Joe Biden’s travels, Bibi’s humiliation

Latest pratfall in the Bibi-Boehner slapstick routine: the Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister is now calling the Prince of Orange untrustworthy.

It appears that the speaker of Congress made a move, in which we trusted, but which it ultimately became clear was a one sided move and not a move by both sides

So, having mortally offended the Democrats (including most American Jews) Bibi is now throwing the Republican Speaker of the House under the bus for a stunt that was obviously dreamed up by his own Ambassador (and career Republican operative) Ron Dermer.

And now the other shoe drops: the Vice-President’s office has announced that the Veep will be “traveling overseas” and unable to attend he joint session of Congress when Netanyahu speaks. Just to drive the point home, they’re not even specifying where Biden is going: it’s just that, wherever he will be that evening, he won’t be standing behind Bibi as the PM tries to prevent a peaceful resolution of the Iranian-nuke situation.

This reminds me of a (true, I believe) story from the McGovern campaign of 1972. After the Eagleton fiasco, McGovern’s folks wanted to send him to Ohio, and tried to schedule a joint appearance with Wayne Hayes, a very conservative and very senior Democratic Congressman. Hayes’s staffer told McGovern’s staffer “I’m sorry, but the Congressman will be on a trade mission in Peru that weekend.” When the McGovern guy asked about changing the date, the Hayes guy said, “Maybe I didn’t make myself clear. The Congressman will be on a trade mission in Peru whenever the Senator plans to visit the district.”

Bonus Derp The head of the Zionist Organization of America announces that siding with the President of the United States rather than the foreign head of government who insulted him is “anti-American” and “anti-patriotic.” No, seriously. If you think I’m capable of making this stuff up, you’re giving me way too much credit.


S&P does the deed, despite the arithmetic. The problem isn’t economic, it’s political.

Standard and Poor, which continued to rate various junky derivatives AAA until they went into default, has downgraded the debt of the United States of America. This can’t be based on the possibility that the government will be unable to pay its debt - after all, the debt is in dollars, and we own the printing press - but rather on the possibility that the hostage-takers in the GOP caucuses in Congress will eventually decide to shoot a hostage, forcing the government into default. The other agencies are holding steady.

Even a minor increase in Treasury borrowing rates will do large damage to the world economy. Thank you, John Boehner. Thank you, Mitch McConnell. Thank you, Pete Peterson. Thanks are also due to the Koch Brothers and their useful idiots in the Teahadi movement. Let’s say it now: their actions have, from the beginning, been as unpatriotic as those of any important American political force since Secession.

But it’s also worth noticing that the analysis S&P gave the Treasury when it warned about its plan to downgrade was off by $2 trillion. The Treasury pointed out the error. Apparently that didn’t matter; S&P had decided to downgrade and went right ahead. After all, what’s $2T among friends?

Is it just possible that some S&P employees had shorted Treasuries, or something else likely to get hit? It appears that part of the explanation for yesterday’s stock-market crash was that word of the possible downgrade had leaked.

Might this be a good time for a serious investigation into the ratings-agency racket?

Footnote Just this once, could Barack Obama allow himself to become visibly, righteously angry at the people who have brought the national honor into question?

News flash

Weepin’ John Boehner can’t get his own members to vote for his debt-ceiling plan.
Amateur hour.

Weepin’ John Boehner doesn’t even control his own caucus.

He announced a vote on his dead-on-arrival debt ceiling plan at 12:30 today, and then had to postpone it indefinitely 10 hours later. He didn’t have the votes, perhaps in part because Sarah Palin threatened the House Republican freshmen with contested primaries if they voted for their own Speaker’s bill. Yes, that’s the person the Republicans wanted to put one not-very-reliable heartbeat from the Presidency.

Amateur hour.

Update Don’t you love it when it’s conservatives forming the circular firing squad?

Health care reform politics and Kristallnacht 2010

There was a joke that used to go around about a golf game involving entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr.  Another player asked his handicap, and Davis replied “I’m a Jewish black man with one eye; how much more handicap do I need?”
This came to mind when I read the New York Times story about President Obama’s White House Seder.  It was surprisingly moving for a non-observant Jew to learn of the President’s observance of one of our rituals.  But as a Jew, I’m also slightly-and less surprisingly-alarmed on the President’s behalf.  People already accuse him of being a Muslim non-citizen; how much more handicap does he need?

It’s illuminating, though, to consider the President an honorary or metaphorical Jew, because it highlights the parallels between the hysteria attaching to Obama’s presidency and the hysteria recurrently directed at Jews.  What’s the difference between Sarah Palin’s claim that the President will operate death panels to kill her disabled child, and the classic blood libel that Jews kill Christian babies and use their blood to make matzoh?  Only the most ignorant and fearful among us could possibly believe such nonsense, and yet time and again scapegoating has worked because people have believed it and sought to eliminate imaginary threats by killing real people.

And now the President’s opponents have adopted another tactic from the anti-Semites’ playbook.  There’s already been way too much talk about Nazis in the course of debating the Affordable Care Act. But when a political group’s response to legislation comes in the form of coordinated window-smashing, only the willfully forgetful can fail to think “Kristallnacht.”

That’s the night the Nazis expressed their disappointment at a political setback by going on a simultaneous rampage all over Germany: killing Jews, beating them, setting fire to their homes and, most memorably, breaking 7500 windows of Jewish-owned shops.  The current incidents of vandalism against the offices of Congresspeople who voted for the Affordable Care Act aren’t remotely comparable in scale to that night in 1938, but they’re precisely comparable in purpose.   And the sound of breaking glass is the last thing you hear before reasoned political debate is drowned out entirely, and with it genuine self-government.

House Republican Whip Eric Cantor is apparently among the willfully forgetful.  His response to the outbreak of violence among those who share his political positions was to claim that he, too, had been the target of political violence and-more important-to blame the Democrats for making public what had occurred. In other words, he claimed victimization while blaming the actual victims.

Consider, if you would, the Wikipedia account of Kristallnacht’s aftermath:

More than 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and taken to concentration camps . . . . After this, the Jewish community was fined 1 billion reichsmarks.

In other words, the Nazis claimed victimization while blaming the actual victims.

Let me be clear: I don’t think the people who broke campaign-office windows are actual Nazis, or that their doing so had anything to do with anti-Semitism or Jews.  The fact that Kristallnacht was organized and the latest nonsense mostly not is a big difference, as is the fact that Kristallnacht had official sanction while the window-breaking doesn’t. Everything that happens isn’t about Nazis or Jews.

Being Jewish nonetheless provides a useful set of historical sense memories, and the sound of glass splintering on sidewalks is one of them.

In the early 1930s, plenty of people on the respectable German right disdained the low-class National Socialists.  They were a tool, that’s all, useful temporarily for cowing and marginalizing liberalism so the respectable right could regain political power.  By the time the respectable German right figured out that the Nazi tiger couldn’t be ridden, the whole country was already inside.

So who on the respectable American right will be the first to condemn wholeheartedly our current eruption of far-right thuggery? Apparently it won’t be John Boehner, who undercut his own criticism of the attacks by describing them as the natural result of insupportable Democratic provocation.   It won’t be Sarah Palin, who like her anti-choice allies routinely identifies opponents as “enemies” and “targets,” and like them will doubtless pretend to be surprised when someone gets murdered.   And it won’t be Eric Cantor, though as the highest-ranking Jew in the Republican caucus he might be expected to remember history and hope not to repeat it.

So is there anyone left in the Republican Party to speak out, or are they all too busy hoping the Tea Partiers don’t come for them?

Stay tuned.