Thursday, March 05, 2009

GOP's TP for the Limbaugh mess

I watched the Lizard Fleischer and his faux scorn -- mentioned in the following -- for myself yesterday. To imagine that a guy sat with Karl Rove for years and plotted strategy ("Americans should be careful what they say") strikes me as a new pinnacle in disingenuousness:

It took them awhile, but the GOP has come up with their official talking point on Rush Limbaugh. Here's John Boehner, from an article that went up on Politico at 4:46 (EST):

"It's a huge distraction created by the White House" to avoid talking about components of the budget, Boehner complained. "You would think the White House would have more important things to do."

And about 20 minutes later, Pat Buchanan was on Hardball, sighing over the White House creating this controversy when they should be worried about saving the economy.

And then on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, former Bush mouthpiece Ari Fleischer complained that he was very disappointed in the President for starting a childish fight when the economy is in such terrible shape.

So there you have it.

Never mind the Chairman of the Republican National Committee crawling to beg forgiveness for daring to criticize Limbaugh. Ignore the fact that no Republican has been willing to say that Limbaugh was wrong for not only hoping that President Obama fails, but for claiming that every Republican feels the same way but is too afraid to say so. It's all the White House's fault.

Watch for this in the coming days.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Wonkette: 'GOP just comically walking into every trap'

How do you get what’s left of the Republican Party to destroy itself? It sure helps to have some self-obsessed drug-addicted sociopath like Rush Limbaugh as “leader” of the doomed wingnuts! At some point in January, the same Obama strategists who outmaneuvered the Clinton Machine and American Racism noticed that an AM radio jackass beloved by angry white guys in service trucks — who else listens to AM radio, during the workday? — was publicly wishing failure upon both the new Obama Administration and the U.S. Economy. Maybe this bloated oil bag could bring down the entire GOP!

Two months later, the plan seems to be working flawlessly. The Obama team says something like, “Hey, Republicans, do you agree with your party leader, Rush Limbaugh, this smarmy sex creep, that America should fail?” And then whatever hapless GOP factotum, such as party chairman Michael Steele, says something reasonable like, “Uh, hell no, and Limbaugh’s an ugly sack of rat shit,” and then Limbaugh bellows on the AM, and then the hapless GOP factotum immediately kisses Rush’s tacky pinky ring ...

*stopping to catch my breath from laughing too hard*

Finally, the very image of Limbaugh — a monstrous, sweating, greedy, fat-fingered Viagra-gobbling sex-tourist Jabba the Hutt figure of vulgarity and revulsion — is, officially, the image of the Republican party. The late-night network comedy talk shows are just loving it:

And now the Democrats have this hilarious “apologize to Rush” form letter. Democrats doing something hilarious? Change really has come to America ...

Comedy Gold.

Operation Pigbaugh

Top Democrats believe they have struck political gold by depicting Rush Limbaugh as the new face of the Republican Party, a full-scale effort first hatched by some of the most familiar names in politics and now being guided in part from inside the White House.

The strategy took shape after Democratic strategists Stanley Greenberg and James Carville included Limbaugh’s name in an October poll and learned their longtime tormentor was deeply unpopular with many Americans, especially younger voters. Then the conservative talk-radio host emerged as an unapologetic critic of Barack Obama shortly before his inauguration, when even many Republicans were showering him with praise.

Soon it clicked: Democrats realized they could roll out a new GOP bogeyman for the post-Bush era by turning to an old one in Limbaugh, a polarizing figure since he rose to prominence in the 1990s.

Limbaugh is embracing the line of attack, suggesting a certain symbiosis between him and his political adversaries.

"The administration is enabling me,” he wrote in an e-mail to POLITICO. “They are expanding my profile, expanding my audience and expanding my influence. An ever larger number of people are now being exposed to the antidote to Obamaism: conservatism, as articulated by me. An ever larger number of people are now exposed to substantive warnings, analysis and criticism of Obama's policies and intentions, a ‘story’ I own because the [mainstream media] is largely the Obama Press Office.”

The bigger, the better, agreed Carville. “It’s great for us, great for him, great for the press,” he said of Limbaugh. “The only people he’s not good for are the actual Republicans in Congress.”

Independent voters hate the guy as much as we do. Independents, of course, are the reason Obama is working at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and why Republicans in Congress have been hosed in the past two election cycles.

They still aren't getting it, though. As Obama's popularity numbers go up, the GOP's go further into the toilet. But because their worst instincts are completely out of control -- like an OxyContin habit -- what is at risk is the very relevance of the Republican party nationally, in the strictest electoral sense of the word.

Paul Begala, a close friend of Carville, Greenberg and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, said they found Limbaugh’s overall ratings were even lower than the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s controversial former pastor, and William Ayers, the domestic terrorist and Chicago resident who Republicans sought to tie to Obama during the campaign.

Then came what Begala called “the tripwire.”

“I hope he fails,” Limbaugh said of Obama on his show four days before the president was sworn in. It was a time when Obama’s approval ratings were soaring, but more than that, polls showed even people who didn’t vote for him badly wanted him to succeed, coming to office at a time of economic meltdown.

No amount of Tea Parties, CNBC rants, or even the incoherent mutterings of the Vulgar Pigboy himself can stop this slide. They can either re-acquire some semblance of decency, conciliation, and bi-partisanship, or they can't.

Got popcorn?

Update: Chuck Todd...

To paraphrase Dickens, the last six weeks have been the best of times for Obama and the Democrats, and the worst of times for the Republicans. Just consider the latest findings from our NBC/WSJ poll: Obama’s favorability rating is at 68% (an all-time high in our survey), 67% say they feel more hopeful about his leadership, 60% approve of his job in the White House, and 49% have a positive view of the Democratic Party (which is also near a high). On the other hand, just 26% view the GOP positively (an all-time low in the poll), respondents blame Bush and congressional Republicans for most of the partisanship in DC, 56% think the GOP’s opposition to Obama is based on politics, and Republicans lose by nearly 30 percentage points on the question about which party would do a better job of leading the country out of recession.

While we have covered all the new administration’s ups and downs, it is absolutely clear which party has suffered the most in public opinion these first six weeks: the GOP. NBC/WSJ co-pollster Peter Hart (D) says Republicans “have been tone deaf to the results of the 2008 election… They never heard the message. They continue to preach the old-time religion.” Adds co-pollster Bill McInturff (R), “These are difficult and problematic numbers.”

More of Yoo

... and less of our constitutional rights (though that's getting rolled back a little now). Scott Horton at Harper's:

John Yoo’s Constitution is unlike any other I have ever seen. It seems to consist of one clause: appointing the President as commander-in-chief. The rest of the Constitution was apparently printed in disappearing ink. ...

We may not have realized it at the time, but in the period from late 2001-January 19, 2009, this country was a dictatorship. The constitutional rights we learned about in high school civics were suspended. That was thanks to secret memos crafted deep inside the Justice Department that effectively trashed the Constitution. What we know now is likely the least of it.

Glenn Greenwald (bold emphasis his):

Let's just look at one of those documents (.pdf) -- entitled "Authority for Use of Military Force to Combat Terrorist Activities Within the U.S." It was sent to (and requested by) Defense Department General Counsel William J. Haynes and authored by Assistant Attorney General John Yoo and DOJ Special Counsel Robert Delahunty. But it's not a "Yoo memo." Rather, it was the official and formal position of the U.S. Government -- at least of the omnipotent Executive Branch -- from the time it was issued until just several months George Bush before left office (October, 2008), when OLC Chief Stephen Bradbury abruptly issued a memo withdrawing, denouncing and repudiating both its reasoning and conclusions.

The essence of this document was to declare that George Bush had the authority (a) to deploy the U.S. military inside the U.S., (b) directed at foreign nationals and U.S. citizens alike; (c) unconstrained by any Constitutional limits, including those of the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments. It was nothing less than an explicit decree that, when it comes to Presidential power, the Bill of Rights was suspended, even on U.S. soil and as applied to U.S. citizens. And it wasn't only a decree that existed in theory; this secret proclamation that the Fourth Amendment was inapplicable to what the document calls "domestic military operations" was, among other things, the basis on which Bush ordered the NSA, an arm of the U.S. military, to turn inwards and begin spying -- in secret and with no oversight -- on the electronic communications (telephone calls and emails) of U.S. citizens on U.S. soil.

Law professor Jack Balkin, from Balkinization (bold below is mine):

These (now-) disowned claims lie at the heart of the Cheney/Addington/Yoo theory of presidential power-- namely, that when the president acts as commander in chief Congress may not restrict in any way his military decisionmaking, including decisions about detention, interrogation, and surveillance. The President, because he is President, may do whatever he thinks is necessary, even in the domestic context, if he acts for military and national security reasons in his capacity as Commander in Chief. This theory of presidential power argues, in essence, that when the President acts in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief, he may make his own rules and cannot be bound by Congressional laws to the contrary. This is a theory of presidential dictatorship.

These views are outrageous and inconsistent with basic principles of the Constitution as well as with two centuries of legal precedents. Yet they were the basic assumptions of key players in the Bush Administration in the days following 9/11.

Zachary Roth at TPM Muckraker with a summary of legal opinions, all of which happen to conflict with Yoo's:

Walter Dellinger, who ran OLC during the Clinton administration tells the New York Times that the Bradbury memo "disclaiming the opinions of earlier Bush lawyers sets out in blunt detail how irresponsible those earlier opinions were."

Jennifer Daskal of Human Rights Watch speaking to the Washington Post, singles out the memo that allowed the administration to send detainees to countries that commit human rights abuses. "That is [the Office of Legal Counsel] telling people how to get away with sending someone to a nation to be tortured," Daskal said. "The idea that the legal counsel's office would be essentially telling the president how to violate the law is completely contrary to the purpose and the role of what a legal adviser is supposed to do."

Orin Kerr, a law professor at George Washington, focuses on the memo that gave the administration the power to conduct warrantless wiretapping. Writing on the blog The Volokh Conspiracy, Kerr calls the argument that FISA doesn't apply to national security issues -- which appears to be the memo's argument -- "an extremely lame analysis." He continues: "Much of the point of FISA was to regulate that."

And lastly, Yoo himself:

I think the job of a lawyer is to give a straight answer to a client. One thing I sometimes worry about is that lawyers in the future in the government are going to start worrying about, "What are people going to think of me?" Your client the president, or your client the justice on the Supreme Court, or your client this senator, needs to know what's legal and not legal. And sometimes, what's legal and not legal is not the same thing as what you can do or what you should do.