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NYT: Facing Mid-terms Blowout, White House Wonders If It Needs a Political Strategy

8:55 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

At some moment just before or after the 2006 midterms, when Republicans first realized that Karl Rove and the Bush White House team were not political geniuses but rather just cynical political operatives with more ego than sense, a few of them must have figured out that continuing to follow the Bush White House could destroy the Republican Party’s brand and risk losing both Congress and the White House two years later.

Let us hope there are enough sensible progressives left to realize that same moment has come for them.

One hardly knows whether to laugh or cry at this astonishing opening in todays NYT lead story:

WASHINGTON — President Obama’s political advisers, looking for ways to help Democrats and alter the course of the midterm elections in the final weeks, are considering a range of ideas, including national advertisements, to cast the Republican Party as all but taken over by Tea Party extremists, people involved in the discussion said.

Really? How good of the White House to notice their party is about to be wiped out by one of the most anti-democratic political movements in our lifetimes. When did they notice?

Everyone except the President’s genius team understood that when Republicans began to obstruct every Democratic proposal from day one, that it meant the Republicans had become irresponsible nihilists willing to destroy the economy and the middle class to regain power. It was clear from the birthers’ first cries of "socialism" and "death panels" they would inflame their followers with lies, demagoguery and fear mongering. Sentient observers knew the demagogues and their hate-talk media would do everything they could to convince voters that any Democratic Administration, let alone that of a Muslim/Kenyan, was illegitimate. They were at war, and only now the White House thinks maybe it should respond, with, uh, some ads.

The resulting emergence and success of openly crazier candidates should not have surprised anyone. And yet the White House is just now leaking to the Times that it might be useful to warn the nation it’s in danger of being taken over by the worst of America’s crazies.

The self-proclaimed political geniuses in the Obama White House, starting with the President himself, Rahm Emanuel’s political shop of horrors and extending to all of the emperor’s naked loyalists in the Party’s leadership — has there ever been a more inept crew than Tim Kaine, Van Hollen, Harry Reid, Steny Hoyer? — are systematically destroying their Party, and given what they’ve become, few are shedding a tear.

But the Obama conserva-Dem Team is also setting back for the next generation liberals/progressives and their causes, damaging the credibility of a progressive democratic brand that was born in the Great Depression and gained voters’ trust by recreating government to put the public interest first, even if that meant taking on the most powerful economic interests.

And it retained that trust by saying about the those interests, "I welcome their hatred." The Obama regime has lost that trust by ignoring all the lessons of that era. Its motto is, "let’s make a deal." Or "what do we need to do to get your campaign contributions?" As Obama keeps telling us, his hero is Ronald Reagan, not FDR; he should have told us that the guiding ideology of the Conservative-Reagan era wrecked the economy, created the worst inequality in our history, and is still destroying the middle class.

The Republican brand was virtually dead by 2008. To accomplish such a turnaround, after being handed a huge mandate to change the country’s fundamental direction, this Administration has approached every one of the nation’s staggering problems as though all that was needed was a modest redirection in focus, an adjustment in priorities, a few more billions here instead of there, better regulation by the same regulators who were asleep and disinclined to act the last time, but nothing that would fundamentally change the structure of how the country’s most powerful and damaging institutions operate. Faced with the need for boldness and courage, they worshipped timidity and preached first patience and then acceptance and docility among worried citizens.

The President repeatedly told us that many of the solutions were "Republican ideas" and that responsible Republicans were acting in good faith. How many times do you recall this White House saying, "what this problem needs is a strongly progressive solution"? Or the dismantling of powerful interests? Any yet if you look at the measures the White House and apologists now point to as "achievements," they were more often deeply popular holdover progressive ideas that Congress passed in the momentum following the elections. They did not pass as a result of the White House overcoming massive opposition.

While taking credit for what he did not achieve with much effort, the President and his men have repeatedly denigrated and belittled progressives and ignored their ideas. The measure of this is how unusual it is to have Liz Warren gain a position in the Administration over the objections of Obama’s closest advisers.

Now the White House strategy is to blame progressives and voters themselves for their lack of enthusiasm for a regime that has left 15 million unemployed, permitted record levels of poverty and decimated state public programs, threatens social security and teeters on the edge of a second recession with no credible plans for near-term relief. Fittingly, his new chief economic adviser doubles as a stand up comic.

And they still don’t get it. The Times article tells us this White House is having trouble focusing on a plausible political strategy for the midterm elections only weeks away, because they’re preoccupied with Rahm Emanuel’s expected run for mayor of Chicago. Are they serious?

The Chief Of Staff is the Obama White House’s senior political adviser, but the Times hints he and his aides are worrying about what’s best for him and not his country, Party or President? There’s a solution for that one.

Author! Author! Which WH Strategist Proposed “We Quit!” As the Way to Lead Their Administration and Party to Collapse?

5:41 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

When the August polls highlighted by the good Attaturk this morning signal your party is about to get drubbed only two years after getting a strong and unmistakable mandate to reverse the politics and policies of the Republican Party, it’s only fair to ask your party’s leaders whom you should hold accountable for squandering that mandate and doing so much to resurrect the Republican Party.

After all, Karl Rove and the war-loving neocons so incompetently mismanaged the Bush Administration that by the end of 2008 everyone except Fox News recognized these political geniuses had managed to destroy the Republican brand. Enabled by that failure, the crazies who have now captured the Party and intimidated its nominal leaders into incoherent babbling, religious intolerance, race baiting and nihilism have rejected Rove despite Fox News efforts at rehabilitation.

So someone in the Obama White House needs to drop the cowardly anonymity and take responsibility for a WH political strategy that is destroying the Congressional Democratic majorities and declaring "we give up!" only 18 months into Obama’s Presidency.

And give up they have. They’ve quit. They’re barely making even a token effort. They don’t seem willing to do anything more to help the economy and 15 million unemployed– and please, don’t try to tell us that puny business tax proposal would make a serious dent in unemployment.

Apparently no one in this White House ever heard of FDR. They never learned that a government committed to jobs can create real jobs, millions of them if it puts its best minds to it. And it’s not as though there aren’t thousands of public oriented jobs that need doing. Or hundreds of thousands of teachers, firemen, police and other dedicated public professionals that need to be rehired.

So we have to accept clowns like Simpson and listen to Geithner’s happy talk and read about how Bernanke, the man we warned them would do nothing to help unemployment when it mattered explain why the Fed would be happy to take action if things get really bad, while he and his out of touch MOTU ignore all the realities of how bad it is.

But unlike the case of Sarah Palin, who had the grace to leave when she quit, we’re still stuck with these quitters. Get off the mat, or get out of the ring.

White House Coward Feeds Mike Allen “Exclusive”: Catfood May Happen!

9:37 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

Every morning, Politico’s Mike Allen calls the White House to see if the usual White House Coward or one of his lackeys will feed him some nice tidbit from the daily White House Spin. This one looks like it was approved by the Chief of Cowards:

"Good Thursday morning. EXCLUSIVE – DEBT COMMISSION’S BIG RECOMMENDATION MAY COVER SOCIAL SECURITY: President Obama’s 18-member fiscal-responsibility commission, headed by Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, is to report recommendations to Congress by Dec. 1. The administration hears that a group of commission members is relatively optimistic about coming together around a package on Social Security. It’s not clear what terms would work politically – what could get through the Congress. But there’s some optimism that commission members can find a way to do that. It’s less clear what they might do on other dimensions of the long-term deficit problem (14 votes are needed to report a recommendation), although they may find smaller coalitions that are bipartisan for approaches to constrain spending growth.

–ADMINISTRATION MINDMELD: The virtue of action on Social Security is that it demonstrates the ability to begin to affect the long-run deficits. Social Security isn’t the biggest contributor to the problem – that’s still health-care costs. But it could help a little bit, buy time, and strengthens the odds of a political consensus behind other spending cuts or tax increases. Most importantly, it would establish more CREDIBILITY with the MARKETS. The mood of the world at the moment (slightly excessive, from the administration’s point of view) is that if you don’t do anything with spending cuts, it doesn’t get you credibility. "

Well, Mike, we’re just shocked, shocked to learn that the Catfood Commission is planning to screw Social Security beneficiaries and that the White House is all excited that the country will finally face up to the non-crisis and create worse problems for insecure seniors by solving a non-problem with a non-solution designed to conceal another agenda, because, you know, there have been virtually no stories about that.

And how helpful of Mike to note that Social Security "isn’t the biggest contributor to the problem," which in normal English to those paying attention translates to: "It isn’t part of the so called deficit problem at all, so this is part of a massive scam!"

No, the "biggest contributor to the problem" is a President and White House team willing to form a secret commission, led by ignorant clowns and stacked with too many people with anti-democratic biases and little understanding, none of whom have to worry about retirement security, and allow them to recommend the degree of retirement insecurity for already insecure seniors, with no political accountability ever, and then have the White House Coward in Chief front for this anti-democratic process and anti-Democratic agenda and feed a useless, tantalizing tidbit to an unquestioning stenographer who doesn’t understand anything about the "deficit" issues, thus faithfully representing the Beltway media.

And why are we celebrating a calculated leak from a secret commission conducting the public’s business that affects tens of millions of our most vulnerable citizens behind closed doors? Open it up, or shut it down.

Update: via David Dayen and The American Prospect’s Tim Fernholz, who says he heard the same briefing Allen did, thinks Mike Allen missed important context:

The most important omission from Allen’s item is that the official concluded the conversation by noting that social security is not a generous benefit compared to other public pensions around the world, and that cutting benefits, even years in advance, would be difficult to justify. More symbolically, Allen doesn’t mention that the official cited Paul Krugman when talking about Social Security’s contributions to the deficit. Finally, the reason the administration official was interested in credibility before the markets is so the government could borrow more money for temporary fiscal stimulus.

So, did Mike Allen just mangle the whole story? We could avoid this if these briefings were public, the source identified, and those present could report what was actually said.

More update: Brad DeLong suggests it was just a mistake to invite Mike Allen to a meeting with grownups. That may be true, but the more important mistake is to hold off-the-record briefings and muzzle competent people with the rules when there’s no real justification for that. If responsible witnesses/reporters can report what actually happened, we wouldn’t have to worry so much about Mike Allens.

Occam’s Razor Answers Krugman’s Question

5:10 pm in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

The simplest, now increasingly unavoidable answers to Paul Krugman’s question are: (1) the White House political advisers are incompetent and/or fools, and (2) the White House economic policy advisers are at least incompetent advocates, and they worry more about Wall Street’s health than Main Street’s.

There are other possible explanations, but all others are less flattering and/or require an understanding of multidimensional chess that has nothing to do with things that concern voters.


Sam Stein, White House sends its least credible spokespeople to defend it

PBS News Hour, White House sends Rahm Emanuel to insult Jim Lehrer and viewers

CNBC/Kudlow, Tim Geithner insists Obama loves business, making Kudlow feel warm and tingly

ABC/This Week, David Axelrod endures dumb interview questions from Jake Tapper — why should America care whether industry titans who benefit from federal anti-trust protection, lax corruption/campaign laws, military contracts and massive subsidies like or dislike Obama, Jake? — but has no compelling message and sounds defensive and unconvincing the whole time.

WashingtonPost/Balz, in which Dan Balz quotes Obama’s appointed co-chair of the "deficit" commission making an absurd statement without noticing how ridiculous it is nor pointing out the other co-chair’s deficit hysteria is entirely misplaced.

Added Monday a.m. proof
: for months the President’s poll numbers have been sinking, something you might explain were the President bravely making tough, unpopular decisions — even though his advisers persistently tell him not to. But when generic Democratic vs Republican polls show Republicans at 45 percent and several points ahead of Democrats, even though Republicans repeatedly show themselves to be crazy and provide ample ammunition to discredit them forever, it’s a clear sign the WH political operatives have utterly failed. They don’t know how to get the Democrats’ numbers up and haven’t a clue how to get the Republicans’ numbers down.

Serious Pundits: Everything’s Okay at the Obama White House . . . Except We’re Losing

9:32 pm in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

After a spate of "it isn’t I, Lord" leaks to the media on what’s happening in the Obama White House, the Dean of the Beltway media has called a halt to such unseemly musings, and so serious people have now retaken charge of the discussion.

It is reassuring to learn that the President is both listening to serious policy advisers while taking advantage of experienced, successful political advisers to get those policies enacted. So they must be succeeding, right?

It remains for the rest of us only to wonder within the now narrowed field of inquiry how to account for the fact that the Obama Presidency is seriously failing by both policy and political measures. If they’re so good at this, how did the President’s Party come to face the possible loss of one or even both houses of Congress?

How exactly have they managed to alienate intelligent and responsible leaders and experts on the environment, energy, climate change, health reform, financial reform, labor, immigration reform, civil liberties/rule of law advocates, and other core elements of their own base? It’s not like they did that by holding on to independents, who now oppose them only slightly less than the Republicans do, even though they still haven’t done much of what they were sent to do (or accused of doing).

We’ve already seen the Administration’s energy/climate change initiative so watered down in the House that it caused deep splits in the alternative energy/environmental community. Those who pleaded for pragmatic patience on the House Bill are now tearing their hair out watching the Senate become a bastion of delay and denialism, with little effective push back from the Administration.

That mirrors the debate on health care reform, where more hopeful reforms were either forbidden topics or promises to be broken and bargained away — and yet what did we get in return beyond a deal for PhRMA-paid ads? Many hopes have been dashed and once-united reformers are left to argue with each other over whether what’s left is worth risking political blood and treasure.

We’re now watching the same thing happen to financial reform. A watered down but still worthwhile House bill languishes in the dysfunctional Senate, along with 290 other House-passed bills.

Meanwhile, Senator Dodd careens from absurd compromise to absurd compromise searching for some way to mollify the rapacious, unrepentant bankers and even one Republican Senator, to no avail. It seems we can’t even have an independent Consumer Financial Protection agency or even a viable consumer-protective division within any existing agency that didn’t already fail dismally, as the Fed and Treasury did, to protect consumers.

And just like the real reform champions on climate change and health care, Paul Krugman is about to give up on Obama and Congress on their financial reform efforts. What passes may be worse than nothing, he fears. Welcome to our dilemma, Professor. We suggest you wear the flak jacket.

So I remain puzzled by the Beltway wisdom that in the Obama White House, whatever you may think about its political vs policy debates, we shouldn’t worry too much.

The country’s political discourse is coming apart at the seams, and as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has been documenting night after night, the level of blatant lying, distortion and hypocrisy has no limits. In the extreme, the lies are coupled with increasing approval of anti-government violence.

Yet the nation’s problems aren’t going away; they’re getting worse. Something needs to change, and if that doesn’t include the advisers/leadership in the White House, then how else do the serious ones think we break out of this?

One common failure on both policy and political fronts seems to be the inability to acknowledge and respond to the fact that the corporate and ideological opponents of genuine reform are both looting the public and waging war. They’re waging class war on everyone and any proposal that remotely suggests reining in unbridled corporate power and the redistribution of wealth upwards, whether it’s by Wall Street investors/banks, the energy industry or the health industry or bigAg or . . .

And Republicans and their media organs at Fox support this by waging the rhetorical equivalent of pre-civil war.

When you’re at war, it’s not enough to have decent policies and experienced political advisers — and the White House has been too limiting in both to deserve accolades in either department. You need to fight back.

Dick Cheney is right about one key point. You have to fight back as though the enemy is trying to destroy you and everything you claim to believe in, because they are.

Beyond that, it might also help if the Administration understood it’s its job to hold people accountable when they break the law or loot the country, because those are the same people who are waging war against us. And they’re still winning.

Update: Yves Smith dissects the Beltway message: it’s all about discrediting the left.

What Digby said
What Marcy said
What bmaz said
What Michael said
What Jane said
What Yves said
What Simon says here and here (and Joe Stiglitz, Dean Baker, Liz Warren, et al)

WaPo’s Dana Milbank: Rahm Emanuel Should Be President

7:21 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

WaPo’s Dana Milbank has peered into the soul of the Obama Administration and discovered the Obama Presidency would be an utter failure if it weren’t for the brilliance of Rahm Emanuel.

In Why Obama needs Rahmbo at the top, Milbank claims every misstep and failure attributed to Obama can be directly traced to Obama rejecting Rahm’s wise advice and instead following his own instincts or those of the cult fools that surround the President.

If only Obama had listened to Rahm, the President would have cured American’s health system with a popular, bipartisan health reform bill already, and the Republicans would be falling all over themselves to support climate change legislation, financial reform, education reform, fair treatment for detainees and a massive jobs/stimulus program.

I’m sure Milbank must have broken at least three No. 2 pencils trying furiously to keep up with all the points Rahm Emanuel handed him, but fortunately, we’ve retrieved the original notes:

0. Obama is a dreamy-eyed incompetent fool who would be doomed without Rahm’s guidance.

1. Everyone else around Obama is a fawning idiot.

2. Rahm has his own press unit — he gave me this story, but told me not to print points 0 and 1.

3. Obama’s Presidency would fail without Rahm calling everyone else f**g re**ds.

4. Since he’s a complete backstabbing jerk, Rahm would have been more successful in getting conservaDems and Republicans to agree with him.

5. All of the principled, popular measures Obama ran on made the Administration bills less popular, while all the shady, corrupt backroom deals everyone hates made the bills more popular; therefore, Obama should follow Rahm’s advice and do more shady corrupt deals with the people who ran the country into the ground, and that will allow Obama to succeed.

6. This all make sense because, I, Dana Milbank, am clueless. (Am I supposed to print that?)

Update: I suppose if you want to help Dana help the White House succeed, you can forward Dana’s column to the White House. They always appreciate Beltway advice, especially when it’s leaked from Rahm (h/t emptywheel).

Forget About Visiting the Lincoln Bedroom; Wall Street Already Bought It

10:38 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

Update: Today’s NYT reports Rahm thought better of this. Nevermind.

It appears to be the official position of the White House Chief of Staff that if a financial giant like JPMorgan Chase is the beneficiary of massive federal bailouts and continued access to subsidized Fed money with which to speculate, and thus owes its profitability and perhaps even its survival to American tax payers, that it would be a terrific idea for him to honor the company by agreeing to speak at the next meeting of its Board of Directors.

From the Official US Religion Section of Sunday’s New York Times:

Jamie Dimon, the head of JPMorgan Chase, will hold a meeting of his board here in the nation’s capital for the first time on Monday, with a special guest expected: the White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel.

Mr. Emanuel’s appearance would underscore the pull of Mr. Dimon, who amid the disgrace of his industry has emerged as President Obama’s favorite banker, and in turn, the envy of his Wall Street rivals. It also reflects a good return on what Mr. Dimon has labeled his company’s “seventh line of business” — government relations.

And it doesn’t seem to matter that the company is under investigation by at least two federal regulatory agencies:

Meanwhile, the company’s reputation could be tarnished by investigations into the crisis. Among them, JPMorgan is under scrutiny from the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission for possible antitrust and securities law violations, including derivatives deals with local governments.

And why not? After all, Rahm Emanuel and Jaime Dimon are old pals from way back, and Dimon gives the Oval Office an insider’s view of how America’s most successful and privileged criminal class works. But still, you’d think the White House would at least follow Tim Geithner’s more discrete approach. Read the rest of this entry →