The Trotskyist-turned-conservative writer James Burnham said that where there’s no solution, there’s no problem. In a Thursday post, American Prospect blogger Paul Waldman analyzed what he considers one such situation: the Republican party’s ongoing shortfall with female voters.
Waldman doesn’t see how the GOP can overcome both its ideas and its tone on women’s issues. He asserted that when Republicans discuss their opposition to abortion and the contraceptive mandate, many of them “can't keep themselves from doing so in the most hostile, contemptuous ways imaginable.”
Lumping one’s political adversaries with the vicious jihadists of ISIS seems to be the new new thing. Last Thursday, Dinesh D’Souza alleged that “the common thread between ISIS and [the looters] in Ferguson is you have these people who basically believe that to correct a perceived injustice, it's perfectly OK to inflict all kinds of new injustices...And all of this is then licensed by the left and licensed to some degree by the media.”
On Saturday, Washington Monthly blogger David Atkins responded to D’Souza, asserting that ISIS is not at all left-wing; rather, the terrorist group stands for “bedrock principles of political conservatism wherever it appears in the world,” such as “eschew[ing] ‘foreign’ western impulses, roll[ing] back the clock on progressive social reforms, and aggressively institut[ing] a more traditional religious approach to society.”
Don’t look now, but there may be a Paul Ryan scandal, or at least a scandalette, and in this context New York magazine blogger Jonathan Chait is both Woodward and Bernstein. In a Monday post, Chait related that Ryan, in the newsmagazine The Week, had named his “six favorite books about economics and democracy,” and that the “huge omission” from the list was Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, which Ryan has so often praised to the skies.
Chait remarked that Ryan appears to be backing away from his politically problematic Randian makers/takers rhetoric and readopting a previous persona: “The new Ryan looks like the Bush-era version, with lots of giving to the rich without all the taking from the poor.”
In a Sunday-morning post, Daily Kos blogger Mark Sumner argued that the “threat ISIS represents to the United States” is “[e]xactly none” and urged us not to overreact now the way we supposedly did after 9/11 and consequently “hand over freedoms for an illusion of safety. The NSA reading your email and listening in on your phone, idiots mistaking a dropped t-shirt at the Mexican border for the prayer rug of invading Muslims, TSA workers who know you more intimately than your spouse. Those are bin Laden's victories.”
Besides, Sumner remarked, everyday food additives may be more lethal than jihadists: “You could probably make a compelling case that corn syrup is more deadly to Americans than all the terrorists who ever lived.”
Last Saturday, we noted that three well-known liberal bloggers had written that criticism about presidential vacations is silly and dopey. Vox’s Ezra Klein not only agrees with his brethren, but further contended in a Friday post that when a POTUS goes on vacation, he should get some real R&R, to the point that the vice president would “take over for a week or two,” with the president “get[ting] a call if something really goes wrong.”
Klein mused that “it's probably good for vice presidents to get a few weeks in the Oval Office now and again — that way, if they do have to step up to the presidency, they have a bit of experience. If Acting President Joe Biden had delivered the US's response to ISIS while Obama vacationed with his family, that would have been better for everyone involved.”
The ESPN-affiliated, Bill Simmons-run website Grantland, which specializes in sports and popular culture, claimed on Friday that Fox News Channel is a major source of what Simmons calls “unintentional comedy” (or maybe "subconscious comedy" would be more accurate).
In a feature about the history and influence of Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update” segment, Grantland staff writer Brian Phillips opined that “the structure of Fox News is so deeply and basically comic that it’s impossible not to read it into the tradition of news satire” and that “like ‘Weekend Update,’ Fox succeeded by taking the elements of a normal news broadcast and exaggerating them to ludicrous proportions.”
Breaking news: next year’s CPAC will be sponsored exclusively by Ivory soap, Purell, Lysol, Pine-Sol, and Mr. Clean.
OK, not really, but the joke is based on New York magazine blogger Jonathan Chait’s assertion in a Thursday post that the “hygenic impulse” -- or, as the post’s headline puts it, the “cleanliness fetish” -- of conservatives “helps explain the primal character of the right’s Obamacare hate — its obsession with ‘full repeal,’ a way of conceiving the issue that transcends any specific analysis of policy and instead calls to mind the expunging of a toxin.”
The Obama administration is in the doldrums, and not only because it’s August. Is it that the president has a short attention span, or that he’s insufficiently ideological, or have Republicans just worn him down? Three lefty pundits opined on the issue earlier this week.
In a Tuesday New Republic piece, Georgetown history professor Michael Kazin identified “Obama’s sober mistrust of ideology and partisanship” as an obstacle to progress and urged Obama to go beyond “pragmatism” (emphasis added):
The major left-right disagreement regarding President Obama as a speechmaker hasn’t been over whether he’s talented (most conservatives concede he’s got a flair) but over whether he’s effective. Now, however, Ezra Klein thinks that a certain key group of liberals has lost confidence that Obama speeches in general, and specifically one about the situation in Ferguson, Missouri, would bring about the desired results. This group is known as...the Obama administration.
“If Obama's speeches aren't as dramatic as they used to be,” wrote Klein in a Monday post on Vox, “this is why: the White House believes a presidential speech on a politically charged topic is as likely to make things worse as to make things better. It is as likely to infuriate conservatives as it is to inspire liberals. And in a country riven by political polarization, widening that divide can take hard problems and make them impossible problems.”
It’s widely known that when Hillary Clinton was in high school, she was a big fan of Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign. But would Hillary, if elected POTUS, take after the 20th century’s uber-conservative, Ronald Reagan, at least in terms of a hawkish foreign policy? Elias Isquith made that case in a Saturday article in Salon.
Isquith scrutinized the ideas Hillary expressed in her foreign-policy-themed interview with the Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg and found them wanting next to the modesty of the current president: “Obama, unlike Clinton, doesn’t talk about the world as if it were the stage for a great struggle between slavery and freedom. He knows that kind of talk was discredited by the results of our foreign policy from 2002 to 2008.”
The Washington Monthly’s Martin Longman sees the Republican party on the horns of a dilemma regarding its 2016 presidential nomination. In a Sunday post, Longman asserted that any candidate who strongly appeals to the GOP base couldn’t win the general election, but acknowledged that it’s understandable that the rank and file would point to several recent losses by center-right nominees and ask, in effect, “This time, why not a real conservative?”
Republican righties, Longman remarked, “are more inclined to test the idea of nominating a fire-breathing conservative who won’t trim their sails. Better to go down swinging tha[n] to unilaterally disarm by caving on principles within your own party.”
This week, three of the most prominent liberal bloggers agreed that when it comes to criticizing presidents of either party about their vacations, people really need to, as one of the bloggers put it, “STFU.”
Do they have a point, or should the appropriateness of presidential vacations be evaluated on a POTUS-by-POTUS basis? Check out their thoughts and comment if you’d like.
When last seen in these parts about a month ago, writer CJ Werleman asserted that Jesus was a proto-Marxist. On Thursday, staunch atheist Werleman, author of books including God Hates You. Hate Him Back, charged in an AlterNet piece that Fox News has in recent years “waged a relentless war on atheism” because the channel’s viewership is “afraid of an America they no longer understand…afraid of the rapid deceleration of church attendance, the increasing secularization of millennials, [and] the acceptance of same-sex marriage.”
Werleman opined that Fox wildly exaggerates the “power and influence” of atheists and claimed that its coverage of non-believers dovetails with its modus operandi of fearmongering: “On Fox News, Obama is coming for your guns; Madonna is coming for your straight kids; immigrants are coming for your jobs; liberals are coming for your way of life; and atheists are coming for your Bibles.”
Liberals like Chris Mooney of Mother Jones agree that today’s Republican party is “environmental[ly] retrograde,” but often acknowledge it wasn’t like that a few decades ago. For example, as Mooney noted in a Tuesday post, a GOP president, Richard Nixon, established the EPA.
Mooney reports, however, that in the early 1990s the party as a whole grew distinctly more hostile towards environmentalism. He touches on several possible explanations, including a backlash against the newly elected vice president, Earth in the Balance author Al Gore, as well as a theory that after the Soviet Union collapsed, environmentalists succeeded Communists as major objects of conservative fear and hatred.
We don’t know who’d win a presidential race between Thomas Jefferson and Richard Nixon, but apparently we could be almost certain of three things: Jefferson would campaign ethically; Nixon would play dirty; and the media would have no problem with Nixon’s sleazy tactics.
The above scenario is extrapolated from Paul Rosenberg’s Salon article last Saturday in which Rosenberg argued that liberal Democrats, “fair-minded and rule-abiding,” have long been at a competitive disadvantage against conservative Republican “streetfighters,” and that “the Beltway media takes these double standards for granted, accepts them as normal and even adopts them as their default framework.” From Rosenberg’s piece (emphasis added):
Give American Prospect blogger Paul Waldman credit for recognizing that not every congressional Republican has the same chief reason to obstruct President Obama’s agenda. Some of the GOPers, Waldman noted in a Wednesday post, are politically motivated, while others “genuinely believe that Obama is an evil Kenyan Marxist tyrant trying to destroy America.”
Nonetheless, Waldman stated, both groups “arrive at the same place, whether through clear-eyed political calculation or wild-eyed hatred. And nothing—nothing—President Obama does or doesn't do makes a bit of difference,” given that “opposition is a Republican action, not a Republican reaction.” From Waldman’s post (emphasis added):
Imagine a movie that 1) sympathetically portrays Occupy Wall Street and 2) features songs by “Weird Al” Yankovic. If you think 1) and 2) seem incongruous, you might get an argument from writer Lynn Stuart Parramore.
In a piece that ran Wednesday on Salon and originally appeared on AlterNet, Parramore claimed that Yankovic’s recent chart-topping album, Mandatory Fun, contains a “deeply moral theme…about how capitalism’s servants — narcissism, greed, vulgarity, and all-around douchiness — have to carry out its orders to beat us into a pulverized pulp of compliance.” She also exulted that in one of her favorite tracks, “Al skewers the corporate capitalism which promised us all the wonders of efficiency, harmony and prosperity, only to deliver us to Dilbert’s cubicle of despair.” From Parramore’s story (emphasis added):
A great many movement conservatives weren’t fans of Richard Nixon’s presidency, to the point that some of them, including William F. Buckley Jr., William Rusher, and M. Stanton Evans, backed a 1972 primary challenge to Nixon by Rep. John Ashbrook of Ohio.
But has Nixon, despite his ideological squishiness, greatly influenced today’s Republican party? New Yorker blogger Jeff Shesol says he has. In a Wednesday post, Shesol, a former speechwriter for President Clinton, essentially asserted that modern conservatism consists of Ronald Reagan’s principles but Nixon’s attitude, specifically his “sour brand of politics: the politics of resentment.” Parading one’s resentments, Shesol remarked, “has become a kind of reflex on the right, to the point of self-parody.” From Shesol’s post (emphasis added):
President Obama never saw battle or even served in the military, but according to Esquire political blogger Charles Pierce, Obama and his administration now suffer from something akin to shell shock, the result of "constant bombardment" from the Republican forces of “unreason,” “illogic,” and “fantasy.”
Pierce argued in a Tuesday post that dealing with torqued-up craziness like that of the GOP is especially disabling for highly reasonable persons such as Obama. “This administration,” he wrote, “is slug-nutty because it is so rational. It is afflicted with the blind staggers because all of its senses are functioning ‘with painful efficiency.’ It has figured out all too well -- and far too late -- the source of the bombardment that has been laid down upon it daily for the past six years.” From Pierce’s post (emphasis added):
Conservatives seeking a potential president who’s like Ronald Reagan might be interested to know that Andrew O’Hehir of Salon thinks he’s found such a person. True, they might then be surprised to learn that he's talking about Hillary Clinton.
O’Hehir, who’s well to the left of Hillary on economic issues, doesn’t intend the Clinton-Reagan comparison as a compliment to either. He believes that she is and he was propelled by “the force of money and those who wield it,” and that these days, plutocrats control the whole political process: “You can’t separate the fact that only rich people can run for president from the fact that both parties are fueled by rich people’s money, or from the fact that beneath all their partisan bickering Democrats and Republicans have vigorously collaborated for more than 20 years on a set of deregulatory, low-tax and cheap-credit economic policies that have made rich people a whole lot richer.” From O’Hehir’s Saturday piece (emphasis added):
Damon Linker, who opines for the newsmagazine The Week, thinks the so-called reform conservatives have a chance to pull the Republican party back towards the center, but predicts it won’t happen until after the GOP base -- currently “gripped by a form of political psychosis, doing furious battle with ideological phantoms of its own creation” --nominates for president a “genuine right-wing radical” who's crushed at the polls a la Barry Goldwater. “Only that kind of blowout,” wrote Linker, “will exorcize the demons that have taken hold of the Republican soul in recent years.”
From Linker’s piece last Wednesday (emphasis added):
A specter is haunting conservatives, suggests Amanda Marcotte –- the specter of nerdiness. In a Wednesday article for AlterNet, Marcotte blasted the right’s supposed resentment of "things like evidence, rationality, and empiricism," as expressed in forums such as a recent National Review cover story critical of what its writer called America’s "extraordinarily puffed-up 'nerd' culture." In other words, black males whom conservatives dislike apparently include not just Barack Obama but also Steve Urkel.
Marcotte believes that the right has targeted nerds because their ideas "are a direct threat to the corporate and religious authorities who rightfully fear that evidence and reason could hurt [right-wingers’] profits and their hold on power." From Marcotte’s piece (emphasis added):
NewsBusters readers presumably would laugh at the proposition that the media are biased against Hillary Clinton, but plenty of liberals, including Mother Jones blogger Kevin Drum, believe it.
In a Tuesday post, Drum, regarding the media’s fascination with Hillary’s “dead broke” remark, wrote, “Hillary could have responded to questions about her wealth a little better. She's not the natural politician Bill is. But really, there's not much else here. So why does it continue to be news a full month later?” Drum then touched on Mark Halperin’s recent comment on Morning Joe that “the press loves to cover [Hillary] hard.” Halperin also said on another recent Morning Joe broadcast that Hillary is “destined to get horrible coverage if she runs for president.” Drum went on (emphasis added):
A few months ago, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) announced he would leave the House after the current session to host a radio talk show. But what about a talk host running for Congress? In a Tuesday piece, Salon’s Jim Newell wondered about the possibility that conservative talkers such as Laura Ingraham would take the plunge.
Newell mentioned Ingraham’s vigorous support for Cantor-slayer Dave Brat and noted that Ingraham recently said she’s “keeping an open mind about running for office in the future.” That said, he concluded she won’t run since it would mean a massive reduction in her income and influence. He added that in a campaign, she would face questions about “decades and decades of [her] hateful comments directed at more or less every person and demographic.” From Newell’s piece (emphasis added):
According to Daily Kos writer Dante Atkins, the D.C. Circuit’s Halbig decision resembled a plot twist in a movie in which “evil” conservatives know they’ve lost the Obamacare battle but “refuse to go quietly and seek to cause as much destruction as [they] can on [their] certain path to oblivion.”
Atkins wrote in a Sunday post that two factors made the court’s ruling possible: “imprecise language by the authors of the Affordable Care Act” and the “destructive psychopathy of the right wing.”
Conservatives, contended the American Prospect’s Paul Waldman on Thursday, can be highly entertaining, though usually not because they try to be. They’re more like Sideshow Bob repeatedly whacking himself in the face by stepping on one rake after another.
In a post titled “How Did the GOP Turn Into Such a Bunch of Clowns?” Waldman wrote that Republicans’ central problem is that “they're deluded into thinking that the country shares their particular collection of peeves and biases,” which means that they often take positions they don’t realize are unpopular and then are “shocked to find out that Americans aren't on the same page with them…Again and again, they think the American public is going to see things their way, and when the public doesn't, they never seem to learn anything from it.”
Quite a few right-wingers call themselves constitutional conservatives, but self-described constitutional liberals are pretty rare. Washington Monthly blogger Martin Longman essentially positioned himself as one in a Friday post, arguing that there’s no need for modern Americans to interpret the Constitution the way the Founders did, but contending that the Founders would be OK with that because they knew “we could amend the Constitution, [or] pass new laws, [or] judges would make rulings consistent with changing standards about privacy and human sexuality and crime and punishment.”
“The modern world,” wrote Longman, “would blow all of [the Founders’] minds and they would probably struggle to make sense of it.” He claimed, for example, that George Washington wouldn’t “believe that the NRA was being reasonable at all” in its opposition to proposed gun restrictions.
Liberals like to opine that righty Republicans of the fairly recent past, such as Barry Goldwater, William F. Buckley Jr., or even Ronald Reagan, were nowhere near as wild-eyed as the Tea Party crowd. In a Tuesday Daily Kos post by the mononymous Hunter, it was Bob Dole (granted, no one’s idea of a movement conservative) who represented the party’s rational “old guard” against the “clearly batshit insane” congressional GOPers.
Hunter’s peg was the possibility of a second Senate vote on the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities. Dole visited the Senate chamber earlier this week to rally support for the treaty, which fell short of ratification in 2012 because most Republicans voted against it.
What do Lee Atwater, Karl Rove, and Vladimir Lenin have in common? If you answered that they’re all Republican strategists, you’re sort of right, suggested Seth D. Michaels in a Thursday article at Talking Points Memo.
Michaels claimed that GOPers are using a Leninist approach to subvert an increased government role in the health-care system. (Oh, the irony.) Specifically, they’ve taken “deliberate action to make the bad [Obamacare] outcomes they fervently wished for more likely…There’s a name for this strategy, [which] comes from Soviet Communism: ‘heighten the contradictions.’”
What did conservative leaders and activists feel when they learned of the D.C. Circuit Court decision on Obamacare subsidies? Happiness? Relief? American Prospect blogger Paul Waldman seemed to have another word in mind: schadenfreude -- “satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else's misfortune.”
In a Tuesday post, Waldman opined that, sure, righties were “excited” that the ruling was a setback for President Obama and the ACA, but “what actually had them so pleased is the possibility that millions of Americans will lose their health insurance.” Republicans, he added, “will gladly crush the lives of ordinary people if it means gaining some momentary partisan advantage.”