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Over the River and Into Default

Turkey

To Grandmother’s house we go!

Actually, I wish we could go to Grandma’s, because she had common sense, unlike anyone in the House GOP caucus.

My grandparents, born 1892 and 1897, taught me a lot about coping with life’s problems. Principle #1: you’ve got to eat. Crises can happen, and when they disrupt your routines, go back to your routine. Get some food down, you’ll think better.

Principle #2: choose the obvious solution, even if you don’t like it. Not liking it is how you know it’s the right thing to do.

Which brings me to John Boehner. Apparently he didn’t have a grandmother, because he consistently chooses everything but the right thing to do.

So he flails – in public – while we all wonder if he’s going to take down the entire world economy. Which is to say, the standard of living of everyone on earth.

From México to Russia and Greece, the world looks on in shocked disbelief. The New York Times reports other countries are “Viewing U.S. in Fear and Dismay.”

We should take that gavel and knock some sense into John Boehner. (usnews.com)

We should take that gavel and knock some sense into him. (usnews.com)

But thanks to my dad, I’ve seen this act before. It gets old; this is a rerun. The cheap little drama wasn’t entertaining the first time.

So House Republicans are out of control. And Boehner’s the worst of them.

My father got out of control a lot; my grandparents were very experienced at handling a crisis. The first thing was to get him under control. Feed him, then talk some sense into him. Make him do the right, obvious thing.

Because everything he was doing was avoiding the right, obvious thing.

Boehner should, as we all know, reopen the government and raise the debt limit. Put an end to this public spectacle.

(Sidebar: the public spectacle doesn’t bother people who are out of control. What would be mortifying to you or me just seems par for the course to them.)

Flailing

If it means he no longer gets to be Speaker of the House, well, that’s too bad. Unfortunate. Not necessarily his fault entirely. But then again, he’s the one flailing in public.

He’d feel better to just go ahead and do what needs to be done. Afterwards we can talk if he feels like it.

This was my grandparents’ basic solution. I don’t know how they “made” my dad do the right thing most of the time, but they did.

Every time he got in trouble, he ran home. Usually he wanted his parents to bail him out. They did that at first, but over the years they got a little smarter about making him be responsible for himself. He still robbed them blind, though.

I guess John Boehner doesn’t have a home to go to; no Grandma. I’d feel sorry for him, except he’s pathetic.

One excuse after another; “the Tea Party made me do it.” No, they didn’t, John; nobody can make you do anything. Now straighten up and fly right.

He could have been a hero to the American people. Instead he’s sacrificing the whole country so he can keep his title – for another day or week or month.

It’s obvious the Crazy Caucus will cut him loose the minute he no longer suits their purposes.

Yoo-hoo! Yoho, you're a bozo.

Yoo-hoo! Yoho, you’re a bozo.

They’re out to bring down the U.S. government.

It’s no longer about Barack Obama anymore, much less Obamacare. They’ve given up on that entirely. They want to destroy the government, while insisting “this is the greatest country on earth.”

Not without a government, it isn’t.

This is a civil war without shots being fired yet.

Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, although I wouldn’t put it past them. We’ve seen the Tea Party’s violent tendencies before.

Tea Party rally, August 14, 2010. (therightperspective.com)

Tea Party rally, August 14, 2010. (therightperspective.com)

We saw it in all the furious arguing over “gun rights” last winter. Polls said 90% of Americans support background checks so criminals and crazy people can’t buy guns, but Boehner and the Republicans blocked it – while insisting they were “doing the will of the American people.”

We’ve seen the war on women, including a skirmish yesterday on including a “conscience clause” in the Continuing Resolution to reopen the government, so fundamentalist employers don’t have to pay for birth control under Obamacare.

Birth control! Really?

Birth control is health care. A lot of women take it to regularize their menstrual cycles. Preventing pregnancy is only one reason doctors prescribe the Pill. Every woman’s body is different, and they don’t need politicians telling them what they can and can’t do to take care of themselves.

Abortion is also health care. My other grandmother died the same day she gave birth to my mother. Didn’t Boehner watch “Downton Abbey” last season, when Lady Sybil died? Complications of pregnancy kill women worldwide – and the United States has a shamefully high maternal death rate.

We’ve seen the absolute willingness of fundamentalists to go to war over Gay and Lesbian rights.

Now that they’ve lost in this country, they’re exporting their war on Gays to Africa and Russia.

(The New Civil Rights Movement)

(The New Civil Rights Movement)

Strict Tea Party Libertarians don’t care so much about private sexual issues, but many of the Tea Party politicians are also fundamentalists. Issues get mixed in the spaghetti salads of their minds.

Then there’s the argument about “socialism.” They think Joseph Stalin has come back to life and is occupying the White House.

Ron Paul, of the racist newsletters, gave the keynote speech at the 50th anniversary convention of the John Birch Society. His son Rand Paul had to let go a racist staffer earlier this year.

This is a bloodless civil war. Many issues come together – racism, homophobia, economic decline, failure in Bush’s Wars, immigration, put-upon men crying that women have taken over the world – and now we have a faction trying to take down the U.S. government.

Boehner is James Buchanan, who was President just before Lincoln; a Southern sympathizer and appeaser trying to run out the clock on his term before the great war came.

Lincoln got elected and it came.

America's worst president. Lived for years with his male friend. (Wikipedia)

America’s worst president, Buchanan was a “bachelor” who lived for 14 years with Vice-President Rufus King. Andrew Jackson called them “Miss Nancy and Aunt Fancy.” (Matthew Brady/Library of Congress via Wikipedia)

These are very bad times. I wish Boehner’s Grandma would slap him upside the head, but no such luck.

I know what my Grandma would do with him. She was an Eisenhower Republican. She lived through the Depression. She believed in paying her bills. She bought U.S. Bonds. She saw my Granddad ship off to World War I and my father fight in World War II. She knew the difference between patriotism and selfishness.

John Boehner and these Republicans are no patriots. He’s willing to screw the whole country so he can keep riding around in his limo.

For what? Another day, another week, another month?

This won’t last. The question is what comes next. It’s going to take all the President’s skill to avoid a bloodletting. Does he have it in him? No one knows.

He’s been strong in this current crisis, and his party is united behind him. But he wasn’t strong the last time, which helped get us into this mess.

He needs to understand this is a fight for the U.S. government. It isn’t about him, even though he’s Black and all that. It’s about government itself, with anarchists the enemy. My advice: don’t heat this cold war into a hot one, but understand we’re in the fight of our lives.

The enemy’s within, and they must be crushed.++

steam_roller

These Republican Whigs & Know-Nothings

FreeVector-President-Washington

Washington was elected twice as an independent, but he favored a strong central government, which became the Federalists’ position. But some people are still fighting that notion today. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison secretly introduced the notion of state nullification to conventions in Kentucky and Tennessee.

Is the Republican Party disintegrating before our eyes? I think so, although it’s hard to make any sense of what’s currently going on in politics and no one can predict the future. But suppose it is; would that explain why we have total gridlock in Washington, a Congress with an approval rating of 9% and this series of self-inflicted financial crises over the “fiscal cliff,” the sequester and threats about not raising the debt ceiling?

Pundits don’t seem to know; after all, no one alive has seen a political party dissolve. We don’t know what the telltale signs are anymore – although parties do come and go, as the Whigs and Know-Nothings can attest.

History seems to show that a party goes belly-up when the nation rejects its policies, but its leaders aren’t capable of change. There just stops being a reason it exists anymore, so its members walk away and join other groupings. What are the signs this is happening to the GOP?

Take CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference just ended in suburban Maryland. Thousands of reporters were accredited to cover it from all over the world as if it were an important event, but it mostly turned out to be a circus. There was Mitch McConnell, who’s 71, in front of a roomful of activists who are 22, denouncing the Democrats’ frontrunners in 2016 as a rerun of the “Golden Girls” – despite those frontrunners’ being younger than he is. Hillary Clinton is 65 and Joe Biden is 69. Yuck-a-day!

It was slightly entertaining to watch McConnell deliver this line; he has no lips and apparently no teeth, but he almost broke out in a smile at his own utter hilarity.

The gals were fabulous - a concept McConnell knows nothing about.

These gals were fabulous – a concept McConnell knows nothing about.

Donald Trump gave a talk, which ranged from rambling to incoherent; his big criticism of Mitt Romney (last year’s failed Republican, in case you’ve forgotten already) was that he didn’t brag enough about how rich he is. American admire success, Trump said – which must be true because it’s the only reason anyone’s ever paid attention to him. The news was that nobody showed up to hear Trump deliver this pronouncement. I think Toupée Man has finally worn out his welcome.

DONALDTRUMPSAUDIENCE

When no one shows up for Trump, the end is near.

A few bored reporters generated some discussion of Sen. Rob Portman’s switch in favor of Gay marriage, two years after his son told him he’s Gay, but the only people excited about that were old people, interviewed here and there by obscure bloggers with videocams; the College Republicans who dominated the event mostly said Portman was right – if you asked them, because they weren’t talking about Rob Portman.

The weekend winner was Rand Paul, a nominal Republican who’s really a Libertarian. That party is likely to scoop up some Republicans if the collapse happens. Paul won the CPAC straw poll for President in 2016. He won’t win anything else, but he did win that.

A forum on broadening the party’s demographic base devolved into a White Power diatribe, with the featured speaker, K. Carl Smith of the Frederick Douglass Republicans, having to listen to a Tea Party activist who claimed that Whites have been “systematically disenfranched” by the U.S. government and that slaves ought to have thanked their masters for giving them food and shelter.

Not a good sign when you’re trying to broaden your base. Not a good sign a-tall!

The Tea Party in some version may try to organize itself as a post-Republican party, though after the spectacle of Dick Armey showing up with armed guards to clean out his desk at FreedomWorks (and pocket an $8 million settlement), it’s hard for me to see them as serious. Mother Jones magazine reported that FW paid radio talkers Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh to extol the group on the air every week, which Armey opposed as not cost-effective and insulting to activists. The main beneficiary, Armey said, was FW’s president Matt Kibbe, who used staff members to write a book he profited from.

When political hustlers are in charge of the “grass roots,” there is no there there. So what’s to become of John Boehner?

Has there ever been a Speaker of the House like this guy? He reminds me of the Wizard of Oz after Toto’s pulled back the curtain. Boehner just keeps fiddling his dials and pumping the smoke machine as if nothing has happened amiss. He announced this weekend that mere election results aren’t going to change his policies; why would losing have anything to do with it?

John Boehner's role model.

John Boehner’s role model.

Someone smart pointed out recently that when the Democrats were in the doldrums back in the 1980s, losing the White House to Ronald Reagan and the elder George Bush, it took them three elections to right the ship – and then they turned to that “New Democrat” Bill Clinton, a Southern governor who “ended welfare as we know it.” If the party had gotten too liberal, which was the popular if mistaken diagnosis, Clinton arrived to clean things up. (And he did carry a Southern state or two.) Today, of course, the Republicans have only lost two in a row to Barack Obama (or three of the last four popular votes, if you count George W. Bush in 2000), and it may be that Republicans still have another loss to come before they change, if they do. If they make it that long. I’m not sure they will.

They have no obvious talent waiting in the on-deck circle, while it was clear back in 1988 that Bill Clinton was a comer. The few Republicans being talked about in 2016 all seem to have huge liabilities. Gov. Bobby Jindal is universally praised as intelligent, but his draconian policies in back-swamp Louisiana keep running afoul of the courts, and while he made a brief splash for telling Republicans they’ve got to stop being “the stupid party,” he didn’t propose anything smarter for national policies. He didn’t say global warming is real, let’s support marriage equality or open up a path to citizenship for immigrants, so it’s clear he either doesn’t have convictions or doesn’t have the courage of them.

Jeb Bush, the “smart one” of Barbara’s boys, is running around hemming and hawing about immigration – he’s for the pathway, he’s not for the pathway, “you have to understand we wrote that book (that just came out) last year” when we thought Romney would win – and saying he loves his brother W., he didn’t do anything wrong and Jeb is proud of him. Try selling that to voters!

lehmanbros

It’s true that Jeb can hardly say, “That son of a bitch, he screwed me for life,” but if he doesn’t say it, he’s screwed anyway. Bye, Jebber, you should never have let W. outrun you in 2000.

Marco Rubio, Jeb’s protegé, doesn’t know how to be the Republicans’ Great Hispanic Hope. If he endorses the pathway, he loses the nomination; if he doesn’t endorse it, he loses the election. (Besides, he ain’t that goodlooking.) And did you see him the other day at CPAC? No, he said, we don’t need new ideas, we still have a great idea – “It’s called America.”

That and eight bits might get you coffee. Or not.

As for Chris Christie, the only Republican popular with Democrats (and that won’t last), he wasn’t invited to CPAC. He hugged President Obama after Hurricane Sandy and that supposedly cost the Mittster the election.

So they invited the Mittster instead. No one knows why; CPAC was one collection of losers after another.

The moral of the story: when journalists outnumber activists, CPAC has peaked. (Most of the college kids were really just looking to get laid anyway.)

Maybe there will be a Republican who surprises us, a backbencher in Congress most likely; someone who finally gives up on Boehner, McConnell, sequesters and cliffs and government shutdowns, and strikes out on his or her own course. But if that were going to happen, I would think the gun safety debate would be the place for it to start. Polls show 91% of Americans favor universal background checks on gun purchases, but the only Republican senator who favors running all names through the computer is Mark Kirk of Illinois, who’s recovering from a major stroke. (He had to learn to walk again, and has made a good recovery.)

Every other Republican in Congress is plowing ahead as if nothing has changed. They’ll continue to obstruct, won’t pass any legislation and their big worry is that they’ll get “primaried” by a more conservative candidate – which led Lindsey Graham, better known as Senator Huckleberry, to announce he’s the proud owner of his very own assault weapon.

Lady Liberty is showing her tits again.

Lady Liberty is showing her tits again.

The jokes just write themselves.

As I said, I don’t own a crystal ball. They don’t work even if you own one. But we do know what causes a political party to crash. They insist on policies that are unpopular. They lack a strong leader. (Reince Priebus, anyone?) They prove incapable of altering their strategy, tactics or campaign techniques. They lose favor with young voters and are opponents of change, which happens whether they like it or not; see Gay marriage. They end up fighting among themselves while their platform loses all coherence.

Maybe Chris Christie can clean up this mess; but his temperament is volatile and his policies are immoderate – destroy the unions, snuggle up to Wall Street; New Jersey has a lot of financiers in those New York suburbs. He should coast to re-election this year but I’m not convinced he has national staying power. If he’s the nominee, which would take major hocus-pocus, and Hillary Clinton runs in ’16, I think Dems would keep the White House. Maybe even Biden could keep it, if he takes off his shirt and washes his Firebird in the front yard.

(The Onion, and don't think Biden hasn't exploited this image for all it's worth)

(The Onion, and don’t think Biden hasn’t exploited this for all it’s worth)

That would be three straight losses for the Republicans. Then we’ll see if some young, attractive, pro-Gay moderate can inject new life in the party, or it just burns out like the Know-Nothings.

President Obama has often compared himself to Ronald Reagan, odious as that is to me. Reagan was so successful he changed the trajectory of politics for a generation, and succeeded in seeing his vice-president replace him. (That hasn’t happened since.) The problem for Republicans is that Reagan was such a transformative figure who made conservatism acceptable, that his party today doesn’t know how to extend and broaden what he began. They’re reduced simply to invoking him, paying homage to the great man, claiming him for what they’re doing 30 years later. But he’s been dead quite some time now, and a huge chunk of voters doesn’t remember him. His trickle-down economics didn’t work, even his budget director admits cutting taxes doesn’t raise revenue or grow the economy, and these sad sacks, who lack his charisma and polished charm, are stuck doing wash/rinse/repeat. He went right, so they go further right, all the way to Crazyland, but Americans don’t want that; we like Social Security, we like Medicare and Medicaid, we don’t want people starving in the streets.

Libertarianism is a dead end; a modern society requires a modern government, with food inspectors and air traffic controllers, scientific research and development; you can’t turn back the clock. We’re here, we’re queer – they’re used to it!

The Tea Party may gasp on, but ask Claire McCaskill and Joe Donnelly (D-IN) how they like being in the Senate. As for the gun freaks after Sandy Hook, it’s plain we don’t want to live that way; it doesn’t make us safer. Obama may or may not succeed in cutting the budget when we ought to be raising it – who would he negotiate with for this “grand bargain”? – but his best bet is just putting Air Force One on auto-pilot until 2014. If Ashley Judd knocks off Mitch McConnell, the Party of No will be nowhere.++

party-of-no

Republican Meltdown

boehner-cries

We seem to be witnessing the implosion of the Republican Party. It just gets curiouser and curiouser.

On Friday House Speaker John Boehner first scheduled, then withdrew a vote on his “Plan B” as a step toward resolving the so-called fiscal cliff crisis, in which all the tax cuts of George W. Bush are set to expire and $500 billion in across-the-board spending cuts will go into effect.

Boehner didn’t have the votes for Plan B. He couldn’t get his own party to go along with him.

Plan B would have extended Bush’s tax cuts for 99.8% of Americans – everyone who makes less than a million dollars. (And even millionaires would have enjoyed continued lower rates on their first $999,999.) But House Republicans wouldn’t do it. They want no tax increases at all.

They don’t care that polls show the American people overwhelmingly favor increasing taxes on the rich.

These are the same “lawmakers” (put that in quotes because they’re not making any laws at all these days) who moan and groan about the budget deficit and the national debt, which they’re sure will “turn us into Greece” any day now, causing hyperinflation, high interest rates and mass unemployment. Indeed, they’ve been predicting this since 2008, yet interest rates remain so low my bank is now begging me to refinance my mortgage so it can profit on all the money it “saves” me.

Inflation-indexed Treasury bills carry a negative interest rate. If you’ve got ten grand to park, it will cost you money to give it to the U.S. government. We’ve never seen such a thing. Bonds are supposed to pay you, not the other way around!

The deficit hawks keep predicting the end of the world. The Mayan calendar comes and goes, the world keeps spinning, but the GOP/Tea Party is convinced we must cut spending – not for the sacred military, mind you, but for “luxuries” like unemployment benefits, food stamps, Medicare, Medicaid and disabled veterans.

If it doesn’t help millionaires, Republicans aren’t interested.

This is all very odd. And though this situation is incredibly complex, certain basic facts stand out.

Under ordinary rules of politics, politicians favor what’s popular with the public. But these Republicans don’t. People don’t want Medicare cut; they like Medicare and they paid into it. Congressional Republicans want to cut Medicare anyway.

A recent poll by CNN/ORC found that a majority of Americans say the Republicans are “too extreme.” That should cause them to moderate their positions, but so far it hasn’t.

If no deal is made and we go off the “fiscal cliff,” government spending will gradually drop so drastically that by spring, we’ll head back into a recession. And people will blame the Republicans if that happens, according to a Pew Research poll.

House Republicans are unmoved. They won’t raise taxes no matter what. They’re willing to let their Speaker twist in the wind on Capitol Hill rather than do a simple deal to keep the whole party from looking like idiots.

Grover Norquist’s infamous no-tax pledge has been shredded so badly that this week he declared Boehner’s tax increase on millionaires wasn’t a tax increase at all. He’s coming very close to political irrelevance, after dominating the party for 20 years.

Dick Armey took a $7 million payout from FreedomWorks, a phony Tea Party organization financed by the Koch Brothers, after the election, demanding that they remove all references to him immediately on his departure. This week, FreedomWorks declared “Two Cheers for Plan B” on Thursday, then Friday morning said, “That doesn’t mean to vote for it.”

The National Rifle Association held a “news conference” (a speech, actually, no questions allowed) Friday in the wake of the mass murder of 6-year-olds in Newtown. Wayne LaPierre’s speech was almost universally condemned; even Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post was appalled.

 

The Post is Rupert Murdoch's conservative paper; the Daily News is sort of moderate.

The Post is Rupert Murdoch’s conservative paper; the Daily News is sort of moderate.

But so far Republicans are “sticking to their guns,” in the face of polls showing Americans want sensible gun safety laws. According to the Daily News, Pew found that “65 percent said that allowing assault weapons ownership makes the country more dangerous, while just 21 percent say they make the country more safe.”

Just hours ago, a candlelight vigil was held at Lafayette Park in Washington. (Mandel Ngan/AFP-Getty)

Just hours ago, a candlelight vigil was held at Lafayette Park in Washington. (Mandel Ngan/AFP-Getty)

John Boehner has tried to get a deal with President Obama, but he doesn’t have enough support in the House. How long can he remain Speaker this way? Saint Reagan couldn’t corral these people; he raised taxes 11 times.

If compromise is now a dirty word to Tea Party Republicans, the government grinds to a halt. Whatever the House might pass, the Senate will reject, and we’re left with nothing.

When has a political party ever induced a recession, thinking this is what people want? It’s never happened!

So what’s really going on here?

First, Saint Reagan is dead. The Republican Party hasn’t had an idea since he left office, so they keep running on what they say he stood for, as distorted by lesser lights since then like Newt “Moon Colony” Gingrich, Norquist, conservative think thanks, neo-con warmongers at the National Review, Rush Limbaugh and Fox. When a new idea does surface – the universal health insurance mandate, part of Romneycare and Obamacare, originated at the Heritage Foundation – other conservatives beat it to a pulp. Eventually no idea can survive. Republicans become more and more right-wing, with no effective brakes to keep them from plunging off the cliff.

Apparently they haven’t lost enough elections yet; that’s what causes party realists to slam the brakes. Democrats had to lose the White House three times before they found Bill Clinton, a Southerner and “new Democrat.”

Second, in the absence of a coherent ideology, the only thing that matters to most politicians is simply getting re-elected. They don’t really believe anything (which is a Tea Party criticism too). All that interests them is power. If a new ideology came along and seemed to offer a more popular outcome, they’d switch in a heartbeat; “forget what I said yesterday, here’s what I say now.” If Grover Norquist is out, “I didn’t really mean it when I signed that pledge.” If Grover Norquist comes back in, “I’ve been with Grover from day one.”

Congress is like “Survivor.” They just wanna be on TV.

The 2012 election thinned the ranks of House Republicans, but they retained the majority due to gerrymandering in the districts, where Republicans controlled the map-drawing after the 2010 census – AND the 2010 midterm elections. This year Democratic House candidates actually received a collective majority of the votes, but won only about 45% of the seats, thanks to gerrymandering. (Maybe someday, after the gridlock, Americans will finally decide gerrymandering harms the country. Maybe someday pigs will fly.) Indiana’s Congressional delegation flipped from 7-2 Democrat to 7-2 Republican in two short years.

Nate Silver of The New York Times suggests there is no way to put together a winning coalition in the incoming House. If so, we’ll have gridlock for the next two years.

Say that Mr. Boehner cannot count on the support of 34 of his Republicans when it comes to passing major fiscal policy legislation. That means he would need to identify 18 Democrats who would vote along with the Republicans who remained with him.

Here’s the problem: it might be hard to round up those 18 Democrats.

The reason is that most of the Democrats who remain in the House are quite liberal.

Here’s the really important thing: whatever political manipulations have occurred (and yes, they happen every day), the American people voted for divided government. A fascinating new CNN/ORC poll, little publicized so far, shows that despite all the bad press and lopsided polls listed above, people still want Republicans to control the House, 51%-43%. That poll was taken earlier this week!

People voted for gridlock and they still support it. Therefore, paradoxically, what House Republicans did this week was simply giving them exactly what they asked for – in general, not on specific issues. Republicans are losing on actual issues, but as a rule of thumb they’re doing great!

Americans don’t know what they want. And if we don’t know, how can Washington?

Obama and the Democrats made a huge mistake, losing the 2010 midterms. This is entirely the fault of the President, David Axelrod and David Plouffe. A census year is the most important midterm of the decade, because it determines who controls the statehouses, and they control the maps, which naturally favored the GOP.

We are at last ungovernable. Obama’s going to have to see what he can do by executive order, because nothing will pass the 113th Congress. Fiscal cliff? Debt ceiling? Recession? The Middle East? Toss a coin.

Meanwhile I’ll be curious whether anyone can lead the imploded Republican Party, and what life will be like if no one can.++

what-me-worry2