On the Sabotage of Democracy by Bill Moyers

October 4, 2013

BILL MOYERS: And now to the people who refuse to let democracy work. The people who hate government so much they’ve shut it down. Unable to abide by the results of democracy when they don’t win, they turned on it.

Republicans have now lost three successive elections to control the Senate and they’ve lost the last two presidential elections. Nonetheless, they fought tooth and nail to kill President Obama’s health care initiative. They lost that fight, but with the corporate wing of Democrats, they managed to bend it toward private interests.

So we should be clear on this, Obamacare, as it’s known, is deeply flawed. Big subsidies to the health insurance industry. A bonanza for lobbyists. No public option. And as The New York Times reported this week, “Millions of Poor Are Left Uncovered by Health Law.” Largely because states controlled by Republicans refuse to expand Medicaid.

As far as our bought and paid for legislative process goes, Obama’s initiative made it through the sausage factory. Yet even after both the House and Senate approved it, the president signed it, and the Supreme Court upheld it, the Republicans keep insisting on calling the law a “bill,” thumbing their noses and refusing to accept that it is enacted legislation.

Now they’re fighting to prevent it from being implemented. Here was their order of the day on Thursday from the popular right wing blog RedState.com:

“Congressmen, this is about shutting down Obamacare. Democrats keep talking about our refusal to compromise. They don’t realize our compromise is defunding Obamacare. We actually want to repeal it. This is it. Our endgame is to leave the whole thing shut down until the President defunds Obamacare. And if he does not defund Obamacare, we leave the whole thing shut down.”

Once upon a time when I was a young man working on Capitol Hill, it was commonplace that when a bill became law, everybody was unhappy with it. But you didn’t bring down the government just because it wasn’t perfect. You argue and fight and vote and then, due process having been at least raggedly served, on to the next fight.

That was a long time ago. Long before the Tea Party minority, armed with huge sums of secret money from rich donors, sucked the last bit of soul from the Grand Old Party of Abraham Lincoln. They became delusional. Then rabid. Like this:

SENATOR STEVE KING: If Obamacare is ever implemented and enforced, we will never recover from it. It is an unconstitutional takings of God-given American liberty.

BILL MOYERS: That’s false, of course. Just like those right-wing talking points that keep grinding through the propaganda mills of Fox News:

AINSLEY EARHARDT on Fox and Friends: Thanks to Obamacare, doctors will be forced to ask patients about their sex life, even if it has nothing to do with the medical treatment that they are seeking at the time.

BILL MOYERS: Not true.

MICHELLE MALKIN on Fox and Friends: That healthcare plan puts a discount on the lives of elderly people and would result in the redistribution of health away from the elderly and the infirm to other special favored interests and patients.

BILL MOYERS: Again, not true. Nor is this, from the multi-millionaire fabulist Rush Limbaugh:

RUSH LIMBAUGH from the Rush Limbaugh Show: What we now have is the biggest tax increase in the history of the world. Obamacare is just a massive tax increase, that all it is.

BILL MOYERS: That’s just a tiny sample of the lies and misinformation perpetrated by the right with the song and dance compliance of its richly paid mouthpieces. Sarah Palin set the bar for truth at about ankle height with those fictitious “death panels” that she still insists will decide our rendezvous with the Grim Reaper.

SARAH PALIN on Cashin’ In: Of course there are death panels in there, but the important thing to remember is that’s just one aspect of this atrocious, unaffordable, cumbersome, burdensome, evil policy of Obama’s and that is Obamacare.

BILL MOYERS: Despite what they say, Obamacare is only one of their targets. Before they will allow the government to reopen, they demand employers be enabled to deny birth control coverage to female employees. They demand Obama cave on the Keystone pipeline. They demand the watchdogs over corporate pollution be muzzled, and the big, bad regulators of Wall Street sent home. Their ransom list goes on and on. The debt ceiling is next. They would have the government default on its obligations and responsibilities.

When the president refused to buckle to their extortion, they threw their tantrum. Like the die-hards of the racist South a century and a half ago, who would destroy the Union before giving up their slaves, so would these people burn the place down, sink the ship of state, and sow economic chaos to get their way. This says it all, they even shuttered the Statue of Liberty.

Watching all this from London, the noted commentator Martin Wolf, of the capitalist friendly Financial Times, says “America flirts with self-destruction.”

This man is the biggest flirt of all, Newt Gingrich. It was Newt Gingrich who twenty years ago spearheaded the right-wing’s virulent crusade against the norms of democratic government. As Speaker of the House he twice brought about shutdowns of the federal government once, believe it or not, because he felt snubbed after riding on Air Force One with President Clinton and had to leave by the backdoor.

It was also Newt Gingrich, speaker Gingrich, who was caught lying to congressional investigators looking into charges of his ethical wrongdoing. His colleagues voted overwhelmingly, 395 to 28, to reprimand him. Pressure from his own party then prompted him to resign.

Yet even after his flame out, even after his recent bizarre race for the presidency bankrolled with money from admiring oligarchs, even after new allegations about his secret fundraising for right-wing candidates, Gingrich remains the darling of a fawning amnesic media.

NEWT GINGRICH on Crossfire: I’m Newt Gingrich on the right.

BILL MOYERS: On CNN.com the other day he issued a call to arms to his fellow bomb-throwers, “…don’t cave on shutdown.”

At least let’s name this for what it is, sabotage of the democratic process. Secession by another means. And let’s be clear about where such reckless ambition leads. As surely as night must follow day, the alternative to democracy is worse.

© 2013 Public Affairs Television, Inc. All rights reserved.

Marlin Stutzman and post-policy nihilism

By Steve Benen, maddowblog.msnbc.com, October 3, 2013 -


…the last time Republicans shut down the federal government…then-Speaker Newt Gingrich…admitted in November 1995 that he closed the government in part because President Clinton hurt his feelings on Air Force One…We don’t yet know if a similar moment will come to define this Republican shutdown, but I’d like to nominate this gem as an early contender. “We’re not going to be disrespected,” conservative Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., added. “We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”…congressional Republicans are now defined by a post-policy nihilism…Republicans are being driven by a mindless radicalism. There’s no meaningful policy goal in mind; there’s no substantive motivation; there isn’t even a strategic end goal. There’s just a primal instinct and a right-wing id causing a national crisis.

Full text

For many of us, to remember the last time Republicans shut down the federal government is to think of then-Speaker Newt Gingrich. Specifically, the far-right Georgian admitted in November 1995 that he closed the government in part because President Clinton hurt his feelings on Air Force One — the president didn’t chat with Gingrich during an overseas flight and then made the Speaker exit at the rear of the plane.

It was a moment that captured the entire fiasco quite beautifully. A petulant, out-of-control Republican leader shut down the government largely to spite the president who made him feel bad.

We don’t yet know if a similar moment will come to define this Republican shutdown, but I’d like to nominate this gem as an early contender.

“We’re not going to be disrespected,” conservative Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., added. “We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”

Go ahead, Republicans, tell us another one about how the shutdown is Democrats’ fault.

I’ve long argued that congressional Republicans are now defined by a post-policy nihilism, but even I’m surprised an elected GOP member of Congress would say this out loud, on purpose, and on the record.

The quote is just … perfect. “We’re not going to be disrespected” helps capture the extent to which Republican lawmakers are acting like a street gang, hurting the country deliberately out of some twisted sense of self-serving pride. “We have to get something out of this” reinforces the way in which GOP officials are holding the country hostage, expecting a ransom to be paid.

And “I don’t know what that even is” makes clear that Republicans are being driven by a mindless radicalism. There’s no meaningful policy goal in mind; there’s no substantive motivation; there isn’t even a strategic end goal. There’s just a primal instinct and a right-wing id causing a national crisis.


Obama: A pragmatic moderate faces the ‘socialist’ smear by Norman J. Ornstein

Washington Post, April 14, 2010

In the 1950s, Democratic senators from the solidly Democratic South uniformly supported segregation and opposed civil rights and voting rights bills. They dutifully spent long hours on the Senate floor filibustering such efforts. Legend has it that during one marathon filibuster, after Olin Johnston of South Carolina, a populist liberal on economic matters, handed off the baton to Strom Thurmond, Johnston went into the cloakroom where many of his colleagues were seated, gestured back toward the Senate floor, and said, “Old Strom, he really believes that [expletive].”
This story came to mind with the recent blizzard of attacks on Barack Obama by Republican presidential wannabes and other office-seekers, along with their allies on cable television and talk radio. The most extravagant rhetoric has come out of the gathering of Southern Republicans in New Orleans, led by former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who called Obama “the most radical president in American history” and urged his partisan audience to stop Obama’s “secular, socialist machine.”
At the same conference, Liz Cheney, the former vice president’s daughter who is often mentioned as a possible Senate candidate from Virginia, fiercely attacked Obama’s foreign policy as “apologize for America, abandon our allies and appease our enemies.” And last week the ubiquitous Sarah Palin said of the arms-control treaty Obama signed with Russia, “No administration in America’s history would, I think, ever have considered such a step,” likening it to a kid telling others in a playground fight, “Go ahead, punch me in the face and I’m not going to retaliate.”
On talk radio, Rush Limbaugh accused Obama of administering “statist-assisted suicide.” Talk show host Michael Savage called Obama’s health-care plan “socialized medicine” and described the nuclear treaty as “insane.” These are not isolated comments; the terms “radical,” “socialist” and even “totalitarian” are bandied about frequently by Obama opponents, including congressional and other GOP leaders.
To one outside the partisan and ideological wars, charges of radicalism, socialism, retreat and surrender are, frankly, bizarre. The Democrats’ health-reform plan includes no public option and relies on managed competition through exchanges set up much like those for federal employees. The individual mandate in the plan sprang from a Heritage Foundation idea that was endorsed years ago by a range of conservatives and provided the backbone of the Massachusetts plan that was crafted and, until recently, heartily defended by Mitt Romney. It would be fair to describe the new act as Romneycare crossed with the managed-competition bill proposed in 1994 by Republican Sens. John Chafee, David Durenberger, Charles Grassley and Bob Dole — in other words, as a moderate Republican plan. Among its supporters is Durenberger, no one’s idea of a radical socialist.
What about Obama’s other domestic initiatives? The stimulus was anything but radical — indeed, many mainstream observers, me included, thought it was too timid in size and scope given the enormity of the problems. The plan could have been more focused on swift and directed stimulus. It included such diversions as a fix for the alternative minimum tax — at the insistence of Grassley. And it excluded some “shovel-ready” ideas such as school construction — at the insistence of Republican Sen. Susan Collins. It did not include the kind of public works jobs program employed by Franklin Roosevelt. Nonetheless, it has been widely credited with ameliorating the worst effects of the downturn and helping to move us back toward economic growth. The widely criticized Troubled Assets Relief Program — initiated by Obama’s predecessor — is now returning to the Treasury most of the taxpayer money laid out to keep us from depression and deflation.
It is true that, in an attempt to head off a meltdown stemming from a collapse of the automobile industry, Obama engineered a temporary takeover of two of the Big Three auto companies. But nothing suggests that this is anything but temporary, and Obama has resisted many calls to take over major banks and other financial institutions.
The nuclear treaty with Russia excoriated by Palin, Savage and others was endorsed by Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar, the GOP’s resident foreign policy expert, and it was crafted under Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who was first appointed to that post by George W. Bush. Obama’s approach to terrorism has been similar to Bush’s, while more aggressively targeting leaders of terrorist groups; his larger foreign policy has received the seal of approval from James Baker, former chief of staff to Ronald Reagan and secretary of state to George H.W. Bush. Obama’s energy policies include more nuclear power and more offshore drilling. Obama’s education policies have received wide acclaim across the political spectrum. The “secular” president has shored up and supported federal faith-based initiatives, to the dismay of many in his base.
Looking at the range of Obama domestic and foreign policies, and his agency and diplomatic appointments, my conclusion is clear: This president is a mainstream, pragmatic moderate, operating in the center of American politics; center-left, perhaps, but not left of center. The most radical president in American history? Does Newt Gingrich, a PhD in history, really believe that [expletive]?
The writer is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.