Friday, November 30, 2012

Tower of Babble at the Cliff

American disarray is becoming Biblical in the “confusion of tongues” at the fiscal cliff. The builders of the nation’s future seem cursed by inability to find a common language.

Boehner’s gang rejects the President’s proposal as “completely unbalanced and unreasonable” while beyond the Wall Street Journal paywall Mitch McConnell rants about tearing up the social safety net.

Wasn’t there a recent national election in which the people spoke, if not with one voice, clearly enough to set an agenda?  In a tour to keep that momentum going, the President tells workers at a toy factory about the GOP’s holding middle-class tax cuts hostage to preserve those of the rich:

“I’ve been keeping my own naughty and nice list for Washington. That’s sort of like the lump of coal you get for Christmas. That’s a Scrooge Christmas...

“The reason I’m here is because I want the American people to urge Congress soon in the next week the next two weeks to begin the work we have by doing what we all agree on. Both parties agree that we should extend the middle-class tax cuts.

“I want you to call, I want you to send an e-mail, post on their Facebook wall.”

In these times, the social media may be the best hope for magnifying the voice of the people with messages that can’t be misunderstood. Tweets and e-mail can heighten the telegrams and telephone calls of yore that conveyed the mood beyond Washington.

Meanwhile, conservative cheerleaders keep urging their Congressional heroes to stay the course:

“The GOP's message this week to the Dems can be summed up in two words: Grow up. Only after the president has definitively shown that the Democrats prefer the politics of adolescence should the GOP begin passing out parachutes for the group jump over the cliff.”

In how many languages can they say “Geronimo?”

Thursday, November 29, 2012

GOP Gauntlet: Susan Rice's Practice Run

To succeed Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, the current UN ambassador must overcome a diplomatic challenge as formidable as any that might face her on the world stage: winning over paranoid antagonists with hostile intentions—-members of the US Senate.

Even before being nominated, she is trying to do just that in a process usually followed by those who have already been named for high position, a tour of one-on-one meetings with Senators who would vote to confirm her or not.

Ambassador Rice’s meetings follow the growth of potential opposition beyond the McCain-Graham-Ayotte gang of three Amigos as Maine Sen. Susan Collins tells reporters, “I continue to be troubled by the fact that the United Nations ambassador decided to play what was essentially a political role at the height of a contentious presidential election campaign.”

Meanwhile, the molehill that became a mountain prompts scurrying to cover agency backsides as the FBI and CIA point fingers at each other in what normally would be seen as dropping the ball in a confusing local conflict but has now been inflated into a world crisis.

McCain, Graham et al, consciously or not, are following the 1950s playbook of Sen. Joe McCarthy who pumped up every incident into a global accusation (“Who lost China?”).

No responsible person wants to sweep under the rug a situation that resulted in US deaths on foreign soil, but the torrent of accusations against Rice is coming from Republican partisans who hardly fit that description.

If Ambassador Rice is nominated, a full inquiry into her qualifications by sober Senators would be in order. Meanwhile, she is running a gauntlet of accusations by a few who are drunk on petty power.

If she emerges victorious, the new Secretary of State would do so with enough scar tissue to combat tinpot tyrants around the world.  

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Obama Has Romney for Lunch

The President, who ate his challenger’s lunch on November 6, is repaying the social obligation with a White House meal tomorrow, thus confirming Tea Party fears that they had the wrong candidate this year.

In their view, the loser should not be breaking bread with Barack Obama but still breaking heads. (Four years later, John McCain is showing how it’s done.)

Soon after the election, the President noted that Romney “did a terrific job running the Olympics...That skill set of trying to figure out how to make something work better applies to the federal government...

“He presented some ideas during the course of the campaign that I actually agree with. And so it’d be interesting to talk to him.”

Significantly, Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan won’t be joining them at the table. He’s too busy trying to make Democrats eat crow on the fiscal cliff.

If the former foes savor irony, one subject over lunch could be the new Gallup Poll showing that a majority of Americans now want the federal government to stay out of healthcare coverage, backing one of Romney’s campaign contentions.
Then again, until the very end, Gallup kept predicting that Romney would be hosting White House lunches next year.

 Update: His chief strategist defends Romney’s run in the Washington Post, acknowledging he was “never a favorite of D.C.’s green-room crowd or, frankly, of many politicians.

“That’s why, a year ago, so few of those people thought that he would win the Republican nomination. But that was indicative not of any failing of Romney’s but of how out of touch so many were in Washington and in the professional political class. Nobody liked Romney except voters.”

Except on November 6 not nearly enough of them.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Behind McCain's Last Hurrah

The to-do takes a new turn with John McCain letting Susan Rice plead her Benghazi case today to clear the way for possibly replacing Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.

Cynics may see this as keeping the subject alive before media attention shifts to the House on the fiscal cliff, but a longer view suggests something much more than McCain’s last hurrah for attention.

Eight years ago, when Democrats (not including Barack Obama and Joe Biden who voted to confirm her) were harrumphing about Condoleeza Rice’s appointment to the job,  McCain nailed them with an accusation:

"I wonder why we are starting this new Congress with a protracted debate about a foregone conclusion. I can only conclude that we are doing this for no other reason than because of lingering bitterness over the outcome of the election."

Since then, McCain has become a case study in lingering bitterness as he morphed from outspoken maverick to cranky old conservative with a hair-trigger temper.

His behavior now recalls the Karl Rove campaign in 2000 primaries against Bush to paint him as psychologically damaged by his years as a POW.

The long history of that subject embraces the Stockholm Syndrome of bonding with captors through the Manchurian Candidate right up to the current award-winning Showtime series “Homeland” in which a Marine held for years by Middle East terrorists is freed to become a covert agent for them as he rises up the political ladder.

Beyond such paranoid fantasies is the reality of John McCain, a carefree son of Navy privilege who came back from captivity to serve in the Senate and run for President with every expectation of ending in the White House until W and then Obama derailed him.

Sarah Palin aside, he must still be haunted by 2008 what-ifs, including the economic meltdown that helped defeat him. If he is still bitter, how much of it is displaced rage against the Bush machine that defeated him twice and set up his defeat by Obama?

In his final days on the public stage, John McCain is acting out his own lingering bitterness against the only target available to him, but in the depths of his own mind Obama is almost surely not the only object of his inner rage.