The Next Republican Target: AARP

A normal political party expects that outside groups might be on their side on some issues and on the opposing side on other issues. For example, Democrats were willing to work with the AARP on health care reform despite being on opposing sides on the Medicare D plan. However, authoritarian groups such as the Republican Party do not play by the usual rules by which political parties operate in a democracy. For Republicans, to oppose their wishes on one issue brings the risk of retaliation. To cross the Republicans is like crossing Tony Soprano. The latest target of the Republicans is the AARP for their support of health care reform. Roll Call reports:

Republicans have launched an assault on AARP, which joins a growing list of groups supportive of the Democrats’ agenda that are being targeted by conservatives.

House Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday released a report that accuses the influential senior citizens organization of having a conflict of interest because it will financially benefit from the health care overhaul that the group heavily lobbied for last year. AARP collects royalties from endorsing health insurance policies and other products…

A GOP lobbyist suggested that the report is part of a pattern of House Republicans going after groups that worked against them on key legislation when they were out of power.

“There is certainly a sense of getting back at some of those groups that supported” health care reform, said Chris Lamond, a Republican lobbyist with Thorn Run Partners. “It is a little bit like, ‘We are in charge of the House side, we are going to hold their feet to the fire.’”

AARP officials disputed the Republicans’ contention that AARP’s policy decisions are driven by business interests.

“We are not an insurance company,” President Lee Hammond said. He noted that the 37-million-member group has opposed legislation supported by the insurance industry. Hammond also said the group had been in regular discussions with the IRS, which had not expressed any problem with the group’s tax-exempt status.

Attacking seniors could be politically risky for Republicans as elderly whites are often their strongest supporters. On the other hand, recent polls are showing an increase in support for Obama among the young.

The Birth Of A Time Lord

A baby Time Lord was born yesterday. Olivia is the daughter of David Tennant (the tenth Doctor) and Georgia Moffett (who played The Doctor’s Daughter in a 2008 episode of Doctor Who and is the daughter of Peter Davison, the fifth Doctor).

Quote of the Day

As an Aprl Fool’s prank, Fox News is planning to report that Obama was born in the USA. –Andy Borowitz

Quote of the Day

“President Obama gave a speech about Libya last night. The title of the speech? “No, I Wasn’t Born There.” –Conan O’Brien

Support For Tea Party Falls To New Lows

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows that support for the Tea Party has fallen to new levels, most likely as more people now actually know what the Tea Party is. Support is down to 32 percent, which is the level of support in this country which unpopular Republicans are often able to achieve. According to the poll:

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Wednesday indicates that 32 percent of the public has a favorable view of the two year old anti-tax movement, which also calls for less government spending and a more limited role for the federal government in our lives. The 32 percent favorable rating is down five points from December.

Forty-seven percent of people questioned say they have an unfavorable view of the tea party, up four points from December and an increase of 21 points from January 2010. That 47 percent is virtually identical to the 48 percent unfavorable ratings for both the Democratic party and the Republican party in the same poll.

“This is the first time that a CNN poll has shown the tea party’s unfavorable ratings as high as those of the two major parties,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “It looks like the rise in the movement’s unfavorable rating has come mostly among people who make less than $50,000.”

Perhaps this means that more people are realizing that the Tea Party is simply the latest name for the far right wing base of the Republican Party. This drop in support among those who make less than $50,000 would represent a decline in the ability of Republicans to get people to vote against their interests. Of course anyone other than a multi-millionaire who has no concern for morality or the future of the planet is voting against their interests if they support the extremists now dominating the GOP.

The Tea Party was responsible for the Republicans losing some seats in 2010 due to nominating extremists in more moderate states, but nation-wide it was probably of benefit to the GOP. The Tea Party helped generate more enthusiasm for the party, which at least meant higher turn out. It might have also meant more campaign contributions and volunteers. The Tea Party also helped the Republicans as the new name misled many voters into thinking there was a third choice. Some who might have never voted for the old Republican Party which is responsible for so many of our problems, and who wanted to vote against the party in power at the time, saw the Tea Party as an alternative. That is far less likely to be believed in 2012.

Quote of the Day

“House Speaker John Boehner says President Obama should have clearly outlined his exact plans before bombing Libya. Apparently it’s only Iraq where you don’t have to do that.” –Jay Leno

Fox Exec Admits They Made Up All That Stuff About Obama And Health Care Reform

While the previous post points out how friendly to business Barack Obama has been, the right wing has concentrated on portraying a centrist such as Obama as a socialist. Of course that was primarily a matter of strategy, as the extremists dominating the Republican Party saw a better chance for success by trying to convince voters that it was actually Obama who was the extremist, regardless of how ridiculous that argument is. Many making that argument realized it was absurd. Bill Sammon, who led the way for the Republican’s media outlet (Fox) to make this claim, has even admitted that it was untrue. Howard Kurtz wrote:

In the final stretch of the 2008 campaign, a Fox News executive repeatedly questioned on the air whether Barack Obama believed in socialism.

Now it turns out he didn’t really believe what he was saying.

Bill Sammon, now the network’s vice president and Washington managing editor, acknowledged the following year that he was just engaging in “mischievous speculation” in raising the charge. In fact, Sammon said he “privately” believed that the socialism allegation was “rather far-fetched.”

These remarks, unearthed by the liberal advocacy group Media Matters, raise the question of whether Sammon, who oversees Washington news coverage for Fox News, was deliberately trying to sabotage the Democratic presidential candidate. He has come under fire before for memos he sent to the network’s staff that have seemed less than fair and balanced.

Sammon’s admission came on a 2009 Mediterranean cruise—cabin rates ranged as high as $37,600 per couple—sponsored by conservative Hillsdale College.

Kurtz went on to discuss how Sammon had Fox distort the news in covering the health care reform debate along with distorting Obama’s economic views.

Evolving Meanings of Left vs. Right

Andrew Sullivan is having a label-crisis. He appears to be troubled by the fact that his views are not the views held by most people who now identify themselves as conservatives:

I suffer, it seems, from an affliction that bedevils many. I now find myself largely opposed to most Republicans and in favor of a Democratic president as an even tempered pragmatist. But I have not reimagined myself as a leftist. Others have, of course, but I wince a little every time. Take the issue of taxes – and you see where the right-left paradigm is totally insufficient to the occasion.

Income tax rates are now lower than they were under Ronald Reagan and far lower than they were under Eisenhower. And yet it has become a Norquistian non-negotiable that no taxes can be raised at all on anyone, let alone the beneficiaries of the last thirty years – and those who differ must be “leftists” – even when the US is facing debt of historic and dangerous proportions. Someone advocating what Eisenhower was perfectly comfortable with would be regarded by the Republican right today as a communist. And yet, of course, Eisenhower was emphatically not a Communist, whatever the John Birch society believed. In retrospect, he might even be seen as the most successful small-c conservative of the 20th century. (This was indeed Paul Johnson’s take in Modern Times.)

Similarly, those who view Obama as some kind of radical have to come to terms with what Glenn Greenwald spells out here:

Since Obama was inaugurated, the Dow Jones has increased more than 50% — from 8,000 to more than 12,000; the wealthiest recieved a massive tax cut; the top marginal tax rate was three times less than during the Eisenhower years and substantially lower than during the Reagan years; income and wealth inequality are so vast and rising that it is easily at Third World levels; meanwhile, “the share of U.S. taxes paid by corporations has fallen from 30 percent of federal revenue in the 1950s to 6.6 percent in 2009.”

Conservatism cannot be defined as whatever is the most extreme right-wing narrative of the moment. Time matters. Conservatism needs to be flexible enough a governing philosophy to be able to correct for conservative ideology itself. When such an ideology threatens fiscal balance, a prudent foreign policy, and a thriving middle class, it has become the enemy of real conservatism, not its friend.

The problem is that the conservative movement has been taken over by the extreme right-wing. For the rational Republicans of previous decades, Barack Obama is far closer to their views than the current Republican Party is. Even Barry Goldwater in his later years rejected the religious right and considered himself a liberal.

I’m not going to bother arguing over labels, considering how imprecise they are. If Andrew Sullivan wants to call himself a conservative, but one with views far different from the extremists dominating the conservative movement, that’s his business.

Personally I am far more willing than Sullivan to face reality and grant the extreme right wing victory in taking control of the conservative movement. These days, basically if you are not bat-shit crazy, you are not part of that conservative movement.From my perspective, that currently does make one a leftist, but I certainly am not going to try to force Sullivan to re-imagine himself as one.

The reality is that the meaning of left and right have changed tremendously over the years. There is no longer a battle between capitalism and socialism. The truth is that today the Democrats and the center-left are the supporters of capitalism in the United States. Despite their rhetoric, most on the right do not. The right now supports a system of plutocracy which has been corrupting our free market system.

Today’s conservatives certainly are not fiscally conservative in the traditional sense. While far from perfect, the Democrats have a far better record on the Republicans with regards to the deficit and fiscal responsibility. Bush and Reagan were the biggest backers of big government and were the ones responsible for deficits.

Factors other than economics have become more important in distinguishing between liberals and conservatives. The biggest division came during the Bush years as liberalism came to primarily mean opposition to the neoconservative foreign policy (including the Iraq war) and opposition to the increasing dominance of the religious right in the GOP. In past years Republicans would support the religious right by with their rhetoric. Once in office they would throw them a few small bones, and then laugh them off as the kooks of the party. Under Bush, the kooks took control and social issues increasingly defined left vs. right.

At present I would consider these factors to be the most important characteristics of liberalism compared to conservatism:

  1. Support for individual liberty
  2. Support for a market economy, including the regulations necessary for markets to work fairly and efficiently, as opposed to being corrupted to be used to transfer wealth to the ultra-wealthy
  3. Support for science and reason in interpreting the world and making policy decisions

Some on the left hold economic views which old time conservatives would not be comfortable with, but quite a few do not.

Quote of the Day

“Michele Bachmann says she will launch her Presidential campaign in either Massachusetts or New Hampshire as soon as she figures out which is which. There could be some eligibility problems for her. She has her birth certificate, but nobody can produce her high school diploma.” –Jay Leno

Conservatives Spread Their Delusions About Barack Obama While Donald Trump Fails To Prove He Is A Citizen

We have often noticed that many conservatives live in a parallel universe, where misinformation is rampant and the usual laws of logic do not apply. Conservatives who don’t believe a black man such as Barack Obama could have possible written two books by himself, and who love to portray a moderate such as Obama as some sort of radical, have devised a conspiracy theory claiming that Bill Ayers actually wrote Dreams From My Father.

Ayers has been having fun making fun of this conspiracy theory as he has often, in a clearly joking manner, claimed credit for the book. Jack Cashill has clear difficulties understanding this humor as he uses a recent statement from Ayers as actual evidence of his conspiracy theory. It was just Ayers’ standard line: “Oh yeah, I wrote the book — and if you can help me prove that, I’ll split the royalties with you.” Quite obviously a joke at the expense of those who spread the ridiculous claim that Ayers, who barely knew Obama, had written the book which made Obama wealthy.

This story was also picked up by several conservative blogs.Conservatives also have trouble with the idea that a black man with a funny name could have  been born in the United States, and Cashill also repeated the Birther nonsense.  Making matters worse, Cashill  saw some actual meaning in Donald Trump challenging Obama’s citizenship. Barack Obama has already released a legally valid Certification of Live Birth (above) which the state of Hawaii has verified is legitimate and proof of his birth there. Apparently conservatives prefer a Certificate to a Certification. Donald Trump presented a Certificate of Birth but it turns out that the paper is not legitimate. After reporting that the birth certificate presented by Donald Trump is not legally valid evidence of citizenship, Ben Smith showed he can mess with the minds of Republicans just like Bill Ayers can. He concluded:

Trump’s mother, it should be noted, was born in Scotland, which is not part of the United States. His plane is registered in the Bahamas, also a foreign country. This fact pattern — along with the wave of new questions surrounding what he claims is a birth certificate — raises serious doubts about his eligibility to serve as President of the United States.

Update: Donald Trump got the correct birth certificate the following day.