Related to the point below about the past being a different country in political terms, it seems that in the 98th Senate (serving from 1983-84) Richard Lugar was the 77th most conservative senator putting him in the rightwing half of the GOP caucus. In the 111th Senate he’s 69th and the overall size of the Republican caucus is much smaller, so he’s distinctly on the left side.
Moderate Democrats like Howell Heflin have been replaced with very conservative Republicans like Jeff Sessions, while the Robert Staffords has been replaced by Bernie Sanders.
Walter Russell Mead has fabricated an anti-scientific revisionist history of the environmental movement, which is why the pundit king of the ultraconservative anti-science climate disinformers, George Will, loves it.
Mead, who says that he is a skeptic about climate policy rather than climate science….
That’s like saying you believe in the science that says cigarette smoking causes lung cancer, emphysema, and cardiopulmonary disease, but you don’t believe in quitting smoking. Mead certainly tries to create the impression that this is what he believes in his Orwellian post, “The Big Green Lie Exposed,” where he says:
Months after initially making the claim that undocumented immigrants were beheading people in the Arizona desert, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) has finally admitted that she was wrong. Brewer first raised the spectre of beheadings on June 16 during an interview with Greta Van Susteren on Fox News, when she said: “We cannot afford all this illegal immigration and everything that comes with it, everything from the crime and to the drugs and the kidnappings and the extortion and the beheadings and the fact that people can’t feel safe in their community.” She doubled down when questioned on the claim by an Arizona reporter two weeks later. Brewer said, “Our law enforcement agencies have found bodies in the desert, either buried or just lying out there, that have been beheaded.”
Brewer’s most awkward defense of her false claims came this week, when she was challenged by her Democratic opponent about the alleged beheadings during the gubernatorial debate, and was then questioned by the Arizona press corps afterward. Brewer refused to answer their questions, and then walked away.
Now, Brewer has finally (mostly) come clean, in an interview yesterday with the Associated Press:
“That was an error, if I said that,” the Republican told The Associated Press on Friday. “I misspoke, but you know, let me be clear, I am concerned about the border region because it continues to be reported in Mexico that there’s a lot of violence going on and we don’t want that going into Arizona.”
She said she was referring to beheadings and other cartel-related violence in Mexico in comments she made earlier this summer about decapitated bodies found in the state’s southern region.
Watch a compilation of Brewer’s evolving statements:
It’s unlikely Brewer would have been forced to correct herself if pressure had not been put on her during the debate about her misstatements. In related news, Brewer has announced she will not be doing any more debates.
All in all, the president’s party holds some pretty bad cards — but even so, this year needn’t be like 1994. If Democrats take a close look at what happened that year, they can avoid repeating it. And if they look to another election year, 1982, they might even find inspiration in an unlikely place: President Ronald Reagan’s leadership. In the run-up to that year’s midterm elections, Reagan faced 10.8 percent unemployment, 6 percent inflation, a declining GDP, an approval rating barely above freezing and the indignity of having drastically increased the budget deficit over the previous year after running as a fiscal hawk. You can’t get a hand much worse than that, but Reagan nonetheless managed to hold all 54 GOP Senate seats while losing only 26 House races.
When I first read that I was genuinely surprised at the loss of zero Senate seats so I looked it up and, indeed, Democrats made no net Senate gains though seats in Virginia and New Mexico did flip:
What strikes me about this map is how long ago 1982 was in terms of the evolution of the American party system. Democrats held on to seats in Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas while the GOP maintained control of seats in California, Vermont, and Connecticut. It strikes me that in today’s more ideologically- and geographically-aligned party system, the fate of congressional candidates is probably more closely tied to assessments of the president than was the case in the past.
Here’s Larry Bartels in his new paper (PDF) “Base Appeal: The Political Attitudes and Priorities of Core Partisans” translating the idea that Democrats and Republicans both want to appeal to the median voter, but are also pulled away from median positions by the views of their respective bases into a equationese:
It’s a problem specifically for progressives because a lot of the areas where they’re concentrated have exactly these norms against doing public intellectual work. Meanwhile, economists are free to go out there and mostly spread right-wing dogma across the galaxy. And it’s a problem for everybody, because you’d want the knowledge that’s contained in academia to find some way out. Lots of resources are expended on producing this knowledge, and the personal advancement of academics is all about creating more of it, and then nobody has any way of accessing it.
I suppose one might speculate that this is actually one of the causes of the “economists are different” phenomenon. Academics are, on the whole, pretty left-wing. And yet their business model is basically “persuade a bunch of rich guys to give us money in order to enhance their prestige.” Insofar as rich people are more likely to feel flattered by the kinds of things economists are likely to say to a non-specialist audience, why not be disproportionately welcome to them communicating to such audiences. Larry Bartels’ discomfiting findings should maybe be kept off the radar.
For months, congressional Republicans have refused to put forward a detailed policy agenda for this fall’s midterm elections, preferring instead to focus on their opposition to the Obama administration. Some in the House have dusted off former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s tarnished legacy and are advocating the creation of a new “Contract with America.” The contract gimmick helped propel Gingrich and his party to huge wins in 1994, and House GOP leaders are trying to make the same play again.
Both Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) have thus far been reluctant to lay out an alternative GOP agenda.
But two leading Republican senators this morning urged their leadership to come out with an agenda. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), appearing on Fox News Sunday and Meet the Press respectively, each floated the idea of a new Contract with America, in a seemingly coordinated message:
WALLACE: I just want to get back to this idea, the contract. The House Republicans are talking about, I guess they’ll call it a Commitment to America. But Senate Republicans haven’t been talking about that. Are you saying Senate Republicans should come forward with their own affirmative agenda between now and the election?
McCAIN: I think the Senate and House Republicans should come forward with an agenda before the election. Yes. You know, as much as, as happy as we are about the outcome of the elections, when you look at the approval ratings of Republicans they’re just as bad as Democrats. We have to give them a reason to vote for us.
GREGORY: Do you think the Republicans have some work to do before they can really achieve majority status?
GRAHAM: Well, I think what we have to do is to come up with a uniting agenda, sort of a Contract with America, what would we do different on spending? … Going forward, [we need to] show the American people that the Republican party can govern.
Watch a compilation:
When presented with one proposed positive agenda — Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) harsh Roadmap for America’s future — McCain declined to endorse it, saying he hadn’t studied it in “detail.”
Both Graham and McCain also praised tea party activists as a vital component of the GOP’s new base. McCain said, “Tea-partiers are a great addition,” adding with considerable understatement: “We’re going to have a broad array of different views in our Republican conference, and I think it might be more interesting than any I’ve been in in a long time.”
The Hebrew-only speakers behaved like children just starting to read most languages – they tried to tell Arabic letters apart, managed to do it slowly but made a lot of mistakes, and used both hemispheres of their brains. The good Arabic readers, however, only used their left hemispheres to tell Arabic letters apart. [...]
And using both hemispheres is the right thing to do when reading English or Hebrew – so children’s learning strategies would be fine if they were reading another language.
But previous research has found that the right hemisphere is not that good at distinguishing small details, so readers starting to learn Arabic have to learn to focus on small details, which is not natural to them, but could help them shift to their left hemispheres.
This is attributed to the fact that Arabic characters are often distinguished from one another by small details “such as the placement of dots,” though my understanding is that Hebrew works this way too. Would be interesting to see the same research applied to reading Chinese characters.
Discussing President Obama’s Tuesday Iraq speech on Fox News Sunday’s morning panel, “fair and balanced” moderator Chris Wallace cited Obama’s discussion of the economy in order to ask the panelists, “Is it unfair to say that this a president whose heart doesn’t seem to be into winning the war on terror”:
WALLACE: In that speech, to say “my central mission is to restore the economy,” is it unfair to say that this a president whose heart doesn’t seem to be into winning the war on terror, no matter what it costs?
STEPHEN HAYES, WEEKLY STANDARD: No, I don’t think that’s at all unfair, and the reason you can say that is if you look back at his inaugural address, the key paragraph is the paragraph in which he describes what he called “the crisis now well understood.” In that paragraph he mentions, in one sentence, the war on terror, and then he goes on and gives a litany of economic, domestic policy problems. He talks about schools, he talks about health care, he talks about job losses, he talks about homes. This is how the president thinks, so to a certain extent there’s no question that this is driven by polls, by the potential that people are perceiving him as focused on Afghanistan or he’s talking too much about other things, not the economy. He wanted to talk about the economy. But more fundamentally, this is how the president thinks, for better or worse.
Even leaving aside why anyone should treat a discredited Saddam-Al Qaeda conspiracy theorist like Hayes as credible on anything, this is pretty pathetic. Hayes cites a stage-setting passage from the top of Obama’s inaugural address in order to argue that Obama doesn’t care about national security, ignoring that Obama later spent five full paragraphs of that speech solely on national security.
While it’s true that Obama has a number of challenges on his plate, many resulting from the staggering incompetence of his predecessor, there’s simply no reality-based argument that President Obama hasn’t been completely engaged on national security. In contrast to the Bush administration, which needlessly and disastrously conflated and confused who the real threat was, since taking office, Obama has relentlessly focused on al Qaeda and significantly intensified U.S. efforts to find, frustrate and destroy al Qaeda’s terrorist infrastructure. But for Fox News, nothing will ever be enough.
The larger issue, however, is Obama’s correct understanding of the importance of the relationship between America’s domestic economic security and our national security. What conservatives like Hayes and Wallace apparently don’t get is that without a strong economy, America’s ability to project power and achieve its international goals is seriously diminished. America’s economic health isn’t peripheral to America’s national security, it’s central to it.
In a AAAS presentation this year, William R. Freudenburg of UC Santa Barbara discussed his research on “the Asymmetry of Scientific Challenge“: New scientific findings are found to be more than twenty times as likely to indicate that global climate disruption is “worse than previously expected,” rather than “not as bad as previously expected.” You can see a review of many of the most important such studies here: “An illustrated guide to the latest climate science.”