Finding the Narrative for Hillary
by Deacon Blues
I’ve been less than impressed at the initial stages of a likely Hillary Clinton presidential run in 2016. She was rusty on the early parts of the book tour, and even the recent appearances like at Tom Harkin’s last Iowa Steak Fry last weekend came across more as detached, regal appearances than those of someone comfortable in her skin and with the electorate. Having said that, Hillary is who she is, and asking someone in her sixties to remake herself into something she isn’t is a fool’s errand.
For his part Chris Matthews thinks Hillary will start in the middle and stay there, while assuming the base will eventually be there for her after she has taken advantage of the current state of the GOP to lock down the middle and independent voters. Her progressive critics assert she is an elitist, too close to Wall Street to credibly campaign as a progressive or populist leader. Even if she did start her campaign as a progressive, her critics would dismiss such moves as simply a move to the base for the primary campaign, to be followed by the inevitable move back to the center for the general election, to reveal as they would certainly say her true colors.
However, my own advice given her unique advantages would be to campaign on what she is: a female candidate committed to fighting injustice at home and seasoned enough to realistically pursue stability and freedom overseas. She’s already sending signals today that despite what her progressive critics think of her, she in fact plans to push for a focus on the midterms and women’s issues, and use her impending grandmother status as an opportunity to frame the debate around “family”. To further this along, and to deal with legitimate criticisms that she has yet to provide a narrative for why she’s running, I’d suggest starting with something overly simple, and building her policy preferences from there like hanging ornaments on a Christmas tree: “Growth and Justice at home; Stability and Freedom abroad.”Continue reading "Finding the Narrative for Hillary"
Gee, Obamacare Isn't That Unpopular After All
by Deacon Blues
Despite the Fox News and right wing noise machine drumbeat about the unpopularity of Obamacare, it will come as a surprise to many observers that a large majority of those polled were happy with their plans obtained through the ACA’s marketplaces for subsidized coverage.
In fact, 68% of those polled in a Commonwealth Fund study over several months earlier this year rated their plans as “good”, “very good”, or “excellent.”
Now, when you ask folks what they think about “Obamacare”, or the Affordable Care Act, the fruits of the right-wing smear machine are evident in such polls. But when asking folks what they think of the plans they were able to choose through the program, suddenly the negative stigma drops away.
Go figure. Cue the obligatory right wing effort to discredit this poll.
Donate to the DSCC
by Deacon Blues
Despite my pessimism yesterday about the Democrats' chances this fall, it remains crucial for the Senate to remain in Democratic hands, unless you'd be entertained by watching two years of endless investigations, hearings, impeachment talk, stonewalled nominees, and total inaction while the country crumbled. And we haven't yet talked about what a Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would mean for the Supreme Court.
Then last night, along comes Nate Silver to surprise us with the news that his latest statistical modeling shows the GOP's chances of taking the Senate slipping. Whereas Silver previously pegged those chances at 64% two weeks ago, it has now slipped to 55% in his current model, based in some degree on the improving chances for Democratic "holds" in North Carolina and Colorado. Silver believes that a Democratic money advantage is playing a part here, which I suspect is true based on earlier reports that the large conservative Super-PACs that flooded the 2010 cycle in the immediate aftermath of the treasonous Citizens United decision were not playing as heavily in this cycle. But what Silver doesn't address is that Democrats may have better candidates than some of the putrid choices the GOP is putting up in this midterm election.
Nonetheless, two things are true: If you have only limited resources to help the party and more importantly the country right now, your best investment is to donate to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. And it might help if the DSCC branded its efforts as its own agenda rather than Barack Obama's.
Second, if Hillary Clinton wants to do some real good for the party between now and the time she announces in January, she and Bill should focus solely on helping the Democrats keep the Senate. Any time spent doing anything else for herself or any other political cause is nonproductive, ill-chosen time that calls into question why Democrats should make an investment in a Clinton candidacy for 2016.
Giving the GOP Immigration
by Deacon Blues
It may sound like a broken record, but the Obama administration has found a way to undermine the Democrats’ long-standing advantage on immigration. And although I don’t think a Politico poll in battleground districts is necessarily the last word on the matter, it is indicative of how the president and his “political team” dealt a lethal blow not only to the party on the issue, but also to the chances of comprehensive reform any time soon.
In the first place, the president should never have threatened in June to act on his own before the election to slow deportations. For all of the worst reasons, he and his political team thought that doing so would get Democrats Latino support in key areas for the fall election. As I’ve said previously, no red or purple-state incumbent Democratic senator was going to benefit from a surge of Latino voters from any presidential action to make even the announcement of this threat worthwhile. Yet the president and White House thought they had the whip hand, at a time when the Republicans had already shown a willingness to run on unchecked executive action.
Then, when it becomes clear that your own team and Cabinet can’t agree on what to do and the external political pros convince you that it was a mistake to make the threat in the first place, you back away and manage to depress the base even more. A true master stroke of ineptness and self-inflicted wounds.
Spare me the legitimate gripes about how the GOP clearly used those kids as props to jack up the base. What people missed was that the real aim of the false GOP hysteria about the kids at the border was to turn public opinion against immigration reform just long enough to get through the election, especially in light of Obama’s growing unpopularity. Well, the GOP has succeeded at what it does so well: demonize victims and throw a legitimate debate into the sewer, and yet for some reason this president and White House still managed to stumble into this anyway out of some hard-to-figure delusion that they could win a debate on moral grounds simply because he was the president. Those days are over.
For all intents and purposes, Barack Obama is now a lame duck. The Democratic House and Senate congressional campaign committees know that a bludgeoning is coming, partly a result of gerrymandering, yes, but also partly a result of the political negligence from this White House. The sooner the party can get to January and let the GOP be saddled with their own rhetoric and lack of any further excuses to act, the better.
And as for Hillary, all the focus will be shifting to you the day after the party's midterm drubbing. Based on what I've seen and heard so far, you're not ready and your message and presentation is stale and out of date. Do better or forget it.
9/11 Did Not Herald A New Age of American Terrorism
I am always relieved when 9/11 has come and gone, re-living parts of that awful day is bad enough, but I vividly remember an America before 9/11 when flying was fun, casualty lists where not compiled from war reports, and the country was not disgraced for starting a war for lies.
I feel bad for the victims for 9/11 and their families, of course, my sorrow for them is not lessened by what we have become twisted into today.Continue reading "9/11 Did Not Herald A New Age of American Terrorism"
ISIL Isn't Boko Haram
by Deacon Blues
I watched MSNBC last night to get some of the reaction to the president’s speech on ISIL. I was not surprised to see Lawrence O’Donnell come out against any action and seeking a “do nothing” response, because he has been quite transparent and consistent on this and similar issues. Nor was I surprised at Chris Hayes’ reaction, which consists of asking why we should get involved with ISIL given the Iraq debacle and our lack of a similar military response to other localized terrorist groups (Al Qaeda offshoots, Boko Haram, etc. . . .). In fact, several of the guests drew equivalence between ISIL and these groups, and posited that the United States can’t just send in air strikes and boots on the ground every time a local terrorist group makes a play for territory and destabilization.
What no one mentioned was that all these terrorist groups don’t have access to a looted $450 million, and confiscated United States military hardware, nor possess an advanced capability to use media and recruit. I’m no fan of sending boots back into Iraq or covertly into Syria, but people need to understand that the risk posed by ISIL is different than the risk posed by other groups.
Drone-Killing Presidents Aren’t the Problem
Few things are as irritating in life than the generalizing of yourself or group you belong to as being flat-out wrong, and it gets a lot worse when said individual is in a media position to spread the inaccuracy widely. The chump performing this evolution of irritation today is one Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, who blithely classifies liberals as weenies because [they are] uncomfortable with the idea of their president as a drone-deploying killer.
I’m not foolish enough to claim voice to the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, but this liberal will respond to this ridiculous assertion by Goldberg with a reasonable confidence many liberals share the same general view and values.Continue reading "Drone-Killing Presidents Aren’t the Problem"
The Plan Emerges
by Deacon Blues
Given my recent criticism of his apparent lack of urgency in dealing with ISIS/ISIL, I give President Obama credit for his actions of late in working with NATO allies on a unified approach, and in his plans for a national address Wednesday to lay out a long-term plan against the terrorist group. After telling reporters last week that there wasn’t yet a plan to deal with ISIL, the administration has coalesced quickly around both a military and political approach to re-secure Iraq and eventually deal with Syria, one that happens to have broad public support and should be approved by Congress.
The president appears ready to lay out a three-year plan that aims to not only deal with the immediate ISIL threat, but to also leave behind a sustainable security environment for both Iraq and its neighbors. The critical elements would be reconstituting the Iraqi government to be more inclusive of the Sunni tribes, a process that has already started. It would also be critical to get the Arab League aboard for a unified front against ISIL, something that also has already started. Obama got NATO support late last week for the partnership to share the load. And I have no doubt that the Pentagon has quietly inserted more Special Operations forces than have been publicly acknowledged, both in Iraq and in Syria, to ensure the air campaign has maximum effect.
Obama is pointedly dealing with the Iraq portion of this problem while he is in office, and leaving completion of the Syria part of this for his successor. Experts may feel that simply pushing ISIL out of Iraq and back into Syria for the remainder of Obama’s term is insufficient, and misses an opportunity to incentivize new opportunities with both the regime and the Free Syrian Army. But by avoiding going directly into Syria right now, it allows Obama to keep our existing efforts inside Syria against ISIL and Assad covert. And it lets Obama make Syria his successor’s problem.
A Strategy for the Middle East
Even in these terrible times (watching the horribly exploited citizens of Ferguson having US Army rifles pointed at them by clueless punks certainly qualifies as terrible) the dimensions of my political dismay have tripped far beyond the normal worried to the horribly acute, it seems ordinary confusion and uncertainty are now perfectly valid reasons for war.
Obama has no strategy for the Middle East! As always, some rhetorical trap emerges from the right-wing superfund swamp of Fox News that somehow embarrasses and makes the President and Democratic Party uncomfortable, worried that they’ll be classified as National Security Kitties again they fearfully match the rhetoric or even escalate it.Continue reading "A Strategy for the Middle East"
BP Is Nailed For Deepwater Horizon Catastrophe
by Deacon Blues
BP Plc rejoined bidders for exploration and production leases in the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday and won 24 tracts after the U.S. government lifted a 16-month ban barring the company from new federal contracts.
The Environmental Protection Agency in late 2012 barred BP from bidding on new federal contracts, citing a "lack of business integrity." The action came after the company's 2010 Macondo oil well blowout killed 11 rig workers and unleashed more than 4 million barrels of crude into the Gulf in the worst offshore oil disaster in U.S. history.
Last week, the EPA lifted the ban which barred BP from bidding on new Gulf leases as well as other new contracts, such as fuel supply for the U.S. military. The deal came after the oil major committed to a set of safety, ethical and corporate governance requirements.
A federal judge ruled on Thursday that BP was grossly negligent in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil well blowout that killed 11 workers, spilled millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and soiled hundreds of miles of beaches.
“BP’s conduct was reckless,” United States District Court Judge Carl J. Barbier wrote in his sternly worded decision. Judge Barbier also ruled that Transocean, the owner of the rig, and Halliburton, the service company that cemented the well, were negligent in the accident.
But the judge put most of the blame on BP, opening the way to fines of up to $18 billion.
In a 153-page, densely technical decision, Judge Barbier described how BP repeatedly ignored mounting warning signs that the well was unstable, making decisions that he says were “primarily driven by a desire to save time and money, rather than ensuring that the well was secure.”
Judge Barbier painstakingly recreated the hurried effort to temporarily shut in a problematic well, deemed by some to be “the well from hell,” and shows how a series of problems, many of which were suspected by the rig’s crew, led to the blowout. Even after noting these anomalies, BP crew members ignored test results that should have reinforced caution, and, if heeded, could have prevented the disaster even in its final minutes, he wrote.
So a lone federal judge is able to clearly demonstrate that BP was grossly negligent based on technical evidence, and yet the Obama administration, while in the midst of suing BP over the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, still clears BP to resume drilling in the Gulf and win bids?
It's good to know Obama's EPA and Department of the Interior are so concerned about the public's interest.
Dazed and Confused
by Deacon Blues
After being away for most of August, I find upon my return in September that the Obama administration can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. After giving Congress an ultimatum in June that they better act upon immigration reform or he would act himself, Obama has now backed away from his threat, leaving immigration rights advocates and Democratic incumbents hanging out to dry. I had said at the time that Obama’s veiled threats of executive action to stop deportations were politically stupid and had no political benefit in keeping congressional seats, so the news that the White House is now backing away only confirms that the administration is politically inept.
We already knew the president and White House staff were increasingly tone deaf. Now it appears they also are making it up as they go along, which only confirms that the Obama team is politically grossly overrated. It’s one thing to win an election. It’s quite another to run the levers of government, compartmentalize, and multi-task. Hell, the Clinton second-term team did much more in a far worse environment in the late nineties. Yet this president and his team wasted the month of August while Congress was away, when they could have used the media vacuum to set a narrative against a do-nothing GOP majority, also like I suggested months ago. What did the president do? Nothing, except go on a vacation, play golf at the wrong time, and then stupidly admit on television that he still had no plan to deal with ISIS. Amazing, and sad.
And if this was only about domestic politics and policy, then the consequences would be less severe but nonetheless important. Yet this administration seems rudderless in foreign and national security matters as well, and that is a matter of grave concern. Some say that these are very dangerous times with very complicated issues, to which I say “bullsh*t”. It may be too tough for Obama’s team to handle, but the issues with Ukraine and ISIS are not that tough.
On Putin and Ukraine, I’ve said this before and I’ll say this again; Putin doesn’t care and isn’t swayed by what America or Obama think or do, so let’s give up the pretense that he does, and treat him and his country as the outlaw regime they are. We should accept the fact that Europe and America may approach this differently for economic reasons, and that talk about NATO only exacerbate Putin’s worst fears, so let’s act ourselves in our own interests, and drag Europe along through our tough actions. We should impose full economic sanctions against Russia and their firms. We should tell American firms that they cannot trade nor do business with such a country, and that the Department of Justice will review all current or pending financial transactions, especially any that give an economic benefit to this outlaw regime. This includes any deals that Big Oil has with Russia. As I’ve said repeatedly, we should also let it be known that there will be a long-lasting cost to Russian aggression, namely the reestablishment of the US Navy’s Twelfth Fleet in the eastern Mediterranean.
We should also make it clear that America will not be participating in the 2018 World Cup in Moscow, because an outlaw regime should not be rewarded with “business as usual”. The White House should be telling FIFA that they have no business letting such an outlaw country host the World Cup.
As for ISIS, it was disgusting to see the president say openly that he still has no plan for dealing with ISIS. I’m tired of hearing all the talk about short versus long-term actions and consequences, because these endless “but then” analyses lead to no actions at all. The immediate and overriding objective is the containment and then destruction of ISIS; nothing else matters right now. So let’s cut to the chase and work with both Iran and Syria on whatever it takes to have them participate in helping from the east and west, and sort out the longer-term issues later. Iraq’s forces won’t succeed without Iran’s help, and you can’t turn the tide against ISIS until Syria regains control of its border. Case closed. Just do it.
Also, no regional country will agree to put boots on the ground to deal with ISIS unless they see a significant and ongoing American commitment to air power and drone attacks. Since they helped create ISIS, we should require that regional Sunni states participate in the ground campaign, and we should be working with the Kurds and the Turks to allow our air support efforts to originate from those areas. As I also previously said, a longer term commitment to the Kurds is in our interests anyway, as is the renewed Twelfth Fleet, things that most of our regional allies would welcome, as much as they would welcome a new president.
Which leads me to this: I’m tired of hearing my friends at MSNBC continually express concern about getting dragged back into the region with mission creep or any undefined mission that leads to more conflict. Get over it. We’re in this mess because Obama blew the Syria issue and was more interested in meeting political objectives here at home than he was in establishing a sustainable security posture. Whether we like it or not, we’re getting dragged back into this mess and region because we are the only indispensable nation when it comes to dealing with problems like Ukraine or ISIS, and because Obama’s actions and inactions, as well as his fatal desire to let his political team run foreign policy got us in this mess. And a political team that cannot figure out how to run the domestic side of the ledger cannot be allowed anywhere near foreign policy, or else you end up with what we have now: a world badly messed up both here at home and abroad that the next president will have to clean up.