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Is Obama Playing Rope-a-Dope?

4:53 am in Uncategorized by Cenk Uygur

"Rope-A-Dope"

"Rope-A-Dope" by waerbaby on flickr

Here was the headline on Yahoo tonight: Obama bows to Boehner on jobs speech

I can tell you what any progressive who has been paying attention thought, “Oh boy, here we go again.”

President Obama has now changed the day of his address to Congress to accomodate the Republicans. They were having a GOP presidential debate on the original date he picked. So, Boehner told him to move his speech. He is the president for Christ’s sake. Of course, they should have accomodated him, not the other way around. But as usual, President Obama bowed.

So, this leads to the eternal question of whether Obama is just weak or if he is a brilliant strategist who has been playing rope-a-dope all along. I am so silly that I still had hope. My hope this morning was that Obama was laying a trap for the Republicans. He picks a day for his speech that is the same as the GOP debate. Then if Boehner says he won’t let him give the speech on that day, he seems so petty and harsh.

That way, either the president gives his big speech on jobs and bigfoots the Republican contenders or the Republicans look disrespectful and petulant for turning down the president. Well, if you’re playing rope-a-dope, that’s not a bad manuever. But it turns out that’s not what he was doing at all. He just stumbled into this problem and then stumbled out when he let Boehner dictate when he could and could not have his speech. That looks so sad.

You see, if you’re playing rope-a-dope, at some point you have to actually swing. When your opponent has worn himself out knocking you around the ring — you counter-attack. But that counter-attack is never coming. We’re holding our collective breath in vain.

Why is this definitely not rope-a-dope? Read the rest of this entry →

Was Jared Loughner’s Act Political?

2:44 pm in Uncategorized by Cenk Uygur

Was Jared Loughner’s act in shooting Rep. Giffords political? Apparently this is what’s being debated with a straight face now. Is this a joke? He shot a politician in the head. He called it an “assassination.” What part of that was unclear?

He didn’t shoot Gabrielle Giffords randomly and it turned out she just happened to be a politician. He sought her out, targeted her and then tried to kill her based on the fact that she was a politician. He thought the government was the problem and it was unresponsive to his psychotic demands on grammar and currency.

So, is Loughner a psycho? Obviously. And that’s not just because he shot all of those innocent people, but also because it is abundantly clear from his writings and videos that he has significant mental issues.

But why does the act have to be either psychotic or political? It’s obviously both. It was a psychotic act driven by his political beliefs. What’s so hard to understand about that?

Then, the next question is whether both sides are equally at fault. Again, I’m confused by this question. What the hell did the Democrats or liberals do here? Nothing, except get shot. How can the media possibly attach false equivalency to this? Are the Democrats equally culpable for getting shot as the conservatives are for shooting them?

Loughner shot a Democrat. Gee, I wonder which side he was on? He hated the government and thought they were out to get us. Gee, I wonder which side he was on?

I thought conservatives said liberals love big government. But now some have the audacity to claim Loughner was a liberal. But if one thing is obvious from Loughner’s political writings, it was that he hated the government. So, which one is it — do liberals love or hate the government?

Come on, this is all a smoke screen to make sure people don’t see what’s going on here. In the last two years, there have been dozens of attacks and shootings aimed at government officials and political organizations. Every single one of them was directed at liberals, Democrats or the government. Now we’re to believe that’s the world’s largest coincidence?

The conservative hate-mongers don’t create psychos. We get that there will always be disturbed individuals out there. But the right-wing directs these lunatics to a source. They channel their fear, anger and paranoia — and they point them toward the Democrats. They use them as hate seeking missiles.

They load them up them up with violent imagery, whether it’s talk of cross-hairs or second amendment remedies or the tree of liberty being refreshed with blood. Then when they get a violent reaction they pretend to be surprised and outraged that anyone would suggest they were the least bit culpable. The reality is that it is a simple formula — violence in, violence out. Violent imagery in, violent results out.

If pretending this isn’t political or that somehow it is both-sided doesn’t work (which they shouldn’t worry about because so far it has worked perfectly in white-washing their culpability in the media), then they say it’s political exploitation to point out what they have done.

How the hell are we supposed to point out the problem if we can’t mention the issue for fear of being charged with political exploitation? Would it be exploiting the tragedy of the BP oil spill to point out that maybe we should be a little careful about oil drilling? Or are we not supposed to make the most obvious points so that we don’t offend the other political side’s delicate sensibilities?

You know who exploited a tragedy for political gain? George W. Bush and the entire Republican Party. They used 9/11 as a gimmick to get re-elected. Then they exploited it to attack a random country that had nothing to do with 9/11. It is nearly impossible to exploit a tragedy anymore than they did with 9/11. And maybe that’s why they level the charge against us now, because they know that’s the first thing they’d do.

But pointing out that conservative commentators and politicians have been inciting their followers isn’t done to get anyone elected. I don’t even know whose election this would theoretically effect. This isn’t done to press some policy agenda (again, outside of gun control, I can’t even think of what agenda we are supposed to theoretically be pushing for). This is to point out an obvious fact that is getting people killed — if you incite violence, you get violence.

To pretend that isn’t happening all across the country everyday on talk radio, etc. is to be willfully blind to reality — and to allow it to happen again. And trust me, next time they’ll also say no one could have seen it coming and that whatever we do we mustn’t talk about it. Preventing another tragedy like this would be such terrible exploitation. Better to be quiet and let them do it again.

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Clarifications:

I didn’t think these clarifications were necessary, but apparently they are for some. So, here it goes.

  1. I am not saying all conservatives are responsible. I got an e-mail from a conservative saying I am blaming him for breathing. I am not blaming him at all (unless he had a national platform and talked about “targeting” liberals, Democrats, etc.), let alone for breathing.
  2. I don’t believe the proper remedy is limiting anyone’s freedom of speech. I never suggested that. In fact, I am sure if anyone passed such a law, not only would it be unconstitutional, but it would be almost exclusively used against the left.

    Of course, I don’t mind Rush Limbaugh or Sarah Palin attacking Democrats. That’s their job. I am asking them to use some caution in how they frame their attacks and not to use violent imagery that eggs people on.

    On the show, I was very specific on what kinds of language I was referring to (I also have a link in the story above to examples). Here is the video where I list some of the examples of conservatives using violent imagery.

  3. I don’t think that Jared Loughner necessarily listened to an episode of the Glenn Beck show and then went and did this (although others, like Byron Williams did specifically do just that). I am saying that these conservative leaders are purposely creating an environment in which this type of violence festers.
  4. Lastly, I am not saying that these conservative leaders celebrated this news or wanted this specific outcome. I assume they are still human. But they knew, or should have known, that they were creating the environment that led to this kind of violence — and they didn’t give a damn.

What did you think was going to happen when you kept telling people to grab their guns, the government was endangering their family and way of life and that they should defend themselves? This was going to happen. Don’t pretend otherwise.

Ann Coulter vs. Sarah Palin

8:30 pm in Politics, Republican Party by Cenk Uygur

I recently interviewed Chris Barron of GOProud, a gay conservative organization that believes that the Republican Party is welcoming of gay Americans. The issue was that some prominent conservative organizations were boycotting the largest conservative conference in the country because they allowed GOProud to attend. Seems very welcoming.

The interview was heated (you can see it here). I think it is absurd to vote Republican if you’re gay. The party ran their whole campaign against gay Americans in 2004 and 2006 — and bragged about it. The GOP just overwhelmingly voted against repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. And there are only a million other examples of how Republicans are against every gay rights issue. Of course a gay person can be conservative on economic issues or on foreign policy, but to say you’re going to vote for a party that hates you is beyond irrational.

Well, apparently Ann Coulter doesn’t agree. She watched the interview, then tweeted:

Though I’m flattered that Ann thought it was a great video, there seems to be another issue here. Coulter called me a “retarded person.” Now, I am not the least bit bothered by that. In fact, I am greatly amused at Coulter challenging anyone else’s intelligence or cognitive abilities. But I do know someone who should be steaming mad about this — Sarah Palin.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

New Poll Confirms Country is Clearly Progressive

6:52 pm in Uncategorized by Cenk Uygur

New poll out indicates that the country is clearly, massively, overwhelmingly progressive. While they talk about cutting so-called entitlement programs in Washington, the American people have completely different priorities.

When asked what’s the first thing they would do to balance the budget, Americans had an unmistakably clear answer — raise taxes on the rich. It came in number one by a mile, with a whopping 61 percent.

If that wasn’t progressive enough, cutting defense spending came in number two, with 20 percent.

And if all of that wasn’t clear enough, when asked about cutting Medicare, only 4 percent were in favor of it. Only 3 percent wanted to cut Social Security as a way to balance the budget.

I thought the country was center-right? That’s what all of the pundits tell us 24/7 on television. What happened now? Do those answers look center-right to you? They look decidedly center-left to anyone with a pulse.

Washington is going to hate this news because they were just getting ready to cut people’s Social Security. That’s what the president’s Deficit Commission suggested. That’s what all of the Republicans are massively in favor of. That’s what a lot of the Democrats are already saying is “necessary.” All the meanwhile, they just gave a $407 billion tax cut to the richest people in the country.

Well, apparently the American people disagree with Washington’s priorities. If the Democrats, Republicans and the president persist in trying to cut Social Security in the face of these numbers, then we will know that we have lost our democracy altogether. That the people in power couldn’t give a damn what we want. That the take over of the American government by the corporations, the rich and the powerful is complete.

Every time you hear any politician or pundit say we have to cut Social Security or what they derisively call entitlement programs (you paid into them your whole life, that is why you are “entitled” to them), send them this poll. And ask them why they don’t care at all about the will of the American people.

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GOP Not Allowed to Talk About the “Will of the Public”

10:19 am in Uncategorized by Cenk Uygur

John Boehner can’t stop talking about the “will of the public” these days. Now that the Republicans have won the House, he keeps saying over and over that the Democrats must go along with Republican plans from now on because they have to listen to the… will of the public.

Well, here’s what I don’t remember — the Republicans giving a damn about the will of the public after the 2008 elections. The American people spoke as loudly and clearly as I have ever seen in any election in my lifetime. They gave the House and the Senate by overwhelming margins to the Democrats. They also gave the Democrats the White House, and along with it, complete control of Washington. And did the Republicans listen to the will of the public, then? No, they blocked that will at every turn.

So, you’ll excuse me now if I’m not buying the sudden increased interest the GOP has in listening to the American people and the results of an election. They never for one second respected the results of the 2008 election. They didn’t give a damn what the American people wanted.

And that’s their right as the opposition party, but they don’t get to pretend now that they respect the results of an election and take it as a mandate to go in a certain political direction. And the Democrats would be damned fools if they fell for that trick.

By the way, the GOP has a funny definition of what the American people want. Here is the popularity, according to recent polls, of the different pieces of legislation they just opposed:

  1. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — 77%
  2. START Treaty — 67%
  3. Dream Act — 54%
  4. Tax Cuts for Only the Middle Class and Not the Rich — 67%
  5. 9/11 Responders Bill — 99% (no polling on this, but who on God’s green earth was against this)

By the way, the Obama administration has been given tremendous credit by the media for passing three out of five of these priorties. Really? Not one of the things they got through had popularity less than 67%. In fact, they conceded to the Republicans on an issue where they had two-thirds of the country behind them (no tax cuts for the rich).

The Republicans certainly don’t get any credit for these bills passing despite their best efforts. In fact, they opposed these universally popular proposals — and defeated some of them. And they spent the last two years completely and utterly ignoring the will of the voters. So, the next time they come with that nonsense line, someone should shove the real truth down their throats.

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My Exclusive Interview with WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange

7:41 pm in Uncategorized by Cenk Uygur

CENK UYGUR, GUEST HOST: First, our exclusive interview with WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, who sparked a global uproar with his release of hundreds of thousands of pages of secret government documents and diplomatic cables, information ranging from the outrageous — we had innocent and unarmed reporters and Iraqi civilians being killed by U.S. troops — to the downright embarrassing, comments about the hard partying and the corruption of different world leaders.

Not long after that latest release, Assange found himself in legal trouble in Sweden. But not for any reasons having to do with the leaks. Instead, he was booked on a series of sex charges.

With the help of people like the American filmmaker and activist, Michael Moore, Mr. Assange is now out on bail and speaking out to us.

Let’s now go to Ellingham Hall in Norfolk, England, where Julian Assange is currently on house arrest.

Julian, great to have you with us.

Exclusive Julian Assange Interview With Cenk Uygur

JULIAN ASSANGE, FOUNDER, WIKILEAKS: Good evening, Cenk.

UYGUR: All right, the first question I have for you, Julian, is do you consider yourself a member of the press?

Are you a journalist?

ASSANGE: Well, I have been a member of the Australian press union for many years. I co-authored my first book when I was 25 and have been involved in setting up the — the very fabric of the Internet in Australia since 1993 as a publisher.

So quite interesting that this is something that is being raised.

It’s — it’s actually a quite deliberate attempt to split off our organization from the First Amendment protections that are afforded to all publishers.

You know, as time has gone by and our journalism has increased, I’ve been pushed up into senior management, into a position where I manage other journalists. I now even am in a — in a position where I’m managing the interrelations between “The Guardian,” “Spiegel,” “The New York Times,” “Al Jazeera” and so on, which were used in — in our last production.

Read the rest of this entry →

Is it Time for Democrats to Fight Obama?

2:13 pm in Uncategorized by Cenk Uygur

You want to hear something really depressing? If John McCain had won the presidency, there is almost no chance he could have gotten the Bush tax cuts extended for the rich. Think about it. How was a Republican president going to get an overwhelmingly Democratic Senate and House to pass those tax cuts that they hated under Bush?

No, only a Democratic president could get a Democratic Congress to agree to tax cuts for the rich. So, in this sense, progressives are worse off for having a Democratic president than a Republican one.

Then, at least we would have known who we were fighting. Remember, Bush could barely, barely get these same tax cuts passed when the Republicans controlled both the Senate and the House!

Funny how the rich and powerful win no matter who is in charge and what party they claim to be from. And think about how much the political spectrum has shifted to the right that Bush had to use reconciliation and then barely got the tax cut through a Republican Congress whereas now a Senate with basically 59 Democrats just passed the same tax cuts with ease. Washington has fallen off a right-wing cliff and the media hardly noticed.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said this about the estate tax provision:

“We had the president–George W. Bush–we couldn’t get it done then and we’re getting it done here.”

Ouch. Their victory is so overwhelming that the Republicans are brazenly bragging about how they couldn’t even get Bush to do what Obama has done for them.

Finally, you have to ask why Democrats who were willing to fight Bush are crumbling in front of Obama? He claims to be the leader of your party, but honestly who cares? If he is doing the exact opposite of what you claim to stand for, why does it matter what he calls himself?

Democrats would certainly have fought a surge in Afghanistan if Bush was in charge. They would be complaining about warrantless wiretapping if Bush continued that program instead of Obama. They would have hated the monopoly that drug companies got in the health care legislation (because they went nuts over it when Bush made the same deal). And they would have gone apoplectic over these huge tax cuts for the rich. But under Obama, the defense contractors, the rich and the powerful have gotten almost everything they wanted and nary a peep was heard from the Democrats in Congress.

Here is the new memo – fight him, he’s not on your side.

When I asked Rep. Jim McDermott some of these questions last night, he seemed at a loss for what to do next. You can feel his frustration and confusion as to how we got here with a Democratic president. Here are some of his quotes:

“Well, I think a lot of us are, in the caucus, we’re not quite sure why this is happening. It doesn’t make political sense what he did, and it doesn’t make economic sense.”

“I think that we are in serious trouble because the president simply does not seem willing to go after some things that I think he’s going to have to if he’s going to get anything done for the people of this country. He simply has, in my view, given up the willingness to fight for economic justice in this country.”

“I think it’s going to take us a while to get over what’s happened here, and I really think… it is very hard to think how you’re going to deal with the next round here, because the president has now shown that he can be bullied, and I don’t want my president to be bullied.”

“And I think he… we would be all much better if we were able to say, you know, that we’re not going to back down, and that there’s no excuse for us giving up like this. I mean, that’s the hard part for me, is that it’s giving up without a fight.”

“[W]hen you start giving in on the kinds of things he’s giving in on, you really worry that there is no way back from that. And I’m, I mean, that’s why I said it was… this was Gettysburg, because it really is… that was the turning point in the war. And it really is a question of how you continue to rally your troops if you keep giving in on things that people really care about.”

Until you get to a point where you’re not sure he has the same idea of what “people really care about.” He might have a different idea, a Republican idea. Or at the very least, a Washington idea of what people care about – so-called centrist compromises that somehow always benefit the establishment.

To watch the interview click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2dida2x3Sw

The Hidden Cost of Capitulation

2:27 pm in Uncategorized by Cenk Uygur

Now that the president has signaled yet another collapse in agreeing to tax cuts for the rich, there is a hidden cost to this capitulation. He is now stuck defending this deal for the rest of his term. I predicted this on the show yesterday and today it’s playing out exactly the way I imagined, with the president sending out advisers to talk about what a great idea it is to give tax cuts to the rich.

Once you sign off on a political position, you own it. This could be a corollary to Colin Powell’s doctrine on foreign policy. Powell said if you break it, you own it. In this case, if you make it, you own it.

The president claims he will fight hard against these same tax cuts two years from now. It’s hard to stop laughing long enough to make a point against that, but I will try. If you are sending out your people to talk up polls about how the right the Republicans were on the tax cuts for the rich now, how are you going to send out the same people to talk about how wrong they were – and how wrong you were – two years from now?

These are the things that make me wonder if President Obama has a firm grasp on basic political fundamentals. Yesterday he said that the political reality is that he just didn’t have the votes in the Senate (by far his favorite excuse). He even said “I can’t win” in the Senate. That’s a damning reversal for a man who ran on “Yes we can.”  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Is Barack Obama Stupid?

5:49 pm in Government, Politics by Cenk Uygur

New CBS News poll out confirms every other poll we’ve seen on the topic – the American people are solidly against tax cuts for the rich.

53% of respondents said there should only be tax cuts for the middle class and no tax cuts for people making over $250,000. That’s the number most people in the media are using, but that’s not quite accurate. Another 14% said they don’t want tax cuts for anybody, including the top bracket. So, the reality is that an overwhelming 67% of the country don’t want tax cuts for the rich (including 52% of Republican voters!). Only 26% said that everyone should get a tax cut, including the rich.

So, let’s do the math for people who are a little slow. That’s 67% to 26%. That’s a crushing 41% lead. If it was an election, that margin would be so large they would think it was rigged. The group that doesn’t want tax cuts for the rich is more than two and half times the group that does.

If that weren’t enough, there is an internal memo being sent around to Democrats on the Hill by Anzalone Liszt Research that shows that 77% of Americans would let the Bush tax cuts for the rich expire if the extra money went toward helping small businesses and balancing the budget. 77%!!!

Now, as a politician, how stupid do you have to be on the other side of this issue?  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

How the Rich Conduct Class Warfare

5:45 pm in Uncategorized by Cenk Uygur

First, let me get this out of the way – I have no problems with the rich. I plan on being rich. I’m an American. I believe. We all believe we can get to the top and enjoy the spoils of wealth. We are Americans.

That’s never been the issue. And in my lifetime the poor or middle class have never come close to declaring anything other than envy for the rich. But there is a class war going on. It’s being conducted by the rich on the middle class in this country.

Again, let’s be clear. It’s not by all of the rich or even most of the rich. There are great philanthropists among the rich. In fact, over 40 billionaires just pledged to give away half of their money to charity. Bill Gates earned his money, is giving it away and has no interest on declaring war on the middle class.

I’ll even give you the classic line – some of my best friends are rich. So, this isn’t about some ridiculous stereotypes or populist demagoguery. This is about stone cold facts.

Some of the wealthiest people in this country have been systematically trying to reduce their own taxes and make sure their companies are not regulated by the government. This makes sense. They want to make more money. But in the process, they have bought our politicians, corrupted our system and ultimately given us enormous income inequality.

This income inequality doesn’t seem just, but that isn’t my main issue. The real problem is the results of that inequality. It leads to speculative bubbles, crashes, recessions and depressions. It leads to the middle class losing their pensions, having stagnant wages for the last thirty years and lacking opportunity to move up the chain. It kills our economy and ultimately it kills the American Dream.

Here are some numbers on the rich versus the middle class that demonstrate what I’m talking about:

All of the money went to the top. Do you know that between 1979 to 2007 income for the bottom fifth of the country went up by just 16%, but for the top 1% income it went up a staggering 281%?

The rich got much richer. This is not an accident. People like the Walton family and the Koch brothers have been doing this for a long time. The Waltons don’t want to pay estate taxes for understandable reasons because they plan to inherit and pass on billions of dollars. It is cost efficient for them to buy our politicians for a couple of thousand dollars in campaign donations. The Koch brothers hate taxes and regulation of their businesses. If you want to know how they have hijacked our system you should read this brilliant article by Jane Mayer in The New Yorker.

Meanwhile, you know what happened to the poverty rate – it went skyrocketing up. Now, one in seven Americans lives in poverty. That’s 45 million people. Last year, we had the highest increase in poverty since the government started keeping these numbers in 1959.

The poor are growing, the middle class is shrinking and the rich are getting even richer. This is how you build a Third World country. So, the next time you hear about class warfare, understand which direction it’s going in.

Some of the wealthiest people in this country pulled the wool over your eyes and picked your pockets. I don’t have anything against the rich and I understand their motivation. But the rest of us are crazy to keep letting it happen. At some point, you have to fight back. Not with pitchforks, but at the very least with your votes.

Now that you know the game that’s being played, it’s incumbent on you to make sure you join the battle. Help us save this country and rebuild our once great middle class.

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