cash cow, they’re not going to let it adapt to changing voter demographics.

Right-wing Meltdown

I am surprised at the degree to which the Right seems genuinely stunned to the core about the results of Tuesday’s election. I figured they would just blame the defeat on Romney for not being conservative enough; various scapegoats (Chris Christie; Hurricane Sandy) and voter fraud. And of course, there is a lot of that out there this morning. But I’m also seeing at least some asking bigger questions. Like, What is the fundamental nature of reality?

The right-wing world view is based on a faith in several unsupported assumptions, one of which is that a solid majority of American citizens share their views, and liberal/progressive beliefs are held only by a shadowy elite fringe of egghead academics and aging hippies (never mind that “elite hippie” is something of an oxymoron) plus angry and demanding nonwhites, various “pervents” like gays and feminists, and foreign infiltrators. In the rightie mind, all of those groups added together make a big enough minority to be of concern in a national election, especially with that voter fraud thing going on. But still, a minority.

I hadn’t actually reckoned on how deeply the Right believed that Americans elected Barack Obama in 2008 just for the novelty of the thing — hey look! We have a black president now! — and not because we agreed with his proposals and thought he was the best candidate to handle the job.

Well, rigties, deal with this: We, the majority of American voters, elected Barack Obama because agreed with his proposals, most of ’em anyway, and thought he was the best candidate to handle the job. That was true in 2008 and also true on Tuesday.

It appears (as some had suggested) that Mitt’s calculations for victory assumed that African Americans would not vote in the same numbers as in 2008.

Multiple Romney sources buzzed about one number in particular: 15 percent. According to exit polls, that’s the share of African-Americans who voted in Ohio this year. In 2008, the black percentage of the electorate was 11 percent. In Virginia and Florida, exit polls showed the same share of African-Americans turned out as four years ago, something that GOP turnout models did not anticipate.

“We didn’t think they’d turn out more of their base vote than they did in 2008, but they smoked us,” said one Romney operative. “It’s unbelievable that that they turned out more from the African-American community than in 2008. Somehow they got ‘em to vote.”

Also, it became apparent that Mitt Romney can’t be trusted farther than Ann Coulter can throw him. Another Republican candidate — although not one that was actually running at any time in the past couple of years — might have won on Tuesday. But the more people looked at Mittens, the more enthusiastic they got about Obama.

The Right’s other big blind spot, of course, is their perception that being a white man is the human default norm. If that’s how one honestly sees the human species, never mind the American electorate, how can one possibly understand what’s going on in the “real world” of the 21st century?

Rich Benjamin writes,

Much of the GOP — think Romney, Mourdock, Akin — cling to a political narrative according to which white male voters are “conservative” and “minority” voters are “liberal,” and where white male voters are self-sufficient and everyone else is dependent. It’s exactly this form of white-on-white racial profiling, a fear of the future, that produced the election’s outrageous comments about unions, the poor, rape, women, minorities and the like.

Why did conservative straight white men self-destruct so spectacularly this election? Perhaps because, in trying to secure the votes of other white men, they failed to notice that these white men have mothers, daughters, gay relatives and/or friends who are racial minorities; and that other white men are suffering economically; and that straight white men can also embody the country’s dramatic change? The cheap, divisive, nativistic, racialized ways that conservative leaders divvy up the electorate has now come to spook them. It’s a vicious loop: What this political narrative does is to fuel a further sense of embattlement and decline among disenfranchised straight white men.

Well, yeah, but it’s also the long-entrenched sense that only the concerns of the default norm — white men — are actually important. Matters that are mostly of concern to those “alt” people are not serious concerns that serious default people need to think about. And that’s how they still think. So when they find themselves in a place in which they have to appeal to “alts” to win an election, the defaults immediately think in terms of putting forward their own tokens — a woman or minority (although one who can be counted on to respect the defaults). Or, they gin up some verbiage that maybe makes it sound as if they care about the well-being of the alts even as the actual concerns of the alts are smugly ignored. For example, the Romneys went around saying that women care more about jobs than about reproductive rights. Hence, this reproductive rights nonsense is just a silly distraction; not something to be taken seriously.

Guess again, Mitt.

The bigger concern for the Republican Party is that their old talking points on just about everything are likely to become increasingly irrelevant over the next four years. The economy is likely to continue to get better (barring a global meltdown), for example. Global warming, alas, is likely to become more real.

In 2016 Obamacare will have been fully in effect for a couple of years, and by then people will have realized the world did not end and, in fact, they kind of like it. Most middle-class people who already had insurance will at least know somebody who finally was able to get insurance because of Obamacare.

The electorate will be more racially diverse, and a larger percentage of voters will be too young to remember the Cold War or even Ronald Reagan. Women are unlikely to decide they no longer need equal pay or reproductive rights.

The Middle East will be a wild card, as will the global economy. Many things could go wrong. But it’s going to be really interesting to see if the Republicans can adjust enough to be viable in 2016. The deny and obstruct thing didn’t work for them. And the “vote for me ’cause I’m the white guy” thing didn’t work for them. Can the old GOP learn new tricks?