Who’s Right? Who Cares-Hypocrisy, Gay Rights, and the Wheels Of Inevitability

Lest I be accused of being a hypocrite, I’ve always held one belief-I don’t care what a politicians motives are, I care what they do. So, with Republican Senator Rob Portman supporting gay marriage, I’ll chalk that up as a victory. I have many family and friends who are gay and I see what not having the same legal rights as straight couples does. One more vote for gay marriage is a good thing.

That being said, I hardly consider Portman a profile in courage. His support has to do with his son being gay. Before then, he had no problem supporting gay marriage bans as recently as 2010. Only after his son came out did he decide to support his marriage equality-and even this took two years. Last year, he was a possible Vice Presidential nominee and, given Romney’s campaign was more anti-gay rights than Bush’s 2004 campaign, he couldn’t possibly expect to be on the bottom of the ticket with a position drastically different than the guy at the top. Once again, I’m glad there’s another vote for marriage equality in the Senate. I just don’t want to praise the guy.

With this in mind, the false equivalency of Obama and Portman Glenn Greenwald has made really does piss me off. In one tweet, Greenwald brings up the two flaws his arguments constantly have. The first is the obsession with Obama and ignoring all the other factors at play. It’s true, as mistermix said in the article I just linked to, Obama’s decision was largely based on political calculations. However, how did it get to the point of Obama endorsing gay marriage and bringing his party with him? It took decades of campaigning from gay rights activists. They weren’t just let into the party-they had to kick down the damn door. It wasn’t that long ago when Democrats just wanted any issue involving gay rights to just go away. It took relentless campaigning and lobbying and organizing to get their message across. The Wheels of of Inevitability didn’t just roll in on gay rights-there were plenty of set backs along the way (Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was a direct violation of Clinton’s campaign promises, Proposition 8 succeed when 6 months before the vote it was going to go down in flames). Yet those activists who campaigned for gay rights didn’t give up the struggle-they kept on slogging away till one political party lived up to its legacy when it came to civil rights. Obama has always claimed to be a supporter of gay rights-his supporters forced him to live up to that. Portman’s only concern is about the well-being of his family. Beyond that, he could care less.

The second mistake Greenwald consistently makes is his obsession with hypocrisy. In his tweet, he’s trying to make it sound writers like Markos Moulitsas, Scott Lemieux, Charlie Pierce, Paul Krugman and others sound like hypocrites applying one standard to Portman and another to Obama. The answer to that is…so? Hypocrisy doesn’t prove your opponent is wrong-just inconsistent.

The fact is this-we have one political party that support gay rights and another one that doesn’t. Sure, you’ll get a handful of people who will endorse gay rights but never anything that will bring about change-just today, Speaker Boehner announced his position won’t change on gay marriage. Gay rights was hard fought with the Democrats. The question is-do you want to fight for change or just sit on the sidelines and heckle at those that do?

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Showing Your Work: Who really got Iraq or the market crash right?

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One thing I remember from high school math is to always show your work. The teacher wanted to make sure you knew what you were doing and not merely guessing (or cheating). For example, if the problem was-

3x+2=14

You couldn’t merely write

x=4

You had to show-

3x+2-2=14-2

3x=12

3x/3=12/3

x=4

You get the idea.

As we approach the 10 year anniversary of the Iraq War, I’m quite afraid we’re going to get a lot of people showing us the answer they wrote at the time and claiming they have been vindicated. However, what they won’t show is how they got their answer.

As I look back on the war, I remember the problem a lot of anti-war folks ran into. They began to focus on the tactical mistakes of the war. The problems were-

  • the mission wasn’t international (no UN Flag, not even the backing of NATO)
  • we didn’t have enough troops
  • we made horrible political decisions like firing all Baath Party and firing the army and them replacing them with political hacks from the Republican Party

James Fallows wrote yesterday about how his arguments before the war, while critical, accepted the war was going to happen. Many pundits and policy makers can point to statements they made showing skepticism of how things would play out.

However, all this obsession with tactics underwrote what was the key problem-was invading Iraq necessary? Was Iraq a threat? Is preventative war a good policy? These are much more pressing concerns than troop levels or the members of the occupational authority. As Stephen Walt wrote last year, even with better planning, we probably would have still lost the war. However, now, as back then, no one is really discussing these things.

This reminded me of an article by the normally good Hamilton Nolan about Stanley Druckenmiller and his call for cuts to the social safety net. He cites as Druckenmiller’s authority-

Stanley Druckenmiller predicted the last financial crash (the collapse of the housing bubble) years before it happened

I have seen this many times over the last couple of years. Often I hear some pundit saying or being introduced with “I predicted the housing bubble burst.” Rick Santelli was the worst last week when he claimed Alan Greenspan predicted the burst. However, to quote Jeff Madrick’s Age Of Greed

The bursting of the housing bubble…did not alone nearly bring the nation to the cusp of full-fledged depression. The decline in housing prices would have resulted in reduced consumer spending and a substantial recession in the United States, as many economists had warned, but not the economic catastrophe of late 2007 and 2008. It was the house of cards built on Wall Street greed, unchecked by Washington regulators, that created the nation’s credit crisis…and caused the most severe recession in the United States since the Great Depression. (p.371)

In the case of Druckenmiller, he doesn’t blame regulation, he blames interest rates being too low for the crash and calls on workers to suffer for the sins of Wall Street.

We keep seeing this with people who got the public policy so wrong the last decade-blame some smaller tactical error everyone can agree was wrong (not enough troops to occupy Iraq, giving money to homeowners who couldn’t pay it back), ignore the larger problems with their world view, and keep on giving advice as if nothing happened.

This lack of accountability has led to the people who got things completely wrong to still hold positions of key influence. Kevin Hassett wrote a book before the Dot-Com bubble crash predicting the Dow Jones would reach 36,000 and he was a senior adviser to the Romney campaign. Dan Senor failed miserably in Iraq yet that didn’t prevent him from coming up with foreign policy for Romney. To be bi-partisan, both of Obama’s Secretaries of State and Defense voting for the Iraq War (though they later admitted to their mistakes) and, while Obama’s Treasury Secretary Jack Lew believes we need to deal with unemployment, one cannot blame people for being skeptical about his priorities given he worked for Citibank in the lead up to the crisis.

People make mistakes. Even the most brilliant minds get things wrong. However, it’s important we know your though process going into a decision. Showing us your model or your hypothesis is important. This means if you’re correct, we can and try to apply your methods to dealing with other problems. If you’re wrong, we can look over where you went wrong, and try to get it right. However, pundits and policy makers don’t seem to be interested in showing their work. To them, it’s about covering their own behinds and making sure they keep raking in the money or winning elections.

David Brooks and Power

David Brooks has a new column out involving his “grand bargain” ideas with President Obama.  I won’t go into the details because there is only one important point-

David Brooks cannot deliver a single Republican vote in the House or the Senate.

Nothing else matters.  Even if he had the best ideas on planet Earth, Brooks can’t deliver the votes.  This is true of every other Republican “reformer.” Michael Tomasky wrote on this Saturday-

And the following people will write nothing about [Republican fanaticism]: David Brooks; Ross Douthat; the aforementioned [Peter] Wehner and [Michael] Gerson; Reihan Salam; Yuval Levin; Ramesh Ponnuru. Now I know most of these gentlemen, and I like them. But they’ve been participants to varying degrees in these recent conversations I’m talking about, and frankly, they are wasting their own and their readers’ time.

The Republican caucus cares nothing about detailed policy proposals.  Ted Cruz is a rising star in the Senate thanks to accusing a Republican Vietnam War vet of being in bed with terrorists. John Cornyn and Lindsey Graham are so worried about their employment prospects next year they’ve jumped on-board various far-right ideas. There is no way we will see a new moderate Republican party rally around an expansion of the EITC instead of raising the minimum wage or means-testing Medicare and using the savings to pay down student loans.

What we do see from the David Brooks column is he does care about what one group of people think about him-liberals. In response to Ezra Klein’s take down of him on Friday, he said “Humiliation is a good teacher.” Now you can have a low opinion of him as I do and see him as a wolf in sheep’s clothing but you have to admit he made the fatal mistake when it comes to the right-don’t care about what liberals say about you.  If you get tossed by them in a debate, you complain lefties were lying or ambushed you or didn’t play fair.  You never concede-after all, WOLVERINES!

The problem with “reasonable” Republicans is they have no cred. If they could deliver 20 GOP votes in the House and/or 10 votes in the Senate, they probably would be the most influential force in Washington. The Democratic leadership would bow to their every need. However, all they want to do is to go to the cool parties in DC or NYC or LA and sell tote-bags for NPR. In a way, they’re worse than evil-

They’re Useless…

The Internet Can’t Overcome The Laws Of (Political) Science

Brendan Nyhan does God’s Work by shooting another 3rd Party Fantasy.  What amazes me is how veteran reporters don’t even understand the basics of Political Science 101-

I always love the groups that plan to overtake the 2 Party system with “The Internet!”  Usually, this is going to involve some sort of internet primary to select the candidates and then (A LOT) of internet fundraising.  Usually these groups turn out to be a scam.

If you want 3rd Parties, you need to replace our current system with some form of proportional representation.  The classic example of this would be the Netherlands, where when they wrote their constitution in the 1870s, they made sure Protestants, Catholics, liberals, and socialists would have some form of representation in government.  Of course, this idea is about as popular as an STD (just ask Lani Guinier).

Of course, the biggest problem I’ve noticed with 3rd Parties comes from a conversation I had with my cousin.  He said Michael Bloomberg should run for President on a 3rd Party Ticket.  I said “great, you willing to knock on doors in Ohio for him?”  He replied he wasn’t.  Nothing can substitute the machinery you need to run for office.  Not even the cocked up fantasies of hack reporters…

You Claim To Be A Player: Rubio Is A Symptom

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I have a challenge.  Name me one Republican economic proposal that doesn’t involve cutting taxes, deregulating business or busting unions.

Name one.

Can’t?  Don’t feel bad.  Neither can I.  Honestly, I doubt even the Republicans can.

A lot has been made about Senator Marco Rubio’s water break in the middle of his State of the Union response.  To be fair, I mocked him on Twitter for that.  There is comparisons between that speech and the one Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal gave in 2009.  One speech people are forgetting is when Paul Ryan gave the response in 2011.  As then Congressman Anthony Weiner stated he needed a drink after that speech it was so depressing.

There are many reasons to complain about President Obama.  I do.  However, what ever you may say about his proposals, you must admit he is a public servant trying to implement what he feels are the best public policies to solve real problems.  The same cannot be said of any policy maker in the Republican Party.

Rubio, like Ryan and Jindal, is a rising star in the party.  While everyone conceded giving the response to the State of the Union is hard, people were genuinely hyping up Rubio.  The greatest was when former McCain adviser said Rubio was modern because “he knows who Tupac is.”  Tupac died 17 years ago.  I doubt Wallace wanted to talk about how Rubio defaulted on his mortgage during his Senate campaign or how he tells Catholics, Evangelicals and Mormons he belongs to their church depending on the audience.

The reality is you can’t find any good candidates in the rigid doctrine that is conservatism.  In order to be a conservative, you have to believe the world is falling apart.  You have to think everyone outside the US is depressed because their big intrusive government is destroying your dreams.  You have to believe in Obama’s America, jack-booted government thugs are coming to take your money and your guns and are destroying your vary way of life.  It requires you to ignore the last 30 years when your ideas were implemented and failed disastrously.

More importantly, it requires you not to care about anyone else.  One of the least talked about incidences in the State of the Union was Speaker John Boehner’s response to Desiline Victor.  Victor was the 102 year old African American woman who waited 6 hours in line to vote last year.  Having lived in a time when women and blacks were not allowed to vote, it is quite shocking she had to wait that long.  She received the standing ovation she deserved from the Democrats in the chamber.  What did she get from the highest-ranking Republican?  Nothing-he just sat there, not giving a damn.  She wasn’t going to vote Republican, why should he care?

As much as we may dismiss critiques of style in speeches, style comes from substance.  Even after electoral defeats, Republicans refuse to believe people have rejected their world view.  Instead, they crawl deeper into their bunker, living in a world where everything is falling apart.  If I lived in that world, I’d need a drink too…

Clown Car Pileup

There is a piece by Howard Fineman about Karl Rove’s fall from grace. The focus is on Rove promoting “moderate” candidates over more conservative ones throughout most of his career. While the Fineman makes it look like Rove played the base, he fails to point out one fact-conservatives have tolerated apostates.

People like to point out Reagan raised taxes. Also health care was expanded under Newt Gingrich via SCHIP and George W pushed through the biggest expansion of Medicare with his prescription drug program. Yet, conservative voters didn’t punish these Republicans for their unorthodoxy. The base has and will continue to vote for whoever the GOP nominates.

What ultimately did Rove in was one simple fact-he lost. 2012 was suppose to be a banner year for Republicans. They had a Democratic incumbent who was presiding over the worst economy since the 1930s and almost unlimited spending power. However, not only did Obama win reelection but the Democrats gained seats in the Senate and Republicans only held onto the House thanks to redistricting. In Karl they trusted and they lost.

The lesson Rove took away from defeat was optics-if only Republicans had nominated people who didn’t say stupid things-like Akin and Mourdock’s comments regarding rape-Republicans would have done great. So, with his vast resources, Rove decided to keep a lid on the crazies like Steve King of Iowa. However, to the base, Rove lecturing the Iowa GOP on winnability was like Tim Tebow giving quarterback advice. So, Rove has backed down and people are already dancing on his grave.

What always amazes me about these Establishment Republicans is how little they understand the monster they’ve created. Rove, and his buddy Lee Atwater, made the basis of Republican philosophy simple-put people against other people. Whether it was white against black, men against women, employer against employee, the strategy was divide and conquer. The key to their success was to properly stereotype their opponent. Welfare queens, lazy unions, educated snobs, effeminate gays-they all were the enemy. I remember their message on abortion very well-a partying slut gets knocked up and, 7 months into the pregnancy, she decides to lazily opt-out. With caricatures like that, how could you not be a conservative?

Yet, times change. People want to see women in control of their bodies. People have friends and family who are black or brown or gay. More and more young people are tired of the culture war and the drug war. Religion matters less and less. More and more, people are concerned about rising inequality and how people my age will have less than our parents did. The conservative solution to any economic problem is cut taxes, deregulate business and bust unions. Only we’ve tried that for the last 30 years and growth has been slower yet more concentrated at the top.

Guys like Rove have told conservatives they could have live in their make-believe world (remember, it was most likely Rove who popularized the term “reality-based community”) and still win elections. All they had to do was put a guy who could fake caring about broader issues and throw a bone to non-conservatives once in awhile and they’d be alright. However, the groups of people conservatives managed to piss off grew bigger and bigger and now make up the majority of the electorate. All the GOP has is structural flaws they can exploit (like gerrymandering) and the backing of major donors. However, in time, even these advantages will fade.

Karl Rove is a grifter, a huckster, and a charlatan. However, in politics, he is hardly the first and will hardly be the last. What Rove’s real sin was creating a major political party based on fear, hatred, and anger towards “the other.” Something tells me he is not going to be punished for that and this rage isn’t going to go away any time soon…

Nope-it’s still about guns

I’ll make this quick-

Maybe it’s just me but it seems the pro-gun lobby has really been hitting the mental health angle a lot recently. I keep hearing “the real thing we need to stop shootings is to fix our mental health system.”

I’m all in favor of fixing it but this is not that hard to understand-

People with powerful guns kill a lot more people than people without powerful guns.

If Adam Landza had gone into Sandy Hook with a knife, or a hunting riffle or even with a gun with just 10 rounds, would there have been the same amount of casualties? Sure, let’s fix our mental health system. However, if you want to reduce gun violence, there is no other way than to reduce access to powerful guns…