Don’t let the oddball title of writer-director Barry Jenkins’ film Medicine for Melancholy throw you. It may share its moniker with an anthology of short stories by author Ray Bradbury, but there is nothing “sci-fi” about this down-to-earth little indie gem about love, African-American identity and the gentrification of San Francisco’s neighborhoods.
A two-character “morning after” study of a one-night stand in the tradition of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise, the film opens with an attractive, 20-something African-American couple waking up and performing their morning ablutions. We quickly glean the sense of a polite, yet awkward deferment between the two as they wordlessly descend the stairs of a very large house that displays ample evidence of a previous evening’s revelry. Once they find their shoes, and the inevitable “So what was your name again?” formalities are dispensed with over coffee, Micah (Wyatt Cenac) and Jo (Tracey Heggins) share a cab ride. After Jo enigmatically requests to be dropped off “at the corner”, the two appear to go their separate ways. Of course it doesn’t end there (otherwise we wouldn’t have much of a film). Micah spots Jo’s purse on the floor of the cab, and learns (to his chagrin) that she did not give him her real name. And so we’re off.
This is one of those films where not an awful lot “happens”; yet for the careful observer, there is still a lot going on. Micah and Jo spend a day together. After some wary circling, they begin to warm to each other’s company. They ride their bikes around San Francisco. Micah accompanies Jo on an errand to an art museum, where her boyfriend (currently out of town) works as a curator. They talk about their jobs. They make love. For all intents and purposes, they begin to appear no different than any other loving couple, spending a lazy Sunday together. Until they pay a visit to the Museum of the African Diaspora, which sparks a philosophical debate between the couple that could be a real deal breaker.
This is where the film’s central theme emerges: How do African-Americans define themselves? Despite the fact that he is basically a wisecracking, hipster indie culture geek by nature, Micah primarily defines himself as a “black man” who is becoming ever-increasingly marginalized by the creeping gentrification of San Francisco’s traditionally ethnic and/or low-income neighborhoods. Jo, on the other hand, doesn’t feel that her “blackness” solely defines who she is, and pegs Micah as “…one of those people who thinks they chose February as Black History Month because it’s the shortest month.” Her boyfriend is white; a moot fact to her but a sticking point for Micah (or is it just old-fashioned jealously, cloaked in a self-righteous polemical stance?). Ah, mysteries of love.
One obvious cinematic touchstone here (perhaps unconsciously on the part of the filmmaker) is Shadows , John Cassavetes’ 1959 film about the complexities of racial identity and the role that it plays in social/romantic interaction. The film has a loose, naturalistic feel that recalls Cassavetes as well. At any rate, the two films would make a perfect double bill. I was also somehow reminded of Kurosawa’s One Wonderful Sunday, with occasional echoes of Godard and Rohmer. The director’s decision to employ a monochromatic visual look is perfect, as it’s all about the perception of “color”.
My only previous awareness of Wyatt Cenac is from his work on The Daily Show; he shows promise as a screen actor. The appealing Tracey Heggins has potential as well; she and Cenac have good chemistry. If you are sick of the Hollywood grist currently topping the box office, Medicine for Melancholy may just be the perfect tonic for Tyler Perry.
Note: Medicine for Melancholy is in limited release, but also available on PPV (IFC).
As Dday reminded us the other day, we are in countdown mode for Tom Geoghegan's campaign to fill Rahm Emmanuel's seat. It's looking very winnable, but they still need some help financially and on the phones this week-end. If you have some time or a couple of bucks, now's your chance to help this true progressive make his stand.
Geoghegan's a very interesting politician, in that he's an unabashed, in your face, populist with a lifetime as a lawyer and writer standing up for workers and pensioners. It's almost as if this moment were made for him.
When he was out in LA a couple of weeks ago and spoke to bloggers, he talked at length about the broken retirement system in this country. I'm somewhat aware of the problem, being of a certain age myself, with elderly parents and a close friend who works in the field. I don't think people recognize just yet what's happening on this issue and how acute the problem is about to get. The baby boomers have had a huge chunk of their wealth wiped out in this meltdown, in both the real estate and in the equity markets. The promise of the self-financed retirement is looking very shaky at the moment --- to the biggest demographic cohort in American history. I don't think it's hyperbolic to say that this may be the issue of the next decade.
Tom Geoghegan is an expert in pensions and a believer that we have to begin to look at our system with fresh eyes. He speaks of expanding social security rather than cutting it. He talks about completely revamping the retirement system across the board. It's so outside the box that when I heard him talk about it I realized that this side of the argument hadn't been heard in a very long time.
Even if you believe that the state can't afford to provide more than a minimal safety net, it's important this side of the argument get into the mix. We are in a time of great economic stress and unless all sides are being debated, political compromise ends up consisting of a compromise between saving rich people and helping rich people. And that spells serious political instability.
We need voices like Tom Geoghagen's in the congress. We need people who are looking at these problems from all angles and who have the guts to speak in terms that fall outside the accepted village or wall street parameters. We desperately need fresh thinking on these big problems.
On a conference call the other night, Tom and his campaign manager said that they are feeling very confident among the 55 and over crowd, which also happens to comprise the largest cohort in the district and who also happen to be the most likely voters in this special election. I am not surprised that his message is resonating with them. He's speaking directly to their issues at a time when they are feeling great insecurity.
These special elections in off years often portend the coming coming trends. And I would not be surprised at all if retirement security is an issue that will rise to the top of the agenda. If Geoghegan's in congress, the Democrats will have someone who has immense credibility and knowledge of an issue that's of grave importance to the biggest, single voting bloc in America.
As dday wrote:
Geoghegan is the real deal and he can win. You can help.
I'm watching the leader of the Republican Party, Rush Limbaugh, give his speech at CPAC on CNN, live and in its entirety, without commercials. If you doubted that he is the leader, you won't doubt it after you see the reception he's getting.
He says his heart is broken that Obama is using his great talents to punish earners and portray America as a soup kitchen in a dark night. And it saddens him that the president of the United States wants to destroy America.
I wish this were in prime time.
Update: Check out this dispatch from Max Blumenthal at CPAC with another wingnut gasbag. They're losing it.
Rush on bipartisanship:
Bipartisanship occurs only after one other result. And that is victory. In other words, let'[s say as conservatives liberals demand that we be bipartisan with them in congress. What they mean is, we check our principles at the door, let them run the show and then agree with them. That is bipartisanship to them. To us, bipartisanship is them being forced to agree with us after we have politically cleaned their clocks and beaten them.
Uhmkay. The crowd seemed to think it made sense though. They went nuts.
Update III: At 3:15 PST, CNN had still not broken away for a commercial. He spoke for an hour and half without interruption.
William Schneider says that Limbaugh crossed the line with his bullying and mockery and questioning of Obama's motives. He seemed rather shocked by what he heard. Apparently he's never listened to Rush before.
Ron Christie says he agrees with Limbaugh. Naturally he doesn't find anything he says unusual.
I have been writing about the psychopatic CPAC convention every year since I've been blogging, noting that they blithely sold items like t-shirts that said "Happiness is Hillary's face on a milk carton," and the press, if they mentioned it at all, seemed to think it was all just good fun. It's been around for 35 years.
Why is this crazed sideshow being featured pretty much constantly on the cable news networks as if it were the most important political event of our lifetimes this year?
Matt Bai has produced another one of this fascinating "character profiles" this time of Newtie Gingrich. I believe this may be the five thousandth such fascinating profile of the man. He always makes good copy, even though he makes no sense.
I'm too burned out to go into in in detail. Read it if you can stomach both Bai and Gingrich at the same time.
I do have to mention this, just in case anyone thinks that Gingrich has lost his megalomaniacal touch:
I think I’m closer to Benjamin Franklin than to George Washington,”Gingrich told me. “I’m a contributor to my country and to my times. If it turns out that there’s a moment when it makes sense to run, then I’ll run. But if I end up never being able to run, then it won’t devastate me.”
That's our Newtie. He's nothing if not grandiose. Here he is from 1995:
In his first public speech to his members, Gingrich cautioned that the electorate has twice since World War II granted Republicans control of the House only to take it away again in the next election. But in private moments, Gingrich allows himself a fabulously optimistic daydream. "I think we'll have a good run," he said contentedly last month. "My guess is it will last 30 or 40 years."
Asked recently what he had learned about himself in the last three months, he hedged, saying that whatever he answered would be portrayed as either facile or the sign of a tragic flaw. Then he said he had been watching a documentary about Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower.
"It talked about the impact it had when he became Supreme Commander," Mr. Gingrich said, "and you could see it in the film footage -- that he literally changed over the course of about six months."
Mr. Gingrich may be the strongest Speaker in decades, but it is not other Speakers to whom he compares himself. It is the great Presidents and commanders -- Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Churchill, de Gaulle
Even before Senate majority leader Bob Dole's uninspired performance during Wednesday's televised forum in New Hampshire for G.O.P. presidential candidates, Gingrich had phoned key Republicans around the country and wondered aloud whether he should launch his own bid for the White House. Already on the previous Saturday, over dinner at the Connecticut home of Henry and Nancy Kissinger, Gingrich had fretted about Dole and launched into a detailed analysis of his own presidential chances.
According to fellow conservative Susan Molinari, Gingrich believed he was a worldwide revolutionary:
Molinari paints Gingrich as nothing short of an incompetent, delusional megalomaniac. An obsession with grandiose or extravagant things or actions. . Her behind-the-scenes description of last summer's failed coup attempt against the speaker reveals a world of ruthless backstabbingand deft double-crossing that would make Machiavelli proud. Molinari says Gingrich compared himself to Napoleon, FDR, Churchill, and Eisenhower and was overwhelmed by his own grandiosity. When Gingrich's four top henchmen, among them Molinari's husband, Bill Paxon, Republican congressman from Buffalo, NY., arranged an "intervention" to tell the speaker that he had to shape up, Gingrich dissolved into a rage. "People all over the world are listening to us, watching what we are doing. I'm at the center of a worldwide revolution," he huffed, turning to Paxon, adding, "You will never understand that, Bill."
In fact, he's not just a revolutionary, king or potential president. He's also French. This one is from this past summer when he was, once again, weighing whether his country needed him:
Pressed by The Examiner about whether his political baggage renders him unelectable, Gingrich compared himself to a famous French statesman. "This is like going to De Gaulle when he was at Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises during the Fourth Republic and saying, 'Don't you want to rush in and join the pygmies?'" he said.
There are a million of them.
Newtie never fails to deliver the soundbite. The question is, why is the NY Times doing profiles that are anything but satire on this man? He's a clown, not a "man of ideas." It's ludicrous to even pretend otherwise.
Our pal Bobbby has come in for some scrutiny after his bizarre performance the other night. It turns out that he "embellished" and misrepresented his story about the rescue boats during the hurricane. It's pretty clear that the line "Congressman Jindal says you can arrest him too!" never happened because the best anyone can come up with is that Jindal and his chief of staff overheard the sheriff telling the bureaucrat story on the phone days later. Oh what a tangled web we weave.
But hey, he was just illustrating a point with a colorful anecdote and the problem isn't the anecdote. The problem is that essentially he was saying that if the big bad government hadn't stuck its nose in where it wasn't wanted, Louisiana residents could have handled the hurricane just fine. And when you think about it, it makes sense to dittoheads: after all, the government is always the problem, never the solution.
Louisiana's transportation department plans to request federal dollars for a New Orleans to Baton Rouge passenger rail service from the same pot of railroad money in the president's economic stimulus package that Gov. Bobby Jindal criticized as unnecessary pork on national television Tuesday night.
The high-speed rail line, a topic of discussion for years, would require $110 million to upgrade existing freight lines and terminals to handle a passenger train operation, said Mark Lambert, spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development.
Jindal on Tuesday delivered the official Republican Party response to President Barack Obama's address to Congress. He criticized the stimulus package passed by the Democratic-majority in Congress and the president and noted examples of projects that he found objectionable.
"While some of the projects in the bill make sense, their legislation is larded with wasteful spending," Jindal said. "It includes ... $8 billion for high-speed rail projects, such as a 'magnetic levitation' line from Las Vegas to Disneyland."
He says he will refuse money to extend unemployment benefits. He claims that rail projects like this are wasteful spending. He seems to actually believe that any government involvement is worse for his citizens than losing everything. I wonder if they agree?
As much as we don't want to admit it, some of this is inevitable. The medium of delivered print newspapers in an environment where anyone can hop online and read virtually any article around the nation or the world is going to be threatened. That advertising revenue is falling because of the economic meltdown is just accelerating this decline. While newspaper websites generally do quite well, they haven't been able to monetize the content to a degree that's economically feasible. And the overall threat here is the death of news reporting, not the physical newspapers themselves. At least that's the view of Gary Kamiya.
If newspapers die, so does reporting. That's because the majority of reporting originates at newspapers. Online journalism is essentially parasitic. Like most TV news, it derives or follows up on stories that first appeared in print. Former Los Angeles Times editor John Carroll has estimated that 80 percent of all online news originates in print. As a longtime editor of an online journal who has taken part in hundreds of editorial meetings in which story ideas are generated from pieces that appeared in print, that figure strikes me as low.
There's no reason to believe this is going to change. Currently there is no business model that makes online reporting financially viable. From a business perspective, reporting is a loser. There are good financial reasons why the biggest content-driven Web business success story of the last few years, the Huffington Post, does very little original reporting. Reported pieces take a lot of time, cost a lot of money, require specialized skills and don't usually generate as much traffic as an Op-Ed screed, preferably by a celebrity. It takes a facile writer an hour to write an 800-word rant. Very seldom can the best daily reporters and editors produce copy that fast.
But the story is more complicated than that. At the same time that newspapers are dying, blogging and "unofficial" types of journalism continue to expand, grow more sophisticated and take over some (but not all) of the reportorial functions once performed by newspapers. New technologies provide an infinitely more robust feed of raw data to the public, along with the accompanying range of filtering, interpreting and commenting mechanisms that the Internet excels in generating.
As these developments expand, our knowledge of the world will become much less broad. Document-based reporting and academic-style research will increasingly replace face-to-face reporting. And the ideal of journalistic objectivity and fairness will increasingly crumble, to be replaced by more tendentious and opinionated reports.
Paul Starr makes a similar argument in The New Republic, saying that the loss of newspapers will most impact local news coverage and lead to a rise in local corruption.
Now, I agree with this to an extent. The breadth of material presented in a newspaper is not entirely likely to be replicated online, at least not at any one place. More things would happen in the shadows in a post-newspaper world. And I hope for that not to happen. At the same time, there's a lot of redundancy in newspapers. Dozens if not hundreds of different writers across the country cover the exact same Obama address to Congress that I watched with my eyes as well, and can just as easily form an opinion on. There is an argument that local papers should focus on local reporting, and get their national news from national sources, which would probably still offer enough of a variety.
This breaks down when the papers that are able to weather the decline, the ones with the highest reputation and the broadest base of reporters, who could funnel news across the country and present themselves as an established brand, soil themselves with demonstrably mendacious columnists that call into question the editorial aptitude of the whole project.
Clearly, the main cause of the crisis is structural/technological shifts in the media and economic landscape. But a small number of news organizations are actually well-positioned, in principle, to benefit over the long run from these changes. Papers like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post have strong brands and the possibility of becoming national news organizations that partially fill the space left empty by the receding metro dailies in Detroit, Seattle, San Francisco and elsewhere. But The Washington Post, by standing behind the claim that up is down if George Will says that is is, is pissing that brand away. Rather than complaining to me, people who work at, or care about, The Washington Post need to complain to Fred Hiatt and ensure that something gets done.
Meanwhile, one of the Post’s main competitors in the world of papers with potential to attract a national audience is The New York Times. So faced with a humiliating abrogation of basic responsibilities by its competitor, does the Times take the opportunity to pour some salt in the wounds? No! Instead, out comes Andrew Revkin with a false equivalence article painting Will with the same brush as Al Gore. Will’s sin is to say that the world is not getting warmer when, in fact, it is. Gore’s sin was to say that warming is happening (it is) and to illustrate the problems with this trend by referring to a chart that Revkin deems unduly alarmist but that Gore found in The New York Times. Hm.
And since this was written, George Will responded to that falsely equivalent NYT article with a pissy rant standing by the substance of his global warming denialist column of the week prior. In doing so he defends the substance of a data point he included about sea ice levels in Antarctica, despite the climate research center where Will got the data has publicly disavowed it. And then, Will's editor Fred Hiatt defends his writer in some of the weirdest ways possible.
Hiatt insists Will's entitled to his opinion about the global warming facts because those facts are just too complicated--too unknowable--and who the hell are readers to claim otherwise? Hiatt told CJR:
"If you want to start telling me that columnists can’t make inferences which you disagree with—and, you know, they want to run a campaign online to pressure newspapers into suppressing minority views on this subject—I think that’s really inappropriate. It may well be that he is drawing inferences from data that most scientists reject — so, you know, fine, I welcome anyone to make that point. But don’t make it by suggesting that George Will shouldn’t be allowed to make the contrary point. Debate him."
That sound you hear is Hiatt digging the Post an even deeper and more embarrassing hole.
I have two favorite parts. The first was Hiatt's insistence that Will has every right to draw inference--to make claims of fact in his column--based on data that most scientists reject. Good Lord, what is Will not allowed to do in a Post column? And does the Op-Ed page maintain any guidelines?
And second, I chuckled when Hiatt insisted that if people disagree with Will's published falsehoods, they shouldn't try to pressure the paper to publish corrections, they should, y'know, "debate him." Right, because Will and Post editors have been so open and willing to address--to debate--the controversy.
Now, to his credit, the Post's ombusdman will write tomorrow that Will was wrong on the science, and that the paper should have addressed this more quickly. But clearly there is a problem with accountability at the Post when it comes to their star columnists.
(By the way, good for John Kerry for trying to get some measure of accountability by himself.)
But this is a serious concern. With the viability of the newspaper model looking less clear, we will necessarily shrink the amount of reporters covering both local and national issues. Online sources cannot fill the gap without substantial resources (endowments, anyone?). Therefore we vest more power in the fourth estate in the hands of a number of established brands. And yet those brands are gradually proving themselves unworthy of the power. It shouldn't look unfavorably on the entire profession, and the many fine reporters working under these brands, but it inevitably does.
It would be nice to say that, after being trashed and abused by major media for so long, that we don't need journalism. But we clearly do. And when they damage their reputations, it actually affects all of us.
Let's hear some more bellyaching from Republicans about volcano monitoring. And then we'll talk about this:
President Barack Obama's former nominee to become commerce secretary, Republican Sen. Judd Gregg, steered taxpayer money to his home state's redevelopment of a former Air Force base even as he and his brother engaged in real estate deals there, an Associated Press investigation found.
Gregg, R-N.H., has personally invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in Cyrus Gregg's office projects at the Pease International Tradeport, a Portsmouth business park built at the defunct Pease Air Force Base, once home to nuclear bombers. Judd Gregg has collected at least $240,017 to $651,801 from his investments there, Senate records show, while helping to arrange at least $66 million in federal aid for the former base.
Gregg said he violated no laws or Senate rules. In a statement Friday, he said that all the federal money he steered to Pease had been requested by the National Guard, the city of Portsmouth or its mayor or other public officials "and did not involve my initiative but only my support of the requests."
But the senator's mixture of personal and professional business would have been difficult to square with President Barack Obama's campaign promise to impose greater transparency and integrity over federal budget earmarks — funding for lawmakers' pet projects. Gregg said that during his consideration for the Cabinet job, the White House did not know about his Pease earmarks, although the administration knew about his investments at Pease.
One hates to be cynical at times like these. But the article does mention that they were investigating this before Gregg withdrew. We can draw our own conclusions, but if Gregg did withdraw because he was about to be outed as a typical corrupt Republican swindler, it was just awfully good of him to do it by kicking Obama for being "irresponsible" just as he was negotiating the stimulus package with Presidents Nelson and Collins.
Why, I just heard Gregg going on and on about fiscal responsibility again yesterday:
In a written statement, he said "it raises taxes on all Americans, implements massive new spending, and fails to make any tough choices to control the deficit and long-term fiscal crisis posed by the huge entitlement programs."
Gregg also challenged Obama's stated desire to reign in government spending, asking in his statement "Where is the spending restraint? Instead, government spending continues to grow and expand."
And apparently it isn't expanding in a way that benefits Gregg and his family, which is where the fiscal responsibility rubber meets the earmark road.
This is what I love. You have these vastly wealthy fiscal responsibility wankers running around telling old ladies they are going to have to eat cat food for the good of their country while they are all larding themselves up with as much government pigfat as they can get. And if they can't it directly from the treasury, they grease the palms of politicians to deregulate so they can screw their investors --- and then get it from the treasury when their scams fall apart.
Obama dodged a bullet with Gregg, but he really didn't deserve to. It was a tremendously naive idea to put that guy in the cabinet during an economic crisis and it was always going to cause him trouble. The fact that he was a crook should not have been a surprise --- he's a fiscal responsibility scold and they are automatically suspect.
This really looks bad for Gregg. If you read the whole article you see that his only defense is that even though he and his family benefited greatly from these earmarks, that wasn't why he put them in the legislation. And that will probably be good enough for the Village. As St John McCain has proved for 30 years, if you rail against financial irresponsibility and government waste and tell everyone who will listen how honest you are, you can get away with anything.
Honest Judd Gregg wouldn't knowingly do anything illegal any more than those fine corporate lawyers who ok'd their companies spying on Americans without warrants or those fine upstanding men and women in the Bush administration who ordered torture. These are good people, you see, acting in good faith. It's the old ladies on cat food diets and the first time homeowners who got in over their heads and the overpaid autoworkers who must pay or our society will find ourselves overwhelmed by moral hazard. And then where would we be?
The most significant part of President Obama's Iraq speech was that this was the first time, I guess, that he has specifically agreed to abide by the bilateral status of forces agreement.
But full withdrawal will follow within 18 months of the combat-brigades' departure. For the first time as president, Obama attempted to resolve ambiguities about a full withdrawal along the Dec. 2011 framework that the Iraqi government insisted upon in last year's Status of Forces Agreement, committing himself to its mechanisms. Some on the left have wondered warily why Obama hadn't made such a public commitment. Those worries will probably end with this line:
"Under the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. We will complete this transition to Iraqi responsibility, and we will bring our troops home with the honor that they have earned."
As Chris Bowers notes, breaking this agreement would mean extending the occupation into 2012, in an election year, at which point the antiwar movement would have good reason to howl in protest. The Iraqis secured a hard withdrawal date, the timing of which compels the President to stick with it.
However, NBC's Jim Miklaszeswki reported before the Obama speech that the Pentagon would prefer to break this agreement and continue the occupation (h/t).
Miklaszeswki: Secretary Gates, as early as 18 months to 2 years ago, was saying "look, everyone understands that we're going to have to start withdrawing from Iraq." But at the same time, Gates adds this caveat that he believes significant numbers of troops will remain in Iraq for years to come.
And in fact military commanders, despite this Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government that all US forces would be out by the end of 2011, are already making plans for a significant number of American troops to remain in Iraq beyond that 2011 deadline, assuming that Status of Forces Agreement agreement would be renegotiated.
And one senior military commander told us that he expects large numbers of American troops to be in Iraq for the next 15 to 20 years, David.
Gregory: 15 to 20 years, I think that takes a moment to really sink in. With a mission that is primarily what over that kind of time horizon, Mik?
Miklaszeswki: Again it would evolve from a day-to-day combat mission, to more of an oversight mission. We mustn't forget the US is providing nearly 100% of all combat air support over Iraq, and the Iraqi military is not going to be ready to assume that mission within the next 18 months to 2 years, it's going to be impossible.
And there are some discussions, I know Richard Engel mentioned the area of Kirkuk up in the north recently, there are some discussions among Iraqis and I know some military commanders to establish what could end up as a permanent air base, US air base, in Kirkuk.
The military commanders already mau-mau'ed their way into a three-month extension of the withdrawal of combat troops. Adding 15-20 years of troop deployments to Iraq would mean that babies born during the war would be spending tours of duty there. If they continue in violation of the bilateral agreement, they will be nothing but targets.
It seems to me that the commanders pushing this may not have much of a problem with the President taking political heat in 2012 for the decision. The officer class doesn't cotton to taking orders from Democrats, anyway. Watch for this continued undermining him over the next couple years.
Perhaps they should listen to one of their own wise spiritual and intellectual leaders on the subject just a few short years ago. I'm sure they'll feel better:
“Once the minority of House and Senate are comfortable in their minority status, they will have no problem socializing with [the majority.] Any farmer will tell you that certain animals run around and are unpleasant, but when they’ve been fixed, then they are happy and sedate. They are contented and cheerful. They don’t go around peeing on the furniture and such.” (Grover Norquist, Washington Post, 11/4/2004)
And here's some really good news. Newtie's got his groove back:
We already have more than enough evidence of what this administration thinks of the American people. For instance, Attorney General Eric Holder's speech in which he describes a nation of cowards!
Let me say to Attorney General Holder, I welcome an opportunity to have a dialog with you about cowardice. Anywhere, anytime....!
Yeaaaaah! (No word on whether or not he's willing to have a dialog on race, which is what Holder was talking about. But whatever.)
He's got his old nasty, mendacious, evil leprechaun mojo back and I couldn't be happier. If there's one thing the country is sorely missing is a creepy, neurotic, pseudo-intellectual conservative firebrand like Gingrich out there throwing down the gauntlet. Nobody does it better.
No. You're idiots and your mothers are embarrassed by every single one of you. It's almost rush hour. Go panhandle outside the Heritage Foundation now. And Accuracy in Media remains one of the most blissfully ironic names in the political lexicon. Once, when writing about John McCain for Esquire, just at the very beginning of the Full Monica, I went to CPAC. (In those days, it should be noted, McCain didn't have three votes in the hall.) What you had there then was what you have there now--the distilled essence of what Krugman was talking about when he mentioned Beavis and Butthead in relationship to the conservative movement the other night. It was at high tide back in '98. They were smug in the knowledge that their political ascendancy was everlasting, because all their congressional idols, superstar columnists, and important radio hosts told them so. Now, the bag of tricks is empty, the country hates them and what few ideas they have, when it thinks of them at all, which is not often, and the "movement" is a slab of rotting meat by the side of the road that even the vultures won't touch, blackening in the sun and drawing flies.
Look at this decaying lump of abject fail. Kids, in every place save his own mind, Newt Gingrich ended up a profound political failure. Rick Santorum lost. Badly. Global-warming denial? At least invite some UFOlogists to really liven things up. Election fraud? From the party of Katherine Harris? Citizen-led reform? In a country that has demonstrated its revulsion toward all you stand for in two consecutive elections, and that's now lining up at almost 60 percent behind a huge big-gubmint stimulus plan that makes Arthur Laffer cry like a child every night? And The Fairness Doctrine--boogedy-boogedy--is not coming back. Squint Scarborough is a no-hoper but, Jesus Christ with a hockey stick, is there anything Tucker Carlson won't do for a buck?
You want to rebuild your "Movement," such as it was? Then get it out of the f**king Phantom Zone. Come to the sad conclusion that it's not 1998 any more, that the country's in actual trouble, and nobody of any substance takes you and your "issues" seriously. You want to rebuild the Republican party? Lose the phone numbers of every one of these clowns. These are people who never learned that a sneer is not logic and that a string of adjectives is not an argument. All that matters is Pissing Off The Liberals. Do that, and they'll adore you. That's how a public Froot Loop like Michelle Bachmann gets a featured speaking role, and that's why any sensible Republicans would look at this gathering and feel the cold, dead hands of Zachary Taylor and the rest of the Whigs settling ominously on their shoulders. FWIW, Sarah Palin declined to attend. Maybe she is the future, after all.
In his CPAC speech, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell insisted that conservatives are more "interesting" and "fun" than liberals. Here's his proof: "who wants to hang out with guys like Paul Krugman and Robert Reich when you can be with Rush Limbaugh?"
This has been another edition of simple answers to simple questions.
The Capitol has a power plant that heats and cools all federal buildings in Washington. And it is a carbon-spewing, dirty-energy, coal-fired power plant. On Monday, there will be a mass civil disobedience action in Washington, with over 2,500 protesters descending on the Capitol Power Plant for a nonviolent sit-in. Prior to that, the top two Congressional leaders called for a 100% shift to natural gas at the power plant by the end of the year.
Today, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Leader Harry Reid released a letter asking the Capitol Architect to switch the Capitol Power Plant from coal to 100 percent natural gas by the end of 2009. Pelosi and Reid’s call comes just three days before more than 2,500 people from across the country are coming to converge at the power plant for the biggest civil disobedience on climate issues in U.S. history. Prior to the announcement of the Capitol Climate Action, pro-coal legislators had been able to prevent the switch from coal to natural gas.
“Speaker Pelosi and Leader Reid’s dramatic action shows that Congress can act quickly on global warming when the public demands it,” said Greenpeace Deputy Campaigns Director Carroll Muffett. “This move demonstrates that they recognize the urgency of the climate crisis and the need for a switch to cleaner energy sources.”
In other words, Congressional leaders were pushed by a grassroots action to call for sweeping change. It should be a shift fully to renewables, but hey, they're politicians, they're going to need prodding. But this is a fairly bold step.
Coal makes people sick and this country can't afford more coal burned into the atmosphere, from an environmental and a public health standpoint. Oscar-winning directors Joel and Ethan Coen have released a new satirical video aimed at the coal industry's deceptions on "clean coal."
Pass it around and maybe before long, your local or federal representatives will start calling on switching power plants near you away from coal. Industry and their PR spinners will never stop trying to keep the old, dirty energy structures in place. We can't stop either.
Mitchell: Do you agree overall, that we can build up in Afghanisatan and pull down at the rate, the pace[in Iraq] that President Obama is now anticipating?
Michael O'Hanlon: Yeah I think so. Let's also realize that we don't have much of a choice. The Iraqis want us to leave. The Iraqis are in a very middle ground. They want us to keep working with them at the appropriate level, but they want to increasingly run their own affairs and they would prefer to do everything on their own, naturally. They're a proud people and so we're going to have to keep downsizing. That's really not at issue. The only question would be how fast. The thing I like most about President Obama's plan --- really there are really two aspects. One, that we can be fairly gradual this year, a year that's really crucial in Iraq, where there are still some key fragilities in the situation. And then second, even after the quote unquote draw down is complete, we will still have about 50,000 US troops, including five or six new types of brigades that are described as advisory brigades but which also have a lot of combat capabilities, just in case.
So it's a prudent, hedging plan that allows for flexibility in the future. I think that's the right way to think about future Iraq strategy.
Mitchell: To build up if they need to, or rebuild back if they need to.
O'Hanlon: Or slow down the draw down if necessary.
Mitchell: Exactly. Let me ask you about the Senate Intelligence Committee's decision to go ahead and investigate CIA alleged abuses, interrogation techniques and wiretapping, even though according to a CBS New york Times poll most people don't think --- 58% --- don't think that that's necessary, yet the Senate Intelligence Committee is going to proceed. 37% want the hearings, 58% don't want the hearings. CIA obviously doesn't want the hearings. The administration, President Obama has signaled that it's time to move on. Do you think these hearings are a good idea?
O'Hanlon: That's a tough question. I think hearings on this kind of a topic can be useful if they help firm up and document a consensus that's begun to emerge. And that's what I would hope out of this. because I don't think we should re-litigate this problem or essentially punish companies that were following what they thought was the letter of the law at the time. So I take the same position that Obama and Bush and others have.
But, nonetheless, congress has an oversight role. It takes that job seriously. And it needs, perhaps to go through some of these questions one more time and to write a report that future generations can consult. So if it serves that purpose then I think there may be a benefit.
Big of him.
First, this morning all the gasbags are talking about how Obama may not be leaving enough troops in Iraq because there's a good chance he'll need to build back up. One gets the feeling that this is a piece of village conventional wisdom --- that the draw down is a nice idea but that we'll be building back troop levels at some point because we'll "have" to, the reasons for which aren't specified and which hasn't been debated as far as I know.
And why anyone is asking Michael O'Hanlon for his insights into Iraq policy is beyond me. I know he is very, very serious and all, but really, he only muddles the issue. One is tempted to dismiss any idea he has out of hand because he has no credibility.
And as for his opinion on the congressional investigation, well let's just say that if you could hear the condescending sneer in his voice as he opined that congress does have a role to play (not a great as his own of course, because he is very, very serious) you would want to throw your shoe at the television. He is a perfect little villager, expressing contempt for the idea that people of good stock (like high paid corporate lawyers and government officials) could have possibly known that they were breaking the law. And dear me, even if they did it was for our own good.
I find it quite telling that O'Hanlon sees prohibitions against torture and spying on Americans without a warrant as a "consensus that's begun to emerge." I suspect that would come as a surprise to the people who wrote the constitution, but hey, baby steps.
O'Hanlon thinks it's probably fine if the little people (who take their jobs seriously, don't you know) want to write a cute little report for future generations to peer at curiously, but one certainly needn't go any further than that. And I can understand why he would believe this. If you start going down the path of holding people responsible for the things they said and did --- or, worse, what they got wrong --- why, that could spell a lot of trouble for serious people like him. Best not go there.
For some reason "conservatives" don't like the budget and it's very hard to understand. They say they are very concerned about costs, but back when trillions were being spent on a useless war in Iraq year after year( millions of it "lost" just sitting around by the pallet load in the Emerald City) they didn't blink an eye. So it's pretty clear they don't mind deficit spending, its just deficit spending that actually benefits Americans they object to. Good to know.
Speaking of which, Paul Krugman (who likees the budget very much) wrote the other day that the Republicans had become the party of Beavis and Butthead, reduced to pulling out funny-sounding budget items to mock. I agree, naturally, but I think the press has an awful lot to do with it as well. They looove that stuff.
And yesterday, a funny thing happened. Here's Jack Cafferty, obviously thinking he was going to get a bunch of outraged responses to the "crazy" spending in the budget:
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The House of Representatives passed a $410 billion spending bill. It is loaded with pork, courtesy of both parties.
"The New York Times" reports one watchdog group says the bill includes $8 billion for more than 8,500 pet projects. Among them are these: $1.7 million for a honey bee laboratory in Texas; $1.5 million for work on grapes and grape products, including wine -- this is my favorite -- $1.8 million to research swine odor and manure management in Iowa. They could do the same research in Washington, D.C.
Smaller-ticket items include asparagus research in Washington State; wool research in Montana, Texas and Wyoming; rodent control in Hawaii; and on and on and on.
Democrats earmarked about $40 million for the presidential libraries of FDR, John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. The bill even include earmarks requested by some lawmakers who are no longer members of Congress.
Republicans pounced on the bill as wasteful, pointing out it comes just after the White House held that summit on fiscal responsibility. Democrats point out 40 percent of all the earmarks are things that were requested by Republicans.
Democratic Congressmen David Obey of Wisconsin defended these earmarks, saying that they were fully disclosed and a small part of the overall bill. And he added that without them, "... the White House and its anonymous bureaucrats would control all spending." House and Senate Democrats have already agreed on this bill, although Republican senators could try to cut out some of the pork when it gets debated in the Senate.
As for the White House, one official says, "It's a big document and we're still reviewing it."
Here's the question: Are earmarks a necessary evil or just plain evil?
This is what he reported later in the show:
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, the question this hour is, are earmarks a necessary evil or are they just plain evil?
S. in Michigan: "It depends on what ends up being called an earmark and who labels it as such. For the state or city getting the money, it is progress money or an investment. For others, it becomes pork, or an earmark, et cetera. For example, for Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, monitoring volcanoes is an earmark, but, for Alaskans, monitoring hurricanes may be earmarks. So, should we stop doing both?"
Kevin writes: "Earmarks can be wasteful or incredibly valuable, just like any type of spending. Let's look at one of your examples: $1.7 million for honeybee research. This seems silly at first glance. But when you recall that there appears to be something wiping out the honeybee population, and that these bees are necessary for crops, like apples, peaches, soybeans, pears, pumpkins, cucumbers, cherries, raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries, then it quickly starts looking like maybe we ought to be spending more money on this research."
Susan in Idaho: "If earmarks are necessary, we better change the way we do business in all levels of politics. The time for responsible spending is way past due. Pet projects are taking food away from the hungry and jobs away from those who, by no fault of their own, have lost them."
Ed in Iowa writes: "Here in Iowa, we're sure in need of some swine odor and manure management. And I can tell you that for darn sure, since I live downwind to several hog farms. What you don't understand when you make fun of this is that it's a huge problem. Pigs are big business here. Their manure could be used for fertilizer and biofuels, instead of just polluting the air and the water. It is a smart investment that will pay off in clean air, clean water, cheap food, and jobs."
And B.D. in Boise, Idaho: "The 40 percent that the Republicans want are pure evil. The 60 percent that the Democrats want are absolutely necessary. Or is it the other way around? We're handing out so much money these days, it is easy to forget which side of the aisle you're really on."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog, CNN.com/caffertyfile, and look for yours there, among hundreds of others -- Wolf.
Obviously, the answers were chosen by Cafferty, so it doesn't mean anything. Perhaps he got schooled a little bit by his viewers or maybe this is what he meant to do all along, but his second segment indicated that there is, at least, some indication that the wingnut Beavis and Buttheads aren't quite as entertaining as they used to be.
Perhaps an awareness is growing about the value of government, or maybe just a willingness to speak out about it. Either way it would truly be a sea change after 30 years of snotty Reaganite dismissiveness. That's big.
They still don't get who, and what, they're dealing with. Obama's "political skills" passed whatever tests they needed to pass well over a year ago. Today, he is wildly popular while his opponents are reduced to bleating that they want him to fail. Oh, and don't forget all the money "wasted" on frivolities like monitoring volcanoes that threaten the lives of thousands of Americans.
Like Obama or hate him, the political skills being tested are not his but those in Congress, especially Republicans'.
...before the got around to trashing Ty'Sheoma Bethea. From Joan Walsh:
I thought it would come from Michelle Malkin or Rush Limbaugh, but Malkin is too busy planning her anti-tax tea parties while Rush gets ready for his close-up at the Conservative Political Action Committee this weekend (which is a collection of nuts so nutty even Sarah Palin stayed away).
No, it was the conservative Washington Times that cast the first stone at Ty'Sheoma Bethea, the Dillon, S.C., teenager who wrote to Congress seeking stimulus funds for her shamefully dilapidated school. Obama used her statement, "We are not quitters," as the coda of his speech Tuesday night, but now the Moon-owned paper tells us what's wrong with Bethea, in an editorial with the condescending headline, 'Yes, Ty'Sheoma, there is a Santa Claus."
Of course, they are full of crap as usual, but it doesn't stop them from just making things up.
They really seem to take special joy in going after kids that speak out on public issues. See, they think it's wrong when politicians use them for political purposes and they have no choice but to expose this exploitation.
While normally, I am a big fan of ridiculing extremists like, say, Ayman al Zawahiri or Richard Perle, I was, for some reason, dissatisfied with the article. Perhaps the cause of my unease can be traced to Milbank's punchline:
"I don't know that I persuaded anyone," Perle speculated when the session ended.
No worries, said the moderator. "You certainly kept us all entertained."
Ah, hahahahahahahaha! Oh, those ever so clever villagers and their witty repartee. You would never know - as the laughter rose into the ceiling at the I-kid-you-not Nixon Center and comity was restored amongst the well-connected crowd - that Perle was directly responsible for thousands upon thousands of Iraqi deaths, not to mention more American deaths than occurred on 911. He's entertaining.
These people make me sick. All of them. The only audience Perle deserves is the judge at a trial for his war crimes. And I'm absolutely positive, as the evidence accumulates of Perle's critically influential role in the moral cesspool that was, and remains, the Bush/Iraq war, no one will find him entertaining in the slightest.
Today the Justice Department announced that Ali al-Marri, the last enemy combatant held inside the United States, would be charged and tried in a federal court in Illinois. This is a major victory for the rule of law. Instead of being held indefinitely without due process or habeas corpus, al-Marri will be given charges and prosecuted in an American courtroom, not a military commission. All Guantanamo prisoners deserve the same courtesy - either be tried, or released. In addition, we will probably get a ruling on al-Marri's detention anyway, which would be positive to set the precedent:
The Supreme Court already agreed to consider a challenge to the constitutionality of al-Marri’s detention, and the ACLU is asking the Court still to consider that case. According to Al-Marri’s attorney, the ACLU’s Jonathan Hafetz, “it is vital that the Supreme Court case go forward because it must be made clear once and for all that indefinite military detention of persons arrested in the U.S. is illegal and that this will never happen again.”
There is another group of detainees that should be extended the rights of being tried or released - those at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan who were transferred there from around the world. The expansion of Bagram has raised fears that Obama may use it the way George Bush used Guantanamo.
Now, human rights groups say they are becoming increasingly concerned that the use of extra-judicial methods in Afghanistan could be extended rather than curtailed under the new U.S. administration. The air base is about to undergo a $60 million expansion that will double its size, meaning it can house five times as many prisoners as remain at Guantanamo.
Apart from staff at the International Red Cross, human rights groups and journalists have been barred from Bagram, where former prisoners say they were tortured by being shackled to the ceiling of isolation cells and deprived of sleep.
The base became notorious when two Afghan inmates died after the use of such techniques in 2002, and although treatment and conditions have been improved since then, the Red Cross issued a formal complaint to the U.S. government in 2007 about harsh treatment of some prisoners held in isolation for months.
While the majority of the estimated 600 prisoners are believed to be Afghan, an unknown number -- perhaps several dozen -- have been picked up from other countries.
Hilzoy had a great piece about this, showing the genuinely conflicting issues at play here. But one thing seems fairly obvious - if we are going to restore our moral authority around the world, we need to have the same standard for those detainees at Bagram not detained in the course of military conflict as we ought to have for those at Guantanamo. That's not just true of the Muslim world, where support for Al Qaeda itself is mixed, but strongly in favor of their efforts to drive the United States off their land, through force if necessary. It's also true of our allies in Europe, who will not work with us on key issues if we just rebuild Guantanamo at Bagram.
In one of his first acts in office, President Barack Obama ordered the closure within one year of Guantanamo Bay, where about 245 people are still detained and which has been widely viewed as a stain on the U.S. human rights record.
But Obama has yet to decide what to do about the jail at Bagram, where more than 600 prisoners are held, or whether to continue work on a $60 million prison complex there.
Washington wants the EU to help it close Guantanamo by agreeing to accept discharged prisoners who cannot be returned to their own countries for fear of torture.
But a confidential EU policy paper, obtained by Reuters, said such help would depend on Washington's overall anti-terrorism policies, including assurances that Bagram or other camps would not become new Guantanamos.
"I would find it very surprising, if the (U.S.) policy remained the same while Guantanamo was closed, to see the EU mobilize itself," EU anti-terrorism coordinator Gilles de Kerchove told Reuters.
The EU policy paper said: "It would not be in conformity with EU fundamental rights policies to simply transfer Guantanamo elsewhere (i.e. in Bagram) without solving the underlying question of the detention of terror suspects for indefinite time and without trial."
This is going to undermine our efforts at global cooperation if it is allowed to fester. Obama's honeymoon around the world will quickly come to an end. We will have lost a great opportunity to push the reset button.
In case you were wondering, here's the Peterson Foundation's quick response to President Obama's budget:
President Obama's first budget contains many encouraging signs, along with some items of concern. He is to be commended for providing a 10-year budget projection and a specific deficit-reduction goal; for including a number of items in the baseline budget that previously were not included (e.g., war costs, AMT fix); and for supporting a PAYGO concept in connection with mandatory spending increases and tax cuts.
At the same time, the President is not proposing to adopt discretionary spending caps or automatic reconsideration triggers for mandatory spending items and tax preferences. In addition, he is proposing to move some items from the discretionary to the mandatory spending category. He is also advocating expanding health care coverage before we have demonstrated our ability to control health care costs, and before we make a significant down-payment on the federal government's tens of trillions of dollars in current unfunded health care promises.
The President's budget results in total debt-to-GDP of 96 percent and rising by 2010. This serves to demonstrate the need for the creation of a Fiscal Future Commission to help us get our federal finances in order before we lose the confidence of our foreign lenders.
-- David M. Walker, President & CEO, PGPF February 26, 2009
Clearly, they are not happy at all with the idea of health care reform which is no surprise. "Entitlements" are the enemy after all.
They are going to keep pressing for a commission, which is not supportable. The Republicans clearly want this as well, and it's possible the administration will mistakenly let them have it as a delaying action. But they should resist. These things lead to nothing good and often create some very serious mischief. Just say no.
Update: Thanks to Greg Anrig for correcting Mark Ambinder on this hysterical nonsense about social security and the new budget. But I won't be surprised to see Ambinder's take turn up in other places.
[John] Bolton’s speech was rather heavy on partisan politics. He asked a packed room to work to elect Republicans in special elections and 2010, something possible because “this is still a center-right country” and “the Democrats misinterpreted the vote that they got.”
And Bolton was overjoyed to be untethered from the Bush administration. Conservatives were stronger now, he said, because they didn’t have to defend George W. Bush. “Too many people identified the Bush administration with conservatism,” said Bolton. “I think that’s far from being accurate.”
During the George W. Bush administration, Bolton has been the Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security (2001-2005) and U.S. Ambassador to the UN (2005)
And considering what he oversaw during his tenure, one can only assume that he's disappointed that he didn't get to start a nuclear war. That's pretty much all that's left on the conservative hawk wish list. But the man still has dreams, apparently.
Update:County Fair is collecting video highlights of the conference. Much hilarity all around. Jamison Foser writes that our old friend David Bossie introduced Newtie, and give a neat primer on Bossie's history.
I don't think Bossie gets the credit from conservatives he deserves. He was a huge part of their success in the 1990s. ( And the press should give him a bit wet kiss as well, as I wrote back in 2004:)
The press ate up Bossie's lies over and over again until there was no conclusion one could reach except that they just didn't care about the truth. The Whitewater psuedo-scandal and the seventy million wasted taxpayer dollars that flowed from it was driven by Bossie's operation and he remained a player in the Scaife funded character assassination plot for the entire Clinton administration. It's not as if the press didn't know from the very beginning with whom they were dealing because they were called to task for their stenographic use of Citizens United "press packages" all the way back in June of 1994 by Trudy Lieberman in the Columbia Journalism Review:
Bossie, the twenty-eight-year-old political director for Citizens United, a conservative Republican operation, runs an information factory whose Whitewater production lines turn out a steady stream of tips, tidbits, documents, factoids, suspicions, and story ideas for the nation's press and for Republicans on Capitol Hill. Journalists and Hill Republicans have recycled much of the information provided by Citizens United into stories that have cast a shadow on the Clinton presidency.
...Citizens United has collected thousands of facts and documents on Whitewater and packaged it all to catch the attention of the press and to restoke the story whenever it threatened to die down.
Bossie and Brown have been briefing people since October -- "the top fifty major publications, networks, and editorial boards," Bossie says. "We've provided the same material on the Hill both on the House and Senate side." An equal opportunity source, Bossie says he would gladly provide documents to Democrats, but they haven't asked.
Francis Shane, publisher of Citizens United's newsletter, ClintonWatch, hesitates to say exactly whom they've worked with -- "We don't particularly like to pinpoint people" -- but he does say, "We have worked closer with The New York Times than The Washington Times." Jeff Gerth, The New York Times's chief reporter on Whitewater, hesitated to talk on the record. He did say, "If Citizens United has some document that's relevant, I take it. I check it out like anything else
The March 1994 issue of ClintonWatch characterized the organization's impact on Whitewater press coverage this way: "We here at ClintonWatch have been working day and night with the major news media to help them get the word out about the Clintons and their questionable dealings in Whitewater and Madison Guaranty." Of course, Citizens United is not the only source of information on Whitewater. And reputable reporters do their own digging and doublechecking. Still, an examination of some 200 news stories from the major news outlets aired or published since November shows an eerie similarity between the Citizens United agenda and what has been appearing in the press, not only in terms of specific details but in terms of omissions, spin, and implication.
Whitewater is about character, publisher Fran Shane tells me. "The American people have elected a president with 43 percent of the vote. He is a man of no character. He may have to tell the people he didn't come clean. We're saying Bill Clinton may not be worth saving."
Many news organizations explain the importance of Whitewater in similar terms. Take Time, for instance. In a January 24 story laced with references to documents that also appear in Bossie's Whitewater collection, the magazine pronounced that "the investigation concerns the much larger issue of whether a President and First Lady can be trusted to obey the law and tell the truth."
The character issue can be turned on the press, which has shamelessly taken the hand-outs dished up by a highly partisan organization, with revenues of more than $ 2 million a year, without identifying the group as the source of some of their information.
Many people ascribe the success of the 1994 Republican Revolution to Newt Gingrich. And he was the public face and driving force behind it, no doubt about it. But it was really William Kristol who made it possible with his famous memo about obstructing health care reform:
[P]assage of the Clinton health care plan in any form would be disastrous. It would guarantee an unprecedented federal intrusion into the American economy. Its success would signal the rebirth of centralized welfare-state policy at the very moment that such policy is being perceived as a failure in other areas. And, not least, it would destroy the present breadth and quality of the American health care system, the world’s finest.
Obama intends to use his big three issues -- energy, health care and education -- to transform the role of the federal government as fundamentally as did the New Deal and the Great Society.
Conservatives and Republicans will disapprove of this effort. They will oppose it. Can they do so effectively?
Perhaps -- if they can find reasons to obstruct and delay. They should do their best not to permit Obama to rush his agenda through this year. They can't allow Obama to make of 2009 what Franklin Roosevelt made of 1933 or Johnson of 1965. Slow down the policy train. Insist on a real and lengthy debate. Conservatives can't win politically right now. But they can raise doubts, they can point out other issues that we can't ignore (especially in national security and foreign policy), they can pick other fights -- and they can try in any way possible to break Obama's momentum. Only if this happens will conservatives be able to get a hearing for their (compelling, in my view) arguments against big-government, liberal-nanny-state social engineering -- and for their preferred alternatives.
It worked the first time. But Clinton had won with a plurality in an election where the deficit was fetishized as the greatest threat to economic prosperity. The economy turned around quickly from the recession of 91-92 and the tech bubble took off shortly thereafter. Health insurance was still affordable. The Republicans were ascendant, the culture war was in full effect, the decades-long electoral realignment was coming to completion with the old conservative Democratic Lions finally retiring. The cold war was over and nothing had yet emerged to take its place to keep the Military Industrial Complex humming. It was a different world.
Today, nearly all of that is completely irrelevant and we are possibly in the midst of a once in a century economic meltdown and an unprecedented climate crisis. Oh, and there are a bunch of religious fanatics blowing stuff up around the world. We just came off of eight years of Republican governance --- and 28 years of conservative dominance -- that either created or exacerbated all those problems. Indeed, it's the reason the Republicans were routed in the election.
But then none of that would be persuasive to Kristol, would it? The man is arguing that Roosevelt should have been obstructed in 1933, so the scope of the crisis doesn't affect his view and the size of the mandate is obviously irrelevant. He simply seeks to find a way to keep the Democrats from achieving anything that the people might see as a positive in their lives. Like Rush Limbaugh, he is openly advocating failure.
If I wanted Obama to succeed, I'd be happy the Republicans have laid down. And I would be encouraging Republicans to lay down and support him. Look, what he's talking about is the absorption of as much of the private sector by the US government as possible, from the banking business, to the mortgage industry, the automobile business, to health care. I do not want the government in charge of all of these things. I don't want this to work. So I'm thinking of replying to the guy, "Okay, I'll send you a response, but I don't need 400 words, I need four: I hope he fails." (interruption) What are you laughing at? See, here's the point. Everybody thinks it's outrageous to say. Look, even my staff, "Oh, you can't do that." Why not? Why is it any different, what's new, what is unfair about my saying I hope liberalism fails? Liberalism is our problem. Liberalism is what's gotten us dangerously close to the precipice here. Why do I want more of it? I don't care what the Drive-By story is. I would be honored if the Drive-By Media headlined me all day long: "Limbaugh: I Hope Obama Fails." Somebody's gotta say it.
He is not saying that he doesn't think liberalism can succeed. He's worried that it will. So is Kristol when he writes that Obama can't be allowed to succeed the way Roosevelt and Johnson did. After all, Roosevelt succeeded in leading the country though two of the worst events of the 20th century. Johnson finally ended American apartheid. These are the successes that Obama must not be allowed to emulate.
It's primarily politics, of course. Both Limbaugh and Kristol are afraid that Obama's success would mean decades in the wilderness for Republicans. But by looking for failure of Obama's policy initiatives they are also showing a tremendous insecurity about their own philosophy.
All day I see Republicans on television, filled with sanctimony and phony concern, keening about the deficit and reckless spending and fiscal responsibility. Today, they've even resurrected the "tax and spend" trope. These are the same Republicans who gave away the budget surplus to to their wealthy friends and who then went on to destroy the financial system. The same people who spent an estimated three trillion dollars on a war based on lies that didn't need to be fought. Now they are shamelessly publicly lecturing the new president on "responsibility" and obstructing everything they know is necessary for a recovery, but it sounds hollow and strange in current circumstances.(See: Jindal, Bobby)
They will not change. They will wait it out, hoping for failure, trying to figure out some new "branding" and marketing" for their stale, aristocratic philosophy. They will try to keep the Democrats from enacting the kind of programs that will permanently undermine wealthy interests while trying to resurrect their own ideology so that it's ready for them to ride it to victory once the liberals have cleaned up the mess. It's a tightrope, but they've walked it before, and been successful.
In fact, it's the way the pendulum swings. And that's why it's important that liberals protect the safety net programs and initiate those that are overdue at times like this. They need them to be there in the future when the aristocrats get greedy and screw things up for everyone as they always do. Roosevelt enacted unemployment insurance, welfare for women with children and social security during the depression. Johnson enacted poverty programs like Head Start that are still feeding little poor kids today during this economic crisis. Without all those things, this country would be in much worse shape today after the greedheads drove us off a cliff. Again. One of the functions of the safety net is to give our society a cushion for the times when wealthy criminals use their outsized power and influence to loot the treasury and cause a cascading effect of misery to come down on average peoples' heads.
It would be pretty to think they will never do it again. But they will. And if they truly believe their own cant about self-interest, they should be hoping that the Democrats pass health care (which is a good for business as it is for individuals), tackle global warming and do all these things that Meteor Blades recommends. Conservatism is a luxury that can only be afforded by a thriving country. It needs a healthy organism to feed on. And they almost killed it this time.
They need to let the country recover and recuperate but they can't admit that, make amends or pay the price for their perfidy. They are Randian bullshit addicts and they haven't hit bottom yet.
Update: And by the way, if Kristol and Limbaugh need some further education on whyfFree market Hooverism is so dangerous, this is it. Maybe all the neocons think Roosevelt should have just let the economy correct itself, but human beings are creatures with free will and tend to react when the "correction" destroys their lives and their futures. Bad things were happening in 1933. Bad things can happen again. These are not things to trifle with.
LIMBAUGH: I am told South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford called me an idiot, not by name. But he said, “Anyone who wants Obama to fail is an idiot.” I don’t anybody else who said it. So, I guess he’s talking about– … Politicians have different audiences than I do and they’ve got to say things in different ways. So, after he said, “Anyone who wants Obama to fail is an idiot,” then went on in his own way to say, “Gosh, I hope this doesn’t work.” … He just had to say, “We don’t want the president to fail.”
Hell we don’t! We want something to blow up here politically. We want something to not go right. … We’re talking about freedom that is under assault!