Saturday, August 10, 2013

Last Call For Ezra Klein's Credibility

I like Ezra Klein.  He's intelligent, he brings facts and debate to his discussions, and he's good at picking out the wheat from the chaff, unlike most pundits.

But he has one massive blind spot in that regard, and just like his friend Chris Hayes (who Klein covered for this week on All In) that blind spot is anything to do with the Dudebro Defector.  Klein on President Obama's press conference Friday:

Obama began the news conference by announcing a series of reforms meant to increase the transparency of, and the constraints on, the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs. They included reforms to Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which enables the collection of telephone metadata; changes to the powerful surveillance courts to ensure ”that the government’s position is challenged by an adversary”; declassification of key NSA documents; and the formation of “a high-level group of outside experts to review our entire intelligence and communications technologies.”

“What makes us different from other countries is not simply our ability to secure our nation,” Obama said. “It’s the way we do it, with open debate and democratic process.”

OK, now, since this is what everyone has been asking the President to do, you would think that would be at least a point in his favor.  But what immediately follows is some very familiar goalpost-moving behavior we expect to see from the hard right:

If that’s so, then Edward Snowden should be hailed as a hero. There’s simply no doubt that his leaks led to more open debate and more democratic process than would’ve existed otherwise.

Obama reluctantly admitted as much. “There’s no doubt that Mr. Snowden’s leaks triggered a much more rapid and passionate response than would have been the case if I had simply appointed this review board,” he said, though he also argued that absent Snowden, “we would have gotten to the same place, and we would have done so without putting at risk our national security and some very vital ways that we are able to get intelligence that we need to secure the country.”

As Tim Lee writes, this is dubious at best. Prior to Snowden’s remarks, there was little public debate — in part because the federal government was preventing it.

So, zero credit for Obama, the guy who defected to Russia (a country that just passed laws making it illegal to have an opinion supporting LGBTQ people) with tons of juicy NSA info on methods and means is a hero, and Klein, who is a journalist and print and TV media figure, is complaining about the stifling of debate.  Awesome.

I always enjoy pundits talking about the stifling of debate, as if pundits talking about things wasn't debate, and that President Obama had a gun to their heads.  It's disingenuous enough when right-wing hacks do it, but Ezra Klein knows better, and he's gone right off the cliff.  I didn't think I'd be putting him in the Village Stupidity category anytime soon, but if he really was going to have a serious debate about the US, Russia, and the NSA, this is nowhere close.

The Death Of Immigration Reform Isn't So Simple

I've given Greg Sargent grief before on his premise that the GOP's relationship with immigration reform is somehow more complicated than demographics, racism, and Obama Derangement Syndrome, but Sargent attempted a defense of his case on Thursday morning.

The chances that comprehensive immigration reform will ever pass the House  are very slim. However, the easy conventional wisdom about what’s happening now — which holds that the conservative base controls the outcome completely, that the death of reform is preordained, and that House Republicans are only looking for a way to kill reform blamelessly — is overly simplistic and is increasingly looking like it’s just wrong.

To understand what’s really happening, the key question to ask is: Are House Republicans just playing for time, or are they actually grappling with the issue of immigration reform and what to do about the 11 million undocumented immigrants?

My answer to that question is the former.  Time and again, Republicans have shown that they aren't interested in governance, merely bomb-throwing rhetoric and obstruction.  If they can't completely control every aspect of legislation, they'll exact whatever price they can and burn the rest down.  It's been this way since 2006, and it will continue.  So what's Greg's theory that this time is different?

In a story that deserves a bit of play today, the Daily Pilot reports that California Rep. Kevin McCarthy — who as the GOP whip is a member of the House leadership team — addressed immigration reform in a meeting of constituents. In some ways, what he said wasn’t surprising: He repeated that the borders must be secure first, and stopped short of supporting citizenship.

But McCarthy came out for legal status, crucially putting it this way: “What you then have to address is the 11 million that are here considered illegal.” This comes after GOP Reps. Aaron Schock and Daniel Webster also embraced varying but significant levels of reform earlier this month.

OK, I can see why a California Republican would see immigration reform in particular as important.  But that means McCarthy is the exception to the rule.  Remember, we have multiple Republicans who have openly said that if the leadership brings the Senate bill up for a vote, Orange Julius will be replaced.

ABC News gets it right today: “Republicans may be changing minds on reform.” Is this all a big ruse designed to make Republicans look serious about the issue before killing reform outright? Maybe. But maybe not. As Simon Rosenberg suggests, we should treat all of this seriously, acknowledging Republicans have been entrenched in an anti-amnesty position for years and that it is at least possible that House Republicans (perhaps for purely political reasons, but that would be movement nonetheless) will grapple with how to move from there to support for reform.

Those who glibly say reform is definitely dead no matter what will read the above as optimism. It isn’t optimism at all: far and away the most likely outcome remains that reform will die. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t describe what’s happening now accurately. And the conventional wisdom has it wrong.

OK, so granted, there's a slim chance it'll pass instead of no chance.  That is significant from a journalism and political viewpoint, yes.  From a practical viewpoint, no.

But Sargent is correct on the technical issues.  Not that it's going to help.  For instance, if this claim by Dem Luis Gutierrez is true, then there's a direct danger to allowing the Senate bill to come up in the House:  it would pass easily.

Forty to 50 House Republicans will support immigration reform, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) predicted Thursday.

Gutierrez said many of the Republicans supportive of immigration reform don’t want to be identified, but he insisted they would support comprehensive immigration reform.

“If they ask me today, go find those 40 to 50 Republicans, I’ll tell them I found them. I know where they’re at,” Gutierrez said in an interview with Ed O’Keefe at the Washington Post.

End game, right there.  So no, the Senate bill will never get a vote, and the House GOP will play out the clock.

Meanwhile, In The Echo Chamber Of Rand Paul's Mind...

Rand Paul's interview with Bloomberg Businessweek's Joshua Green is something to behold, folks.  And by "something to behold" I mean "another in a long line of idiotic positions that immediately disqualify him from the White House."

What is your plan to refashion the GOP to draw more minority and younger voters?

All voters, but particularly young people, and often young people who are African American or Hispanic, I think they have a sense of justice, and they sometimes mistrust government with achieving justice. So one of the big issues that I’ve fought here is getting rid of the provision called indefinite detention. This is the idea that an American citizen could be accused of a crime, held indefinitely without charge, and actually sent from America to Guantánamo Bay and kept forever.

I think there is something in that message of justice and a right to a trial by jury and a right to a lawyer that resonate beyond the traditional Republican Party and will help us to grow the Republican Party with the youth. Defending the Internet’s privacy, these are all things that broaden the appeal of Republicans.

Sure, because when I think about how minorities are mistreated by the American justice system, I first think of indefinite detention in Gitmo.  That's going to resonate more than stop and frisk, Trayvon Martin, gun murders, the Voting Rights Act being destroyed, etc.  Awesome.

A recent article in the New Republic said your budget would eviscerate the departments of Energy, State, Commerce, EPA, FDA, Education, and many others. Would Americans support that?

My budget is similar to the Penny Plan, which cuts 1 percent a year for five or six years and balances the budget. Many Americans who have suffered during a recession have had to cut their spending 1 percent, and they didn’t like doing it, but they were able to do it to get their family’s finances back in order. I see no reason why government can’t cut 1 percent of its spending.

And when Americans figure out all those pennies are coming from only Energy, the EPA, the FDA, Education, and not the Pentagon, they might protest.

But the end takes the cake:

Who would your ideal Fed chairman be?
Hayek would be good, but he’s deceased.

Nondead Fed chairman.
Friedman would probably be pretty good, too, and he’s not an Austrian, but he would be better than what we have.

Dead, too.
Yeah. Let’s just go with dead, because then you probably really wouldn’t have much of a functioning Federal Reserve.

Can we stop pretending that Rand Paul is anything other than a massive embarrassment my state is stuck with until 2017?
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