Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Friedman has been here before

Friedman today,
I hate to write about this, but I have actually been to this play before and it is really disturbing.

I was in Israel interviewing Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin just before he was assassinated in 1995. We had a beer in his office. He needed one. I remember the ugly mood in Israel then — a mood in which extreme right-wing settlers and politicians were doing all they could to delegitimize Rabin, who was committed to trading land for peace as part of the Oslo accords. They questioned his authority. They accused him of treason. They created pictures depicting him as a Nazi SS officer, and they shouted death threats at rallies. His political opponents winked at it all.

And in so doing they created a poisonous political environment that was interpreted by one right-wing Jewish nationalist as a license to kill Rabin — he must have heard, “God will be on your side” — and so he did.
It's all fun and games until a Federal Courthouse is blown up or someone is shot. We've seen in this country where the ugliness can lead.

So who will stand up and demand the GOP denounce this hate? It won't be the Chair of the RNC who this week sent out a fundraising appeal comparing Obama's "fanaticism" to Stalin and Kim Jong Il.

When will major media figures press politicians to denounce this stuff? When do they stop getting free passes on ever media appearance?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Bartlett on Latimer on Bartlett (no relation) and Rove

Bruce Bartlett devotes more time on his blog to Matt Latimer's new book "Speech-Less" today focusing on Latimer's trashing of two more of Bush's top aids.

First up, Dan Bartlett,
On page 212 we learn that Dan Bartlett (no relation) a senior White House staffer took credit with the president for an idea Latimer had come up with. The picture of Bartlett Latimer presents confirms what I have heard from other White House staffers--he was utterly incompetent but had a knack for getting along with Bush, which was enough to relentlessly push him up the ladder of success from Bush go-fer to one of the most important officials in government. Latimer says there was a whole group of such people in the White House: "These were mostly well-meaning people who rose to the very top because they were likable, not supremely qualified." That's an understatement.
It's not exactly a revelation that personal loyalty to Bush got unqualified hacks promoted to positions far beyond their ability, ie Alberto Gonzales and Harriett Miers.

Latimer then turns to Rove,
Latimer is surprisingly critical of Karl Rove, given that he remains a darling of conservatives. Latimer correctly notes that Bush should have won the 2000 election easily and that it was close only because Rove stupidly wasted millions of campaign dollars in a futile effort to win California in the last days of the campaign instead of shoring up Florida. Latimer also notes that Bush's re-election should have been a slam-dunk but ended up being close. Thus Latimer thinks that Rove's reputation as a political genius is totally undeserved. I agree. Here Latimer summarizes his assessment of Rove:

"Karl was not the hero of the Bush White House, the brilliant behind-the scenes strategist. He was what all the liberals said he was: the villain. And to make matters worse, a clumsy one at that. He employed ham-handed tactics, put forward obviously unqualified subordinates, and stubbornly defended them. He'd turned out to be less a Voldemort than a Boris Badenov chasing Rocky and Bullwinkle."
Again, this is not exactly a revelation. A Republican friend of mine asked me to admit that Rove was a political genius and my response was the same as Latimer's. No genius would have had Bush wasting his time in California which he had no hope of winning, the last few weeks of the election. I call the California strategy Karl's Folly. Under Rove's guidance Bush was reelected with the smallest margin in American history and this during a war. Republicans still defend Rove but only because of their instinct to circle the wagons. Soon enough, they will be throwing him under the bus.

(HT again to Andrew)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hollywood rallies to save health insurers

The Death of intellectual Conservatism

Richard Posner,
By the end of the Clinton administration, I was content to celebrate the triumph of conservatism as I understood it, and had no desire for other than incremental changes in the economic and social structure of the United States. I saw no need for the estate tax to be abolished, marginal personal-income tax rates further reduced, the government shrunk, pragmatism in constitutional law jettisoned in favor of "originalism," the rights of gun owners enlarged, our military posture strengthened, the rise of homosexual rights resisted, or the role of religion in the public sphere expanded. All these became causes embraced by the new conservatism that crested with the reelection of Bush in 2004.

My theme is the intellectual decline of conservatism, and it is notable that the policies of the new conservatism are powered largely by emotion and religion and have for the most part weak intellectual groundings. That the policies are weak in conception, have largely failed in execution, and are political flops is therefore unsurprising. The major blows to conservatism, culminating in the election and programs of Obama, have been fourfold: the failure of military force to achieve U.S. foreign policy objectives; the inanity of trying to substitute will for intellect, as in the denial of global warming, the use of religious criteria in the selection of public officials, the neglect of management and expertise in government; a continued preoccupation with abortion; and fiscal incontinence in the form of massive budget deficits, the Medicare drug plan, excessive foreign borrowing, and asset-price inflation.

By the fall of 2008, the face of the Republican Party had become Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber. Conservative intellectuals had no party.
What Karl Rove hath wrought.

(HT to Andrew Sullivan)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Race and the GOP

Jimmy Carter's comments this past week on race driving opposition to President Obama might ring true to some extent, but his comments were not especially helpful and added yet another distraction to the work at hand.

The majority of Republicans are not racist and oppose Obama's policies because they want him to fail for partisan political reasons -- not because he happens to be of African decent. Anti-Obama Congressional Republican venom doesn't seem any different to me in tone or substance from the anti-Clinton venom that poisoned our politics in the 90's and piqued with only the second time in our nation's history that a president was impeached. These people are serious kooks but their hatred is not about race.

The GOPs problem with race is their all to cozy relationship with racists and racism. I don't have the writing talent of Bob Herbert whose column today clearly explains and calls out the GOP's disgusting tolerance for racism so long as it delivers votes.
Republicans have been openly feeding off of race hatred since the days of Dick Nixon. Today’s conservative activists are carrying that banner proudly. What does anybody think is going on when, as Anderson Cooper pointed out on CNN, one of the leaders of the so-called tea party movement, Mark Williams, refers to the president of the United States as an Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug, and a racist in chief.

After all these years of race-baiting and stirring the pot of hatred for political gain, it’s too much to ask the leaders of the Republican Party to step forward and denounce this spreading stain of reprehensible conduct. Republicans are trying to ride that dependable steed of bigotry back to power.

But it’s time for other Americans, of whatever persuasion, to take a stand, to say we’re better than this.
Speaking to my Republican friends, when will you find the courage to denounce the GOP love affair with racism and demand your leaders do the same?

Mitt Romney: The Amazing Spineless Man

Mitt Romney's complete and total lack of any guiding principles whatsoever is truly breathtaking. I don't know how he is able to stand-up straight and walk down the street.

Mitt spoke today at the Value Voters meeting in DC and Dave Weigel was there to document the flip-flops.

Mitt Romney at the Values Voter Summit this morning:

When government is trying to take over health care, buying car companies, bailing out banks, and giving half the White House staff the title of czar – we have every good reason to be alarmed and to speak our mind!

Romney at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February:

I know we didn’t all agree on TARP. I believe that it was necessary to prevent a cascade of bank collapses. For free markets to work, there has to be a currency and a functioning financial system.

If this were any other candidate it would be a minor story. After all, we're talking about a politician. Obama was against mandates before he was in favor of them, for instance.

But Romney's flip-flops involve polar opposites. In the 30 years I've followed politics I've never seen anything like Mitt.

Romney was against Reagan before he was for him; for abortion before he was against it; for gun control before he was against it, for universal health care before he was against it, and on, and on, and on,....

Does Romney stand for anything? In a couple hours any opo firm could turn out a dozen ads to run against Romney.

Go to Youtube and search "Romney flip flop" and you will find many, many video. Here are a few, starting with my favorite:

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Right's endless race-baiting

Ta-Nehisi Coats is the best blogger I don't read often enough and his take on the Right's relentless race-baiting is a must read.
For black people, the clear benefit of Obama is that he is quietly exposing an ancient hatred that has simmered in this country for decades. Rightly or wrongly, a lot of us grew tired of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, mostly because they presented easy foils for Limbaugh-land. Moreover, again rightly or wrongly, they were used to define all of us.

But Barack Obama, bourgeois in every way that bourgeois is right and just, will not dance.He tells kids to study--and they seethe. He accepts an apology for an immature act of rudeness--and they go hysterical. He takes his wife out for a date--and their veins bulge. His humanity, his ordinary blackness, is killing them....
Of course there is much more, and his take on Sharpton, et al, is also spot-on.

You will not find a more clear-eyed view on race in American than Coats' but this is only the smallest part of his writing. His Atlantic blog really is a daily must read.

HealthCareForAmericaNow not pulling any punches

Here's there new TV Spot. HCFAN says they will be running national TV advertising. I'm not sure where, if anywhere, this ad is actually running. If anyone knows, let me know.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pawlenty in his own words

The DNC has put out a video skewering Gov Pawlenty -- the supposed voice of moderation in the GOP -- with his own words.

You know you have crossed the 'reasonableness line' for conservatives when Joe Scarborough is calling you out. Joe was a class of 94 Congressman of the 'Newt Army'.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Stay classy House Republicans

By now, everyone knows Joe Wilson(R-SC) and independent and Latino voters are reminded why they can't vote Republican.

Not everyone knows Rob Miller, but thanks to Joe Wilson, that is changing in a dramatic way,
There's a gold rush on for Rob Miller, the Democrat running in South Carolina against Rep. Joe "You Lie" Wilson. He's taken in more than $100,000 through the Web site since Wilson broke protocol in the House chamber Wednesday night with his shocking shout at President Obama. And the total is rising by the minute.

About half the money is coming from readers of the liberal Daily Kos blog through a group called "Defeating the man who yelled 'liar' at Obama." Other groups also apparently formed in the passion of the moment have names like "No More Name Calling" and "Joe's Gotta Go (People against inappropriate outbursts)."
Remember when Republicans used to curtly speak of "Bush derangement syndrome"?

By the way, a TPM reader has a very insightful explanation of why Wilson lost his self-control that is worth a read.

UPDATE: Rob Miller's ActBlue page has now raised more than $350,000 for his campaign to unseat Joe Wilson. If you have a few extra bucks, throwing Rob's way sends an important message to the GOP.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The President's address to Congress

The President's speech tonight was pitch perfect, and his numbers will go up because of it. People will be reminded why they liked him.

But he has suffered from his lack of leadership in health care and was tonight too little too late? Time will tell.

[Editor's note: The original video posted here was removed from Youtube and has been replaced by the following videos breaking the speech into 5 parts]

Purdum on Paulson

Todd Purdum strikes again with an excellent profile of Hank Paulson in this month's Vanity Fair.

The interviews were conducted over a 15 months with the understanding that the article would be embargoed until after Paulson left office. The result is an interesting look into the mindset of the Treasury Secretary during the biggest financial meltdown since the Great Depression.

Paulson wouldn't criticize lawmakers by name but was clearly frustrated with Republicans who would reassure him in private and publicly attack his plans.

Interestingly, life-long Republican and former Nixon aid Paulson has much praise for both Speaker Pelosi --“Nancy Pelosi to me was a wonder in this deal, and she was available 24-7, anytime I called her on the cell phone" -- and admiration for Barney Frank,
As I look back over our conversations, one man whose name comes up frequently and stands out as an exception to everything that left Paulson cold about Washington’s way of doing business is Barney Frank,...“This is a guy that’s got the intellect, he’s got the energy, he cares, and he wants to legislate, knows how to legislate,” Paulson said. “He’s interested in getting across the finish line. Now, I just wish he were a Republican and we all shared the same policy principles, and you’d cut a wide swath!”
One last excerpt that also includes Frank. On September 29 of last year, House Republicans had defeated the TARP bill which has been hammered out over a weekend,
Paulson and administration officials were shocked, though Barney Frank read the situation correctly, as Paulson recalled: “He said, ‘Well, sometimes, you know, kids have got to run away from home and be hungry before they come back.’ ” Four days later, the runaways came home, and a barely revised version of the program passed. “It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, to go up there, to go through these hearings, which are all about … it’s entertainment, and it’s speaking to the people back home, and it’s sound bites. And to be doing that at the same time you’re trying to negotiate something this important was exhausting.”