Friday, May 17, 2013

Is the Scandal-Obsessed Republican Party Sounding It's Death Knell?

Imagine a Washington, D.C. where Republicans came to work each day fired up with renewed passion and zeal. A Congress where energized Republicans legislated in bi-partisan fashion on behalf of the American people. Imagine them joining with Democrats to enact meaningful health care, immigration, gun safety, education, environmental and economic measures. In short, imagine them actually doing the job voters sent them to do.

Instead, as it rabidly swirls in an intoxicating vortex of Obama administration scandals, the reinvigorated GOP's using all it's fervency and resources on a desperate effort to fully obstruct government, undermine President Obama and perhaps, in its fanatical extreme, impeach him as well. We have not seen the Republican Party this frothy and excited since Barney Frank retired.

The administration's been fighting accusations of government incompetence, overreach and even corruption as the president defends himself from myriad controversies that have unprecedentedly surfaced simultaneously in a perfect shitstorm. They include the Benghazi terror attack of September 11, 2012; the IRS's targeting of the Tea Party and other conservative tax-exempt organizations; and the seizure by the Justice Department of phone logs of Associated Press reporters. Throw in military sexual abuse cases; GOP filibustering of Obama cabinet appointees; and a pitch for cash to private insurers by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to promote ObamaCare...and the Oval Office has more so than ever become a terribly vexing place for the president.         

To be sure, Republicans resemble greedy, spoiled-rotten kids in a candy store as they attempt to bring down Obama which, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell boasted three years ago, has been their number-one priority since '08...sparing no amount of time, expense or political cost to the country. There are more Congressional inquiries and investigations than at any time in recent history. There is zero focus on the business of governing, and 100% commitment to doing through partisan witch-hunting what these frustrated, angry losers couldn't do through elections: defeat Obama and Democrats.

It's a very calculated risk the party leadership is taking now, and one which could result in greater obsolescence and irrelevance if it backfires, which it likely will. Which is why House Speaker John Boehner and other key Republicans are reportedly cautioning the party's venomous members against overreaching in its self-serving probes. I suspect Boehner, who already has his eye on the humiliating 9% Republican Congressional approval rating, does not want his legacy to mirror that of late 90's Speaker Newt Gingrich, who was dealt a crushing political blow following the exhaustive, polarizing investigations and impeachment of Bill Clinton.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The GOP's Benghazi Witch Hunt: A Solution in Search of a Problem

The Republican feeding frenzy masquerading as an investigation into the Benghazi, Libya terror attack is nothing more than a shameless witch hunt manufactured to derail Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. Prominent right-wingers are rapaciously devouring this alleged scandal in the hope that it not only tarnishes President Obama's counter-terrorism record but keeps his former Secretary of State out of the Oval Office in four years. The cries of "cover-up" is partisan politics at its worst.

"I think this is, Sean, one of the worst cover-ups, probably in the history of the republic," said Liz Cheney to Fox's Sean Hannity. Let's not ignore the irony in that it is Cheney's father, former vice president Dick Cheney, who prosecuted one of the most ill-conceived, ill-advised, unjust wars in American history. "We are not talking about a policy that went awry here, we are talking about an ambassador and three other Americans who were killed. We are talking about a nation under attack."   

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) wrote an op-ed in The Washington Times last Friday that said Clinton should “never hold high office again.”
Karl Rove's American Crossroads has an incendiary television spot charging that the attack occurred "on Hillary Clinton's Watch." 

The over-the-top rhetoric is targeted to Obama as well, with Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) suggesting that the president could be impeached over what he alleged was the “greatest cover-up in American history. People may be starting to use the I-word before too long. Of all the great cover-ups in history — the Pentagon papers, Iran-Contra, Watergate, all the rest of them — this ... is going to go down as most egregious cover-up in American history.” 

And former GOP presidential candidate and talk-show host Mike Huckabee said last week that Obama "will not fill out his full term."

The truth is, the average American likely knows more about Ben Affleck than it does Benghazi. And three years is an awful lot of time in politics. House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who's heading the probe into the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. Embassy, is delusional if he thinks voters will ultimately hold Clinton personally liable for the death of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. For this narrative to play out, and given the tightness of recent elections, it would require a critical amount of Democrats, not just Fox-friendly conservatives, to move the needle from her. Not very likely.   

Leading the charge with Issa is Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz, who's accused Clinton of putting politics before the nation's security needs...saying the country was "misled at every step." Putting politics before security is something Chaffetz knows a lot about. If he really wants to talk about what is misleading, he can start with the fact that it was he and his fellow House Republicans who've critically cut funding for U.S. embassy security since 2010.
As the Washington Post's Dana Milbank wrote last fall: "For fiscal 2013, the GOP-controlled House proposed spending $1.934 billion for the State Department's Worldwide Security Protection program -- well below the $2.15 billion requested by the Obama administration. House Republicans cut the administration's request for embassy security funding by $128 million in fiscal 2011 and $331 million in fiscal 2012. ...Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that Republicans' proposed cuts to her department would be "detrimental to America's national security" -- a charge Republicans rejected."

When pressed by former CNN anchor Soledad O'Brien about whether he pushed for these cuts Chaffetz replied: "Absolutely. Look we have to make priorities and choices in this country. We have…15,000 contractors in Iraq. We have more than 6,000 contractors, a private army there, for President Obama, in Baghdad. And we’re talking about can we get two dozen or so people into Libya to help protect our forces. When you’re in tough economic times, you have to make difficult choices. You have to prioritize things.”

Which makes Chaffetz's role in the current "investigation" mind-numbingly hypocritical and contemptible. It's an insult to the intelligence of every American and an unconscionable abuse of the political process. 

Not political theater you say? From 2002-2008, when George W. Bush occupied the White House, there were at least ten other terrorist attacks on U.S. embassies, consulates and compounds abroad in which sixty Americans were killed. I don't recall the righteous indignation and outrage from Republicans then.

Most reprehensible is how conservatives since last September have relentlessly attacked Obama during this time of national crisis. This runs counter to how the entire nation, including Democrats, rallied around Bush after the 9-11 attacks. Republicans used Benghazi before the last election for political purposes and are now setting the stage for the next one.

If only the GOP would've conducted such an aggressive investigation into the Bush administration's manufacturing of WMD evidence to justify its craven rush to war in Iraq. If they had, perhaps Bush, Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the war's chief architects, would be in jail. Some perspective is important here: a terrible tragedy, for sure, but four people died in Benghazi. In the Iraq war 4500 American soldiers died, not to mention the tens of thousands of others, including Iraqis, killed or maimed. Yet Washington never witnessed such outrage and a quest for the truth from Republicans, whose disingenuous motives on Benghazi are now utterly transparent.

There's no question that Obama believed the Benghazi attack was the work of terrorists. In a Rose Garden speech the day after the violence, alongside Clinton, he very pointedly referred to it as "an act of terror."  (For the record, during a visit to Washington Hospital Center on September 13, 2001, just two days after the World Trade Center attacks, Bush described the incident as an "unbelievable act of terror."). 

And in her now infamous, State Department career-ending interview on Meet the Press September 16, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice stated it was the administration's early belief that the Benghazi attack was a "spontaneous reaction" and the the result of a "hateful and offensive video that was widely disseminated throughout the Arab and Muslim world." 
But when pressed further by host David Gregory, she added: "First of all, there’s an FBI investigation which is ongoing.  And we look to that investigation to give us the definitive word as to what transpired...What we think then transpired in Benghazi is that opportunistic extremist elements came to the consulate as this was unfolding.  They came with heavy weapons which unfortunately are readily available in post revolutionary Libya.  And it escalated into a much more violent episode.  Obviously, that’s-- that’s our best judgment now.  We’ll await the results of the investigation."

Excuse my righteous indignation, but what the fuck is wrong with waiting a couple of weeks for an investigation to more fully flush out the details before a rush to judgement? Especially after the country was  lied into a devastatingly costly 8-year war by Republicans who were so quick to judge and place blame (wrongly, I might add), even in the absence of evidence? Between Obama, Rice, the State Department, the CIA, the FBI and others, no one was denying the role that terrorists played in the Benghazi attack. Rather, the Obama team responsibly chose to reserve drawing conclusions as to the specific who, what, where, when and how of it all until the facts could be determined.   

On September 19, three days after Rice's Sunday morning television appearances, Obama dispatched the head of the National Counterterrorism Center, Matt Olsen, "up to Capitol Hill and specifically said it was an act of terrorism and that extremist elements inside of Libya had been involved in it....Who executes some sort of cover-up or effort to tamp things down for three days? So the whole thing defies logic.” 

Exactly. It defies logic. But what it doesn't defy is reality....which is that Republicans remain angry and frustrated after two bruising elections and a loss of power, and are rabid in their quest to undermine and take down this president and Hillary Clinton at any and all cost, regardless of the toll it takes on America.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Republican Party is Dead

The United States has a two-term black president. Gay marriage bills are passing all over the country. A majority of voters support sweeping immigration legislation. Organized religion is facing more challenges than ever. And most Americans favor stiffer gun laws and a hands-off abortion policy. Yet the Republican Party appears more racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic and religiously fanatical than during the McCarthy era.

The GOP remains stuck in the '50's. They desperately cling to their over-romanticized version of "Mad Men" America, when rich white men ruled the day, when blacks knew their place, Hispanics were household servants, women were barefoot and pregnant, and gays were closeted. A time when it was ok to call a black man "boy," a gay man "fag" and a woman "sweetheart,"...accompanied, of course, by a harmless pinch or slap of the ass.

Despite the country's rapidly shifting demographics and social attitudes--a healthy move towards racial, religious and sexual tolerance--the GOP has boxed itself into a corner. There are patterns they simply cannot break. Ideals they can't divorce from. Rhetoric they can't  stop espousing. They just can't help themselves.

Evidenced by the results of the last couple of elections, the GOP, whose voice has been hijacked and whose platform has been dictated by its extreme right-wing Tea Party fringe, has become totally irrelevant. Yes, through fervent intransigence and obstructionism they've been a potent force for President Obama and Democrats to reckon with, and they've successfully thwarted his ability to carry out his agenda. As Senate Minority Leader proclaimed in 2010, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."  But it's precisely this toxic partisanship and single-mindedness that's losing them elections and making them obsolete in the long-term. They may be winning some battles, but they're most definitely losing the war.

It's not difficult to imagine a few years from now a political landscape controlled by a Democratic dynasty, where the only Republicans left in office come from states and districts where the small minority of folks who voted for them share their ignorant, intolerant 1950's ideals. And when that day comes the party will have "visionaries" such as Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Joe Wilson, Sarah Palin and Todd Akin to thank.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

South Carolinians: WTF!!??

A funny thing happened on the way to the polls in South Carolina Tuesday. Voters in what Gallup cites as the sixth most religious state in the country re-elected Republican Mark Sanford, an Episcopalian, to the congressional seat he held from 1995-2001. If you don't follow politics too closely this wouldn't seem unusual. But this was no ordinary election, and no ordinary victory, because Sanford is the disgraced, nearly impeached, former governor of this apparently amnesic and/or hypocritical state.

For a week during June 2009 Sanford disappeared...about as AWOL as National Guardsman George W. Bush in '72 Alabama. Ostensibly hiking the Appalachian Trail, which is what he told his family, staff and security detail, he was incommunicado for days, even failing to call home on Father's Day. But when he was discovered by a reporter at the airport in Atlanta returning to the U.S. from an overseas flight, the story became a national sensation. Hours later he confessed that he'd in fact flown to Argentina to be with his mistress, María Belén Chapur, in what he characterized as a passionate, loving relationship with his "soul mate"...unlike the many other "line crossings" he had engaged in with other women during his 20-year marriage. The affair was a humiliating blow to his wife Jenny and four young children, and a crushing disappointment to voters.

But it apparently wasn't that upsetting to Sanford's very forgiving constituents, who handed him a 10-point victory against Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, sister of television's political satirist Stephen Colbert, in the state's special election. And there's something very troubling about how quickly his abhorrent, deceitful, selfish behavior has been absolved by the very same people who vehemently attack the morals and ethics of President Obama, a deeply religious, faithful family man who, unlike Sanford, lives his life according to the principles they piously embrace, and who doesn't just talk the talk as do hypocrites like Sanford. What's wrong with this picture?

Judging from the outcome of Tuesday's contest, it seems that Sanford, South Carolina's devout citizens and God herself surely work in very mysterious ways.... (Anthony Weiner and Elliot Spitzer, are you listening?)