How We Lose, AKA Washout Wednesday

Yesterday was Super Tuesday, 2016 edition. As expected, on the GOP side Donald Trump continued smashing his way into both the nomination and the nightmares of the people who keep telling us they’re “moderate” or “traditional” Republicans who’ve nonetheless spent the last fifteen-plus years coddling the very culture that inevitably would give rise to someone like Trump: winking and nodding at the Tea Party, encouraging denigration of a sitting POTUS, even stretching back as far as impeaching Bill Clinton over a blowjob. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: you built that, guys — so enjoy it!

But it’s not the slow-motion/real-time implosion of the Republicans that I’m talking about today, it’s the fate of my own Democratic party that I have such a love/hate relationship with. Yesterday brought the expected increasing of Hillary Clinton’s lead over Bernie Sanders. It’s still not impossible for Sanders, but the road gets increasingly steep and narrow from here on out. Meanwhile, today’s New York Times brings with it a raft of post-mortem analysis, but it was the following sentence from this piece that stood out to me:

Often, they [voters who were interviewed] said they were swayed as much by the arguments of Mrs. Clinton’s most persuasive surrogates — delegate math, and “Fear of a Trump Presidency” — as by the candidate herself.

I went on a bit of a tweet storm about this, and someone suggested I Storify it, but due to the nature of the breaks in the flow and the fact that I made a few spelling/typo mistakes, I’m doing it this way instead. Here’s the idea, though: I’ve no doubt that many of the truly conflicted, last-minute or wavering voters who ultimately voted for Ms. Clinton did so on the basis of the arguments of her “most persuasive” surrogates. But look at the persuasion they employ: it’s essentially appeals to fear and to inevitability (“math” and fear of Donald Trump)…. Continue reading →

I Get Letters From My Senator on Iran and Obamacare

Just because I want to be periodically overcome with the urge to vomit stay on top of my state’s leaders’ thoughts and actions, I subscribe to the electronic version of Senator David Perdue’s birdcage liner newsletter. Today, this arrived (this is but a portion of the wonderfulness which blessed my inbox which you, dear reader, will be forced to simply imagine):

Here are only a few highlights of President Obama’s failed economic and foreign policies:

  • Ballooned national debt to $19 trillion undermining our national security.
  • Increased health care premiums and deductibles under Obamacare.
  • Pushed dangerous nuclear Iran deal on the American people.
screen-grab image of Lumberg from Office Space with um, yeah quote

Whatever you say, Senator Perdue

So, as is often my wont as a frustrated liberal living in a land that will turn blue approximately when hell freezes over, I felt a reply was in order. To wit:

Cripes, David, I don’t know where you get your news (though I have a remarkably prescient guess on the matter!), but premiums are up because the quality of care is up re: Obamacare. Identical policies aren’t more expensive under Obamacare — so stop scaremongering on that score.

And regarding the “dangerous nuclear Iran deal?” I suppose you saw yesterday’s headlines: that Iran had released four US prisoners including the Washington Post reporter? And – oh, yes – I suppose you noticed TODAY’S, as well? Here, let me refresh your memory, if you hadn’t bothered to get any news except FAUX yet today

Iran Complies With Nuclear Deal; Sanctions Are Lifted

So kindly do me the favor of dropping down dead with your tired, reality-averse, ideological bullshit, would you? Thanks.

Sincerely,

Lars Olsson – your reluctant constituent

Former KKK Grand Lizard David Duke Endorses Donald Trump

Surprising approximately no one:

I’ve said from the beginning I think his campaign is good in the sense that it’s bringing these issues to a discussion which we have to have in America. And he’s continuing to move the envelope further and I think he understands the real sentiment of America.

 

Now, I certainly believe that one can’t always choose one’s supporters, and that agreement on one issue doesn’t mean a shared spirit or even a shared purpose on everything.

I also believe birds of a feather flock together.

Bernie Sanders Ahead of Hillary Clinton in NH, 44-37

Franklin Pierce/Herald poll. Huh. That seems worth mentioning, particularly this part: 

Sanders’ rise has been meteoric. The socialist senator trailed Clinton by a 44-8 margin in a Franklin Pierce/Herald poll in March.

Seems to me Hillary was the “presumptive front runner” last time, too. How’d that turn out, again? 

GOP Implosion, Trump-Style

photo of Donald Trump

Broads! Whaddaya gonna do, amirite, guys??

I was busy last night, so maybe this broke before I went to bed and I just didn’t notice it, but this morning, I awoke to the news in the local paper that Erick Erickson has disinvited Donald Trump from this weekend’s “RedState Gathering” (another of the early POTUS ’16 events) in Atlanta.

The proximate cause of Erickson’s banning of Trump was Trump’s Friday night phone interview with CNN, in which he blamed FOX anchor Megyn Kelly’s questioning at the GOP debate of Trump’s past comments about women on her menstruating:

“You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes,” Trump told CNN’s Don Lemon on Friday night. “Blood coming out of her wherever.”

I’ll let Erickson explain his decision in his own words:

I have tried to give a great deal of latitude to Donald Trump in his run for the Presidency.

He is not a professional politician and is known for being a blunt talker. He connects with so much of the anger in the Republican base and is not afraid to be outspoken on a lot of issues. But there are even lines blunt talkers and unprofessional politicians should not cross.

Decency is one of those lines.

Cripes. Of course decency is one of those lines, Erick. But this is today’s GOP. And you would be the same Erick Erickson who just a couple of weeks ago compared pregnant women to “female animals” (and not in a matter-of-fact, “we’re all animals” way). The same guy who, in 2013, called Wendy Davis “abortion Barbie” and opined that liberals who believe men shouldn’t dominate women are “anti-science,” It’s also the same Erick Erickson who infamously, in 2009, tweeted that retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter was a “goat-fucking child molester” (twice!).

In short: Erickson ain’t offended; he’s angling for a show on FOX (though he does seem to be surprised by what his fellow TeaPublicans are willing to say to people on the internet):

No! You don’t say. I’m already starting to enjoy this GOP primary season.

I Get Letters, Local Edition

Georgia Republican Senate candidate, David Perdue speaks to supporters at a primary election night party, Tuesday, May 20, 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Who needs to brush up on his primary school social studies? I do! (Credit: AP/David Goldman)

Living in Georgia as I do, I’m frequently, ah, “treated” to the thoughts of my Representatives. Today, I received an email from recently-minted US Senator David Perdue. It contained the usual rube-rousing GOP numbskullery (war with Iran, fully repealing Obamacare, “free-trade” boosterism), but the sentence that really stuck with me was this one:

President Obama, and now the Supreme Court, continues to overstep their Constitutional authority on many fronts.

Aside from the glaring grammatical error, the RedState-worthy notion that the SCOTUS’ having handed down a decision that GoOPers don’t like = treason, because reasons, dammit, compelled me to dash off the following reply. (Note: I know nobody’s going to actually read this – at least, not after the first couple of sentences – but I just can’t let dumbassery of this caliber pass by completely unremarked-upon, even if thusly remarking is essentially the email equivalent of mumbling to myself. Now Get Off My Lawn.):

Dear Senator Perdue,

You seem confused. While you and I could probably discuss at length whether President Obama has “overstepped his constitutional authority” without ever seeing eye-to-eye on the subject, it’s a debatable point.

What isn’t debatable is your identical remark about the Supreme Court.

As a Senator, your job is to make law. That includes, if necessary (and if you can manage it), amending the United States Constitution. What ISN’T your job is interpreting what the Constitution means, legally. It means what it means, and if there’s ever any DOUBT as to what it means, the Supreme Court’s word is the ultimate authority on the subject – not yours.

Thus, it’s not just ridiculous and arrogant for you to assert the Supreme Court is “overstepping their Constitutional authority,” it’s simply and flatly incorrect. I realize you’ve got an ever-more-conservative voting public here in Georgia to pander to, but some of us actually went to school and paid attention to this stuff…in sixth grade. You MAKE law, while the Supreme Court determines what is and is not valid law, judged against the ultimate law of the land – the Constitution. Having to endure the Court handing down a decision you don’t like isn’t treason, it’s not extra-constitutional, and your opinion that it IS extra-constitutional means – by DEFINITION – approximately squat compared to their ruling. What it DOES mean is simply that you lost. Get over it.

Or, if you just CAN’T get over it, then by all means, figure out how to elect enough like-minded reactionary Republicans across the country to be able to rustle up 67 votes in the Senate and 291 in the House to amend the Constitution to bring back pre-existing medical conditions and runaway health care costs. Or to return to making LGBT Americans second-class citizens.

Otherwise, do feel free to piss off. And for crying out loud, go watch some Schoolhouse Rock or something to bone up on the actual roles of the three branches of government.

Sincerely,

Your constituent,

John Oliver Showing The Way

I know I already wrote about this recently, but I simply cannot say enough good things about John Oliver’s HBO show. In fact, the only negative thing I can think of to say about Last Week Tonight is that it airs on HBO, so its audience is more limited than it might be – and that’s a shame, because everyone should be watching this breakthrough in comedic activism. Here’s Oliver again the other night, going after the big chicken packing conglomerates, and simultaneously going well past the marker laid down by his mentor Jon Stewart:

Don’t get me wrong: Stewart’s Daily Show wouldn’t have shied away from taking on this topic, not at all. But they’d have played it strictly for laughs (which, as you can see, Oliver also does just as capably as Stewart would have), and maybe a gasp or two of outrage. And that would have been it. On to the next “bit.”

Not Oliver’s Last Week – he channels the outrage he generates with his incisive, dead-on skewering of the fat cats – er, chickens – into a call for engaged, fun, likely effective citizen activism at the end of his piece. That’s an evolution from Oliver’s Daily Show roots. This is what bursts the cynicism bubble. If you can get people laughing, you’ve got them on your side. If you can get them outraged simultaneously, you’ve got a force to be reckoned with. Stewart did that, regularly, but what he either appears to never have understood, or simply didn’t feel was his job, was that once you’ve gotten them that far, you have to help nudge them toward activism. Give them something to do, preferably something both fun and effective, that allows them to channel the outrage and humor you’ve just generated.

Because if you don’t, you’ve almost done worse than nothing: you’ve likely inculcated cynical apathy. Humor + outrage, without any avenue to express or channel it, essentially invites the viewer into a state of passivity (which they’re already mostly in by virtue of sitting on their butt watching TV). It tells them subtly: this is all you can do: turn on your TV, watch some stories that will piss you off, but all you can do is laugh about them. So just sit back, open the Chee-tos, maybe take a bong rip, and forget your troubles.

So many kudos to John Oliver for not continuing down that road.

Richard Perle On Iraq: Because We Could

Richard_PerleFor the past week, the media (and especially late night comedians) have been having a bit of fun poking Jeb Bush as he repeatedly stumbled over the family albatross, AKA: Iraq. Over on his beat at The Plum Line, Greg Sargent was one of the few journalists or widely-read opinion columnists to point out that getting any politician, at this late date (even Jeb), to declare that if they knew then what we know now, they wouldn’t have invaded Iraq, is the wrong question to be asking because it lets all of them off the hook far too easily:

The basic premise that this challenge to Jeb reinforces is that the Iraq War happened only because of bad intelligence. George W. Bush was misled by intelligence failures, and it still gives him a “sickening feeling.” In this framing, the question becomes: Will you admit that you were misled into supporting a war that everyone now agrees in hindsight was an unnecessary and tragic mistake?

[…]

the better question is: Are you willing to admit that we shouldn’t have gone into Iraq based on what was known at the time? Or at least that those making the case against the invasion at the time got it right, and that you got it wrong, even though you had access to the same evidence, in real time, that they did?

Exactly. Hindsight’s 20/20, etc, and it’s always easy to say what you’d have done with the benefit of it. The real test of a politician is: did you get (or would you have gotten) it right at the time? Allowing them to answer the easier question does a disservice to voters trying to decide who will perform adequately under fire should a similar crucible of weighty decisions befall them.

In what I think may be the most fascinating interview of and discussion with one of the actual architects of the Iraq war maybe ever, Sam Stein at the Huffington Post catches Richard Perle, AKA “Prince of Darkness,” saying essentially the same thing:

The former Defense Department adviser, who was one of the key figures crafting the policy for invasion in 2003, isn’t interested in what what politicians today would do if they could go back in time and vote on the authorization. Far more important, he says, is what they would have done in that specific moment, with that specific intelligence, in that political climate.

By itself, this statement from Perle isn’t particularly remarkable. In fact, the people who actually helped make the decision to go to war in Iraq are usually among the very few who are eager ask people: “sure, if you knew then what you know now — but what would you have done with the information we had at the time,” because of course the last thing any of them want to admit is that they were wrong at the time to proceed with the war, and they hope people will be forced by such a challenge to exonerate the decision-makers who chose to go to war. Ordinarily, the follow-up to such a statement or challenge from an Iraq war architect is a rehash of the stale ideas they floated in 2002/3 – intel suggesting WMD capacity, bringing democracy to the region, what a terrible guy Hussein was, etc.

In short, asking this question will (they believe) let them off the hook and “prove” you would have done the same thing, in their place, and therefore, they were right to invade, despite what a disaster the Iraq war clearly turned out to have been. It’s an aggressive version of the “who could have known?” defense. And indeed, Perle almost perfunctorily makes such cases with Stein, as I’m sure he’s felt compelled to do ever since 2003 whenever he’s asked on the record.

What makes the interview so fascinating is that Perle, for whatever reason, doesn’t stop after having trotted out the weak-sauce ’02/’03-contemporaneous rationale for war. Perle – and I can’t for the life of me decide if I think he does so intentionally or inadvertently – bulls on and says the following to Stein (emphasis mine):

At some point you have to make a decision. The decision was a tentative one. It was not to invade. It was to be prepared. And then when Saddam failed to provide the information, you could have asked yourself: ‘Well, do you want to stand down? He hasn’t given us the information. It is not 100 percent. Do we want to stand down?’ And I think the answer at that time clearly was ‘No, we don’t want to stand down.’ The evidence is strong enough and the cost of standing down would be not delaying for a week or two, but essentially abandoning the capacity.

Got that? In the end, the reason the “brain trust” of the Bush administration went to war was: because we could. Because they’d been planning for war in ways that took money and time, for months,  and therefore standing down at the 11th hour would’ve meant wasting that capacity to wage war they’d built up over those past months. Money (in the billions) would’ve been wasted and they’d have looked foolish, indecisive and (I’m sure they worried; it’s a conservative’s worst worry) weak. So they went to war because by this time, they pretty much felt had to — heck, they’d always wanted to anyway…and they’d convinced themselves “the evidence was strong enough.”

Except, of course, that the evidence wasn’t “strong enough” — and there were very credible people at the time (as Sargent said in his piece) who “were publicly shouting themselves hoarse, pointing out at the time that, at the very least, there were serious questions about whether Iraq really posed the threat the Bush administration claimed it did.” That’s the reason we shouldn’t have gone into Iraq: not because the intel “turned out later to have been flawed,” not “knowing what we know now,” but because not only was it knowable at the time that the WMD intel was bad, but even if Hussein had had WMD, Iraq had not been involved in 9/11 and attacking Iraq then would be, as history has demonstrated, disastrous in many ways.

This interview with Perle represents the first time I’m aware of when one of the actual architects of the Iraq war has actually come out, whether inadvertently or intentionally, and admitted that more or less straight-up. The only other time I can remember someone who wasn’t a war opponent saying anything remotely similar was this:

Fuck you, Tom. And Richard, And George and Dick and Paul and Douglas. Fuck you for the hundreds of thousands of lives destroyed, and for the other lives permanently scarred or ruined. Fuck you for the loss of goodwill towards our country. Fuck you for the loss of trillions of dollars we could have spent here and abroad making the world better, safer, more educated, healthier, adequately-fed. Fuck you for the domestic deepening of cynicism, jingoistic warmongering, and fear. Fuck. You.

But thank you, Richard Perle, for at least finally actually saying out loud on the record what we already knew — even if you didn’t mean to: you (we) went into Iraq because we could.

NOW We See Obama Fired Up, Ready to Go

I said this last night on Twitter, after seeing a TPM post that talked about Obama “pushing back hard” on liberals, including Elizabeth Warren, who were excoriating the secrecy and push for fast-track authority on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), but it bears repeating again here: what a President is willing to push for defines who they are politically, and how they should be viewed.

When the financial crisis of 2008/9 hit just as Bush was leaving office and Obama was in the wings, not just the banks, but millions of homeowners were in an extremely shaky financial situation as a result of the MBS mess. The big banks were insolvent, and needed taxpayer bailouts to survive. That meant, to anyone paying attention, that leverage was at its peak to force the banks to adhere to some rules and restrictions going forward. If banks wanted taxpayers to help them, they needed to help the “little guys” who were hurting too. And government was in a position to demand it. Did Obama push for this? No.

When the scope of the damage and the fraud was revealed, did the Obama DoJ push hard for criminal prosecutions of individual bankers (not just slap-on-the-wrist, cost-of-doing-business fines), to put the fear of real consequences into them in order to perhaps stave off future recurrence of such bad behavior? No. (or watch the Frontline special on the subject)

When the rubber met the road on Obama’s first-term signature piece of legislation – health care reform – did President Obama roll up his sleeves and really push to include the public option that would have kept costs truly down by offering consumers a low-to-no-overhead (and thus lower-cost) option for health care insurance? No.

But let a trade deal, drawn up by transnational corporation’s representatives away from public (and even congressional) scrutiny, get criticized by liberals, and Obama’s got all the energy of a fresh NBA recruit rarin’ to make a name for himself in the big leagues, calling liberals who oppose the bill “dishonest,” and hitting the bricks to grab the bully pulpit and tell reporters, the public and anyone else listening that he’s “…going to be pushing back very hard” against opposition to TPP.

“I’m pretty fired up about this,” he told reporters on the Friday call.

Since I’ve been paying attention over time, this doesn’t come as that much of a shock to someone like me. Still, I’m glad you’re willing to be so up-front about what fires you up, sir, and what doesn’t.

So, what’s the difference between the above three issues which received, shall we say, somewhat less of a push from the White House, and the current full-court press on TPP? Well, let’s start with what the similarity is, namely: they are all principally economic issues. They’re not social-liberal issues like gun control or access to abortion or marriage equality. Those are low-hanging fruit for Democrats to champion.

Instead, all of these issues concern money – who controls it, who has it, who has a say over what gets done with it. So what’s the difference? Pushing hard for the first three issues would’ve involved taking admittedly difficult – but just as easily admittedly economically and morally proper stands against powerful, monied corporate interests (in the first two cases, banks, in the third, insurance companies), on behalf of the people.

Advocating for TPP involves the exact opposite. You do the math.