A wise observer wrote a week ago, with respect to immigration: "I'll believe Republican sanity when I see it." Oh, that was me! And guess what?
Now today comes along John Boehner to say that he's not so wild about this path to citizenship business. Politico:
"I think this is a very difficult part [for] any of these bills, and I want to just encourage members on both sides of the Capitol and both parties to continue to try to come to some resolution," Boehner said at a Tuesday news conference.
The pathway to legal status is a key component of the Senate's compromise proposal, which has been endorsed by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). The House is moving through its own immigration process -- the House Judiciary Committee has a hearing today on the subject.
Obama urges Congress to extend the deadline on the sequester cuts, but to Michael Tomasky, it smells like the Republicans have all but made up their minds: steep cuts, even to defense, are exactly what the country needs.
We’re less than a month away now from the sequester, the beginning of the deep budget cuts that will kick in automatically if President Obama and Congress don’t come to a budget deal. I have a news flash for you: There is not going to be any deal in the next 25 days. And here’s another news flash: In the Republican tug-of-war between those who want to protect the Pentagon and those who want to cut spending and damn the consequences, it’s looking like the latter are winning. If they get their way, it’s also almost certain that the austerity the cuts induce will cost a lot of jobs and hurt the economy. So the only thing for Barack Obama to do now is start agitating to make sure the American public blames the right culpable party here.
President Barack Obama speaks in Las Vegas on January 29, 2013. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty)
First, a little info on the cuts and their predicted impact. These across-the-board cuts to defense programs and domestic discretionary programs (not to Social Security and entitlements) would start to take effect March 1, which the parties agreed to in the fiscal cliff deal. Over the next seven months, this would mean $55 billion in defense cuts and $27 billion in domestic cuts. Those are pretty steep cuts.
That’s austerity. Austerity, in difficult economic times, which these still are, is never good. Anything that takes money out of the economy isn’t good. This is the great paradox of the Republican position that “we” have to learn to live within our means. There’s never been more insidious nonsense put about the land. The only thing severe cutbacks would do is put the recovery at risk.
The fact that the NRA was keeping a list of its foes isn’t all that bizarre. But the list itself is positively loony—yet more evidence of just how nuts the NRA is, says Michael Tomasky.
One of the sure markers of the paranoid mind is the urge to keep lists. In particular, lists of enemies, subversives, no-goodniks; the pestilential nuisances, as Sir W.S. Gilbert famously put it, who never would be missed. It virtually goes without saying that the keepers of such lists are always the bullies who survive by fomenting hatred and making sure that their constituents stay in a state of constant agitation. And so it was no surprise to learn over the weekend, via Josh Marshall, that the National Rifle Association has a little list of 497 people and organizations who are in some way, shape, or form anti-gun. It makes for hilarious reading, although it’s sort of frightening to think about the demented minds of the people who assembled it.
National Rifle Association President David Keene (left) talks with NRA executive Wayne LaPierre last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence. (Susan Walsh/AP)
The list consists of 141 organizations, 228 celebrities, 27 “national figures” who are somehow different from celebrities, 37 journalists, 41 corporations and/or corporate CEOs, and 23 media outlets, all of whom are out to pry that Bushmaster from your warm, live hands. Some of the organizations make perfect sense. The American Civil Liberties Union. Sure. The American Trauma Society. I have no idea what precisely they do, but okay, it stands to reason that if trauma is their racket, they’re probably not big on people amassing large numbers of automatic weapons. Women Strike for Peace. You don’t say!
It strikes the reader of the full list that the net is being cast rather widely. Physicians for Social Responsibility, for example, has plenty to do besides think about guns. Same with AARP. But to me it’s the large number of religious organizations, from the Unitarians to the Methodists to the Church of Christ on over to the U.S. Catholic conference, that begins to suggest the odor of paranoia that will wash over us as we proceed to the rest of the list.
Here's a funny note from PPP polling. They just did a survey in Rhode Island. Obama's approval rating there is 59/36. But what's interesting is that Rhode Island's Republicans seem to want to see Obama impeached:
...even in a state known for having comparatively moderate Republicans, 44% of them want to impeach Obama to 37% who are opposed. We've polled this in several states over the last few weeks and found that Republicans everywhere want to impeach Obama.
That's PPP's Tom Jensen writing. The question here, as Jensen goes on to note, is, for what?
And that is a little creepy, that he's getting these kinds of numbers out of Rhode Island. But I guess that among that dwindling yet hardy band stll willing to call themselves Republcans, there just isn't much regional differentiation anymore. Everybody lives in a land of make believe where Benghazi and Fast and Furious are somehow impeachable offenses.
I will go to my grave insisting (unless of course the NFL follows my advice) that they move the Super Bowl to Saturday. This is a hobby horse of mine. It's not just me. There's a whole sort of movement. Google it.
Actually, I just did, and lo and behold, up near the top (good job on SEO maximization, Beasties!), here's my rant on the subject from last year. Rather than rewrite the whole mess, I'll just quote myself with your permission:
I say it loud and I say it proud: they should change the Super Bowl to Saturday.
What?! But that’s apostasy! It’s Super Bowl Sunday and always has been. Well, yes, it has. And this, lame as it is, appears to be the NFL’s position. The question of moving the game to Saturday has been bruited for a while now. Last year, a league spokesman responded to a Sports Illustrated reporter by saying: “We hear this each year. The concept of playing the Super Bowl on a Sunday has worked well for 44 years, and we don’t anticipate moving away from this tradition. Fans expect to see the Super Bowl on a Sunday, the day on which 89.2 percent of NFL games are played.”
Word is just now coming down that Ed Koch has died at age 88. He was a complicated figure, plenty of good and bad, and given the way he relished a good political fight in his prime, I don't think he'd expect me (we knew each other pretty well) or anyone to write anything else.
Koch was most famous of course as a three-term mayor of New York during pretty rough times, 1978 to 1990. Crime. The fiscal crisis. Roiling racial tension. He handled some of it exceedingly well, some of it less so. But his career really went back to 1960, and he pretty perfectly embodied and personified the complicated and ultimately quite unhappy relationship between liberalism and the white ethnic urban middle class.
Remembering Ed Koch: a short video tribute to New York City's mayor.
He started out as a reformer back when that word had a specific meaning. The reform movement associated with Eleanor Roosevelt and New York Senator Herbert Lehman rose up to fight Tammany Hall, which--yes--still existed and was still powerful in 1960.
Where are those NRA members who support gun control? Michael Tomasky says liberals need to find them.
Lindsey Graham, still occasionally fobbed off on us as a “moderate” Republican senator, now thinks that America's little children could learn something useful from seeing brains splayed against their bedroom walls and body parts in the hallway. "Would I be a reasonable American to want my family to have the 15-round magazine in a semi-automatic weapon, to make sure, if there's two intruders, she doesn't run out of bullets?" he asked at yesterday's Senate hearing on guns. "Am I an unreasonable person for saying that in that situation, the 15-round magazine makes sense?
A customer shops for a pistol at a sporting-goods store in December 2012. (Scott Olson/Getty)
Yeah, yeah, better than the children being dead. Point granted. As long as you acknowledge that into this bargain, it's likely that the occasional mother will accidently blow her child's brains out of her skull. Oh well, there's always a spoilage factor.
The Senate hearing put on full display the alternate reality in which the furious minority lives. The majority of us—about two thirds, according to the polls—think the general approach to violence is fewer guns. But that obstructing third thinks the answer is more guns. And their argument is receiving a disturbing amount of play these days, as outlets like NPR deliver up segments on schoolteachers, who surely represent a small minority of their number, eager to have some heat in their classrooms and the like. Connecticut teachers, at least, opposed having guns in a recent poll to the tune of 85 percent.
Reading through the comment threads on my Boy Scouts thing, I notice that many of you who might normally be in my corner took some umbrage at that “go form your own country” business, and, well, obviously I can see why. I’m sure that if I happened to live in Atlanta, I’d hate the thought of being consigned to live in the Reactionary States of America and I wouldn’t like the idea of some smart-ass Yankee pundit (a cousin to Randy Newman’s smart-ass New York Jew) suggesting it.
I know that there are fine, fine people in the South, and lots of progressive-minded people who are repelled by the standard mores and working to change things. I even know that many conservative people are basically fine people when it comes to everything but their political views, and that a person’s political views don’t come close to telling the whole story about him or her.
And I know that the South has its charms. I love "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," for starters. I am actually—hold on to your hats—going to South Carolina, of all lamentable places, on a vacation soon. Entirely of my own volition! There may not be a single state I think worse of, for a range of historical reasons. Not even Alabama. So there you are. We’re all full of contradictions.
Having said all that, the historical fact remains: Since the beginning of this republic, the South has held the country back. A commenter in that thread reminded me that all this goes back a lot farther than the GI Bill and the Ed Sullivan Show. It goes back to the writing of the Constitution itself.
I'm not quite on board yet with the idea that something is going to pass, simply because my basic operating principle is, I will believe sanity out of the Republican Party when I see it.
I refer mainly of course to the House of Reps, and via Greg Sargent, we received this interesting breakdown from National Journal that I think helps explain why one should be circumspect about reform's chances in the House:
With very few exceptions, legislation cannot advance in the House without the support of a "majority of the majority" party. A Senate-passed immigration proposal probably had enough votes to pass the House, too, in 2006, but House Republicans never let it get to the floor, because their caucus didn't support it.
Fully 131 of the 233 House Republicans represent districts that are more than 80 percent white. Not only have many of those members opposed measures beyond improving border security in the past, but there are also no natural pressure groups for immigration reform in their districts. The Democratic Caucus, which is largely unified in support of some sort of immigration-reform proposal, has just 31 members from such very white districts.
More evidence for my thesis below, about how Democrats now represent regular Americans while Republicans are a bunch of cranks, is the very fine news this week that the Boy Scouts of America are going to admit gay troop members and leaders. Yes. Bravo. To most of America it is not a big deal anymore.
But someone is upset, and look who: It's the Southern Baptist Convention. I heard one of their number on NPR muttering something about this making it impossible for Southern Boy Scouts to attend national jamborees and so forth.
There is a long and appalling history in this country of the rest of us having to act like bigots and enforce bigotry because of the South. It has existed in legislation--the GI Bill had to be written in such a way that it wouldn't benefit blacks too much, or the legislators of the South said they would kill it. Before that, much of the New Deal legislation had to be written in the same way.
It's existed in sports, with college bowl games down South that wouldn't take Northern teams that had dirty negroes. It's existed in rock and roll, when integrated road shows couldn't go down there. It existed on television in the 1960s, when Ed Sullivan had to very careful about how much black and white entertainers could mix on his show because sponsors and affiliates from a certain region of the country would howl. Sullivan was very courageous on this front, but variety shows led by hosts less powerful than he had to dumb their shows down to the Southern level.
The Obama-Hillary interview signaled that we have passed an important tipping point in American politics: Democrats are now the regular guys, and conservatives are the weirdos. By Michael Tomasky.
I can actually see, to some extent, the point of conservatives’ complaints about the Obama-Hillary 60 Minutes interview. It was softbally, and Steve Kroft’s one real question—to Clinton, about whether she felt any guilt or remorse over Benghazi—she totally didn’t answer. But here, conservatives, is what you are missing and what you need to reckon with. Americans—except you—like these two people. Most Americans look at the pair of them—this black man who is still remote in some ways and this so-familiar woman who is now aging before us and allowing herself to look just a little frumpy—and feel reassured. Most Americans are cheering for them, and hence, most Americans probably wanted a softball interview. We have thus passed an important portal in American politics: Democrats are now the regular guys. Conservatives are the weirdos.
‘President Obama and Hillary Clinton duck Steve Kroft’s question about 2016.’
First, about the interview. These are not two of your more forthcoming interview subjects. I’ve never sat with Obama, but I have interviewed Clinton on a number of occasions, including one big 90-minute-or-so sit-down back in 2000. She told me some very interesting things: she likes Thomas Hardy, she was overwhelmed by her visit to the Olduvai Gorge, she takes a keen interest in ancient civilizations, she loves the Three Stooges, and she knows the theme song to The Flintstones. But on policy, she gave me nothing. A total Heisman. My heart sank to the floor as I listened back over the tape and realized that answer after answer wasn’t going to make news after all. Obama is no different. Rare is the interview that finds him saying anything genuinely arresting.
But he did say something interesting to Kroft, and she did too, which was this: they were both wholly believable and ingenuous when they were talking about their own political relationship. When Obama said, in reference to repairing the ruptures of 2008, “I think it was harder for the staffs, which is understandable, because, you know, they get invested in this stuff in ways that I think the candidates maybe don’t,” I thought: that rings really true. And I’d bet most Americans did too.
David Mamet’s Newsweek piece on gun control was a bizarre, inaccurate rant, says Michael Tomasky.
I remember reading a profile of David Mamet in the Times Magazine many years ago, about which the only thing I recall is his admonition to his profiler, who had inquired into his method and the matter of what advice he might offer writers. Mamet’s response was: Go through and cut it in half. Then do that again. And then do that again. Something along those lines.
A rudimentary knowledge of mathematics tells us that one can cut in half to infinity and never reach zero, which is too bad in this case, because zero would have been the optimal word count for Mamet’s bizarre rant in Newsweek about how Barack Obama, acting on subliminal instruction from Karl Marx, wants to take away his guns and throw his family to the wolves. But he could at least have gotten it down to eight or, even better, four. “Me really angry man” would have sufficed.
You know you’re going to need your waders when someone kicks things off with Marx. Oy. Mamet: take it from someone who’s written thousands of columns. That’s hoary. Overused. I’m not sure what the thespian equivalent would be. Sending someone out on stage to yell “Stella”? It’s been done.
He gets his Marx wrong, by the way, whatever difference that makes. The famous offending diktat—“from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”—would not, per Marx’s formulation in “Critique of the Gotha Program,” be enforced by the state. That social arrangement wouldn’t really kick in until the state had withered away and the proletariat itself was calling the shots. I know that the right’s list of secret Obama evil plans for America is virtually endless, but I don’t think the state withering away is on the list.
Republicans are proposing a radical rule change in swing states—one that would have handed Romney the election. Michael Tomasky on this jaw-dropping outrage.
I’m optimistic about the Republican Party. Does that surprise you? Well, let me qualify that. When I say I’m optimistic about the Republican Party, I am referring of course to the old joke in which the pessimist says, “Geez, things sure can’t get any worse,” and the optimist replies, “Oh, yes they can!” When the subject is today’s GOP and the conservative movement, things can always get worse. Having attempted virtually every dishonest and cynical trick in the book under existing rules, they have decided now that the problem is not their dishonesty or cynicism, but the existing rules, so the new task is to change them.
Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus rallies volunteers at a Romney campaign office in Arlington, Virginia on October 25, 2012. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call, via Getty)
You’re familiar by now with the broad contours of how the GOP wants to change the Electoral College. OK, in case you’re not: They seek in six states to apportion the electoral vote according to congressional districts won instead of to the presidential candidate who won the state overall. For example, Pennsylvania has 18 congressional districts. Mitt Romney won 12 of them, and Barack Obama six. So even though Obama won the state overall by around five points, Romney would “carry” Pennsylvania, 12 electoral votes (EVs) to six (actually, 12 to eight—every state has two more EVs representing its two Senate seats, and Obama, as the overall winner, would get those; so nice of them!).
The six states, as you might guess, are not Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Alaska, and the Dakotas. They are the aforementioned Keystone State along with Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Virginia. The Virginia plan adds the clever wrinkle of giving those extra EVs not to the overall winner, but to the candidate who won the most congressional districts.
This passage, by conservative writer Peter Wehner from the big Commentary issue on conservatism's future, is actually laudable to a degree:
Conservatism, at least as I understand it, ought to be characterized by openness to evidence and a search for truth, not attachment to a rigid orthodoxy. “If there is any political viewpoint in this world which is free from slavish adherence to abstraction,” Ronald Reagan said in 1977, “it is American conservatism.”
What I’m talking about, then, is a conservative temperament, which affects everything from tone to intellectual inquiry to compromise. It champions principles in reasonably flexible ways that include a straightforward evaluation of facts.
To put things in a slightly different way: Conservatives need to reacquaint themselves with the true spirit of conservatism, which is reform-minded, empirical, anti-utopian, and somewhat modest in its expectations. It doesn’t make the perfect the enemy of the good. It doesn’t treat political opponents as enemies. And it isn’t in a state of constant agitation. Winsomeness goes a long way in politics.
This Times story this morning about HCA, the for-profit hospital chain, having to pay $162 million to a group representing some Kansas City hospitals it screwed over makes for depressing reading.
HCA bought 11 KC=area nonprofit hospitals looking to convert them. When it made the purchase in 2003, HCA promised that it would spend a certain amount on equipment and physical plant upgrades, and that it would provide certain levels of charitable care to poor patients. It did neither. The foundation set up to oversee things sued, and it went to trial:
After repeatedly asking HCA executives for explanations but receiving none, the foundation sued HCA in 2009. The case went to trial for several weeks in 2011.
HCA argued in the trial that it had met its obligation to spend money on hospital facilities by building two new hospitals at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, rather than repairing older facilities. But Judge John Torrence of Jackson County Circuit Court ruled that the agreement called for improvements to existing hospitals...
With the approval rating of Congress at an all time low, The Daily Beast columnist Keli Goff says term limits may be the best remedy for the current political situation.
The Senate’s youngest member, Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy, held his fellow lawmakers’ feet to the fire on gun control. A year after Newtown, he says he’s not giving up the fight.