Posts Tagged ‘President Obama’

So at the Republican debate last Saturday night, Donald Trump went hard at Jeb Bush in his usual aggressive, bullying style. “Obviously, the war in Iraq is a big, fat mistake, all right? George Bush made a mistake. We can make mistakes. But that one was a beauty. We should have never been in Iraq. We have destabilized the Middle East.” And, “The World Trade Center came down during your brother’s reign. Remember that.” Trump continued that line of thought on the Sunday talk shows, and he’s kept it up on Twitter today:

Trump was booed at the debate, but the lingering question is, will his performance hurt him in South Carolina? I suspect not, and the reason is that Trump is speaking some unspoken truths that many conservatives know to be true in their gut. Deep down, they at least suspect that they were lied to about the Iraq war, and they know it was a mistake. They actually do know that the World Trade Center towers came down during the George W. Bush administration. They do know that no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq. And yet, they stick to the party line. Why?

Well, first of all, to begin questioning the party line would be to admit that they themselves were wrong. That’s a problem for people who pride themselves on being, say, intelligence analysts. But it’s also because the thought leaders within their bubble continue to insist that the World Trade Center bombing was actually President Clinton’s fault, that the Iraq War was necessary because Saddam Hussein posed an existential threat to the United States, and that WMD actually were found, just like President Bush said they would (and even though President Bush has admitted they weren’t found). So it’s easy to just stick to the party line and keep the doubts beneath the surface, left unspoken. It’s a form of peer pressure.

We need to remember that a lot of conservatives have isolated themselves from anyone they think may be a liberal. This includes most of mainstream thought, not just true liberals. A perfect example is our friends at Blogs For Victory. Not only are they afraid to have anonymous discussions with individuals who challenge their opinions, their fear even extends to their daily, non-Internet lives. We know this because of the many times they have explained that they no longer speak to friends, or even relatives, who they deem to be “liberals.” They simply can’t stomach the thought of their worldview being challenged. Of course, the biggest challenge to them has been the election and re-election of Barack Obama. Sometimes these conservatives explain that they actually have healthy disagreement amongst themselves, but in saying so, they leave out what truly unites them, which is their shared hatred of President Obama and their belief that he is an illegitimate president.

This doesn’t mean that they aren’t aware of the mistakes of the Bush presidency–they’re just not willing to accept them being pointing them out by people who aren’t their thought leaders. Now along comes Donald Trump, who, at the Republican debate of all places, just comes right out and says it: Bush lied, the Iraq war was a horrible mistake, etc. Yeah, some people booed, but a lot of them know he’s right, even if they’re afraid to say so. An actual Republican candidate is giving legitimacy to some unaired thoughts.

They also believe he’s right when he says that Social Security and Medicare should be saved, not slashed. This particularly resonates with many of the bubble people because, well, they do or will shortly depend on Social Security and Medicare. See, conservative politicians can carry on about the Constitution and all, but conservative voters are a bit more pragmatic. It’s just that they generally won’t deviate from the party line until someone representing the party gives them permission to. And that’s what Donald Trump is doing. Conservatives would never accept it from a Democrat, but Donald Trump is running as a Republican, so he’s giving voice to their private thoughts.

You’ll continue to hear the usual conservative thought leaders bashing Trump for his apostasy. But silently, conservative voters are hearing things from Trump that they’ve thought about in their private moments–thoughts they wouldn’t admit to other conservatives, and would certainly never admit to a liberal–that is, if they even talk to any liberals anymore. But they do vote. We’ll soon see if Trump gets nicked by his outbursts or not.

So it didn’t take more than an hour or two after Antonin Scalia’s death for Republican leaders to insist that President Obama has no right to nominate a successor to Scalia. It’s all nakedly political, of course, the hypocrisy clear in chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley’s shifting views.

Marco Rubio insists that President Obama, with nearly a year to go in his four-year term, is already a “lame duck” president. Look, we all know what this really is: Republicans have never accepted the legitimacy of President Barack Obama. As Amanda Marcotte writes, “Everyone knows the real reason is the conservative base has never accepted that a black Democrat could be a legitimately elected President, and after 7 years of having to live with a President the majority of white voters voted against, Republicans are going to use this as a chance to throw a nationwide temper tantrum.”

But this does set up an interesting dynamic to the 2016 presidential election, as Marcotte explains:

This is especially delicious since the only Republican candidate who has a chance to walk away from this unscathed — maybe even finding a way to turn it to his advantage— is Donald Trump. The two candidates who are currently best positioned to unseat Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, are both senators and both have indicated their willingness to join their fellow Republicans in the Senate in blocking whoever Obama nominates, just because he nominated them. The bad loser vibe, where Republicans punish not just Obama but the whole country because they refuse to accept he won the 2012 election fair and square, will rub off on them.

Trump, however, has a real chance here to score some points. Vague promises that he will straighten up D.C. and end all this pointless bickering and gridlock— because he’s a winner who gets things done or whatever empty braggadocio he wants to throw out— and he can set himself apart from Cruz and Rubio, all without actually having to commit to either offending the Obama-hating base or having to endorse the astounding immaturity that has infected every last member of the congressional Republican caucus.

All of which is simply fantastic for whatever Democrat wins the nomination, of course, but there will likely be down ticket effects, too. Every single Democrat running for Congress will be able to point to this story about Republican-caused gridlock and promise that electing them will help ungum the works. It’ll be a simple, effective pitch that happens to have the benefit of being completely true.

Anyway, more folks weigh in on who they think President Obama will nominate for the vacancy caused by the death of Antonin Scalia.

Robert Reich claims to have inside information as to the administration’s thinking:

My mole in the White House tells me Obama will nominate 46-year-old Judge Sri Srinivasan, an Indian-American jurist who Obama nominated in 2013 to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit — and the Senate confirmed unanimously. Having confirmed him unanimously just three years ago, it would be difficult (but hardly impossible) for Republicans to oppose him now. (Twelve former Solicitors General, including Republican notables as Paul Clement and Kenneth Starr had endorsed his confirmation. Moreover, the D.C. Circuit has long been a Supreme Court farm team – Scalia himself, along with John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg were judges there before ascending to the Supreme Court.)

But is Srinivasan progressive? He had been Obama’s principal Deputy Solicitor General before the nomination, arguing Supreme Court cases in support of affirmative action and against Indiana’s restrictive voter ID law, for example. But this record doesn’t prove much. (Having once worked as an assistant Solicitor General, I know the inhabitants of that office will argue whatever halfway respectable arguments the Justice Department and, indirectly, the President, wants made.)

Before the Obama administration, Srinivasan worked for five years in George W. Bush’s Justice Department. Prior to that, as an attorney in the private firm of O’Melveny & Myers, he defended Exxon Mobil in a lawsuit brought by Indonesians who accused the company’s security forces of torture, murder, and other violations against their people; successfully represented a newspaper that fired its employees for unionizing; and defended Enron’s former CEO, Jeffrey Skilling, later convicted for financial fraud. But in these instances, too, it could be argued he was just representing clients. Another clue: After graduating Stanford Law School in 1995, Srinivasan clerked for two Republican-appointed jurists – Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III, and Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor – both of whom were considered moderate.

Since he became a judge on the D.C. Circuit, he hasn’t tipped his hand. But I discovered one morsel of information that might interest you: In 2000, he worked on Al Gore’s legal team in the infamous Supreme Court case of “Bush v. Gore.”
My suspicion is Obama couldn’t do better than Srinivasan. No other nominee with get a majority of Senate votes. What do you think?

Then there’s the outside-the-box theory that Obama should nominate Nevada Republican governor Brian Sandoval:

Sandoval began his political career in Nevada’s state assembly, before serving on the state gaming commission and as attorney general. He was nominated to a seat on the U.S. District Court by President George W. Bush, on the recommendation of Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) — who may have worried that Sandoval was plotting a bid for Reid’s Senate seat. Sandoval won confirmation by an 89-0 margin; four years later, he quit to run for governor.

The first Hispanic governor in Nevada’s history, Sandoval won re-election in 2014 with more than 70 percent of the vote, after Democrats failed to find a serious candidate to take on the long-shot challenge. He has the political experience of Earl Warren, and the combined political and judicial experience of Sandra Day O’Connor, both of whom were nominated for the high court by Republican presidents — albeit in very different eras.

But Sandoval does not fit the mold of traditional Republican, even in Western states where the party embraces a more libertarian bent. He is unabashedly pro-choice, and he was the only Republican governor to both expand Medicaid and establish a state-run health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act. Though he opposed Obama’s signature domestic achievement from the start, Sandoval has said that it became the law of the land after the Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality.

In choosing Sandoval, Obama would have the opportunity to cement another part of his legacy. The candidate who ran under the banner of hope and change is also the candidate who paid for more negative advertisements than any other in history. His fundraising ability virtually single-handedly rendered irrelevant the system of federal campaign-matching funds. Obama is, without doubt, as political as most of his predecessors.

And picking a Hispanic Republican who would likely be blocked by a Republican Senate would have starkly political consequences, especially in the months leading to a presidential election. Republicans are already on thin ice with Hispanic voters, who have voted increasingly for Democrats in recent years: George W. Bush won 44 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004. Mitt Romney won just 27 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2012.

David Brooks, of all people, states what has become painfully obvious so far in the 2016 presidential election cycle: “I miss Barack Obama.” Not his policies, of course, because Brooks is to the right philosophically of the president. But as Brooks says, “Many of the traits of character and leadership that Obama possesses, and that maybe we have taken too much for granted, have suddenly gone missing or are in short supply.” I particularly like the line about this year’s candidates “wallow[ing] in the pornography of pessimism, to conclude that this country is on the verge of complete collapse.”

Do any of today’s candidates project an air of optimism? Maybe Trump comes close, but only in the sense that this country is already so monumentally stupid, weak, and screwed up that it will take a bully like himself to fix it. Christie? Same story, but more articulately expressed. Rubio? A wannabe. Cruz? As Brooks asks, would you want Cruz on the board of your community groups or charities? Carson? He might have once been a brilliant brain surgeon, but he’s simply out of his depth as a national politician, eagerly gobbling up every conspiracy theory put in front of him. Bush? He had the potential to come across as an actual compassionate human being, but he got steamrolled by the rest of the bullies. Sanders? Sadly, he also sounds a one-note symphony of pessimism, only from the left.

In any event, I’m post the rest of the article because it’s worth reading.

The first and most important of these [traits of character and leadership] is basic integrity. The Obama administration has been remarkably scandal-free. Think of the way Iran-contra or the Lewinsky scandals swallowed years from Reagan and Clinton.

We’ve had very little of that from Obama. He and his staff have generally behaved with basic rectitude. Hillary Clinton is constantly having to hold these defensive press conferences when she’s trying to explain away some vaguely shady shortcut she’s taken, or decision she has made, but Obama has not had to do that.

He and his wife have not only displayed superior integrity themselves, they have mostly attracted and hired people with high personal standards. There are all sorts of unsightly characters floating around politics, including in the Clinton camp and in Gov. Chris Christie’s administration. This sort has been blocked from team Obama.

Second, a sense of basic humanity. Donald Trump has spent much of this campaign vowing to block Muslim immigration. You can only say that if you treat Muslim Americans as an abstraction. President Obama, meanwhile, went to a mosque, looked into people’s eyes and gave a wonderful speech reasserting their place as Americans.

He’s exuded this basic care and respect for the dignity of others time and time again. Let’s put it this way: Imagine if Barack and Michelle Obama joined the board of a charity you’re involved in. You’d be happy to have such people in your community. Could you say that comfortably about Ted Cruz? The quality of a president’s humanity flows out in the unexpected but important moments.

Third, a soundness in his decision-making process. Over the years I have spoken to many members of this administration who were disappointed that the president didn’t take their advice. But those disappointed staffers almost always felt that their views had been considered in depth.

Obama’s basic approach is to promote his values as much as he can within the limits of the situation. Bernie Sanders, by contrast, has been so blinded by his values that the reality of the situation does not seem to penetrate his mind.

Take health care. Passing Obamacare was a mighty lift that led to two gigantic midterm election defeats. As Megan McArdle pointed out in her Bloomberg View column, Obamacare took coverage away from only a small minority of Americans. Sanderscare would take employer coverage away from tens of millions of satisfied customers, destroy the health insurance business and levy massive new tax hikes. This is epic social disruption.

To think you could pass Sanderscare through a polarized Washington and in a country deeply suspicious of government is to live in intellectual fairyland. President Obama may have been too cautious, especially in the Middle East, but at least he’s able to grasp the reality of the situation.

Fourth, grace under pressure. I happen to find it charming that Marco Rubio gets nervous on the big occasions — that he grabs for the bottle of water, breaks out in a sweat and went robotic in the last debate. It shows Rubio is a normal person. And I happen to think overconfidence is one of Obama’s great flaws. But a president has to maintain equipoise under enormous pressure. Obama has done that, especially amid the financial crisis. After Saturday night, this is now an open question about Rubio.

Fifth, a resilient sense of optimism. To hear Sanders or Trump, Cruz and Ben Carson campaign is to wallow in the pornography of pessimism, to conclude that this country is on the verge of complete collapse. That’s simply not true. We have problems, but they are less serious than those faced by just about any other nation on earth.

People are motivated to make wise choices more by hope and opportunity than by fear, cynicism, hatred and despair. Unlike many current candidates, Obama has not appealed to those passions.

No, Obama has not been temperamentally perfect. Too often he’s been disdainful, aloof, resentful and insular. But there is a tone of ugliness creeping across the world, as democracies retreat, as tribalism mounts, as suspiciousness and authoritarianism take center stage.

Obama radiates an ethos of integrity, humanity, good manners and elegance that I’m beginning to miss, and that I suspect we will all miss a bit, regardless of who replaces him.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/09/opinion/i-miss-barack-obama.html

A “deep bench” update…

I didn’t watch the entire Republican debate last night, but I watched enough. Most people are talking about the poor showing of Marco Rubio, particularly his moment of “flat out panic and mental paralysis,” repeating the same phrase over and over: “Let’s dispel with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows exactly what he’s doing.” As far as repetition, many observers have noted for a while that Marco’s debate performances mostly consist of regurgitating the same old talking points he uses in his stump speeches, which also vary little from one giving to the next.

But let’s also remember that Rubio used to claim that President Obama didn’t know what he’s doing. Now, he can’t stop himself from repeating that Obama does know what he’s doing. Marco, Marco, Marco… Do you have any convictions that you will stick to? Of course, this is the fundamental problem of conservative Obama hatred: They can’t decide whether he’s an incompetent, bumbling fool, or a devious, brilliant schemer bent on intentionally destroying the United States. They don’t even bother acknowledging their inconsistency; that would require some introspection on their part.

Anyway, I’ve long thought that Rubio comes across as a poor imitation of Barack Obama–leaving aside their ideological differences, of course. I mean, let’s face it, the absurd conservative criticism of Obama–not vetted, uses a teleprompter–just falls apart in the face of Rubio. And David Frum, in a series of tweets last night, made that point devastating clear. Below are the tweets in text form, but you can go here to see them in their original form.

Rubio’s 4x repeat was not an act of excessive message discipline. It was a display of panic at a moment of uncertainty.

Faced with a genuinely new situation, Rubio could not figure out what to do… and so stumbled into doing precisely the wrong thing.

The bug question about Rubio is: can this untested novice cope with the demands of the presidency?

Voters have pitifully little information about hi. In this way, Rubio is NOT like Obama at all.

The question D[emocratic] voters were asking in 2008 was: who’d opposed the Iraq war? Obama had little record – bit was the right record for Ds.

On the central question of 2016, immigration, Rubio go the answer massively wrong from a Republican point of view.

Phyllis Schlafly here massively documents how wrong (from an R point of view) Rubio was http://www.eagleforum.org/immigration/rubio-record.html

Worse, Rubio’s explanations re immigration raise questions about how well he ever understood what he was doing.

Was he merely a personable front man? Was he outwitted by Chuck Schumer? What did he learn from what he himself now describes as error?

Rubio has gotten away with his glibness because of persistent R under-estimation of Barack Obama.

Candidate Obama in 2008 was dangerously untested yes, but he was obviously a man of profound depths.

Obama had laid out his whole philosophy of life in a massive, highly self-aware and very revealing memoir.

But yes, the lack of experience in Obama was grounds for worry. That’s why Obama added Biden to the ticket.

With Rubio, though, Republicans are asked to nominate an unknown quantity – wrong by his own admission on his most important decision.

Republicans are asked to nominate an unknown quantity who has not offered useful information to predict the kind of president he’d be.

Last night, they got a maybe unfair glimpse of the kind of president he’d be when the pressure was on.

It was unnerving – and what has Rubio offered over this campaign to calm those nerves when they twitch?

The world instantly tests new presidents. Nobody can be fully read. But some are more read; some are less – and less is dangerous.

“I have never in my life witnessed a more whiny human being than this president.”
–Sean Hannity on his Fox News show, Nov. 3.

Evidently he has never listened to himself, because all he does is whine. It’s his signature characteristic.

Hannity was whining tonight about President Obama mocking the Republicans about their fear of having to respond to tough questions from debate moderators after playing a clip described below:

“Have you noticed that everyone of these candidates say, ‘Obama’s weak. Putin’s kicking sand in his face. When I talk to Putin, he’s going to straighten out,'” Obama said, impersonating a refrain among Republican candidates that he’s allowed Russian President Vladimir Putin too much leeway.

“Then it turns out they can’t handle a bunch of CNBC moderators at the debate. Let me tell you, if you can’t handle those guys, then I don’t think the Chinese and the Russians are going to be too worried about you,” Obama said.

Sean Hannity: The least self-aware human being on television.

Ezra Klein tells it like it is tonight.

[O]ne way or another, Republicans need to decide what to do with the 11 million unauthorized immigrants living in the country now. They need to take away Obama’s single strongest argument — that this is a crisis, and that congressional Republicans don’t have an answer and won’t let anyone else come up with one.

Republicans aren’t just the opposition party anymore. They are, arguably, the governing party — they will soon control the House, the Senate, the Supreme Court, most state legislatures, and more governorships. And the governing party needs to solve — or at least propose solutions — to the nation’s problems. And that means the Republican policy on immigration needs to be something more than opposing Obama’s immigration policies. It needs to be something more than vague noises about border security.

This isn’t a problem made up by Obama. It’s math. There are 11 million unauthorized immigrants living in the country right now. Congress allocates enough money to deport roughly 400,000 of them annually. Our policy towards the 10.6 million unauthorized immigrants we’re not deporting is that we don’t have a policy. Democrats support a path to citizenship. Republicans don’t support anything.

“Republicans don’t support anything.”

Actually, that’s not quite right. Since 2008, Republicans have supported one thing: Stopping President Obama–and by extension, the rest of the country–from solving problems. Because in their eyes, he’s an illegitimate president. To compromise or work with him in any manner would be to confer to him some legitimacy, even if only a tiny bit. And that is one thing Republicans have not been willing to do.

That, really, is Obama’s advantage right now. Even if you think he’s going too far, he at least wants to solve the problem. Republicans don’t seem to want to do anything except stop Obama from solving the problem. That’s not a winning position. More to the point, it’s not a responsible one.

It’s worth reading Klein’s entire post. It’s short.

From the Weekly Standard:

House speaker John Boehner told President Obama at a White House meeting last Friday to give the House “one more chance” to pass a bill on immigration. Boehner referenced this conversation at the House Republican conference meeting Thursday morning, according to sources in the room.

Geez, he sounds like a child. Or maybe a bully who, when finally confronted, begs everyone to be cool because he didn’t mean to hurt anyone. Speaker Boehner’s been sitting on a bill for year that he refuses to put up for a vote, because he knows that it would pass if he did.

One House member in Thursday’s GOP conference meeting says Boehner said his message to the president was: “Just give us one more chance to pass an immigration bill.” Another member says those weren’t the House speaker’s exact words but confirmed Boehner mentioned requesting the president hold off on taking executive action.

Give them one more chance? Seriously, why would anyone believe them?

Now Republicans are talking about government shutdowns and impeachment. That’ll go over well. Republicans act like they’re powerless to do anything else–like actually taking up legislation, the thing they were voted into office to do. But nah, that’s antithetical to their true intentions, which is to reject anything President Obama might agree with because, you know, it would give him some legitimacy. And if there’s one thing Republicans have worked tireless at for six years, it’s to deny President Obama legitimacy.

On the other hand, you might almost think President Obama was baiting them into stupid behavior, but nah, conservatives know he’s just not very smart; certainly not smart enough to do that.

in the meantime, the thought of John Boehner begging (probably crying, too) does make me chuckle.

Mr. President, I promise I'll do better if you just give me one more chance. This time I mean it.

Mr. President, I promise I’ll do better if you just give me one more chance. This time I mean it.

Beyond words. Beyond a thousand words.

Yeah, that’s John McCain in 2010, gloating about Iraq. An, um, interesting contrast from what he’s saying today.

Can you imagine McCain and Palin in office? Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. Once upon a time, I had respect for Senator McCain. That changed in 2008, when he revealed himself to have no principles at all other than a burning desire to be president of the United States. The longer his career goes on, the more he appears to be an American tragedy rather than a hero. The only thing he’s really good at any longer is getting himself on TV, which is richly ironic considering he once accused then Senator Obama of being nothing but a mega-celebrity in a 2008 campaign ad.

Why on earth does anyone give this man any credibility?

Joe Conason has a spot-on article at National Memo today. It’s worth quoting the entire thing, but just go read it. Aside from McCain and company’s faulty memory — “[W]hen Republican senators leap up and start barking about Obama’s refusal to leave troops on the ground, they either don’t remember what actually happened or – sadly but more likely – hope to deceive this country’s amnesia-addled voters” — Conason rightly reminds readers just how craven these people are.

Neither McCain nor any of the other trash-talking statesmen on the Republican side has much useful advice to offer the president. They say we shouldn’t have pulled our troops out, but they sure don’t want to send them back in. Drop some bombs on the jihadist camps, they suggest – knowing very well that won’t do much to clean up this horrific mess.

Still they insist on talking about Iraq, loudly and constantly, as if someone else created the mess and they have the answers. They need to be reminded just as loudly that it is their mess and they still have no idea what to do.

Americans should try to remember how this happened – even if the disgraced figures who promoted the invasion of Iraq will never accept responsibility for squandering trillions of American dollars, thousands of American lives, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives for what could most charitably be called a massive, irreparable blunder. Never mind the nonsense about the weapons of mass destruction – which nobody has yet found there, by the way. Absolutely none of the predictions about Iraq by the neocons in and around the Bush administration proved accurate. None of their strategies provided real development or security. And all of their grand schemes for regional stability and democracy simply crumbled.

Instead of serving as a sturdy bulwark against extremism, the Shia-dominated government of Iraq immediately allied itself with the neighboring mullah regime in Iran. The curse of sectarian warfare, famously dismissed by William Kristol as a chimera, has exploded into a continuous catastrophic reality that threatens regional security and may create a fresh haven for terrorism.

It is hard not to wonder why anyone still listens to McCain, Kristol, and company — especially on this grave issue. But if they insist on serving up blame, let them step up first to accept their overwhelming share.

Just sayin’.