The Right Men for the Job

Leo, we need to be investigated by someone who wants to kill us just to watch us die. We need someone perceived by the American people to be irresponsible, untrustworthy, partisan, ambitious, and thirsty for the limelight. Am I crazy, or is this not a job for the U. S. House of Representatives?

— C. J. Cregg, The West Wing (2001)

This week’s featured post is “Notes From Hillary’s Benghazi Showdown“.

This week everybody was talking about Hillary and the Benghazi Committee

By the time the hearings started Thursday morning, everybody not inside the conservative news bubble was expecting a complete disaster for the House Republicans. But they just couldn’t stop themselves from charging in like the Light Brigade. Full coverage of the fallout is in this week’s featured post.

and Joe Biden

I was glad to see Vice President Biden decide not to run. Like Greg Sargent, I just don’t see what Biden would add to the race. If you believe Hillary’s about to crash and burn, then the Democratic establishment needs a back-up candidate. But if not, then what’s the point?

Somebody should total up the amount of air time that pundits who had no real information to share wasted speculating about Biden’s candidacy. None of their viewers or listeners or readers are ever going to get that time back. Nate Silver distills the moral of the story:

As is often the case, sketchily sourced “inside information” proved no more reliable than other types of gossip.

and Canada

After ten years of the conservative government of Stephen Harper, Canadian voters gave the Liberal Party 55% of the seats in Parliament. Another 13% went to the New Democrats, who are to the Liberal Party’s left. Between them, the two left-of-center parties got 60% of the vote.

Harper’s government was strongly anti-Muslim. Trudeau campaigned on raising the budget deficit to stimulate the economy.

and Congress

It looks like Paul Ryan will be speaker, though the Freedom Caucus didn’t formally endorse him or support the rule changes he wants. I still believe that Tea Partiers wants a confrontation with Obama over the debt ceiling in early November and/or a government shutdown in December, and I don’t think Ryan will give it to them. We’ll see what happens then.

Reihan Salam thinks Ryan’s rep as a true conservative will placate the Far Right.

Members of the Freedom Caucus might believe that they’re doing the White House a favor by agreeing to increase the debt limit, but almost no one else in the country sees it that way. Another drawn-out debt limit fight can only end in tears for the GOP.

Why does Ryan have a better shot at selling Republicans on pragmatism than Boehner or Kevin McCarthy? It’s simple. While it’s never been clear exactly what Boehner or McCarthy stand for, most conservatives, including diehard Freedom Caucus Republicans, recognize that Ryan is a conservative true believer and that every pragmatic accommodation he makes is with an eye toward moving government in a more conservative direction. Ryan’s critics might not agree with him on every tactical decision, but they recognize his sincerity and his commitment.

I don’t think the Freedom Caucus — or the Republican base voters they represent — care a fig about “sincerity and commitment”. I think they want to stand over a beaten-down Obama and watch him beg for mercy. The base voters believe — because Tea Party politicians have been telling them — that Boehner has been losing to Obama because he hasn’t had the will to push the confrontation all the way. They’re not going to accept compromise from Ryan either.

The Weekly Sift has covered Paul Ryan in some detail over the years. My 2012 Ryan-as-VP-candidate triology is: “I Read Everything About Paul Ryan So You Don’t Have To“, “Paul Ryan: Veteran of the War on Women“, and “Ayn, Paul, and Me“. More recently, I discussed his attempt to redesign the War on Poverty in “Does Paul Ryan Care About Poverty Now?” and “Can Conservatives Solve Poverty?“.

Probably the best of that group is “Ayn, Paul, and Me“.

and Obama’s veto

The first shot of the next round of budget wars was fired when President Obama vetoed the $612-billion National Defense Authorization Bill.

Here’s what that’s about: The 2011 debt-ceiling crisis resulted in the Budget Control Act. The BCA set up something that was never supposed to happen: automatic budget cuts known as “the sequester”. The idea was that the sequester was such a ridiculous way to cut spending that of course Congress would work out something else before it went into effect.

I know, that sounds so naive today. The sequester actually did take effect. In order to make it sting on both sides, the agreement stipulated that defense and non-defense spending would both face limitations.

Well, Republicans want to undo the defense-spending limits, but leave the domestic-spending limits in place. So they put $38 billion of ordinary defense spending into a war-fighting account that’s exempt from the sequester. Obama thinks this is an accounting gimmick, and he’s right. If the sequester was a bad idea — and it was — Congress should undo it, not finesse around it.

and Jerusalem

A longer article about the current wave of Israel/Palestine violence is sitting in my perfectionist Limbo, while I decide how to summarize the recent book The Two-State Delusion by Padraig O’Malley.

In the meantime, you should definitely read Vox’s account of a recent speech by Danny Seidemann, executive director of the Israeli organization Terrestrial Jerusalem.

while Republican candidates advocated violating the Constitution

A Fox Business interviewer asked Donald Trump about a British anti-terrorism proposal to “close some mosques”. Trump replied “I would do that. Absolutely. I think it’s great.”

Ben Carson’s soft-spokenness doesn’t make him any less scary. Listen to this rapid-fire yes-or-no Q&A with Glenn Beck.

This sequence is near the end of that clip.

BECK: Shut down the Department of Education?

CARSON: I actually have something I would use the Department of Education to do.

BECK: Would it be … pack boxes for the State Department? [LAUGHTER] IRS?

CARSON: No, it would be to monitor our institutions of higher education for extreme political bias and deny federal funding if it exists.

In other words, colleges should have political commissars to tell them when they’re getting too liberal for the Carson administration’s taste.

Carson followed up on this idea in an interview with conservative talk-radio host Dana Loesch, justifying the need for his commissars by telling about a student whose professor instructed him to write “Jesus” on a piece and then stomp on it as part of a classroom exercise. (The source of this story is Fox Radio’s Todd Starnes, a frequent fabricator of Christian “persecution” stories. The author of the exercise describes it very differently.)

Loesch then asked the question any sensible conservative would ask: Couldn’t the next liberal administration use this machinery against conservatives? Of course not, Carson assures her, because only liberal professors demonstrate “extreme” political bias.

I think we would have to put in very strict guidelines for the way that that was done. And that’s why I used the word “extreme”. I didn’t just say “political bias”, I said “extreme political biases”. For instance, the example that I gave.

In reality, I think you’d be hard pressed to find a college as bent on liberal “indoctrination” (which is what Carson says he’s trying to prevent) as, say, Liberty University is on conservative Christian indoctrination. (Liberty’s motto is “Training Champions for Christ”.) And that should make obvious the biggest problem with Carson’s plan: It’s an attack on student freedom. Students go to Liberty because they want to be indoctrinated in an extreme conservative Christian worldview. And that should be their choice, not the government’s. Ditto for students who seek an education rooted in progressive values.

So this is what we can expect from Carson: On the basis of horror stories invented by the right-wing media, he will implement policies that restrict the freedom of people who disagree with him.

BTW: According to one poll, Carson has moved into the lead in Iowa. His 28%-20% margin over Trump comes from Tea Partiers (32%-20%), born-again Christians (36%-17%), women (33%-13%), and the 50-64 age bracket (34%-17%).

Here’s what bothers me most about those Trump and Carson interviews: It’s not that some candidates are willing to violate the Constitution or borrow tactics from totalitarian states — when you have political amateurs in the race, sometimes they’re going to say outrageous things. It’s that none of the other candidates jump up and protest. Where are the supposed “mainstream” candidates like Bush, Rubio, and Kasich?

Why aren’t any of them making the point that even Dana Loesch can see: A government with the power to close mosques has the power to close Christian churches too. If it can target liberal colleges, it can target conservative colleges.

and you also might be interested in …

This week’s guns-make-us-safer story comes from an outpatient clinic in Beaumont, Texas on Monday.

A witness told KCEN’s sister station 12News that a woman was in the waiting room of a medical office. When she reached into her purse to pull out some paperwork, a gun fell out of her purse causing it to discharge. The round went through a wall and hit another patient in the hip.

I guess if you have to be shot, it’s good to already be in a doctor’s office.

The pendulum may finally be turning on high-stakes standardized tests.

Politics That Work is a data-driven web site. Here, they take apart Mitt Romney’s famous “47%“. It’s worth noting that even that orange sliver of able-bodied working-age people not working and not looking for work isn’t all lazy moochers: Some of them intentionally saved money while they were working so that they can do whatever they’re doing now: traveling the world, writing a novel, working on an idea for a new business, or producing a weekly news-and-politics blog.

The IRS pseudo-scandal ends with a whimper, not a bang.

“We found no evidence that any IRS official acted based on political, discriminatory, corrupt, or other inappropriate motives that would support a criminal prosecution,” Assistant Attorney General Peter Kadzik said in a letter to Congress on Friday.

“Based on the evidence developed in this investigation and the recommendation of experienced career prosecutors and supervising attorneys at the Department, we are closing our investigation and will not seek any criminal charges,” he continued.

Kadzik said the investigation found “substantial evidence of mismanagement, poor judgment, and institutional inertia, leading to the belief by many tax-exempt applicants that the IRS targeted them based on their political viewpoints” but concluded that “poor management is not a crime.”

Matt Yglesias points out the resemblance between the Ben Carson campaign, a Ponzi scheme, and a multi-level marketing scam.

Carson is currently in second place in national polls and leading in Iowa. His campaign is raising tons of money from small donors and is spending most of that money on fundraising. People are giving Carson money so that he’ll have the money to ask more people for money. It’s a form of pyramid scheme. There’s no real field operation, policy staff, or any other manifestation of the kind of campaign apparatus that could plausibly result in victory.

It’s an example of the larger phenomenon Rick Perlstein laid out three years ago in “The Long Con” and I covered in “Keeping the Con in Conservatism“. Chris Hayes summed it up in a tweet:

much of movement conservatism is a con and the base are the marks.

Conservatives are annoyed by the new Captain America comics, because Cap is a liberal now. But as Amanda Marcotte points out, anybody who has kept track of the character through the years knows that Captain America has been a liberal since his Depression-era childhood in New York City.

Some people are anti-abortion, while others are more generally anti-sex. Here, an angry mob invades a discussion of Omaha’s sex-education program.

MTV’s Decoded educates us on the racist origins of six common words and phrases: the peanut gallery, no can do, long time no see, sold down the river, and gypped.

That’s only five, you say. I left out hip-hip horray, where MTV’s story didn’t convince me.

Tell me you’re not really going to wear that Indian costume for Halloween. Here’s how actual Native Americans view them.

and let’s close with something amusing


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  • JELC  On October 26, 2015 at 1:47 pm

    As a Canadian, I feel like I should mention that the changes in Canada are actually a huge deal. The leadup to the election saw a huge battle on the part of progressives to oust Harper, who went from kind of obnoxious as a minority government to outright destructive as a majority.

    In addition to targeting muslims through things like a “barbaric cultural practices hotline” he had been systematically destroying Canada’s knowledge architecture: he eliminated the long-form census, eliminated databases of climate science, shifted funding for basic science to industry partnerships, etc.
    He had also sought to politicize the judiciary here to a degree which we had previously not seen, and his party engaged in election fraud through every one of the elections over the last 10 years. Ousting him is a really good sign for the Canadian political climate.

    Lastly, we may actually see a reform of our electoral system out of this election, which would be huge because it would prevent 39% of voters from electing a government with 100% of the power (which is why conservatives were able to get a majority in the first place) and open the way to smaller parties like our environmentalist Green party actually getting elected to parliament.

  • Abby Hafer  On October 26, 2015 at 5:18 pm

    Regarding the Omaha voluntary sex-ed furor: This is the reason why the Bible Belt is also known as the STD Belt. “Purity parents” such as these delude themselves into thinking that their kids aren’t going to have sex. Instead, the kids have unprotected sex, because they don’t know what else to do, and there’s no one to ask.

  • Tom Hutchinson  On October 26, 2015 at 6:02 pm

    Someone ate his Wheaties.
    Great post top to bottom.


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