Remember just last week, when right-wingers were running around whining that President Obama hadn't properly praised George W. Bush's Iraq war strategy? Here's a piece from the editors of the National Review to refresh your memory:
In its failure to credit explicitly Bush's surge for turning around the war, the speech was graceless; in its cursory treatment of Iraq, it lacked strategic vision; and in its attempt to hijack the troops for Obama's domestic priorities ("we must tackle . . . challenges at home with as much energy and grit, and sense of common purpose, as our men and women in uniform"), it was shameless. Altogether a poor performance.
The theory behind this insistence that Bush be praised for his eventual approach to a war he started on false pretenses against a nation that didn't attack us is, I suppose, that regardless of your disagreements with someone, or with some aspects of their leadership, there are times when the right thing to do is to praise some of their actions.
So, for example, even if you're a far-right opinion magazine and you hate organized labor and disagree with much of what they've done and the way they've done it, it would be graceless to fail to recognize the labor movement's positive accomplishments on Labor Day.
With that in mind, here's a look at the pieces leading National Review's web page today:
"Hypocrisy Problem," indeed.
A piece in National Review claimed that Elena Kagan is anti-small business because as solicitor general, she filed a Supreme Court brief arguing that the Court should throw out a case brought by a business. But Kagan's alleged anti-small business argument was first made by the Bush Justice Department, and legal experts say Kagan's solicitor general briefs are not necessarily proof of her personal views.
Over at "Planet Gore" (National Review's blog dedicated to mocking the reality of global warming) Greg Pollowitz approvingly quotes a column claiming "the warmists" (Pollowitz's word) are guilty of "attribut[ing to global warming almost any unusual weather event anywhere in the world."
Seeing Greg Pollowitz, of all people, pretend to disapprove of using "almost any unusual weather event anywhere in the world" to bolster an argument about global warming is utterly hilarious. It's like seeing Andrew Hayward complain that his neighbor's dog relieved itself in his swimming pool: Even if it's a legitimate complaint, he probably isn't the best person to make it.
See, Greg Pollowitz routinely points to "almost any unusual weather event anywhere in the world" in a lame attempt to undermine the scientific reality of global warming. Actually, he doesn't constrain himself to "unusual" weather events: If it snows in Moscow in February, Pollowitz pretends that means global warming is a hoax. (Record high temperatures in Moscow in December, however, somehow escape his attention.)
Conservative media have claimed the White House's controversial conversations with Rep. Joe Sestak and Andrew Romanoff -- which have been described by experts as "garden-variety politics" -- constituted criminal activity. But when Bush administration official Scooter Libby was investigated, tried, and convicted, conservative media decried it as "criminalizing politics."
National Review's Ed Whelan throws the kitchen sink at Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan:
In addition to her kicking military recruiters off Harvard's campus during wartime* and being paid for a comfy position on a Goldman Sachs advisory board, this passage (from this article) nicely captures Elena Kagan's remoteness from the lives of most Americans:Kagan ... is such a product of New York City that she did not learn to drive until her late 20s. According to her friend John Q. Barrett, a law professor at St. John's University, it is a skill she has not yet mastered.
Now, my first reaction to that was shock that Whelan would actually criticize a woman nominated to the nation's highest court for being a bad driver. I can only assume Whelan is now hard at work on a follow-up post portraying Kagan as bad at math.
But that was quickly followed by annoyance at the silly regional warfare Whelan is trying to provoke by painting Kagan as an out-of-touch New Yorker. First, as Matt Gertz notes, that's a mindless smear of millions of residents of New York City (and, by the way, the kind of geographic bigotry conservatives would rage about if it were directed at Southerners or Midwesterners.)
I was also amused by Whelan's linking of not learning to drive with being a subway-riding city-slicker. See, though I (barely) learned to drive when I was 16, I never got around to getting a driver's license and haven't driven a car since my learner's permit expired shortly thereafter. But I didn't grow up in mid-town Manhattan; I grew up in a town of about 300 people -- a town with no gas station, no stop lights, no ... well, no anything. The nearest movie theater, for example, was about 20 miles away. But I didn't have a car, or the money to buy one. Getting a driver's license would have been a largely symbolic exercise. (Since then, I have lived in Washington, DC, where driving is not particularly necessary.)
To be sure, most people I knew growing up -- and most people I know now -- know how to drive. But I'm quite certain that there are plenty of other adults who have negligible driving experience not because they are the embodiment of the conservative caricature of a limo-riding New York City elitist but because they couldn't afford to drive. And I'm quite certain you can find people like that in small cities and towns throughout America. Whelan reveals his own elitist assumptions when he links a lack of driving experience with purported big-city elitism.
* No, Whelan isn't telling the truth: Kagan did not "kick military recruiters off Harvard's campus."
National Review's Kathryn Jean Lopez is bothered by the fact that two consecutive Supreme Court nominees have been women:
On the surface, Lopez seems to be criticizing SCOTUS nominations that take potential nominees' gender into consideration -- but, in reality, she is endorsing exactly that. Lopez's post implies support for a quota system in which (at least) every other SCOTUS nominee must be a man.
I can find no record of Lopez wondering whether women are allowed to be nominated to the high court in the wake of consecutive men ascending to the high court as a result of nominations by President Bush. She did, however, write in 2005 that President Bush should "just go for the best. Quotas be damned" in making Supreme Court nominations. She also wrote in 2005:
There is no good reason that this next pick (or any subsequent one) has to comply with anyone's identity-politics rules.
Identity politics is a dangerous thing. It's all about the soft bigotry of low expectations. For the sake of having female role models on the Court--or whatever your "No Boys Allowed" reasoning or goal is--you say, A woman is not going to make it on her own. She won't rise to the top. She can't compete with the guys.It's unfair to all involved.
Now, just five years later, Lopez endorses "identity politics" by suggesting that (at least) every other nominee should be a man.
I honestly have no idea what Bill Bennett is trying to imply in this nasty little piece about Michelle Obama, but it's quite clear that he's badly distorting her entirely innocuous comments to do so.
Who knew "hackish dishonesty" was a virtue?
Following the announcement that President Obama agreed to issue an executive order reaffirming that the recently passed health reform bill maintains current law on federal funding for abortion, conservative media continued to falsely claim that the bill contains federal funding for abortion. In fact, the bill bans federal funding for abortion except in cases currently allowed under the Hyde amendment: rape, incest, and conditions that endanger the life of the pregnant woman.
National Review's Rich Lowry asserts something "most liberals haven't said and can't admit to the public or to themselves":
They care about health care so much that they are willing to resort to any maneuver to pass it. Many liberals have portrayed it as practically an everyday occurrence that far-reaching, historic social legislation lacking 60 votes in the Senate is passed through the reconciliation process. This is nonsense. Why not say that an end this important justifies almost any means, and Republicans, in the same position, would probably do the same thing? This would have the ring of truth about it. But such a concession would add another political burden to a bill with plenty of them already. Better to pretend that nothing extraordinary is going on.
Of course, health care reform has already passed the Senate, having got the 60 votes in needed in order to do so. Reconciliation isn't being used to pass "far-reaching, historic social legislation," it is being used to pass comparably small changes to that legislation.
You almost have to be impressed by someone who is willing to be so completely misleading in order to criticize criticize other people for (supposedly) not telling the truth. Almost.
National Review's Rich Lowry writes of health care reform: "If the bill becomes law, it will suffer a legitimacy gap that will make it vulnerable to repeal." But Lowry's reasons why health care reform will lack "legitimacy" don't make much sense -- and at least one is clearly dishonest.
First, Lowry notes the bill "will have passed on strictly partisan votes. ...Support from the minority party would show that it has the kind of broad, sustainable base of support it now lacks as the spawn of a heedless ideological bender." Lowry overstates the extent to which a lack of bipartisan support in Congress makes legislation appear illegitimate, particularly after the fact. No Republicans voted for Bill Clinton's 1993 budget -- a fact that, in the following years, undermined Republicans more than the budget. And the Senate vote to authorize President Bush to use force in Iraq won the support of several Democrats -- but I don't see many people pointing to that vote as a great moment in Senate history.
Next, Lowry writes:
Two, its skids were greased with rotten deals. Democrats hope to eliminate the special provisions that have tarred the bill in a separate package of "fixes." Regardless, the bill wouldn't exist in its current form if key senators hadn't been bought off with hundreds of billions of dollars in legislative bribes. That taint can't be undone.
Those weren't "bribes." They were "negotiations." That's what happens in legislative bodies in order to secure sufficient votes for passage. I'm quite certain Rich Lowry is not prepared to argue against the legitimacy of any legislation that is passed after individual members hold out for the inclusion of provisions they favor. "Bribes" are different things entirely, and they are illegal.
Three, a parliamentary trick is necessary to its final passage. Because Democrats no longer have 60 votes for the bill in the Senate, they have to pass their fixes under "reconciliation," short-circuiting the normal amendment process.
First, "the bill" has already passed the Senate. The "normal amendment process" is what happens before a bill passes. Reconciliation is a means of tweaking legislation that has already passed. Nothing is being "short circuited" -- the bill already went through the "normal amendment process" before it passed the Senate, winning 60 votes to overcome a filibuster in the process. And reconciliation isn't a "parliamentary trick," it's a part of the rules. When Rich Lowry loses a hand of poker, does he complain that his adversary's full house defeated his pair of 4s only because of a "trick"? Does he think a batter who reaches base via a walk does so by illegitimate trickery?
Next, Lowry insists "the bill has been sold under deliberately false pretenses. ...Obama insists that it will cut the deficit, bend the cost curve down, and reduce premiums, when it's likely to do the opposite on all three counts."
Lowry must be using some definition of "deliberately false" that I'm unfamiliar with -- one that requires neither intent nor falsity. See, the Congressional Budget Office says health care reform will reduce deficits -- that's a big part of why Barack Obama says health care reform will reduce deficits. But in Rich Lowry's fantasy world, it's "deliberately false" to rely on the CBO's projections. You should, instead, accept Rich Lowry's completely unsubstantiated assertions.
Now, it's pretty much inconceivable that Rich Lowry is unaware of CBO's projections. So when Lowry writes that it is "deliberately false" to say something that is consistent with CBO's projections, one of two things must be true: Either Rich Lowry knows that Barack Obama knows that CBO is wrong, or Rich Lowry is being deliberately dishonest.
National Review's web site leads with a column by Heritage Foundation's Michael Franc opposing the use of reconciliation to pass changes to health care reform. Unfortunately, Franc's column is deeply disingenuous, from the one-word headline ("Unprecedented") that manages to be false despite its brevity to the closing sentence, in which Franc demonstrates that his objection to the use of the tactic is utterly unprincipled.
Franc begins by referring to reconciliation as "arcane," which is a spectacularly loaded term to describe a legislative tactic that has been used to pass some of the highest-profile legislation of the past quarter century, including welfare reform and George W. Bush's tax cuts. Franc goes on:
Senator Reid ... argues that the reconciliation process has been used many times over the last three decades - usually, he claims, at the instigation of Republicans.
"He claims"? Well, is it true? Yes! It is true: "16 of 21 reconciliation bills were Republican." But using the loaded word "claims," Franc falsely implies that Reid wasn't telling the truth. Franc later claims he cannot detect any "pattern" in the use of reconciliation. He should check in with Joshua Tucker.
The Congressional Research Service reports that 19 reconciliation measures have been enacted into law since the procedure's first use in the twilight of the Carter administration. It was attempted, but failed, a couple of times more. Reconciliation has been used for virtually all imaginable scenarios - save one: There is no precedent for using it to enact a once-in-a-generation rewrite of the relationship between Americans and their government that appeals exclusively to one side of the aisle.
Do I really need to point out that this is because "once-in-a-generation" legislation doesn't come along very often? How many times does Franc expect a legislative practice that has been around for little more than 30 years to have been used to enact "once-in-a-generation" legislation?
More broadly, Franc is setting conditions that just don't matter. Reconciliation has never* been used on the third Sunday of the fifth month of the year, either, but who cares? That isn't a legitimate reason not hold a reconciliation vote on May 16; it's just trivia. Likewise, Franc's complaint that the legislation "appeals exclusively to one side of the aisle" is meaningless. There is nothing in Senate rules or in logic that deems legislation that Senate Republicans don't support less legitimate than legislation Senate Republicans do support. Nothing.
Also worth noting: Republicans have used reconciliation to pass measures that lacked meaningful Democratic support.
Even the current Senate concurs that reconciliation ought not to be used for such mega-bills. Last April, 67 senators - including 26 Democrats and then-Republican Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania - supported a resolution to prohibit reconciliation from being used to advance that other mega-bill lurking out there, the cap-and-trade climate-control bill.
Our custom has always been to subject such bigger-than-life bills to a rigorous vetting process that allows affected parties to scrutinize the pros and cons and examine alternatives before ultimately arriving at a broad and bipartisan consensus.
That might be interesting, if anybody was talking about passing the entire health insurance reform package through reconciliation. But nobody is. The Senate has already passed reform, and done so without using reconciliation. Reconciliation is being contemplated as a means of passing a much smaller package of changes to that legislation. So invoking the specter of "bigger than life bills" is irrelevant and misleading. And there's basically no chance Franc doesn't realize as much.
Eventually, Franc acknowledges that Republicans passed a 2003 tax cut package that was "was too much for the Democrats" via reconciliation. But that, Franc writes, was OK, because Republicans did well in the next elections:
This time, the political fallout was quite different. President Bush and his fellow Republicans actually prospered at the polls in the 2004 presidential election.
Reconciliation can yield political dividends, it seems. But only when it's used to force through controversial and consequential tax cuts.
So it seems Franc's opposition to the use of reconciliation for health care isn't actually about any principle; he doesn't really think it matters if legislation passed through reconciliation "appeals exclusively to one side of the aisle."
* As far as I know.
Last Thursday, Reuters reported that January, like November and the last decade, was quite warm:
"January, according to satellite (data), was the hottest January we've ever seen," said Nicholls of Monash University's School of Geography and Environmental Science in Melbourne.
"Last November was the hottest November we've ever seen, November-January as a whole is the hottest November-January the world has seen," he said of the satellite data record since 1979.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said in December that 2000-2009 was the hottest decade since records began in 1850, and that 2009 would likely be the fifth warmest year on record. WMO data show that eight out of the 10 hottest years on record have all been since 2000.
Strangely, though, this report cannot be found on National Review's "Planet Gore" blog, where they think that a snowy Moscow winter is evidence that global warming is a hoax. I'm sure National Review's obsessive global warming denialists just missed teh Reuters report.
It snowed in Moscow -- Moscow, mind you, not Havana -- and so National Review's Greg Pollowitz was compelled to make a crack about global warming:
I can only assume conservative journalists are compelled to take some sort of oath never to let facts or science get in the way of a bad joke.
UPDATE: A reminder:
National Review editor Rich Lowry claims it was liberals who said President Clinton's first-term approach to economic and budgetary woes wouldn't work:
Obama is not the first president to take office amid a deteriorating budgetary picture. So did Bill Clinton in 1992. He responded by jettisoning the $200 billion "investment" program he promised in the campaign and adopting a deficit-reduction program in its stead. He caterwauled privately about losing his political soul, and his left-wing supporters predicted economic gloom. A decade of rollicking good times ensued.
I can understand why Lowry wants to hug Bill Clinton's economic policies -- they helped slash the deficit and create an economic boom, while conservative presidents have run up massive deficits. But if Lowry wants us to believe that liberals were the ones who opposed Clinton's successful economic policies, maybe he can explain why Clinton's 1993 budget passed without a single Republican vote?
The reason, of course, is that conservatives (wrongly) predicted that Clinton's policies would result in "economic gloom."
Kasich didn't keep his word; he is currently running for governor of Ohio as a Republican.
Of course, Republican members of Congress weren't the only conservatives predicting "economic gloom" as a result of Clinton's stewardship of the economy. It was also conservative media like ... National Review.
On September 18, 1993, National Journal described two prominent conservative magazines' coverage of Clinton's economic policies:
The cover of a package of National Review articles sent free to new subscribers is headlined "Is America Heading for a Clinton Economic Apocalypse?" An illustration features a quartet of hooded horse riders: Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton in the middle, flanked by Vice President Albert Gore Jr. and budget director Leon E. Panetta. Both the Review and the Spectator preach a free-market gospel of the timeless virtues of low tax rates and minimal bureauracy. Contrary views aren't brooked; the Spectator's September issue set the tone with a "Dead Wrong" editorial by Tyrell that began and ended with the argument that "everything" Clinton believes about the economy "is wrong."
And in August of 1993, William F. Buckley wrote in a column in the Miami Herald:
Economist Stephen Moore brings a different perspective to the question. He writes (in National Review): "In voting on Bill Clinton's economic plan, Democrats must choose whether to torpedo the Clinton presidency or the U.S. economy. It is generally assumed that they will dutifully opt for the latter."
And now, National Review editor Rich Lowry writes -- under the headline "The Budget Poseur" -- that it was the liberals who predicted that Clinton's economic policies wouldn't work.
In comments before and during President Obama's first State of the Union address, several media conservatives have accused him of being arrogant. Fox Business Networks' John Stossel said that he wanted Obama to apologize for being arrogant during his speech and John Hood stated on National Review's The Corner blog that Obama's "cadence and rhythm" "come across as flippant and arrogant."