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Cliven Bundy: Conservative’s Pig in a Poke

By: SJGulitti Saturday April 26, 2014 6:04 pm

Ostensibly, Cliven Bundy’s cattle grazing controversy could not have come at a more opportune time for conservatives. The perceived momentum heading into November’s elections had begun to lose some of its steam prompting one Republican strategist to say this week “Republicans may have peaked too early.” Senate races in Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina where Democrats were supposed to be in peril seemed to be much closer then had been previously imagined. The ongoing failure on the part of Congressional Republicans to move forward on immigration once again took center stage and the now open warfare within the G.O.P. between the establishment and the Tea Party continues apace. More importantly the monotonous and hackneyed droning on about Obamacare has begun to lose some of it’s resonance in the wake of three facts. One is that 8 million people have signed up for health insurance and secondly, recent polling shows, that while many Americans are unhappy with the Affordable Care Act most of the dissatisfied want it repaired not repealed and replaced. Finally, even if a majority of the disgruntled favored repeal, the Republican Party, after eight years in opposition has yet to construct a health care alternative. Enter the Cliven Bundy cattle controversy into which conservative commentators and pundits of all stripes piled onto with almost reckless abandon, seeking to capitalize on the conservative base’s anti-government fervor only to discover, a few days on, two inconvenient facts that would come back to undermine their latest conservative celebrity du jour.
Cloven Bundy
First, in spite of all of the efforts on the part of conservative commentators to force fit Bundy’s transgressions into a “government overreach” template the fact stands that Bundy has been using federal land for his private cattle on the taxpayer’s dime. A perusal of commentary on that reliably anti-government website TownHall.com, among others, reveals the type of jury-rigged logic employed in much of the commentary posted in support of Bundy. Many would argue that while Bundy might be technically at fault for not paying the Federal government grazing fees his transgression was trumped by his “moral” case against government overreach. Then there is the far-fetched folly of an idea, propagated by Bundy himself, that because he personally does not recognize the existence of the Federal government, that that somehow really matters or changes anything in the real world. Some would see the unfolding incident as the beginning of a new anti-government crusade or at the very least, a revival of the last one.

The inherent fault of the aforementioned “logic” became all the more apparent when Tucker Carlson, host of Fox and Friends, Editor in Chief of the conservative Daily Caller and no friend of the Obama administration, pointed out that Bundy’s actions are neither legal or ethical. Quoting Carlson “…the Bundys don’t have a legal case that I can see, to be totally honest about it. And this is public land. This is not land that they own. And if you are going to use public land for profit, you have to pay for it, and they haven’t. And so the bottom line, and I think this is something conservatives ought to remember, if you want a ranch without any impediment at all, you have to buy your own ranch. That is the essence, that is the core principle behind private property which undergirds conservatism. So I have a lot of sympathy for the Bundys. I think they were completely mistreated by the federal government. But I still think it’s important to point out that this land does not belong to them, and that’s not a minor distinction. It’s the essence of private property.” Carlson’s opinion was seconded by his fellow conservative commentators Juan Williams and A.B. Stoddard, both Fox News regulars and bona fide conservative commentators in their own right. Another important point that undermines the anti-government claque supporting Bundy was made by Timothy Egan in “Deadbeat on the Range” where he pointed out that: “Ranching is hard work. Drought and market swings make it a tough go in many years. That’s all the more reason to praise the 18,000 or so ranchers who pay their grazing fees on time and don’t go whining to Fox or summoning a herd of armed thugs when they renege on their contract. You can understand why the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association wants no part of Bundy.”

While conservative commentators wrestled with the flawed logic of trying to justify Bundy’s trampling of cherished conservative principles with their own penchant to vilify the Federal government no matter the particulars of this case, it was Bundy himself who made his new found friends look all the more foolish by revealing his own intemperate views on race. Bundy’s ill concieved remarks are now well known and need not be repeated here. That said, owing to the ongoing problems that the conservative movement has with the minority communities, Bundy’s comments can only do more harm than good. And herein lies the great irony of Cliven Bundy and his relationship to the conservative movement. For one thing not only has he acted in a manner that is contridictory to the conservative principals and beliefs, he has acted as the very type of “moocher” that conservatives have often attributed to those who occupy government funded housing projects or receive publicly funded assistance. I can only wonder what one of the columnists on TownHall.com, Dr. Ben Carson, must now think having written a post in support of Cliven Bundy. For you see Dr. Carson is an African-American, a retired neurosurgeon, and according to Cliven Bundy, he would be better suited to picking cotton than practicing medicine or opining about politics. Oh and just one more point, why out of some 18,000 plus ranchers does Bundy need a de facto federal handout? Don’t conservatives believe in a competitive market place? If so, why should Bundy get a free ride while his competitors pay their grazing fees without engineering an armed protest? If Bundy can’t profitably run a cattle business without a de facto public handout shouldn’t he be allowed to fail as part of the back and forth of an economically competitive ranching sector?

 

Jackie Gingrich Cushman and the Epitome of Anti-Obama Animus

By: SJGulitti Saturday December 7, 2013 8:59 am

I was scrolling through the various commentaries on offer at TownHall.com yesterday when I spied one written by Newt Gingrich’s daughter Jackie Gingrich Cushman titled “Are We Sick of Him Yet?” Being all too familiar with the anti-liberal, anti-progressive and rabidly anti-Obama venue that TownHall has devolved into I wasn’t the least bit surprised when I opened the article to find just what I had suspected to be contained therein. In this stock and shop worn anti-Obama diatribe Ms. Cushman likens Obama’s decline in popularity of late to a story she once heard about a woman who wanted a divorce from her husband, not for any of the usual reasons, but because she had grown sick of him. So much for family values and the sanctity of marriage among conservatives.
OBAMA!!!!!
Cushman went on to juxtapose from the marital to the political: “Relationships that begin bright and shiny can fade into dark and gloomy when events occur that change one’s interactions, perceptions and hope for the future. Hope was gone — the relationship could get no better.” She then went on to try to force fit this juxtaposition, derived from her friend’s failed marriage, into a broad brush analysis of Obama’s present public relations predicament: “He has fallen furthest among 18- to 29-year-olds — down 7 points within the last week to 42 percent. More telling than his 40 percent overall approval rating (Gallup), is his disapproval rating, which has reached 53 percent…the 53 percent disapproval rating marks a new high. Simply put: More people than ever before disapprove of the job that Obama is doing…What can’t be determined is if Obama can get back that loving feeling or if it’s just that finally we’re sick of him. Maybe we need a divorce.” Thus reading Ms. Cushman’s piece we are left to conclude that vast swaths of the American people have grown sick of Barack Obama and are desperately in need of relief from this most onerous, if not debilitating relationship. However, short of impeachment, which is thus far unlikely no matter how strong the flights of fancy on the right are about such a thing, there’s no divorcing Obama for the next three years so get over it.

But as novel an approach to dealing with Barack Obama as Ms. Cushman’s might be seen to be, she has stumbled pathetically in her analysis of our collective gastrointestinal maladies by failing to examine the extent to which the American people have grown sick of Obama’s critics on the right. A simple examination of polling numbers from Real Clear Politics or Polling Report.com on the public approval of Congress shows that while Obama’s popularity has fallen the popularity of the Republicans on Capitol Hill remains stuck near historic lows at 21% and that 73% disapprove of how they are handling their job. While those numbers are off the absolute lows, its only by a few points and that with all of the problems besetting Obamacare already factored into the latest numbers. These results for Congressional Republicans are consistent throughout all of the recent polling, even that of the right leaning Fox News Network. And when it comes to the popularity of the regularly reliable anti-Obama movement that is the Tea Party the results are pretty much where they’ve been for quite some time, at the historic lows in terms of both popularity with the American people and those who consider themselves members of the movement.

Speaking of things that make voters sick, the plight of the political right is hardly anything to cheer about and it’s certainly nothing to be overlooked if your in the business of intellectually honest political commentary, which apparently isn’t the case for Ms. Cushman. Am I being trite in suggesting that it’s probably a good thing that Ms. Cushman isn’t in the medical profession as her methodology when it comes to formulating a diagnosis leaves much to be desired?

In the past few days much has been made among conservative commentators about the numbers of young people who are dissatisfied with the participation mandate of Obamacare. This has given, I believe, many on the right a false sense of hope that they might now capture the votes of those 18- to 29-year-olds. That’s a giant leap of faith when you stop to factor in where these voters are on issues such as climate change, same sex marriage, reproductive rights, immigration, minimum wage reform and voter identification issues, all issues where the G.O.P. is definitely out of step with young voters. Republicans and their fellow travelers still have the albatross of the government shutdown around their necks and the negative aspects of that will far outlast the Obamacare website rollout debacle or a few million cancelled insurance policies as a issue to reconcile before the voters in 2014. Why, because the technical glitches of the ACA website and cancelled insurance policies are far less debilitating politically than are those of the Tea Party afflicted government shutdown or the track record that comes with five years of political obstruction. That being understood, is there any reason to think that these young voters are well on their way to becoming conservative voters? I seriously doubt it.

Does Anyone Seriously Think the Tea Party Isn’t in Decline?

By: SJGulitti Monday November 11, 2013 10:33 am

My recent post ” For the Tea Party, Another Election, Another Defeat” has some disputing what I consider the established fact, that the Tea Party is in decline both in terms of overall popularity as well as in the numbers of people who identify as members of the movement. Simply put all one need do is Google “tea party identification” and there are more than ample references, including several from the right wing leaning Rasmussen Reports and Glenn Beck’s “The Blaze”, of what I pointed out is a now established fact. That said, here ya go:

“Tea party identification nationwide. Now 22%, was 32% at time of the 2010 election”.; http://t.co/oDThWeYIEC”

Rasmussen Report of 1/7/13: “Only eight percent (8%) now say they are members of the Tea Party, down from a high of 24% in April 2010″
“Just 8% Now Say They Are Tea Party Members”; http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/general_politics/january_2013/just_8_now_say_they_are_tea_party_members

“While polls show Tea Party identification dropping from 24 percent in 2010 to just 8 percent today, there have been key wins.” – “Tea Party Says ‘Don’t Write Our Obit Just Yet”; http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/politics/2013/February/Tea-Party-Says-Dont-Write-Our-Obit-Just-Yet/

Glenn Beck’s The Blaze: “while the Tea Party had once enjoyed 24% popularity, according to a recent Rasmussen poll, only 8% of Americans now identify themselves as members of the Tea Party…While that is the lowest it has been in the three years” – “Why Are Some Conservatives Targeting the Tea Party as a ‘Cancer’; http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/02/06/why-are-some-conservatives-targeting-the-tea-party-as-a-cancer/

“Tea Party Identification In Texas” (February 2010 – October 2013); http://laits.utexas.edu/txp_media/html/poll/features/tea_party_id/slide1.html

Does anyone have any evidence that the Tea Party isn’t in decline either in popularity or membership?

As far as to whether or not the Tea Party has declined where the numbers make them count, that will be answered definitively in the 2014 elections. Charlie Cook of the Cook Political Report has already predicted that 14 congressional seats that were leaning Republican are now leaning Democrat and 80 races are now more competitive for Republicans as a result of the Tea Party backed shutdown disaster. However, from what we can discern more recently, based on last weeks results one would ask the question as to why the Tea Party backed candidate in southern Alabama lost in a district where a Tea Party victory should be a lay up? Could it be that the numbers there that make them count where they once did no longer exist? Thus citing the quote which was shown to me so as to prove that the Tea Party isn’t in decline: ” Political power is constituted of getting people elected, getting people unelected and being able to reward or punish people for doing or not doing what you want. If you can’t do any of those things, you have no power.”; one can only conclude that the Tea Party movement’s power seems to be on the wane. If it were otherwise the movement would have more than a school board victory in Colorado to boast about. The fact that this Colorado issue was their only victory speaks volumes as to their declining power as it is during off year elections that the politically active are supposed to have outsized effects on results. The fact that the Tea Party has produced yet another miserable showing at the polls is proof positive of their declining real power both inside and outside of the GOP.

And as far as citing a post from Tea Party Patriots, or any other movement related organ for that matter, as to why they lost in Virginia, well that’s not exactly an objective source or a good place to look for an explanation. Again in Virginia, as in Alabama the operative question would be: “If the Tea Party is so popular and robust and they exist in numbers that make them count, then why did a clear backed Tea Party favorite fail to win?” Surely all of those who identify with the Tea Party movement know the ill affects of spending on political races, as well as the motives of the GOP Establishment, and they should have been unswayed by the lack of commercials for Cuccinelli and firm in their support for him yet he still lost. If members of the Tea Party don’t exist in sufficient numbers to make them count in Virginia, and most certainly, in Alabama where do they exist in sufficient numbers to make a political difference?

I’ll state again what I said in my last post “Ever since the high water mark of the Tea Party movement in 2010 the path forward nationally has been nothing if not downhill.” Till someone can prove me wrong either by showing me a turn around in the numbers of people who identify with the movement or the movement’s winning more elections than it’s losing I will not be convinced of this rather hallow argument to the contrary. As coach Bill Parcells said of football teams: You are what your record says you are.” That’s true in politics too and any counter argument to the contrary is just so much pap.

As for the Tea Party members holding on in districts where they in fact have a foothold I would say that that is simply a function of gerrymandering and amounts to nothing more than artificial political life support. In the long run, due to demographics and the need of the Republican Party to win elections so as to remain competitive, this is nothing but a fleeting moment politically for the Tea Party movement. It can not be sustained over the long haul, especially in a public that is sick of political gridlock and demands answers to the myriad set of problems now facing the nation.

Steven J. Gulitti
11/11/13

Sources:

For the Tea Party, Another Election, Another Defeat; http://my.firedoglake.com/sjgulitti/2013/11/06/for-the-tea-party-another-election-another-defeat/;

Cook Report Moves 14 House Races Toward Dems; http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/10/17/1248429/-Conservative-Cook-Report-Moves-14-House-Races-Toward-Dems

Cook Political Report: Damage Assessment; http://cookpolitical.com/story/6435

For the Tea Party, Another Election, Another Defeat

By: SJGulitti Wednesday November 6, 2013 2:37 pm

Ever since the high water mark of the Tea Party movement in 2010 the path forward nationally has been nothing if not downhill. The net number of seats held by movement members on Capitol Hill has declined overall. Twice they have cost the Republican Party the Senate. The movement failed to put forth a viable presidential candidate in 2012. Tea Party favorability ratings with the public have steadily sunk to the lowest level since the birth of the movement. Coming off of a fresh debacle in their effort to derail Obamacare via a government shutdown Tea Party Republicans have trundled into yet a new set of defeats in Tuesday’s elections. Not a single Tea Party backed candidate or ballot initiative of consequence was successful.

Tea Revolution 2010 Flag

Another defeat may have Tea Partiers yearning for the good old days.

In Virginia Ken Cuccinelli lost by three percentage points and contrary to accepted wisdom he probably wouldn’t have benefitted from more money. Why? Because Cuccinelli was out of step with the very elements of the electorate that the GOP lost in 2012 so more money would have only advertised his shortcomings that much more increasing his negatives. Democrats won the Lt. Governor race by double digits and they are ahead in the race for Attorney General. Likewise, when the final counts are tallied, Democrats may win the next two most important seats after Attorney General. If Virginia Democrats win all five seats that will be the first time since 1966 that they have done so, a decided setback for the Virginia G.O.P.

Yes the Obamacare rollout has been a mess and that made for a tighter race in Virginia, but the GOP has a hand in that too and that reality will come back to haunt them in the next election cycle. As I have amply pointed out, roughly 35% of the people who are unhappy with the A.C.A. want a single payer system so when you combine that with those who favor the law you get a majority of Americans opposing the conservative plan, if you even want to call it a plan, which it is not. More important in Virginia than Obamacare was the shutdown which, quoting Howard Fineman of MSNBC, affected one out of every three families of whom two out of three blamed the Republican Party and voted for Terry McAuliffe. That said it’s not likely that increasing airtime for Ken Cuccinelli’s would have had much of an effect. In the end, ideology matters and Cuccinelli’s was just too disconnected from the people who’s votes he needed to win the election. The real question is where were all of the ultra conservatives that Cuccinelli needed to secure a win at the ballot box? Do they even exist in large enough numbers in Virginia or nationally, for that matter, to make the Tea Party successful outside of a few southern and rural electoral districts?

Meanwhile a Tea Party backed congressional candidate lost to a pro-business Republican moderate, Bradley Byrne, in Alabama. That defeat, however narrow it might be, speaks volumes to the fading power of the movement within a region where it should be at the peak of power. Yes it is true that in Alabama millions of dollars of outside money via pro-business groups was spent to assist Byrne, but, that said, if the Tea Party is so powerful in the state why couldn’t it mount an effective campaign to put it’s candidate and agenda over the top? The fact is that in Alabama, as is increasingly the case elsewhere, people are falling away from the movement and with that comes a weakened performance on election day.

In the Metropolitan New York area there were two races of significance. The reelection of Chris Christie in New Jersey was a major victory for the moderate and pragmatic Republican message, not the Tea Party version. In fact Christie’s reelection must be seen as a complete rejection of the Tea Party message and approach to politics. Chris Christie was successful by winning the groups that the GOP must win in order to win nationally. He doesn’t deny climate change, He’s not tone deaf on gun issues. He’s not a “know nothing” on the issue of immigration reform. He has a proven track record of working across the aisle and even gave President Obama credit where credit was due for his response to Hurricane Sandy. In his acceptance speech he summed it all up in a single sentence, “When you lead you need to listen.” That’s a far cry from the stock Tea Party language of rejection, fear mongering and obstruction.

The election of Bill de Blasio represents a distinct pendulum swing back from the excesses of the Bloomberg years and the fêting of the mega rich while the average New Yorker struggled to get by. Yes it’s true that we can’t tax the rich out of existence but there’s plenty of tax fairness that can be put back into the tax code to lessen the strain on middle and working class. This can be achieved without significantly affecting the rich and in so doing we could address some of the issues of income inequality that are sure to be a topic of discussion going forward. Besides, there’s no clear link between taxes and prosperity anyway and for all of the benefits to the economy that were supposed to flow from lowering the taxes on the “job creators” where are all the jobs?

The Tea Party and the G.O.P.: From Rescue to Wreck

By: SJGulitti Tuesday October 22, 2013 7:58 am

In the immediate aftermath of the 2010 mid-term elections, Peggy Noonan, tireless cheerleader for all things conservative, published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, “The Tea Party to the Rescue” In it Noonan gushed effusively as to how the emerging Tea Party movement had miraculously injected new energy and direction into a politically lethargic G.O.P. Coming just two years after the decisive 2008 defeat and after a period of strident conservative reaction to the Obama administration’s handling of the 2008 economic crisis, federal spending increases and the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Noonan, like so many others, had misinterpreted the 2010 elections. In these events she saw a return to a more conservative national trend seeing the election of Barack Obama as an aberration. As history played out it would be just the opposite. Today, in the wake of the stunning defeat of the Tea Party backed government shutdown and its failure to derail Obamacare one could reasonably conclude that, for the G.O.P., the rescue had turned into an undeniable and abysmal political debacle. In the words of conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer: “For conservatives this was a complete defeat. They will not try to shut down the government again. They’ll have less leverage in the next round.”

The defeat of the Tea Party backed government shutdown is just the latest setback to be sustained by the Tea Party backed Congress and along with it, the G.O.P. The question is how we got to this point. The answer is to be found in that now famous statement uttered before the Civil War by Kentucky Senator Henry Clay; “If you can’t compromise you can’t govern.” The need to compromise when operating under divided government has been completely lost upon congressional Tea Party Republicans. In fact, they reject compromise-seeing obstruction as a viable and operative strategy. This refusal to compromise in favor of continued obstruction has only worked to guarantee continued political defeat. To quote conservative columnist Ross Douthat opining on an earlier deficit spending impasse: “The inability of the Republicans to make even symbolic concessions has turned a winning hand into a losing one.”

Looking back since Obama was first elected we can see the futility of the original Republican goal of obstruction politics. The goal of making Barack Obama “a one term President” failed in 2012. The G.O.P.’s failure to accept defeat in 2012 and to go on pretending that elections do not have consequences and that Obamacare could be destroyed through defunding or delay has only further deepened their predicament. Likewise, the same is true of their unwillingness to accept the Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. The present Republican dominated congress is on track to be less productive than the last, which was the least productive on record. Congress has failed to pass a farm bill or appropriate needed infrastructure spending. Immigration reform is sidelined and forty some odd attempts to repeal Obamacare stand as a public record of wasted legislative effort. In an opinion piece titled “House Republicans prefer sabotage to real solutions” conservative commentator and Fox News regular Juan Williams pointed out, “There is absolutely zero chance that ObamaCare will be repealed while Democrats control the Senate and President Obama is in the White House. Reality also compels some mention of the fact that the GOP has never held a vote on any alternative plan for dealing with the nation’s out-of-control healthcare spending. But reality is a nuisance to Congressional Republicans intent on a brazen strategy to trip up the healthcare program before it can take its first step.” Likewise Newt Gingrich in an interview with Bloomberg News pointed out that Republicans had “zero answers” as to how they would replace Obamacare. Thus the government shutdown, engineered in another forlorn effort to upend Obamacare, can only be seen as the latest act in the thus far failed policy of obstruction politics, a strategy that has been years in the making.

In the political “Danse Macabre” that is political obstruction the government shutdown left ample room for both sides to posture and politic until that fateful moment during the second week of October when the reality of the Republican mistake came more clearly into focus. During that week the political poll numbers showed that, despite the public’s disgust with Washington in general, their dismay with the Republican Party specifically and more specifically with the Tea Party was just too much to be ignored. Citing a NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll: “By a 22-point margin (53 percent to 31 percent), the public blames the Republican Party more for the shutdown than President Barack Obama… Just 24 percent of respondents have a favorable opinion about the GOP, and only 21 percent have a favorable view of the Tea Party, which are both at all-time lows in the history of poll… Yet what is perhaps even more worrisome for the GOP is the “boomerang” effect: As the party has used the shutdown and fiscal fight to campaign against the nation’s health-care law and for limited government, the poll shows those efforts have backfired.” The net effect of these poll findings is that President Obama’s ratings went up as did support for the A.C.A. In fact, Obamacare was seen to be more popular than both the G.O.P. and the Tea Party. Disapproval of the Republican Party topped 70 percent vice 59 percent for the Democrats and 48 percent for the president.

The sinking popularity of the Tea Party was replicated in other polling results: “A Pew Research Center poll released this week showed public favorability for the Tea Party dropped to its lowest level since driving the Republican takeover of the House in the 2010 elections. An AP-Gfk poll showed that 70 percent now hold unfavorable views of the Tea Party.” The Gallup findings, which replicate other polling further found that there is a growing ambivalance among Republicans for the Tea Party that was supposed to be it’s savior. Whereas three years ago when two thirds of Republicans supported the Tea Party today it’s down to 38 percent as per the latest Gallup Poll. The agony of public opinion would turn out to be too much to bear for the Republican esthablishment and it’s media supporters. Gone were the usual defelective commentary about an “oversampling” of “progressives” of the usual allegations about a liberal bias in the polling. A good barometer of how things are going within the conservative movement is Fox News and the arrival ot this disquieting news led to a distinct change in the commentary on that channel. Conservative stalwarts like Charles Krauthammer, Jonah Goldberg, Stephen Hays and Kristen Powers went from the usual scathing criticisms of Obama and the Democrats to publicly bemoaning the self destruction of the House Republicans to a veiled appeal to Obama himself not to rub their noses in defeat by spiking the ball in the end zone and dancing when compromise was finally in view.

The fallout from the Tea Party backed failure to defeat Obama via government shutdown is by now well documented and amply referenced below. The single best analysis that I found came from Stuart Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Political Report: “They got nothing. This was a disaster for them. They picked a fight that they could not win. Moreover, in fact, all the political benefits accrue to the president and to the Democrats. The Republicans caved. The president did not have to compromise, so the Republicans start off with a weaker hand when they have to engage again. The Democrats are going to benefit from recruiting in congressional races. Republican money may dry up. I mean, this is a mess for Republicans… primarily the chaos in Washington and the fact that the Republicans are now more easily demonized and defined as the guys who are against anything and everything. Republicans are worried about both small-dollar fund-raising and big-dollar fund-raising. They’re concerned with the small-dollar folks because those are the true blue grassroots Tea Party conservatives who now have nothing — there’s no benefit from — the Republicans caved. They didn’t get anything…And the big donors, who are more pragmatic, are petrified at the thought the Republicans are going to drive the party and the country off the economic cliff. If you looked at — you also have to look at what the Republicans gave up. They gave up arguments over the past few weeks about the rollout of Obamacare and what a mess it was. And they’re just in an inferior position now.”

In the end, the Tea Party achieved nothing except inflicting further damage on an already ailing conservative movement, the American people and the economy as well. I predicted in a piece written before the 2010 elections, “An Impending and Inevitable Train Wreck” that what we have just witnessed would be the most probable outcome of the rise of the Tea Party Movement. I believe that my prognosis has proven to be far more accurate than that of Ms. Noonan who apparently is still in rescue mode. In her latest piece on the shutdown, “Now Obama Rescues the GOP” Noonan once again misses the mark in suggesting that the mistakes, and hence the consequences, to both sides are equally the same and thus the GOP will be bailed out this time, not by the Tea Party but by Barack Obama himself. Of course nothing could be further from the truth as the polls and the post mortems reveal. The debacle that has now befallen the GOP extends far beyond the pale of public opinion polling to responsibility for inflicting billions of dollars worth of damage to the economy, figures range from $3.1 billion to $24 billion as estimated by Standard and Poors and a shaving of one half of one percent of growth from GDP.

Politically the GOP is seen to be adrift and rudderless, wracked from within, in full public view, by intensifying conflict between the Tea Party faction and the Republican esthablishment. Having twice lost in retaking the Senate there is talk about losing this opportunity a third time and an outside chance that they will lose the House in 2014 as well. Alexandra Jaffe writing for The Hill noted,…” polls showing voters primarily blamed Republicans for the crisis have even GOP strategists acknowledging that the prospects of a Senate takeover have dimmed.”

Charlie Cook of the Cook Political Report has said that 14 existing seats in the House are now more likely to swing to the Democrats in 2014. Fears of a drop off in campaign contributions to the GOP are now very real as is the prospect that the Party won’t be able to recruit atteactive candidates for 2014. Meanwhile the Democrats have seen an increased interest among those willing to run as well as the money flowing into the party in political contributions. While the Tea Party and the G.O.P. were going down to defeat on Capitol Hill, their candidate in the New Jersey special election for the Senate was defeated by Newark Mayor Cory Booker. Their candidate for Virginia Governor is trailing in the polls while the moderate Chris Christie of New Jersey, who said that the Republican dominated House of Representatives was “the definition of failure” is surging in his reelection bid. And even more consequential is the change in tone among business leaders who feel shut out of the political process by the very allies they bank rolled. From the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to industry trade groups down to individual C.E.Os there is talk about primarying Tea Party radicals with conservative centerist candidates.

One of the grat ironies of the Tea Party era is that for all of their commentary about taking the country back to the principles of the founders they have shown little in the way of respect for the political process they purport to defend. They have willingly and knowingly disregarded the results of elections and the decisions of the Supreme Court when those decisions don’t suit them. They have willingly and knowingly misrepresented public opinion polls claiming that a majority of Americans oppose Obamacare while ignoring the fact that a third of those who do, favor a single payer system, which in turn means that a majority of Ameiricans oppose their ideas on scuttling Obamacare. To some they have threatened the very essence of the democratic process. Tom Friedman in a pair of articles, referenced below, opined “What is at stake in this government shutdown forced by a radical Tea Party minority is nothing less than the principle upon which our democracy is based: majority rule…When extremists feel that insulated from playing by the traditional rules of our system, if we do not defend those rules — namely majority rule and the fact that if you don’t like a policy passed by Congress, signed by the president and affirmed by the Supreme Court then you have to go out and win an election to overturn it; you can’t just put a fiscal gun to the country’s head — then our democracy is imperiled.” Friedman in his second piece went on to compare the Tea Party to extremists in the Middle East saying: “The Tea Party is not a terrorist group. It has legitimate concerns about debt, jobs and Obamacare. But what was not legitimate was the line it crossed. Rather than persuading a majority of Americans that its policies were right, and winning elections to enact the changes it sought — the essence of our democratic system — the Tea Party threatened to undermine our nation’s credit rating if the Democrats would not agree to defund Obamacare. Had such strong-arm tactics worked, it would have meant that constitutionally enacted laws could be nullified if determined minorities opposed them.”

So what in the end did the Tea Party do to the G.O.P. and the rest of the country? Far from rescuing, it wrecked havoc on the party and the political process as well. Democratic political systems rely on the competition of ideas to move society forward or keep it from moving radically off course into the dangerous waters of extremism. The Tea Party has effectively crippled the Republican Party’s ability to compete politically on a national scale, in the process it has bailed out both the Democrats and Obama as all they need do is point to the chaos on the right, and ask the majority of the electorate if that is what they want. There is distinctly less need for politically competitive ideas to come out of the Democratic Party or the Obama administration in this political enviornment. Yes, it is true that the G.O.P. has made great strides in statehouses across the country but many of those state governments have parted company with the Tea Party movement choosing to participate in the federally funded expansion of Medicare and setting up health care exchanges. And it’s also true that most of the core Tea Party congressmen and women come from gerrymandered safe seats but in the long run that won’t save the movement either. Why, because what we just saw in crafting the compromise that ended the shutdown was moderate Republicans joining with Democrats to move legislation forward. This could be the template for the future that will effectively sideline the Tea Party faction and allow the Republican Party to function more effectively going forward. The unrelenting tide of demographic change will also, in the long run, work to change the voter composition in many of those districts now seen to be reliably Republican.

The politics of extremism have also sabotaged much of the original conservative agenda of 2010 and that is bad news for the Tea Party. Quoting political analyst David Fahrenthold, “Now, after forcing four national crises, the House GOP can count one major victory. One major defeat. And a large number of opportunities lost.” Has all of this affected the public perception of the G.O.P. in a politically dangerous way, the answer seems to yes or at least things may be trending that way. A recent CNN/ORC poll that came out after the shutdown showed: “A majority of Americans think it is bad for the country that Republicans control the House of Representatives, and even more want House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to be replaced by another Republican…Fifty-four percent think it’s bad that Republicans control the House. That’s up from 43 percent in December 2012, during the last fiscal standoff. The figure is the first time a majority thought Republican control was bad for the country since CNN started asking in December 2010.” It appears that things are only getting worse for both the G.O.P. and the Tea Party on Capitol Hill. Commenting on the latest Washington Post – ABC Poll, the results of which were published today, Dan Balz writes: “The survey highlights just how badly the GOP hard-liners and the leaders who went along with them misjudged the public mood. In the aftermath, eight in 10 Americans say they disapprove of the shutdown. Two in three Republicans or independents who lean Republican share a negative view of the impasse. And even a majority of those who support the tea party movement disapprove… There was little in the findings for the GOP to feel good about. The party’s image has sunk to an all-time low in Post-ABC surveys, with 32 percent of the public saying they have a favorable opinion and 63 percent saying they have an unfavorable view. Almost four in 10 Americans have a strongly unfavorable view of the GOP. The tea party fares just as badly. Barely a quarter of the public has a favorable image of the movement, the lowest rating in Post-ABC polling.”

I have many friends and family members who belong to a Tea Party organization and they truly love their country and are legitimately concerned for it’s future. But what seems to be lost on so amny within this movement is that they don’t represent a majority of what the rest of the people want or how they want to achieve it. Ted Cruz stated after the shutdown defeat that the leadership on Capitol Hill had ignored the will of the people. But how could Cruz or anyone else make such a claim when 70 percent of those responding to opinion polls show disatisfaction with the Tea Party movement and only 21 percent view it favorably? If the Tea Party were so popular they would have a president in the White House and control both houses of Congress but they don’t. If you don’t control the government you can only be successful through compromise and the Tea Party can’t abide such a thing so they’ve effectively put themseleves out of the business of effecting positive change thereby opting instead to participate by subverting the democratic process. While this may be an essential tenent of the movement and it’s stated goal of cleaning house in Washigton in the long run it’s counter to American political culture. This strategy can only lead to further defeat and a further weakening of the Republican Party. Far from being the saviors of the G.O.P. the Tea Party is politically an albatross round it’s neck.

In his farewell missive to Indiana voter’s Senator Richard Lugar pointed out the problems that result from extremist politics and positions and in doing so he echoed that long ago phrase of Henry Clay that is still relevant today and that the Tea Party crowd just dosen’t seem to understand, “ If you can’t compromise you can’t govern.” Does that mean that we are witnessing the G.O.P. in its death throes? Not neccesarily but there’s no denying that the Party and the conservative movement is politically behaind the proverbial eight ball. However, all factors considerd, one thing is for sure, and that is there’s nothing to say that a given political party has to last for ever. Vote for any Whigs or Federalists lately?

Steven J. Gulitti
10/22/13

Sources:

Peggy Noonan: “The Tea Party to the Rescue” Wall Street Journal 10/22/10

Compromise as Liability; http://swampland.time.com/2011/07/14/compromise-as-liability/?artId=52271?contType=article?chn=us

Ross Douthat: The Republican Retreat; http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/18/opinion/18douthat.html?emc=eta1

Taboo in Today’s GOP? Realism and Compassion; http://www.alternet.org/story/153205/taboo_in_today%27s_gop_realism_and_compassion

Farm bill setback opens House GOP up to new attacks about ability to lead; http://thehill.com/homenews/house/306981-farm-bill-setback-opens-gop-to-attacks-about-ability-to-lead

The dysfunctional House; http://www.politico.com/story/2013/06/farm-bill-dysfunctional-house-93137.html

Juan Williams – Opinion: House Republicans prefer sabotage to real solutions; http://thehill.com/opinion/columnists/juan-williams/299227-opinion-house-republicans-prefer-sabotage-to-real-solutions-

Gingrich Scolds Republicans for Not Offering Alternatives; http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-08-15/gingrich-scolds-republicans-for-not-offering-alternatives.html

Tea party lawmakers see the culmination of years of effort in shutdown; http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/with-shutdown-tea-party-lawmakers-see-the-culmination-of-years-of-effort-to-downsize-government/2013/10/02/3207126a-2ab3-11e3-8ade-a1f23cda135e_story.html

A Federal Budget Crisis Months in the Planning; http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/06/us/a-federal-budget-crisis-months-in-the-planning.html

GOP lawmakers bridle at calling Affordable Care Act the law; http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/health-reform-implementation/325277-gop-lawmakers-bridle-at-calling-obamacare-the-law

Obamacare fight reenergizes tea party movement; http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/obamacare-fight-reenergizes-tea-party-movement/2013/09/27/f88ce6c8-2796-11e3-ad0d-b7c8d2a594b9_story.html?hpid=z1

NBC/WSJ poll: Shutdown debate damages GOP; http://firstread.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/10/10/20903624-nbcwsj-poll-shutdown-debate-damages-gop?lite

Poll: Six in 10 would replace every member of Congress; http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/327933-poll-republican-approval-sinks-to-24-percent

Support for tea party slips; http://www.politico.com/story/2013/09/tea-party-support-poll-97385.html

Tea Party Support Dwindles to Near-Record Low; http://www.gallup.com/poll/164648/tea-party-support-dwindles-near-record-low.aspx

Senate Republicans: GOP Didn’t Gain Anything By Forcing Shutdown; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/16/senate-republicans-government-shutdown_n_4109845.html?utm_hp_ref=politics

House GOP extracts no concessions; http://www.politico.com/story/2013/10/house-gop-extracts-no-concessions-government-shutdown-debt-ceiling-deal-98443.html

Republicans grapple with stinging defeat; http://thehill.com/homenews/news/329005-republicans-grapple-with-stinging-defeat

Winners and losers of the debt-limit fight; http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/328977-winners-and-losers-of-the-debt-limit-fight

Republicans reassess after shutdown debacle; http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/republicans-reassess-after-shutdown-debacle/2013/10/17/e312159e-375d-11e3-80c6-7e6dd8d22d8f_story.html

Fiscal Crisis Sounds the Charge in G.O.P.’s ‘Civil War’; http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/20/us/fiscal-crisis-sounds-the-charge-in-gops-civil-war.html?ref=todayspaper

Shutdown showdown widened GOP-tea party rift; http://bigstory.ap.org/article/shutdown-showdown-widened-gop-tea-party-rift

House tea partiers not anteing up for 2014; http://www.politico.com/story/2013/10/tea-party-house-members-snub-gop-in-2014-98568.htm

GOP unity frays, frustration builds; http://www.politico.com/story/2013/10/republican-unity-frustration-debt-ceiling-government-shutdown-98032.html\

An Impending and Inevitable Train Wreck; http://open.salon.com/blog/steven_j_gulitti/2010/10/31/an_impending_and_inevitable_train_wreck

Peggy Noonan – Now Obama Rescues the GOP; http://blogs.wsj.com/peggynoonan/2013/10/06/now-obama-rescues-the-gop/

Shutdown to Cost U.S. Billions, Analysts Say, While Eroding Confidence; http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/19/us/shutdown-to-cost-us-billions-analysts-say-while-eroding-confidence.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Gridlock Has Cost U.S. Billions, and the Meter Is Still Running; http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/17/business/economy/high-cost-to-the-economy-from-the-fiscal-impasse.html?_r=0

Pelosi to GOP: Was tantrum worth $24B?; http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/329161-pelosi-was-gop-temper-tantrum-worth-24b

While GOP ‘picked a fight that they couldn’t win,’ Democrats emerge reunited; http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/politics/julydec13/shutdown2_10-16.html

The GOP is adrift, floundering; http://thehill.com/opinion/columnists/judd-gregg/326821-opinion-the-gop-is-adrift-and-floundering

G.O.P.’s Hopes to Take Senate Are Dimming; http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/13/us/politics/gops-hopes-to-take-senate-are-dimming.html?ref=politics&_r=0

Fiscal Armageddon could remake Hill in 2014 elections; http://www.politico.com/story/2013/07/debt-ceiling-continuing-resolution-fiscal-armageddon-congress-94785.html

Far-Right Republicans Could Hit A Tipping Point As Support Falters; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/06/far-right-republicans_n_4055431.html

Democrats hope GOP chaos in fall will help them win back House;

http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/house-races/318331-dems-hope-fall-chaos-will-help-them-take-back-house

GOP In Danger Of Losing House As Popularity Plummets; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/11/gop-losing-house_n_4083775.html

Democrats Have A Shot At Taking Back The House As Republican Popularity Continues To Drop: Poll; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/20/democrats-take-back-house_n_4133836.html

Election prospects put a spring in the step of Senate Democrats; http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/329755-election-prospects-put-a-spring-in-the-step-of-senate-democrats

Opinion: Independents desert GOP; http://thehill.com/opinion/columnists/juan-williams/328165-opinion-independents-desert-gop

Conservative groups struggling to recruit candidates in key 2014 races; http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/senate-races/308825-conservatives-groups-struggling-to-recruit-in-key-races

GOP fears fundraising disaster; http://www.politico.com/story/2013/09/gop-fears-fundraising-disaster-96679.html

Republicans’ issues give Democratic recruiting a boost; http://www.politico.com/story/2013/10/gops-issues-give-democratic-recruiting-a-boost-98583.html

In budget and debt fight, White House finds unlikely alliance with business groups; http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/in-budget-and-debt-fight-white-house-finds-unlikely-alliance-in-business-community/2013/10/11/5840060e-32a0-11e3-8627-c5d7de0a046b_story.html?hpid=z1

Businessweek’s Ted Cruz Cover Will Haunt Your Dreams; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/18/bloomberg-businessweek-ted-cruz-cover_n_4122022.html

Business Voices Frustration with GOP; http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304384104579139903054309502

Majority Of Americans Think It’s ‘Bad For The Country’ That Republicans Control The House; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/21/republicans-control-house_n_4135328.html

October 2013 Post-ABC poll – Obama, Republicans and shutdown fallout; http://www.washingtonpost.com/page/2010-2019/WashingtonPost/2013/10/22/National-Politics/Polling/release_272.xml

Poll: Major damage to GOP after shutdown, and broad dissatisfaction with government; http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/poll-major-damage-to-gop-after-shutdown-and-broad-dissatisfaction-with-government/2013/10/21/dae5c062-3a84-11e3-b7ba-503fb5822c3e_story.html

Tom Friedman – Our Democracy Is at Stake;

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/02/opinion/friedman-our-democracy-is-at-stake.html

Tom Friedman: From Beirut to Washington; http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/20/opinion/sunday/from-beirut-to-washington.html?ref=todayspaper

David Fahrenthold – Amid four national crises, many of GOP’s goals after retaking House have been ignored; http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/amid-four-national-crises-many-of-gops-goals-after-retaking-house-have-been-ignored/2013/10/19/741b4c32-3802-11e3-80c6-7e6dd8d22d8f_story_1.html

GOP Could Pay a price for Gerrymandering; http://www.politico.com/story/2013/07/gop-could-pay-price-for-gerrymandering-93597.html

Cruz: No surrender; http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/329505-cruz-no-surrender

The Importance of Dick Lugar’s Farewell Warning; http://swampland.time.com/2012/05/09/the-importance-of-dick-lugars-farewell-warning/

Beyond Benghazi

By: SJGulitti Friday June 7, 2013 11:00 am

As we navigate our way through this season of political scandal there are questions which have begun to arise, surrounding events in Benghazi, as to motives, both on the part of the supposed architects of failure and those likewise ascribed to their accusers. The Benghazi affair is both fraught with conflicting stories and muddled facts as to what happened and why and what role, if any, was played directly by President Obama and his immediate lieutenants. Beyond discerning what the president actually knew and when he knew it there are numerous questions as to what are the real motives of those on the right who are leading the charge to get to the bottom of it all.

Looking back to this past February, Senator John McCain, appearing on Meet the Press demanded: “Shouldn’t these people [the Administration] be held accountable for the deaths of four brave Americans? We need answers.” More recently Congressman Darrell Issa, Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, appearing on that same program, made his case for going after whomever it is determined to be responsible. Issa has publicly alleged that the CIA has been manipulated to get the truth that the administration wanted and that the American people had been lied to. That lying, deception, false statements and cover up are all actions of this administration that are legitimately within the scope of Congressional oversight. Issa has demanded to know what the State Department had failed to do to protect American lives. And lastly he, along with the rest of the American public, has lamented the needless loss of four brave Americans.

The maelstrom that Benghazi has become is now easily seen as a politicized contest between the G.O.P. and the Obama administration in their respective efforts to shape a message to the American public. That message, to paraphrase BBC Washington correspondent Katty Kay, is one in which the American people are now completely either missing the point or can’t discern what constitutes a clear picture of what actually happened and why. Are we engaged in a political witch-hunt to bring down the Obama administration or are Republicans engaged in a legitimate inquiry so as to preclude future Benghazi’s or is it both? Is this really about establishing ineptitude on the part of former Secretary of State Clinton or a rightwing ploy to torpedo her chances in 2016? After all Rand Paul, a potential contender for the presidency, has gone on the record as saying, before guilt has been unequivocally established, that Hillary Clinton is unqualified for the presidency. Former Vice president Dick Cheney has publicly asserted that the Obama White House is engaged in a cover up, David Brooks of the New York Times has disputed that, saying that the CIA is trying to shift blame to the State Department. White House sources have alleged that Republicans have altered e-mails so as to create “support” for their position. In the froth and foam of all of these charges and countercharges some on the far right, as in the IRS scandal, have clamored for Obama’s impeachment while other voices within and from outside of the G.O.P. have cautioned restraint until all of the facts are known. The House Republican leadership has asked that Congressman Issa to cease and desist with his personal attacks.

If it is truly the goal of Issa and his allies to rectify, for all time, the shortcomings that led to the Benghazi, tragedy then I say he deserves our support and if it leads to the impeachment of the President Obama and / or the end of Hillary Clinton’s political career so be it. But if Issa’s efforts are just the latest iteration of “gotcha” politics or just another attempt at partisan attack for its own sake then it is almost certainly guaranteed to yield little in the way of benefit to either the American people or the Republican Party. For you see the issues that surround the tragedy in Libya are far from unique to the Obama Administration. This isn’t the first time something like this has happened. Political columnist Bob Cesca in his article “13 Benghazis That Occurred on Bush’s Watch without a Peep from Fox News” detailed numerous attacks on American interests which took place during the Bush administration and which received little if any attention from those now clamoring for accountability in the Benghazi incident. Likewise in his interview with Congressman Issa, David Gregory, moderator of Meet the Press, pointed out a litany of past attacks on U.S. interests abroad and asked why Issa wasn’t interested in establishing responsibility for those attacks as well only to have Issa ignore past history in his focus on the present.

The central and most important question to be raised here is whether or not Congressman Issa and his political allies will seize this opportunity to examine all of the recent failures in protecting American interests abroad so as to establish a sound and effective policy for protecting those interests going forward, or will they succumb to the politically attractive alternative of short term political gain that might be had from tying up the Obama administration in endless rounds of hearings over scandals real or imagined? Conceivably and legitimately, this line of inquiry could extend to an analysis of the run up to and the conduct of the War in Iraq as well which contained elements of manipulated intelligence, lying, deception, false statements and cover up of the ineptitude of the Bush administration’s lack of a game plan to manage Iraq after the end of hostilities. After all couldn’t it be said that hundreds of Americans died needlessly there as well?

I’m not a big believer in “multitasking” so I say let Issa and his consort make a thorough examination of Benghazi and let the political chips fall where they may. But after that let Issa and his associates go through the list of other past security failures as outlined by Bob Cesca and as suggested by David Gregory so that they can prove to the American people that their motives aren’t purely, or even largely, political. Anything less than that would leave the American people with only one plausible conclusion and that is that Issa and the Republicans had only one goal in mind when they launched the Benghazi hearings and that was the pure politics of a continual campaign of obstructing the Obama Administration through whatever means were handy at the time.

Steven J. Gulitti
7 June 2013

Sources:

John McCain: Meet the Press – February 17, 2013: http://presspass.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/02/17/16992343-meet-the-press-mcdonough-mccain-mark-kelly-roundtable-february-17-2013?lite

Darrell Issa: Meet the Press – May 12, 2013; http://www.nbcnews.com/id/51857413/ns/meet_the_press-transcripts/t/may-darrell-issa-dianne-feinstein-thomas-pickering-adam-kinzinger-david-brooks-katty-kay-wes-moore/

New Benghazi probe evidence puts spotlight back on Clinton; http://thehill.com/blogs/global-affairs/middle-east-north-africa/298395-new-evidence-in-benghazi-probe-puts-the-spotlight-back-on-clinton

Serious Investigations, or Partisan Ploys?; http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2013/05/08/are-congressional-hearings-serious-investigations-or-just-party-politics

Boehner calls for release of Benghazi emails as pressure grows on administration; http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/05/09/issa-seeks-more-whistle-blowers-after-dramatic-benghazi-hearing/

13 Benghazis That Occurred on Bush’s Watch without a Peep from Fox News; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bob-cesca/13-benghazis-that-occurre_b_3246847.html

Benghazi emails put pressure on White House; http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/10/us-usa-benghazi-idUSBRE9490VD20130510

Rand Paul: Hillary Clinton does not deserve higher office due to Benghazi; http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/299165-paul-hillary-clinton-does-not-deserve-higher-office-due-to-benghazi

Benghazi: A Desperate GOP Attack; http://www.realclearpolitics.com/2013/05/14/benghazi_a_desperate_gop_attack_307696.html

Cheney: White House ‘lied’ to hide Benghazi ‘incompetence’; http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/299587-cheney-white-house-lied-to-hide-benghazi-incompetence

White House: GOP fabricated leaked Benghazi email; http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/299645-white-house-gop-fabricated-benghazi-email

State fretted over Benghazi talking points; http://www.politico.com/story/2013/05/benghazi-talking-points-91458.html

White House releases Benghazi emails; http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/300039-white-house-releases-benghazi-emails

White House: Benghazi emails have different quotes than earlier reported; http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18563_162-57584947/wh-benghazi-emails-have-different-quotes-than-earlier-reported/

Redacted truth, subjunctive outrage; http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-05-16/opinions/39311695_1_benghazi-libya-susan-rice

Benghazi witness points finger at Clinton on lapses in consulate security; http://thehill.com/blogs/global-affairs/middle-east-north-africa/300879-benghazi-witness-points-finger-at-clinton-on-lapses-in-security#ixzz2TvmyPa2J

Petraeus’s role in drafting Benghazi talking points raises questions; http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-05-21/politics/39420257_1_petraeus-benghazi-attack-house-permanent-select-committee

Rep. Chaffetz: Administration covering up on Benghazi terror attack; http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/301983-chaffetz-administration-covering-up-on-benghazi#ixzz2UPOSm7Bg

Benghazi Depositions To Examine Hillary Clinton’s Role In Response To Attacks; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/13/benghazi-depositions_n_3265354.html?utm_source=DailyBrief&utm_campaign=051313&utm_medium=email&utm_content=FeatureTitle&utm_term=Daily%20Brief

Defense bill presses Pentagon on lessons learned from Benghazi failures; http://thehill.com/blogs/global-affairs/terrorism/303161-defense-bill-presses-pentagon-on-lessons-learned-from-benghazi-failures

House Republicans grill Benghazi auditor on blame for security lapses; http://thehill.com/blogs/global-affairs/terrorism/303385-republicans-get-their-chance-to-grill-benghazi-auditor-on-whos-to-blame-for-security-lapses

GOP to Darrell Issa: Cool it; http://www.politico.com/story/2013/06/gop-darrell-issa-cool-it-92306.html

The IRS Scandal and the False Hope of Tea Party Revival

By: SJGulitti Friday May 31, 2013 1:05 pm

Amid all of the sound and fury bubbling up from the IRS examination of the various conservative organizations there’s hope among the Tea Party faithful that this controversy will somehow breathe new life into their movement. But will it be enough to reinvigorate a movement considered to be in disarray, if not politically stalled? Yes the vast majority of Americans holds the IRS in low esteem and is troubled by the revelations that the agency has, if nothing else, tangled rightwing organizations in excessive red tape, even if it hasn’t moved to cripple them altogether. However, as Sam Tanenhaus of the New York Times pointed out, this isn’t the first time that an administration has used the IRS against the opposition, even though, to date, there’s no evidence that President Obama ordered any such action.

While the wild eyed voices on Capitol Hill have been bellowing for the impeachment of the president, the more level headed among them, and among conservative political pundits, have counseled caution least the Tea Party claque in Congress overplay its hand with negative consequences for 2014. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in a meticulously detailed piece outlines the vast differences between Watergate and the current IRS controversy. It is an analysis that undermines the very argument being made by the far right for the impeachment of President Obama: “Those who bother to read these historical snippets will find many important departures and only tenuous parallels between the Obama Administration’s IRS affair and Richard Nixon’s Watergate-era IRS scandal. A principal distinction is the ingredient of direct presidential involvement. President Nixon was the fulcrum, the visionary and the principal conspirator in his various capers to use the IRS as a political weapon. Nixon personally directed and persistently harangued his staff to audit, investigate and gather dirt on his enemies for personal purposes. Nixon went to reckless extremes even punishing IRS agents who refused to participate in his vendetta. A mean-spirited viciousness and his contagious enthusiasm for law breaking were also distinctive Nixon bailiwicks. In contrast, there is no evidence that Obama even knew of the IRS investigations which were presided over by Donald Shulman, a Bush appointee. The most recent evidence indicate that the Tea Party audits resulted not from intentional political targeting of conservatives from the sheer preponderous of Tea Party applications among the hundreds of 501(c)(4) tax exemption requests that deluged a tiny understaffed IRS field office.”

But while it’s important to note the fact that, to date, the current scandal doesn’t even come close to approximating the severity of Watergate as an assault on the Constitution, there is evidence that Tea Party organizations have pushed the limits of what was politically legitimate. That in turn has increased the attention given these groups by the IRS, which isn’t necessarily unwarranted or beyond the pale of legitimate agency operations. In the article “Groups Targeted by I.R.S. Tested Rules on Politics”, referenced below, two political reporters, Nicholas Confessore and Michael Luo, detail the many activities undertaken by conservative organizations over the past few years that have given rise to legitimate questions on the part of IRS agents who have conducted these examinations. Have those agents been overzealous, perhaps, but at the same time those agents wouldn’t be looking into these groups if they didn’t have a reason to believe that somehow these organizations hadn’t run afoul of the law. The IRS simply doesn’t have the luxury of excess manpower with which to carry out such a political wild goose chase no matter who might have requested such a thing. Likewise the claim by conservative columnist Peggy Noonan, a tireless critic of Barack Obama, that conservatives generally have been singled out for IRS harassment has been debunked prima facie as well by Nate Silver, as referenced below.

With all of the above being understood, what affect, if any, has the IRS scandal had, to date, on the public perception of the Tea Party movement as a whole? Is there any reason thus far to believe that this controversy is breathing new life into the Tea Party? Presently the answer is emphatically no. Jon Cohen and Dan Balz of the Washington Post, analyzing the results of the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll concluded the following: “The IRS scandal has brought the tea party back into the spotlight, but it has done little to change the public’s impressions of the political movement. In the poll, 40 percent of all Americans say they support the tea party movement and 43 percent oppose it, numbers stable back to last year. A record high of 17 percent express no opinion on the question. About 73 percent of conservative Republicans say they support the movement, but that’s the lowest percentage to say so in polls going back more than two years.” Moreover, when you go inside the results of this poll 74 percent of the respondents saw the IRS actions as inappropriate and 56 percent of respondents see this activity as deliberate harassment; 54 percent see the Federal Government as threatening the individual rights of the average citizen.

One would think that for all of the public discomfort being generated by the actions of the IRS that the American people would see anew some value in the Tea Party and its ideas. Ironically that has proven not to be the case. Likewise you would think that these same Americans would now be looking to throw Obama, the far right’s new Nixon, under the bus but that hasn’t happened either. Obama’s poll numbers have actually edged up since this controversy began. In fact if you examine the bulk of the data compiled by PollingReport.com, referenced below, the Tea Party movement has seen, in net terms, its popularity and acceptance decline overall since 2010 and it is, thus far, in no way positively affected by the current spate of scandal and revelation.

One would ask why, with all the unpopularity surrounding the IRS and big government generally and with all of the sensational media coverage and the mainstream media’s new found interest in challenging the Obama administration, why is it that the Tea Party seems to be getting little if any traction from all of this? I think that to for many informed observers the answers are self-evident if not outright obvious. For one thing, even though Americans are wary of “too much government” they have little stomach for deliberate government gridlock and when it comes to gridlock they see the Tea Party movement is the chief culprit in affecting the dysfunctional state of affairs that has come to characterize Washington D.C. generally and Capitol Hill in particular. Gridlock aside, the Tea Party’s penchant for economic austerity works to the movement’s disadvantage as this economic policy has come to be seen as a failure, even among serious conservative thinkers in organizations like the American Enterprise Institute. Finally, the movement is now beset by scandal as well, its onetime Congressional standard bearer Michelle Bachmann has decided not to run for reelection with a scandal of her own as a backdrop.

The essence of American democracy has always been compromise and it has been at those junctures in American history where the practice of compromise broke down that our democracy has been seen to fall short, sometimes with disastrous results, the Civil War being the most obvious example. In the current era it has been the Tea Party movement that has epitomized the belief put forth by Henry Clay, the Great Compromiser of pre-Civil war fame, who famously stated, “If you can’t compromise you can’t govern.” Today the American people know that there is little in the way of real political progress being made in Washington D.C. They see the Republican Party and the Tea Party specifically as the reason why. Furthermore, after three plus years on the American political scene, serious Tea Party missteps at the level of Republican Presidential politics and in Senate races have cast Tea Party politics and politicians in a less than flattering light. All one need do is think back over the clown fest that was the 2012 Republican primaries or some of the absurdities surrounding Tea Party backed candidates for the U.S. Senate during the last two election cycles and it’s not hard to see why, even in the wake of the current scandals and with issues that play right into the anti-government creed, that the Tea Party could still fail to benefit from this current state of affairs.

Scandals have rocked Washington before and they will rock it again. That said there’s another reason that the current round of scandal may fail to reinvigorate the Tea Party movement. The reason for this is that voters have had over three years to get to know the movement and there seems to be little coming out of it that those who don’t already support it find compelling. In fact if you go back inside the data in PollingReport.com you find that the numbers prove that those respondents who claim they don’t know enough about the Tea Party have been halved since data collection began in 2010, sometimes falling to single digits. It could be that even though the average American is disgusted with the state of American politics, those same Americans may see the Tea Party movement as part of the reason for that disgust and therefore the movement isn’t seen as part of the solution. After all one of the chief complaints about Washington today is gridlock, a word synonymous with the Tea Party and that’s not a good thing.

If the aforementioned is in fact the case, and I for one strongly believe it is, then there is little in the way of hope to be had from all of this that will ultimately bode well for the Tea Party. Yes voters can punish the Obama and the Democrats in 2014 at the ballot box, but that doesn’t mean that they’ve finally and firmly embraced the ideas of the Tea Party and the far right. We can see a replay of the 2010 elections which I believe to have been nothing more than a protest against the perceived excess of the first Obama administration rather than a rejection of progressive ideas. For if in fact the 2010 elections had been a rejection of the essence of the first Obama administration there would have never been a second one and as we all know it was Barack Obama and not a champion of the far right who was elected in November of 2012. In other words, as far as the fortunes of the Tea Party movement are concerned, the more things change the more they seem to stay the same.

Steven J. Gulitti
30 May 2013

Sources:
IRS targeting scandal a political ‘gift from heaven’ for Tea Party groups; http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/299765-irs-scandal-a-political-gift-from-heaven-for-tea-party

Tea Party Looks to Gain Momentum in IRS Scandal Aftermath; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/19/tea-party-irs_n_3302392.html?ref=topbar

Sam Tanenhaus: The Government’s Worst Face; http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/19/sunday-review/the-governments-worst-face.html?pagewanted=all

Confusion and Staff Troubles Rife at I.R.S. Office in Ohio; http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/19/us/politics/at-irs-unprepared-office-seemed-unclear-about-the-rules.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0

IRS Scandal Letters: Other Offices Sent Requests To Target Tea Party Groups, NBC News Reports; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/28/irs-scandal-letters_n_3349174.html?utm_hp_ref=daily-brief?

Trio of Scandals Puts Obama, Holder in Hot Seat; http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2013/05/republicans-media-bare-down-on-administration-facing-two-scandals.html

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: Obama and Nixon: A Historical Perspective; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-f-kennedy-jr/obama-nixon-watergate_b_3305611.html?utm_hp_ref=daily-brief?

Groups Targeted by I.R.S. Tested Rules on Politics; http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/27/us/politics/nonprofit-applicants-chafing-at-irs-tested-political-limits.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Nate Silver: New Audit Allegations Show Flawed Statistical Thinking; http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/17/new-audit-allegations-show-flawed-statistical-thinking/?ref=politics
PollingReport.com: The Tea Party; http://www.pollingreport.com/politics.htm
Obama’s rating steady in face of controversies, likely buoyed by rising economic hopes; http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-05-21/politics/39402441_1_benghazi-attack-president-obama-irs-action
Obama, politics, IRS and Benghazi; http://www.washingtonpost.com/page/2010-2019/WashingtonPost/2013/05/21/National-Politics/Polling/release_237.xml
Obama’s poll numbers hold up despite the storm of scandal; http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/302451-obamas-poll-numbers-hold-up-despite-the-storm-of-scandal