Saturday, January 24, 2009

Circling The Wagons

For eight long years we've seen the GOP on the attack, time and time again. Democrats have been on the defense, but so far it's worked out: after all, Obama is President, and the Dems run both chambers of Congress. To borrow a video game term, the Dems have expertly "turtled up".

Now however, Obama understands the value of changing tactics to keep the other side off balance. He's going on the offensive, something long overdue. Earlier this week he took it straight to the GOP on his stimulus plan.

Now he's taken a shot against the bow of the big GOP boys. No, not anyone in Washington, but the Right Wing gasbag himself, El Rushbo.

Mr Obama has told Republicans in Washington to stop listening to the right-wing talk show host Rush Limbaugh, risking a new culture war with conservative voters.

His exhortation came as he enraged other Republicans by reversing George W Bush's ban on funding international aid to charities that perform or provide information about abortions.

After less than a week in office, Mr Obama's presidency is already encountering the very partisan bickering he had pledged to stamp out during his first 100 days.

He faces mounting criticism over his $825 billion economic stimulus plan, from Republican leaders who say the legislation has been drawn up without the input which Mr Obama had promised to allow them.

The president responded with a clear signal that he is prepared to ram the bill through without the bipartisan consensus he promised to construct, telling Republican leaders from the House of Representatives: "I won. I'm the president."

He then told them to break free of the confrontational mindset epitomised by Mr Limbaugh, the highest paid talk show host in America. "You can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done," Mr Obama said.

His comments followed a blunt attack on him by Mr Limbaugh, who declared on air that he hoped Mr Obama would fail as president because otherwise it will usher in socialism.

It's got the GOP on the run. Today they are scrambling to counterattack Obama, because the wingnuts know that if the GOP follows Obama's advice on this, they are done. Needless to say, the wingers are coming out swinging. Hard.
There are two things going on here. One prong of the Great Unifier's plan is to isolate elected Republicans from their voters and supporters by making the argument about me and not about his plan. He is hoping that these Republicans will also publicly denounce me and thus marginalize me. And who knows? Are ideological and philosophical ties enough to keep the GOP loyal to their voters? Meanwhile, the effort to foist all blame for this mess on the private sector continues unabated when most of the blame for this current debacle can be laid at the feet of the Congress and a couple of former presidents. And there is a strategic reason for this.
The reason is Obama is striking at the head of the snake while he has a nearly 70% approval rating. That rating has to include a fair number of Republicans...and they are ones who are probably not really happy with Rush and his buddies.

There are those that say that the more Obama attacks Rush, the more the President legitimizes Rush at a time when wingnuts are reeling and looking for a rallying point to regroup around. Obama is taking that risk.

But Rush has been around long enough that he has those who will follow him regardless. By shying away from his attacks, Obama just invites more. But by sticking it to him with a logical argument -- the argument that following El Rushbo has been fundamentally bad for the GOP -- Obama is hoping to peel off that support.

Not even Rush can say that losing the White House and Congress to the Democrats with an unbeatable margin the House and an all but unbeatable margin in the Senate has been good for the Republicans. They were beaten soundly and there is no argument here: the GOP lost.

If moderate Republicans that support Obama -- and that 68% approval rating by mathematical dint has to include millions of Republicans that support Obama -- start buying the very logical and practical argument that the tactics of Rush Limbaugh and his ilk are one of the main reason why the GOP lost in November, then Obama and the Democrats will profit in the end.

Let's face it, folks. The tactics of the GOP during the campaign season rang hollow with many Republicans and independent voters. Rush opened himself up to this counter-attack by declaring he wished Obama would fail.

It has clearly occured to a great many Republicans that if Obama fails, then America is in grievous trouble. And eight years of the Bush economy has led to not one, but two recessions now...the second of which may be another Great Depression. Obama's plan is to reach out to the Republicans who have doubts about the way the GOP handled the campaign with brutally ugly lies about Obama, and have the irrefutable evidence of the economy to back up the theory that the GOP has no right being in charge.

All I have to say is "about damn time."

Smart Bombed

BooMan analyzes good ol' Sen. Mitch McConnell's reaction to the idea of "smart power": the notion that America can project power through cultural, social, and diplomatic means (and not just military ones.) As BooMan points out:
I was watching Minority Leader Mitch McConnell answer questions from the audience yesterday during his appearance at the National Press Club. [I'm hoping to get a transcript, but you can watch the video at CSPAN] And someone in the audience submitted a question (at minute 53:15, if you're watching the video) that asked McConnell 'what is your understanding of the foreign policy concept of Smart Power?'

McConnell took a moment to collect his thoughts, and then responded:

"I'm not sure I know what that means. [It's] probably in the eye of the beholder. Um...I'm not sure I know exactly what that means. I assume it probably careful when to attack, and I think most everybody would agree with that."

That was the sum total of Mitch McConnell's response.

Now, it's obvious that McConnell wasn't familiar with the term 'smart power', and he was therefore quite hamstrung in his ability to answer the question. We've all been there. Your options are to admit that you don't know the answer to the question or to engage in some bullshit. McConnell chose both options.

When you first seek to engage in some bullshit, you have to engage your imagination. In this case, McConnell had to think about what the likely source of the term 'Smart Power' might be and what they probably meant by it. We all know that attacking Iraq wasn't a 'smart' thing to do. And that seems to be about as far as McConnell's imagination could go.

It's almost a cliche, almost cartoonish. McConnell is so single-mindedly belligerent that he can't fathom America using anything other than military power for any reason.

Honestly, let's think about this. Arguably, as Senate majority leader, Mitch is the most powerful Republican out there. And yet, to Republicans, America will always be a military empire where might makes right. It's so ingrained into the Republican hawk mindset that literally, McConnell cannot even make the obvious connection about what "smart power" is, despite having been in Washington for decades, his wife being Labor Secretary and both of them being well-connected in D.C. circles.

That's the mindset of the GOP, period. Diplomacy isn't even an option, other than as something to use to cover for more military action. That's how Bush used it for eight years.

No wonder Condi Rice was considered a joke, and a former general was Bush's other Secretary of State, Colin Powell's only job was to sell the Iraq War.

It's truly an incomprehensible concept to these folks.

Money Plays, Money Pays

Obama's weekly YouTube is once again pretty dire. The President warned that his stimulus package needs to pass, or America's in trouble.
"We begin this year and this administration in the midst of an unprecedented crisis that calls for unprecedented action," he said in his weekly radio and Internet address.

"Just this week, we saw more people file for unemployment than at any time in the last 26 years, and experts agree that if nothing is done, the unemployment rate could reach double digits," Obama said.

The president pleaded for urgent action, saying, "if we do not act boldly and swiftly, a bad situation could become dramatically worse."

Obama's remarks came as he is lobbying for a quick congressional passage of a $825 billion dollar stimulus package to pump up the economy.

Obama's been repeating this almost daily now. Does it matter in the end?

The rhetoric is right, the scope is too small. We'll see.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

The Fox News guy on the teevee says solar power stocks are a good bet right now because they are "just the kind of thing the Obama administration would waste taxpayer money on."

StupidiNews, Weekend Edition

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