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And not too many people seem to feel all that bad about its completion.

The biggest takeaway is: this is great news for John Boehner. Without Cantor, the anti-Boehner forces lose their most plausible alternate Speaker. They might not feel the need to try to take the king right after getting the queen, you take down one leader and it’s a rout, you take out too many and it’s chaos. And many of the next level of ambitious Republicans are going to be so busy with the races for House Majority Leader and Whip that trying to eliminate Boehner couldn’t be further from their minds.

The next biggest takeaway is: this is great news for Democrats. The Tea Party is essentially a self-created virus taking away ever-increasing amounts of know-how and ability and leaving in its wake obvious grifters like Ted Cruz. This is not a bad thing from my viewpoint.

Your Benghazi! Democratic panel members:

The Democrats chosen were Mr. Cummings, who clashed repeatedly over Benghazi with the chairman of the Oversight Committee, Representative Darrell Issa of California; Adam Smith of Washington, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee; Adam B. Schiff of California, a member of the Intelligence Committee; Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, a decorated and severely wounded combat veteran of the Iraq war; and Linda T. Sánchez of California, the ranking Democrat on the Ethics Committee.

Wow, this team is impressive. Each member is restrained, knows something about the issues involved, and would be exactly the sort of people you’d want investigating something like the attacks on Benghazi, which is exactly why they are utterly wrong for the panel investigating Benghazi! Seriously, Nancy? This not only legitimizes the whole panel, but it creates exactly the sort of spectacle the Republicans want. Aside from possibly Cummings these kinds of quiet, workmanlike Democrats are exactly who Tea Partiers like Lynn Westmoreland and Jim Jordan eat for breakfast. It’s received wisdom that sober statesmanship for liberals beats Republican fanaticism but I really don’t think the case for that is there. Republicans know exactly how to make these kinds of Democrats look foolish and weak, how to press their buttons. It’s sort of like every liberal guest spot on FOX News. At the very least it would have been amusing to see Republicans try to handle Alan Grayson.

Sorry Nancy, you blew it. You took the question of staffing this panel seriously, rather than giving it the contempt it deserved.

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Lev filed this under: , ,  

Hey all, I voted today! By which I mean I mailed my ballot, the less-glamorous but more convenient way that my state makes it easy to do. Probably the most interesting vote I made was for a Republican, Tim Donnelly, for governor. What are you, insane? You might ask. After all, this is the guy who just alleged that one of his opponents (an Indian-American Republican, FYI) supports imposing that perpetual bugaboo of the insane right, Shari’a law. That’s right. Tim’s a very special politician, the kind of guy who says the sorts of things that conservative radio hosts say but that GOP politicians generally don’t say aloud, especially in blue states. He’s also a former Minuteman and is the wonderful piece of humanity behind this short-lived piece of trans panic:

Seriously, you don’t have to go too far to figure out this guy is a walking melange of Tea Party id, someone who wears his contempt for anyone different on his sleeve and uses flamethrower language with abandon. So I voted for this guy?

Yes, I absolutely did, and so should you.

Really, the importance of Donnelly’s getting into the top two cannot be overstated for progressives because a Brown vs. Donnelly race would almost certainly lead to an enormous Brown landslide and coattails for other Democrats in the state. Yes, it would also be a black eye for the GOP, though Donnelly basically believes the same things they do, he just says them plainly instead of elliptically. Really, the supreme hateability of Donnelly among, well, all the groups previously mentioned (who happen to make up much of the Democrats’ base here) would result in a gigantic Jerry Brown landslide. Donnelly’s tendency to be mouthy–which he’s shown neither the capacity nor the inclination to restrain–would make him an epically terrible candidate for the state’s top job, an office that Republicans have been able to win in recent times when they’ve run candidates attuned to the politics of the state. Donnelly either is deluded about these politics, as failed gubernatorial candidate and ex-Rep. Dan Lungren was, or he simply does not care and just wants to get more media attention, perhaps in order to parley his political career into a future in the conservative-media complex much like Herman Cain’s presidential “run” last time. Considering California’s term limits, I can’t entirely blame him. In any event, Donnelly isn’t even trying to be a credible threat to Brown, he’s just being himself. And nobody (and I do mean nobody) sees him as electable.

Why does this matter? Because CA-GOV isn’t the only important race for California Democrats this fall, as it is a foregone conclusion and only the margin is at stake. What is not a foregone conclusion is whether Democrats are able to maintain our 2/3 supermajority in the state legislature. If we fall below 2/3, then Republicans will once again be able to cause trouble, though no longer will they be able to stop budgets–the voters took that power away from them in 2010. They can, however, still create problems on taxes. Thanks to Jerry Brown and the state’s legislative leadership, the state’s economy is looking up, but more importantly, state government has gone from crisis-ridden and irresponsible to streamlined and professional. That this occurred during the period where Republicans lost virtually all their power in the state is no coincidence, and while the old days are gone for good, doing anything to fix the admittedly ridiculous state tax system will be impossible without 2/3. We have here extremely high income and sales taxes but no taxes whatsoever on services, and famously low property taxes that primarily benefit realtors by keeping housing prices high, and large businesses who are still operating on assessments from decades ago in some cases. It’s nobody’s idea of a sensible, efficient tax system and a full-on overhaul is long overdue. One suspects that Brown’s tangential role in screwing it all up in the first place by supporting Prop 13 would make him eager to fix these problems, which could foster economic growth and create new revenues. Not possible without the supermajority.

Also, there’s the problem of the nation’s legislature. Republican control of the U.S. House has led to the strangling of numerous popular bills, even ones that managed to get out of the Senate with bipartisan support. Immigration reform, ENDA, energy, take your pick. Counting on bipartisanship and mutual understanding didn’t work in Sacramento and it hasn’t in Washington either, taking away Republicans’ power was the only way to make things work here and is the only option there. Looking over the state’s House races, the 31st District is a sure flip from red-to-blue, but the 21st and the 10th will be tougher–both are Obama-won districts that sport non-insane, talented Republican incumbents. However, in a base election either or both could fall. And if it gets really bad, the SoCal seat vacated by Buck McKeon and the one held by Rep. Ed Royce could conceivably (if not necessarily likely) come into play. What is very likely, though, is that none of these people relishes the idea of sharing a ticket with an impolitic extremist like Tim Donnelly. At the very least, they’ll have to work harder, use more resources. That’s less money getting kicked back to the NRCC, to be used elsewhere.

So, ultimately, it’s strongly in your interest as progressives to vote for terrible person Tim Donnelly in June and for Jerry Brown in November. Do it. Hoist the Tea Party by its own petard!

The right political move would be for Democrats not to send anyone to be on the “Benghazi! ’til 2017″ Panel, but let’s be realistic: that’s not going to happen. Five slots means five people–five politicians!–not getting what one would imagine would be some national television exposure, at least at first. And, to reiterate, we’re talking about politicians here. Just not going to happen. No way.

So the next-best option would be for Minority Leader Pelosi to pick the five most partisan, aggressive, left-wing Democrats in the House to be on the committee, and tell ‘em to be as rowdy and disruptive as possible. Interrupt, question everyone’s facts and motives, dismiss Republican assumptions as ridiculous. Republicans have been putting on the sober face since the announcement of this committee, being very careful to sensitively phrase what is essentially a fanatical and heavily political witchhunt as a sober examination to get “just the facts” and such. It seems extremely unlikely that this attitude would last long in the face of Democrats treating the thing as the farce that it is, challenging the assumptions and aims of the panel, and the whole thing would undoubtedly become the sort of political-theater fiasco that people just tune out. And after interest dwindles, just have all the Democrats resign from the panel and make it even more of a circus. This sort of thing could obviously backfire but I think it’s better than picking five Alan Colmeses to blandly dispute all this junk (which, let’s be honest, is probably what we’re going to get). There is the possibility here of putting the shoe on the other foot at least.

Anyway, off the top of my head, I think Raul Grijalva, Henry Waxman, Barbara Lee, and Alan Grayson would be obvious choices. Who would be the fifth? It continues to be a shame that Barney Frank is out of Congress, though probably the first time I wish Dennis Kucinich were still in the House.

Lev filed this under: , ,  

he-knewDrudge

The main problem with Republicans’ pursuit of Benghazi conspiracy theories, aside from the problem that they can’t seem to decide if this is going to be a mainstream smash or a purely “for the fans” proposition like Fast ‘n Furious, is that the story we have pretty much adds up. The Watergate story did not add up. Why would a bunch of Cubans and a former CIA employee bug the DNC before an election where the only suspense was whether Nixon would win by a huge margin or an even huger margin? Lots of questions that led to more questions. Benghazi, though, adds up easily: there were a bunch of protests around the Middle East over a web video. There was a protest in Libya that killed some people. Intelligence officials assumed it was also about the video. It was not. Later they corrected themselves. There are obvious critiques to be made about the whole thing which are not positive, but as the starting point to unravel the entire Obama Administration it’s not going to work. Understandable (if incorrect) assumptions and inadequate security practices are not “the tip of the iceberg” necessarily, do not point to anything greater than what they are. There’s really no there there, and asserting there must be something more after a year and a half of intense interest is not really good enough for normal people to care.

I basically view the entire thing as a distraction, though I’ve been thinking that overall it has had a positive impact considering how many MSM hacks have damaged themselves trying to find The Truth About Benghazi. Annoying presences like Lara Logan, Jonathan Karl and Sheryl Atkisson have taken hits with zealous overpursuit of The Real Story, and since the GOP is going to keep going until HRC takes the oath in 2017, in all likelihood there will be more to follow. I fucking hope so. Nothing makes me happier than seeing the MSM step on a rake when racing to try to make conservatives believe they’re not biased, a pursuit which is as absurd, pointless, and endlessly irritating.

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Dave Weigel seems kind of exhausted here, and I sympathize:

OK—the entire argument is about Rhodes mentioning, hours after the CIA had suggested the Benghazi attack grew out of demonstrations in several countries, that the immediate inspiration for the demonstrations was a video. That’s the scandal—that by giving the video all this credit, the administration was distracting people from the real story that terrorism was surging again. Even though the subsequent 19 months have seen no more attacks on embassies. Even though reporting at the time said the excuse for the protests was said video.

I’m convinced Republicans think that Benghazi! is going to be Obama’s Watergate. If you’re wondering why they never give it up, that’s why. There are some similarities from their point of view. Both the incidents took place a little before a big presidential election but failed to sway the outcome, for example. Both had to be pushed hard by dedicated people and the process was a slow burn, to say the least. Republicans are completely convinced that Barack Obama is a lawless president and have latched onto this as the tipping point, which is what Democrats in the 1970s believed and also did.

Of course, this is completely absurd. Richard Nixon was an embittered, drunken monster whose taste for revenge and chasing after ever more power provides a cautionary tale for gripping the reins too tightly. At this point, it’s impossible to argue otherwise, but the media of the time portrayed him in such a way that the public had no idea what the man was really like, and saw him as a basically trustworthy and decent man. I remember my mother telling me how shocked she was when transcripts of Nixon’s tapes were released, just all the anger and delusion and (shocking for the times) profanity were finally all out there, and people just had no idea. The media back then took a near-paternalistic role that no longer exists and can’t exist, which is good, but it also means that blindsiding events like Watergate are less likely to occur since the agenda-setting power that created Nice Nixon no longer exists. Also, you see the divergence between right-wing media and everyone else in the assumptions, since they take as a given that Obama has run a Nixonian Administration and deserves not even the slightest benefit of the doubt. Of course, this is due more to the Validity Effect more than anything else, of just repeating endlessly that Obama is lawless, aggressive, etc. Obama isn’t a drunk, he’s not known to be vindictive (by power politician standards especially so), and if anything he’s been too hands-off with his governance. Which means you need to do more than tear away the veil, you actually need to present a reasonable hypothesis and give evidence, which isn’t known to exist, of course. The basis for a Nixon-like exit from office does not exist for all these reasons. But Benghazi! really has become something of a feedback loop, in which failed investigations and a fathomless hatred of this president lead to more pressure for a “truth” more to their liking.

It’s not incredibly surprising that this has gone on this long. What is surprising is that Benghazi! is gaining momentum rather than plateauing. Is Speaker Boehner’s creation of a Benghazi! select committee is merely the first step? It marks a clear escalation–since Republicans are convinced there’s been wrongdoing, I’m not sure how impeachment is off the table after a few more trips around the feedback loop. I would prefer they try before the midterm if they’re going to, as we could really use a 1998-style midterm boost.

Lev filed this under: , ,  

A little bit of schadenfreude about the racist statements of famous scofflaw Cliven Bundy is inevitable (and warranted), but I am also interested in the episode because it confirms my theory about the decline of the conservative media. I’ve explained this before but briefly put: demand for conservative media has peaked and will soon enter into heavy decline. It’s inevitable given the numbers. The top dogs in this sphere will then be forced to compete ruthlessly with each other for the privilege of continuing to work. Just as the first half of the decade saw a huge boom in conservative media, given the cyclical nature of markets it’s not hard to imagine the latter half having a corresponding bust, as the bubble bursts and the Obama Administration inevitably ends. As this occurs, conservative media personalities will be compelled to push the envelope further and further in attempts to retain their consumers, which will create a vicious cycle in which ever-increasing levels of inaccuracy and ugliness marginalize conservative media even further. It won’t all go away, but within ten years, it will be unrecognizable.

Bundy’s story might well be an inflection point along this arc. Conservatives ran with his story of resistance to the federal government because it hit a couple of right-wing nerves. But from their perspective it wasn’t a very good cause to champion: conservatism loses any sort of appeal when it’s linked to anarchy and lawlessness, as safety and stability are its key selling points. Historically, the biggest conservative victories have been won by men promising boring old stability during times of anxiety and chaos: Harding, Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan. Who obviously did not have the same views on all subjects, but all represented the mainstream of conservative opinion during their respective times. On the other hand, Barry Goldwater’s radical campaign and epic defeat suggests the public has little interest in reckless, purist conservatism. A second thought would have told these folks that this might not be the best icon for them, even absent the knowledge of his racial views, but that second thought was never thought. The end result is a massive, earned humiliation on conservative pundits and politicians desperate to find new sources of furious anger to keep their base engaged, one that puts attention exactly where they do not want it, and it proves to an even greater degree that top Republicans don’t really understand the selling points of their own philosophy. Bundy’s story is a cautionary tale but I don’t expect the people who championed it to learn any lessons from it. And onto the next one.