Tag Archives: GOP

In Which I Agree With National Review

When a conservative is right, s/he’s right.

And over at the National Review, Kevin Williamson is right. His article, titled: Take a Bow, Species, rejected the constant drumbeat of what is wrong with America and the world in favor of a focus on what’s right. Here are some reasons for optimism that he lists:

* Polio has basically been eradicated from the globe

* Measles and rubella will be next

* The global rate of “extreme poverty,” currently defined as subsistence on less than the equivalent of $1.90 a day, is now the condition of less than 10 percent of the human race. Take a look at how the World Bank recently plotted that change:

* The overall rate of violent crime in the U.S. has fallen by about half in recent decades.

* U.S. manufacturing output per worker trebled from 1975 to 2005, and our total manufacturing output continues to climb.

* General-price inflation, the bane of the U.S. economy for some decades, is hardly to be seen.

Of course, you aren’t likely to hear about any of that from Republican candidates running for office in 2016. Unlike Ronald Reagan, none of them is remotely a “happy warrior.” Instead, they all seem obsessed with the belief that a country headed by Barack Obama must be in extremis.

This striking mismatch between the GOP’s gloom and doom worldview and our considerably more nuanced reality was addressed in a recent post at Political Animal that quoted a warning from another conservative Republican, W’s former speechwriter David Frum.

I’ve been on a soapbox for months now about the harm that our overheated talk is doing to us. Yes it mobilizes supporters – but by mobilizing them with hysterical accusations and pseudo-information, overheated talk has made it impossible for representatives to represent and elected leaders to lead. The real leaders are on TV and radio, and they have very different imperatives from people in government. Talk radio thrives on confrontation and recrimination…If Republicans succeed – if they govern successfully in office and negotiate attractive compromises out of office – Rush’s listeners get less angry. And if they are less angry, they listen to the radio less, and hear fewer ads for Sleepnumber beds.


When folks on the Right are right, they’re right.

Gotta Give Them Credit for Honesty

Last Sunday I posted about research suggesting the emergence of a “kinder, gentler,” less political Christianity.

The news has evidently not reached Augusta, Virginia.

An ad by the Augusta County Republican Committee touting the need to “Preserve our Christian Heritage” was created to be a reflection of the party’s creed, officials say.

Larry Roller, 87, created the political flier that says, “Preserve our Christian Heritage! VOTE REPUBLICAN” on Nov. 3. The ad ran as an insert in The News Leader Thursday.

God is a foundation of our nation,” said Roller, of Mount Sidney, who is on the GOP committee. “If you read the histories of our founding fathers, (they say) you should not run for office if you are not a Christian.”

Well, I hate to break it to you, Larry, but the founding fathers actually said no such thing. In fact, quite the opposite. That’s why they put that bit in the Constitution about never requiring a religious test for office, and that’s also why the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause prohibits government from engaging in activities that “respect an establishment” of religion.

People like Larry remind me of the caller to a radio show I was on a few years ago, who justified his (unconstitutional) position by informing me that “Even James Madison said we’re giving the Bill of Rights to people who live by the Ten Commandments.” When I politely informed him that the quote had been debunked as bogus–and that it was also contrary to everything Madison actually had said–he screamed into the phone “Well I think he said it!” and slammed down the receiver.

In Augusta county, a follow-up story had quotes from a number of local Republican officeholders defending both the ad and Larry’s somewhat unique perspective on the American founding.

When you live in a fact-free world, it’s easier to understand support for people like Donald Trump and Ben Carson…

Selling Snake Oil

Following my recent post about Ben Carson, I got an email from my cousin, the cardiologist/medical researcher whose expertise I often cite here. He was livid about an aspect of Carson’s biography of which I’d previously been unaware: his willingness to use his prominence and medical credentials to hawk snake oil.

Carson first spoke out in favor of Mannatech products over a decade ago when he claimed that the Texas-based company’s “glyconutritional supplements,” which included larch-tree bark and aloe vera extract, helped him overcome prostate cancer….

As the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month, Carson’s relationship with the company deepened over time, including “four paid speeches at Mannatech gatherings, most recently one in 2013 for which he was paid $42,000, according to the company.” …

Mannatech supposedly made $415 million in the last 12 months selling pills and powders made from larch bark and aloe, known as glyconutrients, marketed under the trade name of Ambrotose, a so called “nutritional supplement that helps the cells in one’s body communicate with one another”…

My cousin’s blog has more detail.

During the last debate, Carson denied having a ten-year relationship with the company, which claims its nutritional supplement can cure autism, cancer and other serious illnesses. (Mannatech paid $7 million to settle a deceptive marketing lawsuit in Texas).

Politifact rated Carson’s response “false.” 

Paul Krugman also noted Carson’s relationship to Mannatech, but went on to comment on the GOP’s sale of “snake oil” more broadly, noting

As the historian Rick Perlstein documents, a “strategic alliance of snake-oil vendors and conservative true believers” goes back half a century. Direct-mail marketing using addresses culled from political campaigns has given way to email, but the game remains the same.

Krugman listed several examples, from Glenn Beck’s Goldline, to Ron Paul’s book sales, to the recent New York Times series exposing a number of conservative PACs whose fundraising benefits the people who run the PACs, rather than the causes they ostensibly support.

You might think that such revelations would be politically devastating. But the targets of such schemes know, just know, that the liberal mainstream media can’t be trusted, that when it reports negative stories about conservative heroes it’s just out to suppress people who are telling the real truth. It’s a closed information loop, and can’t be broken.

A world of frightened, uninformed and disoriented people is tailor-made for guys selling snake oil.

I Think I’ve Heard This Song Before…

Hell, I’ve sung this song!

There has been a steady exodus of former national GOP officials out of the party. Bruce Bartlett, Norman Ornstein, Lawrence Wilkerson… plus a host of far less prominent folks. And then there are the bewildered, reasonable Republicans who are still trying to work within the party for a return to its formerly responsible conservatism.

Now, it’s Ben Bernanke.

You will recall that Bernanke was chosen by the Republican White House to chair the Federal Reserve after  Alan Greenspan left. He had formerly headed up George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisors.

Bernanke has now published a book, “The Courage to Act,” detailing his experiences and defending the Fed’s performance during the Great Recession. In the book, Bernanke explained his growing disappointment with the GOP.

“I tried to listen carefully and accept thoughtful criticisms,” Bernanke wrote. “But it seemed to me that the crisis had helped to radicalize large parts of the Republican Party.”

 Though Bernanke isn’t ready to side with Democrats, he no longer associates with his former party. He “lost patience with Republicans’ susceptibility to the know-nothing-ism of the far right. I didn’t leave the Republican Party. I felt that the party left me.”
The break doesn’t come as too big of a surprise. During his tenure, Bernanke at times abandoned subtlety and pleaded with congressional Republicans – whose policies Bernanke saw as making the economy worse – to be more responsible. GOP lawmakers consistently refused.

Indeed, by 2013, when Republicans were trying to blame President Obama for the sluggish recovery, Bernanke said quite clearly that the biggest obstacle to stronger growth was the Republicans’ economic agenda.

When I “came out” as a Democrat in 2000, appalling many of my wonderful friends in the Marion County GOP, I was often asked why I’d left a party that I had belonged to for over 35 years.

My answer was identical to Bernanke’s: I didn’t leave; the party left me.

Today’s radical anti-woman, anti–immigrant, anti-science, pro-“God Guns & Guts” GOP is nothing like the party I joined and worked for so long ago.  It’s hard for people who weren’t around when Republicans were thoughtful adults and genuine conservatives to believe just how far the GOP has moved to the right, but here’s a chart with visual evidence of the extent of the radicalization…

The real question: will the inevitable defeat of its Presidential candidate (you can’t gerrymander the country) serve as a wake-up call and an incentive to move back toward reality? Or will the Grand Old Party break into its increasingly fractious factions?

John Boehner and the GOP’s Alternate Reality

There has been no lack of punditry–much of it inane–in the wake of John Boehner’s resignation. But I encountered one of the more thought-provoking analyses at the progressive website Daily Kos. After detailing the gleeful reactions emanating from the more reactionary precincts of what used to be a political party (and is now some sort of cult), and accusations from people like Mike Huckabee to the effect that Boehner had “given the President more power on Obamacare,” the poster ruminated:

After total legislative obstruction, a government shut-down, more than 50 votes to repeal Obamacare, an ensuing presidential election, two Supreme Court lawsuits, and other pending litigation – – Republicans are livid with the belief that John Boehner has worked with the President to strengthen Obamacare.

No sane political observer could think that.  So, what gives?  As Jonathan Chait explains, we are witnessing a sort of collective Republican denial where they cannot accept that they are not the ruling party, not the “deciders” (to use a former president’s phrase):

To understand the pressures that brought about Boehner’s demise as an ideological split badly misconstrues the situation. The small band of right-wing noisemakers in the House who made Boehner’s existence a living hell could not identify any important substantive disagreements with the object of their wrath. . . . The source of the disagreement was tactical, not philosophical. Boehner’s tormentors refused to accept the limits of his political power. . . .

The “crazy caucus” continues to occupy an alternate reality. It exists merely to throw sand in the gears of government, refusing to accept anything less than everything it wants–and increasingly unable even to articulate what “everything it wants” is. (Anyone who has ever parented a cranky two-year-old can recognize the behavior…)

That said, the real problem isn’t that a minor, albeit significant faction of a major party is arguably insane. The real problem is, voters elected them. And non-voters abetted them.

That’s what is so frightening to contemplate….