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.”
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.”
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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!
Rolling Stone features a story on The Lie Machine which shows how the insurance industry and Republicans worked to spread misinformation, and get right wingers out protesting, in an attempt to block health care reform. From the story:
According to internal documents obtained by Rolling Stone, Conservatives for Patients’ Rights had been working closely for weeks as a “coalition partner” with three other right-wing groups in a plot to unleash irate mobs at town-hall meetings just like Doggett’s. Far from representing a spontaneous upwelling of populist rage, the protests were tightly orchestrated from the top down by corporate-funded front groups as well as top lobbyists for the health care industry. Call it the return of the Karl Rove playbook: The effort to mobilize the angriest fringe of the Republican base was guided by a conservative dream team that included the same GOP henchmen who Swift-boated John Kerry in 2004, smeared John McCain in 2000, wrote the script for Republican obstructionism on global warming, and harpooned the health care reform effort led by Hillary Clinton in 1993.
“The insurance industry is up to the same dirty tricks, using the same devious PR practices it has used for many years, to kill reform,” says Wendell Potter, who stepped down last year as chief of corporate communications for health insurance giant CIGNA. “I’m certain that people showing up at these town halls feel that they’re there on their own — but they don’t realize they’re being incited, ultimately, by the insurance industry and the other special interests.”
Behind the scenes, top Republicans — including House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, Minority Leader John Boehner and the chairman of the GOP’s Senate steering committee, Jim DeMint — worked hand-in-glove with the organizers of the town brawls. Their goal was not only to block health care reform but to bankrupt President Obama’s political capital before he could move on to other key items on his agenda, including curbing climate change and expanding labor rights. As DeMint told an August teleconference of nearly 20,000 town-hall activists, “If we can stop him on this, the administration won’t be able to go on to cap and trade, card check and the other things they want to do.”
What a surprise. Rove lied about his role in the firing of the U.S. Attorneys. The New York Times reports:
Thousands of pages of internal e-mail and once-secret Congressional testimony showed Tuesday that Karl Rove and other senior aides in the Bush White House played an earlier and more active role than was previously known in the 2006 firings of a number of United States attorneys.
Aides to former President George W. Bush have asserted that the Justice Department took the lead in the dismissals, which set off a political firestorm that lasted months. Mr. Rove played down his role in the firings in a recent interview and in closed testimony last month before Congressional investigators.
But the documents, released by the House Judiciary Committee after a protracted fight over access to White House records and testimony, offer a detailed portrait of a nearly two-year effort, from early 2005 to 2007, by senior White House officials, including Mr. Rove, to dismiss some prosecutors for what appear to be political reasons.
The Washington Post quotes House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers:
Under the Bush regime, honest and well-performing U.S. attorneys were fired for petty patronage, political horse-trading, and, in the most egregious case of political abuse of the U.S. attorney corps — that of U.S. attorney Iglesias — because he refused to use his office to help Republicans win elections.
TPM Muckraker reports that National Review editor Rich Lowry offered to help the White House spin the firings. The White House response in hearing that Lowry offered to help: “Anyone better?”