Someone needs to tell Paul Ryan that his party -- and the economic platform of austerity and plutocracy he crafted for it -- lost a national election last year. Someone also needs to tell the Wisconsin Republican that he still chairs the House Budget Committee mainly thanks to gerrymandered redistricting.
Someone clearly needs to remind him of those realities because the "vision document" he proposed on Tuesday as the Republican federal budget is only a still more extreme version of the same notions (and the same evasions) that he and Mitt Romney tried to sell without success last fall.
The difference between a natural disaster and a disaster caused by politicians is that the latter will almost always hit the poor and the obscure most heavily, while a hurricane or a flood will at least sometimes spread the suffering more evenly.
Indebted America is in danger of turning into destitute Greece, or so congressional Republicans and conservative commentators have been warning us for years now. For many reasons, this is an absurd comparison -- but it may not always be quite so ridiculous if Washington's advocates of austerity get their way
The Republicans actually want to impose Greek-style budget slashing on the United States. And the federal budget sequestration scheduled to take effect next week could represent the first serious step here toward the kind of fiscal policies that have proved so ruinous not only in Greece -- raising unemployment, destroying hope and encouraging extremism -- but across Europe.
Savvy Republicans know that something is deeply wrong with the GOP -- frequently mocked these days by Republicans themselves as "the stupid party" -- which has lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections. Some have noticed as well that their congressional majority is so widely despised -- its main achievement being historically low public approval ratings -- as to be sustainable only by gerrymandering. During the last election cycle, those fearsome Republican super PACs, funded by the overlords of Wall Street and Las Vegas, spent hundreds of millions of dollars -- with no discernible impact on an alienated electorate.
No doubt President Obama was deeply stung over the weekend to hear Dick Cheney criticize his new national security team. At a Wyoming Republican Party dinner, the former vice president briskly dismissed Obama's choices as "dismal," saying that America needs "good people" rather than the "second-rate" figures selected by the president, particularly Vietnam veteran and long-time U.S. senator Chuck Hagel, nominated by the president as Secretary of Defense.
For sage advice on security policy and personnel, after all, there is no living person whose approval could be more meaningful than Cheney. It is hard to imagine a record as profoundly impressive as that of the Bush-Cheney administration, back when everyone knew that he was really in charge of everything important -- especially the war on terrorism, the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan.
When Bill Clinton signed the Family and Medical Leave Act on Feb. 5, 1993 almost exactly 20 years ago as the first legislative act of his presidency, its establishment as law marked a progressive victory after nearly a decade of ferocious opposition by corporate lobbyists, Republican legislators, conservative media and right-wing pundits.
Leading the opposition was the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, whose spokeswoman Virginia Lamp denounced the act as "a dangerous precedent." (She would eventually marry Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and move on to employment with the Koch brothers.) With the honorable exception of the Catholic Church and a number of moderate Republicans in Congress, the self-proclaimed "pro-family" forces in American political life eagerly aided and abetted the Chamber's attempt to kill the act. Mandating a federal right to unpaid leave, even if restricted to certain workers in larger businesses, would place the nation on a slippery path toward European socialism, or worse, according to the Chamber and its Republican allies and impose untold damage on business.
Anyone truly concerned about the safety of U.S. diplomatic personnel abroad -- and that should include every American -- has fresh reason for fury over last September's disaster in Benghazi and its aftermath. But the target of public anger should not be Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose conduct has been exemplary ever since the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three of his brave colleagues lost their lives last September. Far more deserving of scorn are the likes of Republican Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and all the other grandstanding, conspiracy-mongering, ill-informed politicians who questioned her Wednesday on Capitol Hill.
Four months after the tragedy occurred, Republicans on both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee still seem to be obsessed with the talking points provided to U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice before she appeared on television to discuss the incident.
So much for the "Grand Bargain" -- or at least for the not-so-grand gutting of Social Security and Medicare that the "very serious" thought-leaders of Washington political and media circles have always found so appealing. Whatever President Obama may have contemplated up until now, his second inaugural address, delivered yesterday on the steps of the Capitol, bluntly repudiated Republican arguments against the social safety net -- and forcefully identified those popular programs with the most sacred American values.
"We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity," said Obama -- not only because it is the responsibility we have to each other as human beings, but because security and dignity, for every man, woman, and child, are the existential foundations of freedom.
A prolonged confrontation over the nation's debt ceiling -- unlike the "fiscal cliff," which provoked many scary headlines -- could truly be grave for both America and the world. While press coverage often mentions the possibility of lowered credit ratings for the U.S. Treasury (again), that might only be the mildest consequence if Republicans in Congress actually refuse to authorize borrowing and avoid default.
When Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina warned on national television over the weekend that Chuck Hagel "would be the most antagonistic secretary of defense toward the state of Israel in our nation's history," either his memory served him very poorly -- or he was simply lying to smear his former Senate colleague. For whatever Hagel's perspective on Mideast policy may be, it would be absurd to compare him with the Secretary of Defense whose hardline hostility toward Israel became notorious during the Reagan administration.
Observing the Congressional Republicans repeatedly stumble in and out of their caucus clown car, blowing loud kazoos and muttering angry threats, should be painful, embarrassing and highly instructive to any American voter with the patience to watch. When their latest performance concluded late Tuesday night with a 257 to 187 vote passing the stopgap fiscal deal negotiated by the Senate and the White House, an unavoidable question lingered: What is wrong with those people?
If Chuck Hagel is nominated by President Obama to serve as Secretary of Defense, there will be at least three compelling arguments in his favor. He served with distinction in the military and would -- like Secretary of State nominee John Kerry -- bring a veteran's perspective to his post. He has adopted and articulated a sane perspective on the grave foreign policy blunders whose consequences still haunt the nation, including the Iraq and Vietnam wars. And as we have learned ever since his nomination was first floated, he has made all the right (and right-wing) enemies.
What may finally consume the House Republicans is their boundless contempt for the American public -- a contempt bluntly demonstrated in their refusal to consider any reasonable compromise with President Obama to avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff" on Dec. 31. They know from the election results (and every poll) that the public believes taxes should be raised on the wealthy. They know that the public wants bipartisan compromise. And they know that the approval rating of the House Republicans, in contrast to the president's upwardly trending numbers, are veering toward historic lows.
Raising taxes on the rich alone won't close the deficit or erase the national debt, as Republicans superciliously inform us over and over again. But in their negotiations with the White House to avert the so-called fiscal cliff, congressional Republicans seem obsessed with a change in Medicare eligibility whose budgetary impact (when compared with ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy) is truly negligible -- but whose human toll would be immense.
If President Obama honestly wants to negotiate an agreement with Republicans before the year-end fiscal deadline, he must be deeply frustrated. And if he doesn't really want to negotiate with them, then he should be delighted, for the same reason: Their latest "offer" laid before him by House Speaker John Boehner demonstrates again their refusal to reveal their true intentions -- and their inability to do simple arithmetic.
With the Republican right persisting in baseless persecution of Susan Rice, the U.N. Ambassador who may replace departing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, it has left President Obama little choice but to move ahead with her nomination. If he backs away from Rice, in the face of what he has called false accusations against her, that display of weakness would undermine his second term before it begins.
Hearing so much chatter about "change" in the Republican Party, the innocent voter might believe that the Republicans had learned important lessons from their stinging electoral defeat. On closer examination, however, the likelihood of real change appears nil because the party's leaders and thinkers can cite so many excuses to remain utterly the same.
Trying to explain away his decisive, sweeping and very expensive rout to his disappointed supporters -- those one-percent Republicans -- Mitt Romney offered a new version of the discredited "47 percent" argument that was so ruinous in its original form. In a Wednesday afternoon conference call, the defeated Republican nominee told donors and fundraisers that President Obama had won by lavishing generous "gifts" upon certain groups, including young voters, African-Americans and Latinos.
What Barack Obama tried to tell America in the hour of his remarkable victory is that the nation's future won on Election Day. Seeking to inspire and to heal, the reelected president offered an open hand to partisan opponents in the style that has always defined him.
When innocent citizens asked about unemployment last night at the town hall presidential debate on Long Island, would Mitt Romney again tout his plan to create 12 million jobs? Unable to Etch-a-Sketch away that often repeated claim -- one that he has hired several conservative economists to endorse -- the Republican candidate had little choice. It's up on his campaign website, it's there in his own well-advertised words, and it is the central appeal of his candidacy for the non-billionaire voting bloc.