– “We welcome such a decision and support it. … We consider this as a good-faith sign from the American Administration toward Iraq and Iraqis.” — Tahseen al-Shekhli, spokesman for the Iraqi government
– “[Maliki is] very comfortable with the plan. … I think we’re ready to take over the responsibilities from the Americans. Our forces will be up to it, and we are even ready right now.” — Yassen Majeed, adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki
– “It is a realistic and responsible plan. It represents a recognition that Iraq must take matters into their own hands and deal with those huge challenges as an independent country.” — Mahdi al Hafez, Minister of Parliament
– “We will be ready to take over when the Americans leave.” — Gen. Abdul Kerim Khalaf, spokesman for the interior ministry and a “key player in the Baghdad security plan.”
During a CPAC panel today, Ziegler addressed such conservatives, saying that they should be “ostracized and punished”:
ZIEGLER: And I’ve got to say a few words about the Right in this situation too because sometimes we get what we deserve on this issue because we are oftentimes a lot of cowards. We don’t stand up for our own, we don’t stand up for what we believe, we allow ourselves to be tortured in the news media and a lot of us end up selling out to the other side for a guest spot on Meet The Press or Larry King Live because they know that a conservative saying something bad about another conservative is automatically going to be newsworthy and get them a higher profile. Well, those people ought to be ostracized and punished.
Ziegler then referred to the heretics as “traitors,” adding that it “goes far deeper” than conservative members of the media. “This goes throughout the entire organizational structure of the conservative movement,” said Ziegler. “They do not protect their own.”
In a hour-plus-long speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) that was carried live, commercial-free, on CNN and Fox News, Rush Limbaugh directly attacked his rival for the role of titular leader of the conservative movement, Newt Gingrich. Gingrich had told the CPAC crowd that the GOP must offer new ideas and policies. “It’s not our job to be the opposition party. It’s our job to be the ‘better solutions party’,” he said. He was echoing a point he had made last year that the party needed to move forward: “The era of Reagan is over.” (Limbaugh attacked him for the statement at the time.)
Today, Limbaugh came out swinging, insisting that conservatives need not concern themselves with policy ideas whatsoever and slamming conservatives who want to move beyond Reagan.
Everybody asks me — and I’m sure it’s been a focal point of your convention — well, what do we do, as conservatives? What do we do? How do we overcome this? … One thing we can all do is stop assuming that the way to beat them is with better policy ideas. [...]
Our own movement has members trying to throw Reagan out while the Democrats know they can’t accomplish what they want unless they appeal to Reagan voters. We have got to stamp this out within this movement because it will tear us apart. It will guarantee we lose elections.
And it worries them to have ideas, because ideas have edges, and they’re not totally formed, and you’ve got to prove them, and they sound strange because they’re new, and if it’s new how do you know it’s any good, because, after all, it’s new and you’ve never heard it before.
Besides swiping at his competition, Limbaugh sought to prove his leadership bonafides by reiterating his hope that President Obama “fails,” insisting that racism was a problem of the left and not the right, and calling liberalism a “psychosis” and liberals “deranged.”
Today at CPAC, Rush Limbaugh was supposed to deliver a 20-minute speech. It ended up lasting for 1 1/2 hours, before a right-wing audience that greeted him like a hero. Rush again defended his controversial comments that he hopes President Obama fails, saying they were “common sense.” He also claimed that Democrats had wanted the war in Iraq to fail. The overflow crowded exploded into applause at Rush’s remarks. After his speech, CPAC presented Rush with a “Defender of the Constitution” award, which included a document signed by Benjamin Franklin. The presenter then compared Rush to Franklin:
The king of England sat with his advisers, and they read the writings of Ben Franklin. They said, “The colonists will never be successful if they read what he writes.” Just as the king’s successor, who is in the White House, said the other day, that conservatives will never be successful if they listen to Rush Limbaugh. The only way we will be successful is if we listen to Rush Limbaugh!
As ThinkProgress has documented, a growing number of conservatives are rooting for the failure of Obama’s presidency. Today on C-SPAN Washington Journal, a caller asked right-wing blogger Michelle Malkin if she agrees with Rush Limbaugh’s statement that he hopes President Obama fails. Malkin explained why she does:
MALKIN: When the President proposes things like trillion dollar budgets that have earmarks that he claims do not exist, yes, I hope that fails. When he proposes the same kind of wealth re-distributionist policies that had appalled me under the Bush administration, yes, I hope they fail.
Malkin then became increasingly defensive, arguing, “It certainly doesn’t make me some kind of racist for wanting to disagree with the President.” Watch it:
I was talking to a libertarian-minded fellow at the Kaufman Foundation conference I was attending on Friday, and he asked me something like why does all this big government stuff have to be done at the federal level? Couldn’t we leave it all up to the states? That way there’s be a kind of “policy competition”—states could try different things, people could leave policy regimes they didn’t like, and we could see what works:
The most obvious problem with this proposal is that in the areas where the case for government activism is the strongest, it just wouldn’t make sense to take action at the level of a small sub-unit of a large economically integrated country. Rhode Island can’t regulate air pollution since it can’t help air wafting in from neighboring states. And Kentucky can’t do macro stabilization policy—there’s too much economic leakage into the rest of the country.
But probably the more profound problem here is that it doesn’t seem to work in practice. In the context of the normal political debate, I obviously come down on the big government side of the equation. But at the same time, I wouldn’t disagree with the observation that there are some elements of our economy that are badly over-regulated. It’s much more difficult to start or expand a business than it should be and this is one of the reasons why our economy has gotten so dominated by cookie-cutter chains that have enough scale to amass expertise and legal clout needed to navigate this thicket. There’s more occupational licensing than their needs to be. There’s too much regulation saying that buildings have to be short, or can only occupy so big a percentage of the lot, or have to have so many parking spaces. At the same time that I think the country’s overall policy dynamic is too tilted toward the automobile, the actual vehicle registration process is weirdly cumbersome, and the rules governing auto dealers are positively insane.
But all this malfeasance is done by state and local governments.
Rather than the small scale of the units leading to better policy via competition, what seems to me to happen is that the lack of public attention paid to policymaking at the state, county, and municipal level leads to much more pure interest-group capture than you see on the federal level. Not that interest groups don’t have a lot of clout in federal politics. But the relatively competitive nature of elections and the relatively bright spotlight shown on national politics puts a check on these things. At the state level, bad policy really runs amok. So I wind up being skeptical that you could really improve much of anything even in those areas when I think the libertarian perspective is broadly correct by devolving more authority downward.
During her speech at CPAC today, right-wing loon Ann Coulter said we owe “a thank you to George Bush for keeping us so safe.” That comment earned a rousing ovation from the audience of conservative activists. Coulter then proceeded to claim Obama is continuing Bush’s national security policies, before attacking him over Afghanistan:
The one real problem with Obama on national security is… he’s putting more troops into Afghanistan, which is insane. This has been the focus of the terrorists — they’re all streaming across into Iraq, where we can win. Now it’s gonna be in Afghanistan, which could well be another Vietnam.
So for politically correct reasons, we’re moving the focus of the war on terrorism to a very bad place for us. The Russians couldn’t win there. Peter the Great couldn’t win there. Oh, but maybe the messiah can win there, ok.
Interestingly, the attack by Coulter didn’t seem to receive any reaction from the audience, positive or negative. Watch it:
The HuffPost’s Sam Stein highlights another “slightly awkward” moment during Coulter’s speech with an audience member asked her whether she is “advantageous to the Republican cause.” Stein reports, “Coulter quickly and coldly dismissed the questioner, a conservative himself, by telling him to, essentially, stop talking.”
For twelve years this Nation was afflicted with hear-nothing, see-nothing, do-nothing Government. The Nation looked to Government but the Government looked away. Nine mocking years with the golden calf and three long years of the scourge! Nine crazy years at the ticker and three long years in the breadlines! Nine mad years of mirage and three long years of despair! Powerful influences strive today to restore that kind of government with its doctrine that that Government is best which is most indifferent. [...]
They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.
Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me‹and I welcome their hatred.
For some time now, I think many progressives have been waiting to hear something similar from Barack Obama. And in today’s edition of the weekly YouTube address, I think we get something like it. Talking about a budget that will cut taxes for most families while raising them on a few, increasing federal aid to college students while reducing federal aid to private sector student loan writers, and boost health care coverage while reducing subsidies to health insurance firms, Obama says:
I know these steps won’t sit well with the special interests and lobbyists who are invested in the old way of doing business, and I know they’re gearing up for a fight as we speak. My message to them is this: So am I. The system we have now might work for the powerful and well-connected interests that have run Washington for far too long, but I don’t. I work for the American people. I didn’t come here to do the same thing we’ve been doing or to take small steps forward, I came to provide the sweeping change that this country demanded when it went to the polls in November.
I’m not sure whether or not this kind of feisty presidential rhetoric and leadership is actually as decisive as some liberals think, but it is nice to hear.
Nowhere is that more true than California, where Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, a freshman from San Francisco, made a proposal intended to increase revenue, and, no doubt, appetite: legalizing and taxing marijuana, a major — if technically illegal — crop in the state.
“We’re all jonesing now for money,” Mr. Ammiano said. “And there’s this enormous industry out there.”
I don’t think this is the optimal policy. I fear the creation of a legal marijuana industry with lobbyists and advertising aimed at creating as many problem pot smokers as possible. It would be better, I think, to decriminalize possession and growing for personal use but keep maintain a ban on selling and marketing marijuana. That said, the revenue possibilities of moving to full legalization are pretty tempting. And what Ammiano is proposing would be a significant improvement over the status quo. I think it’s a real sign of the poverty of our policy conversation that this idea isn’t in wider circulation.