October 16, 2012

Bill Clinton Has One Last Golden Opportunity to Screw America

You might think Bill Clinton had already done enough for this country. After all, he provided al Qaeda's motivation for 9/11 by keeping U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, strangling Iraq, and supporting the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. He teed up the Iraq war for George Bush by taking constantly about Saddam's terrifying WMD and signing the Iraq Liberation Act. He deregulated Wall Street, setting the stage for a worldwide economic collapse. And he hollowed out the Democratic party and U.S. left so thoroughly that there was essentially no resistance to Bush.

But some people feel he still has more to give. This is from a long New York Magazine article about Clinton and Obama:

Joel Johnson [a top Clinton aide during his administration and now a D.C. lobbyist] believes Clinton could help Obama (assuming he wins) with a renewed pursuit of a grand bargain on entitlements and taxes as Washington grapples right after the election with the so-called fiscal cliff. “It’s no secret that Obama was ready to go pretty far out on entitlement reform with Boehner,” says Johnson. “Who better to be a thought leader about that process than Clinton? In terms of making some of the hard decisions that Democrats are gonna have to make, and being able to talk about the beauty of a budget deal and what it can do for the economy. So I actually think he will have a postelection role in that intense period. The same credibility that he demonstrated in the convention speech can be applied to the legislative crisis that we’re going to be in in the next six to eight months.”

The idea of Clinton doing just that, or assisting his wife on her way to the White House, is appealing on a multitude of levels...

Would Clinton want to do this? Of course he would. You may remember his chummy discussion with Paul Ryan about cutting Medicare. And he was eager to work with Newt Gingrich to privatize Social Security until the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke. He'd be chomping at the bit to fly one last mission.

— Jon Schwarz

Posted at 02:35 PM | Comments (8)

October 15, 2012

How Paul Ryan Is Like Madeleine Albright and John Brennan (also, Saddam Hussein)

If you hate ever being asked tough questions — i.e., ones where an honest answer would make you look horrible – you should definitely go into American politics. The U.S. media is awesome at putting together video promos with Brian Williams where he furrows his brow and crosses his arms skeptically and says "We ask the tough questions," but they're incredibly bad at actually asking those questions.

But against all odds, it does sometimes happen. If you're a politician, what do you do then? I mean, obviously you're not going to actually answer the question.

The solution is: look very concerned, and say: I wish we had enough time to delve into this complicated issue.

That's what Paul Ryan recently did when he was asked how the Romney/Ryan tax plan could cut tax rates by 20% across the board yet somehow not reduce government revenue:

CHRIS WALLACE: So how much would it cost?

RYAN: It’s revenue neutral…

WALLACE: But I have to point out, you haven’t given me the math.

Ryan: No, but you…well, I don’t have the time. It would take me too long to go through all of the math.

It's also what John Brennan, Obama's top counterterrorism advisor, did when he was asked why al Qaeda wants to kill us:

HELEN THOMAS: And what is [Al Qaeda's] motivation? We never hear what you find out on why.

BRENNAN: Al Qaeda is an organization that is dedicated to murder and wanton slaughter of innocents. ... it’s because of an al-Qaeda organization that used the banner of religion in a very perverse and corrupt way.


BRENNAN: I think this is a – long issue, but al-Qaeda is just determined to carry out attacks here against the homeland.

THOMAS: But you haven't explained why.

And it's what Madeleine Albright, then Secretary of State, did at a town hall in Columbus in 1998:

QUESTION: I have a question for Secretary Albright. Why bomb Iraq when other countries have committed similar violations? For example, Turkey has bombed Kurdish citizens. Saudi Arabia has tortured political and religious dissidents. Why does the U.S. apply different standards of justice to these countries? What do you have to say about dictators of countries like Indonesia, who we sell weapons to, yet they are slaughtering people in East Timor?


ALBRIGHT: Let me answer that. I suggest, sir, that you study carefully what American foreign policy is, what we have said exactly about the cases that you have mentioned. Every one of them has been pointed out. Every one of them we have clearly stated our policy on. And if you would like, as a former professor, I would be delighted to spend 50 minutes with you describing exactly what we are doing on those subjects.

In dictatorships it works pretty much the same way, except that instead of politicians being asked tough questions once every ten years, it only happens when they're captured and put on trial for war crimes:

Yesterday in Baghdad Saddam was called to account for the crimes, but he remained defiant...

Asked to plead guilty or innocent on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity, Saddam offered brazen defiance. "That would require volumes of books," he answered.

So there you have it: Paul, John, Madeleine and Saddam absolutely want to answer your tough question, but they're very very busy people and unfortunately have to leave immediately for their next engagement. Sorry.

—Jon Schwarz

Posted at 04:45 PM | Comments (5)

October 06, 2012

How Crazy Are Right-Wing Corporate Zillionaires? This Crazy

This is from "Transaction Man: Mormonism, private equity, and the making of a candidate" in the New Yorker last week:

"The private sector is less forgiving," [Romney] said. "If you make serious mistakes in the private sector, you'll lose your job, or, if you're in a position of responsibility, you might lose other people's jobs. In politics, politicians make mistakes all the time and blame their opposition, or borrow more money, or raise taxes to pay for their mistake. In the business world, the ability to speak fast and convincingly is of very little value. I remember the first time I met Jack Welch. I expected him to be a super-salesman. Instead, he spoke quietly, somewhat haltingly, but brilliantly. Stuff matters a lot more than fluff in the private sector."

Jack Welch today on a Bureau of Labor Statistics report saying unemployment has fallen to 7.8%:

Welch has stood by this tweet, saying "I wasn't kidding."

Now here's Welch on MSNBC's Morning Joe, back on July 3, 2008:

BRZEZINSKI: Now, we have one more opinion page to get to. Jack, what did you choose?...

WELCH: I brought this from yesterday's Wall Street Journal," page A-15. The title of it is "Global Warming as Mass Neurosis"...what they’re saying is, NASA has changed some of their numbers. Some of the hottest days, they have a lot of technical numbers here to show you that NASA overstated what's happening. But then they go on to try and explain this is a movement. Global warming as a movement. And they’ve got a theological basis for it, they’ve got a sociological basis for it and they got a psychological basis for it. And they got an argument that states that global warming is the attack on capitalism, that socialism couldn't bring, and that other movements couldn't bring. It's the same crowd that brought you out of control population. It's a very thoughtful piece. And it's on A-15. Anybody who even hasn't even had their mind completely jammed shut on global warming has to read it. Has to read it....This is a thoughtful guy taking a position, not some politician running for office.

Between them, Mitt Romney and Jack Welch are worth about a billion dollars.

In fairness to Welch, though, Republicans have traditionally believed in conspiracies at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the past, these conspiracies were run by a cabal of Jews:

In July 1971, dogged by rising unemployment and inflation, Nixon imagined the existence of a “Jewish cabal” involving Federal Reserve Chairman Arthur F. Burns and the Bureau of Labor Statistics...

[A]lone with Colson, Nixon said, "Well, listen, are they all Jews over there?"

"Every one of them," Colson said. "Well, a couple of exceptions."

"See, the Jews are all through the government, and we have got to get in those areas. We’ve got to get a man in charge who is not Jewish ... The government is full of Jews. Second, most Jews are disloyal...you can’t trust the bastards. They turn on you.”

And indeed, the Daily Caller is still concerned that the Bureau of Labor Statistics may be getting a bit too Jewy. However, Welch has not said anything along these lines, which I guess is progress.

(Daily Caller story via Irin Carmon.)

—Jon Schwarz

Posted at 05:33 AM | Comments (38)

October 03, 2012

Apotheosis of Insignficance

By: John Caruso

Who will win tonight's debate: black Romney or white Romney? Unwitting kabuki fans everywhere are feverish with anticipation.

Posted at 04:52 PM | Comments (21)

October 02, 2012

Citizens United Decision Was Complete Bullshit, According to Billionaires Who Love Citizens United

This was the funniest part of the Supreme Court's Citizens United opinion back in 2010:

[W]e now conclude that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption…The appearance of influence or access, furthermore, will not cause the electorate to lose faith in our democracy.

So how are those claims holding up two years later? You can find the answer in a New Yorker magazine article about why America's billionaires despise Barack Obama. (Spoiler alert: they're insane.) Much of it's about Leon Cooperman, a hedge fund manager:

One night last May, some twenty financiers and politicians met for dinner in the Tuscany private dining room at the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas...The richest man in the room was Leon Cooperman, a Bronx-born, sixty-nine-year-old billionaire...he has gained notice beyond Wall Street over the past year for his outspoken criticism of President Obama. Cooperman formalized his critique in a letter to the President late last year which was widely circulated in the business community; in an interview and in a speech, he has gone so far as to draw a parallel between Obama’s election and the rise of the Third Reich.

The dinner was the highlight of the fourth annual SkyBridge Alternatives Conference, known as SALT, a convention orchestrated by the fund manager Anthony Scaramucci; it brings together fund managers with brand-name speakers and journalists for four days of talking and partying…

Scaramucci, the organizer of the dinner, told me the next day that the guests had witnessed the “activation” of a “sleeper cell” of hedge-fund managers against Obama. “That’s what you see happening in the hedge-fund community, because they now have the power, because of Citizens United, to aggregate capital into political-action committees and to influence the debate,” he said…“If there’s a pope of this movement, it’s Lee Cooperman.”

There were also politicians there—but if you guessed they were Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, you'd be wrong. It was Al Gore and Antonio Villaraigosa, mayor of Los Angeles and chairman of the 2012 Democratic convention.

The article portrays Gore as somewhat standoffish. But not Villaraigosa:

Cooperman had come to the dinner to give Gore a copy of the letter he’d written to President Obama. “I’d like you to read this,” he told the former Vice-President. “You owe me a small favor. I voted for you,” he said, referring to Gore’s Presidential run, in 2000.

In the letter, Cooperman argued that Obama has needlessly antagonized the rich by making comments that are hostile to economic success. The prose, rife with compound metaphors and righteous indignation, is a good reflection of Cooperman’s table talk. “The divisive, polarizing tone of your rhetoric is cleaving a widening gulf, at this point as much visceral as philosophical, between the downtrodden and those best positioned to help them,” Cooperman wrote. “It is a gulf that is at once counterproductive and freighted with dangerous historical precedents.”

At the dinner, Al Gore was diplomatic when presented with the letter...[Orin] Kramer, the hedge-fund manager and Obama fund-raiser, was quiet, but others in the room were enthusiastic. Villaraigosa gave Cooperman his direct phone number.

So here's what we're supposed to believe:

1. Billionaires will get together in Las Vegas to plan political strategy—and their honored guests aren't Republicans, but Democrats.

2. The hedge fund managers at the meeting openly talk about how, thanks to Citizens United, they're forming a "sleeper cell" to "aggregate capital." The head of this sleeper cell will be a guy who compares Barack Obama to Hitler.

3. The mayor of Los Angeles, who's going to be running the Democratic National Convention in three months, will give his direct phone number to the guy who compares Barack Obama to Hitler.

4. Nevertheless, none of this gives rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption, or will cause Americans to lose faith in our democracy.

I think it's fair to say that we've now heard from the mouth of the billionaires themselves, the ones who love Citizens United so much, that the Citizens United decision was total garbage.

I actually have some sympathy for Gore and Villaraigosa. It's almost impossible to accomplish anything in U.S. politics today without going to meetings like this and trying to mollify the billionaires and their universe-sized egos. But Villaraigosa in particular should answer a few questions: Did this really happen? (The answer's yes, since when asked about it by the LA Weekly he refused to comment). How many people have his direct number? Of those, how many like to compare Obama to Hitler? And does he agree with the Supreme Court that stuff like this shouldn't make Americans at all suspicious?

(The New Yorker article is by Chrystia Freeland of Reuters, who's written a book coming out soon called Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else.)

—Jon Schwarz

Posted at 11:01 PM | Comments (6)