Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn will seek to offset federal aid to victims of a massive tornado that blasted through Oklahoma City suburbs on Monday with cuts elsewhere in the budget.> more ... (0 comments)
Tim Noah raises a good question about Obama insisting he won’t negotiate on the debt ceiling: what does this statement actually mean?
Let’s think about this for one second, in conjunction with upcoming negotiations for resolving the “sequester,” i.e. the trillion-dollar blunt instrument of a spending cut that starts in a month and a half. Both sides want to change parts of the sequester. Does Obama’s stance on the debt ceiling mean that he will conduct negotiations over modifying the sequester purposefully excluding the debt ceiling, under the assumption that a hike ought to be done separately and cleanly? Will he insist on a debt ceiling hike as a precondition to any deal? Either of these could be construed as Obama “not negotiating” over it, but these are very different fundamental circumstances. I’d rather prefer the former since it acts as though the debt ceiling isn’t a valid demand, but the latter was one of Obama’s conceits for the “fiscal cliff” that didn’t quite pan out, and could well be reborn. And, of course, if the statement is construed as “I won’t talk about lifting defense cuts until the GOP raises the debt ceiling,” then it’s yet another thing (though this is a difficult interpretation to imagine Obama meaning).
Of course, the notion that Obama will refuse to negotiate on the debt ceiling is difficult to actually believe. Not impossible, but I’ll believe it when I see it. It was not a shock to me that the Administration rejected the platinum coin route, not because of some squirrely-sounding rationale about the Fed not accepting the coin so much as that using it would represent a failure of reason winning out and of people working together and coming to an agreement, even if they don’t like it. This is, essentially, at the core of Obama’s political persona and also of his own personality. However, allowing a default would arguably be just as untenable to that same sensibility (it is a flawed sensibility, at least in as strong a form as it manifests in him). So he’ll talk tough for a few more weeks, and then buckle when we start getting down to it. The only question is, what’s the ultimate deal that comes out of it? I’m guessing it will be a one-year debt ceiling hike, cancellation of most of the defense cuts, and something like chained CPI that will introduce a long-term Social Security benefit cut will be the top bullet points. No concessions from the GOP more than nominal/symbolic. After all, he didn’t get much more than nominal concessions with a ton of leverage this time, with little leverage I fully expect libs to take it in the teeth. I hope I’m wrong and that he’s got another brilliant Hagel-esque bunny rabbit up his sleeve. I hope so.
I have to admit, President Obama remains difficult to scrutinize for me. There are times when it seems as though he’s working through a grand strategy for victory, only for it to become abundantly clear that there was no strategy (the debt ceiling), or that the strategy misfired months earlier (health care reform). And there are times when it seems like nothing is going on, or the man is making a mistake, and it winds up that the he sneaked in a strategic masterstroke. I believe that we’ve just seen one of the latter with his nomination of Chuck Hagel as Defense Secretary.
How brilliant? Let’s go through the ways:
- The pick has provided a clear signal to progressives, ironically enough since Hagel is a Republican who supported both of Bush’s wars. But Hagel’s clear statements on war with Iran, Iran sanctions, defense cuts and the influence of the Israel lobby give clear indications of what sorts of priorities Obama is likely to make in his second-term foreign policy. Of course, Hagel will still have to take orders as Defense Secretary, but there’s little likelihood that Obama would appoint someone with views significantly in friction with his own, given Obama’s dislike for drama within his own team, and the many ways in which a hostile defense secretary can make life miserable for a president. This is, IMO, why neocons are so damn angry: Obama is plainly signaling that he’s not going to fulfill any items on their wish list next term. So this is good in and of itself, and Glenn Greenwald even approves.
- What could get interesting is just how nuclear the GOP is willing to go on Hagel. Hagel is one of those former GOP Senator types most idolized by the media (Richard Lugar and Bob Dole are also in this group). Hagel is liked because he was a dissident and iconoclast who broke with his party in a high-profile way. There’s nothing the media loves more. If Republicans think they can rip him to shreds without paying a price from Hagel’s admirers in the press, here’s a little taste of what they can expect from no less an establishment voice than Joe Scarborough: “If anybody out there wants to say that Chuck Hagel is outside the mainstream on foreign policy, I suggest they turn the mirror around on them,” Scarborough responded on Monday morning. The MSNBC host offered a forceful defense of Hagel, who he called a “war hero who still carries schrapnel” in his body.
- Hagel is a Republican, so Obama will get some nontrivial bipartisan plaudits. But he’s also a Republican with no real ties to his party’s leadership, and will be entirely devoted to Obama as defense chief. Probably the best of all possible worlds in terms of appointments of this kind.
So, on the one hand, Obama gets good vibrations from the left (for picking someone with more ideologically appealing views), from the center (for bipartisanship), gets the media to help defend his choice for him, and possibly even talk a little bit about how radical Republicans have become, that they’d destroy someone who four years ago was one of their top foreign policy guys. The latter might be most consequential, since it’s the hidden story these past couple years that the media has largely neglected to get out there, and that discussion has already begun. Obama really played this hand like a master this time.
[...] what’s happened is that mainstream conservatives have allowed the Michele Bachmanns and Louie Gohmerts and Tim Huelskamps – and the Glenn Becks and Rush Limbaughs – to define “real” conservative ideas. And those folks aren’t really more conservative than, say, John Boehner or Mitch McConnell; they’re just shills and hucksters, either because they really believe a lot of nonsense or because it’s in their interest to peddle it to other chumps.
and new anti-vaccination title Melanie’s Marvelous Measles:
Often today, we are being bombarded with messages from vested interests to fear all diseases in order for someone to sell some potion or vaccine, when, in fact, history shows that in industrialized countries, these diseases are quite benign and, according to natural health sources, beneficial to the body.
A long overdue book on the unexpected and delightful upside to a potentially deadly infectious disease. I look forward to “Toby’s Terrific TB” and “Polly’s Precious Polio.”
[T]he political result will be far worse if Republicans start this fight only to cave in the end. You can’t take a hostage you aren’t prepared to shoot.Nothing like the smell of economic napalm in the morning. via
“Melissa O’Sullivan … wasn’t buying the idea that Republicans had alienated minorities. ‘We’ve invited them to join us!’ she insisted.”Oh ye of defective minds, and invisible shadowy murk that surrounds you…
I haven’t watched the video yet but most folks opining on the intersphere about NRA President Wayne LaPierre’s drunken interpretive burlesque performance this morning are in various forms piteous, shocked, amused, bemused and all-around befuddled. Here’s the video:
And some reactions. The best of which is (naturally) from Wonkette:
In a bizarre “press conference” that permitted no questions, National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre declined to offer the sort of small but sensible concession that many idiots like your Editrix expected in the wake of the Newtown massacre — offering to compromise on the gun show loophole for background checks, for instance, or maybe something about okay fine maybe we don’t need hollow-point bullets — and instead declared #war on gun-free zones at elementary schools, celebrities, the Legend of Zelda, the lack of a national registry of the mentally ill, and probably single mothers and Easy Bake ovens, we don’t know because at some point his words smashed through our brains and splattered them all over our monitor. It is very messy.
The nation’s jaw literally fell off its face as it collectively realized that Code Pink and Medea Benjamin are a bunch of goddamn heroes and that the NRA had fallen into its own Glenn Beckian black hole of insanity as LaPierre spouted weird words about how if soldiers and Secret Service agents have guns then so must the guy standing the local pizza joint’s ground, and that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” (Or, and we’re just spitballing, a bad guy not having a gun.) Even trained police officers accidentally shoot unarmed people (especially if they’re black, Hispanic, or mentally ill) but obviously nothing could go wrong when random folks are armed like Robocop.
Entertainment Weekly’s mind was similarly blown:
In one of the most bizarre press conferences held on live television, National Rifle Association president Wayne LaPierre launched a hostile, self-pitying attack on the media, the entertainment industry, and schools themselves for the killings in Newtown, Conn. His solution: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
Interrupted twice by protestors carrying signs with sentiments such as “NRA: Blood On Its Hands,” LaPierre called for “armed security” in “every single school in America.” LaPierre said “the national media machine rewards” mass killers with coverage. He condemned “vicious, violent videogames” such as Mortal Kombat and showed a clip from a videogame called “Kindergarten Killers.” He bad-mouthed “movies such as American Psycho and Natural Born Killers.” He scolded “violent music videos” and scorned anyone who “has the nerve to call it entertainment.” Overall, the entertainment industry promotes “the filthiest form of pornography,” said LaPierre.
It was a stunning news conference. A man whose organization does its best to defeat gun legislation decried “all the noise and anger directed at us.” He had the unspeakable gall to suggest that the Sandy Hook Elementary School and its Newtown school system could have done something to prevent the killings, namely: “What if Adam Lanza … had been confronted by qualified armed security.” “Will you at least admit it is possible that 26 little kids — that 26 innocent lives — might have been spared that day?” he asked. Right: It was the fault of bureaucrats in Connecticut and Washington that caused the bloodshed. Blaming the victims? That’s more obscene than a movie, a videogame, or a music video.
Sully puts it in perspective:
Between the humiliating and chaotic collapse of Speaker Boehner’s already ludicrously extreme Plan B and Wayne La Pierre’s deranged proposal to put government agents in schools with guns, the Republican slide into total epistemic closure and political marginalization has now become a free-fall. This party, not to mince words, is unfit for government. There is no conservative party in the West – except for minor anti-immigrant neo-fascist ones in Europe – anywhere close to this level of far right extremism. And now the damage these fanatics can do is not just to their own country – was the debt ceiling debacle of 2011 not enough for them? – but to the entire world.
Well, I should have known better than to get my hopes up. Yglesias:
Just last week, I was trying to convince people that the administration had a new spirit of resolve on the debt-ceiling question. Over the past year, I’ve repeatedly heard from administration officials both senior and junior that their on-the-record posture of no renewed negotiations on the debt ceiling is not a bluff. They’ve shown charts and graphs of how damaging they think the last standoff was to the economy, and made it a centerpiece of their story about why the recovery seemed to stall out for a while in 2011. Routinized hostage-taking was, they said, genuinely dangerous to the American economy.
But then it’s emerged this week that they didn’t really mean it. The debt ceiling is just another issue in the mix along with tax rates and benefit formulae and tax reform commissions and all the rest. One more pawn on the chessboard.
Not exactly a shocker for an Administration that has identified partisanship as a sort of corruption*, and that has shown approximately zero appetite for long, tough, mostly partisan standoffs on anything of any scope. As we saw in health care, with the Bush Tax Cuts in 2010, with the debt ceiling the next year and possibly now too, when confronted with a difficult, standoff-ish situation this White House will try to negotiate a way out, rather than to try to punch its way out, no matter what. And aside from the second example, this attitude has typically made things vastly worse than they ought to have been. These are the ongoing wages of having a president who seems to consider bipartisan agreements as a sort of measurable unit of successful and responsible governing, even though that view remains really and desperately wrong. (Iraq War resolution, anyone? Glass-Steagall repeal?)
What’s more, I deeply believe that it’s impossible for progressivism to survive the current political configuration without a willingness to engage in the occasional partisan standoff, and without the willingness to bring overwhelming pressure to bear on Republicans when that occurs. Given the Republicans’ basic goals on fiscal policy (briefly, privatization of the welfare state either as a prelude to or an alternative to its outright abolition), while there might be times when Republicans are unable to implement much of this, or when their momentary political interests argue against it, the times when they make an effort to move forward on their big goal must be met with fierce, united, and unyielding Democratic opposition. This is the only possible defense against it. Obstruction will, from time to time, be necessary if progressives want to stick around, and want their priorities to stick around too. It’s an open question whether Obama is actually willing to do it, and with each one of these, it seems just a bit less likely he will.
Really, really, really disappointing news here.
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