The Wages Of Cowardice

What explains the chaos/civil war in the GOP?

I’ll admit that I haven’t always been a Mit Romney fan–I really didn’t pay much attention to him until his infamous “47% “takers” remark, and that gave me a very negative opinion of him. (I’m also not a fan of the “makers versus takers” view of the world.)

That said, he has steadily risen in my opinion, thanks to his vote to impeach Trump, and–along with his announcement that he will not run for a second Senate term– his willingness to be honest about the current GOP.

Romney has said publicly what most observers have long surmised–that the more rational members of the Senate’s Republican caucus share his disdain for Trump. They recognize Trump’s profound ignorance. They laugh at his ungrammatical pronouncements. They shake their heads over his “policy” choices.

But not in public.

Rarely have We the People been treated to a display of utter cowardice equal to that we are currently experiencing. As David French has written in the New York Times, the Republican Senators who refused to do their constitutional duty and vote to impeach

punted their responsibilities to the American legal system. As Mitch McConnell said when he voted to acquit Trump, “We have a criminal justice system in this country.” Yet not even a successful prosecution and felony conviction — on any of the charges against him, in any of the multiple venues — can disqualify Trump from serving as president. Because of G.O.P. cowardice, our nation is genuinely facing the possibility of a president’s taking the oath of office while also appealing one or more substantial prison sentences.

The GOP appears to be stuck with Trump, a candidate recently–and accurately– described by Jennifer Rubin as “unhinged, vengeful, incoherent, dangerous and neo-fascist.”)

French began his column by agreeing with a recent, densely-argued law review article concluding that the clear language of the 14th Amendment–if applied–disqualifies Trump (or any other traitor) from holding further public office. He then acknowledged the realities of trying to enforce that disqualification–and the likelihood that the current Supreme Court would refuse to intervene if the attempt were to be made.

While I believe the court should intervene even if the hour is late, it’s worth remembering that it would face this decision only because of the comprehensive failure of congressional Republicans. Let me be specific. There was never any way to remove Trump from American politics through the Democratic Party alone. Ending Trump’s political career required Republican cooperation, and Republicans have shirked their constitutional duties, sometimes through sheer cowardice. They have punted their responsibilities to other branches of government or simply shrunk back in fear of the consequences…

And then, of course, there’s Congress, where GOP members are in thrall to their crazy caucus.

For many of them, the answer lies in raw fear. First, there is the simple political fear of losing a House or Senate seat. In polarized, gerrymandered America, all too many Republican politicians face political risk only from their right…

Mitt Romney has pointed to a different fear: physical harm to a lawmaker’s person or family. The Trumpist cult that now controls what was once a political party is capable of real violence, and several elected officials are reacting to explicit threats from members of that cult.

The problem is, appeasement never works, as Kevin McCarthy now understands. Cowardice simply encourages the mob mentality that animates today’s GOP. As French reminds readers,

A fundamental reality of human existence is that vice often leaves virtue with few good options. Evil men can attach catastrophic risks to virtually any course of action, however admirable. But we can and should learn lessons from history. George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, two of our greatest presidents, both faced insurrectionary movements, and their example should teach us today.

As French says, people of character and conviction once inhabited the American political class, and those people gave us the tools to defend the American experiment. He says that “All we need is the will.”

We won’t have “the will,” however, until and unless we elevate better people to office. In Indiana, we have empowered a number of people whose intellectual and moral deficits and lack of concern for the Constitution and the public good make them utterly unfit for any public office.

We have our smarmy, “me myself and I” actors (Rokita, Braun), our looney-tunes, bigoted far-Right culture warriors (Banks) and the cowards who appear to know better but have thus far been unwilling to act on what they know (Young). There are many others. None of them will step up to the plate and impose accountability.

Bottom line: we have to replace them.


Mitt’s “Macaca Moment”

Wow. Just wow.

By now, half of America has seen and heard the surreptitious recording of Romney telling a group of well-heeled donors that 47% of Americans would vote for Obama no matter what because they were non-taxpaying moochers who depend on government for handouts.

A few thoughts–none, I’m sure, original.

First of all, in an age of pervasive digital technology, why on earth would anyone be stupid enough to say something like that? No matter how congenial the group, no matter how hand-picked, in today’s world the odds of your “confidential” statements staying confidential are exceptionally low. The days when political candidates could say one thing to one group and something very different to another are long, long gone–and failure to realize that is probably as great a sign of being “disconnected from reality” as the actual sentiments being expressed. Ask George Allen (he of the “macaca moment.”)

Second, how immensely ironic that a man who pays far, far less than his fair share of taxes would characterize people who don’t pay taxes as moochers. Forget how inaccurate and unfair his statement was–forget the fact that even people who don’t make enough money to pay income taxes nevertheless pay all manner of other taxes, from payroll taxes to sales taxes to gas and property taxes. Forget the fact that most of us in middle America not only pay income taxes, but do so at a far higher effective rate than Romney. Here is a man running on a platform that would decrease his own tax liability and the tax rate of people like himself; a man who has used offshore accounts and other tax avoidance strategies, and who has defended that behavior by saying he’d be stupid to pay more than he owed, denigrating  Americans who don’t pay because they don’t owe. (And where are your tax returns, Mitt? How do we know you paid anything in those years you refuse to release?)

Finally, this dismissive and self-satisfied man seems utterly oblivious to the extent to which he and his wealthy donors are themselves “moochers.” Recent articles have detailed the extent to which Romney and Bain used debt and public subsidies of one sort or another. It is particularly distasteful to watch crony capitalists who have benefitted from multiple public and private privileges crow about how they are “self-made” men. Can we spell “un-self-aware”?

Before the GOP convention, we were told the American public needed to be introduced to the “real Romney.”

I think we just were.


Michelle Bachmann in Pants

It’s two and a half months until the election.

Anyone who may have been harboring a forlorn hope that Mitt Romney might revert to the persona he wore as Governor of Massachusetts can “fuhgeddaboudit,” as they used to say on Seinfeld. He’s not using that famous Etch-A-Sketch to shake up his newfound Tea Party allegiance; to the contrary, with his choice of Paul Ryan as a running mate, he has signaled his complete capitulation to and identification with the furthest reaches of the Right.

What does Romney’s doubling-down tell us about the choice facing the country—and especially the choice facing those of us who aren’t old white heterosexual males?

Let’s look beyond issues of character and personality. Let’s ignore suspicions that Romney has lacked the savvy to assemble a competent staff. Let’s choke down the bile that we taste when we look at his “team,” composed of George W. Bush’s worst leftovers. Let’s even ignore his proposal to end Medicare.

Let’s just look at the policies that Romney and Ryan (the “Rolls Royce” team) explicitly support.

Perhaps you’ve heard, as I have, that Ryan’s voting record is substantially identical to that of Michelle Bachmann. Allow me to share some of the details of that record.

  • Ryan opposed the DREAM Act–legislation that would have allowed undocumented immigrants brought to the US as young children to remain in the country, and provided them with a path to citizenship. Instead, despite his professed identity as a deficit hawk, he supported spending millions to build a border fence to keep “them” out. (Hint: the fence wasn’t between us and Canada.)
  • In addition to his desire to privatize Social Security and eliminate Medicare, he has proposed to give Medicaid back to the states. This would almost certainly mean an end to the payments that currently keep millions of seniors in nursing homes after they have gone through all their assets and savings.
  • The Ryan budget proposes to gut programs that support neighborhood health clinics, to eliminate most student loans, and to slash funds for elementary and secondary education.
  • Ryan wants to de-fund Planned Parenthood, criminalize abortion, and grant “personhood” to fertilized eggs (a measure that would outlaw most popular forms of birth control). In a particularly egregious vote, he supported a bill allowing hospitals to refuse to perform abortions even when those procedures were necessary to save the life of the mother.
  • Adding insult to injury, Ryan has voted against equal pay for women.
  • On GLBT rights, the story is the same. Ryan opposes same-sex marriage and voted twice for a constitutional amendment prohibiting it. He voted to keep same-sex couples from adopting children in Washington DC. He voted against repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. And while the Log Cabin apologists will point out that he once voted for ENDA (the Employee NonDiscrimination Act), he later reneged on his promise to do so again, saying he saw no need for “special” legislation.
  • Mr. “Fiscal Conservative” would abolish taxes on Capital Gains—giving wealthy individuals a windfall—and would recoup the lost revenue by cutting programs that benefit the poor and middle class.
  • Ryan also agrees with Romney that we don’t need to fund Amtrak or PBS (bye-bye, Big Bird…), but we cannot take a penny from the Defense budget, or allow the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy to expire.

That is what the Rolls Royce team has to offer. It is as mean-spirited and radical a set of proposals as we have seen in my lifetime—not to mention thoroughly unworkable and unrealistic. (When Paul Krugman and David Stockman agree that Ryan’s package of proposals are a “fantasy” and wouldn’t begin to balance the budget even if enacted, that’s a pretty good sign that it isn’t a serious effort.)

So we have a choice: “Mitt the Twit” running with Michelle Bachmann in pants, versus Obama and Biden.

I’m hiding under my bed until it’s all over.


A Choice, Not an Echo….or the Base that Roared

Bowing to the demands of the purist GOP base, Mitt Romney has chosen his running mate. Paul Ryan is the final signal of his capitulation to the True Believers.

I think it was during the Goldwater campaign that Phyllis Schlafly wrote a book titled “A Choice, Not an Echo.” The idea was that the two parties have too much in common, collaborate too frequently (shades of Richard Mourdock!), and that what Americans really want is a for-real choice between starkly different platforms and philosophies.

Well, the choice of Paul Ryan means we’ll have that choice this November!

Ryan is mostly known for his budget and tax plan–a plan Roll Call says would slash Mitt Romney’s effective tax rate from 13% to 1%. (And we thought “Romney Hood” was bad…)

The New Republic describes the effects of Ryan’s budget–millions of Americans losing health insurance (Ryan’s budget would end Medicare), senior citizens falling back into pre-social security poverty, a Government “so starved for resources that, by 2050, it wouldn’t have enough money for core functions like food inspections and highway maintenance.” The richest Americans would get a huge tax cut.

The Catholic Bishops and nuns haven’t been agreeing on very much lately, but they agree that the Ryan budget is “immoral and unChristian.”

The Economic Policy Institute estimates that 1.4 million jobs would be lost if Ryan’s budget were passed. The budget proposes to eliminate Pell Grants for over a million college students; it would continue subsidies for Big Oil, but cut funding for alternative and clean energy development. (In 2011, The Daily Beast reported that Ryan’s family leases land to oil companies, and benefits from those subsidies–I’m sure that’s just a coincidence…)

Paul Ryan has called Social Security a “Ponzi Scheme,” and supported privatizing it, but he would actually increase the already-bloated Defense budget. (When several Generals testified that the reductions in Obama’s Defense Budget would not jeopardize national defense, he called them liars. He later apologized.)

If you are thinking–okay, the guy is just one of those deficit hawks, well, you don’t know the whole Paul Ryan. He may reject his Catholic faith’s teachings on social justice, but he enthusiastically embraces its anti-choice positions.

Ryan sponsored a “Fetal Personhood” bill. That bill gave fetuses full personhood rights from conception and would not only outlaw all abortion, but most popular forms of birth control. He voted to defund Planned Parenthood, and supported  a bill which would have allowed hospitals to refuse to provide a woman with an emergency abortion even if it was necessary to save her life.

Ryan has pooh-poohed the science of climate change. He voted against the Lily Ledbetter Act to ensure equal pay for women.

There’s more, but this should give any voter a pretty good idea of the agenda we are being asked to endorse.

Paul Ryan is the Koch brothers’ wet dream. In a sane world, someone this radical would be unelectable.

Pray for sanity.