President Obama Actively Mocks Republicans While Campaigning For Hillary Clinton – And They Deserve It

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If Barack Obama seems like he is savouring the discomfort of Republican politicians struggling to save their seats as Donald Trump drags them down in the polls, it is no less than many of them deserve

As President Obama prepares to leave office, America’s guns have still not been confiscated, citizens have not been sent to FEMA re-education camps and the “world’s greatest healthcare system” (ha!), though certainly tampered with, remains broadly intact. And given the alarmism and sheer cynical scaremongering bandied about by Republican politicians happy to trawl for votes by playing to peoples’ base prejudices, one can understand Barack Obama’s decision to spend his presidential swansong reminding us of all the crazy things that intemperate Republicans predicted he would do in his two terms of office.

This blog has been no great fan of the Obama presidency, though I certainly found him preferable to the McCain/Palin ticket in 2008. True, coming from far more socialist Britain I bring a vantage point and sense of perspective which I think is often lacking in American conservative commentators who are quick to cry “communism!” without really thinking through just how much worse things could be (socialised medicine? I’ll show ya socialised medicine!) But overall this blog has been disappointed with the failure of what was billed as a transformational presidency to really do much transforming for the good.

Yet much of that failure and stasis has been the result of Republican obstructionism rather than the personal failings of Barack Obama – and often unreasonable obstructionism at that. Mitch McConnell’s pledge that the Senate’s top priority should be to make Obama a one term president is emblematic of the party-before-country cynicism which often motivated Republicans to take bold and sometimes extreme stances in support of “liberty” which ultimately only had the effect of preserving the status quo – a state of affairs which harmed many of their own supporters (one of the main reasons for Donald Trump’s rise).

On issue after issue, Republicans succeeded in fighting the Obama administration to a draw. Even Obamacare borrowed heavily from the Massachusetts healthcare reforms of GOP grandee and former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, its unbearably socialist individual mandate lifted from the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank.

And yet to listen to Republicans talk, one would sometimes think that Obama had actually succeeded in his Evil Marxist Kenyan plan to turn America into North Korea. Of course, this involves turning a blind eye toward all the fiscal excesses of Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush – but Republicans are generally happy to do just that, and pretend that fiscal profligacy began on Obama’s watch.

Given all of this context, one can understand President Obama’s temptation to have a little fun at the expense of those Republicans who fought much of his agenda to a standstill yet still dared to suggest that he was successfully imposing “socialism” on America. And as Tim Murphy outlines at Mother Jones in a piece entitled “Barack Obama’s Sweet Revenge Tour”, the president has frequently succumbed to that temptation in recent days.

Murphy writes:

President Barack Obama’s approval rating is the highest it has been in 45 months, and Republicans have taken note. In Ohio, Sen. Rob Portman is running an ad boasting of his work with the Democratic commander in chief “to break the grip of heroin addiction.” In California, Rep. Darrell Issa—who once called Obama “one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times”—is sending out mailers with Obama’s face on them, touting his work with the president “to protect victims of sexual assault.”

There is a problem with that strategy, though, which is that Obama seems determined to spend the last two weeks of the election laying waste to every Republican who ever crossed him. Though Obama was a liability to Democrats in the 2014 midterms, his renewed popularity has made him the most sought-after advocate for Hillary Clinton and down-ballot Democrats this fall. At rallies and in fundraisers in battleground states and swing districts, Obama has ripped into Republican lawmakers with a mix of exasperation and disdain, mocking their belated rejection (or continued support) of Donald Trump and casting the GOP presidential nominee as the logical endpoint of eight years of toxic hostility.

Issa, who is facing his most competitive race in years, was the most recent Republican to feel his wrath. At a fundraiser in La Jolla on Sunday, Obama trashed the California Republican for his mailer. “Issa’s primary contribution to the United States Congress has been to obstruct and to waste taxpayer dollars on trumped-up investigations that have led nowhere,” he said. “This is now a guy who, because poll numbers are bad, has sent out brochures with my picture on them touting his cooperation on issues with me. Now that is the definition of chutzpah.”

First off, I’m not quite sure what the SJW cultural appropriation police would have to say about an African American using the Yiddish word “chutzpah”. Actually, I think we all know what they would say – “people of color” sit higher in the hierarchy of victimhood, while any attack on Jews (always conflated with Israel and Israelis) is perfectly legitimate in SJW world. But I digress…

It is galling indeed to see Republican establishment cronies like Darrell Issa – politicians who literally made a career suggesting that Obama was incompetent at best and anti-American at worst – suddenly try to wrap their arms around the outgoing president simply because the man at the top of their own party’s ticket is immensely divisive, offputting to whole swathes of the electorate and likely sinking to inglorious defeat on November 8.

But this is the part of Obama’s campaign speech which really cuts to the core in its incisive criticism of Republican failings and strategic/moral missteps since 2008:

Here’s the thing. For years, Republican politicians and the far-right media outlets have pumped up all kinds of crazy stuff about me. About Hillary. About Harry. They said I wasn’t born here. They said climate change is a hoax. They said that I was going to take everybody’s guns away! They said that while we were doing military exercises that we’ve been doing forever, suddenly this was a plot to impose martial law. This is what they’ve been saying for years now! So people have been hearing it they start thinking well maybe it’s true! And if the world they’ve been seeing is I’m powerful enough to cause hurricanes on my own and to steal everybody’s guns in the middle of the night and impose martial law—even though I can’t talk without a ‘prompter—then is it any wonder that they end up nominating somebody like Donald Trump?

And the fact is that there are a lot of politicians who knew better. There are a lot of senators who knew better but they went along with these stories because they figured you know what this’ll help rile up the base, it’ll give us an excuse to obstruct what we’re trying to do, we won’t be able to appoint judges, we’ll gum up the works, we’ll create gridlock, it’ll give us a political advantage. So they just stood by and said nothing and their base began to actually believe this stuff. So Donald Trump did not start this. Donald Trump didn’t start it, he just did what he always did which is slap his name on it, take credit for it, and promote it. That’s what he always does. And so now, when suddenly it’s not working and people are saying wow this guy’s kind of out of line, all of a sudden these Republican politicians who were okay with all this crazy stuff up to a point suddenly they’re all walking away. Oh, this is too much. So when you finally get him on tape bragging about actions that qualify as sexual assault and his poll numbers go down, suddenly that’s a deal-breaker. Well what took you so long! What the heck! What took you so long! All these years!

Well, that is probably just about the most incisive piece of commentary on the failings of the Republican Party you’ll read in the media, and it came from none other than the target of the GOP’s efforts, the current president of the United States.

In actual fact, Obama’s complaints about Republican willingness to flirt with the crazy element echo charges that this blog has been making for some time, notably here:

It was the tri-cornered hat brigade whose admirable devotion to fiscal responsibility only materialised once Barack Obama took office, and then failed to force any meaningful change in Washington despite many of their number being elected to Congress in the 2010 midterms which, who have a case to answer. They were the Great White Hope whose inevitable failure formed the third strike against the political class.

It was not the Democratic Party which fanned the flames of birtherism (and then considered a nominee for president who was born in Canada) and refused to stand up to angry constituents demanding to see a birth certificate. That was all on the Republicans. Donald Trump led that effort, and nearly the entire GOP sat back with a tub of popcorn, thinking that the circus would benefit them politically. And so it did, until their attack dog finally broke the leash and turned on its handlers.

Has Barack Obama been a decidedly left-wing and in some (though by no means all) ways unimpressive president? Yes, he has. But is he a closet Communist, a secret Muslim planning to enforce hardline Islamism on America or a hopelessly incompetent buffoon? Absolutely not. He is a centre-left politician with undeniable skills, twice elected on a centre-left platform and governing according to a centre-left approach. But in their greed to quickly win back power without doing the hard work of making their own pitch to the voters more appealing, too many Republicans were willing to tolerate and sometimes actively participate in the anti-Obama hysteria for short term political gain.

And here:

Remember, this is a political party which urged Americans in all seriousness to vote for Sarah Palin as vice president back in 2008. Sarah Palin. The Republicans have been dabbling in crazy and courting the proudly ignorant vote for decades. Donald Trump is nothing but the GOP’s longstanding approach taken to its logical extreme.

And if decent conservatives want to ensure that they never again find themselves in a position of seeing their movement taken over by an ignorant, populist demagogue then they might want to stop blaming Democrats for their own self-inflicted misfortune and instead re-examine their behaviour both in government and opposition.

Was it wise, for example, to pretend to be super tough on immigration, yet ultimately do nothing to stem the flow of illegal immigrants or otherwise reform the system, simply because Republican donors had no interest in changing the status quo, with its plentiful cheap labour for corporations and affordable illegal domestic service for households?

Was it wise to continually shriek not just that Democrats wanted to impose stricter gun control but that they were actively seeking to abolish the Second Amendment? (The big push to completely outlaw guns trumpeted in GOP propaganda has been just weeks away for the past eight years now – is Obama waiting until his very last day in office to take America’s guns?)

Was it smart to prance around as the party of national security while consistently involving America in foreign conflagrations which increased anti-American sentiment, or to pose as the party of civil liberties while loudly cheerleading for the surveillance state?

Was it really such a genius move to talk endlessly about the benefits of tax cuts for ordinary Americans while focusing them overwhelmingly on the wealthy, or to cynically pretend that America’s lost manufacturing jobs could be easily brought back home in the age of globalisation and international supply chains?

At nearly every election going back to the Bill Clinton administration and probably earlier, the Republican Party has been writing rhetorical cheques that its politicians cannot or will not cash when they are either in office or a position of influential opposition, at a national or statewide level.

The Republican Party’s more excitable members need to learn that you can’t go on shrieking that the Bad Democrat is coming to take away your guns and your liberty – and then seamlessly make the transition to accusing their successor of the same sinister motivations when the Day of Tyranny never materialises – without eventually losing a degree of credibility. If I started predicting that the world is going to end at the coming weekend, and then just roll my prediction forward by seven days each weekend that I am proven wrong, pretty soon people will stop listening to me.

When Barack Obama took office the Democratic Party  enjoyed two years controlling the White House and both houses of Congress, and yet the nation’s guns remained un-confiscated then, and are still un-confiscated now. And eventually these panicked claims start to look more and more like the cynical politicking that they are.

Republicans should take note when it comes to their incessant scaremongering about the Second Amendment. At this rate, if and when gun rights are under real imminent danger, we will have been warned so many times before that we will not take the threat seriously.

But this is much bigger than any one issue. Unfortunately, one gets the nasty feeling that the Republicans are not learning anything from the Trumpian calamity which they have brought down upon themselves. This blog can quite easily picture another four years of the same hysterical End Times opposition to a President Hillary Clinton – “She’s coming for your guns! I mean it, I’m serious this time!” – and the wholehearted embrace of any conspiracy theory or fringe movement so long as it delivers short term political gain and/or helps to sell more gold coins to paranoid seniors. And what fresh horror will be conjured next, after VP candidate Sarah Palin and presidential candidate Donald Trump?

Depressing? Certainly – America has never needed principled, true conservative leadership more than at this time. But the tragedy is entirely self-inflicted. The Republican Party summoned some viscerally unpleasant forces in its effort to torment the outgoing president and thwart his agenda. Now that they are being consumed by the very forces that they unleashed, can anyone really begrudge Barack Obama his moment of sweet schadenfreude?

 

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Top Image: Pixabay

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Shameless Conservatives Try To Blame The Rise Of Donald Trump On Barack Obama And The Democrats

Anti-Trump conservatives need to stop trying to blame Democrats for the rise of Donald Trump, and take a good look in the mirror instead

While it is admirable that many prominent American conservatives are refusing on principle to support Donald Trump, far fewer seem introspective or self-critical enough to consider their own role in fuelling the mania which brought a reality TV star to the cusp of the presidency.

Latest to hop aboard the “look what the Democrats made us do” bandwagon is a writer I like and respect very much, the National Review’s Jonah Goldberg. There is much to admire in Goldberg’s continued and principled criticism of Donald Trump, but he goes too far when he tries to shift blame for the rise of Trump away from where it belongs – the hysterical and alarmist nature of Republican opposition to President Obama – and create an alternative universe where the dastardly Obama “trolled” the helpless GOP and effectively forced the Republican base to become frothing-at-the-mouth crazy people uniquely receptive to Trump’s message.

Goldberg writes:

Consider President Obama. One of the central insights of both the Obama campaign and administration (the difference is subtle but real) is that Obama benefits when his critics overreact. In 2008, then-political adviser David Axelrod coined the phrase “no drama Obama” to describe not only his client’s personality but his messaging. By seeming unflappable in the face of criticism, Obama comes across as presidential. The more heated the criticism, the more presidential he seems.

The thing is, Obama often intentionally provokes the conservative base. As the Washington Post’s Paul Waldman put it in January 2015, Obama “seems to come up with a new idea every couple of weeks to drive [the GOP] up a wall.” That makes him a master at trolling.

[..] Obama played a similar game with his birth certificate and the whole birther craze. He could have released his birth certificate as early as 2008, when the Mephistophelean Clinton henchman Sid Blumenthal was whispering in reporters’ ears. But Obama didn’t for years — in part because he knew the conspiracy theory would galvanize his base. It not only confirmed everything liberals wanted to hear about the Right, it also provided Obama with an endless supply of one-liners. And for a long time that worked well for Obama; he got to mock birthers and play the dignified victim.

You can probably already see the problem. When you throw out so many buckets of chum, you have no idea what kinds of creatures you’ll attract.

Obama chummed the waters for so long, he pulled in a great white shark. A man often in error but never in doubt, with a thumbless grasp of facts and a total willingness to repeat conspiracy theories, rumors, and innuendo as the truth, Trump was almost the personification of the collective id of the angrier strata of the Republican base.

It takes quite some gall to accuse Barack Obama (of all people) of fuelling the birther movement, while keeping a straight face. No other presidents in history have been forced by relentless fringe political pressure to release their birth certificate in order to prove eligibility for office, and to suggest that Obama’s understandable reluctance to rise to the conspiracy theorist bait was motivated primarily by a desire to smear the Republican Party is like blaming a homeowner you just burgled for not warning you in advance that burglary is illegal and will get you in trouble with the law.

Is Barack Obama now responsible for the welfare and fortunes of the Republican Party? Does he have some hitherto-unknown obligation to save his political foes from their own worst excesses? The idea is laughable. Republicans loved having fringe birthers on their side when it helped them storm to victory in the 2010 midterm elections – it is disingenuous in the extreme for American conservatives to pretend that birtherism was something foisted upon them by Obama himself now that it has finally become a liability.

Besides, the real roots of Donald Trump’s rise – besides the pervasive weariness with political elites in general, a phenomenon witnessed on both sides of the Atlantic – lie in the behaviour of leading conservative politicians and media personalities, and the way in which they chose to portray Obama’s centre-leftism as a unique and unprecedented socialist assault on America.

As this blog recently noted:

It was the tri-cornered hat brigade whose admirable devotion to fiscal responsibility only materialised once Barack Obama took office, and then failed to force any meaningful change in Washington despite many of their number being elected to Congress in the 2010 midterms which, who have a case to answer. They were the Great White Hope whose inevitable failure formed the third strike against the political class.

It was not the Democratic Party which fanned the flames of birtherism (and then considered a nominee for president who was born in Canada) and refused to stand up to angry constituents demanding to see a birth certificate. That was all on the Republicans. Donald Trump led that effort, and nearly the entire GOP sat back with a tub of popcorn, thinking that the circus would benefit them politically. And so it did, until their attack dog finally broke the leash and turned on its handlers.

Has Barack Obama been a decidedly left-wing and in some (though by no means all) ways unimpressive president? Yes, he has. But is he a closet Communist, a secret Muslim planning to enforce hardline Islamism on America or a hopelessly incompetent buffoon? Absolutely not. He is a centre-left politician with undeniable skills, twice elected on a centre-left platform and governing according to a centre-left approach. But in their greed to quickly win back power without doing the hard work of making their own pitch to the voters more appealing, too many Republicans were willing to tolerate and sometimes actively participate in the anti-Obama hysteria for short term political gain.

[..] Yes, the Democrats peddle in identity politics and often come down on the wrong side when it comes to favouring political correctness over freedom of speech, religion and behaviour. But it was the Republicans who opted to whip up (and profit from) blind fury about the state of the country instead of articulating a serious, coherent alternative. And in the end they were beaten at their own game. Why vote for the politician who smirks or winks when someone else is making ignorant, bigoted remarks when now you can vote for the real deal?

And again, even earlier, here:

As Barack Obama’s second term reaches its end, the size and scope of the federal government is still stubbornly large, but America has by no means transitioned into a Soviet-style planned economy. Even the hated (in right-wing circles) ObamaCare has only tinkered around the margins, funnelling a few million uninsured into some form of health coverage, inconveniently disrupting the existing coverage of a number of other people but otherwise doing nothing to change the private insurance, private provision model of American healthcare. The Second Amendment has not been substantially undermined, let alone repealed. Defence spending may be misaligned but still eclipses the rest of the world, and the US military has not been decimated. In terms of domestic policy, in other words, the world has not ended.

Has America become a libertarian paradise under President Obama? Of course not. But that’s because a Democrat won the White House and focused (as much as he could, given a spineless Democratic congressional caucus and entrenched Republican opposition) on the kind of centre-left priorities you would expect from a Democrat. And crucially, neither has America become a socialist dystopia in that time.

That’s not to say that the Republicans did not often have a point, or that they were perpetually in the wrong – in many cases, their opposition to Obama’s agenda was justified. But at all times this opposition was carried out in a shrill, alarmist and hyperbolic manner – much as British left-wingers are currently mirroring the American Tea Party with their “pass the smelling salts” horror at the thoroughly unexciting, centrist government of David Cameron.

And when you go trawling for low information votes by feeding on prejudice and stoking up concerns about the personal motivations, the loyalty and even the American-ness of the president in a childishly obstructionist scorched earth strategy, you can’t really feign surprise when the sentiments you unleash give rise to a populist demagogue like Donald Trump.

Remember, this is a political party which urged Americans in all seriousness to vote for Sarah Palin as vice president back in 2008. Sarah Palin. The Republicans have been dabbling in crazy and courting the proudly ignorant vote for decades. Donald Trump is nothing but the GOP’s longstanding approach taken to its logical extreme.

And if decent conservatives want to ensure that they never again find themselves in a position of seeing their movement taken over by an ignorant, populist demagogue then they might want to stop blaming Democrats for their own self-inflicted misfortune and instead re-examine their behaviour both in government and opposition.

Was it wise, for example, to pretend to be super tough on immigration, yet ultimately do nothing to stem the flow of illegal immigrants or otherwise reform the system, simply because Republican donors had no interest in changing the status quo, with its plentiful cheap labour for corporations and affordable illegal domestic service for households?

Was it wise to continually shriek not just that Democrats wanted to impose stricter gun control but that they were actively seeking to abolish the Second Amendment? (The big push to completely outlaw guns trumpeted in GOP propaganda has been just weeks away for the past eight years now – is Obama waiting until his very last day in office to take America’s guns?)

Was it smart to prance around as the party of national security while consistently involving America in foreign conflagrations which increased anti-American sentiment, or to pose as the party of civil liberties while loudly cheerleading for the surveillance state?

Was it really such a genius move to talk endlessly about the benefits of tax cuts for ordinary Americans while focusing them overwhelmingly on the wealthy, or to cynically pretend that America’s lost manufacturing jobs could be easily brought back home in the age of globalisation and international supply chains?

At nearly every election going back to the Bill Clinton administration and probably earlier, the Republican Party has been writing rhetorical cheques that its politicians cannot or will not cash when they are either in office or a position of influential opposition, at a national or statewide level.

They promised to be on the side of ordinary wage and salary earners, yet together with the Democrats they did nothing to address the economic stagnation of the middle class.

They ran around screaming that ObamaCare (originally a conservative think tank idea, in large part) was socialism incarnate, an evil government takeover of healthcare rather than merely a messy and flawed patch to America’s abysmal healthcare system.

They took tons of cash in campaign contributions and small donations in order to fight the Culture Wars, enriching many pundits and activists in the process, and then rode to glorious defeat on nearly all fronts.

In other words, the Republican Party was acutely vulnerable to a Trumpian takeover because they have consistently been a party of failure. They sucked at doing the things they promised their base that they would do, and they did a whole load of other things in office or opposition which their base never wanted. And still they coasted by for years, knowing that they were their supporters’ least-worst option, until a brash new arrival appeared on the scene, a stranger to Washington politics, who promised – however glibly – that instead of mere talk he would deliver decisive action.

I think this is one of those times when I see things a little more clearly and with better perspective than American conservatives like Jonah Goldberg who have been in the trenches, fighting Barack Obama from Day 1 of his presidency. Aside from eighteen instructive months in Chicago, I spent the past eight years living in Britain, where the legacy and tradition of socialism is much stronger and more pervasive than it is in the United States.

In Britain we make the NHS, our nationalised healthcare system, into a ghastly national religion and worship it from dawn to dusk even as it kills people. We accept a much bigger welfare state than Americans would tolerate. Many of us actively demand a large, activist state to protect us from the consequences of our own decisions. Even our nominally conservative party supports many of these things.

And while I may not have the painful first-hand experience of socialism as someone from, say, Venezuela, I am surrounded by enough monuments to it for Republican wailings that Evil ObamaCare is going to destroy the “greatest healthcare system on the face of the earth” and institute socialist “death panels” to dispatch infirm Americans as the opportunistic, partisan rabble-rousing that it is. Those conservatives screeching about Obama’s plot to force “socialism” on America need to take a vacation in Venezuela, and then come back and moderate their language.

As proclaimed conservatives, the Republicans are supposedly the party of personal responsibility. Well, Donald Trump is 100% the responsibility of conservative politicians and pundits, and their scorched earth approach to opposing President Obama’s agenda. It was never the job of Barack Obama to protect the Republicans from their own worst excesses, though the GOP has done a remarkable job of “socialising” the consequences and spreading the cost of their greed and idiocy across the entire country in the risk of a potential Trump presidency.

Jonah Goldberg and other conservative thinkers peddling the “look what the Democrats made us do” defence are better than this. Donald Trump is the product of decades of establishment and conservative failure to address the needs, concerns and aspirations of millions of traditional Republican voters. And rather than blaming a Democratic president for failing to keep their own supporters in check, influential conservatives should hold themselves accountable for their part in this failure.

Hopefully the price of their failure will not be a Donald Trump presidency. But if Hillary Clinton does prevail in November, Republicans should be aware that opposing her in the same shrill and apocalyptic manner as they opposed Obama may see the donations come rolling in to conservative candidates and Super PACs, but it will leave them acutely vulnerable to takeover by someone far worse than even Donald Trump in 2020.

In other words, this would be a very good time for American conservatives to learn the right lessons from their own recent history.

 

Donald Trump Hat - Make America Great Again

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ObamaCare, Four Years After Signing

obamacare

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – otherwise known as the ACA or ObamaCare – was signed into law four years ago this week after tortuous rounds of planning, posturing, arm-twisting and televised negotiating in Washington.

And while many of the features (to say either ‘benefits’ or ‘drawbacks’ immediately displays one’s political bias) of ObamaCare are only now taking effect, this is a good moment to take stock, step back from the thrust and parry of partisan bickering and reflect on what has actually happened since America decided – with the GOP kicking and screaming defiance to the bitter end – that as a country they would no longer tolerate the spectacle of millions of people without health insurance or reliable access to preventive medicine.

Tea Party darling Ted Cruz, the junior senator from Texas – who fancies himself an intellectual heavyweight and a man of deep principle – took the opportunity to reflect by posing a question to the public on his Facebook page:

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Perhaps surprisingly, given the likely political leanings of a Ted Cruz facebook follower, the majority – the real, undeniable, vast majority – of responses to Cruz’s question are unabashedly, overwhelmingly in favour of ObamaCare.

The following responses are the most recent as of the time of writing, and are entirely representative of the rest:

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The warmth of these responses to the effect of ObamaCare – some from staunch Republicans – is quite arresting, and really reveals the gap between the GOP rhetoric on healthcare reform and the way it is perceived by many of those directly impacted.

This is not to say that there are not dissenters among those who answered Ted Cruz’s question on facebook – there are plenty. But the fact that they are in such a minority (and that they often failed to directly answer the question in terms of impact on their finances or lives) again exposes a fundamental weakness in the Republican party’s full-throated opposition to the bill.

While there are certainly – as with any major legislation – those who have lost out as a result of ObamaCare, either through having to change their healthcare plan, pay a higher premium or lose some other benefit – for every one of these cases, there seem to be other people being rescued from catastrophic personal and financial ruin or uninsurability. It is quite telling that when Ted Cruz opened the floor to the public to make their voices heard – without the controlling hand of opinion pollsters or leading questions in focus groups – the message painted was overwhelmingly positive.

The GOP has long tried to paint the passing of ObamaCare as the sudden imposition of socialism on America (conveniently forgetting huge programs such as MediCare for seniors, which are real, tangible socialism in action) against the will of the people and the founding values of the nation. In GOP-world, everyone is a small business owner or unspecified “wealth creator” being taxed to death in order to fund this extravagant giveaway by the “takers”. The real world, as glimpsed through the windows of Ted Cruz’s Facebook page, appears to contradict this worldview.

With ObamaCare, as with most big policies, there is merit in the arguments of both supporters and detractors. President Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement is not without multiple flaws, but those who oppose it undermine themselves by the fact that they made no effort to tackle the glaring problems in America’s healthcare system – sometimes laughably called the “greatest in the world” by ignorant people who have never set foot outside the United States – before Obama took office, and then decided to adopt a position of total, unwavering obstruction once reform efforts got underway – even denying and repudiating policies and ideas once favoured by their own side as conservative reforms.

The Republicans could very well win total control of Congress at the midterms this November, and then go on to win back the presidency in 2016. If they do so, they will have to decide – and admit to the world – how much of their opposition to ObamaCare is real and principled, and how much was political posturing and pandering to the base. And the measure of this will be the provisions that they seek to repeal and those which they keep.

If the Republicans want to be a serious party of government again – and sadly, there is currently very little sign that they do, even though America sorely needs a sane right-wing voice as part of her political discourse again – they will have to confront people like those who shared their positive stories of ObamaCare on Ted Cruz’s Facebook wall, and tell them precisely which of their newfound securities will be ripped away, and why.

Over 7 million Americans have now signed up for health insurance through the various ObamaCare exchanges. If the Republican Party is to regain power, it must face a political day of reckoning with each and every one of them.

Sarah Palin Loses It

The headline seemed too implausible, too sensationalist to be true, but you can’t make stuff like this up – Sarah Palin called on people to “bomb Obamacare” as her political action committee released their latest anti health reform advertisement:

Palin rails against Obamacare in her usual eloquent, measured tones.
Palin rails against Obamacare in her usual eloquent, measured tones.

The 2+ minute long video is available to view on YouTube here:

 

I comprehensively “refudiated” Sarah Palin’s “death panel” claims on this blog a year ago, as did every other sentient person on the internet, so there is no need to cover this old territory. So where to start with this latest deliberately provocative outburst by the half-term governor from Alaska?

Perhaps with the fact that the GOP-led House of Representatives has now voted 40 times to repeal ObamaCare, each time in the full knowledge that the repeal would never pass the Democratic-held Senate, let alone be signed by President Obama.

Or maybe the fact that Obamacare (or the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, to use the correct title) is President Obama’s signature domestic legislative accomplishment, he campaigned on a platform of health reform in 2008 and won re-election by a significant popular and electoral college majority in 2012 after having brought it to fruition.

Nor has the “grassroots tsunami” against the bill, invoked by Senator Rand Paul, materialised in any meaningful way. Polls continue to show the American public divided in support of the word Obamacare itself (a testimony to Republican misinformation and scare tactics), but broadly supportive of the various measures contained within the bill.

And so apparently the only recourse left to Palin and her legion of fact-averse followers is to dust off the violent, revolutionary rhetoric as though Obama were King George reincarnate.

I make no apology for always assuming the worst about Sarah Palin’s motives, so my theory for this bizarre use of phrasing in her appeal for a popular revolt against Obamacare is that she deliberately used the word “bomb” in the knowledge that the fiftieth anniversary of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing was fast approaching, hoping to get a rise out of offended liberals who would then accuse her of race-baiting or racial insensitivity, allowing her to play her patented Palin Persecution Card and receive even more unearned air time.

If you think that this is a harsh accusation to level against someone, recall that Palin has accused the president of the United States of “palling around with terrorists”, treason and a litany of other crimes and misdemeanors. Accusing Palin of being a sneaky, calculating, insensitive charlatan is pretty mild by comparison.

First we had this...
First we had this…

First we had the gun sights over Democratic-held congressional districts that Sarah Palin’s PAC was targeting in the 2010 midterms. Looking at this action in isolation, I can understand and forgive; showing literal targets over parts of the map that Republicans want to target politically does not seem unreasonable or violent to me, and I felt that the left-wing furore and attempts to link the imagery to the Gabrielle Giffords shooting in Arizona were craven and opportunistic.

But there is no comparable popular imagery relating to a bomb. We don’t talk about bombing a goal that we want to accomplish in the way that we might talk about targeting a goal or an aspiration. The word “bomb” has connotations only of violence and terrorism.

Sarah Palin, of course, does not wish for any literal bombs to be detonated in opposition to Obamacare, and would doubtless be horrified and appalled if one of her supporters were to read her words too literally and actually start blowing things up. But she is quite happy to use a charged, loaded word – a word associated only with war and terrorism – in relation to the US healthcare debate, to ensure that her fading political voice gains more prominence.

It doesn’t make Palin a terrorist supporter. But it does reveal her to be a shrewd, conniving, opportunistic and (still) dangerous political presence, willing to say and do almost anything to demonstrate her opposition to President Obama’s policies and legislative accomplishments.

Which, of course, we all already knew.

Unimpeachable

The blogger MyKeyStrokes writes an excellent piece trying to dissect the American right wing’s newfound, fruitless obsession with the idea of impeaching President Obama.

Yeah, that's not going to happen.
Yeah, that’s not going to happen.

Essentially, those elected GOP officials and conservative pundits who peddle this impeachment talk know that there is zero chance of making this outcome a reality – but of course, that was never their aim:

Sometimes politics is like high-stakes poker. If you look around the table after a few hands and you can’t tell who’s the pigeon, citizen, chances are it’s you: the guy who plunked down $26.95 for a book called Impeachable Offenses: The Case for Removing Barack Obama from Office.

Yeah, you with the “Impeach Obama” bumpersticker on your car. The guy standing on a freeway overpass waving a “Honk for Impeachment” sign. You may as well go around in a little bird’s nest hat, like Donald Duck’s eccentric friend Gyro Gearloose.

Because it not only ain’t going to happen, but the people peddling this nonsense don’t even want it to happen. Not really. They’re just making a buck off people who can’t count and running a classic misdirection play.

Yes. Making a quick buck by whipping scared people into a furious rage, and then either selling them products that help to reinforce their End Times beliefs (Obama wants to destroy America! We are now a socialist country!) or leveraging their support to achieve higher political office.

As MyKeyStrokes sees it, however, this is potentially good news for any centrist or Democratic-leaning voter, because the more preoccupied the GOP becomes with the alluring mirage of seeing President Obama impeached, the more they inadvertently reveal that they have given up hope of passing any of their agenda (see the 40 pointless votes to repeal ObamaCare in the House of Representatives as just one shining example):

Like it or not, the possibility of repealing “Obamacare” ended when the Supreme Court found it Constitutional and the president won re-election. You’d think after 40 — count ’em, 40 — fruitless votes to abort the law, that message might start to sink in. We still have majority rule in this country.

But no, it hasn’t sunk in at all. Like a baseball team demanding to play the eighth game of the World Series, GOP hardliners have come up with yet another plan to force the president’s hand. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas has called for something he infelicitously called a “grassroots tsunami” to make Obama relent.

Whether the GOP’s current malaise is a good or bad thing largely depends on one’s own political leanings, or the importance that one attaches to having a functioning two-party system where neither party is beholden to an intractable, crazy political base. Personally, as someone who advocates for smaller government and empowering the citizen over the state (and consequently very much against the recent assaults on the First and Fourth Amendments by the Bush and Obama administrations), I find it disheartening to find myself frequently having to side with Democrats because the other side are, more often than not, acting in a totally nihilistic, immature manner.

It was bad enough when this childish behaviour (“I didn’t get my way, so now I’m taking my toys and leaving, and refusing to cooperate or compromise in the business of government”) was limited to the House of Representatives, but now we see this reality-denial infecting the Senate as well. Both Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are rising stars in the GOP, and both have some degree of promise. Certainly neither of them are stupid. And yet they both seek to burnish their conservative credentials by playing chicken with the US debt ceiling again, and failing to call out the crazies from among their supporters who have persuaded themselves to believe that a twice-elected president pursuing his political agenda is somehow akin to “high crimes and misdemeanors” worthy of impeachment:

At a recent town hall meeting in Muskogee, Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, ostensibly a personal friend of the president’s, answered a constituent’s question about impeachment by allowing as how “those are serious things, but we’re in serious times. And I don’t have the legal background to know if that rises to ‘high crimes and misdemeanors,’ but I think you’re getting perilously close.”

Campaigning in Texas, Senator Cruz responded to a constituent who asked, “Why don’t we impeach him?” by saying, “It’s a good question.”

No. It isn’t a good question. It’s a dumb question. Ted Cruz graduated from Princeton University and Harvard Law School, and assuming he wasn’t high during his constitutional law lectures, understands perfectly well that Obama has not committed any impeachable offense any more than have the previous eight or so presidents.

cruzpalin

But impeachment is not the goal. The business of governing through compromise is not the goal. Even the full enactment of their declared conservative agenda is not the goal (Republicans will rail against dependence on government but would never risk the wrath of the AARP by voting to abolish the socialised medicine that is MediCare). So what is the goal?

Money and/or Political Power.

And all of those saps “honking to impeach” Obama are playing right into their hands.