A Flea in the Fur of the Beast

“Death, fire, and burglary make all men equals.” —Dickens

Category: barack obama

David Axelrod: United States in “Fetal Position” if it Does not Strike Assad

by bisonmessink

According to Barack Obama’s former campaign manger David Axelrod, the United States is in a “fetal position” if it doesn’t use military force against Syria in response to Bashar Al-Assad’s chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians.

Axelrod now works for NBC as a political analyst, but is still using heavy rhetoric to back his old boss. Appearing on David Gregory’s round table segment on Meet the Press Sunday morning, Axelrod argued that action against Assad is necessary to preserve American credibility, and to stop Assad and other enemies from using weapons of mass destruction against America and its allies.

“There’s no doubt that (Assad’s forces) are fighting side-by-side with Hezebohlah, they could certainly use (chemical weapons) against Israel, they can be proliferated from there,” Axelrod said. “And (inaction) gives the signal to everyone else, every bad actor on the planet, that the United States, the world community, is in a fetal position, and you can do whatever you want.”

To hear Axelrod speak, one would think that America had already been attacked, and that not responding would mean cowering in the face of direct aggression. The reality, however, is that Assad – as terrible a ruler as he may be – hasn’t threatened the United States. It is only President Obama’s tough talk on red lines that Axelrod is seeking to defend, and America is not at risk of appearing weak and spineless as a nation if it does not strike Assad.

Newt Gingrich Giving Voice To Growing Anti-Intervention Right

by bisonmessink

Conservatives from George Will to Michelle Malkin to Donald Rumsfeld are lining up to criticize and condemn Barack Obama’s Syria strategy, and the likelihood of U.S. intervention against the Bashar al-Assad regime. Will used a Washington Post editorial to slam Obama for falling in love with the sound of his own voice, alleging that Obama is “talking America into war” over Red Lines.  Malkin attacked Obama on FOX News for not seeking Congressional approval or international consensus for a potential military strike against Syria, and Rumsfeld criticized the President for not making a full justification to the American people for action against Assad.

Any and every action taken by the President is sure to be answered with Republican opposition, so it’s difficult to tell what is thoughtless obstructionism and what represents actual conviction on the part of conservatives, but in contrast to Will, Malkin, and Rumsfeld, Newt Gingrich is using the Syria episode not merely to make a counter-point to Obama, but to advance a growing right-wing sentiment that the United States should not be using its military to intervene in the affairs of other nations.

Tea Partiers and their sympathizers have previously been the conservative voice in the desert when it comes to military anti-intervention, but Gingrich now represents are more substantial piece of the Republican establishment that is advancing the idea of foreign disentanglement. Gingrich has been vocal on Twitter that military intervention in Syria is a bad idea for the United States.

Gingrich elaborated in an editorial at CNN, writing:

“Both sides in Syria are bad. One side is a brutal dictator, and the other includes Islamists and terrorists who are dangerous already and who would be brutal in power if given the chance.

We will not spend the time, money and blood to create a desirable side in Syria. There is no victory to be had there.”

Of course, Gingrich could also not help himself but to somehow tie Syria to the Keystone Pipeline:

And, lest we think for a moment that Gingrich and his conservative cohort has gotten too dovish, Gingrich also reminds us that he still fully supports aggressive action with Iran:

Apart from Gingrich, there is still the old guard of conservative hawks pressuring Obama from the other side, insisting that whatever the President is about to do against Assad isn’t going to be forceful enough. John McCain told reporters this week, “If the United States stands by and doesn’t take very serious action — not just launching some cruise missiles — then, again, our credibility in the world is diminished even more, if there’s any left.”

Still, Gingrich’s argument is worth noting. It is the obvious move for any Republican to criticize Obama for whatever military action he ends up taking on Syria. Intervention is supported by fewer than 30% of Americans, so conservatives would be foolish not to align themselves with the 70% on this issue. But unlike most Republicans, who are merely grasping at their familiar obstructionist straws, Gingrich is advancing a more substantial conservative platform shift, and one that is becoming more prevalent with mainstream Republicans.

Dog Wags Tail? Obama to Speak on Race, Class as Syria Strikes Loom

by bisonmessink

In what could be an odd reversal of typical wag the dog scenarios, Barack Obama plans to use a Wednesday speech to talk about race and class, a topic that could distract attention from the looming military intervention in Syria, which is supported by fewer than 30% of Americans, according to a poll from Reuters:

Politico reports that Obama plans to use the Wednesday address, given in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech, to call attention to MLK’s oft-forgotten economic message, in the hopes of bolstering his own economic policies. It is unlikely that Obama’s MLK speech will be able to stir American hearts and minds enough to turn the tide in his ongoing economic battle with Republicans, but in the wake of the Trayvon Martin verdict and the Christopher Lane murder, race may be the one and only topic that could keep military intervention in Syria from dominating Americans’ TV sets.

It’s a strange climate in American politics when a sitting President would rather focus the public’s attention on the nuances of race and class in America than on the will and might of the American military.

GOP Seriously Accuses Obama Of Ignoring Policy To Focus On Scandals

by evanmcmurry

Holy drool-puddling mother of god:

Some Republicans think the president has become distracted from the deficit by intensified public controversies over the attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of Tea Party groups and the Justice Department’s investigation of The Associated Press.

Frank Luntz to GOP: Shut. Up.

by evanmcmurry

Via National Review:

Luntz delivered a presentation to House Republicans at the whip meeting Monday, the gist of which was, according to a GOP aide present, “don’t be an idiot and go on TV calling for impeachment.” Luntz presented polling numbers showing that voters by and large aren’t blaming Obama for the scandals. They are interested, however, and want to know “how did this happen?” and “what are you going to do to ensure it never happens again?”

Don’t listen to them, GOP. Listen to Bill Keller. Always listen to Bill Keller.

Obama Scandals Are GOP Shiny Toys

by evanmcmurry

Conservative commenters are desperately holding up STOP signs to their nuttier compatriots, warning of GOP overreach in chasing the various Obama “scandals,” and reminding them of what happened the last time Republicans smelled blood in the water. To this, Ramesh Ponnuru adds some smart political context:

For the most part, Republicans didn’t campaign on impeachment in 1998: They didn’t say, “Vote for me and I’ll do my level best to oust Clinton.” Their strategy was more passive. They were counting on the scandal to motivate conservatives to vote while demoralizing liberals. So they didn’t try to devise a popular agenda, or to make their existing positions less unpopular. That’s what cost them — that, and the mistake of counting on statistics about sixth-year elections, which also bred complacency.

Republicans have similar vulnerabilities on the issues now. They have no real health-care agenda. Voters don’t trust them to look out for middle-class economic interests. Republicans are confused and divided about how to solve the party’s problems. What they can do is unite in opposition to the Obama administration’s scandals and mistakes. So that’s what they’re doing. They’re trying to win news cycles when they need votes.

Congressional Republicans were right to press for hearings on all of these issues. But investigations of the administration won’t supply them with ideas. They won’t make the public trust Republicans. They won’t save them from themselves.

This is consonant with recent polling: Obama’s approval rating has stayed steady despite the negative press, while an overwhelming majority of respondents think Republicans are not focusing on the issues that matter.

It’s tempting to say that a combination of scandal-lust and a policy void doomed Republicans in 1998, and will doom them now. But that implies that these two factors happened to occur simultaneously. I’d go one further and argue that the policy void is creating the scandal lust: nature abhors a vacuum, and in the absence of ideas the GOP must substitute whatever it can, and all it can churn up is endless investigations over White House talking points.

Further, Greg Sargeant wonders if conservatives will be distracted enough by the scandals to allow immigration reform to sneak through, which means the GOP could wake up after all this is over to find the public disgusted with their scandal mongering while a popular Democratic president touts a successful immigration reform package. If so, it’s not like the smarter pundits didn’t try to warn them.

The Increasing Polarization of the American ZZZZZZ…

by evanmcmurry

There’s plenty of meat in WaPo‘s newest poll—Obama’s approval rating, as it has in all recent polls, has held steady despite the “scandals,” nobody cares about the GOP’s harping over said scandals, and Hillary Clinton’s job approval rating remains remarkably high—but this may be the best response ever:

Screen Shot 2013-05-21 at 11.55.37 AM

Unite! Divide! Unite! Divide! Ask this question in a room with barstools, and you could get a good brawl going.

Impeach Darrell “Richard Nixon” Issa or Something!

by evanmcmurry

A muy-confusing development in the #BENGHAZI non-scandal: despite what we’ve been hearing about Ambassador Stevens requesting additional security at the US consulate and not getting it, now we have evidence that he twice turned down additional security. No one yet knows why he’d do so, but if true—a provision that should be appended to every element of the #BENGHAZI story—this deflates the last of the conspiracy angles on the issue, which was that the State Department and the White House were covering their asses for not providing additional security that might have saved Stevens himself.

Even more, it turns out someone—maybe someone named Darrell Issa?—already knew about this:

But a spokesman for Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, indicated that some lawmakers may have been aware of Stevens’ exchange with Ham.

“Decisions conveyed by Ambassador Stevens were made on behalf of the U.S. State Department,” the spokesman, Frederick Hill, said in an email. “There were certainly robust debates between State and Defense officials over the mission and controlling authority of such forces. The lack of discussion by the public ARB report about the role inter-agency tension played in a lack of security resources remains a significant concern of the Oversight Committee.”

So, wait—Issa knew about previously-hidden elements of the situation in Benghazi, but didn’t release them? Isn’t that, like, a cover-up, according to the newly-lowered bar for the term? Nixonian! Impeach! Impeach!

Today In Things That Are Working The Way They’re Supposed To

by evanmcmurry

Blah blah blah IRS blah blah blah Benghazi, etc. Howevs:

The federal deficit is shrinking more quickly than expected, and the government’s long-term debt has largely stabilized for the next decade, the Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday in a report that could strengthen the Obama administration’s hand in the budget battles with congressional Republicans.

[snip] The deficit projection for this year — $642 billion — is almost 25% less than the deficit the budget office had forecast as recently as February. At the new level, the annual deficit would be back to where it was before President Obama took office. It would continue to fall for the rest of Obama’s tenure, the budget office now projects. 

[snip] Three major factors account for most of the long-term improvement: a better economy, a continued slowdown in the rate of medical inflation — which reduces the cost of Medicare and Medicaid — and higher taxes that Congress approved as part of the “fiscal cliff” deal in January, the budget office said.

Kevin Drum has a good exegesis on that slowdown: namely, it’s been happening for a while, based on numerous factors, some of which may be temporary, or not.

Drum notes it’s far too early to claim that Obamacare the Affordable Care Act is responsible. To which I say: good! One of the primary arguments behind the ACA was that it would drive down health costs by keeping people healthier earlier, thus avoiding more costly illnesses and preventing expensive ER visits and such down the line. If this is true—still an if—and costs are already decreasing, then the ACA should accelerate that decrease—which was stated aim of the legislation.

Here’s the requisite reminder that the House just voted to repeal the bill, again. It’s been repealed by the House so many times that nobody can even agree on a number—somewhere between 33 and 37, depending on whom you ask.

So yeah, IRS Benghazi etc. But one party’s decreasing both the deficit and health care costs, and the other is still throwing a tantrum.

Fire Someone, Anyone, That Guy, The Janitor, Maybe

by evanmcmurry

It’s scandal feasting time in D.C., which means people, some of them, any of them, are gonna get fired:

Republicans want heads to roll in the wake of revelations that the Internal Revenue Service inappropriately targeted conservative groups for further scrutiny, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is asking Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to begin with the current IRS Commissioner.

[snip] The IRS is currently led by Acting Commissioner Steven T. Miller. He assumed the role after IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman stepped down on November 9, 2012, but Rubio’s office notes that Miller was Deputy Commissioner during the time that the IRS was inappropriately scrutinizing conservative groups.

But did Acting Commissioner Steven T. Miller have anything to do with anything? Like, was he just eating his lunch in the cafeteria while all this was going on? What’s the point of calling for investigations—which should be held!—if you’re going to decide beforehand who’s gotta be canned?

Also, you can tell Rubio’s new at this, as no seasoned GOP figure would preemptively give a Democratic administration a body to throw under the bus. This ain’t about accountability at this point.