Monthly Archives: January 2010

Hayworth a birther and O’Keefe a Liddy wannabe

[Updated with Hayworth video and correction that he referred to “football and youth sports,” not little league baseball.]

As if to prove that Democrats are not the only ones capable of self destructive behavior, two darlings of the far right seem to have stepped in it.

First, McCain’s new challenger for the right, JD Hayworth, just came out as a birther on Hardball. Video and transcripts as they become available but the heart of the money quote is:

We had to show our birth certificates to play little league baseball. Why can’t the president show his?

That will pump up the base but is also, along with Rubio’s strong showing in polls against Crist, is the opening shot in the upcoming, and soon to be very bloody, rightwing Republican civil war.

[Scroll to bottom for video and transcripts from ThinkProgress.]

Second, James O’Keefe, the videographer who passed of the questionable ACORN videos over the summer, is facing felony charges and up to 10 years in the federal penitentiary for trying to bug LA Sen Landrieu’s phones.

NEW ORLEANS — A conservative activist who posed as a pimp to target the community-organizing group ACORN and the son of a federal prosecutor were among four people arrested by the FBI and accused of trying to interfere with phones at Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office.

Along with the upcoming internecine teabagger fights and that looming civil war, the rightwingers and Republicans are going to make the Democrats and Obama seem much better. I’ve written before that I think the spring and summer internal battles will make the worst of the Palin rallies pale by comparison.

And, by contrast, Obama’s calm coolness might just start to pay dividends. As long as they don’t fall dead center on their swords over health care reform.

Update: ThinkProgress has video and transcripts:

[Via ThinkProgress]MATTHEWS: Are you as far right as the birthers? Are you one of those who believes that the President should have to prove that he’s a citizen of the United States and not an illegal immigrant? Are you that far right?

HAYWORTH: Well, gosh, we all had to bring our birth certificates to show we were who we said we were and we were the age we said we were to play football and youth sports. Shouldn’t we know exactly that anyone who wants to run for public office is a natural born citizen of the United States and is who they say they are? […]

MATTHEWS: Should the Governor of Hawaii produce evidence that the President is one of us, an American? Do you think that’s a worthy past time for the Governor of Hawaii?

HAYWORTH: No, look…I’m just saying the President should come forward with the information, that’s all. Why should we we depend on the Governor of Hawaii?

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Politics, perception and reality: are Republicans really better than Democrats at messaging?

In vetting the part of the title to the left of the colon, I did a quick google search of the phrase “politics, perception and reality,” which yielded “about” 4,460 hits.

It’s a truism that in all areas of human endeavor, and maybe even more in early 21st century American politics, perception is not the same thing as reality. In many cases, it doesn’t even seem to come close to being an even somewhat faithful analog. But, turning to the part of this post’s title on the right side of the colon, are the Republicans and rightwingers more successful in messaging and, if so, why?

This is a long term project of mine and I don’t have any definitive answers at this point. And it’s not a question that really lends itself to final and definitive answers anyway. Still, it’s a question very much worth examining and doing so on a continuing basis.

Also, it’s not just a question about the strategies, tactics and relative effectiveness of the two parties’ propaganda efforts, but those of their constituents and allies as well, including various ostensibly independent news and media organizations.

My research centers on political discourse on the web and the literate practices of people engaging in such discourse individually, as part of groups, and on behalf of organizations and institutions. One obvious example is the teabaggers/tea partiers*, their influence on the Republican party and what I would contend is the complicity of Fox News.

I would also contend that, despite a very small number of progressives, the rest of the corporate media is structurally more in tune with rightwing/Republican policies and politics than the centrist/Democratic alternative. The asymmetry in that equation is deliberate: there hasn’t been a real leftwing/Democratic alliance in a very long time, if ever.

You could perhaps make a case about some of the anti war and pro civil rights work in the 60s, although I wouldn’t necessarily be so bold as to contend that civil rights is necessarily a leftwing agenda item. I realize that it has played out that way in American politics for at least several generations. Certainly, when fewer of “them” vote, it works to the advantage of rightwingers/Republicans. Also, the next contender, FDR’s New Deal reforms were actually quite centrist or at most center left in the politics of the time.

So, in short, I my argument is that there is a structural bias that favors rightwing/Republican policies and politics, which gives them an advantage in getting their message out and sustaining narratives that benefit them. However, I do not believe that exonerates the inability of Democrats, along with their erstwhile liberal and progressive constituents and allies, to formulate and disseminate effective messages and narratives.

It’s important to note that none of these coalitions, or their various components and subcomponents, are monolithic. In this post I have used “rightwing/Republican” as shorthand, but I realize that, as with their opponents, they do not make up a unified whole made up of completely like minded individuals.

*My preferred name is teabaggers. Despite protestations, this is the label they originally self applied. Liberals and progressives were quick to take advantage of the lack of cultural awareness of the “teabaggers.” After realizing their mistake, the wide assortment of groups and individuals who first proudly claimed this label began to refer to themselves as “tea partiers.” This is a very relevant example of the messaging battle and one that, I contend, shows that the rightwingers and Republicans are far from the messaging masters many are proclaiming them to be.


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Democrats will probably apologize for Limbaugh’s anti semitism

The major voice of the rightwing is in the news for this kind of bad crazy:

Rush: He’s assaulting bankers. He’s assaulting money people. And a lot of those people on Wall Street are Jewish. So I wonder if there’s starting to be some buyer’s remorse there.

Then he says the ADL should apologize to him:

Calling for Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to apologize to him, Rush Limbaugh falsely claimed that he was referring only to what “Jew-haters” believe when he made comments about Jewish people on Wall Street. In fact, while Limbaugh did discuss what he said people with prejudice believe, he also clearly stated — as fact and in his own voice — that “a lot of those people on Wall Street are Jewish. So I wonder if there’s starting to be some buyer’s remorse there.”

At the same time, the Democratss appear to be considering dropping the pre existing conditions safety for people over 19.

This leads to the inevitable question: why are the Dems, every hour on the hour, shooting themselves in their feet? Why, when the opposition is led by troglodytes like Limbaugh, are they seemingly incapable of getting out their message?

I’ve been thinking about the ludicrously bad job they have been doing on propagating their message. A lot of the Republicans’ success is down to structural issues: the corporate media likes their positions much better and most journalists are either completely on board or play along because they’ve become accustomed to their paychecks.

But, despite its status as the sole official news source, nobody in the USSR was buying what Pravda was selling. Progressives could be a great avenue to get around the misinformation put out by the rightwing Republicans and their corporate bosses.

However, the Democrats have so neutered their actual policies that progressives are not feeling inclined to carry any of their water. This is not the first time this pattern has been enacted, which leads to another inevitable question: is this what the Democrats want?

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Right and wrong lessons from Brown Massachusetts victory

Republicans and rightwingers are, predictably, crowing about Brown’s victory, declaring health care reform dead.

And right on cue, rightwing Democrats like Jim Webb and Evan Bayh are already pitching their claims that the MA race was about hcr and only about hcr and, further, was a repudiation of a Democratic party utterly beholden to the far left.

I would lament how two people elected to ‘the greatest deliberative body in the world’ could make such monumentally wrong headed assertions, but last night’s election, along with countless other examples, show that such vacuousness is no stranger to the senate.

If the Democrats decide to backpedal, or even soft pedal, on hcr now, they will consign themselves to minority status for a generation. I know that sounds like hyperbole, but they came into 2009 with huge majorities and support. They had difficult problems to deal with, but they had the momentum to take them on.

The wars. The economy. Immigration and hcr. And these are just the big ticket items. Still, they could have pushed hcr through in the summer instead of chasing the rainbow and unicorn cupcakes of supposed bipartisan reform.

Had they listened to the multitude of voices, including those of every Republican, telling them that the Republicans only goal was, literally, to ‘break Obama,’ they could have dispensed with the slow, self disemboweling kabuki theater of the last eight months and passed a hcr bill before August.

But they faltered. And now, some are calling for them to pull even more punches. That would be colossally inept.

However, I am cautiously optimistic that they will, finally, figure out that 59 — or, importantly, 58 — is still more than half of 100 and, along with their majority in the House and, y’know, still holding the presidency, are enough to get things done.

First, dump Lieberman from the caucus, strip him of his chairmanship and shrug when he stomps his feet and finally makes it official and becomes a Republican. Then watch the fun as he and his new party figure out how much they actually don’t care for each other so much.

Then, tell the blue dogs, also known as the conservadems, that, since the mythical 60 seat ‘super majority’ is no longer attainable, their votes matter as much as Mitch McConnell’s. If they’d like to stay in the caucus and continue to get money and support from the party, that they better start voting with the party on things that matter.

If they don’t want to play for the winning team, then cut them loose. It’s not as if anything would be lost.

The silver lining for liberals and progressives here is that the Republicans are very likely to misread the lessons of this election as well. The teabaggers are emboldened and will demand ever more rightward movement going into the primaries and then the general next November.

They think this special election for a senator in one state was a national referendum on hcr and Obama more generally. They are wrong. But they will probably go in this direction nonetheless.

The Democrats’ only hope to stave off generational minority status is to get something done on hcr, start immediately fixing the many flaws such a bill will have, and demonstrate to the public that it is a good thing with instant benefits — like ‘pre existing condition’ protection and bans on lifetime and yearly caps.

And then they need to make the Republicans commit to taking those benefits away if people vote for them in November.

We know the Republicans will play their part. Will the Democrats have the sense to set them up for this fall?

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Brown seems to smirk at supporter who yells “shove a curling iron up her butt”

Crooks and liars have a longer video, but the remark and Brown’s reaction to it are less distinct than in this one from Daily Kos:

He clearly hears the remark, smirks, and even appears to say something like “we can do this.” I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he meant “we can win this election,” but his refusal to condemn the remark and to even smirk and laugh at it are horrible.

Is this the kind of person Massachusetts wants as their junior high schooler senator representing them to the nation?

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Haiti, hate and scary willful ignorance

[Updated to acknowledge that Brzezinski might have been jokingly proposing what Palin also might have said. Thanks to reader Brienne.]

Light posting this week for a variety of reasons.

The Red Cross has a text donation option that automatically adds $10 to your phone bill. Text “Haiti” to 90999.

Pat Robertson is typically demented in his response to Haiti. What kind of person sees this and blames the victims for a supposed ‘deal with the devil’ their ancestors supposedly made? His dementia is sad but the number of people who believe he has a direct line to god is truly scary.

Rush Limbaugh is concerned that Obama will benefit from the Haitian tragedy. But remember, allegations that he is racist are absurd smears propagated by the left wing media.

Sarah Palin revamps the “all of them” answer in response to a gotcha question from that noted left wing radical Glenn Beck about who her favorite founding father is. TPM notes that as the crew of Morning Joe joked about her flailing answer, Mika Brzezinski says her favorite founding father is Lincoln. Really.

[Update: But reader Brienne notes in the comments that Brzezinski might have been mocking a possible Palin answer rather than reflecting her own sentiment. Although, it was in an exchange when the others were naming their favorite founding fathers, so the conclusion that Brzezinski was also listing her particular favorite also seems plausible. Please watch and add your interpretations.]


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No easy way out for Republicans concerning Steele

RNC Chair Michael Steele has been in the news this week due to a significant increase in his already substantial average number of blunders. There is no shortage of stories about his hi jinx on the interwebz and I won’t attempt to list them here.

But here’s a quick run down. To simply say he’s a gaffe machine is to do him an injustice. He apparently spends like a drunken sailor but is very bad at raising money, even prompting quite a few big time donors to funnel their money around the RNC. He, unprecedentedly, accepts big paydays for speaking engagements. He wrote a book and didn’t tell any of his Republican pals about it. He said he wrote the book before he became chairman, however, the book contains reference after reference to events that occurred after he assumed the chairmanship.

So now there’s speculation that he might be ousted as chair, especially after he canceled an appearance yesterday and claimed he had to go to an ’emergency’ RNC meeting. Strangely, RNC officials first said there was no meeting and then said there was a meeting but it wasn’t an emergency meeting.

Any party representing a robust coalition would indeed give Steele the boot. They would have done so long before the new year. However, the Republican party does not currently represent a robust coalition.

It represents badly fractured and infighting groups that just barely can even claim the title of a coalition. Steele is turning out to be very very bad. But the bloodbath that would ensue in the battle over who should replace him would be much much worse.

I think, frankly, that the Republicans picked Steele for the same reason McCain picked Palin. McCain thought that by picking someone — anyone — with girl parts instead of boy parts, he could win over the mythical PUMAs. Despite the lessons Alan Keyes should have taught them, the Republicans voting for RNC chair similarly thought that selecting a black man for a leadership position would just, y’know, cancel out the election of Obama.

Both of these actions will not only fail to garner them long term advantage, they both were and continue to be disastrous in the short and medium terms as well. Palin has come to symbolize the teabaggers’ fight against the establishment and is set to cause great damage to the party with independents and moderates both in 2010 and in 2012.

Steele seems to be angering almost everyone in pretty much all factions of the fractious party. So why is he still around?

Because all sides know that if he is made to go, the fight over who to replace him will be more than just nasty and embarrassing, it will likely be crippling. I’ve written that there is already going to be a lot of intra party and intra movement sniping and bloodletting this spring and summer in the Republican coalition.

While extremely harmful, this infighting that will be prelude to the general election is at least not unforeseen. But a fight over Steele’s replacement would be a new and unexpected bloody prelude to bloody prelude to a bloody general.

Although I would find such a meltdown fascinating to observe, at this point, I don’t think it’s likely. Steele will have to really up the ante on his misbehavior to prompt such a scenario. On the other hand, Steele knows all of this and will likely feel emboldened to keep up his antics.

Let’s see how far he’s willing to push the envelope and just how elastic that envelope is.

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