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Cliven Bundy: Conservative’s Pig in a Poke

6:04 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

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shows, that while many Americans are unhappy with the Affordable Care Act most of the dissatisfied want it repaired not repealed and replaced.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? Read the rest of this entry →

Grover Norquist Collateral Casualty of 2012?

9:34 am in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

In light of the election post mortems taking place among conservatives, perhaps no one is more delusional, with the exception of Karl Rove, than Grover Norquist. Norquist, a high priest of limited government, is having nothing to do with the reality borne of Mitt Romney’s defeat. Rather than to see in that defeat the rejection of four years of anti-government attacks and ideas, Norquist would have us believe that Tuesday night’s results have simply “confirmed the status quo of the 2010 election.” That’s an odd way of thinking about the election when one considers the fact that the entire contest was framed as a choice between two different paths for America and that roughly 60 percent of Americans agreed with president Obama’s views on taxes. If you read the National Review piece, written by Jim Geraghty the morning after, you would more likely believe that the Republican victory of 2010 was the anomaly and as such hardly represents the status quo. If Norquist’s political and economic arguments had taken hold, as many on the right believe they had, then Romney and the Republicans would have won by a landslide. Hence the notion that what we have here is a “confirmation” of the recent past is nothing more than a salve for bruised and disconsolate conservative egos. That said, while we may all be focused with laser like attention on the upcoming fiscal cliff, I fully expect to see Grover Norquist among the collateral casualties littering the political landscape in the aftermath of 2012.

Grover Norquist is famous for the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” which obligates its signatories to “oppose increases in marginal income tax rates for individuals and businesses, as well as net reductions or eliminations of deductions and credits without a matching reduced tax rate.” In the abstract the pledge might seem a sound and reasonable approach to taxation, in reality it has little utility in the current economic and political environment and therein lays a fundamental problem for Norquist. In light of the looming fiscal cliff, with its necessity of raising revenues, coming as it has in the wake of Barack Obama’s victory, the likelihood that Norquist’s ideas will be adhered to are remote at best. Added to that reality is the fact that Americans want their entitlements to remain essentially intact while business leaders are now open to increasing revenues through tax reform. It is of particular significance that responsible business leaders see a need for increased revenues as they should normally be Norquist’s natural allies. To wit: “On Thursday morning, more than 80 executives of leading American corporations signed a statement calling for a deficit reduction compromise that would “include comprehensive and pro-growth tax reform, which broadens the base, lowers rates, raises revenues and reduces the deficit.” Several members of the group, which includes highly paid chief executives of financial and industrial corporations who will stand to pay more if President Obama succeeds in his effort to raise taxes on the wealthy, then helped ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange to draw attention to their coalition, Fix the Debt… But the business leaders’ position also contradicts the stand of Mitt Romney and other Republicans, who say that all tax increases are “job killers,” that the federal budget can be balanced with spending cuts alone and that any overhaul of the tax code should be “revenue neutral,” neither raising nor lowering the government’s total tax collection. “To say that you can solve this without increases in taxes is ludicrous,” said David M. Cote, the chief executive of Honeywell, a Republican and a member of Mr. Obama’s Bowles-Simpson fiscal commission in 2010. “Most wealthy people get it.” The underlying change in tone is clearly evident when even a stalwart critic of the Obama administration, the NeoCon Bill Kristol noted on Fox News “It won’t kill the country if we raise taxes a little bit on millionaires.”

In what can only be seen as a further weakening of Norquist’s anti-tax appeal is the fact that many of the Republican members of Congress who originally signed the pledge have by now distanced themselves from it. Those who have not have suffered politically: “While not all races have been called, at least 55 Republican House incumbents or candidates who signed the pledge — and 24 Republican Senators or hopefuls — lost on Tuesday. Linda McMahon (R-CT), Senator Scott Brown (R-MA), Treasurer Josh Mandel (R-OH), Secretary of State Charles Summers (R-ME), former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R-WI) all signed the pledge and were attacked by their Democrats opponents in face-to-face debates over the issue. All five were defeated in their Senate bids. State Sen. Tony Strickland (R-CA), Rep. Bob Dold (R-IL), State Sen. Richard Tisei (R-MA), and Rep. Frank Guita (R-NH) were also attacked by their House race opponents in debates for signing the pledge in this campaign or in the past. All four were also defeated. In fact, of the fifteen-plus House Republican incumbents who apparently lost re-election, every single one had signed Norquist’s pledge.” In another indication of the changing mood on taxes, a senior aide to one House Republican leader said, off the record, “The president won, and the tax cuts are ending, whether we like it or not. So we have to figure out how to deal with it.” Beyond this weakening in the commitment to the no tax pledge among individual members of Congress there is a renewed interest in the “Grand Bargain” on the part of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight”. These senators, who in the summer of 2011 had crafted a deficit compromise that was a combination of revenue increases and spending cuts, are already meeting to discuss the way forward. When considering the work of the “Gang of Eight” the operative word is compromise, something that the American people have overwhelmingly endorsed and one which Norquist and his followers have opposed. In the words of Tom Friedman who wrote a compelling article as to why Obama was reelected: “The country is starved for practical, bipartisan cooperation, and it will reward politicians who deliver it and punish those who don’t.” Grover Norquist are you listening or are you content with being on the wrong side of this issue?

Speaker of the House John Boehner has already signaled his willingness to compromise on fiscal reform to the point of raising revenues by eliminating loopholes as part of overall tax reform. While he may oppose raising marginal tax rates, and it’s not certain that he will prevail, Boehner’s willingness to increase revenues overall is a direct blow to Norquist’s anti-tax pledge which eschews any idea of revenue increases unless those are offset by further corresponding reduced tax rates. That said it would also appear that the results of 2012 have strengthen Boehner’s hand in dealing with the Tea Party crowd in the House. Former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, detailed the setbacks suffered by the G.O.P. in this election and concluded that considering all of the Tea Party induced setbacks: “Tuesday wasn’t exactly a repudiation of the Tea Party, and the public’s rejection of Tea Party extremism on social issues doesn’t automatically translate into rejection of its doctrinaire economics. But the election may have been enough of a slap in the face to cause Tea Partiers to rethink their overall strategy of intransigence. And to give Boehner and whatever moderate voices are left in the GOP some leverage over the crazies in their midst.” Apparently a significant number of House Republicans are already coming around to Boehner’s way of thinking as is indicated a recent New York Times article, “Boehner Tells House G.O.P. to Fall in Line”, referenced below. Ironically, if not almost comically, Grover Norquist himself seems to have sobered up to the new political realities stemming from the reelection of Barack Obama. He is now on the public record as saying “I’m for additional revenue. I’m not for tax increases.” But Norquist is also banking on the hope that any increase in revenues will be offset by a corresponding reduction in overall tax rates thereby conforming to his tax pledge philosophy. If that doesn’t happen then his pledge will have seen to have been violated by House Republicans. Seeing as House Republicans has evidenced much less in the way of loyalty to the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” look for Grover Norquist to politically take a major hit in the resolution of the fiscal cliff crisis.

In the upcoming deficit reduction fight, Barack Obama presently holds most of the tactical advantages. For one, a central theme of his reelection campaign was tax fairness and it is he who won the election not the advocates of limited government. In staking out his position the president said: “I’m not wedded to every detail of my plan. I’m open to compromise. But I refuse to accept any approach that isn’t balanced…and on Tuesday night, we found out that the majority of Americans agree with my approach.” Secondly, Obama and the Democrats can force House Republicans into a compromise by using the fiscal cliff as leverage, threatening to allow higher tax rates and spending cuts to go into effect on January 1st and thereafter proposing tax cuts for the majority of Americans. Republicans will be put in the position of opposing tax relief for the bulk of the taxpayers in the event that they don’t agree to compromise with the Democrats. The last time we went to the brink of a fiscal cliff, it was the Republicans, not Obama and the Democrats who paid the price politically. This time the damage to Republicans can only be worse, particularly as the electorate demands bi-partisan compromise as noted above. Conservatives have their backs to the wall on this issue for other reasons as well. Several studies have come out and have “found no correlation between top tax rates and economic growth, a central tenet of conservative economic theory…The reduction in the top tax rates appears to be uncorrelated with saving, investment and productivity growth. The top tax rates appear to have little or no relation to the size of the economic pie. However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution.” The gravity of such a finding and its threat to Congressional Republicans is underlined by the fact that their leadership on Capitol Hill had the report withdrawn. Moreover, two recent reports from the Congressional Budget Office also bode ill for Republicans. One shows that the deficit can’t be reduced by spending cuts alone and that “significant deficit reduction is likely to require a combination of policies”; i.e. both spending cuts and revenue increases. The second details the damage that will be done if we go off the fiscal cliff: “According to CBO’s projections, if all of that fiscal tightening occurs, real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP) will drop by 0.5 percent in 2013 (as measured by the change from the fourth quarter of 2012 to the fourth quarter of 2013)—reflecting a decline in the first half of the year and renewed growth at a modest pace later in the year. That contraction of the economy will cause employment to decline and the unemployment rate to rise to 9.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013.”

From a political standpoint I hardly think that the Republican Party wants to be blamed for sending the economy back into recession and unemployment back over 9 percent and therein lays another advantage that favors the president. The bottom line is this, politically and tactically the president holds a better hand of cards than do his adversaries. With their most powerful card being politically unpopular continued obstruction they really don’t have a very powerful hand to play after all. The weakness of the Republican hand is particularly relevant as the upcoming fiscal negotiations will take place at the same time the G.O.P. is undergoing a period of deep soul searching as to why they lost an election that they theoretically should have won and to what degree Republican obstruction on Capitol Hill contributed to that defeat. That said look for Grover Norquist to be found among the collateral casualties that will result from a deficit reduction deal. There’s a better than average likelihood that Norquist and Co, are going to be going over their own political cliff and that his ideas will become less and less compelling as we move forward as a nation.

Steven J. Gulitti

11/11/12

Sources:

How Stand the Correlation of Forces in American Politics?; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/grover-norquist/republican-house-obama-reelection_b_2088071.html?utm_hp_ref=daily-brief?utm_source=DailyBrief&utm_campaign=110812&utm_medium=email&utm_content=BlogEntry&utm_term=Daily%20Brief

Jim Geraghty: And Now, the Most Depressing Morning Jolt Ever; http://www.nationalreview.com/campaign-spot/332940/not-less-painful-day-goes

Grover Norquist; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grover_Norquist

Business Leaders Urge Deficit Deal Even With More Taxes; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/26/us/politics/business-leaders-urge-deficit-deal-even-with-more-taxes.html

White House Plans Public Appeal on Deficit; http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324894104578113022312251756.html?mod=ITP_pageone_1

More Republicans Rejecting Grover Norquist’s ‘No Tax Increases Ever’ Pledge; http://crooksandliars.com/blue-texan/more-republicans-rejecting-grover-norqu

GOP rookies buck Grover Norquist; http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0512/76470.html

How Grover Norquist’s Radical Anti-Tax Pledge Sunk Top Tier Republican Senate Candidates; http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2012/11/07/1159241/grover-norquist-pledge-albatross-vulnerable-candidates/?mobile=nc

Axelrod calls Boehner ‘encouraging’ ahead of ‘fiscal cliff’ negotiations; http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/267257-axelrod-obama-campaign-never-doubted-victory

The Looming Compromise on Revenues; http://open.salon.com/blog/steven_j_gulitti/2011/07/08/the_looming_compromise_on_revenues

Tom Friedman: Hope and Change: Part 2; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/07/opinion/friedman-hope-and-change-part-two.html?_r=1

Obama must lead effort to avoid fiscal cliff: Boehner; http://news.yahoo.com/obama-must-lead-effort-avoid-fiscal-cliff-top-164653450–business.html

Obama, Boehner Open to Budget Bargain; http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324439804578108971200674876.html?mod=WSJ_Election_LEFTSecondStories

The Fever and the Cliff; http://thepage.time.com/2012/11/09/the-fever-and-the-cliff/?xid=newsletter-thepagebymarkhalperin

Robert Reich: Why John Boehner May Have More Leverage Over the Tea Partiers in Congress; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-reich/boehner-fiscal-cliff-negotiations_b_2093390.html?utm_hp_ref=daily-brief?utm_source=DailyBrief&utm_campaign=110912&utm_medium=email&utm_content=BlogEntry&utm_term=Daily%20Brief

Boehner Tells House G.O.P. to Fall in Line; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/11/us/politics/boehner-tells-house-gop-to-fall-in-line.html?ref=todayspaper

Norquist OK with Boehner tax stance; http://thehill.com/blogs/on-the-money/domestic-taxes/267211-norquist-okay-with-boehner-tax-stance

Pressure Rises on Fiscal Crisis; http://professional.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324894104578107363250113122.html?mod=WSJPRO_hpp_LEFTTopStories

Sen. Murray: Dems would let Bush-era rates expire before taking ‘unfair deal’; http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/267253-sen-murray-dems-would-let-bush-era-rates-expire-before-taking-unfair-deal

Congress Sees Rising Urgency on Fiscal Deal; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/09/us/politics/congress-sees-rising-urgency-on-fiscal-deal.html

Nonpartisan Tax Report Withdrawn After G.O.P. Protest; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/02/business/questions-raised-on-withdrawal-of-congressional-research-services-report-on-tax-rates.html

C.B.O. Choices for Deficit Reduction; http://www.cbo.gov/publication/43692

C.B.O. Economic Effects of Policies Contributing to Fiscal Tightening in 2013; http://www.cbo.gov/publication/43694

Obama, Boehner Open to Budget Bargain; http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324439804578108971200674876.html?mod=WSJ_Election_LEFTSecondStories

Keystone, China and Access to Canadian Oil

5:44 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

As a follow on to “Why Can’t Conservatives Be Honest About Keystone?” and as a result of an e-mail exchange I had with a conservative friend I thought it best to bring up a sidebar story related to the Keystone pipeline decision. A corollary issue that conservatives have tried to raise is that Obama’s vetoing of the first Keystone application will result in Canadian Oil being sold to China and that this rejection will preclude any further chance of that oil being shipped into the American market. As it turns out nothing could be further from the truth. While Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper reiterated his country’s own national interest in saying “Canada will continue to work to diversify its energy exports”; that statement can only be seen to represent the fact that Canada has had an ongoing interest in more than one market for its natural resources, and that predates Keystone. In his conversation with President Obama Prime Minister Harper indicated “that he hoped that this project would continue given the significant contribution it would make to jobs and economic growth both in Canada and the United States of America.”

Juliet Eilperin of The Washington Post who has followed this story closely said “it would be more expensive for Canada to ship its tarsand oil to China but it could happen.” But does that mean it will, absolutely not as it’s in the interest of both Canada and the U.S. to pursue the alternate route for the pipeline. Why, because it would be much cheaper to construct a pipeline through the Great Plains of the United States than it would be to build one through the mountainous regions of western Canada. This is particularly true when you factor in the costs involved in building an oil out load port on the Canadian west coast, something not required when shipping oil to the United States via the Keystone pipeline. Moreover with the bulk of the background work on the original Keystone project completed, the costs involved in rerouting the pipeline are minimal compared to what it would cost to create a new project to Canada’s west coast? Why even the Premier of Alberta doesn’t expect to see his province’s oil shipped to the west.  Quoting Bill McKibben a writer and activist monitoring Keystone: “The premier of Alberta said that without Keystone he’d be ‘landlocked in Bitumen.” More importantly TransCanada’s CEO, Russ Girling has made public his decision to reapply for a permit to build the pipeline and asked that the process be expedited so as to enable a 2014 construction start. Barack Obama yet to take issue with Mr. Girling’s new request and its not likely he will so long as environmental safeguards are respected.

Thus there is nothing in the Prime Minister’s comments or in TransCanada’s actions that would lead one to conclude that we have forfeited our opportunity to purchase Canadian oil. What I find remarkable in this particular conservative attack is the complete and total willingness to ignore the fact that Prime Minister Harper seems to be engaged in political posturing for the sake of Canadian public consumption on the one hand, and the fact that he in no way rules out a revival of the project after environmental concerns are addressed on the other. Harper’s own words clearly prove he would prefer to ship oil to the United States than to China and you can bet he’s more than aware of the far higher costs involved in the later. As such there is no reasonable indication that the rejection of the first Keystone application signals the end of any chance that Canadian oil will flow into the United States. 

S.J. Gulitti

1/26/12

Sources:

“Why Can’t Conservatives Be Honest About Keystone?”;  http://open.salon.com/blog/steven_j_gulitti/2012/01/24/why_cant_conservatives_be_honest_about_keystone

Canada will look to China to sell its oil; http://articles.cnn.com/2012-01-18/americas/world_americas_canada-keystone-oil_1_pipeline-project-northern-gateway-pipeline-oil-exports?_s=PM:AMERICAS.

Keystone XL rejected by Obama; will Canada just sell that oil to China?;http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/blogpost/post/keystone-xl-rejected-by-obama-will-canada-just-sell-that-oil-to china/2012/01/19/gIQA7WnkBQ_blog.html 

Could Keystone Pipeline Plan Be Revived After Obama’s Rejection?”; http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/politics/jan-june12/pipeline_01-18.html

Why Can’t Conservatives Be Honest About Keystone?

1:15 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

It has been quite amusing to read over some comments posted recently that tried to portray Barack Obama as being opposed to building the Keystone Pipeline when the reality is that the president isn’t opposed to the project at all, he’s just opposed to being railroaded into a hasty decision by Republican political maneuvering. Let’s take a look at what Obama actually said: “This announcement is not a judgment on the merits of the pipeline, but the arbitrary nature of a deadline that prevented the State Department from gathering the information necessary to approve the project and protect the American people…I’m disappointed that Republicans in Congress forced this decision, but it does not change my administration’s commitment to American-made energy that creates jobs and reduces our dependence on oil.” Obama Rejects Keystone Pipeline From Canada to Texas”; http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/story/2012-01-18/obama-rejects-keystone-pipeline/52655762/1

Okay so where is the evidence in the words of the president that he’s fundamentally opposed to the Keystone Project? There isn’t any, as is obvious in his comments. Furthermore TransCanada’s CEO, Russ Girling has made public his decision to reapply for a permit to build the pipeline and asked that the process be expedited so as to enable a 2014 construction start. Did Barack Obama take issue with Mr. Girling’s new request, emphatically no, thus the very argument that Obama is fundamentally opposed to Keystone is rendered moot based on this fact alone. Instead what we’ve seen here is yet another crass attempt to distort the facts to fit the ongoing ideological attack of trying to portray Barack Obama as indifferent to job creation along with his being anti-business. A further look into what the article above states reinforces this: “Obama said House Republicans forced his decision by including a provision in last month’s legislation for a short-term extension to the payroll tax cut that required him to either issue a permit to allow the 1,700-mile pipeline to be built or explain why it was not in the national interest by Feb. 21. Obama said he rejected the permit application now based on the State Department’s recommendation, which concluded there wasn’t enough time to vet alternate pipeline routes…The State Department announced in November that it would explore a new route for the pipeline and pushed a final decision on the controversial project past the 2012 election.” Thus it is more than apparent that Republicans aren’t really interested in creating jobs through Keystone either and if they were they would have pushed for some sort of expedited environmental approval process rather than having insisted on an arbitrary date so soon in coming which they knew wouldn’t allow for the legally required environmental impact studies. Moreover, Republicans and their allies are inflating the number of jobs that would be created: “Business leaders and Republicans say approving the project now would create as many as 20,000 jobs for an ailing U.S. economy and lessen dependence on foreign oil.” However according to Juliet Eilperin of The Washington Post who has followed this story closely and got her information directly from Mr. Girling of TransCanada, she said of Keystone “we’re talking more in the range of 6,500 construction jobs for both the first and second year of the project. And they’ve already spent some money that would cut into the supply chain jobs. When you’re talking about those big numbers, that includes everything, kind of indirect jobs, including who’s going to be serving these construction workers’ dinners, to other things…” “Could Keystone Pipeline Plan Be Revived After Obama’s Rejection?”; http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/politics/jan-june12/pipeline_01-18.html

What’s clear to this writer is that Capitol Hill Republicans were trying to manufacture some sort of political victory from their defeat on last month’s legislation for a short-term extension to the payroll tax cut by forcing Obama into making a decision on Keystone that they knew would mean a rejection of the pipeline. They had hoped in turn to use this decision as a political ploy but will this maneuver ultimately come back to hurt the G.O.P.? If you look further into the permitting process and the environmental due diligence involved in this project it reveals to what extent the congressional Republicans are playing politics. Commenting on the issue of redirecting the pipeline, Juliet Eilperin said: “Their argument [ The Obama Administration] is that they had been looking at an alternative route through Nebraska which has an environmentally sensitive habitat in a place called the Sandhills region. And they had asked basically TransCanada to work with Nebraska’s Department of Environmental Quality and look for a new way to do this, and had predicted that this would delay a final decision on this pipeline permit until early 2013. When the Republicans forced a decision by a deadline that was actually Feb. 21, the administration said, there’s no way we can do it. We’re not even going to go through the pretense of analyzing it, and we are rejecting this.” Moreover, there has been cause for concern in both parties at the state level over the original Keystone route: “Elected officials from both parties in Nebraska had expressed concerns a leak in the pipeline could endanger the [Ogallala] aquifer that provides much of Nebraska’s water supply.” Why even Nebraska’s Republican governor, Dave Heineman originally opposed Keystone having the same environmental concerns voiced by the president and others. With the aforementioned understood what is the real story of Keystone – the Obama administration not caring about jobs or Beltway Republican’s being more interested in playing the politics of obstruction than anything else? I think based on Obama’s comments and concerns at the state level among Nebraska’s Republican lawmakers and the governor the answer can only be the latter. Seems pretty open and shut to me.

S.J. Gulitti

1/24/12

Fox News Turns the Guns on the Far Right

3:01 am in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Something happened on the way to the presidential forum in Orlando last week, Roger Ailes the CEO of Fox News decided to change Fox News’ ideological course and turn the guns on conservative candidates themselves. Quoting Howard Kurtz, “It was part political spectacle, part American Idol, part YouTube extravaganza, a pure Roger Ailes production—and the latest sign that the Fox News chairman is quietly repositioning America’s dominant cable-news channel…the real eye-opener was the sight of his anchors grilling the Republican contenders, which pleases the White House but cuts sharply against the network’s conservative image—and risks alienating its most rabid right-wing fans.” While this may come as a surprise to many, this “course correction” has actually been underway for some time. The first piece of baggage pitched overboard was Glenn Beck who’s yammering about Barack Obama being a racist was in Ailes words, “a bit of a branding issue for us”. In other words the loss of advertising revenue due to Glenn Beck’s ranting, raving and crying was all that Ailes needed to seal the fate of Beck on the network. Ailes went on to categorize Beck as a “performer” as opposed to a journalist which of course is spot on. Kurtz writing for the conservative leaning Newsweek said of the changes: ” Fox executives say the entire network took a hard right turn after Obama’s election, but, as the Tea Party’s popularity fades, is edging back toward the mainstream…After the Gabrielle Gifford’s shooting triggered a debate about feverish rhetoric, Ailes ordered his troops to tone things down. It was, in his view, a chance to boost profits by grabbing a more moderate audience.” Kurtz goes on to note that Ailes has grown tired of Sarah Palin and her antics as well.

In a scathing attack on Ailes and Fox’s new tack to a less strident tone, Rush Limbaugh proclaimed that “Fox wants these people to tear each other up, ’cause they want approval from the mainstream media.” Limbaugh may be miffed by being left behind as a result of this new course being set by Fox but in the final analysis Roger Ailes is a businessman who just happens to be a conservative. What he isn’t is a hard line blind faith ideologue that’s going to go down with the sinking Tea Party or to allow a crackpot like Glenn Beck to become an all encompassing “tar baby” that traps and encumbers Fox News to the point of completely destroying whatever credibility the network has left while costing the network millions in lost revenue. Ailes, a consummate businessman, played the Tea Party, Beck and the hot rhetoric of the far right like banjoes when he profited from an association with them and moved away from them as soon as their value to the network came into question. It seems to me that Roger Ailes has astutely read the declining fortunes of the Tea Party, the slump in standing of Congressional Republicans, the sinking campaigns of Perry, Bachmann and Paul as well as the stymied political future of Palin for what they are, harbingers of the end of an extremist right wing surge across the landscape of American politics.

I would bet that Ailes, being concerned about the future of the country, as so many of us are, has come to the conclusion that during desperate times like these it is reckless to engage in a campaign of blindly denigrating the incumbent administration to the point that it might hobble that administration’s ability to govern effectively. Ailes may have finally come to his political as well as business senses in seeing much of what has transpired on the far right since Obama was inaugurated for what it is, borderline sedition and that sort of thing isn’t good for business.

Steven J. Gulitti
9/27/11

Sources:

Roger’s Reality Show; http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2011/09/25/roger-ailes-repositions-fox-news.html

Roger Ailes: Fox News Is On A ‘Course Correction’ Away From Far Right; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/26/roger-ailes-fox-news-course-correction_n_980850.html?utm_source=DailyBrief&utm_campaign=092611&utm_medium=email&utm_content=NewsEntry&utm_term=Daily%20Brief

John Boehner: Caught Between a Rock and a Tea Party

11:20 am in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Few can forget Minority Leader John Boehner’s constant haranguing of President Obama with the question: “Mr. President, where are the jobs?” In fact, in the run up to the 2012 mid-term elections all Boehner and the rest of the Republican leadership seem to talk about was job creation and spending cuts. Now, having been Speaker since January, the House has yet to produce anything in the way of legislation that will actually create jobs, in fact Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke pointed out that Republican measures aimed at cutting government spending may impede job creation. In spite of this, Boehner is now under attack by members of the Tea Party for not cutting enough. In fact one prominent a Tea Party leader, Judson Phillips, who heads up one of the largest umbrella organizations, Tea Party Nation, said: “Charlie Sheen is now making more sense than John Boehner.” Phillips has gone so far as to advocate that someone run to replace Boehner in 2012. 
 
The  antipathy between the Republican establishment and the Tea Party movement was predicted long before the results of 2010 were tallied. This tension was only increased when Boehner and his leadership cadre demurred in considering any newly elected Tea Party backed lawmaker for a committee chairmanship. Now under Boehner’s leadership the Republicans have stepped back from their goal of cutting $100 Billion dollars this year and that seems to be the tipping point for Mr. Phillips. To wit: “Early on, the GOP promised to cut $100 billion from the budget,” Phillips wrote, according to CNN. “The Republicans in the House quickly went squishy on that and had to be cajoled into cutting only $61 billion. Now, John Boehner is saying when the Senate comes back and they start negotiating…the $61 billion figure is not safe…Phillips’ display of frustration and anger is just the latest sign of growing rifts between devout Tea Partiers, who would like to see an uncompromising approach to addressing spending, and the majority of Republican legislators, who must deal with certain legislative realities surrounding the passage of a measure to fund the government.” But the friction and frustration isn’t solely between the Tea Party and the Republican leadership, it’s also internal. Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark Meckler also voiced disappointment with the level of cuts proposed but stopped short of criticizing Boehner. In fact Meckler took Judson to task for his attacks on Boehner, saying: ”It’s one thing to criticize someone for their performance. It’s another to use this vicious hyperbole,”

Now let’s consider the other side of the equation. For all of the Tea Party fueled melodrama now taking place on Capitol Hill, the rock of reality cannot be ignored. That rock amounts to Harry Reid, the Democrat Majority in the Senate and the veto pen of Barack Obama. Boehner and anyone else in the G.O.P. who is serious about deficit reduction knows that these players will eventually have their say and they are not going to buy into the House bill as it is presently constructed. That said Boehner and his lieutenants are truly between a rock and a hard place and at this point and the ultimate outcome is unknowable. On thing seems certain and that is that the final legislation isn’t likely to resemble the House bill in its entirety. Why, because for all the bluff and bluster, that’s just not in the cards. John Boehner knows this and he’s now just trying to maneuver between the rock on one side and the Tea Party storm on the other. His political future depends on his navigational skills both on Capitol Hill and back home in Ohio where the Tea Party will be ready and waiting come the primary season.
 
Steve Gulitti

3/4/2011

Sources:

 

Bernanke sees 200,000 hit to jobs from budget cuts

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/03/us-usa-fed-bernanke-idUSTRE7200ZW20110303

 

An Impending and Inevitable Train Wreck

http://open.salon.com/blog/steven_j_gulitti/2010/10/31/an_impending_and_inevitable_train_wreck

 

Tea Party Leader: ‘Charlie Sheen Making More Sense Than John Boehner’

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/03/judson-phillips-john-boehner-charlie-sheen_n_830713.html?ref=email_share

 Tea Party leader blasts Boehner over cuts: Reactions expose cracks in movement’s unity

http://www.usatoday.com/printedition/news/20110304/boehner04_st.art.htm

Republican Leaders Again Equivocate On Spending Cuts‏

8:07 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Once more since arriving on Capitol Hill, the new Republican dominated House of Representatives and the newly reinforced Republican Senate minority has equivocated on the topic of spending cuts. By now we are all well aware that the Republicans have abandoned the goal of cutting $100 billion dollars this fiscal year and likewise, they have failed to produce a pro rata spending reduction plan to address that shortened year. We all remember that taxes, debt reduction and spending cuts were in the forefront of the Republican agenda for the 2010 elections as these headlines from conservative sources show: “Tax, Spending Cuts Top GOP Campaign-year ‘Pledge” or “Tax, spending cuts lead Republican campaign manifesto” Needless to say, You get the idea.

Okay so what then happened to all of the bold talk about taking on entitlements and spending? When faced with having to answer that question on national television Mitch McConnell echoed the reluctance that Speaker of the House John Boehner had previously stated. As if by magic, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell appearing on “Meet the Press” danced around the question that Republicans seemed obviously reluctant to come out with bold measures to tackle deficit spending as the following exchange between Senator McConnell and host David Gregory reveals:

“MR. GREGORY: Well, that’s very interesting because I’ve also detected a great deal of caution on the part of Republicans who, who campaigned on the idea of spending cuts. And yet, when it comes to a program like Social Security–it was Speaker Boehner who told a group of us this week, “Well, look, we need to spend more time defining the problem before we get in the boat with the president here and say that we’ve got to make long-term changes.” Is that your view?

SEN. McCONNELL: Well, look, we have, we have two problems here. It’s our annual deficit, completely out of control. We’re going to send the president a lot less–we’re going to allow him to sign onto a lot less spending than he recommended the other night and that he’s likely to send us in the budget. Then with, with regard to long-term unfunded liabilities, the entitlements, Speaker Boehner’s correct, you cannot do that on a partisan basis. President Bush tried doing that in 2005 with regard to Social Security’s problems. And by the way, the announcement this week that Social Security’s gone into deficit, it will run a $45 billion deficit this year and for as far as the eye can see. Look, entitlement reform can only be done on a bipartisan basis. It’s happened before. Reagan and Tip O’Neill fixed Social Security in ’83. Reagan and the Democratic House did tax reform in ’86.

MR. GREGORY: So, but if the president were to say, “OK, Leader McConnell, if, if you’re prepared to deal with some revenue increases, we can also deal with some benefit cuts. Let’s take a balanced approach to Social Security,” you could support that?

SEN. McCONNELL: Look, you know, you’ve tried this before. I, I’m not going to negotiate the deal with David Gregory. I’d be happy to negotiate it…

MR. GREGORY: I keep hoping you’ll change your mind.

SEN. McCONNELL: I’d be happy to try to negotiate the deal, and Speaker Boehner would too, with the president and the vice president and others.

MR. GREGORY: But does the president have to go first before you’ll take on entitlement reform?

SEN. McCONNELL: We have to go together. We have to go together. The American people are asking us to tackle these problems. I think the president needs to be more bold. We’re prepared to meet–I’ve got a lot of new members, and Speaker Boehner does as well, who came here to tackle this big problem. We were waiting…

MR. GREGORY: But you’re saying, “Be bold on entitlements and Republicans will meet you halfway”?

SEN. McCONNELL: We’re happy to sit down and talk about entitlement reform with the president. We know Social Security is in trouble. It was just announced by CBO this week. We know Medicare is on an unsustained path. They took a half a trillion dollars out of it to fund this healthcare program that they enacted. Look, we need to get serious about this.”

As the above commentary reveals, what we have before us is a Republican leadership cadre that has already deviated from the rhetoric of the campaign trail by putting the ball in Barack Obama’s court by stressing that it is the duty of the President to come up with “bold” proposals on deficit and spending reduction as per Senator McConnell’s commentary above. But wasn’t that what the Republicans ran on in the first place? For all of the rhetoric of 2010 can’t they showcase their own bold ideas on “Meet the Press”, America’s premier Sunday morning political talk show? Likewise, Speaker Boehner’s comment that Republicans “need to spend more time defining the problem” also seems to ring hollow, coming from a guy who on this very show said before the 2010 elections that the G.O.P. had spent the past last year listening to “the American people.”

Correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t the Republicans present themselves as the people who had this problem figured out and who knew what to do to get this country back on the right track, which oddly enough they got us off of in the first place when they squandered a trillion dollar plus surplus and launched two wars while cutting taxes, a historical first for the United States? They had the opportunity to put that surplus into the Social Security system or to use it to pay down the national debt as they were advised to do by Alan Greenspan, yet they chose to do otherwise. Now when elected to produce bold public policy to address our fiscal problems they plead for “more time” and look a president much maligned by them for “bold” proposals!

What’s also semi-comical is Mr. McConnell’s new found affinity for bipartisan cooperation. Isn’t it a bit curious that they very guy who said it was his goal to see that Barack Obama be a one term president, now openly solicits the President’s support and cooperation? Is this borne of a realization that the Republicans can’t possibly meet their agenda alone? Is this a maneuver concocted to throw a curve ball at the Tea Party crowd as there has been little beyond rhetoric on the part of the G.O.P. when it comes to deficit reduction specifics? We’ve all heard about Congressman Paul Ryan’s “Roadmap for America” yet it’s a document that few in the Republican Party had signed onto in the run up to 2010.

In the final analysis it seems that the bold rhetoric of the campaign trail has now faded in the harsh winter of political reality. Hence the old adage, “talk is cheap.” Now that they are in a position of power in Washington, the Republicans will have to finally translate their rhetoric into policy, thus far they have done little but dance around the tough issues and meet tough questions with clever rhetorical replies. How long will that last before their constituents hit the streets and demand some form of accountability from those who went to Washington to turn back the tide of Obama “the Socialist.”

Steven J. Gulitti

1/30/11

Sources:

Meet the Press transcript for Jan. 30, 2011 http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/41317645/ns … anscripts/

The Tea Party Agenda: Is It Already Slip Sliding Away ?
http://open.salon.com/blog/steven_j_gul … iding_away

Republicans Lower Goal for Cuts to Budget;
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/05/us/po … 1&emc=eta1

GOP Exempts Deficit Busting Policies From New Budget Rules;
http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011 … -rules.php

New pay-go rules reveal GOP’s misplaced priorities;
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/co … s_opinions

House GOP Backtracking on Promised ‘Reforms’ Before They Even Get Started;
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/0 … 04227.html

“Tax, Spending Cuts Top GOP Campaign-year ‘Pledge”
http://www.newsmax.com/InsideCover/USRe … /id/371215

Tax, spending cuts lead Republican campaign
manifestohttp://www.cleveland.com/natio … publi.html

Revving Up the Kamikazes on the Right

7:31 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

In 1281 medieval Japan was spared a Mongolian invasion thanks to a massive typhoon that swept across Kyushu Island, thereby destroying the invading fleet and drowning the Mongolian warriors. The storm was deemed a divine wind or kamikaze, sent by the gods to save the Japanese. In the waning days of the Second World War, Imperial Japan would invoke the legacy of the 1281 typhoon in an attempt to forestall defeat in the Pacific by crashing wave upon wave of kamikazes into allied invasion fleets as they made their way toward the Japanese home islands. Today an ideologically challenged G.O.P. is failing in its effort to forestall the current administration’s recovery plan. Many commentators on the right have chosen to meet the new political reality with waves of virtual kamikaze attacks through all manner of media. The recent New York Post comic portraying a monkey shot by two policemen and insinuating that the monkey is Barack Obama is the latest, and most tasteless, example of the Right’s desperation.

Lead by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Phyllis Schlafly and even the venerable Tony Blankley and Pat Buchanan, the public has been bombarded with Read the rest of this entry →