The New Republican Civility

The end-game of the House passing the Senate health care bill brought to light a new level of hatred and vitriol, encouraged and in some cases apparently perpetrated by congressional Republicans.

The first salvo came on Saturday, March 20. As Democratic congressmen John Lewis (D-GA) and Andre Carson (D-IN) emerged from a Democratic caucus meeting in the Cannon House office building, a large crowd surrounded them and several shouts of "kill the bill" and the "N-word" were heard.

A tea partier also spit on Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo).

On Saturday afternoon a similar scenario unfolded as Rep. Barney Frank, (D-MA) left a whip meeting in the Longworth House office building and made his way through a crowd of protesters, and elderly white man shouted "Barney, you faggot," as his fellow protesters erupted in laughter.

"Republican lawmakers are trying their best to show the tea party activists outside the Capitol that they're on their side," wrote Salon's Mike Madden. Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind) walked through the crowd shaking hands, smiling, and thanking them. He condemned "the kind of language and statements that have been reported," but denied that the GOP shared any responsibility. "I think the American people are rising up with one voice and saying, 'Enough is enough.'"

Meanwhile Rep. Geoff Davis (R-Ky) and a group of Republicans borrowed a "Don't Tread on Me" flag from a tea partier, and displayed it from a balcony on the second floor of the Capitol, adjacent to the House floor.

Health Care Update

Updated March 21, 2009

The House just passed the Senate health care bill by a vote of 219 - 212.

Echoing Sen. Jim DeMint's characterization of health care as Obama's "Waterloo," former Bush speech writer David Frum labels the passage of health care legislation today the "most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s" for conservatives and Republicans.

Frum lays the blame for the defeat squarely on Republican party leadership:

At the beginning of this process we made a strategic decision: unlike, say, Democrats in 2001 when President Bush proposed his first tax cut, we would make no deal with the administration. No negotiations, no compromise, nothing. We were going for all the marbles. This would be Obama’s Waterloo – just as healthcare was Clinton’s in 1994.

Only, the hardliners overlooked a few key facts: Obama was elected with 53% of the vote, not Clinton’s 42%. The liberal block within the Democratic congressional caucus is bigger and stronger than it was in 1993-94. And of course the Democrats also remember their history, and also remember the consequences of their 1994 failure.

This time, when we went for all the marbles, we ended with none.

He also reserves a share of blame for what he calls "the conservative entertainment industry."

... overheated talk has made it impossible for representatives to represent and elected leaders to lead. The real leaders are on TV and radio, and they have very different imperatives from people in government. Talk radio thrives on confrontation and recrimination. When Rush Limbaugh said that he wanted President Obama to fail, he was intelligently explaining his own interests. What he omitted to say – but what is equally true – is that he also wants Republicans to fail. If Republicans succeed – if they govern successfully in office and negotiate attractive compromises out of office – Rush’s listeners get less angry. And if they are less angry, they listen to the radio less, and hear fewer ads for Sleepnumber beds.

Read the full commentary.

Tea From Grass (Roots)?

CNN created something of a buzz earlier this week when it reported that about 11% of those it surveyed claimed to have actively supported the tea party movement, while another 24% favors the movement but hasn't actively participated. The poll also showed that "Tea Party activists would vote overwhelmingly Republican in a two-party race for Congress," which, as JasonMBryant, posting on Political Wire observed, is:

... not a new group of people who are changing things. These are just the hard core conservative Republicans voters.

It's like looking at a pile of apples. If you separate the apples into two piles, one labeled "apples" and the other labeled "Granny Smith apples," you haven't really changed anything. It still just a bunch of fruits.

Remember This the Next Time Rudy Giuliani Runs for Anything

Bernard Kerik, Giuliani's police commissioner and, largely on his recommendation, a Bush nominee to head the Department of Homeland Security, was sentenced to a 4-year jail term today after pleading guilty to eight felonies. Five of those counts are making false statements to federal officials while being vetted for "senior posts." The case centered around charges that renovations in Kerik's Riverdale home were paid for by Interstate Industrial Corporation, an NJ firm "suspected of ties to organized crime," apparently in the hope that Kerik would help the firm obtain a city license.

Read the NY Times story.

Stimulus Bill Worked

David Leonhardt of The New York Times writes today:

Imagine if, one year ago, Congress had passed a stimulus bill that really worked.

Let’s say this bill had started spending money within a matter of weeks and had rapidly helped the economy. Let’s also imagine it was large enough to have had a huge impact on jobs — employing something like two million people who would otherwise be unemployed right now.

If that had happened, what would the economy look like today?

Well, it would look almost exactly as it does now. Because those nice descriptions of the stimulus that I just gave aren’t hypothetical. They are descriptions of the actual bill.

A Lesson in Bipartisanship from ... George W. Bush?

Noam Scheiber writes:

... [L]iberal use of reconciliation and other ostensible crimes against Senate protocol may be the Democrats’ best hope going forward. Moderates will complain that they risk a voter backlash by looking thuggish and partisan. But, as Bush showed, these tactics aren’t just a way to enact an agenda that the opposition is bent on blocking. They’re the most effective way to achieve bipartisanship in the process.

Deficit Hysteria Reminiscent of Pre-Iraq-War Groupthink

Paul Krugman notes in his current NY Times column: media reports that the deficit threatens economic stability "aren't facts."

Many economists take a much calmer view of budget deficits than anything you’ll see on TV. Nor do investors seem unduly concerned: U.S. government bonds continue to find ready buyers, even at historically low interest rates.... Contrary to what you often hear, the large deficit the federal government is running right now isn’t the result of runaway spending growth. Instead, well more than half of the deficit was caused by the ongoing economic crisis, which has led to a plunge in tax receipts, required federal bailouts of financial institutions, and been met — appropriately — with temporary measures to stimulate growth and support employment.

The point is that running big deficits in the face of the worst economic slump since the 1930s is actually the right thing to do. If anything, deficits should be bigger than they are because the government should be doing more than it is to create jobs.

Read the whole column here.

Majority Says Health Care Bill "More Important Than Ever"

The January Kaiser Health Tracking poll finds that a majority of the public still supports the idea that "it is more important than ever to take on health reform now." The poll further finds that while Americans are divided over Congressional health care proposals, even skeptics grow more supportive when they learn specific details of the proposals, such as:

'Hardball' & Dumbed-Down US Politics

by Robert Parry
Reprinted from

This past week, grappling with the twin top stories of Haiti’s earthquake tragedy and the Massachusetts Senate race, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews personified the strange mix of puffed-up self-importance and total lack of self-awareness that has come to define America’s media punditocracy.

During "Hardball" programs of recent days, Matthews has veered from pontificating about how the killer earthquake in Haiti might finally cause its people to get "serious" about their politics to explaining how Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley deserves to lose, in part, because she called ex-Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling "a Yankees fan."

Not only did Matthews’s remarks about Haitian politics reflect a profound ignorance about that country and its history, but he seemed blissfully clueless about his own role as a purveyor of political trivia over substance in his dozen years as a TV talk-show host in the United States, as demonstrated in his poll-and-gaffe-obsessed coverage of the important Massachusetts Senate race.

Indeed, Matthews may be the archetype of what’s wrong with the U.S. news media, a devotee of conventional wisdom who splashes in the shallowest baby pool of American politics while pretending to be the big boy who's diving into the deep end.

Relabeling the Failure of Bush & Conservative Economic Policy

... [T]he president's approval ratings are quite healthy in light of an unemployment rate that's gone over 10 percent and a nearly unprecedented destruction of personal wealth.

The conservatives' focus on ideology ... is an opportunistic way of distracting attention from the mistakes of the Bush years and the role conservative policies played in bringing us to this point. To cite ideology rather than the economy in explaining the poll numbers is like analyzing the causes of Civil War without any reference to slavery or the rise of the New Deal without mention of the Great Depression.

— E.J. Dionne in The New Republic


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