Quote of the day

Watching GOP debates has now become a kind of abdominal contraction drinking game, with cringes replacing shots at each seemingly inevitable moment when members of the audience embarrass their candidates with some outburst or another.




Saturday Glee

via Balloon Juice » Lies Lies Lies, Yeah!

How do you have a sensible policy debate with people who reject basic facts? It’s like trying to debate members of a cargo cult- the modern GOP carry the crosses but have no idea what it means to be christian. They talk about free markets, but have no understanding of economics. Just say deregulate and tax cuts a lot, and MAGIC WILL HAPPEN. Evolution? LIES! Climate change? LIES! Modern Medicine and vaccines? LIES!



My point exactly

via Advice To Romney: Give Perry Bait (Daily Dish)

And see what happens:

[A]s GOP consultant Alex Castellanos put it: “Perry has not won elections in Texas because he is loved. He has won because he sticks a fork in his opponent’s eyeballs.”

There’s nothing at all wrong with having a reputation for hitting hard. However, if I were advising one of his main opponent, Mitt Romney, I’d start trying to test Perry to see just how far he takes it. Can he be baited? If so, his aggressiveness might be very easily turned against him. That is, at some point, an attack-everything candidate isn’t really aggressive, but recklessly reactive.

I made this point in a post before the last debate. Perry debates by being extremely aggressive. Last debate he pulled a “Romney was worse than Dukakis” rabbit out of his hat, minutes into the debate, and strong armed Ron Paul during a commercial break, just to name a few.

He verged on reckless a few times. If I make any prediction tonight it will be that Perry cools his jets a bit, simply to prove that he can cool off. There were stirrings after last debate that Romney looked more presidential than Perry. If Perry keeps up the (rabid) attack dog act tonight, that conventional wisdom about Romney v. Perry could stick.

Andrew Sullivan nails it

via Live-Blogging The Third GOP Debate – The Dish | By Andrew Sullivan – The Daily Beast

9.57 pm. My take-away? Perry has proved himself an extreme, inarticulate, incurious W clone. He doubled down on the vicious attacks on social security; and his rhetoric was off-key. Huntsman emerged as an actual candidate; Romney kicked ass. Bachmann is wearing thinner and thinner. Paul is Paul. Santorum is a Vatican crank. Gingrich is an angry old man. Cain has no business being up there. Perry’s poor performance gives Palin an opening. And an actual argument that people can understand about economic policy did not emerge.

My thoughts exactly, although I think Perry did better rhetorically (at least among Republican voters) than Andrew portrays.

More congressional staffers speak up and some stuff about Plato

via ‘People Are Close to Revolt’ by James Fallows (who has been smartly covering this whole Mike Lofgren saga over at the Atlantic)

When challenging Speaker Jim Wright over his book sales and then during the House banking scandal, Newt Gingrich defended his efforts as “We have to destroy the House in order to save it.”  I think you can make a line connecting that approach with Reagan’s “government is the problem” and Grover Norquist’s “starve the beast.” Many Republican leaders somehow believe that they and the country will benefit if they undermine public trust in and support for government — and they see no difference between the national and partisan benefits from such an outcome.

Another, a former staffer still in his 20s:

as Congress gets worse, it becomes harder and harder for anyone less interested in their proximity to power to stay. Idealism is tough to maintain, especially given the examples that Members and Senators are setting, and sweeping out droves of elected officials doesn’t change the underlying population that keeps the Hill ticking (or not ticking).

The same staffer elaborates about an issue he calls the “Tragedy of the Commons”

Those relationships were crucial; they allowed our leaders to see each others humanity, and to trust each other far more than today’s politics allows. Being able to fly home to one’s district may be good for that particular Member, but it’s a Tragedy of the Commons – if no one sticks around in DC, national policy making suffers. And has suffered.

Why don’t we think of Congressional service like a military deployment? Soldiers can’t come home each weekend, and those that spend the money on their wars shouldn’t either.

Its an interesting point and a semi interesting idea.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been musing from time to time about what institutional changes could actually be made to make things “better” in Congress. I keep coming back to one idea Plato discusses in “The Republic” about his theorized “ideal city”.

He argued that the city (city-state, more accurately) should be ruled by a group of beneficent people that would all essentially be anonymous and locked up in a sort of political barracks where they would live and eat and socialize among each other, with no outside influence nor any influence on the outside.

It’s an interesting idea. Not a practical one, but it does get to the root of the civility problem Congress faces (which, again, I believe primarily stems from technological advances more than anything). One does not attempt to destroy a person with whom he (or she) breaks bread each day. A beginning to solving the problem could be as simple as forced mixed dining sessions, at first once a month or week and then gradually becoming more frequent.

It would work for about a week, until one member got onto TV and called the practice elitist and proclaimed themselves to be the god-emporer of populism by choosing to eat among their constituents rather than with the evil corrupt politicians in Washington.

So that was a nice idea while it lasted.

Plato also argued that it is better to be ruled by a bad tyrant than by a bad democracy, for what it’s worth. A bad tyrant can at least be replaced with a better one. A bad democracy is a reflection of a bad citizenry and cannot improve unless a critical amount of citizens do so.

More congressional staffer pessimism

If you read anything today, read this: ‘People Don’t Realize How Fragile Democracy Really Is’ – James Fallows – Politics – The Atlantic

It’s a follow up to the Lofgren stuff from the other day, this time with a reaction by someone who has worked as a Democratic staffer since before Clinton took office (and stopped after 2010 when his boss lost re-election). A snip:

I found myself agreeing with virtually everything in Mike’s article and immediately forwarded it to a bunch of my friends, some of whom remain working on the Hill.

Privately, many of us who have worked in Congress since before the Clinton Administration have been complaining about the loss of the respect for the institution by the Members who were elected to serve their constituents through the institution. I don’t think people realize how fragile democracy really is. The 2012 campaign is currently looking to be the final nail in the coffin unless people start to understand what is going on.

The mainstream media absolutely fails to understand how little attention average Americans really pay to what goes on in all forms of government. During our 2008 race, our pollster taught me (hard to believe it took me 24 years to learn this) that the average voter spends only 5 minutes thinking about for whom to vote for Congress.

I’m writing because now that I have been out of the Beltway Bubble, I have gained a little more perspective on how real people see the work of Washington, and I am scared that they are close to revolt.