Archive for the ‘Republican Party’ Category
Misrepresenting a person’s words or actions in order to score a political point is a form of lying. Of course we know that political ads do this sort of thing regularly. It’s wrong but no one can do much to stop it. And there appears to be no limit to how far political operatives are willing to go, for example, distorting the presentation of a lawyer arguing a case before the Supreme Court. Here is an excerpt from a recently published article from Bloomberg, “Republicans Tampered With Court Audio in Obama Attack Ad.”
In the web ad circulated yesterday, the Republican National Committee excerpts the opening seconds of the March 27 presentation of Obama’s top Supreme Court lawyer, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, in which he is heard struggling for words and twice stopping to drink water.
Obamacare,” the ad concludes, in words shown against a photograph of the high court. “It’s a tough sell.”
A review of a transcript and recordings of those moments shows that Verrilli took a sip of water just once, paused for a much briefer period, and completed his thought, rather than stuttering and trailing off as heard in the edited version.
The ad marks a blurring of the line between the law and politics, in which the nation’s highest court — and the justices and lawyers who decide and argue cases — are becoming fodder for Republicans’ and Democrats’ arguments over the validity of the president’s signature domestic legislative achievement.
RNC Communications Director Sean Spicer said the video was a “mash-up” condensing and splicing together several separate pauses and stutters by Verrilli during the first two minutes of his argument, produced to illustrate how much difficulty he had had defending the health-care law.
“Are there multiple clips in that video? Yes,” Spicer said. “The point was that he continually had to stop because he was having trouble making the case for why Obamacare was valid.”
The Bloomberg piece goes on to say,
Recordings of the court proceedings reviewed by Bloomberg News reveal that the audio has been edited. While Verrilli paused once to drink water during the opening moments of his presentation, he stopped talking for only a few seconds before continuing with his argument. In the RNC ad, he pauses for about 20 seconds, coughs, sips water and stutters.
Just think about Spicer’s defense of his ad. It was a “mash up,” as if this is some sort of justification for manipulating the historical record. One can easily imagine Spicer saying, “Hey, all we were doing was making Verrilli appear to be falling over his own words by changing the timing and length of his pauses and stutters. What’s the big deal? He should have been stuttering given what he was defending. If I think that an opponent shouldn’t be able to make a clear argument, what’s the problem in making him appear as if he can’t?”
We are in serious trouble. A democracy can only take so much distortion from propagandists representing major political parities– with huge sums of money to finance their machinations. It’s bound to lead to boundless cynicism. People will just tune out, turn off, and drop out. But perhaps that’s ultimately the goal of the game: a population so fatigued by a system that leaves them faceless and impotent they will just let the “professionals” run the show. Men like Sean Spicer, who like their ties with power knots.
Here are several labels that have recently and often been applied to Obama: pragmatist, bipartisan, compromiser, and centrist. The Republicans take no prisoners strategy regarding the stimulus package–which has been driven not by concerns about pork, but by an ideology that still affirms that the market always knows best–has depended on using Obama’s bipartisanship to their advantage. They typically view him as someone whose pragmatism guarantees a willingness to compromise and operate in a bipartisan fashion. And yes, it’s true, Obama would prefer bipartisan solutions. But be not confused, Republican comrades, pragmatism and bipartisanship are not two sides of the same coin.
Obama, as I have argued elsewhere, is not only a political pragmatist, but a philosophical one. Two points here: 1) Philosophical pragmatists are not dogmatists; they are falibilists who are suspicious of those who claim to possess certainty in political and ethical matters. 2) Broadly speaking, pragmatists seek what works.
Much confusion is possible regarding these points. One might think that if someone doesn’t believe in certainty and also looks to what works, he isn’t deeply committed to any values. This is specious inference. Pragmatists can be deeply committed to any number of values. They just don’t think that they have a direct line to the Deity regarding the truth of these values.
So, then, how does this relate to the Republicans’ misreading of Obama? Republicans have been assuming that Obama’s desire for bipartisanship and compromise is at the heart of his pragmatism. If they push hard enough, his pragmatism (read: desire to get things done “only” through compromise) will win the day for them. They will be able to hold back the tide of reform.
But bipartisanship and compromise are strategies and goods, not absolute goods for the philosophical pragmatist. The pragmatist respects them because they speak to his or her commitment to fallibilism and community, and because they might help us get the job done. However, if they are failing as strategies to achieve pressing ends, a philosophical pragmatist will not hesitate to engage in triage. If people don’t have jobs and are without medical care, if the economy is in a death spiral, well, we have an obligation to address these problems. Be nice to do so through having everyone on board, but we can always return to pursuing bipartisanship another day. It’s a good, not The Absolute Good.
If bipartisanship is not working as a strategy to get the stimulus package through, which Obama deeply believes is necessary for the well-being of the country, his political and philosophical commitments, and temperament, will move him to turn his energies to figuring out what will work. And what will work here may turn out to be an offensive against recalcitrant Republicans whose failed policies cost them two elections, 2006 and 2008. And you know what, he’s got the upper hand if he makes this move. (Republicans might think that Obama wouldn’t dare because he will need them down the line. However, if they aren’t playing ball now, he can’t be sure they will do so down the line.)
A piece of advice to Republicans: Don’t push this guy too hard. You are dealing with a mindset that you haven’t seen in a couple of generations. You will end up regretting it. (He’s perfectly capable of wearing the black hat.)
(Image from The Boston Phoenix)
UPDATE, February 9th, 2009, PM. The following is an excerpt from The New York Times of Obama’s first press conference as president:
So my whole goal over the next four years is to make sure that whatever arguments are persuasive and backed up by evidence and facts and proof, that they can work, that we are pulling people together around that kind of pragmatic agenda. And I think that there was an opportunity to do this with this recovery package because, as I said, although there are some politicians who are arguing that we don’t need a stimulus, there are very few economists who are making that argument. I mean, you’ve got economists who were advising John McCain, economists who were advisers to George Bush — one and two — all suggesting that we actually needed a serious recovery package.
And so when I hear people just saying we don’t need to do anything; this is a spending bill, not a stimulus bill, without acknowledging that by definition part of any stimulus package would include spending — that’s the point — then what I get a sense of is that there is some ideological blockage there that needs to be cleared up. [emphasis added]
UPDATE, February 10, 2009 Peter Baker in the New York Times writes (excerpt):
Taking on Critics, Obama Puts Aside Talk of Unity
“It is not too late to craft a bipartisan plan that creates more jobs and helps get our economy back on track, and Republicans stand ready to work with the president to do this,” Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the House Republican leader, said after the news conference.
For his part, though, Mr. Obama seemed to suggest it was too late, and that the time for bipartisanship lay further down the road. He said he recognized that some Republicans had good-faith doubts about his program, but he also characterized some of the opposition as an effort to “test” the new president.
(Baker’s article, which includes discussion of the press conference, is worth a read. It’s clear that Obama’s pragmatism does not require him to stick to “bipartisanship” and that the Republicans are about to find out that they have overplayed their hand. Poor Boehner, the Republicans’ goose egg vote in the House, of which he was so proud, is coming back to haunt him.)
UPDATE, February 14, 2009, excerpt from UPI.com:
WASHINGTON, Feb. 14 (UPI) — U.S. President Barack Obama plans to travel and campaign more to pressure Republicans in
Now that a mammoth, $787 billion economic stimulus bill has been approved virtually without Republican support, White House advisers have determined that Capitol Hill horse-trading with GOP opponents wasn’t successful and that Obama should instead tap his immense popularity and public salesmanship skills to push legislation in the future, the Washington publication Politico reported Saturday.
Sometimes you can almost smell a cheap shot.
The stimulus package that passed the House last week failed to receive one Republican vote. Among the worthwhile provisions in the bill is fifty million dollars for the National Endowment for the Arts. This is no mere give away. The money would help to stimulate the economy, even though it is a rather paltry sum for the whole nation–the price of one CEO’s jet to be exact. But the arts certainly make for an easy target, especially when you are willing to lie about the contents of the bill.
While the debate over the stimulus package was raging, the Republican whip, Mr. Eric Cantor, claimed that $300,000 had been set aside in the bill for a sculpture garden in Miami. Well, here are the facts. No such provision exists in the bill. It seems that Cantor felt that the package wasn’t specific enough for his taste, so he decided to claim on national TV that a project that had been funded in the past is in the current bill. From Politifact.com (St. Petersburg Times):
In an interview with Fox News on Jan. 23, 2009, Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor, the House Republican whip, said that in a meeting with President Obama, Cantor asked if he “could use his influence on this process to try and get the pork barrel spending out of the bill. I mean, there’s $300,000 for a sculpture garden in Miami.” . . .
“We don’t know what they’re going to spend it on,” Bradley [a Cantor spokesperson] said. “There is no direction to the NEA on how to spend it.”
So to give people an idea of how the NEA spends its money, Cantor’s staff looked at some recent grants awarded by the NEA.
And in 2008, the NEA gave $300,000 to the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Miami to restore an outdoor statuary. The Vizcaya estate is one of the country’s most intact remaining examples from the American Renaissance, a period when the very wealthy built estates to look European. The $300,000 grant was to help restore some of the outdoor sculptures — statues, urns and fountains — that had been severely deteriorating due to South Florida’s salty, damp and subtropical climate, not to mention the hurricanes.
But again, this was an NEA grant from last year .
Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
Yes, there certainly have been more serious lies by politicians, but the point is that here you have the House whip willing to make stuff up (non-existent pork) in order to help sink the stimulus package. Pretty shameless stuff. (As a matter of fact, Eric, it’s a shanda fur die goyim. You should know better.)
The fact is that 1) artists have lost jobs in the current recession and 2) the arts are economic engines in many communities. There is good statement on the website of the National Endowment for the Arts detailing reasons for supporting the provision for the arts in the stimulus package. For example, the statement cites a report by the National Governor’s Association:
A recent study released by the National Governors Association titled Arts & the Economy: Using Arts and Culture to Stimulate State Economic Development states, “Arts and culture are important to state economies. Arts and culture-related industries, also known as ‘creative industries,’ provide direct economic benefits to states and communities: They create jobs, attract investments, generate tax revenues, and stimulate local economies through tourism and consumer purchases.”
P.S. Eric Cantor appears to be a major piece of work. Here he is trying to blame Congress during Jimmy Carter’s administration for the current housing crisis.
UPDATE 2-11-09. More Cantor…This guy is just what the Republicans need to make sure that they remain the minority party for the next few generations. Go, Eric (and his Office), Go.
By now I am sure that most of America has heard about the former VP’s outrageous interview with Politico, which has been generously quoted in the MSM. Besides reiterating what every sentient adult American knows, namely, that it is possible that there will be a serious terrorist strike in the U.S. in the next few years, Dr. Doom tried to set the stage for the blaming the attack on the Obama administration. “When we get people who are more concerned about reading the rights to an Al Qaeda terrorist than they are with protecting the United States against people who are absolutely committed to do anything they can to kill Americans, then I worry.” Politico
This nonsense is from a man whose war in Iraq and torture policies have in all likelihood created more terrorists than all of the combined recruiting techniques used by Al Qaeda. He has made us less safe and decent in oh so many ways. But just as my fury was reaching unspeakable heights, I heard about a rather amazing turn of events. The Obama Administration plans to use Dr. Doom’s “expertise” in a thoroughly new fashion. They are creating a department of soothsayers made up of individuals who claim to have powers that allow them to leap over historical realities in single bounds. Cheney will direct this group of Jeremiahs. He plans to use his gifts in reading bird entrails, especially ones that he has shot, to help educate his comrades.
Obama it seems is way ahead of us on this one. It turns out that those of us who have been hypercritical of Dick have not realized that he has been suffering for years from a rather rare syndrome that leads him to believe that he has prophetic powers. His pacemaker, which was implanted several years back, suffers from a serious defect. It produces a low frequency audio pulse to the Thermonuclear region of the Hiffocampus. (It goes softly “boom” about every 18 minutes.) This results in behavior that is hard to separate from that of sociopaths, especially in terms of their tendency to lose sight of the differences between truth and lies, right and wrong. So, yes, Cheney has been a pathological liar, but for an understandable reason. Unfortunately the pacemaker cannot be removed without creating the possibility that the patient might suffer from an overload of guilt and remorse, which could lead to suicide. And his doctor’s oath, unlike Cheney’s own as VP, requires that he do no harm.
The Obama administration’s plan to make Cheney Director of the Cassandra Complex is an elegant solution to the problem of Cheney. As you may recall, even when Cassandra was telling the truth about the future, she was fated to not be heeded. Cheney can now spend the rest of his days, along with a bevy of sociopaths, feeling good about the fact that they know the future but no one will listen to them.
Here is a model of their new building, right off the Mall in D.C. The design goes back to Bentham. (And since, needless to say, no one can really know what the future holds in store, this is a good place to store folks like this.)
AP Photo/Ron Edmonds
Just in case you haven’t heard, Rush Limbaugh is now calling the shots in the Republican Party. It seems that you can’t criticize Rush if you are a Republican, especially if you are in the House of Representatives. Here is an excerpt from Congressman Phil Gingrey’s “apology” to Rush, on Rush’s radio show, for having dared to criticize him. (Select the link to view a video of Rush speaking with Gingrey.)
Rush, thank you so much. I thank you for the opportunity, of course this is not exactly the way to I wanted to come on. … Mainly, I want to express to you and all your listeners my very sincere regret for those comments I made yesterday to Politico. … I clearly ended up putting my foot in my mouth on some of those comments. … I regret those stupid comments. Huffington Post, January 28, 2009.
And who does Rush want to see as the Republican standard bearer? Sarah Palin, of course. And he is not alone.
Coming off a shellacking at the polls in November, the plurality of GOP voters (43%) say their party has been too moderate over the past eight years, and 55% think it should become more like Alaska Governor Sarah Palin in the future, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Just 24% think failed presidential candidate John McCain is the best future model for the party, and 10% are undecided. Rasumssen Reports, January, 29, 2009.
Now there are many sound arguments for not taking Palin seriously. But let’s not bother with arguments here. Let’s just follow the video
Let me show you something…
A thanks to the (anonymous) person who did this video.
UPDATE 3/2/2009 Rush has really got them on a leash. A GOP senator can’t even say the words, Rush is wrong.
Following the unregulated free market logic that has spiraled the country into our current economic morass, the Republican Party, especially those in the House of Representatives, have taken a page from the corporate world. They have decided to downsize, and it appears that the execs at GOP, Inc. are expecting the downsize to be permanent. The logic here seems to be that it is better to have a smaller, more efficient body of ideologues, that can be held in line, in order to toe the line. This will guarantee that the rhetoric from GOP Inc., its most important product line, will remain as pure as the first snows of winter. After all, Republicans are principled folks, unlike Democrats and Obamanites who are willing to be “pragmatic.”
The unprecedented scope of their business plan has only become apparent in the last few days. The Republican execs in the House of Representatives, Boehner’s band of boys, have been especially aggressive in supporting it. A recent Washington Post-ABC News Poll has shown overwhelming support for the President’s stimulus package, yet not one Republican in the House voted for the President’s package.
Would you support or oppose new federal spending of about 800 billion dollars on tax cuts, construction projects, energy, education, and health care to try to stimulate the economy?
- 70% Support
And Nate Silver reports on January 29, 2009, the following on FiveThirtyEight:
It’s not just the goose egg that the House Republicans laid on the Democratic stimulus package yesterday: Boehner’s Boys have been equally uncooperative on other matters. Case in point: a bill yesterday to delay the transition to digital TV. This measure was approved unanimously by the Senate; every Senate Republican gave it the green light. But 155 out of 178 House Republicans voted against it, which resulted in the measure’s defeat since a two-thirds majority would have been required for passage under the House’s suspension of the rules.
Or, take the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a seemingly fairly popular/populist (if not inscrutable) piece of legislation on gender-based pay discrepancies. This was something that Barack Obama whacked John McCain on on the campaign trail, with McCain offering little rebuttal. In the Senate, five Republicans — out of 41 — voted with the Administration on Ledbetter, including all four Republican women. In the House, just three Republicans did — out of 178.
There may be a few retrograde Republicans in the Senate not fully with the downsizing program. But one has to understand that the House represents the life blood of the Party. They are the elected Republicans closest to the forces of production, those that produce the largest quantities of grade A ideology. So, unless there is an unexpected upheaval at the top of GOP, Inc., expect the downsizing to continue. (The proposed new motto for the new GOP: Change through Ideological Purity.) There have even been rumors that GOP, Inc. would rather go bankrupt than compromise its principles. (Unnamed sources suggest that bankruptcy filings can be expected any day now. Stay tuned.)
(Image from The Boston Phoenix)
UPDATE: August 26, 2010. Well, it looks like I must have been terribly wrong about this from what appears to be a Republican resurgence. As of today, the Republicans look like they may win back the House this November. They have been temporarily saved by the bad economy and the mid-term election pattern of voters turning against the incumbent party. However, I would still argue that in the long term Republicans will be forced to downsize if they decide to stick with ideological purity. They don’t have any answers to the economic mess that we are in. (Just look at the how dependent they are on the “magic” bullet of lowering taxes, which helped bury us during the Bush years.) Once people realize this, and understand how much of the Party is under the sway of right wing ideologues, the Republicans will indeed have to consider downsizing. (And then there are the demographics that are against them. But this would be another blog.)
If you thought that the country might have a problem with McCain being too much like Bush, think again, and again….
Much of the attention regarding Palin has focused on her inexperience and duplicitous statements, e.g., about the Bridge to Nowhere. But as it turns out, Palin is not just your everyday inexperienced politician who happens to be a conservative. She is an ideologue and appears to be very Bush-like in her commitment to a loyalty culture. I can’t think of a worse combination for a president: ideologue and loyalty enforcer. And Palin is just a heartbeat away from the Oval Office if McCain becomes president. Obama and Biden, on the other hand, are moderately liberal pragmatists and their MO is compromise. I plan to write more about the contrast in the future, but I want to share here four striking “windows into Sarah” (directly quoted) from today’s (September 2nd) New York Times article, “Palin’s Start in Alaska: Not Politics as Usual.” Link to article
“Sarah comes in with all this ideological stuff, and I was like, ‘Whoa,’ ” said Mr. Stein [the previous mayor of Wassila-M.A.], who lost the election. “But that got her elected: abortion, gun rights, term limits and the religious born-again thing. I’m not a churchgoing guy, and that was another issue: ‘We will have our first Christian mayor.’ ”
Ms. Palin also upended the town’s traditional ways with a surprise edict: No employee was to talk to the news media without her permission.
Ann Kilkenny, a Democrat who said she attended every City Council meeting in Ms. Palin’s first year in office, said Ms. Palin brought up the idea of banning some books at one meeting. “They were somehow morally or socially objectionable to her,” Ms. Kilkenny said. The librarian, Mary Ellen Emmons, pledged to “resist all efforts at censorship,” Ms. Kilkenny recalled. Ms. Palin fired Ms. Emmons shortly after taking office but changed course after residents made a strong show of support. Ms. Emmons, who left her job and Wasilla a couple of years later, declined to comment for this article.
“Just as Ms. Palin terminated employees on her way into office, she also let some go on the way out, including Mr. Cramer. When Ms. Palin completed her second and final term, in 2002, her stepmother-in-law, Faye Palin, was running to succeed her. It seemed like a good idea, except that Faye Palin supported abortion rights and was registered as unaffiliated, not Republican, people who remember the race said. Sarah Palin sided instead with Dianne M. Keller, a religious conservative and an ally on the City Council. Ms. Keller won.”
Here are a dozen, guaranteed, money-back reasons why John McCain won’t be the next president. (I can only offer a limited-time, money-back guarantee, since unfortunately I can’t control world events.)
1. The McBush factor. McCain’s support of the Iraq War will make it impossible for him to break from Bush, the most unpopular president in living memory. The photo/video of McCain hugging and being kissed by Bush will become increasingly embedded in the collective consciousness of the American people as the months roll on. See the McCain on Bush YouTube Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3U5KZzgaB2k&feature=related
2. The Republican factor. Yes, McCain is a Republican. He will not be able to deny this fact. Currently, this is not the best party to have behind you in a push to the White House. Witness the recent loss of three traditionally Republican congressional seats and the declining number of Americans willing to identify themselves as Republicans. And then there are the comments of Congressman Tom Davis. “The political atmosphere facing House Republicans this November is the worst since Watergate and is far more toxic than it was in 2006” (NY Times, May 15th, 2008).
3. The Last War Syndrome. McCain and the operatives running his campaign are like generals fighting the last war. They are still convinced that negative advertising will be as successful against Obama as it was against Kerry. However, “The Times They are A-Changin.” And this leads to the next factor.
4. The Change Factor: Hillary tried experience, but this race is about change and the future. McCain appears to be operating a time machine that has only a reverse gear.
5. The Money Factor: Obama can raise a lot more, and a lot more quickly…..enough said.
6. The Age Factor: McCain’s age will hurt him. (I am not claiming that this is fair, but it seems to be a fact. Older voters are especially concerned about McCain’s age.)
7. The Not So Straight-talk Factor: McCain has built his reputation on being a man of principle. This has two features: he believes in something and he sticks with what he believes in. McCain has recently begun to backpedal on principles and commitments. He is vulnerable to being viewed as a flip-flopper, if not dishonest, which will undermine his hitherto greatest strength. See “The Carpetbagger Report” for an extensive list of McCain’s Flip-flops.
8. The Organizational Factor: The evidence thus far suggests that Obama has a far better campaign organization. There will be a volunteer gap, that is, Obama will have a lot more of them and they will be more enthusiastic than McCain’s campaign workers.
9. The Skeleton Factor: The Keating Five and lobbyists, need I say more.
10. The Anger Problem: It’s real.
11. The Crass and Crude Comment Problem: A corollary to the anger problem. He has made outrageous, crude, sometimes vile remarks, and most Americans don’t know about them, yet. For examples, see article here.
12. And last, but not least, The Lack of Background in Economics Factor. McCain has acknowledged that he needs to read up on economics. Not great for building confidence in a candidate in the midst of a recession.
Okay, that’s twelve. But let’s make it a baker’s dozen.
13. The “My Friends” Factor. I don’t believe that Americans will be prepared to live with four or eight years of being addressed by John McCain as, “My Friends,” especially when it is followed by that rather strange little grin.
UPDATE: 8/30/08 Due to McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his VP, I am afraid that I must add another point to this list, even though it takes it beyond a baker’s dozen. (I have been tempted to add other points, but this one is too big to resist.)
#14. Palin will eventually prove to be a bad choice for VP, especially after McCain promised to be very careful in his selection due to his age. Given the sheer political nature of this choice (i.e., to gain votes), he will have to give up his slogan, Country First. Can you imagine the totally inexperienced Palin eyeball to eyeball with Putin? How about eyeball to eyeball with any senator, except for Alaska’s Ted Stevens, in the Senate? ( Just think for a moment about how the debate with Biden is going to go.) Hey, John, your answer to every problem is not to pick a pretty woman. Just because Cindy helped put expensive shoes on your feet….See “McCain Just Lost the Election with a Hail Mary (or Political Ambition 21, Country 0)” Link Here.
UPDATE, September 19, 2008. Today I supply a brief point by point rebuttal to a commentor who disagrees with my list of reasons. See, Comments. Btw, “A Dozen Reasons Why McCain Won’t Win…” was originally published on May 15, 2008. I believe that the list is holding up pretty well. Even some of the points that have looked like they may not be on target in the past couple of weeks–for example, #4 regarding Change–should hold up as the race continues. (In the case of #4, McCain will not be able to sell himself as the change candidate. The economy will take care of that. )