Ronald Reagan

The Logic of Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL05)

Chris Hayes discusses immigration reform with Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL05), who cannot explain why he thinks President Obama, out of several presidents who undertook the issue within executive purview, is the only one who ever broke the law in doing so.  On Hayes' msnbc show, "All In" (21 Nov. 2014), the Alabama congressman was incapable of even recognizing that President Ronald Reagan had granted amnesty to undocumented immigrants.

Any number of questions come to mind. There are the humorous musings about whether we might include political conservatism under the spectrum of disorders and disabilities requiring reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. And, yes, that sounds cruel for any number of reasons; first, let us clear up that yes, one of the problems with such a joke is that it trivializes much more established and objective disabilities; but then we might also point out that we are already bending over backwards to accommodate delusional behavior from many Republicans, and yes, there are mental health issues that land squarely within the ADA.

Denial can be a powerful emotional response, can’t it? If the right believes President Obama’s economic policies have failed, and they’re confronted with evidence of a falling unemployment rate, then there must be a conspiracy involving the jobless numbers. If the right believes Benghazi conspiracies are real, and they’re confronted with proof to the contrary, then the proof must be rejected.

But on Friday’s “All in with Chris Hayes,” Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) took this to a whole new level.

Brooks, you’ll recall, believes President Obama’s executive actions on immigration may be criminal acts that could land the president in prison. With this in mind, Chris asked a good question: “When President Reagan granted deferred action from 200,000 people from El Salvador who come here illegally, was he breaking the law in the same way?” It led to this exchange:

BROOKS: I have not examined what Bill Clinton did. This is a very serious manner. The Constitution imposes a heavy burden on us–

HAYES: No, no, no, I’m sorry. President Ronald Reagan. President Ronald Reagan, sir?

BROOKS: I think the individual facts are important, the mental intent of the actor. That case, Bill Clinton, now Barack Obama, those factors are important.

It really is a smooth evasion. He does not even try to deflect the point, just moves past it as if it doesn’t exist. One wonders how much calculation and practice goes into that maneuver, or if it is just pathological.

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Benen, Steve. “Mo Brooks and the power of denial”. msnbc. 24 November 2014.

Hayes, Chris. “Rep. Mo Brooks: Obama encouraging illegal immigration”. All In with Chris Hayes. msnbc. 21 November 2014.

An Attempt to Explain Republicans to an Overseas Neighbor

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 29: Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ) (C) speaks during a news conference to introduce a GOP-sponsored Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac reform. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla)

Ed. note: The following is a repost of a Facebook comment offered to a friend from New Zealand who is constantly baffled by what he witnesses in the American political process, and happened to inquire about Republican efforts to … well, right. It has to do with recent House bills pertaining to the role of science in government policy.

I think the best way to explain it is to once again invoke a Cold War analogy; after all, depicting Democrats as “liberals”, with “liberals” meaning “Soviet Communists” was a key to Ronald Reagan’s electoral success.

But think about it this way, too: By that analogy, Republicans are the “capitalists”.

So it goes, then, that if we look at votes as “capital”, then the actions of the RNC, Congressional Republicans, and various surrogates and allies make sense: Get the capital by whatever means necessary.

That’s why the whole thing is so puzzling to people who, you know, have a conscience. The GOP ain’t playin’ that way. This is about winning votes, and nothing more. And in the United States, conservative voters will take whatever they can get to reinforce their platform. Additionally, superstition and subjective moral outrage are much more attractive to most American voters than obvious logic that, if attended, would skip the melodrama and slapstick that has become our political system.

To that end, we might consider Manichean dualisms or, simply, reality television. Just as many people believe in a basic struggle between good and evil, so also do many people believe reality television depicts reality.

In that context, it becomes a capitalistic ratings game; our elections become a functional part of our entertainment industry.

What Republicans are trying to do here is twofold: (1) Bolster their own political fantasies by excluding reality; (2) create a situation in which government will experience an even greater failure about its performance of duty so that they can complain even louder that government just doesn’t work.

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Abrams, Lindsay. “House Republicans just passed a bill forbidding scientists from advising the EPA on their own research”. Salon. 19 November 2014.

Benen, Steve. “Republicans take aim at imaginary target: ‘secret science'”. msnbc. 20 November 2014.

Follow-up … Clean-up … Something-up

The Rachel Maddow Show, 6 October 2014

Rachel Maddow’s nearly giddy segment on msnbc last night noted that when the full effect of yesterday’s Supreme Court rejection of appeals against marriage equality reaches the states, the roster will equal thirty states. And she looked forward to decisions expected from the Sixth and Ninth.

Today, the hammer dropped in the Ninth; Dale Carpenter quips:

I haven’t read the Ninth Circuit opinion yet. I have to teach now, so it would be nice if the courts would stop issuing gay-marriage decisions for an hour or so.

The estimable Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSblog explains what happened in the Ninth:

The Ninth Circuit’s ruling was made up of three parts.

First, all three judges on the panel joined in an opinion by Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt finding that the Idaho and Nevada bans violate the constitutional guarantee of same-sex couples to be treated the same legally as opposite-sex couples. Second, Judge Reinhardt issued a separate opinion, for himself only, saying he would also strike down those bans under the Constitution’s Due Process Clause, arguing that the right to marry is a fundamental guarantee and that gays and lesbians have a right to share in that right. Third, Circuit Judge Marsha S. Berzon, in a separate opinion only for herself, said she would have also struck down the bans on the premise that they discriminate on the basis of gender.

The third member, Circuit Judge Ronald M. Gould, joined only the main opinion on the equal protection principle.

This ruling was perhaps the least surprising among four federal courts of appeals decisions striking down state prohibitions on same-sex couples marrying, and already-married couples gaining official state recognition of those unions, performed elsewhere.

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The Temptation of Saint Ronald Magnus

To the one, it’s hard to figure how Republicans could be any more disrespectful to a dead president. To the other, they’re Republicans. Steve Benen of msnbc explains:

Saint Ronald MagnusThis over-the-top Reagan worship isn’t just wrong; it’s ironic. In 1983, some of the prominent conservative media voices of the day actually complained bitterly that Reagan’s response was wholly inadequate.

George Will – yes, that George Will – called the Reagan White House’s arguments “pathetic” at the time, insisting, “It’s time for [Reagan] to act.”

The president responded publicly with rhetoric that made the president sound rather helpless. “Short of going to war, what would they have us do?” Reagan said. “I know that some of our critics have sounded off that somehow we haven’t exacted enough vengeance. Well, vengeance isn’t the name of the game in this.”

You know, just something to keep in mind as you hear our conservative neighbors regaling the myths of Saint Ronald Magnus when history just isn’t good enough.

I mean, the guy’s dead. Come on. Then again, there really isn’t any guarantee that the late president would have had any clue what people were droning on about. Still, though, lying about a dead man? I suppose that’s something to remember, as well, when conservatives preach about “values”.

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Benen, Steve. “Sometimes, ‘What Would Reagan Do?’ is the wrong question”. msnbc. July 21, 2014.

A Cute and Cuddly Bunny

Sometimes it just isn’t a mystery. To wit, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who says his opposition to marriage equality is not homophobia, but, rather, a matter of being on the right side of the Bible, which is in turn a wholly arbitrary standard. True, it does say, somewhere in there, that God really doesn’t like buggery and such, but it also says other things, like—

Cuddles McBunny-WunnyEvery one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.

(Luke 16.18, RSV)

—and—

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.

(1 Corinthians 6.9-10, RSV)

—and we might want to note, just for the sake of formality, that Huckabee, who feels confident enough in his biblical outlook regarding sinful lifestyles that he would question President Obama’s faith over marriage equality endorsed an adulterer named John McCain in the 2008 election, and carries on a creepy love affair with the ghost of an adulterer named Ronald Reagan. Which, in the end, is nothing particularly unusual, which in turn makes an excellent example of why there is no mystery about Mr. Fish’s latest cartoon.

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Fish, Mr. “Hare Care”. Clowncrack. April 11, 2014.

CNN Political Unit. “Mike Huckabee: Not ‘homophobic’ but on the ‘right side of the Bible'”. Political Ticker. April 8, 2014.

Allen, Mike. “Huckabee called homosexuality ‘sinful'”. Politico. December 8, 2007.

Gentilviso, Chris. “Mike Huckabee Calls Out Obama’s ‘Christian Convictions’ On Gay Marriage”. The Huffington Post. April 12, 2014.

Maloy, Simon. “Huckabee’s Reagan Cartoon: Disco Muggers And American Exceptionalism”. Media Matters for America. August 11, 2011.

Novak, Robert. “McCain, Huckabee and the Evangelicals”. Townhall. May 12, 2008.

Image credit: Detail of image by Mr. Fish.

Today’s Typographical Tumult

Lean Forward, Stand Still: MSNBCSteve Benen gets the dubious honor for Typo of the Day:

“Look, the 1980s were a while ago and the political world has a notoriously short member, but Reagan wasn’t a comic-book character.”

It should be noted that the folks at MSNBC did, in fact, make the necessary correction, and quickly. But, you know … we saw that ….

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An Exercise in Futility

George W. BushIn a broader context, an easy way to remember the fundamental difference between liberals and conservatives is found in the words themselves. Historically, liberals have been for the advancement of liberty and the empowerment it brings. From Jesus to Muhammad and on through Wollstonecroft, Byron, Shelly, and into the twentieth century with Goldman, the idea has had to do with liberty and liberation.

Conservatives, on the other hand, wish to conserve. Specifically, they wish to conserve that precious resource known as authority. The rhetoric of conservatism is the same for toppled kings and queens as it is for senators in a decaying republic. I mean, think about it for a moment: when the Democrats were the conservatives, they were for slavery. Party names, affiliations, and outlooks change, but the fundamental principles against which they are measured remain more firmly fixed in the foundations of history.

For a couple of years, it was the love that dared not speak his name. In 2008, Republican candidates hardly ever mentioned the president still sitting in the White House. After the election, the G.O.P. did its best to shout down all talk about how we got into the mess we’re in, insisting that we needed to look forward, not back. And many in the news media played along, acting as if it was somehow uncouth for Democrats even to mention the Bush era and its legacy.

The truth, however, is that the only problem Republicans ever had with George W. Bush was his low approval rating. They always loved his policies and his governing style — and they want them back. In recent weeks, G.O.P. leaders have come out for a complete return to the Bush agenda, including tax breaks for the rich and financial deregulation. They’ve even resurrected the plan to cut future Social Security benefits.

The idea that the Republicans are looking back to Bush is an interesting suggestion. If nothing else, it would remind that the cycles of history are accelerating. Why bother with Reagan anymore? That system went bust; leave it to the Tea Party.

Paul Krugman suggests the GOP is addicted to Bush, (more…)