Nice little quip from Obama Press Secretary Robert Gibbs when asked about RNC Chairman Michael Steele’s speedy volte face on criticism of Rush Limbaugh, the intellectual light of the Republican Party:

I was a little surprised at the speed in which Mr. Steele, the head of the RNC, apologized to the head of the Republican Party.

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That’s why the party’s embrace of the insufferable Samuel “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher is such a perfect expression of what the anti-government impulse that led to Reagan’s victory in 1980 has become after 28 years in power. Having badly bungled a war, shown gross incompetence in responding to a natural disaster, and presided over the near-total collapse of the nation’s (and the world’s) financial system, the leadership of the Republican Party thinks it’s a good idea to follow the advice (or rather, to pretend to follow the advice) of some guy who (to put it delicately) has no fucking idea what he’s talking about.” — Damon Linker

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Conservative talking head David Frum has been on a clear-headed roll lately. His new article in The New Majority paints a stark contrast between Obama and Rush Limbaugh:

On the one side, the president of the United States: soft-spoken and conciliatory, never angry, always invoking the recession and its victims. This president invokes the language of “responsibility,” and in his own life seems to epitomize that ideal: He is physically honed and disciplined, his worst vice an occasional cigarette. He is at the same time an apparently devoted husband and father. Unsurprisingly, women voters trust and admire him.

And for the leader of the Republicans? A man who is aggressive and bombastic, cutting and sarcastic, who dismisses the concerned citizens in network news focus groups as “losers.” With his private plane and his cigars, his history of drug dependency and his personal bulk, not to mention his tangled marital history, Rush is a walking stereotype of self-indulgence – exactly the image that Barack Obama most wants to affix to our philosophy and our party. And we’re cooperating! Those images of crowds of CPACers cheering Rush’s every rancorous word – we’ll be seeing them rebroadcast for a long time.

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I usually find Fox News’ Shepard Smith a bit disquieting but he sometimes challenges the propagandist orthodoxy in a very impressive way:

[Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri — the only “enemy combatant” held inside the United States —] has been held in a military prison for more than five years — not Chris Wallace — this next person. And he wasn’t ever charged. Think about that. I mean just think about it fundamentally. You are held for five years in prison, and you’re never charged! Oh well it was an al-Qaeda suspect, suspected al-Qaeda operative. Who cares who it is?! You don’t get to — this is America; you do not get to hold people for five years without — actually, you do. But he’s getting its day in court now.

Watch it:

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Matt Yglesias has a very interesting take on the One Unquestionable Tenet of Republicanism – Tax Cuts:

Capitalism is based on the theory that given adequate financial incentives to produce, human ingenuity is capable of coming up with almost everything. You can see a good example of the truth of this, I think, in America’s long-standing debate over whether or not reducing taxes on rich people is a good idea. Rich people, by definition, have a lot of money. Consequently there’s an enormous quantity of direct and indirect demand for policy ideas that serve their interests and flatter their prejudices. And much as theory would predict, recent years have seen an enormous blossoming of arguments about why rich people should pay less in taxes.

There’s a certain beginner’s level of this.

Here, when progressive tax policy has been in place during a period of growth, and that growth has led to a budget surplus, you argue not that it’s smart to balance the budget over the course of the business cycle, but rather that the surplus reflects the government “overcharging” in taxes that should be returned to those who pay the most taxes; which is to say to those who have the most money; which is to say to the rich. That’s a 1999 argument.

Then if the economy falls into recession wiping out the surpluses, you argue that a tax cut for the rich is needed as economic stimulus. That’s a 2001 argument.

And if the economy is growing during a period of conservative tax policy, you argue that the low taxes produced the growth so need to be kept in place forever. That’s a 2005 argument.

And then if the economy falls into recession again, you argue that additional permanent tax cuts for the wealthy are the only solution.

It really is amazing to me how Republicans view tax cuts as the panacea to all of our ills, no matter what our economy looks like at the time.

Time of record growth? Tax cuts!

Economic downturn? Tax cuts!!

Recession? Tax cuts!!!

Martian invasion? TAX CUTS!!!

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Steve Benen wrote a sharp post this morning that includes the concept of “conversation enders”:

The Birthers. I call them “conversation enders.” These are comments that lead you to know, the moment you hear them, that the writer/speaker is either clueless or intellectually dishonest, and there’s really no reason to engage the person in a serious dialog.

I suspect we all have them. When I hear, “Tax cuts are fiscally responsible because they pay for themselves,” it’s a conversation ender. When I hear, “Evolution is just a theory,” it’s a conversation ender. When someone says, “Global warming can’t be real because it’s cold outside,” it’s a conversation ender.

I like the concept and the phraseology. In my youth, I used to get my jollies by engaging people with whom I disagreed in loud arguments about things like religion, politics and the like. These days, I have very little tolerance for engaging people who don’t at least ascribe to a baseline set of principles (e.g. honesty, acceptance of formal logic, ability to recognize contradictions, etc.). What’s the point in having a conversation with someone only to find that they literally believe that the Earth was created 6,000 years ago?

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Funny how it turns out that the people who consume the most porn come from the most Christianist states in the Union:

Those states that do consume the most porn tend to be more conservative and religious than states with lower levels of consumption, the study finds.

“Some of the people who are most outraged turn out to be consumers of the very things they claimed to be outraged by,” Edelman says.

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This new Gallup poll is pretty remarkable:

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Obama’s overall approval rating jumped to 67 percent.

The more dramatic development?

His approval rating among Republicans jumped 15 points — from 27 to 42 percent in a week.

This is obviously great news for the Republican Party and their all-obstruction-all-the-time strategy. 2010 is probably going to be a bloodbath.

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