Ed Shulz (I will be on tonight, by the way, around 8:20, I'm told) had a Utah schoolteacher on last night explaning why, after Newtown, she wanted to have a gun in her classroom.
She seemed like a nice lady overall, so I'll not heap abuse on her. But her position was ludicrous, and it was painfully obvious at a certain point that she basically had no defense for the position she was espousing, which was that parents have no right to know whether there is a gun in their child's classroom. From the transcript:
SCHULTZ: So you don`t think a firearm in the classroom would put
anyone at risk, that it would be a much safer environment?
CAIN: I -- I absolutely -- I wouldn`t consider carrying one if I
didn`t feel like I could do it safely.
Now here's an op-ed in today's Times by Edward Kleinbard, who seems to know a great deal about all this dashed monetary piffle (pardon me, I've been reading some Wodehouse), and he avers that rather that mint a trillion-dollar coin that would quickly become fodder for stand-up comics across the world, what the Obama administration should do to put the R's on ice vis a vis the debt limit is issue, get this, scrip:
[Obama] should threaten to issue scrip — “registered warrants” — to existing claims holders (other than those who own actual government debt) in lieu of money. Recipients of these I.O.U.’s could include federal employees, defense contractors, MBeginning in July of that year, California addressed its budget crisis by issuing 450,000 registered warrants, totaling $2.6 billion, to individual and business claimants, including recipients of aid programs, recipients of tax refunds and government contractors. Those holders who needed immediate cash were usually able to sell their registered warrants to banks at face value, though some institutions limited such purchases.
The scrip would not violate the debt ceiling because it wouldn’t constitute a new borrowing of money backed by the credit of the United States. It would merely be a formal acknowledgment of a pre-existing monetary claim against the United States that the Treasury was not currently able to pay. The president could therefore establish a scrip program by executive order without piling a constitutional crisis on top of a fiscal one.
Kleinbard goes on to explain that the state of California did just this in 2009 and all went fairly swimmingly:
Nothing would do more to fix American politics than if wealthy Republicans bankrolled a network of moderate GOP organizations, says Michael Tomasky.
I see that Brent Bozell, who never runs out of ways to spend rich conservatives’ money, now has an outfit called For America, which is mounting a pressure campaign against Mitch McConnell over his role in the fiscal-cliff deal. The online ad buy will be targeted to Kentucky and will ask, “Mitch McConnell, which side are you on?”—that of socialism or that of Kentuckyism? What struck me when I read this was, How come there isn’t a group that is taking out ads against Rand Paul, McConnell’s junior colleague, one of just five GOP senators who voted against the bill, asking him which side he’s on—the side of bare-minimum fiscal sanity or the side of ruining the economy for the sake of making an ideological point? Of course there isn’t. But there must be. In fact there is nothing—nothing—our political system needs more than a strong and well-financed moderate-Republican pressure organization.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks with reporters following a GOP strategy session at the Capitol in December. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
Think about it. Why is our politics so stuck right now? Because one of our parties has gone bonkers. Oh, sure, the Democrats aren’t altar boys. Fine. But High Broderism is blessedly dying as more and more establishment types come to see that it’s basically the GOP that’s throwing the wrench in the works.
There is little sign, of course, that this behavior is abating. True, we got a cliff deal, but the Washington GOP as a whole is still extremely right wing, and one leading reason why is that Republican House members and senators live in fear of facing primary challenges from their right. Barney Frank put it imperishably in an interview with New York magazine last spring, in a couplet that everyone who cares about Washington dysfunction should bear in mind: “[People] say, ‘Are you saying they’re all Michele Bachmann?’ And my answer is no, they’re not all Michele Bachmann. Half of them are Michele Bachmann. The other half are afraid of losing a primary to Michele Bachmann.”
I never was a devotee of What It Takes. I'm not a foe of it. I've probably read about half of it over the years in chunks. I definitely recall not being interested when it came out, because it was 1992, and we were on to another election, why I did want to read about Dick effin' Gephardt?
This is probably why the book has aged so well, precisely because it seemed a little beside the point when it came out (and was reviewed kind of negatively, as many noted yesterday), and the passage of time has perhaps paradoxically made its 1992-vintage irrelevance less, well, relevant.
I recognize what an accomplishment the book is. But I'm not a typical reader on this point. I don't really care what makes politicians "tick," as a general rule. I've obviousy known tons of politicians. Most of them aren't really that interesting, or certainly as a rule aren't any more interesting as humans qua humans than any other group of people--schoolteachers, plumbers, bank loan officers, what have you.
What makes them interesting is that they have power, and therefore, what is mainly interesting about them to me is how they use their power. Sometimes, sure, the traumatic event of their childhood affects that, and that's useful to know I suppose, but I believe firmly and passionately that they should be judged on their public decisions and behavior.
As I was driving in this morning listening to Tony Kornheiser, he alerted his faithful audience to the column today by Sally Jenkins in the WaPo about the incomprehensibly indefensible decision by Mike Shanahan to keep playing Robert Griffin on Sunday. I got in and read it, and yep, it's a barnburner. She doesn't even spare Griffin himself:
There is no confusion over Robert Griffin III’s knee — and there never was. TheWashington Redskins drafted a healthy, thrilling young player and by the time they got done using him up this season he lurched around like a pirate with a peg leg. Let’s be clear: Griffin is not suffering from an old injury, or from just one injury, either. Anyone with eyes saw the kid hurt his knee three times in the past month, twice in the same playoff game, until a strained ligament turned into a torn one. Every decision maker in the organization, from the rock-headed coach to the renowned surgeon in the silly team pompom cap, is responsible for that...
...There is plenty of blame to spread for this state of affairs. What was Andrews doing on that sideline, other than wearing a team hat and providing political cover? Let’s not overlook the role of those who let Kenny Chesney fans and assorted college teams trample FedEx Field into such execrable condition without properly repairing it. Then there is Griffin himself, who hasn’t yet learned to play with discretion and to protect others’ investment in him.
Right ho, Sally. I couldn't believe what I was seeing when he was openly limping on that one run in the second half. He could so easily have suffered a career-ending injury. As it is, he may have suffered an injury after which he'll never quite be the same. You can say look at Adrian Peterson, but that kind of case is extremely atypical. Stoopid stoopid stoopid.
Comes word that the National Cathedral, an Episcopal Church, will start to perform same-sex marriages. Says the Very Reverend Gary Hall, the Cathedral's dean:
"I read the Bible as seriously as fundamentalists do," Hall told the AP. "And my reading of the Bible leads me to want to do this because I think it's being faithful to the kind of community that Jesus would have us be."
Rock on, Rev. I love that first sentence. Of course he does! In fact he reads it far more seriously than reactionary fundamentalists do.
The decision is drenched in symbolism because the Cathedral is of course a highly symbolic place, in whose nave we the people hold various important rites--funerals of presidents and others of high rank, official ceremonies in the wake of events like 9-11, and so on.
You people know that I edit a quarterly journal, Democracy, in addition to spooning out these morsels for your Beastly delectation, and it's with that in mind that I announce the launch of the new Winter 2013 issue, huzzah!
You will find a big package on money and politics that I hope gets some attention. The thrust of the symposium is as follows.
We have in Washington this tireless and very dedicated group of people working on government reform, trying to stem the influence of corporate millions in our political culture, both in terms of campaign cash and lobbying expenditures (the latter more insidious, I should think). They're doing their best, but they're fighting a dinosaur with a feather.
Meanwhile, you have all these interest groups around Washington, some advancing liberal causes of many varieties, some advancing nonpolitical causes, like eradicating a certain disease, let's say. All of these groups, as of now, do not donate to government reform. And why should they? It's not "their issue."
Does it make a difference when a man's man like Stanley McChrystal says he supports gun control?:
"I spent a career carrying typically either a M16, and later a M4 carbine," he said. "And a M4 carbine fires a .223 caliber round, which is 5.56 millimeters, at about 3,000 feet per second. When it hits a human body, the effects are devastating. It's designed to do that. That's what our soldiers ought to carry."
Said McChrystal, "I personally don't think there's any need for that kind of weaponry on the streets and particularly around the schools in America. I believe that we've got to take a serious look -- I understand everybody's desire to have whatever they want -- but we have to protect our children and our police and we have to protect our population. And I think we have to take a very mature look at that."
Good for him, but I've never been sure about things like this. Clearly, the NRA doesn't care what McChrystal thinks. The Biden task force has them pretty fired up:
For years, everyone assumed Republicans were politically savvy and Democrats weren’t. But Michael Tomasky thinks that stereotype is outdated. What if today’s GOP just isn’t very good at politics?
Over the weekend, I wrote about how Barack Obama can win the upcoming debt-ceiling fight. I left out one important element of a winning strategy, which I’ll get to further down. But the main point of the piece, which I want to reinforce today, is to flip the current conventional wisdom on its head. The c.w. says the Republicans hold the cards here. But they don’t. And some of them are throwing whatever cards they do have on the bonfire with a lot of loose talk that weakens what I think is their already weak position. What all this adds up to is the following revolutionary proposition, which I invite you to consider: it may be that the Republicans just aren’t very good at politics anymore.
In the years of my adulthood—the years, that is, since the Reagan ascendance—it has generally been assumed by the elite media and other arms of the country-running establishment that the Republicans knew what they were doing. Yeah, they may have been extreme or obstreperous or this or that, but they were good. Newt Gingrich was whip smart. Karl Rove was an out-and-out genius. Tom DeLay, you didn’t mess with. Why I even remember when Bill Frist was limned as some kind of great sage. And so on. On the Democratic side, meanwhile, Bill Clinton often won such plaudits, but for a long, long time, he was about the only one.
I have some highfalutin theories about why this is so, but let’s dispense with those and just seek an Occam’s Razor kind of explanation. Quite simply, for a long time, Republicans won. And even when they didn’t win, they certainly dominated the discourse. So they just looked like the team that knew how to play the game.
I'm a fan of Susan Jacoby's writing, generally speaking. Her book Freethinkers, about the founders, which came out a decade or so ago, is really something you should check out.
So I was intrigued to see her Times op-ed yesterday on atheism, in which she argues that atheism "is rooted in empathy as well as intellect":
The atheist is free to concentrate on the fate of this world...without trying to square things with an unseen overlord in the next. Atheists do not want to deny religious believers the comfort of their faith. We do want our fellow citizens to respect our deeply held conviction that the absence of an afterlife lends a greater, not a lesser, moral importance to our actions on earth.
I think this is exactly right, that last bit. I'm not a particularly religious person, but I think I'm a moral person. There are millions of us. We get our morality from some combination of common sense, experience, and reading. And the fact that we believe that this life is our one shot at getting it right makes morality all the more urgent a matter, really.
Paul Krugman today writes about the platinum coin idea, of which I'd reckon you've heard tell:
Republicans are openly threatening to use that potential for catastrophe to blackmail the president into implementing policies they can’t pass through normal constitutional processes.
Enter the platinum coin. There’s a legal loophole allowing the Treasury to mint platinum coins in any denomination the secretary chooses. Yes, it was intended to allow commemorative collector’s items — but that’s not what the letter of the law says. And by minting a $1 trillion coin, then depositing it at the Fed, the Treasury could acquire enough cash to sidestep the debt ceiling — while doing no economic harm at all.
This might be good economics, and it might even be the best available way out of this mess. But I don't see this working politically at all.
We have many theories today as to why the Potus is proceeding with the nomination of Chuck Hagel to the Pentagon, despite what appears to be fairly significant opposition from senators of Hagel's own party. Let's cut to the darkest-scenario chase: Suppose they filibuster him.
That is extremely hard to envision--senators filibustering a former senator for a cabinet position. But with these people, you just never know. My guess at this point would be that even if they have more than 40 votes against him, they would permit an up-or-down vote to proceed, and Hagel would pass.
I would bet today, though, that they don't even have 40 at the end of the day; more like 15 to 25 nay votes would be my guess. Which won't matter once he gets the post. Clarence Thomas had 48 votes against him, a fact that does not, alas, detract a whit from his votes and opinions.
I would reckon that Obama is counting on something like the above. It's a little risky to proceed with a second "controversial" nomination after the Susan Rice mess. He must feel pretty confident that at the end of the day Hagel will get through.
But to pull it off, says Michael Tomasky, he needs to take a tough negotiating line. And he has to start laying the groundwork for it now.
I find it a good policy, every so often, to size up the biggest and most universally agreed upon piece of conventional wisdom on the horizon and ask: really? The conventional wisdom is laughably wrong often enough that it’s not so difficult a trick to come out of such an exercise looking like a savant. The biggest piece of conventional wisdom right now is that the Republicans will have all the leverage in round two, the debt talks, because they can force Obama to make huge cuts. I’m not sure I buy it, and my confidence is only reinforced by seeing that Newt Gingrich thinks the same thing. Gingrich has a fat ego and fatter mouth, but in terms of strategy, the man is not stupid. And since I’m the pundit with the best prediction of 2012 by a margin that “landslide” doesn’t even begin to describe (!), maybe you should heed us.
The conventional wisdom, with which I’m sure you’re familiar, goes like this. Just as they did in 2011, the Republicans can and will demand a dollar in spending cuts for every dollar by which they are asked to raise the debt limit. Just as they did in 2011, they can and will back Barack Obama into a corner, out of which he’ll have no choice but to play ball. Just as they did in 2011, when they drove down Obama’s approval ratings (they drove their own approval ratings down even more, but they didn’t care about that, as long as they singed Obama) and won key substantive concessions, so they will prevail this time as well. That’s the c.w., salted with a heavy dose of liberal anxiety about how that Obama is absolutely certain to sell us out.
It all makes sense. But here’s why I don’t buy it. Obama says he will not negotiate this time, that this will be no replay of 2011. Chuck Schumer, the most important Democratic senator in terms of strategy, just said the same thing, and emphatically, reports Sahil Kapur of TPM: “Anyone who wants to come and negotiate, and say ‘we will raise the debt ceiling only if you do A, B, C’ will not have a negotiating partner. And if then they don’t want to raise the debt ceiling, it’ll be on their shoulders. I would bet that they would not go forward with that.”
So let’s just play that out: that the White House literally and simply does not negotiate the point. The two sides meet, either principals or seconds. They talk domestic budget, they talk Pentagon budget. They talk entitlements. They talk Steve Strasburg’s arm. They talk whatever you please. But when Republicans raise the issue of the debt limit, the Democrats just get up and walk out of the room. Or the Republicans call a meeting. The administration people simply don’t show. No negotiating means just that. No negotiating.
So Sandy aid finally passed, by 354 to 67, with nine not voting. Now that's lopsided, I suppose, by any measure. But 67 votes against hurricane relief (all of them Republican) seems like kind of a lot, doesn't it? The Katrina funding, for example, passed by 410 to 11 (and yes, all 11 were Republicans then, too).
The New York Times has a fine interactive map showing where the no votes came from. There's a slight concentration from the South, but really they're from all around the country, and a little surprising. For example, all of Wisconsin's present-and-voting Republicans voted nyet. Yes, this included Paul Ryan. This is a dim memory now, so help me out here, but didn't he once want to be the vice-president of the whole country or something like that?
It's worth knowing here that the Club for Growth counseled a "no" vote, so Ryan probably felt moved to get back in their good graces after his scandalously responsible vote for the fiscal cliff deal. The Club will have none of that!
Kansas is the only entirely no state, where all three members (all of them Reps, it goes without saying) voted against. (Montana was also technically all no, but that was just one guy.) I was under the impression that they get tornadoes and things like that out there in Kansas. Well bubs, next time Kansas is devastated, I will use whatever earthly powers I have to make sure that members of Congress know how the three of you voted on this one.
Having rather heartily endorsed the cliff deal yesterday (see directly below), I now feel compelled to consider the opposing case. In political terms, I think there's no doubt Obama "won." But let's think about more from a policy perspective.
I taped a radio interview yesterday evening with Joshua Holland, the host of AlterNet's radio show and a fine fellow, and he challenged me on yesterday's column. He caught me a tad off guard, damn him, by talking actual substance! He pointed to a post by Brad Plumer on Wonkblog at The Washington Post in which Plumer noted that the terms of the deal in fact add up to more austerity than England and Spain:
A back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests Congress has enacted around $304 billion in tax hikes and spending cuts for the coming year, an austerity package that comes to about 1.9 percent of GDP. (That’s merely the size of the cuts and taxes; it’s not necessarily the effect on growth.)
This includes the expiration of the payroll tax cut, which will raise about $125 billion this year. It includes $50 billion in scheduled cuts to discretionary spending from the caps in the 2011 Budget Control Act, as well as $24 billion in new Obamacare taxes and $27 billion in new high-income taxes. It also includes about $78 billion from the now-delayed sequester cuts — assuming that these either take effect or are swapped with other cuts.
The only surprise here is that this hasn't happened sooner. With the Obama administration trying to defend itself amidst multiple scandals, the Tea Party queen went on the attack, questioning the IRS's ability to oversee Obamacare and wondering about 'potential political implications.'
Comedian Dean Obeidallah reviews the former secretary of defense’s new book of rules.