Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 4, 2011

A FLEETING MOMENT.... On Sunday night, announcing Osama bin Laden's demise, President Obama told the nation, "[T]onight, let us think back to the sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11. I know that it has, at times, frayed. Yet today's achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people."

On Monday night, at a bipartisan social gathering with congressional leaders, the president stressed a similar point: "[T]here have been several moments like this during the course of this year that have brought us together as an American family.... Last night was one of those moments. And so tonight it is my fervent hope that we can harness some of that unity and some of that pride to confront the many challenges that we still face."

Here's hoping Obama kept his expectations low. Dana Milbank noted, "The Pax bin Ladenis is over before it really began."

Thirteen hours later, Republicans answered Obama's plea for bonhomie — with broadsides. "The command-and-control paranoia that we see in this administration is antithetical to everything that we understand about freedom in our country," Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) declared on the Senate floor as the chamber began its first legislative day after a two-week vacation. "Individual responsibility and individual freedom and free markets and free enterprise: They're attacking it on every front."

House leaders emerged from their caucus meeting Tuesday morning with a similar response to the whole unity thing. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (Tex.), chairman of the Republican caucus, reported his finding that the recession and slow recovery are "attributable to the president and the previous Congress." [...]

Senate Democrats made clear that, after passing a ceremonial resolution about bin Laden's end, they would return to skirmishing over oil company subsidies and judicial nominees. House Republicans signaled that they would proceed with divisive legislation on oil drilling, abortion and undoing health-care reform.

The New York Times added, "Whatever sense of unity the nation might have felt after the killing of Osama bin Laden, it did not extend to the pressing domestic policy issues that divide Congressional Republicans and Democrats, who returned to work in earnest Tuesday."

This isn't surprising, and frankly, it's not especially troubling. Washington is deeply divided, partisan differences haven't been this stark in decades, and Congress is just returning from a two-week recess, getting ready to dig into contentious issues again. I'm sure lawmakers are pleased with Sunday's success in Abbottabad, but by all appearances, there's no reason to think May 1 is The Day That Changed Everything.

The political divisions that existed before the raid on bin Laden's compound still existed afterwards.

When policymakers get along, it's certainly nice, but we have parties that disagree with one another, one of which has been radicalized to an extent unseen in generations. They're going to fight. They're supposed to fight. Americans gave power to a center-left White House, gave center-left Democrats a narrow majority in a dysfunctional Senate, and handed a House majority to right-wing Republicans -- all at the same time. Americans then, in effect, said, "Go pursue your agendas."

And that's exactly what they're doing. There's no reason to be surprised or even disappointed.

Steve Benen 8:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (26)

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"Individual responsibility and individual freedom and free markets and free enterprise: They're attacking it on every front."

The statement is, to start, a thorough lie.

They have no sense of society, they know greed. I have seen no plans for them to hold individuals responsible for the financial meltdown or mortgage fraud, or for that matter, the BP disaster. Individual freedom does not involve elective abortions for woman, or even contraception (Let's close Planned Parenthood!!). Free markets involves not removing oil supports and providing agricultural subsidies (think sugar).

But the uninformed and misinformed will believe it.

Posted by: Mudge on May 4, 2011 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

Every day I get just a little more discouraged ...it just gets old that these idiots can pronounce any bullshit and there is zero push back from anywhere except the ratings challenged MSNBC. My quote of the day from Rachel's Show last night .
What is this , Feudalism with cable TeeVee?
Yes Rachel sadly it is.

Posted by: John R AKA Mr. Serf Man on May 4, 2011 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

It's sad we can't have some unity even for awhile, and there are plenty of reasons. The electorate has to take some blame for impulsive voting over impatient responses to a poor economy, but they are subjected to an unprecedented (? - recently at least) barrage of direct propaganda by right-wing groups and media as well as flabby or enabling behavior from the corporate "main-stream" media. Democrats could show more spine, be more savvy. This piece well describes their dysfunction and how to do better.

Bin Laden: It isn't just intrinsic disharmony. Some people (certainly not many right-wingers) worry if it was appropriate to shoot Bin Laden now hearing he was unarmed. The European press is fretting over the legality of it. However, aside from worrying what would happen if he was taken alive: I have seen various reports that OBL's associates were sworn not to let him ever be taken alive, that they were to shoot him if he would be compromised. Hence, this wasn't in principle like charging into a bunker in WWII and having the squadron and their leader surrender. Any attempt to take OBL out would have been dangerous, everyone else they would keep resisting regardless of how subdued he was. Also as said today, OBL might have had a bomb on him, trackers to help confederates, etc.

Posted by: neil b on May 4, 2011 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

On the subject of getting bin Laden, a quick perusal of the blog posts about it shows that the tin foil hat contingent is out in force. Huffingtonpost had an article where about half the respondents came up with some imagined conspiracy, usually involving the burial at sea, that proved that bin Laden either had been killed years ago or that he was still alive and the recent announcement was false. On the other hand, al Qaeda seems to think that the announcement was true. Given which group to believe, the tin foil hat contingent or a group that is heavily invested in bin Laden, I go for the latter.

Another thought on the matter concerning the burial at sea is that showing the body, as so many demanded, would get the same reaction as showing his birth certificate. They would claim that the body wasn't really bin Laden's and that there was some sort of deceit going on. But reason isn't going to change these wingnuts. Cognitive dissonance is too strong in them.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on May 4, 2011 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK


And what flavor sausage will we be served today?

Wherever the locus of effective power may rest, there is where we begin to push for the end to our occupation of Afghanistan, and withdrawal of our remaining troops in Iraq!

Oh, and while we're back to realpolitik, don't let anyone, I mean anyone (especially Republicans with microphones in front of them) get away with saying "debt crisis"!

To use such a negative term gratuitously is to invite uncertainty in world markets, and such utterances are not slightly, not marginally, not normally, but excessively and forthrightly most formidable and reckless in light of our beloved nation's standing in the world of nations here in the early 21st century!

WTF Republicans! We are suffering from a revenue shortfall cause most entirely because of tax laws that give back to the rich, while depleting Middle class income, and allowing potholes to multiply on every street, nation-wide!

Hey Republicans, on the debt ceiling legislation - Git 'er done! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on May 4, 2011 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

You know, it's pretty convenient that bin Laden isn't alive to tell us whether or not he's really dead

Posted by: hells littlest angel on May 4, 2011 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

It is time we realized we are a Nation at War. No, not abroad- right here at home, against a Fifth Column, intent on destroying America.

When are the patriots going to fire back at the deMints and Hensarlings. Instead of whining, "why can't we all just get along?"

I remember the sotto voce chuckles at the shout of "You Lie!"
And I recall the false outrage on the right, when one of the few patriots on the left came to the floor and said the Republican health plan was to 'die quickly'.

Please, sirs; can I have some more?

Posted by: DAY on May 4, 2011 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

I loved this: "Americans gave power to a center-left White House, gave center-left Democrats a narrow majority in a dysfunctional Senate[.]"

Really? Is "hope & change" a center left position after one of the most diasterous presidents in history? I guess I must not understand english because when the country is on a right-ward track to doom, and a candidate runs on "hope & change" I don't think anyone expected that candidate to be a DINO. At this point, the right is so far gone that claiming to be a centrist only shows that you aren't taking this country seriously.

I wonder when DC will ever get around to doing anything about the 30 year dearth in jobs? or is that too progressive for DC?

Posted by: comma on May 4, 2011 at 9:12 AM | PERMALINK

"Washington is deeply divided, partisan differences haven't been this stark in decades,.."

Is this really the way to say it? It suggests that Democrats are somehow to blame for the situation. In fact, the division that exists is entirely due to the Republican withdrawal from any sort of responsible participation and pursue rip-up-the-tracks, nihilistic obstructionism.

Posted by: bob h on May 4, 2011 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

"Command and control..."

Was DeMint napping throughout the '00's?

Someone check him for short, medium, and long term memory loss.

Never mind, it's just "projection."

Posted by: c u n d gulag on May 4, 2011 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

That asshole Hensarling's local office is about a 4-iron away from my house. Unfortunately, most of my neighbors are old conservative fuckers who think he's the bee's knees. If I ever saw him in that office building I'd puke on his shoes...

Posted by: jjcomet on May 4, 2011 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

Thirty year dearth in jobs? Did you sleep through the 90s?

Yes, manufacturing is fucked. As it is in Korea and Taiwan. Because as long as there is cheaper labor that's where mfg will be. It's wrong but that's what it is. And republicsn's are happy as a clam to take US mfg to the lowest denominator.

Have you taken note of anything Obama has done, comma? Yeah, he's sure been a real fucker accomplishing all kinds of stuff with a GOP minority who's happy to blow up the US for political gain.

Spare me, will you? Go hang out with Jane Hamsher. You guys can ensure GOP success by getting more of them elected. How'd that anti-GOTV work for ya in the midterms?

Posted by: MsJoanne on May 4, 2011 at 9:33 AM | PERMALINK

c u n d gulag,

exactly. It is charging the other with your own sins. Rove did/does that often, too.

"Americans then, in effect, said, "Go pursue your agendas.""

That is always a way too generous interpretation of intent. The lay of the land just led for it to seem like that is the case. While the House flipped, obviously the numbers in the Senate were solid enough for Democrats that it would not flip. If more had been up for re-election, perhaps it too would have been gained by the GOP. But, the seats weren't there and the fact that the entire states vote for Senators makes it a huge advantage for incumbents, the status quo and less so for surprises that can happen in House elections. I mean, for goodness sake, think of the Ensign. That seat alone would have been lost because of his shenanigans... but...it was Nevada and they probably weren't going to have two Democrats as Senators.

Anyway, the system is just complex enough that voting patterns can look like people nationwide are collectively saying something when they are not collectively saying anything beyond a district or a state.

Posted by: gus on May 4, 2011 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

To help MSJoanne out a bit (even though critics have a point):
http://www.whattheheckhasobamadonesofar.com/
Indeed, given the nation we really live in: elect Obama and more Democrats, such as they are, or face disaster.

Posted by: neil b. on May 4, 2011 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

Republicans attacked the whole notion that 'society exists' (recall Thatcher and Reagan???) and went on to devise a distorted image of our countries as merely aggregates of self-interested separate individuals, whose only collective form was the family, which they also helped to fragment, defund and basically eliminate the conditions for (who can start a family when there are no jobs, and barely enough money to pay off the loans one has had to accumulate over time just to eat?).

They are just the nasty, brutish, short and mean types that Hobbes thought society was unless it had a tyrant to control it. (Which is why these so called 'individualists' who want 'freedom' ALWAYS end up supporting tyrants and authoritarians like the current governors of WI and MI, for example, and just 'love' bullies like Christie.)

The idea that there is no 'society' but only transitory aggregations of individuals was debunked by the thinkers of the 18th century -- yes when the US was founded -- who insisted that there be something held in common that was DISINTERESTED, i.e., not the subject of anyone's private interest.

It is this idea that the Republicans have tried in every way to destroy, while claiming they were doing the opposite (a la De Mint).

When a proud university like the U of Nebraska, a land grant institution, can be summarily kicked out of the American Association of Universities because it is not raking in enough money from non-governmental sources (it funds agricultural research and extension agent work with Federal money) then you know there is no refuge left.

Money and greed have literally driven us mad, and it is to no one's benefit in the long run, not even the Republicans'. As long as there is no more will for something we hold in common that is above financial interests of private individuals there IS no more USA.

Posted by: jjm on May 4, 2011 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

It's not surprising but it's deeply frustrating to know that a republican in the white house would now be on a major and quite public victory lap and use this opportunity to steamroll through their agenda. They'd have the Democrats cowering in their wake and afraid to resist lest they appear "UnAmerican". The Republicans didn't even blink, kept right on criticizing Obama within even hours of the incident, and haven't slowed down at all in their willingness to collapse the global economy.

There has to be a finer line between that sickening level of demagoguery and the sort of fear of fight the Democrats currently show and I wish they'd find it, just once.

Posted by: Anon on May 4, 2011 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

Did somebody reminder Senator Demented that nothing is free in this world? I'd like to but the recession caused by deregulation took my baseball bat away from me. This guy is the king of the douchebag kings except he only reigns over a tiny pile of shit called wealthy and very special interests.

He is a terrorist and traitor to middle class and poor Americas, make no mistake!

Posted by: Trollop on May 4, 2011 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

^^Wow, the melatonin must've not worn off yet..
Sorry about that! These "representatives" should be being labeled as terrorists. Their intention is to subvert the middle class completely, rob the poor and/or hold them as hostages and tear apart every piece of humanitarian legislation passed in the last 100 years (maybe further). In my book, that is a terrorist!

Posted by: Trollop on May 4, 2011 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

BTW, right-wing media are trying to very much undo that fleeting moment and turn it upside-down. Latest hypocrisy, after complaining that Obama wasn't gleeful enough: now they've got people like Andrew Napolitano saying the OBL takedown wasn't legal (most of them didn't care about that in the past, and see my explanation above), or that in reverse to the truth, Obama was pressured to do the raid against his own judgment, etc. (Visit Alan Colmes website and FB page for good scoop and plenty of repulsive right-wing ironies and hypocrisies.)

Posted by: neil b on May 4, 2011 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

Ms Joanne, @9:33;

No, he didn't sleep through the 90ties. But he is misspelling his name; it should be "coma", not "comma".

Posted by: exlibra on May 4, 2011 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

'Rep. Jeb Hensarling (Tex.), chairman of the Republican caucus, reported his finding that the recession and slow recovery are "attributable to the president and the previous Congress." [...]'...yep and GWBush is responsible for catching Bin Laden. Can't have it both way jerkface.

Posted by: SYSPROG on May 4, 2011 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

Ah yes, the nineties. Thank the lord for pets.com. I don't know where we would be without them. Or the ever wise repeal of Glass Steigal (sp?). So glad our super progressive President Clinton did something about dependance on foreign oil or Bin Laden. Thanks to the nineties manufacturing has left, software engineering is leaving, so has legal work.

Is this is a joke? There is a post two more up stating outright that Obama's big peice of legislation was directly lifted off of Mitt Romney -- (aka) leading non-circus Repubo Candidate.

Hope and Change -- change from George Bush's policy to Mitt Romney's. That's why millions of 20 year olds held signs for Obama... doubtful. No wonder Dems are constantly being waxed -- why would anyone vote for a Democrat if they are just going to govern as a moderate Repubo.

Wake up. Centrism is repubo code word for "cave." Do you remember the 90's? They were talking about bipartisianship then too, all while impeaching the president.

Posted by: comma on May 4, 2011 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

partisan differences haven't been this stark in decades

Hell, "partisan differences" haven't been this stark since 1861.

Posted by: TCinLA on May 4, 2011 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

Neil B, yes, there are things to be unhappy about and nothing is all wine and roses. I realize that. But bitching for bitching sake (which too many do) is, IMHO, misplaced.

I am not sure what people want. They wanted Obama to fight harder for the public option (me, included, btw), BUT, I understand the political process. Would it have made anyone feel better had Obama fought, fought, fought and passed nothing (which is what would have happened, as Leiberman and others said they would flatly vote NO for any HC reform that had the PO)?

I am a pick your battles person. And the feel good of having Obama fight would have tasted a lot more bitter had nothing happened. That would have been a VERY short lived feel good.

So, tell me...what is Hope and Change? Did you pay any attention to Obama the candidate? Did he say he was going to push through liberal legislation? (FYI, president's don't legislate, Congress does.) From what I recall, he has done much of what he campaigned on. Additionally, hope and change was about tone in DC, not what everyone seems to think it meant, which, hell these days I don't even know what everyone thought it meant...puppies and unicorns for all?

Sorry, comma...MsJoanne out.

Posted by: MsJoanne on May 4, 2011 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

Neil, only the first paragraph of the above was meant for you. Sorry for not delineating that better. My Bad!

Posted by: MsJoanne on May 4, 2011 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

I see. Everybody voted for hope and change... to the "tone" in Washington. Wow. Yeah. People were concerned about partisan bickering, not the two wars, oil valued in unicorn horns, and the fact that the stock market got chopped in half.

You must have seen a different campaign then I did. Let me guess, you live somewhere near DC?

For the record, I would have had Obama fight using his political capital for jobs not for healthcare... the last election should have told you that's how most Americans feel.

Posted by: comma on May 4, 2011 at 5:34 PM | PERMALINK
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