Peter Beinart Says It All: Hillary does learn from her mistakes. But only after the damage is done.

Bush Clinton

Peter Beinart has an article on A Unified Theory of Hillary in today’s issue of National Journal.The entire article is worth reading but one line really sums up the article and my overall opinion of Hillary Clinton: “Hillary does learn from her mistakes. But only after the damage is done.” He also pointed out how her tunnel vision “might produce a presidency more stylistically akin to that of George W. Bush.”

Beinart does have also have some praise for Hillary Clinton as being tough-minded, and does feel she might have a better chance of dealing with Congress than other recent Democratic presidents. Looking back to the  years when Bill was in the White House, and even earlier, he had this to say:

From their days in Arkansas, Hillary took the lead in combating the scandalmongers who threatened Bill’s career. Her default position was single-minded and relentless. She repeatedly urged her husband’s advisers to meet attacks on Bill’s character by going after the character of his opponents. (According to Bernstein, in 1992 she urged the campaign to fan rumors about George H.W. Bush’s infidelity.) It was Hillary who called in Dick Morris when Bill was losing his bid for reelection as governor in 1980, and who became Morris’s point of contact when the Clintons entered the White House. According to Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta Jr.’s biography Her Way, when a liberal Arkansas staffer objected to Morris’s presence, Hillary responded, “If you want to be in this kind of business, this is the kind of person you have to deal with.”

Tough-minded, but also showing the lack of principle she is known for.

Clinton has a history of making big mistakes on the big issues, such as her handling of health care reform:

Hillary’s failure to see that her model, which she had developed in Arkansas, was not working and needed to be altered midstream. As in Arkansas, Hillary—now aided by Magaziner—kept tight control of the process. At task force meetings, Bernstein notes, participants were forbidden from copying draft documents or, in many cases, even taking notes. The secrecy alienated not only members of Congress, health care activists, and the press, but key figures in the Clinton administration as well. Hillary and Magaziner both knew a great deal about health care policy. But neither knew as much about health care politics as Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen, Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, or Office of Management and Budget Director Leon Panetta. Yet because of the task force’s secrecy, and because they feared directly confronting the president’s wife, Bentsen, Panetta, Shalala, and others in the administration often felt marginalized. As Haynes Johnson and David Broder document in The System—their indispensable book on the health care battle—Clinton officials angered by their lack of influence repeatedly leaked damaging information to a press corps angered by its lack of access.

Her biggest mistake was in getting her husband to agree to promise to veto anything other than what Hillary wanted, despite the fact that the Republican counter-proposal was extremely similar to the Affordable Care Act passed under Barack Obama, and would have served as a point to negotiate from at the time rather than having to wait until just recently to achieve health care reform. Some Clinton staffers recommended considering more modest proposals from moderate Democrats when it became clear that her entire package could not pass in Congress.

But Hillary resisted switching course, and she and Magaziner won the day. In his State of the Union address the following January—at Hillary’s urging and over Gergen’s opposition—Bill pledged to veto any health care bill that did not provide universal health coverage, even though key figures in his own party already believed that was the only kind of health care bill Congress would pass.

Hillary proceeded to move to the right to counter the false impression spread by the right that she was a left-wing radical.

IF HILLARY’S FAILURE to improvise contributed to the demise of health care reform, it also contributed to her greatest foreign policy blunder—her support for the Iraq War—and her subsequent loss to Barack Obama in 2008.

As with health care reform, Hillary’s transition from first lady to elected official relied on a clear plan, a key component of which was: Disprove the caricature of herself as a left-wing radical (an effort made easier by the fact that the caricature had never been remotely true). In her New York Senate race, Tomasky notes, Hillary ran to Rudy Giuliani’s right on abortion: She supported parental-notification laws; he did not. In the Senate, she cosponsored legislation with former impeachment champion Sam Brownback to study the effects of mass media on children and hired a staffer to reach out to abortion foes.

Clinton has also come under criticism recently for not supporting marriage equality until 2013, long after this became the politically safe position to take. She has most recently received unfavorable criticism for her handling of an interview with Terry Gross on this subject.

For the right to call Hillary Clinton a left-wing radical is even more absurd than their current claims that Barack Obama is a socialist. How would they respond if an actual leftist were to become president?

Beinart went on to describe how, after 9/11, Clinton joined Joe Lieberman on the far right of the Democratic Party, going as far as to claim 9/11 as justification for the war in Iraq and failing to recognize her mistake until virtually everyone else had abandoned her original view:

Almost as soon as the twin towers fell, Hillary began staking out positions on the right edge of her party. On Sept. 12, from the floor of the Senate, she warned—in language similar to George W. Bush’s—that regimes that “in any way aid or comfort [terrorists] whatsoever will now face the wrath of our country.” As Gerth and Van Natta detailed, Hillary did not just vote to authorize war with Iraq—something most other nationally ambitious Democrats did as well—she justified her vote by citing Saddam Hussein’s ties to al-Qaida, a claim echoed by only one other Senate Democrat, Joe Lieberman.

Even once it became clear that governing postwar Iraq would be far harder than the Bush administration had predicted, Hillary gave little ground. In a December 2003 speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, she called her Iraq decision “the right vote” and insisted that “failure is not an option.” As late as February 2005, when Iraq was already in civil war, she drew attention to the “many parts of Iraq that are functioning quite well” and warned that it “would be a mistake” to set a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops.

In bucking her party’s liberal base, Hillary almost certainly believed she was doing the right thing. She was “cursed,” she declared, when explaining her refusal to join John Edwards’s 2007 call for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops, “with the responsibility gene.” Hillary’s intellectual failure lay in her inability to recognize that the definition of “responsibility” she had developed during the 1990s, with its emphasis on American freedom of action and the utility of military force, was being abused and misapplied in Iraq. Her political failure lay in her inability to see how dramatically the center of gravity in her party was shifting away from her point of view.

As the situation in Iraq went south, liberal activists—enraged at the Democratic Party’s ideologically hawkish, politically submissive leaders—launched an intraparty rebellion. The first sign came in 2003, when blogs like Daily Kos and activist groups like MoveOn.org powered Howard Dean’s stunning insurgency against a field of Washington Democrats who had backed the war. Yet during that period, Hillary and her top advisers were remarkably slow to recognize that the ground was shifting underneath their feet, and that the centrist strategy they had laid out at the beginning of her Senate career was now dangerously outdated.

Clinton’s failure to recognize how the Democratic party was changing could be seen in her choice of Mark Penn to be chief strategist for her campaign: “Hillary put her fate in the hands of a consultant who not only discounted their influence but loathed them.” Her presidential campaign only reinforced suspicion of her among many liberals:

But while she may have had no good way to discuss her Iraq vote, Hillary could have at least signaled to angry liberals that she would act differently on Iran. Instead, she picked a fight over Obama’s willingness to meet Tehran’s leaders without preconditions, a fight that to many liberals confirmed that Obama would change Bush foreign policy while Hillary represented more of the same.

More broadly, Hillary’s campaign failed to adequately recognize that her Iraq vote had convinced many liberals that she lacked the courage of her convictions. As an actress playing Hillary quipped on Saturday Night Live in January 2007, “I think most Democrats know me. They understand that my support for the war was always insincere.” In that environment, Hillary’s unwillingness to embrace controversial liberal causes for fear that they’d be used against her in the general election became a character issue. Arguably, the key moment in Hillary’s demise came at a Drexel University debate on Oct. 30, when she refused to forthrightly endorse New York state’s plan to issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants and was slammed by her opponents and the press for trying to have it both ways. Eleven days later, in perhaps his most important speech of the primary campaign, Obama wowed a Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner in Iowa, declaring that “not answering questions because we are afraid our answers won’t be popular just won’t do.” At a time when Democratic primary voters were hungry for authenticity and backbone, Penn’s efforts to inoculate Hillary against right-wing attack convinced many liberals that she lacked both.

Beinart concluded (emphasis mine):

NONE OF THIS is to suggest that Hillary would be an ineffective president—only that her successes and failures would look different from Bill Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s. Bill’s failures often owed to indiscipline. Obama’s have stemmed in part from aloofness. If past is prologue, Hillary’s would stem in significant measure from unwillingness to change course. Hillary does learn from her mistakes. But only after the damage is done.

Her successes as president, on the other hand, would likely result from the kind of hands-on, methodical, unyielding drive that both Bill Clinton and Obama struggled to sustain. In her wonkishness and her moderate liberalism, Hillary has much in common with Obama and her husband. But her “tunnel vision”—in the words of a close friend quoted in Sally Bedell Smith’s For Love of Politicsmight produce a presidency more stylistically akin to that of George W. Bush. For years now, Democrats have yearned for a leader who champions their causes with the same single-minded, supremely confident, unwavering intensity that they believe Republican leaders bring to theirs. For better and worse, they may soon get their wish.

For better and worse. While undoubtedly far better than a presidency in the hands of any imaginable Republican opponent at present, I also feel that Democrats who are now so willing to hand her the nomination will also see the worse aspects.

Other controversies also surround Clinton at present. Matthew Contenetti has raised criticism this week of Clinton’s early defense of child rapist. See Doug Mataconis and Steve M for responses.

Even a simple question from The New York Times Book Review has created controversy as it reinforced views of Clinton as being calculating and dishonest:

If you had to name one book that made you who you are today, what would it be?

At the risk of appearing predictable, the Bible was and remains the biggest influence on my thinking. I was raised reading it, memorizing passages from it and being guided by it. I still find it a source of wisdom, comfort and encouragement.

Gawker’s reaction was that, “Some people like Hillary Clinton. Other people dislike Hillary Clinton. However you feel about Hillary Clinton, it is difficult to deny that she is one of the most cold and calculating political figures in all the land.” This led to a link to a 2013 article on Clinton’s Cowardice As a Political Philosophy, which looked at her views on Iraq and gay marriage.

The Daily Banter responded:

But does Clinton calling the Bible her most influential book tantamount to a political calculation?

Yes it does.

It would be one thing if Clinton meant that the Bible has been the most influential on her because it’s had a profound impact on the course of human history for more than 2,000 years. However, she wasn’t talking about the book’s cultural and political impact, but rather the influence it’s had on her personally as a reader of it.

Because if the book with the biggest influence on Hillary Clinton were truly the Bible, she would never have gotten to where she is. The Bible, however beloved it may be, is not a book conducive to thinking. Rather, the Bible deals in revealed wisdom written by men of antiquity who probably knew less about the natural world than a contemporary American fifth grader. Without question there are passages in the Bible that may very well have given her a modicum of wisdom, comfort, and encouragement, but for every such excerpt there is one or more that couldn’t be more disturbing and anathema to what we today call common decency.

There is no time to air all the dirty laundry of the Bible here. Besides, most Americans are familiar with its horrors, yet many seem to accept it as a sort of general guide on how to live by focusing on passages they find agreeable while discarding the rest.

The “rest” would include the multiple instances of mass killing in the Old Testament, including the great flood started by god that wiped out nearly all of humanity. Homosexuals, witches, and Sabbath-breakers are ordered killed. The Ten Commandments say that one must only worship Yahweh, who judges people merely for what they think. Interestingly enough, rape is not mentioned in the commandments.

In the New Testament, we come to learn that those who do not accept that Jesus was brutally tortured and killed for their sins will suffer in hell in anguish for all eternity simply for not believing. This is founding principle of Christianity.

And yet this is the text that Hillary Clinton — a Yale Law School-educated former U.S. Senator and Secretary of State — says is the book that’s had the biggest impact on her life.

You can believe it if you like. And if you do, there’s a bridge near me I’d like to sell you.

While hardly the biggest campaign issue, this also underscores Hillary Clinton’s lack of self-awareness, failing to understand how a dishonest and calculating answer such as this does nothing to appease the right while reinforcing reservations about her from the left.

House Votes To Place Limits on Backdoor Searches; Obama Administration Seeks Reauthorization Of NSA Surveillance

Thanks to the revelations in the material on surveillance released by Edward Snowden, the United States is  now taking baby steps towards reforming the system. Late in the week the House did vote to limit “backdoor searches.” The amendment received bipartisan support, showing how opposition to excessive NSA surveillance is an issue which does not fall under usual partisan lines. More Democrats than Republicans did vote in favor, Democrats voting it 158 to 29, with Republicans voting it 135 to 94 in favor.

Vox explained the significance:

What’s a backdoor search?

In 2008, Congress passed the FISA Amendments Act (FAA), which expanded the government’s warrantless surveillance powers.

Ordinarily, the Fourth Amendment requires an individualized warrant before the government can engage in surveillance on American soil. But the FAA created an alternative process where a judge can authorize entire surveillance programs without necessarily knowing which specific people will be surveillance targets. The PRISM program, which the NSA uses to obtain private information from companies such as Google and Facebook, was authorized under this provision of the FAA.

The George W. Bush administration argued that it needed this new power to spy on terrorists whose communications passed through the United States. The FAA included a provision barring the government from using the surveillance facilities to “target” Americans. The problem, civil liberties groups argue, is that “targeting” is defined in a way that doesn’t actually protect Americans. There are ways for the NSA to effectively spy on Americans without technically “targeting” them.

One example is what’s known as a backdoor search. In this technique, the NSA engages in wide surveillance of communications that involve both Americans and foreigners. So long as the foreigners are the official “target,” this is permitted under the FAA. The NSA sometimes stores the information it has collected in a giant database. And the agency has taken the position that it can search this database for information about Americans without running afoul of the no-targeting-Americans rule.

What does the amendment do?

Congress is considering a bill to fund the military for the 2015 fiscal year, and that includes funding for the National Security Agency. The amendment offered by Sensenbrenner and his colleagues and Lofgren prohibits the NSA from using any funds provided in the bill to “query a collection of foreign intelligence information” acquired under the FAA “using a United States person identifier.

In other words, it would ban the use of federal funds to conduct backdoor searches. In practice, that would make it illegal for the NSA to engage in backdoor searches during the 2015 fiscal year.

The legislation does allow such searches in cases where another court order has authorized surveillance of the American being targeted.

The legislation also effectively bars the NSA or the Central Intelligence Agency from forcing device manufacturers to install technical “backdoors” in their products.

Is that a big deal?

By itself, the amendment falls short of the kind of sweeping NSA reforms some civil liberties groups support. But the vote represents the first time a house of Congress has voted to curtail the controversial practices revealed by Ed Snowden last year. It will give NSA critics renewed political momentum and may force President Obama to make further concessions to critics of the NSA.

In August, Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) offered an amendment to last year’s defense funding bill that would have shut down a different NSA program: the collection of Americans’ phone records. That vote failed in a razor-thin 205 to 217 vote. The surprising closeness of the vote was widely interpreted as a sign of congressional anger over the NSA’s actions.

Julian Sanchez, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, argues that the vote is a rebuke to the House Permanent Select Intelligence Committee. That body is supposed to serve as a watchdog over NSA surveillance, but in recent years it has more often acted as a defender of NSA policies. The vote, Sanchez says, “demonstrates pretty dramatically that the gatekeepers in the Intelligence Committee are out of synch with the sentiment of the broader House.”

Sanchez also notes that similar language was stripped from the USA FREEDOM Act, legislation intended to rein in the NSA that wound up being substantially weakened during the legislative process.

Spencer Ackerman wrote more on why this is important  at The Guardian.

Meanwhile, TechDirt reports: a  group of Senators, Mark Udall, Ron Wyden and Martin Heinrich, sent President Obama a letter reminding him that he can live up to his promise to end bulk phone record collection today by simply having the DOJ not seek to renew the court order from the FISA Court getting the phone operators to hand over that data.

We welcome your proposal, announced on March 27, 2014, to end the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act. We believe as you do that the government can protect national security by collecting the phone records of individuals connected to terrorism, instead of collecting the records of millions of law-abiding Americans. We also believe that you have the authority to implement your proposal now, rather than continuing to reauthorize the existing bulk collection program in 90-day increments.

James Clapper’s office issued a statement that “the government has sought a 90-day reauthorization of the existing program, as modified by the changes the President announced earlier this year.”

TechDirt responded:

Wait. Given what importance of maintaining the capabilities? So far, every analysis of the program has shown that it wasn’t important at all. How could anyone in the administration still claim with a straight face that the Section 215 bulk phone records collection is “important” when everyone who’s seen the evidence agrees that the program has been next to useless in stopping terrorism.

I imagine we will be returning to this in another ninety days to see if there is truly further progress in reforming the surveillance process from the Obama administration. Hopefully by then Congress also passes legislation containing the amendment preventing backdoor searches.

Quote of the Day: Conan on Benghazi

“This morning the Pentagon announced that the United States has captured a leader responsible for the Benghazi attacks. Republicans were ecstatic and said, ‘So, they finally got Hillary?'” –Conan O’Brien

Survey: Most Buying On Insurance Exchanges Weren’t Previously Covered

Reprinted with permission from Kaiser Health News

Nearly six in 10 Americans who bought insurance for this year through the health law’s online marketplaces were previously uninsured—most for at least two years, according to a new survey that looks at the experiences of those most affected by the law.

That finding is higher than some earlier estimates, and counters arguments made by critics of the law that most of those who purchased the new policies were previously insured.

The survey also found that consumers who purchase their own coverage because they can’t get it at work are more likely to have a favorable view of the Affordable Care Act than the general public. Still, they are nearly evenly divided, with 47 percent holding a favorable view of the law and 43 percent an unfavorable one, according to the survey by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)

That compares with 46 percent of adults nationally who are sour on the law, and 38 percent who hold favorable views.

Consumers who received a government subsidy to help them purchase a plan were most likely to say they benefited from the law, according to the Kaiser survey. Those most likely to say they were negatively affected were those who had prior coverage but had to switch because their plans were discontinued for not meeting the law’s standards or for other reasons.

The report is likely to provide fodder for all sides in the debate about the law’s effect on health care costs and reducing the number of uninsured, which remains sharply partisan.

The findings suggest the new market for those who buy their own insurance “is working far better than critics say it is, but probably not as well as advocates hoped it would be,” said Drew Altman, president and CEO of the nonpartisan foundation.

Aside from data about premium costs, there has been little information so far about the experiences and perceptions of those who buy their own coverage. Are they healthier or sicker than those who get coverage through their jobs? Did people who lose their former coverage end up paying more or less for new plans? Do they like their coverage?

The Kaiser survey provides additional details based on a telephone survey of a nationally representative sample of 742 adults who purchased their own coverage. Many of the health law’s provisions were aimed at them, from the subsidies to help low- and middle-income residents buy coverage, to rules barring insurers from rejecting people with medical conditions, or charging women more than men.

The report shows sharp contrasts between those who say the law benefited them and their families and those who felt it hurt them:

— 34 percent of enrollees say they have benefited from the law, often citing lower costs or better access to care, while 29 percent said they were negatively affected, generally as a result of increased costs.

— 71 percent of those who enrolled in a plan that took effect after Jan. 1 rate their coverage as excellent or good, with 55 percent saying it is an excellent or good value for what they pay, but 39 percent rate it as an “only fair” or “poor” value.

— 43 percent say it is difficult to afford their monthly premiums and nearly half, 46 percent, are not confident they would be able to afford their share of the cost of a major illness or injury. About one third of those with new plans say they are dissatisfied with their deductibles.

Overall, about half of those who purchased a plan that met the health law’s rules said they got help in enrolling, from family members, assisters, brokers or others.

The survey was taken in April and early May, which means some respondents had held their policies since January, while others didn’t finish enrolling until mid-April, so had little or no experience using the new plans.

“It’s still fairly early so I’m not sure how much weight to give these responses,” said Sabrina Corlette, project director at the Health Policy Institute at Georgetown University. “How many are satisfied but haven’t used their plan yet?”

Altman acknowledged that it will be several years before the full picture is known, but said the survey offers insights into several important policy questions, from the percent of enrollees who were previously uninsured to their health status when they signed up.

The relative health of new enrollees is important because insurers base their premiums partly on estimates of how much they may have to pay out in claims. Under new rules, they can no longer bar the sick or charge them more.

The survey found that people enrolling in new coverage were more likely to report being in “fair” or “poor” health (17 percent) than those who hung onto older plans purchased before the law went into effect (6 percent), suggesting they may be sicker and costlier to cover. Insurers built such projections into their rates for this year and as people start to use their coverage, are only starting to find out if they projected correctly.

One section of the survey examines the experiences of those whose policies were canceled, or who switched from previous coverage to something new for other reasons.

While the law’s critics have argued those consumers ended up paying more and getting less, the report found that 46 percent of those who switched plans paid less for their coverage, often because of subsidies, while 39 percent paid more. Annual deductibles – the amount enrollees pay before insurance picks up most of the tab – are similar to what they paid before. More than half described their choice of medical providers as “about the same.”

Even so, the survey found that those who switched are less satisfied with the cost of their plans than those who were previously uninsured and less likely to believe their coverage is a good value.

Those reactions should not be seen as “a call to arms to beef up this coverage” since such efforts could boost premiums and government spending on subsidies, said Joe Antos of the American Enterprise Institute.

The federal government is expected to spend about $12 billion on insurance subsidies this fiscal year, which ends in September, according to the latest report from the Congressional Budget Office. People earning between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level – about $11,500 to $46,000 a year — can qualify for subsidies on a sliding scale.

“There are resource limits,” Antos said. “Going back to taxpayers and saying we want you to cough up more money probably won’t be a big seller.”

The survey’s margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points for results based on the full sample, 5 percentage points for those who bought plans on or after Jan. 1 and 6 percentage points for those in plans purchased through the marketplace.

Norman Ornstein Writes Once Again That The Republicans Are The Problem

Norman Ornstein once again sets the record straight, resonding to those who say both parties are responsible for the degree of polarization and gridlock we are now experiencing:

Tom Mann and I, among others, have said that the polarization in the capital is asymmetric, much more on the conservative and Republican side than on the liberal and Democratic side. An army of journalists—including Ron Fournier, Paul Kane, and others—have said both sides are to blame. And journalists led by Jim Fallows have decried what he first called “false equivalence.” This malady itself has two components. The first, which in many ways is a larger ingrained journalistic habit that tries mightily to avoid any hint of reporting bias, is the reflexive “we report both sides of every story,” even to the point that one side is given equal weight not supported by reality. The second, often called the Green Lantern approach and typified by Bob Woodward, is that presidential leadership—demanding change, sweet-talking, and threatening lawmakers—could readily overcome any dysfunction caused by polarization, thus allocating responsibility in a different way that deflects any sign of asymmetry.

As the Pew study makes clear, in the mid- to late-1990s, we did not have anywhere near the level of public polarization or ideological or partisan animosity that we have now. In the public, this phenomenon has been much more recent (and is accelerating). But in the Gingrich era in Congress, starting in 1993, where Republicans united in both houses to oppose major Clinton initiatives and moved vigorously from the start of his presidency to delegitimize him, the era of tribalism started much earlier, while the ante was upped dramatically in the Obama years. The fact is that it was not public divisions on issues that drove elite polarization, but the opposite: Cynical politicians and political consultants in the age of the permanent campaign, bolstered by radio talk-show hosts and cable-news producers and amplified by blogs and social media, did a number on the public.

The elite tribalism was not all one-sided. To be sure, there was plenty of vitriol hurled by Democrats at George W. Bush. But Democrats worked hand-in-glove with Bush at the early, vulnerable stage of his controversial presidency to enact No Child Left Behind, which gave his presidency precious credibility and provided the votes and support needed for his tax cuts. Contrast that with the early stages of the Obama presidency.

Merry uses immigration to dispute our characterization of the contemporary Republican Party as an insurgent outlier, dismissive of science; no surprise that he does not mention climate change. As for Ron Fournier, I have one point of contention and one response to his question, “Who cares?” First is the characterization of those who believe that the polarization is asymmetric as partisans. There are partisans who have seized on the ideas, but it is very unfair to characterize the scholars and most journalists who have written about this as biased—just as it would be deeply unfair to characterize Fournier, a straight-up journalist of the old school, as an instrument of Republicans or the Right.

More important is the question he raised. Does it matter whether the polarization, and the deep dysfunction that follows from it, is equal or not, including to the average voter? The answer is a resounding yes. If bad behavior—using the nation’s full faith and credit as a hostage to political demands, shutting down the government, attempting to undermine policies that have been lawfully enacted, blocking nominees not on the basis of their qualifications but to nullify the policies they would pursue, using filibusters as weapons of mass obstruction—is to be discouraged or abandoned, those who engage in it have to be held accountable. Saying both sides are equally responsible, insisting on equivalence as the mantra of mainstream journalism, leaves the average voter at sea, unable to identify and vote against those perpetrating the problem. The public is left with a deeper disdain for all politics and all politicians, and voters become more receptive to demagogues and those whose main qualification for office is that they have never served, won’t compromise, and see everything in stark black-and-white terms.

Besides, this excerpt, read the full article, along with his writings with Thomas Mann, including this op-ed and their book, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks. For a look at the unprecedented obstructionism towards Obama practiced by the Republicans, see this Frontline documentary,The Republicans’ Plan For The New President:

On the night of Barack Obama’s inauguration, a group of top GOP luminaries quietly gathered in a Washington steakhouse to lick their wounds and ultimately create the outline of a plan for how to deal with the incoming administration.

“The room was filled. It was a who’s who of ranking members who had at one point been committee chairmen, or in the majority, who now wondered out loud whether they were in the permanent minority,” Frank Luntz, who organized the event, told FRONTLINE.

Among them were Senate power brokers Jim DeMint, Jon Kyl and Tom Coburn, and conservative congressmen Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy and Paul Ryan.

After three hours of strategizing, they decided they needed to fight Obama on everything. The new president had no idea what the Republicans were planning.

Insurance Exchanges Providing Coverage At Reasonable Price With Choices Expanding

Now that health care coverage through the exchanges has been up and running for a several months we are getting more data on the favorable results. A major benefit has been to not only replace policies on the individual market which often had limited coverage with comprehensive coverage that cannot be canceled for development of medical problems, but to also make such care more affordable. A report from the Department of Health and Human Services found wide variation from state to state but found that on average those who receive subsidies are paying $82 a month in premiums, about one-fourth of what they would have paid without the subsidies.

The government has previously reported that 87 percent of the 5.4 million Americans who chose a health plan through the federal health exchange qualified for some financial help.

The health officials said they have not yet analyzed the incomes of people who qualified for the subsidies. But overall, the report shows, the average monthly tax credit this year is $264. Without the federal help, the average premium chosen by people eligible for a tax credit would have been $346 per month, and the subsidy lowered the consumers’ premiums, on average, by 76 percent. The result is that four out of five people with subsidies are paying premiums of no more than $100 a month — although that does not include money they might need to spend for insurance deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs.

An erroneous report in The Los Angels Times claimed that the cost of subsidies was running above current projections received a lot of coverage in conservative blogs this morning but the article has since been corrected to indicate that the cost of subsidies is consistent with projections from the Congressional Budget office.

McClatchy added additional information from the HSS report on choices available on the exchanges:

On average, federal marketplace users can choose from 5 insurers and 47 marketplace plans across all the metal tiers; bronze, which cover 60 percent of health care costs, silver plans, gold plans that cover 80 percent of costs and platinum plans that cover 90 percent.

The report found competition between plan providers lowers premiums. That bodes well for plan prices in 2015 when more plans are expected to enter the marketplace.

McKinsey & Company also looked at choices available in their own study, finding that consumers typically had a choice of both more expensive plans with larger provider networks and less expensive plans with more restrictive networks. They also note that, “There is no meaningful performance difference between broad and narrowed exchange networks based on Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) hospital metrics…” Of course there are reasons beyond quality metrics which might cause people to be willing to pay more for a plan which offers more choice. They also report that 46 percent of those responding to their survey indicated they knew what type of plan they had enrolled in and 26 percent were unaware of the network type they had selected.

The Hill reported on a growing number of insurance companies desiring to offer policies through the exchanges, which will both help lower costs and provide increased choice. As Jonathan Chait points out, this is evidence that Obamacare has been a success, doing what the program was designed to do. The actual news is also quite different from what is being posted at many conservative sites.

While insurance prices through the exchanges are expensive before subsidies are included (and remain expensive for those of us who do not qualify for subsidies), the premiums look much more reasonable when compared to insurance prices prior to the Affordable Care Act, and when the frequent double digit increases in rates were considered. The Commonwealth Club has looked at insurance prices on the individual market prior to Obamacare.

USA Today, in reporting on the HHS report and the increased number of insurance companies planning to offer coverage, points out that “new state filings for the 2015 plan year show more insurance companies are moving onto health care exchanges in some competition-deprived states and requesting rate increases that are largely in line with pre-Obamacare years.”

Choice in physicians is increasing in plans in the exchanges, but United Health Care continues to reduce choice by dropping still more physicians from their Medicare Advantage networks (which is unrelated to Obamacare).

The Los Angeles Times and The Boston Globe are among newspapers reporting on a study from The Journal Of The American Medical Association showing that the Affordable Care Act has resulted in better health care and lower costs for young adults.

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2014/06/18/230648/new-hhs-report-touts-federal-marketplace.html?utm_campaign=KHN%3A+Daily+Health+Policy+Report&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=13220140&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-9LEiMRY8tbEZ1g2JFk4Z-JO7Rf4BCeYZyOvcOmYTGlzNq5IKvCPlgMTZIg2Py07w_QMVoT4v6g8-NzQZYh0u7h_Lue2Q&_hsmi=13220140#storylink=cpy

Republicans Attack Obama For Capturing Terrorist Involved In Benghazi Attack

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One of the major attacks on Obama from the right was that they never captured those responsible for Benghazi–never mind how many people responsible for embassy attacks under Reagan and Bush were never apprehended, or that it was Obama that got bin Laden years after Bush let him escape at Tora Bora. Now one of those responsible for Benghazi has been captured

You might think that even Republicans would find this to be reason to celebrate, but instead many did what the usually do and twist anything into a way to attack Obama.

Fox claims this was done to boost Hillary Clinton’s book tour and presidential prospects.

Allen West calls this “Orwellian message control” to distract the populace from other problems.

On talk radio Rush Limbaugh and Joe Walsh are among those who join Fox in questioning the timing.

Steve Benen, Bob Cesca, and Caitlin MacNeal have more conservative reaction.

I imagine next they will threaten impeachment because Obama didn’t inform Congress before he acted.

This should really come as no surprise. The conservative movement is packed with people who will do anything for political gain, regardless of how much it harms the country. Attacking Obama is now their number one goal, but it didn’t start with Obama. They played politics with the 9/11 attack, and used it to justify both the war in Iraq and infringements on civil liberties. More recently they have played politics with the deaths of Americans in Benghazi. These are also the people who have fought to hinder economic recovery after their policies crashed the economy, and caused a lowering of our credit rating while playing politics over the debt ceiling.

Harry Reid has responded to the Republican attacks:

It doesn’t matter what your ideology is, you should feel good about this. There’s no conspiracy here, this is actual news. But the reaction of some of the Republicans, I’ve been told, is to downplay and insult the brave men and women of our special forces and the FBI. They’re trying to say, oh, it’s no big deal. I wonder if the men and women who captured the terrorist agree. But the Republicans said it’s no big deal.

Even in these days of polarization, created by the obstruction, the delay, and diversion of the Republicans, even in these days of polarization, their reaction is shocking and disgusting. They’re so obsessed with criticism, criticizing anything President Obama does. They’ll go so far as to sit here and insult the men and women in uniform and in law enforcement. They should stop and think, just for a little bit, about what it’s like to put your life on the line and to do something for our country — that’s what they did. They’re insulting these good men and women who did some courageous things, heroic things, in order to criticize President Obama. I think they’ve lost touch with reality; it’s really pathetic, there’s no other word for it.

Cries Over Lois Lerner’s Lost Email Look Like Just Another Conservative Conspiracy Theory

Conservatives 1) love to act like the victim and 2) have been desperately trying to make it appear that there have been scandals which they can attribute to the Obama administration. As the Obama administration has been remarkably free of scandals, they have had to invent several. The IRS scandal first appeared to be something to be concerned about, until we realized that while Republicans like Darrell Issa were only looking at conservative groups which had problems with the IRS, it turned out that both conservative and progressive groups received extra scrutiny. This hardly comes as a surprise in light of the ambiguous tax regulations which deny tax breaks for political organizations when engaged in political activity.

Conservative conspiracy theorists typically work by using limited information to suggest something is not right, when the full facts often contradict this. There is no way I, or anyone else, can say for certain what happened to Lois Lerner’s lost emails, but once the full facts are reviewed, rather than the distorted reporting on many conservative sites, it looks far less likely that anything improper occurred. I’ve seen some claims that the email couldn’t really be lost because they are all backed up, but this just simply is not the case. The New York Times reports:

The I.R.S. initially provided 11,000 of her emails that it deemed directly related to the applications for tax exemption filed by political groups. Under pressure from Republican leaders, Mr. Koskinen later agreed to provide all of Ms. Lerner’s emails but said that doing so might take years. Since then, the I.R.S. has provided roughly 32,000 more emails directly from Ms. Lerner’s account.

After the agency discovered that its initial search of Ms. Lerner’s emails was incomplete because of the computer crash, it recovered 24,000 of the missing messages from email accounts on the other end of Ms. Lerner’s correspondence, the I.R.S. said.

Although Mr. Koskinen had indicated in congressional testimony that I.R.S. emails were stored on servers in the agency’s archives and could be recovered, the agency said Friday that was not the case.

The I.R.S. said that because of financial and computing constraints, some emails had been stored only on individuals’ computers and not on servers, and that “backup tapes” from 2011 “no longer exist because they have been recycled.”

Don’t trust the left-leaning New York Times? The right-leaning Politico reports the same practices with respect to email:

The IRS explains in the letter that it has not always backed up all employee emails due to the cost the agency would incur for allowing 90,000 employees to store their information on the IRS’s internal system.

Currently, IRS employees have the capacity to store about 6,000 emails in their active Outlook email boxes, which are saved on the IRS centralized network. But the letter and background document sent to the Hill Friday said they could only store about 1,800 emails in their active folders prior to July 2011.

When their inboxes were full, IRS employees had to make room by either deleting emails or archiving them on their personal computers. Archived data were not stored by the IRS but by the individual.

Such archived emails on Lerner’s computer were what were lost when her computer crashed.

“Any of Ms. Lerner’s email that was only stored on that computer’s hard drive would have been lost when the hard drive crashed and could not be recovered,” the letter reads.

Overall, more than 250 IRS employees have spent more than 120,000 hours digging up documents and emails for congressional investigators, spending $10 million.

On the one hand this does not look like a very efficient way to back up data. On the other hand, considering how many offices there are of the federal government throughout the country, the cost of backing up everything, including all email, indefinitely would be staggering. Not many government offices have the budget for this, but maybe the NSA still has record of the lost email.

I’m sure there are many conservatives who still won’t believe that email can be lost until they hear it on Fox or from Rush. In that case, how about what may have been as many as 22 million lost emails under Bush during the controversy over the improper dismissal of U.S.  attorneys for political reasons. There is a key difference here. While the Republican claims in the IRS case have been debunked, there was a real scandal and impropriety in the Bush White House which led directly to Karl Rove and Alberto Gonzales. In addition, the Bush administration broke the law by using outside accounts to avoid detection and circumvent laws regarding maintaining email in the Executive Branch.

If there was a conspiracy to hide emails,it doesn’t make sense that it would be email from before 2012 which is missing. Steve Benen put it into perspective:

For Republicans and their allies, this sounds like a convenient way to deny investigators access to Lerner’s emails. But note, the IRS has already produced 67,000 emails to and from Lerner, from 2009 to 2013, and were able to piece together 24,000 Lerner emails from the missing period based those who’d been cc’d in various messages. This is hardly evidence of a cover-up.

For that matter, note that Republicans and conspiracy theorists are principally interested in Lerner’s messages from 2012 – the election year. The computer crash affected emails from before 2012. If the IRS intended to hide potentially damaging materials from investigators, and it was willing to use a made-up technical problem to obscure the truth, chances are the agency would have scrapped Lerner’s emails from the relevant period, not emails from before the relevant period.

When all the facts are considered, Lois Lerner no longer looks like a modern day Rose Mary Woods. It all looks like just another weak attempt by conservatives to portray themselves as victims, and one more unfounded conservative conspiracy theory.

SciFi Weekend: Continuum; Orphan Black; Fargo; Game of Thrones; Sin City; DC Movie Schedule Rumors; HBO Passes on American Gods; Casey Kassem Dies

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Continuum, Orphan Black, and Fargo are all heading towards their season finales and all had major events this week. Continuum had a real game changer with 3 Minutes To Midnight. While the most significant revelations happened at the end, a lot also happened earlier in the episode. The storyline about Halo raises further questions about both the abuse of technology and as to whether Kiera chose the right Alec. We saw the other Alec still alive in one of those Freelancer glass cages. They make for interesting scenes, but they don’t look all that practical for long term incarceration. How do the prisoners even go to the bathroom? Jason went out in search of the time travel device from the Alex from the original time line, but how did he know where to look? Julian, now the Vice President of Social Responsibility at PIRON, finally learns about all the time travel going on. I loved how Kellog thought Brad was a car jacker when it turned out that Brad was turning to Kellog for help–as it turned out that a future Kellog had sent Brad back in time. Kiera ultimately caught up with Brad when he went to a hiding place at an old home and saw his younger self, apparently with no negative repercussions. He did confess to Kiera how he shot the other Kiera, and was fortunate that at this point she didn’t really seem to mind.

The climax was set up with, as Travis described it, “It’s like Wylie Coyote finally catches the roadrunner.”  There are further comparisons to the Terminator series. It is not clear as to why Liber8 was going after capturing Kiera at this point, or if they even knew about Brad. Once captured, Brad’s story did become the main matter of interest. Liber8 learned that they were successful in preventing the development of the Corporate Congress, but the result was worse in the time line which Brad came from. They also found that they were all pawns. Garza was working for Sadler, Kellog had his own agenda, and Chen was working for the Freelancers.

Simon Berry gave a clue as to what this might all mean in this interview with the Canadian TV Guide. The second paragraph is essential in considering  how time travel plays into the story:

TV Guide Canada: Last week you told us this Sunday’s episode was going to have people talking and you were absolutely right. When did you guys decide you were going in this direction and have no one able to control the future?
Simon Barry: When we were breaking Season 3, the idea that this new timeline–were it to be exposed beyond just Kiera and Alec to Liber8 would kind of create an existential crisis–was something we loved the idea of as a concept. We realized as Kiera was coming around and waking up about her reality that at the same time she was able to sort of come to terms with the truth about where she came from, we could also allow Liber8 to learn the truth about their circumstances so that everyone would at the same time go through this mental reality check. Here’s what the rules really are, here’s what is actually going on.

In terms of time travel, when you believe that you’re the last time traveler, you have this assumption that you’re in control of the situation. When you discover that someone else has actually time-traveled after you, you realize you’re a pawn in someone else’s game. It can be a profound and very disturbing realization that your efforts have been trumped essentially. The time travel trump card is whoever has traveled most recently. [Laughs.] For Liber8, it was important for them to have a catharsis and for reasons that will be revealed in Episodes 12 and 13, this moment of realization fundamentally shifts Liber8′s perspective.

So where do we go from here? Does Kiera and/or Liber8 try to fix this time line? Can that even be done? If it is the last time traveler who is in control of the situation, it is not clear if Kiera or Brad is the last. Will next season move on to yet another time line where Kiera or someone else is in control of the situation? This week’s episode opened up so many possibilities.

Orphan Black Bone Marrow

On Things Which Have Never Yet Been Done, Orphan Black advanced the story lines for most of the clones (although no sight of Tony, who was introduced last week). It appears that Alison watched Dexter but not Breaking Bad when she discussed the disposal of Dr. Leekie’s body. She rejected Donnie’s idea of dumping him under water (“Do we have a boat?! Have you ever seen Dexter? Random scuba divers are finding everything!”). She didn’t consider destroying the body with acid. She decided upon burying him in their garage, but this does mean that the evidence will always be around and there should also be a difference in the concrete the shape of a burial plot. Just when it looked like Donnie was of little value, he suddenly grew up and took on both Vic and Angie.

Helena remains a psychopathic killer, but this season has been a psychopathic killer for the good guys/clones. I almost feel sorry for Henrick, and we don’t know the fate of most of the people at the Prolethian compound. Helena certainly would not have left the kids to die, and reportedly there was a scene which was cut for time in which she did help them escape. We also don’t know for sure whether Helena, Gracie, or both really are pregnant, and if they will keep the babies if they are.

Back at Dyad, Rachel continues to manipulate Delphine (the new Leekie) and Cosima. Poor Delphine tried to help Sarah but turned out to have been manipulated by Rachel (who has an awesome media room). There was yet another scene in which one clone impersonated another–this time Rachel playing Sarah to kidnap poor Kira following the bone marrow donation. In a way the penultimate episode placed us where we incorrectly assumed we were at the end of season one with Kira captured by Dyad.

John Fawcett answered some questions for Entertainment Weekly heading into the season finale:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This episode was very heavy on insemination and people in stirrups. What’s up with that?
JOHN FAWCETT: It wasn’t something that we were purposely trying to do, but there is a nice mirroring thing of Helena at the beginning and then kind of matching that and having Gracie have the same procedure happen. It just gets to this creepy ongoing saga of the Proletheans and their grand plans for Helena.

EW: Speaking of people in stirrups, I suppose it’s time to offer a eulogy for the dearly departed Henrik. Why decide to take him out and in such a painful fashion?
FAWCETT: He kinda got what we deserved, don’t you think? Listen, it’s a fun and a sick way to dispatch one of your villains. And I think Helena has had a little revenge on her brain for a while.

EW: The Proletheans have been such a big part of this story for the first two seasons. With Helena torching that place and taking out their leader, are they now not going to be a big part of the show? Are we sort of done with them, or will they continue to be a part of this saga?
FAWCETT: We have not seen the last of the Proletheans. What this represents is a kind of a win for our team. But it’s definitely not a “we’re done with them.” It’s not the end of the empire. Darth Vader’s still spinning off into space.

EW: Is this kidnapping a case of Rachel trying to recreate her lost childhood and have the family unit she felt she never did?
FAWCETT: Rachel’s a little creepy, there’s no question. That could be an aspect of it. It seems to me from all the conversations that Kira is very important to Dyad, from a biological point of view. But also, this has become personal between Rachel and Sarah, and we begin the season with a war between Sarah and Rachel and this war is basically coming to a head with Rachel taking Kira. So you can imagine that this is not going to go well at this point. Especially considering that this ongoing war is really the framework and A story of season 2.

EW: Okay, now’s your chance to tease the finale. We still have a lot of balls in the air. What can we expect next week?
FAWCETT: Sarah is obviously going to have to deal with Rachel. We know who took Kira. It’s not like we’re trying to figure out who took her. We know who took her. So this is going to come to a bit of a showdown between Sarah and Rachel and that’s going to be the exciting thing to watch next week.

EW: There are some people we have not seen in a while. We haven’t seen much of Paul, who is off somewhere. Might he pop back up again?
FAWCETT: We’ve done a lot to bring all the storylines all together for the season finale, so there’s a chance you might see him.

Fargo s01e09 Malvo

Fargo’s penultimate episode, A Fox, A Rabbit, and a Cabbage, sets up what is billed as a bloody finale. Lester both remain foolish and ethically descends into a full Heisenberg. Flashbacks brought us up to date on why Malvo was pretending to be a dentist in order to track down the brother of a dentist in witness protection. His plan was disrupted when Lester appeared, insisting he knew  him. Malvo gave him the same choice he gave him in the first episode: “Yes or no?” Lester showed he learned nothing in answering “Yes,” leading Malvo to kill everyone else in the elevator. “That’s on you.” Lester made another foolish mistake in making a dangerous enemy out of Malvo by hitting Malvo but leaving him alive. This led  Malvo to warn him, “See you later, Lester. See you soon.”

Until this point it appeared that Lester could get away with everything he did a year earlier. Of course, unknown to him, there was again danger from Molly solving the case now that the two FBI agents were taking her seriously. Plus there were new suspicions with Lester having been in Los Vegas at the time of the murders in the elevator.

Lester returned home, hoping to leave the country with his wife Linda. After hearing Linda tell Lester how she always loved him and felt like Cinderella, it was obvious that she was doomed. Suspecting that Malvo was waiting for him at his office, where their passports were stored, Lester had Linda wear his parka with hood up. I doubt that Malvo really confused Linda for Lester when he shot her. If there was any doubt that Lester deserves to either be captured by Molly or killed by Malvo, this resolved it.

In comparing the television adaptation with the movie, I initially saw Lester as more being the victim of circumstances and, despite killing his wife in a fit of rage, not being evil in the sense that William H. Macy’s Jerry Lundegaard was. While things got totally out of hand for both Lester and Jerry, the difference was that Jerry had planned a crime from the start. Lester, like Walter White, became more evil as the series went on, previously framing his brother for his wife’s murder, and now setting up poor Linda.

Lester’s fate might have been determined by the poor decision he made in this episode. Poor decisions often wind up influencing the direction of television shows. For example, tonight we will probably learn the fate of Tyrion on tonight’s season finale of Game of Thrones. He has been sentenced to death after Oberyn was killed by the Mountain in the trial by combat two weeks ago (but I wonder if he gets off on a technicality if both are dead). It was clear that Oberyn would be killed when he made the terrible decision not to kill the Mountain when he had him down, instead demanding a confession. While Oberyn was a fool in that episode, it was good to see Sansa mature, and finally act in control of her fate (somewhat similar to how Donnie acted on Orphan Black).

The above trailer has been released for Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.

Current rumors regarding upcoming DC superhero movies:

May 2016 – Batman v Superman
July 2016 – Shazam
Xmas 2016 – Sandman
May 2017 – Justice League
July 2017 – Wonder Woman
Xmas 2017 – Flash and Green Lantern team-up
May 2018 – Man Of Steel 2

HBO decided that an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s book American Gods was too much to take on:

I think we’re all huge fans of the book, and I think the script just didn’t — we couldn’t craft the script as good as we needed it to be. I think we knew going in that it would be a challenge; every good book is a challenge to adapt it and find the level you need for it. The bar is high now for great dramas. And to find that bar — we tried. So it was a huge disappointment […] We tried three different writers, we put a lot of effort into it. Some things just don’t happen. We have to trust at the end of the day, if you don’t have a star with a great script, you’re just not going to go through with it.

In other entertainment news, Casey Kasem has died at age 82.

The Failure Of Republican Policy On Iraq

Iraq is now playing out as opponents of the war warned from the start. Predictably, the right wing blames Obama for Republican mistakes, when Obama understood from the start that going into Iraq was a mistake. I don’t understand why the media keeps playing clips of John McCain attacking Obama over the events in Iraq. First of all, shouldn’t the man who was wrong every step of the way keep quiet now that his policies have been shown to be a disaster? Secondly, even if McCain does keep talking, why should any news organization consider this newsworthy?

Paul Waldman explained why we should pay no attention to McCain and the others who were wrong from the start:

We have now reached the rather ironic situation in Iraq where we find ourselves allied with Iran in an effort to save the corrupt and thuggish government of Nouri al-Maliki, while the army we spent eight years training falls apart. I’m not going to pretend to have unique insight into Iraqi politics (I’d suggest reading Marc Lynch, for starters, as a way of getting up to speed on what has led to this point).

But there are few people who understand Iraq less than the Republican politicians and pundits who are being sought out for their comments on the current situation.

As you watch the debate on this issue, you should remind yourself that the most prominent voices being heard are the very ones who brought us the Iraq War in the first place, who promised that everything was simple and the only question was whether we’d be “strong” and “decisive” enough — the same thing they’re saying today. They’re the ones who swore that Saddam was in cahoots with Al Qaeda, that he had a terrifying arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, that the war would be quick, easy and cheap, that since Iraq was a largely secular country we wouldn’t have to worry about sectarian conflict, and that democracy would spread throughout the region in short order, bringing peace and prosperity along with it.

We can start with the man on every TV producer and print reporter’s speed dial, John McCain. McCain does provide something important to journalists: whatever the issue of the moment is, he can be counted on to offer angry, bitter criticism of the Obama administration, giving the “balance” every story needs. The fact that he has never demonstrated the slightest bit of understanding of Iraq is no bar at all to being the most quoted person on the topic.

For context, here’s a nice roundup of some of the things McCain said when he was pushing to invade Iraq in the first place. When asked if Iraqis were going to greet us as liberators, he answered, “Absolutely.” He said, “Post-Saddam Hussein Iraq is going to be paid for by the Iraqis” with their oil wealth (the war ended up costing the American taxpayer upwards of $2 trillion). And my favorite: “There is not a history of clashes that are violent between Sunnis and Shias, so I think they can probably get along.”

The conflict between Sunnis and Shiites is the central dynamic of the Iraq conflict, of course. Yet today, the media once again seek out John McCain’s wisdom and insight on Iraq, which is kind of like saying, “Jeez, it looks like we might be lost — we really need to ask Mr. Magoo for directions.”

…We’re facing yet another awful and complex situation in the Middle East where we have a limited set of options, and none of them are good. But whenever you hear anyone say that the answer is simple and that being “strong” is the key — as one conservative after another will no doubt be saying in the coming days — don’t forget what happened the last time the country listened to them.

Keith Olbermann blasted McCain’s views on Iraq in a Special Comment back in 2008.

While the Republicans deserve the blame for the disastrous foreign policy moves which brought us to this position, there were unfortunately also  Democrats who supported their actions. Now that events in Iraq have completely disintegrated, why is anyone still taking Hillary Clinton seriously as a presidential candidate? Shouldn’t Democrats nominate someone who got the big issues right? Clinton rationalizes her mistake by saying she was deceived by the Republicans, but there was ample evidence at the time that they were lying. There was never any connection between Saddam and the 9/11 attack. The weapons inspectors found no evidence of weapons of mass destruction which posed a threat. It was obvious that it might not be difficult to overthrow Saddam, but creating a stable alternative would be far harder getting us into a real quagmire. A president has to make the right decision from the start.