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Tom Rinaldo

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Member since: Mon Oct 20, 2003, 06:39 PM
Number of posts: 15,281

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The sequester is terrible, yes, but the timing may help us.

It may bcome the American public's lesson in understanding the danger that slashing budgets presents to the economic health of our nation. Because there are meat cleaver cuts about to happen, the damage they cause might be obvious to more people, including Republicans. Cuts will be out there in the open, to things like Air Traffic Control and the Military - instead of only those that cause stealth pain to those who have no real voice in Washington. Even the Republican Right will eventually want to revisit the sequester cuts, hoping to make the poor shoulder more of the impact in a final deal.

It has always been the pending "Grand Bargain" that I feared the most, because that one will be for keeps, virtually impossible to reverse once those budget cuts are set in motion. If that mega deal had made it across the table before anyone had time to feel the pain, it might have delivered the middle class, working class, and poor to a bleak place, potentially for decades. Now though the news is all about how bad the sequester cuts will be to our economic health - how it could push us back into recession etc. Let that register with the public now and maybe we can actually come close to getting it right when it really counts, in the later deal or deals.

The Ultimate Wedge Issues: Rebellion and Civil War

The fringe has been creeping out from under the rocks for decades now and have reached the edge of the playing field, in open view of anyone not caught intentionally looking the other way. Call them minute men or oath keepers or patriots, call them nullification advocates or backers of state sovereignty or potential secessionists; these are people on the verge of hard core treason, preparing for possible actual war against the United States of America.

The drive to enact sane gun safety measures has flushed more of them out into the bright light of day. They feel strongly compelled now to mobilize to protect their military arsenals, but with their increased activity comes greater public scrutiny. They didn’t choose this exact timing, mass shootings called the question in the public mind, and their positions stand exposed.

When will Democrats and sane Republicans respond directly to the threat that these “forces” pose to our nation? Supposedly there are establishment Republicans concerned that extreme right messaging is making it too difficult for Republicans to again become the ruling national party. Well it does not get any more extreme than threatening violence against the United States Government, or the break up of the Union. There is no framing starker than that to illustrate how far from the mainstream the Republican Party has been drifting.

Every Republican of any State or National significance needs to be forced to comment on the militant anti-government movement growing within their ranks. Do they forcefully condemn this increasing talk of treason and rebellion, or do they sympathize with and condone the behavior of those who describe the constitutionally constituted and legally elected by popular will government of the United States of America as the enemy? That question no longer is too outrageous to ask, which is how the status quo in American politics to date has treated it. The links between those who are preparing for battle with the United States government and the right wing of the Republican Party are now too numerous and obvious to continue to ignore.

If the tables were reversed you know what would happen. In fact it already has happened. It was called the Red Scare. I would never advocate Democrats resorting to that type of witch hunt; there is no place in our politics today for “are you now or have you ever been” nonsense. But it is both fair and timely to ask leaders of the Republican Party one simple but important question. Do you stand with the United States of America or with its current domestic enemies? No doubt most would try to dismiss that question as unworthy of serious comment, but nothing could be more serious.

There once was a time when leading conservatives like William F. Buckley had the courage and integrity to openly and completely disassociate from the John Birch Society. The reason why Republicans today refuse to similarly unambiguously condemn today’s rebellious right wing fringe is obvious; they don’t want to risk alienating some Republican base voters and contributors. Nothing should be easier for a Republican legislator than to condemn those who contemplate violence against fellow law abiding Americans. But that is a stand many would rather not be forced into making.

The growing talk of what should rightfully be called treason should legitimately be a wedge issue inside today’s Republican Party, but not unless they start getting called on it. Until that happens expect Republicans to keep turning a seemingly deaf ear to continued dog whistle appeals for support from America’s most organized and fastest growing domestic enemies, emanating from those who have sworn to preserve and protect our Union. Partisan self interest does not sink lower than this.

The Republican Party offers Zero leadership for America today except from the Extreme Right

That point was driven home for me again watching Marco Rubio give the official Republican response to the Presidents State of the Union address. Outside the ranks of the virulent Right, Republican leaders don't strongly believe in anything anymore, just in protecting their own jobs and the interests of wealthy special interests. No doubt there are a few exceptions out there but when you really have to hunt to find one you know that proves the rule.

I am beginning to think that’s one reason why so many so called establishment or "mainstream" Republicans keep losing primaries to candidates attacking them from the right. Sure many Republican primary voters prefer far right positions but that has been true in the Republican Party for 50 years or more. What has changed most is the personal character and deeply held convictions displayed by elected Centrist to Center Right Republicans - it has been sorely and obviously lacking in recent years. They all are mostly content to just mouth conservative mantra - all rattled off by rote with the thoughtfulness and incisiveness of yesterdays talking points. Where vision is lacking a Party perishes

I'm not saying that all of the far right Tea Party types that Republican voters have been favoring of late have the courage of their own convictions, or that they even have deeply held convictions in many cases. Some just pander to the mob to get elected, saying whatever will stoke the fury of fervent true believers to harness their support to advance their own careers. Hell, Rubio chose that path himself to defeat Charlie Crist in a Republican primary for the Senate Seat he ultimately won. But some of them actually believe in their extremist views, and the rest at least know how to act the role with sufficient passion to be plausibly convincing to voters hungry for actual leadership.

President Obama offered a vision for America in his State of the Union address, the Republican Party offered opposition to that vision and little if anything else. There are indeed firebrands in the Republican Party willing to take America in a direction diametrically opposed to the vision that the President laid out, but the majority of Americans have absolutely no interest in going where that fringe wants to lead us. And so the Republican Party is forced to fudge it, since almost no leading figures within it are willing to directly refute the positions the extremist right advocates for. Platitudes rarely inspire, and this nation seldom chooses to follow those with a strong propensity for fudging.

It was another bad night for the Republican Party.

It's Time to Treat Senate Republicans Like Adversaries in a Trade War

When filibuster abuse reaches the point where the Republican Minority attempts to legislate through obstruction - seeking to hobble or kill federal agencies like the ATF or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by refusing to allow up and down confirmation votes on directors of those agencies - it is time to borrow some tactics from those international trade wars we sometimes find ourselves in. When some nation out there tries to prevent America from exporting products into their domestic market by enacting illegal (by treaty) artificial trade barriers on it, the point comes when we do more than just complain about it. A point comes where we move on from debating the technical legalities and simply retaliate instead. What do American tires have to do with the price of tea in China? Not much actually, but in a trade war EVERYTHING is linked. WHAMO look! Suddenly there's a big new tariff on green tea, or French wine if France becomes the offending nation.

It's tit for tat, it's spiteful, but it works and real negotiations begin in earnest. Not having looked into it personally I don't know what moves Obama can threaten Republican Senators with over their efforts to weaken or kill federal agencies they don't like, but I would be shocked if there weren't dramatic moves Obama can make on his own in retaliation. The trick is in de-linkage. The actions he should threaten to make don't need to be directly related to the functions of those agencies - no more than wine imports are related to hog exports. They become linked because he links them using the same logic as a trade war.

I know that it is routine for Republican Senators to have a say in appointments of federal prosecutors in their States for example. Why should Obama cooperate with them? Does a Republican Senator want federal funds released for some project in his state that seems reasonable on the face of it? It shouldn't be reasonable any longer - not during the jurisdictional equivalent of a trade war. Does a Red State Governor with filibustering Senators want some waiver from a federal regulation; bring it up after there is a Senate confirmation vote, not before. There probably are thousands of ways in which the executive branch of the federal government cooperates with State officials every week, all of them should be fair game for a “work stoppage” if Republicans keep blocking up or down votes on key Obama appointments simply because they don’t like the mission of the agency to which they are being appointed.

Sure Republicans will cry bloody murder if Obama actually retaliated in this way. Yes they would threaten to escalate and retaliate in turn. Let them, they will lose. A clear line must be drawn. It is one thing to be obstructionists against pending new legislation; it is a different matter to willfully obstruct the functioning of a federal agency that was legally constituted through an act passed by Congress. When Republicans claim, as they will, that President Obama is abusing his executive powers he will have a simple answer, Republicans have abused their minority status in the Senate. More importantly any impasse that might subsequently develop, he can say, is totally unnecessary. All Republicans would need to do to resolve it is allow for an up or down vote on Presidential appointments, or at the very least defend their objections to a specific nominee on grounds pertaining to that person’s specific qualifications – not to the office to which they are being nominated.

This is just another instance of Republicans being bullies to get their way when they can’t win fair and square, and bullies should never be appeased. Expose them for what they are; they won’t be able to face the spot light it will shine on them.
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