Say it long, say it loud: thuggish and proud

Mitch McConnell likens himself to a hostage-taker.

Mitch McConnell on the debt-ceiling negotiations:

I think some of our members may have thought the default issue was a hostage you might take a chance at shooting. Most of us didn’t think that. What we did learn is this — it’s a hostage that’s worth ransoming.

If McConnell doesn’t mind calling himself a hostage-taker, what’s wrong with Joe Biden calling him and his friends terrorists? If it looks like a duck …

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

24 thoughts on “Say it long, say it loud: thuggish and proud”

  1. Hey, if the full ransom is paid, there are no adverse consequences, and everyone understands you’re greenlighted to do it again in 18 months… why not brag about it?

  2. It’s cool calling all toasters, if you get your way there’ll be a Republican president next time it comes up and then they won’t even have to do it again! That’ll be so much better! Will be nice to know the welfare state is gone before I’m thirty, less anxiety without the uncertainty and all that…

  3. Hey, if Obama has his way the welfare state will be gone before you turn twelve.

  4. Mark,

    There’s nothing wrong with Biden calling the GOP “hostage takers.”

    There is, however, something very wrong with Obama blaming “Congress” when he means “the Republicans in Congress”, or blaming “Washington” when he means “the teabaggers who have taken over the House of Representatives”.

    Barack Obama truly inspired some people, including my kid sister, back in 2007-8. My “kid sister” is a 40-something suburban ex-professional mother of two with a college professor husband. She bears a striking resemblance to Michelle Obama, except that she’s white, short, and … uhm, not buff. She was touting Obama to me back when I was still considering Hillary on the grounds that despite all her objectionable aspects Hillary seemed a bit more feisty vis a vis the Republicans. As the primary campaign went on, I got more turned off by Hillary and more turned on (with my sister’s prodding) by Obama. By the end, and of course well before the start of the general election campaign, I was solidly behind Obama — despite his being the first presidential candidate I ever backed who was younger than myself. (Not a small thing, that. A life milestone, in fact.)

    Well, a couple of nights ago my sister called me just to vent her frustration at Mr. President Barack Obama. She said, in effect “It’s time to admit our guy is a dud.” Naturally, I tried to put the best spin I could on his recent performance. Naturally, we both agreed that despite his being a dud, Obama will still get our votes next year. But enthusiasm counts for something too — and Obama has definitively lost my sister’s. One suburban housewife’s enthusiasm may not amount to much in our democratic republic, Mark, but I worry that my sister is a reliable bellwether of the feelings of her demographic cohort.

    I don’t know whose enthusiasm Obama is courting, any more. I don’t know who the hell he thinks will be “fired up” and “ready to go” on his behalf, next year. Can he possibly believe that “moderates” — despite their alleged “moderation” — will get “fired up” by his serious, thoughtful, even-handedness and willingness to compromise to the point of capitulation? Does he seriously imagine that “independents” will be “ready to go” on his behalf in a day and age when to be “independent” is pretty much the same thing as being either ignorant or apathetic? Is this guy so afraid of the Villagers calling him “partisan” or branding him an “angry black man” that he is willing to act like neither a Democrat nor a man?

    My only hope, at this point, is that the teabaggers will foist a Michelle Bachman or a Rick Perry on the GOP as the Great White Hope of the neo-Confederacy, and that maybe, possibly, despite the Citizens United ruling and the Koch brothers astroturf groups, the American electorate will say “better a dud than a whack-job” come November 2012. It’s my only hope because the only voice that can possibly compete with unlimited, undisclosed, plutocrat-funded campaign messaging is an incumbent President who is willing to call a spade a spade instead of coldly symbolizing it as a snow-shovel — and all I see is a President who merely uses his bully pulpit to whimper about “compromise”.

    I don’t know anybody remotely close to President Obama. Maybe you, Mark, do. If so, please warn them: Obama has lost my kid sister. And ask them: who do they think they have gained thereby?


  5. This is win-win.

    American people get the lower spending they wanted (they were willing to have Congress not raise the debt ceiling to get it).

    Liberal elites get to show their enlightenment by treating the American people like they don’t understand basic economics and calling the other side hostage-takers and terrorists (self-righteously: “they’re calling themselves hostages-takers”)

  6. Tony P,

    I live in a predominately black neighborhood. I’ve never seen long lines at my local polling place like there were in ’08. The place was a ghost town (as is the norm) for the mid-terms. I think Obama may be counting on the black constituency being “fired up” and “ready to go” like last time. I think he may be disappointed. I don’t feel the same kind of energy here that I did in ’08.

    BTW: I’d like to know why you think Independents are ignorant or apathetic. Some people (like me) have seen enough shenanigans from both major parties over the years that we would never align ourselves with either. What’s ignorant or apathetic about that?

    OT: I really miss Malcolm. He would have something (likely unintentionally) hilarious to say in response to this post!

  7. David,

    Yes, that’s right, because there’s nothing that liberal elites love more than to be self-righteous in pointing out that America is getting worse in most measurable ways*. We’d rather cackle on the sides than actually see things improve. How perceptive you are for figuring this out all on your own! I bet your mother is very proud of you for reading at grade level.

    *The only important measure I can think of which might not be going up is violent crime, but I’m not sure.

  8. The politically ambitious Scott Walker committed overreach when he went after unions under the guise of budget crisis, and now it seems Mitch and his crew in Washington are about to do the same going into the 2012 election cycle. Do Republican leaders have any scintilla of introspection that may lead them to realize the moment overreach has occurred? Do they not know overkill serves little positive political result?

    Our current political crazy will not end until American voters punish Republican candidates at the polls!

  9. “The politically ambitious Scott Walker committed overreach when he went after unions under the guise of budget crisis”

    Yet to be seen. So far the legislation has been upheld, and we’ve yet to see if any of the recalls are going to be successful, and if anybody not recalled is going to pay a political price. It’s quite within the realm of possibility that Walker’s strategy will have proven, by the time the 2012 elections are past, to be a wild success.

    It’s also yet to be seen whether Republicans will suffer for resisting the debt ceiling increase, or be rewarded for it by a public growing increasinging disturbed by the size of the national debt.

  10. I think calling Mitch McConnell a terrorist is a bit inaccurate, since he didn’t advocate or promote violence [1]. I think he’d be a worthy nominee for the Heinrich Brüning Memorial Prize, though [2].

    [1] Of course, RFK made a good point in his speech “on the Mindless Menace of Violence”, arguing that violence should be defined more extensively: “For there is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions; indifference and inaction and slow decay. This is the violence that afflicts the poor, that poisons relations between men because their skin has different colors. This is the slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books and homes without heat in the winter. ” But that’s hardly a universally accepted standard.

    [2] Dedicated to those who actively contribute to the destruction of a democracy [3] from within by exploiting the letter of the constitution while defecating on its spirit.

    [3] I happen to believe (hope?) that our democracy is robust enough to survive this, given that it has survived worse; yet, I cannot help but wish its resilience would not be so thoroughly tested.

  11. Freeman:

    Neither party is perfect, it’s true. So, in theory, there could be a tiny slice of “independents” who think switching sides actually helps this.

    On the other hand, what we have now is one party that unabashedly avows Social Darwinism and supply-side economics, with a smattering of social issues thrown in at election time to bring out the church folk, and another party that believes in a social contract and a thing called “civilization,” however imperfectly and *incompetently* it pursues these aims.

    Why would I have respect for people who don’t read a real newspaper enough to a) recognise this obvious difference and b) make a choice? Seriously. Independents are people who don’t pay attention.

  12. Yet for some reason, we’re all supposed to cater to them. Guess what? I am *not* for increased participation unless people actually do the *minimal* amount of work to be at least semi-informed. Otherwise, please do NOT vote.

  13. And the other thing is, I suspect a decent chunk of “independents” describe themselves that way because they think it means they’re special. More discerning and open-minded than the rest of us. Some nonsense like that.

  14. Freeman,

    If being disgusted by both major parties makes one “Independent”, then I am independent myself. But I am disgusted by the GOP for very, very different reasons than I am disgusted with the Dems by. Roughly speaking, the Dems mainly agree with my policy preferences, and the Republicans almost entirely disagree with them — indeed, generally hold them in contempt.

    I don’t know your policy preferences. Maybe your positions on taxation, abortion, Social Security, guns, Medicare, energy, finance, education, trade, immigration, etc. are an eclectic mix that neither major party’s platform can fully support. If so, I can understand how you could be non-ignorant, non-apathetic, and nevertheless Independent. I can understand how you might vote sometimes for the one party and sometimes for the other. (I assume you do vote; not voting is pretty much the definition of apathy in politics.) I can understand how you might have split your ticket, in the past.

    But even if there was ever any truth at all to Ralph Nader’s famous claim that “there’s not a dime’s worth of difference” between the two major parties, there is no truth in it now. Ask a Republican: the Dems are commie socialists. Ask a Democrat: the GOP are fascist plutocrats. The two parties’ platforms (their actual policy platforms; not the mom-and-apple-pie PR documents called by that name) are like a pair of rafts that have drifted too far apart for anybody to straddle the gap between them. One is drifting east, the other west; you may believe the only right direction is north, but the fact remains that no matter how wide your stance gets, it’s becoming impossible to keep a foot on each raft. So: how do you decide, at the last moment, which way to jump?


  15. David: “Liberal elites get to show their enlightenment by treating the American people like they don’t understand basic economics and calling the other side hostage-takers and terrorists (self-righteously: “they’re calling themselves hostages-takers”)”

    What are you trying to say here? Do you think the American people have a good understanding of basic economics, even though most schools do not require students to take economics courses? If so, how did they get this knowledge? Are you claiming Mitch McConnell did not call Republicans hostage takers, or do you just think it’s self-righteous to acknowledge reality?

  16. be rewarded for it by a public growing increasinging disturbed by the size of the national debt.

    Somehow I think jobs and the continued cr*ptacular economy are far higher up the hierarchy of needs. Just a guess.

  17. Dan: it’s even worse than that: by cutting a huge chunk out of demand, the hostage deal pretty much guarantees that economic activity will stay lackluster, tax revenues will stay down, and the deficit will stay up.

  18. But good news, Paul! The spending by the rich on luxury goods is back up! Hooray. But yes, I agree: the economy will be moribund for some time to come.

  19. “It’s also yet to be seen whether Republicans will suffer for resisting the debt ceiling increase, or be rewarded for it by a public growing increasinging disturbed by the size of the national debt.”

    Is that the same public that, in poll after poll after poll, explicitly preferred that the Bush tax cuts be allowed to expire and that taxes on the rich be raised to solve this so-called problem? Or are we just talking about “the public” that lives in the Bellmore household?

  20. Except for the “…Obama will still get our votes next year” part, Tony P. has channeled my experience perfectly. We are not alone. As for leaving the Pres/VP line blank or voting for a Green Party candidate, that won’t make any difference in the outcome in my redder-than-red bastion of the Old Confederacy. And even if my state were purple, I don’t think it would make any difference for me. I am finished with the Democrats at the presidential level for the time being, after 36, mostly thin, years in that column. I thought Obama was an answer. I was wrong. Obama can just depend on his “moderates” just fine without me.

  21. Ask a Republican: the Dems are commie socialists. Ask a Democrat: the GOP are fascist plutocrats. The two parties’ platforms (their actual policy platforms; not the mom-and-apple-pie PR documents called by that name) are like a pair of rafts that have drifted too far apart for anybody to straddle the gap between them.

    This is so. And we have a recent history of yawing sinusoidal elections. Republicans get swept out and a sea of Democrats flood in. Two years later and the Democrats get hit with a generational tidal loss, and America is having a rip-roaring Tea Party…

    Stand back and try to interpret that. How can that be normal? It can’t. The country doesn’t know who it is, or what it is anymore. Something fundamental and subterranean is rocking the polity. This wayward politics of ours is just the surface manifestation of hidden tectonics. Almost as if the human hive senses that it is running out of food (oil) and overheating the planet, and doesn’t know how to organize itself for the flight to cooler and more fecund pastures…

  22. “And we have a recent history of yawing sinusoidal elections.”

    Yup, Democrats take control. The public is repulsed by how awful they are, and memory fades as to how awful the Republicans were. So the Republicans sweep in, memories are refreshed about how bad the GOP can be, and Democratic outrages fade… The cycle repeats.

    It’s a consequence of our electoral system and ballot access rules being so relentlessly tuned to prevent third parties from getting anywhere: The parties don’t have to actually be good, they just have to generate some hope that they’ll be less horrifying than the guys in power. A hope which is perpetually dashed.

    I see only perpetual decline until the duopoly is breached, and the parties can’t get elected by claiming to be less awful than the other guy, whose offenses are fresh in the public mind.

    You need three choices to escape the lesser of two evils trap.

  23. @calling all toasters:
    You have explicitly suggested a Republican is a better option in several other threads on this site. People have pointed out to you (and others) that, in fact, Al Gore lost the 2000 election on essentially the exact argument you are making, and the Democratic presidential candidates have continued to drift rightward anyway. You have no answer for this. If you wanted to avoid cuts to Medicare, you would be focused on getting liberal candidates elected to the House and Senate. You aren’t. Instead, you are focused on trying to depress turnout for President Obama’s reelection, which, if successful, will virtually ensure that the Republicans retain the House and possibly retake the Senate, resulting in even more horrific outcomes.

    This is why the left has been losing ground at a steady pace since at least the 1994 elections: folks like you aren’t learning the lesson the Republicans keep teaching you. The only way to stop the rightward drift of the party is to elect liberal ideologues to the House and Senate. A president of either party is going to be considerably more centrist than the party’s base. George W. Bush was significantly to the left of the Republican base on several issues. Barack Obama is considerably to the right of the Democratic base on several issues. The problem is, the Democratic base is, itself, constantly drifting right because the hard left would rather sit back and complain and try to start a circular firing squad than actually do the work of building a sustainable movement.


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