GOP Says "Screw The Kids"
by Deacon Blues
After screaming at the top of their lungs several weeks ago about the “crisis” caused by thousands of immigrant children “storming” our borders, and Barack Obama’s alleged indifference to the issue, House Republicans this afternoon couldn’t even muster enough votes to do anything about it.
But suing the president and going on vacation? Sure.
In other words, these kids were nothing but political props to John Boehner and the GOP, and GOP governors should be directed to fire their anger not at the White House, but at their own GOP delegations. Did you hear that Rick Perry?
As I said several weeks ago, Obama should hammer the GOP relentlessly on these abdications of responsibility during the congressional recess in August. The White House and DCCC should focus their fire on the 20-30 House Republicans in purple districts, and highlight their vote yesterday on suing the president, when these same GOP incumbents couldn’t be bothered to deal with real issues before taking their vacations.
It's Not Heartlessness
by Deacon Blues
Watching the MSNBC coverage of the migrant children "crisis" would lead you to believe that the GOP's alleged callousness in demanding the children be sent back to Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala will backfire on them. The various progressive commentators tell us that the American public will see this as a humanitarian crisis, and not victimize these kids by treating them as illegals trying to get into country. We're told the GOP's reaction will hurt them this fall and it 2016.
American compassion and empathy are wonderful things. But when many Americans wonder why more attention isn't focused on our problems here at home, and ask why scarce resources should be allocated to someone else's kids rather than our own, it's no lock that the American electorate will punish the GOP for being hardnose on this issue. Voters know that the rabble-rousing professional protest wing of the GOP isn't necessarily reflective of the GOP as a whole. In fact, voters may feel that some of what they hear from more deliberate GOP leaders reflects their own concerns about misguided priorities and Obama's inability to deal with basic issues of governance.
Yes, a good part of the GOP doesn't care a rat's ass about any kids, whether they be American or from somewhere else. And yes, it would be nice if the White House and Democrats were shrewd enough to effectively kneecap this GOP hypocrisy by asking them to commit to a "childrens agenda" here at home, or failing that, blast them for only using these kids until the next news cycle.
Unfortunately, I've given up waiting for this White House and Democrats to effectively deal with the GOP on anything right now. Until a new political team and Democratic leadership arrives, progressives must make sure they don't make things worse with false assumptions about the American electorate.
Plain Speaking, Please
by Deacon Blues
Yes, the world is an ugly place, both here and overseas. Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine shoot down a civilian airliner with Russian assistance, and Vladimir Putin rides his domestic poll numbers to double down and ready for war against a sovereign neighbor, unworried about any economic sanctions that might come.
Israel asserts that it is attacking Hamas’s tunnels and ability to fire rockets into the country, yet is attacking hospitals and power plants. I wasn’t aware that Hamas was firing rockets from the hospital and tunneling from the downtown power plant.
And with all this going on, Barack Obama continues to talk like a man more worried about conveying an image instead of just speaking like the rest of us. For example, in announcing the newest round of sanctions against Russia today, we heard this:
"Today is a reminder that the United States means what it says," Mr. Obama said in a statement at the White House. "The sanctions we're announcing today will have an even bigger bite," because they are matched by sanctions from the Europeans.
"The issue is how to prevent bloodshed in eastern Ukraine…and the main tool we have to influence Russian behavior is influence over its economy," he said.
The "United States means what it says?" What kind of juvenile talk is that? And it's not convincing to openly confirm your impotetence with a reminder that sanctions are all you've got. Sometimes, Obama talks too much like a cowed college professor trying to impress the faculty and not enough like, well, like Ronald Reagan, the man he aspired to be like during the 2008 campaign. Yet Obama doesn't have to run for office anymore, and frankly doesn't have to worry about sounding too angry.
When it comes to Putin, there's nothing wrong with saying:
"If Mr. Putin is determined to escalate his threats and intimidation, then he and his country will be treated accordingly by the world community, and especially the United States. There is no reason for America, or any of its allies to reward Russia's war-like behavior with any appearance of 'business as usual'."
"That means the United States reserves the right to undertake additional measures that are warranted in responding to a criminal state, such as reconsidering our participation in the 2018 World Cup in Russia."
And as for responding to the IDF's attacks against Gaza hospitals and its lone power station, please just come out and say
"While the United States supports Israel's rights to deal with threats from Hamas, we fail to see what is gained by destroying critical infrastructure like hospitals and power stations. Unless Israel can show the world that these facilities pose a direct threat to the country, we can only conclude that the intent was to cause misery not just on Hamas but on the Palestinian people as a whole, which the United States cannot support."
Who the f*ck cares if AIPAC is pissed off, or if John McCain and little Lindsey Graham go ape-sh*t crazy over these remarks? Simply say "My friends John and Lindsey haven't had anything constructive to offer on this issue, and they aren't likely to while I am in office."
Mr. President, as I said weeks ago, speak with more humor and derision when necessary against your political opponents. Likewise, when it comes to bullies overseas, call them out on it and act like the man with the biggest stick.
And once again, please re-establish the 12th Fleet in the eastern Mediterranean. It would send the right message to so many people.
Make Corporate Tax Dodgers Pay a Price
by Deacon Blues
As Paul Krugman notes this morning, corporations seemingly want all of the benefits of being individuals, including free speech translated as buying elections, and freedom of religion so they can discriminate against their employees. But when it comes to taxes, corporations refuse to act as individual citizens and instead reserve to themselves the right to scam the US treasury through tax avoidance schemes like the current move by Walgreens, which wants to call itself Swiss so they can dodge billions in legally-owed taxes.
This same company has made billions from the Medicare Part D program, and with those profits now taken from the taxpayers, Walgreens wants to reward their home country with a fraudulent argument that US taxes and regulations are causing this, when in fact what's prompting Walgreens' actions are nothing more than good old fashioned corporate greed.
If the federal government wanted to send a message to companies like Walgreens, they'd tell Corporate America that any company that reincorporates itself overseas for tax dodges like this cannot participate in government programs. And Democrats would be fools to ignore this issue in the fall.
Hello Public Option?
by Deacon Blues
Image courtesy of Talking Points Memo
Those of us who track and know something about health care policy have been tracking the Halbig v. Burwell case for months, knowing that it (and not the Hobby Lobby case) represented the biggest legal threat to Obamacare's long-term viability. Those chickens came home to roost this morning when a three-judge panel of the DC Court of Appeals (DCA) ruled 2-1 to eliminate the federal subsidies for individual insurance purchased in states with federally-run health benefit exchanges. The DCA's reasoning was that the law passed by Congress provided subsidies for only those buying insurance "through an exchange established by the state." However, as we know, many GOP-led states opted out of main parts of Obamacare, whether it be the Medicaid expansion or the requirement to set up a state-run exchange, and instead intentionally dumped their responsibility for setting up exchanges onto the federal government.
And if you think this was all coincidence and not part of a legal strategy to undermine the law when these GOP governors opted out, then I have real estate I'd like you to buy.
The Obama administration will now ask for the full DCA to review the ruling, and with more Obama-appointed judges on the full panel, it's possible that the full DCA would reverse this three-judge ruling on the basis of what they divine was congressional intent. However, as Jonathan Turley and others have noted, the full DCA might adhere to recent Supreme Court (SCOTUS) rulings and instead uphold today's ruling. The administration's supporters assert that Congress clearly intended for people to have access to affordable health care without distinction as to whether it was provided by a state-run or federally-run exchange, and believe if the case gets to the SCOTUS and is merged with other similar cases from other districts that are working their way through the system, the top court will rule accordingly as to congressional intent.
And again, the Obama administration is delusionally wrong. The same conservative majority that eviscerated the Voting Rights Act and decided that congressional intent didn't matter will have no hesitation in ignoring any alleged congressional intent argument and instead hold the case as to what is written in statute to undermine the law. Which means that the only way to fix this without millions of policyholders in red states seeing their premiums shoot up down the road when the SCOTUS kills the subsidies would be for Congress to fix this legislatively before it gets to the SCOTUS. And we all know this Congress will not do anything to fix it while this president is in office.
Yes, this only affects exchange participants in red states with federally-run exchanges, who face the prospect of losing their subsidies; it does not affect those who bought insurance in state-run exchanges. And yes, nothing will happen until a legislative fix occurs or until SCOTUS tackles this issue, which may not be in the next term. That means months of uncertainty, not only among those red-state enrollees but just as importantly within the insurance industry, which was salivating at millions of new federally-subsidized customers and had baked those revenue streams into their future financial projections. That's where this will get interesting, because although the GOP won't give a damn about millions of everyday Americans giving up insurance coverage over steep premium increases, it remains to be seen how the Wall Street wing of the GOP reacts to the pressure from the insurance industry while the Tea Party wing demands the final nail in the coffin for Obamacare.
As for progressives, I wonder how things would be different this morning if Ben Nelson and the White House hadn't tossed aside the public option?
Hot Air For Nothing
by Deacon Blues
I think it’s safe to say that given the mood of the likely 2016 electorate, foreign policy may not be a determinative issue. Americans seem to generally be more focused on pulling back overseas and wanting more engagement on domestic issues like the overall economy and jobs. As such, the upcoming presidential election will turn on which candidate can effectively address that mood and speak to those issues, while demonstrating to voters their aptitude to handle the job based on their experience to date. This makes the GOP effort to tear down Hillary Clinton on Benghazi all the more questionable.
That doesn’t mean it didn’t work a little. According to a just-released poll done for Politico, the GOP attack machine was partly successful in tearing down any benefit Hillary gets from being Secretary of State. Politico made a big deal today about the poll’s finding that 63 percent of those polled felt her record was “excellent”, “good”, or “fair”, with 32% rating her performance as “poor”. That’s the expected level of Hillary hate in the land, but when you read the fine print behind the poll, you find out that the poll was only done in purple districts with a sample that was 43% self-identified conservative, and 47% with a household income of more than $75,000 annually. That’s not a representative sample of the likely 2016 electorate, but the GOP did manage to dent Hillary’s foreign policy armor with the Benghazi obsession.
But will it matter? Gallup reports that Hillary is the best known and best-liked of all potential 2016 candidates, and she finds herself in a stronger position now than she did at the same point in the 2008 campaign. And Quinnipiac’s poll shows that even after the months of Benghazi pounding, she still runs 7-9 points ahead of all possible GOP rivals. And yet the GOP just spent months of their prime attack machinery going after Hillary on foreign policy with only this to show for it, with a likely 2016 electorate more interested in domestic issues?
Shut Up John
by Deacon Blues
John McCain long ago reached the "get off my lawn" stage of irrelevancy, mostly as a result of his unending bitterness over losing the 2008 election to an inexperienced and well-talking African American colleague. As usual with Republicans, they want to blame everyone else for their plight, and McCain needs to look in the mirror as to why he wasn't president with a Vice President Palin.
But McCain is especially despicable of late, taking whatever credibility the Beltway bestowed upon him for allegedly being a military and foreign policy expert, and flushing it down the toilet with stupid-ass comments, where he (wait for it, wait for it) . . . blamed Obama for the crimes committed by Vladimir Putin and his Russian separatist goons in the downing of the Malaysian Air flight yesterday.
It was just yesterday that McCain pointed the finger correctly at Putin's ultimate responsibility for fomenting the unrest in eastern Ukraine, and providing Russian-supported goons with the weapons to shoot planes from the sky. But McCain couldn't let it stop there. He had to go further into mentally-unhinged mode and then assert to a friendly Fox TV audience yesterday that Obama was cowardly and to blame because the administration didn't provide weapons to the Ukrainian defense forces.
Naturally, McCain didn't really explain how arming the Ukrainians to the teeth would have prevented the Russian-backed separatists from shooting down the plane yesterday, but no matter. McCain has lost the ability, if he ever had it, for outlining a coherent policy or thought process that has a logical conclusion. He's always been overrated at his so-called expertise, which largely derives from the respect he deserves for surviving the horrors of the Hanoi Hilton. But asking McCain to formulate a front-to-back policy or approach on any major military issue (Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia) is beyond him.
Just Another Political Prop
by Deacon Blues
Is anyone surprised that after John Boehner and the rest of the GOP browbeat the president earlier this month over the “invasion” of immigrant children rushing our borders, that Boehner now says the House GOP can’t be bothered to actually send their solution over to the Senate before they all run off to recess?
If Obama had real political skills, and knowing as he does that a significant part of the Democratic caucuses in both houses are against amending the 2008 law that contributed to this problem, he would hammer the GOP for the remainder of July over their inhumane and craven treatment of these kids as nothing more than political props, and attack the GOP for not really wanting to do anything other than score political points. He’d also point out that he’s ready to take on his own party over the 2008 law to get this issue addressed, and yet he’s still sitting ready to sign something from Congress to deal with the problem, if only the House GOP gave a damn about something more than their vacations.
A Real Disgrace
by Deacon Blues
Today, the Senate GOP managed to filibuster a Democratic attempt to overcome the harm done by the "Catholic Five" on the Supreme Court in the Hobby Lobby case. What's surprising in the 56-43 failed vote was that Democrats picked up the support of three GOP senators to fix the discrimination sanctioned by the Catholic Five.
What isn't surprising is that the GOP, including the endangered Mitch McConnell and the deceitful Kelly Ayotte tried to skirt the fallout by misdirecting the issue to cover their asses. Ayotte wants you to give the GOP points for simply allowing women access to contraception.
"Our bill will reaffirm that no employer can prohibit an employee from purchasing an FDA-approved drug or medical device, including contraception," Ayotte said.
See the misdirection? I'm not aware that Hobby Lobby was pleading to be allowed to prohibit their employees from purchasing medications on their own dime, yet to believe Ayotte and McConnell, they'll fix this by making sure that no big, bad employer does such a thing. The Hobby Lobby case, as Lying Kelly knows was not about an employer prohibiting their employees from purchasing drugs, but instead was about a private company using religious objections to target women and avoid covering contraception as part of a required benefit package, even in cases where a physician deems it medically necessary.
This nuance doesn't matter to Ayotte, because she has no problem throwing her gender overboard and sanctioning different treatment for women and men. She just don't want to be exposed for doing it, so she hides behind the false issue of "access" when the real issues were disparate treatment, and employer coverage for women's medically necessary services. A valid case could have been made for Hobby Lobby to avoid covering pregnancy-terminating devices or drugs based on religious beliefs, yet the ignorant and intolerant Catholic Five on the SCOTUS and even Ayotte are quite comfortable going right past that distinction and flatly discriminating against women.
I don't expect the Catholic Five to know any better, because they are simply robe-wearing right wing political hacks who wouldn't know women's health if it bit them in the ass, but Ayotte has no such excuse.
Where The Hell Is Eric Holder?
by Deacon Blues
Two former Utah Attorney Generals were arrested and charged with felonies today involving bribery, obstruction of justice, running a pay-to-play operation with donors, and witness tampering. Both are Republicans, in a deeply red state. But note that although the FBI arrested the two today, the cases were not pursued by the federal Department of Justice but rather by the Salt Lake District Attorney, after a two-year investigation.
Republicans John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff are accused of establishing a pay-to-play culture in office, and of taking bribes to look the other way or offer protection when donors to their political campaigns ran into legal trouble.
"This has been a complex, nuanced, large investigation and there are multiple players in it," Salt Lake District Attorney Sim Gill said at a news conference. "We have filed what we think are appropriate charges. We could have filed more."
Sounds pretty bad, huh? Except that Eric Holder’s Department of Justice declined to prosecute these infractions back in 2013, leaving it to the FBI agents working with state and local law enforcement to make these arrests today, again in a red state.
Just what the hell is going on with the Attorney General of the United States, when the FBI has to work with red-state law enforcement to arrest red-state officials for multiple counts of official corruption?