Saturday, January 24, 2009

Limbaugh's Butt--No. 2

Byron York of National Review Online raises an interesting point concerning Obama's statement to the Republican leadership that "You can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done":
With George W. Bush now off the stage, it may be that Obama and some of his fellow Democrats view Limbaugh, and not John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, or any other elected official, as the true leader of the Republican opposition.
York doesn't deal with the obviousness of Obama's argument that the Republicans won't be able to participate in the stimulus package legislation if they listen to Limbaugh. That's because Limbaugh is opposed to anything like an 800 billion stimulus package. Limbaugh's a small government Republican. He doesn't believe that government intervention to address the recession is appropriate, or that government intervention work. Assuming that Obama himself doesn't believe his own stimulus package will work, Limbaugh thinks that Obama is using the stimulus bill to further Democratic political goals.
To make the argument about me instead of his plan makes sense from his perspective. Obama's plan would buy votes for the Democrat Party, in the same way FDR's New Deal established majority power for 50 years of Democrat rule, and it would also simultaneously seriously damage any hope of future tax cuts. It would allow a majority of American voters to guarantee no taxes for themselves going forward. It would burden the private sector and put the public sector in permanent and firm control of the economy. Put simply, I believe his stimulus is aimed at re-establishing "eternal" power for the Democrat Party rather than stimulating the economy because anyone with a brain knows this is NOT how you stimulate the economy. If I can be made to serve as a distraction, then there is that much less time debating the merits of this TRILLION dollar debacle.

Literally speaking, Obama's right. The Republicans can't meaningfully participate in stimulus negotiations if they "just listen to Rush Limbaugh."

So why did Obama make the comment?

My opinion is that Obama mostly likes to throw a sharp elbow at the Republicans every once in a while just to show that they're not going to push him around.

But if Obama's comment did have a deep political connotation, I think it would be the opposite of what York says. Instead of viewing Limbaugh as the "true leader of the Republican opposition," Obama might be trying to give Limbaugh more exposure as a way to weaken the Republicans. It's important to emphasize that non-conservative America largely perceives Limbaugh as a combination of moron and racist buffoon. No surprise there. Whether Limbaugh is using "Barack the Magic Negro," making comments about the Baltimore Ravens, or talking about bending over for Obama, there's no doubt that he's America's most prominent racist buffoon as well as an important Republican leader.

Limbaugh himself recognizes the extent to which moderates hate him.

Perhaps recognizing this, Obama might be referring to Limbaugh as a way to undermine the Republican leadership. If McConnell and Boehner are going to be recalcitrant, Obama is going to remind them that they're being just like Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Sean Hannity and that such right-wing extremism is a political loser.

And I think it's a great idea. The more national audiences see and here of conservative extremists like Limbaugh, the less they're going to be attracted to the Republican Party.

Days and Nights of Limbaugh's Butt

Are we going to be seeing days and nights of Rush Limbaugh's butt?

The answer is probably yes.

The skies are aligned so that everybody wants to be exposed to Limbaugh (or as Miss Tween RSI says, Lip Balm).

Conservatives want more Limbaugh because they want to hear somebody saying what they think. Sure they have Fox but Fox isn't enough now. It's important to remember the extent to which the Republican Party has been hollowed out over the last three years. Bush is not only out of office but nobody in the Bush administration emerged with any credibility to "speak for conservatism." Other "Republican spokesmen" like George Allen, Rick Santorum, Ralph Reed, or Roy Blunt were defeated, retired, retreated, or implicated in the Jack Abramoff scandal.

As a result, Rush Limbaugh is becoming even more important to Republicans than he used to be. When Limbaugh said he didn't want Obama to succeed, he was speaking for millions of Republicans who think Obama's a Muslim, black nationalist, or the anti-Christ.

All of this also makes Rush Limbaugh more of a figure with the mainstream media as well. So-called "liberal media" outlets like CNN are doing stories on Limbaugh. Notwithstanding their insider political skills, Republican leaders Mitch McConnell and John Boehner have less than zero media charisma. But Limbaugh has tons of charisma and he often has provocative things to say that make good headlines.

So we're going to be hearing more from Limbaugh now that the Democrats are in control, not less.

And this is just fine for liberal outlets like The Daily Show and Huffington Post. More than anything else, the really liberal media hungers after right-wing buffoonery to ridicule for the benefit of their core audience.

And Rush Limbaugh delivers the buffoonery better than anyone alive.

Here's Limbaugh at his homoerotic, weenie best on having to bend over and take it from Obama.
We are being told that we have to hope he succeeds, that we have to bend over, grab the ankles, bend over forward, backward, whichever, because his father was black, because this is the first black president.
What's significant here is that the Limbaugh "bend over, grab the ankles" comment was covered by ThinkProgress, Democratic Underground, and Daily Kos. The Daily Show had a great little segment with a picture of Limbaugh's butt at the end.

Over on the more mainstream media, MSNBC also featured the story.

Given that everybody in the media now has a stake in "The Limbaugh Experience," it looks like Limbaugh's butt is going to be a daily experience.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Now That Obama is Meeting Some Republicans

Obama had some sharp words today for Republicans today:

President Obama warned Republicans on Capitol Hill today that they need to quit listening to radio king Rush Limbaugh if they want to get along with Democrats and the new administration.

"You can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done," he told top GOP leaders, whom he had invited to the White House to discuss his nearly $1 trillion stimulus package.

To be fair to Obama, he said that Republicans shouldn't "just" listen to Limbaugh not that Republicans should stop listening to El Rushbo.

Still, it makes me wonder.

Obama served eight years in the Illinois Senate from heavily Democratic Chicago and two years in the U.S. Senate where he worked with reasonable Republicans like Dick Lugar of Indiana.

Maybe Obama's going to be a lot less "post-partisan" when he finds out that most Republican Senators are more like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly than Dick Lugar.

Abortion is a Good Thing

President Obama came out with a positive statement on abortion on the anniversary of Roe v Wade.

"On the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we are reminded that this decision not only protects women’s health and reproductive freedom, but stands for a broader principle: that government should not intrude on our most private family matters. I remain committed to protecting a woman’s right to choose.While this is a sensitive and often divisive issue, no matter what our views, we are united in our determination to prevent unintended pregnancies, reduce the need for abortion, and support women and families in the choices they make. To accomplish these goals, we must work to find common ground to expand access to affordable contraception, accurate health information, and preventative services.On this anniversary, we must also recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights and opportunities as our sons: the chance to attain a world-class education; to have fulfilling careers in any industry; to be treated fairly and paid equally for their work; and to have no limits on their dreams. That is what I want for women everywhere."

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Atheists Can Take Heart

Obama "forgot" to bring a Bible to his second swearing in last night. Of course the big surprise is that nothing significant happened as a result. I'm sure Jesus said somewhere that the world would come to an end if the President of the United States was sworn in without a Bible. Something's just got to be wrong.

Obama and the Final Delusion

Conservative columnists like Charles Krauthammer have been consoling themselves with a final delusion that the Obama administration would continue the policies of George Bush
Except for Richard Nixon, no president since Harry Truman has left office more unloved than George W. Bush. Truman's rehabilitation took decades. Bush's will come sooner. Indeed, it has already begun. The chief revisionist? Barack Obama. Vindication is being expressed not in words but in deeds -- the tacit endorsement conveyed by the Obama continuity-we-can-believe-in transition. It's not just the retention of such key figures as Defense Secretary Bob Gates or Treasury Secretary nominee Timothy Geithner, who, as president of the New York Fed, has been instrumental in guiding the Bush financial rescue over the past year. It's the continuity of policy
But the Bush Legacy Project has already had a bad day today, and it still isn't noon.
On Day Two of his administration, President Barack Obama began overhauling U.S.
treatment of terror suspects, signing orders to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center, review military trials of suspects and ban the harshest interrogation methods.
MSN views the closing of Guantanamo as the most important item here, but by now it should be evident that mandating that interrogators follow the Army Field Manual and banning torture (in other words, "the harshest interrogration methods) is more important.
Banning practices defined as torture is one more indication that the Obama administration is going to treat torture as a crime.
Major figures in the Bush administration might find that "their legacy" includes defending themselves against criminal charges.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

"Our Caroline" Out of Senate Contention

It's out that Caroline Kennedy "withdrew" from consideration to replace Hillary Clinton in the U. S. Senate. Actually, Kennedy only "withdrew" after Gov. David Paterson informed her that she wasn't going to be picked.

In other words, she was rejected first, and then withdrew her name to save face . . . sort of.

The only way Kennedy was going to be chosen was if everyone took her as "Our Caroline," the beloved daughter of the martyred John F. Kennedy.

But it's extremely difficult to be "beloved" without having a compelling media presence.

And Caroline Kennedy. . . you know, like she wasn't very good in front of the cameras.

So, Gov. Paterson pulled the plus and Caroline Kennedy now joins the 4.5 million adult New Yorkers who aren't going to be a U. S. Senator.

What now for Caroline?

Personally, I hope that she gets involved in government in some other way. Kennedy is smart and capable. Now she needs to figure out the best way she can serve the Obama administration.

Yet More! It looks like there's uncertainty about whether to withdraw in Caroline Kennedy's camp. Bungling the withdrawal of her candidacy is a sign that Caroline should have sought a Republican nomination for the Senate. That would have given her some goofball authenticity.

Rumors of Competence: Obama's First Day

Are there any allegorical figures for political competence? Allegorical figures of liberty like Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People above are famous. Figures of justice, virtue, and wisdom also abound. But what about the know-how it takes to enact what is right in a complex and contraditory environment?
What about competence?
In some ways, political competence is more like an artisan skill than anything else. In political competence, elements of creativity and technical skill are mobilized to provide a practical benefit for others. The Bush administration put such a high value on values, loyalty, and membership in the conservative movement that they downgraded competence as a political virtue. The Bush people didn't want to promote peace in the Middle East or solve the problems betweent he U. S. and Iran. So there was no question about employing competence in these areas. They didn't want to forcefully regulate the financial industry, pharmaceuticals, or agriculture either. The Bush people let FEMA fall apart and haven't put it back together again despite Katrina.
It will take a long time for the federal government to regain the competence level it had when George Bush took the oath of office in 2001.
But there is a rumor of competence on the horizon. According to The Jewish Week, the Obama administration is going to appoint George Mitchell as special envoy to the Middle East. Mitchell is a former Senator and Democratic majority leader from Maine who was instrumental in forging peace between the Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland. Given that Mitchell has such a stellar reputation for persistence, even-handedness, and integrity, appointing him would be a sign that Obama wants to forge a comprehensive peace in the Middle East. According to The Jewish Weekly, the Bush administration was mainly interested in letting the Israelis do what they want. Therefore they did not need or want somebody as competent as Mitchell to work on a settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians.
But the rumor of Mitchell's appointment is a sign that the Obama administration might actually want to accomplish something.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

So, It Was John Roberts?

Aah! So, it was John Roberts who goofed up the big moment of Barack Obama's nomination. I knew he was conservative, but didn't realize he was such an ardent member of the vast right-wing conspiracy.

Is anybody talking "proscription" here?

Live-Blogging the Obama Inauguration

11:05, I'm at the Morehead State student union live-blogging the Obama inauguration. My family is in Washington and I expect to hear from them over the next hour.

Right now, ABC is taking the Soviet perspective on the inauguration--focusing on the big Cadillac limos, the cops, and security; showing Senators, Supreme Court Justices, and Cabinet designees. George Stephanopoulos and Charles Gibson are talking gibberish in low, serious tones.

There's Susan Rice (UN Ambassador) and Carol Browner (global warming czar).

Hey, there's Eric Holder, the Attorney General designate who said that waterboarding is torture.

But I don't care about that. ABC would do a lot better if they did face in the crowd interviews.

"The elites they will always be with us"--but elites didn't make it possible for a black guy to be elected president and elites didn't make Barack Obama's campaign.

"There's Al and Tipper Gore."

The "pageantry" might look different to people who are there, but the whole thing looks like a march of death to me.

11:14, I wonder what some of the African-American blogs are saying.

Here's brotherpeacemaker at

A lot of people like to talk in the most simplistic of terms that Mr. Obama’s election is now an indication that racism is over and that the people in the black community no longer have an excuse for the under achievement that permeates the black community relative to other communities. But then people turn around and see Mr. Obama as the rare exception instead of the general rule of black people. He speaks so well. Black people are indeed inferior. It’s just that every now and then you will find that rare black person that can transcend his or her inherent black inferiorities.

Bottom line is that from Dr. King’s perspective, it wasn’t about the individual. It wasn’t about the achievements of a few black people. It was about the black community. We can celebrate the fact that Mr. Obama is the latest member of an extremely small, elite fraternity. We can support him in his endeavors as he tries to bring something that resembles respectable leadership back to the oval office.
The black community should be very proud of this moment.

More elites are being officially introduced to the inauguration crowd. A few minutes ago, it was Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter, now Bill and Hillary.

None of elites has a hat on--hopefully there won't be any William Henry Harrison cases of somebody dying because they didn't dress for inaugural cold.

Oops. Carl Gibson from MSPR wanted to interview me. I told him that Obama has about six years to turn things around. That's a lot more optimistic and less Republican-fearing than most observers. But I'm sure I'm right. Reagan and George H. W. Bush got 11 years. Obama will get at least half that.

A student sitting next to me compared the procession to The Green Mile--Obama's last steps.

Brotherpeacemker is right about Obama's election not meaning the end of racism in the United States. But it is a sign that racism is weakening on the very important surface of electoral politics.

It's a huge deal.

11:39. There's Obama moving out of the capital toward the inauguration stand, the first black guy to be sworn in as president. Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Diane Feinstein were in front of him and two black cops were escorting them.

Forty years ago, there were almost no black public officials, almost no black cops in that kind of setting, and no powerful women.


Obama is coming out. He gives a hug to John Lewis as an offical passing of the torch from the Civil Rights generation to the "Making Good on Civil Rights" President.

Obama's smarter than ABC News and he's working both the high ranking and the ordinary parts of the crowd.

Another fifteen minutes of speeches before the swearing in.

Look at the crowd--that's more powerful than anything Diane Feinstein is saying. Ooh. Feinstein is making an inadvertent reference to Malcolm X's famous "The Ballot or the Bullet" speech.

Here comes Rick Warren--now mostly known as homophobe, calling for a "new birth of clarity." That's a weak kind of gruel. Oh man, what was Warren doing in pronouncing the name of Obama's kids--MELIA and SASHA!

That got a big laugh from the crowd here

That's a real hat that Aretha Franklin is wearing--singing My Country Tis of Thee.

Joe Biden is taking the oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States." Hopefully, he'll do a better job of that than "Constitution-Wrecker" Dick Cheney.

11:59. The big moment is almost here.

They're playing "Simple Gifts"--Mrs. RSI and I socilize with a circle that sings Simple Gifts at EVERY gathering we have. This is really cool.

And the band they have for the occasion is great--Yitzhak Perlman, YoYo Ma, etc. It's a stirring song. I'll remember this for a long time.

12:04pm. Barack Obama hasn't taken the oath yet. But he became president at noon.

And Obama blew the oath of office. Well, I'm certainly going to feel a lot better the next time I screw up. If Barack Obama can screw up the oath of office, I can forgive myself for a lot of things.

12:07, now the speech

Obama moves quickly to two points:

1. The fidelity of the people to the founding ideals and documents of the Country
2. The Crisis--the war against terror, the economy, and failing schools

Guaranteeing that the crisis will be met.

Obama is going through the sacrifices that our ancestors made "for us."

To begin the work of remaking America.

Laying a new foundation for growth--infrastructure, science, health care, new energy, eductional transformation,

Against cynicism

Reminding that the success of the economy depends on real prosperity and opportunity.

More when I see the text.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Tonight at the MLK Service

I'm here in Morehead, KY while the RSI family is in Washington for the inauguration. Tonight's MLK service was the best we've had in the 19 years I've lived in Kentucky. There was a very nice counter-point between the two speakers. Speaking quickly and building to crescendo after crescendo, a black Baptist minister emphasized Barack Obama's roots in the black church. According to Rev. C. B. Akins, Obama didn't learn how to think in terms of "change you can believe in," "yes we can," and "hope" while he was at Harvard and Columbia. He learned that way of thinking in the black church in Chicago.

And Rev. Akins was precisely right.

Rev. Akins also portrayed Obama's victory as part of the struggle for racial uplift in which African-Americans have been engaged from at least the 18th century to today. Akins named Denmark Vecsey along with Nat Turner, Sojourner Truth, W. E. B. DuBois, and Ida Wells Barnett as people who made Obama's victory possible and did not hesitate to cite those who were violent or radical.

But Akins started by offering Obama as a model for people who need uplift today.

It was all very well done--and . . . well, uplifting.

Part of what made Rev. Akins so effective is that he followed a local white minister, Rev. Molly Smathers, who spoke movingly about how her and her family dealt with racism in the Lexington, KY area. One topic that gets very little play in the media is the personal connundrums and discouragement that many non-racist whites experience as they deal with racist relatives, co-workers, fellow students, and casual acquaintances. Throughout the election season, I've been struggling over how to deal with my mother's racism toward Obama without sparking a huge counter-productive confrontation. Finally, I told her how much I had hated racism all my life and how happy I was going to be when Obama was elected.

Rev. Smathers talked movingly of her father's response to MLK's assassination, the way her son had punched a kid at his local school for using the n-word toward a black friend of his, and some incidents that occurred during the civil rights movement.

Because Rev. Smathers didn't have a large volume of black friends or historical references, she couldn't speak with the depth of Rev. Akins. But that was fine. It was a significant bit of integration that Rev. Akins and Rev. Smathers could bring together white and black experiences of dealing with racism in this way.

Certainly, I appreciated it. I think Martin Luther King would have liked it too.

A New Republican Disorder: Bush Fatigue

Michelle Malkin is complaining that Republican office-holders are knucking under to the tide of Obama popularity.

Malkin conceded that it's appropriate to show some deference to the occasion, but she complained that Republican lawmakers aren't standing their ground.

"Especially in the Beltway," she said, "they are more wrapped up in who got invited to what dinner and who didn't. And my criticism of the GOP establishment, as they've rolled on every [Obama Cabinet] nomination, is they are completely out of touch with how fly-over America feels about this spectacle."

Given that Obama's poll numbers are in the 70's, "fly-over America" must be shrinking rapidly if its opposed to the spectacle of Obama's nomination.

Not that Malkin--who lives in a DC suburb--would know.

But Malkin is right about Congressional Republicans. They're not putting up anything like determined resistance to the incoming Obama administration. It doesn't look like Republicans in the House or Senate are going to do much to obstruct Obama's Cabinet apppointments, stimulus package, or withdrawal from Iraq. Of course, they might not have much choice. The Democrats have a 70 seat majority in the House, 57 seats in the Senate, and access to votes from Senate Republicans like John McCain, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Arlen Specter, and Joe Lieberman.

After all these years, Republican moderates have finally become players.

Hmm. Maybe I haven't really taken Lieberman back yet.

In the final analysis, it may be that Congressional Republicans aren't "standing their ground" because they've been exhausted by eight years of fighting for the Bush administration.

The Democrats were certainly worn out in 2001. There was a palpable exhaustion to Democrats in the first months after Bush was inaugurated. They didn't put up much of a fight on Bush tax cuts, Bush's absurd claims to executive privilege, or the invasion of Iraq. But the Democrats weren't just "spineless," they had been ground down by the constant fighting over the Clinton presidency and weren't in any condition to fight an aggressive new Republican administration. In fact, memories of the "Clinton Wars" were one of the reasons why Democratic elites weren't very enthusiastic over Hillary's candidacy.

The Republicans might be in the same position now. It's important to remember that the Bush administration were almost as arrogant toward the Congressional Republicans as they were toward the Democrats. Rush Limbaugh is famous for saying that he was tired of carrying water for Congressional Republicans. Congressional Republicans might have gotten tired of carrying the water for the Bush administration.

And who can blame them.

Bush fatigue: Republicans caught it.


One More Day!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Bad to Be on the Bottom

An item from today's Lexington Herald-Leader:
residents of [Kentucky's] 5th Congressional District have the shortest average life expectancy of those of any congressional district in the country.
My home of Morehead is in Kentucky's 5th Congressional district and it's easy to see where it's true. It's very difficult to tell the age of a lot of people I meet or people I see in Walmart. Even people in their 20's can have a broken down look that makes you wonder if they're in their forties or fifties. Likewise, Mrs. RSI and I have met women in their early forties who see themselves as more elderly than my 73 year old mother and dress accordingly.

The Herald-Leader implies that Sen. Mitch McConnell and Rep. Hal Rogers bear considerable responsibility for the pervasive poverty that results in low life expectancies. They're not totally wrong. As Republicans, McConnell and Rogers are attached to the small government perspective that results in fewer federal programs and less federal money coming into the region. There isn't that much private investment in the region. So, the lack of federal money really hurts.

But, it is also fair to note that Hal Rogers has been active on economic development issues during his tenure in Congress. The Forward in the Fifth program, Center for Rural Development, Pride Program, and Southern and Eastern Kentucky Tourism Development Association (SEKTDA) have all been worthy efforts even though they haven't resulted in structural economic change.