For a while there, Ted Cruz was the Great Republican Hope. That moment has passed. Cruz's decision to push the government into a shutdown ruined him for pretty much everyone but hardcore Teabaggers. Now, Cruz is reduced to arguing with Bob Schieffer about whether he actually shut the government down or not. When Schieffer refuses to swallow Cruz's line, and after he actually laughs at Cruz for being such a dimwit, Cruz accuses Schieffer of being a shill for President Obama.
This is what an ineffectual politician looks like:
(Via Crooks and Liars.)
Chris Christie is willing to put politics before the health of the citizens of New Jersey, according to a story by Matt Friedman for the Star-Ledger:
Three years ago, a plan to make Carl Lewis a “youth fitness ambassador” for New Jersey was scrapped by Gov. Chris Christie’s administration when the Olympic track and field star decided to run for state Senate as a Democrat, Lewis said today.
Now, with the George Washington Bridge scandal raging, the nine-time Olympic gold medalist says he sees a “strong parallel” between his own interaction with Christie and what happened in Fort Lee, and that Christie is an "insecure person."
Lewis says that Christie scrapped the whole program because Lewis decided to run against a Republican. At the time, Christie's spokesman said that Christie “Absolutely, positively" did not threaten to kill the program for political reasons, and that "anybody who says otherwise is lying." In retrospect, that maybe looks a little too hopeful. But come on. Does Chris Christie seem like the sort of person who would bully anyone for political gain?
For a while there, Chris Christie had a certain glamour about him. To the average voter, he seemed like a politician who was above politics, who wasn't petty, who said unpopular things and became more popular for it, because he said what he believed to be true. That kind of politician is a mythical beast, but it's a mythical beast that America loves. Christie was virtually the only Republican in the country who transcended the mire of hatred and greed that every other Republican had gotten caught up in.
That magical moment seems to be over for Christie now. The allegations that Christie bullied the mayor of Hoboken into spending Sandy relief funds the way he wanted have added another layer of corruption to the bridge scandal, and none of it shows any sign of going away any time soon. In fact, a new Pew Poll indicates that Christie's negatives are way, way up across the board:
I don't know how you earn that trust back. It's true that most Americans don't pay serious attention to this kind of news, but Christie's base is eroding, and he's losing independents. Those numbers are seriously bad news for Christie, and now that his protective glamour is gone, I expect his rivals to start stabbing him in the back any second now.
For nearly two weeks now, the Washington State Department of Transportation has been struggling to explain why their $4.2 billion megaproject is at standstill. After several awkward, matter-of-fact updates that didn't shed light why the tunnel-boring machine got stuck in early December or when it will get moving again, today they issued this update:
When you're sick, you go to the doctor. Based on your symptoms, the doctor checks for obvious clues about what might be ailing you. If his initial search doesn't yield the answer, he takes additional steps. He might run more thorough tests or send you to a specialist who has the tools and knowledge to give you an accurate diagnosis and develop a treatment plan.
When crews operating Bertha, the SR 99 tunneling machine, experienced increasing resistance at the front of the machine, they stopped tunneling. They started looking for obvious things that could have slowed the machine's progress. As the weeks went on, the search intensified. They found clues, including part of an 8-inch-diameter steel pipe inside the machine's excavation chamber.
But obvious things, it turns out, aren't necessarily at the root of this issue. It's time to see the specialist. Or, to use tunneling lingo, it's time to go hyperbaric.
This is obviously a terrible analogy if for no other reason than sometimes patients with mystery illnesses drop dead. Let's hope that doesn't happen here. Read the whole cutesy thing about "going hyperbaric"—it involves sending divers into a pressurized bubble in front of the machine for more exploration—which only underscores the fact they still have no idea what the problem is.
He shook hands with the brother of Fidel Castro, Raul Castro, at Nelson Mandela's funeral. This is apology diplomacy at its best. We can also thank Obama and Castro for opening the gates to a flood of tea-batty tweets.
Obama Shakes Hands With Cuba's Raul Castro at Nelson Mandela's Funeral http://t.co/8B6IFgisW9 pic.twitter.com/aA9d8d37Nv
— Mashable (@mashable) December 10, 2013
Ted Cruz and Newt Gingrich both dared to say nice things about Nelson Mandela on social media this weekend. Then they learned how out-of-touch their conservative followers really are. Gingrich's realization happened on television:
CNN "State of the Union" host Candy Crowley read some of the Facebook responses criticizing Gingrich's statement.
"Such an amazing rewrite of history since 1962 and 1990. Newt, I thought you, of all people, a historian, would be true to who this guy really was," one said. And another wrote: "This clenched-fist, murdering guerilla warrior does not deserve respect from informed Americans."
Gingrich said he was "very surprised" by reactions. And in response to the uproar, he wrote his Friday newsletter asking his followers what they would have done about Mandela's views and apartheid in South Africa.
And now Crooks & Liars notes that Gingrich is in the iffy position of defending Ronald Reagan's South Africa stance:
On Monday, the former House Speaker told CNN's Chris Cuomo that he had "analyzed" why conservatives were angry about his praise of Mandela and determined that some of those people had "confused" Mandela with other members of his party — the African National Congress (ANC) — who committed violence while he was in jail for 27 years.
But Gingrich also came to the conclusion that some people had become angry at liberals who recalled Reagan's record on apartheid after Mandela's death.
"Some elements of the left, particularly on one news channel, went overboard in trying to use this as an excuse to attack Ronald Reagan," Gingrich opined. "And I think people who are Reagan loyalists, who know that Reagan had condemned apartheid, Reagan had called for Mandela to be released, Reagan actually appointed the first black ambassador to South Africa whose job was to pressure the Afrikaans government."
This Guardian special report should be required reading. It uncovers anti-government programs sponsored by think tanks that are funded by the Koch Brothers and corporations like Philip Morris, Kraft, and GlaxoSmithKline. Here are some of the programs sponsored by the think tanks listed in the Guardian report:
• "Reforms" to public employee pensions raised by SPN thinktanks in Arizona, Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania;
• tax elimination or reduction schemes in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Maryland, Nebraska and New York;
• an education voucher system to promote private and home schooling in Florida;
• campaigns against worker and union rights in Delaware and Nevada;
• opposition to Medicaid in Georgia, North Carolina and Utah.
These programs are being pitched in 34 states across America. But one of the most extreme programs is unfolding in my home state of Maine:
In its grant bid, the Maine Heritage Policy Center asked for $35,000 to support a "research and demonstration project" that would "release residents from extreme government dependency". It would turn the state's poorest area into what the Portland Press Herald describes in its report from Washington County as "a gigantic tax-free zone".
Dubbed "FreeME", the initiative would eliminate state income tax and sale taxes from residents and businesses until the economic conditions in the county rise to the statewide average. The hole in the county's income from lost tax revenues – estimated at $35m a year by the think tank – would be filled through budget cuts.
Lots of people don't know this because they think of the state as nothing but lighthouses and lobster, but Maine is a very poor state. And once you get away from the relative affluence of the Portland area in southern Maine, you'll come across some areas that resemble Appalachia in terms of poverty. Combine that poverty with one of the teabaggiest governors in the country, and you've got a fertile testing ground for Koch-style libertarianism. I'm sure the business opportunities presented by a "tax-free zone" are appealing to the international corporations behind these think tanks, too. If this idea becomes a reality, the residents of Washington County will be paraded around by the conservative media as examples of what America could be like under the "power" of unfettered capitalism. They're planning to experiment on forgotten and ignored Americans like lab animals.
You might be faster than me...
The funniest photo you will ever see in the New York Times. (Look very closely.) pic.twitter.com/wTCuW4oRct— Chris Young (@ChrisYoungCPI) November 26, 2013
Only the Young Conservatives of Texas would think hosting a "Catch an Illegal Immigrant" game—which was to feature University of Texas students dressed as illegal immigrants for other students to catch in exchange for $25 gift cards—would be a good way to attract new members.
The good news is, the University of Texas student group has decided to cancel their event. Not because they've realized how incredibly racist their "game" was, but because they faced expulsion and were afraid it could become more of a "belt whip a bigot" game:
Lorenzo Garcia, chairman of the group, said that he and other group members were worried about opposition from the university and students.
"After the University President and the Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement released statements denouncing the event we planned as violating the university's honor code, I spoke with our chapter's members, and they are both concerned that the university will retaliate against them and that the protest against the event could create a safety issue for our volunteers," said in a statement obtained by CBS News Houston.
Lest you want to give the Young Conservatives of Texas the benefit of any doubt that they've learned a lesson from this ridiculous, demeaning stunt, CBS News Houston has more choice quotes from YCT chairman Garcia:
“I have been shocked at the uproar over the event’s premise and at the personal attacks against me. Today, opponents of YCT have claimed that I am being used as a front man. I have been called an “Uncle Tom.” I have received emails and comments via social media filled with obscenity,” Garcia said. “The reactions of some who claim that YCT is creating a demeaning or degrading environment on campus have been truly disgraceful.”
Poor, persecuted conservatives.
I dunno, this particular headline strikes me as a bit wonky:
Fresh Blow for Embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford
I suppose that for the sheer entertainment value he has provided, the guy deserves some cocaine that isn't stale.
The only mayor of Toronto that any American has ever been able to reference by name is now basically mayor of Toronto in name only:
Toronto city council has voted 36-5 to strip Rob Ford of the last remaining pieces of power and hand them to Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly.
In a series of heavy losses, Ford saw his office budget slashed by 60%, his position as chair of the executive committee taken away, and the last of his removable rights as mayor confiscated.
Ford was also unseated as a mandatory member of all city committees.
According to BlogTO's Rob Bateman, Ford compared the vote to the invasion of Kuwait.
Last week, Canadian courts released a 500-page dossier on Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, detailing all of his alleged illegal activities—including interviews with staff on his alleged drug use and his alleged offers/threats to eat out various women's boxes, right down to more harmless stuff, like routinely pocket dialing his coworkers while pissing.
Talking Points Memo, bless its heart, has read this entire document and summarized its six best anecdotes. I suggest you read them aloud to your children at bedtime, as a grim lesson on what it's like to be Canadian.
4) Ford 'Would Try To Get Out Of Doing Ethnic Media Events'
Though the documents include tales of Ford making surprise appearances in convenience stores, parties, and on public transportation late at night, they also detail the types of events Ford allegedly would never go to. Ransom told investigators Ford "would not do any media events before 1100 AM unless it was a very special event."
Ransom also said Ford "would try to get out of doing ethnic media events, meetings with international politicians and ambassadors." Sadly, the documents didn't go into detail about Ford's reasons for avoiding these "ethnic" events. After February, Ford apparently also could not be found at nighttime public events. In one of his interviews with police, Towhey said he "removed all evening events from the Mayor's schedule" after an incident where Ford allegedly showed up to a military ball intoxicated with his children in tow and was asked to leave.
Rob Ford continues to be the man of my dreams. (I dream in nightmare.)
Well, it's another day on Earth. The sun has risen in the east and will soon set in the west. Fish still swim in the sea. And BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski has found more instances of plagiarism in Rand Paul's latest book:
In this case, Paul copied nearly verbatim a section from an article by Timothy Sandefur of the Pacific Legal Foundation that ran in Regulation, the Cato Institute’s quarterly journal in January 2012. In another instance, Paul copied nearly verbatim a section from an article by Jonathan Adler that ran in the magazine in 2010. Another section copied nearly verbatim a section that ran in Environmental Protection.
A few days ago, I said I thought this scandal was blowing over. And it probably would have, if Paul didn't choose to respond to these charges by, in the words of Rachel Maddow, "melting down." I kind of can't wait to see how he responds to these newest charges, now. At some point, he's probably just going to break into tears.
Key bits: The lashing Paul's getting from newspapers in his home state (belying his claims that the entire plagiarism hubbub is the work of lefty haters), and Maddow's noting that if this is how Paul responds to mild criticism during his junior senatorship, can we seriously consider him for the actually high-pressure job of the presidency? Whatever the case, watch.
Yesterday, the Washington Times announced that it was suspending Rand Paul's weekly column due to all the allegations of plagiarism that have circled the Kentucky senator.
But Paul's not going to go around acting all repentant about these charges. In fact, he's taking the whiny-baby road, complaining about having to deal with the consequences of his actions to the conservative press:
In an interview with National Review Online on Capitol Hill, Paul was furious, especially with the press coverage of the allegations. “It annoys the hell out of me,” Paul said. “I feel like if I could just go to detention after school for a couple days, then everything would be okay. But do I have to be in detention for the rest of my career?”
I thought libertarians were all about personal responsibility? Anyway, even the severely conservative commenters on National Review's site can't muster much compassion for Paul this time, calling him "unrepentant and arrogant," a "spoiled brat," and "pathetic." If Paul keeps whining about his "unfair" treatment like this, he might actually make the whole thing worse.
(Thanks to Slog tipper Biff.)
If you thought that Daily Show interview with North Carolina Republican precinct chair Don Yelton might have been a fluke, apparent BuzzFeed wannabe Vocativ has published a brief history of ignorant things Yelton said on social media. It's a terrible compilation of support for George Zimmerman, denunciations of "loud mouthed bitch[es]," racism, and the usual Republican misinformation.
It's a weird time to be alive and paying attention to politics: All these comments and thoughts that were previously private have now gone public. For the most part, national politicians immediately understood that social media is not a place to say what you think, but small-scale Republicans still haven't learned that lesson. We should be ashamed that there are still Americans who think this way, but this glimpse behind previously closed doors is some kind of a blessing, too. It really hits home that these bigoted pieces of shit are all brain-stem, recoiling in fear from anyone who doesn't look and act exactly like them. There's nothing noble or proud about these people.
Look at the flag!
As a coalition of Republican business executives, prominent conservatives and evangelical leaders kick off a new campaign urging the GOP to take-up immigration reform, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) — the most prominent Republican senator to support an overhaul of the immigration system — formally walked away from his own immigration bill. A spokesperson for the senator said on Saturday that Rubio opposes conferencing a piecemeal House-passed bill with the Senate’s proposal in order to produce a comprehensive measure that both chambers could support.
This is the kind of shit you never walk away from in politics. Rubio may have perfectly good reasons for abandoning a bill, but in debates and in political ads, he'll always be the guy who wrote a bill and then backed off on it. It's not the end of Rubio's career in the Senate, but it's certainly not the kind of behavior that people, especially Republicans, want to see in their presidents.
How will conservatives handle their current predicament (AKA, the most spectacular political face-plant of recent memory)?
We Will Not Stop Fighting!
After the most recent "compromise" in Washington, it's obvious the politicians in power today are not going to solve any of America's problems. To change the policies coming out of Washington, we MUST change the people making the decisions in Washington.
So, if you still want to get Washington's excessive spending under control and repeal ObamaCare, it is clear what we must do:
*** Elect six new Tea Party Senators in 2014 so we can get rid of Harry Reid and put in place a Senate Republican majority dominated by Tea Party conservatives.
*** Elect MORE Tea Party conservatives to the House of Representatives to strengthen our hand in future negotiations.
Totally, conservatives, do it.
Pushing us closer to a three-party system...
Here's what Republicans got out of the shutdown, in one chart: http://t.co/Kbq6V8R7mY
— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) October 17, 2013
Republicans in the House, with a little help from Ted Cruz, got all excited with this stupid wing strategy that has now done a lot of damage to our brand,” said Murphy, in a reference to the Texas Republican senator who spurred the confrontation with the White House. “We’ve taken a big blow.”This is all in line with my 2008 predication: By the end of this presidency, the American political structure will resemble the one in Europe.
Now that House Republicans have retreated from their insane debt ceiling threats, and have agreed to open the government back up, it is time to start tallying up the costs:
The first federal government shutdown in 17 years, triggered by a Republican demand to defund the Affordable Care Act on Oct. 1, cost the U.S. $24 billion in potential economic activity — equalling at least 0.6% of projected annualized fourth-quarter 2013 GDP growth, according to ratings agency Standard & Poor's.
Only $24 billion in lost economic growth? Such a bargain! Meanwhile, in red state South Dakota, where Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama by a 58-40 margin, ranchers suffering from a blizzard that killed as many as 20,000 head of cattle, have had no help or guidance documenting their losses from the federal Farm Service Agency, because, of course, it's been closed! Hooray for the Grand Old Party!
At some point, maybe even Republicans will start to reconsider the wisdom of placing the government in the hands of people who don't believe in government.
John Boehner says he's in favor of ending the shutdown and avoiding default, but like any good comic book villain, he can't leave a crushing loss without promising to return:
Our drive to stop the train wreck that is the president’s health care law will continue. We will rely on aggressive oversight that highlights the law’s massive flaws and smart, targeted strikes that split the legislative coalition the president has relied upon to force his health care law on the American people.
I don't think you get to talk about train wrecks for at least another week or two, buddy.
Man oh man do Republican commenters hate the Senate's shutdown deal. Here's a sampling of comments from the National Review story about the deal:
McConnell and Boehner are finished as Leaders!
McConnell may not return at all and Boehner will be replaced by a leader not an establishment pimp!!
Cruz September 19: "I will do everything necessary and anything possible to defund Obamacare."
Cruz October 16: paraphrasing Meatloaf "I'll do anything to defund, but I won't do that!"
Maybe I can understand why they don't want to hit the debt ceiling, but why on earth do we have to cave on the shutdown at the same time? Couldn't we just pass a clean debt CR and continue the shutdown?
Can't think of a more disgraceful surrender. Shame on Boehner, McConnell, and all other RINO traitors. What the hell was this all for?
Any deal with Harry Reid is a deal with the devil. Shame on you, McConnell.
Shut it down again in January !! Yessss!!!!!!
And the National Review is basically the presentable Republican opinion site. Below are some comments from a story on Glenn Beck's Huffington Post rip-off The Blaze about Ted Cruz saying he won't block the deal. The baseline feeling among the commenters is that America is dead. It only gets worse from there:
It's not that often that you'll see a newspaper publicly regret its endorsements, but the Houston Chronicle published an editorial essay about how much the paper misses Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, the senator who retired and paved the way forTed Cruz last year.
When we endorsed Ted Cruz in last November's general election, we did so with many reservations and at least one specific recommendation - that he follow Hutchison's example in his conduct as a senator.
Obviously, he has not done so. Cruz has been part of the problem in specific situations where Hutchison would have been part of the solution.
We feel certain she would have worked shoulder to shoulder with Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, in crafting a workable solution that likely would have avoided the government shutdown altogether.
But we'll never know.
Good for them for admitting that they're wrong. That couldn't have been easy.
UPDATE 11:56 AM: This post has been updated to reflect that Hutchison retired and was not knocked out by Cruz. Thanks to Slog tipper Michael for the correction.
Looks like Obamacare is an instant hit in Washington State:
Washington Healthplanfinder today announced nearly 25,000 residents have enrolled in health coverage since Oct. 1. An additional 37,000 residents have completed online applications that are awaiting payment due in December. Washington Healthplanfinder is a new way to find, compare and enroll in health insurance and gain access to free or low-cost health coverage.
That's 62,000 Washingtonians who have already signed up for coverage, in only two weeks! Amazing.
So remember, as House Republicans threaten to force the US government to default on its debt for the first time in its 225 year history, this is what Republicans are fighting for: Taking away affordable health coverage from the 62,000 Washingtonians who just rushed to sign up for it!
Hard to see how that's a winning political strategy, but the Teabaggers claim to have their fingers on the pulse of the nation, so I'll just have to assume that they know what they're doing.
UPDATE: Huh. I wonder if the popularity of Obamacare in Washington State has anything to do with Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler's sudden change of heart?
“Despite my skepticism, until now I have refrained from public comment on the House budget negotiating strategy. I wanted to give House Republican leaders leeway to craft the best deal they could. But it’s time to reopen the government and ensure we don’t default on our debt. I will not vote for poison pills that have no chance of passing the Senate or being signed into law."
The only thing that could sink Congressional Republican approval ratings even lower would be if they moved to impeach President Obama. So, naturally:
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said Tuesday that President Obama has “committed impeachable offenses” and that the House could hold a hearing to impeach.
“We can have an impeachment hearing in the House, and in my mind the president has committed impeachable offenses,” Bachmann told conservative talk show host Rusty Humphries in an interview first detailed by Right Wing Watch.
Say what you want about Michele Bachmann, but I think "in my mind the president has committed impeachable offenses" is maybe the most honest thing she's ever said. In her mind, the president has done a whole bunch of things.
Paul says the rest of the Internet beat me to it, but I can't help but be reminded of this scene from Blazing Saddles every time I think of the Republicans' debt-ceiling/government-shutdown negotiation tactics.
ThinkProgress says that Republican Arizona State Representative Brenda Barton stuck her foot in it on a Facebook post complaining about parks being closed during the shutdown:
Barton minced no words, calling Obama “De Fuhrer [sic]” and urging local sheriffs to arrest park rangers who enforce rules keeping people out of National Parks that are closed due to the federal government shutdown...Asked about it by the Arizona Capitol Times later that day, Barton stood by her Adolf Hitler analogy. “He’s dictating beyond his authority,” she explained.
Yesterday, Barton denied the whole thing, releasing a statement that indicated she wasn't calling Obama Hitler, she simply "used the German phrase for emphasis, Der Fuhrer." Uh huh.
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