Mojo - February 2009

At CPAC, Conservatives Blame Others, Not Their Own Ideas (Video)

| Fri Feb. 27, 2009 6:41 PM PST
Jonathan Stein has been covering the Conservative Political Action Conference for us: John Bolton's bad joke about nuking Chicago, Sarah Palin blaming the media for her own failure; Newt's extreme rhetoric, and Mitt Romney's love-in with the crowd. And I had the chance to go on Hardball to discuss the overall theme of the conference: there's nuthin' wrong with conservative ideas:

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Romney Treated Like a Savior at CPAC. Is He?

| Fri Feb. 27, 2009 5:50 PM PST
Twelve months ago, Mitt Romney made a hero's entrance but a loser's exit here at CPAC. Trailing in the Republican Primary, but recently accepted as the far right's representative in the field, Romney entered the room to thunderous applause but used his speech to make a surprise withdrawal from the race, drawing gasps and cries of despair from the crowd. (For a full report from that day, including quotes from crushed Mitt followers, click here.) From that point forward, you'll remember, Romney became a political odd man out. He had to grovel before John McCain would allow him to be his surrogate on television.

Today, in the same ballroom in the same hotel, Romney made another hero's entrance. The CPAC attendees -- burned by a presidential nominee who did not share their far-right beliefs and disappointed in a Republican congressional leadership they see as providing no leadership at all -- embraced Romney warmly. Organizers were forced to open a second ballroom for overflow viewing. Romney's introducer, the head of the American Conservative Union and the official host of CPAC, called Romney "one of the family." Romney replied, "It feels like coming home, I gotta tell ya."

CPAC: Republicans Strike Out on Health Care

| Fri Feb. 27, 2009 1:55 PM PST
Sometimes CPAC makes it perfectly clear why Republicans are wandering in the wilderness.

In a seminar on health care held Friday morning, three conservative speakers were not able to articulate a clear alternative to the universal health care plan President Obama has promised to deliver. There was plenty of alarmist rhetoric. "Obama-care," said Michael Tanner, the moderator and a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute, is "one of the greatest threats to our individual liberty that we can find." He paraphrased Reagan: you can't socialize medicine without socializing the doctors, and you can't socialize the doctors without socializing the patients. "That is clearly the agenda that Democrats are pursuing," he said.

Grace-Marie Turner of the Galen Institute argued that Obama's plan to introduce a government health care option that will allow every citizen to have health care coverage similar to what is currently enjoyed by members of Congress will "basically shove out private competition from the market." She suggested that universal health care will be a tool for Obama to consolidate power, and a corruption of the "best health care system in the world." Nothing about new ideas.

Trying to Decipher Newt's Appeal at CPAC

| Fri Feb. 27, 2009 11:45 AM PST
Newt Gingrich just spoke here at CPAC. If there is anyone who embodies CPAC's hardline, outsider's identity (much time here is spent bashing the congressional GOP for being too willing to compromise), it's Newt. No wonder, then, that Newt entered a packed ballroom State of the Union-style, walking through the back doors and shaking hundreds of grasping hands as he moved up the aisles toward the stage, all while Eye of the Tiger pounded through the speaker system.

As David Corn discussed in a recent magazine article for Mother Jones, Newt is back in a big way. As conservatives try to figure out which national figure is best fit to lead them back to power, they are increasingly turning to a guy who had no role in the failures of the last eight years and was responsible (as he is ready to remind you) for the party's last major success, the 1994 takeover of Congress.

But I've had trouble understanding Newt's appeal. His ideas and theories are sometimes bizarre. ("There is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us," he told Bill O'Reilly.) When he does find an idea that sounds serious, it often doesn't hold up to scrutiny. He argued today, for example, that jobs would flourish and "virtually every American with savings would immediately be better off" if the capital gains tax was reduced to zero. Anyone with a working muscle in their head knows that such a plan, if enacted, would primarily benefit the wealthy investor class. It would essentially be a payday for people who make substantial amounts of money through their investments. That's the rich, not everyday Americans. And there are about a million better ways to create workaday jobs than giving a massive tax cut to the rich.

CPAC: Bumper Stickers from the Far Side

| Fri Feb. 27, 2009 7:05 AM PST

The Conservative Political Action Conference, the nation's largest annual meeting of conservative activists, brings together right-wingers of different backgrounds, viewpoints, and levels of respectability. A good way to get a sense of the milieu at the conference, which is going on now in Washington DC, is to walk the exhibition hall, where exhibitors try to convince passers-by that the gays, the immigrants, the baby-killers, the UN, the Muslims, Al Gore, and/or Barack Obama are trying to ruin America. Below, a collection of bumper stickers, fliers, and handouts gathered from the hall.

Palin's Media Bash-a-thon Continues

| Thu Feb. 26, 2009 4:32 PM PST
Recently, clips of an interview Sarah Palin gave to conservative filmmaker John Ziegler caused a stir because of Palin's comment that the media was on a mission to "seek" and "destroy" her vice presidential candidacy. At the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday, Ziegler was on hand to show the full, unedited interview he did with Palin on January 5th in the governor's Wasilla, Alaska, home. Lasting roughly 40 minutes, the interview is full of fusillades launched at the mainstream media, many of most of which have already become public but some of which have not. Below are some moments from Palin – she calls the scandal surrounding the birth of her son Trig "the epitome of stupidity," defends her interview with Charlie Gibson, and says that she would do it all over again.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Obama's Budget: $3.5 Trillion Well Spent?

| Thu Feb. 26, 2009 2:37 PM PST | Scheduled to publish Thu Feb. 26, 2009 2:37 PM PST

President Obama outlined his $3.55 trillion budget (PDF) for fiscal year 2010 Thursday. Not surprisingly, Democrats and Republicans almost immediately began wrangling over the spending plan: House Minority Whip Eric Cantor called it "misguided" and dangerous," and while Nancy Pelosi applauded the end of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, she said she'd prefer to see them ended sooner.

But at least one economist thinks it's money well spent. Robert Greenstein, executive director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, was almost effusive in his praise of Obama's budget:

John Bolton at CPAC: The Benefits of Nuking Chicago

| Thu Feb. 26, 2009 10:27 AM PST
Former UN Ambassador John Bolton believes the security of the United States is at dire risk under the Obama administration. And before a gathering of conservatives in Washington on Thursday morning,  he suggested, as something of a joke, that President Barack Obama might learn a needed lesson if Chicago were destroyed by a nuclear bomb.

Appearing at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the nation's largest annual conference of conservative activists, Bolton, one of the hardest hardliners of the George W. Bush administration, spoke at length about Obama's naiveté and how various nations – Russia, North Korea, Iran – will be exploiting the new president. The most dramatic moment of his speech may have been when he cracked a joke about the nuking of Obama's hometown.

"The fact is on foreign policy I don't think President Obama thinks it's a priority," said Bolton. "He said during the campaign he thought Iran was a tiny threat. Tiny, tiny depending on how many nuclear weapons they are ultimately able to deliver on target. Its, uh, its tiny compared to the Soviet Union, but is the loss of one American city" – here Bolton changes his tone subtly to prepare for the joke – "pick one at random – Chicago – is that a tiny threat?"
 
Bolton wasn't the only one who thought this was funny. The room erupted in laughter and applause. Was this conservative catharsis, with rightwingers delightfully imagining the destruction of a city that represents Obama? Or perhaps they were venting vengeance with their laughter. (Bolton is no stranger to inflammatory remarks. He once infamously quipped, "There are 38 floors to the UN building in New York. If you lost 10 of them, it wouldn't make a bit of difference.")

At CPAC, the Right's most fevered beliefs about Obama live on, with speakers portraying him as a radical liberal who wants to compromise American values, hand hard-earned taxpayer dollars to the shifty poor, and, as Bolton repeatedly pointed out, weaken America's defense.

Obama Increases Military Budget, Ignoring Frank's Criticisms

| Thu Feb. 26, 2009 10:04 AM PST

On Tuesday, Rep. Barney Frank said that "To accomplish his goals of expanding health care and other important quality of life services without ballooning the deficit," President Barack Obama had to cut the military budget. Apparently, Obama didn't get the message. The White House released its proposed budget on Thursday morning. The very first page of the Department of Defense section of the budget (PDF) proposal trumpets: "$533.7 billion for the Department of Defense base budget in 2010, a four-percent increase over 2009." (Obama's budget is for fiscal year 2010, which runs from October 1, 2009 through September 30, 2010.)

There is some good news for Frank and his cohorts. According to McClatchy, Obama may target the air force's F-22 fighter plane—a program Frank had mentioned as particularly wasteful—for cuts. (Defense Secretary Robert Gates has also criticized the program.) But even if the F-22 program is slashed, or even halted altogether, the military budget is still going up. That's a far cry from what Frank and other Congressional Dems called for on Tuesday. Will they make a fuss?

James Galbraith: Obama Isn't Doing Enough to Solve the Financial Crisis

| Thu Feb. 26, 2009 8:14 AM PST

The financial crisis is even worse than people think (and people already think it's pretty bad), and we aren't doing enough to stop it, economist and Mother Jones contributor James K. Galbraith told the House Financial Services Committee on Thursday morning. From his prepared testimony:

In 1930, John Maynard Keynes wrote, "The world has been slow to realize that we are living this year in the shadow of one of the greatest economic catastrophes of modern history." That catastrophe was the Great Crash of 1929, the collapse of money values, the destruction of the banking system. The questions before us today are: is the crisis we are living through similar? And if so, are we taking adequate steps to deal with it? I believe the answers are substantially yes, and substantially no.

Galbraith pointed to six significant problems with the Obama administration's response to the financial crisis. First, he said, the White House is being way too optimistic: