Friday Reads: The Overlords are winning

&"Good Morning!

The combination of low voting patterns and big money in politics is finally coming to an ugly fruition.  The plan was all laid out in the Powell memo of 1971.  Its leaking to Jack Anderson will probably be remembered as one of the last acts of a press free of uber-corporate ownership and manipulation. It was also the beginning of the framework that ultimately led to the Citizen’s United case 5 years ago establishing a freedom of speech right for corporations best encapsulated by Mitt Romney’s famous gaffe in Iowa of “Corporations are people, my friend”.

Though Powell’s memo was not the sole influence, the Chamber and corporate activists took his advice to heart and began building a powerful array of institutions designed to shift public attitudes and beliefs over the course of years and decades. The memo influenced or inspired the creation of the Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute, the Cato Institute, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Accuracy in Academe, and other powerful organizations. Their long-term focus began paying off handsomely in the 1980s, in coordination with the Reagan Administration’s “hands-off business” philosophy.

Most notable about these institutions was their focus on education, shifting values, and movement-building — a focus we share, though often with sharply contrasting goals.*  (See our endnote for more on this.)

So did Powell’s political views influence his judicial decisions? The evidence is mixed. Powell did embrace expansion of corporate privilege and wrote the majority opinion in First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, a 1978 decision that effectively invented a First Amendment “right” for corporations to influence ballot questions. On social issues, he was a moderate, whose votes often surprised his backers.

The combination of the Southern Strategy, the business interests behind the Powell Memo, and the insipid and wrongly labelled “Moral Majority” has created an unholy trinity of neoconfederates,  billionaire plutocrats, and christianist extremists that now drive the Republican Party.   We now have a SCOTUS and majority in Congress set to undo many of the advances of the late 20th century.  A lot of this came from the mind of Nixon and his cronies.

… Democrats were expanding rights while the Republicans wanted to narrow them or keep them restrictive.

This realignment did not exactly start with Nixon or end with him. Barry Goldwater had voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act (although he had supported other civil rights bills), but the GOP in general then was unencumbered by a Southern constituency and its leadership often favored civil rights.

After Nixon, though, there was no turning back. In 1980, Ronald Reagan — ever the innocent — went to Mississippi and the Neshoba County Fair to tastelessly proclaim his belief in “states’ rights.” Nearby, three civil rights worked had been killed just 16 years earlier, protesting one of those bogus rights — the right to segregate the races. Reagan never acknowledged any appeal to racism. Racists took it as a wink anyway.

At one time, a good many African-Americans voted Republican — the party of Lincoln, after all. Jackie Robinson initially supported Nixon , as did Joe Louis. The former heavyweight champion had even supported a Republican in the 1946 congressional campaign against Rep. Helen Gahagan Douglas, a liberal civil rights advocate, whose California district was substantially black. As late as the 1970s, there were African-American enclaves in Maryland that voted Republican.

The damage Nixon did to his own party, not to mention the rights of African-Americans and the cause of racial comity, has lasted long after the stench of Watergate has dispersed. It not only persuaded blacks that the Republican Party was inhospitable to them, but it in effect welcomed racists to the GOP fold. Dixiecrats moved smartly to the right.

Excuse me for extrapolating, but segregationists are not merit scholarship winners. Racism is dumb, and so are racists. The Democratic Party showed racists the door.

The GOP welcomed them and, of course, their fellow travelers — creationists, gun nuts, anti-abortion zealots, immigrant haters of all sorts and homophobes. Increasingly, the Republican Party has come to be defined by what it opposes and not what it proposes. Its abiding enemy is modernity.

The first death knell of democracy was probably the undoing of the Fairness Doctrine followed closely by the demonization of labor via the busting of the Air sipaphotosthree072008-SIPAUSA.30068566000008.sm-aTraffic Controller’s Union.  There are a lot of reasons why the FCC should try to bring it back.  The primary one I can think of is the disservice the Fox Propaganda network does to the country in terms of Science and truth.  There was some paranoia in the right wing last year that the FCC was thinking about a Fairness Doctrine 2.0.

Under the controversial doctrine, which the FCC abandoned in 1987 and formally took off the books in 2011, the agency required radio and TV stations to air opposing views on controversial issues.

Pai expressed alarm that the FCC could soon start questioning why Fox spends so much time covering the attacks in Benghazi, or why NBC has focused on the controversy over lane closures in New Jersey.

House Republicans made a similar accusation in December, claiming the FCC was working on a “Fairness Doctrine 2.0.”

“Given the widespread calls for the commission to respect the First Amendment and stay out of the editorial decisions of reporters and broadcasters, we were shocked to see that the FCC is putting itself back in the business of attempting to control the political speech of journalists,” Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee wrote in a letter to the FCC.

 “It is wrong, it is unconstitutional, and we urge you to put a stop to this most recent attempt to engage the FCC as the ‘news police.’

The controversy stems from a study the agency plans to conduct on “critical information needs.” The FCC is required by law to study ways to eliminate barriers to entry for small media businesses.

Among other things, the agency plans to ask TV journalists about their “news philosophy” and “the process by which stories are selected.” The study will gather data on “perceived station bias” and “perceived responsiveness to underserved populations.” The FCC also wants to examine how local TV stations cover “critical information” such as “economic opportunities” and the “environment”.

image13There have been many more instances of cases sent to the Supreme Court and end runs by states around civil rights and liberties like the christianists’ obsession with ending a woman’s right to an abortion without exception in the first two trimesters.  We’re beginning to see some of the final steps in the plan this year.  We’ve watched the court gut the Voting Rights Act.  Are they now set to gut the major provisions of the Fair Housing Act?

A sharply divided US Supreme Court on Wednesday took up a challenge to the Fair Housing Act (FHA) in an action that liberal critics say could gut the major civil rights provision.

At issue in a case from Dallas, Texas, is whether the housing law authorizes lawsuits over racially neutral measures that nonetheless disproportionately impact minority residents.

Liberals support the so-called disparate impact theory of civil rights enforcement, while conservatives warn that such an approach could lead to racial quotas in housing and other areas.

The case has attracted significant attention, with friend-of-the-court briefs filed by various civil rights groups, 17 states, and 20 cities and counties. On the other side, briefs have been filed by a number of conservative groups and business associations, including insurance companies, banks, finance companies, and home builders.

The FHA prohibits anyone from refusing to sell, rent, or otherwise make unavailable a house or apartment to a person because of their race, religion, or national origin. There is no dispute about this aspect of the law.

After the FHA was enacted in 1968, federal courts and agencies began embracing a broader interpretation of the law’s scope, concluding that, in addition to barring intentional discrimination, the statute also authorizes lawsuits when housing decisions disproportionately harm minority groups.

The case before the high court involves a lawsuit challenging decisions by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs in awarding tax credits for low-income housing in Dallas. The Housing Department sought to provide new affordable housing in areas where existing housing was blighted or nonexistent. It sought to do so under race-neutral criteria.

Despite that goal, not everyone was satisfied with the agency’s performance. A Dallas-based group seeking to foster racial integration, the Inclusive Communities Project, sued the Housing Department because it said the agency had failed to provide adequate opportunities for low-income housing in Dallas’ more affluent suburbs.

Also percolating its way through Congress is a ban on all abortions after 20 weeks based on the nonscientific nonsense that the nervous system of a fetus is developed enough at that point to experience pain.  It is not.   It’s the usual, sneaky, lying way that religionists use to confuse the easily confused. A controversial provision caused the bill to be tabled.  Republican Congresswomen were upset by a redefinition of rape tucked away in the bill that sought to ensure that only narrowly approved definitions of “rape” would be treated differently. 

It’s one thing to campaign on stopping abortion—it has been a largely successful GOP plank since Roe v. Wade, and one that helped create a juggernaut connection between evangelical Christians and the Republican Party. (Yes, there have been occasional hiccups.) But it’s a different and more complicated matter to actually institute sweeping restrictions successfully.

Republicans have sought for years to ban abortions after 20 weeks. (Molly Redden has a definitive history.) The House GOP has been trying directly for the last few years, but each attempt has come to nought. Besides, even a successful House bill would have run into the Democratic Senate. But with a newly enormous majority in the House and a newly minted majority in the Senate, Republicans finally had a chance to get a bill to the president. While Obama would surely reject it, it would be a powerful political gesture and please the party’s pro-life allies. Even better, they had the opportunity to schedule the vote to coincide with the March for Life in Washington on Thursday.

They almost made it, but then the GOP coalition fell apart—not on wavering opposition to abortion overall, but on the technicalities. Like many such proposals, the bill would have allowed for exceptions in a few limited cases, such as rape. This bill made rape an exception, but only if a woman reported it to law enforcement. As Ed O’Keefe reports, that set off alarms for a bloc of female Republican lawmakers. They worried that the rape-reporting restriction was too strict, and that the bill would alienate young voters and women from the party. And so Wednesday evening, GOP leaders abruptly yanked the bill. Instead, the House passed a less restrictive bill Thursday, permanently banning federal money from going to pay for abortions. A ban already exists, but it has to be renewed every year.

The vise in which the party finds itself is easy to understand but hard to loosen. On the one hand, the party’s religious base has worked hard for Republicans and expects to see results, and most elected officeholders are personally pro-life. (Pulling the bill when thousands of the most fervent pro-lifers are in Washington must be an especially bitter pill for leaders.) But everyone knows the GOP faces a demographic time bomb, since its voters are older and whiter and more pro-life than the general population, so it’s risky to do anything that might make it harder to win them over.

North Carolina’s Renee Ellmers, one of the prominent dissenters in this case and now a target for grassroots conservative fury, is no swing-district moderate. She won reelection in November by defeating American Idol also-ran Clay Aiken by a whopping 18 points. Ellmers removed her name as a sponsor, then said she would vote for the bill—but still requested that no vote be held until concerns could be addressed.

It’s a surprising and little-known fact that opinions about abortion have barely budged in the American public in the 42 years since Roe. As Karlyn Bowman and Jennifer Marsico wrote for The Atlantic, despite years of heated debate, a slight majority of Americans still consistently back legal abortion, even as they personally oppose it. The GOP has found great success at enacting restrictions in states it dominates.

Indeed, it seems that Republican men want certain exemptions to the act of “rape”.   It’s amazing to see that Republican women rebelled at the idea of “legitimate rape”.

In sum, some Republican women basically shamed the House into dropping the vote for the bill, mostly because they’re worried it’s going to kick off another “legitimate rape” debacle as male Republicans go on cable TV to brag about the bill and are asked to explain why they only allow for rape exceptions if the victims have reported to the police.

What’s really amazing about this story is that Rep. Renee Ellmers and other female Republicans were pretty much guaranteed to support the bill if the male Republicans allowed for what is really a minor tweak in the language, allowing the rape exception to cover all rape victims, not just the minority that file police reports. After all, this bill is just a symbolic gesture, a wet kiss to the Bible-thumpers amassing on the Hill today for the annual rite of lady-hating sex phobia known as the March for Life. Obama was going to veto it anyway. They had nothing to lose by expanding the definition of “rape” to mean any time a man forces sex on a woman. In fact, they should have welcomed the change, because the original language would have meant reporters asking male Republicans why they require women to file police reports to be believed, which in turn means someone was bound to start talking about “legitimate rape”. Ellmers is hardly some kind of political genius. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see where this was headed.

So I’m forced to conclude the reason that so many male Republicans were unwilling to concede this teeny weeny issue is that it was really important to them to pass a bill that formally suggests that women frequently lie about being raped and should be assumed to be lying until a man, in this case a police officer, blesses her account of what happened.

It would be easy to see all of this as the last vestiges of old, white male privilege.  Afterall, the news is full of things like this: “A Shocking Number of Americans Under 30 Have No Religion — This Country Is Going to Change.”  Again, I keep hoping that we’ll be able to dance on the graves of the Koch Brothers, Pat Robertson, Antonin Scalia, Phyliss Schafly and the like and that it will all go away. Still, it took like 40 years for them to undo so many things.  It seems like it will take longer than that to put it all back together again and actually make progress.

And as the Keystone Pipeline Boondoggle snakes its way through this very corrupt Congress, we get news of two pipeline disasters.  The first one is in Montana. 

Walter-Cronkite-Earth-Week-poster-web

A second large oil spill into Montana’s Yellowstone River in less than four years is reviving questions about oversight of the nation’s aging pipeline network.

Investigators and company officials on Wednesday were trying to determine the cause of the 40,000-gallon spill that contaminated downstream water supplies in the city of Glendive.

Sen. Jon Tester said Saturday’s spill from the decades-old Poplar Pipeline was avoidable, but “we just didn’t have the folks on the ground” to prevent it.

The Montana Democrat told The Associated Press more frequent inspections by regulators are needed, and older pipelines should face stricter safety standards.

“We need to take a look at some of these pipelines that have been in the ground for half a century and say, ‘Are they still doing a good job?'” Tester said.

The latest spill comes as Republicans and some Democrats, including Tester, want the Obama administration to approve TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Gulf.

Keystone would cross the Yellowstone roughly 20 miles upstream of the Poplar Pipeline spill.

The second is in North Dakota where three million gallons of fracking brine spilled.

Almost 3 million gallons of saltwater drilling waste spilled from a North Dakota pipeline earlier this month, a spill that’s now being called the state’s largest since the North Dakota oil boom began.

The brine, which leaked from a ruptured pipeline about 15 miles from the city of Williston, has affected two creeks, but it doesn’t currently pose a threat to drinking water or public health. The pipeline’s operator — Summit Midstream Partners — discovered the spill on Jan. 6, but officials didn’t find out about the true size of the spill until this week.

The pipeline company has been trying to clean up the spill by vacuuming water from the creek, but in doing so, they’re also capturing a lot of fresh water.

“The problem is that … the creekbed is kinda being replenished with water so we extract, it fills; we extract, it fills,” John Morgan, a spokesman for Summit Midstream told the Grand Forks-Herald.

North Dakota Department of Health Environmental Health Section Chief Dave Glatt said he hasn’t seen any impacts to wildlife yet, but officials won’t likely know the full impact until all the ice melts. Officials have discovered chloride concentrations in Blacktail Creek as high as 92,000 milligrams per liter — far higher than normal concentrations of about 10 to 20 milligrams per liter.

“That has the ability to kill aquatic life and so we’ll want to see if the aquatic life was able to get out of the way, and if they weren’t, how badly they were impacted,” Glatt said.

Greed, religious extremism, and bigotry!  Say hello to SCOTUS and the new Congress!

I find all of this very, very depressing. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Morning Joe Reads A Book

morning joe

Or maybe he got someone else to read it for him? In any case, the New York Times Sunday Book Review asked Joe Scarborough to review a serious book of political history, Ike and Dick: Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage. in the February 17, 2013 edition.

How low has the Sunday Book Review sunk that it would not only publish an essay by Scarborough, but also highlight the brief review with a separate “Up Front” introduction? I haven’t seen the cover of the print edition, but it sounds as if Scarborough’s piece was printed on page 1!

Charles Pierce wrote a pithy reaction to the Times’ decision in his “What are the Gobshites Saying These Days” post on Monday.

…let us pause for a moment and congratulate the editors of The New York Times Book Review for handing a serious work of popular history to whatever’s left of Joe Scarborough after Paul Krugman picks the rest out from between his teeth….

the Review has fallen on some pretty hard times when they have a story meeting and someone says, “We got this new book on Eisenhower and Nixon. Who should we get to review it?” And someone else says, “I know. How about that guy who runs the Morning Zoo on MSNBC? He’s really popular with the people who get drunk in front of the TV and pass out during Rachel’s show the night before.” And this is what you get for an author ID.

Joe Scarborough is the host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Lovely. They should let Barnicle review the next Royko anthology.

At least Mike Barnicle used to be a working journalist.

Pierce links approvingly to this post by Dan Kennedy at Media Nation: Joe Scarborough doesn’t know much about history.

If you’re going to try something as cheeky as letting cable blowhard Joe Scarborough review a serious book about political history, you should at least make sure you’ve got a safety net in place. But the New York Times Book Review doesn’t even bother, letting Scarborough step in it repeatedly in his review of Jeffrey Frank’s “Ike and Dick: Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage.”

Here’s the first paragraph of Scarborough’s review:

It may be the closest of political relationships, but it rarely ends well. Vice President Thomas Jefferson challenged President John Adams for the top spot in the vicious campaign of 1800. President Andrew Jackson mused sardonically about executing Vice President John C. Calhoun. In the modern era, Lyndon Johnson seethed at slights real and perceived during John Kennedy’s thousand days, then turned around and humiliated his own vice president, Hubert Humphrey. Even Dick Cheney and George W. Bush fell out by the end of their tumultuous terms. But perhaps the most intriguing — and dysfunctional — political marriage in history was the one between the subjects of Jeffrey Frank’s meticulously researched “Ike and Dick.”

Kennedy wonders if Scarborough knows that

the Constitution originally stipulated that the candidate who received the most votes from the Electoral College would become president and that the person who came in second would become vice president. Perhaps that’s too much math for the famously innumerate Scarborough.

I didn’t know that either, but I think if I were writing a review for the New York Times, I would have found out before using that as my introduction. Kennedy explains that Jefferson and Adams, who couldn’t stand each other, ran against each other in 1796. Adams got more electoral votes and so they were forced to serve together, but their mutual dislike did not grow out of their political alliance as Scarborough implies.

Ike and Dick fishing at Camp David

Ike and Dick fishing at Camp David

Kennedy points out two other more serious misstatements in the review. In the paragraph above, Scarborough suggests that Lyndon Johnson’s insecurities stemmed from Jack Kennedy’s mistreatment and that led Johnson to humiliate his own Vice President Hubert Humphrey. Scarborough isn’t really clear about this, but he seems to be drawing analogies to the Eisenhower-Nixon relationship. He seems to claim–perhaps based on his reading of Frank’s book–that Nixon’s neuroses stemmed from his difficult relationship with Eisenhower. But Nixon was a psychologically troubled person long before he met Ike and suggesting otherwise is inaccurate. Likewise, Johnson had plenty of psychological issues before he got involved with Jack Kennedy. Dan Kennedy writes:

As anyone who’s read Robert Caro’s “The Passage of Power” knows, Johnson, like Nixon, suffered from a world-class case of insecurity long before he ever met John Kennedy. The truth is the opposite of what Scarborough claims: both Nixon and Johnson were uniquely unsuited to suffer the slights that are inherent to the vice presidency long before they assumed the office.

Finally, Kennedy points out the ludicrousness of the following passage from the Scarborough piece:

A fascinating subplot in Frank’s story details Nixon’s role in pushing the administration on the issue of civil rights. Long criticized as the author of the Republican Party’s racially tinged “Southern strategy,” Nixon is shown by Frank to be a determined advocate for the Civil Rights Act of 1957, as well as a trusted ally of Martin Luther King Jr. and Jackie Robinson.

Yes, Nixon was supportive of Martin Luther King during the 1950s, and did try to get Eisenhower to push for African American civil rights, but Scarborough completely ignores Nixon’s later rejection of King during the 1960 presidential campaign and his [Nixon’s] development of the “Southern Strategy” in 1968. If those later events weren’t included in Frank’s book, a competent reviewer would have called attention to them. In fact, if Scarborough had googled, he could have quickly found an article by Franks himself that points out Nixon’s later involvement in blatant racism. Franks writes in The Daily Beast, January 21, 2013:

There once was a real connection between the two men, but it more or less ended with RN’s spineless behavior during the 1960 presidential campaign, after Dr. King was arrested on phony charges stemming from a traffic violation. Coretta Scott King had been terrified; she worried with good reason that her husband might be killed en route to Georgia State Prison in Reidsville, and she appealed to the Nixon and John F. Kennedy campaigns to intervene.

Nixon, however, demurred; he said that it would be “grandstanding” to speak out, according to his aide William Safire. Nixon’s real motive, though, seems clear: it was a close election and he was willing to lose black support if it meant gaining a new harvest of white votes in the once-Democratic south. Eight years later, this approach became the carefully considered “Southern strategy.”

The Kennedy brothers then stepped in to help King.

John and Robert Kennedy helped to win Dr. King’s release, and soon enough their campaign distributed two million copies of a pamphlet titled “‘No Comment’ Nixon Versus a Candidate With a Heart, Senator Kennedy” to well chosen voters. It can’t be proved that this made the difference in an election in which the popular vote turned out to be the closest ever (Nixon and Kennedy were separated by about 112,000 votes out of sixty-nine million cast), but it’s a fact that President Eisenhower in 1956 got some 40 percent of the black vote and that Nixon in 1960 won just 32 percent—not bad by modern Republican standards, but still a steep drop. Four years later, facing Barry Goldwater, Lyndon Johnson won 94 percent of the black vote, which set a demographic pattern that endures.

We already knew that Morning Joe doesn’t understand economics; we now know he’s history-challenged as well. In addition, I have some problems with the clarity of his writing. Here are a couple of examples.

Paragraph 2 begins:

Franklin Roosevelt’s vice president memorably said that being No. 2 was in effect not worth a bucket of warm spit.

Which vice president? FDR served with three: Henry A. Wallace, John Nance Garner, and Harry S. Truman. If you said John Nance Garner, you’re correct. And he didn’t qualify the judgment with “in effect” either. Was Scarborough just to lazy to look up the quote?

This reminds me of problems that many college freshmen have in their writing–they either don’t provide enough context or they assume knowledge the reader may not have. They also tend to use unnecessary qualifications instead of just making straightforward statements.

In paragraph 3, Scarborough writes:

“Ike and Dick” is a highly engrossing political narrative that skillfully takes the reader through the twisted development of a strange relationship that would help shape America’s foreign and domestic agenda for much of the 20th century.

Really? Perhaps that judgment came from the book; but it’s a pretty sweeping statement that needs to be backed up with specific examples. But Scarborough doesn’t offer any. When he does provide more context, as he does in paragraph 5, he leaves out important details. He briefly mentions a “secret Nixon fund” that led to Eisenhower trying to dump Nixon from the ticket in 1952, and says that Nixon survived; but Scarborough never even mentions what saved him–the Checkers speech!

The entire review is only a little over 1,000 words. Surely Scarborough could have added a few more historical details and specific examples to back up his assertions.

If I were grading this review for a college course, I’d probably have to give it a C+, or maybe a B- in these days of grade inflation. The grammar and sentence structure are okay; but the review itself is short on context,  the historical inaccuracies are problematic, and the lack of specific examples makes for rather boring reading. Frankly, I’m disappointed in the New York Times for publishing it.


Thursday Reads: The Southern Strategy on Steroids

Good Morning!!

Over the past few days, Mitt Romney has stepped up his race-baiting with patently false ads focusing on welfare. On Tuesday in a speech in Chillicothe, Ohio, Romney projected his own rage at having his own policies and those of his designated VP criticized onto his critics by lashing out at President Obama with the most vile personal attacks I can ever recall from a candidate for President–normally the attack dog role is reserved for the VP or surrogates. Here are some samples from Romney’s speech:

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Tuesday delivered a harsh indictment of President Barack Obama’s re-election strategy, accusing the president of running a “campaign of division and anger and hate.”

“His campaign strategy is to smash America apart and then cobble together 51 percent of the pieces. If an American president wins that way, we all lose,” Romney told a crowd of thousands standing outside the Ross County Court House in southern Ohio.

Romney referred to Vice President Joe Biden’s remark to a heavily black audience in Virginia that the Republican ticket wanted to put people “back in chains” by repealing Wall Street regulations. Although he didn’t cite other examples to support his harsh rhetoric, his campaign pointed to the controversial ad that linked Romney to a steelworker’s wife’s death from cancer and an Obama spokeswoman’s suggestion that Romney might have committed a felony if he didn’t tell the truth in federal filings about his activities with his former company.

….

“His campaign and his surrogates have made wild and reckless accusations that disgrace the office of the presidency,” Romney said. “This is what an angry and desperate presidency looks like.”

Romney really needs to learn to quit whining and act like an adult. He’s a typical bully–he can dish it out, but he can’t take it. He doesn’t like being reminded that when Bain Capital loaded up companies with debt and drove them into bankruptcy, real people suffered. Well, boo hoo hoo. When you run for President on being a “successful businessman, you shouldn’t be shocked when your opponents examine your business record.

NBC news has more whining from the speech:

“This is an election in which we should be talking about the path ahead, but you don’t hear any answers coming from President Obama’s re-election campaign,” Romney said. “That’s because he’s intellectually exhausted, out of ideas, and out of energy. And so his campaign has resorted to diversions and distractions, to demagoguing and defaming others. It’s an old game in politics; what’s different this year is that the president is taking things to a new low.”

“This is what an angry and desperate presidency looks like,” Romney said. “President Obama knows better, promised better and America deserves better.”
“Over the last four years, this president has pushed Republicans and Democrats about as far apart as they can go,” Romney continued. “And now he and his allies are pushing us all even further apart by dividing us into groups. He demonizes some. He panders to others. His campaign strategy is to smash America apart and then try to cobble together 51 percent of the pieces.”

This from the man who wants to make 95% of Americans pay more in taxes so he can cut the taxes of the top 5%. This from the man who repeatedly called Obama’s ideas “foreign” and whose surrogate John Sununu said Obama needed to “learn to be an American.”

During the primaries when Newt Gingrich complained about the barrage of negative ads run by Romney’s campaign and Romney supporting superpacs, Romney dismissively lecture Gingrich with the old saying “Politics ain’t beanbag.” (h/t Buzzfeed) The relevant quote comes at about the 2:40 mark.

On another occasion, Romney said “there’s no whining in politics.” (h/t Buzzfeed)

Mitt Romney is running on an updated Southern strategy in which the race and culture baiting is directed not just at African Americans, but also at Muslims, Hispanics, Palestinians, and pretty much anyone who isn’t Caucasian.

Let’s face it, Romney’s false claims that Obama has “gutted welfare reform” are deliberate efforts to appeal to racial bigotry–by emphasizing that Obama is {gasp!} black and to play on the false beliefs of many ignorant people about the racial composition of welfare recipients. Greg Mitchell articulated this pretty well at The Nation:

Just on a factual level, the new charges (which seemed to originate with the right-wing Heritage Foundation) —Obama trying to undermine the work ethic by granting waivers to certain states—fell apart quickly. The White House quickly denounced the meme as “dishonest” and pointed out that two of the five governors who requested the very limited waivers were Republicans. Also (surprise): Romney had backed such waivers as governor.

And this morning, PolitiFact delivered the harshest of its judgements on the ad and campaign statements —”pants on fire,” or one-big-lie. But its conclusion also, if a bit coyly, referred to what may be the most significant, and enduring, aspect of the new Romney focus: “The ad’s claim is not accurate, and it inflames old resentments about able-bodied adults sitting around collecting public assistance.”

What they are obliguely referring to, of course, is the old, long-lasting, portrayal of welfare by conservatives, Southern Democrats and many in the media as (1) mainly for lazy folks who won’t work and (2) mainly a program for black Americans (and other minorities). Facts never got in the way but it was a way to flame racial and class resentments. Nixon put his welfare recipients in Cadillacs and Reagan famously denounced “welfare queens.”

You still heard a lot today about “Reagan Democrats” and the battle between Obama and Reagan for their souls, but few point out that the origin of this subgroup can be traced back at least partly to Reagan’s race-tinged welfare bashing.

Anyone who can’t see what is going on here is either utterly ignorant of American history, is simply being deliberately obtuse, or is OK with this kind of ugly bigotry.

OK, I’ve said my piece. Now I’ll refer you to a few pieces on this topic by other people who expressed these points better than I can.

First, a brief but pithy piece from the Auburn Journal: Romney Revives the Southern Strategy. Referring to the Sununu and Romney statements implying that Obama isn’t “American”:

This kind of language acts as a dog whistle for bigots. It is a more subtle version of birtherism, and reflects the kind of exclusionary definition of American national identity embraced by far too many on the right. It is the exact opposite of Barack Obama’s conception of our national identity, one that emphasizes national unity as well as inclusion, and seeks to strengthen ties among Americans across lines of race, culture, and religion.

When John Sununu said that President Obama was not an American – and make no mistake, that’s what he said – he wasn’t saying anything his boss hadn’t said before. Mitt Romney has made the same kind of remark on too many occasions to be able to deny that his campaign has made a clear decision to do what John McCain refused to do, and what any politician with a sense of honor and patriotism would refuse to do.

Mitt Romney is running on hate.

Salon’s Joan Walsh has a new book coming out called What’s the Matter with White People. Here’s a review of the book by Andrew O’Hehir: Joan Walsh: GOP has “doubled down on whiteness”

Joan Walsh’s family, as she writes in her new book “What’s the Matter With White People? Why We Long for a Golden Age That Never Was,” participated in two of the great migrations of 20th-century American history. Joan was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., but mostly grew up in suburbia (first on Long Island and later in Wisconsin). As that happened she watched many of her Irish-American family members morph from bedrock New Deal-JFK Democrats into Nixon-Reagan Republicans. In her book, Joan tries to wrestle with this legacy as honestly and forthrightly as she can, without betraying either her family’s complicated lived experience or her own passionate commitment to social, racial and economic justice.

“What’s the Matter With White People?” is sure to provoke much discussion during the fall campaign, with its personal and historical approach to one of the most toxic issues in American politics: How and why the white working class became the Republican base, in defiance of its own economic interests, and whether the Democrats can ever win it back.

And Joan Walsh herself writes: Joe Biden Was Right.

By now everyone knows that the vice president told a Virginia audience Tuesday that once Mitt Romney “unchains” Wall Street from Dodd-Frank reforms, “They’re going to put you all back in chains.” Since his audience was mainly but not exclusively African-American, the pearl-clutchers in the GOP and media claimed Biden was accusing Romney of wanting to reinstate slavery, denounced him. “The press pounded Palin when she talked about ‘blood libel,’” Ari Fleischer wrote on Twitter. “What will they do about Biden’s ‘chains’ remark?” The Romney campaign likewise tweeted its outrage.

Romney himself attacked the Obama-Biden campaign in multiple interviews. “The president’s campaign is all about division and attack and hatred,” he told CBS, adding, “And the comments yesterday by the vice president I think just diminish the White House that much more.” Even some nominal liberals joined the Biden-bashing. “Of course the GOP has done nasty racial stuff this campaign (esp newt). But Biden’s ‘chains’ statement was still absurd,” Peter Beinart tweeted Wednesday morning. There were widespread demands that the vice president apologize.

But he didn’t. Biden clarified his remarks, noting the frequency with which Republicans use “unchain” and “unshackle” metaphors to describe the way they’d “liberate” Wall Street from Obama-era regulation and reform.

The whole post is well worth reading.

New York Daily News: Who’s playing racial politics in this campaign? It’s Mitt Romney. The article focuses on the first of the Romney welfare ads:

Romney accuses Obama of gutting welfare reform by granting waivers to state governments in how they choose to implement the law. It’s a charge that is completely without merit; spun from whole cloth; an invented attack line. But again, lying on the campaign trail about President Obama’s record is the rule, not the exception, for Mitt Romney.

Among the accusations made by Romney is that under Obama’s non-existent, made-up welfare plan, “you wouldn’t have to work,” “you wouldn’t have to train for a job” because “they just send you a welfare check.”

What’s most striking about the ad are the visuals – workers wiping their brow; working class Americans toiling away at manufacturing jobs. And coincidentally all the people in the ad … are white. This might not mean much, except for the fact that, as anyone who has followed American politics for the past 45 years knows, criticisms of the welfare system from the campaign trail have habitually always been used as racial code in attacks on Democrats for coddling blacks. It is the symbol of wasteful government spending, rewarding poor Americans for not working and creating a culture of dependency.

Since the 1960s, Republican politicians – along with the occasional Democrat – have used assaults on the welfare system to stir up white resentment toward blacks, poor Americans and other minorities for allegedly lazily living off the largesse of hard-working tax-payers, like those visually portrayed in Romney’s ad. That the current President happens to be African-American (and is also visually featured in the ad) is again just another of those odd coincidences.

Indeed, this ad and in fact this whole line of attack is one of the most blatant uses of racial coding in a presidential campaign since the Willie Horton ad of 1988.

It’s nice to see that the corporate media is beginning to call Romney out on his race baiting.

Here’s another example from U.S. News and World Report: Romney’s the angry one, not Obama.
Referring to Romney’s Tuesday speech in Ohio:

Obviously Romney has forgotten who his buddies are, and who are pulling his strings: the Republicans who are bending over for the Tea Party and Grover Norquist and for their rich financial campaign backers.

Has Romney forgotten the “diversions and distractions” of those who were questioning the president’s citizenship and place of birth long after he was elected? Has Romney forgotten the “defaming others” like what was done when House Speaker John Boehner said the president hadn’t worked a day in his life?!

….

I must say I was most shocked, although not surprised, by Romney’s accusation of the president “dividing us all in groups.” Isn’t wanting a baby born here of an undocumented immigrant not receiving citizenship divisive? Isn’t not wanting healthcare for the poor divisive? Isn’t wanting to cut programs that benefit middle- and lower-income women and families divisive? Hmm…sounds like Romney and his camp to me more than Obama. And with the addition of Rep. Paul Ryan as Romney’s vice presidential candidate, the race has become more polarized, more—dare I say—divisive?

I’ve focused on Romney/Ryan’s race-baiting strategy in this post, but I know there are lots of other stories I should I read today. I look forward to your suggestions.


Send in the Clowns

For decades, the GOP has been courting racists, anti-women’s rights activists
, anti-gay bigots, and fundamentalist christian extremists, in an effort to become the majority party in the U.S. At this point, they may have succeeded, but at what cost?

As Dakinikat has said frequently, this isn’t the Republican Party of Eisenhower, Nixon, or even Reagan. Today’s GOP has become a job without a punch line. Anyone with any basic intelligence is laughing at the party’s presidential candidates! Even Karl Rove has been arguing that most of them are too far right to win a national election. From Fox News on August 15, 2011:

This is the guy who famously encouraged the christian right to believe the Bush administration would fight to enact their most extreme policies, while calling them “nuts” behind their backs.

But it just doesn’t work to invite crazy, intolerant people into your inner circle and then try to remain apart from them. An organization takes on the character of its members. In the years since Nixon’s won the presidency in 1968 with the Southern Strategy, the GOP has consciously chosen to welcome the most hateful, bigoted, and even demented people into the party power structure and now they are reaping what they sowed.

Today Rove lamented the “debate” that Donald Trump is supposedly organizing. (So far the only candidate who has confirmed he’ll attend is Newt Gingrich). Rove wants the RNC to discourage GOP candidates from attending the debate.

Veteran GOP strategist Karl Rove said Monday that the head of the Republican National Committee (RNC) should step in to “discourage” presidential candidates from attending the upcoming debate moderated by Donald Trump.

“Here’s a guy who is saying, ‘I’m going to endorse one of you,’ ” Rove said, criticizing the choice on “Fox & Friends.”

“More importantly, what the heck are the Republican candidates doing showing up at a debate [whose moderator] says, ‘I may run for president next year as an Independent’? I think the Republican National [Committee] chairman [Reince Priebus] should step in and say, ‘We strongly discourage every candidate from appearing in a debate moderated by somebody who’s gonna run for president,’ ” he said.

Trump, promoting his new book, released this week, confirmed earlier on the show that he is planning to endorse and that if the candidate he prefers does not win the GOP nomination, he might consider an Independent bid following the conclusion of his reality TV show, “The Apprentice.”

But’s it’s too late. If Karl Rove wants to get back in control of the Republican Party, he’ll have to start over from scratch. The party of Bush has already moved so far to the right that Bush now looks like a moderate, semi-reasonable guy.

Donald Trump as powerbroker? Today a new poll was released showing that New Hampshire voters would be less likely to vote for any candidate endorsed by Trump. Trump was on MSNBC this morning to talk about the poll.

Yesterday, I was rereading Chris Hedges terrific book about the christian right, American Fascists; and I came across this famous quote by Karl Popper:

“Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them… We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.”

That seems very relevant not only to the GOP, but also to today’s Democratic Party, which is once again welcoming in misogynists, anti-choicers, supporters of torture and anti-constitutional uses of executive power. When you “tolerate the intolerant,” you head down a slippy slope toward a hateful and uncivilized society. It’s seems to me that we are already quite a way down that slippery slope. Send in the clowns indeed.