Paul Krugman Tries to Explain “Facts” to Ron Johnson and ABC “Powerhouse Roundtable”

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Are there stupider Senators than Ron Johnson (D-WI)? Maybe, but he has to be in the top five. Via Think Progress, this morning on ABC’s This Week, Johnson pulled out an old Republican canard, claiming that the Social Security Trust Fund is “a myth.” Nobel Prize-winning economics Paul Krugman attempted to set him straight. You can watch the partial video down below, but I decided to read the whole transcript of the interaction. Here’s how it went down.

Johnson and Krugman participated in the “Powerhouse Roundtable” with George Will, Bloomberg News White House Correspondent Julianna Goldman, and DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The group began by discussing President Obama’s supposed charm offensive of the past few days. Johnson rambled on about how Obama is doing the right thing by “reaching out” to the GOP and maybe something can come of it. I have to hand it to Krugman, because he immediately steered the discussion toward the GOP and Obama’s hopes for cutting earned benefit programs.

From the Transcript:

KRUGMAN: I’m really skeptical, because I — I mean this is not — this is not about bad personal relations. People are perfectly capable of being polite to each other, being nice, having a nice dinner. This is about a fundamental difference in visions about what America should be…One party really wants to take down the — the — the safety net we have. One party really wants….to privatize Medicare, wants to, you know roll back, wanted to try to privatize Social Security back in 2005. The other party wants it somewhat extended, wants Obamacare to go into place, would do more if it could. That’s not something you’re going to resolve with a few dinners.

Corporate media shill Juliana Goldman chimes in to state the village consensus:

Look, both sides understand what a grand bargain is going to look like. You’re going — Republicans are going to have to give on revenues, Democrats are going to have to give on entitlements. And so there is some case for optimism now that if the president, in trying to build trust…if Republicans see the president moving forward, putting Medicare savings on the table that doesn’t just hit providers, but also hits beneficiaries as well, then — and also going out and selling it to give Republicans some cover, then there could be a sense that you could get some Senate Republicans to — to help bring the House along.

George Will brings up raising the Medicare age and asks Debbie Wasserman Schultz if there’s any chance all those old codgers in Florida will ever see the light so that Democrats could go along with this brilliant idea? No real response from Schultz, so Krugman (he was on fire today!) jumped in again. From here on, I’ll just focus on the interaction between Johnson and Krugman and leave out the few remarks by others.

KRUGMAN: Is it a condition of any Republican support that you have to go for really terrible policies? Because raising the Medicare age is a terrible policy. It raises medical costs, it does very little to improve the budget. It introduces a lot of hardship. Means testing in Medicare is a better policy. I don’t particularly like it, but it’s a better policy. There are other things you can do. There are other ways you can cut. Even — I don’t like the business about changing, you know the price index for Social Security, but that’s not as bad…

JOHNSON: To say that the Republicans haven’t done anything, is just false. The House has actually passed budgets. You know with — with proposals to — to try and save Medicare, bipartisan proposals, quite honestly. The Senate hasn’t passed a budget in over four years. Listen, unless we do something, these programs are going broke. It drives me nuts. When I — when I hear people say that Social Security is solvent to the year 2035, it’s not….

Listen, if you — if you’re taking a look at, in a entitlement reform package, in term — you know actually bringing in revenue for those entitlement reforms, I might look at that. But the fact of the matter is — the fact of the matter is, we already have a $1 trillion in middle income tax increases hitting us in Obamacare. They’re hidden, but it’s middle-class….it’s certainly true, as well as another $600 billion. So, you’ve already got $1.6 trillion worth of tax increases hitting us in the next 10 years….

KRUGMAN: Just a question, you say let’s start with the facts, but there — we’ve just — we’ve just run aground right there….JOHNSON: You’ve made my point — you’ve made my point, we have to agree on the facts….But the facts are false.

JOHNSON: No they are not….They are not false.

KRUGMAN: The Social Security thing, Social Security is — there — it has a dedicated revenue base. It has a trust fund based on that dedicated revenue base. You can’t change the rules midstream and say, oh suddenly….

JOHNSON: …here’s the problem with the trust fund, the federal government owns U.S. Treasury bonds, it’s the same thing as if you have $20.00, you spend it. And by the way, that money is spent, it’s gone. You write yourself a note for $20.00, stick it in your pocket and say, I got 20-bucks…No, you don’t. You — you have a note that you have to sell in the open market. The trust fund is a fiction, it doesn’t — it’s…

KRUGMAN: If you — if you want to think of Social Security as not just being part of the government, then there’s no such thing as a Social Security problem, it’s just part of the general budget. You — you cannot say on the one hand….on — on the other hand we’re going to — we’re going to restrict it to only operating off of…it’s important to realize that the facts that are being brought out here are in fact, non-facts.

Here’s the video from Think Progress:

From a piece Kevin Drum wrote last fall in response to WaPo columnist Charles Krauthammer spouting the “Social Security Trust Fund is a fiction” meme. Like Johnson, Krauthammer was arguing that because Social Security funds are invested in Treasury bonds which it cashes in when current funds aren’t sufficient for immediate needs, that the Trust Funds is just “a bunch of useless IOU’s,” to quote George W. Bush.

Here’s Drum:

What Krauthammer means is that as Social Security draws down its trust fund, it sells bonds back to the Treasury. The money it gets for those bonds comes from the general fund, which means that it does indeed have an effect on the deficit.

That much is true. But the idea that the trust fund is a “fiction” is absolutely wrong….Starting in 1983, the payroll tax was deliberately set higher than it needed to be to cover payments to retirees. For the next 30 years, this extra money was sent to the Treasury, and this windfall allowed income tax rates to be lower than they otherwise would have been. During this period, people who paid payroll taxes suffered from this arrangement, while people who paid income taxes benefited….

As the baby boomers have started to retire, payroll taxes are less than they need to be to cover payments to retirees. To make up this shortfall, the Treasury is paying back the money it got over the past 30 years, and this means that income taxes need to be higher than they otherwise would be. For the next few decades, people who pay payroll taxes will benefit from this arrangement, while people who pay income taxes will suffer.

If payroll taxpayers and income taxpayers were the same people, none of this would matter. The trust fund really would be a fiction. But they aren’t. Payroll taxpayers tend to be the poor and the middle class. Income taxpayers tend to be the upper middle class and the rich. Long story short, for the past 30 years, the poor and the middle class overpaid and the rich benefited. For the next 30 years or so, the rich will overpay and the poor and the middle class will benefit.

The trust fund is the physical embodiment of that deal. It’s no surprise that the rich, who didn’t object to this arrangement when it was first made, are now having second thoughts. But make no mistake. When wealthy pundits like Krauthammer claim that the trust fund is a fiction, they’re trying to renege on a deal halfway through because they don’t want to pay back the loans they got.

It’s disgusting that this has to be explained over and over again to the willfully obtuse Republicans and the media talking heads, but I have to say that I’m glad Krugman was there  this morning to call attention to the stupidity of what the GOP–and Obama–are proposing.

Now, here’s a bonus for you that I found at Americablog this morning. Florida Rep. Alan Grayson is warning there will be “civil disobedience” if Social Security benefits are cut.

What are you hearing and seeing out there? This is an open thread.


Early Morning Open Thread: Are We Living in Atlas Shrugged?

Sen. Ron Johnson, fellow Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan, and some other guy

Sen. Ron Johnson, fellow Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan, and some other guy

Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson’s time in the glow of media attention isn’t quite over yet. He’s still making an ass of himself without realizing it. Via Mother Jones, The Republican Senator who was humiliated by Hillary Clinton during last week’s Benghazi hearings gave an interview on January 16 to The Atlas Society, an organization who raison d’etre is the celebration of the odious Ayn Rand novel Atlas Shrugged.

Johnson is such a huge fan of the novel that he and a friend (Tea Party leader and campaign fundraiser Ben Ganther) bought a giant statue of Atlas holding up the world and today it sits outside his friend’s contracting business in Osh Kosh, Wisconsin. Engraved on the statue’s base are the words “Fight to be free.”

atlas johnson

Johnson told interviewer Laurie Rice that he “absolutely” sees “parallels” between the U.S. today and the plot of Atlas Shrugged.

It’s a real concern. As I talk to business owners that maybe started their businesses in the ’70s and ’80s, they tell me Ron, there’s no way– with today’s regulations, today’s levels of taxation– there’s no way I could start my business today. And I’m certainly concerned a lot of the generation of baby boomers that have had successful businesses, they just might shrug. With all the regulations, with the increasing taxes, they may say I’m going to give it up.

According to Johnson, we’re headed for disaster because of the national debt and because of the New Deal programs that have been in effect since the 1930s with no ill effects, but are suddenly going to bring the country down. Does this man know that Ayn Rand took both Social Security and Medicare?

I see two tipping points– the financial tipping point, which really is, talking about the debt crisis, the point where world creditors look at the United States and say I’m not going to loan you any more money, not at that rate. And interest rates start increasing, and then our interest costs explode, crowds out all their spending. That’s the financial tipping point.

The other one I’m talking about is the cultural tipping point, where we really have developed this culture of entitlement dependency that is not what America’s all about. I mean, America– and that’s, of course, what Atlas Shrugged is about– is individuals aspiring to build things. To make their life, and as a result the world, a better place. And when we shift to a culture where people are just saying I’m happy to sit back and let the government provide me with things, that becomes a very dangerous point in time for this country.

Apparently Johnson knows better than Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, who isn’t at all worried about rising interest rates or a sudden lack of interest in Treasury bonds. But Johnson’s biggest fear is…wait for it….

OBAMACARE!

I think Americans are a little bit like a bunch of frogs in that pot of water and the water’s being brought up to a boil. And I think we’re losing freedoms across the board. The reason I ran really was in reaction to the passage of the health care law, which I think is really the greatest assault on our freedom in my lifetime.

During the original oral arguments at the Supreme Court, I was the only Senator that attended all four days of those arguments. And prior to attending those, I was being interviewed by somebody and I had this concept that we’re all suffering collectively from the Stockholm Syndrome. That’s where people who have been kidnapped are grateful to their captors when they just show them a little bit of mercy. And collectively, we just don’t understand the freedoms we’re really losing.

So we’re going to the Supreme Court, begging them please, please allow us this one last shred of freedom. Allow us the freedom to decide what product we’re going to purchase or not purchase. And unfortunately for Americans, for our freedoms, we were denied that right.

But Johnson assures us he’ll never give up fighting for our freedom to live without health insurance.

I guess when you take a look at the book Atlas Shrugged, I think most people always like to identify with the main character– that would be John Galt. I guess I identify with Hank Rearden, the fella that just refused until the very end to give up. And I guess I’d like to think of myself more as a Hank Rearden– I’m not going to give up.

America is something far, far too precious in the span of human history. I’ll never give up hope on America. I hope everybody that’s watching this will never give up hope.

Watch the whole interview if you dare!

Via Dave Wiegel, in 2010 when he first ran for office, Johnson discussed his love for Atlas Shrugged with WaPo columnist George Will.

Before what he calls “the jaw-dropping” events of the past 19 months — TARP, the stimulus, Government Motors, the mistreatment of Chrysler’s creditors, Obamacare, etc. — the idea of running for office never crossed Ron Johnson’s mind. He was, however, dry tinder — he calls Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” his “foundational book” — and now is ablaze, in an understated, Upper Midwestern way. This 55-year-old manufacturer of plastic products from Oshkosh, Wis., is what the Tea Party looks like.

As for the novel that helped form his bizarre world view, Johnson told Will,

What Samuel Johnson said of Milton’s “Paradise Lost” — “None ever wished it longer than it is” — some readers have said of “Atlas Shrugged.” Not Johnson, who thinks it is “too short” at 1,088 pages.

Noting that Massachusetts “is requiring insurance companies to write polices at a loss,” he says, “We’re living it,” referring to the novel’s dystopian world in which society’s producers are weighed down by parasitic non-producers.

He probably takes the Bible literally too. Are there any Republicans left who don’t get all their ideas from fiction and folklore?

I’ll be back later with a midmorning reads post. Have a great morning and a fabulous Tuesday!


Saturday Reads: Hillary’s Glasses, Neanderthal DNA, Violence Against Women, and Much More

William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy read

Good Morning!!

Every Friday, Chris Cillizza names the winner of the “Who had the worst week in Washington” award. This week’s winner was Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson for claiming that Hillary Clinton faked her emotional response to his ridiculous and annoying questions during the Senate Beghazi hearing.

So who had the best week? I’d say it was Hillary Clinton. Everyone except the most out-there wingnuts could see how brilliant she looked as she testified in Congress and made Republicans like Johnson and Rand Paul look like lightweights.

After the hearings, the media wondered why she was wearing those big glasses with the thick lenses. The Daily News explains:

Closeups of Secretary of State Clinton taken during her Senate testimony Wednesday revealed that her head injury last month left her with lingering vision problems.

As she testified about the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya, the secretary of state appeared to have tiny vertical lines etched onto the left lens of her new brown specs.

Clinton’s spokesman confirmed Thursday night she is wearing the special glasses as a result of the fall and concussion she suffered last month, but he did not elaborate.
Experts told the Daily News that Clinton likely has a Fresnel prism placed on her glasses. The adhesive panel is used to treat double vision.

“If she’s wearing a Fresnel prism, then she has double vision without it,” said Dr. Mark Fromer, medical director of Fromer Eye Centers.

At New York Magazine, Dan Amira noted the many faces of Hillary adjusting her glasses during the Benghazi hearings and added captions to suggest what Hillary might have been thinking at the time. Here a couple of them:

The "I'm So Going to Veto All of Your Bills When I'm President" Adjustment

The “I’m So Going to Veto All of Your Bills When I’m President” Adjustment

The "Listening to You Grandstand Is Fascinating" Adjustment

The “Listening to You Grandstand Is Fascinating” Adjustment

I know everyone has heard about the latest Republican scheme to rig future presidential elections so Republican candidates win even if they lose the popular vote in a landslide. I’ve got a couple of useful reads for you on that effort. Josh Marshall writes about it at TPM under a photo of a nuclear mushroom cloud: This is a Big Big Deal.

The US electoral college system is based on winner take all delegate allocation in all but two states. If you get just one more vote than the other candidate you get all the electoral votes. One way to change the system is go to proportional allocation. That would still give some advantage to the overall winner. But not much. The key to the Republican plan is to do this but only in Democratic leaning swing states — not in any of the states where Republicans win. That means you take away all the advantage Dems win by winning states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and so forth.

But the Republican plan goes a step further.

Rather than going by the overall vote in a state, they’d allocate by congressional district. And this is where it gets real good, or bad, depending on your point of view. Democrats are now increasingly concentrated in urban areas and Republicans did an extremely successful round of gerrymandering in 2010, enough to enable them to hold on to a substantial House majority even thoughthey got fewer votes in House races than Democrats.

In other words, the new plan is to make the electoral college as wired for Republicans as the House currently is. But only in Dem leaning states. In Republican states just keep it winner take all. So Dems get no electoral votes at all.

Another way of looking at this is that the new system makes the votes of whites count for much more than non-whites — which is a helpful thing if you’re overwhelmingly dependent on white votes in a country that is increasingly non-white.

So now the GOP wants to go beyond making voting incredibly difficult for anyone who isn’t rich and white to making the votes of rich white people count more than anyone else’s. At The Atlantic, Molly Ball reports on her interview with a “Republican operative” who is leading the effort to “Take the Electoral-Vote-Rigging Scheme National.”

Jordan Gehrke, a D.C.-based strategist who’s worked on presidential and Senate campaigns, is teaming up with Ken Blackwell, a former Ohio Republican secretary of state, to raise money for an effort to propose similar electoral reforms in states across the country, he told me this week.

Gehrke and Blackwell have been talking to major donors and plan to send a fundraising email to grassroots conservatives early next week. The money would go toward promoting similar plans to apportion electoral votes by congressional district in states across the country, potentially even hiring lobbyists in state capitals.

Gehrke isn’t saying which states the project might initially target. He says he’d like to see the plan implemented in every state, not just the ones where clever redistricting has given Republicans an edge, and he justifies it in policy, not political terms.

A presidential voting system where the electoral college was apportioned by congressional district might not be perfectly fair, he says, but it would be better than what we have now. It would bring democracy closer to the people, force presidential candidates to address the concerns of a more varied swath of the American populace, and give more clout to rural areas that are too often ignored. And while it might help Republicans in states like Virginia, it could give Democrats a boost in states like Texas. Ideally, this new system, implemented nationally, would strengthen both parties, he claims.

Uh huh. Sure. Read the interview at the link.

Connie from Orlando sent me this link to an article about violence against women at Truthout by Rebecca Solnit of TomDispatch: A Rape a Minute, a Thousand Corpses a Year: Hate Crimes in America (and Elsewhere)

We have an abundance of rape and violence against women in this country and on this Earth, though it’s almost never treated as a civil rights or human rights issue, or a crisis, or even a pattern. Violence doesn’t have a race, a class, a religion, or a nationality, but it does have a gender.

Here I want to say one thing: though virtually all the perpetrators of such crimes are men, that doesn’t mean all men are violent. Most are not. In addition, men obviously also suffer violence, largely at the hands of other men, and every violent death, every assault is terrible. But the subject here is the pandemic of violence by men against women, both intimate violence and stranger violence.

It’s impossible to give the gist of this article with a few excerpts, so I hope you’ll go read the whole thing. Here’s a bit more:

Rape and other acts of violence, up to and including murder, as well as threats of violence, constitute the barrage some men lay down as they attempt to control some women, and fear of that violence limits most women in ways they’ve gotten so used to they hardly notice — and we hardly address. There are exceptions: last summer someone wrote to me to describe a college class in which the students were asked what they do to stay safe from rape. The young women described the intricate ways they stayed alert, limited their access to the world, took precautions, and essentially thought about rape all the time (while the young men in the class, he added, gaped in astonishment). The chasm between their worlds had briefly and suddenly become visible.

Mostly, however, we don’t talk about it — though a graphic has been circulating on the Internet called Ten Top Tips to End Rape, the kind of thing young women get often enough, but this one had a subversive twist. It offered advice like this: “Carry a whistle! If you are worried you might assault someone ‘by accident’ you can hand it to the person you are with, so they can call for help.” While funny, the piece points out something terrible: the usual guidelines in such situations put the full burden of prevention on potential victims, treating the violence as a given. You explain to me why colleges spend more time telling women how to survive predators than telling the other half of their students not to be predators.

To continue the violence against women theme, Amanda Marcotte gives her take on the crazy proposed law in New Mexico that would jail women if they try to abort a pregnancy caused by rape because the fetus must be preserved as “evidence.”

Of course, the entire idea that having a rapist’s baby would somehow be treated as proof of a rape is beyond silly. After all, the defense against the charge of rape is rarely to claim that the penis didn’t go into the vagina, but to accuse the victim of consenting and then, due to the unique viciousness of women, claiming it was rape for the lulz. Or to conceal her epic sluttiness by having the police grill her about her sex life, the defense attorney question her about it for the public record, and the entire community gossip about what a big slut she must be to press rape charges. I suspect Brown knows this, coming from the same anti-choice circles as Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin, where the belief is that women are deceitful creatures who will lie and kill to conceal how much fun sex they’re having.

To understand what’s going on here, you have to understand that anti-choicers primarily understand abortion as an attempt by women to hide how naughty they are. Never mind that most women getting abortions are in their 20s and are mothers already; the myth that abortion patients are young girls having all this sexy fun they’re not supposed to have and then hiding the “evidence” with abortion is so erotic and enticing for anti-choicers that they’re not letting it go. That’s why hanging out in front of abortion clinics and yelling at patients is so crucial to the movement: They believe you’re trying to hide your shameful non-virgin status, and by gum, they’re going to be there to make sure they get a chance to see your face and cast judgment. You will not get to hide your non-virginity from them! They are entitled to pass judgment, and if they don’t get to do it by shaming you for being a single mother, they’ll show up and yell at you at the abortion clinic. And probably masturbate about it later. You laugh, but when you see behavior like this enough, you begin to realize that this anti-choice obsession with abortion is so profound that “sexual fetish, no matter how sublimated” is the likeliest explanation.

I really think she’s right about the fetus fetishists.

Remember that story about the scientist from Harvard who wanted to find an “adventurous woman” to bear a Neanderthal child? Turns out it was just a bunch of media hooey. From the LA Times: ‘Cloned cave baby’ stories missed the mark, scientist says.

Let’s be clear: That Harvard scientist you heard about is NOT seeking an “adventurous woman” to give birth to a “cloned cave baby.”

But that was the juicy story making its way around Web on Tuesday.

The blowup began when the German magazine Der Spiegel published an interview with Harvard synthetic biologist George Church, who is well-known for his genome sequencing effort, the Personal Genome Project, and for all sorts of other unusual and creative projects such as encoding his new book, “Regenesis,” in actual DNA.

In his interview with Der Spiegel, Church discussed a number of ways “DNA will become the building block of the future,” as the magazine put it. The interview touched on back-engineering dinosaurs, by first identifying the mutations that separated ostriches, one of the closest living relatives of the dinosaurs, from their long-extinct forebears. It discussed the possibility of using DNA to build gadgets in the future — “cars, computers or coffee machines,” as Der Spiegel put it. Church also talked about the possibility of synthesizing genes to promote virus resistance or longevity.

As for the Neanderthal baby? It did come up — as a hypothetical. Church said that the speed at which technology was evolving might make such a project possible in the relatively near future, depending on “a lot of things.” He also observed that before any woman served as a surrogate for a cloned Neanderthal fetus, society would first have to accept human cloning.

I’ve got several more reads for you, in link dump fashion.

Stephanie Fairyington at The Atlantic: The Lonely Existence of Mel Feit, Men’s Rights Advocate

Lawyers, Guns & Money: Neoconfederate Judges Rule NLRB Recess Appointments Unconstitutional

Mia Fontaine at The Atlantic: America Has an Incest Problem

WaPo: Mitt Romney is back. But he never really left.

The Advocate: Law Professor Challenges Supreme Court’s Jurisdiction Over DOMA

Now it’s your turn. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


The Amazing Stupidity of Ron Johnson, Part 2

Ron Johnson 1

Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson has really raised his media profile in the past couple of day. Yesterday he was humiliated by Hillary Clinton during the Senate Benghazi hearings and today it was John Kerry’s turn to make a fool out of Johnson during Kerry’s confirmation hearings for Secretary of State. Sadly, Johnson doesn’t understand that he’s getting all this attention because he’s a complete loon.

Why is this man so obsessed with whether or not there was a spontaneous protest in Benghazi on the day of the attacks on the American consulate there? He can’t even explain why it matters except to say that the American people deserve “the truth.” For Pete’s sake, we didn’t get any kind of investigation of 9/11/2001 for a couple of years after the attacks!

Hasn’t Johnson noticed that even John McCain and Lindsey Graham stopped harping on the protest vs. terrorist attack “issue” after it came out that Susan Rice’s talking points were prepared by the intelligence community and that former CIA Director David Petraeus signed off on them? Unfortunately, Johnson is just too stupid and too full of himself to realize everyone else has moved on.

Wisconsin blogger Ed Garvey got a kick out of the way Hillary handled Johnson yesterday:

Had the Hillary Clinton-Ron Johnson episode been a prize fight they would have called it after a couple of exchanges between the bright, articulate and gutsy secretary of state and Ron Johnson, the inarticulate, not-so-gutsy Wisconsin senator. I almost felt sorry for the guy. He reminded me of a kid who can’t swim being pushed into into the deep end of the pool.

You have to see it to believe it. Advice to Senator Johnson: Spend some prep time before taking on someone much smarter than you. And, dear Ron, your effort to win the debate after it was over placed you in the rube category.

This morning CNN’s Soledad O’Brien tried to get Johnson to explain why after being smacked down by Clinton in the Senate, he ran to right wing media outlets and accused the outgoing Secretary of State of faking emotion over the deaths of four State Department employees in order to evade his (Johnson’s) questions.

Johnson used his amazing stupidity to evade O’Brien’s questions.

During Kerry’s confirmation hearing, Johnson tried to get Kerry to agree to work with him to get “the truth” about the Benghazi attacks.

From Politicus:

Sen. Ron Johnson started his tea party what really happened at Benghazi shitick today, but like Hillary Clinton yesterday, John Kerry was having none of it. Kerry responded to Johnson’s repeat performance of what really happened at Benghazi by asking, “Were you at the briefing at the tapes?” Johnson answered, “No.” Kerry continued, “Well, there was a briefing with tapes, which we all saw, those of us who went to it, which made it crystal clear. We sat for several hours with our intel folks, who described to us precisely what we were seeing. We saw the events unfold. We had a very complete and detailed description.”

Senator Stupid still doesn’t get it, but surely some of his constituents in Wisconsin must be kicking themselves for electing this moron. Back to Politicus:

Johnson and the other tea partiers in Congress are obsessed with Benghazi because they are trying to create a political opportunity to exploit. For them, these hearings aren’t about finding out what really happened in order to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Sen. Johnson and others of his ilk are trying to use the murder of four Americans for political gain.

Sen. Johnson is embarrassing himself and his state, and the only fact that has been uncovered by his line of questioning is that Ron Johnson doesn’t belong in the United States Senate.

I can’t wait to see if Johnson goes running to Politico to brag about how he handled John Kerry.


Please used this as an open thread.


Thursday Reads: The Amazing Stupidity of Ron Johnson, and Other News

cat books window

Good Morning!!

It sure was fun watching Hillary take on the blithering idiots of the GOP yesterday. She made them look silly and childish. As Charles Pierce wrote yesterday,

the appearance of Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this morning proved on very salient point: at its upper echelons which, at the moment, praise be, consist of only its congressional delegations, the Republican party has become something extraordinarily unserious. If its domestic policies, laid out clearly in the last election, were fairly well rejected, its notions in the area of foreign policy reside in a spot somewhere between threadbare and obsolete. They are lingering in a fairly brutal hangover between having gone all in on the Bush administrations’s grandiose schemes for imperial reconstruction and having yielded the real power in the party to people with all the gravitas of your drunk uncle who watches Fox all day and sends chain e-mails to the family.

There were so many stupid Republicans competing to be the most obnoxious questioners in the hearings, but I’d have to say that Wisconsin Tea Party Senator Ron Johnson made the biggest ass of himself. Hillary managed to keep her cool through more than five hours of questioning, but she lost her patience briefly with Johnson after he repeatedly argued that the State Department could have easily found out what actually happened in Benghazi by calling people who had been in the consulate and simply asking them (!). Dakinikat posted the video yesterday, but here’s Hillary’s so-called “eruption.”

“Senator, when you’re in these positions, the last thing you want to do is interfere with any other process going on,” Clinton said, adding that the State Department was waiting for the FBI to finish conducting interviews.

“I realize that’s a good excuse,” Johnson responded.

“Well, no, it’s the fact,” Clinton said. “Even today, there are questions being raised. We have no doubt they were terrorists, they were militants, they attacked us, they killed our people. But what was going on, and why they were doing what they were doing, is still, is still unknown.”

Clinton forcefully insisted neither UN Ambassador Susan Rice nor the Obama Administration misled the public. “With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans,” she said. “Was it because of a protest, or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make? It our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, senator. Now, honestly, I will do my best to answer your questions about this. The fact is that people were trying, in real time, to get to the best information.”

I actually thought that was pretty mild, considering the idiocy of Johnson’s remarks. Joan Walsh had a great summary of Hillary’s day: Hillary faces down the angry men. On the Johnson interchange she writes:

On a morning in which senators vied for the worst moment, Tea Party darling Ron Johnson of Wisconsin stood out. “A very simple phone call to these individuals I think would have ascertained, immediately, that there was no protest prior to this…it was an assault,” he told Clinton condescendingly. The fact that Johnson could envision “a very simple phone call” in the wake of the Benghazi carnage – has he even seen photos of the devastated compound? – shows that he’s a very simple man when it comes to foreign policy. Johnson’s entire point was to ask, again, about Rice “purposely misleading” the Sunday shows five days after the attack.

After his humiliating beatdown by Clinton, Johnson made a bigger ass of himself by claiming to McKay Coppins of Buzzfeed that Hillary Clinton Planned To Get Emotional To Evade Questions

“I’m not sure she had rehearsed for that type of question,” Johnson told BuzzFeed Wednesday afternoon, after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. “I think she just decided before she was going to describe emotionally the four dead Americans, the heroes, and use that as her trump card to get out of the questions. It was a good way of getting out of really having to respond to me.”

He said it was clear, at other points during the hearing, that Clinton was working off a set of talking points, but that his questions “got under her skin” because “they’re just so common sense.”
“I just don’t think she had an answer to that,” he said. “Maybe it embarrassed her. Maybe she hadn’t thought of it that way.”

He went on to criticize Clinton for ostensibly taking “full responsibility” for the State Department’s handling of the attacks, but then continuing to avoid questions with “theatrics.”
“She allowed politics to trump getting to the facts,” he said.

Yeah, like Hillary needed to get “emotional” to avoid answering questions about Susan Rice!  And get this, Johnson told Politico that Hillary probably never even thought to make those phone calls to people who had escaped the Beghazi carnage.

“Whether she actually never thought of calling them or she was kind of feeling a little guilty that she didn’t, I think the secretary of state had the responsibility to,” the Wisconsin senator said.

This guy doesn’t even realize what a fool he made of himself! BTW, Johnson is the same moron who offered to “mansplain” the federal budget to Tammy Baldwin after she was elected to the Senate in 2012. Johnson has been in Congress for all of two years, while Baldwin served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 14 years and before that was a Wisconsin state representative. Oh, and she graduated from Smith College with a double major in math and government. Johnson worked in his father-in-law’s business until his first run for office in 2010.

In other greatest hits, Johnson believes he knows more about climate change than scientists who have spent years studying it. He said women who can’t afford birth control should just go on-line and google “what if I can’t afford birth control?” He claimed that the great recession ended before Obama took office in 2009.

In April 2012, Johnson became an object of ridicule after Roll Call published an article about his “frustration with his legislative staff.”

Freshman GOP Sen. Ron Johnson (Wis.) is looking to purge nearly his entire Washington, D.C.-based legislative team, according to multiple Republican sources familiar with the situation.

Johnson’s frustration with his legislative staff has been one of the worst-kept secrets in Washington for months, those close to Republican Conference politics said.

But the situation in Johnson’s office has escalated in recent weeks. The top brass of the Senate Republican Steering Committee — the Conference’s conservative hub — have connected at least one Johnson legislative aide with another GOP Senate office, and sources indicated they may be helping others find jobs before they are asked to permanently clear their desks.

Johnson denied the charges, but

While top Republican sources expressed exasperation at the internal turmoil in Johnson’s office, they also noted that the Wisconsin freshman has not been diligent in building relationships with other Senators within the Conference and has alienated himself by not reaching out more frequently to colleagues.

“He’s an interesting case study of someone who has talked more than he has listened, lectured more than he has developed relationships with his colleagues, and now he’s having a tough time because of that behavior in advancing his policy goals,” one senior GOP aide said. “It’s kind of like watching a temper tantrum by a 2-year-old in the middle of the grocery store.”

“The Senate is still about relationships, and he doesn’t seem to get that,” the aide continued.

Bwwwwwaaaaaaahahahahahahaha!!!!!

How stupid is Ron Johnson? He’s so stupid that some of his constituents started a website called “Our Dumb Senator” to keep track of his ongoing stupidity.

Now look what I’ve done. I’ve wasted most of this post the stupid Senator from Wisconsin–can you believe this guy actually beat Russ Feingold?!

In other news, it’s now confirmed that Beyonce didn’t really sing the National Anthem at the Inauguration.

An inaugural official confirmed to CNN on Wednesday that Beyonce lip-synced the National Anthem during Monday’s Inauguration Day ceremony.

“She did not sing live,” the official, who asked to remain anonymous, told CNN, adding that the singer made the decision herself to go with a pre-recording the night before Monday’s ceremony.

“Because she didn’t have time to rehearse with the Marine Band, she decided to use her recording with the Marine Band,” the official added. “It was all Beyonce.”

Ho hum, just like American Bandstand back in the day. I guess if Obama didn’t care no one else should. I’m not a Beyonce fan, frankly, and I didn’t really care for her rendition of the song. I’ve heard much better. So shoot me.

I have some more interesting reads for you that I’m just going to throw out link dump style. First, some articles about Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. Attorney from Boston who drove cyber activist Aaron Swartz to suicide. The consensus seems to be that Ortiz’s career is over.

Who What Why: Carmen Ortiz’s Sordid Rap Sheet

Scott Horton at Harpers: Carmen Ortiz Strikes Out

Blue Mass Group: Not how the news was supposed to go for Carmen Ortiz

A few more links:

HuffPo: Mississippi’s GOP Governor Says No American Lacks Health Care

Alternet: How ‘Stop and Frisk’ Is Too Often a Sexual Assault by Cops on Teenagers in Targeted NYC Neighborhoods

Amy Davidson at The New Yorker: ISOLATED VICTIMS, FROM WILLIAMSBURG TO NOTRE DAME

Andrew Marantz at The New Yorker on the Animal Planet’s “Puppy Bowl” on Super Bowl Sunday

Alex Pareene: The brilliantly stupid new plan to raise the debt ceiling without raising it

Jonathan Chait: Boehner: Let’s Destroy Math Instead of the Economy

LA Times: Carbs were key in wolves’ evolution into dogs

Now it’s your turn. What are you reading and blogging about today?