Tag Archives: Chris Good

The King Hearings… A Small Sampling

Mark Memmott at NPR:

The House Committee on Homeland Security’s hearing on what Chairman Peter King (R-NY) says is the domestic threat from “Muslim radicalization” continues on Capitol Hill. We posted earlier on the emotional testimony from Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), the first Muslim member of Congress and on a father’s warning about the “extremist invaders” who he says programmed his son to kill.

King, as you can see in this video from The Associated Press, said he will not “back down … to political correctness.”

“There is nothing radical or un-American in holding these hearings,” King said

Chris Good at The Altantic:

In a move that’s stirred much criticism, New York Rep. Peter King on Thursday, at 9:30 a.m. Eastern, will hold a hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee examining radicalization among American Muslims.

Not since the Bush administration has public debate erupted so sharply over whether a particular congressional hearing should even be held.

King says the hearing is “absolutely necessary.” Radicalization exists in the Muslim community in America, and it’s his job as committee chairman to fully investigate it, King has said.

“I have no choice. I have to hold these hearings. These hearings are absolutely essential. What I’m doing is taking the next logical step from what the administration has been saying. Eric Holder says he lies awake at night worrying about the growing radicalization of people in this country who are willing to take up arms against their government. I believe that the leadership, too many leaders in the Muslim community do not face up to that reality,” King recently told CNN’s Dana Bash.

“I never want to wake up the morning after another attack and say if only I had done what I should have done as homeland security chairman, this wouldn’t have happened,” said King, who represents a district on Long Island.

Others don’t see it that way: Many have raised questions about whether King is wrong to single out a particular religious group. Comparisons to McCarthyism have being raised.

Joe Coscarelli at The Village Voice:

Rep. Keith Ellison, a Democrat from Minnesota, spoke this morning at the controversial hearings led by Long Island Republican congressman Peter King, and broke down in tears while telling the story of Mohammad Salman Hamdani, an American citizen from Pakistan, who died in the Septemper 11 attack on the World Trade Center. Ellison first warned of the dangers of “ascribing evil acts of a few individuals to an entire community,” before sobbing through the story of Hamdani, who was slandered when he went missing on 9/11, accused of being complicit in the attack. “His life should not be indentified as just a member of an ethnic group or just a member of a religion,” Ellison said, “but as an American who gave everything for his fellow Americans.”

King, meanwhile, announced today that he has had around-the-clock security since late last year, when he announced plans to hold hearings that examine recruitment for Al Qaeda and the threat of “radicalization.”

More important is Ellison’s moving plea. If this country has any sense, his impassioned testimony will be the lasting image from this detrimental sham masquerading as government action.

David Weigel:

Much of the liberal opposition to Rep. Peter King’s hearings on Muslim radicalism today has focused on King himself — his past support of the IRA, his treasure trove of heated comments about terrorism.

That came to the fore just now, after Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Homeland Security Committee’s ranking member, asked about the implications of a member of Congress saying there were “too many mosques.” Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., took umbrage at that.

“I haven’t heard any member of our committee say there’s too many mosques,” he said. The implication was shameful.

King briefly took the microphone. It was him, he said: “I’d said there are too many mosques.”

Indeed, he sort of did. It’s complicated. In 2007, he said those exact words in a Politico interview, but immediately pointed out that they were taken out of context — he meant to say* that there are “too many mosques not cooperating with law enforcement.”

Rep. Peter King: There Are Too Many Mosques In The US

It was just one skirmish in the long-running war between King and CAIR et al.

Joe Klein at Swampland at Time:

I’m of two minds about the hearings on domestic terrorism that Rep. Peter King is holding today. I’ve been a staunch defender of Muslims–of their patriotic record as American citizens, of their right to build houses of worship anywhere they want, including near Ground Zero. But let’s face it: there have been a skein of attacks over the past year–starting with the Fort Hood massacre and running through the aborted Times Square bombing–that have been attempted by U.S. citizens who happen to be Muslims. This is something new and, I think, it is a phenomenon that needs to be (a) acknowledged and (b) investigated as calmly and fairly as possible.

I’m not sure that King, an excitable bloviator, is the right person to conduct the hearings–but we need to know whether there is a pattern here, whether there are specific mosques that have been incubators, and how much an influence the American-born terrorist Anwar Awlaki, who is now living somewhere in Yemen, has been. We should do this with the assumption that American muslim terrorists are about as common as American Christian anti-abortion terrorists. We should do it as sensitively as possible, with the strong assertion that Islamophobia is unacceptable in America. But we should do it.

Rick Moran:

This is such a no-brainer issue that the only possible reason to oppose King’s hearings is to score political points. There is no earthly reason that Muslims should oppose rooting out radicals in their midst – especially since law enforcement says that either out of fear or anti-Americanism, many ordinary Muslims do not cooperate with the police or FBI.

I have a feeling this hearing is going to be an eye opener. And that might be why some Muslims are so opposed to having it.

Jennifer Rubin:

The notion that we should ignore the obvious in an attempt to curry favor with “moderate” Muslims here in the U.S. and to avoid offending those overseas is badly misguided. For starters, it assumes that those audiences are infantile in their inability to distinguish, as the rest of us do, the difference between radicalized, murderous Islamic fundamentalists and those who pose no threat whatsoever. In doing so, we only serve to undermine the efforts of those non-radicalized Muslims abroad who could use some assistance, even if it is only rhetorical in pushing back against extremists.

Moreover, it glosses over a real issue in the U.S.: a number of groups who offer themselves as “moderate” and with whom the administration consults are not helping matters, as evidence by the fit thrown over the prospect of examining how their fellow Muslims turn to murder and mayhem. Let’s take CAIR, for example. This ostensibly anti-discrimination group has refused to denounce Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist groups. As I wrote last year:

CAIR has created its own cottage industry by hassling airlines, intimidating government investigators, and generally spraying lawsuits and claims of “discrimination” at those who single out Muslims for additional scrutiny in efforts to defend ourselves in a war waged by Islamic fascists against our civilization. (CAIR figures also had their share of encounters with the law. See here and here.)

It’s not hard to figure out why public discussion of all this strikes fear in the hearts of those who would rather not see a public accounting of their actions. But even the administration has to acknowledge that failure to identify, understand and combat the role of Islamic fundamentalists’ recruitment of Americans is foolhardy in the extreme. And, so, lo and behold, we learn, “While the thrust of McDonough’s remarks seemed aimed at declaring common cause with the Muslim community, the White House official was also careful not to minimize the dangers posed by efforts to radicalize Muslims inside the United States. He also managed to announce, in advance of King’s hearings, that the administration will soon roll out a comprehensive plan aimed at combating the radicalization effort.” Well, I suppose CAIR won’t like that either.

If King’s hearings have spurred the administration to get off the stick and begin work on this issue, they are already a success. And if nothing else they have exposed just how unhelpful some Muslim American groups are in the war against Islamic jihadists.

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What The Hell Is Happening In Bahrain?

Scott Lucas at Enduring America

Andrew Sullivan

Michael Slackman and Nadim Audi at NYT:

Government forces opened fire on hundreds of mourners marching toward Pearl Square on Friday, sending people running away in panic amid the boom of concussion grenades. But even as the people fled, at least one helicopter sprayed fire on them and a witness reported seeing mourners crumpling to the ground.

It was not immediately clear what type of ammunition the forces were firing, but some witnesses reported fire from automatic weapons and the crowd was screaming “live fire, live fire.” At a nearby hospital, witnesses reported seeing people with very serious injuries and gaping wounds, at least some of them caused by rubber bullets that appeared to have been fired at close range.

Even as ambulances rushed to rescue people, forces fired on medics loading the wounded into their vehicles. That only added to the chaos, with people pitching in to evacuate the wounded by car and doctors at a nearby hospital saying the delays in casualties reaching them made it impossible to get a reasonable count of the dead and wounded.

Nicholas Kristof at NYT:

As a reporter, you sometimes become numbed to sadness. But it is heartbreaking to be in modern, moderate Bahrain right now and watch as a critical American ally uses tanks, troops, guns and clubs to crush a peaceful democracy movement and then lie about it.

This kind of brutal repression is normally confined to remote and backward nations, but this is Bahrain. An international banking center. The home of an important American naval base, the Fifth Fleet. A wealthy and well-educated nation with a large middle class and cosmopolitan values.

To be here and see corpses of protesters with gunshot wounds, to hear an eyewitness account of an execution of a handcuffed protester, to interview paramedics who say they were beaten for trying to treat the injured — yes, all that just breaks my heart.

So here’s what happened.

The pro-democracy movement has bubbled for decades in Bahrain, but it found new strength after the overthrow of the dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt. Then the Bahrain government attacked the protesters early this week with stunning brutality, firing tear gas, rubber bullets and shotgun pellets at small groups of peaceful, unarmed demonstrators. Two demonstrators were killed (one while walking in a funeral procession), and widespread public outrage gave a huge boost to the democracy movement.

King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa initially pulled the police back, but early on Thursday morning he sent in the riot police, who went in with guns blazing. Bahrain television has claimed that the protesters were armed with swords and threatening security. That’s preposterous. I was on the roundabout earlier that night and saw many thousands of people, including large numbers of women and children, even babies. Many were asleep.

I was not there at the time of the attack, but afterward, at the main hospital (one of at least three to receive casualties), I saw the effects. More than 600 people were treated with injuries, overwhelmingly men but including small numbers of women and children.

Nitasha Tiku at New York Magazine:

On Bahrain TV, Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa called for open communication, saying, “The dialogue is always open and the reforms continue. This land is for all citizens of Bahrain.” He added, “We need to call for self-restraint from all sides, the armed forces, security men, and citizens.”

As in Egypt, the White House is in the awkward position of asking for restraint from a longtime strategic ally, while not appearing to directly oppose the regime. After four protesters were killed on Wednesday night, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “expressed deep concern about recent events and urged restraint moving forward.”

As the government turned to violence, the protesters, who vowed to repeat Egypt’s nonviolent model, have likewise grown more aggressive. Early on they called for a transition from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional one. Then, reports the Times, “On Thursday, the opposition withdrew from the Parliament and demanded that the government step down. And on Friday, the mourners were chanting slogans like ‘death to Khalifa,’ referring to King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa.”

Stephen J. Smith at Reason:

Despite denials from sources close to the Bahraini government, credible rumors of Saudi tanks and troops on the ground in Bahrain are widespread, as the ruling Bahraini House of Khalifa desperately reasserts control in the capital after initially ceding the central Pearl Square to tens of thousands of anti-government protesters. The House of Saud, as you may recall, has a strong interest in ensuring that the Shiite-driven unrest in Bahrain doesn’t spill over to Saudi Arabia’s own Shiite-manned oil fields.

In addition to the Nicholas Kristof tweet that Jesse Walker posted earlier (more here), which suggested that Saudi troops were stopping ambulances from helping protesters injured in the surprise midnight attack (and that’s not the only suggestion of medics being prevented from helping), there are a few reports that Saudi tanks may have arrived on the island. One Spanish racing team owner (Bahrain was set to host the season-opening Formula 1 Grand Prix next month, something which is now very much in doubtclaimed that “there are Saudi tanks everywhere.” An Iranian news organization is claiming the Saudis sent hundreds of tanks and personnel carriers in from Qatar, which it backs up with a video of armored personnel carriers rolling down a highway in Manama, though I can’t confirm that those are actually from Saudi Arabia. The Guardian writes, somewhat ambiguously: “Tanks and troops from Saudi Arabia were reported to have been deployed in support of Bahraini forces.”

Regardless of whether or not Saudi troops and tanks actually took part in the brutal early morning attack that dislodged the protesters from Pearl Square, the Khalifas have taken measures to prevent their own security forces from sympathizing with the mostly Shiite Bahraini protesters. For years the Sunni rulers of Bahrain have been accused of recruiting foreign riot police and naturalizing them in an effort to avoid an Egypt-like situation where low-level officers refuse orders to fire on their countrymen. As a result, few among the Bahraini security forces speak the local dialect, and some of the Pakistanis don’t speak Arabic at all.

Chris Good at The Atlantic:

Obama condemned that violence Friday in a written statement that also sought to quell reprisals against pro-democracy activists in Yemen and Libya, saying:

I am deeply concerned by reports of violence in Bahrain, Libya and Yemen. The United States condemns the use of violence by governments against peaceful protesters in those countries and wherever else it may occur. We express our condolences to the family and friends of those who have been killed during the demonstrations. Wherever they are, people have certain universal rights including the right to peaceful assembly. The United States urges the governments of Bahrain, Libya and Yemen to show restraint in responding to peaceful protests, and to respect the rights of their people.

Obama’s statement maintained the stance he took as Egypt’s protests unfolded — where protesters at first met police resistance and then, after police left the streets, where gangs of Mubarak supporters turned violently on protesters and journalists. Throughout that turmoil, Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton steadfastly called on the Egyptian government to avoid violence and respect the “universal rights” of Egyptian citizens.

The picture from Bahrain, however, appears grimmer for pro-democracy activists, as police opened fire on the protestors Friday. The New York Times reports that shots were fired from at least one helicopter.

Vodka Pundit at Pajamas Media:

I know some Glenn Beck fans are probably reading this, but anarchy is a much more likely outcome than Caliphate. Not that either result would be especially good for our interests. Al Qaeda & Co thrive in failed states — but what happens in a failed region?

Truth be told, the Arab world has been failing for a long time. The region combines a long history of Ottoman oppression, lingering resentment from the fleeting period of Western colonialism, ballooning populations and shrinking economies, a malign fascination with Nazi racial theories and Soviet-style politics, and the skewed absurdities of oil wealth and Western aid. Shake it all up with the murderous and nihilistic resentments of Islamic fundamentalism, and you get lots of angry, well-armed people with no experience in self-governance and lots of scapegoats in need of a good killing.

This will get worse before it gets better.

Ashley Bates at Mother Jones

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They Write Op-Eds, Too, Part III

Barack Obama in The Wall Street Journal:

For two centuries, America’s free market has not only been the source of dazzling ideas and path-breaking products, it has also been the greatest force for prosperity the world has ever known. That vibrant entrepreneurialism is the key to our continued global leadership and the success of our people.

But throughout our history, one of the reasons the free market has worked is that we have sought the proper balance. We have preserved freedom of commerce while applying those rules and regulations necessary to protect the public against threats to our health and safety and to safeguard people and businesses from abuse.

From child labor laws to the Clean Air Act to our most recent strictures against hidden fees and penalties by credit card companies, we have, from time to time, embraced common sense rules of the road that strengthen our country without unduly interfering with the pursuit of progress and the growth of our economy.

Sometimes, those rules have gotten out of balance, placing unreasonable burdens on business—burdens that have stifled innovation and have had a chilling effect on growth and jobs. At other times, we have failed to meet our basic responsibility to protect the public interest, leading to disastrous consequences. Such was the case in the run-up to the financial crisis from which we are still recovering. There, a lack of proper oversight and transparency nearly led to the collapse of the financial markets and a full-scale Depression.

Over the past two years, the goal of my administration has been to strike the right balance. And today, I am signing an executive order that makes clear that this is the operating principle of our government.

This order requires that federal agencies ensure that regulations protect our safety, health and environment while promoting economic growth. And it orders a government-wide review of the rules already on the books to remove outdated regulations that stifle job creation and make our economy less competitive. It’s a review that will help bring order to regulations that have become a patchwork of overlapping rules, the result of tinkering by administrations and legislators of both parties and the influence of special interests in Washington over decades.

The Executive Order

Chris Good at The Atlantic. More Good:

The business community is praising President Obama’s new regulatory initiative, while retaining a degree of skepticism that meaningful change will come.

Obama rolled out a plan this morning to minimize the burdens of regulation on businesses, introducing it in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. Obama said the administration will seek input from businesses, and he issued a memo and executive order requiring executive agencies to review existing regulations and make compliance info searchable online.

“We welcome President Obama’s intention to issue an executive order today restoring balance to government regulations,” said Thomas Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s most prominent business group.

“While a positive first step, a robust and globally competitive economy requires fundamental reform of our broken regulatory system.  Congress should reclaim some of the authority it has delegated to the agencies and implement effective checks and balances on agency power,” Donohue continued, in a statement issued by the group.

Health care and financial reform should be examined as well, Donohue said: “No major rule or regulation should be exempted from the review, including the recently enacted health care and financial reform laws.”

It remains to be seen what will come out of this new roll-out. Obama has held a tricky relationship with business as president: Business coalitions like the Chamber supported his stimulus plan at the outset of his presidency, but the pushes to reform energy, health care, and Wall Street didn’t thrill them as much.

Jonathan Adler:

It reaffirms the basic principles outlined in President Clinton’s Executive Order 12866, issued in September 1993, and continues to require agencies to conduct cost-benefit analyses of proposed rules.  As noted in the President’s op-ed, it also requires agencies to engage in  “retrospective analysis” of existing rules so as to accelerate the pace at which outdated regulations are revoked.  Specifically, it requires all agencies to develop a plan for such retrospective review within 120 days.  If the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs ensures such reviews are meaningful, this could be a significant and positive step.

Michelle Malkin:

While the Sherlock Homes of 1600 Pennsylvania sleuths around in search of “the right balance” that they’ve skewed catastrophically over the last two years, the mother of all job creation-stifling regulations — Obamacare — awaits repeal.

“Balance” my you-know-what

Bruce McQuain at Q and O:

Of course on the other side of that are those saying “since when is it a function of government to decide what gas mileage a car must get?”  The entire premise that it is a function of government is built on belief in a “justified” level of intrusion far beyond that which any Constitutional scholar would or could objectively support (that’s assuming he is a scholar and an honest one).  In fact the example perfectly states the obvious difference between big government advocates and small government advocates.  BGA’s think it is government’s job to dictate such things – that it is a function of government to do so.  SGAs believe it is the market’s job to dictate such things and that government shouldn’t be involved in these sorts of things.

So in essence, while the Obama op/ed has all the proper buzz words to attempt to sell it as a pro-business, small government move, it is in fact simply a restatement of an old premise that essentially says “government belongs in the areas it is now, we just need to clean it up a little”.

This really isn’t about backing off, it’s about cleaning up.  It isn’t about letting the market work, it’s about hopefully making government work better.  And while Obama claims to want to inform us about our choices rather than restricting them, I’ll still be unable to buy a car that doesn’t meet government standards on gas mileage even if I want one.

Now that may not seem like something most of us would want – few if any of us want bad gas mileage and the cost it brings – but it does illustrate the point that government regulation really isn’t about providing choice at all, it is and always will be about limiting them.  And all the smooth talking in the world doesn’t change that.   It’s the nature of the beast.

Choire Sicha at The Awl:

The president’s last executive order was signed between Christmas and New Year’s. It codified the bias in hiring towards college graduates (and more and more in America, those without college degrees will never have access to decent work!), but at least demanded the creation of entry level positions in the government for recent college graduates and veterans. The Wall Street Journalextends a statement from the president today, promoting his new executive order, which we shall call Operation Untangling. The plan apparently means that every government agency must identify which of their regulations are stupidest, and make them go away, supposedly. For instance, Obama trumpets that they just changed the EPA regulations that ensured saccharine was treated as a toxic chemical. American, onward and upward, very, very slowly. Anyway there’s lots of dog whistle noises in here about business and regulation that are designed to appeal to particular people but judging from the reaction, it’s just another chance for everyone to complain from various opposing viewpoints about how America is broken.

Mike Konczal at Rortybomb:

It’s fine as far as it goes. Here’s where it would be helpful if Obama picked some fights and put out some reform markers, because I can’t tell if this is just cover to go after proxy access rules as a way of making peace with the business community.   It’s worth noting that, as far as I read it, we’d have the same exact financial crisis, the same criminal securitization chain, the same uncapitalized derivatives positions, the same shadow banking panic if we regulated the financial sector with these guidelines.

And the things that actually acted on these principals in the past two years – the CFPB which has consolidated regulatory burdens across agencies in order to make regulations more clear, interchange reform which created a market between credit cards and debit cards to de facto create a market rate of credit at the individual merchant level – were bitterly opposed by the industries in question.

More generally I don’t like the notion that regulation is conceptually some sort of brakes on markets, a dial that can be turned up or down until some sort of optimal space is hit. I think of regulation as a means of handling the consequences of a specific market, both by setting up the terms on which the market plays as well as the mechanisms for handling conflicts and the way things collapse.  How does a firm fail?  How do other firms compete, and under what terms is information disclosed to the market?  In some ways this is obvious: the nuclear energy market would not exist in its current form without the government.  I’d be more likely to support for crazy loans if our bankruptcy courts were designed to modify primary household debt and also if we reformed the bizarre way we deal with junior liens, a conflict people knew about at the beginning of the housing bubble.

Ann Althouse:

And here‘s the underlying Wall Street Journal op-ed by Barack Obama, which features an illustration of a man — not Obama… he looks a bit like Don Imus — in a gray business suit, running with scissors — running with scissors! — cutting his way through an abstract field of red tape. In the op-ed, Obama is all about carefully and thoughtfully weighing the value of particular regulations in relation to the burdens they impose, so the picture is amusingly inapt.

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“Wait Until That Deal Come Round”

Jon Ward at The Daily Caller:

President Obama and congressional Republicans have reached a tentative deal to extend the Bush tax cuts for all income levels and are presenting the proposal to congressional Democrats Monday afternoon, The Daily Caller has learned.

The deal will extend the current tax levels for two more years, preventing taxes from going up on any income levels, despite the wishes of many liberal Democrats — including Obama — that individuals making more than $200,000 a year and families with more than $250,000 a year in income see their rates go up.

In exchange, Republicans have agreed to extend unemployment insurance benefits for an additional 13 months.

Obama presented the proposal to Democratic congressional leaders at the White House Monday afternoon, seeking to obtain their approval for the deal.

Philip Klein at The American Spectator:

This year’s Republican landslide was rooted in the party’s ability to forge a coalition of independents and more conservative Tea Party voters, even though these groups don’t always neatly overlap. The clear strategy of the White House in the coming two years is to try and force Republicans to take stances on issues that would highlight the differences between these groups and drive them apart. One potential issue for the White House to exploit is extending unemployment benefits, a measure which many conservatives (rightly, in my view) object to, but which is more popular among the broader population. Republicans were likely to eventually cave on this issue anyway, because they’re wary of being portrayed as uncompassionate and extreme, a caricature that haunted Newt Gingrich and House Republicans after the 1994 GOP takeover. Under normal circumstances, Republicans’ caving on unemployment benefits would probably trigger a backlash on the right, but now that Republicans seem to have agreed to an extension as part of a larger deal to extend the Bush tax cuts, that criticism is likely to be a lot more muted. Now, instead of the attention being on Republicans, all of the focus is going to be on Obama’s more significant capitulation. Basically, one way or another, there was going to be an unemployment extension, but Obama has now made it a lot easier for Republicans to justify it to their base.

Michelle Malkin

Chris Good at The Atlantic:

The tax cuts were an issue in the 2010 midterms, but not by any means the biggest. The economy and health care reform took center stage, even as Tea Partiers and anti-tax groups criticized Obama for wanting to let the higher-income cuts expire.

That said, a presidential election is hotter and brighter than anything else. Everything is magnified. Americans for Tax Reform presently keeps a “Countdown to the Biggest Tax Increase in American History” clock on its website, and such rhetoric will only intensify as November 2012 approaches. Obama and his GOP opponent will discuss the tax cuts during debates. Third-party groups will spam their constituencies. The tax cuts will be a thing.

A reasonable question, then, is: If Democrats are losing this debate now, poised to give in to GOP demands, why would they think the situation will be any different in two years? There are no compromises in a presidential election, only winners and losers.

Obama isn’t actually losing this debate, it’s important to remember, in terms of public opinion. While Obama appears to be losing on the tax cuts, it mostly appears that way because he’s not going to get his way over the GOP, and because the left is angry at him, voicing discontent with his willingness to compromise. But Obama is winning the broader popularity contest. People support his stance on the Bush tax cuts, according to recent polls.

CBS (Nov. 29 – Dec. 1) shows 53 percent wanting only the sub-$250K cuts extended, with 26 percent supporting a full extension. Gallup (Nov. 19-21) shows 44 percent supporting some income threshold (different figures were polled) and 40 percent supporting the GOP’s plan. AP/CNBC (Nov. 18-22) shows 50 percent supporting Obama’s plan and 34 percent supporting the GOP’s.

So, while Obama appears to be losing this debate right now, it could be a winning issue for him in the 2012 presidential race.

Ezra Klein:

The compromise the White House is negotiating on the Bush tax cut is looking more and more like the White House’s opening gambit in the 2012 campaign.

The White House has stopped negotiating for ideal — or even acceptable — tax policy and moved to negotiating stimulus policy. The tax cuts for income over $250,000 will pump about $100 billion into the economy over the next two years. It’s not the most stimulative way to spend $100 billion, but it’s more stimulative than not spending it, or than raising taxes. And it won’t be alone.

The deal isn’t done, but right now, Democrats look likely to get a 13-month extension of both unemployment insurance and many of the tax breaks built into the stimulus (Making Work Pay, the bump in the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, the business tax breaks and so on). That totals about $180 billion over two years. So if the White House gets the deal that the early reports suggest are close — and that they seem to think they’ll be able to get — this is a two-year stimulus package that approaches $300 billion. [Update: Just to be clear, that’s $300 billion for tax cuts for income over $250,000, and tax extenders. Add in the rest of the tax cuts — which I left out because they’re already at consensus — and it’s closer to $750 billion. So the $300 billion is the marginal cost over the tax cuts for income under $250,000.]

In other words, rather than paring the tax cuts and the deficit back, they’re making both larger. If you’re of the mind that the economy needs all the extra help it can get right now — and you should be — this is a lot more extra help than anyone expected Republicans and Democrats would agree to give it. And from a political perspective, if you believe that what matters for elections is the economy — and you should — then it’s worth it for the White House to lose news cycles in 2010 if it means adding jobs by 2012.

Digby:

So it’s done. Would it be unseemly for me to say I told you so? (My miscalculation was that they would also be able to hold unemployment insurance hostage along with the middle class tax cuts, which was really brilliant considering that it’s Christmas and they can all go home now warm in the knowledge that God blesses us one and all. Damn.)

Ezra sets forth what I would imagine is the thinking among Democratic insiders, namely that tax cuts for the rich are a form of stimulus and since we can’t get any kind of real stimulus, they have to extend them. The problem here is that while tax cuts are often used for stimulus, it doesn’t seem to have worked all that well in this recession, although it may have mitigated the worst of it at its depth. But tax cuts for the wealthy have been shown over and over again to be the least effective form of stimulus and coming as they are at a time when the wealthy have recovered very well and their investments are booming (while the rest of the country is still swimming in debt and suffering from lack of jobs, the housing slump and underemployment) they are likely to be even less stimulative than usual. I really don’t think even they believe this rationale.

So why? I think it’s a basic belief in “markets” as the savior of all economic problems and a broader fear of further angering the business community and the financial sector: they hear the threats loud and clear — “unless you give us our tax cuts, the country gets it.” The corporations and Wall Street are already sitting on a boatload of cash which they have no need to distribute as long as they are making big profits anyway. They simply do not believe they should have to pay higher taxes so they are holding a metaphorical gun to the head of the government and daring it to thwart them.

Jon Bernstein:

Part of the confusion is that everyone is so used to seeing Republican rejectionism that they don’t recognize accommodation (that is, willingness to make a deal that gives both sides policy gains) when they see it.  Perhaps another part of that confusion is that this may be an issue in which liberal activists really do part ways with the bulk of Democratic voters.  It’s surely the case that among liberal activists, climate/energy, immigration, and several other issues are a much higher priority than the tax cut pledge.  But for many Obama voters, that’s probably not true.

I’d also say that I agree with those who believe that the Democrats’ spin on this issue has been far from impressive, although as usual it probably made little difference.  Still, it’s made no sense at all for Barack Obama and the Democrats to publicly support anything called “the Bush tax cuts.”  From the start, or even from summer 2010, it sure seems that it would have been a lot smarter to invent something called “the Obama middle class tax cuts” and supported that as an alternative to Bush tax cuts (or, even better, Bush tax increases).  Indeed, Obama could have outbid the Republicans on the “middle class” portion of the tax cuts, opposed tax cuts for the rich, and still had plenty of money left over.  Framing the whole thing along GOP lines never made any sense.  On the other hand, at the end of the day the Democrats’ position was still popular, so it’s not easy to see what was lost in losing the spin war.

Back to the analysis…the case rests on four assumptions: that Republicans care a lot about upper level tax rates; that Republicans are basically indifferent about tax rates for everyone else; that Democrats care quite a bit about tax rates for everyone outside of the wealthiest Americans; and that neither side has the votes to impose their preferred policy on their own.  We don’t really know whether any of those assumptions is correct — we get to hear everyone’s rhetoric, but that doesn’t always match with their real intent.  However, if these assumptions are correct, then the way this issue has played out makes lots of sense.

One question to bear in mind as you watch: Where does this temporary fix leave him during campaign 2012? He’s going to swear up and down that there’ll be no more tax-cut extensions for the wealthy, come hell or high water, but of course he made the same promise during campaign 2008 and yet here we are. His base will have every reason to believe that he’s lying to them — and with good reason, given Ben Bernanke’s dire warning that it’ll be four or five years at least until unemployment returns to “normal” levels. If Obama’s willing to compromise now in the name of stimulus, why not again in 2013? Stand by for updates.

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The Sound Of Silence: Awkward, Painful, And Beheaded

Ben Smith at Politico:

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s opening statement in last night’s debate reflects either an amazing lack of preparation, or sheer panic.

John Hudson at The Atlantic with the round-up

Chris Good at The Atlantic:

As a guy who also sometimes chokes in this fashion, I’ve gotta feel for Brewer here. Then again, maybe she just hadn’t prepared adequately.

Brewer’s main opponent, Democratic Attorney General Terry Goddard, jumped on Brewer for claiming, in that stumbling start, that she balanced the budget. The state faces an estimated $700 million budget shortfall, according to an August staff presentation from the Arizona legislature’s Joint Legislative Budget Committee.

Jim Newell at Gawker:

Hey, Arizona immigration law haters who are looking for some schadenfreude: it’s popcorn time. Because here’s a clip of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer last night giving one of the worst debate opening statements… ever? Sure, let’s go with “ever.”

Ann Althouse:

Seriously, what is wrong with this woman? That is scary.

Steve Benen:

It really is bizarre, and kind of painful to watch. An opening statement is the easy part — a quick introduction, highlight a few talking points, something about getting stuff done, ask for support, and move on. It’s the part of a debate in which folks tend to memorize a short spiel so they come across as competent and set a good impression for the rest of the debate.

Brewer just had a breakdown of sorts. Worse, she seems to be referring to notes in front of her — which would seemingly tell her what to say if she forgets — but which didn’t help.

By my count, there’s a full nine seconds in which a stumped Brewer says literally nothing. That may not sound like a long time, but on the air, during a debate, it’s an eternity.

Brewer is, by the way, the sitting governor. She’s not some fringe candidate included in the debate as a courtesy — Brewer is currently the chief executive of Arizona, and has been on the campaign trail for months.

I kind of doubt this will have a huge impact on the polls — Brewer may be an unprepared right-wing dolt, but she’s the strong favorite in November — but this minute-long video will serve as a reminder for campaigns for quite a while.

Update: But wait, there’s more. When the subject turned to Brewer’s bogus claims about “beheadings,” she got even more confused.

Adam Serwer at Greg Sargent’s place:

This is pretty painful to watch. But her later reaction (flagged by Rachel Weiner) to her Democratic opponent, Terry Goddard*, who hammered her for exaggerating the extent of crime in Arizona with tales of beheadings in the desert, is even worse.

Doug Mataconis:

One can only imagine that Brewer dodged the question because she has no evidence to support her outlandish claims, and she knows it.

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Let’s Go Back To Sarah Palin And Spilled Ink On A Page… What Do You See?

Michael Joseph Gross at Vanity Fair:

Sarah Palin’s connection with her audience is complete. People who admire her believe she is just like them, and this conviction seems to satisfy their curiosity about the objective facts of her life. Those whose curiosity has not been satisfied have their work cut out for them. Palin has been a national figure for barely two years—John McCain selected her as his running mate in August 2008. Her on-the-record statements about herself amount to a litany of untruths and half-truths. With few exceptions—mostly Palin antagonists in journalism and politics whose beefs with her have long been out in the open—virtually no one who knows Palin well is willing to talk about her on the record, whether because they are loyal and want to protect her (a small and shrinking number), or because they expect her prominence to grow and intend to keep their options open, or because they fear she will exact revenge, as she has been known to do. It is an astonishing phenomenon. Colleagues and acquaintances by the hundreds went on the record to reveal what they knew, for good or ill, about prospective national candidates as diverse as Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Al Gore, and Barack Obama. When it comes to Palin, people button their lips and slink away.

She manages to be at once a closed book and a constant noisemaker. Her press spokesperson, Pam Pryor, barely speaks to the press, and Palin shrewdly cultivates a real and rhetorical antagonism toward what she calls “the lamestream media.” The Palin machine is supported by organizations that do much of their business under the cover of pseudonyms and shell companies. In accordance with the terms of a reported $1 million annual contract with Fox News, Palin regularly delivers canned commentary on that network. But in the year since she abruptly resigned the governorship of Alaska, in order to market herself full-time—earning an estimated $13 million in the process—she has submitted to authentic, unpaid interviews with only a handful of journalists, none of whom have posed notably challenging questions. She keeps tight control of her pronouncements, speaking only in settings of her own choosing, with audiences of her own selection, and with reporters kept at bay. (Despite many requests, neither Palin nor her current staff would comment for this article.) She injects herself into the news almost every day, but on a strictly one-way basis, through a steady stream of messages on Twitter and Facebook. The press plays along. Palin is the only politician whose tweets are regularly reported as news by TV networks. She is the only one who has been able to significantly change the course of debate on a major national issue (health-care reform) with a single Facebook posting (in which she accused the Obama administration, falsely, of wanting to set up a “death panel”).

Palin makes speeches before large audiences at least a few times a week, on a grueling schedule that has taken her to as many as four locations in three states in one day. She’s choosy, restricting herself to Tea Party gatherings; fund-raisers for charities and Republican organizations and candidates; and moneymakers for herself, mainly business conventions and “Get Motivated!” seminars. Judging from the bootleg videos that sometimes turn up, her basic speech varies little from venue to venue. She presents herself as the straight-shooting, plainspoken, salt-of-the-earth advocate for “hardworking, patriotic, liberty-loving Americans” and as the anti-Obama, the lone Republican standing up to a federal government gone “out of control.” Last July, the quarterly filing by Palin’s political-action committee, SarahPAC, revealed a formidable war chest and hefty investments in fund-raising and direct mail, the clearest signs yet that she may indeed run for president. Republican leaders privately dismiss her as too unpredictable and too undisciplined to run a serious campaign. But on she flies, carpet-bombing the 24-hour news cycle: now announcing her desire to meet with her “political heroine” Margaret Thatcher (the better to look like Ronald Reagan, presumably, though Palin seemed unaware that Thatcher is suffering from dementia); now yelping in theatrical complaint (“I want my straws! I want ’em bent!”), to shrug off revelations that her speaking contract demands deluxe hotel rooms, first-class air travel, and bottles of water with bendable straws; now responding (in a statement read on the Today show) to reports of her daughter Bristol’s re-engagement to Levi Johnston; and all the while issuing scores of political endorsements and preparing a fall media blitz. A TV show, Sarah Palin’s Alaska, for which Palin is being paid $2 million, will have its premiere on the TLC network in November. A new book, America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag, will be published the following week.

This spring and summer I traveled to Alaska and followed Palin’s road show through four midwestern states, speaking with whomever I could induce to talk under whatever conditions of anonymity they imposed—political strategists, longtime Palin friends and political associates, hotel staff, shopkeepers and hairstylists, and high-school friends of the Palin children. There’s a long and detailed version of what they had to say, but there’s also a short and simple one: anywhere you peel back the skin of Sarah Palin’s life, a sad and moldering strangeness lies beneath.

Ben Smith at Politico:

A former aide to the McCain campaign got in touch with me this morning to cop to being the half-serious progenitor of a story which, embellished almost beyond recognition, appears in Vanity Fair’s portrait today of Sarah Palin as monster.

Reports Vanity Fair:

Soon after her nomination, she brought up with McCain aides the subject of Bristol’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy by Levi Johnston: “Would it be good for the campaign if they got married before the election?” she asked, and went on to wonder whether one weekend or another would be more advantageous for media coverage.

This anecdote first popped up in London’s Sunday Times, a regular landing point for political anecdotes that the less credulous American press won’t print without checking. From that story:

Inside John McCain’s campaign the expectation is growing that there will be a popularity boosting pre-election wedding in Alaska between Bristol Palin, 17, and Levi Johnston, 18, her schoolmate and father of her baby. “It would be fantastic,” said a McCain insider. “You would have every TV camera there. The entire country would be watching. It would shut down the race for a week.”

The fantastic quote — and perhaps the clue that this one hadn’t quite risen to the levels of the principals — is the guarantee that Levi would show: ““It’s a shotgun wedding. She kills things,” the source joked.

Indeed, the former McCain aide (my source and the Times’s) recalls gleefully that while he kicked it around a bit with other aides — as the “end all, be all stunt for a campaign of stunts” — the idea was never brought to Palin, much less seriously considered.

The Vanity Fair story also focuses on Palin’s temper, which may well be a real quality but can’t be quite as out-of-control as its portrayed: It isn’t something the campaign staff — even the large number of them who derided her as lazy, undisciplined or unready — complained of.

One great anecdote that does ring true on the nearly open civil war at the end of the campaign:

When John McCain decided to pull out of Michigan, a decision Palin disagreed with, Recher and Palin hatched a plan one day to make an early-morning drive to Michigan anyway. The Secret Service, becoming aware of the plan, asked the McCain campaign what it should do. The answer came: “Shoot out the tires.”

But my takeaway from the magazine piece is more that you can really write anything about Palin.

David Weigel on Smith’s piece:

Smith explains that the quote came from a wild yarn in a UK Times story, passed on by a McCain campaign source, even though “the idea was never brought to Palin, much less seriously considered.” I can confirm that because I heard it from the same source, albeit after the campaign was over. It was, as I understand it, a goof, and it went to print because, basically, UK papers have more lax standards on what they print than American papers. Of course, it’s not like American papers have covered themselves in glory when “analyzing” Palin’s family based on rumors.

Point is, this anecdote is bunk, and it makes me wonder about the rest of the story.

Chris Good at The Atlantic:

Vanity Fair takes another whack at Sarah Palin, but the profile by Michael Joseph Gross seems to try not to read like, or be, a hit piece, even though almost everything in it about Palin is bad. It’s the third big piece Vanity Fair has published on the former governor, following Todd Purdum’s takedown entitled “It Came from Wasilla” (published last August) and Levi Johnston’s “Me and Mrs. Palin” (published the following month).

Much of Gross’s story has to do with the people of Wasilla and how they see Palin, mostly as a newfound outsider of whom they live in perpetual fear, cautious to speak badly of her for fear of reprisal, kind of like the reported sentiments of Iraqis living in fear of Saddam after his government was toppled and he hid from U.S. forces in desert bunkers.
Many things stand out, but two of them are the accounts of Palin’s seemingly bipolar temper and the use of front political groups to put on her speeches.

Rich Crowther at Conservatives4Palin:

Laughably, and here we see the true measure of Gross’ hackery, one person who is named in the article is someone called Sandra, whom Mr Gross feels able to quote despite never having met her.

Perhaps he ought to have been more thorough in that aspect, amongst others, for she is a person well known to the readers of C4P as the pseudonymous Sandrainoregon, or EclecticSandra, or SandraBuehler, or R2D2…… a retired, elderly, archetypal basement dwelling, pajama clad resident of Portman, Oregon, who, for reasons best known to herself, presumably, is devoting every day of her twilight years attempting to undermine Governor Palin by posting inflammatory and provocative comments at pro-Palin blogs.

She is known, for example, to be an active participant at the German blog Palingates, whose European contributors obsessively pursue abysmal conspiracies about Governor Palin, Todd Palin, Track Palin, Bristol Palin and Trig Palin.

Of course, readers will have noted that Mr Gross did interview one other anonymous person, a local Republican who delivered 90 minutes of praise for Palin… though not a word of that praise has been reported.

EARLIER: The Sarah Palin Rorschach Test Continues, As More Ink Is Spilled

Levi Johnston’s 115th Dream

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You May Be A Gen-Xer If You Get Why This Art Accompanies This Post

Frank Newport at Gallup:

Republicans lead by 51% to 41% among registered voters in Gallup weekly tracking of 2010 congressional voting preferences. The 10-percentage-point lead is the GOP’s largest so far this year and is its largest in Gallup’s history of tracking the midterm generic ballot for Congress.

Chris Good at The Atlantic:

Gallup’s tracking goes back to 1950; the largest lead was 32 percentage points in favor of Democrats in July 1974, before Richard Nixon resigned over Watergate.

Are the new numbers evidence of a galvanized GOP base in already-conservative districts or a general Republicanizing of the country? Tough to know, but probably some (or a lot) of both

Allah Pundit:

To put this in perspective, until this month, the biggest lead the GOP had held in the history of Gallup’s polling was … five points. Why the eeyorism, then? Well, (a) Rasmussen has new generic ballot numbers out today too and the GOP’s actually lost a few points since last week, driving them down to their smallest lead since mid-July. Not sure how to square that with Gallup, especially since Ras polls likely voters and Gallup polls registered voters. The enthusiasm gap should mean a bigger spread among the former than the latter (and until today, it has), and if Gallup’s numbers are merely a reaction to last week’s dismal economic news, it’s surpassingly strange that the same reaction isn’t showing up in Rasmussen. Also, (b) Gallup’s generic-ballot polling has already produced one freaky outlier this summer. Granted, today’s numbers are more credible because they’re part of a trend, but read this Jay Cost piece about how bouncy Gallup’s numbers have historically been at times. Hmmmm.

Neil Stevens at Redstate:

This Gallup result is so large, I had to see what it shows in the Swingometer. As always, I boil it down to two party results. In 2008 we had a 56 D – 44 R split, and this Gallup simplifies to a 45 D – 55 R split. So the swing is from a D+12 to an R+10, or a 22 point swing.

So right now, that means Gallup of all polls, using Registered Voters, is projecting in the Swingometer a 60 seat Republican gain for a 238 R-197 D majority. The last time an election took the Democrats that low was the election of 1946, saith Wikipedia. Election night in 2004 took them to 202 for the second lowest.

Rasmussen today, by contrast, shows only a 20 point swing, a 57 seat Republican gain, and a 235 R – 200 D majority, still lower than an election since Truman has taken the House Democrats. If I then take the mean of these two and double weight the Rasmussen Likely Voter poll, I get R+58, the new projection.

Paul Mirengoff at Powerline:

The “enthusiasm gap” is even more pronounced. Gallup finds that Republicans are now twice as likely as Democrats to be “very” enthusiastic about voting come November, the largest such advantage of the year.

I’m obliged to add that anything can happen during the next two months. But more than any old thing will be required if the Democrats are to avoid a crushing defeat at the end of those two months.

John McCormack at The Weekly Standard

Doug Mataconis:

The biggest problem for the Democrats is that there seem to be very few things that can happen between now and Election Day that can reverse the Republican momentum. The latest round of economic reports seem to establish fairly clearly that the economy is likely to remain flat or depressed during that time period and I doubt we’ll be getting any good news out of the jobs report that will be released this coming Friday, and it is primarily the economy that is driving voter anger at this point in time. Outside of some massive scandal that hurts Republicans or an international crisis that causes the public to rally around the President, both of which are unlikely, the pattern we’re in now is likely to be the one we’re in on Election Day. That’s bad news if you’re a Democrat.

UPDATE: Nate Silver at NYT

Noam Scheiber at TNR

Jim Antle at The American Spectator

Hugh Hewitt

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