Stories by Dana
President Obama admits it: His proposed “Buffett Rule” tax on millionaires is a gimmick. “There are others who are saying: ‘Well, this is just a gimmick. Just taxing millionaires and billionaires, just imposing the Buffett Rule, won’t do enough to close the deficit,’” Obama declared Wednesday. “Well, I agree.”
Think the Obama administration has been strangling businesses with red tape? Well, that’s a load of chicken droppings.
In Washington, D.C., even the dogs are pundits. My dog, a 2-year-old golden retriever/poodle mix named Z.Z., had her cable news debut last week, on MSNBC’s “The Last Word.” Host Lawrence O’Donnell had us on set to discuss Z.Z.’s membership in Dogs Against Romney.
It is typical of Mitt Romney’s luck that, on the morning after he all but secured the Republican presidential nomination, his campaign became embroiled in a controversy over a 1950s plastic toy. On Wednesday, hours after Romney’s 12-point victory over Rick Santorum in the Illinois primary silenced most of the remaining doubters, senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom went on CNN and gave new meaning to the term “game change.”
Are Republicans ready to be trusted with the reins of power? If you’re thinking of answering this in the affirmative, you might want to pause long enough to learn what transpired on the third floor of the Capitol on Thursday. There, four prominent Republican lawmakers announced their proposal to abolish Medicare -- “sunset” was their pseudo-verb -- even for those currently on the program or nearing retirement.
The Republicans are synthesizing a higher-octane blend in their bid to fuel Americans’ anxiety about higher gas prices. The Republican National Committee sent out talking points instructing party faithful to take up the issue. House Speaker John Boehner urged his caucus to do the same. And, on Wednesday, the House energy committee obliged: The Republican majority called in a bunch of oilmen for a hearing dedicated largely to blaming President Obama for gas prices.
A few months ago, Sen. Michael Bennet’s staff staged what the Colorado Democrat calls an intervention. He had survived a brutal campaign in 2010 to win his first full term. But after a year of deadlock and partisanship in the Senate, he was wondering whether it had been worth the struggle. “It was right after we managed to end our session with a two-month extension of the payroll tax,” Bennet told me Wednesday. “I got to a point where I was referring to this place as the Land of Flickering Lights, because the standard of success was we kept the lights on for another two months.”
You might think that Sen. David Vitter would observe a lifetime moratorium on public moralizing after his phone number was found in the little black book of a prostitution ring’s madam. But there he was in the House TV studio on Wednesday, informing a bank of cameras about President Obama’s inferior conscience, as evidenced by a new rule that requires employers to provide birth-control coverage.
It’s nine months until Election Day, but President Obama is already bringing out the big guns. Specifically, he is shouldering the Extreme Marshmallow Cannon. Obama walked into the State Dining Room at midday Tuesday and encountered 14-year-old Joey Hudy and the compressed-air cannon he invented to launch marshmallows as part of a science fair. “The Secret Service is going to be mad at me about this,” the president said, but he didn’t care. He asked Hudy to hand over the gun, told onlookers to step aside, pumped up the compressor — and shot a confection across the room Thomas Jefferson used as his office. Under the watchful gaze of an Abraham Lincoln portrait, the projectile narrowly missed a window and smacked into a wall near the entrance to the Red Room.
House freshmen have been on the job for almost exactly a year, and until now they’ve done little more than talk about cutting the national debt. But on Wednesday morning, eight lawmakers finally decided to take action. They scheduled a “major announcement,” invited the media and declared that they had a plan to reduce the deficit by -- are you sitting down? -- $1.435 million.
If this is Mitt Romney’s idea of a victory rally, one shudders to think what would have happened if he had lost the Iowa caucuses. The day after his impossibly thin eight-vote victory, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination flew to manchester, N.H., for a town hall meeting at Manchester Central High School, where he was to bask in the endorsement of his 2008 rival, John McCain. But the senator grimaced when he was introduced, and as Romney delivered his own stump speech, McCain looked increasingly impatient. McCain gave his endorsement address without mentioning Romney’s Iowa win until the end. “By the way, we forgot to congratulate him on his landslide victory last night,” he said, laughing. Romney ignored him.
Pundits say the darnedest things on TV. Take, for example, the genius who said in January that “the president has a fairly easy” re-election ahead of him. Or the guy who said in June that Newt Gingrich, now the leading challenger to Mitt Romney for the Republican presidential nomination, was “finished, whether he knows he is or not.” How about the talking head who said in July that House Speaker John Boehner had suffered a “mortal wound” at the hands of fellow Republicans? Or the one who predicted in August that Rick Perry would “hold his own” in the presidential debates?
WASHINGTON — House Republicans, on the eve of Tuesday’s vote denying tax relief to 160 million Americans, huddled in a conference room in the Capitol basement for more than two hours.
The first votes of the Republican primary season don’t come until next month, but we already know how it’s going to turn out: Washington, D.C., has won again. It may be Mitt Romney or it may be Newt Gingrich, but from the point of view of this town, it doesn’t matter: Neither poses a threat to our way of life. Our hometown industry — a commission-based economy in which the local citizenry helps the powerful get what they want from a too-big government — will survive.
The morning after his retirement announcement, Rep. Barney Frank scored an interview on NBC’s “Today” show, gaining the opportunity to act as an elder statesman in front of a TV audience of millions. Instead, the Massachusetts Democrat chose to quarrel with the interviewer. “You said that your district has been redrawn in a way that would make it more difficult for you to win re-election,” host Savannah Guthrie said. “I didn’t say I wasn’t running because I was afraid I couldn’t win,” Frank retorted.
Chris Matthews, the voluble host of MSNBC’s “Hardball,” has written a compelling blueprint for President Obama’s re-election. But it doesn’t mention the current president.
If at first you don’t secede, try the birther movement. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who more than once has dipped his cowboy boot into the secessionist swamp, has found a new outlet for his fringe instincts. The Republican presidential candidate has revived questions about President Obama’s birth certificate. The controversy pretty much died in the spring when Obama released his long-form birth certificate confirming his birth in the United States and, therefore, his eligibility for the presidency. But Perry, in an interview in last Sunday’s Parade magazine, showed that he marches to a different drummer:
Even by the standards of the highly charged immigration issue, what’s been happening among Republicans in recent days is, well, shocking. First came Herman Cain, arguing for an electric fence at the border that would be powerful enough to kill people. Next, the other leading contenders, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, devoted a large portion of Tuesday night’s Republican debate to a so’s-your-mama argument about who was softer on illegal immigrants. Then, Wednesday morning, senators brought Janet Napolitano to testify on Capitol Hill, and Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee put the homeland security secretary through a hazing ritual that stopped just short of making her climb an electrified fence. Chuck Grassley, the ranking Republican on the committee, accused immigration officials of “deceptive marketing practices,” “funny business” and flouting “the rule of law,” and he suggested that the administration is secretly seeking amnesty for illegal immigrants. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama said immigration authorities had “no confidence” in her leadership and suspected her agenda was really “large-scale amnesty legislation.” When Napolitano tried to answer, Sessions began to shout at her. “You should be paying real attention to them, not rolling your eyes at them,” he lectured. “I’m not rolling my eyes,” the witness replied — although by the end of Sessions’ diatribe, her eyes were glistening. After two hours, the jolts ended. “You want to add anything else?” the chairman, Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy, offered. “I’ve enjoyed being the witness here today,” Napolitano answered.
It was a(nother) great day to be a member of the Washington, D.C., elite. On Wednesday afternoon, the House was steamrolling toward passage of a trio of free-trade agreements without a whisper of objection from the Republican side. Finally, hours into the debate, Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., rose to appeal to his fellow Tea Partyers to heed the people who elected them. “Here we have roughly 9.1 percent unemployment in this country, due in no small part to the Washington elite jamming these job-destroying trade agreements down our throats,” Jones pleaded on the House floor. “It’s time we started listening to the will of the American people, doing what’s in the best interest of the American people, not in the best interest of the foreign nationals who desperately want to take our jobs.” It was a passionate speech but useless. Lawmakers, including the overwhelming majority of Tea Party Republicans, voted in support of the three trade deals, which had been at the top of corporate America’s wish list. That was just one of the day’s party favors for corporations. Hours earlier, House Speaker John Boehner made clear he would guard the corporate elite’s interests in avoiding a trade war with China. He refused to take up a bill that would have punished China for its currency manipulation, saying he had “grave concerns.” (The bill would have passed easily if it had the chance). Boehner and his Republican colleagues aren’t necessarily wrong in their desire to expand trade with Colombia, Panama and South Korea or to prevent a tit-for-tat with China. But the Republican support for the free-trade deals, and the leadership’s refusal to consider the China legislation, show where the power still resides in Washington, D.C.
By most of the usual measures, President Obama has no business being re-elected. Here’s why he might be anyway. On Wednesday, as Senate Democratic leaders were scrambling to find a way to enact part of Obama’s jobs bill, a dozen Republican lawmakers assembled outside the Capitol to complain about ... health care reform. “Every day I get up, I do at least something to fight Obamacare,” Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) announced to the cameras. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) proclaimed that the year-and-a-half-old law meant the “socialization of medicine.” Maybe so, gentlemen, but don’t you have something better to do with your time?
I am a job creator. I am not a job creator in the sense that I actually create jobs. I have never knowingly created a job, and my long-term business plan, approved unanimously by my board of directors, does not call for the creation of a single one.
The applause identified Rick Perry as the crowd favorite when he took the stage in Tampa for Monday night’s Tea Party debate and greeted his lesser rivals as “fellas.” But two hours later, those fellas — and a gal from Minnesota — had made some serious progress toward making the broad-shouldered Texas governor come across as an empty suit. Sometimes they challenged Perry from the left (on Social Security and Medicare) and sometimes from the right (on immigration, taxes and mandatory vaccines), but it all came back to the same thing: The front-runner was befuddled, seemingly stunned that his rivals would question his right to the Republican presidential nomination.
SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — “Maybe it’s time to have some provocative language in this country,” Rick Perry proposed midway through Wednesday night’s debate. And Perry, the Texas governor, did more than propose. Debating for the first time with his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination, he was on a one-man campaign to spread provocative language. The querulous candidate, in his debut, fought with everybody and every thing. Social Security, he declared anew, is “a monstrous lie” and a “Ponzi scheme.” Making economic decisions because of climate-change science is “nonsense,” he announced, likening scientists who believe in global warming to flat-earthers. “Galileo got outvoted for a spell,” he said.