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A Long Note on Political Tradition in These United States

President Barack Obama, delivers his State of the Union speech at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 12, 2013 in Washington, DC.  (Charles Dharapak/AP)

By now of course we have become accustomed to the proposition that Republicans, once elected, would rather sit around. To some it actually seems a very sick idea; not only did the Speaker of the House demonstrate that Republicans conisder their job description to include going on vacation instead of actually working because, well, the most important part of the job is election and re-election, but in recent months the GOP has shown more and more willingness to simply admit that the inherent failure of government is more of a conservative goal than anything else.

Boehner and the band skipped out on gigs that might need Congressional attention, such as the Daa’ish question, the Ebola question, and the Immigration Reform question; despite their howls of rage regarding the latter, the fact of executive action occasionally arises when Congress refuses to pass a bill and the Speaker of the House calls on the President to use his executive authority. They could have skipped screeching themselves hoarse by simply sticking around and doing their jobs. Then again, the prior statement is controversial if only because it would appear that Congressional Republicans appear to believe their first, last, and only job is to win votes. Given their reluctance to undertake day-to-day Constitutional functions of Congress, such as advising and consenting to presidential appointments—or, as such, formally refusing the nomination—we ought not be surprised that the latest duty Republicans wish to shirk is sitting through an annual speech.

Nearly 16 years later, another Democratic president, also hated by his Republican attackers, is poised to deliver his penultimate State of the Union address. And like Pat Robertson, the idea of denying the president a SOTU invitation is once again on the right’s mind.

“Yes, there’s a risk to overreacting, but there’s a risk to underreacting as well,” said Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review. “And I fear that’s the way the congressional leadership is leaning.”

Mr. Lowry suggested one way Congress could react. “If I were John Boehner,” he said, referring to the House speaker, “I’d say to the president: ‘Send us your State of the Union in writing. You’re not welcome in our chamber.'”

Lowry may not dictate GOP decision making the way Limbaugh and Fox News do, but it’s important to note that he isn’t the only one publicly pushing the idea.

Politico reported yesterday that congressional Republicans are weighing a variety of tactics to “address” their disgust over Obama’s immigration policy, and “GOP aides and lawmakers” are considering the idea of “refusing to invite the president to give his State of the Union address.”

Late last week, Breitbart News also ran a piece of its own on the subject: “Congress should indicate to President Obama that his presence is not welcome on Capitol Hill as long as his ‘executive amnesty’ remains in place. The gesture would, no doubt, be perceived as rude, but it is appropriate.”

(Benen)

Wait, wait, wait—sixteen years ago?

Yes. Like impeachment chatter and stonewalling, Republicans want to make refusing to hear the State of the Union Address part of their standard response to any Democratic president.

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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.

____________________

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.

A Reminder of the Stakes

Steve Benen considers one of the quieter, yet more important stakes on the table in today’s midterm election:

We’ve probably all seen comparisons between the 2014 elections and “Seinfeld” – it’s the campaign cycle about “nothing.” The analyses are understandable, given just how little focus there’s been on anything resembling substance. Quick quiz: name the defining issue of this year’s elections.msnbc

If you said, “Ebola-carrying terrorists hiding in Mexico,” you appreciate just how vapid much of this campaign season has been.

But for many Americans, a great deal is at stake today. These families may not get a lot of attention, and they may not be as fascinating to political reporters as Bruce Braley’s neighbor’s chickens or Alison Lundergan Grimes’ 2012 presidential preference, but they’re probably wondering today whether the election results will allow them to receive affordable medical care.

____________________

Benen, Steve. “Medicaid expansion on the line in many key races”. msnbc. 4 November 2014.

A Quote: Why Details Matter

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For all the talk about Democrats running away from President Obama, there are a surprising number of examples of Republicans running away from their own policy agenda.

Steve Benen

It is a valid point, and one worth considering.

Because, you know, details matter. Congressional Republicans complain every time President Obama agrees with them. They scream about Nazis if Democrats actually accept a GOP policy proposal. They beat their chests and say what the president should do about war and peace, and then complain when he does it. They decide the president should handle things according to executive authority, and then threaten to sue the president for using his executive authority.

And then there is the fun part where politicians like Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO4) try to run away from their own policy history.

It is simply a matter of narrative. And it is also why details matter. To wit, if someone who has been arguing against you suddenly flips and says he’s your best choice because he’s on your side and the person who has observably been on your side isn’t, perhaps that would be a time when details matter.

Fool you once? Can’t get fooled again? Right. Details matter.

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Benen, Steve. “Republicans keep blasting Dems for being too conservative”. msnbc. 3 November 2014.

Hypocridiocy

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH8)

Hey did you hear the one about how Speaker Boehner, unwilling to draft articles of impeachment for lack of anything to impeach President Obama over, decided to assuage the hardliners in his party by filing a lawsuit?

All these months later, some might have forgotten, as the Speaker has been unable to actually manage to figure out how to actually build a complaint that won’t be thrown out of court. Indeed, did you hear the one about how the law firm the House hired backed out last month, citing political pressure, which, in the end amounted to the damage the firm would do to its reputation by attempting such a ridiculous stunt?

It is time for an update, and that comes from Josh Gerstein and Maggie Haberman of Politico:

House Speaker John Boehner’s still-unfiled lawsuit against President Barack Obama for exceeding his constitutional power is in more trouble.

For the second time in two months, a major law firm has ceased work on the lawsuit, sources say.

Attorney Bill Burck and the Quinn Emanuel firm halted preparations for the proposed suit in recent weeks, according to two sources familiar with the situation. Last month, the lawyer originally hired to pursue the case, David Rivkin of Baker Hostetler, made a similar abrupt exit.

A spokesman for Boehner declined to discuss the status of the House’s relationship with Burck and Quinn Emanuel. However, spokesman Kevin Smith said Wednesday evening that House leaders are considering having the lawsuit filed by lawyers already on the House payroll.

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A Fallacy in Motion

The President of the United States, Barack Obama.

Charles Lipson is a walking fallcy, a professor of political science who prefers to use that credential that he might promote crackpot theses that ignore the details. To wit:

Charles LipsonWhen presidents become unpopular, they are no longer welcome on the campaign trail. They’re trapped in Washington, watching their party abandon them. It happened to Lyndon B. Johnson, whose presidency collapsed amid protests over Vietnam. He left Washington only to visit his Texas ranch and assorted military bases, where he gave patriotic speeches to silent battalions. Richard Nixon, drowning in Watergate, was confined to Camp David and a few foreign capitals, where he was greeted as a global strategist. Jimmy Carter, crushed by the Iranian hostage crisis and a bad economy, stopped traveling beyond the Rose Garden.

Now, the same oppressive walls are closing in on President Barack Obama. He is welcome only in the palatial homes of Hollywood stars and hedge-fund billionaires or the well-kept fairways of Martha’s Vineyard.

Well-written, indeed, if it was listed as fiction. But it’s not, and that means it’s a fraud.

The simple fact is that President Obama is avoiding states where Democrats are running competitively but against the odds. To wit, why would Alison Lundergan Grimes want President Obama onstage with her? She’s running against one of the most powerful Republicans in the country, Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader who has so botched his handling of the Senate Republican Conference that Grimes can even run close.

Lipson’s criticism about palatial homes is unusual; most political science professors would suggest it very unwise to ignore rich donors during an election season, but Lipson would prefer you believe otherwise because it helps his poisonous narrative. Christopher Keating noted that Obama’s second trip to Connecticut in a week—a scheduled rally—was cancelled because, well, he’s the president and has a job to do. You know, ebola and all that. The palatial home Lipson refers to would appear to be in Greenwich, where Obama spoke at a fundraiser for Gov. Malloy.

The president is also welcome in Wisconsin, hoping to boost support for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke.

One wonders what the political science would say of someplace like Kansas? Would the president’s presence in the Sunflower State help or hurt Democratic gubernatorial challenger Paul Davis? Given that the incumbent Republican presently has the slightest edge in an otherwise dead heat (less than a percent), the question might be how Gov. Sam Brownback found himself in such a weakened position that he must actually face the possibility of losing. Then again, it’s not much of a question: Brownback and his Republican allies have wrecked the states finances.

In that context, it’s hard to lose faith in Obama if one never had any.

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Ptomaine Word Salad

"It'd be a permanent downward economic spiral — like Gaza, basically," Kirk Sowell, a risk analyst and Iraq expert, says. An ISIS mini-state is just not sustainable. (Zack Beauchamp/Vox)

One would expect, then, to die when Daa’ish, (a.k.a. Daesh, ISIS, ISIL, and IS, at the very least) secretly invades the United States across the Mexican border in order to pose as migrant workers and infect our lettuce with ebola.

Oh, right. Reality. Er … ah … sorry.

So, you might have heard some murmuring of late about those bad guys from Iraq and Syria getting caught while crossing the border. It’s … something of a campfire election-season scary story.

Dylan Matthews and Dara Lind call horsepucky for Vox:

One might think that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is primarily of concern for people in and around Iraq and Syria, but some politicians beg to differ. Over the past couple months, a number of House members (and a Senator and governor here or there) have made increasingly specific statements about the perceived danger of ISIS members coming to the US, particularly by way of the Mexican border.

On one end of the spectrum, there are vague hypotheticals like the ones Texas governor and likely 2016 GOP contender Rick Perry has been posing. While noting he had “no clear evidence” this was happening, he expressed an “obvious, great concern that — because of the condition of the border from the standpoint of it not being secure and us not knowing who is penetrating across — that individuals from ISIS or other terrorist states could be.” Or fellow 2016 possibility Sen. Mario Rubio (R-FL), who when asked by Fox News’ Sean Hannity if ISIS could cross the border, answered, “Sure, potentially.”

Statements like these are basically un-factcheckable, since it’s obviously conceptually possible that people with terrorist affiliations could, at some point, sneak across the border. Some tweets from people claiming to be affiliated with ISIS have threatened attacks within the US, but there’s no indication that the group’s actual leadership is at all interested in that. Perry and Rubio’s statements aren’t outright wrong so much as they give excessive credence to a possibility for which there’s little real evidence.

But others have made statements that are more falsifiable. For those cases, we reached out to the relevant Congressional offices in search of supporting evidence. In most cases, we came up short.

Don’t let that idea of “most cases” scare you. The short answer is no, Daa’ish is not invading the United States, nor crossing the border and getting arrested in twos and fours. Yet within any myth is a grain of truth.

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Why Grown-Ups Shouldn’t Play Army Soldier

Ah, Arizona!

I think back when I was a little kid, I did what little kids did—played war ’til I didn’t want to play no more. Hey, and that’s when love stepped in, changed everything again.

Styx

The problem with playing Army soldier is that playing Army soldier is a child’s game. Or, for some people, it is apparently an act of patriotism, because nothing says, “America!” like threatening a bunch of scientists because you’re too stupid to konw what is actually going on while you tromp around in the dark, looking for someone to threaten, pretending you’re some sort of soldier.

Or maybe we just call it responsible gun ownership. After all, what’s the point of owning a gun if you don’t have anyone to threaten?

Three scientists who were studying bats in a cave near the U.S.-Mexico border in southern Arizona were confronted by heavily armed militiamen who mistook them for illegal border-crossers or smugglers . . . .

. . . . The Arizona researchers reportedly told a sheriff’s deputy they were walking back to their campsite on Aug. 23 when a group of men who later identified themselves as a militia group shone a spotlight and started shouting at them in Spanish, the Nogales International reported.

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Still Going On

A mother and child, 3, from El Salvador, await transport to a processing center for undocumented immigrants after they crossed the Rio Grande into the United States in July. (John Moore/Getty Images)

Move along, nothing to see here. Oh, wait. Right. Stop. Read:

Earlier this summer, as unaccompanied Central American children poured into the United States at a rate of more than 350 per day, President Obama and Republicans agreed: This was a crisis that Washington needed to address immediately. And then nothing happened. Surprising almost no one, the least-productive Congress in history went home for the summer without striking any kind of deal. Obama was left without the extra $3.7 billion he said he needed to deal with the situation at the border, and the existing immigration law that both the president and his conservative critics blamed for the calamity remained untouched.Keep Calm and Respawn

Two months later, the number of minors being arrested at the border has dropped significantly. But what was a problem then remains a problem now. The big difference is that the summer’s “humanitarian crisis,” once the subject of innumerable press conferences and op-eds, now goes mostly unmentioned in Washington. To be sure, one major reason for the relative silence is that our attention has been pulled to Ferguson, Missouri, and the Middle East. But given the rhetoric and handwringing on display in June, late August’s relative silence is staggering.

Obama did touch on the topic briefly during a press conference this Thursday, in the context of how the crisis will affect his plan to reshape the nation’s immigration system through executive action. As the president noted, the flood of migrant children has slowed substantially in recent weeks. According to the most recent data from the Department of Homeland Security, the border patrol apprehended 5,508 unaccompanied children in July—nearly half the total of the previous month and the fewest since February. Still, these are huge numbers. The amount of unaccompanied minors from Central America arrested at the border last month was more than the number of Central American minors taken into custody in a typical year as recently as a half-decade ago.

(Voorhees)

To the other, before anyone panics, it is not really anything to panic about. But as we keep calm and respawn, perhaps we might spare a moment for those who cannot and will not respawn, and you know, given enough moments maybe someone will think of something useful. For our own part, we’ve got nothin’ at the moment.

Damn.

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