Guns and Tears and Shady Statistics

One hardly knows where to begin grousing about that awful speech President Barack Obama gave about guns Tuesday. There was the usual annoyingly self-referential style, the same old calls for respectful argument and the same old slurs against those disagree with him, typically distorted statistics, yet more executive actions that override duly passed and signed laws, the predictable bad policies billed as “common sense,” the obligatory assurances that he believes in the Second Amendment and the rest of all that constitutional stuff, and he even threw in a couple of tears to make it seems as he cares.
Perhaps the most galling thing about the speech was that Obama chose to give it in the first place. He had a chance to persuade the public to persuade their legislators to pass his favored gun control laws when his fanatically loyal party controlled both chambers of Congress, and then again when the major media were crusading for more gun regulations after the mass shooting at a Connecticut school, and at this point we suspect that most Americans would prefer to hear what their president is doing about the inflamed Middle East or the sputtering economy or the rapidly accumulating national debt or almost anything other than some pointless gun control rules that only the most rule-abiding gun owners will abide.
We say “rules” rather than “laws” because there are already laws that quite specifically define who is a gun dealer and thus has to conduct background checks and obey other existing laws, and Obama’s executive action extends that definition to anyone who wants to sell his brother-in-law an old handgun. The extra-constitutional power grab is all the more offensive because it is unlikely to prevent any criminal or mentally ill person from acquiring a gun, and is more likely to prevent a law-abiding citizen from acquiring a weapon needed for self-defense. By now such rule by presidential fiat is taken for granted, and even some Republicans seem eager to wield such newfound imperial powers, but one can hope that some outrage about it still persists.
How insulting, too, that Obama would shed few a tears over the deaths that his policies won’t prevent. About two-thirds of those 30,000 gun deaths that Obama lamented are suicides, so as long as there are poisons and razor blades and tall buildings and gas ovens and rope and other means of self-inflicted death no amount of gun control will stop those, and we can’t recall when Obama has never spoken about the largely white and middle aged suicide problem. Another phony-baloney statistic that Obama offered was about Connecticut’s 40 percent decrease in gun deaths since it passed laws similar to what he has proposed, which is true enough but best understood in context of the unmentioned fact that the national homicide rate has declined 50 percent in that time while gun ownership has increased as substantially. He also mentioned an increase in Missouri’s homicide rate after loosening its gun laws, but neglected to say anything about the spike in the St. Louis area’s murders since the “Black Lives Matter” movement sent the police there into retreat. Nor did he mention the interesting statistic that his own Justice Department has had 38 percent fewer convictions on existing duly passed and signed gun laws than the gun-crazy Bush administration, and of course he once again didn’t say anything about alarming rate of murders in Chicago, the community he once organized and is now under the imperial control of his former chief of staff.
Don’t worry about slippery slope toward even more draconian gun restrictions, though, because Obama once again went through the “ritual” — his own term — of assuring the American people that he was a former adjunct professor of constitutional law and is sure enough committed to the Second Amendment. He didn’t say “If you like you guns, you can keep your guns,” but it had the same suspicious ring to it. It’s enough to make one cry, even if you’re not the lachrymose type like former House Speaker John Boehner, who was laughed at by the same people who were choked up by Obama’s tears, but we react more in anger than in sorrow.

— Bud Norman

As the Republican Party Turns

The more politically obsessed news-readers have no doubt already heard that California Rep. Kevin McCarthy has withdrawn from the race for Speaker of the House, a position that was open following the resignation of Ohio Rep. John Boehner, and that it all bodes ill for the Republican Party. The “establishment” favorite McCarthy apparently has withdrawn, Boehner did indeed announce his resignation, and given how many things do prove to bode ill for the Republican Party that last part might also be true. Still, we’ll await the final outcome and assume that it won’t be consequential.
Much of the media has gleefully seized on the storyline that those crazily far-right and reckless “Tea Party” types in the party are in open revolt against the more cautious and accommodating and country club-going moderates that are still left, which is a fair enough assessment of the situation. All that gleefulness is because much of the media assumes that the public will be revulsed by those conservatives and their extreme positions, however, and we question the assumption. Boehner was driven to resignation and McCarthy was forced to withdraw from the race mostly because they were thought to be insufficiently resistant to executive actions throwing the borders wide open, unleashing an aggressively anti-business Environmental Protection Agency and nixing the XL Keystone Pipeline, negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran that will surely end up with nuclear weapons in that nutcase country, and various other affronts to conservative sensibilities, but none of these positions are so extreme that they don’t poll solid majority support from the public. There’s always the realistic hope they’d shut down the non-essential services of the government to get their way, which usually does not poll well, but even the most kamikaze sorts of conservatives wouldn’t do that late in an election cycle.
McCarthy’s departure was prompted by a boneheaded gaffe that will in the short term help the Democrats. Under fire from one of those conservative cable television channels, McCarthy boasted about how Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers have dropped as a result of the House investigations to the Benghazi tragedy. A better way to put it was that the Congress was committed to getting to the bottom of an important matter that involved the death of an Ambassador and four other Americans and that if the facts reflected poorly on Clinton so be it, but the in-artful phraseology seemed to confirm the Democrats’ preferred story that the Republicans are just out to get their poor woman. The same conservative pundits who had egged on the Benghazi investigation were quick to denounce McCarthy, his even more conservative colleagues in the House were happy to cite the quote as proof of his incompetence, his majority was in doubt even before the gaffe, and suddenly there’s much uncertainty regarding who will lead the Republican Party in Congress.
Although much of the media are serenely resigned to death and taxes, they have an affinity to anything uncertain. Such disorder as you find in the Republican Party of the moment is anathema to liberal sensibilities. Thus the storyline about sensible and moderate Republicans striving to stave off their more unruly colleagues will prevail, at least until the general election when those previously more sensible and moderate types are also portrayed as right-wing crazies, and the inevitability of Clinton’s scandal-plagued candidacy will be offered in soothing contrast, unless new marching orders are given on behalf of gaffe-prone Vice President Joe Biden. They might even pull it off, but it seems a hard shot.
Clinton’s poll numbers should go down as a result of the facts of the Benghazi tragedy, as well as the e-mail scandal that is closely related and all the other scandals she’s become involved in over her 30 years or so in the public eye, and we expect that will be more on the public’s mind come Election Day ’16 and that an in-artful attempt to placate a conservative cable television host by a little-remembered loser in a House Speaker will be long forgotten. Unless the Republicans wind up picking someone just awful as the Speaker of the House the whole episode will only be recalled by the most obsessive news-readers. Someone just awful is a possibility, of course, given the Republicans’ history, but it doesn’t seem likely. The most extreme conservative they might pick would still be on the winning side of all the big issues, the squishiest moderate they might wind up with
would still be far better than the last Democratic Speaker of the House, who was as far-left as a liberal might hope for and wound up giving the Republicans their problematic majority, and in any case some other issue will decide the next round of presidential and congressional elections.
There’s also faint hope the Republicans might do something right, and pick someone who can rally conservative support without provoking any futile confrontations with political reality. The name of Rep. Paul Ryan, who was once such a conservative hero that presidential nominee Mitt Romney picked him as a running to placate the base, but who has since become tarred with the “establishment” label, but he’s reportedly not interested in the job, which speaks well of him, and we have to assume that there’s someone in that Republican majority that’s up to the task. If they dispense with seniority and reject advice to let the Democrats in on it they could find someone that will help the party on Election Day ’16, and even then his or her name will probably not be widely known. Being obsessive news-readers ourselves, and suckers for any tale of intrigue, we’ll continue to keep abreast of the latest development nonetheless.

— Bud Norman

The Losses Mount

We had hoped that the Republican majorities in both chambers of Congress would restore some constitutional order and common sense to the federal government, but so far it doesn’t seem to be working out that way. This week Democratic discipline and Republican defections doomed an effort to block the president’s executive orders on illegal immigration, and despite a few defections of their own the Democrats were able to sustain a presidential veto on bill to at long last allow construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. If the Republicans can’t win on these issues, it’s hard to see how they’ll ever score a victory.
There is little public enthusiasm for offering amnesty and work permits and government benefits to millions of illegal immigrants, thus inviting millions to cross the border, and even less for the unprecedented presidential power that is bringing it about. The only opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline comes from a relatively small group of radical environmentalists, who seem to believe that the planet will somehow be better off if Canada’s oil is refined in China rather than America, and the president’s veto of the project is part of a broader effort to raise energy prices that is also unpopular. Two better opportunities to confront the president might not come along soon, even if the president does have a knack for proposing unpopular policies and seems to grow even less concerned about public opinion the nearer he gets to the end of his second term, so the losses are especially discouraging.
Buoyed by public opinion and prodded by his party’s conservative base, the usually timid House Speaker John Boehner managed to pass a bill that would deny funding to the Department of Homeland Security to carry out the executive orders, and the usually timid Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell made an effort to get it passed in the Senate, but it all came to naught. The Democrats used the same filibuster rules they had decried until the Republicans took control of the Senate, threatening a shutdown of the entire department, and although one would expect the Democrats to be blamed for making such a dire threat, especially for the sake of an unpopular policy being enacted through unpopular means, enough Republicans panicked to force capitulation and cough up a full year of funding. The Republicans’ nervousness is understandable, given the scathing press coverage that always accompanies the word “shutdown,” and some of the ones who bolted represent districts that include a large share of Latino voters, or simply pay too much attention to the newspapers that are still peddling the notion that inviting in millions of illegal immigrants to sign up as Democrats is a smart political move for the Republicans, but the issue was worth some risk and might even have been winnable. That House bill would have funded all the department’s necessary work against terrorism, and it was the Democrats who would have shut it down rather than refuse funding for the executive orders, and it’s always possible the public would have been made to understand that despite the best efforts of the press.
Alabama’s stalwart Sen. Jeff Sessions has vowed to continue the fight by whatever legislative means present themselves, and we’re sure that at least he will do so, and there’s always a chance that the court ruling against the executive order will be upheld, although we’re not at all sure the courts will ever again do the right thing, so perhaps some sort of victory can be achieved down the road. For now, though, the president wins again.
He managed to win on the Keystone veto, too, although seven Democrats who are facing re-election in states where the oil industry is prominent felt more responsive to public opinion and joined the Republicans. Even when they’re vote the Democrats were able to muster the 35 votes needed to sustain the veto, which is a testimony to the party’s ability to keep members in line. When the Democrats are willing to back their president on even such a damned fool idea as blocking the Keystone XL pipeline, the chances of overriding any other vetoes are not good. There is some speculation that they might do it with a bill imposing economic sanctions on Iran, but we wouldn’t bet against the president winning yet again. There is great public support for Israel, whose Prime Minister just this week defied the president by asking Congress to impose the sanctions as a means of ending its nuclear weapons program, but Israel will never be as popular as cheap gasoline.
The Republicans’ conservative base is once again clamoring for new leadership in both the House and Senate, and they’re probably right to do so, but the Democrats should also be getting some pressure from the public. President Barack Obama need no longer care what the people think, but almost everyone in Congress will eventually be up for re-election can’t afford to be so openly disdainful of public opinion. Whoever the Republicans choose for their leaders, they’ll need to be a bit more persuasive to at least a few more Democrats who are bound to be at least a bit nervous about where the president is leading them.

— Bud Norman

A Pattern Emerges

President Barack Obama was one of the few world leaders who did not attend the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp on Holocaust Memorial Day, just as he was one of the few world leaders who did not attend an earlier march in France protesting terror attacks that killed the staff of a satirical magazine and then four Jews at a Kosher market. He also won’t be meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu when the Israeli Prime Minister comes to Washington to deliver an address to Congress, and a pattern can be inferred.
Which is not to say we infer that the president has any animosity toward the Jewish people. The slight to France was eventually acknowledged as such by the White House, which dispatched aging hippie troubadour James Taylor to serenade them with “You’ve Got a Friend” as a token of regret. The administration issued a clear statement that it does not approve of the Holocaust, too, and its highest-ranking Jew was in attendance at the Auschwitz memorial while the president was trying to sooth relations with the new king of Saudi Arabia. The administration claims the president won’t be meeting with Netanyahu only because it doesn’t want to be seen as meddling in Israel’s upcoming elections, as well, and at least it won’t be denying Netanyahu a visa to make the speech. One might infer that the White House has no special affinity for the Jewish people, as it hard to imagine the president thrice passing up such prime opportunities to demonstrate his respect for Islamist theocracies, people who were shot in self-defense, openly homosexual athletes, or anyone else with a claim to victimization.
That part about not wanting to affect the Israeli elections is especially suspicious, since pretty much everyone in that country already knows that Obama does not want to see Netanyahu reelected, and the State Department is cooperating with an Obama-affiliated organization actively working for Netanyahu’s leftist opposition, and not meeting with a visiting head of state sends as clear a signal and meeting with him, and the administration is still sending out word through its favorite press organs that Obama can’t stand Netanyahu and is angry about the speech. Netanyahu was invited to make the speech by Republican House Speaker John Boehner, and accepted without the usual step of clearing it with the president, and those loyal press organs are happy to explain how it’s an outrageous breach of protocol that has endangered the American-Israeli relationship. To hear The New York Times tell, the Israeli ambassador who passed along the invitation should be declared persona non grata. We can’t recall the same outrage when Obama left Netanyahu cooling his heels for more than an hour at a White House meeting, or was escorted out the back door after yet another meeting, or when the ever-unnamed White House sources questioned Netanyahu’s courage with a barnyard epithet, or when any of Obama’s several other conspicuous breaches of protocol with Israel occurred over the past seven years, but by now Israel should be accustomed to such double standards.
That the White House is still fuming through the press suggests how very bad its relationship with the Jewish state, if not the Jewish people, has become. We suspect that the president is just as annoyed with the Republican majorities in Congress who invited his least favorite international figure to address America, but there is more involved than just domestic politics. Obama is no doubt worried that Netanyahu might persuade enough Democrats to join with the Republicans to override a veto against a bill imposing economic sanctions on Iran, and perhaps even persuade the American public that the president’s endless negotiations with Iran are only allowing that nutcase theocracy the time to build its nuclear arsenal, and those endless talks seem to be the president’s top priority in foreign affairs. An Iranian bomb would pose an existential threat to Israel, which does not seem a priority to the administration at all, and one can infer from that what one wants.

— Bud Norman

Bartender Blues

The big headline on the Drudge Report was “Plot to Poison Boehner,” and we couldn’t wait to find out whodunnit. Speaker of the House John Boehner is loathed by the lunatic left for his partisan obstruction of President Barack Obama’s agenda, and reviled by the radical right for his capitulations to that very same agenda, so suspects abound. It turned out to be the apolitical sort of of nutcase that is usually involved in these sorts of the stories, but it still makes for an interesting tale.
The alleged would-be assassin was the bartender at Boehner’s country club, and given that Boehner is desired by both the right and the left as a “Country Club Republican” even the most imaginative mystery writer would be hard-pressed to top that stereotypical detail. He was reportedly known to his customers as “Bartender Mike,” nomenclature usually found only in the most old-fashioned hard-boiled dime novels, and he reportedly told the arresting officers that he was Jesus Christ and blamed Boehner for being rude and causing the Ebola virus endemic, which adds a rather modern twist. The suspect also claims that the devil’s voice came over the radio to warn of Boehner’s evil, and the evidence reportedly includes a lengthy e-mail sent by the suspect to his father, a neighbor, and ex-girlfriend. There’s a history of mental illness, unsurprisingly, and thus far nothing to tie him to any political movement.
The lack of a political motivation will disappoint the more liberal portions of the press, which have been itching for some “tea party” type to try something newsworthy. There was a large batch of weaponry and ammunition found at the suspect’s home, which is something the press can go on, but then again the New Black Panther Party and Obama’s pal Bill Ayers and his Weather Underground had that stuff as well. Some will no doubt suspect that the satanic voice the suspect heard on the radio was Rush Limbaugh or some other right-wing talk radio host, and one might conclude from their broadcasts that Boehner is evil, but even his most vociferous broadcast critics never claim Boehner was responsible for the Ebola virus. Neither is there any reason to suspect a left-wing sort of extremism, and that part about claiming to be Jesus Christ pretty much rules out the possibility, so at least the press won’t have to deal with that. There is apparently no need to concoct any creative reasons that it has nothing to do Islam, too, so the press can be doubly thankful and let the story drop.
Some attention should be paid, though, because for all its bizarre details the story is a reminder that public officials of every political persuasion assume risks to the personal safety. America’s history is rife with assassinations and assassination attempts, and in most cases they have had little to do with politics and more to do with mental illness. It worth noting that most on the right and left will pursue their causes with resort to violence, a commendable state of affairs, but one should also keep in mind that there are a lot of crazy people out there. At the very least, we expect that John Boehner’s country club will begin more thorough checks on its bartenders.

— Bud Norman

Strange Bedfellows

Try as we might, we can’t make any sense of this so-called “Cromnibus” budget deal that might or might not have been passed and signed into law by the time you read this. None of the smart publications that had confidently reported it would pass in routine fashion seem to be able to make any of sense of it, or even explain why it has been called “Cromnibus,” and of course no one in congress has offered a plausible explanation for what’s going on. We suspect there just isn’t much sense to be made of it.
Still, it makes for an interesting spectacle. The $1.1 trillion, 1,600-page bill was said to be a bipartisan compromise with something for everyone to like, just what all the pundits are saying the public is yearning for, so of course some on both sides of the aisle found something to dislike. Conservatives had no problem finding plenty to hate among the $1.1 trillion and 1,600 pages, including such outrages as a year’s worth of money to continue implementing the wildly unpopular Obamacare law at whatever pace the president chooses and a couple of month’s of funding for the Department of Homeland Security of all people to carry out the president’s unwise and unconstitutional and even more wildly unpopular decree to grant amnesty to several million illegal immigrants. Liberals had to dig deeper into such a complete Republican capitulation to find something they didn’t like, but eventually came up with a a couple of provisions that would amend the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law to allow federally-insured banks to trade in certain sorts of derivatives in some convoluted way or another and increased the limits on campaign contributions. This was sufficient for a minority of Republicans and a majority of Democrats to hold up passage of the bill in the House until late Thursday night, and a similar coalition might also prove troublesome in the Democrat-controlled Senate today.
This unlikely convergence of the rabid Tea Party right and loony left-wing progressives is fun to watch, at least, and one can hope that it might even save the country from all the stupid ideas that are found in the moderate middle and therefore funded by the bill. In any event, it has at least revealed some interesting fissures within both parties. House Speaker John Boehner was using whatever clout he has left with his party to win passage of the bill, but his promises to start getting tough about illegal immigration once the calvary of the soon-to-be-installed Republican majority in the Senate is installed and that couple of months of funding for DHS has passed was not believed by the party’s base , who flooded the congressional phone lines and stiffened the spines of the numerous Republicans who voted no. The president also used whatever clout he has left with his party to win passage of the bill, which didn’t stop the Associated Press from describing how that Republicans had “muscled” the bill through the House, but among those who ignored his advice were the likes of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi from San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury and Rep. Maxine Waters from the same Compton that Niggaz With Attitude came straight outta. Leading the Democratic charge against the bill in the upper chamber is Massachusetts’ Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is widely touted as a more left-wing alternative to Hillary Clinton as the party’s presidential nominee, and it will be fascinating to find out what would-be presidential candidates among the Republicans will buck the GOP’s increasingly reviled leadership.
The best guess is that the lousy deal winds up passing more or less intact, though, and that what’s left of the combined clout of the president and the Republican congressional leadership will prevail. The alternative seems to be not funding the government at all, which for some reason remains even more unpopular that a lousy deal full of Obamacare and illegal immigrants and those nasty bankers and big-money donors getting their way. The Republicans took a hit in the polls with the last government shutdown, even if it had happily dissipated by the time the mid-term elections rolled around, and that was over something as comprehensibly outrageous as Obamacare, so they’ll pull out all the stops to make sure that doesn’t happen again even if it’s about something more comprehensibly outrageous than those millions of illegal immigrants. The Democrats’ fondness for government makes even the most limited and unnoticeable government shutdowns unthinkable, and we can’t see them taking the responsibility for a government shutdown over something incomprehensible and probably sensible as allowing federally-insured banks to trade in certain sorts of derivatives according to some convoluted system.
The fissures will remain, though, and it will be interesting to see what seismic rumblings they produce once the lame duck congress has been retired. Rep. Waters told her fellow delegates “don’t be intimidated by Obama,” showing some attitude of her own, and we expect the president will be increasingly un-intimidating to many other Democrats as his final term plays out and his poll numbers dip with every veto of a popular bill passed by the Republican congress. If the Republican leadership doesn’t get those bills passed, and do a far better job of thwarting the president’s authority and dismantling his legislative legacy than they’v done in this lame duck session, challenging their authority will not only be easy but necessary for political survival from the pitchfork-bearing base.

— Bud Norman

No Accounting for Government

The sharp-eyed fellows at the site have noticed something peculiar among the veritable mountains of data that the federal government routinely generates. Apparently, the United State’s national debt has been precisely $16,699,396,000,000 for the past month.
This is hard to account for, as one would expect that a debt to go up or down by at least some miniscule amount over the course of 31 days, and in the case of a government that ran a $98 billion deficit during the same period of time it would be expected to go up by approximately $98 billion, but government accountants seem to have a knack for hard accounting. Their efforts have somehow kept the debt stuck just $25 million below the legal debt limit, conveniently preventing the government from being in violation of its own laws, and that is rather precise work. After all, $25 million is a just a tick or two on the national debt clock, a relatively piddling sum that the president can blow through in just a few vacation days, so they’re cutting it awfully close.
Such a neat trick is the result of “extraordinary measures,” according to a letter sent by Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew to Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner, which is appended by several pages of jargon-laden prose explaining how the illusion is achieved. The Secretary further explained that the statutory debt limit has been suspended by yet another law, and that the measures his department is employing to keep the debt under control are not at all extraordinary, being “the same one that have been used in previous debt limit impasses,” so the public is advised not to worry about anything. Lew also added some pointed criticism of the House budget proposal, threw in a pitch for the president’s plan, and warned that any attempt to further limit the debt will endanger the full faith and credit of the country.
Some might doubt the veracity of, as the “c” stands for conservative, and perhaps that explains the lack of coverage elsewhere. The story contains links to corroborating Treasury Department documents, however, and the “dot gov” on the web address should satisfy the skeptics. Reporter Terence P. Jeffrey seems to be imply that’s there something fishy about the methods that have kept national debt just below its legal limit, but we’re not such suspicious sorts and are willing to accept the possibility that the unchanging debt is just a happy coincidence of revenues and expenditures evening out to the exact penny for an entire month. An extraordinary coincidence, as the Treasury Secretary might say, but altogether innocent.

— Bud Norman

Boehner’s Blues

Maybe it’s just a lingering touch of the holiday spirit, but we believe that a few kind words should be spoken on behalf on John Boehner.
The Speaker of the House has been quite beleaguered of late, with sharp criticism coming from every direction. To the president and his liberal supporters Boehner is an ideologue obstructing a reasonable agreement to avert the “fiscal cliff” for typically plutocratic Republican reasons. As far as the conservatives are concerned, Boehner is all too willing to compromise bedrock principles for mere political expedience. The mainstream press has predictably taken the president’s side, while the conservative radio shows are all demanding that Boehner be banished from the party, and with no one left in the middle these days Boehner has wound up with worse poll numbers than Nancy Pelosi has ever suffered.

This is a sorry state, indeed, given that Pelosi is perhaps the most horrible woman in the history of the republic. Although the Republican party might well require a change of management, as losing ball clubs often do, Boehner certainly does not deserve this ignominy.
We are sympathetic to the conservatives’ complaints, being unrepentant right-wingers ourselves, but it seems to us that Boehner’s critics are not taking into account the difficult situation in which we finds himself. A tax hike on anybody will indeed be harmful to an already unhealthy economy, thorough entitlement reforms truly are urgently required to stave off federal insolvency, and the Republicans are also correct in arguing that they won their House majority running on such sound ideas, but somehow it is also true that Obama was re-elected on a platform of soaking the rich and continuing to throw vast amounts of imaginary money into the governmental sinkhole. Obama is better positioned to keep his promises, having no fear of a “fiscal cliff” that will provide him tax hikes and defense cuts that he much desires and would not otherwise be able to achieve, and Boehner has few options.
Conservative purists continue to insist on the possible policy, which is to keep all the Bush tax rates and start swinging the budget axe in some direction other than the Department of Defense, but Obama’s threatened veto power means that isn’t a possibility at all. The only choices that political realities make available to Boehner are tax hikes on the rich or tax hikes on everybody, and while the former will enrage that base of his party the latter will enrage the entire country. Given the resentful mood of the country and the still-potent power of the press, along with the plentiful blame being ascribed by even the most conservative media, it is an easily foreseeable certainty that the Republican party will wind up being blamed for the inevitable recession by an electoral majority of the country.
Some conservatives, including the usually astute Charles Krauthammer, contend that Obama can be forced into a reasonable agreement because he doesn’t want to be saddled with an economic downturn lasting through his second term. The president didn’t suffer much from the lull that lasted through his first term, though, and there’s no reason to believe that he won’t be able to use another recession for as much government expansion as the earlier one allowed. Other conservatives argue that the public can be persuaded it was Obama’s intransigence that led the country over the fiscal cliff, but they should consult the most recent election returns before judging the public’s willingness to be persuaded by even the most obvious truths. Still other conservatives are taking the old Roman line of “fiat justitia, pereat mundus,” or “let justice be done, even if the world perish,” but this seems to lack the pragmatism that has traditionally characterized the conservative movement.
Those who would damn Boehner as a spineless political animal for conceding to any “revenue enhancements” should at least credit him with the savvy to correctly assess the political landscape. It is possible that a shrewder negotiator could have won a more favorable deal than what Boehner will eventually get his caucus to agree on, and it is certain that a more telegenic and personable politician would have stood a better chance in the public relations battles, but it is not clear who that remarkable leader might be. One shudders to think of Pelosi returning to the speakership, and even Boehner’s harshest critics on the right will miss him if that comes to pass.

— Bud Norman

The Devil She Says

Demonizing one’s political opponents is a longstanding tradition in America, but few politicians have done it quite so literally as Rep. Maxine Waters.

The California congresswoman recently took the stage at her state’s Democratic convention, serenaded by a recording of “She’s a Bad Mama Jama,” and gave a stemwinding speech in which she described House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor as “demons.” Demons who are “destroying this country rather than bringing us together,” at that.

Hearing a Democrat invoke such religious language is surprising enough, but especially so when the accusation is hurtled at the likes of Boehner and Cantor. Boehner is best known for being lachrymose, hardly a habit one associates with demons, while Cantor is little known at all, largely a result of a low-key personality uncommon among demons. Both men are far too accomodating for the tastes of the average of Republican, who would much prefer they went about their obstructionism with a bit more demonic zeal.

The accusation is all the more galling coming from Waters, who was an apologists for her constituents’ hate crimes during the Los Angeles riots of 1992, steadfastly defended the government’s insistence on subprime lending right up to the moment it caused a financial meltdown, and advocates the nationalization of the energy industry, among other policies that are least as destructive as anything a demon might conjure.

Readers with a long memory for political fads will recall that a year or so ago, around the time Sarah Palin shot all those people in Arizona, Democrats were briefly enthused about “civility.” Apparently the fad has passed.

— Bud Norman