#GOP47

Something About Progress (Something About Pride)

Detail of photo by Carlos Barria/AP Photo

This seems important:

A Russian ship left Iran on Monday carrying almost all of Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium, fulfilling a major step in the nuclear deal struck last summer and, for the first time in nearly a decade, apparently leaving Iran with too little fuel to manufacture a nuclear weapon.

(Sanger and Kramer)

This is what the #GOP47 wanted to prevent.

You know. Just something to keep in mind.

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Image note: P5+1 negotiating partners gathered in the United Nations Office at Vienna, Austria, 14 July 2015. (Detail of photo by Carlos Barria/AP Photo)

Sanger, David E. and Andrew E. Kramer. “Iran Hands Over Stockpile of Enriched Uranium to Russia”. The New York Times. 28 December 2015.

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The Marco Rubio Show (Elephant Gore Pioneer)

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio (FL), talks to CNBC correspondent John Harwood during an interview at the New York Stock Exchange in New York, Monday, 5 October 2012. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

This is the Marco Rubio Show:

Speaking before dozens of influential Jewish Republicans here last week, Marco Rubio lashed out at President Obama’s foreign policy and vowed, “When I am Commander-in-Chief, I will fortify our alliance with Israel.”

Applause filled the room and Rubio sought a deeper connection. “As speaker of the Florida House,” he said, “I pioneered what became a national effort by requiring the Florida pension program to divest from companies linked to Iran’s terrorist regime.”

It was groundbreaking, but Rubio had nothing to do with creation of the legislation.

(Leary)

We have before noted that the junior U.S. Senator from Florida has shown himself something of a dim bulb in the foreign policy pack; everything from his campaign slogan to his understanding of history to his comprehension of nation-building is borrowed failure―he is a walking rehash of bad ideas and, apparently, empty bluster and braggadocio.

Here is a fun irony: With Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) palling around with terrorists, did Marco Rubio just have an “Al Gore moment”? Hindsight suggests they might actually be trying to do this; the only rational argument otherwise is the reasonable―even otherwise convincing―proposition that such endeavors require way too much effort for the payoff. But, really, can Republicans be any more ironic right now?

You know, don’t answer. Something about the elephant in the room goes here.

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The Szubin Question (Forty-Seven Rise Again Remix)

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) speaks with reporters before the Senate luncheons in the Capitol, 15 May 2012. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

“It’s grossly irresponsible of McConnell and his colleagues to keep government from doing what they say it should do: operate efficiently and protect its citizens.”

Jonathan Bernstein

Perhaps some recall an occasion not so long ago when the United States faced such a potential health crisis that small-government conservatives, Republicans who purport to disdain the idea of an American czar, called for President Obama to appoint a new policy czar to deal with Ebola.

The White House, Democratic supporters, and many others pointed out that the Senate could start by simply confirming the nominated Surgeon General; Vivek Murthy’s nomination languished for over a year because Republicans objected to the idea that gunshot wounds are a health issue.

With a potential health crisis pitching Republicans into panic, they sought another executive-appointed czar, instead of confirming a qualified nominee to lead the uniformed service whose job it is to respond to public health threats.

The president already has a “czar” to deal with Daa’ish; his name is Brett McGurk, and last month he replaced Gen. John Allen (USMC, Ret.) as Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL”, but he also needs his Undersecretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial crimes, currently occupied as an interim appointment for over two hundred days because Senate Republicans refuse to slate his confirmation hearing.

Szubin’s nomination got a hearing before the Senate Banking Committee on Sept. 17, and Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) praised his past work in countering terrorist financing during his time with both Republican and Democratic administrations.

“He is eminently qualified for this,” Shelby said at the time.

But Szubin’s nomination hasn’t moved since. There’s no clear reason why, beyond trying to make it difficult for President Barack Obama to fill administration posts.

“Treasury must have in place an experienced watchdog, with the know-how and authority to lead U.S. efforts to track and choke off the financial lifeblood of terrorist organizations,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), the top Democrat on the Banking Committee, said Wednesday. “Republicans in Congress need to stop holding our national security apparatus hostage to political demands, and allow Adam Szubin and other national security nominees to be approved as soon as possible.”

A Shelby spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.

Don Stewart, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), noted that Republicans recently lined up a confirmation vote on a separate nominee, Gayle Smith, for USAID administrator, but couldn’t say when Szubin might move.

Stewart dinged Democrats for “politicizing Paris” with this week’s push on stalled national security nominees.

(Bendery)

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A Growing Nuclear Arsenal

Detail of the flag of Pakistan.

The first thing to not do is panic:

A new report by two American think tanks asserts that Pakistan may be building 20 nuclear warheads annually and could have the world’s third-largest nuclear stockpile within a decade.

The report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Stimson Center concludes that Pakistan is rapidly expanding its nuclear capabilities because of fear of its archrival, India, also a nuclear power. The report, which will be released Thursday, says Pakistan is far outpacing India in the development of nuclear warheads.

To the other, neither is Tim Craig’s report for the Washington Post what we might call encouraging.

Something about the #GOP47 goes here, and maybe Congress might consider doing its job instead of whining like Republicans … er … ah … oh. Right.

Still, though, there is a reason this is all happening, and it’s not exactly newsα. In terms of geopolitics, the American conservative handwringing about the P5+1 nonproliferation accord with Iran seems ever more ridiculous, and could very well prove dangerous.

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α See also:

Dhoundial, Shreva. “Indian Army denies any ‘unusual’ Pakistan troop along the border in J&K”. IBN Live. 2 January 2015.

Farooq, Umar. “Afghanistan-Pakistan: The Covert War”. The Diplomat. 1 January 2014.

Toosi, Nahal. “Swat Valley: Scenic Pakistani Region Falls To Taliban Militants”. The Huffington Post. 29 January 2009.

Dugger, Celia W. “Big Troop Buildup Mounted by India and Pakistan”. The New York Times. 25 December 2001.

Benen, Steve. “After sabotage letter, Cotton wants US to ‘speak with one voice'”. msnbc. 26 August 2015.

—————. “GOP discovers it doesn’t like filibusters after all”. msnbc. 27 August 2015.

Craig, Tim. “Report: Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal could become the world’s third-biggest”. The Washington Post. 27 August 2015.

Georgia, in Disgrace

Georgia Republican Senate Candidate David Perdue speaks to supporters at a primary election night party, Tuesday, 20 May 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Something about the goodness of noodly appendages goes here, though we need not thank Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) for the mess; throwing pasta at the walls in order to see what sticks is best reserved for teaching young children the scientific method, and certainly has no part in geopolitics and diplomacy.

Steve Benen explains:

Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) complained bitterly about the United Nations moving forward on the international agreement before Republicans have had a chance to try to kill the deal. “We’re showing the world we don’t stand together right now,” Perdue said.

In March, Perdue signed on to a letter to Iranian officials, urging them not to trust the United States. The Georgia Republican, one of 47 GOP senators who endorsed the letter, were openly and brazenly trying to sabotage American foreign policy.

Maybe he ought to skip the complaining about “showing the world we don’t stand together right now.”

It might well seem a valid point. After all, Mr. Perdue is one of the infamous #GOP47 who hoped to sink P5+1 negotiations by telling Iranian leaders the United States and its people lack integrity as negotiating partners.

When your great contribution to the U.S. Senate is knifing the nation in the back while hoping to start a war, it is probably best to not be heard complaining about an apparent lack of unity.

The people of Georgia owe us an apology and an explanation for sending this excremental character to the United States Senate. However, as with the cowardly Mr. Perdue, we have no reason to expect they will bother.

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Image note: Georgia Republican Senate Candidate David Perdue speaks to supporters at a primary election night party, Tuesday, 20 May 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Benen, Steve. “‘Showing the world we don’t stand together'”. msnbc. 24 July 2015.

The Jeb Bush Show (Radical Restructure Remix)

Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush waits in a hallway after a campaign event Saturday, June 27, 2015, in Henderson, Nev. (Photo by John Locher/AP)

“My aspiration for the country and I believe we can achieve it, is 4 percent growth as far as the eye can see. Which means we have to be a lot more productive, workforce participation has to rise from its all-time modern lows. It means that people need to work longer hours.”

Jeb Bush

This is an occasion when it is instructive to read past the superficial narrative. True, this is another occasion on which Mr. Bush required a do-overα, and the line really didn’t sound all that good. Still, though, the rebound was good enough to get Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)―the ostenisble House GOP budget wonk and former vice-presidential nominee―onboard. And even Democratic-sympathizing pundits and politicians alike can find a reason to go with the later iteration; to wit, Steve Benen:

For what it’s worth, the Florida Republican, not long after his interview, clarified that his comments were about part-time vs. full-time employment. The Washington Post reported Bush saying, “You can take it out of context all you want, but high-sustained growth means that people work 40 hours rather than 30 hours and that by our success, they have money, disposable income for their families to decide how they want to spend it rather than getting in line and being dependent on government.”

As a matter of Economics 101, Bush’s broader points have at least some technical merit. When an economy has more full-time workers, it means more economic activity. When employees work more hours, it means more output and greater growth. None of this is controversial.

The problem with Bush’s rhetoric, however, is the real-world implications, and the degree to which he fails to understand the issue.

For example, the Republican candidate, who made $5.8 million in “consulting and speaking” income in 2013, makes it sound as if sluggish economic growth is your fault – you’re just not working enough hours. In reality, however, full-time employment is soaring when compared to part-time employment, and Americans are already working, on average, 47-hour weeks.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (S-VT), running for the Democratic nomination, is also willing to follow that course.

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Madness for a New American Century

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) announces his candidacy for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination on 13 April 2015.  (AP Photo)

Trevor Timm for The Guardian:

The New York Times detailed many of the Republican candidates’ nebulous “criticisms” of the Obama administration, most of which assume a fantasy world in which Obama is not sending the US military to fight Isis at all, even though he’s authorized thousands of airstrikes per month in both Iraq and Syria. Most of the candidates, while competing with each other over who can sound more “muscular” and “tough”, are too cowardly to overtly call for what they likely actually want: another ground war in the Middle East involving tens of thousands of US troops.Project for the New American Century

The vague, bullshitt-y statements made by Republican candidates would be hilarious if it wasn’t possible that they’ll lead to more American soldiers dying in the coming years. “Restrain them, tighten the noose, and then taking them out is the strategy” is Jeb Bush’s hot take on Isis. Thanks, Jeb – I can’t believe the Obama administration hasn’t thought of that! Marco Rubio’s “solution” is even more embarrassing: according to The Times, he responded to a question about what he would do differently – and this is real – by quoting from the movie Taken: “We will look for you, we will find you and we will kill you.”

Rubio has also called for “strategic overhaul”, but his radical plan seems to be virtually indistinguishable from what the Obama administration is actually doing – yet another sign that Republicans tend to live in a fantasy land where Obama is an anti-war president rather than someone who has bombed more countries than his Republican predecessor. (That is not a compliment, by the way.)

This is one of those things where we won’t be able to say we weren’t warned. Consider that Mr. Rubio’s campaign slogan is “A New American Century”.

Just think about that for a moment.

They really are promising us a war.

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Image Note: Top ― Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) announces his candidacy for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination on 13 April 2015. (AP Photo) Right ― Logo of the Project for the New American Century.

Timm, Trevor. “Republicans’ ‘plans’ for Isis would drag us into Iraq for another ground war”. The Guardian. 27 May 2015.

SourceWatch. “Project for the New American Century”. 19 February 2012.

The Ted Cruz Show (Cover Songs)

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, during the Iowa Agriculture Summit, Saturday, March 7, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for MSNBC)

“Is there something about the left―and I am going to put the media in this category―that is obsessed with sex? ISIS is executing homosexuals―you want to talk about gay rights? This week was a very bad week for gay rights because the expansion of ISIS, the expansion of radical, theocratic, Islamic zealots that crucify Christians, that behead children and that murder homosexuals―that ought to be concerning you far more than asking six questions all on the same topic.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)

There are a number of things we might say. Sure, the state of Ohio might be trying to unmarry a dead man, Louisiana might be looking to shield discrimination by state employees, and Christians might be eyeing re-education camps for insufficiently Christian children, but, you know, hey, they’re not actually executing anyone, so … you know, get over yourselves.

And, hey, you know, we might also mention that doing better than Daa’ish is hardly a reasonable standard for American political health. We might look at Ted Cruz, then, and suggest that, hey, it’s not like we’re actually having dogs rape your ass while forcing you to say you like it, so, you know, get over yourself.

In truth, the functional problem with actually saying that would be legitimizing Mr. Cruz’s stupidity.

Bobby Blanchard tries to explain:

[Cruz] got in a light sparring round with reporters, mainly working on his attacks on Hillary Rodham Clinton and defending his views on same-sex marriage.

Ted Cruz for President 2016 logo.“Is there something about the left―and I am going to put the media in this category―that is obsessed with sex?” Cruz asked after fielding multiple questions on gay rights. “ISIS is executing homosexuals―you want to talk about gay rights? This week was a very bad week for gay rights because the expansion of ISIS, the expansion of radical, theocratic, Islamic zealots that crucify Christians, that behead children and that murder homosexuals―that ought to be concerning you far more than asking six questions all on the same topic.”

Cruz also said he did not think his opposition to gay marriage will hurt his chances with moderate voters.

“With respect, I would suggest not drawing your questions from MSNBC―they have very few viewers and they are a radical and extreme partisan outlet,” Cruz told a reporter. He cited the expansion of “mandatory same-sex marriage” as an assault on religious liberty in the United States.

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The Art of Buying Cotton

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - OCTOBER 31: U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Arkansas looks on during a tailgate party before the start of a Fayetteville High School football game on October 31, 2014 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. With less than a week to go before election day U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR) is holding a narrow lead over incumbent U.S. Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR). (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Former generations might have looked upon filmreel of American servicemen dumping helicopters and other equipment overboard as our ships fled east Asia in the wake of our military debacle in Vietnam and been expected to believe that was what victory looked like. And that really is a note for middle age, because even my own generation seems to forget how we used to say, “America has never lost a war”. And over time that notion has been variously scaled, such that we’ve never fought a foreign war on our territory, and other such historical inaccuracies. No, really, there is even a way in which we argue that what happened in 1814 wasn’t a foreign invasion; after all, they were British. Fast forward to the twenty-first century when a guy from Mexico looking for work constitutes an invasion.

Never mind. Nostalgia, of a sort.

Let’s try a game show voice. Beauchamp says!

Wednesday night, Sen. Tom Cotton went on Wolf Blitzer’s Situation Room to talk about Iraq and ISIS. He said something surprising.

Meta-irony. The headline is, “Tom Cotton says ISIS is winning in Iraq. That is false.”

It’s a nice headline, I suppose. Functional. Direct. Not really much of a gray area, you know?

The headline isn’t the problem, of course; it is merely the frame. Because the question does, in fact arise: Why is this surprising?

“We just haven’t rolled back the Islamic State at all over the last six or seven months since we began our air campaign,” he said. “They’ve continued to hold the ground they always have. They haven’t advanced, but we haven’t rolled them back, either. And that’s not going to be enough to defeat them.”

“The Islamic State seems to be winning now,” Cotton later added.

This is, in fact, the exact opposite of what is occurring. ISIS is losing substantial ground in Iraq, and it’s hard to imagine why Cotton is insisting otherwise.

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A New Way of Doing Things

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - OCTOBER 31: U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Arkansas looks on during a tailgate party before the start of a Fayetteville High School football game on October 31, 2014 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. With less than a week to go before election day U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR) is holding a narrow lead over incumbent U.S. Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR). (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

“Of course, in the American tradition, the idea of elected American officials trying to sabotage American foreign policy, on purpose, brazenly undermining our nation’s attempts at international leadership, seems plainly ridiculous. But in 2015, it’s become an increasingly common Republican tactic.”

Steve Benen

This is not a good sign:

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), one of the nation’s most aggressive climate deniers and the man Senate Republicans chose to lead the Senate committee on environmental policy, wasn’t subtle when describing his sabotage ambitions.

“The Tom Cotton letter was an educational effort,” Senator Snowball told the WSJ.

It is impossible to state with appropriate gravity the strangeness of the #GOP47; this really was, once upon a time, out of bounds. And it is, at the very least, foolhardy, if not downright dangerous. The difference between the two is up to voters; if this is the what they expect of governance, the marketplace will respond, and this will be how foreign policy goes. To the other, if this really is as worrisome to Americans as many seem to think it should be―and, yes, that includes the triune staff of This Is (Me, Myself, and I, as the old Gilligan’s Island joke goes)―what will Americans say when a Republican is in office and Democrats are trying to stymie some foreign policy initiative? Is this the way it will go, or will Democrats be expected to play by obsolete rules that will cost them at the ballot box and, as a result, cost everyone else in terms of policy resolution?

If it was good enough for Bush when he negotiated our exit from Iraq, then it is good enough for Obama trying to negotiate against a future nuclear war, or simply haggle over clean air. When Republicans appeal to some version of common sense―should the Senate have a say in this or that?―remember the standard they are appealing against. There is an unfortunate appearance in American politics and governance that we only get around to certain assertions of the right thing when there are other complicating issues. There are plenty who rightly wonder if the president’s skin color is what inspires Republican hatred. Others might suggest that the GOP has simply run out of tricks in opposition to a Democratic president at a time that interrupts their effort to build a warring New American Century. Regardless, however, of what leads to such conservative lunacy, Republicans need to knock it the fuck off.

And, quite frankly, American voters need to make that point. Out in Washington state, Democrats held a supermajority for years, and generally refused to use it; this conforms to an older political model by which such strongarming is considered unseemly. In the face of conservative bullying, however, it has long been a question whether or not this is an appropriate resolution for the question. As Republicans grow their game, perhaps we might look upon Democratic incompetence as a series of opportunities lost for the sake of some dignity that voters don’t give a damn about anymore. In the end, two state Senate Democrats rolled, handing the chamber to Republicans, and once again our sense of obligation―say, funding the schools to meet constitutional requirements―is brought into question as an issue of whether or not it is worth fulfilling those commitments. That is to say, given a chamber to control in our state government, Republicans returned the discussion to whether or not it is financially worth obeying the law.

Perhaps state Democrats should have used their supermajority.

Nonetheless, what will the American people say if Democrats, under a Republican presidential administration, return the favor?

Don’t want them to do that? Then don’t ask them to.

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Benen, Steve. “GOP sees Cotton sabotage strategy as ‘an educational effort'”. msnbc. 27 April 2015.