Republican Hysteria

So the head of the RNC, Michael Steel thinks the Recovery Act is no good because it only produces work and not jobs.  Alan Keyes doesn’t think President Obama is really a citizen and besides, he, Obama, is a well known communist.  Today a number of Republican Governors have rejected stimulus money.

Bob Cesca has a good post on Huffington Post.  His rant is excellent.  I don’t think he would be able to talk Rachel Maddow down about this.  One great observation

Yes, the Republicans have claimed to have “found their voice.” If this is true, then their “voice” sounds exactly like Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge and Michelle Malkin, depending on the day.

So what are these voices saying exactly?

For starters, Rush Limbaugh — the de facto leader of the Republican Party — said on his show Tuesday that the entire economic meltdown was actually precipitated by a conspiracy between George Soros and a cabal of billionaire liberals who deliberately sought to sabotage the world economy in order to get Barack Obama elected.

He, of course, has no real evidence for this, other than what the shadow people told him while he was tweaking his TV remotes.

Okay, so I made up the part about the shadow people, but the rest is seriously what Limbaugh was telling his audience of dittoheads yesterday. What Limbaugh doesn’t know, however, is that Soros is actually a hobbit who’s conspiring with Elvis to fake another Moon landing. (Shh!)

They have indeed totally lost their shpadoinkle and despite purely involuntary spikes in my blood pressure, it’s so much fun to watch. By successfully debunking their lies, rising above their bait and merely presenting a contrast of character, President Obama is making the Republican A-listers appear small, petty and absolutely befuddled. They’re frantically struggling to figure out how to counterpunch, so they’re grabbing, borrowing or downright plagiarizing ideas from anywhere, irrespective of the general quality of the idea. And if the Republicans are at all interested in continued survival, someone they respect should probably smack their hands and scold: Drop that filthy Limbaugh quote! You don’t know where it’s been!

But if this is their “voice” and they’re satisfied with it, I for one welcome the new Republican “voice” and wish them a hearty and very sincere: Good luck with that.

But seriously.  I think Alan Keyes, the New York Post cartoon, and other Republican outbursts come very close to threatening the President’s life.  Political opposition is one thing:  inciting violence is totally different.

P.D. James, Jill Patton Walsh/Dorothy Sayers

While I’ve been sick, I read P.D. James’ newest book, The Private Patient.  I enjoyed it so much, I went back and reread The Murder Room and The Lighthouse.  James is one of the few mystery novelists I read with a dictionary near by. 

James generally sets her novels in limited community situations – a small museum, on an island, in a country house/clinic and we get to know the residents intimately.  Her descriptions of the interactions between the residents, the police and the physical setting of the story build the narrative puzzle.  When I’m reading, I jump in my mind from one guilty party to the next and don’t settle on anyone in particular until near the very end. 

I also reread the two Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane novels by Jill Patton Walsh.  As I did the first time I read it, I found Thrones, Dominations a fascinating portrait of two very different marriages.  It also provides a glimpse into what happened to Peter and Harriet after Busman’s Honeymoon.  A Presumption of Death is not as strongly plotted (maybe because Patton Walsh rather than Sayers outlined the story), but I love the descriptions of life in wartime England.

Some Thoughts on President Obama’s First Month

I realize I’ve been neglecting my blog recently, but my excuse is that I had the flu last week.  I know that having a flu shot is supposed to prevent this, but as the nurse practitioner said, “It probably made a 5 to 7 day event into a 3 to 5 day one.”  Didn’t make me feel better, but at least I only missed 3 days of work.  Have to be there to help the City of Boston spend the stimulus bucks, you know.

So, how is the new President – and he is new even though it seems forever already – doing?  As Eugene Robinson wrote in the Washington Post on February 17

This is a presidency on steroids. Barack Obama’s executive actions alone would be enough for any new administration’s first month: decreeing an end to torture and the Guantanamo prison, extending health insurance to more children, reversing Bush-era policies on family planning. That the White House also managed to push through Congress a spending bill of unprecedented size and scope — designed both to provide an economic stimulus and reorder the nation’s priorities — is little short of astonishing.

I do wish that the Recovery Act (aka Stimulus Bill) had fewer tax cuts and more infrastruture, education, and arts money, but as Chris Hayes wrote in The Nation

Whatever its shortcomings, there is a lot of good stuff in the bill. As just one example: my parents were visiting this weekend and the whole time my dad, who works in public health in poor neighborhoods, was receiving promising updates on  his blackberry about just how much potential funding there would be for some of their programs.

As I said, there is money to spend.  So what of the Republican argument that taking the money means that there will be the expectation that programs – which the states can’t afford – will continue after the two years of the Recovery Act?  The main point of contention seems to be extention of unemployment benefits.  I’m afraid I don’t undertand the argument.  Hopefully in two years, other parts of the Recovery Act will have created jobs and there will no longer be a need to have massive unemployment benefits.

I have to admit that I worry about the Obama administration’s reluctance to consider prosecuting Bush administration officials.  I worry that we will somehow backslide on things like extraordinary rendition and the right of the prisoners to come to trial.  But then I am reassured by articles like Alexander Zaitchik’s recent post on AlterNet titled 5 Great Progressive Moves by Obama You Might Have Missed.  Zaitchik lists high speed rail funding, arms control, review of faith-based initiatives, broadband, and a reform minded drug czar.

Beyond all these concrete actions is political savvy.  I believe that Obama’s getting out of Washington to sell the Recovery Act and explain it to ordinary people in a setting where people were not pre-screened for their political views, was a smart move and may have saved it as Congress saw the reactions of those in the audience.  While it didn’t get any Republican votes, I think it helped with some of the Blue Dog Democrats.  We also saw his attempts to be bipartisan which were rebuffed by the Republicans.  As Chris Hayes points out

On the politics side of the ledger, Ben Smith notes Obama’s emphasis on the tax cuts in the bill. I’m not necessarily a fan, though politically it’s true that every single Republican member of congress can now be accused of “Voting against the biggest tax cut in history” come next election.” Clearly, this hasn’t escaped the White House’s notice.