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Lindsey Graham: If Obama defeats GOP obstructionism on health care, the GOP will obstruct even more!

Apparently President Obama and Congressional Republicans are interested in reforming the nation’s immigration system. Time for some bipartisan agreement! Well, yes and no:

(Lindsey) Graham, in a statement, said he had told Mr. Obama “in no uncertain terms” that the immigration debate “could come to a halt for the year” if the president moved to pass health care legislation by a method known as reconciliation, which requires a majority of 51 senators instead of 60 and would in practice require no Republican votes.

And Graham is one of the reasonable Republican senators, supposedly. But the GOP has apparently never heard of “you win some, you lose some.” They either win everything, or they shut down the system — even on areas where they disagree with Democrats. It’s a good way to attract votes, I suppose, but a damn poor way to actually get stuff done for the American people.

Is Texas Gov. Rick Perry our next president? Why not Jefferson Davis?

Mark McKinnon makes the case today in The Daily Beast. There’s just one tiny problem, as McKinnon himself explains:

He made national news in April 2009 when at a tea party protest he said, “Texas is a unique place. When we came into the union in 1845, one of the issues was that we would be able to leave if we decided to do that…My hope is that America and Washington in particular pays attention. We’ve got a great union. There’s absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, who knows what may become of that.”

While he later disavowed advocating secession, the message was delivered and heard by exactly the people Perry wanted to hear it. The national press howled with derision, but it was a deliberately played primary card that lit up the Texas base and positioned Perry early at the forefront of the anti-Washington crusaders.

The presidential oath of office, of course, commits the president to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” It has commonly been understood that the charge includes preserving, protecting and defending the United States itself. It seems Rick Perry has already demonstrated himself unworthy of the office on that count alone.

Wasn’t there a time in American politics where loose, sympathetic talk of secession marked you as a nutter, somebody who clearly didn’t deserve to to be part of any mainstream consideration of presidential candidates? Did that all go out the window when Sarah Palin proved so popular with the GOP base?

I know, I know: He was only kidding. It’s political theater. The problem, as McKinnon himself seems to point out, is that Perry’s hyperbole was designed to appeal to voters who … actually kinda believe in secession. Marketing slogans aside, Texas actually isn’t a whole other country. If it wants to be, or wants to casually play around with the idea, perhaps Texans should limit their participation in the politics of — what’s that phrase again? — the real America.

Why Michael Smerconish should remain Republican

Philly’s Michael Smerconish is making a splash this morning with his column announcing that he’s leaving the Republican Party after 30 years. And some of what he says makes sense:

The national GOP is a party of exclusion and litmus tests, dominated on social issues by the religious right, with zero discernible outreach by the national party to anyone who doesn’t fit neatly within its parameters. Instead, the GOP has extended itself to its fringe while throwing under the bus long-standing members like New York Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, a McCain-Palin supporter in 2008 who told me she voted with her Republican leadership 90 percent of the time before running for Congress last fall.

Which is not to say I feel comfortable in the Democratic Party, either. Weeks before Indiana Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh’s announcement that he will not seek reelection, I noted the centrist former governor’s words to the Wall Street Journal’s Gerald Seib. Too many Democrats, Bayh said in that interview, are “tone-deaf” to Americans’ belief that the party had “overreached rather than looking for consensus with moderates and independents.”

Where political parties once existed to create coalitions and win elections, now they seek to advance strict ideological agendas.

I’d say it a little differently. Something like: Where political parties once existed to create coalitions and win elections, they now exist just to win elections. The Democrats can’t actually execute their ideological vision, and the Republicans are only effective at pursuing the guns-and-bombs portion of their platform — the whole “party of fiscal restraint” mantra having long since been discredited.

But Smerconish is right that both the parties have become more ideologically homogeneous. And he clearly sees this as a problem. Which is why his solution — to register as an independent — doesn’t make any sense. It’s actually going to make the problem worse. Smerconish:

I will miss casting a ballot in the spring, as current state election law prohibits unaffiliated voters from voting in GOP or Democratic primary elections. Instead, I’ll join the others who bide their time until fall, when we can temper the extremes of both parties.

Here’s the thing: Fall is way, way too late to temper the extremes of both parties. Because independent voters can’t vote in the primary elections, that leaves only the most ideologically committed voters left to select their party’s nominee. Independent voters only have the extreme options to pick from at that point. In 2004, Arlen Specter narrowly won the GOP nomination over Pat Toomey — but in the following years, a huge chunk of the party’s moderates fled for independent and Democratic pastures. Specter left the GOP, leaving this year’s nomination by default to Toomey, a much more ideologically rigid conservative.

Michael Smerconish’s problem is that the parties are too ideologically narrow. But by leaving the Republican Party, he accelerates that process. He might not feel entirely comfortable in the GOP these days, but he’d have more of a shot at solving the problems he describes by staying.

Poll: One-third of Republicans believe Barack Obama is a racist who hates white people

Via Andrew Sullivan, the results of a poll of self-identified Republicans:

I’m faced with two reactions:

• I CAN COMPLETELY BELIEVE THIS: Republicans have increasingly pandered and cultivated their Bircher Base to the point that most of the party is made up of secessionists who can’t quite believe that Barack Obama is actually an American. Given all the rhetoric we’ve heard over the last year, this sounds right.

• I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS AT ALL: I’m no expert on polling, but: nearly a quarter of Republicans think their state should secede from the Union?* Really? Something doesn’t add up here. It makes for a rather convenient narrative from a liberal-Democratic point of view, but is it actually true? Sorry, but I can’t imagine that it is. And if that’s not true, then the rest of the poll results are questionable, to say the least. I’d like to believe the GOP is this crazy, but I don’t.

* I misread the poll initially, believing 58 percent advocated secession. 23 percent is still a pretty high number, given the question. The point still stands.

Fred Hiatt: Mitch McConnell hates the deficit. He hates Barack Obama more.

He was for the deficit commission before he was against it.

He was for the deficit commission before he was against it.

Fred Hiatt notes something I missed last week when writing about how Republicans voted against deficit control measures after spending the last year screaming about the deficit: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell actually voted against the very specific deficit-control bill he’d been advocating for for months.

Here, for example, is what McConnell had to say last May:

“We must address the issue of entitlement spending now before it is too late. As I have said many times before, the best way to address the crisis is the Conrad-Gregg proposal, which would provide an expedited pathway for fixing these profound long-term challenges. This plan would force us to get debt and spending under control. It deserves support from both sides of the aisle.”

As I have said many times before, the best way to address the crisis is the Conrad-Gregg proposal.

And then, last Tuesday, he voted against it.

Read Hiatt’s piece and you’ll see McConnell doesn’t make much attempt to defend his vote. And we don’t even get started on John McCain — who co-sponsored the bill, then voted against it.

This gives lie to the Republican assertion that they’d cooperate with President Obama if only he’d put forward some respectable bipartisan solutions to the nation’s problems. We see clearly that if Barack Obama is for something, Republicans will vote against it — even if it’s something they want. It’s a good way to deny the president any political victories. But it’s also cynical and hypocritical; neither characteristic is a sin in politics, but it is a sin against the American people.

If Barack Obama came out in favor of motherhood, Republicans would immediately oppose it

This is another day when I’d like to complain about the apparent bumbling of the Obama Administration. So you think maybe you don’t want to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York after all, huh? So you might not be able to close Gitmo, huh? What is it that you can do, exactly?

As always, though, the Republicans come through to remind me that there’s something worse out there: Republicans.

President Obama made a little joke during the State of the Union joke the other night when Republicans refused even to applause the tax breaks that were in last year’s stimulus bill. And it was bewildering: Many of those tax cuts went into the stimulus bill in an explicit — but failed — attempt to lure GOP support for the stimulus. Even if they didn’t end up liking the entire stimulus, Republicans always always always love tax cuts. Except when Barack Obama can take some credit for them. Just weird.

But the day after the State of the Union got even weirder. Republicans have spent the last year trying to inspire and harness the “Tea Party” wave which is primarily — but not solely — interested in ensuring that we don’t saddle ourselves with a huge debt to pay for a runaway government. On Thursday, the Senate considered legislation that would curb the deficit by restoring “pay as you go” rules for any new legislation — and every single Republican voted against it.

What. The. Eff?

“Fiscal responsibility” has been the mantra dripping like drool from the lips of every single Republican in Washington for the last 12 months. It’s a newfound commitment to be sure — George W. Bush was the only president to spearhead tax cuts and war at the same time, nevermind the unfunded Medicare drug program — but one could hope that the shock of being out of power had perhaps spurred Republicans to really match their actions to their rhetoric. That would be really admirable, in fact.

Thursday’s vote, though, revealed the Republican Party talk of fiscal responsibility to be a nakedly cynical, a hollow pose, a cudgel to be used against a Democratic president but dropped at the first moment anybody might actually hold them to their words. Or maybe Republicans simply didn’t want to give Dems a victory on anything, even if that victory makes sense from a Republican perspective.

I’ve spent the last year calling Tea Partiers “sore losers” and taking heat for it. That perhaps hasn’t been entirely fair; there are lots of folks who really are concerned about America’s ballooning debt and growing government. But the people who stand to reap the rewards of that discontent — the elected officials of the Republican Party — don’t care enough about their own purported ideals to actually act on them.

Barack Obama is turning out to be a less-than-perfect president, but I’ll still take him over that lot.

Ed Rendell: Make the Republicans filibuster on health reform

Yes. Make them take to the floor and hold it for a week or two. Or even a month. If they want to play Jimmy Stewart, let them really play Jimmy Stewart.

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Did the GOP really win a round of the health care debate? Or did they just beat Bernie Sanders’ non-starter idea of single-payer care?

Everybody knew that Sen. Bernie Sanders — a socialist who caucuses with the Democrats — was going to bring to the floor a proposal for a government-run single-payer health care system. And everybody knew it was going to fail, because the proposal that’s actually emerging from the Democratically controlled Senate leaves private insurers running the show. It was, in other words, entirely a symbolic moment for Sanders. And everybody knew that ahead of time.

So I’m not sure why the New York Times is treating this as a significant skirmish in the health care debate, reporting the story under this headline:

In Senate Health Showdown, Round Goes to G.O.P.

…and furthermore treating the GOP commentary as though it meant something:

Republicans said Mr. Sanders had candidly avowed a goal that many Democrats secretly shared: a government takeover of health care.

“I admire Senator Sanders for his willingness to fight publicly for what many advocate only privately: a single-payer health care system funded and controlled by bureaucrats and politicians in Washington,” Mr. Coburn said.

It might be the case that many Democrats secretly — and even not-so-secretly — desire a single-payer system. It’s also irrelevant. Because that’s not the system being put forth in Congress right now; not even close. What Sanders did yesterday was meaningless; so was the GOP’s attempt to turn back Sanders’ proposal. So why is the Times treating all this like it meant something?

Michael Petrilli: Republicans can win being less racist, more smart

Michael Petrilli takes to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to tell Republicans they have a better chance of winning elections if only they stop being the “party of stupid” and start embracing folks they regularly decry as “elitist.”

What’s needed is a full-fledged effort to cultivate “Whole Foods Republicans”—independent-minded voters who embrace a progressive lifestyle but not progressive politics. These highly-educated indiividuals appreciate diversity and would never tell racist or homophobic jokes; they like living in walkable urban environments; they believe in environmental stewardship, community service and a spirit of inclusion. And yes, many shop at Whole Foods, which has become a symbol of progressive affluence but is also a good example of the free enterprise system at work. (Not to mention that its founder is a well-known libertarian who took to these pages to excoriate ObamaCare as inimical to market principles.)

So how to woo these voters to the Republican column? The first step is to stop denigrating intelligence and education. President George W. Bush’s bantering about being a “C” student may have enamored “the man in the street,” but it surely discouraged more than a few “A” students from feeling like part of the team.

Even more important is the party’s message on divisive social issues. When some Republicans use homophobic language, express thinly disguised contempt toward immigrants, or ridicule heartfelt concerns for the environment, they affront the values of the educated class. And they lose votes they otherwise ought to win.

Coupla thoughts:

• Interesting that we’re a few weeks shy of 2010 — the second decade of the new century — and a guy advising Republicans on how to win elections suggests they might want to reach out to the non-racist-joke-telling demographic.

• It’s also interesting that Petrilli feels like the audience of the Wall Street Journal op-ed page — high-powered, high-income, highly connected folks who lean right — needs to be told that it’s ok to embrace the people the GOP typically derides as “elitist.” Because, uh, that audience is actually the elite, more or less. One multimillionaire to another: “Says here in the Wall Street Journal we should embrace the Whole Foods set.” “But what where will I get my pork rinds!?” The anti-elitist thing was always a hollow pose; if the GOP now must end the pose to win elections, at least our campaigns might be a bit more honest. But there’s always another culture war angle to hit, I’m sure.

• When you get down to it, though, Petrilli’s advice boils down to this: “The world has moved on. Gay and blacks are part of public life; so is widespread higher education. That’s a world largely created by Democrats and liberals, yes, but you’re going to have to adapt to it if you want to compete. It’s time.”

Tonight, Barack Obama betrays Michael Moore

It’s a sign of something, I suppose, that even when I agree with Michael Moore I still find him irritating. So it goes with his open letter to President Obama, urging the president to call off his proposed troop increase in Afghanistan and instead bring the soldiers home.

Choose carefully, President Obama. You of all people know that it doesn’t have to be this way. You still have a few hours to listen to your heart, and your own clear thinking. You know that nothing good can come from sending more troops halfway around the world to a place neither you nor they understand, to achieve an objective that neither you nor they understand, in a country that does not want us there. You can feel it in your bones.

I know you know that there are LESS than a hundred al-Qaeda left in Afghanistan! A hundred thousand troops trying to crush a hundred guys living in caves? Are you serious? Have you drunk Bush’s Kool-Aid? I refuse to believe it.

Your potential decision to expand the war (while saying that you’re doing it so you can “end the war”) will do more to set your legacy in stone than any of the great things you’ve said and done in your first year. One more throwing a bone from you to the Republicans and the coalition of the hopeful and the hopeless may be gone — and this nation will be back in the hands of the haters quicker than you can shout “tea bag!”

I agree: Continued war in Afghanistan is not worth the blood or (non-existent) treasure we’ll spend there. Still, you’ve got to ask Michael Moore a serious question: What did you expect?

It’s true that Barack Obama campaigned in 2008 against the Iraq War. But he also campaigned on fighting the Afghanistan War more effectively than President Bush. He was very explicit about this. Anti-war liberals should not be surprised, but they are — probably, I think, because they expected his “tough on Afghanistan” rhetoric was just a ploy to seem tough in case his GOP opponents decided to deploy the standard “surrender monkey” campaign against him.

We keep doing this to Obama. He told us in the campaign that he didn’t believe in marriage rights for gays and lesbians, yet there has been a constantly repeated hope — in referendums in California and Maine — that he might lend his voice in support of gay marriage campaigns. It never happens. And liberals end up surprised, again. There are other examples of this sort of thing.

During the campaign, Republicans warned us that we didn’t know the real Barack Obama — that he’d take office and reveal the radical-almost-Communist reality beneath the moderate mask. The heck of it is that liberals apparently suspected nearly the same thing. But everybody was wrong.

Barack Obama will surprise us on occasion by taking more moderate or more conservative stands than we expected. He will never, ever surprise us by doing something more liberal than we expected. He was never trying to win over the Michael Moore wing of the Democratic Party. And he still isn’t. We shouldn’t be surprised.