Conservative Morality In Action

Via Jared Bernstein, we learn about how the sequester has made us a stronger country:

At least two Indiana Head Start programs have resorted to a random drawing to determine which three-dozen preschool students will be removed from the education program for low-income families, a move officials said was necessary to limit the impact of mandatory across-the-board federal spending cuts…

Columbus resident Alice Miller told WTHR-TV that her 4-year-old son, Sage, was one of the children cut from the program. She spoke about how the program has helped her son advance academically and socially…“He loves school,” Miller said. “I don’t know how I’m going to tell him he’s not going back.”

To this, Bernstein responds, “If that doesn’t break your heart, you might want to get to the emergency room to see if it’s still there.”  I part company with him somewhat on this.  This story doesn’t make me heartbroken: it makes me angry.  I am sad for the little boy who now cannot go to school, which he loves.  But I am outraged at those who think that this bears any relationship to justice.  Sage Miller can’t go to school because Republicans think it is more important to protect the carried-interest loophole.  The supposedly religious Christians who think we need to bring God into public policy might want to review the story of Nathan the Prophet after they finish demonizing gays and lesbians.

It also outrages me as a taxpayer.  We are injuring these children, and that will injure our country in the future.  You don’t have to be a bleeding heart, or Nathan the Prophet, to object to this.  You just have to be a patriot.


Fan Mail


Although I sometimes disagree with Jonathan Chait (as in this RBC post), I’ve been a big fan since his days at The New Republic.  He now writes for New York Magazine, which published his remarkably prescient mid-October essay about the fiscal cliff. Directly or indirectly, that essay shaped much of the subsequent public debate on the subject (and inspired one of my own recent NYT columns).

If you don’t know Chait’s work, a good place to start is yesterday’s post about Republican rage at the trillion-dollar platinum coin proposal. If I were the business owner whose argument Chait deconstructs, I’d go immediately into hiding.

If you don’t like this piece—well, there’s no accounting for taste.  But if, like me, you can’t think of anyone whose writings about the recent fiscal wrangling have been more reliably informative and readable, you’ll want to bookmark his NY Magazine archive and read him first thing each morning.


Eric Cantor: The Last Honest Man

I agree completely with Mark about the grotesque refusal of the House GOP to renew the Violence Against Women Act, and about future Democratic strategy concerning it.  But I think that Cantor was being completely honest here.

Southern conservative hostility toward tribal courts goes back aways.  Consider the example of Sam Ervin, who nowadays is thought of as a folksy country lawyer doing battle with Richard Nixon, but in his time was a leader of southern segregationism.  At the very same time that Ervin was leading a filibuster against the Fair Housing Act, he also sponsored something called the Indian Civil Rights Act, which substantially limited the autonomy of tribal courts (and was itself later significantly watered down by the Supreme Court).  In other words, the imposition of federal law on white segregationist state courts was a violation of sovereignty, but the same measure against tribal courts was simply a matter of civil rights.

For Cantor, this is the same thing.  White people with jurisdiction over reddish-brown people: good.  Reddish-brown people with jurisdiction over white people: bad. 

It’s the closest thing that a modern southern conservative can get to reimposing the Black Codes.  What else is new?


Here is Something That Didn’t Happen

All Republicans know that President Obama is an anti-Semitic Islamist Marxist who wants to throw Israel into the sea; after all, Bill Kristol has been saying so for years.  So it is quite amazing that the Wall Street Journal reported this the other day, concerning Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system.  The Bush Administration rejected the system as impracticable, but

Iron Dome got a significant boost soon after President Obama came to office in 2009. Mr. Obama visited Sderot as a presidential candidate and told his aides to find a way to help boost Israel’s defenses from the makeshift rockets, his aides said, although defense officials at the time still doubted Iron Dome was the way.

As president, Mr. Obama tapped Colin Kahl to run the Pentagon office overseeing U.S. military policy in the Middle East. Mr. Kahl found the Iron Dome request on his desk, decided to take another look and had what he later described as a light-bulb moment. “Ding, ding, ding. It just made sense,” Mr. Kahl said.

At the direction of a White House working group headed by then-National Security Council senior director Dan Shapiro (who today is the U.S. ambassador to Israel), the Pentagon sent a team of missile-defense experts to Israel in September 2009 to re-evaluate Iron Dome. The decision raised eyebrows in some Pentagon circles. Iron Dome was still seen as a rival to the Phalanx system, and previous assessment teams had deemed Iron Dome inferior.


In its final report, presented to the White House in October, the team declared Iron Dome a success, and in many respects, superior to Phalanx. Tests showed it was hitting 80% of the targets, up from the low teens in the earlier U.S. assessment. “They came in and basically said, ‘This looks much more promising…than our system,’ ” said Dennis Ross, who at the time was one of Mr. Obama’s top Middle East advisers.

Now, of course this could not possibly have happened, because we all know that Obama is an anti-Semite.  More recently, the Administration made the (terribly wrong) decision to oppose Palestine’s move for state observer status at the United Nations.  But of course that did not happen either, because Obama hates Israel.

Nothing to see here.  Move along.


Put Obamacare On The Table!

Kevin Drum notes that Republicans insist on something called “entitlement reform,” but have no actual ideas about what this reform might mean  (aside from getting rid of Medicare).  So now they are insisting that President Obama make the first offer, which is a laughable position.  The also insist on “putting Obamacare on the table”, which the White House immediately rejected.

But maybe it shouldn’t.  If we’re talking about reducing entitlement payments, wouldn’t it be great if we could find something that could save, say, $500 billion over ten years, but not reduce access to coverage and actually make the health care system more efficient?

Oh wait: we do!  Remember the public option?  That’s what it would do, according to the Lewin Group and the Urban Institute.   Both studies estimated a public option at saving the federal budget $50 billion a year.  And if anything, those estimates are conservative, because they do not assume that Medicare providers would be mandated to accept public option patients (as they should be), and they also assume large “cost shifts,” i.e. increases in private insurance costs, which have no empirical basis.  So I say put Obamacare on the table and put in a strong public option.

What’s that you say? That such an action would reform entitlements and save money, but that the Republicans would never go for it?  Gosh, it’s almost as if the GOP doesn’t really care about saving money and really only wants to cut people off of health insurance.  I can’t imagine why anyone would think that.

The American Right Throws Israelis Into the Breach

At this writing, Middle East watchers are, well, watching to see if Israel and Hamas can reach a cease-fire.  Signs are good, but pessimists are rarely disproved in the Middle East.

There is little doubt that Jerusalem would like a genuine cease-fire.  Even though the Israeli public strongly supports Operation Pillar of Defense, it is very wary of a ground assault on Gaza: only a small minority of Israelis support an immediate ground offensive, and such operations during Cast Lead and the Second Lebanon War quickly became quagmires that upended Israeli governments.  Few in Israel doubt that an actual cease-fire is in the national interest.

The caveat, though, is the phrase “in Israel.”  Once again demonstrating that it could not possibly care less about the Jewish state, the right wing has concocted yet another preposterous anti-Obama narrative.  Last night on the Hannity show, Oliver North claimed that Obama has threatened Israel with the cutoff of military supplies if it launches a ground invasion and refuses to accept a cease-fire on Hamas’ terms.  This story has now become common in the fever swamps of the American right.

This obviously demonstrates the Right’s desperation to undermine President Obama’s clear support of Israel’s position.  Throughout the 2012 campaign, conservatives insisted that Obama would betray Israel as soon if he was re-elected.  Since Obama very clearly backed up Jerusalem’s position, the American Right’s Plan B was to unilaterally re-define Israel’s security interests, insisting that in fact it should move in with ground troops.  What Israelis themselves want is irrelevant: the important thing is to convince American Jews and evangelicals that Obama is a closet anti-Semite.

The Right’s gambit, however, is more than pathetic: it is dangerous.  Sheldon Adelson’s Israel Today is Israel’s largest circulating newspaper (not “best-selling” because it is given away for free), and it carries the explicit attempt to drive the Israeli conversation rightward.  If it succeeds, we will face the grotesque spectacle of American conservatives seeking to make Israel more right-wing in order to justify its evidence-free conviction that Obama is anti-Israel.  And if they succeed, they will accomplish the goal of making Israel more aggressive and rejectionist.  That will lead to a further erosion of Israel’s international position, a magnification of settler violence, and putting even more Israeli soldiers and civilians at risk.

But none of this bothers the American Right.  In order to serve its own political goals, it is willing to fight to the last Jew.



The Emergency Committee to Promote Bill Kristol

For the last 20 years, the Right has worked hard to convert support for Israel from an area of bipartisan consensus into a topic for Republicans to beat Democrats with.  Even Washington’s most tepid disagreement with the Israeli government will be lept upon by right-wingers as an indication that the US is selling out the Jewish state — even though in most of those circumstances, the American position arguably helps Israeli democracy more than Jerusalem’s own.

No organization has played a more prominent role in this effort than the Emergency Committee for Israel, yet another fake think tank cooked up by conservative welfare recipient Bill Kristol.  Kristol’s foreign policy credentials comprise a series of embarrassingly wrong and ill-informed predictions about future events.  But his real talent seems to be inventing think tanks that he can get gullible GOP billionaires to spend money on.

Still, one might think that in the past week and a half, with Israel in the midst of a genuine security crisis (whatever you think of it on the merits), that an “Emergency Committee” might have something to say.  Statements of support?  Lobbying efforts?  Op-eds?  Something?

Well, no.  A check of the Emergency Committee’s website has nothing on the current crisis.  Indeed, its Twitter feed has nothing on it in the last 87 days.  All that the front page contains is a series of stale tweets, advertisments, and statements criticizing Democratic candidates for not standing with Israel.  ECI has produced a lots of anti-Obama propaganda, including an infamous and deceitful audio mash-up where Obama is supposedly debating Netanyahu, which now must be somewhat embarrassing given the President’s support for Israel in the current crisis.  The Emergency Committee for Israel has a lot to say during domestic elections, but what about when an Israeli public relations effort would really need it?  Sorry.  Must be on vacation.

None of this should be surprising, of course.  The Right’s supposed love of Israel is really more about its own domestic goals.  American Jews get this, which is why 70% of us voted for President Obama.  But Israelis should understand this as well: Republicans will make a lot of noises, but unless it serves their own political interests, they don’t really give a goddam.


Bobby Jindal: Fake It ‘Til You Make It

At least so far.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has been making a lot of loud noises lately, theoretically criticizing GOP plutocracy.  A few days ago, he supposedly advanced a new conservative concern for the not-1% percent:

“We’ve got to make sure that we are not the party of big business, big banks, big Wall Street bailouts, big corporate loopholes, big anything,” Jindal told POLITICO in a 45-minute telephone interview. “We cannot be, we must not be, the party that simply protects the rich so they get to keep their toys.”

Now he has attacked Mitt Romney’s pathetic comments blaming his election loss on Obama’s promise of “free health care” to Latinos and African-Americans (and “free contraception” to single college-aged women):

“That is absolutely wrong,” Jindal told reporters in Las Vegas at the Republican Governors Association meeting. “Two points on that. One, we have got to stop dividing American voters. We need to go after 100 percent of the votes, not 53 percent — we need to go after every single vote. And second, we need to continue to show that our policies help every voter out there achieve the American dream, which is to be in the middle class, which is to be able to give their children the opportunity to get a great education, which is for their children to have even better-paying jobs than their parents.”

Wake me up when Jindal has something substantive to say.

Speaking generally about helping the “middle class” or not being the party that helps the rich “keep their toys” is better than most Republicans, but we have an actual, concrete policy dispute in Washington DC right now: should the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans be renewed, and should the House GOP hold a middle-class tax cut hostage in order to do it?  Are Mitch McConnell and John Boehner (and, for that matter, Paul Ryan) right to want to cut taxes for the wealthy and end Medicare as we know it in order to (partially) pay for it? 

Jindal has a choice here: he can either back the President’s position, or he can back Boehner and McConnell’s.  If he backs Republicans, then all his talk about helping the middle class is so much puffery.  It reminds me of Tim Pawlenty’s loud calls for “Sam’s Club Republicanism” — which just so happened to be the exact same thing as every other Republican’s Republicanism: massive tax cuts for the rich, deregulation for Wall Street, and greater risk for workers and the middle class.  Pawlenty is now the head of Wall Street lobby on Capitol Hill. 

Oh, and Jindal’s call for giving US children a great education?  Tell that to the kids in Louisiana who will have to learn creation science because of his so-called education reforms.

So far, all this talk of Republican reform is basically about which GOP politician can be the most effective hypocrite.


The Last Refuge of Scoundrels

Filegate.  Travelgate. Whitewater.  Birtherism. Solyndra. Fast and Furious.  Notice a pattern?

When there is a Democratic President, Republicans are quick are quick to make wild accusations of wrongdoing that turn out to be a huge nothingburger.  (Oh yes, they did impeach a President for having sex with an intern.  Saving the Republic, that.).

Now we are hearing about Benghazi.  There might be things to be investigated there, but it is painfully obvious that Republicans have no interest in actually finding them out about it.  If they did, then they would attempt to actually investigate.  Instead, we have hissy fit threats of filibusters from has-beens like John McCain and pompous lectures from never-weres like Lindsey Graham.  By the way, you know during the seven times that embassies and consulates were hit during the Bush Administration?  Still waiting for outraged threats from McCain and Graham.  You know that small event that occurred on September 11, 2001?  If Democrats had responded with half the vitriol of Republicans after Benghazi, Fox News would have accused them of treason.

It’s been obvious for a while that the essential Republican ideology, at least after plutocracy, has been to put party over country.  After January 1st, when the Republicans don’t budge on raising taxes on the $370,000+ a year crowd, Obama might try to remind the American people of this.

Instead of shutting down Organizing For America, the President needs to make it a permanent feature of the political landscape, holding as many rallies as he can in as many states as he can.

And if the Villagers start reaching for their scented handkerchiefs over the President not being “presidential,” all he needs to do is respond that he will spend more time in Washington once the GOP grows up.

UPDATE:  John McCain cares so deeply about protecting national security in light of Benghazi that he skipped a classified CIA briefing on it in order to give a press conference attacking the President.  What a pathetic, bitter, cranky old man….

The Democrats’ House Majority

No, not really.  But sort of.  Ian Millhiser explains that Democratic House candidates actually got more votes nationwide than Republicans, by around 500,000.  So how could the Republicans maintain their majority?  Simple.  It was gerrymandering.  Nick Baumann at Mother Jones has the goods (h/t Dayen):

  • North Carolina, which Obama lost by around 2 percentage points: 9-4 GOP
  • Florida, which Obama won by around half a percentage point: 17-10 GOP
  • Ohio, which Obama won by nearly 2 percentage points: 12-4 GOP
  • Virginia, which Obama won by around 3 percentage points: 8-3 GOP
  • Pennsylvania, which Obama won by more than 5 percentage points: 13-5 GOP
  • Wisconsin, which Obama won by 6 percentage points: 5-3 GOP
  • Michigan, which Obama won by 8 percentage points: 9-5 GOP

Now, in fairness, it is not all about partisan gerrymandering.  Some of this is also because of the creation of majority-minority districts, particularly in the south.  But that is decidedly a secondary impact.

Last week, I argued that if Obama were to win the electoral college but lose the popular vote, that should not affect his legitimacy as President: that’s the way that the system was set up.  So does that apply here?  Not so much: the Electoral College is created by the Constitution.  Partisan gerrymanders are created by — Republican state legislatures.  They created this distorted system; they can’t argue then that they were simply playing by the rules.

I’m not precisely sure what it means to question the “legitimacy” of some governing institution.  But to the extent that any duly and legally elected House majority is illegitimate, it is this one.  Let’s have none of the idea that the voters wanted to support conservative ideology by returning John Boehner to the Speaker’s chair.  They didn’t.  They wanted change.  And the GOP figured out how to prevent them from exercising their will.