Tuesday, March 24, 2009
I hate Facebook. There. I said it. And it feels damned good. I know it won't make me popular. In fact, I'll probably be cyberflogged over it. I'm sorry, but I just don't get it. Any of it. Oh sure, it's fun once in a blue moon when one of my childhood pals miraculously unearths a 40-year-old photo and "tags" me, but then that fascination quickly turns to horror as I realize my embarrassing pre-pubescent shot is now online for all to see. Couldn't it just simply be scanned and emailed to me the way technogeeks did things back in the olden days, ya know, the late 90's?
Oh, Facebook. You cyberland of rampant narcissism and wasted time. What started out as a social networking site for college kids has somehow turned into a cesspool of self-absorbed way-too-old-to-be-fucking-around-on-Facebook adults who think that the rest of us actually give a shit about what they're drinking, eating, thinking, reading, watching, and/or are listening to every five minutes. They post their top 5 records, movies and TV shows. They post "25 Random Things About Me" lists. And they tell us constantly what they're "fans of." One person is a fan of "grilled cheese." I kid you not. What have we come to when grilled cheese has its own Facebook page? Someone clearly has way too much time on their hands.
I think I've figured out Facebook's major appeal. It offers uber-narcissists an opportunity to have their proverbial 15 minutes every five fucking minutes!. The site is overcrowded with attention-starved grown-ups essentially screaming "look at me...look at me!" all day long. They change their profile photos as often as I change my underwear, and they've somehow convinced themselves that their lives are infinitely interesting all the time. The "audience factor" is just way too attractive to these folks. It's drunken karaoke without the booze and the bad singing, but with all the requisite self-indulgence.
Case in point the "What's on your mind" section, formerly the "status" box. It's full of pretentious, inane ramblings like "Bob is making some soup," "Annie is dry-heaving right now," "Louie is sitting in traffic, pondering the meaning of life," "Joe is hungry," "Debbie is tired," "Maggie is perplexed," "Phil's ass hurts from yoga," "Archie's dreaming of Tulsa," "Seth is a fan of Fellini," "Leslie is drinking her morning OJ," "Dan is contemplating a nap," "Ellen is feeling empowered," "Jack is boarding a flight home from LA," "Susie is feeding her brain!" Oh...my...god. Somebody please get me an ice-pick to jab into my skull.
Let's face it, there's probably two or three of our really best pals who actually do care what the hell we do all the time. That's why they're our BFF's. And they're the ones who will normally respond to the riveting "Ed is drinking some coffee" post with something equally fascinating like "Decaf or regular?" But the rest of your 5000 Facebook friends really don't care about these non-stop musings, as evidenced by the fact that virtually 99% of them have zero replies. I mean honestly, what can you really say back to "Rufus is rubbing a London Broil?"
Now in the spirit of full disclosure, I am a citizen of the Facebook nation. I was lured there by a dear friend with promises of mega-business-networking benefits, and I must also confess to periodically using the site for shameless self-promotion to my vast empire of 165 friends. But if I am indeed a Facebookian, it is citizenship in the vein of Che Guevara, Abbie Hoffman and Thomas Paine. I'm a radical. A dissident. A conscientious objector in the Armed Forces of Facebook. I might even call myself a revolutionary, for I'd love to stage a coup and turn Facebook the vainglorious social-networking site into Facebook the bastion of selflessness and redeeming social value. Just think of how incredibly impactful Facebook could be if its typically self-involved members would harness all of this cyberpassion and energy and channel it instead into educating our children, healing the sick, helping the poor and saving the environment.
I realize that I'll likely lose a few 'friends' over this blasphemous diatribe, most likely those in my Facebook tribe. Some might even de-friend me, a sure sign that I've been branded a social-networking-outcast. But my real friends, the ones I've known for a zillion years, the ones I see all the time, the ones who I actually hang out with outside of cyberspace and have real live actual relationships with, the ones who'll come over at 2am at the drop of hat if I needed help, they'll totally get it. Know why? With the exception of one or two folks whom I absolutely adore and apologize to in advance if I've offended, none of them are on Facebook.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines appeasement as "to buy off (an aggressor) by concessions usually at the sacrifice of principles."
The cries of appeasement from hard-core right wingers over President Obama's olive branch to Iran this past week are unjust, misguided, myopic and just plain foolish.
Let's take a step back for a quick moment for a little historical context. The political figure whose name is most synonymous with appeasement is former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (1937-1940), in particular for signing the Munich Agreement in September 1938, allowing Adolph Hitler's Germany to annex the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia. The co-signers were Germany, France and Italy. The cowardly treaty, which unofficially became known as the Munich Dictate or Munich Betrayal, made everyone happy of course except the Czechs, and it also infuriated Hitler, who felt pressured into participating in the sort of bourgeois diplomatic ritual he utterly despised. He held Chamberlain in contempt as a result. Appeasement didn't stop Hitler. In March 1939 Germany invaded the remainder of Czechoslovakia and began its march across Europe. It began its Blitz of England in September 1940. Chamberlain and "appeasement" are infamously and inextricably tied forever.
To draw parallels between Chamberlain's foreign policy failures and Obama's attempt to engage our enemies is patently unfair and irresponsible. To understand why, it's critical to have some modern context. We've just been through eight years of disengagement by the Bush administration. We had a reckless, testosterone-starved Jesus-driven cowboy march into the White House declaring Iran, North Korea and Iraq the "Axis of Evil". From virtually the get-go, Bush's foreign policy strategy could be summed up in just a few short words: U.S. good, everyone else bad, enemies really bad. Therefore, you don't talk with your enemies, you don't negotiate with your enemies, you don't enjoin your enemies. Instead, you antagonize your enemies, you motivate and inspire your enemies, and you embolden and strengthen your enemies through big-stick rhetoric and cowboy swagger. Oh, and you bomb the shit out of them for no justifiable reason (that would be Iraq for those of you who are having trouble following this lefty diatribe). And in the process you damn-near alienate every one of your allies and severely tarnish America's reputation for diplomatic greatness. Might even say you make America hated throughout the world.
So it's no shocker that perhaps it's time for a new strategy. A policy of engagement, whereby the united States uses its diplomatic powers and not just its military muscle. A foreign policy centered on the negotiating table and not some arrogant frat-boy's bully-pulpit. Thankfully, we now have a president who gets it. A president more interested in world peace than proving to his daddy that he's not the colossal fuck-up he always thought, or that the history books will soon surely prove.
What Obama did last week was brilliant. All of it. From going on the Jay Leno program and speaking directly to the American people (pissing off the mainstream media, which tends not to like being marginalized or circumvented) to addressing the Iranian people who, by the way, are 70% under the age of 30 and are much more Westernized than you would think. Obama bypassed Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollah Komenei much in the same way he did his end-run around the American press. Oh this Obama guy's smart, alright. He didn't beat the Clinton machine and become the country's first black president, at 46, because he lacks vision.
And that vision says, let's talk to the enemy. Let's engage them. Let's bring pressure on their governments by opening a dialogue directly with their people. Let's negotiate, but let's not forget our goal of protecting America, nor our unyielding commitment to use force when all else fails.
As John F. Kennedy famously said, "Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate." Amen.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Adding insult to injury, news broke over the weekend that instead of the previously reported $165-million AIG handed out in retention bonuses, the total is actually $218-million, an additional 30% kick in the taxpayers' groin. The AIG saga seems to get worse by the minute. On the one side, we have a mounting populist movement seeking everything from a return of the bonus money to public flogging of the executives who took it. And on the other side we have the Wall Street sympathizers and legal junkies who cry "witch hunt" and vehemently oppose retributive measures such as 90% taxes on the money, prosecution of "fraudulent" behavior, and most important, the voiding of the employees' contracts which promised the bonuses.
To be sure, for most Americans, the AIG bonus debacle in particular has come to symbolize the years of unprecedented greed and de-regulated hijinks on Wall Street by reckless, credit-default-swapping, derivatives-dealing cowboys who damn-near single-handedly caused the collapse of the U.S. financial industry. And as the average Mom and Pop fears for their jobs, their homes and their savings, it's easy to understand their gargantuan outrage and frustration with the current system in which these arrogant bankrupters are rewarded for their miserable failures with taxpayer money.
But there is a simple solution which is not only fair, it makes sense. In a nutshell, rather than allow these bonuses to remain in tact or to take them away outright, how about deferring them until the companies and their troubled business units turn their financial fortunes around and become profitable? Now that's a novel concept, huh? Tying compensation to performance. Let's dangle the proverbial carrot in front of these high-flying Downtown deal-makers. You wanna get that million-dollar bonus, pal? Earn it, dammit! Stop losing money and start making it. And make enough to start paying back to your boss, the American taxpayer, the $200-billion your company needed in bailouts to stave off death stemming from your gross irresponsibility and high-risk activity. Then, and only then, will we be ok with you taking that huge paycheck. Whattya say, pal, deal?
Lastly, it's time to dispel a few of the biggest myths surrounding the AIG saga:
-"The contracts are legal and cannot be voided:" It's quite the convoluted argument that these employees have a valid legal claim to these bonuses when in fact their contracts would've been voided through bankruptcy had the U.S. government not bailed out the company.
-"We need to pay these bonuses in order to retain these employees because they're the only ones who know 'where the bodies are buried' and we need them to unravel this mess:" In that case, let's let every murderer off the hook--or better yet, pay them--because they literally know 'where the bodies are buried'....
-"We need to retain these people so they don't leave and go elsewhere and we can stay competitive:" First, where the hell are these folks going? Who's hiring on Wall Street? And, I know tens of thousands of unemployed Wall Streeters who'd gladly take these jobs left behind by the unretained.
Friday, March 20, 2009
President Barack Obama went on national television last night again. No, it wasn't a Town Hall meeting or a press conference or an address to Congress. It was to sit and whoop it up with Jay Leno, host of NBC's The Tonight Show. I alternate between thinking this was the most brilliant strategic move by perhaps America's most telegenic, media-savvy president ever, and, what the hell is the President of the United States doing on a friggin' talk show? What's next, Letterman's Stupid Human Tricks?
In any case, since our mad-hip president has decided to bring his mojo to late-night television, I thought it might be fun if he went even further with this unprecedented reach-out-and-touch-middle-America campaign and did the following shows as well:
WIFE SWAP: Let's send Michelle to the Heartland and a beer-chugging, Bible-thumpin' NASCAR-mom to the White House and watch the sparks fly!
IN TREATMENT: Who wouldn't want to watch The O-Man sit on the couch and dish to Gabriel Byrne about the enormous pressures of life, love, work and "How come Rush Limbaugh doesn't appreciate me?"
ENTOURAGE: C'mon, Vince and Barack? They're the two coolest dudes on the planet! And think of all the fun it'd be watching Turtle get into some serious White House mischief while Drama hits on Hillary.
DANCING WITH THE STARS: Ok, Obama's not the smoothest dude on two feet, but neither is Steve Wozniak. Obama and Edyta. Now that's cool....
HIGH-SCHOOL REUNION: Watch Barack and his buddies sit around the Hawaii mansion reminiscing about the good old days smokin' weed and doing blow. It's all fun and games until a mystery guest shows up in the limo to spoil the party. It's Karl "Turd Blossom" Rove...
HANNITY: I want to see this knock-down, drag-out verbal smackdown once and for all. The Hannitizer won't know what hit him.
AL ROKER'S DINER DESTINATIONS: I have nothing witty to say here. But wouldn't it be a freakin' riot watching Al and Barack hangin' out together on a greasy-food-eatin' road trip?
VH1's TOUGH LOVE: Obama and AIG CEO Edward Liddy work out their shit...
WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE: Will help prepare Obama for once he leaves office and miraculously becomes a gazillionaire like all other exiting politicians.
QUEER EYE FOR THE STRAIGHT GUY: Just to see Barack and Carson Kressley go clothes shopping together....
ANY EXERCISE SHOW: O's got zero body fat, man. That's inspirational. He'd be an awesome TV exercise guru.
THAT 70'S SHOW: More weed-smokin'....
TWO AND HALF MEN: Watch the jokes fly as Obama, Joe Biden and Limbaugh (the half man) yuk it up...
HANNAH MONTANA: Barack, Malia and Sasha hang with Hannah and Billy Ray on a fun-filled tour of Washington. But then Billy starts singing "Achy Breaky Heart" and ruins everything...
WHEEL OF FORTUNE: Maybe he can turn the economy around with a little spin of that famous wheel?
WWE FRIDAY NIGHT SMACKDOWN!: Obama teaches Republican naysayers Rep. John Boehner and Sen. Mitch McConnell a lesson. Yeah, boyeeeeeeee!
48 HOURS MYSTERY: Obama and the investigative team attempt to figure out what the hell happened to our country these past eight years.
THE HONEYMOONERS: Obama, Biden and Hillary share a run-down tenament apartment in Brooklyn during the First 100 days in office....
SURVIVOR: Need we say more?
Thursday, March 19, 2009
I will be appearing again Friday afternoon, March 20, in the 1-2PM hour of FoxNews.com's "Strategy Room." Join us for a lively roundtable discussion. Lots to talk about: the economy, Wall Street bailouts, AIG and more. Watch the program live at www.foxnews.com/strategyroom.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
This space is usually reserved for political commentary and debate. But this particular story is very close to home, and is a painful, sad reminder of how unexpectedly tragic, and short, life can be. Award-winning British actress Natasha Richardson has died at the age of 45 after suffering a head injury in a freak skiing accident in Montreal Monday. My heart goes out to her husband, Liam Neeson, her 12 and 13-year-old sons, her mother, actress Vanessa Redgrave, and their families.
I know first-hand this gut-wretching pain. Of horrifically losing a beautiful, adored wife, loving mother, cherished daughter, much-loved sister. Of losing a radiant, talented artist with so much still to give, yet dealt a horrible fate. We send much love and support to Liam and the families in this time of profound sorrow and grief, and hope they can get through this devastating nightmare and soon begin to rebuild their lives. It will not be easy.
Please hug and kiss those you love, and tell them you love them...often. Be thankful for every moment you have with them.
A staggering $60-billion, the biggest quarterly loss in global corporate history. Pushed to the brink of insolvency resulting from near-criminal high-risk financial racketeering by a bunch of reckless, greed-drunken Wall Street cowboys. Needing rescue from the U.S. Government to the tune of $200 billion to avoid death. So, this is what "the best and the brightest" brings ya, huh? If that's the case, for AIG (the Arrogance Incompetence Greed company), perhaps it's time for the worst and the dumbest to take over. Surely they can't do any worse.
What a week this has been following the news last weekend that AIG gave out another round of retention bonuses to these Masters of Failure. Retention bonuses, mind you, that went to virtually the entire unit responsible for this debacle, including 52 of these "can't live without 'em" geniuses who shamelessly took the money and ran. These folks are best and bright alright. They somehow figured out a way to obtain retention bonuses without having to be retained, thus perpetrating their shady deals right up to the very end. Incredibly, the now-80% taxpayer-owned AIG doled out millions in retention bonuses and 12% of these incompetent crooks walked out the door anyway. It's astounding and infuriating.
"Oh, but we had to pay them...it was in their contracts." Bullshit. Contracts are meant to be broken. They're either broken and/or renegotiated every day. That's why God created cutthroat lawyers. Otherwise they'd be doing real estate closings all day. Auto workers, teachers, civil servants, athletes, etc renegotiate their contracts all the time depending on changing circumstances. Why then is there a double-standard for Wall Street? If ever there was a justification to renegotiate, this is it.
The central argument being made by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Fed-appointed AIG CEO Edward Liddy, legal scholars and others is that the company was/is legally obligated to pay the bonuses, and that we must honor and respect the rule of law which protects the sanctity of these contracts. Technically correct. But in reality, a bunch of rubbish. If the government and AIG (one and the same now) really wanted to recoup these bonuses, there's several means by which to do so:
-advise the employees that while they can keep their "legally mandated" bonuses, their future total comp will be $1 until the bonus money is recouped;
-since the unit they work in is a gross financial disaster, thus a performance breach, inform them that keeping said bonuses will be grounds for termination if they do not return the money;
-inform them that if they choose to keep this money, there will be no more TARP bailouts. That keeping these bonuses is akin to AIG shutting down...unless it will be able going forward to run on operating income and on the strength of its own balance sheet;
-claim that the bonuses are voided due to their fraudulent origin. Didn't AIG know of its dire financial status early last year, and thus had no right to give away money it didn't have;?
-argue that there would've been no money for these bonuses had the U.S. Government not stepped in with TARP funds to stave off AIG's bankruptcy, an event which would've voided these contracts.
Some advice to the Wall Street happy hotshots: don't go spending that "hard-earned" bonus money just yet. As the moral outrage and public outcries increase, I suspect the pressure will mount so high that the Obama administration will, with the help of people like New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, ultimately succeed in finding its loophole to recover this stolen taxpayer money.
And one final word for the Obama administration: get some damned seats on AIG's board, as well as seats on any other board in whose company we're bailing out with taxpayer money. Ownership without board control equals corporate impotence, as we now unfortunately know.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Dick Cheney's at it again. Desperately trying to rewrite history in a pathetic attempt to salvage his miserable legacy and that of his highly unpopular former boss. "The Dick" took to the airwaves again over the weekend with more "Mission Accomplished" propaganda and to attack President Barack Obama's anti-terrorism policies.
The former vice president said on CNN's State of the Union that Obama "is making some choices that, in my mind, will, in fact, raise the risk to the American people of another attack." This type of incendiary rhetoric is outrageous and irresponsible. That Cheney, as the chief architect of the Iraq war, the biggest blunder in U.S. military history, has the audacity to pawn himself off as an expert on anything military is even more offensive. That he disparages and undermines a new sitting president during a time of war is reprehensible.
Cheney continues to call Iraq a "great success story." But is it? Are we certain that the country, with its warring sectarian factions, won't implode once America withdraws its troops? And if there is such success there, and we, as the Busheviks like to claim, "won the war," why is there so much concern about pulling out too soon? Wouldn't we be able to pack up and leave tomorrow given such lofty claims of victory? Call me crazy, but real success will be measured by whether or not there's a self-sustaining Democracy that survives after we leave. Until then, nothing has been "won."
At the White House Monday, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs sarcastically linked Cheney to another GOP blowhard: "Well, I guess Rush Limbaugh was busy, so they trotted out the next most popular member of the Republican cabal." But back on CNN this past weekend, The Dick defended his partner in propaganda: "Rush is a good friend. I love him. I think he does great work and has for years. Liars of a feather.....
And as for rewriting history, last week Bush's former Press Secretary Ari Fleischer duked it out with MSNBC's Chris Matthews, who raised Fleischer's ire by having the gall to claim that the Iraq war was unjust and, worse, occurred on his boss's watch:
"Chris, how dare you...what you just did is shameful," Fleischer sanctimoniously whined. He then went on to incredibly declare that, "after September 11th, having been hit once, how can we take a chance that Saddam might not strike again? Let's make sure we got that right: ..."Saddam might not strike again," the man said. Can you fucking believe this unconscionable deception that real terrorists like Fleischer still perpetrate eight years after the 9-11 attacks? Shame on you, Ari. Shame on you.....
You can check out Fleischer's unbelievably arrogant drivel below...
Sunday, March 15, 2009
It's back to FoxNews' "Strategy Room" Monday morning, March 16, at 10am. Join us for a politically-charged roundtable discussion on the war, the economy, the bailouts and more. Watch us live at www.foxnews.com/strategyroom.
It's Christmas in March at The American International Group (AIG), the near-dead insurance and financial products behemoth that racked up the largest loss in U.S. history last quarter, $61.7-billion, and which has been on the receiving end of $170-billion in federal bailout money. And the message the hemorrhaging AIG's sending the White House, taxpayers and it's beleaguered executives is, run this company damn near into the ground and there's a $450 million bonus pool waiting. Yes, as infuriating and insane as that sounds, it's bonus time over at AIG, again. And it's you, me and every other taxpaying American who's footing the bill.
In January, President Obama called such irresponsible and blatantly self-serving Wall Street bonus activity in the face of the industry's massive financial crisis "shameful." And now we have Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner angry as well, demanding that AIG reduce the current round of bonuses that the company claims it's legally obligated to pay because they were promised and accrued early last year before the company's financial troubles surfaced. But an "angry" Geithner is about as intimidating as Doogie Howser, and AIG's essentially told him and the administration to fuck off, much as it did last Fall when, days after receiving it's first Federal TARP money, it threw another lavish $400,000+ "retreat" for it's executives and clients.
In fact, the U.S. government has shelled out trillions in bailouts and guarantees, yet has been utterly impotent in getting these toxic-asset-plagued corporations to explain where the money's going, and/or to stop rewarding failure with million-dollar bonuses. The only real toxic thing here is the continued arrogance of companies like AIG.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Ya gotta love newly-elected RNC Chairman Michael Steele. He's the most fun distraction to arise out of the Republican Party since Idaho's mensroom-footsie-loving Sen. Larry Craig.
Much to the delight of Democrats, who prefer when Republicans eat their own, the former Maryland Lieutenant Governor has found himself in yet another embarassing shitstorm over comments made in a recent GQ Magazine interview. Seems Steele committed partisan heresy for his comments on abortion and homosexuality.
"I think that’s an individual choice," Steele said about abortion, before self-diagnosing his foot-in-mouth disease and pulling another classic back-peddle like he did after criticizing media-blowhard Rush Limbaugh two weeks ago: "The states should make that choice. That’s what the choice is. The individual choice rests in the states. Let them decide." Sorry, Mike, nice try. Unfortunately for you, the cat's already out of the womb on that one.
On the subject of being gay, Steele bravely offered up this enlightened philosophy: "I think that there’s a whole lot that goes into the makeup of an individual that you just can’t simply say, oh, like, ‘Tomorrow morning I’m going to stop being gay. It’s like saying, ‘Tomorrow morning I’m going to stop being black.’" Oops! We haven't yet seen the "clarification" on that one, but I'm sure when it comes it'll sound something like this:
"What I meant was, you can stop being gay if you try really hard...like...just put the damn Liza records away, start watching Schwarzenegger flicks and use the word 'dude' a lot. And just look at Robert Downey Jr. He woke up one morning and said 'I am going to stop being white'...well...at least during filming of "Tropic Thunder." See? Everyone has the capacity to change."
And get this, Steele also sent conservative tongues wagging with this explanation for why he's currently redecorating his office: "This is going to sound weird, but it’s way too male for me." What the hell is going on here!? Sounds like an episode of "Queer Eye for the Republican Guy."
Poor Steele. He tries yet again, with great courage, to inject some logical, rational, science-based non-partisan thought into the debate only to be publicly rebuked by his political brethren. I guess that's what happens when you attempt to bring your party into the 21st century.
I have a friend. We'll call him "Byron." He lives out West and we've been close pals for over 25 years. We have a lot in common, except when it comes to politics. He's a die-hard conservative. A Republican apologist. A partisan stooge, as I affectionately call him. So it comes as no surprise when he refers to the U.S.'s current economic woes as the "Obama recession." Interestingly, he's been calling it that since early December, despite the fact that Barack Obama had yet to take office.
We know that Republicans have a hard time with accountability. Or with giving credit where credit is due. We've heard the relentless whining about how 9-11 occurred on George Bush's watch, but was the result of Bill Clinton's failed anti-terrorism policies. Or how Bush inherited Clinton's recession, or how Clinton was gifted with the Internet boom, which conveniently and dismissively explains how he created 22-million new jobs during his presidency and presided over one of America's greatest periods of economic prosperity.
So against this backdrop, the Obama recession makes perfect sense. But why stop there? With this week's huge stock market gains stemming from the spate of semi-positive news in the housing, banking and retail sectors, why not call this run-up the Bush Rally? And when the economy begins to grow, we can call that the Bush Recovery .
Now look, don't go giving us any of that reality-based bunk about how "Bush is no longer president, so how can we give him credit for Obama's economic turnaround when and if it comes?" To guys like Byron, that sort of logic just gets in the way of good old-fashioned Republican spin.
Sunday, March 08, 2009
It's back to FoxNews' "Strategy Room" Monday morning at 10am. Join us for a politically-charged roundtable discussion. Watch us live at www.foxnews.com/strategyroom.
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
Something funny is happening in Washington. Within the Republican Party. Something that's music to Democrats' ears. It seems that desperate and disillusioned conservatives, not having learned their lessons from the November election--or worse, still reeling from it--are allowing the rabid right wing talking head Rush Limbaugh to hijack the party. And God help anyone who criticizes him and his sanctimonious, self-aggrandizing rants. They're skewered on-air and humiliatingly brought to their knees, forced into a quick and embarrassing apology.
The latest mea culpa came from Michael Steele, the new chairman of the National Republican Committee who, over the weekend, had the balls to sharply criticize Limbaugh for wishing failure on President Barack Obama during his speech to equally rabid attendees of the Conservative Political action Conference, the annual right-wing lovefest that featured both party luminaries and rebel-rousers including Newt Gingrich, Ralph Reed, Ann Coulter and yes, even the ubiquitous Joe the Plumber.
Limbaugh had whipped the staunchly conservative audience into a near-frenzy with his attack on the president: "So what is so strange about being honest to say that I want Barack Obama to fail if his mission is to restructure and reform this country so that capitalism and individual liberty are not its foundation?"
In response to a CNN reporter's comment that Limbaugh is the de facto head of the Party, Steele tersely replied "No he's not. I'm the de facto head of the Republican Party. Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer. Rush Limbaugh, the whole thing is entertainment. Yes, it's incendiary. Yes, it's ugly." And yes, it royally pissed off Limbaugh so much that it sent him into another round of his standard derisive radio rage.
"It's time, Mr. Steele, for you to go behind the scenes and start doing the work that you were elected to do instead of trying to be some talking head media star, which you're having a tough time pulling off. You are head of the RNC. You see not head of the Republican Party. Tens of millions of conservatives and Republicans have nothing to do with the RNC, and right now they want nothing to do with it." Oh no he di-int! Apparently, hell hath no fury like a bloviating partisan pundit scorned.
Steele follows GOP Congressman Phil Gingrey of Georgia who in January was also publicly harangued into kissing Limbaugh's ring after intimating that the radio host was crossing the line with his critiques of House Republicans.
What's going on here? Didn't voters overwhelmingly reject the brand of hard core conservativism that Limbaugh spews every day? Don't Limbaugh's views appeal to just a small, ever-shrinking, myopic and increasingly obsolete GOP base? Just what are Republicans so afraid of then? Why is it that they clearly reject him when speaking candidly and viscerally about the future direction of the party, only to later tuck tail between legs, retract, parse and apologize? The answer is simple: they fear the shitstorm Limbaugh will relentlessly and mercilessly unleash before his alleged 22-million punishing listeners at election time if they don't.
Thanks to these spineless GOP leaders, and much to the delight of Obama, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Democrats everywhere, Limbaugh's become the Party's Tony Soprano. To be sure, he's clearly getting off on the power trip and, much like his TV counterpart, will bloody anyone who gets in his way. And that makes the left quite happy. With Limbaugh steering the ship, there's sure to be another Republican Titanic in 2010.
Sunday, March 01, 2009
What a political week it was. In just the span of a few days, Americans watched as President Barack Obama addressed a joint session of Congress for the first time; defended his $787-billion stimulus plan; and presented his massive $3.6-trillion budget. Oh, and we also witnessed the cartoon-character-like implosion of once-rising GOP star Bobby Jindal, the Governor of Louisiana.
Let's start with the fun stuff and Jindal, who gave the requisite Republican response to Obama's speech to lawmakers. In a performance that could've been mistaken for a guest spot on Sesame Street, the Governor's delivery was jarringly over-animated. He came off kooky and sounded like he was explaining the birds and the bees to a bunch of 1st graders. Sorry, but after this on-air trainwreck, the only way Jindal's gonna ever occupy the White House is if he and Dennis Kucinich stage a coup.
What Republicans are up in arms over is the unprecedented spending plan Obama's presented to lift the country out of its economic woes. Now this may come as a shock to our friends on the right, but America's in the middle of the worst financial meltdown since the Great Depression. It's a perfect-storm: consumers aren't spending, banks aren't lending, and the Fed's standard monetary policy fixes have failed. What's required is a swift and aggressive shift in the government's fiscal policy, the road on which Obama's daringly embarked. What we're dealing with here is not some run-of-the-mill recession nor, as some conservative talking heads like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh would like us to believe, is it a creation of Democrats' imagination. Our economy is in crisis. Dire straights. We need to stop the hemorrhaging and begin a recovery soon or the economy will sink into an abyss so deep and not seen in 80 years.
In his radio address to the nation Saturday, Obama reminded voters of one major fact: "I didn’t come here to do the same thing we’ve been doing or to take small steps forward. I came to provide the sweeping change that this country demanded when it went to the polls in November."
And that's precisely what the president's doing with both his stimulus bill and the budget. He's operating in full-blown Keynesian mode, using the power and resources of the federal government to stimulate the economy, increase demand for goods and services, reduce unemployment and avoid deflation. Republicans almost uniformly disagree with this strategy, but they've had the better part of the last 22 years to experiment with Reagan/Bush/Bush's supply-side/trickle-down policies. Judging from the current state of the economy, simply giving tax breaks to the rich because they're the engine that supposedly drives the economy is a misguided, unproven and self-serving strategy.
George Bush took eight years to wreak havoc on the nation's economy. Americans, especially Obama's harshest critics on the right, would be best served if he were given more than just his first month in office before the 'nattering nabobs of negativism' claim his failure. He's simply doing what he was elected to do and what he said he would do. Will it work? Who knows. To be sure, he is banking his presidency and therefore his legacy on it. But if history has taught us anything, it's that America's greatest presidents have been true visionaries. Neither Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln or FDR played it safe or by the book. In due time we'll know whether Obama's big-government solution will put him in such excellent company.
Had a good time over at FoxNews last week. Was a lively, spirited roundtable discussion on Obama, Iraq, health care, the budget and more. I'm headed back into the "Strategy Room" studio tomorrow... Monday March 2nd.... for the 1-2PM EST hour. The program is available live at www.foxnews.com/strategyroom. I hope you'll tune in....