Obama Opposition

The Hillary Clinton Paradigm

Courtesy of the Rolling Stone, this is how it works:

You start with the assumption that Hillary Clinton is corrupt.

After all, there have been whispers and accusations and investigations and allegations and scandals with ominous names like WHITEWATER and BENGHAZI for years. Even if you can’t describe exactly what she’s done wrong, there must be something to all these stories, right?

And if she’s corrupt, then we definitely need to investigate her. Virtually everything she does is suspect. Any mistake she makes can’t simply be an accident or a lapse in judgment; there must be some criminal intent behind it. It doesn’t matter how many millions of taxpayer dollars or thousands of man-hours it takes in FBI investigations and congressional hearings. No price is too high.

And when you investigate endlessly, you find evidence. Emails and documents and memos and call logs and testimony. It adds up to thousands of pages, millions of words, piles of binders that make the perfect dramatic prop in a hearing room.

And we know all those documents must be suspicious. After all, they appeared because there was an investigation into corruption, so they must be evidence of something. Plus, there are just so darn many of them.

And with all that suspicious evidence, the conclusion is clear: Hillary Clinton is corrupt. And if she’s corrupt, we have to investigate her. And if we investigate her, we’ll uncover evidence. And if we find evidence, it must be suspicious. So she must be corrupt. So we have to investigate her.

And on and on it goes. For decades.

It’s also known as the Perjury Trap.  If you have enough investigations, then you can get her to testify under oath and maybe — just maybe — she’ll say something incorrect.  Doesn’t matter what: the weather, whatever.  Sure, maybe she was mistaken.  Or maybe her recollection is bad.  But if she is wrong, you can call it a LIE and maybe even PERJURY.  Then you can IMPEACH her.

This will be the next four years.

Dear Glenn Greenwald

Dear Glenn Greenwald:

I read your article in The Intercept which basically asserts hypocrisy on the part of Democrats/Obama when it comes to Putin.  You are correct in pointing out that Obama himself suggested a “reset” with Russia, that Obama did not want to go to war with Russia over that country’s invasion of the Crimea, and that Obama suggested working in military partnership with Russia when it comes to Syria.  And this is why you state that Obama has been giving “accommodation” to Putin, so Democrats shouldn’t throw stones when Trump praises Putin.

But, of course, therein lies the difference.  Obama has chosen to ease tensions with Russia, but has failed largely because of Putin’s human rights violations and global aggression.  Trump, on the other hand, seems eager to praise Putin for two reasons (1) Putin’s so-called “strength” — which comes in part from the fact that the Russians under Putin don’t have much of a system of checks and balances; and (2) Putin praises Trump.

Nobody can suggest that Obama praises Putin (and if he did, he certainly doesn’t do it out of vanity and narcissism).  Obama has exhibited a willingness to get along with Russia, but he is unwilling to roll over.  Trump, on the other hand, has shown that he can be rolled over, if only by receiving praise.  This is an entirely different US-Russia strategy than the one for which you criticize Obama.  Trump is already exhibiting capitulation, not just accommodation.

Or take the Russian hacking of the DNC and quite possibly the government.  You take Obama to task for not engaging in some retaliation.  First of all, we don’t know that.  But assuming that is true, he certainly calls Putin out on that sort of thing.  Compare that to Trump, who goes on state-run Russian television, and expresses doubt that Russia was behind the hacking at all!!

To equate Obama and Trump in their approach to Russia is to ignore glaring differences between the two men.  Obama’s approach to Russia is measured; he exhibits caution.  Trump has cast aside all caution.  And for that, criticism directed at him is apropos.  Obama’s approach to Russia is arguably flawed, but Trump’s approach is objectively outlandish and alarming.

Benghaziiiiiiiiiiii! Report!!

The New York Times headline says it all:

benghazclint

But you wouldn’t know that reading the right wing blogs.

Sure the report condemns many things, but not Hillary Clinton.  Of course, wingnuts will try to blur the lines.

Here’s what the New York Times says:

Ending one of the longest, costliest and most bitterly partisan congressional investigations in history, the House Select Committee on Benghazi issued its final report on Tuesday, finding no new evidence of culpability or wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton in the 2012 attacks in Libya that left four Americans dead.

The 800-page report, however, included some new details about the night of the attacks, and the context in which it occurred, and it delivered a broad rebuke of government agencies like the Defense Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the State Department — and the officials who led them — for failing to grasp the acute security risks in Benghazi, and especially for maintaining outposts in there that they could not protect.

And that seems to be an accurate assessment.  Watch how the right wing plays it though.

For example, the report says “Despite President Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s clear orders to deploy military assets, nothing was sent to Benghazi, and nothing was en route to Libya at the time the last two Americans were killed almost 8 hours after the attacks began. [pg. 141]”  [http://benghazi.house.gov/NewInfo]

How is that spun on right wing sites like Hot Air?  “Americans died because the Obama/Clinton team failed to deploy military assets” 

Suddenly, Hillary Clinton was in charge of deploying military assets as Secretary of State.  Did you know that?  And let’s ignore the fact that Obama actually ordered military assets to be deployed.

But let’s pin it on Obama and Clinton anyway.

In truth, the House Benghazi report — while condemning the security in Benghazi, including the State Department’s own investigation — says essentially nothing new that hasn’t been found by prior investigations and congressional hearings.  They fleshed out a detail or two.  And that cost taxpayers $7 million dollars.

Cue sad trombone and sad elephant.

Meanwhile, Trump has not tweeted anything (nor has he tweeted anything about yesterday’s pro-choice Supreme Court decision)

Trump Implies Obama Is A Terrorist

In an interview with Fox News, Trump strongly implied that President Obama either condones or was actually connected to the Orlando shootings.

This is the Washington Post article that enraged Trump so much he revoked their press credentials.

Donald Trump seemed to repeatedly accuse President Obama on Monday of identifying with radicalized Muslims who have carried out terrorist attacks in the United States and being complicit in the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando over the weekend, the worst the country has ever seen.

“Look, we’re led by a man that either is not tough, not smart, or he’s got something else in mind,” Trump said in a lengthy interview on Fox News early Monday morning. “And the something else in mind — you know, people can’t believe it. People cannot, they cannot believe that President Obama is acting the way he acts and can’t even mention the words ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’ There’s something going on. It’s inconceivable. There’s something going on.”

In that same interview, Trump was asked to explain why he called for Obama to resign in light of the shooting and he answered, in part: “He doesn’t get it or he gets it better than anybody understands — it’s one or the other, and either one is unacceptable.”

“There’s something going on”.  Unfortunately, when pressed, Trump would not elaborate.  So much for having the courage of his convictions and being non-PC.

Is he catering to conspiracy theorists or is he himself one?  It hardly makes any difference, does it?  Do we want either in the White House?

First it was those cringe-worthy, self-congratulatory tweets from Donald Trump. Then of course it was being plain wrong about the facts of the tragedy. And then we had his accusations about President Obama. A scathing editorial from The Los Angeles Times about Trump’s accusations is right on point

Donald J. Trump, the loose cannon who would be president, hinted Monday thatPresident Obama might be complicit in terror attacks by Islamic extremists, including Sunday’s bloodbath in Orlando, Fla. That accusation by innuendo marks a new and repugnant low for Trump, who along with his surrogates is engaged in a smear campaign reminiscent of the dark days of McCarthyism. […]

We’ve said before that Trump’s shoot-from-the-lip persona makes him unsuited for the presidency, and we’ll keep saying it right up until the election, when we hope he fades from the national stage and takes his repugnant intolerance with him. Yet we also fear his campaign has given currency to dangerously wrong ideas about race, religion and proper conduct of a civil society. More reasonable minds recognize those ideas as intellectually and morally bankrupt, and they should recognize the boastful messenger for what he is.

The Republican party seemed to want Trump to stay silent….

While Republican National Committee spokesman Sean Spicer said in a statement before Trump’s comments that Democrats “bury their head in the sand on how dangerous the world is,” Trump’s insinuations go much further than mainstream Republican leaders are usually willing to go.

A source who works closely with the Trump campaign, granted anonymity in order to speak freely to NBC News, said after Sunday’s attack that the party hadasked the candidate to offer condolences and then to stay silent. Trump clearly chose a different approach.

… which of course he didn’t/  He couldn’t.

Short Takes

(1)  Trump likes to say that he is bringing enthusiasm to the GOP and people are voting in the Republican race in massive numbers, which means that Democrats should be worried about the general election.

Is he right?

He is not. As many have pointed out, voter turnout is an indication of the competitiveness of a primary contest, not of what will happen in the general election. The GOP presidential primary is more competitive than the Democratic race.  Historically, that has no bearing on the voter turnout, or the turnout of the parties, in the general election.

(2)  I get tired of journalists and pundits saying that “the people won’t understand” if Donald Trump goes into the GOP convention with the most votes, but doesn’t end up winning.   First of all, if that is true, then journalists and pundits need to explain the difference between a majority and a plurality, and that winning on the first vote requires a majority.  But more to the point, I think the people can understand the concept, and probably already do.  We need to stop being treated like we are idiots.  That’s how we GET candidates like Trump in the first place.

(3)  The attempt to suppress votes by Republicans in North Carolina seems to have worked.

(4)  I’m definitely the first to say this, but it is very very weird how Cruz has always been unpopular with Washington insiders, and he ran as being NOT a Washington insider, and now all the Washington insiders are trying to find a way to embrace him as the last resort to Trumpism.

(5) So if you are Hillary’s people, what is your attack point on Trump? Too conservative, or an unsteady unknown?  My sense is that you actually compliment Trump (say, in a debate) for a stance that conservatives hate (his kind words about Planned Parenthood, for example).  And then you bash him on his ignorance of the world, the Constitution, etc.  I don’t think you attack his temperament.  That seems to get people on his side.

(6) Some Republicans are caving on Mitch McConnell’s decision not to hold hearings:

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), one of just two Senate Republicans who have indicated an openness to even having a confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, had a message for his GOP colleagues on Friday: give Garland a vote.

“We should go through the process the Constitution has already laid out. The president has already laid out a nominee who is from Chicagoland and for me, I’m open to see him, to talk to him, and ask him his views on the Constitution,” Kirk explained in a radio interview on WLS-AM’s Big John Howell Show.

 

Garland

Is it hard to do cartwheels over President Obama’s choice of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland today.  Professor Epstein seems to think he’s a good liberal…

Epstein

… but you always have to question the methodology of these things.

Merrick Garland is 63 years old and currently serves as chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. A former Justice Department official in the Clinton administration, Garland was nominated to the D.C. Circuit by President Bill Clinton in 1997 and confirmed by the U.S. Senate by a vote of 76-23. Sen. Orrin Hatch remarked at the time that Garland was “not only a fine nominee, but as good as Republicans can expect from [the Clinton] administration.”  He’s actually pretty conservative on police issues and war on terror.  But he’s no threat to Roe v Wade.

Sure, Garland is smart.  And qualified.  But if the tables were turned, and it was a Republican president and a Democrat-controlled Senate, I don’t think the judicial candidate would have been so…. moderate.

I mean, I get it.  Everyone gets it.  Obama is picking a guy who has already been approved by the Senate for his current judicial gig, who is not an ideologue, etc.  This forces Senate Republicans to consider AND approve the nominee, or look like the reason why Washington sucks so bad.  Also, with a Clinton presidency looming, Republicans might just want to get Garland and not get someone far more liberal.  (In fact, a President Trump could pick a liberal judge for all anybody knows).

In other words. holding out for another Scalia just might get Republicans a lefty version of Scalia.

Over at 538, they did some quick calculations and determined what the future might look like:

chances

Facing those possibilities, confirming Garland, might just be the best thing the GOP could do.  You gotta play the cards you’re dealt.

And the other hand, I get annoyed at this (if it is true):

Why would Obama capitulate to the Republicans when he has them over a barrel?

In the end, it seems that Obama has made a pragmatic choice.  And let’s face it.  It saves the Court.  And if it doesn’t, it makes the GOP look horrible.

Early indications are that the right wing is bent on looking obstructionist, even in the face of a reasonable moderate candidate.  Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice issued a statement repeating his call for “no confirmation proceedings until after the election.” Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver similarly repeated that there should be “no Senate hearing on any Obama nominee.” Alliance Defending Freedom’s Casey Mattox offered no criticism of Garland himself but claimed that the Obama administration is untrustworthy and so Garland’s nomination should be blocked: “The Obama administration has demonstrated it cannot be trusted to respect the rule of law, the Constitution, and the limits of its own authority. So it should be no surprise that the American people would be highly skeptical that any nominee this president puts forth would be acceptable. Heritage Action, which was calling for an end to most judicial and executive branch confirmations even before Scalia’s death, declared that “nothing has changed”  with the nomination of Garland and that we areone liberal Justice away from seeing gun rights restricted and partial birth abortion being considered a constitutional right.”  Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council similarly tried to paint Garland as a liberal, saying he is “far from being a consensus nominee,” although he offered no specifics on the
“serious questions” he said their were about Garland’s “ability to serve as a constitutionalist.”  And anti-abortion groups also doubled down on their opposition to any confirmation proceedings, although they struggled to find specific reasons to oppose Garland.

Aaaaand as I write this, it looks like the Senate Republicans are taking the bait and biting down hard:

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, has called President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick B. Garland, and explained that no action would be taken in the Senate on the nomination, Mr. McConnell’s spokesman said.

Mr. McConnell also informed Judge Garland that they would not be meeting in person at the Capitol.

“Rather than put Judge Garland through more unnecessary political routines orchestrated by the White House, the leader decided it would be more considerate of the nominee’s time to speak with him today by phone,” Mr. McConnell’s spokesman, Don Stewart, said in a statement.

“The leader reiterated his position that the American people will have a voice in this vacancy and that the Senate will appropriately revisit the matter when it considers the qualifications of the person the next president nominates. And since the Senate will not be acting on this nomination, he would not be holding a perfunctory meeting, but he wished Judge Garland well.”

“Political routines orchestrated by the White House”?  That’s a funny way to say “obligations placed upon the President by the U.S. Constitution”.

Obama’s Three Supreme Court Nominees

They are not as progressive as some might hope. This is a feature, not a bug, of Obama’s choices. He wants to nominate a Supreme Court justice that can’t be dinged for being a radical communist.

So who are these guys (and yeah, they’re guys…)?

Srinivasan, 49, was born in India and emigrated as a young child with his family to Kansas. A Stanford Law graduate, he would be the high court’s first Asian American and first Hindu.

Srinivasan was nominated in May 2013 to be a judge on the Washington-based appeals court. The Senate confirmed him, 97 to 0.

***

Garland served several stints in the Justice Department and supervised such major cases as the prosecutions of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and his accomplice, Terry Nichols, and Unabomber Ted Kaczynski. Garland was appointed to the federal circuit court in April 1997 and became chief judge in February 2013.

***

Sri_Srinavasan[Watford] worked for four years as an assistant U.S. attorney in Los Angeles before joining the law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson, where he focused on appellate litigation in state and federal courts. He was appointed by Obama to the federal appeals court in May 2012 after a Senate confirmation vote of 61 to 34.

I think Srinivasan (pictured at the right) has distinct advantages which would make any opposition to him be particularly ridiculous — not the least of which is that he was confirmed to the D.C. Circuit (probably the most important circuit court) without any Senate objection.  Plus, the Republicans are being painted as the Bigot Party, so they wouldn’t look good turning down an Asian-American and Hindu (I would be willing to bet that most Trump supporters can’t distinguish between Hindu and Islam).

The problem is that Srinivasan is young — only 49.  Watford is even younger at 48.  So maybe Garland, age 63, has a better change for Republicans not to oppose.

The Scalia Gambit

Without question, the death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia has set all sides of the political spectrum into a frenzy.  Everybody is weighing, but the stupidest comments are coming from Republicans who say that Obama shouldn’t nominate a justice at all because there is an election coming up.  Rand Paul, who supposedly loves the Constitution, says that Obama has a “conflict of interest”, which is ridiculous.

The Constitution on this issue is not hard to understand: “[The President] shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint … Judges of the supreme Court.” The provision creates a power — and perhaps even a duty — in the president to make a nomination.  No, it does not give him a right to have his nominee confirmed or even considered. That power lies with the Senate.  But certainly the President SHALL do what the Constitution instructs him to do.

This puts the ball in the Senate’s court (so to speak) and Republican Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell made the foolish error of showing his cards.  He said that the Senate will not vote on an Obama nominee.  They will delay, filibuster, whatever.

That’s fine, but who will pay the price for that?  Republicans, I suspect.  They need to show that they can govern, something that they have failed to do in the past few years.

Loretta_Lynch-10-facts-black-enterpriseSo knowing the GOP gamebook, what should Obama do?  Invigorate the base by nominating Loretta E. Lynch, the 83rd Attorney General of the United States.  Very qualified, and approved already for the Senate for AG.  And a black woman.

And the GOP can spend the whole election season explaining why this qualified black woman should not be the first black woman on the Supreme Court.  I don’t know how they can win the politics of this, even if they succeed in keeping her off the bench.

Hillary and/or Bernie can add fuel to the fire by saying that if they won the election, they would nominate…. Larry Tribe.  It might force Republicans to accept Obama’s nominee, as the lesser of two evils.  Especially if it looks like Trump might not take the White House.

Then, there’s this:

It could all come down to 17 crucial days in January.

If Democrats win back the Senate and lose the White House in November, they would control both branches of government for about two weeks before Obama leaves office. That overlap in the transition of power is set in stone. The Constitution mandates the new Congress begins work on January 3, while President Obama stays in power until January 20.

So if Democrats take back the Senate, President Obama could send a Supreme Court nominee to that new Democratic majority, which would have 17 days to change the filibuster rules and ram in a vote before a new President takes power.

Sri_SrinavasanSo maybe Obama might do better to select a consensus nominee. Sri Srinivasan is an often-mentioned choice.  He is 48, an Indian-American, and a member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit — a traditional launching pad for Supreme Court nominees.  Obama first nominated him to the post in 2012, and the Senate confirmed him, 97-0, in May 2013, including votes in support from GOP presidential contenders Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.

Now, undoubtedly there are bloggers and pundits on the right who see this playing out — politically — in their favor.  And to be sure, if you are embedded on the bigoted women-and-immigrant-hating right side of the political spectrum, you’re not worried about Lynch or Srinivasan being nominated, and you hope their nomination will rally other bigots like you. Bring it on!

The problem is… America isn’t like the right.  It’s not that conservative, and you only need to look at Trump to know there is a problem with right wing politics these days.

Activist Supreme Court Rules On Climate Change

Crazy:

In a major setback for President Obama’s climate change agenda, the Supreme Court on Tuesday temporarily blocked the administration’s effort to combat global warming by regulating emissions from coal-fired power plants.

The brief order was not the last word on the case, which is most likely to return to the Supreme Court after an appeals court considers an expedited challenge from 29 states and dozens of corporations and industry groups.

But the Supreme Court’s willingness to issue a stay while the case proceeds was an early hint that the program could face a skeptical reception from the justices.

The 5-to-4 vote, with the court’s four liberal members dissenting, was unprecedented — the Supreme Court had never before granted a request to halt a regulation before review

“It’s a stunning development,” Jody Freeman, a Harvard law professor and former environmental legal counsel to the Obama administration, said in an email. She added that “the order certainly indicates a high degree of initial judicial skepticism from five justices on the court,” and that the ruling would raise serious questions from nations that signed on to the landmark Paris climate change pact in December.

When the court does something unprecedented procedurally, that usually means they are doing something political (e.g., Bush v. Gore).  No doubt the five conservatives on the court were motivated by Obama’s use of executive orders.

One Last Time (Teach Them How To Say Goodbye)

Last night saw President Obama’s last State of the Union address, the first of many lasts to come this year.

In many ways, it was a typical SOTU address with a laundry list of things he wants to accomplish, but never will, because Republicans.

On the other hand, he spoke about the broken politics of Washington, and how it is natural for both sides to disagree, but they need to come together as they have done in the past.  My favorite moment was when he evoked the space race saying:

“Sixty years ago when the Russians beat us into space, we did not deny Sputnik was up there. We did not argue about the science or shrink our research and development budget. We built a space program almost overnight, and 12 years later we were walking on the moon.”

Republicans afterwards griped about what they saw as hypocrisy in the speech, essentially saying “Obama was telling us not to stop attacking each other…. and then he goes and attacks Republicans”.  What a bunch of whiners some of those Republicans are.

First of all, Obama didn’t say to stop attacking each other.  He said disagreement is to be expected. He just said those disagreements shouldn’t stand in the way of solutions.

Secondly, he didn’t call out Republicans by name.  But if the shoe fits…..

But last night was notable for something else.  The response speech from Governor Nikki Haley.

As with any SOTU response speech, she hastily dispenses with opposing views to Obama’s ideas (although to be honest, she was also hitting some of the same points, i.e., income equality).  But then she pivoted:

“Today, we live in a time of threats like few others in recent memory. During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation. No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country.”

It was clear to all that Governor Haley, herself a child of Indian immigrants, was making a pointed reference to Donald Trump and is bigoted xenophobic rhetoric.  President Obama did the same thing, talking about how we should not blame an entire religion (a religion held by many of our strategically important allies) for the acts of extremists.

Now, Haley’s response speech was not something she had a complete hand in.  You know that party insiders all contributed to it, or at least blessed it.  Which is why her veiled attack on Trump (or Trumpism, if you like) was remarkable.

She predictably got his by a backlash from the extreme edges of the party, starting with the disgusting Ann Coulter:

And they a virtually apoplectic over at Breitbart.  Rush Limbaugh thought that Haley’s rebuttal speech was “pandering to illegal minorities”.

Such is the strangeness of this election year.  Somehow, Trump has worked his way into everything.

P.S.  I almost forgot to mention the ambitious “moonshot to cure cancer” – a remarkable effort which Joe Biden is in charge of.  It’s a footnote in the headlines this morning, but I think it will have greater significance historically.

Worse Than Watergate

The Benghazi investigation has been the longest in special congressional investigative history:

The House committee investigating the Benghazi attacks is now the longest congressional investigation in history, committee Democrats announced today. As of Monday, the House Select Committee on Benghazi, has been active for 72 weeks — surpassing the record previously held by the Watergate Committee in the 1970’s.

Of course, the House committee investigation is one of seven separate congressional committees investigating the matter.  And NOT ONE has found intentional misconduct.  This top-shelf effort is spending a fortune in hopes of inventing something to destroy Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. The closest they’ve come is to discover that the former Secretary of State used an unconventional private email server that she shouldn’t have used.

 

GOP 2016 Race Shorts

(1)  IRAQ WITHDRAWAL

Let’s get one thing clear, because I don’t think this is the first time it is going to come up.

Regardless of whether you think it was good or bad, the withdrawal of troops from Iraq was Bush’s idea, not Obama’s.  I say this because Jeb was on the campaign trail yesterday spewing nonsense:

The former Florida governor asserted that the Islamic State’s takeover of large swaths of Iraq in 2014 was a direct consequence of the “fatal error” of Obama’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from the country in 2011 after the eight-year U.S. military occupation. He claimed the withdrawal squandered the “success, brilliant, heroic and costly,” of the 2007 U.S. troop surge. He said Clinton “stood by as the hard-won victory by American and allied forces was thrown away.”

Bzzzzzt!  Wrong!  Thanks for playing!  It was Jeb’s brother who set the withdrawal date of Dec. 31, 2011, in an agreement that he signed with the Iraqi government in 2008.  And that withdrawal had already begun by the time Obama took office in January 2009.

So be careful of this lie.

(2)  IOKIYAR — FETAL TISSUE EDITION

Planned Parenthood is on the chopping block for selling fetal tissue (that would otherwise become medical waste) to medical researchers so that we can cure disease.  All the GOP candidates are lining up to condemn Planned Parenthood, including Dr. Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon who is rising in the GOP field:

Carson, formerly director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University medical school, said the benefits of fetal research have been “overpromised” and “under-delivered.”

He called it “disturbing” that some people don’t even realize the “callousness with which we are treating human life.”

Carson has explained that, at 17 weeks, a fetus is “clearly a human being.”

The problem is…. apparently Dr. Carson was not so put off the idea when he was conducting fetal tissue research. (And by the way, did you ever think we would have a candidate running for president who actually conducted medical research on fetal tissue?  Let’s just pause and contemplate that).  Oh, and the age of the fetal tissue he conducted research on?  17 weeks and…. wait for it…. 9 weeks.

Today, Carson said he did not support a ban on fetal tissue research.  He was asked to explain the apparent contradiction.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Carson called the revelation “desperate,” and ignorant of the way medical research was carried out.

“You have to look at the intent,” Carson said before beginning a campaign swing through New Hampshire. “To willfully ignore evidence that you have for some ideological reason is wrong. If you’re killing babies and taking the tissue, that’s a very different thing than taking a dead specimen and keeping a record of it.”

Carson went on to give a rather dishwater-y “not my department” response to his earlier use of fetal tissue:

“Bear this in mind about pathologists,” said Carson. “Regardless of what their ideology is, when they receive tissue, they prepare the tissue. They label it. They mark how it got there. Regardless of whether it’s from a fetus or someone who’s 150 years old, they bank them in tissue blocks. Other people doing comparative research need to have a basis. When pathologists receive specimen, their job is to prepare the specimen. They have no job opining on where the tissue came from.”

Taken together, it sounds like Carson is fine with fetal tissue research as long as…(I’m guessing)… the fetus dies a natural death?  Of course, that inquiry was never made when he was doing research, and/or he didn’t seem to care.

And let’s be clear — he didn’t merely “prepare the specimen” back in 1992 — he authored the research paper, so he has (arguably) some accountability for the material used in his research, including where it came from.

I don’t think this odd and murky bit of hypocrisy is going to sink Carson’s campaign (which will sink someday), but I thought it was interesting.

(3)  A LOOK AT KASICH

This guy is a Republican?  Sure he would have been A LONG TIME AGO, but not in this political climate.

CMTrAzxWwAQbeIR

 

(4)  CAGE MATCH BETWEEN TRUMP AND RAND PAUL

Get some popcorn

This Says It All

Obama Derangement Syndrome:

Atlanta resident Ted Souris, 62, describes himself as an “arch-conservative” who initially opposed the health law. He said he had mixed feelings about the ruling. He receives what he calls “a pretty hefty subsidy” to buy insurance — he gets $460 and pays $115 a month for insurance.

“I’m so against Obama, and I hate that he has any kind of victory,” Souris said, “but it’s nice that I don’t have to worry” about affording health coverage.

He said that he doesn’t like getting what he calls “a government handout” but that the law — and the subsidy — allowed him to retire early and still have coverage. “I am glad I have the Affordable Care Act, and I appreciate that I got the subsidy.”

These people just hate.  Hate Obama.  Even when Obama does things that are good for them.

I’m not saying it is racism, but whatever it is, it is a very strange pathology.

Obama Tweets — Part II

Or, I suppose, I could have named this post “Remember: According To Conservatives, There’s No More Racism In The United States — Part II”

Judging from some of the unbelievable tweets made to him, a lot of people are either really stupid or simply don’t care about possible repercussions their names being taken.

Clearly, respecting the dignity of the office and the person that is the President of the United States is also not really high on some people’s list.

Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post reacts to the racism on Obama’s twitter feed:

There are moments when I come thisclose to quitting Twitter. The amount of hatred squeezed into 140 characters or less by lunatics usually cloaked in anonymity is enough to make you question your support for the First Amendment and your faith in the decency of other people.

“Isn’t This The Ultimate Degree of the Collapse of Political Ethics and the US System’s Internal Disintegration?”

That’s a direct quote from the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, in reference to letter written to Iran and signed by 47 Republican senators essentially trying to sabotage negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.

Thanks, GOP, for showing how divided and unreliable and unresolute America is.

47 Traitors Get Schooled By Iranian Foreign Minister, Who Understands The US Constitution

A GOP letter from Senate Republicans to Iran about the pending nuclear deal warns Iranian leaders that any agreement between Washington and Tehran could be voided by Congress and simply not upheld once Obama leaves the White House in 2017.  The letter was spearheaded by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.).

Naturally, it received some backlash.  White House press secretary Josh Earnest was unusually blunt in ripping the Senate GOP, saying “it’s surprising to me there are some Republican senators who are seeking to establish a backchannel with hardliners in Iran to undermine an agreement with Iran and the international community.”

Earnest said Republicans have a “long and rather sordid history” of putting military options ahead of diplomatic ones, and called the letter, signed by 47 GOP lawmakers, “the continuation of a partisan strategy to undermine the president’s authority.”

NYDNIt’s not just the president, the vice president, and fellow Senate Republicans appalled at the open letter to Iran. The New York Daily News, for instance, endorsed Mitt Romney in 2012, but ran the cover you can see at the left.

The Wall Street Journal is … the Wall Street Journal, but it editorialized that “The problem with the GOP letter is that it’s a distraction from what should be the main political goal of persuading the American people.”

But it’s worth remembering that, for Tom Cotton at least, this letter wasn’t the first step off the deep end on Iran. In 2013, Cotton offered an amendment that would have harshly punished people violating sanctions on Iran. Actually, Cotton wouldn’t have stopped at harshly punishing the violators themselves.

Cotton also seeks to punish any family member of those people, “to include a spouse and any relative to the third degree,” including, “parents, children, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, grandparents, great grandparents, grandkids, great grandkids,” Cotton said.

Yes, Cotton thinks that the great grandchildren of people who violate Iran sanctions should be imprisoned. Which, by the way, is completely unconstitutional. But this is someone who got the vast majority of his Republican colleagues in the Senate, including leadership, to sign onto a letter to Iran trying to torpedo American diplomacy. Congressional Republicans listen to this man. That’s terrifying—but if this open letter has helped discredit him publicly, it may be one good outcome of the whole mess.

Perhaps my favorite criticism comes from Iran itself. Asked about the open letter, the Iranian Foreign Minister, Dr. Javad Zarif, responded that “in our view, this letter has no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy. It is very interesting that while negotiations are still in progress and while no agreement has been reached, some political pressure groups are so afraid even of the prospect of an agreement that they resort to unconventional methods, unprecedented in diplomatic history. This indicates that like Netanyahu, who considers peace as an existential threat, some are opposed to any agreement, regardless of its content.”Zarif expressed astonishment that some members of US Congress find it appropriate to write to leaders of another country against their own President and administration.

He pointed out that from reading the open letter, it seems that the authors not only do not understand international law, but are not fully cognizant of the nuances of their own Constitution when it comes to presidential powers in the conduct of foreign policy.Foreign Minister Zarif added that “I should bring one important point to the attention of the authors and that is, the world is not the United States, and the conduct of inter-state relations is governed by international law, and not by US domestic law. The authors may not fully understand that in international law, governments represent the entirety of their respective states, are responsible for the conduct of foreign affairs, are required to fulfil the obligations they undertake with other states and may not invoke their internal law as justification for failure to perform their international obligations.”The Iranian Foreign Minister added that “Change of administration does not in any way relieve the next administration from international obligations undertaken by its predecessor in a possible agreement about Iran`s peaceful nuclear program.” He continued “I wish to enlighten the authors that if the next administration revokes any agreement with the stroke of a pen, as they boast, it will have simply committed a blatant violation of international law.He emphasized that if the current negotiation with P5+1 result in a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, it will not be a bilateral agreement between Iran and the US, but rather one that will be concluded with the participation of five other countries, including all permanent members of the Security Council, and will also be endorsed by a Security Council resolution.

Zarif expressed the hope that his comments “may enrich the knowledge of the authors to recognize that according to international law, Congress may not modify the terms of the agreement at any time as they claim, and if Congress adopts any measure to impede its implementation, it will have committed a material breach of US obligations.”

The Foreign Minister also informed the authors that majority of US international agreements in recent decades are in fact what the signatories describe as “mere executive agreements” and not treaties ratified by the Senate.

He reminded them that “their letter in fact undermines the credibility of thousands of such mere executive agreements that have been or will be entered into by the US with various other governments.

Zarif concluded by stating that “the Islamic Republic of Iran has entered these negotiations in good faith and with the political will to reach an agreement, and it is imperative for our counterparts to prove similar good faith and political will in order to make an agreement possible.”

He’s right about all that of course.  What’s particularly odd about the letter is that the reasoning there would apply to ANY international treaty, not just the current one being negotiated.  Basically, Republicans are hanging out a sign to ALL countries saying, “Don’t enter into any treaties or trade agreements of anything like that with the current president, because we Republicans might not honor it”.

Scary.

Where’s The GOP Love For Obama?

Let’s turn back the hands of time to, oh, only two years ago, and look at what GOP leaders said that would do for America if elected.

* The Romney Standard: Mitt Romney said during the 2012 campaign that if Americans elect him, he’d get the unemployment rate down to 6% by 2016. Obama won anyway and the unemployment rate dropped below 6% two years faster.
* The Gingrich Standard: Newt Gingrich said during the 2012 campaign that if Americans re-elected the president, gas prices would reach $10 per gallon, while Gingrich would push gas down to $2.50 a gallon. As of this morning, the national average at the pump is a little under $2.38.
* The Pawlenty Standard: Tim Pawlenty said trillions of dollars in tax breaks would boost economic growth to 5% GDP. Obama actually raised taxes on the wealthy and GDP growth reached 5% anyway.
Of course, some of that had nothing to do with Obama  Just as Gingrich had no control over gas prices, neither did Obama or his policies.  But even putting these relevant details aside, the trouble for Republican rhetoricians is that by the party’s own standards, Obama is succeeding beautifully. They established the GOP benchmarks and now the Democratic president is the one meeting, and in some cases exceeding, the Republicans’ goals.

Petulance Rises (Sinks?) To New Level

MSNBC:

Politicoreported yesterday that congressional Republicans are weighing a variety of tactics to “address” their disgust over Obama’s immigration policy, and “GOP aides and lawmakers” are considering the idea of “refusing to invite the president to give his State of the Union address.”
Late last week, Breitbart News also ran a piece of its own on the subject: “Congress should indicate to President Obama that his presence is not welcome on Capitol Hill as long as his ‘executive amnesty’ remains in place. The gesture would, no doubt, be perceived as rude, but it is appropriate.”
Oh, my.  What a preposterously silly thing to do.
I hope they do it.

World’s Dumbest Lawyer(TM) Joins Twitchy At Being Outraged At Something They Didn’t Understand In The First Place

In other words, dog bites man.

University of Baltimore law professor Garrett Epps wrote a piece in the Atlantic entitled “Imperfect Union: The Constitution Didn’t Foresee Divided Government” that discussed the likely confrontations between the President and the newly-Republican Congress:

What’s coming will be painful, frustrating, and dangerous—and it will illustrate a constitutional malfunction unforeseen in 1787. The country will survive, and it’s possible it can even make progress—but at tremendous cost in polarization and missed opportunity. The country is like a car driving with the handbrake on: Any movement forward will be accompanied by smoke and internal damage.

So we might profitably put a six-month moratorium on paeans to the wisdom of the Framers. The problem of divided government is a bug, not a feature, and the Constitution itself provides no guidance on how to work around it.

This sent the right wing into “gotcha” conniptions and Twitter giggles.  It even prompted the World’s Dumbest Lawyer to write Professor Epps’ employer, the University of Baltimore Law School, in order to demonstrate that the founders indeed envisioned separation of powers (as shown by the Constitution as well as The Federation Papers).

Of course, educated people and people NOT on the lookout for gotchas could read Epps article, and could tell that Epps was talking about DIVIDED GOVERNMENT… which is not the same as “separation of powers”.  And the reason you can tell he is talking about “divided government” is because — in the very quote that sent conservatives off the rails — he uses the phrase “divided government”.

To people who actually know what they are talking about, “divided government” does not mean the separate branches of government and the various powers they hold.  Go ahead and google “divided government”.  I’ll wait.  You’ll find it explained thusly:

In the United States, divided government describes a situation in which one party controls the White House and another party controls one or both houses of the United States Congress, thus leading to Congressional gridlock. Divided government is suggested by some to be an undesirable product of the separation of powers in the United States’ political system. Earlier in the 20th century, divided government was rare, but since the 1970s, it has become increasingly common, mainly in part because of the Watergate scandal, which popularized the idea that a divided government is good for the country

Emphasis mine.  Clearly “divided government” does not mean “separation of powers” or the above sentence would not make sense.  It has to do with POLITICAL PARTIES, a concept that does not appear in the Constitution.  Nor are political parties spoken of favorably in the Federalist Papers.

So, Epps’ point is not incorrect.  It is accurate.  At worst, it can be criticized for being obviously true.  The framers — who did not anticipate or promote political parties — set up a government which has separation of powers, but did not anticipate a divided government and Congressional gridlike.  That is simply a fact.

Twitchy and The World’s Dumbest Lawyer have once again exposed their own ignorance and blamed it on someone else.

It must suck to be so wrong so often.  And right now, Yale Law School must be so embarrassed.

What Is Grubergate And Why You Shouldn’t Care

Republicans think they’ve just happened upon a major moment in the never-ending political debate over Obamacare: Newly discovered video of White House consultant Jonathan Gruber’s controversial comments about the passage of the law.

In the video, from 2013, Gruber suggests the details of the law were obscured in order to assure its passage. He says the bill relied on the “stupidity of the American voter” and a “lack of transparency.” Pretty damning stuff.

Republicans, naturally, think they just might have this goose cooked now, with the Post’s Robert Costa quoting Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) calling Gruber’s comments a potential (for lack of a better term) game-changer — one that could finally help turn public sentiment against Obamacare for good and assist the GOP’s efforts to dismantle it.

“We may want to have hearings on this,” Jordan told Costa. “We shouldn’t be surprised they were misleading us.”

But while it’s clear this is hardly Obamacare’s proudest moment, the idea that Gruber’s comments will suddenly swing public sentiment against Obamacare is wishful thinking.  That’s because any damage Gruber did — ultimately — was to himself, and nobody knew who he was before last week.

What did Gruber actually do?  In The West Wing terms, it is the classic Washington scandal — get into trouble for telling the truth.  In a city where it is a cliche not to show how the sausage is made, Gruber was exposing something sordid yet completely commonplace about how Congress makes policy of all types: Legislators frequently game policy to fit the sometimes arbitrary conventions by which the Congressional Budget Office evaluates laws and the public debates them.

Indeed, when Gruber discusses the ignorance of American voters in the video clips, no political scientist who knows even smidgen about American public opinion would have raised an eyebrow. This isn’t because political scientists look down on voters; it’s because they have surveyed voters repeatedly and discovered that rational ignorance is this is just the way it is.

But stating that most voters are uninformed about most things is one of those rude utterances that one just does not say in polite political company. People can say it behind closed doors, or at academic settings, but never on camera.

Gruber, unknowingly, said it on camera. That’s his sin. And I suspect it’s a sin that countless social scientists have committed at myriad conferences over the years.

But Obama didn’t say it, and it doesn’t change what Obamacare is, or how we, as a country, are benefiting from it.

Nor will it lead to Obamacare’s downfall, despite the zeal of many conservative pundits who think this is THE “smoking gun”.  That’s because Gruber’s comments, while damning, aren’t exactly the most fertile political territory. While “stupidity of the American voter” is a pretty strong soundbite, Gruber’s connection to the law takes some explaining. And most people — apart from those who already decided the efficacy of the law years ago — are really keen on the latest Obamacare debate a week after the 2014 election.

Changing public opinion on something like this, five years hence, takes a lot — especially when the support and opposition have been baked in for so long at pretty constant levels.

If anything can change that, it is far more likely to be something that has a personal impact on lots of Americans — like large premium increases or canceled plans. And if Obamacare is dismantled, it will be because the GOP has Congressional majorities and a president who wants to do it.  That means no earlier than 2017.

The Low Information Voter

lowinfovoters720

 

The author’s inspiration for this cartoon comes in part from this piece from September, about Kentucky voters who love the state’s new health insurance exchange (Kynect) but still disapprove of the Affordable Care act:

“I’m tickled to death with it,” Ms. Evans, 49, said of her new coverage as she walked around the Kentucky State Fair recently with her daughter, who also qualified for Medicaid under the law. “It’s helped me out a bunch.”But Ms. Evans scowled at the mention of President Obama — “Nobody don’t care for nobody no more, and I think he’s got a lot to do with that,” she explained — and said she would vote this fall for Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and minority leader, who is fond of saying the health care law should be “pulled out root and branch.”

Then there was this piece about disillusionment with Washington last Wednesday. It was full of quotes by people angry about gridlock, but not quite grasping its source:

And in Racine, Wis., Jeffrey Kowalczuk, a 56-year-old account representative for a trucking company, seemed no less disillusioned than Ms. Pizarro after voting for Republicans in that critical state.  “I’m just tired of all the fighting and bickering,”  he said. “We’re all Americans. It’s just getting old with all that stuff.”

The article concluded:

“Obama has not accomplished what he promised to the community,” said Juan Neyra, 69, a retired security guard in Denver. He said he used to vote for Democrats, but this year had voted for the Republican Senate candidate, Representative Cory Gardner, who was challenging Senator Mark Udall, a Democrat. “And Udall supports Obama,” Mr. Neyra said.

Straight outta the GOP playbook.

Obama’s Triangulation: A Shot Across The Bow

Obama got on the Intertubes this morning and said this:

For those not wanting to watch or listen, he basically called for a strict policy of so-called net neutrality and formally opposed any deals in which content providers like Netflix would pay huge sums to broadband companies for faster access to their customers.  (Net Neutrality, according to Wikipedia, is “the principle that Internet Service Providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, and modes of communication.” )

Net neutrality is very big among progressives and young people (including young conservatives).  To ensure net neutrality, you need government regulation.  Which conservatives don’t like.

This put Republicans in a quandary about how to respond.  Check out Ted Cruz’s reaction (via Colin Campbell of Business Insider):

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) came out swinging after President Barack Obama wholeheartedly endorsed new internet regulations Monday morning.

Cruz, who is mulling a run for president in 2016, compared the entire concept of “net neutrality” — which posits that internet companies should not be allowed to speed or slow down their services for certain users — to Obama’s much-maligned healthcare reform.

‘”Net Neutrality’ is Obamacare for the Internet; the Internet should not operate at the speed of government,” Cruz wrote on Twitter.

The more Republicans extend their philosophy of absolute private property and unregulated markets into areas that affect aspects of daily life, the more they may ultimately undermine their own message that government is always the problem and big avaricious companies can do no wrong. This was a good move for Obama.

Empty Threat

John Boehner, at a presser today, warned that if President Obama moves forward with executive action on deportations, Republicans will never, ever, ever act on the legislative immigration reform that Republicans have refused to act on for the last 18 months:

“I’ve made clear to the president that if he acts unilaterally on his own outside of his authority, he will poison the well and there will be no chance for immigration reform moving in this Congress,” Boehner told reporters at his first news conference after big GOP gains in Tuesday’s midterm elections.

“When you play with matches, you take the risk of burning yourself. And he’s going to burn himself if he continues to go down this path,” he said.

Shorter Boehner: If Obama doesn’t join us in refusing to lift a finger to address our broken immigration system, there is no chance we will ever lift a finger to address our broken immigration system, is that clear?

This Is Not A Gaffe

Republicans are popping the champagne based on 15 words, taken out of context in the video above, specifically the words:

Don’t let anybody tell you that, you know, it’s corporations and businesses that create jobs.

Unfortunately, reliance on this phrase (to stab Hillary with it) will likely backfire.  Why?  Because it’s substantively identical to a gaffe they seized upon two years ago, weeks before they went on to lose the electionto their great astonishmentby a pretty wide margin.

In 2012, Republicans made “you didn’t build that”a decontextualized comment Obama made about the fact that the wealthy depend on and must contribute to the public spacethe unifying theme of their party convention in Tampa, Florida. They were certain that it would cause, or at least contribute, to Obama’s demise. But in hindsight, many conservatives acknowledged that the GOP’s obsession with that gaffe revealed more damaging truths about the Republican Party than the gaffe itself said about Obama.

“One after another, [Republican businessowners] talked about the business they had built. But not a singlenot a singlefactory worker went out there,” Rick Santorum told activists at the Faith & Freedom Coalition conference last year. “Not a single janitor, waitress or person who worked in that company! We didn’t care about them. You know what? They built that company too! And we should have had them on that stage.”

After the election, conservative writer Ramesh Ponnuru lamented that “the Republican story about how societies prospernot just the Romney storydwelt on the heroic entrepreneur stifled by taxes and regulations: an important story with which most people do not identify. The ordinary person does not see himself as a great innovator.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell aped this analysis when he admitted in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute that Republicans “have often lost sight of the fact that our average voter is not John Galt.”

None of the Republicans pushing the “corporations and businesses” line actually thinks Hillary Clinton meant to say that investment isn’t a component of economic growth, just as they know from their perches in congressional offices and at donor-dependent non-profits that the entrepreneur isn’t the solitary engine of job creation.

But it’s clear they all still believe that riling up business elites by selectively quoting Democrats is a key to political success. The fixation on this gaffe foreshadows another Republican presidential campaign centered on the preeminence of the entrepreneur, to the exclusion of the wage worker and the trade unionist and the unemployed. It suggests an unwavering faith that a majority of voters will support the other guy when they hear “don’t let anybody tell you that … it’s corporations and businesses that create jobs.” They haven’t considered the possibility that voters will instead hear Clinton’s 15 words and think she makes a decent point.

Sarah, Possibly Drunk (You Decide), Serving Red Meat

You really have to see the video to believe it, but this write up gives a fair overview:

Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin ripped President Obama on Saturday, saying in order to “save the Republic” Americans must “have the guts to talk about impeachment.”

Palin bashed Obama on a variety of topics, including immigration and veterans services during a speech before the 2014 Western Conservative Summit in downtown Denver.

“These days you hear all of these politicians, they denounce Barack Obama, saying he’s a lawless imperial and ignores court orders and changes laws by fiat and refuses to enforce laws he just doesn’t like,” she said.

“That’s true. But the question is, “Hey politicians, what are you going to do about it?’ ” Palin said, as the crowd in the Hyatt Regency ballroom roared.

The former governor of Alaska, Palin rose to prominence in 2008 when Sen. John McCain of Arizona tapped her as his running mate on the GOP ticket. When talk-radio host Dan Caplis introduced Palin, he billed her as the most influential woman in the history of the Republican Party.

Line after line about Obama fired up the crowd.

“If Obama won’t do his job and enforce the borders, then it’s not immigration, it’s invasion,” she said.

“We’re not going to dethrone God and substitute him with someone who wants to play God,” she also said.

I think Dave Neiwert said it best:

Did Sarah Palin get into Aunty Peggy Noonan’s jar of Magic Dolphin Pills before her speech in Denver this week?

It does have that slightly slurry quality that so defines Noonan which is a change for Palin who has been rather crisply incoherent in the past if nothing else. But the crowd loved it. As much as we don’t want to admit it, she really does speak for a large number of people in this country.

Also too, Sarah now has her own online pay-TV network. What is they say about suckers born every minute?

The Cost Of Obamacare Repeal

The GOP wants to run on repealing Obamacare in the upcoming elections?  How will that play at the state level?  A new Department of Health and Human Services report documents the impact federal subsidies under Obamacare are having on the insurance costs of people receiving them, and the Plum Line gives the bottom line:

But if subsidies were repealed, people would not lose coverage, instead seeing premiums jump from loss of the tax credit.

– In North Carolina, 357,584 people are paying an average monthly premium of $81 — and repeal would result in an average monthly loss of subsidies/cost increase of $300.

– In Michigan, 272,539 people are paying an average monthly premium of $97 — and repeal would result in an average monthly loss of subsidies/cost increase of $246.

– In New Hampshire, 40,262 people are paying an average monthly premium of $100 — and repeal would result in an average monthly loss of subsidies/cost increase of $290.

– In Louisiana, 101,778 people are paying an average monthly premium of $83 — and repeal would result in an average monthly loss of subsides/cost increase of $314.

– In Iowa, 29,163 people are paying an average monthly premium of $108 — and repeal would result in an average monthly loss of subsidies/cost increase of $243.

– In Alaska, 12,890 people are paying an average monthly premium of $94 — and repeal would result in an average monthly loss of subsidies/cost increase of $413.

– In Georgia, 316,543 people are paying an average monthly premium of $54 — and repeal would result in an average monthly loss of subsidies/cost increase in premiums of $287.

Let that be known.

UPDATE: Apparently, the courts are doing it for the GOP.  This morning, the D.C. Circuit court (the most conservative of the circuit courts) ruled in a case called Halbig v. Burwell.  Here is the D.C. Circuit Halbig ruling:

A federal appeals court dealt a huge blow to Obamacare on Tuesday, banning 
the federal exchange from providing subsidies to residents of the 36 states it serves.

A divided three-judge panel on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the text of the Affordable Care Act restricts the provision of premium tax credits to state-run exchanges. The two Republican appointees on the panel ruled against Obamacare while the one Democratic appointee ruled for the law.

"We conclude that appellants have the better of the argument: a federal Exchange is not an 'Exchange established by the State,' and section 36B does not authorize the IRS to provide tax credits for insurance purchased on federal Exchanges," Judge Thomas B. Griffith wrote for the court in Halbig v. Burwell.

His ruling was joined in a concurring opinion by George H. W. Bush-appointed Judge A. Raymond Randolph, who said it would be a "distortion" to let the federal exchange provide subsidies. "Only further legislation could accomplish the expansion the government seeks," he wrote.

Carter-appointed Judge Harry T. Edwards voted to uphold the subsidies.

"This case is about Appellants’ not-so-veiled attempt to gut the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act," Edwards wrote in his dissenting opinion.

The ruling is very troubling for the Obama administration because the subsidies are critical to the success of Obamacare. The law encourages states to build their own exchange, but if they don't the federal government operates one on their behalf. The subsidies, or premium tax credits, exist to help Americans between 133 percent and 400 percent of the poverty line buy insurance. That imperils the practicality of the individual mandate to get covered and the market regulations to protect sick people.

UPDATE #2:  Fourth Circuit to the rescue.  A few hours after this morning's D.C. Circuit case, the also-conservative Fourth Circuit comes out with an opinion in King v. Burwell, which goes in the other direction and upholds the subsidies in Obamacare.  The opinion is here.

Money quote:

No case stands for the proposition that literal readings should take place in a vacuum, acontextually, and untethered from other parts of the operative text; indeed, the case law indicates the opposite. National Association of Home Builders v. Defenders of Wildlife, 551 U.S. 644, 666 (2007). So does common sense: If I ask for pizza from Pizza Hut for lunch but clarify that I would be fine with a pizza from Domino’s, and I then specify that Iwant ham and pepperoni on my pizza from Pizza Hut, my friend who returns from Domino’s with a ham and pepperoni pizza has still complied with a literal construction of my lunch order. That is this case: Congress specified that Exchanges should be established and run by the states, but the contingency provision permits federal officials to act in place of the state when it fails to establish an Exchange. The premium tax credit calculation subprovision later specifies certain conditions regarding state-run Exchanges, but that does not mean that a literal reading of that provision somehow precludes its applicability to substitute federally-run Exchanges or erases the contingency provision out of the statute.

UPDATE #3:  I didn't realize this before, but the DC Circuit opinion was en banc.  It was not the full circuit.  Therefore, the 4th Circuit "wins" out for now.  The Obama administration is appealing the DC Circuit opinion to the full DC Circuit.

Oh, By The Way, No Benghazi Scandal

I wonder if Fox will touch this:

Military officers testified that there was no "stand-down order" that held back military assets that could have saved the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans killed at a diplomatic outpost and CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya. Their testimony undercut the contention of Republican lawmakers.

The "stand-down" theory centers on a Special Operations team – a detachment leader, a medic, a communications expert and a weapons operator with his foot in a cast – that was stopped from flying from Tripoli to Benghazi after the attacks of Sept. 11-12, 2012, had ended. Instead, it was instructed to help protect and care for those being evacuated from Benghazi and from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli.

The senior military officer who issued the instruction to "remain in place" and the detachment leader who received it said it was the right decision and has been widely mischaracterized. The order was to remain in Tripoli and protect some three dozen embassy personnel rather than fly to Benghazi some 600 miles away after all Americans there would have been evacuated. And the medic is credited with saving the life of an evacuee from the attacks.

Transcripts of hours of closed-door interviews with nine military leaders by the House Armed Services and Oversight and Government Reform committees were made public for the first time on Wednesday.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the oversight panel, has suggested that Hillary Rodham Clinton gave the order, though as secretary of state at the time, she was not in the military chain of command.

Despite lingering public confusion over many events that night, the testimony shows military leaders largely in agreement over how they responded to the attacks.

And by the way, the article goes on to explain about time travel and how it is not possible:

Military officials differ on when that telephone conversation took place, but they agree that no help could have arrived in Benghazi in time. They put the call somewhere between 5:05 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. local time. It would take about 90 minutes to fly from Tripoli to Benghazi. The next U.S.-chartered plane to make the trip left at 6:49 a.m., meaning it could have arrived shortly before 9 a.m., nearly four hours after the second, 11-minute battle at the CIA facility ended at about 5:25 a.m.

 

Republican Alternatives To Obamacare

As the White House struggles with the rollout of Obamacare’s online health insurance marketplace, pressure has mounted within the Republican Party to begin offering conservative alternatives that address the nation’s health care crisis.

Here are some of the plans the GOP is considering:

  • Repeating the phrase “you can keep your current doctor” over and over until something happens
  • Loosening regulations to allow Americans to ship ill and injured family members to cheaper doctors overseas
  • Whatever the opposite of tyranny is
  • Allowing sick Americans to choose how they exhaust their life savings on a single medical bill, even if it’s out of plan
  • A true market-based solution—perhaps a convenient website—where uninsured people would pay for their own health insurance from private providers
  • $2,500 cash incentive to the first person who cures cancer
  • A health care law that won’t allow the disgrace of another Benghazi
  • Unsettling language and several ominous-looking graphs labeled “Obamacare” followed by a breezy smile and soothing, unspecific words

Yeah, that's from The Onion.  But it's not that far from reality.

Day 7 And We’re Still Shutdown

And here's good commentary on why:

TMW2013-10-09color
Also….

Disapproval of congressional Republicans’ budget wrangling after a weeklong shutdown has shot up to 70 percent, with 51 percent disapproving “strongly,” according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

At the same time, President Obama’s approval rating has ticked up due to improved marks among moderate Democrats and independents. No group, however, earns positive marks for their handling of budget negotiations overall.

Washington Post-ABC News poll

 

Republicans Applaud Capital Police But Prevent Them From Being Paid

Speaker John Boehner tweeted how everyone owes a debt of gratitude for the way DC police handled the crazy woman who tried to run into the White House yesterday.

They police do indeed deserve the praise they are getting.

One thing Capitol police are not getting, though—at least not while Boehner lacks the professionalism and bravery to stand up to the most extreme elements in his caucus and hold a vote on a clean continuing resolution—is their paychecks.

Capitol Police officers aren’t subject to furloughs, so they’re still on the job. But – like all federal workers who are deemed essential and are working during the shutdown — their next paycheck won't be until the shutdown ends.

Guidance from the Office of Management and Budget says that workers who are exempt from furloughs will receive pay for their time at work. But that can only happen after Congress passes and the president signs a new appropriation or continuing resolution.

As Sen. Bernie Sanders says, this is "a national disgrace":

“I suspect at the end of the day they will get paid, but they have mortgages to meet, they have college loans to meet,” Sanders said. “These are not millionaires. They are struggling people who have families and kids.”

Yup

Hot Mic Conversation Shows This Is About Optics And “Winning”, Not About Americans

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) were caught on a hot mic Wednesday night while discussing their party's messaging on the government shutdown. 

 

Paul ran into McConnell, who was wired for an interview, in front of a camera after wrapping his own interview with CNN, according to Western Kentucky news station WPSD

"I just did CNN and I just go over and over again 'We're willing to compromise, we're willing to negotiate.' I think — I don't think they poll tested 'we won't negotiate.' I think it's awful for them to say that over and over again," Paul said of the Obama administration's stance on the shutdown.

"Yeah, I do too, and I just came back from that two hour meeting with them, and that was basically the same view privately as it was publicly," McConnell said.

President Barack Obama met with congressional leaders Wednesday night to discuss opening the federal government and raising the debt ceiling, but the meeting brought the two sides no closer to ending the budget impasse.

In the video recording, Paul was confident that the GOP's pivot from demanding Obamacare be defunded to seeking out compromise would succeed.

"I think if we keep saying 'We wanted to defund it. We fought for that but now we're willing to compromise on this,' I think they can't — we're gonna, I think — well I know we don't want to be here, but we're gonna win this I think," he said.

Cruz Taken To Woodshed

TPM:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) took heat from his Republican colleagues Wednesday in a closed-door meeting to discuss the government shutdown, Politico reported.

At the meeting that was hosted by the Senate’s conservative Steering Committee, one GOP senator after another pressed Cruz to offer a proposal to end the shutdown, according to Politico. The junior senator from Texas reportedly had no solution nor could he explain how he would defund the Affordable Care Act – an effort led by Cruz and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) that served as the impetus for the current shutdown.

“It was very evident to everyone in the room that Cruz doesn’t have a strategy – he never had a strategy, and could never answer a question about what the end-game was,” an unnamed senator told Politico. “I just wish the 35 House members that have bought the snake oil that was sold could witness what was witnessed today at lunch."

At one point in the meeting, Republicans pressed Cruz to tell them what he would have done had the party united behind his call to filibuster a House-passed continuing resolution to keep the defunding hopes alives. Only 19 Republicans backed Cruz's attempt to block the bill.

“He kept trying to change the subject because he never could answer the question,” the anonymous senator said. “It’s pretty evident it’s never been about a strategy – it’s been about him. That’s unfortunate. I think he’s done our country a major disservice. I think he’s done Republicans a major disservice."

The meeting turned quite heated when Cruz was asked if he would renounce the attacks lobbed at Republicans by the Senate Conservatives Fund, a powerful organization that targets moderates in the party.

"I will not," Cruz reportedly said. 

The Senate Conservatives Fund has marched in lockstep with Cruz on the defunding campaign, even expanding its scope to target House Republican incumbents.

I hear rumblings from some corners that this shutdown stunt is the beginning of the end for the Tea Party conservatives.  I'm not that optimistic, but it really does look like their brand is hurting.

About those WWII Vets

When I consider the behavior of the right over the past 48 hours, I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

First, they force the shutdown.  And try to blame Democrats.

When that doesn't work, they say that the shutdown is no big deal, because – hey, there are still air traffic controllers and all.  They say this despite the fact that, only a few weeks ago, they were outraged ("think of the children!") when Obama closed White House tours.

Then suddenly some WWII vets arrive in D.C. and want to visit the WWII memorial, which is closed because all national parks are closed.

And so outraged Republicans makes sure those vets get to see the memorial.  Hmmm.  I guess government shutdowns do affect people.

But here's the saddest thing you'll read about the whole drama unfolding:

At the National Institutes of Health, nearly three-quarters of the staff was furloughed. One result: director Francis Collins said about 200 patients who otherwise would be admitted to the NIH Clinical Center into clinical trials each week will be turned away. This includes about 30 children, most of them cancer patients, he said.

This isn't about WWII vets.  And the Republican party has no proirities.

Anyway, as we enter Day 2, Ezra Klein sums it up nicely:

The top story all day was that Republicans had shut down the federal government because President Obama wouldn't defund or delay the Affordable Care Act. The other major story was that the government's servers were crashing because so many people were trying to see if they could get insurance through Obamacare.

So on the one hand, Washington was shut down because Republicans don't want Obamacare. On the other hand, Obamacare was nearly shut down because so many Americans wanted Obamacare….

It was strange and slightly perverse to watch Obamacare open and be flooded with people desperate to sign up for health insurance even as the government closed because Republicans wanted the law ripped out, or at least delayed. In some quarters, Republicans mocked Obamacare's technical problems, but the jokes were wan: Overwhelming demand for the law is not a boon to the GOP's position.

This is, of course, precisely what Republicans were scared of: That a law they loathe would end up being enthusiastically embraced by millions of Americans — and thus proving permanent. It's Obamacare's possible success, not its promised failures, that unnerve the GOP.

Ted Talks

He talked throughout the night and is still going as of 10:00 AM:

WASHINGTON — Condemned from all sides, Sen. Ted Cruz launched a talkathon Tuesday intended to cripple Obamacare but aimed — inconveniently — at a bill that would deliver exactly what he asked for.

Cruz came to the Senate floor destined to lose, armed with a thick three-ring binder of talking points, black athletic shoes, and a willingness to shrug off the rolled eyes of colleagues who view his tactics as grandstanding.

“I intend to speak in support of defunding Obamacare until I am no longer able to stand,” Cruz declared to a near-empty Senate chamber at 2:41 p.m.

It was more theater than filibuster, though Cruz used that term to describe his effort. Senate Democrats had already scheduled a Wednesday morning vote clearing the way to begin debate on a House budget bill.

Even if Cruz’s voice, feet and bladder could hold out that long, he would have lost control of the floor at that point no matter what.

The marathon was sure to please tea partiers itching for confrontation. It cemented Cruz’s credentials as a newcomer willing to take extraordinary steps, even in a quixotic fight. But most of his GOP colleagues refused to follow him into a fight they feared could lead to a government shutdown for which voters would blame their side.

Sigh.  When will grown-ups return to Congress?

Love C-Span's caption here:

Quazxojtewlvqh5vqzxm

UPDATE: He ends at Noon EST.

Supposed to be on Rush at 1 pm.  Ah, I see.

Chickenhawks

Yes, this is annoying.

When Obama was making noises about bombing Syria, Republicans (and some Democrats) chastized him as being reckless.

Now, thanks to Russia, it looks like we’re going to get the chemical weapons away from Assad, and we don’t have to bomb Syria.

And those same Republicans are now criticizing Obama.  John?

It’s obvious that these people have no moral, or even political center. If Obama is for something, they are against it. That’s it.

It Turns Out That People Like The Alternative to Obamacare, Known As “Obamacare”

This anecdote, reported by Jason Cherkis after attending an event in Louisville, speaks to a fascinating larger phenomenon.

A middle-aged man in a red golf shirt shuffles up to a small folding table with gold trim, in a booth adorned with a flotilla of helium balloons, where government workers at the Kentucky State Fair are hawking the virtues of Kynect, the state's health benefit exchange established by Obamacare.

The man is impressed. "This beats Obamacare I hope," he mutters to one of the workers.

"Do I burst his bubble?" wonders Reina Diaz-Dempsey, overseeing the operation. She doesn't. If he signs up, it's a win-win, whether he knows he's been ensnared by Obamacare or not.

Yep, that guy in Kentucky has been told so many times to hate Obamacare that he genuinely believes it's awful. But in Kentucky, a red state with a Democratic governor, implementation of the Affordable Care Act is continuing apace with the creation of "Kynect" — the state's new health care marketplace. Indeed, as Cherkis explained, "The state had spent millions establishing the exchange, staffing up outreach, and conducting market research that included holding a dozen focus groups in Louisville, Paducah and London."

And as the anecdote helps demonstrate, it's having some success. People don't necessarily realize that new benefits available in Kentucky have anything to do with the federal law they've been conditioned to reject. It's why they're impressed when they hear the pitch from policy experts like Reina Diaz-Dempsey — the benefits sound like a pretty good deal for folks.

If they think those benefits "beat Obamacare," so be it.

Blame Obama

I'm always amazed at how many Republicans can just lie to themselves about basic immutable facts.  Here's the latest example:

A significant chunk of Louisiana Republicans evidently believe that President Barack Obama is to blame for the poor response to the hurricane that ravaged their state more than three years before he took office.

The latest survey from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling, provided exclusively to TPM, showed an eye-popping divide among Republicans in the Bayou State when it comes to accountability for the government's post-Katrina blunders.

Twenty-eight percent said they think former President George W. Bush, who was in office at the time, was more responsible for the poor federal response while 29 percent said Obama, who was still a freshman U.S. Senator when the storm battered the Gulf Coast in 2005, was more responsible. Nearly half of Louisiana Republicans — 44 percent — said they aren't sure who to blame.

Benen has an explanation:

More Louisiana Republicans blame Obama than Bush for the response to Katrina, which obviously don't make sense, but I imagine if PPP asked, a non-trivial number of Louisiana Republicans would also blame the president for 9/11, Watergate, the Hindenburg disaster, the 1919 White Sox, and the U.S. Civil War.

That's probably true.  It's just blind outrage.

An Honest GOP Town Hall Discussion

I've had my fun poking at Republican Congresscritters returning to their home states, holding town hall meetings, and bringing up birth certificates and other dumb stuff that would normally get them laughed at if they were on TV.

But I have to give credit where credit is due.

In the clip below, Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) gets questioned by a yokel who thinks the Republicans should go back to D.C. and simply shut down the government unless Obamacare is defunded.  Cole, to his credit, explains why this is a terrible idea, and in doing so, explains why government is important:

 

CONSTITUENT: If you fund the government with everything except [Obamacare], Democrats are going to yell and scream all that, “the Republicans are shutting the government down!” […] You can take it to the American people, they will support it.

COLE: […] We’ll see what happens in September when we get back, but my instinct is, you won’t win that fight. It won’t be popular. Never polls popular. What do you tell the people you’re inconveniencing? Most of the people that argue this point are not thinking, why would you shut down the National Weather Center that just saved a whole lot of lives in central Oklahoma by giving us 16 minutes of warning instead of two. Why would you put 15,000 families — that’s families — out of work at Tinker Air Force Base. There are four million important national defense workers. Why would you go to Sulphur, where there are guys in their 80s and 90s who gave this country everything they possibly had in its darkest moment, and say, “sorry, there’s not going to be anybody here showing up to fix your meals or look after you or do the commitments we made.” I don’t think it’s smart politics. Anytime you hurt millions of people, and inconvenience tens of millions more, I don’t think you usually achieve your end. I think they wonder why you did that to them.

 

Racist Missouri

As reported by the Kansas City Star:

YAEL T. ABOUHALKAH

Shameful Missouri State Fair stunt smears Obama

August 11

The taxpayer-supported Missouri State Fair got a lot of negative publicity Sunday following a report of a shameful stunt that occurred Saturday night in Sedalia.

The story by an eyewitness, Perry Beam, is posted to Daily Kos and Show Me Progress.

Fortunately, by late Sunday evening, The Star reported that many top officials — from Gov. Jay Nixon to leading Republicans —were denouncing the incident.

Basically, a clown wearing a mask of President Barack Obama came out during the bull riding event at the fair. The crowd was asked if it wanted to see Obama “run down by a bull.” 

Things got worse from there, which doesn’t surprise me, given the anti-Obama feeling among many fairgoers from rural Missouri, where Obama lost to Mitt Romney (at least 60-40 percent in much of outlying parts of state) in 2012 election.

Egged on by the crowd and the announcer, “One of the clowns ran up and started bobbling the lips on the mask and the people went crazy. Finally, a bull came close enough to him that he had to move, so he jumped up and ran away to the delight of the onlookers hooting and hollering from the stands.”

Obviously this is a horrible show of respect for the President of the United States at a public event at the state fair— which got more than $400,000 from Missouri state taxpayers this year.

It’s also borderline illegal; the U.S. Secret Service takes threats against the president seriously. While the president himself was in no danger here, it’s the kind of stupid activity that could give nuts ideas about harming the president.

(UPDATE 5:40 p.m: Here is the apology from state fair officials for the “disrespectful” smear of Obama.)

This stunt is the kind of thing that will give Missouri — especially the rural parts — the wrong kind of attention.

Americans understand (but don’t have to like) the fact that there’s plenty of the verbal jousting that takes place in much of political discourse these days.

But when you make fun of the president at a taxpayer-backed event that’s supposed to be appropriate for people of all ages, you’ve crossed the line.

I talked Sunday afternoon to Beam, who witnessed this embarrassing incident and wrote the account linked to in the stories above. Beam confirmed the event and that he had taken the photo of the clown wearing Obama’s face.

Here is the Missouri State Fair apology, in full:

“The performance by one of the rodeo clowns at Saturday’s event was inappropriate and disrespectful, and does not reflect the opinions or standards of the Missouri State Fair. We strive to be a family friendly event and regret that Saturday’s rodeo badly missed that mark.”

More outrage came from elected officials, including Republicans:

• Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, a Republican, tweeted: “I love the MoStateFair and will attend this week. I implore GovJayNixon to hold the people responsible for the other night accountable.”

• Also from Kinder: “The MoStateFair celebrates Missouri and our people. I condemn the actions disrespectful to POTUS the other night. We are better than this.”

•  Democratic Rep. Jeremy LaFaver of Kansas City tweeted: “I will no longer be attending MOStateFair events with family.”

• Republican Rep. Caleb Rowden of Columbia tweeted, “I don’t agree w/this Prez on many things. But he is deserving of respect and shouldn’t be the object of political stunts. Out of line!”

UPDATE:  I knew it wouldn't be long before a false equivalency came out.  Conservative bloggers are pointing to Bush's head on a spike, which appeared in an episode of Game of Thrones.

Some things to keep in mind about that:

1)  You could barely tell it was George Bush.  In fact, millions of viewers didn't notice it.  It was only until the DVD came out, and it was discussed on the commentary, that people became aware of the Bush head.

2)  Even then, you had to "keep your eyes peeled" to see it, because the Bush head lasted less than a second.

3) The reason for having a Bush head was not to mock Bush, but rather:  

“We use a lot of prosthetic body parts on the show: heads, arms, etc. We can’t afford to have these all made from scratch, especially in scenes where we need a lot of them, so we rent them in bulk. After the scene was already shot, someone pointed out that one of the heads looked like George W. Bush. In the DVD commentary, we mentioned this, though we should not have."  

In other words, it was coincidentally looking like Bush.

4)  By contrast, the Obama mask was clearly intended to be Obama, and Obama was mentioned by name at the fairground.

5)  Hundreds of people didn't spontaneously applaud and cheer the Bush head live.

6)  Despite all of the above, the outrage for the Bush head was MUCH larger.

Meanwhile, Back At The IRS Scandal…

The GOP line is quickly unraveling:

A self-described conservative Republican who is a manager in the Internal Revenue Service office that targeted tea party groups told investigators that he, not the White House, set the review in motion, the top Democrat on the House watchdog committee said Sunday.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., released a partial transcript of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform interview with the unnamed manager in the IRS' Cincinnati office. In it, the employee said the extra scrutiny for tea party groups' tax exempt status was an effort to be consistent in reviewing applications and not driven by politics.

"He is a conservative Republican working for the IRS. I think this interview and these statements go a long way to what's showing that the White House was not involved in this," Cummings said.

Cummings, the top Democrat on the Oversight Committee, added, "Based upon everything I've seen, the case is solved. And if it were me, I would wrap this case up and move on, to be frank with you."

You'll recall that Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) released carefully edited partial transcripts of interviews with IRS employees, in the hopes keeping interest in the story alive. Asked to release full transcripts, so the public could see the context of the exchanges, Issa refused.

And now we're starting to get a batter sense as to why Issa preferred to keep all of the facts out of the public light.

Cummings has seen the interviews, and has seen the conservative Republican official in the IRS explain that allegations of White House wrongdoing are baseless, which only reinforces the impression that this "scandal" is quickly turning into a nothingburger.

Obama Not Worried About Benghazi-gate.

National Security Adviser Tom Donilon is stepping down, to be replaced by Susan Rice.  This is sure to make many heads explode among the Tea Partiers, who are convinced that Susan Rice was complicit in covering up "the truth" about Benghazi (although what "the truth" is, Obama opponents don't seem to know.  But rest assured, the truth is out there, and it's been covered up, and they'll find out what it is soon enough).

Seriously, several months ago, Susan Rice withdrew her name from consideration as the replacement to Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.  It was political grace that forced her to do so; Republicans were insisting that she knowingly lied when she went on Sunday morning talk shows and told the press that, according to the CIA at that time, the Benghazi attacks appeared to come spontaneously from protests.

We now know that Susan Rice didn't lie so much as tell the truth based on what the CIA told her.  That hardly makes her criminal or evil.  

The National Security Advisor position, unlike Secretary of State, does not require congressional approval, and by putting Rice in that position, Obama is basically thumbing his nose at the right wing — saying "I'm not intimidated by your scandal-mongering, and I'm not going to let it affect how I run my administration."

Good for him.

Bullshit Indeed

I'm not even going to try to summarize.  Or even copy and paste sections.  Kevin Drum at Mother Jones nails it, starting from the headline:

BS
And Josh Marshal adds:

The standards of most institutional right wing journalism are just so appallingly bad that their stories simply aren't credible. (I'd note that Lake works at either nonpartisan or slightly-progressive leaning pub.) Of course there are exceptions like the Menendez phony escort story. Which, wait, that ended up being a hoax enabled by appalling shoddy reporting standards. Again, if you wonder why conservative scandal mongers can't have nice things … look at the conservative media.

Also, try finding real scandals.

 

The Latest In The IRS “Scandal” As Far As I Can Tell

SCANDAL-MONGERS: "The IRS is totally targetting conservatives by making sure the rich pay their taxes and that political groups don't get tax-exempt status when they're not supposed to.  Obama must be behind all this because… OBAMA!!!"

IRS COMMISSIONER: "The IRS has had problems.  We are addressing them."

SCANDAL-MONGERS: "But Obama is behind it all.  He's got his fingers in every pot of the IRS, right?  He's TOLD you to do all these horrible things, right?!?  RIGHT?!?!?!  Because OBAMA!!!"

IRS COMMISSIONER: "No.  He's not involved in the day-to-day operation of the IRS.  We are an independent government branch.  I rarely speak to him.  In fact, I've only been to the White House once in the entire time I've been here."

SCANDAL-MONGERS: *blink*

SCANDAL-MONGERS: "Oh."

SCANDAL-MONGERS: "You're saying he's NOT calling you everyday and telling you to screw over conservatives?"

IRS COMMISSIONER: "He's not.  Not even close."

SCANDAL-MONGERS: *blink*

SCANDAL-MONGERS: "Oh."

SCANDAL-MONGERS: "Obama needs to be impeached because he's just LETTING the IRS go crazy nuts!!  He barely even contacts them!!  That's so reckless of him not to provide constant and persistent oversight of the IRS!! IMPEACH!! IMPEACH!! IMPEACH!!!"

This May Be My Favorite News Story Of The Week

Fox News does a segment asking "Where was National Security Advisor Tom Donilon on the night of the Benghazi attacks?", and during most of the segment, they run a picture of the Obama and advisors on that very night, and right in the middle of the picture is… wait for it…. Tom Donilon.

This is a Wonkette must-read, but this picture (from Media Matters) says it all:

Donilon-ff-53013

Observation on the IRS “Scandal”

I'm too lazy to back with up with links, but it seems to me that the GOP should just give up trying to implcate Obama in the IRS targetting "scandal".

Last week, they tried to make the argument that Obama told the IRS to target for scrutiny certain right-wing organizations.

Unfortunately, there was nothing to back that up, and it seems that Obama wasn't aware of it until he heard of the IG investigation of it last month.

NOW the Republicans are trying to "get" Obama by saying he failed to step in when he should have.  I'm not sure how that was supposed to work — upon hearing of the internal investigation last month, Obama was supposed to step in and interfere with it?  He was supposed to "do something" based on things that the investigation hadn't concluded on?

UPDATE – Steven Benen at The Maddow Blog agrees with me:

But I remain fascinated by the ever-changing trajectory of the allegations, which have quickly become incoherent.

Phase One: Maybe the Obama White House gave orders to the IRS!

Phase Two: We demand to know why the Obama White House didn't give orders to the IRS!

Phase Three: The president must have known what was going on at the IRS!

Phase Four: We demand to know why the president didn't know what was going on at the IRS!

Phase Five: Never mind all that other stuff, maybe the president ordered IRS audits on Republicans!

Look, this is getting a little silly. If Republicans want the American mainstream to see this as a legitimate "scandal," they're going to have to get their story straight. Because at this point, listening to the White House's GOP critics get increasingly confused about details they should understand by now is getting a little tiresome.

 

The IRS Scandal Really Isn’t Anything

So I guess it's sorta kinda bad that some low-level employees at the IRS "targetted" the Tea Party's requests for 501(c)(4) status when they were burdened with an overwhelming number of requests from the Tea Party.

Republicans, of course, are trying to make it bigger than that.  They're trying to allege that Obama knew about the IRS investigation and audit of these practices before the election and hid it from the public!!!

Except there's no evidence of that, and wait, what?

Much has been made of the fact that senior Treasury Department officials were told about the investigation into the treatment of tea party groups in June 2012 – months before last year's the Presidential election. Republicans who requested the investigation were also told about it at approximately the same time.

In a letter dated July 11, 2012, the man who conducted the investigation – IRS inspector general J. Russell George – wrote to Rep. Darrell Issa, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, telling him that he was investigating the issue and offering to keep him updated as the investigation progressed.

"The Oversight Committee knew about the audit because it requested it," an Issa aide told ABC News. Issa released the letter, along with his own letter dated June 28, 2012 requesting the investigation, last week.

Wow.  Now Darrell Issa is going to have to investigate himself.

The NEW Obama Scandal

Seriously, it's this:

Barack-obama-umbrella

That's right.  Barack Hussein Nobama made a Marine violate miltary code by forcing him to hold an umbrella.

That's the scandal du jour.

And indeed, military code says that a soldier in dress uniform should not carry an umbrella.

But military code experts say something like this:

“IF THE COMMANDER IN CHIEF GIVES YOU A LAWFUL ORDER YOU FOLLOW THE MOTHERFUCKING LAWFUL ORDER. IF THE COMMANDER IN CHIEF WANTS AN UMBRELLA YOU BETTER BELIEVE A WHOLE FUCKING GRIP OF JARHEARDS ARE GONNA BE HIGH-STEPPING TO BRING HIM A MOTHERFUCKING UMBRELLA!”

House Republicans Will Vote Tomorrow — For The 43rd Time — To Unsuccessfully Repeal Obamacare

They know it is an exercise in futility, because even if (for some reason) the House Republicans manage to pass a vote to repeal Obamacare, the Senate won't take it up OR pass it, and even if THAT happened, Obama will never sign the repeal into law.

So it's a symbolic thing.

That's okay.  Symbolism has its place.  But this is ridiculous.  They want to be able to go home and say, "I voted 17 times against Obamacare" or (for members who have been there longer), "I voted 43 times against Obamacare."

That makes it dumb.

And unfortunately, these repeal votes might become a stain.  Why?  Read this from the New York Times:

The repeal vote, which is likely to occur Thursday, will be at least the 43rd day since Republicans took over the House that they have devoted time to voting on the issue.

 To put that in perspective, they have held votes on only 281 days since taking power in January 2011. (The House and Senate have pretty light legislative loads these days, typically voting only three or four days a week.)

 That means that since 2011, Republicans have spent no less than 15 percent of their time on the House floor on repeal in some way.

That's right.  With a dicey economy, terrorism, etc., the Republicans spent almost one-fifth of their time on the House floor voting for repeal.

Waste of time.  Waste of House seats.

UPDATE: Last year, CBS News calculated that the number of hours spent on 33 repeal votes — then roughly 80 hours, or two full work weeks — cost taxpayers an estimated $48 million. Since then, Republicans have held three more votes (another $4.5 million) to repeal ALL of Obamacare and will add another $1.5 million with their latest.

In Which Digby Is Right

On the IRS scandal:

It's about taxes, the IRS and the Tea Party. We might as well put a white wig on Obama and call him King George. The excitement on the right over being "victimized" by Big Gummint this way is so palpable I'm afraid they're going to burst a vessel. 

Congress gave the IRS the nearly impossible task of deciding what constitutes "political activity", which was ridiculous to begin with, the IRS crudely messed with the crazy Tea Party and now we're all screwed. 

Heckuva job. 

I still don't think the IRS "scandal" is much of a scandal.  I think that whatever wrongdoing there was is easily defensible.  After all, these guys were supposed to be weeding out organizations that were engaged in political activity and the tea party group submissions were coming into the office by the truckload during that time period.  Every county, city, village, hamlet was forming a tea party organization — sometimes even competing tea party organizations in the same municipality.  So of course the IRS 501(c)(4) people are going to home in on that.

In any event, it doesn't look like the order came from on high, i.e., the White House.

Still, it's something that can be made mincemeat of, so mincemeat will be made, thus making it a "scandal" whether it deserves to be one or not.

Benghazi “Scandal” Collapses Further

At the heart of what's left of the GOP "scandal" is a White House email which purports to show that the White House was concerned about getting dinged with a terrorist attack in the weeks before an election, so they wanted to change the message to make the American people think it wasn't that.

And they had an email which suggested that this was indeed the case.

Except… no.

It turns out that the "email" that the GOP had… wait for it… was doctored and/or selectively editted such that early reports about what it said are….. well, FALSE.  But when the ACTUAL email is read, it is clear the White House was merely interested in getting the facts right, and not in protecting its image.

Jake Tapper of CNN got a hold of the WHOLE email today and it contradicts what the GOP has been saying:

CNN has obtained an e-mail sent by a top aide to President Barack Obama about White House reaction to the deadly attack last September 11 on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, that apparently differs from how sources characterized it to two different media organizations.

The actual e-mail from then-Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes appears to show that whomever leaked it did so in a way that made it appear that the White House was primarily concerned with the State Department’s desire to remove references and warnings about specific terrorist groups so as to not bring criticism to the department.

Tapper concludes that the person who leaked the false email clearly wanted to implicate the White House in a scandal that simply didn’t exist:

Whoever provided those quotes seemingly invented the notion that Rhodes wanted the concerns of the State Department specifically addressed….

So whoever leaked the inaccurate information earlier this month did so in a way that made it appear that the White House – specifically Rhodes – was more interested in the State Department’s concerns, and more focused on the talking points, than the e-mail actually stated.

Oops.