Sunday, October 11, 2009

Last Call

Politico's Alex Isenstadt notes that the GOP has fed, nurtured and unleashed the Pretty Hate Machine to attack the Obama administration, only to find that the Teabaggers have figured out the one sector of the federal government they really can remake in their own image is the GOP itself.

Whether it’s the loose confederation of Washington-oriented groups that have played an organizational role or the state-level activists who are channeling grass-roots anger into action back home, tea party forces are confronting the Republican establishment by backing insurgent conservatives and generating their own candidates — even if it means taking on GOP incumbents.

“We will be a headache for anyone who believes the Constitution of the United States … isn’t to be protected,” said Dick Armey, chairman of the anti-tax and limited government advocacy group FreedomWorks, which helped plan and promote the tea parties, town hall protests and the September ‘Taxpayer March’ in Washington. “If you can’t take it seriously, we will look for places of other employment for you.”

“We’re not a partisan organization, and I think many Republicans are disappointed we are not,” added Armey, a former GOP congressman.

The Winger/Teabagger/Birther/Tenther fringe has become the new base of the party, and they have decided to purge anyone and everyone remotely sane from their sight.

The Club For Growth folks long ago decided to destroy the federal government's ability to function and do to America what they have already done to California. The Fringers have decided that any Democratic government is not legitimate. Together, they've decided that the first people up against the wall are the people who failed them in 2006 and 2008.

After all, the GOP had one lousy job, and that was to make sure they kept America so perpetually ignorant of reality and so constantly afraid of the Democrats that the anti-government folks would be able to permanently dismantle the country and sell it for parts under everyone's noses.

Sadly, they were too good at it, and managed to dismantle the government a little too quickly for everyone's tastes, the resulting financial disaster from lack of oversight followed up by a multi-trillion dollar bailout was too much for people to take.

They can't do much right now about Barack Obama and those massive Democratic margins in Congress. They can however rid the Republican Party of anyone who isn't a race-baiting fundie know-nothing Dominionist.

“I think it was a bad, bad political decision,” Armey said of the 34 Senate Republicans and 91 House Republicans who voted for the TARP bailout, “and if you talk to grass-roots activists, it has become a political test for them.”

Moylan agreed that TARP is “really kind of the flash point that started all of this.”

“People are paying attention and are willing to hold these people accountable,” he said.

For some, supporting insurgent campaigns or waging primary bids just isn’t a strong enough signal to send to a Republican Party that has abandoned core conservative policies.

Erick Erickson, founder and editor of the influential conservative blog RedState, has urged tea party activists to “put down the protest signs” and stage takeovers of local Republican parties.

“Grass-roots activists need to start infiltrating the party,” said Erickson. “The only way to start getting [the establishment] back is to start pounding them with every fist we have.”

And this is why I'm not particularly worried about Democratic losses in 2010. The Republican candidates who will make it past the primaries are simply going to remind the rest of us just how insane these people are. The country club wing of the GOP has been playing these guys for fools since Reagan. Payback is going to be a bitch.

But, as Digby wisely warns:

They have a perfect right to try to move the Republican Party further to the right even though the party was just rejected in favor of a man and a party they portray as being far left. I guess they are convinced that the country really wanted a right wing fascist so they accidentally voted for a left wing socialist instead. Hey, it could happen to anyone.

The old saw is that a party has to be out of power for at least a couple of cycles before they settle down and realize that their schtick isn't playing.

Meanwhile, the Democrats need to get something tangible done for the citizens or these teabaggers might actually start making sense to people.
Better have something to show the voters back home, boys. A health care plan would be nice for starters.

The White House Takes On FOX News

It's one thing for someone like Keith Olbermann or bloggers like myself describe FOX News as the mouthpiece for the GOP. It's entirely something else when the White House does it.
The White House's communications director says that Fox News is little more than a wing of the Republican Party.

"The reality of it is that Fox News often operates as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party," Anita Dunn told CNN's Howard Kurtz on Sunday. "And it’s not ideological. I mean, obviously there are many commentators who are conservative, liberal, centrist, and everybody understands that. What I think is fair to say about Fox is — and certainly the way we view it — is that it really is more of a wing of the Republican Party."

Dunn was responding to Kurtz's question about her appearance in a Time magazine article, published Thursday, in which she described Fox News as "opinion journalism masquerading as news."

"They are boosting their audience," Time quoted her as saying. "But that doesn't mean we are going to sit back."

I don't think anyone's actually disputing this, certainly not FOX News viewers. But when the White House communications director says "You don't even qualify as a news network to us" then something fundamental has changed in the dynamic.
"They’re widely viewed as, you know, a part of the Republican Party," Dunn said on Kurtz's Reliable Sources. "They take their talking points, put them on the air, take their opposition research, put them on the air, and that’s fine. But let’s not pretend they’re a news network they way CNN is."

Then again, FOX doesn't seem to think Obama is really the President, either. So I guess that's fair and balanced. Dissent is one thing. Spreading outright lies in another. FOX News and their supporters seem to think by calling lies "dissent" that they have the moral high ground here. The White House is calling them out on it, and it's about time.

After all, Clinton knuckled under to folks like this and his party fell apart, he got impeached for his troubles, and the Republicans nearly destroyed the country when they got into power. It took us 16 years to get rid of them and only because they failed so utterly that even FOX News couldn't cover their asses.

Dissent really is patriotic. I do not agree with many of Obama's policies, particularly on civil liberties and Afghanistan and Iraq. But I'm not trying to convince America that he's a Kenyan usurper, either. There is a difference, and FOX has crossed that line one time too many.

The Village Perpetrates Actual Journalism, Film At 11

WaPo's Ann Gerhart discovers the Pretty Hate Machine, Malkinvania edition.
Late last month, Charisse Carney-Nunes fired up the computer at her home in Northeast Washington to check her e-mail. Her brain already was on morning drive time: breakfast for the kids, her day's work at a government agency. She glanced down at her screen, then froze.

"Ms. Carney-Nunes," began the e-mail from Michelle Malkin, a best-selling and often inflammatory conservative writer with a heavily trafficked Web site. "I understand that you uploaded the video of schoolchildren reciting a Barack Obama song/rap at Bernice Young elementary school in June. I have a few quick questions. Did you help write the song/rap and teach it to the children? Are you an educator/guest lecturer at the school? Did you teach about your book, 'I am Barack Obama' at the school? Your bio says you are a schoolmate of Obama. How well-acquainted are you with the president?"

Carney-Nunes looked at the time stamp -- 6:47 a.m. -- and closed the file without replying. She knew Malkin had driven criticism of President Obama's back-to-school speech, streamed nationwide, as an attempt to indoctrinate students. Now Malkin was asking about a YouTube video of New Jersey public school children singing and enthusiastically chanting about Obama from a Black History Month presentation.

By nightfall, Carney-Nunes's name was playing on Fox News and voice mails on her home phone and cellphone were clogged with the furious voices of strangers. The e-mails kept pouring in, by the hundreds, crammed with words spam filters try to catch: She was a "nappy-headed" traitor; she would lose her job and go to jail; she was Leni Riefenstahl, the filmmaker who glorified Hitler.

Once again, to sum up:

Now replace the "normal person" at the beginning there with Michelle Malkin, or Glenn Beck, or Rush Limbaugh, and the "anonymity" with "Obama Derangement Syndrome" and you have the current Winger state of insanity.

This kind of rabid hate has been going on long before Obama, but the fact that he won and the Republicans lost have driven these guys over the edge. It's gotten to the point these nutjobs are going after ordinary people who have the unmitigated gall to not think Obama is the most evil fascist Manchurian candidate in the history of the universe. Much like thugs, bullies, or really crappy supervillains, they're not going after the target, they're going after everyone around him in order to try to terrify the country into refusing to support the guy.

They'll attack anyone who works in the Federal government, for example, or any of the President's supporters. The tactics are classic: if you can get someone to pause and say to themselves "Hey, if I say Obama is a good guy, these whackos will come after me" and then they choose to remain silent, then the thugs here have won.

The nation's political discourse seems sour, angry, even dangerous; "uglier than it's ever been" is a phrase often volunteered -- as if President George W. Bush had never been depicted as Hitler, declared a dunce and heckled by Code Pink during his second inaugural address.

Critics are using the YouTube video of the children's song to argue that Obama is becoming a brainwashing dictator. To raise money for the Republican National Committee, Chairman Michael S. Steele has compared the song to "the type of propaganda you see in Stalin's Russia."

Carney-Nunes, swept up in a viral tornado of vitriol, had nothing to do with the children's song. She was doing an author's reading in the school that day.

We don't have political discourse in 2009 because it takes two sides willing to have discourse in order for discourse to proceed. One side says "We have our problems with Obama but there's much about him to like, let's work together, our country is in trouble here." The other side says "I refuse to recognize he is even legally President or even an US citizen. He is black. He is a Muslim. He is not my President. There's nothing to talk about. I will never support anything he does, and I want to rid the country of him and anyone who does support him."

This is what the Wingers see as discourse: "Will no one rid me of this meddlesome Kenyan?"

One noteworthy change is that the face of the federal government is African American for the first time, a factor that heightens animus in some and protectiveness in others.

"We've come a long way," said civil rights icon Dorothy Height, who attended the Black Family Reunion, which took place alongside the national Tea Party protest on Sept. 12. "But I stood on the National Mall watching people pass by carrying posters of Uncle Sam in blackface and I said, 'There's still a lot of work to be done in this country.' "

"Completely false allegations incubate in the fringe and jump within days to the mainstream, distorting any debate or progress we can have as a society," said Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which released a report last month noting a rise in the "militia movement" over the past year. "What's different is that a great deal of this is real fear and frustration at very real demographic and cultural changes."

Imagine that, a newspaper journalist actually admitting that fear of Obama's race, ethnicity and culture is scaring the hell out of the Wingers, and they are attacking back.

Yes. It's about race, as I have been saying since this blog started.

Carney-Nunes, who writes children's books and was a year behind Obama at Harvard Law School, watched as strangers posted her personal information on the Internet. She read, "You're a dirtbag commie propagandist trying to infect children with your failed Marxist ideology." And "your Obama chant is right out of Africa." And "get ready for a massive attack!!!" And "my friend GLENN BECK will also shove this in your face until justice is served." She made copies (which she shared with The Washington Post) and then deleted the messages, hoping the tornado would set her back down.

"I was fearful," she said. "I was looking over my shoulder." The disrespect for the office of the presidency disturbed her. "I won a contest in college and President Reagan gave me an award, and that signed letter is still hanging in its frame in the foyer of my mother's home. We are very proud of that letter, even though my mother didn't vote for him."

After a few days, with the outcry expanding to calls for the school principal and district superintendent to be fired, Carney-Nunes issued a statement through a publicist saying that she "did not write, create, teach or lead the song about President Obama in the video," and that "the song was presented to her by a teacher and students as a demonstration of a project that the children had previously put together." The district superintendent gave the same account in a letter sent home to parents.

Carney-Nunes said an associate of hers videotaped the children's performance and later uploaded it, along with video and photos from other of her readings, to Carney-Nunes's YouTube account.

An e-mail to Malkin Saturday seeking comment was not answered.

Carney-Nunes spends a lot of her free time teaching children how to bridge divides, but she has no idea how to build a dialogue with those who attacked her.

"How can I talk to those people?" she said. "These are people who persist in believing that Barack Obama is a Muslim, that he isn't a citizen of this country. You tell me: Where is the beginning of that conversation?"

And that is the question we have to face, all of us. But in order to have a conversation, both sides have to be willing. One side is. The other side wants no part of an America where we even have that conversation.

[UPDATE 6:20 PM] Jesse Taylor notes that Gerhart missed the entire point of the Malkin story:
Yes, a great number of conservative bloggers and demagogues are terribly, stupidly mean, like cavemen who can’t understand why the rock doesn’t have delicious meat inside. But more importantly, they’re terribly, stupidly dishonest, and it’s the dishonesty that’s the real danger. The Washington Post spent eight paragraphs writing about a conservative scandal and only managed to toss in a single fact-checking line in paragraph nine, at which point they went back to being observant scolds of the political discourse.
And it really is kind of pathetic that this is largely considered an improvement in our journalism in America.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Promise

While President Obama has given tons of flowery speeches on equal rights based on sexual orientation (one of them came last night at the Human Rights Campaign's annual dinner) John Aravosis at AmericaBlog is pretty pissed off at the President's track record on fixing all the damage the Bushies have done on the issue.
As for my take... Barack Obama just promised us that if he becomes president, he's going to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell, the Defense of Marriage Act, and get ENDA passed. It was a bit surreal. I'm sitting at a fundraiser for the No on 1 effort in Maine (that Obama didn't even bother to mention), and we were all just speechless (actually, hardly speechless - and I thought yelling at the TV was long since over). Obama repeated his campaign promises. That was it.

What's particularly disturbing is how President Obama contradicts himself, and his own administration, when talking to a gay crowd. The president claimed that he's for treating gay couples just like married couples. Then why is he against letting gay couples marry? The president claimed that it doesn't matter if we're at war and working on health care and lots of other important issues, we must forget ahead on gay civil rights. Then why is Obama's own administration putting out the talking point that they can't move ahead on gay rights until the wars are over, until health care is over, until Obama has less on his plate? Even General Jones last week said we can't do DADT because we're at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. But President Obama claimed today that precisely because we're at war it is important to lift the ban now.


What did President Obama say new tonight? Absolutely nothing. What did the Human Rights Campaign get in exchange for once again giving our president cover for all of his broken promises to our community? Absolutely nothing.
Now, John has a damn good point. One of the major GOP criticisms of the President is that Obama tries to do too much, and basically Obama's trying to hide behind that to avoid taking action on a number of civil rights fronts, and the LGBT community is pissed. America really does treat LGBT Americans like they are second-class citizens at best. That has to stop, and President Obama is actually in a position to do something about it.

On the other hand, BooMan has a decent argument as well that the Village is trying to paint this as war between the LGBT community and Obama.
When you've spent a good part of your life fighting for gay rights and equality, and/or suffering from the lack thereof, it may seem like seeing your concerns addressed is the most pressing issue imaginable. You may be in no mood for delay. But, while it is far from certain that Obama couldn't have moved on some issues of special concern to the gay community before now, accusing him of putting their agenda behind Wall Street regulation, health care, climate change, and foreign policy issues is a bit insane. In the priorities facing the nation, those four obviously come out on top. I'd add job creation and foreclosure mitigation to the list. In fairness, the Washington Post reporters who crafted that paragraph were not quoting anyone. That was their interpretation of the criticism that Obama has been receiving, but it is probably not a fair interpretation. Perhaps we should work with actual quotes:

"As someone who supported Barack Obama early on during the primaries, and raised nearly $50,000 for him during the campaign, it gives me no pleasure to burst the pink champagne bubbles of hope," John Aravosis, a gay rights activist and popular blogger, wrote in the Huffington Post. "But President Obama's track record on keeping his gay promises has been fairly abominable."

I don't interpret that criticism to be aimed at Obama's setting of priorities. I think Aravosis expects Obama to be able to do more than a few things at a time. And, regardless, pressure needs to be kept on so that Obama doesn't forget that fulfilling his promises to the gay community is somewhere in the queue.

Which I can understand. Obama really does need to roll on this.
The Democrats crammed the Hate Crimes Bill into the Defense Authorization Bill, infuriating Republicans. But it will soon pass. I fully expect that the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy will end before the end of his first term. A bigger question is whether or not Obama will be willing or able to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. That will be a tougher battle.
Which is also a good point. But it is a battle that needs to be fought and won, and on that, I agree with both bloggers.

[UPDATE 5:18 PM] Sully is much less happy with Obama's speech.

Look: I didn't expect these issues to be front and center given his appalling inheritance; I know he has many other things on his plate; I didn't expect the moon; I didn't believe he would do any of this immediately; I understand that the real job is for us to do, not him, and that most of the action is in the states. And I remain a strong supporter of him in foreign policy and in the way he is clearly trying to move this country past the ideological divides of the recent past.

But the sad truth is: he is refusing to take any responsibility for his clear refusal to fulfill clear campaign pledges on the core matter of civil rights and has given no substantive, verifiable pledges or deadlines by which he can be held accountable. What that means, I'm afraid, is that this speech was highfalutin bullshit. There were no meaningful commitments within a time certain, not even a commitment to fulfilling them in his first term; just meaningless, feel-good commitments that we have no way of holding him to. Once the dust settles, ask yourself. What did he promise to achieve in the next year? Or two years? Or four years? The answer is: nothing.

HRC, of course, is putting no pressure on him; Joe Solmonese's disgraceful email actually took all pressure off him by saying he'd be happy to wait till 2017 for HRC to hold Obama accountable. HRC are putting pressure, as they always have, on gay people to go to the back of the line and be grateful a president attends their fundraising event. The only word for this is a racket. And if gay people do not rise up and demand change from this organization and stop funding a group whose goal has always been to sell the Democrats to gay people rather than secure civil rights, then they will continue to suffer the discrimination they live under day after day.

And he has a point: We've heard this before from Obama, just like we heard promises of turning around the Bush record on civil liberties and the wars overseas. The actions so far do not match the words.

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