Congress

The Angry Gnome Gets a Taste of Reality

JRisch The Angry Gnome, Idaho Senator James Risch, is back in the news, grandstanding for the rubes back home. As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (not that he has any background, expertise, or knowledge in foreign relations), Risch used the testimony of Secretary of State, John Kerry, as an opportunity to criticize President Obama’s tactics in response to the Russian incursion in the Ukraine.

Risch, following in the shadow of Senator John McCain, seems to think that American foreign policy has been too “weak”. According to the GOP saber rattlers like Risch, trying to talk to the Russians is an invitation for Putin to annex all of the Ukraine. Any attempt to negotiate is little more than appeasement to the tyrannical Russian.

Risch seems to think America is in a position to punish those “misbehaving” Russians and his questions to Kerry reflect that false bravado.

They misbehave, then we sit down at the table, we make some kind of an agreement and they misbehave even worse after the agreement. So maybe you could give us a little taste of what you’re gonna tell (Russian Foreign Minister Sergey) Lavrov when you meet with him next week?

Kerry wasted no time in giving Risch a little “taste of reality” by pointing out America’s complete lack of a response when Putin annexed Georgia while George Bush was President. It should be noted that at that time Senator Risch did not consider the Bush administration’s response to be weak regarding that act of “misbehavior”.
Well, let me give you what I consider a taste of reality, senator, about our foreign policy and the realities of the world. Georgia happened under George Bush. Georgia happened under George Bush. And he didn’t even bring a sanction. President Obama has brought sanctions and it’s having an impact.
Risch interrupted in feigned disbelief,  “It’s having an impact?”
Yes it is. And the fact is it will have a far more serious impact if they cross over or continue what’s happening in East Ukraine. Now, I don’t know anybody in the United States of America who said we ought to go to war over Crimea. Is there any member of this committee who believes that? I don’t think so. So what are we doing? We’re using 21st century tools, which are the tools of diplomacy to bring people together in other countries to put sanctions in place. And we now have announced the possibility of using sector sanctions. Now that’s serious business. Serious business.
You can see the exchange between Risch and Kerry via this link to NBC news.

 

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What’s The Matter With Eastern Washington?

Catherine Umbridge-Rogers

I don’t know about you, but I found the “official” Republican Party response to Pres. Obama’s State of the Union address by Representative Catherine McMorris Rodgers more than a little creepy.  As I listened, patiently waiting for anything resembling either a response to the President’s speech, or, as unlikely as it might be, a new idea to emerge from the party of “just say no”, I had an unsettling feeling that she reminded me of someone.

Finally it hit me, Representative McMorris Rodgers has all the malevolent mannerisms of Harry Potter’s Delores Umbrage. I am guessing that many would find this characterization a bit harsh. Most of the national commentators, while critical of McMorris Rodgers “speech”, saw it as a combination of vacuous, benign platitudes along with a sanitized “rags to riches” story. Charlie Pierce, for example, dismissed it with the following comment:

And then there was Cathy McMorris Rogers, who was not nutty, but who, I believe, was attempting to sell me a dinette set. Also, can I just say to the nice furniture lady that I’m happy that she and her retired Naval commander husband both had that sweet government health-care so that their newborn son’s pre-existing condition wasn’t the kind of hardship it is for parents who are only now, through the Affordable Care Act, able to stave off financial disaster in similar circumstances.

I guess I saw her speech as more malevolent because I’m aware of where she’s from and who her constituents are. She represents Eastern Washington, the poorer side of the state. Her home is in Stevens County which had an unemployment rate 30% higher than the national average last year. One in six people live below the poverty level and 20% are on food stamps. The leading employer is government, providing 3,023 of the 9,580 non-agricultural payroll jobs last year.

So, what is McMorris Rodgers legislative record? She voted to drastically cut food aid last year, and led her party in rejecting emergency benefits to the unemployed. And, of course, she has been in the forefront of the Republican attempt to kill the Affordable Care Act. And yet, as Timothy Egan points out,

…in her district, people are flocking to Obamacare — well beyond the national average. Though she has been screening town hall meetings to highlight only critics of the new law, her constituents are doing something entirely different in making their personal health decisions.

McMorris Rodgers clearly votes against the welfare of her constituents, so why is it that she continues to get re-elected? Egan suggests that it is the “What’s the Matter With Kansas” premise, based on the Thomas Frank book documenting how poor whites choose cultural and social issues over economic ones at the ballot box. It is true that McMorris Rogers beats the anti-abortion drum incessantly. As was the case in her Republican response, her unrelenting message is to blame the “liberal elite” for attempting to limit our freedoms. In the logic of this “frame” Progressives/Democrats/Liberals are “Un-American”.

Thomas Frank claims:

In order to explain to the “Cons” why no progress gets made on these issues, politicians and pundits point their fingers to a “liberal elite,” a straw man representing everything that conservatism is not. When reasons are given, they eschew economic reasons in favor of accusing this elite of simply hating America, or having a desire to harm “average” Americans.

This gambit of the Republican Party is not new and certainly pre-dates the time frame Frank identifies. The Republican hypocrisy was solidified when it became obvious their “answers” to the Great Depression were bankrupt compared to the New Deal. They became the party of the wealthy who pretended to side with the working class.  For example, Harry Truman said of them in 1948,

Republicans approve of the American farmer, but they are willing to help him go broke. They stand four-square for the American home–but not for housing. They are strong for labor–but they are stronger for restricting labor’s rights. They favor minimum wage–the smaller the minimum wage the better. They endorse educational opportunity for all–but they won’t spend money for teachers or for schools. They think modern medical care and hospitals are fine–for people who can afford them. They consider electrical power a great blessing–but only when the private power companies get their rake-off. They think American standard of living is a fine thing–so long as it doesn’t spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it.

For some reason, many average Americans continue to fall for the same Deloris Umbrage double speak. And so it goes….

UPDATE Here is the lowdown on “Bette in Spokane” who was the one example McMorris Rodgers cited of the ACA not working.

Is the Sequester a Kabuki Dance?

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For the last few weeks conventional wisdom has said that the sequester is not going to happen.  After all, the whole point of the sequester was to make cuts so onerous both sides would come to the conclusion that compromise was a necessity.

Beltway pundits have assured us both sides were involved in political posturing, another example of a political kabuki dance. Well, here we are one day away from the sequester going into effect, and there won’t even be meetings until Friday. Is there really any doubt that we are going over the sequester cliff?  And,  is there really any doubt which party is to blame?  The Republican Party has stated time and time again that they are unwilling to compromise. They have stated time and time again that they will not accept any revenue increases.  They have been trying to deflect the blame towards President Obama with a laughable claims that he has not shown “leadership” on the issue.

So, hang onto your hats as we dive into the unknown and make sure you are placing blame squarely where it belongs.

He’s Number One!

Jimmy R

Do you recognize him? If you are from Idaho you probably do. Yes, it is the Angry Gnome himself, Jim Risch. If you are from anywhere else in the country, you probably have no idea who he is. That is why the National Journal described him as “…a senator so obscure that he might as well be dubbed the Ann Veal of the Senate.”

Why is the National Journal talking about Risch at all? It is because they have ranked him “the most conservative member of the Senate“.

When people think about conservative “all stars” in the Senate (if people ever actually think about such a thing), a few names probably come to mind. There’s Jim DeMint of South Carolina, who before leaving the Senate to run the Heritage Foundation—a conservative Think Tank—was the godfather of the tea party in the upper chamber. Then of course there is Rand Paul, son of Ron, libertarian champion from Kentucky. A little less known, but still with some name recognition, are Mike Lee of Utah and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, former head of the Club for Growth.

All of these guys rank on National Journal’s most conservative list, but none of them hold the top spot. That honor goes to James Risch of Idaho, a senator so obscure that he might as well be dubbed the Ann Veal of the Senate.

Risch, a former governor, entered the Senate in 2009 at the age of 65. While not a figure with much national press since then, Risch has been a true stalwart when it comes to his conservative voting record, most recently being one of just eight Republican senators to vote against the Violence Against Women Act.

Being the most conservative Senator is not the Angry Gnome’s only claim to fame. He is also the fifth most wealthy Senator with an estimated net worth of $109,034,052

Risch

The question all Idahoans ought to ask is, “What sort of leader, representing Idaho’s interests, is Senator Risch”? According to Govtrak.us, who tracks this sort of thing.

Risch legislationYes, the Angry, but lonely, Gnome is the ultimate outlier, first in ineptitude.

A Tale of Three Headlines

RL
When Raul Labrador decided to challenge John Boehner’s re-election as Speaker, he effectively eliminated any influence he might have hoped to have representing Idaho in Congress. Of course, Labrador is just one more in a long line of Idaho Congressmen whose behavior so marginalized them that they were pretty much impotent. As I stated after his vote against the fiscal cliff legislation, Labrador has been neutered.

What does this mean for Labrador’s political career? Well, three headlines this week tell the story.  First, this headline from “The Hill”.

Boehner defector Rep. Labrador won’t talk about his vote for Speaker  

The second-term lawmaker told The Hill he’s “not talking to the press” on his rationale behind not voting. He was among 12 House Republicans who didn’t back Boehner.

The Tea Party favorite, who also refused to comment when The Hill asked him right after the early January vote, said he hopes his pointed refusal to discuss the Speaker votes would help him smooth things over with GOP leaders.

“John Boehner is my Speaker at this point and I want him to be successful,” he said. “One of the reasons I did what I did is I want my party to be successful, strong and do what we were elected to do. This is absolutely one issue where we’ll work together.”

Unfortunately for Labrador, his “no comment” came a little too late. The senior Idaho Congressman from Idaho, Mike Simpson, did a have a comment, and it wasn’t favorable to Labrador. In what the Idaho Statesman called a “rare public feud” between Idaho Congressmen, Simpson called Labrador’s vote against Boehner “irresponsible”. The headline in the Statesman read,

Mike Simpson rips Raul Labrador for trying to oust Boehner as Speaker

Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson says fellow Republican Rep. Raul Labrador has forever undermined his effectiveness with an “irresponsible” role in plotting to defeat GOP House Speaker John Boehner.

“I think there are 15 or 16 members of our conference that have substantially lost credibility,” said Simpson, one of Boehner’s closest friends in the House.

Labrador was one of three leaders among conservatives upset with Boehner, R-Ohio, for making the Jan. 1 fiscal cliff deal. The dissidents tried to muster enough Republican votes to slow down or stop re-election of Boehner as speaker. They called off their plan a half-hour before the Jan. 3 vote.

Customarily, combatants put aside their differences once the majority picks a leader behind closed doors, joining their party mates for a unanimous public vote on the House floor.

But Labrador let his disloyalty be known publicly as one of 12 Republicans who either didn’t vote for Boehner or didn’t vote at all. Labrador twice ignored the clerk calling his name — and even received one vote to be speaker from fellow ringleader Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich.

“He just didn’t vote,” Simpson said, shaking his head in anger. “Which, as anyone who’s ever been in a legislative body will tell you, you got one thing going for you and that’s your credibility. And once you lose that credibility it’s gone and it’s gone forever.”

Wow! Labrador’s credibility is gone forever!  That sounds like Labrador’s political career is over, but not so fast. His credibility in Washington may be gone, but to his Tea Party constituents back in Idaho, he has just reinforced their belief that he is a man of principle. Which leads us to the last headline.

Labrador mulling race for Idaho governor, but insists he’s not decided

Hmmm- that is exactly what an ineffectual Idaho Congressman did eight years ago. Yes, Clement Leroy “Butch” Otter’s career path took him to the Governorship after two terms as an ineffectual Congressman who initiated zero legislation.

Otter will be 72 when his second term is over and it is likely that he will not run again. Thus, the door is open for Labrador.

Mendive- “Maybe it was a poor illustration”

Yesterday I predicted that “Dim Bulb” Idaho Republican Rep. Ron Mendive’s stupid remarks comparing abortion and prostitution would get national attention. Sure enough, the Associated Press picked it up

Screenshot_1_17_13_9_00_PM-2

and added Mendive’s defense,

Mendive, who was first elected to the Legislature last year, said he posed the question because he was incensed by what he believes is a double standard.
“It was just a question,” he said. “I do believe it’s a double standard.”
Prostitution is a choice “more so than an abortion would be,” he said.
“Because (in an abortion) there’s two beating hearts. And then there’s one,” Mendive said.
Mendive said he didn’t intend to trivialize human trafficking, but he still stressed that he believes prostitution is often a choice that a woman makes about what she does with her own body. Asked if he stood by his words, however, he conceded, “Maybe it was a poor illustration.”

It didn’t take long for responses like this one from Natasha Burton at Cosmopolitan,

Well, here’s your daily WTF?! moment.

At a presentation held by the American Civil Liberties Union, Idaho representative Ron Mendive, R-Coeur d’Alene, asked ACLU reps if their pro-abortion stance also means that they support prostitution. You know, because those things are so much alike.

Apparently, his (flawed) reasoning behind his query was that both abortion and prostitution are choices women make in regards to their bodies. Except that, he says, in the case of abortion, there are “two beating hearts” involved, whereas in prostitution there is only one. Thank you, sir, for that helpful analysis.

This isn’t the first time that an Idaho lawmaker has seriously shoved his foot into his mouth when it comes to women’s reproductive rights. Last year, Senator Chuck Winder told the Senate: “I would hope that when a woman goes into a physician with a rape issue, that that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps her marriage, was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage, or was it truly caused by a rape.” Seriously, dude? Wow. (Winder later claimed that he was “misunderstood.”)

Honestly, what is it with these guys? And why do they keep getting elected into major positions of power?

Well, I am not sure Mendive holds a “major position of power”, but other than that she is exactly right- what is up with these guys?  They always claim to be shocked at the reaction to their outlandish statements. Part of the reason is that they live in an echo chamber of right wing wackos and religious extremists. Their idiocy is reinforced by their circle of like minded idiots.

The Republican Party’s political advisers are starting to take notice of the serial stupidity of “these guys” when it comes to discussing rape. At the strategy planning get-together of House Republicans in Williamsburg, VA this week, GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway gave some blunt advise to the Congressmen, quit talking about rape.

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — It’s way past time: House Republicans need to stop talking about rape.That’s the message GOP lawmakers got here Wednesday evening from Kellyanne Conway, a top GOP pollster. Conway dispensed the stern advice as part of a polling presentation she made alongside fellow GOP pollsters David Winston — an adviser to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) — and Dave Sackett. The comment was described by several sources in the room. Conway said rape is a “four-letter word,” and Republicans simply need to stop talking about it in their races for office.

That advice ought to apply to all women’s issues: rape, abortion, contraception, etc. Those Republican “guys” need to realize that the only politically savvy thing for them to do is to shut up.

Why We Know the Republicans Don’t Care About the Deficit

The mainstream media refuses to point out the obvious- the Republicans don’t really care about lowering the deficit. They are ideologically committed to two things, lowering taxes on the wealthy and eliminating government programs, particularly those that help those who need help the most. If they were really interested in lowering the deficit, they would tackle the most important problem facing the economy, unemployment. Because, as the chart below shows (red line=budget deficit as % of GDP; blue line=unemployment), since WWII there is a strong positive correlation between the deficit and unemployment. As unemployment goes up, so does the deficit. As employment goes up, the deficit goes down. The reasons are pretty obvious. To a large extent, the deficit is a function of government’s inability to collect tax revenue from people without jobs. If you put people back to work, the government gets more revenue and the deficit lowers. Government spending that helps people survive while unemployed, helps them train for new jobs, and provides jobs through stimulus spending, shrinks the deficit. As the chart makes clear, since Obama became President in 2008, unemployment has fallen and the deficit has shrunk.

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So, although Obama’s policies have led to a slow lowering of unemployment and of the deficit, Republicans continue to argue that simply cutting government spending is guaranteed to lower the deficit and improve the economy. Again, there is plenty of empirical evidence that they are wrong. Consider the chart below. Subsequent to the 2008 crisis, David Cameron and the Conservatives have implemented an austerity program in the UK similar to what the Republicans advocate. As a result, they are in the midst of a double-dip recession while the Obama economy has been growing steadily.

090312krugman1-blog480

We are going to hear a good deal of evidence-free ideology from Republicans over the next few months. It would be nice if the media would counter with some fact-based reporting.

Labrador for Speaker

RaulToonRocky “Bullwinkle” Barker, clueless reporter/blogger for the Idaho Statesman, breathlessly reported that Raul Labrador received the first vote for Speaker of the House! Wow! An Idaho politician as a possible Speaker of the House.

Ah… Sorry Rocky, the single vote for Labrador was part of the Tea Party circle jerk-14 Republican defectors who refused to vote for John Boehner, and, as a result guaranteed they would never have positions of power. Boehner won and they lost, big time.

The band of 14 Bozos either voted “present”, or for each other. Actually, Labrador didn’t even win among the foolish fourteen. He receive one less vote than Allen West, the Tea Party favorite who is no longer a member of Congress. Yes, two members of the feckless fourteen voted for a candidate for Speaker of the House who is not a member of the House.

I don’t call Barker “clueless” because of this blog post, however. A recent post where he argued that we shouldn’t have an “ideological” discussion about gun control because he had fond memories of attending gun shows with his father displayed a more characteristic cluelessness.

Labrador Neutered

bumper-sticker-spay-neuter Raul Labrador was the only member of the Idaho Congressional delegation to vote against the compromise Fiscal Cliff bill. Like other members of the Republican House who represent “ideologically pure” districts, Labrador doesn’t have to worry about re-election. If fact, his vote was a guarantee that he will not have to worry about a primary fight against someone farther to the right (if that is possible). Nevertheless, he is now solidly in the camp of extremists who have been marginalized and who will never have real power in the party.

I suppose it could be argued that the whole Republican pack of curs has been neutered. In fact, according to Mediaite, Charles Krauthammer came on Fox and claimed exactly that.

On his first show of the new year, Bill O’Reilly brought on Charles Krauthammer to take on the last-minute fiscal cliff deal cobbled together by Congress. Krauthammer went after President Obama for rejecting compromise legislation that didn’t have enough spending cuts because he wanted to score political points over the Republican party, and by doing so, Krauthammer said the president successfully “neutered” the Republican-led House.