Saturday, January 31, 2009


After flirting with candidates who used “Barack the Magic Negro” CDs as part of their campaign, and others who belonged to whites-only country clubs, the RNC settles on Michael Steele as the new face of the Republican Party
Meet the new chairman of the Republican National Committee: Former Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele . . .

Yes, THAT Michael Steele:
[Josh Marshall] Reminds me of the good old days in 2006 when Steele's senate campaign rolled out signs to fool people into thinking he was a Democrat. . . .

“Falling upward”
[Alex Koppelman] At first glance, this appears to be the kind of step forward that the Republican Party needs to be successful in the years ahead. . . .

On other fronts, though, Steele's a questionable choice. He hasn't displayed a ton of political acumen -- he's won elected office only once, and he didn't head that ticket. He lost the aforementioned Senate race, and, before that, couldn't even win a GOP primary for state comptroller; he placed third, in fact. His tenure as head of the Maryland party wasn't brilliant, either, and he repeatedly had trouble recruiting candidates. (In his defense, it's not easy to be a Republican in the state.) Along the way, he's made some serious missteps: He got in trouble in 2006 for making some unguarded remarks disparaging then-President Bush to a group of reporters. His name was supposed to be kept off the comments, but when it quickly became obvious who was responsible, Steele tried to lie his way out of the gaffe. Also in 2006, he attracted unwanted attention when, speaking before a Jewish group, he compared stem cell research to medical tests that the Nazis conducted on prisoners during the Holocaust.
[Steele, 2006] Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele profusely apologized yesterday for comments linking stem cell research to Nazi experimentation . . .

In an appearance Thursday before the Baltimore Jewish Council, Steele responded to a question about stem cell research by saying he was "cautious" about the idea of "tinkering around with life," and added:

"Look, you of all folks know what happens when people decide they want to experiment on human beings, when they want to take your life and use it as a tool," Steele said . . .


Don’t miss it: “Planet Black Guy”

A party in decline
[Michael Hirsh] As House Republicans defy President Obama over his stimulus package, the party seems to be reverting to form after decades of overreaching ambition and outsized growth; think of the GOP, perhaps, as the Citigroup of politics. Many Republicans seem resigned—even content—to go back to being the party of Barry Goldwater. In other words: We don't care if we're marginalized. In our hearts we know we're right. Never mind that the party suffered terrible defeats in 2008 and 2006, some thoughtful Republicans (mainly on the Senate side, like Lindsay Graham, as well as intellectuals such as David Frum) have been fretting for some time that the GOP base is getting too narrow. These days, you hear little talk of Karl Rove's bigger tent or reinventing conservatism. Quite the opposite: it seems as though the party has decided to go back to basics. The message they're sending: "We don't care if Obama won or that he's popular; let's just wait until the country sees the truth again, as old Barry did. Until then, we'll be happy to be the righteous minority again, proudly willing to go down in flames for our beliefs: government spending never works, and tax cuts always do. Keynesian stimulus is for liberal witch doctors." . . .
[House Republican leader] Boehner reminded Republicans that they are no longer in the business of legislating and should focus almost solely on communicating their message with voters.

"We are in the communications business,” Boehner told the crowd during his opening remarks. “We can build a new Republican majority one issue at a time." . . . [read on]
[Eugene Robinson] Watching the House Republicans vote unanimously against President Obama's economic stimulus package, I thought of Ronald Reagan, the air traffic controllers and the potential consequences for those who fail to recognize that one political era has given way to the next. . . .

House Republicans "delighted" and "elated" and "celebrating" over their zero votes to save the economy . . .
The assembled Republicans rose in a standing ovation Thursday night when Minority Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio showed them a C-SPAN video of the vote itself, according to people present. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) told the group that Wednesday’s vote reminded him of a roll call in 1993, when Republicans forced Democrats to pass a tax increase without a single GOP vote. And conservative Arizona Rep. John B. Shadegg offered a toast to many of his more moderate Republican colleagues who opposed the legislation. . . .

Their cheerleader
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell painted a downright dismal view of the state of his party Thursday afternoon, telling Republican National Committee members the GOP is in grave danger of being marginalized to a regional party.

"We’re all concerned about the fact that the very wealthy and the very poor, the most and least educated, and a majority of minority voters, seem to have more or less stopped paying attention to us," the Kentucky Republican said . . .


Rush Limbaugh is the Reverend Wright of the Republican Party – it’s time to wrap him around their neck and ask constantly whether they endorse or repudiate his racist and inflammatory comments
For all the talk of new politics and a new start with a new administration, the media person who has emerged as the chief voice of opposition during the first week of Barack Obama's presidency — Rush Limbaugh — has been doing this for 20 years.

The talk-radio titan said, days before Obama was sworn in, that he hoped Obama failed because he didn't believe in the incoming president's policies.

It's kept him in the headlines ever since, to the point where MSNBC on Thursday asked: "Is Rush running the GOP?" The day before, every Republican House member voted against Obama's economic stimulus plan, a bill Limbaugh has ridiculed as the "porkulus" plan.

"Obama was trying to marginalize me," Limbaugh said. "His hope was that the House and Senate Republicans would join him in denouncing me. Didn't work."

When Rep. Phil Gingrey, a Georgia Republican, tried to praise his House leadership this week by saying it's easy for talk-show hosts to stand back and throw bricks, the headline on the Politico Web site read: "House GOP member to Rush: Back off." Gingrey was so bothered by the phone calls of complaints that he visited four conservative talk-show hosts, including Limbaugh, the next day to apologize. . . .
Americans United For Change, the labor-backed political group that is currently campaigning for President Obama's stimulus package, has a new round of radio ads tying the GOP to Barack Obama's most vocal critic at this point: Rush Limbaugh, who is taking on the role of the true Leader of the Opposition . . .
[Matt Yglesias] That Rush Limbaugh is loathesome can, I think, be taken for granted. But as we’ve been having occasion to note recently, to a really striking extent conservative politicians everywhere are taking their marching orders on policy and legislative strategy from a boorish and occasionally drug-addled talk radio host. Even John McCain, who a lot of people thought would go back to his maverick schtick of 2001-2003 vintage after losing the election, is standing firmly behind Rush:

I don’t know why he would do that. Mr. Limbaugh is a voice of a significant portion of our conservative movement in America. He has a very wide viewing audience. He is entitled to his views, and he has a lot of people who listen very carefully to him. I don’t know why that the President would take him on. He’s part of the political landscape, and he plays a role.

On the upcoming Senate stimulus bill vote – the lay of the land
One possible X factor arising today is the sideline maneuvering of Sen. Ben "Gang of 14" Nelson [D-NE]. He's staying true to form by trying to build a bipartisan coalition of senators to support major changes to the House bill. . . .
Nelson even is willing to remove popular Pell Grant increases, saving them for annual spending bills later in the year. . . .
New York Senator Charles Schumer indicated that he would push for increased rail and mass transit spending in the stimulus. . . . Also of note, Senators Patty Murray, Diane Feinstein and Ben Nelson are apparently crafting another amendment that will increase infrastructure spending in the stimulus . . .
Another declaration from the inner halls of the kleptocracy, this one from Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND). He represents North Dakota not Wall Street - and yet is threatening to vote against the stimulus bill because it doesn't give away more money to Wall Street. . . .
[Saxby Chambliss, R-GA] If we truly want to stimulate the economy, there's no better place to do that than defense spending. . . .
[Reuters] Former presidential rival John McCain expressed disappointment on Friday that President Barack Obama has not negotiated with Republicans over a huge economic stimulus plan and said he is working on an alternative package. . . .


Army suicides
Yesterday, the Pentagon announced that the rate of soldiers committing suicides increased last year to the highest level in thirty years. As today’s New York Times reports, the number of suicides among soldiers has now increased for the fourth year in a row . . .

Former NSA official lays out the details of illegal wiretapping. The media response? [Crickets]

Before leaving office, Bush ordered Karl Rove not to testify
Just four days before leaving office, Newsweek reports that President Bush "instructed former White House aide Karl Rove to refuse to cooperate with future congressional inquiries into alleged misconduct during his administration."

A letter to Rove's lawyer said that Rove "should not appear before Congress" or turn over any documents relating to his time in the White House because Bush "was continuing to assert executive privilege over any testimony by Rove -- even after he leaves office." . . .
Neil Eggleston, who specialized in executive privilege issues for President Clinton's White House . . . told TPMmuckraker that, since President Obama has already issued an executive order that appears to take the view that a former president can't assert executive privilege, he's unlikely to back Bush's claim. And assuming things then wind up in court, Eggleston said he'd be very surprised if a court sided with Bush, ruling that executive privilege can be asserted retroactively.


Congress delays subpoena deadline:
[Emptywheel] I think this is a good thing. . . . [read on]

Bonus item: If the shoe fits. . .
[Richard Perle, September 22, 2003] “And a year from now, I’ll be very surprised if there is not some grand square in Baghdad that is named after President Bush. There is no doubt that, with the exception of a very small number of people close to a vicious regime, the people of Iraq have been liberated and they understand that they’ve been liberated. And it is getting easier every day for Iraqis to express that sense of liberation.”
Richard Perle was right . . .

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I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Friday, January 30, 2009


Here it comes: the pushback from the US military on Obama’s Iraq withdrawal plans begins

Ledbetter Act signed into law; more to come

Pressure building on Senate Repubs to support stimulus bill

Marc Ambinder reports House Republicans "are reacting strongly to reports that the White House plans a political onslaught to pressure Republicans into supporting the stimulus package and to punish those who don't." . . . [read on]

Mark Halperin, of course
“This is a really bad sign for Barack Obama . . .”

The fact of the matter:

Brilliant: Obama may appoint moderate Republican Judd Gregg (R-NH) as Sect’y of Commerce, giving his governor the chance to select a Democrat in his place. Sixty, voila!

Sen. Gregg has voted with Obama on six of seven notable pieces of legislation through Tuesday. . . .

The end of the moderate Republican?
[Brownsox] Nothing says "schadenfreude" like rumors of a Republican primary challenge against the man who, less than three months ago, was their nominee for the Presidency of these United States.

Yet it appears that such a primary challenge may be in the cards in Arizona, if the party's more rabid conservatives in the state get their way.

McCain has never faced a serious challenge in Arizona . . .

Norm Coleman’s case is collapsing in Minnesota. Can we end this farce already?
[Eric Kleefeld] Here's another funny moment earlier today from the slow-motion comedy show that is the Minnesota Senate trial.

The Coleman team is continuing to call as witnesses some aggrieved voters to complain that their ballots were wrongly rejected. This didn't go too well last time, and the newest pair had their fun moments. One of them was college student Peter DeMuth, who sent away for an absentee ballot because he goes to school in Fargo, North Dakota -- he even drove several hours to St. Paul this morning, just so he could get his vote counted.

Upon cross-examination by Franken attorney Kevin Hamilton, DeMuth said he was contacted by the Republican Party and told about the problem. "They asked me if I knew my absentee ballot had been rejected. I said no," said DeMuth. "They asked me if I was a supporter of Norm Coleman, and I said yes, and they proceeded to ask me if I would like to go further."

Let's think about this for a moment: Over the last several days, the Coleman camp has said repeatedly that they are not cherry-picking who they're helping out, that they don't know who the people they're advocating for actually supported, and for all they know they're helping out Franken-voters.

So much for that argument. On top of that, DeMuth's story is by itself fascinating. . . . [read on]
[Eric Kleefeld] Coleman attorney Joe Friedberg launched into an aggressive defense in the case of Douglas Thompson, the friendly Coleman witness from two days ago who said his absentee ballot should be counted even though his girlfriend forged his signature on the application. Thus, Thompson's ballot was rejected because of a very real signature mismatch against his own signature on the ballot itself.

Friedberg didn't directly mention Thompson by name, but he described the exact same situation. "Now suppose I said to Mr. Trimble [another Coleman lawyer], 'Hey, I'm busy, could you sign an application for me, and send it in for me?' I'm gonna get the ballot, aren't I?" said Friedberg.

After some more back and forth, we got to this interesting exchange:

Friedberg: In point of fact, even though I did something I wasn't supposed to do with the application, my ballot should still count because my signature is genuine.

Deputy Secretary of State Jim Gelbmann: Not according to the procedures we use to determine whether the signature is genuine.

Friedberg: I don't care about your procedures.

(Franken lawyer calls an objection, is sustained.)

Friedberg: Okay, I do care...


Blagojevich O-U-T as governor of Illinois. If you missed his “defense” speech before the Illinois Senate, I can tell you you didn’t miss much except another series of laughable lies and obfuscations. Can we move on now?
Rod Blagojevich joined the ranks of the unemployed this evening. . . .


Bizarre: Obama is establishing big changes in WH organization and work habits (he was recently elected President, you might have heard). Guess who’s not happy about it?

Not happy at all:

Trouble ahead for Rove’s immunity claims?

What’s in those missing OLC opinions on torture and interrogation – an educated guess

Oooooh. You know it’s bad when Starbucks is closing stores

Bonus item: Sickos
[Steve Benen] When Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter get together for an interview on Fox News, I realize there's no point in fact-checking their discussion. The madness-per-syllable ratio is just too daunting to bother. . . . [read on]

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I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Thursday, January 29, 2009


Well, not to play “we told you so,” but there it is. After reaching out to House Republicans, after making substantive changes and concessions on the stimulus bill, Obama gets ZERO Republican votes in support. It’s not really a surprise, and it nicely clarifies matters from here on out
[Elana Schor] Guess that dinner at the White House didn't go so well ... the $825 billion stimulus bill just passed the House of Representatives with zero Republicans voting in favor. Eleven Democrats -- 10 centrist Blue Dogs and the unconvinced Rep. Paul Kanjorski (PA) -- joined the GOP in opposing the package.

Brad Woodhouse, president of the Dem-allied group Americans United for Change, described the GOP's stalwart opposition in two words: "political suicide," the subject of his e-mailed statement on the stimulus vote.

But maybe this was the Republicans' plan all along. Now Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and his troops can start the next act in the show and ask for just a few more concessions in order to give the stimulus its bipartisan stripes. . . .

House Republicans vote unanimously for depression
If the House Republican caucus, en masse, isn't willing to support a stimulus package in the midst of a global economic crisis, it's hard to imagine when, exactly, GOP lawmakers are going to work with the majority party in a constructive way.
The House Republicans, by contrast, looked silly. They were carping about tiny bits of the stimulus (the capitol mall?!). They changed the bits they objected to from one day to the next, and looked for all the world like what I take them to be: people who were determined to oppose the stimulus bill from the outset.
Stimulus reportedly has $23 billion in useless GOP pork . . .
Hill Republicans have been getting a lot of air time and minimal press criticism for a series of arguments about the stimulus that are in most cases transparently ridiculous. . . .


The electoral risks for Republicans
So, President Obama is extremely popular. The Stimulus Bill is pretty popular. Hill Democrats are reasonably popular. And Hill Republicans are deep in Bush unpopularity territory, as much as they now try to distance themselves from the man they once wrapped their party around. . . And in a lot the industrial Midwest especially, the GOP is the party of 'no'.

By the way, here is what the GOP was doing during their “closed door” conversation with Obama
[The Hill] "While Obama implored Republicans behind closed doors to consider supporting his economic stimulus bill, GOP thumbs worked overtime, tapping updates onto the microblogging website for thousands to read." . . .

Where the “Blue Dogs” stood on the stimulus package

Now we watch the media spin. Will they decide to play it as “Obama FAILS to gain bipartisan support”? Or “Republicans REFUSE bipartisan accommodation”? We’ll see
[AP] In a swift victory for President Barack Obama . . .,0,6258371.story
[Chicago Tribune] President Barack Obama fails to crack partisan divide
[CNS] Republicans United Against Massive Government Spending Program
[Fox] Republicans Craft Careful 'Resistance' in Congress
[Telegraph (UK)] Hollow victory: Republicans deliver slap in the face to Barack Obama


Here is a very useful summary of just what is in the stimulus package


Obama gives an interview to al-Arabiya

Good. Blackwater out of Iraq

I’ve always thought there was an ugly untold story hidden at Bagram Air Force base in Iraq – you can search back issues of PBD to find out

Still trying to track down the Bush gang’s lawlessness
The Bush administration’s "war on terror" -- including its controversial policies on detentions, interrogations and warrantless wiretapping -- was all underpinned by legal memoranda. While some of those memos have been released (primarily as a result of ACLU lawsuits), the former administration chose to keep many others secret, citing security and confidentiality concerns.

The decision to release them now lies with President Obama . . .


Was Eric Holder foolish enough to PROMISE Republicans there would be no investigations of Bush era wrongdoing?
The Washington Times reported today that Attorney General nominee Eric Holder has privately assured Sen. Kit Bond (MO) and other Republicans that the Obama DoJ will not prosecute intelligence officials who engaged in harsh interrogations. . . .

Maybe so:
“Prosecutorial and investigative judgments must depend on the facts, and no one is above the law. But where it is clear that a government agent has acted in "reasonable and good-faith reliance on Justice Department legal opinions" authoritatively permitting his conduct, I would find it difficult to justify commencing a full-blown criminal investigation, let alone a prosecution.”


Tracking the guests on the talk shows. When the GOP was in control, we saw mostly Republicans because, well, they were making all the key decisions. Now that the Dems are in power we see mostly, uh, REPUBLICANS, because it’s important to give the alternative perspective counterbalancing time. You win, you lose; you lose, you win
REPORT: GOP Lawmakers Outnumber Democratic Lawmakers 2 To 1 In Stimulus Debate On Cable News . . .

Blagojevich suddenly shifts track, announces that he DOES want to speak in his own defense at his Illinois Senate trial,0,567131.story
Some senators wondered whether it was a final grandstand play by the governor that could end with a highly public resignation—depriving the Senate of the opportunity to remove him and preserving Blagojevich's right to seek future office. . . .

Norm Coleman, flailing wildly
[Eric Kleefeld] The Coleman campaign has launched the latest P.R. front in their effort to have the rejected absentee ballots reconsidered, with some interesting potential ethical ramifications.

The Coleman camp's Web site has now published in an easily accessible form the names and home counties of every individual who delivered an absentee ballot and who has not yet been counted. . . . "Check below to see if you are one of the thousands of Minnesotans the Franken campaign is seeking to disenfranchise," the page says. "And please contact us at to express your support for our effort to have your vote counted."

It gets better. By including every last rejected ballot, regardless of backstory or merit, they are including ballots they themselves earlier objected to counting, under the state Supreme Court's controversial decision that gave the candidates a veto power over improperly-rejected absentees -- and they're now saying it's the Franken campaign who is disenfranchising these people. . . .

And remember, the Coleman campaign's position until the last few weeks was that none of these ballots should ever be counted. . . .
Appearing last night on Fox News for an interview with Sean Hannity, Norm Coleman made an interesting appeal for money: That he can win this race if "good Americans" contribute to help him pay his legal bills . . .

The Franken legal team has been busy this afternoon laying out their argument against Norm Coleman: You don't get to pull a 180. . . .

Will Ken Blackwell bring Ohio 2004 electoral politics to the national GOP?

Maybe not:

Whoa. Think about it
According to Gallup, there are only five states that now have a statistically significant majorities of Republicans. They are Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Alaska and Nebraska. . . .

When the Republican party has been reduced to its cortical stem, the hardest of the hard core, that gives demagogues like Rush Limbaugh disproportionate influence over what’s left. And the remaining Republicans can’t afford to lose or alienate that core. Isn’t Rush loving it!
Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) apologized Wednesday to “my fellow conservatives” for comments critical of talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh – saying he sees “eye-to-eye” with Limbaugh . . . [read on]


Har-de-ha-ha. Bill O’Reilly gets pwned by Jessica Alba

Bonus item: What. A. Pig.
Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) revealed more of himself than anyone cared to see, at the expense of Salon's Joan Walsh, this evening on "Hardball." In a debate with Walsh over tax policy, Armey let loose with this chauvinistic gem: "I am so damn glad that you can never be my wife cause I surely wouldn't have to listen to that prattle from you every day." Take a look . . .

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Looks like we’re going to have to put up with this ridiculous Kabuki for the next few weeks. Obama says he wants to work with Republicans, will meet with them any time, anywhere, blah blah. Republicans say, they really, really do want to support the President, but they have to remain true to their conservative principles and that means only supporting him if he offers a Republican bill. The media bleats that Obama is “failing” if he can’t get Republicans to support him, and gives tons of air time to Republicans crying crocodile tears because Obama won’t do what they want.

Look, the bill is going to pass and it’s going to pass only with those Republicans voting for it who see it in their electoral interest to do so – no more and no less. The rest of the GOP have decided that their future is in hewing (now, after enabling eight years of Bush profligacy) to the “fiscal conservative” line. There won’t be a filibuster because the Repubs have no stomach in a time of economic crisis to be seen as blocking a new President’s stimulus bill.

Post-partisan? Never.
Boehner to Obama: We'd be willing to support a fully Republican bill.
The McConnell/Boehner plan is to fix the Bush mess by pushing through more of the former president's policies. Again.
Sen. Ensign (R): 2001 Bush tax cut a model of bipartisanship Obama should aspire to.
[Jonathan Singer] I'm going to disagree with Josh here -- I think the 2001 tax cuts are exactly the model of bipartisanship that Barack Obama should aspire to. At the outset of his term, George W. Bush was able to get more or less everything he asked for from the Congress in terms upper-range tax cuts, yet still managed to get a dozen Democratic Senators and another couple dozen House Democrats to vote "aye." If President Obama can get almost everything he wants in the 2009 stimulus bill, and can steamroll a significant chunk of Congressional Republicans to support his position at the same time, then that's the kind of bipartisanship I can believe in.


The new GOP line: it’s the Dems who are hurting Obama’s bill

The latest: Obama goes up to the Hill to meet with Republicans

What he said to them:

What the Republicans said:
In many ways, Obama told the assembled Republicans everything they would want to hear, according to people in the meetings.

He promised to make tough spending choices in his first budget blueprint — “everyone will have to take a haircut,” he said. He told them he wouldn’t increase the size of government just to increase the size of government. He even teased House Minority Leader John A. Boehner about his golf swing.

Likewise, Republicans left the meeting with kind words for the president — but still resolved to oppose him on the floor Wednesday when Democrats bring his massive economic stimulus plan up for a vote. . . . [read on]
Obama spent an hour with the House GOP, and lawmakers emerged saying very nice things about him. But would they vote for his stimulus plan?

"No, but he's a charming guy," said Rep. Jack Kingston (Ga.).

"No," said Rep. Kevin Brady (Tex.), but it was a "very warm dialogue."

"Probably not," Rep. Louie Gohmert (Tex.) said with a grin that made clear his "no" vote is certain. But "he's truly a nice guy." . . . [read on]
[Chris Bowers] As Congressional Democrats chug along, the actual Republican strategy is not to offer an alternative, but to:

1. Complain about one small aspect of the bill at a time, such as contraception funding, non-existent CBO reports, non-existent earmarks and, now, ACORN.

2. Demand that, in the name of bi-partisanship, that small aspect of the stimulus be dropped.

3. Secure meetings with Obama, in order for these complaints and demands to appear relevant to the national media.

4. Hope that, as Digby notes, Democrats in Congress and / or liberal activists grow publicly angry with President Obama if / when he makes these concessions in order to secure more Republican votes. Thus, Republicans are fulfilling Obama's vision (even though they oppose the stimulus) while Democrats are thwarting it (even though they are writing and supporting the stimulus).

5. Rinse, lather, repeat.


Republicans are still open to supporting a stimulus package in the House, a GOP leadership aide tells the Huffington Post, despite reports that they will oppose it. . . .

The GOP “alternative”

The media loves (the appearance of) bipartisanship

Plain speaking
[Bob Herbert] What’s up with the Republicans? Have they no sense that their policies have sent the country hurtling down the road to ruin? Are they so divorced from reality that in their delusionary state they honestly believe we need more of their tax cuts for the rich and their other forms of plutocratic irresponsibility, the very things that got us to this deplorable state?

The G.O.P.’s latest campaign is aimed at undermining President Obama’s effort to cope with the national economic emergency by attacking the spending in his stimulus package and repeating ad nauseam the Republican mantra for ever more tax cuts. . . . [read on]

The latest right-wing squeal is that (some) released Gitmo prisoners end up back on the battlefield. Is this recidivism a real issue?

Rove’s lawyer punts his Executive Privilege claim to the Obama administration – will they support their predecessor’s expansive claims of immunity?

The GOP fights to maintain a filibustering minority in the Senate (it’s all they have left)

Norm Coleman’s increasingly feeble fight in Minnesota grinds on

The Blagojevich trial: hear the tapes

Rachel Maddow scores a coup: gets a long, windy interview with Blago, during which he massacres his own trial defense. If you have the time, this is worth listening to entirely – but at least get the legal analysis

The interview:

The transcript:

The analysis:

Rush Limbaugh: head of the GOP?


Fox News tries to advance their line that Obama only won because of a fawning press (which is why we need Fox News, see?)

Bonus item: She’s b-a-a-a-ck (with a P-A-A-A-C)

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


“Bipartisanship,” in the current lingo, seems to require Obama reaching out to Republicans who have made it quite clear that they won’t vote for his stimulus package, ever
[Paul Krugman] As the debate over President Obama’s economic stimulus plan gets under way, one thing is certain: many of the plan’s opponents aren’t arguing in good faith. . . .
[Steve Benen] Congressional Republicans have reportedly "taken issue with the large chunk of funding in the stimulus package -- some $300 billion all told -- that will go to shore up the budgets of states." Matt Yglesias notes how ridiculous this is. . . . [read on]


How bipartisanship works?
[AP] House Democrats appear likely to jettison family planning funds for the low-income from an $825 billion economic stimulus bill, officials said late Monday, following an appeal from President Barack Obama at a time the administration is courting Republican critics of the legislation . . .
[JEM] I'm starting to get really annoyed with most news outlets, particularly Politico, which seems to be auditioning for the role of Drudge 2.0, portraying Obama's pledge to be more bipartisan as some sort of political straight jacket. Apparently, Obama has to completely transform all of his ideas and proposals to whatever the Republicans demand if he hopes to live up to his 'promise' of bipartisanship. I hope these articles conclude that he's broken his promise by the time the stimulus passes (with more than 60 votes, mind you), just so I don't have to endure them for the next four years.

Who’s winning the politics of this?
[JG] Excuse me if I sound like a worry wart, but I am a little concerned that Obama is being punked by the GOPers on the stimulus bill. As I understand it, he has already changed the proposed bill to include tax cuts and made other changes to please the GOP. However, it seems that he has yet to get them to buy in. It would seem that rather than putting their proposals into the package upfront, it would be better if he made it clear that he would include their proposal only if they agree to support the bill. By making the concessions up front, he seems to be diluting his proposals, lending credibility to both the GOP's proposals and criticisms of Obama's package.

[ND] I have to disagree with your reader about his worry that Obama is getting 'punked' by Republicans. I am beginning to think that a lot of liberals are suffering from some kind of Stockholm syndrome with the republicans and conservatives giving them credit for every little move while trashing Obama and doubting him every step of the way. Though we may not like everything that is on the bill and should as progressives push for what we think needs to be done the comments I have seen go way beyond that. Calling into question Obama's commitment to progressive causes and his savvy about how to get a good bill passed. People seem to forget that Obama is extending a hand not in order to get all the republicans to bend over for him (excuse the graphic description) but is doing this for a large audience. The ones getting punked are the republicans who will look childish and small when this is done. Obama is playing chess while the republicans and many liberals are barely doing checkers. Not a week in and already giving the cons more credit than the guy who won the election for our cause.

The Repubs and their media allies were eager to cite a CBO “report” on the stimulus package that never actually existed. Now there is a real CBO report – think they’ll mention it?
[WSJ] “According to Congressional Budget Office estimates, a mere $26 billion of the House stimulus bill's $355 billion in new spending would actually be spent in the current fiscal year . . .”

[Steve Benen] The problem, for those who were away from their computers over the weekend, is that the CBO report conservatives are relying on doesn't exist. . . .
CBO anticipates that implementation of H.R. 1 would have a noticeable impact on economic growth and employment in the next few years. . . . [read on]


The Republicans play oogy-boogy on GITMO
[Steve Benen] Fox News personalities argued last week that the Obama would bring dangerous terrorists "to our soil, right here." Karl Rove argued over the weekend that Obama will change his mind about Gitmo because "there will be an uproar in the U.S." about detaining suspects on American soil. John McCain told Fox News yesterday, "I don't know of a state in America that wants them in their state. . . .”

Elana Schor reports that the most likely facility is the military's maximum-security prison in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas -- which, by the way, is where Candidate McCain wanted to send the detainees when he endorsed closing Gitmo . . .

I can appreciate the discomfort one might feel in the proximity of a psychotic religious fanatic, but as the Not-In-My-Backyard phenomenon goes, this is pretty silly.

As Glenn Greenwald explained the other day, there are already all kinds of suspected terrorists, including those associated with the 9/11 attacks, in federal detention right here on U.S. soil. As far as I can tell, no one much cares, and there have been no protests from conservative commentators, lawmakers, or activists about moving them out of the country.
[SG] Am I the only one who is simply flabbergasted that any Republican, much less a member of the Bush Administration like Karl Rove, thinks the closing of Gitmo will be a campaign issue that favors the GOP? I listen to these people lecture us about the difficulty Obama will face in relocating the prisoners and one word keeps repeating itself in my mind: chutzpah! Of the highest order! It's as if they built a poorly designed nuclear plant, let it melt down on their watch, did nothing to clean it up, and then upon leaving office said: "Good luck with that nuclear plant! We'll be watching and ready to pounce when you haven't got that sucker under control in a year!"


You have to say this for the media: they know how to take a simplistic but catchy question, prepped for them by the Right, and inject it directly into the conventional wisdom bloodstream
[David Gregory] Do you think that the president is making America less safe in taking this step? . . . [read on]

Obama’s four Executive Orders, and the new era they portend
[Jane Mayer] On Thursday, President Barack Obama consigned to history the worst excesses of the Bush Administration’s “war on terror.” . . . [read on]


“Question of the day”
[Josh Marshall] How much TARP money should be spent on lobbying Congress to loosen the restrictions on getting TARP money in the first place?

Just when he thought he was out, they pull him back in
[AP] The House Judiciary Committee chairman subpoenaed former White House adviser Karl Rove on Monday to testify about the Bush administration's firing of U.S. attorneys and prosecution of a former Democratic governor. . . .

"I have said many times that I will carry this investigation forward to its conclusion, whether in Congress or in court, and today's action is an important step along the way," Conyers said . . . "Change has come to Washington, and I hope Karl Rove is ready for it. After two years of stonewalling, it's time for him to talk," Conyers said.


I am really surprised that the judges didn’t throw Norm Coleman and his whole case out of court for this
[Eric Kleefeld] The first day of the Minnesota election trial has come to a close, and it couldn't have been a fun day for Norm Coleman, who was present in the courtroom to watch everything that happened.

It's not a good day when the court throws out your evidence and tells your legal team to submit it all over again.

Earlier today, Franken attorney Marc Elias raised serious questions about the Coleman campaign erasing sections from photocopies of rejected absentee-ballot envelopes that they're attempting to get put into the count. Later questioning by Elias of Coleman attorney Gloria Sonnen revealed that the submitted copies also include written notes added on to the envelopes by the Coleman team, and it's impossible to tell what writing was there originally and what was added by the Coleman camp.

The judges have now ordered Coleman's legal team to subpoena and submit the original ballot envelopes themselves, if they want them to be reviewed and potentially counted. . . .

It could have been worse -- the judges have bent over backwards by giving Coleman another chance to submit this evidence, instead of striking the claim entirely.


The Blagojevich circus goes on the road
[Alex Koppelman] [E]verything about Blagojevich's latest foray into the national media spotlight is over the top. While he's being interviewed on what seems to be every possible channel, his trial in the Illinois state Senate is starting -- and he's skipping it, complaining that "the fix is in" and saying, "I'm talking to Americans to let them know what's happening in the land of Lincoln. If they can do it to a governor, they can do it to you." . . .
Embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich said Monday that he considered appointing Oprah Winfrey to fill Barack Obama's Senate seat. . . .

I have no brief for Blago whatsoever – but isn’t this, as Adam B says, a little bit of a jury bribe, coming in the middle of an impeachment trial?
“None of the funds provided by this Act may be made available to the State of Illinois, or any agency of the State, unless (1) the use of such funds by the State is approved in legislation enacted by the State after the date of the enactment of this Act, or (2) Rod R. Blagojevich no longer holds the office of Governor of the State of Illinois. . . .”

You know this is said by someone who NEVER eats at McDonald's
George Will argues that the rising consumption of cheap fast food during the Bush Recession shows the market works, saying the boost in quarterly profits at McDonald’s is a perfect example of "the market sorting this out." . . . [read on]

End of a very-short era. Bill Kristol’s column for the NYT ends (without explanation) with this
This is William Kristol’s last column.

[Greg Mitchell] As you surely know by now, Bill Kristol wrote his final column today for the New York Times, sparing the paper any further embarrassment. But, as usual, he did not spare us all a good belly laugh . . . [read on]

Bonus item: Rush Limbaugh, beyond parody
I have a serious proposal to make: the Obama-Limbaugh Stimulus Plan 2009. . . . This does not have to be a divisive issue. It does not have to be in any way, shape, manner, or form a divisive issue. . . . There is no bipartisanship in President Obama's plan. President Obama's definition of bipartisanship is when Republicans cave and agree with his plan so he can then claim it's bipartisan. But he's not compromising on anything here.

Mine is a genuine compromise. So let's look at how the vote came out, shall we? Fifty-three percent of voters in this country -- we'll say, for the sake of this proposal, 53% of Americans -- voted for Obama. Forty-six percent voted for Senator McCain, and 1% voted for wackos. Let's give the remaining 1% to President Obama, so let's say that 54% voted for President Obama and 46% voted for Senator McCain. As a way to bring the country together and at the same time determine the most effective way to deal with recessions, under the Obama-Limbaugh Stimulus Plan of 2009, $540 billion of the one trillion will be spent on infrastructure as defined by President Obama and the Democrats. The remaining $460 billion, or 46% that voted for Senator McCain, will be directed towards tax cuts, as determined by me.

These tax cuts will consist primarily of capital gains tax cuts and corporate tax rate cuts. So Obama gets $540 billion to spend his way. The other people of this country who did not vote for his way get $460 billion spent the way they would like it spent. This is bipartisanship! This is how bipartisanship really works. Okay, Obama wins by a 54-46 majority, so he gets 54% of the trillion bucks. Spend it his way. We get 46% of the trillion bucks to spend our way, and then we compare. Then we see which stimulus actually works and works the fastest . . .

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Monday, January 26, 2009


Another Bush going-away gift
[Steve Benen] Upon announcing his plan to close the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Barack Obama also began a process that would review the case files for every detainee. The problem for the new administration, however, is that there are no files. . . . [C]onsider just how big a mess Bush has left for Obama here. The previous administration a) tortured detainees, making it harder to prosecute dangerous terrorists; b) released bad guys while detaining good guys; and c) neglected to keep comprehensive files on possible terrorists who've been in U.S. custody for several years. As if the fiasco at Gitmo weren't hard enough to clean up.

I'm reminded of something John Cole said the other day: "The moral of this story is not the danger for Obama going forward with his Gitmo decommissioning, the moral is that when venal, shallow, small men are given unfettered power and authority, they do incompetent, stupid, and evil things."

And on the economy . . .
[Devilstower] While we are now looking forward to changes with the Obama administration, we're currently living with the world W wrought. For the last eight years, conservatives weren't just digging a hole, they pulled out a squadron of excavators that have put craters all over the national map.

A lot of the numbers are familiar, but with the departure of the economic mangler in chief, it's worth a quick review just to get a look at the scope of the task ahead . . .

Go, go!
President Obama will direct federal regulators on Monday to move swiftly on an application by California and 13 other states to set strict automobile emission and fuel efficiency standards, two administration officials said Sunday.

The directive makes good on an Obama campaign pledge and signifies a sharp reversal of Bush administration policy. Granting California and the other states the right to regulate tailpipe emissions would be one of the most emphatic actions Mr. Obama could take to quickly put his stamp on environmental policy. . . .

Trouble ahead for Obama in the Middle East?

And in Afghanistan and Pakistan?

I’ve gone back and forth on this, but I basically come down on the side of Atrios
I actually hope every Republican votes against the stimulus package, and I hope that instead of trying to please them the Obama team comes up with what they think the right package will be. The Republicans should lay out a competing vision, which won't pass because they aren't in charge. Then, 2 and 4 years from now voters can judge the results and if they aren't pretty they'll know who to blame and decide that the competing vision would have been a better one.

With bipartisanship you'll not only get a compromise that sucks, when it's time to throw the bums out no one will be quite sure which party should be blamed. Then what new candidates do is just run against some generic "Washington."

Democrats have the presidency and big majorities. Instead of hiding behind the spread-the-blame-around tactic, they should announce their vision and run with it.


The politics of obstruction

The range of views on the Sunday talk shows
[Dday] The Sunday talk shows were filled with conservatives (it really is a new era on Sunday mornings, isn't it?) trashing the Obama recovery plan and demanding more concessions in exchange for their votes, despite the fact that they have almost no leverage in the Congress. This is mostly a head game, using Obama's supposed commitment to bipartisanship to force the types of unwise policies Americans roundly rejected at the polls into the final bill. . . . [read on]

How the GOP plans to politicize the closing of Gitmo: NIMBY

Perhaps recent experiences in Illinois and New York should make us rethink the policy of letting governors choose Senate replacements

Rod Blagojevich, standup comedian
Blagojevich in NBC interview compares himself to Gandhi, King and Mandela . . .
Setting the stage for a momentous act of political repudiation, the state Senate prepared to open the first impeachment trial of a governor in Illinois history on Monday and disgraced Gov. Rod Blagojevich acknowledged his days in office were numbered.

“I think what you’ll see is a roll call that will be pre-designed, and we’ll see whether or not I even get one vote,” Blagojevich said in an interview with NBC’s “Today Show,” according to a transcript released Sunday. He alleged the Senate trial was “rigged, and it’s fixed.” . . .

[NB: Hmmm. . . . what OTHER explanation could there be for the fact that there will be a unanimous verdict on his guilt?]

Bonus item: Ben Stein IS a comedian (of sorts), but I don’t think he meant this column to be so hilarious
NOT long ago, a woman in California called me for advice. . . .


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I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Sunday, January 25, 2009


FUBAR in Gitmo
President Obama's plans to expeditiously determine the fates of about 245 terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and quickly close the military prison there were set back last week when incoming legal and national security officials -- barred until the inauguration from examining classified material on the detainees -- discovered that there were no comprehensive case files on many of them.

Instead, they found that information on individual prisoners is "scattered throughout the executive branch," a senior administration official said. The executive order Obama signed Thursday orders the prison closed within one year, and a Cabinet-level panel named to review each case separately will have to spend its initial weeks and perhaps months scouring the corners of the federal government in search of relevant material.

Several former Bush administration officials agreed that the files are incomplete and that no single government entity was charged with pulling together all the facts and the range of options for each prisoner. They said that the CIA and other intelligence agencies were reluctant to share information, and that the Bush administration's focus on detention and interrogation made preparation of viable prosecutions a far lower priority. . . .

We had a preview of this a few days ago: now the latest issue has hit the stands
[Vanity Fair] “Lawrence Wilkerson, top aide and later chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell: ... I think the clearest indication I got that Rich [Armitage] and he both had finally awakened to the dimensions of the problem was when Rich began—I mean, I’ll be very candid—began to use language to describe the vice president’s office with me as the Gestapo, as the Nazis, and would sometimes late in the evening, when we were having a drink—would sometimes go off rather aggressively on particular characters in the vice president’s office.”

[Anthony Cordesman] “It’s important to note that we made even more mistakes in Afghanistan than we did in Iraq. We were far slower to react, but in both cases we were unprepared for stability operations; we had totally unrealistic goals for nation building; at a political level we were in a state of denial about the seriousness of popular anger and resistance, about the rise of the insurgency, about the need for host-country support and forces; and we had a singularly unfortunate combination of a secretary of defense and a vice president who tried to win through ideology rather than realism and a secretary of state who essentially stood aside from many of the issues involved. And in fairness, rather than blame subordinates, you had a president who basically took until late 2006 to understand how much trouble he was in in Iraq and seems to have taken till late 2008 to understand how much trouble he was in in Afghanistan.”

Getting to know Rahm Emanuel

Go, go!
The Obama administration plans to move quickly to tighten the nation’s financial regulatory system.

Officials say they will make wide-ranging changes, including stricter federal rules for hedge funds, credit rating agencies and mortgage brokers, and greater oversight of the complex financial instruments that contributed to the economic crisis. . . .


I’ll take this match-up every week: Obama’s weekly “radio” address (which has now become a video-podcast address), versus John Boehner
[Obama] “It’s a plan that will save or create three to four million jobs over the next few years, and one that recognizes both the paradox and the promise of this moment - the fact that there are millions of Americans trying to find work even as, all around the country, there’s so much work to be done. That’s why this is not just a short-term program to boost employment. It’s one that will invest in our most important priorities like energy and education; health care and a new infrastructure that are necessary to keep us strong and competitive in the 21st century. . . .

I know that some are skeptical about the size and scale of this recovery plan. I understand that skepticism, which is why this recovery plan must and will include unprecedented measures that will allow the American people to hold my Administration accountable for these results. We won’t just throw money at our problems - we’ll invest in what works. Instead of politicians doling out money behind a veil of secrecy, decisions about where we invest will be made public, and informed by independent experts whenever possible. We’ll launch an unprecedented effort to root out waste, inefficiency, and unnecessary spending in our government, and every American will be able to see how and where we spend taxpayer dollars by going to a new website called” [read on]
"Our plan is rooted in the philosophy that we cannot borrow and spend our way back to prosperity," Boehner stated.

The minority leader said the package authored by congressional Democrats was "chock-full of government programs and projects" . . .

I love these Republicans: Obama wants to “Europeanize America.” Hey guys, why don’t you go after FRENCH FRIES again?

More GOP brilliance
[Steve Benen] Several far-right lawmakers took to the House floor this week, to praise and pay tribute to the 43rd president.

Note that these Republicans not only adore Bush, but Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) feels so strongly about his affection for the former president, that he literally chokes up talking about the "more hopeful" future Bush has left his children. . . . .

GOP moving further to the right?

A party in disarray

Rush Limbaugh, rushing from blowhard to buffoon
“But I just want to say, folks, look I support Obama. I just don't support his policies. I support our president, like I have supported all presidents. I just don't support Obama's policies. I don't support the nationalization of the banks, which has happened. I don't support the nationalization of the auto companies. I don't support the nationalization of the mortgage business. I don't like Barney Frank and Chris Dodd running things. And I don't want that to continue.”

[Susan G] Setting aside whether you agree or disagree with his characterization of policy here, let's think long and hard about who was president when the "nationalization of banks" began. Who was president when the auto companies were "nationalized?" When the mortgage business received government aid? Someone in the executive branch--not Barney Frank and not Chris Dodd, and not Barack Obama--gave those measures the green light.

What was that guy's name again?

[Mickey Edwards, former R-OK] The Republican Party that is in such disrepute today is not the party of Reagan. It is the party of Rush Limbaugh, of Ann Coulter, of Newt Gingrich, of George W. Bush, of Karl Rove. It is not a conservative party, it is a party built on the blind and narrow pursuit of power.

Not too long ago, conservatives were thought of as the locus of creative thought. Conservative think tanks (full disclosure: I was one of the three founding trustees of the Heritage Foundation) were thought of as cutting-edge, offering conservative solutions to national problems. By the 2008 elections, the very idea of ideas had been rejected. . . . [read on]


Blagojevich’s chief lawyer quits
[AP] "The heart and soul of this has been a struggle of me against the system," Blagojevich said at a news conference Friday. . . .

He has chosen not to mount any defense in the Senate impeachment trial that begins Monday and could remove him from office within days. He may ask the Illinois Supreme Court to block the trial, arguing its rules are hopelessly biased against him.

Blagojevich, a fan of Western movies, drew a long analogy Friday between his situation and that of a cowboy falsely accused of stealing a horse. His story ended with one cowboy suggesting the accused thief be hanged, with the other suggesting he first be tried, then hanged.

"Under these rules, I'm not even getting a fair trial; they're just hanging me. And when they hang me under these rules that prevent due process, they're hanging the 12 million people of Illinois who twice have elected a governor," he said.

The Democratic governor told The Associated Press on Thursday night that he's willing to sacrifice himself for principle by standing up to lawmakers he believes are violating the Illinois Constitution. "The fight will continue," he said.

Blagojevich's fight would have one fewer supporter as his chief defense attorney, Ed Genson, announced Friday that he would pull out of the federal criminal case. In announcing his withdrawal, Genson insinuated the governor didn't listen to his advice.

"I never require a client to do what I say, but I do require them to at least listen," Genson said. . . .,CST-NWS-gensen24.article
Genson, sources said, had been frustrated over a lack of communication with other attorneys for Blagojevich. That dissension boiled over Thursday when lawyer Sam Adam Sr. and his son Sam Adam Jr. said they planned to file a lawsuit to block the governor's upcoming Senate impeachment trial. Genson had said there was no chance a lawsuit would be filed.


Sunday talk show line-ups
STATE OF THE UNION: (CNN), 9 a.m.: Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.); Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.); David Plouffe, former campaign manager for Barack Obama; New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I); Douglas J. Feith, former Bush undersecretary of defense; and Charles D. Swift, former Navy defense attorney and visiting associate professor at Emory Law School.

THIS WEEK (ABC): House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

FACE THE NATION (CBS): Vice President Biden.

MEET THE PRESS (NBC): National Economic Council director Lawrence H. Summers and House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio).

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***