The same day Reince Priebus announced his Latino outreach program, three white Republican senators went after the Latino Labor nominee on racial and ethnic grounds. Michael Tomasky asks: Do they think Latinos are stupid?
Golly but I’m happy to see that the GOP Hispanic outreach is off to such a blazing start. I mean, it was literally the same day Reince Priebus stood up at the National Press Club to warn his party that they have to refrain from saying and doing addle-brained things that alienate Latinos that certain members of the party stepped forward and said and did addle-brained things that alienate Latinos. I refer to events surrounding Thomas Perez, which demonstrate amply that even if they endorse immigration reform, Republicans have many bridges to cross before they even begin to understand what they look like through black and brown people’s eyes.
U.S. President Barack Obama (L) speaks as Assistant Attorney General of Justice Department's civil rights division Thomas Perez (R) listens to his announcement to nominate Perez as the next labor secretary on March 18, 2013 at the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty)
It was Monday, the same day as the release of Priebus’s autopsy report, that Barack Obama officially nominated Perez to be the next Labor secretary. Immediately, Republican senators (all of them white, natch) jumped all over the guy. This in and of itself is about as dog-bites-man as it gets. Republican senators’ (successful) efforts to block and hold Obama nominees of all kinds have become so routine that Obama has in several cases not even tried to nominate people.
But what made this episode worth reflecting on was, of course, the context (of Priebus’s announcement), and what the senators said. Jeff Sessions of Alabama called Perez “the wrong man for the job” citing work Perez had done in Maryland in helping undocumented immigrants as part of a group called Casa de Maryland.
So reports TPM, and I can find no basis on which to disagree. Brian Beutler:
Once the sequestration deadline came and went, President Obama settled in for a long, glacial campaign to persuade individual Republicans to support the sort of deficit reduction he’s been pursuing for two years. But even if that effort ultimately works, it for all intents and purposes is unfolding on its own, delinked from the ongoing sequestration cuts, which were supposed to be the forcing mechanism that scared Republicans straight about the need to increase taxes.
Instead, sequestration will continue for at least as long as it takes lawmakers and Obama to reach a budget agreement — if such an agreement is possible...
...Republicans, by contrast, have become emboldened. On Tuesday, House Speaker John Boehner signaled that Republicans will not only set future appropriations at sequestration levels, but that they’d attempt to take even more money out of domestic programs and use it to increase national defense — the only category of spending they’ve attempted to shield from dramatic budget cuts.
Renee Montagne just did an interview with Richard Perle on NPR a bit ago. I wouldn't say it was the world's toughest interview. She put on that anguished-NPR voice. You know the one. It's reserved for interviews with certain categories of penitents, from ex-bigots who've seen the light to war criminals.
But she did haul some illuminating language out of him all the same. She asked one excellent question. He'd been banging on about all the intelligence agencies around the world that thought Saddam had chemical weapons. Then she asked, but as we now know, it turns out that he wasn't trying to deceive the United States into thinking he didn't have such weapons; instead he was trying to deceive local actors (Iran, Kurds) into thinking that he did have them. Isn't it rather a large error not to have seen that?
Perle acknowledged the point: "I am sorry to say I did not achieve that insight."
Achieve that insight! Oh well. That's how it goes. Win some lose some, what's the big deal?
I often these people do this kind of thing just to get under our skin. Here's Lindsey Graham, speaking on the 10th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, speaking to Foreign Policy magazine:
Graham told The Cable in an interview Tuesday that whether or not the attack can be confirmed as the first use of chemical weapons in the 24-month Syrian civil war, the United States must devise and implement a plan to secure Syrian chemical weapons sites and deploy U.S. troops to do it if necessary.
"My biggest fear beyond an Iranian nuclear weapons capability is the chemical weapons in Syria falling in the hands of extremists and Americans need to lead on this issue. We need to come up with a plan to secure these weapons sites, either in conjunction with our partners [or] if nothing else by ourselves," Graham said.
Asked if he would support sending U.S. troops inside Syria for the mission, Graham said yes.
1. There is no "problem" of voter fraud or integrity in this country. It's a canard--cover for trying to prevent black and brown people from voting. I hereby call on all Republicans involved in any voter suppression efforts to cease and desist immediately. Instead of trying to stop black and brown people from voting, we ought to be fighting for their votes.
2. The so-called 47 percent are hard-working people, some of the hardest working people in the country. I don't believe there is a so-called moocher class. I don't believe there are freeloaders. Republicans should stop thinking this way.
3. Gay love is the same as straight love. Gay people don't decide to be gay. They just are gay. And they love the same way straight people do. Whatever their positions on marriage, Republicans have to accept this.
4. Democrats and liberals aren't our enemy. They are our opponents, but they aren't our enemy. They love America as much as we do. We really have to ratchet down this rage.
Now this is depressing, from Politico:
...internal party polling shows that Republicans think there’s massive political upside to talking about balancing the budget. In fact, Republican leadership think it’s the winning argument as the party again starts battling with Democrats over the nation’s fiscal future.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), GOP leadership staff and Ryan himself were all briefed on the poll results, according to several GOP sources.
The poll showed that 45 percent of Democratic voters think “balancing … the federal budget would significantly increase economic growth and create millions of American jobs.” A sky-high 61 percent of independents and 76 percent of Republicans agree.
The Republican National Committee’s attempt at self-criticism doesn’t genuinely tackle any of the party’s biggest problems, says Michael Tomasky.
I’m going to shock you, perhaps, by saying that I don’t think the Republican National Committee’s “Growth and Opportunity Project” document is a complete joke. Three or four decent ideas have been somehow smuggled into its 100 pages, and the party would be well advised to follow them. But what’s more interesting to me are the things that are not in there. The difficult topics are nearly all avoided. Now it could be that the GOP’s great minds are taking up these questions behind closed doors, and if so bully for them. But I somehow doubt it because to take these tougher questions on is to take on the party’s most rabid base, and who’s going to do that? The process of Republican change is going be what we might call a two-thirds Hobbes: nasty, brutish, and long.
The American Conservative Union held its annual conference, the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), in the suburb of Washington, DC to rally conservatives and generate ideas, March 16, 2013 in National Harbor, Maryland. (Pete Marovich/Getty)
But first let me be a sport and tip my cap to the good ideas. I think fewer primary-season debates is a grand idea, chiefly because that means fewer that I’ll have to watch. By about the 15th one last time, I was trying to relax by shoving bamboo shoots under my fingernails.
Of course, the document doesn’t mention the real reason for this suggestion. What the RNC obviously wants to do here is limit middle America’s exposure to the party’s koo-koo-for-cocoa-puffs base. Remember the cheering for the death penalty, the booing of the gay soldier, the catcalls about immigrants? The party and its people were huge losers from all those debates and the attendant publicity. The less America sees of those people, the RNC figures, the better.
Gunnison old friend, what on earth do you mean by this comment:
Methinks Tomasky is increasingly calibrating his output more with an eye to his career prospects in the beltway punditocracy than to the truth. A pity, that.
Then pumpkinface, another old friend, has a go at me, but alas I've become well accustomed to her brickbats:
But that is exactly why I find Tomasky's work so fascinating. There are a lot of disengenuous potholes where substance evaporates beneath the surface of things. And if you don't use him as a primary source for anything relevant, you learn a lot indirectly. But, I admit, there is only so much about this insufferably surly and silly bubble that enthusiastically casts its political judgement on our world that I really want to know. Still, I think Tomasky does his best to try to be one of the good guys.
First, my own little Iraq war story. I was an opponent of the war but was mistaken by not a few folks as a supporter, which happened because I wrote an essay for a book edited by George Packer called The Fight Is For Democracy. When George asked me to contribute to the volume, it wasn't clear to me that he was pro-war. I would guess that in his own mind George wasn't yet pro-war at that point. We never really talked about it directly. I just assumed he was against.
But Paul Berman was in the volume, and we all knew where Paul stood. Also Kenan Makiya. But then there was Todd Gitlin, who was against, and Susie Linfield of New York University, whose position I don't know to this day but whom I assume to have been against. So there was no "line" in the book.
But my essay lead off the collection, and it was about how American liberals needed to stand "Between Chomsky and Cheney" (my rather felicitous title, if I may say it, although Chomsky sure didn't think so!) and not get sucked into a reflexive leftist anti-imperialist posture when it came to terrorism.
I intended this as an endorsement of the Afghanistan war, which I backed, but not Iran. Indeed as I recall it, the bulk of the essay was taken up with telling readers about PNAC (remember it?), the 1992 Defense Planning Guidance, and various other neocon lies. That was really the point of my essay: Liberals must not be reflexively against the use of American power in this post-9-11 world, but we also most definitely should not support its use when it is being sold to us through a series of obvious lies.
It’s nice that Ohio Sen. Rob Portman now backs same-sex marriage. But why, asks Michael Tomasky, does it always take a gay family member for conservatives to adopt the morally right position?
It’s delightful that Rob Portman now supports same-sex marriage. I don’t know how many conservatives or Republicans follow the lead of Ohio’s junior senator, but it’s a long march to equality, and every step helps. So good for him. But even so, I couldn’t help wondering: what if his son weren’t gay? Were that the case, we have no reason whatsoever to believe Portman would have taken this step. And this brings us to a difference, for my money the single most important difference, between liberals and conservatives: in general, conservatives have no social empathy. It shouldn’t take filial love and loyalty to bring a person to a position that he should reach via a simple combination of compassion and principle.
File photo: Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, August 29, 2012. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Getty)
What makes a person a liberal? Lots of things, but fundamentally, it’s the ability to think beyond self-interest—to examine an issue through other people’s eyes, and to imagine such a thing as the common interest or common good. The obvious example from American history is civil rights. For your average Northern white person in 1963, it wasn’t so difficult to identify with the interests of the Southern black person. Millions of white Americans were thus “liberals” at that point in time, at least with regard to that issue. Whites were able to see the issue through black eyes, in a sense; most even saw that their own self-interest as Americans was bound up in Southern blacks’ self-interest. That meeting place of self-interest and another’s interest is exactly where the common good lives.
That was an easy case, in a way, because Northern whites didn’t have to give anything up to embrace the enfranchisement of Southern blacks. There are harder cases, cases involving questions of taxation and spending, where liberals still think beyond self-interest. This is how I’d define social empathy—the ability to put the interests of those less fortunate ahead of your own. Conservative readers are rolling their eyes, but millions of Americans take this position and live their lives in this fashion. Anyone who makes, say, a six-figure income but votes Democratic is on some level voting against her own self-interest, at least in economic terms. The Republicans are the party that is far, far more likely to look after your interests if you make $100,000 or more (although history shows also that Republicans tend to be the ones who create financial crashes and meltdowns and Democrats tend to be the ones who fix them, but that’s a different column). And yet, many millions of such Americans vote Democratic. They are willing to sacrifice some self-interest for the sake of others’ interests and of what they perceive to be the common interest.
It seems worth reiterating this morning that there is no basis on which Obama can make a deal with Republicans. Greg Sargent took note of a vote in the Senate yesterday that was telling. This was on an amendment designed to ensure that corporations could not use loopholes to avoid entirely the payment of income taxes. Note that word "entirely."
Every Republican on the Budget Committee voted no. Sargent:
Republicans have argued in the past that corporations have a responsibility to their shareholders to reduce the amount they pay in taxes as much as possible within the law. But what this vote shows is that Republicans prioritize this corporate imperative over deficit reduction, even in the cases of corporations that pay no taxes at all. This really doesn’t bode well for the chances that Republicans may agree to new revenues, does it?
When Republicans say Obama needs to show "leadership," what they mean is that he ought to just embrace the Ryan budget. They really won't accept anything else. Oh, they might accept $4.4 trillion in cuts over 10 years instead of Ryan's $4.65 trillion, but that's about all the compromise they're up for. We need to remind ourselves of this fact on a regular basis and say it often. There is nothing Obama can do to please them except drop entirely his demand for revenue, which would be indefensible on political and policy grounds.
Apparently Rubio knocked 'em dead yesterday at CPAC, and they particularly ate up these lines:
Now in order to work together with people that you disagree with, there has to be mutual respect. That means I respect people that disagree with me on certain things, but they have to respect me too.
Just because I believe that states should have the right to define marriage in a traditional way does not make me a bigot. Just because we believe life, all life — all human life is worthy of protection at every stage in its development does not make you a chauvinist.
All right. I know it sounds intolerant to dismiss every American who agrees with Rubio as a bigot. But look at this from the other side.
So I kept thinking as I watched Ed Schultz’s interview last night with Scott Prouty—as we now know, the man who made and leaked the 47 percent video—I kept trying to check my impulses by asking myself: Now, suppose this were Fox, and suppose Scott Prouty had secretly taped Barack Obama saying that corporate leaders were heartless mercenaries who cared nothing about their employees or America, and suppose that that had helped cost Obama the election. What would I be thinking about him?
I admit easily and breezily that I would have disliked him and would have spent the hour probing for weaknesses and points of possible attack. That’s how it goes in this business.
However, I also say this: I don’t think I would have found many. Prouty was intelligent, judicious, and thoughtful. He seemed completely sincere (I say seemed since I don’t know the man). He knew exactly what he was doing. Weaknesses were few to nonexistent.
Let me put it this way. In my post yesterday, I fretted about the onslaught he was about to experience from the right. But as I Google his name this morning, I see nothing from the right-wing media. If you’ve ever done such a search on a topic that the right-wing press has jumped on, you know that the first page and sometimes the first two pages return you nothing but conservative media. So they aren’t piling on the guy, so far at least. Long experience teaches me: When they go dark is when they know they can’t win.
The annual conservative gathering is always bad, says Michael Tomasky, but this year’s choices of main speakers seem designed to alienate as many Americans as possible.
So March Madness begins today. The basketball tournament? Bah. I mean CPAC. The conference just gets lamer and somehow more bizarre every year, this allegedly marquee gathering of the nation’s conservatives; and this year, with the longest speaking slots going to an irrelevant has-been and America’s most obnoxious man, the trajectory is downward on a scale so operatic and yet so pulverizingly tedious that I have difficulty comprehending it. Can these people really believe they are accomplishing something? On rereading that sentence, I partially take it back. They are accomplishing something, all right: showing America that they are mad as hatters and thereby helping to ensure the election of more Democrats.
Sarah Palin delivers the keynote address to activists from America’s political right at the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2012. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
I love, first of all, the irony of this year’s venue. Did I say irony? It occurs that there are more than one. The National Harbor in Prince George’s County is, in certain respects, an attractive enough place; any development sitting right on a river as broad as the Potomac is at that point (more than a mile) would have to be. But it’s an ersatz community built to resemble a real one, in certain ways not unlike the gusher of AstroTurf groups we’ve seen cashing those Koch brothers checks in recent years.
Then of course there is the fact that P.G. County has among the highest percentages of African-Americans of any county in the United States and is also home to one of the country’s largest black, middle-class populations. This reality has delivered the electoral impact you’d expect and then some. Of Maryland’s 24 voting jurisdictions—23 counties plus Baltimore City (Baltimore City and Baltimore County are two different entities)—P.G. County gave Obama his highest support level in the state, at 90 percent, higher even than Baltimore City.
I was supposed to be on tonight, but I got bumped to Friday--for what I admit is a very good reason. Tonight, my friend Ed has the first exclusive interview with the man who had the 47 percent tape and gave it to David Corn. I will certainly be watching and I think you should too.
The guy, who hasn't revealed his name but will do so tonight, has been giving some interviews to HuffPo and to Schultz's team for some period of time now. Apparently it was after he saw Romney in his Fox News interview earlier this month that he decided to blazes with this jerk, I'm going public.
The funny thing is that as HuffPo's Ryan Grim and Jason Cherkis relay the story today, it was Bill Clinton who played a key role here:
Clinton, it turns out, inspired the man who filmed Mitt Romney's infamous and game-changing 47 percent comments.
Don't have an hour to watch President Obama pontificate on the future of national security? No worries! Watch the key moments from his speech in less than 250 seconds.
What’s so bad about the IRS investigating nonprofit applications?