Archive for August, 2009

Dick Cheney: Still a Coward

August 31, 2009

When terrorists attacked this country in the first year of his co-presidency with Mr. Bush, Dick Cheney responded just the way they had hoped: he was terrified, he panicked, and he overreacted.  He’s been trying to defend his behavior ever since, upping the ante every time somebody asks him about it.

Why?  Because to admit he did anything wrong leads inevitably to admitting he overreacted because he panicked, and he panicked because he was scared sh*tless.  Since his whole persona (and apparently his self-esteem) is inoperably wrapped around a Tough Guy image like a tumor coiled around a lung, he can never admit to being frightened.  If he has to drag the country down with him to keep his [self-]image, he will; he’s that frightened of looking frightened.

The English language helpfully has a single word for all of that:  “coward,” which is what Cheney is.  The most craven kind of coward possible.  The vainglorious kind that blames others for his cowardice and shifts the consequences of it onto everyone around him, in hope of preserving some appearance of bravery.

There was a time when conservatives would’ve had the least possible patience for someone like Cheney.  But that kind of conservatism is gone.  In its place, we get . . . well, Dick Cheney.

There is no word for how contemptible he is.

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Deep Stupid

August 27, 2009

Today I bring you Senator Mary Landrieu, of Louisiana.  At a town hall in her state, Sen. Landrieu had this to say about the public option in health care reform:

I’d like to cover everyone — that would be the moral thing to do — but it would be immoral to bankrupt the country while doing so.

She could not have gotten more things wrong in one sentence if she’d tried.

The public option has nothing to do with universal coverage.  They’re two distinct things.  The health care reform legislation currently under consideration has two goals: universal coverage, and reducing health care inflation.

The public option is aimed at the latter, not at universal coverage.  If you think it’s immoral to bankrupt the country while providing universal coverage, the public option should be the thing you insist on keeping in the bill; not the thing you insist on stripping out.  Passing universal coverage without the public option (or a similar cost-control measure) is what would break the budget.

Saying you want to keep the country from spending too much on health care and therefore  you’ll filibuster any health care bill that includes a public option (a threat Landrieu implicitly makes elsewhere) is like saying you want to keep the country safe from enemy bombers and therefore you’ll filibuster any defense bill that includes money for the Air Force.

It couldn’t be any more stupider.

A Really Rotten Summer to be a Celebrity

August 26, 2009

As you’ll probably have heard before you read this, Senator Ted Kennedy died overnight.  Much will be said.  Much more than is really necessary or even appropriate.

My first thought is of health care reform, something Kennedy championed for decades and would be championing today, if not for his illness.  It’s hard to know how this will affect the current debate.  Kennedy was hated by conservatives, but loved within the senate by just about everyone, regardless of party or ideology.

There was a time when a death like this, coming at a time like this, would speed health care reform legislation along; make it more progressive, as Kennedy would have wanted.  That time, however, is probably past.  What we’ll probably get instead is more partisan spleen, including commentary about how Kennedy would have died months ago under “socialized medicine,” because a “death panel” would have declared his case not worth the expense.

And that’s just sad.

Products and Losses

August 25, 2009

The second largest health insurance company in the country is United Health Care.  The health insurance industry supposedly supports Pres. Obama’s goals for health care reform.  Yet UHC is encouraging its employees to show up to anti-reform rallies and town halls; even providing them with talking points.

UHC happens also to be my insurance provider.

Normally, when a business I patronize does something I find deeply offensive, I take my business elsewhere.  It might be Kroger or Domino’s or GM or Disney or whomever.  If they do something I don’t like, I can penalize them by taking my money elsewhere; I might or might not do it, but I have the option.  So does everyone else.  That gives those businesses an incentive not to piss people off.

But health insurance markets aren’t structured that way.

I don’t have any control over who gets my health insurance business.  My employer makes that decision.  So there’s nothing I can do to hold UHC accountable for jumping into the political process to oppose something I favor, all the while pretending to favor it.  They’ve got my business, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

This isn’t limited to me, of course.

Consumers have extremely limited control over insurers, and therefore the insurers in this country have very little incentive to behave themselves.  Overwhelmingly, their customers are the businesses that buy group insurance and provide it to their employees at a subsidized cost.  The transaction is between an insurer and an employer, not between an insurer and an insuree.

What’s the problem?

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Phantom Son Syndrome

August 25, 2009

I predict Michael Vick’s comeback attempt will founder due to attitude problems (or more off-field issues).  Tony Dungy, the man who’s say-so got Vick back into the league, looks at him and sees his deceased troubled son, and wants to believe he can fix this one.  Sadly, I don’t think he can.

Hungry Hippos, Meet Pop Candy

August 25, 2009

I realize this seems highly unlikely, but USA Today’s Pop Candy is actually letting me guest blog tomorrow. Crazy, but true. Someone must have laced their coffee with… I dunno, whatever you lace coffee with (drugs are not my strong suit). The real blogger has gone on vacation, and they took submissions for possible guest blogs. And, whaddayaknow, they chose mine. So if you want to read a few bluegrass band suggestions from mrs peacock, hop on over to Pop Candy tomorrow. I’m not sure of the exact time, but it will definitely be up by the afternoon. I’d be much honored if you’d check it out!

Waiting for the Blue Dogs to Bark

August 24, 2009

There’s word today that the White House, behind the scenes, has pretty much given up on getting any GOP votes for health care reform and is putting together a strategy for passing that legislation on a party-line vote.

If true, how long before one or all of the Blue Dogs announce they won’t support a bill that lacks “bipartisan support”?

It’s coming.  Easily before the week is out.  Personally, I don’t think we’ll get to the end of tomorrow before it happens.  We’ll see.

(NB: My definition of “Blue Dogs” isn’t limited to the House.  I include the Ben Nelsons and Evan Bayhs and so forth.)

Dumb and Dumber

August 22, 2009

Okay, this is even dumber than the Peter Suderman argument in my last post:

[If] as the growing media narrative contends, the Republicans have devolved into a rump party of half-sane white southerners wracked by racial anxiety, why does it keep rewarding anti-racist anti-populists at the top of its presidential ticket (including, notably, the ticket that ran against a liberal Democrat black candidate), while rejecting every dime-store Tancredo with prejudice? When does this allegedly mainstream Republican pathology begin showing up in the numbers, or in the personages of those who lead the party?

That’s Matt Welch, in reaction to an article Joe Klein wrote.  Personally, I don’t know that I would go so far as to say the GOP is just “half-sane white southerners wracked by racial anxiety,” though it’s undeniable that it is wracked by racial anxiety.  I don’t even know if Klein went that far, not having read his article.

What I do know is that Welch’s paragraph, above, must have been written from an alternate universe.

The party base in question notably did not reward the party’s last presidential ticket.  They were not excited by a McCain presidency, did not think he was conservative enough in general, specifically hated his position on the racially charged issue of immigration, hated his opposition to torturing people, didn’t like it when he told them Obama wasn’t a secret Muslim, and did not turn out for him.

The only reason he came as close as he did was Sarah Palin, who most definitely is a populist in the very worst tradition.

That couldn’t possibly be any clearer from their post-election arcs within the GOP.  McCain remains not terribly popular and has been relegated to obscurity; Palin is devoutly beloved and a rock-star within the GOP.

Welch has a point inasmuch as McCain did win the GOP primary over people like Ron Paul and Mike Huckabee.   That’s why I think calling the GOP a “party of half-sane white southerners” oversimplifies things a bit.  That segment of the party has an iron grip on platform and policy, but it’s also true that there’s still a patrician segment of the party, and that segment controls most of the money.  That’s why McCain won the nomination; he was the compromise candidate.  The only people who really stirred passion in the base were Huckabee and Paul, but the money people hated both.  The money people wanted Romney, but the party base hated him.  McCain was chummy with the money people, so he was able to raise money early, middle, and late, which Huckabee and Paul couldn’t do, and he was okay-ish with the base.  Rudy Giuliani could say that, but he was a total dunce on strategy.  Fred Thompson could say that, but just wasn’t much interested in the job.

Returning to Welch:

When does this allegedly mainstream Republican pathology begin showing up in the numbers, or in the personages of those who lead the party?

Well, let’s venture beyond presidential politics to congressional politics, shall we?

How many moderate Republicans have lost their seats in the past, oh, 10 years because they were labeled a “RINO” and lost the primary to some extremist whackadoodle?

Conversely, how many whackadoodle incumbents have lost a GOP primary to a moderate?

How many seats has the GOP lost in Congress because that whackadoodle then lost to a non-insane Democrat?

How many moderate Republicans have simply retired from their seats because they couldn’t stand the party’s dominant ethos anymore?

How many moderate Republicans are left in Congress?

How many non-white Republicans are there in Congress?

Who has the party chosen to lead it in Congress?  (Hint: of the top 4, all are very right-wing and only one isn’t from the South.)

Venturing outside politics, who are the GOP’s media leaders?  Are they moderates or frothing populists and racists?

To prevent a long story getting still longer: it’s just patently stupid to imply the GOP is not dominated by its extremists, by white southerners, and people who appeal to racism as a matter of course.  Asking when such people will start showing up in the party leadership is like asking when water will start running downhill.

If Jay Leno asked a million random Americans on the street to name a moderate (politician or otherwise) who’s influential within the Republican Party, not one person could name one.

Res ipsa damn loquitur, fer cryin’ out loud.

Barack Dukakis

August 22, 2009

Peter Suderman, one of Sullivan’s fill-ins during his vaycay, writes the following about Obama’s sliding popularity among liberals and progressives:

Meanwhile, I wonder: What did progressives expect?

That Obama could simply roll into Washington and ignore the myriad forces arrayed against a liberal agenda? That conservatives, Republicans, moderate Democrats, and interested industry groups would simply go away or shut up? That Obama, through force of will and liberal coolness, could use his awesome rhetorical ju-jujitsu skills to flip the opposition and defeat nutty right-wingers and conservative politicians forever?

Unless you’re a character in an Aaron Sorkin show, that’s just not how national politics work. And it’s particularly unrealistic given that Obama didn’t run as a progressive cage-fighter, but as a calm, pragmatic leader — with progressive sympathies, yes, but nothing like the ferocity of the netroots.

That may be the dumbest thing I’ve read all week.

If liberals expected Obama could just roll into Washington and make their dreams come true through sheer coolness and rhetoric, we would have had no expectation that he would fight for progressive policy (since there would be no need), and therefore we wouldn’t be angry with him for failing to do so.  We’d just be angry with the GOP and Max Baucus.  Also, if we expected Obama to just breeze through, what’s the relevance of the fact that he didn’t run as a “progressive cage-fighter”?

No, we knew the GOP would go to the mattresses against everything he or any other Democrat proposed, and we knew he and they would have to have some backbone to get things done.  Nonetheless, they do have the tools to get things done if they have the backbone to put them to good use; we gave them those tools (big majorities in both houses).

Our problem with Obama (and Reid, etc.) is that they have not shown any backbone.  They have not fought, like everyone knew they would have to.  They have simply walked away when resistance developed.

Obama did it on Guantanamo, Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell, rule of law issues, executive authority issues, open government issues, and he’s still wavering on Iraq.  So far, he’s failed to put up a meaningful fight for health care reform.  He and Reid have let Max Baucus stall the whole thing in hopes of 2 or 3 GOP votes, long past the point that it became obvious to absolutely everyone they would never, ever get them.

We don’t expect Obama to be a “progressive cage-fighter.”  But when the other party — uniformly, from town hall nutters to conservative media to the RNC to their sitting members and leadership of the House and Senate — accuses you of wanting to euthanize America’s aged and ill, then yes, by god, we expect to see you get upset about that and hit back.

When an entire political party accuses you of something as horrendous as secretly planning to pull the plug on everybody’s grandmas — makes it their actual, official position that that’s what you’re planning — you should be outraged, and you should show it.

If you don’t, you look guilty or weak.  Or both.  And nobody respects you.  And you’re done.  Ask Michael Dukakis.

We didn’t vote for a cage-fighter.  We specifically voted for Obama over a cage-fighter in the primaries.  But there’s a lot of ground between being a cage-fighter and being unwilling to fight at all, even when accused of planning a Nazi eugenics program.

The Bill for Mediocrity Comes Due

August 21, 2009

I’ve been talking about Obama’s problem with his core supporters — i.e., that he’s been disappointing them on way too much and shouldn’t expect them to ride to his rescue.

I even compared him to the Democratic congress of 2006-08, which saw its poll numbers tank when liberals and progressives got fed up with their failure to act.

Well:

A major factor in President Obama’s slide in today’s big Washington Post/ABC News poll, which is preoccupying the political classes today, is his surprisingly sharp drops among Democrats and even liberals…

Duh.

It didn’t take a genius to see this coming; this is obvious stuff.  That’s what’s so frustrating about it all.  How could Team Obama not have seen this coming?  Especially right on the heels of the exact same thing happening in the 2006-08 congressional polls.

You got to deliver, people!  Or at least look like you’re trying hard.  You know.  Lead.