Thursday, June 6, 2013

More Examples of Today’s GOP Being Out of Touch With Reality, Civility, & the Basic Concepts of a Functioning Government

Today I want to take a brief look at several items from the last few days that, I believe, help demonstrate just how far removed from reality the Republicans and the right have strayed from reality.

First, we have a video of a Q&A session with former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Did you catch the question that was posed to Rumsfeld?

As you go around the country, do you have any sense or the same sort of sinking feeling that the rest of us have that [Obama has] actually switched sides in the War on Terror?"

“Switched sides in the War on Terror…” And note how the audience applauds the question. While much of Rumsfeld’s response focuses on President Obama’s policies with regard to Guantanamo and indefinite detention, note that his only answer to the actual question is “You know, I just don’t feel competent to answer. I can’t tell.” Wait, what? Rumsfeld, the former Secretary of Defense and architect of the war in Iraq, isn’t competent to tell if President Obama has “actually switched sides in the War on Terror”? Seriously?

Rumsfeld may have legitimate policy disagreements with President Obama. That’s fine. And he articulates some of them. But to allow a question that accuses the President of treason, of working for the terrorists and against America, to go without an immediate and strong condemnation is inexcusable. It’s dangerous. It just feeds further the flames that have been stoking the right’s indignation and belief that President Obama is “un-American” or … well, something other than the legitimate, twice elected President of the United States. “See, look! Even Rumsfeld thinks that Obama might really be a sekrit Mooslem working for al-Qaeda” is how this sort of non-denunciation may be received. We can’t keep letting questions like this be dignified as legitimate. Doing so will do nothing more than continue the erosion of the core that binds our country together.

Compare Rumsfeld’s answer to the answers that then-presidential candidate Sen. John McCain gave at a rally in October 2008 (shortly after Sarah Palin went off on her unscripted attacks on then-Sen. Obama):

See the difference? Sen. McCain defuses the arguments about trust or “otherness” and focuses, instead on policy. Look how far the Republicans have fallen in just 4½ years. What does that say about their vision for America?

But let’s move on, shall we?

Article 2, Section 2 of the Constitution gives the President the right to appoint federal judges. Currently, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has three vacancies. And so President Obama nominated three people to fill those vacancies. That doesn’t seem to sit well with Republicans. In just the last few weeks, at least three Republican senators (Minority Leader Mitch McConnell [R-Kentucky], Sen. Mike Lee [R-Utah], and Sen. Chuch Grassley [R-Iowa]) have accused President Obama of trying to “pack” the Court. That claim is, of course, completely false; as noted by Politifact, “packing the court” refers to the effort to add seats to a court in order to appoint more judges and has nothing to do with appointing judges to fill existing vacancies on a court. But that narrative isn’t as powerful to the GOP who wants to deny President Obama even the ability to carry out his constitutional duties and, instead, frame his efforts to do so as illegitimate. In fact, Sen. McConnell said in a press conference that he questioned “the appropriateness of confirming these three judges” and “whether this circuit court — which is apparently less busy than all but one circuit court in the nation — needs to have a full complement of judges”.

Republicans have also introduced legislation to reduce the size of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals by, you guessed it, three seats. Query whether that is to become the new standard method of doing business? If a Republican is elected President, should Democrats reduce the size of courts to deprive the new Republican President from nominating judges to fill vacancies? Or perhaps Democrats should simply filibuster virtually every nominee for any post as Senate Republicans have done. Imagine a government in which a President cannot get any of his (or her…) chosen nominees confirmed unless the President’s party has a supermajority in the Senate. Is that what the Founders intended? Would that be good for America?

But let’s continue on, shall we?

I told the following bit to my kids last night on the way to dinner. They’re 13 and just finished 7th grade. Their responses to the following story: “insane” and “stupid”. I’m not sure which I prefer. But you have to wonder when 13-year-olds who don’t follow politics “get it” while elected officials … don’t.

You may recall that many Republicans blame the group ACORN for “stealing” the election for President Obama in 2008. And you may recall the “sting” videos that showed ACORN employees doing all sorts of “heinous” things. You may not recall, because it didn’t get anywhere near as much media coverage, that when the full, unedited versions of those sting videos were released it showed that the ACORN employees, in fact, did nothing wrong and that the videos had been fraudulently edited to imply wrongdoing. But never mind that. In 2009, Congress banned ACORN from receiving federal funds (for things like voter outreach and voter registration drives). Thus, in the wake of bad press and a loss of federal funding, in early 2010, ACORN dissolved. The organization hasn’t existed in three years. Gone. Finished. Kaput. Does not exist.

But you see, that’s only true in the reality-based world. In the reality-free world of the modern GOP, ACORN is still an evil villain to be feared. That’s why Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) included the following language in a government funding bill that he introduced last week:

None of the funds made available in this Act may be distributed to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) or its subsidiaries or successors.

And just in case that was too nebulous, the next day Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) introduced language in another funding bill to be sure that appropriations from previous funding bills couldn’t be given to ACORN. Which still does not exist.

I’m curious. How many jobs will be created by introducing two pieces of legislation to ban federal funding of an organization that ceased to exist three years ago?

That’s what I thought.

Moving along…

Republicans have also been parroting a talking point that former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman visited the White House 157 times, the implication being that he was visiting the White House to help plan the “discrimination against” Tea Party groups. But, as seems to happen so many times, those articulating and repeating this talking point have no concept of looking beyond the numbers or of analyzing what something might really mean.

“The alibi the White House has wedded itself to is that it had to work closely with the IRS to implement ObamaCare,” the Investor's Business Daily has written — as if that were not true.

And yet the public meeting schedules available for review to any media outlet show that very thing: Shulman was cleared primarily to meet with administration staffers involved in implementation of the health-care reform bill. He was cleared 40 times to meet with Obama’s director of the Office of Health Reform, and a further 80 times for the biweekly health reform deputies meetings and others set up by aides involved with the health-care law implementation efforts. That’s 76 percent of his planned White House visits just there, before you even add in all the meetings with Office of Management and Budget personnel also involved in health reform.

Complicating the picture is the fact that just because a meeting was scheduled and Shulman was cleared to attend it does not mean that he actually went. Routine events like the biweekly health-care deputies meeting would have had a standing list of people cleared to attend, people whose White House appointments would have been logged and forwarded to the check-in gate. But there is no time of arrival information in the records to confirm that Shulman actually signed in and went to these standing meetings.

Indeed, of the 157 events Shulman was cleared to attend, White House records only provide time of arrival information — confirming that he actually went to them — for 11 events over the 2009-2012 period, and time of departure information for only six appointments. According to the White House records, Shulman signed in twice in 2009, five times in 2010, twice in 2011, and twice in 2012. That does not mean that he did not go to other meetings, only that the White House records do not show he went to the 157 meetings he was granted Secret Service clearance to attend.

But you see, none of that helps drive the conspiracy-mongering or the drive to prove that President Obama did something evil. (Oh, and don’t forget that Shulman was appointed IRS Commissioner by President Bush; do you really think that a Bush appointee would conspire with President Obama to target Republican groups?)

I also want to direct your attention to this video of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Oklahoma) speaking on the floor of the House of Representatives a few days ago. See if you can count how many half-truths or outright falsehoods Rep. Bridenstine manages to work into his one minute rant.

Did you catch his conclusion?

Mr. Speaker, the President’s dishonesty, incompetence, vengefulness and lack of moral compass lead many to suggest that he is not fit to lead. The only problem is that his vice president is equally unfit and even more embarrassing.

Imagine, if you will, the outcry had a Democratic member of Congress made a speech like this about President Bush?*

It was just a few years ago when a Republican member of Congress heckled the President during a speech to a joint session of Congress. Now we have a Republican Representative saying, on the floor of the House, that the President is dishonest, incompetent, and vengeful and, most importantly, lacks a “moral compass”. But then Republicans have been looking for reasons, practically since President Obama was inaugurated, to commence impeachment proceedings. They’ve already decided he’s guilty; they just need to figure out what he’s guilty of (well, other than being a Democrat … and black).

It may be worth noting that Rep. Bridenstine is the Congressman I wrote about back in March who claimed that “Just because the Supreme Court rules on something doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s constitutional.” In other words, he’s clearly not one of the bright intellectual bulbs on the Republican side of the aisle. But he can sling an insult, can’t he?

We should also look at the statement last week from Rep. Steve Stockman (TP-Texas) about the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (regulating the international trade in conventional arms), which would have absolutely no impact on the domestic laws of the United States:

The right to keep and bear arms is granted by God and protecting from government aggression by the Constitution. It is not subject to the whims of global totalitarians massed in New York City,” said Stockman. “I oppose any UN treaty touching the right to keep and bear arms. It’s beyond time for the United States to withdraw from the UN.”

It’s worth noting the only three countries that voted against the UN Arms Treaty: North Korea, Iran, and Syria. Don’t you feel more comfortable knowing that Republicans are siding with those countries in their view of the Treaty? And can someone point me to the clause in the Bible where G-d talks about the right to keep and bear arms to protect against government aggression? I don’t seem to recall which chapter told the story where Jesus picked up his AR-15 to fight off the Romans. For that matter, do you really have a right to take up arms against the government?

I could go on. I could talk about how Republicans responded to recent reports that women are the primary breadwinners in 40% of American households (hint: It’s “against nature” and “against science”). I could talk about any number of other things. But I don’t feel like it. This post is long enough already. More importantly, it’s unbelievably depressing to write posts like this. As I keep saying, I don’t mind honest disagreements on policy, but when those disagreements are devoid of factual basis or ignore reality or just repeat lies, then those disagreements cease being honest and worthy of consideration. And it seems that all too often now, from all too many voices, today’s Tea Party controlled Republican Party has left the reality-based world and entered into Alice’s Wonderland.


*Before someone finds a similar speech about President Bush, please be sure that it’s about issues of similar import to those being spoken about by Rep. Bridenstine and not, for example, about the decision to invade Iraq leadings to the deaths of thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and costing a trillion or more dollars or about permitting Americans to torture those in our custody; I don’t know about you, but I view those sorts of acts as way, way more important that what some low-level staffers did at the IRS or attempts by the government to stop leaks of classified information.

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