What We’re Watching: May 25, 2018 - Good morning and happy Friday. Here’s what we have our eyes on today. Stories We’re Following President Trump gives a...
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Last Thursday, the nation watched with a mix of amusement and horror as the House Benghazi committee spent 11 hours grilling Hillary Clinton on a bizarre farrago of issues, many of which bore only tangential connection to the Benghazi attack.
Over the past few weeks, the political narrative seems to have shifted from "Clinton in trouble" to "congressional witch hunt seeks to take down Clinton." Between McCarthy's accidental truth telling, an ex-staffer confirming the worst reports about the committee, and another House Republican conceding the obvious, it has become clear that the Benghazi committee is a thoroughly partisan political endeavor. Opinion has turned, but Republicans are trapped.
The thing is: The Benghazi committee is not even the worst committee in the House. I'd argue that the House science committee, under the chairmanship of Lamar Smith (R-TX), deserves that superlative for its open-ended, Orwellian attempts to intimidate some of the nation's leading scientists and scientific institutions.
The science committee's modus operandi is similar to the Benghazi committee's — sweeping, catchall investigations, with no specific allegations of wrongdoing or clear rationale, searching through private documents for out-of-context bits and pieces to leak to the press, hoping to gain short-term political advantage — but it stands to do more lasting long-term damage.
In both cases, the investigations have continued long after all questions have been answered. (There were half a dozen probes into Benghazi before this one.) In both cases, the chair has drifted from inquiry to inquisition. But with Benghazi, the only threat is to the reputation of Hillary Clinton, who has the resources to defend herself. With the science committee, it is working scientists being intimidated, who often do not have the resources to defend themselves, and the threat is to the integrity of the scientific process in the US. It won't take much for scientists to get the message that research into politically contested topics is more hassle than it's worth.
The science committee, Fox News, the Daily Caller, climate deniers, CEI — at this point, it's all one partisan operation, sharing information and strategies.
Republican radicalization has already laid waste to many of the written and unwritten rules that once governed American politics. The use of congressional committees as tools of partisan intimidation is only a chapter in that grim story.
But the science committee is going after individual scientists, who rarely have the resources on hand to defend themselves from unexpected political attack. It is doing so without any rationale related to the constitutional exercise of its oversight powers — not with a false rationale, but without any stated rationale, no allegations of waste, fraud, or abuse — in service of an effort to suppress inconvenient scientific results and score partisan political points against the executive branch.
The federal government is an enormous supporter of scientific research, to the country's great and enduring benefit, though that support is now under sustained attack. If such funding comes with strings, with the threat that the wrong inquiry or results could bring down a congressional inquisition, researchers are likely to shy away from controversial subjects. The effects on the US scientific community, and on America's reputation as a leader in science, could be dire, lingering on well past the 2016 election.
Mitt Romney is finally ready to take credit for Obamacare.
Speaking to the Boston Globe for their obituary of Staples founder Thomas G. Stemberg, who died Friday, the former Massachusetts praised Stemberg for his involvement in pushing “Romneycare,” which in turn, Romney said, led to Obamacare, giving “a lot of people” health coverage.
“Without Tom pushing it, I don’t think we would have had Romneycare,” Romney said. “Without Romneycare, I don’t think we would have Obamacare. So, without Tom a lot of people wouldn’t have health insurance.”
It’s hard to imagine Romney saying such a thing during the 2012 election cycle. Back then Romney was stumbling and bumbling his way to create some distance between the health care reform he championed as a governor and President Obama’s signature health care law.
The focus by conservatives on Obamacare as the leading example of everything that was wrong with Obama made for some extremely awkward moments for the eventual Republican nominee. The similarities between the Massachusetts and the federal laws even prompted one of Romney’s primary rivals to coin the term “Obamneycare.”
The next day Romney promised to repeal Obamacare if elected and vowed that on his first day in the White House, he would “grant a waiver to all 50 states from Obamacare."
As an active Democrat who has remained, thus far, undecided, her performance here and at the debate have gone a long way toward convincing me to support Clinton instead of Sanders; even though, politically, my ideals line up more closely with Sanders' democratic socialism than Clinton's quasi-third way centrism.
If a Democrat wins the 2016 election, her or his main job as I see it will be defending the achievements of the Obama administration, which will surely be under even more sustained attack once he leaves office. Any major expansion to that legacy will need to be incremental given a hostile, partisan Congress that, at least in the House, is pretty much "locked in" by gerrymandering until the next redistricting cycle.
In that light, I'm increasingly leaning toward Hillary, not so much based on what she believes but on her competence, both as a public official and as a politician who knows how to punch back.
The true meaning is at last revealed. I watched bits and pieces of Clinton’s hearing yesterday, and it all became clear.
Years ago, undercover operatives within the Republican party exploited a tragic, deadly attack in Libya. They stirred up some of the dumbest people in the party with a story: Benghazi is in a foreign country, and everyone knows that the Secretary of State is in charge of the foreigns, and so master manipulator Hillary Clinton must have done sumfin’ to rile up the brown people. And then all the dumb people started howling “Benghazi!”, further derailing their party, and getting the people who howled loudest into prominent positions, and sucking up millions of dollars for an “investigation”.
And then they put a guy with a funny name and an even goofier haircut in charge of the whole thing, and every third-rate sour, bitter Republican they could on the committee, and they staged a show trial in which posturing clowns asked stupid questions and Hillary Clinton could demonstrate god-like patience and look like the only grown-up in Washington DC.
It was brilliant. The Republicans look like twits, while Hillary Clinton looked presidential. It was the Kennedy-Nixon debate all over again, with Clinton as the telegenic, good-looking one, and the entire Republican party looking thuggish.
I heard the siren song. I found myself thinking that maybe I should vote for Clinton, too — never mind that Sanders is closer to me politically, man, I could picture President Hillary Clinton so easily.
And in case you missed it all, here is a most accurately abbreviated transcription of the whole thing.
Make no mistake: we are witnessing acts of domestic terrorism at health care facilities across the country, targeting women who seek medical advice and the doctors who are brave enough to counsel them--in the face of repeated, violent attacks and daily threats. But, instead of treating these incidents as the real and present danger to innocent civilians that they are, Congress is inviting anti-abortion extremists to testify at hearings, the Department of Justice has yet to announce a full investigation, and the news media remains silent. Where is the outrage?
Women can and will continue to make their own decisions about their bodies and their lives, despite murders, bombings, arsons and intimidation by those who will stop at nothing to deny women legal abortion services. We have to remember that just six years ago a doctor was gunned down in the pews of his own church in the name of this extremist movement and against a backdrop of tolerance for the radical views.
The media need to report these incidents as what they are: domestic terrorism. By staying silent or failing to discuss this new wave of attacks on health clinics in the context of anti-abortion extremism, the media is giving extremists the cover to regressively and violently attack women, their access to health care, and the medical professionals who provide it. We call on the DOJ to investigate the recent arsons, showing that our legal system will not tolerate and further assault on women, clinic escorts, security personnel or medical staff, and the news media to hold the government accountable for keeping Americans safe from harm.
|Note that I'm no longer drunk or sick here.|
|A mansion, with my stash of loot. (Note that these three screenshots are from later in the game, since I keep forgetting to take screenshots as I play.)|
Nowadays this revolutionary rationale for gun rights [that the main purpose of the Second Amendment is to keep open the possibility of revolutionary violence against the U.S. government] is becoming the rule rather than the exception for conservative politicians and advocates. Mike Huckabee, a sunny and irenic candidate for president in 2008, all but threatened revolutionary violence in his recent campaign book for the 2016 cycle, God, Guns, Grits and Gravy:
If the Founders who gave up so much to create liberty for us could see how our government has morphed into a ham-fisted, hypercontrolling “Sugar Daddy,” I believe those same patriots who launched a revolution would launch another one. Too many Americans have grown used to Big Government’s overreach. They’ve been conditioned to just bend over and take it like a prisoner [!]. But in Bubba-ville, the days of bending are just about over. People are ready to start standing up for freedom and refusing to take it anymore....
Perhaps the most surprising statement on this subject from a Republican presidential candidate was by a rare figure who dissents from the right-to-revolution talk, per this report from Sahil Kapur at TPM a few months ago:
Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz's argument that the Second Amendment provides the "ultimate check against government tyranny" is a bit too extreme for potential 2016 rival and fellow Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
"Well, we tried that once in South Carolina. I wouldn't go down that road again," Graham said, in an apparent reference to the Civil War. "I think an informed electorate is probably a better check than, you know, guns in the streets."
Graham joked about this, but liberals generally are not amused by the suggestion that “patriotic” Americans should be stockpiling guns in case “they”—it’s not clear who, of course—decide it’s time to start shooting police officers and members of the armed forces in defense of their liberties, which in some cases are perceived to be extremely broad. Indeed, a lot of Second Amendment ultras appear to think the right to revolution is entirely up to the individual revolutionary. Here’s Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, the darling of the GOP Class of 2014, talking about this contingency in 2012:
I have a beautiful little Smith & Wesson, 9 millimeter, and it goes with me virtually everywhere...But I do believe in the right to carry, and I believe in the right to defend myself and my family — whether it’s from an intruder, or whether it’s from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important.
You can wonder, as I often do, how people like Ernst would react to such rhetoric if it were coming from a member of a black nationalist or Islamist group. But clearly, there’s no point in progressives seeking any “compromise” with them on gun issues. They can only be defeated by a true mass social movement supporting reasonable gun regulation. But it’s important to understand that according to the Cult of the Second Amendment, opponents of gun measures have every right to fire back, literally.