Tuesday, September 23, 2014


Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit is outraged again:
A NEW LOW -- Obama's Salute to Marines -- Most Degrading Salute Ever to Men in Uniform
All right, show me. What was so terrible?

There's video, posted by the White House on Instagram:

And, of course, Fox Nation is piling on:

Disrespectful? The most degrading salute ever?

Is this not even in the running for the latter title?

Did Hoft or Fox Nation ever complain about that? Funny, I have no such recollection.


And for the hundredth time, let's recall what Garry Wills told us in 2007:
We are reminded ... of the expanded commander in chief status every time a modern president gets off the White House helicopter and returns the salute of marines.

That is an innovation that was begun by Ronald Reagan. Dwight Eisenhower, a real general, knew that the salute is for the uniform, and as president he was not wearing one. An exchange of salutes was out of order.
Also recall what David Alexander of Reuters wrote in 2008:
Reagan's decision raised eyebrows at the time....

John Kline, then Reagan's military aide and now a Minnesota congressman, advised him that it went against military protocol for presidents to return salutes.

Kline said in a 2004 op-ed piece in The Hill that Reagan ultimately took up the issue with Gen. Robert Barrow, then commandant of the Marine Corps.

Barrow told Reagan that as commander in chief of the armed forces, he was entitled to offer a salute -- or any sign of respect he wished -- to anyone he wished, Kline wrote....
So Reagan just made up a bit of faux-military protocol, and now it simply has to be done, especially by a Democratic president, and woe betide the president if it's not done to the exacting standards of right-wing bloggers.


ALSO: Here's my 2012 post on Obama's treasonous cellphone salute, and my 2013 post on Obama's treasonous failure to salute.


UPDATE: From ABC's Note:
Some are calling it the "latte salute." ...

The unusual gesture appeared in an Instagram video posted by the White House on social media....

The video drew ridicule from some Instagram users, who saw the unorthodox salute as "un-presidential."

"Hopefully it was just a slip by this President," one user posted.

Others saw unnecessary nitpicking in the criticism.

"People are dying from disease, abuse or even hunger," another user commented on the video. "Priorities." ...
At least the Note (which hasn't been written by Mark Halperin for many years, by the way) informs us that this tradition goes back only as far as Reagan. But we're also told Obama drinks tea, not coffee. (Commie!)

The Science section of The New York Times asked twenty-two prominent individuals, "What is your greatest worry about climate change? What gives you hope?" One of them was Bush-era EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman. The great Republican moderate told us that what she frets the most about is that Both Sides Do It on climate:
What keeps me up at night are people who talk in absolutes. It's the people who say "humans cause it" or "people have no role in it," full stop. Science is not exact and the truth is in between. By taking the extreme position, they give an opening to the other side, and then people stop listening.
Seriously? If you're in a discussion of climate change and you say "humans cause it," you're an absolutist on the order of people who deny any human role whatsoever?

What's the middle ground? Elves cause it?

No, I know: the middle ground is that climate change is caused by a combination of human activity and natural climate activity. But among the population concerned about the climate, who is arguing that there's no natural component to climate change whatsoever? Who insists that every change in climate is 100% the fault of humans, and not a tiny bit less? Whereas there are all sorts of people -- including extremely wealthy and powerful people, as well as just about every elected member of the national government who belongs to one of our two major political parties -- who believe that the human contribution to climate change is zero.

The community of people calling for action on climate believes that the human contribution is a huge factor -- and it's what we can change. So of course that's where the focus is.

Whitman goes on to acknowledge that she believes in "implementing environmental regulation." Good, Christie -- we're more or less on the same page. Too bad your obsession with applying the one-size-fits-all centrist pox-on-both-houses formula to this situation blinds you to that fact.

Everything about this Aspen Daily News story is repulsive:
Sheriffs miffed about Biden's impact on local communities

Weekend visit by vice president was costly to local law enforcement

The sheriffs on both ends of the Roaring Fork Valley expressed their displeasure Sunday about the impact and costs that Vice President Joe Biden's short visit to Aspen this past weekend placed on their communities and agencies.

Helicopters buzzing above Aspen and multiple road closures along Highway 82 and Interstate 70 on Friday and Saturday accompanied Biden's entourage, which involved a 40-car motorcade and at least nine local law enforcement agencies.

Biden, who stayed in town for less than 24 hours, was here to speak at a private event involving journalist Charlie Rose and other entities, according to sources.

"The responsible thing to do when big corporations invite him here is to consider the impact not only financially on a small county but also everyone here," said Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo....
My first reaction to this was: Are you kidding me? The sheriff of the county that includes Aspen is bitching about money? You mean this Aspen?
The lowest-priced single-family home on the market in Aspen is listed for $559,000. It's located in a trailer park.

... The average home price in this mountain town has increased over the past four years, to $6 million in 2010 from $5.4 million in 2006, according to multiple-listings data. The median price for single-family homes is now the highest in the country at $4.6 million, says San Francisco-based Altos Research, surpassing the Hamptons, Beverly Hills and Palm Beach.

Sales of luxury Aspen estates -- the sorts of over-the-top places with leather walls and outdoor heated infinity pools -- have remained remarkably healthy....

Last month, a home in the Maroon Creek neighborhood with an indoor heated swimming pool, basketball court and outdoor hot tub overlooking a waterfall sold for $13 million. The buyer was Russian Alexander Zanadvorov, the 40-year-old owner of Sedmoi Kontinent, a chain of supermarkets.

With celebrity regulars like Lance Armstrong and Goldie Hawn, Aspen is an anointed stop on the international jet-set circuit, a place where the wealthy come to play and spend....
With that kind of money, there ought to be enough money to pay for a 40-car motorcade for every man, woman, and child in the county and surrounding counties, at will. I'm exaggerating, but not by much. Why does a place where at least 50 billionaires on the Forbes 400 list own property have any government budget worries?

And you have a problem with thorough security for the vice president of the United States? Do you seriously believe the protection the Executive Branch receives right now is excessive?

On the other hand, what is this crap Biden is jetting off to? A private confab organized by a huge private equity firm (well, Biden is from Delaware, after all), and hosted by that gaseous hero of liberal totebaggers, Charlie Rose?

(And did Biden go to this in order to grovel for cash for his 2016 presidential run, which is obviously going to end in failure? As awful as it is to be a plutocrat bootlicker, how much worse is it to be a plutocrat bootlicker when there isn't the slightest chance that you're going to get anything out of it?)

It's all repulsive. A meteor can't wipe our civilization out soon enough.

Monday, September 22, 2014


You may pine for a Democratic presidential nominee who's less centrist than Hillary Clinton -- you may, in fact, pine for an actual progressive along the lines of Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders -- but the Washington Free Beacon wants you to realize that political ideologies are set in concrete in one's early twenties, and therefore Hillary Clinton's youthful correspondence with Saul Alinsky proves that she's an unreconstructed radical leftist:
Previously unpublished correspondence between Hillary Clinton and the late left-wing organizer Saul Alinsky reveals new details about her relationship with the controversial Chicago activist and shed light on her early ideological development....

Clinton’s relationship with Alinsky, and her support for his philosophy, continued for several years after she entered Yale law school in 1969, two letters obtained by the Washington Free Beacon show....

Clinton’s connection to Alinsky has been the subject of speculation for decades. It became controversial when Wellsley College, by request of the Clinton White House, sealed her 1968 thesis from the public for years. Conservative lawyer Barbara Olson said Clinton had asked for the thesis to be sealed because it showed "the extent to which she internalized and assimilated the beliefs and methods of Saul Alinsky."
And after saying that about Clinton and Alinsky, Olson was killed on board American Airlines Flight 77 on September 11, 2001. Coincidence? I think not.

At National Review, Stanley Kurtz makes clear that the Clinton-Alinsky relationship proves that Hillary is even more of a pinko subversive than Warren. In fact, as president, Hillary seems likely to be strikingly similar to the most powerful communist subversive ever to hold the office -- Barack Obama!
... While Bill and Hillary have worked, schemed, and governed as a couple for decades, Hillary has always been to the left of Bill. As president, she would govern more like Obama than like her husband.

Hillary Clinton was the Elizabeth Warren of her day, the leader of the left-wing of the Democratic Party. Hillary continually pressed Bill from the left during their White House years, while clashing on the inside with Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and the administration's Wall Street contingent.

The difference between Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren is that Warren flouts her ideology, thrilling the base by making the leftist case as few other Democrats dare. Ever the Alinskyite, Hillary prefers to achieve leftist ends incrementally, in pragmatic guise. It's a conflict of means rather than ends, the same conflict that leads many leftists to doubt Obama's ideological credentials, when in fact the president is as much a man of the left as ever.
Yes, that right: you may think that Obama has failed to advance many progressive causes, as has Hillary Clinton, but the slow or nonexistent progress just confirms their committed leftism. Their failure to advance the cause is how you know they are hard at work advancing the cause. It's unbelievably sinister.

And Kurtz notes that this has been true throughout Hillary's career:
During her time in Arkansas, Hillary may seem to have moved to the center. The Rose law firm, after all, was ... an establishment law firm representing the most powerful economic interests in the state. With the help of Dick Morris, moreover, Hillary took on the Arkansas teachers unions from the right as she led Bill's education initiative during his final governorship. In retrospect, all of this was largely pragmatic positioning. When Hillary finally got to the White House and assumed the co-presidency, she veered sharply back to the left on a whole range of issues, especially Hillarycare.
Yes -- she bashed the teachers' unions to advance the leftist cause. Is there no limit to her evil?
... Hillary has never abandoned her early leftist inclinations. She has merely done her best to suppress the evidence of her political past, from barring public access to her thesis on Alinsky during her time in the White House, to papering over the significance of her internship at Treuhaft, Walker, and Burnstein [the left-leaning Bay Area law firm where she worked in her early twenties], to pretending that she turned away from Alinsky after her undergraduate years, when in fact she brought his methods and outlook into the heart of her political work.
Let's see: Hillary Clinton was a top adviser to her husband, the governor of Arkansas, for twelve years; she was America's First Lady (and a top adviser to the president) for eight years; she was a U.S. senator for eight years; and she was secretary of state for four years -- and in all that time she's been a Third Way left-centrist and a relatively hawkish Democrat. But she was just fooling us! She knew that, one day, the full flower of her evil leftist scheme to communize America would bloom, because she knew it would have to wait until she became president, even though no woman had ever attained the presidency, much less the wife of a former president, much less the wife of an impeached former president. But she knew her time would come.

Right-wingers really are so infantile that they believe everyone who disagrees with them is a comic-book supervillain.

I think here we get a sense of why right-wingers are so obsessed with Saul Alinsky: They simply can't believe that any decent American could possibly reject their ideology, or fail to worship their favorite politicians as heroes -- and yet Democrats win elections sometimes, and liberal policies maintain some level (often a significant level) of popular support. The only possible explanation must be a sinister mind control technique, one that's put into practice by clandestine operatives working from ancient lore shared among acolytes across generations.

What right-wingers are imagining in their fever dreams isn't politics -- it's a freaking Dan Brown novel.

Ron Barber, a former aide to Gabby Giffords who was wounded in the mass shooting that nearly killed her, now holds her seat in Congress. The Republican he narrowly defeated in 2012, Martha McSally, is running against him again this year, and it's a close race again. McSally doesn't believe in closing the gun-show loophole, so Giffords's gun-control PAC, Americans for Responsible Solutions, began running this ad in the district last Tuesday:

The editorial board of The Arizona Republic is disgusted that a woman whose life was ruined by gun violence might respond to another brutal act of gun violence by denouncing a political candidate who wants to enable yet more gun violence:
Vile ad bounces off McSally, sticks to Gabby Giffords

... The ad is a nasty piece of work. Demagoguery in heart-rending tones.

A mother with sorrowful eyes appears on screen and tells the real-life story of a family horror. "My daughter was just 19 when she told her boyfriend their relationship was over. And he got a gun and shot her and my husband."

Portraits emerge of the two victims -- a pretty young girl and her father in military dress. The mother tears up. Her voice cracks. "He (the stalker) had threatened her before, and I knew, I just knew."

Then appears the face of Martha McSally, with words both spoken and superimposed on screen: "Martha McSally opposes making it harder for stalkers to get a gun."

The ad waves the bloody shirt. Takes the tragic killing of two innocents and drops it at McSally's feet, as if she were responsible. A murder indictment implied.

But, of course, McSally had nothing to do with these deaths....
No, but McSally is unswervingly opposed to closing the gun-show loophole -- as an Arizona Republic fact check noted last week.
In March 2012, McSally was specifically asked about the gun-show loophole during a debate hosted by the Sabino Teen-Age Republicans at Sabino High School....

McSally responded by saying that the question is flawed because "it's not a loophole."

"It's the law," she said. "I mean, the law is clearly based on the Second Amendment that we all have the right to keep and bear arms. And I have the right as a private citizen to sell my possession to anyone I want to. It's my lawful right. So, just like I can sell my car, I can sell my gun. And so, that's the law, and that's not a loophole. It's freedom. And absolutely, it needs to stay that way, because any restrictions on that, at gun shows or other places, is just absolutely unconstitutional."
("I have the right as a private citizen to sell my possession to anyone I want to"? Anyone? So a law preventing me from selling a gun to a minor, or a convicted felon, is unconstitutional? And if any "possession" is mine to do with as I please, I suppose it's OK if I sell my unused prescription painkillers to some schoolkids, right?)

When the ad first went on the air, it didn't seem to alarm anyone at the Republic. Columnist EJ Montini wrote, "It doesn't matter which candidate you're voting for, we should talk about this. Good for Giffords for trying to start a conversation."

Similarly, when Politico's Alex Eisenstadt saw the ad in the first week of September, before it went on the air, he wrote a very neutral story about the ad buy. This particular spot wasn't even called "tough" or "hard-hitting." But yesterday, all of a sudden, Eisenstadt published a piece for Politico focusing on the very same ad campaign, under the title "Gabby Giffords Gets Mean."
The former Democratic congresswoman, whose recovery from a gunshot wound to the head captivated the country, has unleashed some of the nastiest ads of the campaign season, ... with attacks even some left-leaning commentators say go too far.
Gosh, what changed? I'd say it's the fact that McSally is pushing back hard at the ads. She says she herself has been stalked, and therefore tying her to a stalker's crime is offensive. She says she wants the ad taken down.

Also, she's very, very important to the GOP.

Republicans love McSally because they clearly believe her presence in Congress would help them narrow their current gender gap with Democrats. If you wanted to build a right-wing feminist in a lab, you'd probably come up with someone much like McSally. She was the first female Air Force pilot to fly in combat and the first woman in the Air Force to command a combat aviation squadron. In 2001, she sued the Defense Department to overturn the requirement that women serving in Saudi Arabia wear abayas while off base.

She was named one of the National Republican Congressional Committee's "Young Guns" in 2012 and this year. Politico has called her "the House GOP's top recruit." If she wins, the GOP star-maker machinery is going to make sure that she's on TV as often as possible. It's easy to imagine her being groomed for John McCain's Senate seat.

So if she decides to do a basketball/soccer-style "flop" -- if, in other words, she claims she's been grievously fouled, when the attack she's complaining about is really within the rules -- then the party apparatus is going to send the word to the media that she really is a victim and that the Giffords ad is simply beyond the pale.

And the press, of course, is going to retransmit whatever it's told by the GOP.

All of this reminds me that Matt Bai, in his new book, is wrong:
If Nixon's resignation created the character culture in American politics, then [Gary] Hart's undoing marked the moment when political reporters ceased to care about almost anything else. By the 1990s, the cardinal objective of all political journalism had shifted from a focus on agendas to a focus on narrow notions of character, from illuminating worldviews to exposing falsehoods. If post-Hart political journalism had a motto, it would be: "We know you're a fraud somehow. Our job is to prove it."
No, "the cardinal objective of all political journalism" is not to reveal politicians' character flaws. The cardinal objective of all (or at least most) political journalism is to define the political center on any issue, usually with the assistance of entrenched conservative political interests. That's what's going on here. The GOP wants to frame the response to this ad so the public ignores the message and is outraged at the attack on a Republican candidate. And the press is all too happy to help the GOP do the framing.

Sunday, September 21, 2014


President Obama has been widely criticized for saying that ISIS is "not Islamic" -- but he just won't stop! Have you heard what he said on 60 Minutes tonight about Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of ISIS?
"I hate to use the word 'heretics,' whatever the words of those types are, but to even call himself a Muslim is, to me, just ... the words that I just particularly don't want to use on this program.... I think to use the word 'Islam' and him in the same sentence is not acceptable. That he even speaks in the name of Islam for me is just so horrendous and so shocking."
The head of ISIS, not Islamic? A heretic? Why does Obama persist in making this argument?

... Oh, wait -- that wasn't President Obama. It was King Abdullah II of Jordan. (This was before he said that the West should have intervened sooner to stop the spread of ISIS.)

Abdullah is a Sunni Muslim who is reputed to be a 43rd-generation direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. But I'm sure Jonah Goldberg and Judge Jeanine Pirro are much more qualified to address this question than he is, right?

Here's National Review's Kevin Williamson, "reporting" from the Climate March in New York:
The streets of Manhattan are teeming with hippie filth this afternoon as the People's Climate March (and Rally Against Personal Hygiene on General Principles) rolls through town like an addled occupation force. One particularly loopy-looking couple of well-seasoned veterans of the protest circuit, little signs reading "Divest from Fossil Fuels" pinned to their shirts, were desperately trying to hail a taxi. New York City taxis, as everybody knows, run on magic. I offered them a ride in my invisible solar-powered unicorn chariot; they did not take me up on it.
This is the same Kevin Williamson who once wrote the following:
Taxation is as a phenomenon identical to theft in that it involves the non-consensual transfer of property from one party to another. Insisting that taxation cannot be identical to theft because it is lawful is an exercise in question-begging: Does the endorsement of 50 percent + 1 of the voting population transform the seizure of property into something else? Is formal statutory codification the only criterion for “lawfulness”? If so, how can we say that the Third Reich or the U.S.S.R. murdered their millions -- when their actions were perfectly lawful? Either lawful means something more than formal codification, or it is a trivial standard.
So taxation, according to Williamson, actually is theft, and is analogous to the Holocaust and Stalin's terror-famine. And yet there was Williamson watching the Climate March from a public street -- a street built and maintained by tax dollars! With order maintained by tax-remunerated police officers! And Williamson's blog post was transmitted over the Internet, the development of which depended on tax-funded military technology! But ... but ... but I thought it was the height of hypocrisy to criticize a ubiquitous aspect of modern life and also avail oneself of it!

I offered to transport Williamson to and from the march in my all-private Randian Unicorn Spaceship, idling about the festivities so he'd never have to sully his wingtips by allowing them to touch tax-defiled pavement. I was also prepared to convey his jottings back to NR via free-market homing pigeons. But he did not take me up on it.

Before a spokesman for U.S. attorney Paul Fishman denied a report that the feds had cleared Chris Chritie in Bridgegate, Dave Weigel argued that the scandal had actually improved Christie's odds of winning the 2016 Republican presidential nomination:
Christie is fundamentally better off because Bridgegate happened. Before the story, Christie was assumed to [be] not just the 2016 Republican frontrunner but a beltway-approved, Morning Joe-feted savior of the Republican Party. You can look at the Judicial Network ads that follow Christie along every trip to South Carolina to see how that plays.

The scandal removed Christie from that position, and bestowed a new one upon him. He was now, like Scott Walker and like Rick Perry (and Richard Nixon, etc and etc) a Republican trying to do his job before being attacked by the thuggish, criminalizing Democrats. He was no longer an MSNBC morning hero; he was the subject of hundreds of segments that linked him to corruption. Christie discovered the right's enemies, and now he's back, attacking state Democrats who keep investigating him as "people who are addicted to MSNBC and the front page of your papers."
Despite the denial from Fishman's office, and despite the fact that the federal investigation is not the only one Christie is facing, I continue to think he's going to walk, because top guys always make sure that no evidence trail ever links them to any unsavory doings that are executed lower down in the bureaucracy. Ask Rupert Murdoch, or every banker who helped crash the economy.

I've said many times that I think Christie will survive this, and I've even speculated that Bridgegate could be wiping out the memories of Christie as Obama's pal in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. But even I'm not ready to say that the result for Christie could be a net gain.

To win the Republican primaries, you have to appeal to angry Fox/Limbaugh fans and to a dwindling but still somewhat significant sector of the GOP electorate -- the voters who don't get 100% of their political ideas from angry right-wing media. These are the people who put John McCain and Mitt Romney over the top. To them, Christie will still carry a Bridgegate stigma because the mainstream press will still bring it up, and they don't completely reject the mainstream press.

At the same time, with angrier voters, I don't think Christie's shaken the stigma of RINOism. Recently, Byron York asked his Twitter followers to name their presidential favorites for 2016. It's hard to imagine a less scientific poll than this, but York is a fairly well-known right-wing pundit, and he got 338 votes, split among 28 candidates.

Scott Walker got 78 votes. Ted Cruz got 54. Bobby Jindal got 40. Chris Christie got zero.

I think avid consumers of right-wing news and opinion still haven't forgiven Christie for apostasy. And the moderates who still might care what Joe Scarborough thinks aren't ready to dismiss Bridgegate.

On the other hand, Christie does the liberal-bashing thing better than just about anyone else in the field. So I think he has some credibility as a candidate -- just a hell of a lot less than he did before Bridgegate and his Sandy photo op with Obama. Both were huge blunders for him. In terms of the nomination, Sandy might have been the bigger one.

Saturday, September 20, 2014


The authorities in Tennessee have decided that Leonard Embody should be allowed to get on with his work:
The man known as the "Radnor Lake Rambo" is back at it again, this time parading around Vanderbilt University and Hillsboro High School with a rifle and Second Amendment pamphlets.

Leonard Embody, 42, is well-known in the Nashville area for his provocative actions on gun rights....

On Wednesday, Embody was spotted walking around the Vanderbilt University campus before moving on to Hillsboro High School, prompting calls to police from concerned passers-by. Though police didn't stop him, Embody has posted videos in recent weeks of being detained briefly by police in Gallatin and on Vanderbilt's campus.

"There are hundreds of millions of guns in the U.S. The number of guns which are used in illegal fashion is minuscule. I will continue to open carry and hand out my leaflets," Embody said Thursday....
Here's what you saw Wednesday out a window at Hillsboro High:

Nothing disturbing about that if you're in a school, right?

In January 2013, I wrote about Embody. I naively concluded that there were limits to society's tolerance of his sort of behavior, even in Tennessee:
In 2009 and 2010, Embody walked through one park brandishing an AK-47 and walked down a street openly carrying a loaded pistol. In the park incident, he alarmed other park-goers, as well as the cops ...

He became known as the "Radnor Lake Rambo" -- and he had his carry permit revoked by the state.

And you know what? He eventually dropped his appeal of the permit suspension. He's pursued other avenues of legal redress, but his efforts keep getting rebuffed by the courts. He's busted.
Well, no, he wasn't. He keeps challenging the laws, and, ultimately, he always wins. Late last month, his most recent case was dismissed:
An order issued by Criminal Court Judge Randall Wyatt on Wednesday dismissed the case against Leonard Embody, a Nashville-area Second Amendment advocate once dubbed “Radnor Lake Rambo” for his open carry habits.

Embody had been charged with unlawful possession of a weapon after police said he walked in body armor with an AR-15 rifle with an attached silencer near the Historic Metro Courthouse in July 2013.

Embody has long said he had a federal permit to carry the silencer that was cited as the reason he was charged. In an Aug. 15 court hearing, Metro police admitted they saw the permit in the case where the rifle and silencer were being stored.
(Yes, folks, apparently this clown continues to have a valid federal permit for a silencer.)

Embody whines about being broke as the result of all the legal trouble he deliberately gets himself into:
"I lost my house, I lost my cars," Embody said Friday. "It's just a real nightmare."
But who needs money when you have guns and unquenchable zealotry?

Here's a local news story. It's really hard to overstate this guy's arrogance:

WSMV Channel 4

"I don't think I look terrifying. Other people may think I look terrifying, but that's in their own minds, and that's something they should deal with, with maybe a psychologist."
Right -- we're the nutjobs. Yeah, got it.

Friday, September 19, 2014


I'm not particularly alarmed at the fact that a Reuters poll finds 23.9% of Americans supporting secession for their state -- Zogby did a similar poll in 2008, at the end of the Bush years and found 18% support for home-state secession and 22% support for the notion that "any state or region has the right to peaceably secede and become an independent republic."

Now, according to Reuters, secession gets "more support from Republicans than Democrats, more from right- than left-leaning independents, more from younger than older people, more from lower- than higher-income brackets, more from high school than college grads." In '08, support was "slightly higher in the South (26%) and the East (24%) ... backing was strongest among younger adults ... the highest percentage agreeing with the right to secede was among Hispanics (43%) and African-Americans (40%).... Politically, liberal thinkers were much more likely to favor the right to secession for states and regions.... The more education a respondent had, the less likely they were to support secession." So the young and the less educated are always more in favor, and then, beyond that, it seems that groups affiliated with the out party in D.C. want to secede. Because of the latter, I don't think this secession fever is particularly entrenched; elect a Republican president and all the right-leaners who want to split will suddenly be happier.

But the question I want asked in the next poll of this kind is: Would you support a secession movement by some state or region of the country other than your own, and if so, which one? I'd love to know how many Northerners would like the South to leave, and vice versa; I'm sure right-wingers want to be rid of Hollywood or (now that 9/11 memories are fading and our mayor is a big pinko) New York City. (I'd be happy to show Texas the door, but that's just me.) Come on, someone -- poll this. Who should be voted off the island?

Char;es Krauthammer has ISIS's game plan all figured out:
... What was the Islamic State thinking? We know it is sophisticated in its use of modern media. But what was the logic of propagating to the world videos of its beheadings of two Americans (and subsequently a Briton) -- sure to inflame public opinion?

... It was an easily sprung trap to provoke America into entering the Mesopotamian war.


Because they're sure we will lose....

They count on Barack Obama quitting the Iraq/Syria campaign just as he quit Iraq and Libya in 2011 and is in the process of leaving Afghanistan now. And this goes beyond Obama. They see a post-9/11 pattern: America experiences shock and outrage and demands action. Then, seeing no quick resolution, it tires and seeks out leaders who will order the retreat. In Obama, they found the quintessential such leader....
"The quintessential such leader"! So ISIS has calculated that Obama is a big wuss -- but not quite enough of a big wuss to shrink from the fight altogether if provoked, just enough to start the fight, get embroiled in it, then quit, just the way he's done in, oh, say, the fight against Al Qaeda, in which ... um ... he's killed the leader and some top subordinates, thus helping to create precisely the competition for the title of Earth's Baddest Jihadist Group that ISIS is currently trying to win.

Oh, and Obama is so uniquely and predictably feckless that ISIS can count on him not to give in to pressure to widen the war, and to cut and run before another U.S. president (maybe even a Republican!) can fight ISIS more effectively (because who could possibly fight ISIS less effectively?). It just isn't possible, according to ISIS, that Obama will hold the line, or even score some victories, then hand the war off to an able successor, even though he'll be president for only two more years. ISIS is counting on Obama to pursue the fight to exactly the extent that maximizes ISIS's glory, and then to withdraw exactly when the fight can't be rapidly escalated by whoever succeeds him, all because Obama is such a uniquely terrible American leader.

Why, it almost seems as if ISIS thinks exactly the way Charles Krauthammer and his Fox News buddies think. Odd how that works.

For a while it looked as if Scotland might vote for independence, but the votes have been counted and No prevailed, 55%-45% -- which means there's one less thing that's Barack Obama's fault.

No, really. The folks at Asshole of the Day discovered that David Frum was prepared to blame Obama if Scots had voted Yes:
In February 1995, Bill Clinton traveled to Ottawa to speak in favor of Canadian unity. "In a world darkened by ethnic conflicts that tear nations apart, Canada stands as a model of how people of different cultures can live and work together in peace, prosperity, and mutual respect," Clinton told the Canadian Parliament. The U.S. president was a more popular figure in Quebec than that province's own politicians, and his words likely contributed to the narrow margin of victory of the 'No' side in Quebec's second and final secession referendum later that year. President Obama has played no equivalent role in the debate over the survival of America's close ally, the United Kingdom. If the 'Yes' vote prevails on September 18, Obama's omission should be remembered in the postmortem assignment of blame for a potential disaster for the peoples of Britain, Europe, and the Western alliance.
Yes, Clinton affirmed America's opposition to the Quebec separatist movement in his speech, but as The Washington Post noted at the time, he tried to reassure both sides:
... For the Canadian government, struggling to stave off a resurgent separatist movement in Quebec, Clinton's speech offered a vigorous reaffirmation of the U.S. position in favor of Canadian unity.

Lest he offend sensibilities in Quebec, however, Clinton also repeated the comforting mantra: "Your political future is, of course, entirely for you to decide."

Delivered with gusto, the speech amounted to a restatement of Washington's longstanding approach to the Quebec question, but it was artful enough to win loud applause from both sides. Indeed, Clinton even joked about his penchant for offering a little something to everyone.

"You want to know why my State of the Union address took so long?" he said. "It's because I evenly divided the things that would make the Democrats clap and the Republicans clap."

Later, Clinton met with the leader of the separatist Bloc Quebecois, Lucien Bouchard, in a historic first encounter between a U.S. president and a Quebec nationalist leader....
I guess Obama could have done something like that -- but what do you think the reaction would have been if he'd advocated a No vote and then met with separatists? "OBAMA WAFFLES ON SCOTTISH SEPARATISM"! "WHY WON'T OBAMA LEAD?" The critics who weren't accusing him of egomaniacally meddling in another country's affairs (something we're only supposed to do if the citizens are mostly Muslim) would be accusing him of weakness and vacillation.

At least this way we were spared eight Maureen Dowd columns comparing Obama unfavorably to Mel Gibson in Braveheart.

Thursday, September 18, 2014


Peggy Noonan is kvetching about how awful President Obama is again -- this time her complaint is that Obama "has very poor judgment." How bad is his judgment? Well, Noonan says, the man can't even use an acronym like a normal person!
He takes off the table things that should be there, and insists on weird words like "degrade" -- why not just "stop and defeat"? -- and, in fact, "ISIL." The world calls it ISIS or Islamic State. Why does he need a separate language? How does that help?
Hmmm, let's see: Here's British prime minister David Cameron:
Cameron added that Britain and the rest of the world cannot ignore the threat Islamic State poses. "Step by step we must drive back, dismantle and ultimately destroy ISIL and what it stands for," he said.
Here's Australian prime minister Tony Abbott:
"But we have to be aware that there are people even here in Australia who would do us harm, and there are networks here in Australia of people who support the work of the ISIL death cult in the Middle East."
And here's Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper:
"Canadians are rightly sickened by ISIL's savage slaughter of anyone who doesn't share their twisted view of the world. We know their ideology is not the result of 'social exclusion' or other so-called 'root causes,'" Harper said to a ripple of laughter.
So the acronym ISIL, which Noonan thinks Obama uses just because he's peculiar, or arrogant, or willfully perverse, is actually used by the three most important head of state in the English-speaking world apart from the president of the United States.

(And, by the way, they're all conservatives.)

Is there anything Obama can do that right-wingers won't describe as an outrage?


And as for "degrade": I see it in the Bush administration's 2006 National Strategy for Combating Terrorism ("We have made substantial progress in degrading the al-Qaida network, killing or capturing key lieutenants, eliminating safehavens, and disrupting existing lines of support"), as well as in Dick Cheney's memoir ("Since we had agreed our aim was to degrade Iraq's tank force by 50 percent before we launched the ground war, the difference in estimates mattered"). But I can't find any evidence of Ronald Reagan ever using the word, and I guess that's the gold standard for Noonan. Therefore, the word is "weird."

To a large extent, these poll numbers, as reported by Gallup, are the result of stumbles by President Obama; to some extent, they're the result of the impression that Obama is stumbling even when he isn't. But beyond that is the fact that the Republican Party has been on (somewhat) better behavior lately, and the (slight) improvements seem to be enough for the public:
Americans' views of the Democratic and Republican parties are now similar, mainly because of their more positive ratings of the GOP. Since bottoming out at 28% last fall during the government shutdown, Americans' opinions of the Republican Party have grown more positive and are nearly back to pre-shutdown levels....

Americans have typically rated the Democratic Party more positively than the Republican Party since the question was first asked in 1992, so the current parity between the two is a positive sign for the GOP and a negative one for the Democratic Party....
The folks in the GOP establishment -- the Chamber of Commerce, Karl Rove, Reince Priebus -- have labored mightily to suppress obvious manifestations of the tea party's sociopathy. This image-repair program has largely succeeded: Republican candidates exhibiting florid racism, homophobia, sexism, conspiratorialism, and so on may still be showing up in local races, but wild-card candidates have failed in high-profile races such as the Senate primary contests in Georgia, Alaska, and Kentucky. So Todd Akins and Christine O'Donnells aren't embarrassing the party as they have in the past. In addition, no one's tried to shut down the government or put the country into default for, oh, nearly a year now. Give them all an A for Conduct.

But this just reminds us how little Republicans actually have to do to be deemed sane and rational. They're still blocking the president's entire domestic agenda. They're attacking him during what they regard as a foreign policy crisis in a way that they would have called treasonous if the parties were reversed. They're still trying to repeal Obamacare. They're still investigating Benghazi. They're still threatening future shutdowns, and possibly even impeachment.

We don't expect much of the GOP. It's fine if they refuse to allow the country to be governed just so long as they don't actively trash the place, and boast about doing so. They know that. So they've done all the rebranding they need to do.

The tea party now just acts as the bad cop, thus allowing the slightly-less-bad manistream GOP cop to seem good. They're both roughing us up. But the "good" cop is getting away with it.

Digby writes about Mike Huckabee at Salon and tells us that "it's a mistake to count him out," in part because "Nobody else in the Republican game today has his particular combination of political gifts. Why they're almost, dare I say it, Reaganesque."

I don't know if she's saying that Huckabee could win just the GOP nomination (which seems like an extremely long shot) or could actually be elected president. If it's the latter, I think she's allowing her gloom about America's susceptibility to right-wing mountebanks to cloud her judgment. I generally share that gloom, but there are limits to America's fondness for this sort of thing.

Huckabee is an agressive defender of Todd "Legitimate Rape" Akin, a guy who was resoundingly rejected in a race his party was favored to win. Huckabee says "we will feel the hands of [God's] judgment" if we don't reverse rulings and laws permitting gay marriage -- recall that the wife of the last Republican nominee for president said her favorite TV show was Modern Family. Huckabee hangs out with Ted Nugent -- you know, the guy who waved a semiautomatic onstage a few years ago and said that Hillary Clinton "might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless bitch" -- and the two engage in witty banter like this:
Mike Huckabee invited NRA board member Ted Nugent onto his radio show today where they kicked off the interview by discussing Nugent's "mystical, wonderful hunting dog" Gonzo.

"Maybe we ought to turn him loose on some Democrats and see if he can hunt them too," Huckabee joked....
Digby actually quotes this Huckabee quip as evidence of Huckabee's potential appeal:
"Whether we need to send somebody to Mars, I don't know. But I'll tell you what, if we do, I've got a few suggestions, and maybe Hillary could be on the first rocket."
Bang! Zoom!

Republicans may not have a realistic hope of winning over non-white voters (who might hear nasty echoes of slave days and immigration crackdowns in jokes about people being hunted down by dogs), and the GOP might not expect to do well among women who hear misogyny in that Hillary-bashing, but the party does hope to win over vaguely libertarian young people, and that's not going to happen with a guy who's made a crusade of injecting God into textbooks, or who's an unabashed creationist. Digby quotes this as a "bon mot" that's likely to win over voters: "If anybody wants to believe they're the descendants of a primate, they'e welcome to do it." Yeah, that'll rake in a lot of Silicon Valley cash for Huck, right?

A lot of Republicans -- Paul Ryan, Scott Walker -- do the Jesus thing just about as well as Huckabee without alienating suburbanites. Hell, Huckabee makes even some of the extremist wannabes look sophisticated. Compared to Huckabee, Ted Cruz comes off as a polysyllabic intellectual, and Rick Perry seems like a tech-friendly economic disrupter.

The crazies and God-botherers may hijack the GOP nominating process in 2016 in a way they didn't in 2008 and 2012, but if Huckabee is on track to win, I think the party and the donor base will pull out all the stops to prevent his victory. Remember that as governor he helped win the release of some criminals who went on to commit very violent crimes. In 2007, Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute reviewed his record as governor of Arkansas and called him "The Biggest Big-Government Conservative":
As governor of Arkansas, Huckabee dramatically increased state spending. During his two-term tenure, spending increased by more than 65 percent -- at three times the rate of inflation.

The number of government workers increased by 20 percent, and the state's debt services increased by nearly $1 billion. Huckabee financed his spending binge with higher taxes. Under his leadership, the average Arkansan's tax burden increased 47 percent, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, including increases in the state's gas, sales, income, and cigarette taxes. He raised taxes on everything from groceries to nursing home beds.

... On net, Huckabee increased state taxes by more than $500 million. In fact, Huckabee increased taxes in the state by more than Bill Clinton did.
That's all going to be brought up again if he's ever the front-runner. So forget it. He's not going to be the nominee, much less president.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


Some poll nerd may debunk this Peter Beinart post, but I fear he's right when he says that "security moms" are back for the first time since the early 2000s, and their concerns about terrorist violence are motivating them to back Republicans:
As a result of the ISIS beheadings, the percentage of Americans "very worried" about terrorism has just hit a seven-year high. Once again, women are more afraid than men. According to a CNN poll last week, women are 18 points more likely to say they are "very" or "somewhat" worried that someone in their family will be the victim of terrorism.... In a recent piece about "Walmart moms" who participated in focus groups in Des Moines and Little Rock, my colleague Molly Ball noticed the trend: "The women in both groups expressed pervasive worry about violence...."

As in 2002, this anxiety about foreign threats is hurting Democrats. The GOP's advantage on "dealing with foreign policy," which was seven points last September, is now 18. And the shift toward Republicans has been strongest among women. In August, women were 14 points more likely to support Obama's foreign policy than men, according to a Wall Street Journal poll. Now the gap is down to two points.

In August, white women favored a Democratic Congress by four points. Now they favor a Republican Congress by eight.
And Beinat thinks there isn't a damn thing Democrats can do to reverse this:
As in 2002, Democrats are responding by becoming more hawkish....

But it doesn't work. Almost all the imperiled Democrats in 2002 lost anyway. And there's no evidence that Obama's new hawkishness is helping him politically either. One reason is that although women are more worried about terrorism than men, they’re actually less supportive of responding with military action. In 2002, women were somewhat more skeptical of invading Iraq. Today, they're more wary of going after ISIS.
The only way to win these voters over if you're a Democrat, I guess, is never to allow anyone on the planet to openly threaten America ever. If threats arise, Democrats are just screwed. They can't win with these voters.

And that's a double standard. Look, I understand that President Obama failed to anticipate the rise of ISIS and failed to prevent the beheading of two Americans, but George W. Bush failed to prevent 9/11, and these "security moms" responded by voting for his party in 2002 and 2004.

As a New Yorker, I'm familiar with the domestic version of this. If you're a liberal mayor -- David Dinkins or Bill de Blasio -- the public's reaction to a crime wave or a horrific crime on your watch is to blame you. If you're a conservative mayor -- Rudy Giuliani or the all-but-Republican Ed Koch -- the reaction is to rally around you, because you're "tough on crime." A horrible crime on a tough mayor's watch is considered further evidence that we need precisely the tough guy's policies.

We've been lulled for eight years by the Democrats' ability to escape (temporarily) from the dirty-hippie foreign policy straitjacket, but I guess it's 1972 all over again and Barack Obama is George McGovern, and it seems he can't even fight his way out of it. He was just supposed to keep us all safe. Two nasty deaths and it's all over. (How many were hanged on that bridge in Fallujah eight months before Bush's 2004 election victory? How may died in the embassy annex bombing in Lebanon six weeks before Ronald Reagan's landslide victory?)

I'd love to be able to back a Democrat in 2016 who's more progressive than Hillary Clinton, but this is one reason I feel Democrats have to get behind her: because of her frequent hawkishness, she's got a certain degree of immunity to this. We'll see if it lasts through November 2016. If she wins, I strongly doubt that it will last through her presidency. Sooner or later once she's in office, she'll become just another peacenik who's constitutionally incapable of keeping us safe.


And yeah, I know that some poll watchers are saying the Democrats' prospects in November are improving, but very recent polls for Mark Udall, Bruce Braley, and Jeanne Shaheen are just awful. Maybe it's not a trend, but these polls coincide with a terrible poll for Obama. So, yeah, I'm worried.

Some people wonder why there are no big-name entertainers doing conservative political comedy. I just read a couple of stories in The Hill and I think I know the answer.

First, this one, about Ted Cruz:
... Speaking on Fox News's "Hannity," Cruz voiced his frustration with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey's responses at a Senate hearing earlier in the day on the administration's plan to combat ISIS militants.

"When I asked Gen. Dempsey, militarily, how would we go in and kill the terrorists before they're able to take jihad to America, his answer was, 'Well, we need to see political reconciliation,'" Cruz said. "We need to change the conditions on the ground so people are not susceptible to extremism. Look, it's not our job to be social workers in Iraq and put them all on expanded Medicaid...."

And then this one, about Rand Paul:
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) believes the "Ready." slogan that appeared on t-shirts, posters and billboards in Iowa over the weekend supporting a presidential bid by Hillary Clinton should indicate something else entirely.

"I think that maybe it should mean 'Ready for Testimony,'" Paul, himself a likely 2016 presidential contender, said Wednesday on Glenn Beck's radio show....
Rimshot! Rimshot!

I'm not saying these are funny jokes. But they're jokes. And I think they help explain why there are no A-list political comics on the right: Right-wingers already get all the jokes they need from their own politicians (and pundits and bloggers).

Conservatives don't have well-thought-out approaches to governing -- they have zingers and gotchas. Like these two? They got a million of 'em! Golf! Teleprompters! Hillary rides a broomstick! Joe Biden -- what a buffoon, amirite? Sassing their political enemies is pretty much all they've got. So who needs professional right-wing gagsters when there are so many eager amateurs?


The president gave a big speech on ISIS, but the New York Times/CBS poll says the public's not supporting him:
Despite his speech announcing his strategy to "degrade and ultimately destroy" the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) last week, President Obama receives criticism for his most recent foreign policy challenge -- the situation with the ISIS militants -- and his approval ratings on handling terrorism and foreign policy have also taken a hit.

According to a new CBS News/New York Times poll, 57 percent of Americans don't think Mr. Obama is being tough enough in dealing with ISIS militants, while just 31 percent think his approach is about right.
Let's see: What did the public want done, according to a CNN poll taken shortly before the speech?
The poll released Monday shows that Americans favor:

-- Additional airstrikes against ISIS (76% favor, 23% oppose)

-- Military aid to forces fighting ISIS (62% favor, 37% oppose)

-- Providing humanitarian aid to people fleeing ISIS (83% favor, 16% oppose)

But a majority of Americans, 61%-38%, oppose placing U.S. soldiers on the ground in Iraq and Syria to combat the terrorist group.
And this differs from the president's plan how exactly? But no -- he announced his strategy, and the public heard it coming out of his mouth, so they don't like it now.

The majority of Americans -- certainly a significant majority of white Americans -- now just hate everything Obama does, even if he's doing essentially what they want. I'm not sure Obama's numbers would go up if a U.S. airstrike killed the head of ISIS, or a U.S. raid rescued all the Western hostages, or both. Too many Americans just don't like Obama anymore. They've internalized the Republican message of "Everything Obama favors is bad, even if we favored it a week ago."

Republicans have delivered this message in a very disciplined manner, and they've always found a receptive audience for it with about a third of the country. But a large percentage of the population had a fair amount (or quite a bit) of good feeling about Obama at least through the 2012 elections. Even through the first year and a half of his second term, even as ordinary Americans' economy didn't bounce back, the federal government remained dysfunctional, and the administration dealt with a lot of bad stories (the Obamacare rollout, the NSA, the IRS, Benghazi), Obama's approval ratings hovered around the mid-40s.

But this summer was tough, and I think part of the problem was that Obama messaging no longer matched the country's mood. The baby-kissing and celebrity-schmoozing images pumped out by Team Obama for years might have caused pundits to harrumph, but they probably maintained goodwill with a significant portion of the public, especially voters who don't pay a lot of attention to politics. We saw that the president played a lot of golf, but only Fox viewers cared.

ISIS beheadings and Russian adventurism and the child refugee crisis and Ferguson and Ebola really seem to have changed the mood. Is the world going to hell in a handbasket any faster than usual? Maybe not, but Americans seem to think it is, and the president isn't playing to that perception.

I actually think Obama is picking his way carefully and responsibly through various thorny problems. I think he's become the opposite of what a lot of people thought he might be as president: a better doer than a talker.

But the public seems to want a great, ongoing show of resolve and gravity and rally-round-the-flag and so on. These are often just a lot of wind -- you know that because the last president was awfully good at them -- but sometimes, as president, the crowd gets restless and your best move is just to play the hits. I think that's where we are right now.