In the previous installment, I promised new thoughts on the mystery of President Obama's seeking and gaining the pinnacle of power only then to manifest an incapacity to use it against Republican enemies relentlessly seeking to thwart, delegitimize, disempower, and destroy him.
I recognize that some people reject the question, proposing variations either of "He's in cahoots with the Republicans, only pretending to want to achieve the things they defeat" (this one was popular on Daily Kos) or of "He's doing just fine given what he's up against." Those people will doubtless not be interested in my proposed answer to a question whose premise they reject.
To me, that premise --that President Obama has been extraordinarily unable or unwilling to confront his implacable Republican political foes-- is clearly true. In fact, I think it likely will be considered by future historians the salient truth about Mr. Obama's presidency (at least up to this point-- we can only hope the coming showdowns will show him to be readier for battle).
So I maintain that this question is the one to be asking. As for my proposed answer, I don't want to oversell it. As I said yesterday, it's speculative, and only partially developed. Consider it a "clinical intuition" (and yes, I do have a background in psychology). I do think I've come up with something.
The whole idea rests on a single observation: While President Obama seems astoundingly handicapped in wielding power against his enemies within the American political system, he shows no such incapacity for toughness against external enemies. He's attacked them with drones. He ordered the lethal attack against Osama bin Laden.
Against those outside the "We" of the community, he can seek and destroy. It's within the boundaries of the community that he shrinks from confrontation.
My clinical intuition tells me an inference can be made here.
According to newspaper accounts, the USDOJ is investigating Governor McDonnell for the following alleged quid pro quo: the Governor used his state power to help promote a Virginia company's products in exchange for monies tendered in the form of alleged loans and/or gifts. Assuming this quid-pro-quo is the sole basis of the investigation, then I ask: Why is this a matter of federal jurisdiction as opposed to solely 10th amendment state jurisdiction?
Governor McDonnell has no federal power. He is a state official, deriving power from the Virginia constitution. Whatever he allegedly gave sleazy business guy Jonnie Williams involved the trading of state power good only in Virginia. Based on newspaper accounts, these include Mansion events, access to state officials, and the like.
The federales are trying to make a Hobbs Act violation out of what seems to be state activity. The First Lady did travel to Florida to promote a Star Scientific produce, and Johnnie boy did take her on a New York City fashion spree. But unless there is some claim of a interstate conspiracy not reported in the press, these actions had nothing to do with McDonnell.
She is her own person. She isn't a state official, she has no power herself. Why should there be federal jurisdiction in this matter?
I know there is due to the Hobbs Act. But this begs the question: Should there be?
If the Governor of Virginia helps a local VA business get some special access/influence/whatever with state government, why is this a federal crime? Are we in Virginia so pathetic, so in need of help from DC, that we can not be trusted to handle this situation under state law?
Sure, the Congress doesn't much like, any more than we all do, the possibility of a Governor trading his public position for personal private. But why is it a federal crime?
In the midst of a covert trip to Afghanistan to visit American troops, Gov. Bob McDonnell says he will discuss undisclosed gifts from donor and benefactor Jonnie Williams later.
The governor is part of an official Department of Defense delegation visiting U.S. service members stationed in Kuwait and Afghanistan, including members of the Virginia National Guard.
Meanwhile, Jeff Schapiro points out that "[j]ust because McDonnell is apologizing doesn't mean the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, a federal grand jury in Richmond and the city's prosecutor will drop their investigations." Schapiro adds:
So...Rep. Frank Wolf is outraged - OUTRAGED I tell you! - about the Obama administration's (supposedly) horrible record on human rights. In this little "get off my lawn" tirade, Wolf rips Obama for people setting themselves on fire in Tibet, for the genocide in Darfur, and for persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt. More broadly, Wolf says the Obama administration has not advocated forcefully enough for the "oppressed, the marginalized and the vulnerable" (since when do Republicans care about any of those?!?).
Of course, all of those are bad things, and there's not doubt the U.S. should stand up for human rights. But last I checked, Frank Wolf has been in Congress since Ronald Reagan's presidency, and I don't remember him ever giving a speech like this about the massive human rights abuses going on around the world while Reagan, George HW Bush, or George W. Bush were president. The list is basically endless, but as for Darfur, that horrible situation took place mostly during the 2000s, when George W. Bush was president. As for Coptic Christians in Egypt, sadly they've experienced persecution since the 1980s. Tibet, sadly, has had massive human rights problems for decades.
More broadly, I'm really not sure that Frank Wolf wants to start comparing the human rights record of President Obama to that of Reagan, Bush, Cheney, etc. But I'd love to hear him give a speech on the subject, that would certainly be enlightening! Heh.
P.S. As a friend of mine pointed out, Wolf "talks about human rights, yet opposes ENDA." He also "consponsors the marriage inequality amendment." He also voted to ban gay adoption in DC, etc., etc. In short, Frank Wolf is horrible on LGBT human rights in the United States, even while he's hypocritically bashing President Obama for stuff going on in Tibet, etc. Pathetic.
How are you spending your Fourth of July? In Senator Tim Kaine's case, he decided to traveled to Kabul, Afghanistan, in order to visit with Virginia troops serving our country there. Kaine's stop in Afghanistan is part of a weeklong visit to the region. Safe travels to Sen. Kaine (see photos below - click to "embiggen")!
(Given recent developments, I thought this story was worth pushing back up to the top. The question is, which governor was/is more corrupt? I'm leaning towards McDonnell, in part because he actually managed to get $$$ for his corruption. I'm not sure Blago actually pulled that one off. - promoted by lowkell)
True, in some ways (corruption, bribery) Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell is becoming a lot like disgraced (and convicted) former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. But in terms of accomplishments while in office, McDonnell is actually much worse than Blagojevich. Here are a dozen examples of how Blagojevich kicks McDonnell's butt. Seriously, can you think of anything McDonnell's accomplished in any of the following areas that even comes close to what Gov. Blagojevich accomplished? I mean, heck, they are/were both totally corrupt, but at least Blagojevich improved things for a lot of people in his state. McDonnell? Well he did...uh...then he...and...uh....
1. "All Kids" Health Care (11/15/05): "Surrounded by elementary students and parents, lawmakers, health care providers and children's advocates at Nathan Hale School in Chicago, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today signed the landmark All Kids plan into law, making Illinois the only state in the nation to provide affordable, comprehensive health insurance for every child in the state."
2. Minimum Wage Increased (11/18/06): "Governor Blagojevich signs groundbreaking legislation to increase minimum wage in Illinois - Nearly 650,000 Illinois workers to benefit as minimum hourly wage increases to $7.50; Wage to reach $8.25 by 2010"
3. Preschool for All (7/25/06): "Gov. Blagojevich signs groundbreaking Preschool for All legislation - Illinois becomes the first state in nation to give all three- and four-year-olds the opportunity to attend preschool"
4. Illinois Warriors Assistance Program (1/29/08): "Governor Rod R. Blagojevich was joined today by Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs (IDVA) Tammy Duckworth, Director of the Illinois Healthcare and Family Services Barry Maram, representatives from the Illinois Psychiatric Society, the Brain Injury Association of Illinois, the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, and local veterans to launch the Illinois Warrior Assistance Program. The Illinois Warrior Assistance Program is a first in the nation program that will screen returning Illinois National Guard members for a traumatic brain injury (TBI) while offering TBI screening to all Illinois veterans, and a 24-hour toll-free psychological helpline for veterans suffering from symptoms associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)."
5. Global Warming (11/15/07): "Governor Rod R. Blagojevich and the governors of Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin today signed the Midwestern Regional Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord, strengthening his commitment to fight global warming in Illinois and throughout the Midwest. This historic agreement aims to greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) in Illinois and across the region. The Accord will help achieve the goal Gov. Blagojevich announced in February to reduce GHGs in Illinois to 1990 levels by 2020 and to 60 percent below 1990 levels by 2050."
(Mark Warner richly deserves this not just because of his egregious votes yesterday, but for his constant bashing of progressives, for his support of mountaintop removal coal mining and the Keystone XL pipeline, etc. Also note, I added the photo, courtesy of DonkeyHotey's Flickr stream. - promoted by lowkell)
Mark Warner voted against the assault weapons ban. Mark Warner voted against limiting the size of magazines. Mark Warner is the most popular political figure in Virginia, and could have voted for both measures without in any way jeopardizing his reelection in 2014
Mark Warner is from a state that saw the slaughter at Virginia Tech. Cho used both ten and fifteen round magazines for his two handguns. Think how much damage he did. Think how much more he might have been able to do had he had 30 round magazines and had to change less frequently.
I have been involved in Democratic politics in Virginia including at a statewide level. Mark Warner is considered the 800 pound gorilla of Virginia Democratic politics. In a sense my taking this stand may make me toxic in Virginia politics.
I don't care.
It does not matter that neither of these amendments were going to pass. I rely on the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.:
There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.
It matters not to me whether Mark Warner believes the baloney of the gun lobby or merely lacks the guts to stand up for what is right. What is right is to stop the slaughter.
If you are unwilling to step up to that, I am unwilling to offer you my support, my money or my vote.
Don't forget, this frothing-at-the-mouth bigot, Pat Robertson, has donated $715,500 over the years to Virginia Republicans, including around $100,000 to the guy he calls his "dear friend" "Bobby" - our fine governor, currently enmeshed in the "hear comes the BRIBE" scandal. What a combo, huh?
"April is the cruelest month" begins "The Waste Land," a famed poem by T.S. Elliot. So it got me to ask this morning: Aren't you a bit curious as to why, once the Washington Post, the Virginian Pilot, and the Roanoke Times editorial boards got their tax increases, had pushed and praised Bob McDonnell to break his tax pledge to conservatives, suddenly "Stargate" explodes across the front pages?
So let me get this straight: The Post didn't know anything about it UNTIL A FEW DAYS after the governor signed the transportation tax plan the paper had been pushing for 27 years? Just an amazing coincidence you are telling me? They just happened to find out about what is their biggest "scandal" story in years at the Virginia gubernatorial level basically the moment AFTER they don't need Bobby Boy anymore. So: You are telling me they didn't hold the story for fear it might upset the tax package. It just happened to come down that way?
Thus, I write this morning. This being national poetry month, there seems only one fitting poem for this situation at least as regards His Excellency Bob McDonnell: The Waste Land. Let me confess: I don't claim to have any real understanding of the work, even though I pretended otherwise in English class. Yeah, I actually read most of it, although not every line, I kinda speed read actually, kinda skipped a page or two...maybe more. Okay, let's say I tried to read most of it...I read the first line for sure!
I support the bipartisan compromise on background checks announced by Senators Manchin and Toomey today. It will strengthen our background check system, close the gun show loophole and prohibit the commercial sale of guns to those who are mentally ill or have a criminal record. The bill also contains appropriate exemptions for responsible gun owners, allowing for direct transfers between family and friends.
The Manchin-Toomey compromise on background checks, combined with measures to prevent gun trafficking and our own proposal to improve school and campus safety, represents a reasonable approach and I support these measures.
Now, as Virginians for Responsible Gun Laws says, "NRA A-Rated Senator Mark Warner is on board with universal background checks and anti-trafficking laws. NOW WE NEED A YES ON ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN: (202) 224-2023. IF the DC mailbox is full, call his other offices: (276) 628-8158, 757-441-3079, 804-775-2314, 703-442-0670, 540-857-2676. Make your voice heard."
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tim Kaine launched his official Senate office Twitter and Facebook accounts today. The accounts will provide constituents with updates on Kaine’s daily activities in the Senate, travels across Virginia, information on agency assistance, and constituent service updates. “I’m excited to reach out to Virginians through Facebook and Twitter to show them what I’m working on in Washington and across the Commonwealth,” said Kaine. “I hope they don’t hesitate to communicate with my office through social media to share their opinions on issues, seek assistance with federal agencies, and give any advice they have for me in the Senate.”
No, I don't really like Rep. Scott Rigell (R-2nd), and I sincerely hope that Democrats defeat him in 2014 or 2016 at the latest. Still, to an extent, you've gotta love anyone who pisses off one of the most evil, destructive figures in U.S. politics - the anti-tax (and anti-clean-energy, etc.) fanatic Grover Norquist. According to Norquist:
[Rigell is] one Republican, he's in no way indicative of anybody else in the modern Republican Party, he wants to raise taxes. OK fine. He got elected promising never to do that. He needs to deal with his constituents because he lied his way into office when he made that commitment.
What I think is actually going on here is that Grover is panic-stricken that his iron death grip on the Republican Party might be slipping away (can't wait to hear him ranting about Bob McDonnell's - and many Virginia Republican House and Senate members' - big transportation tax increase). And that, of course, would be a terrible, terrible shame for America. Heh.
P.S. Rigell's also angered the Teahadists, as his "desire to compromise on sequester makes him an outlier within the GOP." That's right, in today's Republican Party, "compromise" is a four-letter word. Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Ike, Gerald Ford, etc. are all tossing around in their graves!
US Rep Eric Cantor was everywhere yesterday trying to put a new face on the obstructionist, 99%-hating, xenophobic, "let-them-eat-cake" wrecking crew (aka the US Majority House Leadership). All it cared about in the past four years was thwarting Obama at every turn and making sure the economy didn't heal too well to enable the President's re-election. Guess what?
He (and his fellow members of the GOP leadership) may have gerrymandered their way into continued presence in the nation's capitol for now, but the electoral handwriting is own the wall for the future. The GOP will have to either cheat their way into continued domination of one House of Congress, change or fool Americans into thinking it has changed. Unwilling to actually change, Can't-or will try to put a pretty face on himself and itself. But messaging won't solve what is systemically wrong with today's Republican Party.
Cantor and the GOP leadership don't actually listen to the American people anymore, only the Tea Party. They doesn't even listen to those who used to be masters of packaging the nasty GOP and turning it into "sunshine." Yep, even Karl Rove is in exile. Instead the re-packager of vermin, Frank Luntz keeps keeping on. And he's fed Can't-or a mouth full.
Every time I think Ken Kookinelli can't get any crazier, he goes and does so. Now he's likening his struggle against women having access to a legal product they need for their health and well being, aka "contraception," to Martin Luther King Jr's struggle against racial segregation and oppression. Oh, and you've got to love how Cuckoo hides his anti-woman, anti-freedom agenda behind the smokescreen of defending "religious liberty," which he falsely claims is under attack in this country. In reality, if you're not smoking whatever Cuccinelli's smoking, you'd know that of course there's no assault on religious liberty in America, that in fact religion here is probably more free than in any other country, or any other time, in human history. What next, the mythical "war against Christmas?" Ugh.
Ken Cuccinelli's recent campaign contribution from payday lender Ace Cash Express is nothis first--nor is it likely to be his last from the predatory industry. He's collected at least $27,000 from the payday loan industry over last 10 years. Predatory lenders likely aren't disappointed with their return on the investment. In 2010, Attorney General Cuccinelli issued an opinion exempting predatory lenders from stricter regulations. In 2008, he was the ONLY member of the State Senate who didn't vote on legislation to cap exorbitant payday interest rates.
We wouldn't be surprised to see more contributions to Cuccinelli from the predatory lending industry during this campaign. This payday to play politics has certainly paid off in the past for the predatory industry. See below for the facts.
Cuccinelli Previously Collected $27,400 from Payday Industry In March 2011, an editorial in the Virginian Pilot noted, “He has collected $27,400 from predatory lending companies over the past decade, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.” [Virginian Pilot Editorial, 3/09/11]
Didn't "Bobby" (as Pat Robertson calls him) McDonnell say something very similar to this in his infamous "thesis," which he wrote while studying at Pat Robertson's law school? Birds of a feather and all that...
Gotta love this sorry excuse for a congressman and extreme/extremist hypocrite (click on image to "embiggen" and you'll see that Bob Goodlatte was one of just a handful of congresscritters voting no earlier today on Hurricane Sandy relief).
This is the same guy, by the way, who after Tropical Storm Lee in 2011, signed a letter to President Obama "supporting Gov. Bob McDonnell's request for federal disaster aid for damage caused by Tropical Storm Lee Sept. 8 and 9 in Fairfax and Prince William counties." But when it comes to people in other states who are hurting from a natural disaster, BADlatte's attitude is for them to take a long walk off a short (or in this case, destroyed or damaged) pier. What a horrible - nasty, mean, hypocritical, you name it - human being.
P.S. Also see here for BADlatte complaining that FEMA denied Gov. McDonnell's request for federal disaster assistance resulting from tornadoes in 2011.
Now that the new Congress has been sworn in I thought I'd make a list of its worst members.
1. John Boehner. He cries so often one has to wonder if its alcohol "speaking." Read here too. Today he said he will not do any more negotiating with the President. Got news for him. Obama doesn't need to talk to Boehner. But if Boehner won't do his job, stop his pay.
2. Eric Can't-or. I don't have to tell you why. You know. A more cynical and pitiful excuse for a human being doesn't exist.
3. Michele Bachmann. In two words, lunatic liar. She just makes stuff up. It ought to be a crime to lie as often as she does.
4. Rep. Darrel Issa (R-CA). Investigate is his middle name. His invent-a-scandal office operates nonstop. His point is to try to bring the administration to a standstill. And he's a fine one to criticize anyone (snark). His efforts smack of abuse of power.
5. Joe Barton (R-TX). He apologized to BP for President Obama. Who will apologize for him?
6. Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI). He is nicknamed the dictator by other members of Congress. Enough said.
7. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). He is so ignorant he still doesn't get that Ayn Rand has nothing to tell any one about economics. His so-called budget should be grounds for him to be ousted from office. He is so ruthless even Catholic bishops opposed his draconian policies which would hurt the poor. Paul Ryan's "budget" was a manifesto for discredited trickle down theory, which renders him worse than stupid. He's an incompetent relic. He has no mastery of national issues. Too awful for Congress. And that is saying a lot.
8. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) is a buffoon. If he compares the President to Hitler one more time he should have to write the history of WW2 on the chalkboard 1,000 time. He should have been run out long ago. Read more here.
9. Sarah Palin buddy, extremist Tea Party hack Rep. Renee Elmers (R-NC). Representative is an oxymoron when used in her title. She refuses to meet with constituents, debate her opponent, have town halls, or give interviews. She is unresponsive to constituents. Instead she meets with business leaders and says that is her job. She should be run out of the House.
10. Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC). According to The Nation, he wanted to make weapons grade uranium easier to move around and thus endanger Americans... Small wonder. He's also one of the top 2% in Congress for donations from the nuclear industry. And he is the top recipient of pharmaceutical and health care products money.
Congratulations to Tim Kaine, a U.S. Senator as of his swearing-in around noon today, and best of luck in this crazy Congress! Also, as I've written previously, I feel that Jim Webb accomplished a lot in 6 years, infinitely more than his predecessor did in his term in the Senate. I thank him for running and for once again serving his country. Of course, there were a lot of frustrations over the past 6 years, particularly the fact that Webb's excellent criminal justice system reform legislation didn't make it into law (despite overwhelming support from across the political spectrum). Still, as I said, he accomplished a good amount, more than most Senators. I hope Jim Webb enjoys his life out of the U.S. Senate, and continues to fight for a country in which "the health of our society is measured at its base, NOT at its apex."
P.S. Needless to say, we also need Tim Kaine to fight for working people, the middle class, investments in crucial human and physical capital to make our country strong and prosperous going forward, and of course action on clean energy and global warming. We'll be watching...
UPDATE 12:05 pm: I'm watching on CSPAN as new Senators are sworn in.
UPDATE 12:20 pm: Tim Kaine was sworn in a few minutes ago, with Jim Webb and Mark Warner standing behind him.
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