Friday - Tune of the Day

Elvis Costello - (I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea (Live)

Oh no it does not move me
Even though I've seen the movie
I don't want to check your pulse
I don't want nobody else

SOTU Reax

Via DailyDish

DiA:

I think it's a solid speech: pragmatic advocacy mixed with appeals to American ideals of an earthy sort; not city-on-a-hill stuff, but help-your-grandmother-across-the-street ideals. He can do this every day, and he can do it intelligently and, at times, even beautifully. To what avail, though, if he doesn't follow through and produce some real and measurable achievements?

Josh Green:

Tax incentives, small-business veneration, glorification of the entrepreneur, chest-thumping on competition, and even a bit of nationalism. Obama articulates Republican policies better than Republicans do. Doesn't look sour and mean, or like he wants to bite somebody.

Jon Cohn:

What Obama didn't do -- ask to "pass the Senate bill." But not sure this was moment for that.

Joe Klein:

This was Obama at his best. He wasn't cuddly, but who cares? He was smart and he was funny--and he was drop-dead serious about the country. The speech should do him some good, but it's not enough. Now he has to preside, in the true sense of the term.

Crowley:

I'm a little surprised by the gays in the military vow. You know Rahm still has nightmares about Clinton's experience. The generals were notably stone-faced.

Ambinder:

Most remarkable: Secretary of Defense Bob Gates applauded Obama's words [on DADT]. And Americans saw him applauding, thanks to the director's cut-aways. Which means that, for the most part, the military is on notice: the policy is ending, and ending very soon. Said Obama: "This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. Because it's the right thing to do." One note: the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the chiefs didn't applauded. But that's the protocol. They don't applaud by tradition.

538:

Obama is making a lot of arguments tonight that the WH should have been making for months now.

Yuval Levin:

[The speech] won’t make much of a difference either way—and it wouldn’t have even if it had been a much better or a much worse speech. But it’s interesting as an indication of where the administration’s thinking is at the moment. It really didn’t suggest the sharp pivot everyone has thought was coming: he was very defensive of everything he has done all year. But it also didn’t suggest a renewed determination to pursue his agenda: the speech was very vague and not very energetic. The Massachusetts election has certainly left the Democrats disoriented, and it showed tonight.

McArdle:

[T]he most interesting part of the speech is where he threatens to veto any financial bill that doesn't really take on the banks. The proposals he unveiled last week to limit the size of bank liabilities, and dismantle their proprietary trading desks, were greeted with acclaim by many financial journalists, but it is widely believed that legislators like Senator Dodd will simply kill them in committee. If he's willing to risk ending up with nothing, that may be smart politics--and perhaps smart regulation. But that's a very daring move for a president who has so far proved extremely reluctant to take on his congress.

DiA II:

This is a much looser SOTU than I got used to under George Bush--much more house of commons--applause is shorter, but more frequent, jeers are obvious, Mr Obama is anticipating it and working off Republican hostility like a stage comic with hecklers.

Yglesias:

This is a brilliant speech. Realistically won't do any good unless senate centrists grow consciences, unemployment falls.

Mark Levin:

I have watched many, many State of the Union speeches. This is the most partisan, least presidential of them all. His rhetoric, his glances at the GOP side, and his almost mocking tone at times — not to mention his over-the-top dissembling about the deficit, among other things — will not, I predict, improve his position with the public. Nor should it.

Ezra Klein:

This health-care section is good. Obama is smart to admit that people are skeptical and to blame it on process and bad communication.

Josh Marshall:

Listening to this litany, I'm reminded how Republicans are on the wrong side -- just politically, let alone on policy -- of most signature issues in a populist economic moment. I think there were zero Republicans standing up on any part of Obama's financial reform agenda -- something that polls exceedingly well in addition to being good public policy.

Drum:

That's it for healthcare. Seemed a little bloodless to me. Didn't really explain his plan very well, and never stood up for anything more specific than "Let us find a way to come together and finish the job for the American people." I was hoping for more, but maybe I expect too much.

JPod:

David Brooks makes the point that much of the policy mentioned here—tax cuts, pay-as-you-go, nuclear power, offshore drilling—was far more moderate than his administration has been thus far. So was it a pivot? Almost certainly not. He was claiming that the mantle of moderation had characterized his administration thus far. And it’s hard to believe that he’s going to mention nuclear power or offshore drilling ever again, or pay-as-you-go. Tax cuts you’ll hear.

Greg Sargent:

Tonight’s speech — with its mix of his charm and good humor, his calls for transcending partisanship and bickering, his appeal to lawmakers’ better nature — seemed designed to restore that transcendent glow he enjoyed so long ago. To pull him out of the D.C. muck and get people to see him as being on their side again. We’ll see if it works.

Thursday - Tune of the Day

David Bowie - Absolute Beginners

The State of The Union: All The Good Parts

Via Gawker

Ah, the State of the Union address. 68 minutes of political theater sandwiched between hours of political punditry with a delicious side of everybody live-blogging it. There were some awkward moments and some serious ones, and some talk about gays.

First up was the requisite bragging about all the great stuff Obama did in the last year. Biggest thing: Just a little thing he likes to call saving the entire country from total economic meltdown. But Obama would also acknowledge in a funny way the unpopularity of the bank bailout that saved the world:

Our most urgent task upon taking office was to shore up the same banks
that helped cause this crisis. It was not easy to do. And if there's
one thing that has unified Democrats and Republicans, it's that we all
hated the bank bailout. I hated it. You hated it. It was about as
popular as a root canal.

Ha ha, everyone hates banks!

Then there were all tax cuts Obama. People loves tax cuts as much as they hate banks. At least, that's what Obama thought; but, no, only Democrats applauded his tax cuts. Obama acknowledged this paradox with a cute little off-the-cuff remark, pointing to Republicans and saying "I thought I'd get applause for that."

That was sort of awkward. Also awkward was how Obama bashed the Supreme Court as they sat right in the front row in their funny dresses, trying not to make eye contact with dad as he scolded them:

Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for
special interests – including foreign corporations – to spend without
limit in our elections. Well I don't think American elections should
be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by
foreign entities.

And there were other awkward parts: Like when Obama was talking about the tax freeze and dismissed his critics with a "That's how budgeting works." And how he announced his plan to set up monthly meetings with GOP leaders with a snappy "I know you can't wait." What's with all the jaunty japes and jabs? We were almost expecting an iPad period joke.

But Obama got serious when talking about how the economy is in the tank, and we have a bunch of heavy problems that need to be fixed. This is what pundits like to call the "laundry list," which always confused us because who makes a list when they're doing laundry? Is it a list of every item of clothing you're cleaning, or what? Maybe a shopping list would be a more appropriate metaphor.

If it was a shopping list, then the first thing on there would be organic, locally-sourced jobs. Jobs are really in right now. Everyone wants one! Obama spent like 20 minutes talking about jobs; about the small business owners who provide them and the random people he met somehow who don't have them. Jobs working on the railroad; jobs in clean energy. Jobs.

Also, gays. Gays will be able to shoot guns for us in the military soon, if Obama has his way:

My Administration has a Civil Rights Division that is once again prosecuting civil rights violations and employment discrimination. We finally strengthened our laws to
protect against crimes driven by hate. This year, I will work with
Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay
Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are.

But it wasn't all boring list-type stuff. Obama also made many references to the tough spot he's found himself in these past couple weeks and months. Everyone was wondering what the hell Obama was going to say about the health care bill he spent so much time on, now that it looks about to be shot down by a naked senator. Turns out the main problem was that he didn't "explain it" clearly enough? He should have plenty of time to explain himself better, though, since he made it clear that he will continue the health care fight.

this is a complex issue, and the longer it was debated, the
more skeptical people became. I take my share of the blame for not
explaining it more clearly to the American people. And I know that
with all the lobbying and horse-trading, this process left most
Americans wondering what's in it for them.

Perhaps most interesting was when he invoked his own campaign slogan—almost wistfully—in reflecting on the hardships he's faced:

I campaigned on the promise of change – change we can believe in, the
slogan went. And right now, I know there are many Americans who
aren't sure if they still believe we can change – or at least, that I
can deliver it.

But remember this – I never suggested that change would be easy, or
that I can do it alone. Democracy in a nation of three hundred
million people can be noisy and messy and complicated. And when you
try to do big things and make big changes, it stirs passions and
controversy. That's just how it is.

Sort of hopeful, kind of feisty, and grimly determined. That's just how the SOTU was.

Dear Conservative Movement: Stop Ruining My Life

Via The Awl

Dear Conservative Movement,

That was crazy in Massachusetts! Right? I mean, it was like two months ago that liberals were all up in our faces. They said, “NY-23! We beat that Doug Hoffman, teabaggers!” Yeah. They beat a third-party candidate. And then Ted Kennedy’s still-warm seat was just handed to us. They can console themselves with a congressional district, while we strangle the most important liberal reform since the Johnson administration.

So, yeah. We’re supposed to be happy. I know we’re all talking about the glory days of 1994, or 1984. I’m sure there is some mid-level staffer at National Review, trying to conjure the tears of Barry Goldwater on behalf of Scott Brown. But in case you’ve forgotten, even by your own standards, you’re kind of in terrible shape.

First, you’re obsessed with yourself. You try everything in the culture—The Incredibles, Wal-Mart, Crocs—and you ask: Is it conservative? This makes us look like creep socialists from the 1930s, debating endlessly about whether something is sufficiently proletariat. Weren’t we supposed to defend truth, beauty, and goodness (like St. Thomas Aquinas?) You ask us to measure Bill Watterson, Bill Cosby and Bill Clinton by one measure: conservative/not conservative.

You go so far as to encourage people to fabricate their entire identity from the Republican platform. Look at S.E. Cupp. She used to be a person! Now, under your influence, she is one of the lamer Rush Limbaugh monologues from the Clinton era. She’s a copy of a copy of Xerox of a rejected P.J. O’Rourke riff. How can you live with yourself, conservative movement?

You may not know this. But all the smartest people on the Right are basically ashamed to be associated with you. Your “success” in building a set of near-permanent institutions, think-tanks, and magazines to promote your ideals in an uncontaminated environment leaves us with two choices:

1) Sell out to the movement. That is, we may occupy ourselves by explaining that whatever the GOP is promoting—whether it be torture, pre-emptive war, Mutually Assured Destruction, or supply-side economics—is an enduring Western value. If John Boehner is doing it, we're supposed to figure out why Edmund Burke would support it.

Or:

2) Sell out the movement. That is, pitch our articles to liberal audiences. Trash the movement (like I’m doing), and trade our actual conservative convictions for the ephemeral respect of our peers.

If one of us tries to walk a fine line between these two, we’ll be accused of either disloyalty by the hacks or of hackery by the principled and aloof. One way merits a secure gig in the movement's intellectual ghetto. The other may win a few of us a higher status but a more insecure job at a respected outlet.

This situation makes actual arguments difficult, since everyone assumes we are simply enacting long-term branding strategies, rather than stating our views honestly. You’ve made it impossible for us to have a conversation.

Because you’ve made yourself a prostitute for the GOP, a cynical and corrupt organization since Reconstruction, all of your young geniuses are tainted. People don’t respect their ideas, because they can’t assume they are genuinely held, rather than cynical ploys to keep Joe Palinsupporter in line.

And so, young conservatives hate themselves. They live in fear that if they do state their actual views, they’ll be forbidden from any meaningful work in the future outside the movement.

The reason Ross Douthat won’t share his views on gay marriage in detail is simple. He knows gay marriage opponents will be portrayed as the Bull Connors of the near-future. And he wants to keep writing film criticism and noodling theology for educated readers.

How many times did William F. Buckley have his tepid, once-moderate sounding defense of segregation quoted to him? A million times. By liberals, and paleo-conservative racists both. But Buckley was indestructible. Douthat and the rest of us aren’t. We know that for the foreseeable future, liberals have the whip-hand in forming the “prevailing structure of taboos.”

Which brings me to the last point. You’re a failure, and your ambitions are so limited, it makes me cold.

The prelapsarian conservatives of the 30s opposed foreign adventurism and naive Wilsonian internationalism. They wanted to shrink the size of the federal government. In over 70 years, despite massive public spasms of disgust with the federal government, conservatives have only made it larger and stupider.

Let's list how! Eisenhower’s Cold War mobilization, Nixon’s wage and price controls and the EPA, Reagan’s massive expansion of military spending, financed by tax cuts that were sold to the public as “revenue generating.” The process culminated in the hilariously fascist sounding, grant-writing chop shop known as the Department of Homeland Security. So: failure.

Don’t get me started on foreign policy. There we were always at odds. I was a kind of isolationist. Your two unwinnable wars did little to dissuade me on that point.

But then this free market stuff. Live within your means. Fend for yourself. Be responsible. I believed that. But the people you elected didn’t. Bankers, GE, Archers Daniels Midland, military contractors, really all sorts of speculators—they deserved wealth transfers, cheap credit, debt cancellation. These are your welfare queens, conservative movement. Do you know how bad this makes us look, after having attacked poor people and minorities as free-riders?

Anyway, perhaps most grandly, you’ve tried to preserve Christian civilization, in decline since the 60s, or the 20s, or the French Revolution, or since William of Ockham, if you ask Richard Weaver.

Though a minority of us still read and adhere to some hearty theology, Dutch Calvinism, Tractarianism or Latin-Mass Catholicism, you’ve abandoned your charges and America to Jesus-is-my-Boyfriend style mega-churches. If the choice is between listening to the wisdom of Kirk Cameron and singing Jars of Clay songs and pledging our virginity versus going to college, reading Kant and fornicating? I can tell you, categorically, we’ll be going at it like heathens and Democrats.

But perversely, you seem to thrive on this sort of failure. You’ve always accused liberals of creating social ills with government programs, immediately followed by proposing government programs for said social ills. The same is true of you. The more anxiety we have about family breakdown, the more we donate to the Heritage Foundation. Because the cure for deracinated social atomism is obviously a white paper.

The only thing you’re really good at is preserving the conservative movement. And that project bored me to tears.

I will admit it. There was something I found seductive about you. If someone wants to shout "Abortion is disgusting" (it is) or "Taxes suck" (they do) or "Let's defend America First!" (always), they can find a place to do it in the conservative movement. If they are presentable enough to date women, within two years or so, they'll be writing for conservative magazines, appearing on conservative podcasts, maybe even hanging out with elected officials.

It begins with one unshakable intellectual conviction in college, like "Entrepreneurs are awesome!" (a little Randian for me), or "modernity is chaos"—and suddenly someone is a part of a movement staffed with other bright, young, idealistic conservatives who think, drink and talk like they do. Privately, they even complain about you, like I do.

But it doesn’t take long for the nausea to set in. You start teaching us to embrace an inferiority complex, one that makes us feel like rebels, while making us more dependent your largesse.

You've tried to sweet-talk me—to convince me that a Kenyan socialist is sleeping in the same bedroom once occupied by Saint Ronnie, the divorced patron saint of union-busting.

But, we’re done. I tried to “improve you,” from my associate editor perch at a dissenting conservative magazine. Now? I wish you would go away. You’re an obstacle, taking every civic impulse of your audience and turning it into rotten populism. You turn every bit of goodwill and honest anxiety into a sleazy direct-mail fundraiser.

Some of us want to actually conserve what is good about this country. Some of us want to write fiction that has nothing to do with “conservatism,” as you call it. Some of us just can’t swallow our embarrassment anymore.

Regards,

Michael

P.S. Scott Brown is what you used to call a “squish.” So, you’re settling too.

Michael Brendan Dougherty is (still) a contributing editor to The American Conservative.

As of this writing S.E. Cupp was one of his Facebook friends.

FLASHBACK: 31 House Republicans Supported Resolution Honoring Alleged Felon James O'Keefe

Via Matt Finkelstein

Today, the FBI arrested James O'Keefe, the conservative activist who posed as a pimp and filmed the undercover videos that led Congress to defund ACORN. O'Keefe is accused of participating in a conspiracy to wiretap the New Orleans office of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA). According to NOLA.com:

Also arrested were Joseph Basel, Stan Dai and Robert Flanagan, all 24. Flanagan is the son of William Flanagan, who is the acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, the office confirmed. All four were charged with entering federal property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony.

According to the FBI affidavit, Flanagan and Basel entered the federal building at 500 Poydras Street about 11 a.m. Monday, dressed as telephone company employees, wearing jeans, fluorescent green vests, tool belts, and hard hats. When they arrived at Landrieu's 10th floor office, O'Keefe was already in the office and had told a staffer he was waiting for someone to arrive.

As Dave Weigel notes, "O'Keefe had become a conservative media star since the ACORN sting." Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) even introduced a resolution praising O'Keefe and his partner, would-be prostitute Hannah Giles, for "their diligent investigative journalism." In a statement announcing the resolution, Olson said, "Hannah and James should be applauded for their efforts to root out corruption and abuse of federal tax dollars." He also claimed O'Keefe was "setting an example for concerned citizens across America."

The following 31 House Republicans cosponsored Olson's measure, which declared that O'Keefe was "owed a debt of gratitude by the people of the United States":

Todd Akin [R-MO2]
Roscoe Bartlett [R-MD6]
Joe Barton [R-TX6]
Rob Bishop [R-UT1]
Jo Bonner [R-AL1]
John Boozman [R-AR3]
Paul Broun [R-GA10]
Henry Brown [R-SC1]
John Campbell [R-CA48]
John Carter [R-TX31]
Howard Coble [R-NC6]
Tom Cole [R-OK4]
Michael Conaway [R-TX11]
John Culberson [R-TX7]
Mary Fallin [R-OK5]
Trent Franks [R-AZ2]
Louis Gohmert [R-TX1]
Kay Granger [R-TX12]
Ralph Hall [R-TX4]
Jim Jordan [R-OH4]
Steve King [R-IA5]
John Kline [R-MN2]
Doug Lamborn [R-CO5]
Blaine Luetkemeyer [R-MO9]
Daniel Lungren [R-CA3]
Kenny Marchant [R-TX24]
Joseph Pitts [R-PA16]
Bill Posey [R-FL15]
Phil Roe [R-TN1]
Jean Schmidt [R-OH2]
John Shadegg [R-AZ3]

Read the full resolution below:

Whereas Hannah Giles and James O'Keefe III filmed investigatory videos uncovering the fraudulent and illegal practices of the Association of Community Organization for Reform Now (ACORN);

Whereas the House of Representatives voted to completely defund ACORN on September 17, 2009;

Whereas these videos resulted in the potential annual savings of millions of taxpayer dollars to organizations that contract with ACORN;

Whereas Hannah Giles and James O'Keefe III have displayed exemplary actions as government watchdogs and young journalists uncovering wasteful government spending; and

Whereas Hannah Giles and James O'Keefe III are owed a debt of gratitude by the people of the United States: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives-

(1) honors Hannah Giles and James O'Keefe III for their work as investigative journalists;

(2) commends Hannah Giles and James O'Keefe III for bringing to light the fraudulent behavior of the Association of Community Organization for Reform Now (ACORN) and helping save millions of taxpayer dollars that otherwise would have funded ACORN; and

(3) respectfully requests the Clerk of the House to transmit an enrolled copy of this resolution to Hannah Giles and James O'Keefe III.