Saturday, July 25, 2009

Last Call

Back on Tuesday night I noted that the Village was no longer contributing the Dow's movements to Obama's policies. Since March 9, the Dow has goen up significantly. In fact, from March 9 to June 12, the Dow gained 2,250 points. What does CNBC's Larry Kudlow atrribute this rise to? Does Obama get any credit for that whatsoever?

Of course not. A one-day snapshot of the market is all Kudlow needs to determine the cause of the market's rise on Thursday.
Hate to say it but Obama’s disastrous press conference last night is a big contributor to today’s roaring stock market.

The Dow opened strong and is now up over 200 points, continuing a very bullish rally that is breaking new high ground for shares this year.

Politics is not everything, but I believe that the shrinking probability of a new government insurance plan that would lead to nationalized health care - along with the demise of cap-and-trade that would nationalize energy - is very bullish for stocks.

Hat tip to Bill Kristol for the phrase “docs and cops,” that latter of which were attacked by Obama last night. It looked real bad. In fact his whole garbled, inconsistent, and baffling defense of health care looked real bad. The president’s polls have been falling, especially on his policies. And markets see the possibility that free-market capitalism will live to see another day.

That's right, the failure of Obamacare will save the stock markets. They went up over 2,000 points as Obama continued to push the plan over the last 4 months, but all that really matters is that the day after the Village decided that the press conference was a bust, the market only could have gone up because Obamacare is failing.

Everything's about making Obama look bad now. Everything. It doesn't matter what he does, if bad things happen it's his fault, if good things happen, it's because he's failing to make bad things happen.

Your liberal media, folks.

The Apology Patrol

I said earlier today in the comments that I don't believe Obama has to apologize for anything he said about the Skip Gates incident on Wednesday.
Wanting to have a teachable moment in order to help the country move on, sure. Apologizing for what he said? He's admitting to overreacting a bit. But it doesn't change what he said nor the truth behind it.

He doesn't need to say he's sorry here, then again, it's not like the parties wanting him to apologize will accept it anyway.
Well, here's your teachable moment, folks. You can always count on Republicans to twist the knife in to keep a manufactured controversy going.

Congress would demand that President Obama apologize to the officer the president said had "acted stupidly" in the arrest of a prominent Harvard professor under a resolution set to be introduced by one Michigan lawmaker.

Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.) will introduce a House resolution on Monday demanding Obama retract and apologize for remarks he has made about Cambridge Police Sergeant James Crowley this past week.

Obama had said at his prime time press conference Wednesday that Crowley had "acted stupidly" in the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, a racially-infused case which has sparked a national debate on race and policing.

The president refused to back down on his involvement in the case, but appeared in the White House briefing on Friday to say he had called Crowley to explain that never meant to insult the officer. (Obama also called Gates on Friday.)

McCotter's resolution would demand Obama "retract his initial public remarks and apologize to Cambridge, Massachusetts Police Sergeant James M. Crowley for having unfairly impugned and prejudged his professional conduct in this local police response incident."

Sure. And while we're at it, let's have resolutions demanding apologies for the public remarks of Sen. Jim DeMint, Rep. Bill Posey, any Republican who contributed to Our Country Deserves Better PAC, Rep. Pete Sessions, Sen. John McCain, Rep. Michele Bachmann, and Newt Gingrich for good measure.

Making The Case For September

BooMan enlists Ezra Klein to help make the argument that a post-August recess health care bill will be better for all.
Contrary to common wisdom in Left Blogistan, I do not think the House should attempt to pass health care reform before they recess. I am aware of all the reasons for doing so (mainly, to pass something before opponents can rally a defense), but Ezra Klein explains perfectly my reasoning.

Some sources are speculating that the Blue Dogs are getting cold feet as they watch Max Baucus dither. Many of them felt burned by the hard and damaging vote on the cap-and-trade bill, as it looks like nothing will come of it in the Senate. Committing themselves to a health-care bill before the Senate shows its hand carries similar risks, and they're no longer in a risk-taking mood. The worst outcome for conservative Democrats in the House is that they're on record voting for a health-care reform bill that dies in the Senate and is judged a catastrophic example of liberal overreach.

The problem, of course, is that the more dissension there is among Democrats in the House, the less pressure there'll be on the Senate Democrats to make a hard vote on health-care reform. This makes health-care reform something of a prisoner's dilemma for conservative Democrats. If Blue Dogs in the House and centrists in the Senate both put it on the line to pass the bill, they're both better off. But if one puts it on the line and the other whiffs, then the other pays the price.

If the House passes a bill in this atmosphere, it will probably receive the bare minimum of votes (218-220), and that will only serve to highlight the intraparty squabbling on the Democratic side along with the monolithic opposition of the Republicans. That does not create a good dynamic for Max Baucus to work with in trying to get something through the Finance Committee.

Remember that the only vote that that the electorate will really remember is the vote on final passage of the conference report. That means that House Dems can get an almost free vote against the House bill now and make up for it later by voting for final passage. It would be far preferable to have the Senate pass their bill first so that centrist Dems don't feel like they are taking a difficult vote that might not be translated into law. But, even if the House goes first, they should have a better idea than they have now of what is going to be in the Baucus bill.

So the argument at this point is which is more dangerous, the threat of the anti-Obamacare forces having four weeks to get their free shots in while they know that no Congressional action will occur, or the threat that the President and progressives spending all their political capital to force Congress working through August to get a bill will backfire?

BooMan and Ezra Klein are arguing that the Senate will really decide this bill one way or the other, not the House. That means Max Baucus has to make his deal first before the House should vote. But the assumption is that Obama and progressives can find a way to keep this bill alive until September. Given the events of the last two weeks, I'm not sure that's possible anymore. It was two weeks ago that the Senate made the call that getting through the legislation before the August recess was unlikely, and really the problem started three weeks ago just after July 4th, when the Centrists started realizing Obamacare had a real chance and decided to pressure the White House to take progressive groups out of the equation. A couple days later, Rahmbo took their advice and released the trigger option trial balloon, which got shot down in a hail of blogstorming. A day later, the President made it clear that he wanted a public option and that Democrats like Chuck Schumer were backing him on it.

The next day, the CIA secret program/assassination squad story broke, and the combination of Obamacare and an Eric Holder investigation into the CIA was simply too much for the Village Centrists to handle. That led to this July 11th story in Newsweek about Eric Holder considering an investigation into Unfinished Bush Business, and the warning that doing so would "roil the country, would likely plunge Washington into a new round of partisan warfare, and could even imperil Obama's domestic priorities, including health care and energy reform."

July 12, one day after that story broke, the Centrists were all over the Sunday shows proclaiming that they had better things to do than try to pass health care. The entire exercise took 8 days.

Since then, the odds of Obamacare passing have steadily dropped, and the Village has gone into full attack mode, with the President being savaged on all fronts. July 13 saw the President first call for Congress to work through the August recess, but Henry Waxman then upped the stakes by calling for healthcare reform by the end of the year a day later. The Sotomayor hearings got underway that week too, taking the Senate out of the health care picture for the week, but allowing the GOP to play the race card repeatedly. By the time July 16th rolled around, Max Baucus was telling the press that the President "wasn't helping".

July 17th brought the latest wave of personal attacks on the President, staring with the Birther nonsense on multiple fronts. That led to the next day's character assassination in the WaPo editorial secton and the Gang Of Six threatening to kill Obamacare altogether. WaPo picked up the ball again last Sunday, and that led to this week's blistering attacks, Skip Gates, the Village assault on Obama's presser, even more Birther nonsense, another racist email attack on the President, and today's attacks.

That's a hell of a lot of Obama Derangement Syndrome to pack into three weeks. Now, can you imagine what another four weeks of this will achieve for the folks who want to see health care reform die screaming on the table, not to mention his entire agenda?

I know the reality is Obama cannot control Congress. I know we need a strong bill. But at some point, the Democrats in Congress have to make a choice to support the President or not. And those that do not support the President are trying to string this along so that they don't have to make that hard decision.

My question is if we have to wait through the recess (and all indications are now that we have no choice), what is Obama prepared to do to keep the momentum going? How far is he willing to go to get this bill passed and signed into law? With the GOP savaging him and the Village doing everything they can to refuse to call fouls on the Republicans while refereeing this little fracas, what does the White House plan to do? How will they get their message out, when the Village is trying to distort it and the GOP is trying to bury it in bullshit?

What, in short, is Obama's play here? If we're going to trust him to get this passed in September, I want to know.

[UPDATE 6:41 PM] Yggy notes that it's not a Prisoner's Dilemma if the "prisoners" are members of Congress, fully able to communicate with each other.

House and Senate Democrats can all get together in a room and talk this stuff out. So while the dilemma is real, it’s a perfectly surmountable problem. Surmountable, that is, if moderate members in both houses of congress actually want health care reform to pass. If the will isn’t there, then there are plenty of ways—this dilemma is one of them—for indifference to kill reform even while everyone claims to want to see it happen.
The will is there, actually. It's the reality of the other side that frightens me.

[UPDATE 7:03 PM] My other fear is of course how many more of these "Health Care Reform plan suffers new setback/blow/problems" stories are we going to see between now an September when they aren't setbacks, and they aren't new either. The muddier the waters get, the worse off we'll be.

Battle Of The Wingnut Stars

So as I peruse Think Progress today, I ask you, the erstwhile reader, which GOP Congresswoman is the least in touch with the reality of health care, North Carolina's Virginia Foxx...
"There are no Americans who don’t have healthcare. Everybody in this country has access to healthcare,” she says. “We do have about 7.5 million Americans who want to purchase health insurance who can not afford it,” she says, urging Congress to adopt a new plan for healthcare reform that wouldn’t “destroy what is good about healthcare in this country” and “give the government control of our lives.”
...or our returning champion, Minnesota's Michele Bachmann?
"This is radicalization of America like we have never seen before in the history of our country. But don’t lose heart. Because the polling data is showing — Rasmussen for instance — polling data is showing that President Obama’s numbers are dropping like a rock. As a matter of fact, his polling data now says that President Obama is a mere mortal. (Laughter) And so we can take heart. That is absolutely true."
One denies there's a problem with Americans accessing health care at all, the other wants to see to legislation that would give Americans more health care choices fail just to see the President harmed. Both go on to rail against government control over our lives, but both want the government to deny women abortions. Both are massively misinformed people spreading that misinformation in their capacity as people elected to represent hundreds of thousands of Americans in Congress...there's a cheery thought.

If you ask me, there's no winner here...we all in fact lose.

Taking It To The Next Level

As I've mentioned yesterday the attacks on President Obama's policies have graduated to personal attacks on the President himself and his qualifications for even being in office are under assault from conservatives (and once again, Digby's take on the matter is a must-read.) They're no longer going after his policies. They are going after Obama personally, and they're not even trying to hide it anymore.

Case in point: Fred Barnes's odious broadside on Obama as an "economic illiterate."

Is President Obama an economic illiterate? Harsh as that sounds, there's growing evidence he understands little about economics and even less about economic growth or job creation. Yet, as we saw at last week's presidential press conference, he's undeterred from holding forth, with seeming confidence, on economic issues.

Obama professes to believe in free market economics. But no one expects his policies to reflect the unfettered capitalism of a Milton Friedman. That's too much to ask. Demonstrating a passing acquaintance with free market ideas and how they might be used to fight the recession--that's not too much to ask.

But the president talks as if free market solutions are nonexistent, and in his mind they may be. Three weeks after taking office, he said only government "has the resources to jolt our economy back into life." He hasn't retreated, in words or policies, from that view.

At his press conference, Obama endorsed a surtax on families earning more than $1 million a year to pay for his health care initiative. This is no way to get the country out of a recession. Like them or not, millionaires are the folks whose investments create growth and jobs--which are, after all, exactly what the president is hoping for.

Another tax hike--especially on top of the increased taxes on individual income, capital gains, dividends, and inheritances that Obama intends to go into effect in 2011--is sure to impede investment. It's an anti-growth measure, as those with even a sketchy grasp of economics know. But Obama doesn't appear to.

First, Fred Barnes and the TAXEN CUTTEN UBER ALLES brigade had their time. They had a President that implemented the policies that Barnes wanted to see: tax cuts for the wealthy, blank-check spending on the Defense Department, massive deregulation (and refusal to enforce existing regulations), and the belief that only the private sector has real solutions.

The result of eight years of the economic policies that Fred Barnes and other conservatives shamelessly continue to advocate even now was the financial crisis and 18 month long Great Recession we're in today. John McCain, the candidate that wanted to continue these same disastrous policies, went before the American people and infamously declared the "fundamentals of our economy are strong" the morning before the economy nearly self-destructed. At the very minimum, the American people rejected these policies as gross incompetence bordering on dereliction of duty, and Fred Barnes is accusing Obama of economic illiteracy? Really? Where is Barnes's credibility to make that decision, exactly?

After trillions of dollars of wealth were wiped out globally and millions of jobs lost and lives ruined, thousands of businesses forced to slash production and hours and personnel, hundreds of local governments facing financial ruin and dozens of states having to cut the most basic services just to survive as a direct result of conservative economic policies of the Bush administration, how can Fred Barnes accuse anyone other than himself of not understanding basic economics?

It's ludicrous to the point of absurdity.

Second, as I've mentioned above, we're to the point of personal attacks on the intelligence and knowledge of a man handed the worst economy in several generations, who has had an entire six months to try to fix it. If this was a only a policy dispute, then that's legitimate, healthy, and in fact the purpose of the opposing political viewpoint in America. What Barnes is doing however is going after the President personally, challenging his intellectual fitness to lead this nation at a time of financial turmoil. After years of advocating Bush's avowed lack of curiosity and repeated blunders in front of the media and the world, that's just idiotic on its face.

Finally, this attack represents the latest depths to which the forces arrayed against the President have shown they will resort to. Obama in the White House has driven a good portion of the Pretty Hate Machine into full attack mode. In addition to being an illegal alien, a racist cop-hater and a closet Manchurian Candidate jihadi, he's apparently just not that bright, too.

Never mind the lovely racial connotations of the history of illiteracy in this country, not to mention those of a white man attacking an African-American's intelligence. I actually don't think Barnes meant anything overtly racial about it. Those attacks I imagine will come from others.

And soon. Ask yourself where we were just a few weeks ago, and ask yourselves just how quickly the Village punditry has turned on Obama.

It will get worse. As Steve Benen concludes:

Obama raised concerns about changing the behavior and practices of banks, because the president would like to avoid things going to back to the way they were -- conditions that led to the collapse of the economy in the first place. He objected to health insurance companies making "record profits," because American families are struggling badly with rising health care costs. If Barnes disagrees, fine, but the president's concern is hardly evidence of ignorance.
In Fred Barnes's world it is, however. And that's a pretty ugly world to be in, as we're all about to soon discover.

It's Just A Goddamn Piece Of Paper

President Bush's infamous quote on the Constitution takes on new meaning today due to this story in the NY Times.
Top Bush administration officials in 2002 debated testing the Constitution by sending American troops into the suburbs of Buffalo to arrest a group of men suspected of plotting with Al Qaeda, according to former administration officials.

Some of the advisers to President George W. Bush, including Vice President Dick Cheney, argued that a president had the power to use the military on domestic soil to sweep up the terrorism suspects, who came to be known as the Lackawanna Six, and declare them enemy combatants.

Mr. Bush ultimately decided against the proposal to use military force.
The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 pretty much strictly prohibits the use of the American military for law enforcement duties (ourside of the Coast Guard) Our old friends Dick Cheney and John Yoo had some up with the notion that it was legal to send our troops into Buffalo because we were at war. The Act only mentions the Army and Air Force specifically, but a further regulation in the United States Code prohibits all branches of the military from engaging in "a search, seizure, arrest, or other similar activity unless participation in such activity by such member is otherwise authorized by law." Dickster there figured they had the power to authorize it because it was a national security issue, not law enforcement.
“The president has ample constitutional and statutory authority to deploy the military against international or foreign terrorists operating within the United States,” the memorandum said.

The memorandum — written by the lawyers John C. Yoo and Robert J. Delahunty — was directed to Alberto R. Gonzales, then the White House counsel, who had asked the department about a president’s authority to use the military to combat terrorist activities in the United States.

The memorandum was declassified in March. But the White House debate about the Lackawanna group is the first evidence that top American officials, after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, actually considered using the document to justify deploying the military into an American town to make arrests.
And that's the absolutely scary thing. Dick Cheney and John Yoo wanted to use military troops on U.S. soil to capture "terrorists." Say what you will about the armament of your average big city police department, with SWAT teams and weapons and whatnot, but they don't have tanks and bombers and cruise missiles and helicopter gunships and Predator drones. You see, once you go down that road using the military to enforce laws, who is there to stop them from enforcing anything they want?

Since 2002, we've seen what the Bush administration (and the Obama administration for that matter) is willing to do in order to "target terrorists" in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. They haven't exactly taken great care not to leave tens of thousands dead in collateral damage. Imagine that same standard applied here in your hometown. Hey, the guy down the street is a terrorist. Sorry about your house. Sorry about you car. Sorry about your family. You have our deepest sympathies.

And before we all go "Yay, Bush saved us from this evil" let's remember that Congress and Bush signed into law the ability to declare martial law and take control of the National Guard for use inside the United States. That part of the bill was repealed a year later, but it was clear Bush could have at any point there for a while declared martial law and taken a state's National Guard...or all the states' National Guard...and mobilized them under his command. It would have amounted to the same thing in the end.

Next time anyone accuses Barack Obama of being a fascist, turn them on to that NY Times article. Steve Benen has a great observation:
Why would Cheney oppose sending the FBI to go get the suspected bad guys? Because he feared the evidence may not be compelling enough to justify an arrest and conviction. It was better, he said, to have the military take the Lackawanna Six into custody, declare them enemy combatants, and not worry about due process or meeting legal standards.
Which actually makes the most sense as to why Cheney wanted to do it, plus the climate of fear they were trying to create in 2002 to get every other concession from Congress and the American people would have been well-served by it. Marcy Wheeler adds:
Which to me is just as interesting as the news that Cheney was pushing to do this: Imagine how well it would work to impose military rule just in time for the first anniversary of 9/11, and just as you're rolling out the case for the Iraq War?
Which is also very true. Remember what the goal was in terrify us into war with Iraq. We went anyway, of course...but what other concessions would Bush/Cheney have gotten if they had established they were willing to use the military to detain "suspected terrorists" inside the US?

I'll go one step further. What would have stopped them from deploying troops in major Democratic Party urban centers in November 2002, less than two months after the anniversary of 9/11 to "protect our high-value target election precincts from terrorists?" If you were a minority voter in New York or Washington D.C. or L.A. or Chicago, are you really going to go into a platoon of Army soldiers or Marines and security checkpoints and all that just to vote? (Mysteriously, these overtly armed soldiers and security checkpoints would be missing from more rural Red precincts.)

How many fewer urban votes would that have caused in 2002? And of course, the public would demand that kind of safety in 2004 again too...and 2006...and about the ultimate in voter supression.

No, Cheney knew exactly what he was doing. Bush said no at the time, so Cheney relied on other methods to get us into Iraq. It could have been much worse. You see now why we have to fully investigate all the leftover garbage Bush left behind? The Warren Terrah was almost a shooting war on our soil, and the shooting was going to be done against American citizens by the American military.

[UPDATE 10:00 AM] Steven D at the Frog Pond adds:
So, because of the media drumbeat about the dangers of these minor and frankly insignificant members of an upstate New York Yemeni community, Cheney and others tried to bamboozle Bush and the rest of the country into authorizing something that no President had done since the Civil War -- use US soldiers to capture "enemy combatants" on US soil. Lincoln might be forgiven that excess, considering the South was in open rebellion and fielded armies in the field capable of invading the Northern states (which they did on several occasions). Cheney on the other hand saw these inept young men as an excuse to eliminate the Fourth Amendment whenever the President deemed it necessary. Spying on US citizens using the resources of the NSA to sweep up information on our financial, medical and online transactions and communications wasn't enough for this Dick. Truly, this was an attempt at an executive branch power grab of monumental proportions.

Good thing Cheney never sent his CIA "death squads" after Bush. Imagine what a President Cheney would have done had he not been hindered by such a lazy faux cowboy like Dubya?

Indeed. How close did we come back then to a functional coup led by dysfunctional assholes?

[UPDATE 1:11 PM] The Double G weighs in on just how horrific that John Yoo memo was from a legal and Constitutional standpoint.
[I]n 2002, Dick Cheney and David Addington urged that U.S. military troops be used to arrest and detain American citizens, inside the U.S., who were suspected of involvement with Al Qaeda. That was done pursuant to a previously released DOJ memo (.pdf) authored by John Yoo and Robert Delahunty, addressed to Alberto Gonzales, dated October 23, 2001, and chillingly entitled "Authority for Use of Military Force to Combat Terrorist Activities Within the U.S." That Memo had concluded that the President had authority to deploy the U.S. military against American citizens on U.S. soil. Far worse, it asserted that in exercising that power, the President could not be bound either by Congressional statutes prohibiting such use (such as the Posse Comitatus Act) or even by the Constitution's Fourth Amendment, which -- the Memo concluded -- was "inapplicable" to what it called "domestic military operations."

Though it received very little press attention, it is not hyperbole to observe that this October 23 Memo was one of the most significant events in American politics in the last several decades, because it explicitly declared the U.S. Constitution -- the Bill of Rights -- inoperative inside the U.S., as applied to U.S. citizens. Just read what it said in arguing that neither the Fourth Amendment -- nor even the First Amendment -- can constrain what the President can do when overseeing "domestic military operations" (I wrote about that Memo when it was released last March and excerpted the most revealing and tyrannical portions: here).
It was a bold and frightening step towards military rule of the country, prevented only by an apparent failure of will to stomach proceeding to the logical endpoint of the Memo's assumptions on the plenary executive. Bush wouldn't cooperate, and Cheney wasn't going to go all the way.

I guess he got cold feet. There but for the grace of God goes our Republic...what's left of it, anyway.

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