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Melinda Pillsbury-Foster talks with APJ's editor-in-chief Gene Gaudette about Neocon Sociopathy, the John Fund debacle and the future of Congress

Pundit Pap
for Sunday, April 9, 2006
Republican Meltdown... But You'd Never Know It!
by the Pundit Pap Team: Shystee | Leah | Gene G

April 9, 2006—correntewire.com / apj.us—Does anyone remember The Joe Shmoe Show, the way-over-the-top send-up of "reality TV" programming that ran on Spike TV a few years ago?

It's signature line was that of the "contestant" (a lovable guy who believed he was on a real "reality TV" series, and encountered a series of twists so implausible you'd think they'd come from the desk of Scott McClellan) practically screaming, "What is going on?"

Well, after channel-surfing this Sunday's political talk show offerings, I was practically wailing those same words.

But I didn't, knowing full well that these shows are a complete put-on, a vehicle for stroking the egos of Capitol Hill, West Wing, and Media Row "playas."

After all, look at the week that has passed:

We're talking full GOP meltdown in both houses of Congress and the White House. But nooooo! Forget any serious discussion of the Republican implosion when all of those creepy brown people are a clear and present danger to... well, to something!

And now, onto the shows...

 

Meet The Press: Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and Reps. Henry Bonilla (R-TX 23), Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL 4), and J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ 5).
by Shystee

John Kerry has been trained on keeping his sentences short. It’s almost working.

Kerry is now agreeing with Rep. John Murtha’s plan, adding his own deadline of May 15 for the Iraqis to form a unity government or we will get the F out of there. “Iraq can’t be resolved militarily it must be resolved politically” by a Dayton Accord-style conference with all the regional “stakeholders”.

5 weeks from now seems like a fast deadline, but Kerry qualified it by saying that It will actually take 6 months “Jack Murtha is right”. He also agrees with Murtha that the US military should not leave completely, but withdraw to “the horizon”.

Pumpkinhead confronted him with his statements of the past 3-4 years like “my exit strategy is success”, “I don’t believe in cut and run”. He also confronted Kerry with the Nightmare Scenario that Iraq will devolve into complete chaos, involvement of Iran, Turkey, Syria, hotbed of terrorism, etc.…

Kerry again read from the Murtha Playbook, saying that 98% of insurgents are Iraqis, the troops are already in the middle of a Civil War, and that Iraqis will get rid of Al Qaeda.

Pumpkinhead: Your vote to authorize invasion of Iraq?

Kerry: I was wrong. It was a mistake. I went down to the Vietnam wall last night, there were lots of people there even at 10:30. They died after our leaders knew the policy was wrong. We have a responsibility to get it right for our soldiers. I refuse to add people to the Iraq wall.

Should we drop Tactical Nukes on Iran?

Kerry: This is an example of Cowboy diplomacy. We need real diplomacy.

Leaker in Chief

Kerry: The President has the authority to declassify information, but it shouldn’t be used for political purposes. Poppy Bush said “I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who expose our sources and agents…”

Illegal Wiretapping

Kerry: A court in San Francisco is looking at a case where they were wiretapping AOL, I think it was… [Eh, no John, it was AT&T. Whatever.]

Should the President be Censured?

Kerry: Yes. The punishment is the statement of censure itself.

Immigration roundtable

Rep. Gutierrez was the only sane one on the panel, characteristically outnumbered by Right-Wingnuts.

Rep. Bonilla (R-TX) raises the question: is there a Spanish expression for Uncle Tom? Tio Tomas?

Rep. Hayworth (Wingnut-AZ) is a walking wingnut stereotype: grinning, buzz-cut, frothing at the mouth.

This is an illegal invasion of our country. We are separated by language, culture and income.

[Whaaat? There are no broke-ass white US full citizens?]

Some say we will be breaking up families, but in reality it’s not that bad. The sentiments of native-born children of illegals are considered in deportation hearings. So…

Pumpkinhead asked Hayworth about his own reelection campaign and about his connections to Abramoff. Hayworth’s wife received $100,000, 20% of his PAC fund.

Hayworth: That was over 10 years. If we looked at what you make, Tim…

Pumpkinhead: I’m not a public official..

Hayworth: This is a question of perception and reality, uh… punish the illegals!

Final analysis: Kerry has finally flip-flopped to the correct side of the Iraq issue. Let’s hope it lasts.

The Horde of Outlaw Brown People from Outer Space is an issue the GOP still thinks is a winner. The Dems have no semblance of a coherent response or a plan.

 

This Week: Sunday Gasbaggery with Rep. John Boehner (R-OH 8), Amb. Joseph Wilson, and the Roundtable.
by Leah

First up this week on This Weak was Tom DeLay’s “passage” a la Gail Sheehy to that new phase of his life, outside of Congress, or as DeLay put it himself in the well-chosen clip George S showed, “as the phase of my life devoted to public service comes to an end…”

Who was invited to comment?

Why... Rep. John Boehner, of course, the Republican who had already replaced DeLay as Majority Leader in the House.

The gist of Boehner’s response: no problemo , just a mighty fine Republican leader shifting gears to pursue Republican policy objectives in a different way, and “no,” DeLay wasn’t being overly optimistic when he predicted continued Republican control of Congress come November.

Steph rightly pointed to the plethora of bad news for Republicans this week, besides DeLay’s resignation — the leak about the Libby leak, immigration, an as yet unpassed budget, but Boehner, going “one on one” with George, as ABC put it on its Web site, was more than ready to deliver the Republican talking points.

In fact, the most interesting aspect of the entire segment was watching this mini-version of exactly how right wing America, perfectly represented by the modern Republican party, has learned to argue its case.

Simply, if simple-mindedly, talking point by talking point, and with unembarrassed repetition.

There really is no excuse for Democrats or anyone on the left being not being prepared to counter these guys, because there are absolutely no surprises to be had from them. On the other hand, countering their arguments has its in-built problems, precisely because the talking points are so cliché-laden and so simple-minded.

The gist of Boehner’s answers to almost every question about Republican governance, electoral prospects, or when asked about specific issues, was to insist that Republican’s have a popular “four-pronged” agenda that has been bought big-time, in the past, by American voters, and will again, the 4 prongs being, maintaining a prosperous economy, i.e., making tax cuts permanent, expanding access to health insurance, building a stronger military and maintaining a foreign policy which insures American security into the future, and fiscal responsibility in the federal budget. And yes, this was all said with a straight face.

Contrast this with the Democrats, Boehner implored, the second major Republican talking point, look and see that they have no agenda, meaning that Democrats are uninterested in a prosperous economy, expanding health insurance, insuring American security, or fiscal responsibility, although, as expected, George didn’t point out this strange implication of a major Republican talking point.

One of the longer discussions of specific issues was the immigration debacle, which Boehner tried, manfully, to blame on the Democrats, even though he made it clear that his heart was with the House “enforcement bill,” as opposed to the Senate “amnesty bill.” Boehner did try and soften the punitive approach by saying that it was the first step that should come before anything else, as if that “anything else” would ever be advanced by Boehner himself.

I lost track of how often Boehner repeated the phrase, “secure our borders and enforce our laws,” which he also made clear was what the vast majority of Americans want. And in a way, he’s right; which American citizens wouldn’t want our borders made secure and our laws enforced? Not even the hundreds of thousands of American citizens who marched in those mass demonstrations would say “no” to those goals, it’s just that a lot of us think we can do both of those two things and still have an intelligent, realistic, humane immigration policy.

No, George didn’t point that out, either, although, when Boehner tried to blame Harry Reid for obstructing the Senate bill, George did wonder why Boehner was being critical when he was against the bill. Boehner’s answer - once they had a bill in conference he was sure they could get a compromise acceptable to the House, which left hanging the question of how that would be acceptable to the Senate. Go figure.

In case you’re wondering if George brought up the possible relationship of NAFTA, the rise of unemployment and the fall of wage levels in Mexico and Latin America in general, to the increase in immigration on our southern borders, no, of course he didn’t. Does anyone still believe Stephanopoulos’ self-advertisement as the liberal conscience in the Clinton administration?

On Iraq, Boehner was pathetic, and I mean that from a Republican point of view. Democrats should only hope most of the Republicans are as ineffective. To George’s question about whether Boehner will schedule a debate about all aspects of Bush’s Iraq policy on the floor of the House, Boehner said “yes,” enthusiastically. Because the Bush policy is the right policy, and the Democrats, identified as Pelosi and Reid, are the big losers on Iraq - he has no fear of such a debate; all the Democrats seem able to do is wave the white flag of surrender and talk about cutting and running.

According to Boehner, Iraq is a winning issue for Republicans. Bush was right to invade, and we’re winning the battle there; more kids are in school than ever were in Iraq’s history, the electrical grid is up and running; if there had been more time I assume Boehner would have had more facts he’d just made up at the ready. As to Kerry’s proposal this week, no, an artificial timeline is a mistake, just a signal to “the enemy,” that we’re ready to throw in the towel.

Presented with the most recent polling data that shows Bush at 36% approval rate, and Congress at only 30%, with Democrats at a 49% advantage, against the Republican’s 33% in a generic match-up of who American voters prefer be in control of Congress, Boehner did a good job of seeming unconcerned. Wait until the campaign; elections are about choices, and when Americans have to choose between the starkly different alternatives offered by the two parties, (insert a repetition here of the Republicans four-pronged agenda,) and the Democrat’s no agenda, with Republican’s having a proven record of fiscal responsibility, and lowering taxes, and strong on defense…yes, another repetition of those talking points, again, and again, and again.

Get ready folks; as November nears, Republicans are going to pull out all the stops, wedge issues, charges of unAmericanism, attempts to suppress turnout, and in Republican controlled states, tinkering with the machinery of vote-counting to make sure that not enough Democratic votes get counted to add up to a win.

Amb. Joseph Wilson was the guest for the next segment, which focused on the stories provoked by Fitzgerald’s court filings, which spoke of Libby’s testimony that it was Cheney, and the President himself who were involved in authorizing the leaking of hitherto classified information upon which the decision to go to war in Iraq was based.

It turned out not to be the most effective way to approach what has been a story that continues to unroll, including a story published today in the New York Times. (Link supplied further down)

Let me be clear. Joe Wilson is a personal favorite of mine, and though I understand those who have said often that it doesn’t matter whether or not he lied about anything, because what was done by this administration was still illegal, it does matter, and, despite the questions raised by Bob Somerby, I think Wilson is an honest guy, in no way a blowhard, and the insistence of Republicans and right-wingers on referring to him as “a liar” is an ongoing disgrace. (I keep hoping that the Wilsons might find the energy to sue one of those suckers, like Scott Johnson, one of the PowerTools, who just this morning on Reliable Sources, used the phrase, “Joe Wilson’s lying Op-Ed in the NY Times.”)

Wilson was terrific this morning, given George’s questions, which didn’t encompass all the ins and outs of the story revealed this week, partly because neither of the Wilsons were central to many aspects of it. George did keep trying to get Wilson to say something definitive about Bush’s culpability in the “conspiracy” to undermine Wilson’s credibility, but Joe wasn’t biting. He refused to embrace conclusions for which he had no clear evidence, and at one point, proclaimed that he was “not about to accuse the President of deliberately undermining national security, ” and then tried to refocus the discussion on the implications of the revelations this week insofar as they cast more light on the manipulation of intelligence in support of the administration’s desire to invade Iraq. Wilson did manage say something about the false claims of Bush supporters who have been insisting that what was released in 2003 were the key intelligence points that justified the invasion; instead, what we now know is that what was leaked were isolated cherry-picked bits of intelligence, what wasn’t leaked were all the contrary intelligence which might have undermined what the administration wanted the American public to believe.

The pundits roundtable included Cokie Roberts, George F. Will, Fareed Zakaria, and E.J. Dionne, and was notable for the relatively small amount of Democrat-bashing.

The Libby leak issue brought forth this giant cliché from Cokie - it’s a problem for the President because we’re talking about it, which means no one is paying attention when he makes a speech about health savings accounts, for instance. Doesn’t occur to Cokie that might actually be a plus for Bush. Dionne was better than the rest, actually mentioning the issue of presidential credibility, (so vivid a concern when the President’s name was Clinton,) with E.J. rephrasing a historic question by asking, what did the president forget (about his own declassifying of intelligence information,) and when did he forget it?

George Will tried to reconfigure the issue by asking if we are now about to criminalize leaks and the act of leaking; all administrations do it, and why not, even if it is to get back at a critic, where’s the crime. But that line of defense didn’t get far off the ground, not this week.

The questions of prewar intelligence led naturally into a discussion of Iraq, one in which Fareed was as negative as I’ve ever seen him. Today’s story in the NY Times shows that journalists have not been selective in their reporting, he pointed out, before stating unequivocally that what is happening in Iraq cannot be characterized as “good.” Even Kerry’s plan for a series of deadlines upon which our continued presence would depend provoked little criticism from Fareed; baby sitting a civil war, he pointed out, is not in the cards and shouldn’t be.

Cokie opined that, without questioning the President’s sincerity about the reasons he believes our engagement in Iraq was necessary and is going well, in fact, where the situation in Iraq appears headed could add up to a foreign policy failure of epic proportions. George Will, increasingly skeptical of the Bush enterprise in Iraq, pointed out that forty years ago in another country, when we felt that the current regime was on the wrong track, this country engineered the Diem coup, and then found itself stuck in Vietnam for another decade.

Perhaps the most surprising moment was the relative agreement of E.J. and Fareed on Kerry’s Op-Ed piece; yes, the choices have become very stark, and one of them might, of necessity, be to leave, if the Iraqis can’t do what is necessary to avoid a civil war, and in fact, the administration has used elections in Iraq to kick the can down the field, in order not to deal with this essential reality.

Tom DeLay was discussed in the context of Democratic hopes of taking back Congress. Cokie thought the House was a real long shot, but maybe not the Senate. Dionne thought the week showed the conservative movement is fracturing, and as a result is increasingly incoherent ideologically, as seen in the immigration debate, and in their love of cutting taxes and their instance that they are the party of fiscal responsibility. Fareed agreed that two issues Republicans had a lock on are becoming unlocked - security, and spending, and then pointed to the Hamilton Project, which he characterized as proof that the Clinton Democratic party lives still; this deserves a separate post, to explain what the project is, and how Fareed, like so many in the SCLM misunderstands the Clinton legacy.

Every once in a while George Will says something precise and true. Today it had to do with this week’s vote to include 527s in campaign finance reform, with Will rightly pointing out that it was passed by Republicans because they had failed to figure out how to use the 527s with the same effectiveness as Democrats. Of course Will is against all government regulation of election spending, and I’m beginning to think that such reforms are fruitless, although my solution, publicly financed elections, is not about to be embraced by George Will. Still, we on the left need to find a way to bundle all the election issues, rampant redistricting, the outrageous costs of campaigns, wider voter participation, accurate and verifiable counting of all the votes, into one understandable set of democratic values that we are in danger of losing if we don’t defend against their corruption.

For the record, Iran and the Sy Hersh revelations were barely discussed; given the state of our involvement in Iraq, no one seemed to think that the administration could be seriously involved in a plan to militarily attack Iran.

How easily we forget.

 

Universally acclaimed as boldly shrill members of the reality-based community, the Bloggers of Corrente can be reached off the record, on the Q.T., and very hush hush at their highly fortified headquarters, The Mighty Corrente Building.

Gene Gaudette is a music and video producer, managing partner of a production company, and publisher/ringmaster/chief bottle washer of American Politics Journal.



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