Killing Us Softly

Paul Krugman is making sense: Medicaid
“While supposed Obamacare horror stories keep on turning out to be false, it’s already quite easy to find examples of people who died because their states refused to expand Medicaid. According to one recent study, the death toll from Medicaid rejection is likely to run between 7,000 and 17,000 Americans each year.”

Durst on the New Cold War

Will Durst

Will Durst

By Will Durst
Now that the mumps, measles and polio are on the comeback trail as well, the Teens are starting to look like the 50s all over again. The future will be televised in black and white; comforting we early Baby Boomers who always remained skeptical of that whole multi-hued thing. And like the Twilight Zone was scarier in black and white, so was Nikita Khrushchev. As was Speedy, the Alka-Seltzer mascot.

The return of this Arctic Animus means all sorts of retro activities accompanying it; saber rattling. Nuclear standoffs. Propaganda, espionage. One inch wide ties. Poisoned tipped umbrellas and exploding cigars – right around the corner. And Hula Hoops, only now they come with an app.

This won’t be your father’s ideological confrontation however. … No, this is more like that boxing movie Hollywood recently released with Stallone and DeNiro. Two aging Mediocre Powers trying to rekindle a dubiously remembered time gone by in an age where you can watch Indonesian soap operas on your eyeglasses while walking over the street in an air conditioned skyway. … Read More

Will Durst is an award-winning, nationally acclaimed political comic based in San Francisco (“Comedy for people who read, or know someone who does”).

Obama in History

Will history remember Barack Obama as much more than our first black president? In what seems to be an early clue from one thoughtful scholar the answer could be “No.”

Yale Literature Professor David Bromwich writes a sweeping character portrait that is very critical, but still quite objective, making the point that as we near the end of his tenure Obama turned out to be more of “publicist for his presidency, rather than the president.”

Perhaps he’ll be remembered for Obamacare, but in the end – if he ever fully implements it – that was little more than an expansion of the market for private insurance companies. It is difficult to see that achievement rising to the level of Social Security or Medicare in the history books.

A few of Bromwich’s main points:

  • “By following the compulsion (which he mistook for a strategy) of coming to be recognized as the tribune of all the people, Obama squandered indefinite energies in pursuit of a finite opportunity.”
  • “Takes himself to be something like a benevolent monarch — a king in a mixed constitutional system, where the duties of the crown are largely ceremonial.”
  • “When his poll numbers were going down, or when his “pivot to jobs” had become a topic of humor because he repeated the phrase so often without ever seeming to pivot, Obama would always ask his handlers to send him out on the road. He was convinced: the people would hear him and he would make them understand.”
  • “It is true that he has faced enormous obstacles. It is no less true that by postponement and indecision, by silence and by speaking on both sides, he has allowed the obstacles to grow larger. … Obama’s practice of recessive management to the point of neglect has also thrown up obstacles entirely of his devising.”
  • “On domestic issues he has proven a more complacent technocrat than anyone could have imagined. … the truth is that Obama’s convictions were never strong. He did not find this out until his convictions were tested, and they were not tested until he became president.”
  • “Let us not ignore one obvious and pertinent fact. He came to the race for president in 2007 with less practice in governing than any previous candidate.”
  • “Extreme caution marked all of Obama’s early actions in public life. … The law journal editor without a published article, the lawyer without a well-known case to his credit, the law professor whose learning was agreeably presented without a distinctive sense of his position on the large issues, the state senator with a minimal record of yes or no votes, and the U.S. senator who between 2005 and 2008 refrained from committing himself as the author of a single piece of significant legislation.”
  • “Review the record and it will show that his first statement on a given issue generally lays out what he would prefer. Later on, he resigns himself to supporting a lesser evil, which he tells us is temporary and necessary.”
  • “As an adapter to the thinking of men of power, Obama was a quick study. It took him less than half a year as president to subscribe to Dick Cheney’s view on the need for the constant surveillance of all Americans.”
  • “The hard judgment of posterity may be that in addressing the greatest threat of the age [climate change] Barack Obama taught America dimly, worked part time at half-measures, was silent for years at a stretch, and never tried to lead.”

– David Bromwich, “The Leader Obama Wanted to Become and What Became of Him” (Huffington Post)

David Bromwich has written on civil liberties and America’s wars for the New York Review of Books and the Huffington Post. A collection of his Moral Imagination: Essays will be published this spring by Princeton University Press.

Obama’s Diminishing Returns

National Journal’s Ron Fournier is making sense:
obama

It was a good speech about a modest agenda delivered by a diminished leader, a man who famously promised to reject the politics of ‘small things’ and aim big—to change the culture of Washington, to restore the public’s faith in government, and to tackle enduring national problems with bold solutions. … Obama seems to have surrendered to the limits of his most-powerful office. While giving lip service to unilateral action, congressional outreach, and mobilizing the public, Obama doesn’t seem to have faith in any of these customary tools of presidential leadership. … For Obama, words are no longer enough. … Obama has not executed; he has not found a way to overcome his era’s obstacles and fulfill his potential for greatness. It may be too late to learn how.”

GOP Bloodletting

Sane Republicans — and yes, they do exist — are fed up, perhaps the main factor in finally ending this debt default madness. And some realize it is time to risk the possibility of a temporary loss of power in order to purge their ranks of Tea Party zealots, and break their addiction to evangelicals.

The American Conservative Senior Editor Rod Dreher is making sense:

I cannot believe I’m saying this, but I hope the House flips to the Democrats in 2014, so we can be rid of these nuts. Let Ted Cruz sit in the Senate stewing in his precious bodily fluids, and let Washington get back to the business of governing. … The Republican Party has driven the country to the brink, and this morning, House Republicans bolstered their ranks by … standing together and singing Amazing Grace. It’s Strangelovian. Maybe there won’t be a long-term fallout from this, but I tell you, it’s very hard to see entrusting power to a party that behaves this way, that manufactures crises like this for its own short-term political gain. The Republicans, having lost their mind, have destroyed their brand.”

Read More Conservatives Angry at House GOP

GOP Free Speech Contradiction

A Des Moines Register editorial is making sense, noting that the while the GOP is attacking networks for planning Hillary Clinton documentaries it was an HRC film that Republicans defended in the Supreme Court’s Citizen United ruling.

Outrage by state and national Republican Party officials about two planned films on the life of Hillary Clinton is curious on many levels. Not the least is the party’s apparent change in position on the wisdom of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2009 Citizens United ruling.

Citizens United, it may be recalled, is the group that produced a documentary on Hillary Clinton in advance of the 2008 election. The film was perceived by her backers to be a hatchet job on the former first lady, and they argued Citizens United violated federal campaign finance law by producing what amounted to a blatantly partisan campaign commercial.

The Supreme Court, however, ruled that the group had a First Amendment right to make such independent expenditure, even though it is a nonprofit corporation.

Republicans widely hailed the ruling as a victory for free speech.

Des Moines Register (8/10)

Nuke the Filibuster

Juan Williams is making sense

With the July 4 recess over, the fireworks now begin for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. In the next month, the Nevada Democrat’s legacy as leader will be set with a decision on the so-called “nuclear option.” … Time is running out for Reid to get any political value from calling for a vote to blow up the current 60-vote requirement to end filibusters. At the end of the month, the August recess will arrive and then comes September and the start of the Congress’ transition to the 2014 campaigns, further draining any remaining momentum from Obama’s reelection victory. … What has been idle talk about the nuclear option is now at a boiling point, despite concern that Republicans might win a majority in the Senate in 2014 and punish Democrats with a right-wing agenda, including pushing anti-abortion legislation and repealing ObamaCare. … The GOP has been so flagrant in advertising its winning obstructionist strategy that Reid is at risk of going into the history books as a feckless leader.

– Juan Williams, The Hill

Housekeeping: Scheduled maintenance tonight 10pm to 7am Tuesday — some outages likely

Kerry vs. ‘Middle East’s Hysterical Hypochondriacs’

That headline caught my attention this morning, and the column by Haaretz blogger Chemi Shalev makes sense, but I draw a different conclusion. With vested interests against peace on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict why is Kerry wasting the jet fuel talking to them? kerryplane

“The cynical know-it-alls in Jerusalem and Ramallah are united in their disdain for the naively persistent Secretary of State. I know who I’m rooting for. … Everyone else seems to believe that Kerry is wasting his time and efforts on a spectacular exercise in futility. Like a diplomatic Energizer bunny, Kerry runs from capital to capital, wide eyed and bushy tailed, taxing everyone’s patience by talking of avenues and possibilities and peace. … I, on the other hand, think that Kerry is a breath of fresh air, a welcome respite from the tired and weary and depressing naysayers who have made a shrine out of stalemate and a temple out of deadlock and a cathedral of the status quo.”– Chemi Shalev

The DC Scandal Factory

Jonathan Chait is making sense (New York Magazine):

Scandal is a powerful, yet weirdly amorphous term of art in politics. Conceptually, the division between a scandal and a mere controversy or flub or policy dispute is hard to define. It required a peculiar sequencing of events to transform what would on their own have been normal political controversies into the nebulous, all-encompassing Obama Scandals.

As is Noam Scheiber (New Republic):

It turns out that the applications the conservative groups submitted to the IRS—the ones the agency subsequently combed over, provoking nonstop howling—were unnecessary. The IRS doesn’t require so-called 501c4 organizations to apply for tax-exempt status. If anyone wants to start a social welfare group, they can just do it, then submit the corresponding tax return (form 990) at the end of the year. To be sure, the IRS certainly allows groups to apply for tax-exempt status if they want to make their status official. But the application is completely voluntary, making it a strange basis for an alleged witch hunt.

And Karen Tumulty (Washington Post):

If the spiraling events have set the White House off balance, it may be because Obama’s first term was largely free of scandal, which means his team has little experience in getting ahead of that kind of bad news. Bill Clinton, by contrast, was beset by contre­temps almost from the moment he took office. And as a result, his White House developed a separate internal operation for handling scandals — or anything that threatened to turn into one.

House GOP’s Benghazi Boondoggle

Dana Milbank is making sense:

“They summoned a whistleblower to Capitol Hill, but instead they got a virtuoso storyteller. Gregory Hicks, the No. 2 U.S. diplomat in Libya the night Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed, was to be the star witness for Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the man leading the probe of the Obama administration’s handling of the attack on the diplomatic outpost in Benghazi. But despite Issa’s incautious promise that the hearing’s revelations would be “damaging” to Hillary Rodham Clinton, Hicks didn’t lay a glove on the former secretary of state Wednesday.”

And so is Joe Klein:

“The Republicans, apparently with nothing better to do, are still chasing their tails over the tragic events in Benghazi on September 11. Actually, no. That’s not true. They’re chasing their tails over what happened after the tragic events of September 11. They’re mostly concerned that the Obama Administration tried to cover up the fact that this was a terrorist attack by a local militia. … This is a pretty hard sell since, the day after the attack, the President called it an ‘act of terror.’”

Also, Michael Hirsh:

“The obvious Republican effort to turn this inquiry into the Democratic (Obama) version of the Iraq intelligence scandal that has tarred the GOP since the George W. Bush years — led by that least-credible of champions, the almost-always-wrong Darrell Issa — is just not going to amount to much.”