Mike Pence had a moment of honesty on the House floor a bit earlier today.
He attempted to blame Democrats for the impending government shutdown, and then said: "Then I say: Shut it down. And I'm certain the American people are going to know who to blame."
That's right, we will. Liberal or not, we know who to blame. Republicans have control of this House of Representatives. They have filibuster control in the Senate. They're holding the budget hostage to ideological issues like abortion and the EPA, neither of which has a single thing to do with the troops. So yes, we know who to blame. Especially when they've been out exhorting crowds to "Shut It Down!"
The TeaBirchers and the Republican Party, who are now one and the same.
Lots of political positioning this morning on This Week on Disney News and Christiane Amanpour. A word of advice: after staying out late the night before, it's never a good idea to start your morning with watching not one, but two aspiring presidential Ken dolls from Indiana -- one Democrat, one Republican. "Dear God, why are Evan Bayh and Mike Pence on my teevee?" (I'm sure you understand.) The fact that the president had Bayh on his short list for VP makes me nervous, because he's an amoral snake who would probably eat live puppies if he thought it would get him elected.
But I digress. Mike Pence? Cut from the same cloth ("prayerfully considering"), so already I'm nauseated. Reagan budget director David Stockman spouts the typical Village talking points on Social Security but at least speaks in something that approaches fact-based fiscal reality.
Let's not forget, though, that Stockman is the man who started the whole supply-side train wreck. Weird that he sounds like the reasonable one now, but hey, In the valley of the blind, the one-eyed man is king!
AMANPOUR: And the Bush-era tax cuts expire at the end of this year. If Congress doesn't extend them, taxes will go up for everyone. One man says that would be a good thing. David Stockman was the budget director for President Ronald Reagan. He criticizes his party for sticking with the tax cut mantra, and he joins us this morning. Also, Congressman Mike Pence, a senior House Republican leader who takes the opposite view. Welcome to both of you. Thank you for being here this morning.
PENCE: Thank you.
STOCKMAN: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Let me first ask you, Representative Pence, you have stepped down, you're planning to step down from your leadership position. Are you running for president?
PENCE: Well, let me say, two years ago, I was asked to serve in a leadership position in the Congress, which after spending most of my career fighting runaway spending under Republican control was something as a surprise to many. But I took it because I thought we had an opportunity to lead our -- our party back to a majority. And I took the job. I believed if we returned our party to the practice of conservative principles on Capitol Hill, we could win back the Congress. This week's historic victory for conservative values for the American people is an -- in my judgment, a fulfillment of my commitment. And so now my family and I are going to take our time to prayerfully consider ways that we can serve our state and serve our nation in the years ahead.
AMANPOUR: Very quickly: Would you run for president?
PENCE: Well, look, we've been very humbled by the encouragement we've received back in Indiana and around the country. And we're intent on taking the coming weeks to really prayerfully consider that, to wait on the Lord, to seek counsel. And after the first of the year, we'll make a decision.
AMANPOUR: Or governorship?
PENCE: Well, we -- as I said, we've gotten...
AMANPOUR: So when can we hear your decision, after you've done all that consultation?
PENCE: Well, we frankly -- we've frankly been very humbled by the encouragement we've received back in our beloved Indiana and around the country, but we're going to take the holidays here. And as I said, we're going to reflect on it.
Unfortunately, I was drinking tea when he said this and I started to choke. The day a politician is "greatly humbled" by initial political support is the day gravity reverses itself. Politicians in general (and Republican politicians in particular) have huge egos which need massive amounts of adoration to reinforce their exalted views of themselves.
AMANPOUR: All right. Well, when you're going to...
PENCE: And our question will be, where can we make the most difference for what matters most to us? And what called me to public service back when the -- back in the Reagan administration, when I first ran for Congress, was...
AMANPOUR: We're going to ask you about that because...
PENCE: ... a commitment to conservative values.
AMANPOUR: ... because apparently Ronald Reagan was your political idol, so we'll ask you a little bit about that.
PENCE: Still is.
AMANPOUR: Still is, OK. Well, we're going to ask about his economic philosophy with the man who engineered it. Well, so, David Stockman, former budget director, you have basically said that Tuesday gave voice and gave further voice to what you call the big lie.
STOCKMAN: Exactly. This is not 1981. This is not morning again in America. We've drifted now for 30 years. Both parties, unfortunately, became free lunch parties, the Republicans cutting taxes every time they had a chance, never doing anything about spending, and the Democrats digging in to defend everything that was there. As a result, we now have this massive deficit. Today, the gross public debt is $14 trillion. The first thing we did when we walked into the White House in 1981 was struggle with raising the public debt to $1 trillion. So in that 30 years, the public debt has gone up 14 times. Our economy is only four times larger. We're losing the race. And we're now becoming the banana republic finance, printing -- the Fed, these mad men who are out of control at the Fed, are printing new money, equal to 100 percent of the debt that we're issuing each month. This will not end well. It's -- it's going to end in a disaster.
Are we really that cold, that there is an acceptable percentage of people we're willing to allow to be sick, destitute, hopeless?
I posed it in response to Media Research Center VP Dan Gainor's comment to me about my revulsion at the standing ovation in the video above when Mike Pence practically spat the words "repeal Obamacare, lock, stock and barrel". The crowd went absolutely wild over that. Wild. This is a crowd, by the way, of self-proclaimed "values voters." What Gainor said was this:
We had a relatively small number of people w/o insurance. Crazy and power mad to get govt involved in health care for all
I realize that we all have different perspectives on health care, but frankly, his remark sounded so Dickensian that it was like a double slap after seeing the craven hordes in that video. Here is someone saying with complete clarity that it was perfectly all right for a certain percentage of our populace to live without dignity, to be denied access to health care. In the system we have, no insurance means no access unless one has a lot of money. 51 million people (at last count) do not have a lot of money. Only a very few have the means to go without health insurance and survive financially.
Dan Gainor aside, Mike Huckabee's comments at this same conference were equally mind-boggling. Here's what he said about the uninsured:
So it's come down to this. On Saturday, David Stockman, the legendary Reagan budget chief who presided over the Gipper's supply-side tax cuts, announced that the "debt explosion has resulted not from big spending by the Democrats, but instead the Republican Party's embrace, about three decades ago, of the insidious doctrine that deficits don't matter if they result from tax cuts." The next day, the former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan, who famously helped sell the 2001 Bush tax cuts to Congress, declared them simply "disastrous."
Sadly, Stockman and Greenspan are just about the only voices in the Republican Party speaking the truth about the fiscal devastation wrought by the expiring Bush tax cuts. After all, the national debt tripled under Ronald Reagan, only to double again during the tenure of George W. Bush. And as it turns out, the Bush tax cut windfall for the wealthy accounted for almost half the budget deficits during his presidency and, if made permanent, would contribute more to the U.S. budget deficit than the Obama stimulus, the TARP program, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and revenue lost to the recession - combined. Of course, you'd never know it listening to the leaders of GOP.
And that's just the beginning. Here, then, are 10 Republican Lies about the Bush tax cuts:
I think it's a clear indication that the Republican reflexive obstructionism has reached absurd levels when even Chris Wallace calls you on your crap. All that pearl clutching over the deficit--something that mattered not a whit during the Bush years--now requires that Obama offset the costs of extending unemployment insurance but not for the Republican answer for all societal evils, tax cuts for the wealthy. Wrap your mind around that cognitive dissonance.
WALLACE: Congressman Pence, why is it that extending unemployment benefits has to be paid for according to Republicans but extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy which would cost $678 billion, that doesn’t have to be paid for?
PENCE: Well, let me…look, Republicans, me included, have supported numerous extensions of unemployment benefits. We’re anxious to do so again. But look….the deficit this year is a trillion dollars for the second year in a row and more. The American people have had it with runaway federal spending, deficits and debt and they want to begin to see the men and women in Washington DC begin to make the hard choices and prioritize spending. The other part of it too…
WALLACE: But you’re not answering the question. I can understand the argument: pay for the unemployment benefits. Why then not pay for the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy?
Pence weasels out of it again. Because clearly, there are no justifications for this except craven political ones. He then argues that the tax cuts expand the economy, despite the fact that the expressed concern up to this point has been reducing the deficit.
Lowering taxes puts money in consumers' pockets quickly, but economists worry that with uncertainty running high, many households will choose to save rather than spend the money. While most economists would like to see the U.S. saving rate rise from its current low level of 1.2 percent, a sudden jump in savings would deepen the recession.
Many economists are pushing for targeted benefits such as food stamps or extending unemployment benefits. Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Economy.com, estimates that every dollar dedicated to increasing food stamps puts $1.73 into the economy. Increasing jobless insurance benefits typically gets a return of $1.64 per dollar. (here)
Obama also is expected to support tax cuts for businesses, which would raise corporate profits and may help the stock market. Unless the economy recovers quickly those tax reductions would probably do little to encourage companies to step up hiring and investment, Deutsche Bank economist Peter Hooper said.[..]
In congressional testimony last year, Zandi said tax cuts delivered the least bang for the buck, with a dollar's worth of temporary nonrefundable rebates worth $1.02 with a one-year lag. Permanent tax cuts yielded less than 50 cents of additional spending.
So by his own admission, Pence wants to do the least effective method of expanding the economy and add hundreds of billions to trillions to the deficit all the while gnashing and wailing about those irresponsible Democrats growing the deficit. Wow. Nice game if you can get it.
Conservatives are desperate. They understand that health care reform is going to pass, perhaps even this week. To that end, their corporate sponsors are ramping up the pressure and trying to whip enthusiasm to oppose it.
Tonight, Americans for Prosperity sponsored a tele-town hall meeting with concerned conservatives looking to defeat the House vote on health care reform tonight. Their special guest was Indiana Representative Mike Pence, who called on listeners to "pray for the battle", to call their Congressman and remind them that "no one wants this monstrosity to pass."
Americans for Prosperity, you might remember, is the astroturf non-profit lobbying arm of the Scaife empire and Koch Industries. Director Art Pope is a champion of oil and tobacco interests. They partner with organizations like the 912 Project to defeat anything that might resemble the will of the people. Rachel Maddow did a terrific takedown of their operation and the bankruptcy of their campaign against health care last summer.
Tearful caller Pam is frustrated because her representative, Brad Ellsworth (D-Indiana), sent her a response indicating that he had decided how he would vote. Frustrated that her representative doesn't listen to her, she appeals to Rep. Pence for ideas. His response: "Write a letter to the editor."
Beverly in Nevada wanted to know "what it is this President does not understand? The American people do NOT want this health care bill." Hmm. Beverly might want to read this AP-GfK poll, where only 4% oppose any health care reform, and the largest number of respondents believe the system needs drastic changes.
The best moment might have been toward the end, when Pence rallied the troops for what he knows is a lost cause, and used this talking point:
"Once the American public becomes dependent on the federal government during that most vulnerable moment of illness of a loved one, a spouse, a parent, a child, a grandchild, those on the elite leadership of the left know...they’ll never let it [public healthcare] go."
As a final note, he calls for women to pray for the battle, those in the battle, wisdom for the Democrats. If the bill passes, will they see it as a sign from God?
I somehow doubt it.
An audio clip of the call's end is below. The full audio is here.
Have you ever wondered what life would be like in an alternative universe where people lived their lives in the shadow of paranoid fantasies and incompatible superstitions, and acted accordingly?
Well… wonder no more! I went to CPAC and shot a bunch of video.
Unfortunately, I was only able to attend for a day, so I missed an awful lot of funhouse insanity. But… Friday was a day that will remain with me forever. There aren’t enough therapists in the world to scrub that experience out of my psyche.
I should have known better, but I was kind of hoping that CPAC would attract conservatives on the leading edge of their movement who would be intellectually prepared and eager to wield their razor-sharp rapiers in defense of all that is good… you know… God and Ronald Reagan and… uhm… whatever else there is.
Sadly, that wasn’t quite the case.
The first person I ran into was Daryll Issa. I tried to ask him about the stimulus and recovery; he wasn’t much interested in silly and irrelevant things like facts:
Later in the conference, I caught up with Mike Pence and Steve King. They had lotsa time to stand in the spotlight and bask in adulation, but when it came time to answer a question or two about policy and stimulus/recovery/pork… well… they suddenly had more pressing things to do as staff hustled them away, telling me they were in a very big hurry. Like Issa before them, they were simply hustled a few yards away to a place they could bask in more spotlight and adulation.
So… unfortunately, I do not have a lot to report on when it comes to elected officials.
I also ran into John Bolton, Kenneth Blackwell and John Ashcroft. I told each of them that in person, they look a lot less evil than they do in the blogosphere. They were each gracious and good humored, but I was unable to secure an interview with any of them.
I did run into Jonah Goldberg. We had met previously on the set of Reliable Sources and although I do not think he recognized me, he did give me a lengthy interview. First we talked stimulus and economic policy, then we turned to his book and his ideas regarding fascism.
Lil' Luke told Andrea Mitchell that Mike Pence and Gov. Daniels had a great opportunity to get into the Senate election race now since Bayh just screwed the Democratic Party and decided to not run anymore. Lil' Luke was very excited about this report because it turned a bad news day into one of great excitement, but obviously he got horrible information from his village informants.
See, the problem is that there isn't enough time for Pence or Daniels to gather all the signatures needed to file as a candidate.
The GOP is stuck with Coats because it's too late for Pence or Daniels to file. But because Coats and Bayh did file, the state Democratic Party gets to pick a Bayh replacement. Early speculation is that Ellsworth can have it if he wants it and if he doesn't, it'll go to Evansville Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel or ex-Rep Tim Roemer, Ambassador to India. It has now been confirmed that Harold Ford hasn't flown around Indiana in a helicopter or filed to pay taxes there.
Mike Pence came out with a statement that he isn't running. The Village loves these types of stories much more than actually informing Americans about important legislation. What the heck is Lil' Luke talking about?
Last week, Republican Congressmen Dave Reichert (R-WA) and Mike Pence (R-IN) implied the nation's leading organization for seniors was in for the ACORN treatment from the GOP and its media allies. Despite the thorough debunking of right-wing claims that Democratic health care reform proposals would slash Medicare benefits for46 million American elderly:
Pence and Reichert suggested that support was the result of corruption inside the AARP and not based on the interests of its membership.
"What you've got here is a backroom deal," Pence said of reform measures expected to be introduced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid this afternoon. "Democrats are protecting the salaries of the heads of groups like AARP while cutting Medicare"...
The GOP is using more than just rhetoric to go after the group. Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA) claims to have launched an investigation into AARP in his home state. Reichert says his "ongoing" investigation focuses on whether AARP should be classified as an insurance company because of its revenue from royalties the group gets from licensing its brand for insurance products.
Sounding the clarion call for conservatives is aging singer turned World Net Daily regular Pat Boone. Boone, who in recent months branded Barack Obama a "president without a country" who is "waterboarding America" over "socialistic health care and a host of other ultraliberal causes," is also the celebrity mouthpiece for the 60 Plus Association.
Rep. Mike Pence has been on the forefront of pushing this Van Jones scandal created by Glenn Beck (good to see he gets his walking papers from such an impeccable source, isn't it?), calling for his resignation and saying that Jones' "extremist views and coarse rhetoric have no place in this Administration or the public debate."
On Friday, Pence, who describes himself as “Christian, Conservative, Republican, in that order,” said Jones’s “extremist views and coarse rhetoric have no place in this administration or the public debate.” Beyond the obvious here (the hate-filled rhetoric we see every day from racist, right-wing wackos, including those in public office), it is an interesting comment considering that Pence is an extremist right-wing evangelical Christian who has taken thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Blackwater’s owner, Erik Prince. Prince has also donated to Pence’s Political Action Committee “Principles Exalt a Nation.” In December 2007, three months after Blackwater operatives gunned down 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad’s Nisour Square, Pence and his Republican Study Committee, which serves “the purpose of advancing a conservative social and economic agenda in the House of Representatives,” organized a gathering to welcome Prince to Washington. “Not only has Mr. Prince personally been targeted by partisan warfare repeatedly over the past months, but the use of contracting throughout the government has been under attack by this Congress,” Pence’s committee’s statement said. Should Pence resign for cavorting with and accepting campaign cash from a man who allegedly “views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe,” in the words of a former employee?