Posts Tagged ‘Lindsey Graham’

Must-Reads of the Week: The Obama 20-somethings, Graham’s Cojones, Fannie/Freddie, Naive Conspiracy Theorists, Saban, Obama=Socialism, Political Imitations, Underdogs, Lost!, and Julián Castro

Friday, May 7th, 2010

This is a busy season for me — but there should be some more substantive blog posts next week…

1. The Obama 20-somethings. Ashley Parker for the New York Times Magazine profiles “all the Obama 20-somethings” in an interesting profile of the new crowd in D.C. of smart, highly educated, highly motivated, civic-minded, young Obama staffers.

2. Lindsey Graham’s Cojones. You gotta hand it to Lindsey Graham — if nothing else, he’s got guts — from Dana Milbank of the Washington Post:

The lone pro-gun lawmaker to engage in the fight was the fearless Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who rolled his eyes and shook his head when Lieberman got the NYPD’s Kelly to agree that the purchase of a gun could suggest that a terrorist “is about to go operational.”

“I’m not so sure this is the right solution,” Graham said, concerned that those on the terrorist watch list might be denied their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

“If society decides that these people are too dangerous to get on an airplane with other people, then it’s probably appropriate to look very hard before you let them buy a gun,” countered Bloomberg.

“But we’re talking about a constitutional right here,” Graham went on. He then changed the subject, pretending the discussion was about a general ban on handguns. “The NRA — ” he began, then rephrased. “Some people believe banning handguns is the right answer to the gun violence problem. I’m not in that camp.”

Graham felt the need to assure the witnesses that he isn’t soft on terrorism: “I am all into national security. . . . Please understand that I feel differently not because I care less about terrorism.”

Jonathan Chait comments:

There’s a pretty hilarious double standard here about the rights of gun owners. Remember, Graham is one of the people who wants the government to be able to take anybody it believes has committed an act of terrorism, citizen or otherwise, and whisk them away to a military detention facility where they’ll have no rights whatsoever. No potential worries for government overreach or bureaucratic error there. But if you’re on the terrorist watch list, your right to own a gun remains inviolate, lest some innocent gun owner be trapped in a hellish star chamber world in which his fun purchase is slowed by legal delays.

3. Why Isn’t Fannie/Freddie Part of FinReg? Ezra Klein explains why regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac isn’t in the financial regulation bill.

4. Naive Conspiracy Theorists. William Saletan contributes to the whole epistemic closure debate with a guide on how not to be closed-minded politically, including this bit of advice:

Sanchez goes through a list of bogus or overhyped stories that have consumed Fox and the right-wing blogosphere: ACORN, Climategate, Obama’s supposed Muslim allegiance, and whether Bill Ayers wrote Obama’s memoir. Conservatives trapped in this feedback loop, he notes, become “far too willing to entertain all sorts of outlandish new ideas—provided they come from the universe of trusted sources.” When you think you’re being suspicious, you’re at your most gullible.

5. Saban. Connie Bruck in the New Yorker profiles Haim Saban, best known for bringing the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers to the United States — but who made much of his fortune licensing the rights to cartoon music internationally. As a side hobby, he tries to influence American foreign policy towards Israel. He doesn’t come off very well in the piece, but at least this one observation seems trenchant to me at first glance:

Saban pointed out that, in the late nineties, President Clinton had pushed Netanyahu very hard, but behind closed doors. “Bill Clinton somehow managed to be revered and adored by both the Palestinians and the Israelis,” he said. “Obama has managed to be looked at suspiciously by both. It’s not too late to fix that.”

6. The Obama=Socialism Canard. Jonathan Chait rather definitively deflates Jonah Goldberg’s faux-intellectual, Obama=socialism smear:

For almost all Republicans, the point of labeling Obama socialist is not to signal that he’s continuing the philosophical tradition of Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Carter and Clinton. The point is to signal the opposite: that Obama embodies a philosophy radically out of character with American history. Republicans have labeled Obama’s agenda as “socialism” because the term is widely conflated with Marxism, even though Goldberg concedes they are different things, and because “liberalism” is no longer a sufficiently scary term. Republicans endlessly called Bill Clinton a liberal, Al Gore a liberal — the term has lost some of its punch. So Obama must be something categorically different and vastly more frightening.

Goldberg is defending the tactic by arguing, in essence, that liberalism is a form of socialism, and Obama is a liberal, therefore he can be accurately called a socialist. But his esoteric exercise, intentionally or not, serves little function other than to dress up a smear in respectable intellectual attire. [my emphasis]

7. Imitating the Imitators of the Imitation. This Politico piece by Mike Allen and Kenneth P. Vogel explains how some elite Republicans are trying to set up a right wing equivalent of the left wing attempt to imitate the right wing’s media-think tank-political infrastructure:

Two organizers of the Republican groups even made pilgrimages earlier this year to pick the brain of John Podesta, the former Clinton White House chief of staff who, in 2003, founded the Center for American Progress and was a major proponent of Democrats developing the kind of infrastructure pioneered by Republicans.

And of course, that right wing infrastructure was meant to imitate the left wing policy-media infrastructure of the left — the Brookings-New York Times axis. The whole imitation of imitation of imitation of imitation — spawning more and more organizations — reminds me a bit of those old Mad magazine comic strips:

8. The Underdog. Daniel Engber in Slate explores the underdog effect and various scientific studies of the underdog effect, including how it affects expectations:

The mere act of labeling one side as an underdog made the students think they were more likely to win.

9. Lost! Ed Martin in the Huffington Post is concerned with how the tv show Lost will end:

Not to put too much pressure on Lindelof and Cuse, but the future of broadcast television will to some extent be influenced by what you give us over these next few weeks.

10. Julián Castro. Zev Chafets of the New York Times Magazine profiles Julián Castro, mayor of San Antonio, Texas, and one of the up-and-coming Democrats. The article entirely elided his policy ideas or and barely mentioned his political temperament — but was interesting nevertheless.

[Image by me.]

Yglesias Award Nominee

Monday, April 26th, 2010

Andrew Sullivan’s creation of the “Yglesias Award” is actually what led me to Matt Yglesias in the first place. Now, in my Google Reader, Matt Yglesias and Jonathan Chait (and Ezra Klein) all commingle in a single feed folder as my essential reading — and so, when reading this, I actually mistook it for a Yglesias post. But it was by Jonathan Chait:

As for bad faith, Graham is a Republican Senator from South Carolina. His highest risk of losing his seat, by far, comes from the prospect of a conservative primary challenger. Indeed, I’d say that prospect is far from remote, and Graham is displaying an unusual willingness to risk his political future. He has little incentive to negotiate on these issues except that he believes it’s the right thing to do. So when Democrats put climate change on the backburner to take up immigration, and so so for obviously political reasons, Graham has every right to be angry. He’s risking his political life to address a vital issue, and Harry Reid is looking to save his seat.

This isn’t to say I disagree with the move to tackle immigration. The Republican Party’s obstructionism makes their defeat more necessary than if they were willing and able to work on areas in which they share common ground. You could bet that if they take back the House they will be incentivized to cooperate, but I wouldn’t count on that. Bringing up immigration will raise the level of rhetoric though — as it will be the first controversial issue Obama has addressed. Health care was made controversial after being popular; the stimulus as well.

By taking on immigration now, the conventional wisdom (on the left) is that the Republican Party will marginalize itself in the future in order to achieve some temporary gains today — and the Democratic Party will become the party of the fastest growing ethnic group. The Republican coalition of business and cultural conservatives will be aggravated as a bonus.

Aside from political calculations — it clearly is an issue that we must tackle as a nation — and the new draconian Arizona law demonstrates this further.

But Chait’s right that Graham has a right to be angry. Even if Graham does shamelessly play deficit politics while pushing America towards a fiscal catastrophe. Making common ground with people you disagree with is hard. And Graham is the only one in the Republican Party who seems to be trying, at a political cost to himself even.

[Adapted from image by isafmedia licensed under Creative Commons.]

Senator Lindsey Graham: Fiscal Chickenhawk

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

As I wrote earlier, Republicans are clearly rooting for a fiscal catastrophe. How else would a plan like Rep. Paul Ryan’s which increases taxes on 90% of Americans, cuts services for most Americans (while excluding the elderly and military, who happen to be 2 of the main Republican interests groups and beneficiaries of the status quo), and cuts taxes on the richest (who happen to be the 3rd main Republican interest group) have a chance of getting through?

It’s not clear the Graham himself – or any particular Republican – buys into this plan. But it is the clear result of the Republican strategy.

What is clear is that Graham – for all his talk of fiscal responsibility – proposes amending Obama’s health care plan to take out every revenue-generator, leaving a massive hole in the deficit.

The Bankruptcy of Deficit Politics

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

Ezra Klein had a revealing interview with Senator Lindsey Graham over the weekend. Read the whole thing. Graham gives Obama some clear advice on how to get health care reform done: Make Republicans and Democrats fear opposing you:

There’s two ways to fix a hard problem in Washington. You make people afraid of opposing you or you get them rewarded for helping you. There’s no fear for opposing Obama’s public option, and the reward is for opposing it. Right now, Republicans feel no political exposure from opposing the president’s health-care initiative.

That’s a pretty good analysis of what’s going on – though I’m surprised Graham is the one giving it. I think this would qualify as a gaffe if it were a bit punchier – if Graham had expressed this idea in one or two sentences instead of three.

But this wasn’t what I saw as the most interesting moment. That came when Klein asked Graham point-blank about “deficit politics”:

If the deficit politics are so powerful, where do you specifically see an opportunity for cost savings? Where can the curve be bent?

Graham dodged the question – as the astute politician he is rather than the honest truth-teller he holds himself out to be. And that’s exactly the problem with “deficit politics.” People may be angry about the deficit – but they don’t want any government services cut. They have been raised with the expectation that they can shift the burden to a future generation – namely, my generation. Republicans have been extremely astute at harnessing this anger at the deficit, though extraordinarily ineffective at actually doing anything about it.

“Deficit politics” is only about fear – and has no positive agenda. As conservative David Frum explains what the “success” of deficit politics will look like:

We’ll have entrenched and perpetuated some of the most irrational features of a hugely costly and under-performing system, at the expense of entrepreneurs and risk-takers, exactly the people the Republican party exists to champion.

It’s a mistake to see it as about “fiscal responsibility. What “deficit politics” is about a general suspicion of government, a sense the country is on the wrong track, and a sense that America’s position in the world is eroding due to government encroachment, especially on economic matters. What “deficit politics” is about is a kind of uniquely Baby Boomer sentiment – that we must cut the size of government, except for the military and those programs which “I” am using. It’s not a new sentiment – gaining serious credibility as a standalone dynamic motivating people at least as early as Ross Perot’s 1992 campaign. Before then, it had generally been incorporated into Republican politics – but as Ronald Reagan railed against big government while ballooning the size of government and deficits – and as George H. W. Bush tried to be fiscally responsible and raise taxes to reduce the deficit, and was pilloried for it – those motivated by “deficit politics” grew disappointed with the Republican party. As Bill Clinton reigned in deficit spending, he defused the explosive “deficit politics” but got little credit from those motivated by the issue. When George W. Bush exploded the deficit, he got little blame from this same crowd.

But now that Obama is running a short-term deficit to keep the macroeconomic demand high during this downturn, “deficit politics” is back with force. Obama has sought to defuse this issue by approaching his opponents as if they are acting on a good faith concern about fiscal responsibility by constantly talking about the importance of the long-term deficit, by taking strong measures to reign in the long-term deficit, and by making sure all of his new programs which seek to reign in the deficit in the long-term are deficit neutral over the mid-term. But the problem is – “deficit politics” isn’t about fiscal responsibility – but a far more nebulous and near-impossible combination of goals.

What is happening is that the right policy on the deficit is being distorted by deficit politics; it takes an odd, risk-averse sort of leadership style to realize how to play this game. Clinton was a master of it. But the selectiveness of the targets of this anger coupled with its explosiveness when it finally finds a target make any movement motivated by “deficit politics” impotent. Our political system rewards those movements that apply steady and generally predictable pressure, have clear goals, and that offer commensurate rewards for their supporters. The NRA, the NRLC, labor unions for example. Deficit politics though offers none of these.

Which is why it will fail to accomplish anything, except perhaps block any changes needed to deal with our festering, long-term problems – in which case these problems will get progressively worse.