“The Party Of No (Ideas)”
July 19, 2010, 2:00am

by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Matt Corley, Benjamin Armbruster, Zaid Jilani, Alex Seitz-Wald, Tanya Somanader

The 2010 midterm elections are just four months away, and with Republicans excited at the prospect of picking up seats and perhaps even gaining a majority in at least one — and possibly both — legislative chambers, talk is now turning to what the GOP will do if it takes over. Several of their “plans” so far include vapid talking points about “standing with the American people back home” and hollow gimmicks to “listen” to the American public for policy ideas. If elected back into leadership positions, many members of the Republican Party would like to extend their “Party of No” agenda and put their partisan ideologies over the best interests of the American public. There are already rumblings that the GOP would try to repeal significant portions of President Obama’s agenda — including health care reform, the stimulus, and financial regulatory reform — and take the country back to the days of the Bush administration.

AVOIDING POLICY ISSUES: On a daily basis, many Republicans are out telling their constituents and the national media that Democratic policies are dangerous. Republican Ken Buck, who’s running for the U.S. Senate in Colorado, recently said that the “greatest threat to our liberty” is “the progressive liberal movement that is going on in this country.” Mississippi state Sen. Alan Nunnelee (R), who is running for a congressional seat in the northern part of his state, said last month that Democratic policies are “more dangerous” than 9/11 or Pearl Harbor. So what’s the GOP alternative? If some Republicans get their way, those ideas will be kept secret. Last week, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) told radio host Bill Bennett that Republicans shouldn’t “lay out a complete agenda” because then people would be able to scrutinize it and make it “a campaign issue.” And far-right candidates like Sharron Angle and Rand Paul are avoiding taking tough questions from traditional media outlets. According to the Washington Post, behind the scenes, GOP leaders are urging their members to “avoid issues at all costs.” Underscoring the intellectual deficit in the GOP leadership, yesterday on NBC’s Meet the Press, host David Gregory asked Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) — the Party’s congressional campaign committee chairs — what Republicans will do if they return to power. Sessions simply said that the public “understand[s]” the GOP will be “standing with the American people back home,” and the two men were unable to name a single “painful choice” that Republicans would be willing to make to live up to their deficit-cutting rhetoric. After Labor Day, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) will reportedly roll out “a blueprint of what Republicans will do if they take back control of the chamber,” but it’s unclear if candidates will “actually want to run on those ideas.”

EMPTY GIMMICKS: So far, the much-ballyhooed policy initiatives of congressional Republicans have been hollow gimmicks billed as a way to listen to the American public for policy prescriptions. First there was YouCut, a site that allows people to choose from a pre-selected list of programs that they would like to see eliminated from the federal budget. In late May, the program that received the most votes was a successful jobs program, and more recently, users voted to prohibit “hiring new IRS agents to enforce health care law,” which the site claims would save $15 billion — even though IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman has testified before Congress that agents won’t be going after people to see if they have acceptable health care. More recently, Boehner launched “America Speaking Out,” an initiative involving a website and public town halls to solicit ideas for the GOP agenda. The project is rather farcical, however, since Republicans have admitted that they won’t incorporate any public ideas with which they disagree. The site has largely been a joke since its launch, with ideas including, “Don’t let the illegals run out of Arizona and hide. … I think that we should do something to identify them in case they try to come back over. Like maybe tattoo a big scarlet ‘I’ on their chests — for ‘illegal’!!!”

BACK TO THE BUSH YEARS: The one thing Republicans have made clear is that they’re yearning for the good ol’ days of President Bush. Cornyn recently told C-SPAN that Bush’s “stock has gone up a lot since he left office. … I think a lot people are looking back with more fondness on President Bush’s administration, and I think history will treat him well.” They are also clinging to the notion that the government can cut taxes and not offset the spending — despite all their deficit-cutting rhetoric and criticisms that Obama is “spending trillions of dollars we do not have on things we do not need.” Showing that he is a deficit fraud, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) recently said, “[Y]ou should never have to offset cost of a deliberate decision to reduce tax rates on Americans.” Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) said that continuing Bush’s tax cuts “isn’t a cost,” and Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) admitted that he’s willing to vote against unemployment benefits for out-of-work Americans unless they’re offset while waving through tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Many Republicans have also said they’re interested in repealing the progress of the past year, including health care reform, the stimulus, and financial regulatory reform. Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) has even talked about repealing the 16th and 17th amendments — which would eliminate the income tax and end direct election of U.S. senators. Last week, Vice President Biden summed up their strategy: “Repeal and Repeat: Repeal everything positive done, and repeat the polices of the previous eight years of the Bush administration.” It’s also possible that if voters oust Democrats in November, far-right conservatives will take over Congress. Last week, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) filed papers to start and lead a Tea Party Caucus in the House, and U.S. Senate candidate in Kentucky Rand Paul has said that he would like to do the same if he is elected. Bachmann has also hinted at a bid to overthrow the current GOP leadership and install “constitutional conservatives.” A look at the ranking Republicans on top House committees and subcommittees, who would likely become chairs if their Party wins in November, includes Texas’ Joe Barton (who famously apologized to BP), Iowa’s Steve King (who said that Obama “favors the black person”), and Texas’ Louie Gohmert (who said that hate crimes legislation would lead to Nazism and the legalization of necrophilia, pedophilia, and bestiality).

Under the Radar

RADICAL RIGHT — FLORIDA TEA PARTY TO HOST ‘RADICAL ISLAMOPHOBE’ WHO SAID MUSLIMS SHOULDN’T HOLD POLITICAL OFFICE: Last week, Tea Party groups went after the NAACP for its resolution calling on the movement to denounce “racist elements” in its midst. One group supporting this resolution was CAIR, the largest Muslim civil liberties advocacy organization in the U.S. The organization is now calling attention to anti-Muslim bigotry in the Tea Party movement, pointing to an upcoming event in Florida where the Emerald Coast Tea Party Patriots will host Brigitte Gabriel, “the head of the anti-Islam hate group ACT! for America” to speak at its “‘U.S. Constitution Freedom Rally'” in August. CAIR called on “political candidates scheduled to appear at the event, including GOP Senate candidate Marco Rubio, to cancel their appearances” unless Gabriel is dropped. A year earlier, the New York Times’ Deborah Soloman called Gabriel a “radical Islamophobe.” In 2007, Gabriel delivered a speech stating that the difference “between Israel and the Arab world is the difference between civilization and barbarism. It’s the difference between good and evil,” adding that those in the “Arabic world” “have no soul.” Gabriel also asserted that every practicing Muslim is radical and, when asked by the Australian Jewish News whether Americans should “resist Muslims who want to seek political office in this nation,” she replied, “Absolutely.” She has similarly stated that Muslims can’t serve loyally in the U.S. military. In August, Tea Party Central of OC in California plans to offer a “Basic Training Class 101” by Gabriel’s Act! for America on how to “be an effective activist against political Islam and its treat to our way of life, and how to communicate this threat to elected officials, the media, and others.”

Think Fast

A group of leading economists have “produced a manifesto calling for more government stimulus and tax credits to put America back to work.” In today’s New York Times, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman argues that President Obama’s best hope for the midterms “is to close the ‘enthusiasm gap’ by taking strong stands that motivate Democrats to come out and vote.”

Concerned about “a substance seeping near BP’s sealed oil well,” oil spill response chief Thad Allen demanded that the company “intensely monitor the seabed” and prepare “to reopen the well immediately” if new oil leaks occur around the wellhead. In a “sharp” letter Sunday to BP, Allen requested that BP update him on the “latest containment plan and schedule” by 8:00pm CDT that day.

A two-year Washington Post investigation found that the “top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.”

“Influential evangelical Christian leaders” have come to the aid of President Obama’s push to overhaul the nation’s immigration system, testifying before Congress and championing reform. “There is very little I agree with regarding President Barack Obama. On the other hand, I’m not going to let politicized rhetoric or party affiliation trump my values, and if he’s right on this issue, I will support him on this issue,” said Matthew D. Staver of Liberty Counsel.

Carte Goodwin will “be sworn in at 2:15pm Tuesday to replace” the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV). A “few minutes later,” Democrats will “break the impasse” on unemployment extension with Mr. Goodwin’s vote and will “cut off debate” on legislation to provide jobless pay through November.

While on a diplomatic trip in Pakistan, Secretary of State Clinton today unveiled “an armada of development projects — hydroelectric dams, municipal water supply overhauls, hospital makeovers” for the southwest Asian country. “It’s our goal to slowly but surely demonstrate that the U.S. is concerned about Pakistan for the long term, and that the partnership goes far beyond security against our common enemies,” said Clinton.

Abigail Thernstrom, the conservative Bush-appointed vice chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, “made a dramatic break from usual allies,” blasting the right-wing hysteria over the New Black Panther Party voter intimidation case. “This doesn’t have to do with the Black Panthers; this has to do with their fantasies about how they could use this issue to topple the [Obama] administration,” Thernstrom said.

In an analysis of the Politico web operation, the New York Times writes, “Such is the state of the media business these days: frantic and fatigued. Young journalists who once dreamed of trotting the globe in pursuit of a story are instead shackled to their computers, where they try to eke out a fresh thought or be first to report even the smallest nugget of news — anything that will impress Google algorithms and draw readers their way.”

And finally: Comparing herself to Shakespeare, Sarah Palin invents a new word: “refudiate.”

Blog Watch

Alan Greenspan calls for the full expiration of the Bush tax cuts he helped enact.

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Majority of Americans oppose repealing the Affordable Care Act.

The government shutdown of 2011?

Insurers and employers, not government, are limiting choice of doctors.

Muslims are under no obligation to “reject” Ground Zero mosque.

Does anyone at Bloomberg News care about accuracy?

Daily Grill

“This seems to be the dominant issue over on the Republican side. It’s a little distracting … You have to push for some sort of national solution.”
— Georgia Democratic gubernatorial primary candidate Roy Barnes slamming Arizona’s new immigration law, 6/17/10


“Would I sign a law that had some of those elements? I would.”
— Barnes on the same Arizona law, 7/16/10