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Tilting at Windmills

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July 18, 2010

A LIKELY SCENARIO IN 2011.... It's hard to say with confidence which party will hold the congressional majority next year, but Paul Krugman noted yesterday that "fake scandals" will be all the rage in the 112th Congress if there's a Republican majority.

[W]e'll be having hearings over accusations of corruption on the part of Michelle Obama's hairdresser, janitors at the Treasury, and Larry Summers's doctor's dog. If you don't believe me, you weren't paying attention during the Clinton years; remember, we had months of hearings over claims that something was fishy in the White House travel office (nothing was).

This may sound hyperbolic. It's not. In the Clinton era, House Republicans held two weeks of hearings investigating the Clintons' Christmas card list, and the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform fired a bullet into a "head-like object" -- reportedly a melon -- in his backyard to test his conspiracy theories about Vince Foster. All told, over the last six years of Bill Clinton's presidency, that same committee unilaterally issued 1,052 subpoenas -- that's not a typo -- to investigate baseless allegations of misconduct. That translates to an average of a politically-inspired subpoena every other day for six consecutive years, including weekends, holidays, and congressional recesses.

It would almost certainly be worse in 2011 and 2012. Indeed, the man positioned to lead the committee -- reformed alleged car thief Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) -- has already said he's inclined to leave "corporate America" alone, so he can attack the White House relentlessly.

For that matter, let's also not forget that some Republicans, including two members of Congress, have raised the specter of presidential impeachment once there's a GOP majority.

But Krugman also flagged this item from John Quiggin, reflecting on another likely scenario in the event of a GOP House majority.

What surprises me is that no-one has drawn the obvious inference as to what will follow, namely a shutdown of the US government.

It seems obvious to me that a shutdown will happen -- the Republicans of today are both more extreme and more disciplined than last time they were in a position to shut down the government, and they did it then. And they hate Obama at least as much now as they hated Clinton in 1995.

Agreed. John Boehner (R-Ohio) has already made some noises about refusing to fund health care programs, and given the party's desperation to please its right-wing base, it stands to reason Republicans would gladly shut down the government as a means towards obstructing the agenda approved in 2009 and 2010.

If I were laying odds, I'd say the chances of a prolonged government shutdown next year are well over 50% -- if there's a Republican majority, that is.

Steve Benen 9:55 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (35)

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Comments

I've said it many times before, but it bears repeating:

Republicans believe that government is the problem. And they prove it every time they get elected.

Posted by: chrenson on July 18, 2010 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

In 2006 Republicans (and the compliant media) demanded that Democrats take impeachment off the table, despite well-documented war crimes, perjury and corruption.

Democrats should demand the same thing, even if Obama's only "high crime and misdemeanor" is PWB -- presidentin' while black.


Posted by: SteveT on July 18, 2010 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

Indeed, the republicans with subpoena power would be a complete disaster. Darrell Issa, would become chair of the judiciary committee and he has already indicated he plans to investigate, investigate and investigate. Issa should not be taken lightly. He financed and plotted the recall of CA Gov.Gray Davis in 2002

Get ready for Sestakgate, Black Panthergate, overseas apologygate, Guantanamogate, Czargate, Acorngate etc.


http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0610/38697.html

Posted by: rollotomasi on July 18, 2010 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

If Republican take control of the House, they may very well issue dozens of subpoenas every day. Fortunately, Republicans (aided by the right-wing elements of the Supreme Court) spent the whole of Bush's two terms laying the legal groundwork to ensure Congress cannot enforce it subpoenas.

Recall that numerous Bush administration officials includ9ing Karl Rove, Harriet Myers and even ol' Alberto Gonzales himself were subpoenaed--and the administration successfully argued that the Executive Branch is immune to the oversight functions of Congress.

But I guess that, as with most things, ignoring subpoenas is perfectly legal if you're a Republican.

Posted by: Domage on July 18, 2010 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

So basically democracy doesn't work either, right?

Posted by: chrenson on July 18, 2010 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

-makes one wish Hillary had won; she would fight back with suspension of habeas corpus, arresting congressmen for treason, rendition a la G W Bush.

Posted by: DAY on July 18, 2010 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

I live in Darrell Issa's district, and right next door is Duncan Hunter's and what used to be Randy Duke Cunningham's. Let me tell you, these people are as addicted to federal spending as any Democrat you can name. They are constantly bragging about how many Defense dollars they bring home, aerospace jobs they create, highways expanded through bills they voted against, etc. They're especially shameless about "defending Medicare and Social Security" when they speak in front of seniors' groups. Hypocrites and con artists.

Posted by: Speed on July 18, 2010 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

You make a good point, Domage. Obama has been very astute at hanging on to the elements of unitary executive that were handed down to him. Maybe a Republican congress will be handed the same disregard as was the Democratic congress.

But here's hoping that the R's don't have the message to make it that far. After all, what will be the central theme this time? Contract On America?

Posted by: jcricket on July 18, 2010 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

While we are discussing bizarre and overblown investigations of the type we can expect from a Republican Congress, let us not forget the case of Henry Cisneros and David Barnett.

Mr Barnett was appointed in March 1995 to investigate whether Mr Cisneros broke the law by lying to the FBI about how much money he paid his ex-mistress (he did not, mind you, try to conceal the fact that he had paid her). This seeming simple case dragged on and on.

In December 1997 Mr Barnett got indictments for Mr Cisneros on 18 felony accounts! Just before the case was due to go to trial in September of 1999 (this is already almost 4.5 years) those 18 felonies were plea-bargained down to one (1!) misdemeanor. At least the investigation appeared to be over, particularly since the Independent Prosecutor law had been allowed to expire by now.

But no, based on apparently nothing more than his intuition, Mr Barnett decided to investigate whether Mr Cisneros was guilty of tax evasion in relation to the payments to his mistress. He didn't wrap up this investigation until 1996. Over 11 years of investigation altogether at a cost of $21 million over the Secretary of HUD's payments to his mistress!

Posted by: tanstaafl on July 18, 2010 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

Get the radio ads, teevee ads, billboards ready with a theme of "They want to spend your money!" How many millions of dollars was spent on investigations during the Clinton years!? Let them explain why that was money well-spent.

Posted by: mandm on July 18, 2010 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

Type in last paragraph of my last post.

Mr Barnett wrapped up his investigation in 2006, not 1996.

Keep in mind that at this point, Mr Cisneros had been out of government for over 9 years and the administration he worked for had left office over 5 years earlier.

Posted by: tanstaafl on July 18, 2010 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

Speed - Why has no one said anything about the shady sweetheart deals Darryl Issa has been getting. Including a 3 million dollar discount on some foreclosed property that had a higher bid from a different buyer.
I am also surprised that no one mentions his car theft days.
Also - isn't he a Lebanese moslem? Not that that would make any difference in a sane world but if he were a democrat the GOP'ers would have exploding heads.

Posted by: JS on July 18, 2010 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

UH... democracy does work... right now many members of the media are refusing to critique ideas which harm people and oddly enough the media more than help them. "Do what you want," they seem to say. "Just leave us alone."

Of course, the republicans will never be satisfied without total capitulation to their party line, which means no critical thinking allowed.

It looks like the boomers who demanded much freedom may be presiding over those elements which make it possible...

A free press and an educated population.

And oh yes, a life expectancy commsurate with that of the rest of the civilized world. When, See Wiki, America's poorest states, Alabama,Missussippi, & Louisiana have lower life expectancies than Cuba, Chile, South Korea, and Lativa Democracy cannot survive...

Freedom is pointless when you are dead.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on July 18, 2010 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

The Republicans won't 'shut down the government', they'll refuse to raise the debt ceiling, and the government will have little choice but to shut down the government for them -- save for the wars, and debt service on existing debt, of course.

This is the reason why the present debt/deficit hysteria is being whipped up, and suddenly. The populace is being predisposed to take the GOP side in the upcoming battle over debt ceiling increases.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on July 18, 2010 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

And of course it will be all Obama's fault.

Posted by: Alli on July 18, 2010 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

Well, good. The US voting public is so stupid that they need a reminder every four years of what's wrong with Republican leadership.

Of course we'll all suffer, the economy will lag, and we may well live in a developing country by 2012. But at least it will remind everyone that elections have consequences. It will remind everyone that voting for a party you don't trust is a poor way to express your displeasure.

The other scenario scares me even worse: GOP falls just short of a majority, still shuts down new legislation, clueless public still blames Democrats, by 2012 the lunatics get the Presidency which means no veto check. By 2013 we're fighting a new war in Iran and renewing our presence in Iraq.

It's almost enough to tempt me to pull for the Republicans this fall.

Posted by: Equal Opportunity Cynic on July 18, 2010 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

If this comes to pass, prominent innocent Democrats need to refuse to comply and do some lengthy jail time for contempt. If the Dems can't or won't fight, they can at least sit down.

Posted by: Michael7843853 on July 18, 2010 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

Correction:
... may be presiding over the destruction of those elements which make it possible...

College costs so much the middle classes are rapidly being squeezed out. Tuition at the Univ of Arizona is double what it was four years ago ... over $8000 a year -- about 15% of your average Arizona family's before deductions take home pay.

It's easy to see that an uneducated population is more easily swayed into believing that we, for example, are being invaded by hordes of raping, pillaging, drug dealing immigrants who are taking away our jobs between puffs of crack. Hey Our Gov believes it.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on July 18, 2010 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

So basically democracy doesn't work either, right?

Would you like to bring some particular democratic country into the conversation?

Posted by: Equal Opportunity Cynic on July 18, 2010 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

So, where is the pushback from the Democrats? The Republicans are not committing these acts of congressional assault in a vacuum. And, the media cannot silence an activated congressperson committed to revealing the process. I am waiting for authentic transparency. So far, Alan Grayson seems the only voice of objection. He is a first-timer. Where are the veterans?

Posted by: st john on July 18, 2010 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK
[W]e'll be having hearings over accusations of corruption on the part of Michelle Obama's hairdresser, janitors at the Treasury, and Larry Summers's doctor's dog.
I wouldn't be surprised to see the Republican majority (if there is one, God forbid) launch an investigation into the fact that Obama's mother-in-law lives at the White House. Seriously.

Posted by: navamske on July 18, 2010 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

Equal Opportunity Cynic: Would you like to bring some particular democratic country into the conversation?

The U.S., of course. The way I see it, so very much effort, time and money is being wasted on the politics of getting and staying elected — or utterly blocking those who are elected — that there can be no actual governance, real leadership, decision-making or crisis response.

We've known the environment was broken for the last forty fucking years. And we've done nothing. We've been trying to give everyone health care for a hundred years. And look how little we've accomplished. We've been trying to balance the budget and lower the deficit for four decades. Instead we've made it worse. We've fought the "war to end all wars" several times now. We've got the most expensive military in the Universe [even more costly than the one on Omicron Persei 8] but we can't settle a skirmish in the Middle East or even consider a diplomatic solution. We are failing to educate our children because elected officials have discovered ways to make money off of farcical text books and testing systems. Half the population [including yours truly] is overweight and unhealthy. More than half of us respond to the greatest environmental catastrophe of our time by insisting — DEMANDING! — that we drill more carelessly for more oil.

And somehow — SOMEHOW! — "Arrested Development" couldn't make it for three whole seasons!

The last act that our democracy approved with near unanimity — where Democrats and Republicans in Congress acted together for the sake of Union — was the start of the Iraq War.

Ergo, this experiment is over.

Posted by: chrenson on July 18, 2010 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

If the anti-American filth in the Republican Party shut down the government (they'll shut down everything but the Federal Protective Service who stand between me and them, the cowardly sub-humans), it will not open again.

President Obama should issue an executive order halting all transfer payments to red states --- no, make it a finer day .... halt all transfer payments to all registered Republicans in Texas, South Carolina, Wyoming, Georgia, Arizona and a handful of other states infested by the the enemies of this country.

Bring every troop home and then close the VA for lack of funds.

Train the nation's nuclear arsenal on those states and threaten to turn them into glass at the first outbreak of violence.

Posted by: John Thullen on July 18, 2010 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

@chrenson

I guess we have differing standards for defining a democracy, then. In the US we get to vote between the same two bad options, sometimes -- if both major parties decide to run a candidate. If you consider having a meaningless vote for the majority of us who live in non-competitive districts as getting to vote. It's a sham, making us feel like we're participating even though the vast majority of votes cast are window dressing.

Countries that I would consider democratic mostly have some form of proportional representation. In a democracy every vote counts.

Posted by: Equal Opportunity Cynic on July 18, 2010 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

And I know it sounds like I'm saying government is the problem just like the Republicans do. But, I'm not. What I'm saying is that, if having a democracy these days means that half of your elected officials — by their own admission — don't believe in the ability of the body to which they are elected to provide for the nation, and so do their damnedest to stop it from functioning, then it's not working.

If you ran a company and half of your employees didn't just hate working there, but got there jobs on purpose just so they could bad mouth your company on television and work behind the scenes to insure that your company failed, you'd get rid of them. Pronto.

A loud-mouth Atheist in your church congregation? You'd try to convert him or ask him to leave.

A doctor who doesn't believe in the science of medicine? You'd look for someone else.

A Wahoo fan in the Hokie's stands? Oh, Lordy Lou.

Meanwhile, my apologies for ranting. Evidently my Adderall just kicked in.

Posted by: chrenson on July 18, 2010 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

Fear is a great motivator, especially when dealing with an undereducated, uninformed electorate. I can appreciate the Dems borrowing the typical fear-mongering of the Rethugs in an effort to get out the base this November. However, no matter how accurate predictions of endless investigations or impeachment attempts are, the voters who elected Obama aren't going to turn out in response to a fear of even more Congressional shenanigans.

The Dems have to make a compelling case that the Rethugs are destroying the country with their obstructionism and ridiculous economic policies of enriching the rich even more. The average voter has to feel in his/her gut that with the Rethugs in power they will be worse off. The Dems can't do that because the Rethugs have already convinced those same voters that the opposite is true, and that's beyond any racial component Obama's presidency brings to the table.

Obama has to get control of the message, and he doesn't get much help from his own party.

Posted by: rrk1 on July 18, 2010 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

You have just hit on what I think the next two years are going to look like if Republicans win a one seat majority in either the house or the senate this fall. The government is going to come to a grinding halt. Nothing will be accomplished. The country will dive into a deep recession, probably a depression.

I am not as worried about the Republicans now as I was before Meet the Press this morning. The Republicans have wasted 2 years not coming up with a real strategy to run the country. As that word gets out the way it did this morning a lot more Democrats are going to succeed this fall than Charlie Cook imagines.

Posted by: Ron Byers on July 18, 2010 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

Ron, I've got dibs on the morning of Thursday, October 14th, as the precise time the GOP will announce its "New Contract for America." It will be the usual angry, cloying crap. But it will be just enough for the Republican voters who might be a little concerned to feel like they're being heard.

Posted by: chrenson on July 18, 2010 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

John, I would cross-post this at DemocraticUnderground.com but you'll have to punch it up a bit first, as I think they'll find it a bit milquetoast....

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on July 18, 2010 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

JS - Yes, he has a very corrupt past. Issa's family is from Lebanon, but they are Eastern Orthodox Christians.

Posted by: Speed on July 18, 2010 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

If Boehner wants the government to stop making laws and regulations he can start with not renewing the Bush tax cuts.

What a nutty thing to suggest.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on July 18, 2010 at 6:08 PM | PERMALINK

I worked for the Federal Government for 31 years. Like the majority of Feds, I was just an average hard-working person doing my job in the Washington DC area. I was furloughed by Newt and those Republicans in 1995. I was no longer able to pay my rent, to buy food, and just plain subsist except for my pitiful savings on my GS-8 salary. However, when Social Security was not able to send out checks, HHS could not process medicare payments, etc., it quickly became obvious to many people that shutting down government was not the smart thing to do--especially in the DC area where there are 10 times more Feds than in any other area. The Repugs were seen as the villains of the scenario; and, they will be seen as the villains again if they try it again. If the government is shutdown again, it will hurt your mother, father, aunt, uncle, brother, sister, husband, and wife. But, Boehner will still be able to get to his tanning salon, golf course, etc., even while many other ordinary, hard-working people will not be able to earn a living.

And, regarding the saving of tax dollars--when we returned to work, Congress voted to pay us for the weeks of furlough. Thus, tax payers paid for no work accomplished during that time period. Really an economic coup, huh. Oh, I almost forgot. The very day we were scheduled to return to work, the DC are had the blizzard of 96; and, we were snowbound in our homes for another week. We were paid for that week, too. I always thought the blizzard was God's way of telling the Repugs that they don't control every thing.

Posted by: Bonnie on July 18, 2010 at 6:28 PM | PERMALINK

The Wall St. financial houses, which are pouring money into Republican campaigns, might well think about what a government shutdown and default on its debt is going to do to their portfolios. One thing a government shutdown will do is provoke financial chaos.

Posted by: bob h on July 19, 2010 at 6:44 AM | PERMALINK

I disagree.
Any government shutdown will avoid past mistakes.

Social Security would be kept humming. I suspect Medicare would too, same reason. Seniors vote.

The military would keep going. Defense always.

Courts would keep going. "Soft on Crime" is a pitfall even THEY aren't dumb enough to fall into.

After they're done with everything that could produce significant backlash, the government shutdown will look wishy-washy and lame. Conservatives will HATE it. Meanwhile, it's possible we might save a little money and improve the deficit which Obama and the Democrats will benefit from.

I'm almost curious how Shutdown II would look.
It could be even more disastrous for the Republicans than the first attempt.


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