In the USA...United Surveillance America
October 4, 2013Frankenstein Goes to Congress
By GAIL COLLINS
Our question for today is: Why don’t the Republicans just throw in the towel? Really, this is not going well for anybody.
Lots of reasons. There’s Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, the General Patton of the government shutdown. And people like the Republican in the House who said he and his colleagues “have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.” Also, Ted Cruz.
“So many Democrats have invoked my name as the root of all evil in the world,” Cruz complained on the floor of the Senate Friday. This is true. Senate Republicans merely regard him as the root of most of the evil in the world.
But here’s my long-term theory. Over the past few years, Republicans have terrified their most fervent followers about Obamacare in order to disguise the fact that they no longer knew what to say about their old bête noir, entitlements. Now they can’t turn the temperature down.
Let’s review. Not so very long ago, worrying about entitlements was central to Republican identity. Then, they began to notice that the folks at their rallies looked like the audience for “Matlock” reruns. The base was aging, and didn’t want to change Social Security or Medicare. The base didn’t even want to be reminded that Social Security and Medicare were federal programs.
During the last Republican primary debates, Gov. Rick Perry called Social Security a “Ponzi scheme.” Mitt Romney jumped all over him, then raced off to tell a conservative talk show host that if the Republicans nominated someone with Perry’s view on Social Security “we would be obliterated as a party.”
This year, when President Obama proposed a budget that actually did reduce the rate at which Social Security benefits would rise in the future, the chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee denounced it as “a shocking attack on seniors.”
People like Paul Ryan still fiddled with Medicare, but only in wonkese that didn’t trickle down to the public. There were vague references to the need to “protect” programs for the elderly. But the party had lost its old rallying cry. Enter health care reform.
Just this week, Rick Perry called Obamacare “a criminal act.” He appears to be gearing up for another presidential run, and you are not going to hear any Ponzi talk this time around. However, he’s so set against the new health care law that he’s refusing to let 1.5 million really poor Texans qualify for federally financed coverage. When Rick Perry has a principle, no sacrifice is too great.
All over the nation, Tea Party politicians have been telling their most fervid constituents that Obamacare will bring the federal government into the nation’s health system, thus wrecking the wonderful coverage they now enjoy with Medicare. Which comes into their homes through the chimney, where it is dropped by free-enterprise storks.
Representative John Culberson of Texas called Obamacare “a violation of our most sacred right as Americans to be left alone.” This was during an interview with Salon, in which Culberson waxed wroth about the whole idea of any government intervention into health care.
The interviewer, Josh Eidelson, asked, “What does that mean for Medicare, then?”
“What does that mean for Medicare? What does that have to do with anything?” Culberson demanded.
So there you are. It’s not easy leading a political movement that believes the federal government is at the core of all our problems while depending heavily on the votes of citizens who get both their retirement money and health care from the federal government.
“Obamacare is the most dangerous piece of legislation ever passed in Congress. It is the most existential threat to our economy ... since the Great Depression,” said Representative John Fleming of Louisiana. Think about that for a minute. “Most dangerous piece of legislation ever” really does suggest that it’s worse than, say, the Fugitive Slave Act. On the other hand, how many members of the House of Representatives do you hear throw around the word “existential?” So there’s that.
If you were a fervent Tea Party follower, listening to this kind of talk for the last few years, you’d feel pretty confident that this showdown in Washington could only end one way, right?
“Congressmen, this is about shutting down Obamacare,” wrote Erick Erickson in the influential blog RedState. “Democrats keep talking about our refusal to compromise. They don’t realize our compromise is defunding Obamacare. ... Our endgame is to leave the whole thing shut down until the President defunds Obamacare. And if he does not defund Obamacare, we leave the whole thing shut down.”
They’ve created a monster. And now the rest of the country is turning into peasants with torches, storming their castle.
October 5, 2013Welcome to Ted Cruz’s Thunderdome
By MAUREEN DOWD
A PLACE ONCE CALLED WASHINGTON
AN ape sits where Abe sat.
The year is 2084, in the capital of the land formerly called North America.
The peeling columns of the Lincoln Memorial, and Abe’s majestic head, elegant hands and big feet are partially submerged in sludge. Animals that escaped from the National Zoo after zookeepers were furloughed seven decades ago migrated to the memorials, hunting for food left by tourists.
The white marble monuments are now covered in ash, Greek tragedy ruins overrun with weeds. Tea Party zombies, thrilled with the dark destruction they have wreaked on the planet, continue to maraud around the Hill, eager to chomp on humanity some more.
Dead cherry blossom trees litter the bleak landscape. Trash blows through L’Enfant’s once beautiful boulevards, now strewn with the detritus of democracy, scraps of the original Constitution, corroded White House ID cards, stacks of worthless bills tumbling out of the Treasury Department.
The BlackBerrys that were pried from the hands of White House employees in 2013 are now piled up on the Potomac as a flood barrier against the ever-rising tide from melting ice caps. Their owners, unable to check their messages, went insane long ago.
Because there was no endgame, the capital’s hunger games ended in a gray void. Because there was no clean bill, now there is only a filthy stench. Because there was no wisdom, now there is only rot. The instigators, it turned out, didn’t even know what they were arguing for. Macho thrusts and feints, competing to win while the country lost.
Thomas Jefferson’s utopia devolved into Ted Cruz’s dystopia.
Law and order broke down as police, who were not getting paid, eventually decided to stay home. The fanatics barricaded in the Capitol dug in, determined to tear down what their idols, the founding fathers, had built. Darkness soon devoured the rest of the country.
Unlike Suzanne Collins’s “The Hunger Games,” where the capital thrived as the nation withered, here, the capital withered first, as the federal city shriveled without federal funds. But, in other ways, it mirrors the fantasy dystopias depicted by Hollywood and Cormac McCarthy in his novel “The Road,” “bloodcults” consuming one another in “an ashen scabland,” a “cold illucid world.”
In 2084, there’s little sign of life in the godless and barren lost world. The insurance exchanges are open and the kinks are almost ironed out. But there is no one to sign up. Koch brother drones patrol the skies. A Mad Max motorcycle gang wielding hacksaws roars through the C.I.A., now a field of dead cornstalks, and the fetid hole that was once Michelle Obama’s organic vegetable garden. Will Smith and Brad Pitt are here, hunting aliens and monsters.
The Navy-Air Force game goes on, somehow, and there are annual CrossFit games on the Mall, led by flesh-eating Dark Seeker Paul Ryan, now 114 years old. CrossFit is still fighting the Department of Agriculture’s food pyramid, even though there’s no Department of Agriculture and no food.
A gaunt man and sickly boy, wrapped in blue tarps, trudge toward the blighted spot that was once the World War II monument, scene of the first shutdown skirmishes. They know they may not survive the winter.
“How did this happen, Papa?” the boy asks.
“Americans had been filled with existential dread since the 9/11 attacks, but they didn’t realize the real danger was coming from inside the government,” the man says. “It started very small with a petty fight over a six-week spending bill but quickly mushroomed out of control.”
“Whose fault was it, Papa?” the boy presses.
The man tries to explain: “The Grand Old Party, the proud haven of patriots who believed in a strong national security and fiscal responsibility, was infected with a mutant form of ideology. It was named the Sarahcuda Strain after the earliest carrier. Remember when you saw that old science fiction movie, ‘I Am Legend’? A scientist described the virus that burned through civilization as being like ‘a very fast car driven by a very bad man.’ That’s what happened: In the infected Tea Party politicians, brain function decreased and social de-evolution occurred. They began ignoring their basic survival instincts.
“It’s hard to believe now, but they were fixated on stopping an effort to get health care to those who couldn’t afford it. It eventually led them to destroy all the things they said they held most dear.”
The boy is confused. “They killed America because they didn’t care about keeping Americans alive?” he asks.
The man sits down. His voice grows faint. “Well, they didn’t seem to understand themselves or what they were doing,” he continues. “In the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, many of the feverish pols believed they were waging the right and moral fight even as G.O.P. party elders like Jeb Bush, John McCain, Karl Rove and James Baker warned them that they were dragging the country toward catastrophe. The Tea Party leaders liked to refer to themselves as the Children of Reagan. But as Baker told Peggy Noonan, Reagan always said, ‘I’d rather get 80 percent of what I want than go over the cliff with my flag flying.’ ”
The boy frowns. “But Papa, didn’t the healthy Republicans realize the infected ones had lower brain functions?”
“Well, son, they knew there was something creepy about the ringleader, Ted Cruz,” the man replies. “His face looked pinched, like a puzzle that had not been put together quite right. He was always launching into orations with a weird cadence and self-consciously throwing folksy phrases into his speeches, like ‘Let me tell ya,’ to make himself seem Texan, when he was really a Canadian.”
The boy looks alarmed. “A Canadian destroyed the world, Papa?”
“Once the government shut down, a plague came, because they had closed the Center for Disease Control,” the man says. “Storms, floods and wildfires raged after FEMA was closed down and the National Guard got decimated.
“Once we went into default, the globe got sucked into the economic vortex. With a lot of the Defense Department, F.B.I., and intelligence community on forced leave, the country became vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Without the C.I.A. to train the moderate Syrian rebels, Syria fell to Al Qaeda.
“After the final American president, Barack Obama, canceled his trip to Asia, that part of the world decided we were weak. China moved quickly to fill the vacuum. Obama grew so disgusted, he spent his final years in office isolated in the White House residence. When he stopped returning the calls of Hassan Rouhani and Bibi Netanyahu, it was only a matter of time before the Middle East went up in flames.
“What is left of the world is being run by Julian Assange from what is left of the Ecuadorean Embassy in London and by some right-wing nut in a cabin in Idaho.”
The boy begins to cry. “Papa, stop. You’re making me sad. Are all the good guys gone?”
Looking through the gray skies toward the ashen Lincoln Memorial, where an ape sits in Abe’s chair, the man replies sadly, “Yes, son.”
******************US government shutdown: Ted Cruz, a maverick who keeps his heartlands happy
The Texan agitator orchestrated the shutdown - and doesn't care if he's not winning friends on the Hill
Dan Roberts Washington and Tom Dart Houston
The Observer, Sunday 6 October 2013
As an appetiser before helping to send the US government into famine mode, Ted Cruz railed against Obamacare on the Senate floor last month in a publicity-seeking speech that lasted more than 21 hours and included a Darth Vader impression and reading Dr Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham as a bedtime story for his daughters, who watched on TV.
While the grandstanding was largely symbolic, Cruz has been more than just a figurehead for the Republican showdown over Obamacare that has prompted a government shutdown. The first-term senator from Texas has emerged as an unofficial envoy between conservatives in the House of Representatives and Senate, spending hours with Tea Party supporters such as congressman Justin Amash to plot what, with hindsight, has been a highly orchestrated plan of attack.
It began over the summer with television ads reminding grassroots conservatives that it was not too late to block Obama's four-year-old Affordable Care Act by cutting off its funding. With expectations raised, Cruz ruffled feathers among mainstream Republicans by helping to bounce House speaker John Boehner into a confrontational stand-off over the normally routine continuing budget resolution.
Cruz is used to mainstream Republican opprobrium – John McCain famously described him and fellow conservative Rand Paul as "wacko birds" – but he briefly became the most hated figure in Congress when he then failed to follow through on his strategy by winning enough support in the Senate, leaving Boehner blamed for shutting down the government.
"[Cruz] pushed House Republicans into traffic and wandered away," sniped tax campaigner Grover Norquist in an interview last week.
Since then, however, "Cruz control" has begun to look more sure-footed again. His strategy of blaming Obama for the shutdown by refusing to negotiate is unlikely to succeed in persuading anyone who has been following proceedings closely, but may confuse ordinary voters enough to blame both sides equally. Republicans have also boxed the White House into a corner by selectively offering to fund ideologically favoured bits of the government such as the military and national monuments. Angrily dismissed as a gimmick by the administration which blocked most of these piecemeal measures but was forced to accept others, this tactic has succeeded in making it look as if Obama wanted to keep as many hostages in the room as possible.
Eventually, Boehner may have to cut a deal with moderate Republicans and Democrats that would end the standoff without scrapping Obamacare, but for now the conservative grassroots could not be happier.
Battling the federal government on almost any issue is a crowd-pleasing tactic in Texas, the most stubborn and independent-minded state in the union. "I think he's doing great," said Beth Cubriel, executive director at the Republican party of Texas. "He's a voice for people who are so frustrated that as long as the president has been in power the conservative view has not been covered."
Cruz won an underdog victory in the Texas Republican primary last year, preaching a fiery rightwing gospel that made his establishment-backed opponent, David Dewhurst, seem moderate and mainstream. As a Latino, Cruz helps Texas Republicans to woo an increasingly important and left-leaning demographic while retaining traditional conservative values – even though he comes across as an upstart outsider.
"He ran very effectively as an anti-establishment candidate, however counter-intuitive that seems for a Harvard-educated lawyer," said Jim Henson, director of the Austin-based Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas.
"We couldn't be prouder of Ted Cruz," said Julie Turner, president of the Texas Patriots PAC, a Tea Party group. "Ted Cruz is the tuning fork for the conservative movement." Turner fondly recalled an impromptu pre-election rally near Houston with Cruz and his wife giving speeches from the back of a pick-up truck: "They spoke our values then he went to Washington and followed them."
While Cruz's rise to fame was sudden, Felicia Cravens of the Houston Tea Party Society said that it was carefully planned: "He's been making the circuit of Tea Party events since 2009. He'd go to meetings of any size, speak to as few as 10 people. He put in the shoe leather early on to make contact with people who could be influence-makers."
The 42-year-old was born in Canada, the son of a Cuban father and American mother. He grew up in Houston and went to Princeton and Harvard Law School, where he was seen as brilliant but arrogant.
Then he worked on George W Bush's 2000 presidential campaign. After a period in Washington, Cruz returned to Texas to become solicitor general, overseeing appeal cases and taking on high-profile supreme court battles on topics such as gun rights, abortion and religious symbols. In one of his proudest moments, he helped to persuade the supreme court that Texas had the right to execute a Mexican national convicted of murder, despite opposition from President Bush and the International Court of Justice, which ruled the case should be reopened.
Polls this year suggest that a quarter of Texans adore him and a similar amount loathe him. On Thursday, several dozen department of defence workers protested outside Cruz's San Antonio office, wielding placards with slogans such as "Ted – go furlough yourself".
Bob Comeaux, a Democratic activist, joined them. "I think he is a very fine advocate for the seven or eight per cent of crazy people in the state of Texas," he said. "I have a niece who's a firefighter who's required to go to work for no pay. What kind of a country is that requires people to work for no pay? In Texas it used to be we'd elect politicians to get something done. Now there's a mentality to send people up there [to DC] to make sure nothing gets done."
A meeting of Senate Republicans on Wednesday turned into an anti-Cruz "lynch mob", according to the New York Times. Alienating colleagues is hardly a recipe for longevity in the Senate, especially if Texans conclude Cruz is more interested in his own future than theirs.
"The shelf-life of a very conservative member of the Senate is short," said Brandon Rottinghaus, associate politics professor at the University of Houston. "It's hard to govern if you're outside the boundaries of your party and your tactics are explosive."
But by the time his Senate seat is up for grabs again in 2018, Cruz presumably hopes his cowboy-booted feet will be on the desk of the Oval Office, a maverick intellectual improbably carried to ultimate power by those who love to hate big government. It would be quite a story to tell.
*****************Cruz complains to Democrats about being seen as ‘the root of all evil in the world’
By David Edwards
Friday, October 4, 2013 13:11 EDT
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on Friday said he had been demonized by his Democratic opponents as the “root of all evil in the world.”
During a Senate floor debate, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) accused Cruz of taking a piecemeal approach to funding the government after he proposed a series of unanimous consent request that would fund specific agencies during the government shutdown without funding President Barack Obama’s health care reform law.
“To deprive our national parks of dollars by advocating shutting the government down and then accuse others, who don’t want to leave 98 percent of the government behind and of the people who work there behind and of the American people who depend on so many other programs — whether it’s student loans or feeding the hungry — is wrong,” Schumer said.
At that point, the Democratic senator from New York proposed modifying Cruz’ piecemeal unanimous consent request, which would have only funded national parks — like the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. — to include funding for the entire government, including the Affordable Care Act.
Schumer noted that the exact same funding proposal had already passed the Senate and reportedly had support of a majority of members of the House.
Cruz, of course, refused to modify his unanimous consent request and insisted that any suggestion that he had advocated shutting down the government was a “flat-out falsehood.”
He went on to say that he appreciated being admonished by his colleagues for breaking Senate rules about impugning other Senators because Democrats also needed to heed that warning.
“You know, it has been several days since I have been to the floor of the Senate, and yet, I feel that I have been here in absentia,” Cruz explained. “Because so many Democrats have invoked my name as the root of all evil in the world.”
“And, indeed, the same Majority Leader that gave an ode to civility, just a few days ago was describing me and anyone who might agree that we should stop the harms of Obamacare, describing us as — quote — anarchists. So, I think the encouragement towards civility is an encouragement that should be heard across the board.”
October 5, 2013A Federal Budget Crisis Months in the Planning
By SHERYL GAY STOLBERG and MIKE McINTIRE
WASHINGTON — Shortly after President Obama started his second term, a loose-knit coalition of conservative activists led by former Attorney General Edwin Meese III gathered in the capital to plot strategy. Their push to repeal Mr. Obama’s health care law was going nowhere, and they desperately needed a new plan.
Out of that session, held one morning in a location the members insist on keeping secret, came a little-noticed “blueprint to defunding Obamacare,” signed by Mr. Meese and leaders of more than three dozen conservative groups.
It articulated a take-no-prisoners legislative strategy that had long percolated in conservative circles: that Republicans could derail the health care overhaul if conservative lawmakers were willing to push fellow Republicans — including their cautious leaders — into cutting off financing for the entire federal government.
“We felt very strongly at the start of this year that the House needed to use the power of the purse,” said one coalition member, Michael A. Needham, who runs Heritage Action for America, the political arm of the Heritage Foundation. “At least at Heritage Action, we felt very strongly from the start that this was a fight that we were going to pick.”
Last week the country witnessed the fallout from that strategy: a standoff that has shuttered much of the federal bureaucracy and unsettled the nation.
To many Americans, the shutdown came out of nowhere. But interviews with a wide array of conservatives show that the confrontation that precipitated the crisis was the outgrowth of a long-running effort to undo the law, the Affordable Care Act, since its passage in 2010 — waged by a galaxy of conservative groups with more money, organized tactics and interconnections than is commonly known.
With polls showing Americans deeply divided over the law, conservatives believe that the public is behind them. Although the law’s opponents say that shutting down the government was not their objective, the activists anticipated that a shutdown could occur — and worked with members of the Tea Party caucus in Congress who were excited about drawing a red line against a law they despise.
A defunding “tool kit” created in early September included talking points for the question, “What happens when you shut down the government and you are blamed for it?” The suggested answer was the one House Republicans give today: “We are simply calling to fund the entire government except for the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare.”
The current budget brinkmanship is just the latest development in a well-financed, broad-based assault on the health law, Mr. Obama’s signature legislative initiative. Groups like Tea Party Patriots, Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks are all immersed in the fight, as is Club for Growth, a business-backed nonprofit organization. Some, like Generation Opportunity and Young Americans for Liberty, both aimed at young adults, are upstarts. Heritage Action is new, too, founded in 2010 to advance the policy prescriptions of its sister group, the Heritage Foundation.
The billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David, have been deeply involved with financing the overall effort. A group linked to the Kochs, Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, disbursed more than $200 million last year to nonprofit organizations involved in the fight. Included was $5 million to Generation Opportunity, which created a buzz last month with an Internet advertisement showing a menacing Uncle Sam figure popping up between a woman’s legs during a gynecological exam.
The groups have also sought to pressure vulnerable Republican members of Congress with scorecards keeping track of their health care votes; have burned faux “Obamacare cards” on college campuses; and have distributed scripts for phone calls to Congressional offices, sample letters to editors and Twitter and Facebook offerings for followers to present as their own.
One sample Twitter offering — “Obamacare is a train wreck” — is a common refrain for Speaker John A. Boehner.
As the defunding movement picked up steam among outside advocates, Republicans who sounded tepid became targets. The Senate Conservatives Fund, a political action committee dedicated to “electing true conservatives,” ran radio advertisements against three Republican incumbents.
Heritage Action ran critical Internet advertisements in the districts of 100 Republican lawmakers who had failed to sign a letter by a North Carolina freshman, Representative Mark Meadows, urging Mr. Boehner to take up the defunding cause.
“They’ve been hugely influential,” said David Wasserman, who tracks House races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “When else in our history has a freshman member of Congress from North Carolina been able to round up a gang of 80 that’s essentially ground the government to a halt?”
On Capitol Hill, the advocates found willing partners in Tea Party conservatives, who have repeatedly threatened to shut down the government if they do not get their way on spending issues. This time they said they were so alarmed by the health law that they were willing to risk a shutdown over it. (“This is exactly what the public wants,” Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, founder of the House Tea Party Caucus, said on the eve of the shutdown.)
Despite Mrs. Bachmann’s comments, not all of the groups have been on board with the defunding campaign. Some, like the Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity, which spent $5.5 million on health care television advertisements over the past three months, are more focused on sowing public doubts about the law. But all have a common goal, which is to cripple a measure that Senator Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican and leader of the defunding effort, has likened to a horror movie.
“We view this as a long-term effort,” said Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity. He said his group expected to spend “tens of millions” of dollars on a “multifront effort” that includes working to prevent states from expanding Medicaid under the law. The group’s goal is not to defund the law.
“We want to see this law repealed,” Mr. Phillips said.
A Familiar Tactic
The crowd was raucous at the Hilton Anatole, just north of downtown Dallas, when Mr. Needham’s group, Heritage Action, arrived on a Tuesday in August for the second stop on a nine-city “Defund Obamacare Town Hall Tour.” Nearly 1,000 people turned out to hear two stars of the Tea Party movement: Mr. Cruz, and Jim DeMint, a former South Carolina senator who runs the Heritage Foundation.
“You’re here because now is the single best time we have to defund Obamacare,” declared Mr. Cruz, who would go on to rail against the law on the Senate floor in September with a monologue that ran for 21 hours. “This is a fight we can win.”
Although Mr. Cruz is new to the Senate, the tactic of defunding in Washington is not. For years, Congress has banned the use of certain federal money to pay for abortions, except in the case of incest and rape, by attaching the so-called Hyde Amendment to spending bills.
After the health law passed in 2010, Todd Tiahrt, then a Republican congressman from Kansas, proposed defunding bits and pieces of it. He said he spoke to Mr. Boehner’s staff about the idea while the Supreme Court, which upheld the central provision, was weighing the law’s constitutionality.
“There just wasn’t the appetite for it at the time,” Mr. Tiahrt said in an interview. “They thought, we don’t need to worry about it because the Supreme Court will strike it down.”
But the idea of using the appropriations process to defund an entire federal program, particularly one as far-reaching as the health care overhaul, raised the stakes considerably. In an interview, Mr. DeMint, who left the Senate to join the Heritage Foundation in January, said he had been thinking about it since the law’s passage, in part because Republican leaders were not more aggressive.
“They’ve been through a series of C.R.s and debt limits,” Mr. DeMint said, referring to continuing resolutions on spending, “and all the time there was discussion of ‘O.K., we’re not going to fight the Obamacare fight, we’ll do it next time.’ The conservatives who ran in 2010 promising to repeal it kept hearing, ‘This is not the right time to fight this battle.’ ”
Mr. DeMint is hardly alone in his distaste for the health law, or his willingness to do something about it. In the three years since Mr. Obama signed the health measure, Tea Party-inspired groups have mobilized, aided by a financing network that continues to grow, both in its complexity and the sheer amount of money that flows through it.
A review of tax records, campaign finance reports and corporate filings shows that hundreds of millions of dollars have been raised and spent since 2012 by organizations, many of them loosely connected, leading opposition to the measure.
One of the biggest sources of conservative money is Freedom Partners, a tax-exempt “business league” that claims more than 200 members, each of whom pays at least $100,000 in dues. The group’s board is headed by a longtime executive of Koch Industries, the conglomerate run by the Koch brothers, who were among the original financiers of the Tea Party movement. The Kochs declined to comment.
While Freedom Partners has financed organizations that are pushing to defund the law, like Heritage Action and Tea Party Patriots, Freedom Partners has not advocated that. A spokesman for the group, James Davis, said it was more focused on “educating Americans around the country on the negative impacts of Obamacare.”
The largest recipient of Freedom Partners cash — about $115 million — was the Center to Protect Patient Rights, according to the groups’ latest tax filings. Run by a political consultant with ties to the Kochs and listing an Arizona post office box for its address, the center appears to be little more than a clearinghouse for donations to still more groups, including American Commitment and the 60 Plus Association, both ardent foes of the health care law.
American Commitment and 60 Plus were among a handful of groups calling themselves the “Repeal Coalition” that sent a letter in August urging Republican leaders in the House and the Senate to insist “at a minimum” in a one-year delay of carrying out the health care law as part of any budget deal. Another group, the Conservative 50 Plus Alliance, delivered a defunding petition with 68,700 signatures to the Senate.
In the fight to shape public opinion, conservatives face well-organized liberal foes. Enroll America, a nonprofit group allied with the Obama White House, is waging a campaign to persuade millions of the uninsured to buy coverage. The law’s supporters are also getting huge assistance from the insurance industry, which is expected to spend $1 billion on advertising to help sell its plans on the exchanges.
“It is David versus Goliath,” said Mr. Phillips of Americans for Prosperity.
But conservatives are finding that with relatively small advertising buys, they can make a splash. Generation Opportunity, the youth-oriented outfit behind the “Creepy Uncle Sam” ads, is spending $750,000 on that effort, aimed at dissuading young people — a cohort critical to the success of the health care overhaul — from signing up for insurance under the new law.
The group receives substantial backing from Freedom Partners and appears ready to expand. Recently, Generation Opportunity moved into spacious new offices in Arlington, Va., where exposed ductwork, Ikea chairs and a Ping-Pong table give off the feel of a Silicon Valley start-up.
Its executive director, Evan Feinberg, a 29-year-old former Capitol Hill aide and onetime instructor for a leadership institute founded by Charles Koch, said there would be more Uncle Sam ads, coupled with college campus visits, this fall. Two other groups, FreedomWorks, with its “Burn Your Obamacare Card” protests, and Young Americans for Liberty, are also running campus events.
“A lot of folks have asked us, ‘Are we trying to sabotage the law?’ ” Mr. Feinberg said in an interview last week. His answer echoes the Freedom Partners philosophy: “Our goal is to educate and empower young people.”
But many on the Republican right wanted to do more.
Mr. Meese’s low-profile coalition, the Conservative Action Project, which seeks to find common ground among leaders of an array of fiscally and socially conservative groups, was looking ahead to last Tuesday, when the new online health insurance marketplaces, called exchanges, were set to open. If the law took full effect as planned, many conservatives feared, it would be nearly impossible to repeal — even if a Republican president were elected in 2016.
“I think people realized that with the imminent beginning of Obamacare, that this was a critical time to make every effort to stop something,” Mr. Meese said in an interview. (He has since stepped down as the coalition’s chairman and has been succeeded by David McIntosh, a former congressman from Indiana.)
The defunding idea, Mr. Meese said, was “a logical strategy.” The idea drew broad support. Fiscal conservatives like Chris Chocola, the president of the Club for Growth, signed on to the blueprint. So did social and religious conservatives, like the Rev. Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition.
The document set a target date: March 27, when a continuing resolution allowing the government to function was to expire. Its message was direct: “Conservatives should not approve a C.R. unless it defunds Obamacare.”
But the March date came and went without a defunding struggle. In the Senate, Mr. Cruz and Senator Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, talked up the defunding idea, but it went nowhere in the Democratic-controlled chamber. In the House, Mr. Boehner wanted to concentrate instead on locking in the across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration, and Tea Party lawmakers followed his lead. Outside advocates were unhappy but held their fire.
“We didn’t cause any trouble,” Mr. Chocola said.
Yet by summer, with an August recess looming and another temporary spending bill expiring at the end of September, the groups were done waiting.
“I remember talking to reporters at the end of July, and they said, ‘This didn’t go anywhere,’ ” Mr. Needham recalled. “What all of us felt at the time was, this was never going to be a strategy that was going to win inside the Beltway. It was going to be a strategy where, during August, people would go home and hear from their constituents, saying: ‘You pledged to do everything you could to stop Obamacare. Will you defund it?’ ”
Heritage Action, which has trained 6,000 people it calls sentinels around the country, sent them to open meetings and other events to confront their elected representatives. Its “Defund Obamacare Town Hall Tour,” which began in Fayetteville, Ark., on Aug. 19 and ended 10 days later in Wilmington, Del., drew hundreds at every stop.
The Senate Conservatives Fund, led by Mr. DeMint when he was in the Senate, put up a Web site in July called dontfundobamacare.com and ran television ads featuring Mr. Cruz and Mr. Lee urging people to tell their representatives not to fund the law.
When Senator Richard M. Burr, a North Carolina Republican, told a reporter that defunding the law was “the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard,” the fund bought a radio ad to attack him. Two other Republican senators up for re-election in 2014, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, were also targeted. Both face Tea Party challengers.
In Washington, Tea Party Patriots, which created the defunding tool kit, set up a Web site, exemptamerica.com, to promote a rally last month showcasing many of the Republicans in Congress whom Democrats — and a number of fellow Republicans — say are most responsible for the shutdown.
While conservatives believe that the public will back them on defunding, a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that a majority — 57 percent — disapproves of cutting off funding as a way to stop the law.
Last week, with the health care exchanges open for business and a number of prominent Republicans complaining that the “Defund Obamacare” strategy was politically damaging and pointless, Mr. Needham of Heritage Action said he felt good about what the groups had accomplished.
“It really was a groundswell,” he said, “that changed Washington from the outside in.”
*************To Understand the Shutdown You Have to Grasp the Mindset of the GOP Base
October 5, 2013
by Joshua Holland
Supporters of Americans For Prosperity and other TEA Party members rally at Leo O'Laughlin Inc. on the eve of President Barack Obama's visit to Macon, Mo. Tuesday evening, April 27, 2010. (AP Photo/Patrick T. Fallon)
It’s widely understood that the government has been shut down by a relatively small number of Republican lawmakers who represent deeply red districts. They’re insulated from public opinion at large. They don’t fear a general election loss to a Democrat; they’re motivated by avoiding a primary challenger from their right flank.
So to fully understand what’s driving the Republican Party’s brinkmanship, one has to look at the motivations of its base voters – how they see the world around them. This lies at the heart of what’s happening in the Capitol today.
Democracy Corps – a Democratic-leaning polling firm – released a study this week based on a series of focus groups they conducted with loyal Republican voters. They divided them up into three sub-groups which together represent the base of the party. Evangelicals represent the largest group, followed by Republicans who identify with the tea party movement. “Moderates,” the third group, make up about a quarter of the party’s base, according to the pollsters.
Fear of a changing society is one thing that unites all three factions. The battle over Obamacare, write the study’s authors, “goes to the heart of Republican base thinking about the essential political battle.”
They think they face a victorious Democratic Party that is intent on expanding government to increase dependency and therefore electoral support. It starts with food stamps and unemployment benefits; expands further if you legalize the illegals; but insuring the uninsured dramatically grows those dependent on government. They believe this is an electoral strategy — not just a political ideology or economic philosophy. If Obamacare happens, the Republican Party may be lost, in their view.
And while few explicitly talk about Obama in racial terms, the base supporters are very conscious of being white in a country with growing minorities. Their party is losing to a Democratic Party of big government whose goal is to expand programs that mainly benefit minorities. Race remains very much alive in the politics of the Republican Party.
They worry that minorities, immigrants, and welfare recipients now believe it is their “right” to claim [public] benefits. Tea Party participants, in particular, were very focused on those who claim “rights” in the form of government services, without taking responsibility for themselves.
They are also unified in their belief that Obama is a usurper who has hoodwinked the public into re-electing him by hiding his true beliefs, which are essentially Marxist. They also think that Democrats have won the major political battles of our time because Republican legislators in Washington didn’t put up a fight.
But there are also deep divisions within the base, according to the analysis. Evangelicals still focus overwhelmingly on social issues. They think gay rights are the biggest threat to our society, but they also worry about the loss of what they see as an idyllic small-town culture. They feel besieged as the cultural ground shifts beneath them, and see themselves as a beleaguered, “politically incorrect” minority.
Tea partiers display a libertarian streak, and are far less concerned with social issues. They are staunchly pro-business. But there’s an easy alliance between these two groups – which make up well over half of the GOP base – because Evangelicals think the tea partiers are fighting back, and vice versa.
Both groups displayed a high level of paranoia, according to the researchers who conducted the study. They noted that this was the first time, in many years of conducting focus groups, that participants worried that their participation might trigger surveillance by the NSA or an audit by the IRS. In addition to thinking that Obama is a liar, and a covert Communist, these two groups were also more likely to express the belief that he is secretly a Muslim.
The moderates were, as one might expect, quite different. Like the tea partiers, they don’t worry as much about social issues. Their concerns are traditionally conservative – they worry about excessive regulation and taxation. They have a hard time taking Fox News seriously, and hold a deep disdain for the tea party faction. They are also keenly aware of their waning influence within the coalition.
Moderates are not so sure about their place in the current Republican Party. They worry about the ability of Republicans in Congress to make government work. They believe the party is stuck, not forward-looking, and representative of old ideas. They worry about the Republican Party’s right turn on social and environmental issues — which makes it difficult, especially for young moderates — to view the Republican Party as a modern party.
Unlike the tea partiers and Evangelicals, the moderate faction desperately wants lawmakers in Washington to find a common middle ground. They are less likely to worry about unauthorized immigration than the rest of the base, and some went so far as to speak positively about immigrants’ contributions to our society and economy.
Climate change is another dividing line between moderate Republicans and the hard-right. GOP moderates may be unsure of the science on climate change, but they don’t reject it out of hand, and some are legitimately worried about the effects of a changing climate.
In this, they stand out from the Evangelical and tea party wings. The study’s authors write:
Moderates are not even in the same conversation as Evangelicals who deeply doubt scientists writ large and Tea Party Republicans who are consumed by the big government and regulations that inevitably result from climate science.
Evangelicals and Tea Party Republicans share and are consumed by skepticism about climate science — to the point where they mistrust scientists before they begin to speak.
October 05, 2013 05:30 PMSpeaker John Boehner: Temper Tantrum
By Diane Sweet
Crossposted from Occupy America
This new 40 second ad is scheduled to be played during this Sunday's football games.
From the same folks who bring you "Tell John Boehner," The House Majority PAC.
Click to watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kKmdRZnjm2k
***************The Big Lie Behind Rand Paul’s Pack of GOP Shutdown Lies
By: Hrafnkell Haraldsson
Sunday, October 6th, 2013, 7:20
Rand PaulThe GOP, driven by tea party extremism, has shut down the U.S. government, costing taxpayers on the order of $40-$80 million per day at a conservative estimate. Some estimates go as high as $300 million per day. According to Shutdowncost.com, as I write this, the shutdown has cost in excess of $1,593,276,000 and it is literally climbing by the second.
Yet Rand Paul (R-KY) writes an op-ed on CNN.com on Friday with the disingenuous claim that he doesn’t understand why the WWII memorial isn’t open:
This week, we saw the outrageous spectacle of World War II veterans being told by our government that they couldn’t visit their own memorial. These former service members, who stared down the Japanese and the Nazis, were told that they couldn’t step through barricades arbitrarily placed in front of their memorial because the government has shut down. Some have speculated that it might have cost more to place the barricades there than to have done nothing at all.
This is a tear-jerker, and it is meant to be. But Paul is being as dishonest here as the day is long.
He says putting barricades up cost more than to have done nothing. But Rand Paul doesn’t mention that, the shutdown his party is responsible for is costing Americans more than if the Republicans had done nothing. And the shutdown is costing Americans more than a few barricades.
Let me put it this way: Not only do the spending cuts the GOP demands not reduce the federal debt, but the shutdown Republicans initiated claiming Obamacare is costing Americans too much money, costs more money than Obamacare.
If this makes sense to you, you are probably a tea partier.
Yet Rand Paul says Obamacare makes no sense, because, apparently, giving millions of Americans access to insurance for the first time, and forcing insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions, makes no sense.
He accuses President Obama of being “tone deaf” to Americans, completely ignoring the fact – and it is a fact – that the majority of Americans want Obamacare and that the majority of Americans do not want a government shutdown.
I think we know who is tone deaf, and it isn’t President Obama.
Then Rand Paul pulls out the Big Lie, the same one every Republican who began planning for this shutdown in 2010 are all using, that none of them wanted a shutdown. Keep in mind that they shut down the government using Obamacare as an excuse. Keep in mind that Obamacare is the law of the land, and more, a law upheld by the Supreme Court.
No one wanted a government shutdown. Republicans have continued to offer multiple compromises that would keep the government open. I offered an amendment to keep the government open an additional week while negotiations continued. My proposal was rejected. In fact, all of our proposals were rejected.
Paul tells another lie when he claims, “Every attempt to bargain, negotiate or compromise has been rejected by the Democrats.”
Let us be clear: The Republicans have offered no compromises. They refused from the start to negotiate. Their demands – and they can be construed no other way – have been predicated on 44 unsuccessful votes to defund Obamacare, and when that failed, to delay it for a year, when, they hope, a new majority in the Senate will kill it for good. In other words, delaying Obamacare is, from their point of view, no different than killing it. Some compromise. Either way, it’s “kill Obamacare.”
Apparently, Rand Paul yearns to be known as the biggest liar in Washington, D.C., to judge by this next whopper:
Pundits like to talk about dysfunctional government in Washington. This week demonstrated how right they are. Our government is too big, inefficient and incompetent to possibly handle American health care effectively. Why can’t this administration get its act together?
A Republican-dominated House of Representatives rushing down a road to nowhere with no clear end-game in mind save unconditional surrender by the administration, and Paul says the administration doesn’t have IT’S act together?
Paul pulls out one lie after another, each worse than the last, arriving at the tried and untrue Republican claim that Obama is building the deficit at a record pace:
And what do we have to show for this largely dysfunctional government? Annual trillion dollar deficits and a $17 trillion debt than keeps climbing.
The truth is exactly the opposite. In fact, Obama is reducing the deficit at a record pace. It is a fact, as Sarah Jones reported here in May, that the Obama administration has presided over the most rapid deficit reduction since World War II.
In fact, government spending under President Obama has grown at a slower rate than it did under any president since Dwight D. Eisenhower, according to Bloomberg (that’s over 50 years ago, if you’re counting).
Where does that leave Paul’s op-ed? Lie, lie, another lie, followed by more lies. So does Rand Paul have anything to say that is not a lie?
No, sadly he does not. All Rand Paul has is lies.
And so the liar from Kentucky concludes, dishonestly, that because his party has shutdown the government over a law that has been upheld by the Supreme Court, that, “What Americans were reminded of this week — more than anything else — is that big government doesn’t work.”
What doesn’t work is the House of Representatives, which has spent 15+ percent of its time this year trying to get rid of a law that has been upheld by the Supreme Court. A law, moreover, that most Americans want.
The GOP, to nobody’s surprise, is a party these days of liars and shills. But Rand Paul, apparently – and this is saying something when you consider the company he keeps – wants to be the liar of the century.
Right now, he has that award hands down.
*************House Republicans Are Deciding Whether They Should Totally Cave to Obama Now or Later
By: Jason Easley
Saturday, October 5th, 2013, 8:15
A senior House Republican has let it leak that Republicans are so desperate to get out of the government shutdown/debt ceiling standoff that they are debating whether to cave to President Obama now or later.
According to CNN:
One idea being considered to end the immediate fiscal impasse is a bill to fund the government and extend the nation’s borrowing authority for six weeks, a senior Republican member of the House told CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger.
The congressman agreed to speak with CNN on the condition of anonymity.
The GOP lawmaker said a committee could then be set up to negotiate the fiscal issues dividing the two parties and negotiate a plan to keep the government funded for the rest of the year without the proverbial gun to their heads.
This idea of an extension being floated among Republicans would give everyone a temporary political reprieve. It would give them a way to reopen the government but bypass the issue of tying it to a change in Obamacare, as well as avert a crisis over whether to raise the nation’s debt limit by Oct. 17 when the Treasury Department has said it will run out of money to pay its bills.
House Republicans are pretending publicly that they won’t budge on their demand to delay Obamacare, but the truth is that they are flailing around and desperately searching for a way to get out of their promise to conservatives that they will get rid of the ACA. House Republicans have gone from demanding a one year delay of the ACA to looking for an escape hatch that will let them renew this fight later.
It is doubtful that Democrats would accept a six week deal on opening the government and the debt ceiling, because there is no guarantee that anything would be resolved during the six week extension. If Democrats agreed to the short term deal, it’s likely that they would find themselves back in the same place that they are now. The only difference would be that the next showdown would take place during the holiday season.
If you read between the lines, the real question that Republicans are debating is when they should totally cave. A six week extension would mean that they cave now, and hope that they can convince conservatives that they will continue to wage war against Obamacare later.
Politically there is no reason for Democrats to accept a short term funding/debt ceiling deal that would allow House Republicans to live to fight another day. President Obama is leading a unified Democratic Party that is out to put an end to the tea party madness.
The very intentional leaking of this short term proposal is a sign that President Obama and the Democrats have the House Republicans on the ropes. A six week short term deal that would reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling should be rejected by Democrats the very moment that it is offered.
House Republicans are dumping all of their Obamacare demands, but Democrats shouldn’t bail them out. Democrats should reject anything less than the passage of a clean CR, and long term raising of debt ceiling. There is still just one way out for House Republicans. The message from the president and congressional Democrats has stayed the same. House Republicans need to pass a clean CR, and raise the debt ceiling.