Politics

I Know What Sucks

I am over elites telling me what sucks. I was over it in 2005. Does anyone think that Stephen Colbert, Lin Manuel Miranda or Beyoncé lose any sleep over who controls the Federal government? No. We little people are the ones who lose sleep. Trump and Republicans are going to impose a Federal parental notification requirement for abortion. They will pass a Federal 20-week limit on abortion. They will roll back car emissions standards 30 years. They will try to kill off the food stamp program. They will cut funding to most cities (except maybe NYC, where Trump still has his stuff). They will launch a ground war somewhere in the middle east. They will kill the ACA. All together, they will make it more difficult than ever before for poor people to break out of poverty and despair. That has been their end game since 1980.

Immigration Policy Will Steer Trump's VP Selection

And while it will not be Chris Christie (who might be named as an un-indicted co-conspirator in the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal), it does appear that Christie's ideas on immigration will make it into the Trump policy on immigration. Trump doesn't have a mainstream, elected Republican to choose to be his VP. More likely, it will be someone in law enforcement or the Islamophobia industry. Let's see if this proves to be the case. We have less than 6 weeks to go before the traditional deadline for a VP pick.

One of the Most Extraordinary Developments in the Christie Scandals Happened Sunday

By now, it is so well established that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is a corrupt bully, that futher reporting on his scandals ought to be suspended until the seopenas for the investigations are in. MSNBC was covering Christie so much last month, I thought it was embarassing. This nation is still at war in Afghnistan, we have a catestrophic, global envionmental crisis, the US job market is still dismal, the US has an ongoing gun violence problem, reproductive and women's rights are under fierce attack, Guantanemo is still open, the wealth gap is the biggest it has been in nearly a century, and the US Congress is intent on destroying what's left of the nation - and I mean both sides of the aisle.

The Chistie marathon, thankfully, has subsided a bit. 

Now I'm not denying that Christie's quests for political vengence, which have cost his state quite a lot in terms of money and image, is not significant. It is. He's the most prominant politician to engage in this sort of behavior since President Richard Nixon. Not that Christie is similar to the late Richard Nixon himself. Nixon was a vicious, paranoid, seeing enemies and conspiracies everywhere. Christie is a vicious bully, a classic coward who attacks and demeans those weaker than he is. I leave it to the pundits and historians like myself to argue which is worse.

Here's what I think will be the big story until all the supenas are carried out. The editorial board of the Star-Ledger, led by Tom Moran, has issued what is essentially a retraction of their endorsement for Chris Christie in his 2013 reelection bid. He won, of course. It is too late, of course. 

There is a fitting cliche: sin in haste, and repent at leisure. At least Moran is admitting the mistake, unlike, for example, the New York Times which allowed the Bush gang to push their invasion of Iraq on their pages, backed the criminal war and published a quiet, partial retraction over a year later.

This is not a perfect story of journalistic excellence, however. Iif one goes to the link and reads Moran's retraction, he basically says that the Star-Ledger knew all about Christie's scandals and his bad character, and endorsed him anyway. So what else do they know? We'll find out as the investigation proceeds this spring.

So Many Ways To Derail Bush's Legacy Rehabilitation

It was impossible to avoid coverage of the George W. Bush presidential library opening yesterday (a Thursday, always a good day to invite weekend visitors).

It was also painful having to watch three Democratic presidents (two former and one current) say generic, nice things about the man. But this is what politicians do. They are good actors. But then again they are all part of the same club. It doesn't get any higher for these guys. So members of that club can and do get along. How else could Clinton honor Nixon when he passed away, or Obama say anything positive about Bush 43?

There has been at least one great book about his presidency.

Here's a very recent blog post by Jonathan Chait, reminding everyone of how the library treads lightly over so much that went so wrong. Namely, he was never good, and he was never smart.

There are countles ways to deny Bush any positive legacy. There is no positive legacy to be found anywhere in his two terms. 

Actually, he was the worst president in my lifetime, and arguably the worst EVER.

As the linked post above makes clear, he was not smart.  One only has to remember the following true story.

In 2000, candidate Bush asked former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney to conduct a search for a suitable vice presidential candidate for the ticket. Cheney came back a few weeks later, presumably after an exhaustive review of the Republican Party's luminaries, and told Bush that he had discovered the perfect running mate.

And who was this paragon? Right, Dick Cheney!

And what did Bush do? Did he laugh in Cheney's face, tell him this suggestion must be a joke, point out that if he had thought Cheney was the right match he would have asked him in the first place? No, he named Cheney as the man who would be a heart beat from the presidency. Smart?  I rest my case.

And so will many, many others, for years to come.

The 2012 GOP Presidential Nomination Becomes A Two Horse Race

Rick Perry is on his way out. Michelle Bachmann is on her way out. Herman Cain is likely out. Chris Christie is not running. Donald Trump played the role of creepy seducer for about two weeks. And the most sane men in the GOP 2012 presidential nominee field, Jon Huntsman, Jr., and Buddy Roemer, the latter I could actually vote for in another era, never had a chance in this field of wingnuts and freedom hating millionaires.

That leaves just two men. Two men who happen to be the veterans of the pack. They are the ones who have spent the most years trying to earn a GOP presidential nomination, and therefore, should have been the front runners all along. And those two men are Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. Romney should still be the favorite, based on the history of these things. However this installment of the GOP presidential nomination race has broken the pattern set over the last 40 years. It has been fascinating to watch. Simply the record number of debates has been fascinating. There will be more GOP primary debates than any NFL team has games this season, including the eventual Super Bowl participants.

I think we might have finally put infidelity behind us as a destroyer of men's political careers. How else can we explain the return of Newt Gingritch? Here's a man who cheated on two wives and is thrice married. It should be pointed out that Gingrich left his first two wives not only in the middle of extramarital affairs, but while they were stricken with a long term illness. Here's a man who shamelessly had an affair with the woman who became his current wife while prosecuting Bill Clinton for having an affair with a White House intern. Then, just a few months ago, he spun the story in a unique way when he explained that his affairs were driven by his passion to serve the nation. Newt is a passionate guy. And passionate guys will scamble to replace their wives as they walk the long road to the White House.

Cheating on one's wife and divorcing her when she's in the hospital is the sort of behavior that destroyed Gary Hart and John Edwards, respectively. But not Newt. He has gone from former House Speaker with no elected future 13 years ago, to having about a 45% chance of becoming the star of the 2012 GOP ticket today. He has spent most of the last decade as a lobbiest and paid speaker at Republican conferences and events. He had no chance of being elected to public office ever again. He wasn't seriously considered as a presidential candidate between 1998 and 2008, when George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney were the big three ticket condenters. And does anyone remember this video from 2003

Newt being punked by Sacha Baron Cohen was confirmation that he was done as a politician, yes? How incorrect I was, with a lot of other, more qualified people who appear on television to analyize politics.

While I took a look at Newt's growing web site, I couldn't help but notice this text in Callista Gingrich's blog within site (which is called Callista's Canvas!):

Acquaintances admit that Callista Gingrich’s stiff smile and crisp uniform make it easier for detractors to portray her as cold and manipulative, a characterization they say is not accurate, though she has apparently resisted internal campaign efforts to soften her edges. Those sources also say it is hard to overstate her ever-growing involvement in the Gingrich empire and her husband’s campaign, for better or for worse.

Actually, go and read that entire blog post. It is incredibly frank and revealing. Could you imagine any presidential candidate's wife not only allowing her cold personality to be acknowledged by the campaign writers, but also acknowledging just how much of the family's K Street lobbying income is diverted to her favorite private institutions? Yes, it's public information, available to those who seek it out. But I have never seen it disclosed so clearly on a candidate's web site. Expect Rachel Maddow or Chris Matthews to pick up on Callista and the "five Gingrich firms on K Street," or, as Callista calls it above, "the Gingrich empire."

Another GOP Profile In Courage

Herman Cain opened himself up to uncomfortable, personal questions when he went on a tour to promote his new book, which promotes his run for president. In the book, he explains in detail why he chose not to get involved in the 1960s civil rights movement, depite being a student at Morehouse College in Atlanta between 1963-1967.

I want to make it very clear that it involvement in the civil rights movement should never be a litmus test for office, much in the same way military service in Vietnam used to be a litmus test for national, male politicians. No black man or woman who was an adult between 1955 and 1970 should be required to reveal their involvement in the civil rights movement, nor should it be expected or assumed that they were involved simply on the basis of their skin color. Everyone had reasons for speaking out or remaining silent, and a lot of it had to do with geographic location and income.

No one should have to be interrogated about what they did in the 1960s. That is, unless they are running for president and bring it up themselves.

Lawrence O'Donnell went straight for the jugluar in his interview with Herman Cain last week. Mr. Cain, in his book, tells the story that while he was in high school, his father advised him not to get involved in civil rights rallies, marches, petitions, or other public events. For everyone who lived through that era in the south, getting involved was assuming at least some risk, be it legal, professional, or in some case, physical. I would agree that a black teenager being arrested in 1962 or 1963 Atlanta would not have been easy to shake off. I don't judge Herman Cain's reasons for not getting involved.  

But I do think it is appropriate to ask Mr. Cain about 1963 if he himself brings it up. In his book, Mr. Cain writes: 

On a day-to-day basis, because the civil rights movement was a few years in front of me, I was too young to participate when they first started the Freedom Rides, and the sit-ins. So on a day-to-day basis, it didn't have an impact. I just kept going to school, doing what I was supposed to do, and stayed out of trouble--I didn't go downtown and try to participate in sit-ins. But I well remember, as a young teenager, seeing signs printed in large black letters at the fronts of buses: "White seat from front, colored seat from rear." One day when I was thirteen, my friends and I were riding home from school in a half-empty bus--this was at the time when the civil rights movement was just getting off the ground and some police officers were just looking for a reason to shoot a black person who "got out of line." So, counter to our real feelings, we decided to avoid trouble by moving to the back of the bus when the driver told us to. By that time, the sit-ins and the Freedom Rides had kind of broken the ice, even though things hadn't fully changed. So we saw it every day on TV and read about it in the news. Dad always said, "Stay out of trouble," and we did.

That passage almost makes it seem as if Mr. Cain would have gotten involved in sit ins and protests if he wasn't so young at the time. However, Mr. Cain was 19 years old and in college during Freedom Summer. He must have been surrounded by fellow students who were involved. So if he agreed with ending segregation and discrimination, why didn't he step forward just a little when history came knocking on his door in Atlanta in the mid 1960s? He wasn't in a northern city. He wasn't overseas. He was living near the epicenter of a movement that changed this country and opened the door for him to run for national office. 

Now if I were interviewing Herman Cain here, I might start the line of questioning with something gentle like, "Did you ever consider participating in a civil rights event while at Morehouse?" Or I might ask if he had friends who did. Or I might ask if he ever regreetted not getting involved, especually after the Freedom Summer of 1964, which was a media breakthrough for the movement. But that's why I am not an aggressive journalist. That's why I don't have Lawrence O'Donnell's job. Civil rights era questions at 07:20:

And if you thought O'Donnell was blunt and to the point, check out Martin Bashir laying a massive smackdown on CNN International (H/T We Are Respectable Negroes). 

And on Friday October 7, a day after his heated interview with Cain, Lawrence O'Donnell got some constructive feedback from Al Sharpton, Professor Mellissa Harris-Perry, and Goldie Taylor.

For all the shit Democrats have had to go through after volunteering their service and putting their asses on the line (both Al Gore and John Kerry volunteered for Vietnam and skipped the draft lottery process), should the news media be giving a pass to candidates who almost boast about sitting out opportunities to put themselves on the line?

It is obvious that the book passage (which seems very random, sandwiched betweeen other little stories from Cain's teenage years) was meant to reassure the GOP and potential voters that he is not a rebellous black man. He's no community organizer. He never flirted with liberation theology or black power. He's a corporate manager. And he is runnign to protect corporate interests. The GOP need not fear the color of his skin. They'll just have to put up with his volunteer peanut gallery (which can be heard in the O'Donnell interview videos).

Is 2011 The Most Politically Turbulant Year Since 1991?

Worldwide, I mean.

I will argue to the end, that the 20th century started late and ended early. From the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 to the collapse of the Soviet Union in August 1991, the major map changes that defined the 20th century are easy to identify.

In additon to that, 1991 was one of those key years in which our world was transitioning to digital. From PBX phone systems, to the introduction of the GSM mobile phone standard, to the millions of peopkle that year who got their first email address and began to spend increasing amounts of time on the Internet.

1991 is still the most important year of my life. Think of the events. We didn't just have the end of the Soviet Union. We saw the first US-Iraq war (if you can call it a war). During the buildup to that war, US troops were temporarilly stationed in Saudi Arabia, which triggered Osama bin Laden to declare a personal war against both the US and the Saudi kingdom. Al Qaeda was founded less than two years later. The massacre of East Timorese civilians by Indonesian troops in the Santa Cruz Cemetery, marked the slow beginning of the end of Indonesian rule over the tiny, poor, predominantly Catholic island. A BBC camera crew captured the massacre. Had it occured just 15 years later, it would have had over a million views on You Tube. But back in 1991, it took word of mouth, emails, and the BBC World Service to get the news out and bring worldwide attention to East Timor.

We had cultural touchstones (or at least pop culture ones). The last album by The Pixies. The second album by Nirvana. Perhaps the greatest album by U2. The final excellent Star Trek film. The first $100 Million summer blockbuster, comlete with cutting edge CGI effects.

1991 was incredible. An orange and green Mazda with a comparitably small rotary engine won the 24 Hours of LeMans (the first and last Japanese-branded car to do so). CART, not NASCAR, was the most watched auto racing series in North America. Some Americans thought Zubaz pants were cool. America's GPS satellite network was already up in orbit. Satellite TV broadcasting and satellite radio were slowly being prepared for launch. And we were on the threshold of a mobile phone explosion and devices and prices began to shrink.

1991 had turmoil, death, but also promise. I can't say the same for 2011. The changes to our world's political map might change more than it ever has since 1991, with the fall of juntas in Egypt and Tunesia. It is still early in the year, but let's look at the subjects that are active right now.

As Newsweek editor in chief, Tina Brown, said back on March 17th, Barack Obama arguably has the worst inbox of any US president ever. What's in his inbox? Here's an incomplete list:

Civil war in the Ivory Coast

Civil unrest and a possible government overthrow in Syria

Crackdown on civil protests and the murder of civilians in Yemen

Crackdown on civil protests and the murder of civilians in once tranquil, Bahrain

A devistang earthquake and tsunami, followed by a subsequent slow metdown of spent fuel rods in northern Japan

A deteriorating state of affairs in Afghanistan, now in its 10th year of war and US occupation

A citizens uprising and overthrow of Mubarak in Egypt

A citizens uprising and overthrow of El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia

Sabre-rattling and threats to the region either from or supported by Iran

A deteriorating political and humanitarian situation in Haiti

The virtual destruction of Christchurch, New Zeland, by a devistating earthquake

War on unions in Wisconsin and other states, brought on by a mix of state budget deficits, lobbying by the Right, and the refusal of the GOP to raise taxes on the wealthy. This has motivated the previosuly silent Democratic base in the nation's heartland and Atlantic coast.

The threat of the GOP in Washington to drastically cut the federal budget, and shut down the government in order to push the cuts through Congress.

Closure For One Bush Scandal

By closure, I only mean a final report. No fines. No prosecutions. Just a very good report from an agency that was itself politicized and arguably corrupted during the Bush 43 administration.

When this little blog was very young, the blatant violations of the Hatch Act by the General Services Administration (GSA) was summarized by a few entertaining posts (hey, the vidoes are still up!).

The GOP political strategy meetings that took place at the GSA during Lauita Doan's leadership were enough to attract an investigtion by Henry Waxman's Oversight Committee and the Office of Special Counsel. Over four years since the agency began its investigation, we finally have a report. And the report provides new information and details I don't think anyone had mentioned publically before.

As some pundits and liberal political junkies may remember, the White House political office (offically known as the Office of Political Affairs), headed by Karl Rove, mobilized government agencies to support Republican midterm congressional campaigns in 2006. It must have made sense at the time. The GOP was expected to lose seats in the House, and probably lose their majority (which they did). This administration was usually very blatent in breaking the law, so this tactic seems to fit the pattern.

Although I am sure there were plenty of young people willing and able to work for GOP campaigns in 2006, Karl Rove saw the value in the political experience of many Federal employees who came to Washington in the wake of George W. Bush's election in 2000. After all, many of them had worked on GOP campaigns in order to be considered for Federal positions in the first place. Also, they must have been assuming that by 2009, most of them would be out of a job, since the President's approval rating tanked after Katrina and all indications were that a Democrat would become the next president.

In an act of arrogance and brazen disregard for Federal law, Karl Rove's team mobilized Federal employees accross 20 agencies with political presentations, requests for campaign volunteers (and in some cases, demands), all in Federal buildings, during business hours - a broad, open violation of the Hatch Act.

The report is intentionally late, designed to protect those who violated the law. It's also safe to assume that several administrations have violated the Hatch Act over the decades. But what we have leanred, thanks to this report, is the extraordinary scale and scope of the offenses by the Bush 43 administration. The offenses were done in the open, under florescent lights, in conference rooms, and in plain sight of of government's Human Resources - the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The OPM must have seen that Federal employees were bring granted paid leave of abscences so that they would work on domed 2006 House campaigns. That's using Federal payroll funds to subsidize and support one party's Congressional campaigns. Hell, the OPM was probably one of the agencies corrupted by these Hatch Act violations.

So really the Bushies had their cake and ate it too. They had job security from 2001 until 2006, and were freely allowed to waste taxpayer money and violate the law. Then, after their 2006 midterm defeats, most of them returned to their desks for the final, quiet, two year stretch.

The full report from the OSC is here (.pdf file).