Tuesday Reads: Hostage Situation

WP-Hostage2

Good Morning!!

I hardly know where to begin this morning. The insanity that has gripped the nation’s capital is so extreme that some kind of intervention may be necessary.

Is it possible for the UN or the IMF to step in and explain to Tea Party Republicans why the full faith and credit of the United States government cannot be held hostage in an effort to overturn the results of two elections? Or perhaps they could explain to House Speaker John Boehner that his frantic efforts to hold onto his speakership could end with voters replacing him with a Democratic Speaker in 2014?

As depicted in the cartoon above, the Republican majority in the House is being held hostage by around 30-40 delusional Tea Party wingnuts and their putative leader–John Boehner has no clue how to deal with the hostage crisis. It’s a mystery to me why anyone would even want that job, but to Boehner the job is apparently more important than the nation’s–and the world’s–economic well-being. Holding onto his job is apparently so important to him that he is willing to look like a complete fool rather than stand up to a bunch of crazy people in his own party.

Meanwhile, the media pundits are getting a little more restless–realizing that we really could reach the debt limit on October 17 without the House voting on a “clean” continuing resolution or an increase in the government’s ability to borrow to pay its bills.

Normally, I wouldn’t link to the National Review, but yesterday they published a piece by Washington editor Robert Costa, who probably has a pretty good idea what insane caucus in the House is up to. Costa writes:

Speaker John Boehner may be trying to finalize a plan to raise the debt limit, but House conservatives are already skeptical of his efforts. In interviews, several of them tell me they’re unlikely to support any deal that may emerge.

Costa goes on to quote a few of the wackiest of the wackos (emphasis added):

“They may try to throw the kitchen sink at the debt limit, but I don’t think our conference will be amenable for settling for a collection of things after we’ve fought so hard,” says Representative Scott Garrett (R., N.J.). “If it doesn’t have a full delay or defund of Obamacare, I know I and many others will not be able to support whatever the leadership proposes. If it’s just a repeal of the medical-device tax, or chained CPI, that won’t be enough.”

Representative Paul Broun (R., Ga.) agrees, and says Boehner risks an internal rebellion if he decides to broker a compromise. “America is going to be destroyed by Obamacare, so whatever deal is put together must at least reschedule the implementation of Obamacare,” he says. “This law is going to destroy America and everything in America, and we need to stop it.”

“Stay the course, don’t give in on it, that’s what the people in my district are saying,” says Representative Ted Yoho (R., Fla.). “We did a town hall the other day, and 74 percent of people said, ‘don’t raise the debt ceiling.’”

This despite the fact that polls show their ideas are poison to the American public. These people are truly insane, and they believe they’re winning. Nothing will stop them except throwing them out of their jobs. Here are some other reactions to Costa’s piece.

David Atkins of Hallabaloo: Nothing less than Fort Sumter will do.

If you think this is insane–and it is–keep in mind that it’s only going to get worse from here.

Until Republicans are removed from control of all branches of government, the brinksmanship is going to get worse, and the demands are going to become more severe. The lunatics are running the asylum now, the revanchist movement is in full swing, and the Lost Cause is the name of the game.

Not even sequestration-level spending plus cutting Medicare and Social Security will do for these people–and that’s after losing an election. Try to picture where the Republican party was 30 years ago. Then 20 years ago. Then 10 years. Then today. Now picture 10 years from now. Anyone who thinks there’s going to be a retreat from the precipice is deluding themselves. If they lose in 2014, it will be because they didn’t hold firm against Obamacare. If they lose to Hillary in 2016, it will be because they didn’t shout loud enough about Benghazi.

If we don’t stop them somehow, the Tea Party crazies will try to refight the Civil War.

Josh Barro at Business Insider: Republicans Do Crazy Things Because They Have Crazy Beliefs. Barro responds to Georgia Rep Paul Broun’s claim that “America is going to be destroyed by Obamacare….This law is going to destroy America and everything in America, and we need to stop it.”

It’s one thing to oppose Obamacare. It’s quite another to believe it will “destroy America and everything in America.” As Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow Avik Roy, a strong opponent of Obamacare, wrote last month:

The idea that we had a free-market health-care system before Obamacare, and a socialized one after, is completely and utterly incorrect. In 2010, before the passage of Obamacare, U.S.-government entities spent more per capita on health care than all but three other countries in the world. Obamacare adds to that spending by around 10 to 15 percent. Not good, to be sure, but not the whole kit and caboodle either.

The changes from Obamacare, good and bad, are marginal. It will not fundamentally change America….

But if you already believe something crazy — that Obamacare will destroy America — then it’s not additionally crazy to favor drastic, dangerous action to stop it.

Sarah Jones at Politicus USA: From Hostage Takers to Buffoons, House Republican Ineptitude Heads for Default.

Even a short term debt ceiling agreement is up in the air now. Not the actual debt ceiling limit, but a short term agreement. We can’t even do that now, if Robert Costa’s readings are accurate.

Costa tweeted, “One of my best House R sources thinks Boehner may, just may, be able to get votes for short-term DL ext, but even that is up in air” [….]

If you’re wondering how Republicans can be so out of it when the polls keep instructing them otherwise (as if the ONLY issue here is their own political survival, forget the people or this country), perhaps this level of utter cluelessness will be informative. When asked if the Republicans have their next move mapped out and if Boehner has any legislation drawn up regarding the debt ceiling, “Negatory,” Representative Pete Sessions replies. You see, it’s all about “messaging”. “We’re going to keep with our great, positive attitude and tell the president, ‘you’ve got to sit down and negotiate.’”

So, their great positive attitude involves tanking the economy and shutting down the government because they lost an election. Huh. Also: Only in Republican world is holding a gun to the country’s head before being willing to “talk” an act of good faith.

Republicans don’t understand this president very well at all, but then, we tend to project our own values onto others so this is understandable. They never should have threatened the country. They could have threatened anything but the American people and the democratic process, and this President wouldn’t have felt compelled to take a stand.

Boehner Onion

It’s really getting to be a cliche to point out that reports of Republican behavior are for real and not from The Onion. But seriously, it’s hard to believe The Onion can keep finding ways to exaggerate these people’s insanity. Apparently there was “outrage” after this 2011 Onion story; but does it actually seem crazy two years later to claim that what the Republicans are trying to do is going to hurt–even kill–some children?

A few more comments on the hostage situation from various pundits:

Washington Post Editorial Board: The House GOP has nothing to show for its government shutdown.

WHAT HAVE House Republicans managed to accomplish in a week of government shutdown?

Damage the livelihood of millions of Americans? Check. Government secretaries, food-truck operators, cleaners who work in motels near national parks: They’re all hurting.

Waste billions of taxpayer dollars? Check. It costs a lot to shut agencies, Web sites and parks, and it will cost a lot to reopen them. Meanwhile, the House has voted to pay the salaries, eventually, of hundreds of thousands of employees whom it has ordered not to work. That’s an odd way to manage an enterprise.

Interfere with key government operations? Check. The National Transportation Safety Boardcan’t investigate an accident last weekend on Metro’s Red Line that claimed the life of a worker. That could make future accidents more likely. On the other side of the world, U.S. allies from Tokyo to Singapore are wondering whether they can rely on a nation whose president has to go AWOL from a key summit meeting in their region.

Rattle the markets, slow an economy in recovery, interrupt potentially lifesaving research at the National Institutes of Health? Check, check and check.

Derail the hated Obamacare? Ch . . . — oh, no, wait a minute.

Because it’s not really about “Obamacare.” It’s about making government itself completely dysfunctional. I keep thinking about Dakinikat’s post yesterday and the pieces she quoted by Jonathan Chait and The Economist. Have we really reached the point where the gridlock in DC is so bad that our form of government is in danger of collapse? And what can we do about it? In order to change our system of divided government, we would need to call a Constitutional Convention. Even if we could get to that point in this atmosphere, the final result could be a lot worse than what we have now. I really believe the only way to save our form of government is to somehow throw all the Tea Party Republicans out of it. Is that possible?

Alex Altman at Time: Boehner Holds Weaker Cards In High-Stakes Political Poker

President Barack Obama says he will not pay House Republicans a ransom in exchange for re-opening the government or raising the debt ceiling. House Speaker John Boehner insists he doesn’t have the votes to do either without any White House concessions.

Both men are bluffing. And while Obama’s play is a risky one, Boehner’s bluff is worse: it just doesn’t look very credible.

In a Sunday interview with ABC News, Boehner said the U.S. faced the specter of its first ever federal default if Obama didn’t cave to GOP demands. “There are not the votes in the House,” Boehner declared, to pass a so-called “clean” bill to reopen the government. “The votes are not in the House to pass a clean debt limit,” he added. “And the president is risking default by not having a conversation with us.”


These kinds of threats have worked for Boehner before,

But this is now a less credible threat. A few days before Boehner went on TV to talk tough about the threat of default, he was reportedly confiding to fellow Republicans that he would never allow it. Failure to hike the debt limit would unleash a chain of economic calamities, if not the first ever federal default. Boehner doesn’t want that to be his political epitaph.

To be sure, there are plenty of House Republicans who are willing, if not eager, to hold the line. But if the votes aren’t there for clean bills, that’s only because Boehner hasn’t allowed them to come forward. As Speaker, he and his leadership team control the floor. A clean bill to reopen the government, and a companion measure to lift the debt limit, would draw unanimous or near-unanimous support from the chamber’s 200 Democrats; all but five are on record supporting such a vote. Nearly two-dozen Republicans are also publicly on board. Some say the number is far higher. If Boehner let a clean funding bill hit the House floor, “it would probably get 300 votes,” New York Representative Peter King, a Republican who has been critical of the party’s shutdown strategy, told TIME last week.

Jamelle Bouie at The Daily Beast: Five Boehner Quotes—From One Interview—That Explain Everything.

To watch John Boehner speak Sunday—in a segment with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos—was to watch him issue talking points from another dimension, where legislative hostage-taking is routine and the American public is eager to threaten the full faith and credit of the United States. The interview was rife with dishonesty, but there were five statements—in particular—that stood out for their recklessness and/or brazen disregard for the truth.

I won’t excerpt any more from this one. You need to go read the whole thing–it’s not long.

In my opinion, it’s an open question whether the insanity of the Tea Party can be beaten. Certainly, our democratic Republic cannot survive much more of this. The best solution would be for the Democrats to really hold their ground this time and for President Obama to invoke the 14th Amendment and abolish the debt ceiling unilaterally. But do the Democrats and Obama have the guts to do it? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Now it’s your turn. What stories are grabbing your attention today? Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread.


50 Comments on “Tuesday Reads: Hostage Situation”

  1. “There are enough votes in House to reopen government, CNN survey shows, but this does not mean vote will happen soon.” — CNN

  2. Pat Johnson says:

    Frankly, bb, they are trying to roll the country back to the days of pre-Civil War when you hear them express the rallying cries of “states rights”.

    Denying government funding to those dependent upon government programs is just one step in that direction if they can manage to strangle these programs out of existence.

    They have managed to stifle voting rights, collective bargaining, hamper women’s ability for self determination while “preaching” a need for government reduction across the board.

    We have gotten beyond even party affiliation to the extent that their ideology trumps a commonsense approach to governing.

    When a “scorched earth” policy dominates the well being of the nation, and this endeavor is squarely in the hands of a handful of fanatics, I’m not sure what direction we are heading for but it appears at the moment that the “cliff” is within reach.

  3. Beata says:

    This is a very good post, BB. A lot of excellent food for thought.

    Don’t get discouraged, Sky Dancers, even though the atmosphere seems dark right now. We need to remember Hillary, our other sheros, and their indomitable spirits.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Thanks, Beata. At least we can keep hoping for Hillary.

    • ANonOMouse says:

      I’m with you Beata.

    • Fannie says:

      I am glad that we share our real feelings about Hillary. Lately I have been going back in my own history, and remembering why I am where I am today.

      When somebody does something for you, you never forget it. When they need help you’re there for them in their time of need. And so it was with Hillary. Many years ago before she ran for President, Hillary went to battle when the republicans wanted to cut widow benefits.
      It was at that point in my life that I said, I’m here for you Hillary, because she stopped millions of women from going into poverty. They need those paychecks to survive. And here I am today, angry again, because the GOP are allowing a mountain of pain, they are insensitive to the needs of real Americans. I need to hear Hillary speak once more to the pain that the widows/widowers are experiencing because of this shutdown, they are much older now, and they can’t fight like they did in 70’s, 90’s, etc……………….many need assistance to get through the day, because they are low income. We should never let the GOP scheme the economy, and hurt human beings.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    An interview with Diane Ravich, author of a new book on school privatization: Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools.

  5. bostonboomer says:

    A crazy from Oklahoma…

    Markwayne??

  6. bostonboomer says:

    Wired: There’s a Major Foodborne Illness Outbreak and the Government’s Shut Down

    While the government is shut down, with food-safety personnel and disease detectives sent home and forbidden to work, a major foodborne-illness outbreak has begun. This evening, the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the US Department of Agriculture announced that “an estimated 278 illnesses … reported in 18 states” have been caused by chicken contaminated with Salmonella Heidelberg and possibly produced by the firm Foster Farms.

    “FSIS is unable to link the illnesses to a specific product and a specific production period,” the agency said in an emailed alert. “The outbreak is continuing.”

    This is the exact situation that CDC and other about-to-be-furloughed federal personnel warned about last week. As a reminder, a CDC staffer told me at the time:

    I know that we will not be conducting multi-state outbreak investigations. States may continue to find outbreaks, but we won’t be doing the cross-state consultation and laboratory work to link outbreaks that might cross state borders.

  7. ANonOMouse says:

    Great Post BB.

    “Have we really reached the point where the gridlock in DC is so bad that our form of government is in danger of collapse?”

    When push comes to shove, I don’t think they have the numbers to pull off what is clearly an attempt at insurrection.. Every time I hear the hyperbolic hyperventilating and the demagoguery dripping from the lips of the Tea Party concerning the ACA. Obama, Choice, immigration and gay rights I am reminded of the overlapping fight for Medicare/Medicaid, Choice and the Civil Rights Act.

    The Tea Party is basically a small group of people that drives several movements including the secession movement and the god & gun movement. It’s a mixture of sick religiosity, warped devotion to state rights, white power, anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-poor, anti-people of color, anti-immigrant hysteria, all rolled into one. The election of Obama re-lit the fuse that has been simmering, mostly underground, since the 60’s. To their mind Obama represents everything they loathe. We will stomp this fire out, AGAIN.

    • Pat Johnson says:

      You just summed up perfectly what I have been unable to articulate!

      Yes, yes, yes!

    • RalphB says:

      I wholeheartedly agree!

    • bostonboomer says:

      Yes, they are a small group, but they have been successful in holding the government hostage for a very long time now–at least since 2011.

    • babama says:

      I wish I could see it like you do, I’d be feeling a lot less worried if I did : ) You are right about who they are and how long they’ve been around. What I see different is that now there is big time money and serious organization driving them. They are the front for a large and well funded post-modern neo confederate faction within the GOP. I can’t remember a time in my 58 years when they wielded this much governing power at both state and federal levels. It seems to me they’ve been steadily accruing power since the 80’s. How big do their numbers need to be with so much of the public narcotized into believing the lies of false equivalency and the GOP unwilling to disown them? I’m right with you in determination that it be stomped out this time, but good.

  8. Beata says:

    Excellent comment, Mouse. It represents the wisdom that comes from a lifetime of fighting the good fight.

    This is the part I like best: “We will stomp this fire out, AGAIN.”

    Yes!

  9. dakinikat says:

    Crazy Texas at it again:

    http://jezebel.com/high-school-cheerleader-could-be-suspended-from-squad-f-1441309764

    High School Cheerleader Could be Suspended from Squad for Taking SAT

    Today, in “dumb adults take made-up activity too seriously and behave inappropriately as a result”: a high school senior in Pflugerville, TX, faces suspension from her cheerleading squad because she has to miss a practice in order to take the SAT.

    Ally Batista, the cheerleader who also occasionally takes standardized tests that are a necessary part of most college applications, has already missed TWO practices (last spring), so she is in serious shit with the coach via the team’s “three strikes” policy. Under this binding and historical contract, cheerleaders are obligated to miss no more than two practices, or they shall face suspension from the team for three weeks.

    Of Ally Batista’s two previous truancies, one occurred because she had a lead role in the school play. This upcoming SAT exam date is her last chance to take the test before the deadline for early admissions college applications rolls around. I know, I know, we are all thinking the same thing — ALLY, HOW COULD YOU BE SO SELFISH? WHERE IS YOUR TEAM SPIRIT, ALLY?

  10. dakinikat says:

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/its-time-to-throw-the-tea-party-one-ring-into-mount-doom/

    Does this sound to you like there’s even a remote possibility that any deal, big or small, could pass muster with both Senate Democrats and 218 Republicans? If not, why are we putting the country through this? Why are Republicans inflicting real, immediate, and tangible harm on the economy in order to accomplish the impossible (delay or defund Obamacare) address an abstract future threat (debt) or merely to save face? Why isn’t the majority of the House majority isolating its rightmost faction and ending this pointlessly asinine pissing match?

    Contra the conventional wisdom, I maintain that no one in leadership will lose his job. The very nature of Tea Party opposition, whether it issues from the likes of Bazooka Ted and His Gang in the Senate or the unappeasable Jacobins in the House, is to throw weight without consequence. They evince no interest in actually wielding power from the inside, which would require restraint, conciliation, and moderation. They are hysterics on the brink of utter demoralization. The danger they pose to democratic norms, institutional comity, and political functionality is precisely why they can’t be bargained with; they must be marginalized.

    It’s time, Republicans: it’s time to throw the One Ring into Mount Doom.

    by Scott Galupo

    • RalphB says:

      If there were any moderate republicans, they could marginalize them easily. Either they don’t exist or they are too afraid to speak up.

      • dakinikat says:

        They are afraid. The religious whackos have them tied in knots. That was true back in the 1990s too. These people are nuts and most of the Republicans I knew just appeased them rather than actually have to deal with them.

        • RalphB says:

          Then those moderates are just as guilty as the tea nutz and should face the consequences as such. Nobody should get a free pass at this lunacy.

          • dakinikat says:

            I think the public is just beginning to become aware of how crazy some of these factions are in the Republican Party. I’ve been warning people about them since the 1980s and no one wants to believe that some neighbor might be seriously unhinged. They started moving into my neighborhood in droves when two big barn churches set up business. They’ve overrun Colorado Springs. There are hives of them in certain areas now and they are verbal, abusive, and active. Any politician that has to deal with them is frankly afraid of them.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        ” If there were any moderate republicans, they could marginalize them easily. Either they don’t exist or they are too afraid to speak up.”

        I think it’s the latter. The moderate Republicans live in fear. If we remember how the Tea Party Republican Campaigns are financed we can understand why. It’s Conservative Oligarchs, with the Koch Brothers leading the way, who shove the money to the candidates, not the foot soldiers of the TeaParty. The foot soldiers are just stooges used by the Oligarchs to fear monger. (See Ted Cruz’s 21 hour Demagogue session on the Senate floor)

        The people who finance the tea party don’t really give a damn about anything but having congressional reps in place who can block legislation that fund programs that over time raise their taxes. It’s not enough to have $1 billion dollars, they want $2 billion or $5 billion. By bringing down the safety nets, holding down wages, busting Unions, fighting against wage parity laws that protect women, or wage fairness laws that raise the minimum wage or healthcare reform they effectively keep their own personal and business taxes low. We can’t forget the 47% slip up by Mitt Romney, that’s wasn’t a misspeak, it’s how they see our world.

        • dakinikat says:

          GOP Congressman on Shutdown: “We’re Not French. We Don’t Surrender.” http://zite.to/1ahvhlp

        • dakinikat says:

          http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/2013/10/08/what-moderate-republicans/

          The purge has worked, hasn’t it? There is effectively no Republican party any more. There is a radical movement to destroy the modern American state and eviscerate its institutions in favor of restoring a mythical, elysian, majority-white, nineteenth-century past. This crisis is proving that more powerfully than even watching Fox. We need to see what is in front of our nose: a cold civil war has broken out between those properly called conservatives, defending the credit of the government, empirical reality, and adjustments to modern life and those properly called radical reactionaries declaring our current elected president and Senate as illegitimate actors, bent on the destruction of America, and therefore necessitating total political warfare, even to the point of threatening to destroy the global economy.

  11. dakinikat says:

    Amanda Marcotte ‏@AmandaMarcotte 23m
    http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2013/10/08/jerry_brown_signs_law_that_allows_children_more_than_two_legal_parents_conservatives.html … Conservative war on single moms backfires, as their arguments end up supporting non-traditional family structures.

  12. RalphB says:

    Sam Wang at Princeton crunches some numbers and I like his results!

    The risk to the GOP House majority

  13. dakinikat says:

    For the first time in @pewresearch history, more Americans are worried about civil liberties than terrorism: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/10/03/20-facts-from-pew-research-center/

  14. dakinikat says:

    The White House ‏@WhiteHouse 1h
    Happening today: at 2pm ET, the President will answer questions from the White House. Watch live at: http://whitehouse.gov/live

    President a little late … still waiting

  15. dakinikat says:

    Salon.com ‏@Salon 4m
    Responding to 911 call about diabetes medicine, cops in Georgia arrive and shoot dead reportedly unarmed black man http://slnm.us/yAMRmqu