Give Up Now GOP. You Lost.

1. President Obama caves.

He agrees to delay the Affordable Care Act for a year to restart the government, and agrees to budget cuts and entitlement cuts beyond the sequester-level budget Democrats have already agreed to in order to raise the debt ceiling. Tea Partiers triumph.

Many congressional Republicans still think this is a possibility. They see Barack Obama as a weakling who will always crumble in the end. They also suffer from a common political delusion, that the American public agrees with you on both the substance of policy and the tactics you’ve chosen. So even with polls showing approval of the shutdown, their party, and the institution in which they serve plunging to the depths of Hades, they believe they’re going to win and get everything they want.

Odds: 3 flepzillion - 1

Read the rest of our odds on how this mess ends here.

Let Us Now Praise Famous Presidential Pets

  • There is a new puppy at the White House! Everyone say “awhhhhh,” and then let us praise famous hens—like Teddy Roosevelt’s, Baron Speckle—and other presidential pets past. 
  • There has been many a bird in the White House, from Andrew Jackson’s parrot—who may have been ejected from Old Hickory’s funeral for swearing—to John Tyler’s canary, Johnny Ty, who was perhaps the first bird to have a same-sex marriage in D.C.
  • Calvin Coolidge had two lion cubs, Tax Reduction and Budget Bureau.
  • Martin Van Buren was given two tiger cubs by the Sultan of Oman. The president wanted to keep them, but Congress insisted the cute kitties belonged to the people. They eventually ended up at the National Zoo. 
  • Teddy Roosevelt’s family basically had their own zoo at the White House, what with John Edwards, the bear (named such ”partly because they thought they detected Calvinistic traits in the bear’s character” ), Father O’Grady, the guinea pig, a one-eyed rooster, and Emily Spinach, the garter snake who died under mysterious circumstances in Bar Harbor.
  • Pauline Wayne, William Howard Taft’s cow—the last cow to ever live at the White House—has her own Wikipedia page.  
  • Benjamin Harrison had a couple opossums, named, wait for it, Mr. Reciprocity and Mr. Protection.
  • Twenty-five presidents have owned dogs, but our first president’s coonhounds probably had the best names:  Drunkard, Taster, Tipler, and Tipsy
  • But what does the new addition to the Obama household mean? Apparently, studies have been conducted about the political effects of presidential pets: “We surmise that diversionary pets are a political liability when their frolicking on the White House lawn in hard times might cue the public that not everyone in the country is suffering equally and that being president is not a full-time job.”

Read the rest of today’s Ringside Seat here.

A Timeline of Obama’s Terror Rhetoric

  • September 2003: “Yes, I would vote to repeal the U.S. Patriot Act, although I would consider replacing that shoddy and dangerous law with a new, carefully crafted proposal that addressed in a much more limited fashion the legitimate needs of law enforcement in combating terrorism.”
  • February 2006: “Soon after the PATRIOT Act passed, a few years before I ever arrived in the Senate, I began hearing concerns from people of every background and political leaning that this law didn’t just provide law enforcement the powers it needed to keep us safe, but powers it didn’t need to invade our privacy without cause or suspicion. … [M]embers on both sides of the aisle will need to take a careful look at President Bush’s use of warrantless wiretaps and determine the right balance between protecting our security and safeguarding our civil liberties.”
  • March 2007: “Americans fought a revolution in part over the right to be free from unreasonable searches, to ensure that our government couldn’t come knocking in the middle of the night for no reason. We need to find a way forward to make sure that we [stop] terrorists while protecting the privacy and liberty of innocent Americans.”
  • August 2007: “[The Bush] Administration acts like violating civil liberties is the way to enhance our security. It is not.”
  • November 2007: “The threat that we face now is nowhere near as dire as it was in the Cold War. We shouldn’t allow our politics to be driven by the fear of terrorism.”
  • December 2007: “As president, I will follow existing law, and when it comes to U.S. citizens and residents, I will only authorize surveillance for national security purposes consistent with FISA and other federal statutes.”
  • May 2013: “Thwarting homegrown plots presents particular challenges in part because of our proud commitment to civil liberties for all who call America home.  That’s why, in the years to come, we will have to keep working hard to strike the appropriate balance between our need for security and preserving those freedoms that make us who we are. That means reviewing the authorities of law enforcement, so we can intercept new types of communication, but also build in privacy protections to prevent abuse.”
  • June 2013: “You know, I came in with a healthy skepticism about these programs. In the abstract, you can complain about Big Brother and how this is a potential program run amok, but when you actually look at the details, then I think we’ve struck the right balance.”

Read the rest of today’s Ringside here.

The political system is “broken” all right, as commentators keep saying, but it is not broken in the way they contend. The problem is not that Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on enough deficit reduction. It is that one party has been taken over by extremists who seem to enjoy watching things burn, while the other party is in the hands of a president who seems clinically depressed and can’t bring himself to lead the country in a direction that defies the conventional wisdom.

 
I want to look at this in the context of our political discourse on race for the past three years or so, during which many conservatives have put forth a narrative of white victimhood in which the Obama policy agenda consists entirely of “reparations" and the sluggish recovery is Obama’s racial "payback" for past grievances. As silly as the idea that Obama is a racist who is singlehandedly effecting a widespread redistribution of wealth on racial terms, it’s clear that on some level this narrative of anti-white oppression is gaining some traction as an explanation for ongoing economic misery, given that a non-trivial number of whites, conservatives in particular, seem to think that anti-white racism is a big problem. 
Yet, to paraphrase something Matthew Yglesias once said, the numbers look more like a white racist conspiracy to deprive minorities of what little wealth they’ve attained than a ruthless plan for gouging John Galt. 

Exploring the growing racial wealth gap.

I want to look at this in the context of our political discourse on race for the past three years or so, during which many conservatives have put forth a narrative of white victimhood in which the Obama policy agenda consists entirely of “reparations" and the sluggish recovery is Obama’s racial "payback" for past grievances. As silly as the idea that Obama is a racist who is singlehandedly effecting a widespread redistribution of wealth on racial terms, it’s clear that on some level this narrative of anti-white oppression is gaining some traction as an explanation for ongoing economic misery, given that a non-trivial number of whites, conservatives in particular, seem to think that anti-white racism is a big problem. 

Yet, to paraphrase something Matthew Yglesias once said, the numbers look more like a white racist conspiracy to deprive minorities of what little wealth they’ve attained than a ruthless plan for gouging John Galt. 

Exploring the growing racial wealth gap.

The Empty Bully Pulpit

Barack Obama is one of the most intelligent and eloquent people to grace the White House, which makes his abject failure to tell the story of our era all the more disappointing. Many who were drawn to him in 2008 were dazzled by the power of his words—his speech at the 2004 Democratic convention, his autobiography and subsequent policy book, his insights about race and other divisive issues during the campaign—and were excited by the prospect of an “educator in chief” who would use the bully pulpit to explain what has happened to the United States in recent decades and to mobilize Americans to do what must be done.

But the man who has occupied the Oval Office since January 2009 is some-one entirely different—a man seemingly without a compass, a tactician who veers rightward one day and leftward the next, an inside-the-Beltway deal-maker who does not explain his compromises in light of larger goals. Americans have no idea why we’re still in Iraq and Afghanistan, now that Osama bin Laden has been killed and most of the remaining leadership of al-Qaeda is in Pakistan.

Has Obama failed us? Robert Reich thinks so.

Your daily dose of disappointment

Progressives don’t need more reasons to be disappointed with President Barack Obama’s handling of the deficit talks, but here’s another failing that has not gotten much play: The administration has been so timid on defense cuts that some leading Republicans are now well to the president’s left on this issue.

Why isn’t Obama speaking up on cutting defense spending?

It’s not hard to find signs that President Barack Obama is destined for a single term. Unemployment continues to hover at 9 percent, and a June poll from American Research Group says 39 percent of Americans disapprove of how he has handled the economy, which 71 percent of registered voters say will be “extremely or very important.” When asked whom they’d vote for in the 2012 presidential election, 47 percent said the “Republican Party’s candidate for president,” as opposed to the 39 percent who would support Obama.
Obama isn’t the only incumbent to start a re-election campaign with low approval ratings, but others enjoyed the advantage of a growing economy. Ronald Reagan might not have earned the reputation for political genius he’s been credited with had the economy stalled in 1984 instead of growing at a rapid clip. Likewise, Bill Clinton might not have regained his title as the “comeback kid” if the economy hadn’t begun to supercharge in 1995 and 1996. For Obama, even if the economy grows quickly in 2012, unemployment will still top 8 percent, and per-capita income growth (a major predictor of presidential elections) is projected to stagnate.
Taken together, this is bad news for the White House. Nonetheless, there are reasons for optimism.

Why Obama is going to win in 2012.

It’s not hard to find signs that President Barack Obama is destined for a single term. Unemployment continues to hover at 9 percent, and a June poll from American Research Group says 39 percent of Americans disapprove of how he has handled the economy, which 71 percent of registered voters say will be “extremely or very important.” When asked whom they’d vote for in the 2012 presidential election, 47 percent said the “Republican Party’s candidate for president,” as opposed to the 39 percent who would support Obama.

Obama isn’t the only incumbent to start a re-election campaign with low approval ratings, but others enjoyed the advantage of a growing economy. Ronald Reagan might not have earned the reputation for political genius he’s been credited with had the economy stalled in 1984 instead of growing at a rapid clip. Likewise, Bill Clinton might not have regained his title as the “comeback kid” if the economy hadn’t begun to supercharge in 1995 and 1996. For Obama, even if the economy grows quickly in 2012, unemployment will still top 8 percent, and per-capita income growth (a major predictor of presidential elections) is projected to stagnate.

Taken together, this is bad news for the White House. Nonetheless, there are reasons for optimism.

Why Obama is going to win in 2012.

No Twits on Twitter

No Twits on TwitterIt would have been easy to scoff at the fact that the president of the United States sat down last week to field questions delivered via a social network that limits all messages to 140 characters or less. But the “Twitter town hall” was much more substantive than you might have expected. The questions President Barack Obama answered (which were selected by Twitter executives from the thousands that came in) mostly concerned the economy, but also covered such topics as energy, education, taxes, and our various wars. In other words, it turned out largely as Obama intended, and no one should have been surprised.

 It might seem counter-intuitive, given how little Americans (on average) know about politics, and how many of us believe ridiculous things - that aliens are abducting people, or that whether you’ll meet an old friend today is determined by the position of the zodiac. But town halls have been with us since before we were an independent nation. That, of course, is part of the appeal: by conducting something like the Twitter town hall, we are updating a hallowed tradition of American democracy to the electronic age.

Is Twitter really part of modern day democracy? Paul Waldman says yes.

Obama’s Austerity Altar

If we miss the August 2 deadline, and the dollar starts wobbling and the bond-market goes haywire, that might finally put some salutary pressure on the Republicans to meet the Democrats more than halfway. They control just one house. The Democrats have the Senate and the White House. They should start acting like it.

Alternatively, if Obama “succeeds” this weekend in brokering an austerity deal, the Democrats, American progressivism and the economy will all be the losers.

Bob Kuttner argues: either way, America loses.