Sunday, October 31, 2010
But it's difficult to gauge how many people attended and event like "The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear." Even The Wall Street Journal hesitated in placing the number, but they noted that about 229,000 Facebook users sent RSVPs for the event.
Turns out that number is pretty close to accurate, according to an estimate commissioned by CBS News which cites AirPhotosLive.com for the data. CBS paid the same company to apply the same counting methodology to Glenn Beck's rally in August, placing attendance at 87,000.
For Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, both whom thrive on satirizing the more absurd elements of cable news media and especially the controversial and dramatic Fox News opinion host, their rally was more than twice as large, at an estimated 215,000.
This aerial photo was featured on Reddit.com. Click for larger version.
Saturday, October 30, 2010
ONE dirty little secret of the 2010 election is that it won’t be a political tragedy for Democrats if a Tea Party icon like Sharron Angle or Joe Miller ends up in the United States Senate. Angle, now synonymous with racist ads sliming Hispanics, and Miller, already on record threatening a government shutdown, are fired up and ready to go as symbols of G.O.P. extremism for 2012 and beyond.
What’s not so secret is that some Republicans will be just as happy if some of these characters lose, and for the same reason.
But whatever Tuesday’s results, this much is certain: The Tea Party’s hopes for actually affecting change in Washington will start being dashed the morning after. The ordinary Americans in this movement lack the numbers and financial clout to muscle their way into the back rooms of Republican power no matter how well their candidates perform.
Trent Lott, the former Senate leader and current top-dog lobbyist, gave away the game in July. “We don’t need a lot of Jim DeMint disciples,” he said, referring to the South Carolina senator who is the Tea Party’s Capitol Hill patron saint. “As soon as they get here, we need to co-opt them.” It’s the players who wrote the checks for the G.O.P. surge, not those earnest folk in tri-corner hats, who plan to run the table in the next corporate takeover of Washington. Though Tom DeLay may now be on trial for corruption in Texas, the spirit of his K Street lives on in a Lott client list that includes Northrop Grumman and Goldman Sachs.
Karl Rove outed the Republican elites’ contempt for Tea Partiers in the campaign’s final stretch. Much as Barack Obama thought he was safe soliloquizing about angry white Middle Americans clinging to “guns or religion” at a San Francisco fund-raiser in 2008, so Rove now parades his disdain for the same constituency when speaking to the European press. This month he told Der Spiegel that Tea Partiers are “not sophisticated,” and then scoffed, “It’s not like these people have read the economist Friedrich August von Hayek.” Given that Glenn Beck has made a cause of putting Hayek’s dense 1944 antigovernment treatise “The Road to Serfdom” on the best-seller list and Tea Partiers widely claim to have read it, Rove could hardly have been more condescending to “these people.” Last week, for added insult, he mocked Sarah Palin’s imminent Discovery Channel reality show to London’s Daily Telegraph.
This animus has not gone unnoticed among those supposedly less sophisticated conservatives back home. Mike Huckabee, still steamed about Rove’s previous put-down of Christine O’Donnell, publicly lamented the Republican establishment’s “elitism” and “country club attitude.” This country club elite, he said, is happy for Tea Partiers to put up signs, work the phones and make “those pesky little trips” door-to-door that it finds a frightful inconvenience. But the members won’t let the hoi polloi dine with them in the club’s “main dining room” — any more than David H. Koch, the billionaire sugar daddy of the Republican right, will invite O’Donnell into his box at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center to take in “The Nutcracker.”
The main dining room remains reserved for Koch’s fellow oil barons, Lott’s clients, the corporate contributors (known and anonymous) to groups like Rove’s American Crossroads, and, of course, the large coterie of special interests underwriting John Boehner, the presumptive next speaker of the House. Boehner is the largest House recipient of Wall Street money this year — much of it from financial institutions bailed out by TARP.
His Senate counterpart, Mitch McConnell, will be certain to stop any Tea Party hillbillies from disrupting his chapter of the club (as he tried to stop Rand Paul in his own state’s G.O.P. primary). McConnell’s pets in his chamber’s freshman G.O.P. class will instead be old-school conservatives like Dan Coats (of Indiana), Rob Portman (of Ohio) and, if he squeaks in, Pat Toomey (of Pennsylvania). The first two are former lobbyists; Toomey ran the corporate interest group, the Club for Growth. They can be counted on to execute an efficient distribution of corporate favors and pork after they make their latest swing through Capitol Hill’s revolving door.
What the Tea Party ostensibly wants most — less government spending and smaller federal deficits — is not remotely happening on the country club G.O.P.’s watch. The elites have no serious plans to cut anything except taxes and regulation of their favored industries. The party’s principal 2010 campaign document, its “Pledge to America,” doesn’t vow to cut even earmarks — which barely amount to a rounding error in the federal budget anyway. Boehner has also proposed a return to pre-crash 2008 levels in “nonsecurity” discretionary spending — another mere bagatelle ($105 billion) next to the current $1.3 trillion deficit. And that won’t be happening either, once the actual cuts in departments like Education, Transportation and Interior are specified to their constituencies.
Perhaps the campaign’s most telling exchange took place on Fox News two weeks ago, when the Tea Party-embracing Senate candidate in California, Carly Fiorina, was asked seven times by Chris Wallace to name “one single entitlement expenditure you’re willing to cut” in order “to extend all the Bush tax cuts, which would add 4 trillion to the deficit.” She never did. At least Angle and Paul have been honest about what they’d slash if in power — respectively Social Security and defense, where the big government spending actually resides.
That’s not happening either. McConnell has explained his only real priority for the new Congress with admirable candor. “The single most important thing we want to achieve,” he said, “is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Any assault on Social Security would defeat that goal, and a serious shake-up of the Pentagon budget would alienate the neoconservative ideologues and military contractors who are far more important to the G.O.P. establishment than the “don’t tread on me” crowd.
For sure, the Republican elites found the Tea Party invaluable on the way to this Election Day. And not merely, as Huckabee has it, because they wanted its foot soldiers. What made the Tea Party most useful was that its loud populist message gave the G.O.P. just the cover it needed both to camouflage its corporate patrons and to rebrand itself as a party miraculously antithetical to the despised G.O.P. that gave us George W. Bush and record deficits only yesterday.
Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News and Wall Street Journal have been arduous in promoting and inflating Tea Party events and celebrities to this propagandistic end. The more the Tea Party looks as if it’s calling the shots in the G.O.P., the easier it is to distract attention from those who are actually calling them — namely, those who’ve cashed in and cashed out as ordinary Americans lost their jobs, homes and 401(k)’s. Typical of this smokescreen is a new book titled “Mad as Hell,” published this fall by a Murdoch imprint. In it, the pollsters Scott Rasmussen and Douglas Schoen make the case, as they recently put it in Politico, that the Tea Party is “the most powerful and potent force in America.”
They are expert at producing poll numbers to bear that out. By counting those with friends and family in the movement, Rasmussen has calculated that 29 percent of Americans are “tied to” the Tea Party. (If you factor in six degrees of Kevin Bacon, the number would surely double.) But cooler empirical data reveal the truth known by the G.O.P. establishment: An August CNN poll found that 2 percent of Americans consider themselves active members of the Tea Party.
That result was confirmed last weekend by The Washington Post, which published the fruits of its months-long effort to contact every Tea Party group in the country. To this end, it enlisted the help of Tea Party Patriots, the only Tea Party umbrella group that actually can claim to be a spontaneous, bottom-up, grass roots organization rather than a front for the same old fat cats of the Republican right, from the Koch brothers to Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks. Tea Party Patriots has claimed anywhere from 2,300 to nearly 3,000 local affiliates, but even with its assistance, The Post could verify a total of only 647 Tea Party groups nationwide. Most had fewer than 50 members. The median amount of money each group had raised in 2010 was $800, nowhere near the entry fee for the country club.
But those Americans, like all the others on the short end of the 2008 crash, have reason to be mad as hell. And their numbers will surely grow once the Republican establishment’s panacea of tax cuts proves as ineffectual at creating jobs, saving homes and cutting deficits as the half-measures of the Obama White House and the Democratic Congress. The tempest, however, will not be contained within the tiny Tea Party but will instead overrun the Republican Party itself, where Palin, with Murdoch and Beck at her back, waits in the wings to “take back America” not just from Obama but from the G.O.P. country club elites now mocking her. By then — after another two years of political gridlock and economic sclerosis — the equally disillusioned right and left may have a showdown that makes this election year look as benign as Woodstock.
STEELERS at SAINTS
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 31, 2010
KICKOFF – 8:20 P.M.
This Week: The Steelers are on the road this week against the New Orleans at the Superdome Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 31. Kickoff for the game is at 8:20 p.m. on NBC.
Teams: Steelers (5-1) vs. Saints (4-3)
Date: Sunday, Oct. 31, 2010
Kickoff: 8:20 p.m. ET
TV: NBC (WPXI-TV Channel 11 in Pittsburgh)
Radio: WDVE-FM (102.5)/WBGG-AM (970)
Bill Hillgrove, Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley
Friday, October 29, 2010
Fox GOTV day three: Fox continues its week of relentless campaigning for Republicans
Fox continued its week of relentless campaigning for Republicans by hosting six more GOP candidates while hosting just one Democratic candidate as well independent Charlie Crist and DNC chair Tim Kaine. Fox has spent the week before the election almost exclusively hosting Republican candidates. Read More
As Palin "stands with" Beck, his rhetoric is credited with inspiring death threats
This week, Sarah Palin rejected Media Matters for America CEO David Brock's call to condemn Glenn Beck's violent rhetoric. Beck's rhetoric was recently cited as inspiration for death threats issued against Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and against debate organizers in Illinois. Read More
How Glenn Beck led his tea party followers into the GOP
Glenn Beck's political activism -- from the 9/12 Project to his 8/28 rally -- has made him a leader in the tea party movement. Beck has used that status to drive his followers into the Republican Party and bolster its get-out-the-vote efforts for the 2010 elections. Read More
Glenn Beck failed his 40-Day Challenge
When Glenn Beck announced his "40-Day Challenge" on his Fox News show, he pledged to "stop all lies for the next 40 days." Beck has also said that Fox would fire him if he made "inaccurate" claims. But Beck habitually relies on false and misleading statements - Media Matters compiles 40 inaccurate claims Beck made on Fox during his 40-Day Challenge.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Hatchet job: Fox crops Reid statement to pretend he has a "political scandal"
Special Report deceptively quoted a statement from Sen. Harry Reid's office to advance what Bret Baier called "a political scandal" involving a former low-level staffer. But the portions of the statement Fox News omitted make clear that the alleged misconduct occurred before the staffer joined Reid's office and that the office had been unaware of the allegations. Read More
Fox trumpets misleading GOP report on health care reform effects
Promoting a report published by Republican senators Tom Coburn (OK) and John Barrasso (WY), Fox News forwarded the false claims that the health care reform law "will kill 800,000 jobs - perhaps more" and "8 in 10 small businesses could lose their health care plans." Health care experts have said Fox's claims are misleading or "just plain wrong." Read More
Day 2: Fox continues its relentless GOP GOTV efforts
Fox continued its relentless campaigning for Republicans this week by hosting three more GOP candidates as well as the campaign attorney for Nevada GOP senatorial candidate Sharron Angle. Fox had kicked off the week before the election by hosting eight Republican candidates in the course of 24 hours, and RNC chairman Michael Steele twice, while hosting just one Democratic official, DNC chair Tim Kaine. Read More
Bill Sammon: Washington managing editor of the "voice of the opposition"
Bill Sammon is exactly the Washington managing editor you'd expect from Fox News: a former reporter for conservative newspapers who bragged of his access to President Bush and used that access to write several fawning books. Under his leadership, Fox News correspondents and shows based out of Washington, D.C., have pushed false stories and smears of progressives while cheerleading for Republicans. Read More
Fox News has long history of airing deceptively cropped videos
Fox News deceptively cropped a statement from Sen. Harry Reid's spokesman to support Fox's claim that Reid was facing a "political scandal." This is only the latest episode in a long line of examples of Fox News misleadingly doctoring video in order to smear progressives. Read More
Earlier this week, we looked at many of the various (and popular) long-existing laws that tea parters and their leaders think are actually unconstitutional. They run the gamut from Social Security to civil rights to abolition of the Department of Education and on and on.
But despite all the talk about "returning" to the Constitution, don't confuse tea partiers with Constitutional purists, who happen to read the document in a conservative way. True, about half of the changes they want to make to the social fabric result from a peculiar interpretation of the Constitution as it exists. The other half, though, would actually require Congress and the states to change it altogether.
Here's how tea party candidates and organizers would amend the Constitution.
1. First Amendment
Things get heated during campaign season. Whether by head stomp, citizens arrest of a journalist, swastikas or punches to the face, partisans try to silence their rivals. But this campaign season -- practically the entire month of August, in fact -- the right flank of the Republican party and their tea party faithful took direct aim at the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" in lower Manhattan. Almost all Republicans opposed its construction. Most of them urged the developers to abandon the project of their own volition. But others, led by Newt Gingrich, and far-right activist Pamela Geller, wanted the government to directly intercede to prevent the construction of a house of worship. First, though, you'd have to change that part of the Constitution that reads "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
It might seem a little out there... but then the Department of Justice recently had to file an amicus brief declaring that Islam is recognized as a religion following efforts by some conservatives to claim that it isn't in order to get around this amendment.
2. Fourteenth Amendment
The pressure on elected Republicans from tea partiers to curb illegal immigration is so strong that Republican members of Congress -- including one supposed moderate -- briefly considered amending the Constitution to change or eliminate what's known as "birthright citizenship." It started with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) who considered a constitutional amendment, and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), who suggested the amendment process start with congressional hearings.
In all, the birthright citizenship craze spread through a broad swath of the right and the GOP.
3. Sixteenth Amendment
This strikes the core of the tea party's libertarian heart. The 16th amendment provides Congress the power "to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration." All those Republicans -- including Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul -- who envision a world where the income tax is replaced by a national sales tax would really like to see the 16th Amendment repealed. Georgetown Law professor Randy Barnett described that as a "simple solution."
4. Seventeenth Amendment
Republican congressional hopefuls got themselves in trouble during primary season when several of them were revealed to have supported the idea of repealing the 17th Amendment. That's the one that provides for direct election of Senators. The thinking among states-rights oriented tea partiers is that states had more power over Washington when senators were picked by state legislatures, and not by popular vote. But this phenomenon seems to reappear every time the right is out of power -- and the Senate would become more conservative if direct election were scrapped. There's no indication that a Congress controlled by Republicans would pursue an amendment like this, but if they do, conservative Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) already has one drafted.
5. Twenty-First Amendment
This one's a bit out of
left right field and there's little indication that a significant subset of the tea party really cares about or supports this. But check out what Nevada Senate Republican hopeful Sharron Angle told Liberty Watch: "I feel the same about legalizing alcohol," she said. "The effect on society is so great that I'm just not a real proponent of legalizing any drug or encouraging any drug abuse."
The 21st Amendment repealed the 18th Amendment, which instituted prohibition. Just repeal the 21st Amendment and -- voila! -- the 18th is back in effect. Not sure that'd be great for Nevada's struggling, booze-and-gambling-centric economy, tough.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
REPORT: More than 30 Fox Newsers support GOP in 600-plus instances during midterms
During the 2009-2010 election cycle, more than 30 Fox News personalities have endorsed, raised money, or campaigned for Republican candidates or organizations in more than 600 instances. The Republican support has been given to more than 300 different races or party organizations in at least 47 states. Fox News personalities and hosts have also helped start pro-Republican organizations, which have raised tens of millions of dollars. Read More
Fox kicks off GOP GOTV efforts by almost exclusively hosting Republicans
Fox kicked off the final week before the midterm elections by almost exclusively hosting Republican candidates. Fox hosted eight Republican candidates in the course of 24 hours, and RNC chairman Michael Steele twice, while hosting just one Democratic official, DNC chair Tim Kaine. Read More
Unreal: Fox News claims Obama invoked racial segregation with his car analogy
After President Obama made the analogy that Republican politicians should have to ride "in the back seat" after driving "this car," the United States, "into the ditch," Fox News figures have tried to claim that Obama made an "offensive" and "appalling" reference to racial segregation and "the back of the bus." They have yet to explain why Obama would want to compare himself to segregationists and his political opponents to civil rights hero Rosa Parks. Read More
Baseless right-wing accusations of voter fraud? Must mean an election is near
In the final days before the midterm elections, following a very familiar pattern, conservative media have yet again turned to hyping baseless and misleading claims of voter fraud. Read More
Out of Context: The James O'Keefe Story
One of the subjects of self-styled journalist James O'Keefe's most recent series of heavily edited smear videos reportedly says that her comments were taken out of context. The accusation is consistent with O'Keefe's history of producing distorted videos, which he then promotes with deception and lies. Read More
Oh boy. After months and months of insisting that she really doesn't oppose Social Security -- despite her past statements about wanting to phase it out -- now a tape has surfaced of Nevada Republican Senate nominee Sharron Angle decrying the program as an example of society's "wicked ways." And this was just two and a half weeks ago.
As Politico reports, an audio recording was uploaded to the Democratic National Committee's Accountability Project site, of Angle speaking at a church on October 10. During her speech, Angle offered a confession for America's sins -- going beyond just the standard religious conservative issues of abortion, but also the legislation of divorce, and various social welfare programs.
"And yet we're saying, 'Well, the government, we have all these programs now. Aid for Families with Dependent Children and Medicare and Social Security,'" said Angle. "That's fine, but isn't it we that should be thinking about this, isn't it us that should be caring in our community for those that the Lord has called us to? Didn't he say you honor him, you love him if you've cared for these the least among you? So we do have a lot of wicked ways that we can confess as a church, and I think that's what he's calling us to now."
Angle spokesman Jarrod Agen responded to the tape, Politico reports:
"There's nothing in that [statement] calling entitlement programs 'wicked,'" Agen said. Rather, the remarks convey "that the programs are fine, but we should be caring for our community," Agen said. "Go to any church in America and you'll hear a sentiment like that."
Agen dismissed the tape as an attempt by Democrats to change the subject. "Any leaked 'secret recordings' at this point in the campaign are highly suspect and very desperate," he said.
I confess that we are a nation who has killed our children. I confess that we are a nation who has walked away from the family and allowed divorce, even among our ranks. We have walked away from the biblical definition of marriage: one man, one woman, the two become one flesh.
We as a nation have been walking away from our constitutional freedom and relying on government instead to take care of the widow and the orphan. Isn't that what he says, true religion and undefiled before God is that you care for the widow and the orphan? Isn't that the poor and needy among us? And yet we're saying, 'Well, the government, we have all these programs now. Aid for Families with Dependent Children and Medicare and Social Security.' That's fine, but isn't it we that should be thinking about this, isn't it us that should be caring in our community for those that the Lord has called us to? Didn't he say you honor him, you love him if you've cared for these the least among you? So we do have a lot of wicked ways that we can confess as a church, and I think that's what he's calling us to now.
WASHINGTON — In 2006, conservative activists repeatedly claimed that the problem of people casting fraudulent votes was so widespread that it was corrupting the political process and possibly costing their candidates victories.
The accusations turned out to be largely false, but they led to a heated debate, with voting rights groups claiming that the accusations were crippling voter registration drives and reducing turnout.
That debate is flaring anew.
Tea Party members have started challenging voter registration applications and have announced plans to question individual voters at the polls whom they suspect of being ineligible.
In response, liberal groups and voting rights advocates are sounding an alarm, claiming that such strategies are scare tactics intended to suppress minority and poor voters.
In St. Paul, organizers from the Tea Party and related groups announced this week that they were offering a $500 reward for anyone who turned in someone who was successfully prosecuted for voter fraud.
The group is also organizing volunteer “surveillance squads” to photograph and videotape what it suspects are irregularities, and in some cases to follow buses that take voters to the polls.
In Milwaukee last week, several community groups protested the posting of large billboards throughout the city that show pictures of people behind jail bars under the words “We Voted Illegally.” The protesters said the posters — it was not clear who paid for them — were intended to intimidate people from voting.
In Houston, a Tea Party group called the King Street Patriots recently accused a voter registration group, Houston Votes, of turning in voter registration applications with incorrect information.
Voting rights advocates say they are worried.
“Private efforts to police the polls create a real risk of vote suppression, regardless of their intent,” said Wendy R. Weiser, director of the Voting Rights and Elections Project at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. “People need to know that any form of discrimination, intimidation or challenge to voters without adequate basis is illegal or improper.”
Voter fraud and voter-registration fraud are, of course, different.
While many states have voter registration records riddled with names of dead people, out-of-date addresses and other erroneous information, there is little evidence that such errors lead to fraudulent votes, many experts note.
A report by the public-integrity section of the Justice Department found that from October 2002 to September 2005, the department charged 95 people with “election fraud”; 55 were convicted.
Among those, fewer than 20 people were convicted of casting fraudulent ballots, and only 5 were convicted of registration fraud. Most of the rest were charged with other voting violations, including a scheme meant to help Republicans by blocking the phone lines used by two voting groups that were arranging rides to get voters to the polls.
Even so, the fear of stolen votes remains, as does the fear of missing votes — particularly in light of a decrease, compared with 2006, in voter-registration applications in swing states.
About 43 percent fewer new voters have registered in Wisconsin this year than in 2006, while in Indiana, the decrease has been about 35 percent. Significant drops have also been seen in Ohio (25 percent), North Carolina (28 percent), Florida (27 percent) and Maryland (21 percent), according to state election data collected by the Brennan Center.
Voting experts say several factors explain the trend.
Voter enthusiasm is low now, and fewer groups like the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or Acorn, are engaged in drives to sign people up. Acorn collected about 550,000 voter-registration applications across the country in 2006, mostly from low-income and minority Americans, and 1.3 million in 2008.
But in March, the organization closed down after accusations by two conservative activists that low-level Acorn employees had advised them on how to hide prostitution activities and avoid taxes. The group was also battered by conservatives for having submitted some voter registration cards with incorrect, duplicate or false information.
The housing crisis may also have dampened voter registration. More than three million properties were foreclosed this year, a 30 percent increase from 2008, and people who have been forced out of their homes may be not be able establish residency to vote.
Many states have also enacted laws in recent years that make registration drives more difficult, with stricter reporting and filing deadlines for voter registration groups.
“It has been an uphill fight in a lot of states to register people this year,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, national president of the League of Women Voters.
Ms. MacNamara said the group’s Georgia chapter faced an additional burden because of a new state law requiring voters to prove citizenship. The chapter does not have a copier machine, so the expense of duplicating documents like birth certificates or driver’s licenses falls to unpaid volunteers.
Most of the new barriers to registration are likely to hurt Democrats more than Republicans. Historically, these registration drives have focused on voters in poorer areas and minority communities, which tend to vote Democratic.
The Obama administration has tried to take steps to lessen the dependence on independent voter registration groups, while also broadening voter participation among poorer and minority voters.
In June, the Justice Department released new guidelines for the “motor voter” law, emphasizing that all public-assistance applicants must be given the opportunity to register to vote, and that state employees must offer to help them.
Still, independent voter registration groups say that they still play an important role, and that scare tactics are making their work harder.
“There is an intentional effort here to suppress participation,” said Jim George, a lawyer for the Texans Together Education Fund, the parent organization of Houston Votes.
Houston Votes, whose registration drive has mostly focused on Latino neighborhoods, did find at least one paid canvasser submitting fraudulent applications, Mr. George said, and that person was immediately fired. He added that the groups’ financing for voter registration work had dried up because of insinuations by the King Street Patriots that Houston Votes was tied to the New Black Panther Party.
“Houston Votes has nothing whatsoever to do with the Black Panthers,” Mr. George said. “But you make a claim like that, and funding dries up, even if the claim isn’t true.”
Mr. George explained that during a meeting, the King Street Patriots had shown a picture of the Houston Votes office and stated its address before adding that this was the new location of the Black Panthers.
Hiram Sasser, a lawyer for the Liberty Institute who represents the King Street Patriots, denied the claim but when presented a video of the incident, he said that his client had actually made a mistake and did not realize the office was tied to Houston Votes.
Leo Vasquez, the Republican tax assessor-collector and voter registrar in Harris County, Tex., which includes Houston, said that of about 25,640 registration applications submitted by Houston Votes, about 5,500 had problems.
The Texas Democratic Party has filed a lawsuit against Mr. Vasquez, accusing him and the voter registration office of illegally rejecting voter applications.
The fight occurs against the backdrop of a contest for governor in which a large turnout in Harris County would be vital to the effort by the Democratic candidate, Bill White, to defeat Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Fox News reports as fact a blogger's made-up attack on Mi Familia Vota
One of Fox News' purportedly objective news programs reported the false claim that Mi Familia Vota submitted 3,000 "shady" voter registrations at the "last minute" in Arizona to benefit the Democratic Party. The fake story originated from an Arizona blogger who has a history of making questionable statements, and was denounced as false by the Yuma County Recorder's Office.
Attack on MoveOn worker is just the latest example of right-wing violence
In the wake of the attack on a MoveOn.org worker apparently by supporters of Kentucky Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul, Media Matters provides a list of some of the right-wing violence and attacks on progressives that have occurred in the past year. Read More
The fringe tea party group Tea Party Nation sent out an email to its supporters over the weekend urging them to support Republican House candidate Lynne Torgerson against Rep. Keith Ellison (D) in Minnesota’s 5th District. The Maddow show blog points out that one of the arguments that Tea Party Nation makes against Ellison is that he’s a Muslim:
There are a lot of liberals who need to be retired this year, but there are few I can think of more deserving than Keith Ellison. Ellison is one of the most radical members of congress. He has a ZERO rating from the American Conservative Union. He is the only Muslim member of congress. He supports the Counsel for American Islamic Relations, HAMAS and has helped congress send millions of tax to terrorists in Gaza.
Aside from the fact that the email provides no evidence that Ellison supports terrorists, Ellison isn’t the only Muslim member of Congress. Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN) is also Muslim. Salon noted that, according to an NAACP report on tea parties, the Tea Party Nation is the third largest tea party network. Many Tea Party activists widely criticized the group’s founder, Tennessee lawyer Judson Phillips, earlier this year for trying to profit off a Tea Party convention.
It seems as if we've heard more about the Constitution this election than we did in 2008, when questions of due process and cruel and unusual punishment were bona fide election issues. Two years in to Barack Obama's presidency, after turning a blind eye throughout the Bush years, a key goal for the Tea Party this election is to "return" to the Constitution. Minus certain parts of it. And only if you read other parts in a very specific way.
We know the Tea Party has a ... unique interpretation of the country's foundational text, but it's hard sometimes to keep track of all the things their favored candidates would like to see abolished or relegated as part of this "return."
Their convenient reading of various amendments -- particularly the 10th -- would radically transform the country as we know it. Here are a few major programs that would change or disappear.
1. Social Security
Social Security is far too popular for all but the most conservative politicians in America to outright oppose. So the "Tenth Amendment" remedy for what they view as an unconstitutional program is to make individual states responsible for resident's retirement security. No word on how this would impact people who want to retire to a different state than the one they spent their career paying taxes in. Fortunately for Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller (R), people don't flock to Alaska to enjoy their golden years.
Along the same lines, some tea partiers and tea party-backed candidates think that the federal government never had the constitutional authority to create Medicare. But few are willing to articulate that view publicly. However, during a Fox News appearance this summer, Miller explained his solution to the Medicare and Social Security "problems."
"If we don't come up with solutions, you know, whether it be privatization, personalization or some other solution, which, frankly, you know, it's our preference that that be a transferred power to the states," Miller said. "That's really what the constitutional basis of our platform has been, that we need to get back to transferring many of the powers of the federal government to the states. We believe that that's what the Tenth Amendment provides."
3. Minimum Wage
Probably because old people vote, and poor people are, well, poor, conservatives are a bit more outspoken about the minimum wage than they are about entitlements for the elderly. But few come right out say that it's unconstitutional. One of the few who does is West Virginia Senate nominee John Raese.
"I don't think it is [constitutional] And the reason I don't think it is, is the same reason the [National Recovery Administration] was not constitutional in 1936," Raese said. "It was declared unconstitutional because it was government micromanaging an intervention into the private sector. Well, what are price controls, or what are wage controls? They're the same thing."
Another is, again, Joe Miller.
4. United Nations
You know what else wasn't specifically provided for in the Constitution? The establishment of, and the United States' participation in, the United Nations. The Republican candidate who most embodies the tea party view that American involvement with the U.N. violates the Constitution is Nevada nominee Sharron Angle.
"The United Nations resides on our soil, and costs us money," Angle claimed in August. "We -- I don't see any place in the Constitution, in those eight priorities, about the United Nations. So when we start cutting programs, about five percent a year, I think the United Nations fits into that category."5. Unemployment Benefits
Though many Republicans have voted to extend unemployment benefits since the economy tanked, others think the whole concept transgresses the Constitution.
Joe Miller again, this time during an appearance on "Top Line" "The unemployment compensation benefits have gotten -- first of all, it's not constitutionally authorized. I think that's the first thing that's gotta be looked at, so I do not favor their extension."6. Civil Rights Act
This one's gone way out of fashion. But when he first won the Republican nomination for Senate in Kentucky, tea party favorite Rand Paul figured it would be fine to go on television and discuss why perhaps a key part of the civil rights act, providing for the integration of private businesses, might not be Constitutional. Segregated lunch counters!
"Well, there's 10 -- there's 10 different -- there's 10 different titles, you know, to the Civil Rights Act, and nine out of 10 deal with public institutions and I'm absolutely in favor of," Paul told Rachel Maddow in an interview after he won the GOP nomination. "One deals with private institutions, and had I been around, I would have tried to modify that."
As a breath of fresh air, this argument is based on a right wing reading of the First Amendment, not the Tenth.
This isn't just a Tea Party thing. Practically everybody in the Republican party thinks at least one part of President Obama's health care reform law -- the individual insurance mandate -- is unconstitutional. The most common argument against the mandate is that in giving Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce, the founders didn't create the authority for the federal government to regulate inaction. In other words, they say citizens can't be compelled to to participate in interstate commerce, such as buying health insurance. Most legal scholars disagree with this interpretation, though many think the issue will ultimately come before the Supreme Court whose five conservative justices could strike it down. If they did, the ramifications for current and future policy could be huge.
Monday, October 25, 2010
A group of Rand Paul supporters held down and stomped the head of a female MoveOn member just before tonight's debate. Not 'assault' in the BS sense we've seen both sides alleging when someone nudges a video tracker, but the real thing.
Late Update: Paul supporters seem to be putting out the word that the woman fell or tripped. But look at the video. It's hard to reconcile the 'fell' storyline with the two or three guys shoving her, the one guy holding her down/attempting a headlock and the other guy stomping on her head.
Josh Green flagged an incident that occurred outside of the Rand Paul-Jack Conway debate Monday night that's already dominating the news in Kentucky and could easily make headlines nationally.
As the candidates arrived, a group of Paul supporters pulled a female MoveOn member to the ground and held her there as another Paul supporter stomped on the back of her head and neck.
According to the Louisville Courier Journal, "Lauren Valle of MoveOn.org approached Paul and tried to give him an "employee of the month award" from Republicorp...a fake business MoveOn created to symbolize what it says is the merger of the GOP and business interests controlling political speech."...............................
Déjà vu: Right-wing media absurdly claim "Bush was right" about Iraq's WMDs
Right-wing media figures have seized on a Wired article about the classified Iraq war documents recently released by WikiLeaks.com to desperately claim "Bush was right" that Saddam Hussein had a stockpile of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). In fact, the Wired article reported the documents did not "reveal evidence of some massive WMD program by the Saddam Hussein regime," but rather remnants of the stockpiles largely destroyed during the Gulf War. Read More
Beck and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones are two of a kind
Fox News' Glenn Beck increasingly echoes the theories and conclusions of Alex Jones, a fringe conspiracy theorist and host of a daily radio show promoting those theories. These include belief in the imposition of a "new world order" and global government, opposition to the Federal Reserve, and attacks on Cass Sunstein, John Holdren, and the Council on Foreign Relations. Read More
Beck: "I'm not telling you who to vote for" (wink, wink, nudge, nudge)
Despite repeatedly saying he does not endorse candidates and isn't "telling you who to vote for," Beck has made clear to his audience which candidates he thinks they should support or oppose in the upcoming midterm elections. Read More
Maricopa County, AZ Sheriff Joe Arpaio gave Sarah Palin the prisoner treatment this weekend, then took to Twitter to brag all about it. Of course, in Arpaio-land, "the prisoner treatment" equals a pair of pink underpants.
"I just got done welcoming Sarah Palin to our County. Had a nice chat and gave her a pair of pink underwear," Arpaio tweeted.
Palin was in town for a Tea Party Express rally -- not specifically to accept the panty package. (That was just a perk.) Arpaio has gained notoriety for demeaning prisoners in Maricopa County, including by housing them in tents and making them wear pink -- all the way down to their skivvies.
Unlike Palin, who's been known to delete her Tweets when they garner negative attention, Arpaio's is still live as of this writing. You can see a screen grab below. No word on how Todd Palin reacted to the news...........
Win or lose, the Tea Party movement will come away from next week's elections triumphant, having injected into the Republican Party a group of candidates pledged to the dismantling of government and wed to the religious right. Of the movement's dozen favored candidates for U.S. Senate, all are anti-abortion, and five oppose it even in cases of rape and incest. Among their number are Colorado's Ken Buck, who has compared homosexuality to alcoholism, and Nevada's Sharron Angle, who wants to demolish both the Department of Education and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Major GOP players, from political strategist Karl Rove to former Bush speechwriter David Frum, have fretted publicly over Tea Party extremism, with Frum complaining of the movement's "paranoid delusions."
But it has now become clear that these Tea Party "outsiders" are all part of an inside game, a battle for control of the Republican party.
Though billed as a people's movement, the Tea Party wouldn't exist without a gusher of cash from oil billionaire David H. Koch and the vast media empire of Rupert Murdoch. Many of the small donations to Tea Party candidates have been cultivated by either Fox News Channel, a property of Murdoch's News Corporation, or the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, chaired by Koch. The movement's major organizations are all run, not by first-time, mad-as-hell activists, but by former GOP officials or operatives..............................
October 25, 2010 - Miller Shite Edition
This week Joe Miller (1,2) gives us a peek at what the Teabaggers have planned for America should they be elected this fall. Elsewhere, Christine O'Donnell (4) shows off her knowledge of the Constitution, and Sharron Angle (7) drops a clanger.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
In the wacky coda to one of the most searing chapters in American history, everyone remained true to form.
Anita Hill reacted with starchy disgust.
Ginni Thomas came across like a spiritually addled nut.
Clarence Thomas was mute, no doubt privately raging about the trouble women have caused him.
And now into the circus comes Lillian McEwen, an old girlfriend of Thomas’s.
Looking to shop a memoir, the 65-year-old McEwen used the occasion of Ginni’s weird phone message to Anita — asking her to “consider an apology” and “pray about this” and “O.K., have a good day!” — to open up to reporters.
If “the real Clarence” had been revealed at the time, he probably wouldn’t have ascended to the court, McEwen told The Times’s Ashley Parker. Especially since the real Clarence denied ever using the “grotesque” argot of the porn movies he regularly rented at a D.C. video store.
In her interviews, McEwen confirmed Thomas’s obsession with women with “huge, huge breasts,” with scouting the women he worked with as possible partners, and with talking about porn at work — while he was head of the federal agency that polices sexual harassment.
Years later, some of the Democrats on that all-male, all-white Senate Judiciary Committee told me they assumed there must have been a consensual romance between the boss and his subordinate. McEwen assumed so, too, because Clarence took Anita with him when he changed agencies. Hill has made it clear she felt no reciprocal attraction.
Joe Biden, the senator who ran those hearings, was leery of the liberal groups eager to use Hill as a pawn to checkmate Thomas. He circumscribed the testimony of women who could have corroborated Hill’s unappetizing portrait of a power-abusing predator.
For the written record, Biden allowed negative accounts only from women who had worked with Thomas. He also ruled out testimony from women who simply had personal relationships with Thomas, and did not respond to a note from McEwen — a former assistant U.S. attorney who had once worked as a counsel for Biden’s committee — reminding him of her long relationship with Thomas.
It’s too late to relitigate the shameful Thomas-Hill hearings. We’re stuck with a justice-for-life who lied his way onto the bench with the help of bullying Republicans and cowed Democrats.
We don’t know why Ginni Thomas, who was once in the thrall of a cultish self-help group called Lifespring, made that odd call to Hill at 7:30 on a Saturday morning. But we do know that the Thomases show supremely bad judgment. Mrs. Thomas, a queen of the Tea Party, is the founder of a new nonprofit group, Liberty Central, which she boasts will be bigger than the Tea Party. She sports and sells those foam Statue of Liberty-style crowns as she makes her case against the “tyranny” of President Obama and Congressional Democrats, who, she charges, are hurting the “core founding principles” of America.
As The Times’s Jackie Calmes wrote, Mrs. Thomas started her nonprofit in late 2009 with two gifts of $500,000 and $50,000, and additional sums this year that we don’t know about yet. She does not have to disclose the donors, whose money makes possible the compensation she brings into the Thomas household.
There is no way to tell if her donors have cases before the Supreme Court or whether her husband knows their identities. And she never would have to disclose them if her husband had his way.
The 5-to-4 Citizens United decision last January gave corporations, foreign contributors, unions, Big Energy, Big Oil and superrich conservatives a green light to surreptitiously funnel in as much money as they want, whenever they want to elect or unelect candidates. As if that weren’t enough to breed corruption, Thomas was the only justice — in a rare case of detaching his hip from Antonin Scalia’s — to write a separate opinion calling for an end to donor disclosures.
In Bush v. Gore, the Supreme Court chose the Republican president. In Citizens United, the court may return Republicans to control of Congress. So much for conservatives’ professed disdain of judicial activism. And so much for the public’s long-held trust in the impartiality of the nation’s highest court.
Justice Stephen Breyer recently rejected the image of the high court as “nine junior varsity politicians.” But it’s even worse than that. The court has gone beyond mere politicization. Its liberals are moderate and reasonable, while the conservatives are dug in, guzzling Tea.
Thomas and Scalia have flouted ethics rules by attending seminars sponsored by Koch Industries, an energy and manufacturing conglomerate run by billionaire brothers that has donated more than $100 million to far-right causes.
Christine O’Donnell may not believe in the separation of church and state, but the Supreme Court does not believe in the separation of powers.
O.K., have a good day!
GOP congressional candidate says violent overthrow of Democrats 'on the table' if Republicans lose in 2010...
Pastor Stephen Broden, a Texas Republican running for Congress and frequent guest on the Glenn Beck program (pictured right with RNC Chairman Michael Steele), has a history of making surprising statements ... But this one takes the cake.
He's running for US Congress in a strongly Democratic district of Dallas, and he's not going to win -- at least, not if the recent polling is any indicator. Ten days out from election day, Broden was trailing Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) by almost 30 percent, according to The New York Times.
So, he's doing what any longshot contender would do: throwing a hail marry to the fringe.
In an apparent appeal to the party's most radical elements, Broden declared during a recent television interview that if Republicans do not win control of Congress in 2010, violent revolution -- while not the "first option" -- is "on the table."
Supporters were quick to distance themselves from the long-shot tea party favorite. Even Glenn Beck, who has hosted Broden six times since August of last year, denounced his support for the south Dallas pastor, telling listeners, "I can't stand with you at all if you are saying stuff like that...............................
Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann has appeared at least eight times since January on Fox News' Sean Hannity Show. How many mayors or county commissioners in Bachmann's Sixth District swath of central Minnesota have had an equal number of conversations with her this year?
The Editorial Board didn't get a chance ask Bachmann, who declined repeated requests for a meeting. But voters deciding whether to send her back for a third term deserve an answer. While Bachmann primps for the cameras, her district struggles with unemployment, clogged roads and foreclosure-pocked neighborhoods. Four years of media razzle-dazzle have made Bachmann a political headliner, but it's done little for her beleaguered constituents back home.
That's why it's time for the Sixth District to elect a legislative workhorse -- Democratic State Sen. Tarryl Clark -- instead of a showhorse.
Clark, an attorney and mother of two, is a respected legislator from St. Cloud who was first elected in 2005. Endorsed by Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Clark has been a strong advocate for small-business owners and pushed for the development of angel investor tax credits in the state. With a father and two brothers who are U.S. Navy veterans, Clark has also been a strong champion for military families, leading efforts to ensure job protections for families whose loved ones have been killed or seriously hurt. She gets high marks from colleagues for her ability to bridge differences -- a key reason why she has served as the Senate's assistant majority leader since 2006. The tax vote that Bachmann's ads rip her for was actually cast for a responsible state budget bill balancing hefty cuts with some increased revenue.
What distinguishes Clark from Bachmann is her willingness to put common sense before rigid ideology to serve the Sixth District, which stretches from St. Cloud through Anoka County to the metro's eastern suburbs. Clark is well-versed in health care issues and committed to smoothing health reform for consumers and providers -- not prolonging the uncertainties. Unlike Bachmann, she's willing to carry legislation to secure federal funding for bridges and other projects in need of repair. Unlike Bachmann, Clark stands ready to help county officials expand the Northstar rail line's schedule and its service to St. Cloud. Local officials are frustrated by Bachmann's lack of interest.
"I've not found that Michele Bachmann is very interested in projects that are important to the Sixth District," said longtime Anoka County Commissioner and rail champion Dan Erhart.
The 2010 bills Bachmann has introduced speak volumes about her priorities. While families in her district worried about jobs last year, Bachmann was fighting an imaginary threat: a global currency. Badly misconstruing statements by U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Bachmann wrote an embarrassing bill steeped in conspiracy theory calling for a constitutional amendment to prevent the United States from adopting another country's currency. Keep in mind that Bachmann also spread fears about the Census, anti-American members of Congress and has argued that health reform would lead to abortion field trips at schools. Is this paranoia an act or a ploy to keep the TV cameras trained on her? It's disturbing to have to ask this question.
An embarrassing back story about another 2010 bill raises troubling questions about Bachmann's effectiveness as a legislator. The bill would have allowed the U.S. secretary of the Interior to approve a bridge over the St. Croix River. But she undercut the bill's chances when she alienated some colleagues by not following traditional processes -- essentially she did the lawmaking equivalent of driving on the shoulder while others waited in traffic with their bills. Bachmann's bill, tellingly, had zero co-sponsors.
When it came to another key issue facing her district this year, the proposed tax on the medical device industry in the health reform bill, the self-proclaimed pro-business, anti-tax champion didn't take the lead. Instead, Klobuchar and freshman Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen from Minnesota's Third District did the heavy lifting to reduce the tax by half. Bachmann was also the sole Minnesota U.S. House representative to vote against the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill, a measure supported by leading industries and trade groups because it helps keep manufacturing jobs in the United States.
Bachmann is in touch with Hannity and Glenn Beck but out of touch with her district. Voters should also vote for Clark over Independent Bob Anderson. Anderson, a dental technician who is running a second time, has little political experience and few original ideas on how to cut federal spending and generate jobs. He's not a credible candidate, and Minnesotans shouldn't waste their votes.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
PRESIDENT Obama, the Rodney Dangerfield of 2010, gets no respect for averting another Great Depression, for saving 3.3 million jobs with stimulus spending, or for salvaging GM and Chrysler from the junkyard. And none of these good deeds, no matter how substantial, will go unpunished if the projected Democratic bloodbath materializes on Election Day. Some are even going unremembered. For Obama, the ultimate indignity is the Times/CBS News poll in September showing that only 8 percent of Americans know that he gave 95 percent of American taxpayers a tax cut.
The reasons for his failure to reap credit for any economic accomplishments are a catechism by now: the dark cloud cast by undiminished unemployment, the relentless disinformation campaign of his political opponents, and the White House’s surprising ineptitude at selling its own achievements. But the most relentless drag on a chief executive who promised change we can believe in is even more ominous. It’s the country’s fatalistic sense that the stacked economic order that gave us the Great Recession remains not just in place but more entrenched and powerful than ever.
No matter how much Obama talks about his “tough” new financial regulatory reforms or offers rote condemnations of Wall Street greed, few believe there’s been real change. That’s not just because so many have lost their jobs, their savings and their homes. It’s also because so many know that the loftiest perpetrators of this national devastation got get-out-of-jail-free cards, that too-big-to-fail banks have grown bigger and that the rich are still the only Americans getting richer.
This intractable status quo is being rubbed in our faces daily during the pre-election sprint by revelations of the latest banking industry outrage, its disregard for the rule of law as it cut every corner to process an avalanche of foreclosures. Clearly, these financial institutions have learned nothing in the few years since their contempt for fiscal and legal niceties led them to peddle these predatory mortgages (and the reckless financial “products” concocted from them) in the first place. And why should they have learned anything? They’ve often been rewarded, not punished, for bad behavior.
The latest example is Angelo Mozilo, the former chief executive of Countrywide and the godfather of subprime mortgages. On the eve of his trial 10 days ago, he settled Securities and Exchange Commission charges for $67.5 million, $20 million of which will be footed by what remains of Countrywide in its present iteration at Bank of America. Even if he paid the whole sum himself, it would still be a small fraction of the $521 million he collected in compensation as he pursued his gambling spree from 2000 until 2008.
A particularly egregious chunk of that take was the $140 million he pocketed by dumping Countrywide shares in 2006-7. It was a chapter right out of Kenneth Lay’s Enron playbook: Mozilo reassured shareholders that all was peachy even as his private e-mail was awash in panic over the “toxic” mortgages bringing Countrywide (and the country) to ruin. Lay, at least, was convicted by a jury and destined to decades in the slammer before his death.
The much acclaimed new documentary about the global economic meltdown, “Inside Job,” has it right. As its narrator, Matt Damon, intones, our country has been robbed by insiders who “destroyed their own companies and plunged the world into crisis” — and then “walked away from the wreckage with their fortunes intact.” These insiders include Dick Fuld and four other executives at Lehman Brothers who “got to keep all the money” (more than $1 billion) after Lehman went bankrupt. And of course Robert Rubin, who encouraged Citigroup to step up its investment in high-risk bets like Countrywide’s mortgage-backed securities. Rubin, now back as a rainmaker on Wall Street, collected more than $115million in compensation during roughly the same period Mozilo “earned” his half a billion. Citi, which required a $45 billion taxpayers’ bailout, recently secured its own slap-on-the-wrist S.E.C. settlement — at $75 million, less than Rubin’s earnings and less than its 2003 penalty ($101 million) for its role in hiding Enron profits.
It should pain the White House that its departing economic guru, the Rubin protégé Lawrence Summers, is an even bigger heavy in “Inside Job” than in the hit movie of election season, “The Social Network.” Summers — like the former Goldman Sachs chief executive and Bush Treasury secretary Hank Paulson — is portrayed as just the latest in a procession of policy makers who keep rotating in and out of government and the financial industry, almost always to that industry’s advantage. As the star economist Nouriel Roubini tells the filmmaker, Charles Ferguson, the financial sector on Wall Street has “step by step captured the political system” on “the Democratic and the Republican side” alike. But it would be wrong to single out Summers or any individual official for the Obama administration’s image of being lax in pursuing finance’s bad actors. This tone is set at the top.
Asked in “Inside Job” why there’s been no systematic investigation of the 2008 crash, Roubini answers: “Because then you’d find the culprits.” With the aid of the “Manhattan Madam” (and current stunt New York gubernatorial candidate) Kristin Davis, the film also asks why federal prosecutors who were “perfectly happy to use Eliot Spitzer’s personal vices to force him to resign in 2008” have not used rampant sex-and-drug trade on Wall Street as a tool for flipping witnesses to pursue the culprits behind the financial crimes that devastated the nation.
The Obama administration seems not to have a prosecutorial gene. It’s shy about calling a fraud a fraud when it occurs in high finance. This caution was exemplified most recently by the secretary of housing and urban development, Shaun Donovan, whose response to the public outcry over the banks’ foreclosure shenanigans was to take to The Huffington Post last weekend. “The notion that many of the very same institutions that helped cause this housing crisis may well be making it worse is not only frustrating — it’s shameful,” he wrote.
Well, yes! Obama couldn’t have said it more eloquently himself. But with all due respect to Secretary Donovan’s blogging finesse, he wasn’t promising action. He was just stroking the liberal base while the administration once again punted. In our new banking scandal, as in those before it, attorneys general in the states, where many pension funds were decimated by Wall Street Ponzi schemes, are pursuing the crimes Washington has not. The largest bill of reparations paid out by Bank of America for Countrywide’s deceptive mortgage practices — $8.4 billion — was to settle a suit by 11 state attorneys general on the warpath.
Since Obama has neither aggressively pursued the crash’s con men nor compellingly explained how they gamed the system, he sometimes looks as if he’s fronting for the industry even if he’s not. Voters are not only failing to give the White House credit for its economic successes but finding it guilty of transgressions it didn’t commit. The opposition is more than happy to pump up that confusion. When Mitch McConnell appeared on ABC’s “This Week” last month, he typically railed against the “extreme” government of “the last year and a half,” citing its takeover of banks as his first example. That this was utter fiction — the takeover took place two years ago, before Obama was president, with McConnell voting for it — went unchallenged by his questioner, Christiane Amanpour, and probably by many viewers inured to this big lie.
The real tragedy here, though, is not whatever happens in midterm elections. It’s the long-term prognosis for America. The obscene income inequality bequeathed by the three-decade rise of the financial industry has societal consequences graver than even the fundamental economic unfairness. When we reward financial engineers infinitely more than actual engineers, we “lure our most talented graduates to the largely unproductive chase” for Wall Street riches, as the economist Robert H. Frank wrote in The Times last weekend. Worse, Frank added, the continued squeeze on the middle class leads to a wholesale decline in the quality of American life — from more bankruptcy filings and divorces to a collapse in public services, whether road repair or education, that taxpayers will no longer support.
Even as the G.O.P. benefits from unlimited corporate campaign money, it’s pulling off the remarkable feat of persuading a large swath of anxious voters that it will lead a populist charge against the rulers of our economic pyramid — the banks, energy companies, insurance giants and other special interests underwriting its own candidates. Should those forces prevail, an America that still hasn’t remotely recovered from the worst hard times in 70 years will end up handing over even more power to those who greased the skids.
We can blame much of this turn of events on the deep pockets of oil billionaires like the Koch brothers and on the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which freed corporations to try to buy any election they choose. But the Obama White House is hardly innocent. Its failure to hold the bust’s malefactors accountable has helped turn what should have been a clear-cut choice on Nov. 2 into a blurry contest between the party of big corporations and the party of business as usual.