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July 31, 2011 10:40 AM Extortion politics: a new form of governing

By Steve Benen

Josh Marshall made an interesting point in passing yesterday, asking whether conservative Republicans could achieve massive spending cuts through “old-fashioned majority votes.” Josh answered his own question: “Of course not.” The cuts on the table were only made possible by Republicans “threatening the health” of the United States.

I think this is arguably one of the more important realizations to take away from the current political landscape. Republicans aren’t just radicalized, aren’t just pursuing an extreme agenda, and aren’t just allergic to compromise. The congressional GOP is also changing the very nature of governing in ways with no modern precedent.

Welcome to the normalization of extortion politics.

Consider, for example, the Republican decision to reject any and all nominees to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, regardless of merit, unless and until Democrats accepted changes to the agency’s structure. Traditionally, if the GOP wanted to alter the powers of the CFPB, it would write legislation, send it to committee, bring it to the floor, send it to the other chamber, etc. But that takes time and effort, and in a divided government, this “old fashioned” approach to policymaking probably wouldn’t produce the desired result.

Instead, we see the latest in a series of extortion strategies: Republicans will force Democrats to accept changes to the agency, or Republicans won’t allow the agency to function. Jonathan Cohn wrote a good piece on this a couple of weeks ago, noting the frequency with which this strategy is utilized.

Republican threats to block nominees to the consumer board are of a piece with their opposition to Don Berwick, Obama’s first choice to run the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services; to Peter Diamond, whom Obama tapped to sit on the Federal Reserve Board; and most recently to John Bryson, Obama’s nominee to take over the Commerce Department. It’s nothing short of a power grab by the Republican Party — an effort to achieve, through the confirmation process, what they could not achieve through legislation. And it seems unprecedented, at least in modern times.

Republicans effectively tell the administration, over and over again, that the normal system of American governance can continue … just as soon as Democrats agree to policy changes the GOP can’t otherwise pass.

The traditional American model would tell Republicans to win an election. If that doesn’t work, Republicans should work with rivals to pass legislation that moves them closer to their goal. In 2011, the GOP has decided these old-school norms are of no value. Why bother with them when Republicans can force through policy changes by way of a series of hostage strategies? Why should the legislative branch use its powers through legislative action when extortion is more effective?

It’s offensive when it comes to nominees like CFPB nominee Richard Cordray, but using the full faith and credit of the United States to force through desired policy changes takes this dynamic to a very different level. And since it’s working, this will be repeated and establishes a new precedent.

Indeed, it’s a reminder that of all the qualities Republicans lack — wisdom, humility, shame, integrity — it’s their nonexistent appreciation for limits that’s arguably the scariest.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

Comments

  • Josef K w on July 31, 2011 10:47 AM:

    Indeed, itís a reminder that of all the qualities Republicans lack ó wisdom, humility, shame, integrity ó itís their nonexistent appreciation for limits thatís arguably the scariest.

    I'm sure they'll learn to appreciate it when they're marched up to the same guillotine they had set up to execute the President and his family.

    What? Think there aren't many with the Republican caucus that won't happily build one for exactly that? Honestly, that's the only direction I can see this madness going.

  • RD Padouk on July 31, 2011 10:49 AM:

    To me, it's nothing less than a rejection of the Enlightenment thinking upon which our Constitution is based. The modern Republican party has, at its core, a sense of absolutist thinking more akin to religious faith. They want adherence to infallible precepts - hence the fascination with pledges. In other words, these people really don't want democracy at all.

  • jjm on July 31, 2011 10:49 AM:

    Well we as a nation were softened up to extortion, strong arming, and threats of destruction by glamorizing the Mafia.

    Once you allow a mafia to entwine itself with government, you'd be better off without one. Because once you allow it to win anything, you've lost it all.

  • foosion on July 31, 2011 10:51 AM:

    Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice

  • martin on July 31, 2011 10:52 AM:

    Didn't the right wing use to claim that liberals couldn't get their policies enacted through legislation so did it through the courts?

  • buckyblue on July 31, 2011 10:52 AM:

    And don't forget the filibuster. Even when one party has a complete majority in both houses; republicans will extort or stop anything they don't want by filibuster. Only 41 republicans can grind legislation and government to a complete halt. I say, turnabout is fair play.

  • T-Rex on July 31, 2011 10:52 AM:

    Well, the Tea Partiers are fond of saying that they'll get what they want "by ballot or bullet." They probably think we should be grateful to them that they haven't started shooting yet.

  • sjw on July 31, 2011 10:54 AM:

    I hope that Democrats remember all of this when there is a Republican president. Indeed it would be worthwhile for some prominent Democrats to be saying that right now, out loud and often.

  • Danp on July 31, 2011 10:54 AM:

    Tremendous post, Steve.

  • c u n d gulag on July 31, 2011 10:55 AM:

    What?

    You mean Obama and the Democrats haven't shown them that they'll put up a fight instead of having their lunch money stolen?

    You can't really blame the bullies for stealing lunch money.
    That's what bullies do.

    And if you don't explain to everyone how it's wrong, and then put up a fight, why shouldn't the bully come back and take your lunch money again?
    And again?
    And again?
    And again?
    And again...


    Ad infinitum.
    Ad absurdum.

  • Tom Turk on July 31, 2011 10:56 AM:

    Democrats want to govern, but Republicans want to rule. That explains it all.

  • DAY on July 31, 2011 10:57 AM:

    Mr and Mrs James got a homestead in The Territories, plowed, planted, worked, saved, put money in the bank.

    Their boy, James, said 'F that S', went to town, bought a gun at the hardware store, and held up the bank.

    See how much easier it is, when you make up your own rules?

  • RD Padouk on July 31, 2011 10:58 AM:

    foosion - you've just made my earlier point. Instead of making a reasoned argument, you've simply regurgitate a quote from Barry Goldwater as if that settles things.

  • K in VA on July 31, 2011 10:59 AM:

    The point isn't that Republicans will do anything for power.

    The point is that they can do this because they can get elected.

    Right, decency, justice -- none of these things matter. The American electorate in all its blind ignorance will elect Republicans because they are better at selling their brand. Period.

  • IndigoJoe on July 31, 2011 11:06 AM:

    I hope it makes everyone feel better that the obvious is being said about the Republicans. If you're a Democrat, you really ought to be mad at the enabler in chief, Obama.

  • Bobfr on July 31, 2011 11:07 AM:

    Dear Mr President,

    I wrote you a longer letter yesterday on the topic of a Radical Republican Party, a party that could not possibly achieve the harm to our social compact, our economy and our global status through any normal legislative or political process.

    So, that Radical Republican Party is now attempting to normalize extortion in the legislative and governing process.

    We now know with certainty that they willingly, in cold blood, would rather destroy our economy and our credibility in order to achieve their singular objective - protect the wealthiest few from any societal responsibility.

    We are fortunate you are President at this time because I have every reason to believe you will not compromise with extortionists - extortionists blatantly violating their Oath of Office and terrorizing all Americans by their actions.

    Please exercise your Constitutional authority and halt the extortionists.

    Thank you,
    Bob

  • zeitgeist on July 31, 2011 11:09 AM:

    itís their nonexistent appreciation for limits thatís arguably the scariest.

    And when petulent children show no respect for limits, they need a parent who will firmly enforce them, not one who will give in and hand them more sugary candy and tell them they're still great patriots who love their country.

    Can anyone honestly believe Obama is handling this the right way? He's going to raise the wingnus to be serial killers if he doesn't decide to be their parent instead of trying to fit in with their Tea Party friends before long.


  • david1234 on July 31, 2011 11:14 AM:

    The extortion works, because the Republicans know that if Obama had been President during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, he would have wound up agreeing to remove our missiles from Turkey and reduce troops in Europe for a promise to consider stop sending missiles to Cuba in five years.

    If Obama had dealing with Hitler instead of Neville Chamberlain at Munich in 1938, he would have agreed to give up Poland as well as Czechoslovakia.

    Deal making is the correct policy in most situations, but a pathological refusal to confront leads to disaster.

  • kevo on July 31, 2011 11:15 AM:

    e pluribus unum is the anti-sera to Republican thugs!

    Using a scene from Affleck's The Town says yards about Republicans' mind-set! Keep the mayhem simple should be their rallying cry!

    All sane Americans who believe in the grand experiment should be watching Wisconsin, and if the good people of Wisconsin can turn back the assault, we should use them as a model for our national elections in 2012! -Kevo

  • AK Liberal on July 31, 2011 11:19 AM:

    @zeitgeist:

    And Obama will spank them with what, a nonexistent House majority? A filibuster proof Senate? How about a bully pulpit? The parents that should be disciplining the unruly children are the electorate. But, we gave them a House majority as reward for how many decades of malfeasance?

  • Anonymous on July 31, 2011 11:19 AM:

    This is exactly right, but the fundamental problem is that Democrats and Republicans have two entirely different objectives here: Democrats want to resolve a crisis. Republicans want to use a crisis to change America's democratic regime -- one that gives far more authority to economic or social power than it does to political power.

    Republicans may be in the political minority in this debt-ceiling debate, but they are assisted by the Invisible Hand of an economic oligarchy represented by the Big Banks and Rating Agencies who are obviously doing a little blackmailing of their own behind the scene with the White House to ensure Democrats eventually cave on the debt ceiling concessions Republicans are asking.

    Further, as I wrote in a piece for the blog site "They Gave Us a Republic..." the threat to the nation's credit rating, and with it the stability of the world's financial markets, may be the clearest indicator we've had yet that American politics has veered away from the two-party stability we've enjoyed since the Civil War and has entered a new phase that scholars are sure to identify as "revolutionary."

    Most politicians try to steer clear of crises. Not so the revolutionary, says Eric Hoffer in his classic account of revolutionary movements, The True Believer. "Chaos is his element," writes Hoffer. "When the old order begins to crack he wades in with all his might and recklessness to blow the whole hated present to high heaven. He glories in the sight of a world coming to a sudden end. To hell with reforms! All that already exists is rubbish and there is no sense in reforming rubbish."

    As we think back on all of the recent talk about state's rights, nullification, President Obama's illegitimacy, even threats of actual secession, that separation may have already taken place for all intents and purposes. The United States may be functionally two countries instead of one. The cannons may have already fired on Fort Sumter. It's just that none of us heard the report this time.

    Yet, for some time now Republicans have been acting as if they belonged to another country, as they rewrite old rules and twist established customs and conventions in ways that give a small minority out-sized power not fairly or legitimately won through our traditional democratic processes.

    And like all successful revolutionaries who engage in illegitimate power grabs, today's radical right wing Republicans did not invent the instruments by which they gained power. They merely used the ones they found already lying around and employed them in novel, unprecedented - and revolutionary - new ways.

    The filibuster is as old as the Senate, but it has never been used the way Republicans are using it today, to bring the entire government to a halt by establishing a new 60-vote threshold that gives the right wing minority an absolute veto over all legislation passing Congress. That is why Mitch McConnell is negotiating directly with the President and not Harry Reid.

    The Senate "hold" is a time-honored courtesy granted to individual senators on the understanding they will use it sparingly. Instead, today's Republicans have used this convention promiscuously to prevent a Democratic president from staffing his administration with top quality people whose very qualifications are held against them by Republicans protecting their interests at all costs.

    And finally, the fact that Congress must affirmatively vote to raise the nation's debt ceiling after bills have already been encumbered, a requirement going back to World War I which has always been handled as a house-keeping formality because of the high stakes involved, is now being used by Republicans as a cudgel to bludgeon concessions out of the majority Democratic Party that Republicans could never get on their own through the normal democratic process.

    In each case, the Republican Party is re-writing the rules of our democracy to institutionalize governance by a right wing minority. And worst of all, the governing class is letting them get away with it. I was watching Meet the Press a few minutes ago and had to shut it off in disgust.

    And if you throw in the concerted and coordinated effort in those states won by Republicans in 2010 to consolidate conservative power with laws that deliberately undermine the opposition Democratic Party, I don't know how you can avoid the conclusion that what we're experiencing is a right wing revolution designed to replace broad-based American democracy with its feeble shell, while all real power resides in a right wing populist minorioty and the economic plutocracy that pays its bills.

    America has always been vulnerable to just this kind of right wing revolution. Our cultural diversity makes us a natural target for those cultural sub-groups focused on race, religion and ethnicity who are motivated to topple a national government they see as illegally forcing them to peacefully co-exist with people they view as aliens, foreigners, outsiders - Them!

    Likewise, the extraordinary concentration of wealth made possible by a system of predatory free market capitalism able to exploit America's abundant natural resources, makes those particularly favored by this unregulated system predisposed to look at the demands of America's democratic state as a form of forced coercion and theft - exactly the words you hear from the agents of today's rich and privileged.

    To accomplish its task this right wing revolutionary movement had to first capture the GOP, which it has done. The next step was for this right wing faction to use the very same tactics of superior organization, access to unlimited cash, monopoly over message, shameless lies and distortions, and the revolutionary's age-old companions - fear, intimidation, ruthlessness and blackmail - to accomplish in America what this powerful alliance of plutocrats and reactionary populists was able to achieve within the Republican Party.

    That is the battle now before us.

  • Ted Frier on July 31, 2011 11:22 AM:

    (Note: Sorry I am not Anonymous, as posted above)

    This is exactly right, but the fundamental problem is that Democrats and Republicans have two entirely different objectives here: Democrats want to resolve a crisis. Republicans want to use a crisis to change America's democratic regime -- one that gives far more authority to economic or social power than it does to political power.

    Republicans may be in the political minority in this debt-ceiling debate, but they are assisted by the Invisible Hand of an economic oligarchy represented by the Big Banks and Rating Agencies who are obviously doing a little blackmailing of their own behind the scene with the White House to ensure Democrats eventually cave on the debt ceiling concessions Republicans are asking.

    Further, as I wrote in a piece for the blog site "They Gave Us a Republic..." the threat to the nation's credit rating, and with it the stability of the world's financial markets, may be the clearest indicator we've had yet that American politics has veered away from the two-party stability we've enjoyed since the Civil War and has entered a new phase that scholars are sure to identify as "revolutionary."

    Most politicians try to steer clear of crises. Not so the revolutionary, says Eric Hoffer in his classic account of revolutionary movements, The True Believer. "Chaos is his element," writes Hoffer. "When the old order begins to crack he wades in with all his might and recklessness to blow the whole hated present to high heaven. He glories in the sight of a world coming to a sudden end. To hell with reforms! All that already exists is rubbish and there is no sense in reforming rubbish."

    As we think back on all of the recent talk about state's rights, nullification, President Obama's illegitimacy, even threats of actual secession, that separation may have already taken place for all intents and purposes. The United States may be functionally two countries instead of one. The cannons may have already fired on Fort Sumter. It's just that none of us heard the report this time.

    Yet, for some time now Republicans have been acting as if they belonged to another country, as they rewrite old rules and twist established customs and conventions in ways that give a small minority out-sized power not fairly or legitimately won through our traditional democratic processes.

    And like all successful revolutionaries who engage in illegitimate power grabs, today's radical right wing Republicans did not invent the instruments by which they gained power. They merely used the ones they found already lying around and employed them in novel, unprecedented - and revolutionary - new ways.

    The filibuster is as old as the Senate, but it has never been used the way Republicans are using it today, to bring the entire government to a halt by establishing a new 60-vote threshold that gives the right wing minority an absolute veto over all legislation passing Congress. That is why Mitch McConnell is negotiating directly with the President and not Harry Reid.

    The Senate "hold" is a time-honored courtesy granted to individual senators on the understanding they will use it sparingly. Instead, today's Republicans have used this convention promiscuously to prevent a Democratic president from staffing his administration with top quality people whose very qualifications are held against them by Republicans protecting their interests at all costs.

    And finally, the fact that Congress must affirmatively vote to raise the nation's debt ceiling after bills have already been encumbered, a requirement going back to World War I which has always been handled as a house-keeping formality because of the high stakes involved, is now being used by Republicans as a cudgel to bludgeon concessions out of the majority Democratic Party that Republicans could never get on their own through the normal democratic process.

    In each case, the Republican Party is re-writing the rules of our democracy to institutionalize governance by a right wing minority. And worst of all, the governing class is letting them get away with it. I was watching Meet the Press a few minutes ago and had to shut it off in disgust.

    And if you throw in the concerted and coordinated effort in those states won by Republicans in 2010 to consolidate conservative power with laws that deliberately undermine the opposition Democratic Party, I don't know how you can avoid the conclusion that what we're experiencing is a right wing revolution designed to replace broad-based American democracy with its feeble shell, while all real power resides in a right wing populist minorioty and the economic plutocracy that pays its bills.

    America has always been vulnerable to just this kind of right wing revolution. Our cultural diversity makes us a natural target for those cultural sub-groups focused on race, religion and ethnicity who are motivated to topple a national government they see as illegally forcing them to peacefully co-exist with people they view as aliens, foreigners, outsiders - Them!

    Likewise, the extraordinary concentration of wealth made possible by a system of predatory free market capitalism able to exploit America's abundant natural resources, makes those particularly favored by this unregulated system predisposed to look at the demands of America's democratic state as a form of forced coercion and theft - exactly the words you hear from the agents of today's rich and privileged.

    To accomplish its task this right wing revolutionary movement had to first capture the GOP, which it has done. The next step was for this right wing faction to use the very same tactics of superior organization, access to unlimited cash, monopoly over message, shameless lies and distortions, and the revolutionary's age-old companions - fear, intimidation, ruthlessness and blackmail - to accomplish in America what this powerful alliance of plutocrats and reactionary populists was able to achieve within the Republican Party.

    That is the battle now before us.

  • Hannah on July 31, 2011 11:23 AM:

    Great post, Steve. I've sent the link (with my comments) to my "representative" (who doesn't represent me, hence the quotation marks). Also to my Senators (who are awesome).

    Tom Turk summed it up nicely.

    captcha: ommino obtain. Who is this ommino and what did he obtain? Is this another warning? Or good news? Depends on who ommino is I guess...

  • Memekiller on July 31, 2011 11:28 AM:

    I think the country should not be bound by anything agreed to under extortion. That's how progressives should ignore limits. I don't think we're bound to the triggers, cuts, or anything else.

    And, of course, extortion politics is the norm - for Republicans. Dems will never do so, which is why half a branch of government is driving the car.

    Seems like there's two ways to end this kind of thing. One: Make sure the GOP feels pain, is attacked and punished when they engage in this. Or two, if no one cares, and the GOP is rewarded, then Dems can - and SHOULD - engage in that tactic, so that it's at least parity.

  • dalloway on July 31, 2011 11:31 AM:

    The only thing capitulating to blackmail gains you is more blackmail. I'm astonished that Obama doesn't seem to realize this.

  • c4Logic on July 31, 2011 11:31 AM:

    It is time for a majority of Americans to realize that the Republicans are at War with the Public Interest. In fact, the Bush administration infamously asserted that the Public Interest was a myth. There are only private interests. Welcome to the governing philosophy of the Koch bros. The Republicans don't want Democracy--they hold it in contempt. They appreciate pure power--through any means necessary, and the American people are just so much protein to be rendered into Soylent Green. Wake up people! Republicans want to extort you into wage slavery. They will live in the high castles with their private security guards and their Lear Jets and their Yachts, The rest of us will fight over ratmeat around a fire barell.

    Republicans are the Enemies of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. They are a form of walking Ebola. If you consider yourself a Republican, you are an enemy of the People. This is not bombast. This is not hyperbole.

    There are times when even normal men must spit in their hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats. - HL Mencken

  • Peter Pitchford on July 31, 2011 11:32 AM:

    If these "radicalized" Republicans have no wisdom, humility, shame, or integrity ó and have nonexistent appreciation for limits what is the difference between them and Nazis?

    The complete absence of limits is not limited to Hostage Taking. It also applied to their rhetoric and their entire political philosophy. Not to mention their use of The Big Lie. They still claim that the Bush tax cuts increased revenues and created jobs!

    Obama ignores the failure of trickle down voodoo economics and merely claims that extending the lowest tax rates for the rich since 1941 while cutting programs that help the middle class is unfair. By ignoring the more important reasons why its unfair, Obama is helping the Republicans rewrite history. He's an enabler.

    And what exactly is he enabling? The people who constantly lie and rewrite history to maniplate economic fears to gain power are Hitler wannabees and the people who gobbel(sic) up their lies are knuckle dragging neanderthal Nazi morons. They aren't merely reminiscent of Nazis, they ARE Nazis. The differences are minor and cosmetic. Just replace the word "liberals" with "jews" and its exactly the same philosophy. The root causes of Nazi Germany were not racism or any military or political ideology. They were economic.

    All of this is freaking obvious, but most people still can't see it because they don't think for themselves. They won't think anything until their leaders tell them what to think. You won't even hear about it on left wing propaganda. If any pundit or politician tried to point out that the airwaves are full of dangerous Nazi propaganda , they would lose their job and be forever banned from being taken seriously, let alone a serious leader. The Nazis especially love Godwin's law because if everyone is following Godwin's law, then they will be doomed to repeat history, and that's what's happening.

  • c u n d gulag on July 31, 2011 11:33 AM:

    Banana, meet Republicans.

  • RD Padouk on July 31, 2011 11:35 AM:

    Standing up to a bully is great unless, of course, the bully has a bomb strapped to him. And that's sort of the situation. The most important thing is to prevent the bomb from going off and, equally important, to take the bomb away. Which is why, as bad as any likely deal might be, so long as it avoids default and prevents this Congress from being able to pull this stunt again it should be welcomed. After the bomb is defused, then efforts can be made to even things out.

  • golack on July 31, 2011 11:43 AM:

    foosion is correct, Obama needs to use extreme measures to protect all of our liberties from the assault of the oligarchs that the POG's represent.

  • bdop4 on July 31, 2011 11:44 AM:

    Why should they stop when it has worked EVERY SINGLE TIME?!

    Latest case in point: We aren't negotiating a "compromise," we're negotiating the TERMS OF SURRENDER.

    Someone, please, show me ONE TERM in this steaming PoS that constitutes an actual concession by republicans and reflects Democratic Party values.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on July 31, 2011 11:45 AM:

    Well, at least one person in the world is still making sense. Krugman was effective and forceful on "This Week" while be partnered with Will, Norquist, and Stephanapolous.

    If you haven't seen it, here's the link:

    http://abcnews.go.com/ThisWeek/video/roundtable-part-budget-endgame-14198610

  • memekiller on July 31, 2011 11:45 AM:

    So ask ourselves - is there any reason why Republicans won't do this with the debt ceiling again? What's the downside?

  • c u n d gulag on July 31, 2011 11:48 AM:

    Ted,
    I couldn't agree more.

    The battle we're in now is, do we stay as the United States of America, or do we become some variation of what I call The United Dominionist Christian Corporate States of America?

    The UDCCSA will be Fascist - as defined by Dr. Lawrence Britt.

    http://www.rense.com/general37/char.htm

    Everyone on the right is wrapped in our flag, and carrying a Bible.

  • PTate in MN on July 31, 2011 11:48 AM:

    RD Padouk: "To me, it's nothing less than a rejection of the Enlightenment thinking upon which our Constitution is based. The modern Republican party has, at its core, a sense of absolutist thinking more akin to religious faith."

    I think this is exactly what is going on. Pundits have described the US as being in the middle of culture wars, but I think it would be more appropriate to describe this as a religious war, with no-holds-barred fundamentalist extremists on one side (and yes, they do reject the Enlightenment) and everyone else on the other. By describing it as a culture war, we activate the whole establishment PC "multicultural" mindset: every culture is equivalent, we don't want to criticize. The multicultural mindset starts from the assumption that everyone agrees to be tolerant.

    But describe it as a religious war. Religious orthodoxy is characterized by black and white thinking based on ancient texts. There is no tolerance there, no grounds for multicultural respect; God is on their side. They are good, everything they do is good, and their enemies are evil. Anything to harm their enemies is justified (God told me to do it); there is zero equivalency and no room for compromise. If we respond to dogmatism by assuming equivalence, by assuming that they will respect our values, we will lose.

    If our political leaders and media would recognize the nature of this danger, then we might have a fighting chance. By misunderstanding the threat, we have given them too much power.

  • Holmes on July 31, 2011 11:51 AM:

    @DisgustedWithItAll: It's amazing how meek wingers like Will and Norquist become when facing an intelligent advocate citing reality to counter their bullshit.

    It also helped that a money man/hedge fund-type backed up everything Krugman said.

    After weeks of both sides do it bullshit, the media will now turn to blaming Obama and perpetuating the weak meme(although that is true).

    Republicans will now be emboldened to extort more concessions in a couple more months during the budget fight. Good times.

  • Memekiller on July 31, 2011 11:53 AM:

    We need to ask ourselves, if this were reversed, what sorts of shennanigans would the GOP pull to undo this agreement, remove its teeth,and basically just consider it null and void once the debt ceiling is raised?

    This is not a legitimate deal, nor is anything passed by an unaccountable, undemocratic Supercongress.

    I don't recognize this agreement as valid if it was arrived at through extortion. Extortion is not a valid means of legislating.

  • RepubAnon on July 31, 2011 12:01 PM:

    Reagan's gift to extremists was eliminating the Fairness Doctrine. This lead inevitably to the rise of Rush Limbaugh, Rupert Murdock's brand of yellow journalism via Fox News, and resulted in enough ill-informed voters that today's gridlock is only to be expected.

    The only counter is a liberal-based populist push - but that has its own problems. Rational thought won't do it, so we'd need to demonize the right. As the Tea Party demonstrated to Wall Street, it's easier to start a stampede than to stop one.

  • spiny on July 31, 2011 12:02 PM:

    Steve, Obama had plenty of weapons in his arsenal to blunt this assault by the radical right- not the least of which was to point out to the American people how radical and dangerous the actions of the Republicans are. Instead, he decided to jump on board.

    Why? because in the end, Obama and most of the Democratic party care more about the interests of their big money backers than the voters that put them in office. It really is that simple. Obama and his corrupt corporate Democrats are doing exactly what they get paid to do. They aren't capitulating.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on July 31, 2011 12:02 PM:

    @Holmes: Yep, Obama is enabling extortion politics. You'd think the POTUS would know you have to punch bullies in the mouth. But not Obama.

    I've said it so many times. The only strategy is to root on the Tea-diots and hope they and Congress simply don't allow Obama's negotiated surrender to make it through Congress. Force him to use a "trick" like the 1) taking the 14th, 2) exploding option, 3) trillion dollar coins.

    If the Republicans are willing to steal policy using extortion and avoiding the normal legislative process, then they need to be shown it won't be allowed. But we all know Obama won't do it. What an extreme disappointment he is.

  • Bob P. on July 31, 2011 12:06 PM:

    Remember when some of W's nominees were being blocked and all we heard was a united front of Repubs screaming "Up or down vote". It worked. The Dems should have been standing in front of the Capitol and going on news shows loudly pointing out this extortion. They did not, the media won't do it and the American people, most of whom don't pay attention, think both parties are equally at blame. The Repubs play major league politics and the Dems are at the high school level.

  • Extreme Moderate on July 31, 2011 12:11 PM:

    Steve, you almost but not quite nailed it. The only things missing in your analysis are the concept of compromise and the role of the media.

    - Compromise. Stake out an incredibly extreme position in addition to saying no and hell no. Then, when you "compromise", you get 80% of what you wanted originally. When the deal is done, if one democrat votes for it you call it 'bi-partisan'.

    - No penalty for extortion politics of shame. As you and other progressive analysts have noted, the mainstream media has been caught flat footed by the change in how the political process is being used. Basically, they are reduced to being mouthpieces for the propaganda of of both parties, but the fact that they are not calling out the Republicans on some of the outrageous stuff they are doing makes them useless in terms of really understanding what is going on and more importantly, what the implications are. He said the sky was blue /She said it was green-style reporting.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on July 31, 2011 12:12 PM:

    @Bob: Dems can't take their own side in a fight, as the saying goes. They won't fight fire with fire, they won't get out in front of an issue perferring to fight on Republican terms, they won't assume control of issues that the public agrees with them on (handguns, taxes, climate, etc.), .... Dems are just lame.

  • Danny Gail McElrath on July 31, 2011 12:13 PM:

    Well, there had better be some people somewhere working out how this method can be stopped and made not possible again by either party or we will never again have a "normal" govt. functioning as anything close to a Republic, Democracy, whatever. Now that they know they can do this the Republicans will do this from now on so a small gang representing a fraction of the people will be essentially running the govt. I doubt the Democrats will do it in the near future but at some point they will. Why would they not. Right and wrong have little to do with how either party operates now. Once upon a time there were a few people to whom it mattered.

    Thank you so much Obama and other Democrats who have enabled this gift that will keep on giving.

    I just hope O. and his cronys know that when the coming devastation to so many people hits they will be blamed just as much as the Republicans.

  • geminijeff on July 31, 2011 12:17 PM:

  • Elie on July 31, 2011 12:25 PM:

    It is up to the people to change this coercion dynamic, not the republicans or democrats by themselves. This authoritarian model survives because the people want it to survive. Until they kill it electorally, literally take the people who practice it out of power, we can only survive it using every tool and skill in our tool box.

    It does no good to see it as a fundamental trait in a party per se. Perverse authoritarianism is demonstrated widely in human governmental systems, and you all know it. There is a reason why it is so prevalent: there is a hard wired component of it in our brains that must be overcome deliberately. This enlightenment is always in a struggle with the territorial reptiles.

  • TT on July 31, 2011 12:25 PM:

    Given that the GOP stands an excellent chance of capturing the Senate next year, as well as a decent chance of winning (i.e. stealing) the presidency, let us get three things straight:
    1) Whatever deal is made this weekend over the debt ceiling increase will be immediately abandoned in favor of further tax cuts.
    2) Mitch McConnell and his henchmen will approve, on the very first day of the 113th Congress, an end to all filibusters, holds, and unanimous consent rules.
    3) The Democratic Party, goaded by the lame-duck Barack Obama in a final show of "good faith", will pretty much go along with 1 and 2.

  • DelCapslock on July 31, 2011 12:37 PM:

    Some wise commenter on this site once posted that what we are witnessing is the Civil War being carried out by other means. I think there is a lot of truth to that. And the fact that our President is black fits the theory perfectly - while initially southerners saw it as yet another humiliating rejection of their worldview, they soon recognized it as an exploitable weakness - they can reject anything and everything Obama supports out of sheer spite; the other side of the coin being that Obama is reluctant to forcefully advance a liberal agenda for fear of becoming the instigator of an even more stark and potentially violent rift in American society.

  • Dave on July 31, 2011 12:42 PM:

    This is a serious question: Would progressives have been better off if McCain were president?

    If McCain had won, Dems would have pounded him relentlessly over the lack of jobs. Republicans would have had an incentive to do at least a little something about it. As it is, the Reps pound Obama over the lack of jobs, and then thwart the Dems when they try to do something about it. Evil, for sure, but effective.

    Obama has been much better in several areas: health care, court nominees, gay rights, labor rights. I'm sure there are more items that I'm missing. It's not nothing, especially the ACA, but if this debt deal is as advertised and has severe cuts to entitlements with no revenue, is the swap worth it? Dems would never have let this happen under a President McCain.

    As it is, I have no faith that the ACA will survive to full implementation. If that happens, the trade is severe entitlement cuts for...what?

  • Midland on July 31, 2011 12:46 PM:

    One must always remember that there is a third party in this disputes: the Beltway media. Obama's decision to not press the case that the Republicans are engaging in irresponsible, anti-democratic blackmail is, on balance, a bad one. However, this is not a movie and he not the leading man, or the hero or superhero, and certainly not the director of the film. The Republicans are the people engaging in political blackmail in defiance of the will of the citizens, and their vital allies in this slow motion coup d'etat are the national media who support them, refuse to criticize them, and continue to pretend that their actions are neither unusual, radical, or dishonest.

    Obama and the current Democratic leadership have inherited a laissez-faire media policy that was outdated twenty years ago. As the Republicans become more radicalized and more arrogant year by year, the failure of liberals, moderates, and traditional conservatives to put pressure on the media on their own behalf and on behalf of traditional honesty and balance cripples any attempt to engage right-wing power grabs.

    The Republican party has been devoured by their own extreme elements: extreme corporatists, extreme populists, and the extremely corrupt. All of this was achieved with the full cooperation of the TV networks and the influential newspapers and magazines, most of whom today accept as respectable interviews members of what would have been considered a quasi-criminal hyper-emotional fringe element until the 90s--"grenade throwers" is what they called them back in the day. And, of course, they treat them and their bizarre and often ludicrously false talking points with the same deference they would a statement from the pope or the Dali Lame, or, more to point, with the same phony deference pro-wrestling announcers do to the pontificating acrobats on their shows passing themselves off as competitive athletes.

    Obama has been dealing with this opposition with by pursuing the same stuttering, misfiring strategy as his predecessors, pretending that everything is just as it was in the days of Eisenhower and Kennedy, pretending he's dealing with an honest opposition and an honest press corps. At some point, he and Reid and Pelosi and their advisers are going to have to confront their radical opposition directly, and to win that confrontation, they will have to risk disturbing Beltway society by demanding that the press stop shielding the right-wing freak show directly responsible for this fake "crisis." As of this morning, they are still trying to pretend compromise is possible.

  • Ted Frier on July 31, 2011 12:46 PM:

    RepubAnon,

    I couldn't agree more that the Fairness Doctrine is at the heart of most of this. Let's list the affects that repeal of the Fairness Doctrine has had -- a law, by the way, that merely codified the rationale for the Western free speech tradition itself, namely engendering a free, fair and "robust" debate on issues facing society within a marketplace of ideas open to all. The right wing wanted a section of that market to be set aside where they would enjoy an absolute monopoly on the ideas its audience heard.

    So, first, repeal of the Fairness Doctrine created the opportunity for media that could be completely one-sided, which had the effect of polarizing politics by attracting an audience that only wanted to hear one point of view and where broadcasters were free invent whatever falsehoods flattered those prejudcies, essentially becoming proslytisers for one fact-free belief system.

    Second, repeal of the Fairness Doctrine empowered right wing media figures who were able to ciphon political power away from a Republican Party establishment whose job it was to win elections and who therefore had to be at least nominally accountable to the larger interests of the nation as a whole, not just the tastes of a self-selected right wing audience.

    Repeal of the Fairness Doctrine has also allowed right wing media personalities to redefine the meaning of free speech in their opposition to the Doctrine's reinstatement. By stigmatizing a Fairness Doctrine that promotes both robust debate and factual accuracy as being a form of "liberal censorship of conservative ideas," right wing broadcasters are able to redefine free speech as the right to spread one's ideology without hindrance or challenge rather than a right to meet opponents fairly on a level playing field. Thus has thus undermined the culteral and philosophical prerequisits of democracy itself, which presumes respect for political opponents and willingness to abide by democraticlly-achieved results that go against your own interests.

    For all these reasons, the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine was one of the turning points in the growing extremism and polarization we see in American politics that has rendered governing dysfunctional.

  • Anonymous on July 31, 2011 12:46 PM:

    If Obama fought like a republican he would have told them.

    You have two options.

    1.Clean debt bill to pay for the Bush policies you guys voted for that's causing all the debt with these tax loopholes I want closed.

    2. If your serious about the debt you can pick all the Bush programs you want to end that are causing the debt but it must include the Bush tax cuts.

    That's it.

    The choice is yours.


    Go ahead and shut down the economy if you want.

    It's unimaginable that the Bush tax cuts are not on the table of any deal.


  • Chris on July 31, 2011 12:48 PM:

    I'm mad at President Obama for not shining a light on this extortion so the American people know what those of us who read this blog know. Instead, he capitulates and then congratulates Republicans on their ability to compromise.

  • bakho on July 31, 2011 12:57 PM:

    The Obama "appeasement" approach has not worked. It emboldens the radicals.

    Obama will not be re-elected because the economy in 2012 will be bad, unemployment will be too high, and Obama will be perceived as too weak. We would be better served with better policy under a President Romney who would have less difficulty with obstructionists. It would still be right wing. However, is there any doubt that Republicans faced with high unemployment and bad poll numbers would not deficit spend in an attempt to reduce unemployment or bail out Republican Governors?

  • Holmes on July 31, 2011 12:58 PM:

    @Chris: it's clear Obama wanted some sort of deficit reduction package(for expressly political purposes), or at least give the appearance of wanting one, and thought he could use the Republicans intransigence on the debt ceiling to achieve it. But that has badly backfired now. A deficit reduction package should have been negotiated independent of the debt ceiling.

    I fear Obama has lost the 2012 election in the last few weeks.

  • Jim Pharo on July 31, 2011 12:58 PM:

    Steve, this is part of a broader change in society, one that Jay Rosen sees in the cult of the savvy and Krugman sees in the tyranny of the rentiers.

    The basic phenomenon is that there are hidden, secret ways to get what you want that allow you to skip the usual costs. It's the flip side of the idea that hard work is for dummies. When we see people getting ahead, it's because they've found some way to cut to the front of the line, so to speak.

    It's monumentally distressing in the context of politics, but it is likely more corrosive in the world of business, where the idea of actual innovation, R&D, getting consumers ever-better products and services is nearly extinct. The idea that Citibank is some kind of innovator is a joke.

    There's a faction in our society that sees us walking along the abyss and is having a hard time resisting an urge to just jump in to quickly get to the end-game. I fear that we will not be able to restrain them until we have paid a catastrophic price.

  • Josef K on July 31, 2011 1:01 PM:

    From foosion @10:51 AM:

    Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice

    Agreed. Extremism, especially when in 'defense of liberty', is not a vice as it is a premeditated crime against humanity.

    It is what leads to progroms, ethnic cleansings, drumhead trials, public executions, mass disappearances, and museums of human skulls.

    When you make the cause more important than the means, you become as evil as what you fight against.

    And then you've lost.

    I hope and pray you learn that lesson before its too late for all of us, foosion.


  • TCinLA on July 31, 2011 1:10 PM:

    RD Padouk on July 31, 2011 10:49 AM: To me, it's nothing less than a rejection of the Enlightenment thinking upon which our Constitution is based. The modern Republican party has, at its core, a sense of absolutist thinking more akin to religious faith. They want adherence to infallible precepts - hence the fascination with pledges. In other words, these people really don't want democracy at all.

    Exactly. This modern Republican party comes directly out of the radical fundamentalist churches the majority of them go to. Read Jeff Sharlet's book "The Family" or Matt Taibbi's articles on the operation of these fundamentalist churches to see how the brainwashing works and is constantly reinforced through the "cells" they are organized through. They see the rest of us as "evil" and believe "moderation in support of liberty is no virtue" to quote their founding father Barry Goldwater (who would abhor what they've become).

    The modern Republican party is The Christian Right, and they prove Upton Sinclair's statement back in 1930: "when fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."

  • Varecia on July 31, 2011 1:17 PM:

    foosion on July 31, 2011 10:51 AM:
    "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice"

    That sounds quite lofty, except the GOP isn't defending liberty, just greed.
    Extremism in the defense of greed. What the GOP is doing is a methodical, 'bloodless' coup, and that's why it seems so aberrant to those who are trying to find a place for it within a conventional frame of reference.

  • TCinLA on July 31, 2011 1:22 PM:

    "anonymous" certainly makes his points with a masterful essay on the revolutionary nature of the modern Republican Party.

    One minor niggle: the debt limit ceiling vote does not go back to World War I, it goes back to 1939. It was a sop thrown to the Republicans by FDR after the success of the 1938 elections, so they could symbolically vote against the New Deal in a way that meant nothing, since everyone understood that no one would ever let the full faith and credit of the country be put at risk. It was just a piece of political theater...

    Until today.

  • KC on July 31, 2011 1:24 PM:

    Well, I am thrilled to vote for Obama now. I mean, I don't know why I'd be unhappy with him at all. It's impossible to see how any Democrat couldn't be excited about the 2012 elections. Trillions of dollars worth of cuts, including Medicare, under the guise of a bipartisan commission--who can't love that!

    I remember the White House, commenting on the Dems victory earlier this year in upstate New York, by focusing on the deficit instead of Medicare. Excellent strategy! Now Republicans can run on defending Medicare too since it will be sliced by a bipartisan commission. Gotta love it!

  • Old Uncle Dave on July 31, 2011 1:36 PM:

    The Republicans are doing more harm to the people of the US than alQaeda could ever do in their wildest dreams. The GOP should be declared a terrorist organization.

  • Califlander on July 31, 2011 1:49 PM:

    If these "radicalized" Republicans have no wisdom, humility, shame, or integrity and have nonexistent appreciation for limits what is the difference between them and Nazis?
    Hugo Boss uniforms?

  • rae on July 31, 2011 1:51 PM:

    RD Padouk above has it right. The Republicans are basically royalists: in their view, there is only one legitimate ruling house, and they are it. This is why they never accepted the legitimacy of the Clinton presidency and don't accept the legitimacy of the Obama presidency. This is why they ignored the repudiation of their party and ideology in two straight elections (2006, 2008). In their view, Democratic presidents are not legitimate, and even Democratic voters are not legitimate (since, after all, they are not "real Americans").

  • TCinLA on July 31, 2011 1:53 PM:

    Obama is our Neville Chamberlain and this is his Munich.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on July 31, 2011 1:57 PM:

    I let the White House know how I felt. Didn't hold back. Here's the address if you're interested.

    http://www.whitehouse.gov/CONTACT/

    PS: See how 223 above is acting. Do we like that? Well, fellow Dems, get used to it. Republicans are going to keep shoving it down our throats because we don't have a party that will fight. And they're going to keep being obnoxious. Any ideas how to stop it?

  • russ on July 31, 2011 2:01 PM:

    KC - For sure. I'll be as thrilled as you are. It's one thing to seek reelection with a slogan like "He Kept Us Out of War".

    It's another thing to seek reelection with a slogan of "He Only Capitulated 8 or 9 Times, and That's Not Bad".

    Just doesn't seem to have the same ring to it, does it?

    BTW/FWIW - I voted for O'Hoover in 2008. I'll be voting Green or something or anything but "major party" in 2012. And I expect that pattern to hold from now on.

    It's been fun, but I gotta go. I hear there's a nice sale on catfood. Yummy yum - Tuna and egg.


  • JEA on July 31, 2011 2:03 PM:

    Get used to this.

    GOP extortion has become the favorite and only tactic.

    And since Democrats cave completely and quickly every single time, despite holding the Senate and White House, they're going to keep using it every single time.

  • Memekiller on July 31, 2011 2:06 PM:

    I thought I could do this, but now that I'm given the gun, I find myself unable to pull the trigger.

    The thing that keeps popping up in my mind - and I'll let you draw your own conclusions about this - is the child soldiers. When the rebel army rolls into a village, they give the kids a machete and tell them to kill their parents. If they don't, the rebels kill all of them. I always try to picture myself in that situation, and what I'd do.

    I don't think of myself as courageous by any means, but I try to picture myself lifting the machete and killing my mom, and I can't. Even if she's begging me to save myself because she's dead anyway. And maybe that's true. Maybe I could convince myself it's not me but the rebels bringing down the blade. And I could tell myself I have no choice but to join them, raiding other villages, raping and handing our future comrades machetes and presenting them with the same choice.

    Maybe 20 years from now, when the war's over, and things have settled down, I could get a book deal and featured in a documentary about how I've been reformed. If the rebels I aided take power, I might even be an administrator. I could have kids, live a full life and look back on the craziness knowing I had no choice.Yet, when it comes to picturing myself bringing down the blade... I can't.

    Is this a moral choice? I don't think so. Rationally, more people I love could die because of my paralysis. What if they said my parents could go free, if I chop off their hands? Could I swing the blade to save them?

    Still can't see it. Is this cowardice? I don't know. At a certain point morality ceases to matter.I can't blame Sophie's choice.Yet my own choice might have been different.

    Let's say the rebels ask me to choose to save my son or my wife? I choose, one lives. I don't, both die. I can come up with all sorts of ethical considerations - save your offspring, whom should always outlive you? By making a choice, he could be saved, perhaps, but considering who I'm dealing with, they may, once my choice has been made, shoot him in the head and let my wife and I go because they think it's funny. Maybe they'll kill all three of us anyway.

    That's the point. It's not a choice. Tryants will do what they do, and the first thing a tyrant does when an enemy is at their mercy is assert their dominance by making their prisoner be the tool of their evil.

    When it comes down to it, that's the only choice I have. Because of their lack of limits, they can do what they want. They've made their point. There's nothing I can do about it.

    I could see myself doing a lot of things - joining the Nazi party and being some low level beaurocrat, lying low until the world comes back to its senses.Then, I'm walking down the street, and I come across an old man on his knees and a Nazi officer hands me a Luger and tells me to prove my loyalty, and again, paralysis sets in.

    Is that bravery? Cowardice? Pride? I don't know. All I know is that it's not so much that I won't be their instrument, as that I can't. When the world goes mad, Defying them may kill more people, which make make it an immoral choice, if morality has any meaning any more. When the world goes mad, we all have to figure out what we're able to do, and those choices could lengthen or shorten our lives.

    And the line I cannot cross is being the tool of their evil.I can only kneel and let my mind drift off to thoughts of beaches and fields of daffodils. Do your worst; you will anyway, but I won't. Put the machete in my hand, and the only neck this blade will ever touch is yours.

  • JM917 on July 31, 2011 2:07 PM:

    I am a long-time Obama supporter. I stood up for him when too many others were accusing him of selling out. And I am disgusted with liberals, progressives, "moderates," and independents who profess to be so mad that they'll just sit out the next election to "teach 'em a lesson." Now more than ever, we have to stay not only angry but also engaged.

    But now I am on the verge of joining those who see Obama as a wuss who will talk eloquently about what he stands for but when the chips are down meekly sits down with the hostage takers and signs it all away.

    We don't need a third party to lead us out of this wilderness. We only need a president with the guts to stand and fight.

    What Democrat of national stature with brains, understanding, oratorical ability, and NEGOTIATING SKILL--someone who will "welcome their hatred" when it comes to confronting the Teapublicans--is now going to step forward and contest Obama's renomination? Stand forth, Sir or Madam--I'm here to support you.

    President Obama: Only if you pull a jujitsu double-whammy toss on the Republican terrorists and extortionists and, if necessary, invoke the Fourteenth Amendment to put an end to this insanity, will I continue to have faith in you.

    Captcha: "engasffi again." Yea verily.

  • JW on July 31, 2011 2:10 PM:

    God forfend that the leader of the democratic party speak of the GOP in similarly honest terms, and fight it in full throated voice as being the mortal threat to our democracy that it indisputably is.

    Obama is the wrong man, in the wrong place, at the wrong time. His administration has been a disaster.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on July 31, 2011 2:16 PM:

    I'm for the bill that's been negotiated failing in one of the houses of Congress, hopefully forcing the Surrender to take the 14th or other weird trick.

    Contact your Reps and Senators.

  • Blue Girl on July 31, 2011 2:18 PM:

    Okay, I have made the rounds to the news sites and I'm not seeing anything definitive, so I am going to put off slashing my wrists for a while.

    I did see, on The Hill I think, that McCarthy is still insisting on a BBA, and Graham said on one of the chat-shows this morning that he doesn't think more than half of the House Rs will support the "compromise" we haven't actually seen yet.

    If that's the case, and Nancy keeps the Dems together -- and she will -- then I see a clean bill passing late tomorrow or early Tuesday morning. Orange Julius had a closed-door meeting with 35 of the less-crazy republican "moderates" yesterday.

    If a clean bill passes the House with 197 Dems and 19 republicans(probably more like 24 or 25, so no one is villainized as "the vote that screwed us" by the 'baggers) then the tea partiers are done, the kettle is boiled dry, and they are the marginalized joke they should have always been treated as.

  • JM917 on July 31, 2011 2:20 PM:

    To 223:

    Yeah, you think it was easy--and it probably was.

    You and your ilk had better hope that the day doesn't come that the American people really get mad enough at you to give you the revolutionary justice you will have earned.

    Because if you 2-percenters keep using extortion and terrorism to get your way, the other 98 percent will see that you swine get yours.

    You can only push us so far. Then the political system will break down, and it won't be pretty for you 2-percenters.

  • russ on July 31, 2011 2:21 PM:

    I think the person you're talking about is Elizabeth Warren, but I rather doubt she's running.

    At least back in 1932, people had a choice of Hoover or Roosevelt. What kind of a choice are we going to have in 2012?

    It's shaping up to be some version of "Caligula the Dominionist" versus "Barry 'Reagan is My Hero' O'Hoover".

    Which is why I'll be voting Green, or something.

    I swear - if there is some kind of trigger that takes a bite out of Social Security or Medicare ...

  • 223 on July 31, 2011 2:29 PM:

    [All of your trolling has been removed, from every thread you have fouled on this site, no matter what handle you were using (Nancy, Moson, Jeffrey, Francis, 6th floor, Christine, Reed, Lloyd, Van Winkle, Peter, 00 Buck and all your other handles) and your IP has been banned. --Mod]

  • DisgustedWithItAll on July 31, 2011 2:33 PM:

    @223: Yeah, Dems in Congress are suckers. I'll give you that they simply refuse to engage in the tactics they need. For whatever reason.

    But take your hypocrite comment and stuff it up your fucking ass.

  • JM917 on July 31, 2011 2:59 PM:

    Laught now, selfish and ignorant bastard. When the angry and impoverished people of this once stable country realize what you and your filthy running dogs have done, they will send you to the firing squad.

    You are the kind of people who are destroying this country, and there will be a price that YOU--yes, along with the decent rest of us--are going to pay.

    Quite frankly, I hate the guts of you and your kind--as I hate the guts of Nazis, Stalinists, terrorists, and Confederates.

    It's not a nice, or particularly smart, thing for people like you to drive your political opponents to the point of hating your guts.

  • JM917 on July 31, 2011 3:02 PM:

    Just to be clear: my comment at 2:29 PM was directed to commenter 233. Sorry to leave out the "@"

  • Celui on July 31, 2011 3:11 PM:

    This blog and its comments should be mandatory reading and follow-up discussion for every student of political science, beginning now and going forward. In this article we see the essence of political singularity run amok: extortion politics at its absolute worst. LBK practiced a version of backroom extortion and was effective because he didn't necessarily villify another publicly, but the threat was there and the vote became his. But, this version of simple extortion at the expense of the public is woefully worse and should be brought to light time and again so that it becomes clear as to the rapacious effects it will produce. And, the comments are so important, bringing out a wide scope of studied perspectives with thoughtful analyses along with some less-than-desired character assassinations. Good, educational, and provocative interchange. Now, will someone please find a way to get back to the real issues at hand, and relegate this exercise in narcissism to the dungheap where it belongs? Please.....

  • Celui on July 31, 2011 3:14 PM:

    Yeah (can't type); 'LBJ' for sure.

  • E.Hatt-Swank on July 31, 2011 3:25 PM:

    RE: Blue Girl's comment at 2:18 -

    Thanks for the hopeful note. It does seem at least plausible that a clean bill could get through at the last minute: surely there are enough non-insane folks up there to get one passed if everything else has failed. In a way I was glad to see Reid's plan get killed. Reid, McConnell, Boehner, Obama, all have had their shots and nothing is working. Maybe they'll just give up and resolve it cleanly in the end.

    But how pathetic and ridiculous that would be! A simple solution easily at hand, rejected until the last minute for no good reason at all. And even if that happens, you know the right-wingers will pull the same hostage-taking again and again whenever they can. In the process exposing to the world what a joke our democracy has become....

  • JM917 on July 31, 2011 3:29 PM:

    @ Celui:

    You are absolutely right, and I apologize for being so wrought up toward whoever it is who goes by "223." As you point out, this is the cost of indulging in the politics of open extortion and political hostage-taking--as "our Republican friends" (using Senate-speak) have chosen to indulge in. They are right in the footsteps of their ideological (and I suspect in many case their genealogical) forebears, the fire-eating secessionists of 1850-1861.

    This exercise in political gamesmanship that the nation is now enduring is, as you point out, a frightening case study in how stable political systems go to pieces and eventually collapse in violence.

    If I have any worthwhile point to make in my exchanges with "223," it is that violence is what comes of going down that path.

    And so let's get back to the real issue at hand, which is for us liberals/progressives to find a way to regain control of the Democratic party, including its presidential nominee, so as to win the next--and highly crucial--election fair and square.

  • smintheus on July 31, 2011 3:51 PM:

    @c u n d gulag

    ad nauseam

  • dcshungu on July 31, 2011 4:34 PM:

    Extortion politics: a new form of governing
    By Steve Benen

    The deal being worked out between the White House and McConnell is not yet clear, but from the bits that we've heard so far it does not sound good at all. Remember that McConnell is the guy who publicly vowed to make Obama a one-term president. Why should he then propose to Obama a deal that benefits his reelection chances? The likely scenario is that McConnell is going to request even more concessions, and Obama, lacking a spine, will cave in, ensuring his own demise by alienating his base.

    So, if what we hear is being "negotiated" comes to pass, it will represent a sellout on progessive ideals and a cave-in so colossal to the WingNuts' "new form of governing" (borrowed from bin Laden's playbook on how to get his way) that I do not see how Obama will be able to calm a justifiably peeved left. Why should the left be upset? Simple:
    Social security, medicare and medicaid recipients (i.e., the most vulnerable of our society) will suffer in case future planned talks to negotiate spending cuts deadlock (which they will), while the richest Americans who overwhelmingly benefited from the Bush tax cuts that they can do without and are responsible for the much of the deficit, will suffer nothing. It would mean Obama has abandoned the so-called "balanced" approach and caved in completely by accepting spending cuts-only, while taking the revenue part of the equation off the chopping block. He would literally agree to balance the budget on the backs of the more vulnerable members of our society.

    The consequence of the cave-in would be that "Extortion Politics" would indeed become the "new form of governing" because it would have been shown by the cave-in to work! Since it worked once, why shouldn't the WingNuts use it again, and again, again, until Obama is no more than a caricature of progressive ideals, who will lose his base and the election, satisfying the promise by McConnell to limit his presidency to one term and sending him back to Kenya...

  • knightphoenix2 on July 31, 2011 4:45 PM:

    I see that the Mods (and a few commentators), just went "Old Testament" on an, apparently, very persistent troll.

    We need to do the SAME to the REPUBLICANS! Get them out of the House of Representatives, out of the Senate, and KEEP them OUT OF THE WHITE HOUSE.

    PERMANENTLY.

    --knightphoenix2

    On the THIRD Captcha challenge (HOW was I supposed to type an umlaut?!!!), thinking, messoc?!!

  • Ted on July 31, 2011 4:53 PM:

    It's all over folks, Obama has caved in AGAIN. I knew he would. We need a real DEMOCRAT A LEADER NOT A WIMP!He will not get my vote. Pray the someone runs againest him in the primaries.

  • zeitgeist on July 31, 2011 5:11 PM:

    WaPo.com has a headline that Obama will fight for taxes later, and teh story describes it as an effort to appease the left.

    Why, exactly, would anyone trust a promise from Obama to fight for something in future in exchange for a known bad deal now? When has he stood and fought?

    And this Super Congress committee - reports are it will be a party-balanced committee of 12, and take 7 votes to recommend anything to Congress. In other words, one Republican would have to vote for tax increases for there to be any revenues (and none will be part of a failure trigger). Anyone want to review this past month and tell me they think an R will break ranks and favor more revenues?

    In other words, progressives are getting screwed now, and as part of the deal get to be screwed again later.
    At least Rep. Grivalja and the Progressive Caucus appear to get it.

  • E.Hatt-Swank on July 31, 2011 5:20 PM:

    RE: Zeitgeist @5:11pm -

    You are so right! This committee and its binding recommendations are perhaps the most troubling aspects of the whole deal. The Republicans have shown as plainly as possible that they are fine with completely blowing up the economy to get their way. So the deal passes, and the committee is formed with people like Lindsey Graham or Tom Coburn. They know that if their recommendations don't go into effect, the triggers are set off and the New Deal society is instantly destroyed. Why in God's name would they even try to come up with anything substantive? All they'd have to do is sabotage the committee and they get what they want. It's utterly insane.

  • David on July 31, 2011 6:00 PM:

    Not to seem alarmist, but I don't believe it's a stretch to say that Obama has ushered in the end of meaningful progressive legislation in this country.

    Put simply, we should probably expect that, from now on, when the debt ceiling needs to be raised (and the GOP has the presidency, House or Senate - but not all 3) they will condition it on reversing progressive legislation (whether it be from the New Deal or something more recent).

    Legislation gets passed ending DOMA in 2012? Well, why not condition the debt ceiling legislation in 2013 on bringing back DOMA?

    This year HCR wasn't gutted. Maybe they'll push that one harder next time?

    What are Democrats going to do about it?

    It was the Democrats' (primarily Obama's) job to simply refuse to engage in negotiations over the debt ceiling. Yes, the GOP shouldn't have pushed the idea, but who cares. By engaging the GOP, Obama legitimated the GOP tactic.

    This has far reaching ramifications for progressive priorities (and ONLY progressive priorities) that we hardly know yet.

    And it was worth Obama losing next year or losing the Senate (or both) to prevent this from becoming the new norm.

  • Rich Horton on July 31, 2011 6:11 PM:

    Benan, if you really believe any of this is "new" you may be the most pig ignorant writer working in national politics today.

    Congratulations.

  • Mark on July 31, 2011 6:30 PM:

    Democrats needn't pretend they are shocked; shocked!! by this, since they fiddled away their fairly-punchy majority trying to achieve bipartisanship - when every indication was that any hand extended across the aisle was going to come back with a Republican lunger in it.

    The Republicans made it clear from the outset that they were not going to accept a nigger president or a Democratic agenda, and the Democrats were fools for not ruthlessly crushing them like snake's eggs when they had the chance. Now they're paying the price, and Jesus, but it's expensive.

  • Nick on July 31, 2011 6:35 PM:

    Are there any other examples of extortion tactics either outside or inside of legislation used by either party?

  • AMS on July 31, 2011 7:00 PM:

    A couple of points:

    1. What the Republicans are saying, both in word and in deed, is very insidious: they will not let a Democratic President govern. We saw it to a certain extent with Clinton and they have elevated it to an art form under Obama. As a poster on another thread on this site pointed out, they are so effective in their messaging that they manage to taint Democrats even in their own supporters' eyes (try to find someone to say a good word about John Kerry or Michael Dukakis!) They are sending a message to the American people that they will obstruct, extort, and bring the government to a halt until the voters see the error of their ways and elect a Republican President.They are giving Americans a choice between a government that implements policies voters dislike and a government that doesn't function at all. That, to me, is the ultimate extortion and shows a fundamental distrust of democracy.

    2. If I were Obama, I would pivot immediately to job creation and make that the dominant narrative from now until the election. Major legislation may not be possible, but he can hammer on the initiatives now before Congress---an extension of the payroll tax holiday, trade agreements, etc. over and over again. He can also propose specific tax incentives for actual job CREATION (is there anything dumber than anointing a group of people "job creators" based solely on their annual income without requiring them to do anything to actually create jobs?) and get them introduced in Congress. If the Republicans want to go on record opposing jobs legislation, let them. They have done what, exactly, to create jobs? Nothing. They are very vulnerable on an issue that poll after poll shows is uppermost among Americans' concerns. The President should put them on the defensive (where they belong) on that issue and keep them there.

  • Doug on July 31, 2011 10:57 PM:

    I have never seen such a bunch of whining, immature, crybabies. Continually blaming President Obama for the misdeeds of others. I hope it makes you feel better, because it doesn't do damn else!
    Votes, people. If there aren't enough votes, drawing lines in the sand only results in an eventual capitulation; a long-drawn-out, complete and very politically costly, capitulation (a term consistently misused by many here). That's what you want? You want the Democrats to be, factually, tarred with the same brush as the Teabaggers? Radicals who refuse to compromise for the good of the country, or at least for its' economic survival?
    Nor will President Obama's "calling out" the Republican/Teabbagers change anyones' opinion. THAT will only happen when enough voters in this country recognize what the Republican/Teabaggers are doing and put a stop to it. Otherwise, the MSM will just confirm that ALL politicians say stuff like that and have visual proof.
    I continually see posters saying that for the President to negotiate or reference "cuts" in his speeches just "validates" Republican/Teabagger talking points. Do you REALLY want the President to go on television and "validate" their tactics, as well?
    2012 will make or break the Teabaggers; either they win big, completely control the Republican Party and, possibly, the Federal government or the Republican/Teabaggers are smashed at the polls and are reduced to their well-earned position as a fanatic fringe on the far edge of mainstream politics. Too much of what I've seen here does nothing except provide support for the former occurring, but that's what happens I guess, when your pony isn't the color you wanted.
    Remember, Blue Dog Democrats are down to 30-35 members of the Democratic caucus. That means we need a majority numbering anywhere greater than 250 to allow for them voting AGAINST Democratic measures. Even when the Teabaggers are shown NOT to be invincible and McConnell withdraws even further into his carapace, we'll still need a Senate majority of 55-58, the latter being better, naturally. What are YOU doing to get those majorities? Other than blaming the victims, I mean?
    Because, face it folks, unless WE provide President Obama, or ANY Democratic President, for that matter, with the Democratic majorities needed to repair the damage the Republican/Teabaggers will have caused, the fault rests on US as much as anyone in DC. "We, the People..." isn't just a phrase from the Constitution, it's the foundation of our government. It's OUR responsibility and duty to see that those we elect are provided with the necessary tools to do the job we want them to. Those tools are called WORKING MAJORITIES.
    I leave you with this: If a foundation isn't very sturdy, don't be surprised when it can only support a double-wide and not a mansion...

  • Jack Hammer on August 01, 2011 12:15 AM:

    Extortion is easy. Your small group of extortionists only needs two things to make it work:

    1. Something that MUST be done to avert a national disaster or great harm to a large group of people.

    2. That something in #1 requires a vote in Congress to do it.

    Now get out your legislative calendars and start planning! If that should fail then the Senate filibuster is still available to undermine majority rule!

    I've heard several times over the last few days that many of the new Teabaggers in Congress don't care about re-election, that they're on a mission. That's the equivalent of a legislative suicide bomber.

  • jeffll on August 01, 2011 1:12 AM:

    These posts were great reading and very entertaining. Let me point out a couple of small flaws in the complaints here.

    You know if the Dems had passed a budget (and extended the debt ceiling early) within the last couple of years, when they had huge majorities (even filibuster proof majorities for quite some time) we would not be having this conversation right now. They could have upped the debt ceiling last December by $5 trillion before the Repubs took over the majority in the house and the Repubs could not have done a thing about it. Was that a little to far in the future to think about? Is that not what a leader thiks about, long term strategies?

    What we have is a failure to lead. The Dems could have enacted anything they wanted for one year (senate 60-40), yet they did not. They could have enacted almost anything they wanted the following year, but toned down a little to make it past 59-41 senate. But they did not.

    So now it is the Repubs fault? The ones who now control a little more than one half of one third (1/6th of the govt for those that cannot count) of the govt? Why did the Dems not deal with these issues when they had major majorities in all branches of the house? Answer that question and you will understand the results of the 2010 election.

    You want to blame someone, blame the ones that that have failed in leadership.

  • Thomas on August 01, 2011 4:59 AM:

    Where were all of you during the 2010 Midterm elections? Oh that's right, Liberals don't vote in Midterm elections. Well, you have a chance to make this right in 2012 AND 2014. Republicans have overplayed their hand, and the President has shown once again that he has a responsibility to the United States of America - not just his party's base. If you don't like what Republicans are doing, then get off your butts and stop blogging, and get out there and turn out the vote AGAINST Republican for the next election, AND the next one after that.

  • redmanrt on August 01, 2011 7:35 AM:

    "I think this is arguably..."

    What in the world does "arguably" mean?

    Anyway, the stealth fungible funding for the affordable health scam buried in the porculus wasn't touched.

    To all Republican congressmen who aren't being blackmailed - Vote no.

  • Khadijah on August 01, 2011 7:56 AM:

    "I've heard several times over the last few days that many of the new Teabaggers in Congress don't care about re-election, that they're on a mission. That's the equivalent of a legislative suicide bomber."

    I think that is incorrect. Kristy Noem was interviewed last night, and said to the effect that to the TPers that were (democratically, let's remember) elected, "This is why we were elected. This is the fight our constituents told us to have."

    For my part, I'm all for them. I'm 56, and the politicos have been talking about how spending must be cut for most of my lifetime. This is the first time they ever did; it's a little pittance, but it's a start. Finally somebody held the line and said "let's start getting spending to line up with revenues."

    To your other point, well, correct. As soon as the Administration sent out the Treasury Sect. to tell everyone that the sky would fall on Aug 2, it was inevitable that they would be the losers on the deal. The GOP simply refused to believe that the Dems (if they really believed the sky would fall) would bring down the government over something as mundane as higher taxes.

    And they were right.

  • You don't get it. on August 01, 2011 8:22 AM:

    It's not extortion. We elected people in 2010 to say "No." They did; where's the extortion?
    Subsidizing unions at failing auto companies where the unions have a 25 per cent absentee rate every day?
    Subsidizing Fannie & Freddie to continue underwriting bad notes by policy?
    Subsidizing generational poverty through the EIC, HUD and innumerable other self-defeating, self-perpetuating programs?
    Subsidizing a lowest common denominator approach to education through the Department of Education?

    Now there's some extortion.

  • SW on August 01, 2011 8:34 AM:

    Steve Benen's extortion definition explained:

    Democrats: Gimme more credit on our maxxed out credit card.

    Tea Party: No.

    "No" is now defined as extortion. Up is down. Wrong is right. Black is white. One equals zero.

    Clever, eh?

  • Scott on August 01, 2011 8:48 AM:

    Steve, I am hoping that maybe you are very young --- maybe early 20's? This so called "extortion" has been going on in American politics for a very long time. One only needs to look at the Obamacare debate that went on a year and a half ago........you know the healthcare bill that the majority of Americans did not want and that most in congress did not even get a chance to read or debate about because Democrats shoved it down our throats. Remember what Nancy said: We have to pass it so everyone can see what is in it. A lot of sense that makes!

  • sub on August 01, 2011 9:07 AM:

    this is the vile rhetoric of the progressive left, and a reminder of their staggering double standard. in the mind of a "man" like steve benen, dissent is only noble when he agrees with the dissenter. when he does not, it's "extortion" to refuse the status quo, extortion to demand change, extortion to fight what you believe in. so if you're for civil rights (an easy one, 50 yrs later), dissent is allowable. but if you're for fiscal sanity, reasonable restriction on debt, government, bureaucracy, you're an "extortionist."

    hey benen, let me make myself clear. people like you are detestable. tolerant of only those you agree with, in support of dissent only when you agree with it. you are as "progressive" as my rear end, and you're entire position is a hypocritical joke. that's you, a political joke.

  • GJ on August 01, 2011 9:32 AM:

    This author, and others like Paul Krugman, need a dose of reality. This deal was an instance of compromise, where both sides came to an agreement that required them to give in. That's the way the system was designed to work.
    Yet you guys hate it. That's because you don't like the agreement. You want endless spending, endless growth of government and entitlement programs and will bankrupt Americans now and into the future to get it. The Dem's controlled all three branches of government and couldn't or wouldn't pass a budget then. You have only yourselves to blame for this outcome.
    If you want an clear example of a broken, extremist, anti-democratic decision by Washington, look no further than the way Obamacare came into existence. It was forced on the American public by the fiat of one party--no compromise, no bipartisanship. Not one republican supported it. No one even read the damn thing before it was passed. Yet it will possibly be the single-most expensive entitlement program that the US has ever seen. That's broken. So, tell me why you all weren't complaining then about a broken system and a law that should never have been passed.
    You guys don't care if the government works as it is designed. You only care about having it your way.

  • marperl on August 01, 2011 9:41 AM:

    Novel debt ceiling solutions

    --Washington, DC--In a last-second decision, Apple Inc has reportedly offered to buy the United States. "Jobs knows it's an iffy investment, but with money to burn, and the potential tax write-offs, it's a smart move,"said Joseph Adams, Wall Street investment guru. In fact, with a market value of approximately a zillion dollars, Apple does have the financial strength to purchase the debt-heavy country. President Obama is said to be weighing the offer as the clock ticks toward the impending debt ceiling implosion. Key Republican power brokers and Tea Partiers are intrigued by the offer as well. "It's Capitalism in action," said a second cousin to an aide for House Majority leader Eric Cantor.

    With time running out to raise the debt ceiling, why not sell the country to the highest bidder? See more examples at Thinking Out Loud, http://marperl.blogspot.com/2011/07/last-minute-debt-ceiling-solutions.html

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