Tea Party Not Giving Up On Senate Challenges

Yesterday I quoted both an analysis as to why the Tea Party is unlikely to go away and Karl Rove’s prediction that, “Every Republican senator and virtually every representative challenged in a primary as insufficiently conservative will win.”

It is too early to tell whether Rove is right that none of the Tea Party challengers will be able to defeat RINO’s in a primary, but there are some who are trying. Patricia Murphy looks at five far right-wing Republicans who do plan to challenge Republicans, Chris McDaniel of MS; Milton Wolf of KS; Ben Sasse of NE; Joe Miller of Alaska; and Matt Bevin of KY:

If Ted Cruz seems like a one-of-a-kind, give it time. A slew of young, hard-charging, Tea Party-endorsed Senate wannabes is looking to knock off the Republican establishment again in 2014. Some have better chances than others, but all have the unmistakable Cruzian commitment to refusing to toe the Republican Party line and make headlines while doing it. If you haven’t heard of them yet, you will.

This could play a factor in who controls the Senate after the next election. Steve Benen also looked at the dispute between the Republican establishment and the more extremist Tea Party faction, noting:

Remember, primary season hasn’t really begun in earnest, which means these disputes are likely to intensify very soon. For many Democrats, hoping to see Republicans at each other’s throats during an election year, the popcorn is already being popped.

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Karl Rove’s Fearless Prediction About The Extreme Right Wing

Karl Rove has made what he calls his fearless political predictions for 2014. Some are fairly safe, such as that Obama’s approval ratings will go up after falling so low at the end of 2013. Here’s the prediction I found most interesting, and perhaps even fearless: “Every Republican senator and virtually every representative challenged in a primary as insufficiently conservative will win.”

Considering how the Republicans have lost several potential seats due to Tea Party extremists winning primaries, this is something which party insiders might hope for, but it remains to be seen whether this prediction comes true.

Speaking of predictions, who would have predicted that the Republican Party would move so far to the extreme right that Karl Rove would desire to become a spokesman for the more moderate wing (with the true moderate wing driven from the party)? On the other hand, Steve Benen looks at Rove’s diminished influence among Republicans.

The Tea Party may or may not actually win races against less extremist Republicans, but Theda Skocpol is probably right that the Tea Party is not going to go away.

Even though there is no one center of Tea Party authority—indeed, in some ways because there is no one organized center—the entire gaggle of grassroots and elite organizations amounts to a pincer operation that wields money and primary votes to exert powerful pressure on Republican officeholders and candidates. Tea Party influence does not depend on general popularity at all. Even as most Americans have figured out that they do not like the Tea Party or its methods, Tea Party clout has grown in Washington and state capitals. Most legislators and candidates are Nervous Nellies, so all Tea Party activists, sympathizers, and funders have had to do is recurrently demonstrate their ability to knock off seemingly unchallengeable Republicans (ranging from Charlie Crist in Florida to Bob Bennett of Utah to Indiana’s Richard Lugar). That grabs legislators’ attention and results in either enthusiastic support for, or acquiescence to, obstructive tactics. The entire pincer operation is further enabled by various right-wing tracking organizations that keep close count of where each legislator stands on “key votes”—including even votes on amendments and the tiniest details of parliamentary procedure, the kind of votes that legislative leaders used to orchestrate in the dark…

…at least three successive national election defeats will be necessary to even begin to break the determination and leverage of Tea Party adherents. Grassroots Tea Partiers see themselves in a last-ditch effort to save “their country,” and big-money ideologues are determined to undercut Democrats and sabotage active government. They are in this fight for the long haul. Neither set of actors will stand down easily or very soon.

Also worth remembering is that “moderate Republicans” barely exist right now. Close to two-thirds of House Republicans voted against bipartisan efforts to reopen the federal government and prevent U.S. default on loan obligations, and Boehner has never repudiated such extortionist tactics. Tea Partiers may not call for another shutdown right away, but they will continue to be able to draw most GOP legislators and leaders into aggressive efforts to obstruct and delay. In the electorate, moreover, more than half of GOP voters sympathize with the Tea Party and cheer on obstructionist tactics, and the remaining Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are disorganized and divided in their views of the likes of Ted Cruz.

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The Biggest Loser of 2012: Karl Rove

The failure of Super PACs such as Karl Rove’s  American Crossroads to accomplish anything with all the money they spent is leading to criticism from Republicans who fail to realize the problem is the message along with the messengers. Americans were not going to be fooled into blaming Obama for the recession caused by George Bush and failed Republican economic ideas. Nor will Americans accept the morally repulsive message from Republicans on social issues. Despite all the fears among Democrats that the money edge for Republicans would put them at a disadvantage, the Super PACs were a spectacular failure on the national level:

A study by the Sunlight Foundation found that just 1.29 percent of the nearly $104 million it spent in the general election ended with the desired result. In addition to spending $85 million to defeat Mr. Obama and $6.5 million to support Mitt Romney, the group spent millions more opposing Democratic Senate candidates Bill Nelson in Florida, Jon Tester in Montana, Joe Donnelly in Indiana, Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin, and Tim Kaine in Virginia – all of whom won. The only candidates it supported who won were Republicans Deb Fisher in Nebraska and Dean Heller in Nevada, who the group spent a combined $1.3 million to support.

The return for American Crossroads’ sister group, Crossroads GPS, was not much better. Crossroads GPS, which keeps its donors secret, saw a 14 percent return on the $70 million it spent. Another conservative outside group, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, saw just a 6.9 percent return on its $33 million in spending. The National Rifle Association’s return on its nearly $12 million in spending: 0.81 percent.

While the Super PACs were a failure at the national level, Norm Ornstein did warn in an interview with Terry Gross that conservative groups are having success taking over state governments were their massive infusion of money is a bigger factor.

Years ago Richard Viguerie was the genius behind Republican strategy–using direct mail to bring in votes and donations. Of course that was a different era. More recently Karl Rove became the supposed genius behind Republican strategy, with his Super PAC American Crossroads, looking like a bigger player than the Republican party. Now Richard Viguerie is writing off both Karl Rove and the Republican leadership:

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker of the House John Boehner, NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions and other Republican leaders behind the epic election failure of 2012 should be replaced with leaders more in tune with the grassroots of the conservative base of the Party.

Likewise, in any logical universe, establishment Republican consultants such as Karl Rove, Ed Gillespie, Romney campaign senior advisor Stewart Stevens and pollster Neil Newhouse would never be hired to run or consult on a national campaign again — and no one would give a dime to their ineffective Super PACs, such as American Crossroads.

This year Republicans did try to use more modern techniques than direct mail. Their attempt  at using computer technology was a total failure. A diary at Red State  cited unnamed Romney staffers who blamed Republican political consultants for this failure:

They say that the truth is the consultants essentially used the Romney campaign as a money making scheme, forcing employees to spin false data as truth in order to paint a rosy picture of a successful campaign as a form of job security.

Zac Moffatt, Digital Director for the Romney campaign, was specifically named as having “built a nest egg for himself and co-founder of Targeted Victory, Mike Beach,” and that they “didn’t get social” media and ignored objections from other consultants and staffers in the campaign.

In other words, the Romney consultants used the Romney campaign in essentially the same way many Republicans use government when they have a chance.

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Debunking Karl Rove’s BS

Have to love Stephanie Cutter when she entitles her response to the attack ad from Crossroads (Karl Rove’s group) “Stephanie Cutter: Get the facts on Karl Rove’s BS.”

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Republican Civil War

The year already seemed to be ending with political momentum shifting from the Republicans to the Democrats, including rising poll numbers for Obama for a variety of reasons. Matters suddenly got worse for the GOP yesterday when the battle between the nutty conservative Republican mainstream and the totally bat-shit crazy far right tea-party fringe placed the party in a lose-lose position. Yesterday, with C-SPAN being told to turn off their cameras, the John Boehner and the Republicans decided to flee Washington without even voting on the payroll tax extension which passed the Senate with strong bipartisan support.

Even many Republicans realized what an insane move this was. The editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, which normally could double for they daily list of Republican talking points, condemned the House leadership for this fiasco. Karl Rove has said the WSJ was right and the Republicans should fold. Newt Gingrich, likely in the closing moments of his fifteen minutes of fame as a GOP front-runner, said the Republicans should give in. (Mitt Romney, trying to avoid the usual embarrassment of being on both sides of every issue, declined to take any position on this one)

The Republicans are being backed into a corner where they may have to back down and defy the Tea Party members, risking a decrease in support next year. Even if they do the right thing in the end, the irresponsibility of the Republican-controlled House has now been exposed to some who might not have been aware of it in the past. If the Republicans fail to back down, we will have a huge mess in January which the Republicans will rightly receive the blame for (despite the email I received from my Republican Congressman today reaching for a way to blame the Democrats).

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Tea Party Members Conned By Conservative Elites

Karl Rove got it right in saying that the Tea Party movement “is not sophisticated” in an interview with Der Spiegel. They are a group of poorly informed ideologues who are manipulated by the far right. Dana Milbank discussed the irony of a faux populist revolt in which the common men were giving money to the Chamber of Commerce to make the rich richer (emphasis mine):

These donors to the cause of the Fortune 500 were motivated by a radio appeal from the de facto leader of the Tea Party movement, Glenn Beck, who told them: “Put your money where your mouth is. If you have a dollar, please go to . . . the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and donate today.” Chamber members, he said, “are our parents. They’re our grandparents. They are us.”

They are? Listed as members of the chamber’s board are representatives from Pfizer, ConocoPhillips, Lockheed Martin, JPMorgan Chase, Dow Chemical, Ken Starr’s old law and lobbying firm, and Rolls-Royce North America. Nothing says grass-roots insurgency quite like Rolls-Royce — and nothing says populist revolt quite like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In describing the big-business group as “us,” Beck (annual revenue: $32 million) provided an unintended moment of clarity into the power behind the Tea Party movement. These aren’t peasants with pitchforks; these are plutocrats with payrolls.

There is genuine populist anger out there. But the angry have been deceived and exploited by posers who belong to the same class of “elites” and “insiders” that the Tea Party movement supposedly deplores. Americans who want to stick it to the man are instead sending money to the man.

Consider the candidates on the ballot next month who are getting Tea Party support. In the Connecticut Senate race, there’s Linda McMahon, who with her husband has a billion-dollar pro-wrestling empire. The challenger to Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold in Wisconsin, Ron Johnson, is a millionaire manufacturing executive. The former head of Gateway computers, Rick Snyder, is spending generously from his fortune to win the Michigan governor’s race.

In New York, the Republican gubernatorial candidate is developer Carl Paladino, with a net worth put at $150 million. And Rick Scott, running for governor in Florida, has a net worth of $219 million from his career as a health-care executive. Then there’s California, where the Republican Senate nominee is former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina and the gubernatorial candidate is former e-Bay boss Meg Whitman…

And who will be helping these anti-elite elites get into office? Well, there’s FreedomWorks, a Tea Party outfit run by Dick Armey, the former Republican lawmaker whose last job was with a big lobbying firm. His deputy at FreedomWorks is Matt Kibbe, who worked for none other than the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

There’s also the Tea Party Express, the creation of longtime Republican consultant Sal Russo. A colleague at Russo’s consulting firm pitched the Tea Party Express idea as a way to boost the company’s bottom line. According to an internal e-mail intercepted by the New York Times, it came from a “desire to give a boost to our PAC and position us as a growing force/leading force.”

When the common man sends money to Tea Party organizations they are helping the rich maintain their lifestyles and take cruises. From Politico:

The Tea Party Express, paid Holland America Line a total of $103,000 to send six of its staffers on four consecutive cruises on the Amsterdam. The payments to the cruise line, which appeared on a campaign finance report filed Friday with the Federal Election Commission, have started drawing attention from critics of the Tea Party Express, who have alleged that the committee is a front for Republican consultants seeking to use the populist movement to make a buck and live the high life.

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BP Oil Spill Provides Opportunities For Obama-Bashers Regardless Of Whether Warranted

The BP oil spill is becoming a litmus test for how people think about Obama. The ability to handle such a matteris hardly a key presidential function (unlike a natural disaster such as Katrina which is a direct responsibility of the federal government.) This doesn’t stop Obama’s critics from trying to find ways to blame him, while generally ignoring all that he has actually done so far in response to the crisis and spreading falsehoods.

George Will even admits that Obama is “being unfairly blamed” for the response to the oil spill but also says “it sort of serves him right.” Will simultaneously admitted Obama is doing all he can under impossible circumstances while also trying to use the issue to raise questions of competence.

I have already responded to other attacks from the right coming from Karl Rove and Peggy Noonan in recent posts. The attacks are not limited to the right. There were also recent attacks from James Carville which made him just came across as another sore loser among the Clintonistas.  It’s not the first time the ragin’ cajun mouthed off before thinking.

The Washington Post has reviewed the politics of the issue and fortunately finds that others are being far more rational in their response. Ed Rogers, who worked in the Reagan and Bush I White Houses is more objective about the limitations on the president:

President Obama’s political managers are all being told that the president needs to “do something.” But when he does he becomes more closely associated with the ugly problem and more responsible for the nearly impossible task of stopping the flow and managing a cleanup that will leave most people unsatisfied…

This is a great American tragedy whose political consequences will linger for years. No one will emerge as a hero, savior or indispensable leader. Instead, the revelation of the limits of our technology, leaders, laws and energy options will leave us all frustrated and in a mood to blame everybody involved.

Scott Keeter, director of survey research at the Pew Research Center has some more significant insights:

Until now President Obama has avoided serious political damage from the government’s handling of the spill, but this may be changing. Recent polling finds pluralities or majorities of the public disapproving of the administration’s response or giving it low marks for its handling of the situation. Even among Democrats, ratings of the administration’s performance have been tepid. The spill is unfolding at a time of exceptionally low levels of trust in government, which may make the public even less forgiving.

Still, unlike Hurricane Katrina, where the government had primary responsibility for dealing with the crisis, until now its role has been secondary to that of BP. And the public has been far more critical of BP for its handling of the crisis.

Although the spill may cause Obama political damage in the short run, it could help him in the longer run with key legislative priorities for his administration: the passage of a comprehensive energy bill and efforts to address environmental protection more generally. The spill has spurred an increase in support for environmental protection, which had declined over the past two years as concerns about the economy pushed aside many other public priorities. While polling by Pew Research and other organizations continues to find at least plurality support for offshore oil drilling, the level of support is much lower than before the spill.

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Rove Blaming Obama For Failing To Repair All Bush Administration Problems

After the major failures of the Bush administration it has been common place for Bush apologists to try to claim that Obama has committed acts of incompetence comparable to those which were commonplace under Bush. On recent effort has been to try to label the BP oil spill Obama’s Katrina. Karl Rove claims this in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal.

As Think Progress points out  the most remarkable thing about this op-ed is that after years of defending the Bush administration’s approach to Katrina, Rove is now admitting that this was mishandled. There are major differences between the events. Obama didn’t  ignore warnings even before the even occurred as Bush did with Katrina. The two events do have one key factor in common–both were related to the hiring of political cronies and industry shills as opposed to competent regulators during the Bush years. Think Progress notes:

Rove’s analysis would be sharper if he noted that “Obama’s Katrina” actually highlights some very real Bush and Cheney failures. By filling the Minerals Management Service — the government agency responsible for regulating off shore oil drilling — with industry shills who took drugs and had sex with the officials they were supposed to be policing, the Bush administration dangerously eroded the regulatory regime, and missed warnings that could have helped prevent the BP disaster.

If Obama deserves any blame it is for not having repaired all the damage which the Bush administration has done to this country in sixteen months.

Update: Responses to Peggy Noonan’s attack on Obama’s competence due to the BP oil spill.

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Latest Conservative Conspiracy Theory Sees Pro-Obama Letters As Coming From White House

It must be a very slow news day. The latest thing to get the conservative bloggers all worked up is a letter sent under the name of Ellie Light. At very least the same letter was sent to multiple newspapers, and it also appears that the writer attached different addresses from different cities. Ben Smith posted a copy of the letter as emailed to him a few weeks ago:

A year ago, if we had read in the paper that employers were hiring again, that health care legislation was proceeding without a bump, that Afghanistan suddenly became a nice place to take your kids, we would’ve known we were being lied to. Back then, we recognized that the problems Obama inherited as president wouldn’t go away overnight.

During his campaign, Obama clearly said that an economy that took eight years to break couldn’t be fixed in a year, that Afghanistan was a graveyard of empires and would not be an easy venture for us. Candidate Obama didn’t feed us happy talk, which is why we elected him. He never said America could solve our health care, economic and security problems without raising the deficit. Instead, he talked of hard choices, of government taking painful and contentious first steps towards fixing problems that can’t be left for another day.

Right after Obama’s election, we seemed to grasp this. We understood that companies would be happy to squeeze more work out of frightened employees, and would be slow to hire more. We understood that the banks that had extorted us out of billions of dollars, were lying when they said they would share their recovery. We understood that a national consensus on health care would not come easily. Candidate Obama never claimed that his proposed solutions would work flawlessly right out of the box, and we respected him for that.

But today, the president is being attacked as if he were a salesman who promised us that our problems would wash off in the morning. He never made such a promise. It’s time for Americans to realize that governing is hard work, and that a president can’t just wave a magic wand and fix everything.

Compared to the nasty and dishonest letters from Obama haters, typically repeating the same lines, this is extremely tame. Many conservative bloggers are claiming that this is being sent out by the White House without any evidence to back up their claim. This is probably yet another baseless conservative conspiracy theory.  Besides, I wonder how many of them were upset when the false claims spread by the Swift Boat Liars were eventually tracked back to Karl Rove’s misinformation operation at the Bush White House.

My bet is that this is one of a large number of Obama supporters who is acting on her own. We have seen many examples of individuals working to support Obama since there was first talk about him running for president. It is not necessary for the White House to send out letters. There are plenty of Obama supporters who regularly do so on their own.

It would be wrong of her if she sent out the letter with false return addresses (and perhaps a fake name) but considering the state of politics in this country this is hardly worth getting terribly upset over. The Cleveland Plain Dealer noticed the variety of return addresses on this letter in other papers and received this response from Light:

In a Sunday morning e-mail to The Plain Dealer, Light denied speculation that she’s actually President Obama, his wife, Michelle, or National Security Council member Samantha Power.

“I’m flattered, and I must give the Tea Partiers credit for even knowing who [Power] is,” Light’s e-mail said. “But what I want to point out is that, if I were a person trying to imply this huge groundswell of support for our beleaguered president, then I would have signed the letter with different names. However, as you may have noticed, my main point is that absence of support for the president.

“I am not surprised that an article that tends to discredit a pro-Obama letter-writer has lots of readers. I understand that there are 10 million dittoheads that daily scour the airwaves, print and online press for something nasty to say about the president, so I’m sure your article will get more hits,” she wrote in another e-mail later Sunday. “I’m not sure why you would write me that people would probably be interested in what I have to say. My impression is that my letter could contain Chinese food recipes with a Pro-Obama subject line, and the event would be interpreted as fodder for that same highly-motivated, but narrow class of people.”

Representatives of the White Houses media affairs office did not respond to requests for comment on Sunday.

Light said she didn’t submit her letter to all the outlets that published it, and said many carried it after it was cited several weeks ago by Politico’s Ben Smith. She says she prefers submitting her letters to smaller papers, “specifically because I think rationality needs a broader audience.”

Further in the article she is quoted again:

“I think there’s only one reason why an editor publishes something in his or her paper: because they think it is going to be read,” Light’s e-mail said.

“If my letter were boilerplate [White House senior adviser David] Axelrod dribble, as has been suggested by your new fan club, it would not have been published. Many of my friends have written letters to the editor and bemoan the fact that they never get published. I reply that everything they wrote in their letters has been said before by others. I think, however, this one letter that I wrote, is unique enough, that it was worth widespread attention, simple as that.”

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Brown Defeats Coakley, Benefiting From Mindless Rage

Tonight can be seen as an example of what happens when a candidate runs a poor campaign which takes the voters for granted, along with evidence of how poor a memory many people have. News is still coming in and the final margin of victory is not yet certain, but there is no longer any doubt that Brown will defeat Coakley for the Massachusetts Senate seat.

If this was a purely local election it would be hard to be concerned about Coakley losing after the type of campaign she ran. Despite this, the national ramifications cannot be ignored. This is a failure for Democrats–but more for their ability to get out their message than of their policies. Republicans have been successful in distorting the Democratic policies and in blaming Democrats for the conditions which directly arose from their mismanagement of government.

Democrats should hardly be surprised that this would happen. We’ve seen the right wing noise machine in operation for many years and Democrats will continue to have bad nights like tonight until they learn to counter this and control their own message.

In some case the policies define the message. It was a tremendous mistake for Obama to give in and support a health care reform plan which contained an individual mandate. This reinforced every stereotype which the Republicans wanted to hit the Democrats with. Instead of remembering that it was the Republicans who are the big bad government which restricted civil liberties, wrecked the economy, and engaged in torture, the Democrats can be portrayed, (even if this is a distortion) as the big bad government who will put you in jail if you don’t buy their health care plan.

One irony of this race is that Brown had supported a health care plan similar to the national plan he opposes when in the Massachusetts legislature. This is far less surprising when we keep in mind that Republican strategy is purely based upon blocking all Democratic proposals to deny them victory, regardless of how much this harms the country. Brown’s flip-flop here is entirely consistent with the overall Republicans strategy.

Brown ran as a moderate Republican but his success is being seen by some as a sign of the success of the tea party movement. The tea baggers are the ultimate example of mindless rage being turned in the wrong direction. Tea baggers show their support for fiscal responsibility by backing the party which ran up the deficit and fought two wars of the book, along with trying to block health care reform bill which is our best shot at getting health care costs under control. Andrew Sullivan has explained why this is no libertarian rebellion:

The rage is adolescent. It did not exist when the Republicans were in power and exploded government during years of economic growth. Fox News backed Bush to the hilt through it all, as he added mounds of unfunded entitlements to the next generation’s debt, and then brought Beck in as soon as Obama inherited the mess. Scott Brown, moreover, has no plans to cut the debt or control government: none. He is running in defense of every cent in Medicare. He wants to increase the deficit by more tax cuts. He favors an all-powerful executive branch that can suspend habeas corpus and torture people. He has no intention of cutting defense. His position on the uninsured is: get your own states to help. His position on soaring healthcare costs is: stop the first attempt to control them.

We hear Karl Rove lamenting big government! We hear Dick Cheney worrying about deficits! The cynicism here is gob-smacking. And the libertarian right is just happy to go along.

There is, moreover, the incredible lie that somehow all the debt that lies ahead was created by Obama in twelve months, in a recession, when austerity would be fatal. This was a lie propagated mercilessly by the FNC/RNC and by partisan bloggers like Glenn Reynolds. And it has stuck, as Obama has pressed for centrist reform between the screamers on the left and the haters on the right.

I’m sorry but this is not an anti-government vote. It’s a hissy fit because reality has finally hit and the conservative bromides of the 1980s work as poorly as the liberal bromides of the 1970s. If Brown were urging big, structural cuts in entitlements, if he were proposing junking health insurance reform because he has a plan to balance the budget in five years, if he were pledging to vote against the wars for the deficit’s sake, if he were proposing ways to restrain private healthcare costs and Medicare’s GOP-passed Medicare D – whose fiscal impact makes the current reform look like a tightwad’s – it would be one thing. But he isn’t and they aren’t.

They merely want to kill a reform presidency. They have no alternative. They have no policy that could restrain health insurance costs and the desperate plight of the uninsured. They have no plans for tackling climate change, when they can bring themselves to admit it exists. They have no plans to win or end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that Obama himself isn’t trying. They have no idea how to balance the budget – except more tax cuts!

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