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By Jose Antonio Rodriguez
“The Tea Party acted like terrorists in threatening to blow up the economy,” said Vice President Joe Biden, according to Politico, during a two-hour meeting with angry House Democrats. In a CBS interview, the Vice President denied using the “terrorism word”. Kendra Barkoff, Biden’s spokesperson, added further clarification: “The word was used by several members of Congress. The vice president does not believe it’s an appropriate term in political discourse.” The closed-door caucus meeting took place amidst the scramble to pass a deal to raise the debt limit before the August 2nd deadline, a deal that some Democrats called a “Satan sandwich”.
The perpetually thin-skinned Sarah Palin, the former Governor of Alaska and John McCain’s Vice Presidential running mate during the 2008 election, immediately took offense to the comment. “To be called a terrorist because of our beliefs from the vice president, it’s quite appalling, it’s quite vile,” she said during a Fox News interview. Of course, she herself is quite famous for casually throwing around the “terrorism word”. During the 2008 election, Palin famously accused then-Senator Barack Obama of “pallin’ around” with terrorists, a reference to the fact that Obama sat onChicagoeducation boards with a former member of the Weather Underground named Bill Ayers. Indeed, Palin resurrected those allegations, saying, “He didn’t have a problem palling around with Bill Ayers back in the day when he kicked off his political career in Bill Ayers’ apartment… You know, shaking hands with Chavez and saying he doesn’t need any preconditions with dictators… wanting to read U.S. Miranda rights to alleged, suspected foreign terrorists.” She added that, if she and her ilk were actually terrorists, “heck, shoot, President Obama would be wanting to pal around with us, wouldn’t he?”
It should be added that Paul O’Neil, a Treasury Secretary for President George W. Bush, made remarks similar to the ones that House Democrats made during the meeting with Vice President Biden: “[The] people who are threatening not to pass the debt ceiling are our version of al Qaeda terrorists. Really — they’re really putting our whole society at risk by threatening to round up 50 percent of the members of the Congress, who are loony, who would put our credit at risk.”
But how far off the mark are Paul O’Neil and the angry Democrats? Not that far.
The U.S. Department of Defense defines terrorism as: “The calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological.” The TEA Party backed freshmen in the House, elected in 2010, have threatened to shut down the government and throw it into default. More recently, they have shut down the Federal Aviation Agency, resulting in the furlough of 74,000 people, the halting of about 200 construction jobs, and causing the federal government to lose out on roughly $30 million a day in revenue. In every instance, these TEA Party backed members of the House have held the American people hostage, threatening to inflict economic violence if their narrow political, ideological demands are not met. Their efforts have supporters in conservative corners and from the Facebook page of the former Mayor of Wasilla. “Don’t retreat,” Sarah Palin routinely reminds her supporters. “Reload.” Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, had this to say about the tactics of the House Republicans: “If you hold one-half of one-third of the reins of power in Washington, and are willing to use and maintain that kind of discipline even if you will bring the entire temple down around your own head, there is a pretty good chance that you are going to get your way.”
This is not the first time our government has been threatened by right-wing zealots, however.
In the elections of 1994, Republicans took control of the House and Senate. Led by Newt Gingrich and motivated by his “Contract with America”—or, as Democrats termed it, the Contract on America—right-wing ideologues in Congress sought to reshape the government by gutting programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, the Environmental Protection Agency, and programs for the poor, such as Head Start, food stamps, and the Earned Income Tax Credit. The Contract withAmerica also outlined an ambitious agenda, which included legislation for a balanced budget amendment and term limits. Gingrich, the new Speaker of the House, even threatened to not raise the debt ceiling. These right-wing freshmen were operating on two assumptions: (1) that the American people had provided them with an historic mandate to carry out their agenda and (2) that President Bill Clinton would cave in to their demands. After all, the American people just overwhelmingly swept the Republicans into power for the first time in over forty years. On the second point, they believed that President Clinton was politically weakened by scandals, which were manufactured by ultra-conservative Clinton-haters and fueled by a pliant media; they also believed that he was without convictions of any kind and lacked moral fortitude. By the end of 1995, they would be proved wrong on both fronts.
On the night of November 13, 1995, hours away from an impending government shut down, Republican leaders of Congress met with President Clinton in order to craft a last minute budget deal. Just a few days earlier, the Republican controlled Congress sent the President a budget that inflicted draconian cuts to entitlements and programs that millions of Americans depended upon. They also sent him a bill to raise the debt ceiling for another thirty days. The President, much to the surprise of the Republican leadership, vetoed both bills. During the tense, last minute negotiations in the White House, Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole and Speaker Gingrich made conciliatory statements, while the zealous Dick Armey (now the leader of the TEA Party group Freedomworks) verbally attacked the President. Armey accused the President of fear-mongering, saying that he “could hardly get” his mother-in-law “into a nursing home, you guys have scared her so much.” President Clinton, who still nursed resentment over Armey’s claim that Hillary Clinton was a Marxist, lashed out at Armey: “I don’t know about your mother-in-law, but let me tell you, there are a lot of older women who are going to do pretty darn bad under your budget.” The President was feeling his blood boil. “So don’t expect any pity from me.” Armey, in a moment of petulance, retorted that the Republicans would shut down the government and effectively endClinton’s presidency. “If you want to pass your budget,” the President said with a glance to Bob Dole, who was planning to run for the presidency in 1996, “you will have to put somebody else in this chair!” As if to signal that the meeting was now over, the President declared that he didn’t “care if I go to five percent in the polls. I am not going to sign your budget. It is wrong. It is wrong for the country.”
At midnight, the government shut down began. Nearly 800,000 federal employees were furloughed and the lives of millions of Americans were inconvenienced. In order to prevent default, Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin borrowed $61 billion from retirement funds and employed some financial gimmicks, a move that elicited cries for his impeachment from Republicans who preferred that the country be thrown into default. Briefly, the government shut down ended, and it appeared that there would be a budget deal. But the Republican lead Congress continued to send the President bills that unnecessarily inflicted economic pain on the most vulnerable Americans. So, it was not to be, and the government was shut down for a second time. The American people were angry. The poll numbers for Republicans (and Gingrich in particular) plummeted, while the President’s poll numbers skyrocketed. In some polls, his numbers were almost 70% among likely voters over the age of 50. The American people rejected the extremism of the right-wing ideologues and supported President Clinton’s defense of programs that helped millions of Americans keep their heads above water. They rewarded him for not caving in to the demands of over-zealous Republicans, who were holding the American people and the economy hostage. In early January 1996, a contrite Gingrich apologized toClinton, saying, “We made a mistake. We thought you would cave.” On January 6, the government was back in business.
It is difficult not to look back over the last year and see that President Obama has, time and time again, been rolled by House Republicans, lead by Speaker of the House John Boehner. He has caved in to the demands of the TEA-orists, who have threatened to wreak economic violence if their demands are not met. In the wake of the recent debt limit deal, Speaker Boehner has boasted that he got 98% of what he wanted. Emboldened, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell hinted that his party would continue the tactics that have allowed them to cut spending and risk government default. “I think some of our members may have thought the default issue was a hostage you might take a chance at shooting. Most of us didn’t think that. What we did learn is this— it’s a hostage that’s worth ransoming.” The deal allows the debt ceiling to be raised until early 2013, but it cuts nearly a trillion dollars in discretionary spending over the next ten years and creates a bipartisan committee, which will be tasked with cutting an additional 1.5 trillion dollars. The TEA Partiers have thrown sanity into the wind. Though they brought the nation to the brink of economic devastation, many refused to vote for the deal that provided them with virtually everything they wanted and virtually nothing that the President wanted. These are people who will not take yes for an answer.
Not everyone is thrilled about the deal. Obviously, Democrats are enraged. Some progressive groups, such as MoveOn.org and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, are threatening to withhold support for the President’s 2012 campaign. Paul Krugman, a Nobel Prize winning economist, has described the debt deal as an economic “disaster”, warning that it will make our deficit problem worse and “takeAmericaa long way down the road to banana-republic status.” Lawrence Summers, a former economic advisor to President Obama, said that there is a “one in three chance” that there will be a double-dip recession. Standard & Poor, a major credit rating agency, has also responded to the debt deal by downgradingAmerica’s top credit rating. In a statement following the downgrade, S&P cited a dysfunctional political system and a failure to produce a credible, balanced plan. “The majority of Republicans in Congress,” a representative from S&P said, “continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues, a position we believe Congress reinforced by passing the act.” The American people, according to recent polls, also strongly dislike the deal. According to a CNN poll, 52% of Americans disapprove of the debt deal. The poll also found that three out of four Americans would describe elected officials as “spoiled children”. A New York Times/CBS News poll, for example, has Congress’s approval rating at a dismal 14%. Speaker Boehner’s disapproval rating is at 57%, ten points higher than the President’s. Public approval of the TEA Party is at a mere 20%. There are signs of hope for the White House in the polls, however. According to the latter poll, the American people trust President Obama over the Republicans with economic issues. They also blame Republicans for the crisis, believing that they refused to compromise. Despite all the drama, President Obama still stands with a 48% approval rating.
At some point, President Obama is going to have to take a stand and draw a line in the sand. During the debt ceiling negotiations, he warned Rep. Eric Cantor: “Don’t call my bluff.” Yet, when they called his bluff, President Obama caved. In 1995, President Clinton demonstrated that he had conviction and moral fortitude. He held firm, risking his political career, and refused to be rolled by the right-wing zealots who were trying to gut government programs and remake the country in their image. When the dust settled, President Clinton not only succeeded in his 1996 election, but his fiscal discipline resulted in a balanced budget and a projected surplus in the trillions of dollars. Today, President Obama faces an equally fanatical and nihilistic group of TEA Party backed Republican freshmen who are willing to blow up the economy. Unfortunately, the TEA-orists have learned that they can get their way if they take hostages. This is a fundamental fight for the future of our country. President Obama needs to decide if he has the conviction to risk his poll numbers and his Presidency in order to preserve our way of life and win the future.
What about another?
I’m very curious about how this last debate will go. Clearly, Barack Obama and Biden have shut-out McCain & Palin in the first three debates, so McCain really has to step up his game in this last debate. He needs a game changer. McCain has said that this debate will not be a game changer… which leads me to believe that he might want it to be a game changer. Does that make sense?
But Senator McCain has already said that he intends to “whip” Obama’s “you know what.” Hmmm…. He also said in a radio interview that he intends to bring up the Ayers connection, a reaction to Senator Obama’s assertion that McCain didn’t have the guts to make those accusations to his face. So, will McCain gloss over his economic plans so he can beat Obama silly with Ayers? I hope so! Independents do not like it when a candidate goes negative, and according to a recent New York Times/CBS poll Independents think that McCain has been far more negative than Barack Obama. In fact, the poll found that McCain’s attacks have had the reverse effect than they intended: McCain’s negative ratings have gone up and Barack Obama’s positive ratings have gone up. According to a recent national survey by Democracy Corps , Independent voters favored Obama over McCain by 17%. So I say let McCain attack, attack, attack.
Barack Obama, who has been coasting his way to a 14% lead over McCain (according to the same New York Times/CBS poll ), can really seal the deal tomorrow night. The reason the second Obama-McCain debate was so boring to me was that it was simply a rehashing of all the same lines that were used in the first debate. Tomorrow night, Obama needs to go on the offensive; he needs to hit a homerun. Obama should already know what is coming tomorrow night (because McCain has made it clear what he intends to do) and he ought to be ready to deflect those attacks and put McCain on the ropes. He needs to be more specific about what he intends to do to improve our economy, to keep us safe in an increasingly dangerous world, and to solve our health care crisis. If only offers talking points and platitudes, then John McCain could very well win tomorrow’s debate.
Both candidates will not, fortunately, have much opportunity to relapse into talking points or generalizations, or to pull a Palin and disregard the questions altogether… at least according to tomorrow’s moderator Bob Schieffer. Bob Schieffer has said recently, “By now we’ve all heard their talking points. We’ve heard the general outlines of what they are talking about. The time has come to be a little more specific.” He also added, “It will not embarrass me, if they go off in a different direction, to say `excuse me, could you focus on the question that I just asked?” Hopefully, he has more sense than the other moderators to make the debate interesting and insightful. This last debate, as Schieffer himself noted, could very well be the deciding factor for those undecideds.
Okay, and one to go on…
The whole ACORN fiasco is nothing but a sign of the right’s desperation. They see conspiracy theories everywhere: Obama is a closet Muslim, they scream; He registered people to vote, they cry; He knew a man who was a domestic terrorist forty years ago, they squeal. Frankly, I want to hear about policy issues, not frantic accusations.
The ACORN debacle has been pushed primarily by a right-wing columnist named Stanley Kurtz, of the ultra-conservative National Review. The basic gist of his “logic” is that Obama became BFF’s with William Ayers while they sat on the board of the Annenberg Challenge, and, surprise surprise, they both attended board meetings. Most of Kurtz’s arguments are based on very weak, however passionately put forth, information. Not even Kurtz himself entirely believes his own assertions. “Does that mean Obama himself schooled Acorn volunteers in disruptive ‘direct action?’ Not necessarily,” He wrote. At another point, he only goes so far as to write, “Part of Obama’s work, it would appear, was to organize demonstrations, much in the mold of radical groups like Acorn.” Mostly, Kurtz is engaging in the lowest form of character assassination.
It should be mentioned that anytime people want to organize or help other people, it is immediately denounced as “radical” or “leftist” by pieces of shit like Kurtz. Oh, dear god, especially when people are trying to get poor people to register to vote. Boy do the right-wingers go bat shit!
The Annenberg Challenge was established to reform the schools of Chicago, which were in desperate need of help. They even were awarded a 50 million dollar grant in order to meet this goal. The Annenberg Challenge engaged in such radical and leftist activities as trying to reduce class size, trying to bring schools and the community closer together, and encouraging teachers to work together and to further their education. Wow. That’s radical. So radical, in fact, that the program was created by staunchly conservative Walter Annenberg, a friend of Ronald Reagan, a big-time GOP donor, and US ambassador to Britain under President Nixon.
Stanley Kurtz was so curious about this topic that he demanded to see the Annenberg records. Confused librarians at the University of Illinois at Chicago (where, incidently, Ayers is a Professor of Education) were unsure about whether or not Kurtz was allowed access, so they denied his request. This immediately was seized upon as evidence that Obama and Ayers were trying to cover up their relationship. He wrote, “Circumstances strongly suggest the likelihood that Bill Ayers himself may have played a pivotal role in this denial.” Again, he’s pulling this right out of his ass. He promised his readers that the files would be a treasure trove of information regarding Obama and Ayers’ relationship. Unfortunately for Kurtz and his ilk, Kurtz was allowed to view the records, but he still found nothing substantial. Oops!
The Chicago Tribune wrote this about Kurtz’s “journalism” on the subject: “This is Alice in Wonderland journalism—Conclusion first! Research afterward!” How appropriate.
Obama is slightly responisble for Kurtz’s rise in popularity… so popular, apparently, that he has gained readership around the globe (even Canada)… Instead of confronting Kurtz directly, Obama urged his supporters to call or write WGN, a radio network that allowed Kurtz air-time to spread his hate-mongering, and complain. Kurtz and his supporters again jumped on this as proof that Obama was trying to kill the story. *sigh*
Again, the reason the right is so upset by ACORN is that they have recently announced that they have registered 1.3 million new voters. The thought of people voting is frightening to the right. Especially poor people! Sure, there have been instances of fraudulent registrations across the country, but it is not voter fraud until they attempt to vote. It is also interesting to note, that these fraudulent registrations have been caught (in fact, they were even brought to the attention of election officials by… get this… ACORN itself) , thus preventing anyone from actually voting. The right screaming about voter fraud is actually very hilarious considering how they cheated Gore out of the Presidency through voter fraud in Florida.
All this talk now of potential voter fraud is designed to set Barack Obama up for charges that he stole the election. People on the right can point and scream, “See! They stole it!” Instead of accepting responsibility for the loss (bad policies, Bush fatigue, Obama is a better candidate), they’re already planning to undermine the Obama presidency.
I can’t stress enough how full of shit Kurtz is. And I can’t stress enough how much I hope McCain brings this up during the next debate, because he will lose. The American people want to hear solutions, not groundless personal attacks.
PALIN IS IN DEEP SHIT UP IN ALASKA!!
So, here we go again…
The latest attacks from right-wing bloggers, McCain sympathizers, and CNN’s Mr. Independent, Lou Dobbs, have to do with Senator Obama’s “ties” to ACORN. The right really has nothing to talk about. The McCain campaign– through McCain advisor Greg Strimple– has already said that it intends to “turn the page” on the economy, and focus on personal attacks in the final 26 days. Speakers at McCain rallies use Obama’s middle name (Hussein) in an attempt to somehow cast him as a radical Muslim in some terrorist cell. A McCain campaign co-chairman and former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating went as far as to belittle Obama as simply a “guy of the street… who used cocaine.” He also went on to discuss Rev. Jeremiah Wright , even though Senator John McCain himself said that topic was off-limits. The rhetoric from the McCain camp is so intense that it is affecting the attitudes of people going to his rallies. People could be heard shouting “Kill him!” and “terrorist!” as VP wannabe Sarah Palin attempted to link Obama to Bill Ayers .
The bottomline is this– the McCain people are desperate and they’re willing to throw anything and everything at Senator Obama… including an ACORN.
As many may or may not know, ACORN has gotten into some trouble over the past few weeks for voter registration fraud. Apparently, dead people and the Dallas Cowboy’s want to vote in this election, which would be admirable if it were truely them registering. As with the Ayers scandal, the slightest connection to this controversial group translates into HUGE and CLOSE ties in the minds of the right-wing, who scream at the media for failing to ask Obama serious questions about his ties to ACORN, Ayers, Wright, or space invaders. The fact is, his relationship to all of them has been thoroughly investigated by the media and internet bloggers over the last 19 months.
Let’s start at the begining…
According to Fox News, there are “three stages of connection” between ACORN and Senator Obama: he represented ACORN in court; he trained ACORN orgainzers; and that he was appointed head of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge board by Bill Ayers, and then the two used government money to fund ACORN.
Let’s take the first charge…
In 1995, Barack Obama, in conjunction with the US Department of Justice, represented a group of organizations that were trying to force the State of Illinois to comply with a federal voting access law, called the Motor Voter law. One of those organizations just happened to be ACORN. In fact, much of Obama’s early work in Chicago was related to civil and voting rights, and for his efforts he was rewarded with the IVI-IPO Legal Eagle Award in 1995.
… and then the second charge…
Barack Obama never trained or organized for ACORN. In 1992, Obama did orgainze with the non-partisan group Project Vote in their registration drive, which many of the right-wing blowhards cite as proof positive of his links to ACORN. Unfortunately for them, the facts are in the way. ACORN and Project Vote did not begin to co-ordinate their efforts until 1994– for those conservatives out ther who can’t do math, that’s two years. The National Director for Project Vote‘s 1992 voter registration was Sanford Newman, who wrote an editorial in the Wall Street Journal to debunk the myth that Obama was organizing for ACORN. Newman also wrote
that Obama turned down lucrative and far more prestigious job offers to accept the “meager salary” of Project Vote. As Newman noted, this was Obama’s “deep commitment to strengthening the democratic process [which] is something that all Americans should applaud regardless of their party or politics.”
…and the last charge…
On Saturday October 3, 2008, the New York Times reported that:
Some bloggers have recently speculated that Mr. Ayers had engineered that post for him. In fact, according to several people involved, Mr. Ayers played no role in Mr. Obama’s appointment. Instead, it was suggested by Deborah Leff, then president of the Joyce Foundation, a Chicago-based group whose board Mr. Obama, a young lawyer, had joined the previous year… Ms. Leff suggested that Mr. Obama would make a good board chairman, she said in an interview. Mr. Ayers was not present and had not suggested Mr. Obama, she said. Ms. Graham said she invited Mr. Obama to dinner at an Italian restaurant in Chicago and was impressed. “At the end of the dinner I said, ‘I really want you to be chairman.’ He said, ‘I’ll do it if you’ll be vice chairman,’ ” Ms. Graham recalled, and she agreed.
The McCain camp needs to throw a Hail Mary. The polls look bad for McCain, but the Electoral map looks even worse. If recent poll findings hold, or move more into Senator Obama’s favor, then Senator McCain has no chance of victory come this November 4th. That is what is enraging his supporters. Those hardline Republican’s have been angrily demanding that McCain go after Obama more aggressively.
I agree. He should.
But here’s why–
John McCain cannot win by simply appealing to his base. He is going to need the support of Independents, but he is not going to get their support by making personal attacks against Obama’s character. They want to hear about issues that matter to them.
Bill Ayers doesn’t matter to them.
ACORN doesn’t matter to them.
What matters to them is health care, the war, the economy, and changing Washington. If John McCain wants to play in the mud, then let him. He’s only spelling out his own doom..
What the fuck is with people and trying to connect Obama to shady people?
Recently, I had an argument with a co-worker who was trying to say that Obama’s close financial advisor was Franklin Raines, a former CEO of Fannie Mae. It took me about two minutes to go online and show him that he was full of shit. Raines and Obama are not close. Obama has never sought advice from Raines and Raines never provided him advice. According to Raines’ own statements, someone from the Obama camp called him about some general economic questions, but nothing regarding the housing industry. This hardly qualifies him an advisor, let alone a close advisor.
At a recent campaign rally, Sarah Palin took “the gloves off” and accused Obama of being a close friend of Bill Ayers, a former member of the Weather Underground. Ayers was arrested for his participation in bombings throughout the early years of the 1970. He was later released and all charges against him were dropped, due to improper surveillance by the FBI.
Remember that at the time of the bombings, Barack Obama (then Barry) was about eight years old.
Despite his criminal past, Ayers went on to become a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He also began a life of community organizing in Chicago, where he met Barack Obama. They even lived in the same nieghborhood.
Ayers has also worked with Richard Daley, mayor of Chicago, to reform Chicago’s public schools. He went on to sit on the board of directors of the Woods Fund of Chicago, an anti-poverty, philanthropic foundation. Between 1999 and 2002, Ayers sat on that Booard with Barack Obama, however, the group met only four times a year, not including the occasional dinners hosted by the group. The two men also appeared together at academic conferences.
The source of all the controversy stems from a 1995 dinner at Ayer’s home, which Obama attended. At the dinner, Illinois Senator Alice Palmer was announcing her intention to run for Congress– and to introduce Barack Obama as her successor. In 2001, Ayers contributed a mere $200 to Obama’s re-election campaign
The bottomline is that these were two men from the same nieghborhood who had overlapping circles of interest and friends. The two men might be considered friends, but it does not neccesarily mean that the two of them are close friends. Obama has repeatedly said that he does not condone the actions of Ayers during his time as a Weatherman, and that those actions in no way should reflect negatively upon Obama’s values.
The McCain camp and right-wing bloggers want to link them as friendly like-minded radicals. They point to a New York Times interview in which Ayers said, “I don’t regret setting bombs.” This comment came during an interview for his memoir Fugitive Days. However, this was a comment made before 9/11. Since then, he has since written in his blog, “I’m often quoted saying that I have ‘no regrets’. This is not true. For anyone paying attention–and I try to stay wide-awake to the world around me all/ways–life brings misgivings, doubts, uncertainty, loss, regret. I’m sometimes asked if I regret anything I did to oppose the war in Viet Nam, and I say ‘no, I don’t regret anything I did to try to stop the slaughter of millions of human beings by my own government.’ Sometimes I add, ‘I don’t think I did enough.’ This is then elided: he has no regrets for setting bombs and thinks there should be more bombings… I’ve never advocated terrorism, never participated in it, never defended it. The U.S. government, by contrast, does it routinely and defends the use of it in its own cause consistently… ” Though there might be some contradictions in statements, he does appear to have regret for his actions.
It is not surprising, as recent Gallup Poll data suggests Obama is increasing his lead over McCain, that McCain would stoop so low as to engage in Swift-Boat style politics. For a man who, from the outset, said that he would run an honest and clean campaign, it is deplorable how much mud he slings in hopes that some of it will stick.
I checked out Barack Obama and John McCain’s Politifact profiles. Guess which candidate is the most honest? That’s right: Barack Obama. That is not to say that he has not stretched the truth, but he doesn’t have as many distortions or downright lies as McCain.
Check out the following: