Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday Reading

A Conscious Decision? — Steve Benen looks at the Republican Party’s tactics in governing.

Consider a thought experiment. Imagine you actively disliked the United States, and wanted to deliberately undermine its economy. What kind of positions would you take to do the most damage?

You might start with rejecting the advice of economists and oppose any kind of stimulus investments. You’d also want to cut spending and take money out of the economy, while blocking funds to states and municipalities, forcing them to lay off more workers. You’d no doubt want to cut off stimulative unemployment benefits, and identify the single most effective jobs program of the last two years (the TANF Emergency Fund) so you could kill it.

You might then take steps to stop the Federal Reserve from trying to lower the unemployment rate. You’d also no doubt want to create massive economic uncertainty by vowing to gut the national health care system, promising to re-write the rules overseeing the financial industry, vowing re-write business regulations in general, considering a government shutdown, and even weighing the possibly of sending the United States into default.

You might want to cover your tracks a bit, and say you have an economic plan that would help — a tax policy that’s already been tried — but you’d do so knowing that such a plan has already proven not to work.

Does any of this sound familiar?


For months in 2009, conservatives debated amongst themselves about whether it’s acceptable to actively root against President Obama as he dealt with a variety of pressing emergencies. Led by Rush Limbaugh and others, the right generally seemed to agree that there was nothing wrong with rooting against our leaders’ success, even in a time of crisis.

But we’re talking about a significantly different dynamic now. This general approach has shifted from hoping conditions don’t improve to taking steps to ensure conditions don’t improve. We’ve gone from Republicans rooting for failure to Republicans trying to guarantee failure.


Historically, lawmakers from both parties have resisted any kind of temptations along these lines for one simple reason: they didn’t think they’d get away with it. If members of Congress set out to undermine the strength of the country, deliberately, just to weaken an elected president, they risked a brutal backlash — the media would excoriate them, and the punishment from voters would be severe.

But I get the sense Republicans no longer have any such fears. The media tends to avoid holding congressional parties accountable, and voters aren’t really paying attention anyway. The Boehner/McConnell GOP appears willing to gamble: if they can hold the country back, voters will just blame the president in the end. And that’s quite possibly a safe assumption.

If that’s the case, though, then it’s time for a very public, albeit uncomfortable, conversation. If a major, powerful political party is making a conscious decision about sabotage, the political world should probably take the time to consider whether this is acceptable, whether it meets the bare minimum standards for patriotism, and whether it’s a healthy development in our system of government.

More below the fold.

DREAM Deferred — Fred Grimm on the fading chances for the DREAM Act.

Compassion? Well… wasn’t that naive?

Supporters of the DREAM Act pursued a misguided strategy — that it would be enough to tell the poignant stories of scholarly, bright, hard-working children of undocumented immigrants and the tragedy of their curtailed education.

It wasn’t.

Advocates assumed that if other citizens got to know these students, they’d hardly insist on punishing kids for the sins of their illegal immigrant parents.

Compassion, as it turns out, was not integral to the new politics.

Students of the undocumented kind, no matter their academic performance, have become fodder in a ferocious political insurgency. Stories about Straight-A students, raised in the U.S., high achievers forced after high school to take menial jobs in the underground economy — none of it mattered.

This week, José Salcedo, a Miami Dade College student government president, honor student and student rep on the board of trustees, made a public declaration of his illegal status at a DREAM Act rally. It won’t help.

The populist campaign against illegal immigrants abides no special exception for young innocents, even honor students.

Politicians who know better seem cowed by the campaign against the DREAM Act, which would allow undocumented graduates of U.S. high schools without criminal records to attend college or join the military with a path toward legal residency. (Iowa governor-elect Terry Branstad further exploited the nativist mood, suggesting his state bar children of illegal immigrants from K-12 public schools.)

Even a few politicians from South Florida have found it expedient to diss the DREAM Act. U.S. Senator-elect Marco Rubio and U.S. Rep.-elect David Rivera, both sons of immigrants, oppose it. George LeMieux, the appointed U.S. Senator from Broward, a lame duck with nothing to lose, said he couldn’t support the DREAM Act ”until we have taken substantial and effective measures to secure our borders.” LeMieux well knows the long, vulnerable Mexican border will always provide an excuse to say no.

The Obama administration’s trying to push the DREAM Act through a lame duck Congress. A long shot. Too much talk about compassion. Not enough about economics.

Frank Rich on the possibilities of Sarah Palin.

Revealingly, Sarah Palin’s potential rivals for the 2012 nomination have not joined the party establishment in publicly criticizing her. They are afraid of crossing Palin and the 80 percent of the party that admires her. So how do they stop her? Not by feeding their contempt in blind quotes to the press — as a Romney aide did by telling Time’s Mark Halperin she isn’t “a serious human being.” Not by hoping against hope that Murdoch might turn off the media oxygen that feeds both Palin’s viability and News Corporation’s bottom line. Sooner or later Palin’s opponents will instead have to man up — as Palin might say — and actually summon the courage to take her on mano-a-maverick in broad daylight.

Short of that, there’s little reason to believe now that she cannot dance to the top of the Republican ticket when and if she wants to.

…to which Gin and Tacos replies:

We know that Palin is an attention whore. All politicians are. But there are unspoken limits. One must “look presidential”, which is defined as Potter Stewart defined obscenity – no one can explain it but we know it when we see it. This ain’t it. This is the 15th minute of fame for a flavor-of-the-minute singer. It is the last grasp at a paycheck from a washed-up soap opera star. It is KISS on its 10th reunion tour too many. It is Police Academy 6. It is Jerry Rice trying out for the Broncos when everyone on the planet except him could tell he was finished.

When Braceras asks in her column, “Isn’t such low-brow exhibitionism beneath the dignity of a former governor and potential presidential candidate?” she misses the point by a wide margin. Palin is a potential presidential candidate only in her own mind at this point. She and Snooki are equally likely to be living in the White House in the near future. After willingly suspending herself over (and her family) over the dunk tank full of sewage at the reality TV carnival, everyone except Palin herself realizes that her next gig is more likely to involve hawking fishing gear on QVC than delivering State of the Union addresses.

(Does that last sentiment sound familiar?)

Top Gear tries to drive on the right side of road here in America.

The studio audience’s parking lot for the taping of the American version of “Top Gear” was filled with the cars that guys who love cars love to own: Subaru WRXs with flat-black hoods, ancient Chevy Novas in primer, gymkhana-ready Mazda Miatas. There were also Mustangs, Corvettes, BMW M3s and at least one Ferrari — about 150 cars in all. It was a solid turnout for a rainy Tuesday afternoon in October at the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro.

“I just want it to not suck,” said Dave Coleman, 37, a Mazda engineer who took the day off to witness this third (or fourth) attempt to produce an American version of the British Broadcasting Corporation’s wildly popular “Top Gear” television show. And considering the cringe-worthy record of virtually every automotive television series produced in the United States, that’s a real worry for anyone who was already emotionally invested in the British show.

The new American “Top Gear” makes its premiere Sunday night on the History cable channel. Fans of the British original are waiting with the fingers of their Sparco driving gloves crossed.

Doonesbury — We’ll get back to you.