And Now It Begins

Okay, Rick Santorum is gone, with the appropriate assessments of whatever that was about – no one quite knows. And Newt Gingrich has become a joke – “The Gingrich campaign in March submitted the necessary paperwork and the $500 check to get on the ballot for the Utah primary, but the check bounced, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. The state notified the campaign that if the fee isn’t paid by April 20, Gingrich won’t qualify to get on the ballot.”

Oops. Gingrich says it was just one of those “goofy” things – his campaign has plenty of money and he’s a serious contender, really, honest. And the check is in the mail. But the number of people who find him compelling and defend him is dwindling fast. There’s Callista, and one wonders about how long it will be before she starts rolling her eyes. He always has seemed kind of a goofball, which is kind of cool, but one without principles, which isn’t. The lovable goofball with principles, who sometimes makes sense, but not that often, is Ron Paul – still in the race, being principled and pleasant, but as likely to get the nomination as Pat Boone or Mel Brooks. Ron Paul is there to say what he has to say. He doesn’t even seem to want to be president. He just wants to speak his mind, which is kind of refreshing. But he’s not a factor. He never was.

And that means things are settled on the Republican side. Romney will be the candidate. And he wants to be president – because he wants to be president. No one senses any other reason. The social conservatives in the Republican base, the evangelicals, don’t trust him. There’s not enough Jesus-anger in the man. And those who want the federal government to do next to nothing about anything, and just leave everyone alone, will never forgive him for his Massachusetts healthcare plan – universal coverage for everyone, from private insurers, with an individual mandate that everyone buys or pays a fine, to spread risk wide and keep costs down. That’s Obamacare – it was the model Obama used. There’s no getting around it. And everyone else thinks of Romney as an out-of-touch Richie Rich, out to line the pockets of his rich buddies. And he has no charisma. All the polling shows him down almost twenty percent with all women, including Republican women, compared to Obama, and his likeability ratings are worse than that. No one much likes the guy. But he survived. And this seems familiar. Like John McCain the last time around, Romney doesn’t have an enthusiastic party behind him, and the general voting population finds him somewhere between boring and repellant. So he’ll have to do something about that.

McCain’s solution was to find a running mate who had tons of charisma and ignited his surly and disappointed party – Sarah Palin. McCain surprised everyone and got his bounce. But it turned out that when she wasn’t embarrassing – those interviews with Katie Couric and Charlie Gibson – she took over the campaign and led McCain to dark places he really didn’t want to go. McCain ended up, at a major rally, telling that one odd befuddled woman that no, Obama wasn’t an Arab, just a good family man, with whom he disagreed on key policies. McCain ended up trying to repair the damage that Palin, with her go-for-the-jugular rhetoric, had done. And it was hopeless. McCain lost control of his own campaign. One must be careful in these things.

But Romney has to do something, and of course Sarah Palin has some advice, as she had told Sean Hannity on Fox News that Romney really needs to pick someone who will ignite the party and amaze America. And to her the choice is obvious, a Tea Party hero, who is also black, and even blacker than Obama, and that would be that freshman congressman from Florida, Allen West:

I love that he has that military experience. He is a public servant willing to serve for the right reasons. He understands the Constitution. He understands our national foreign policy issues that must be addressed. He has served. I really like him. There are so many, Sean, that are out there. And when I talk about going rogue, what I want to do is encourage the GOP nominee to not think that they have to go with somebody necessarily safe that conventional wisdom perhaps would lead somebody to believe that, if it’s somebody, quote-unquote, safe, that they’re not going to get beat up by the media, because no matter who it is.

So the calculation here is that the mainstream media is going to hate any Republican at all, as they’re in the pocket of the secular left and all that, so no one is safe, really. So what you should do is choose a Real American, and the people will cheer and you’ll win.

But consider this new angry congressmen was Allen West – who has been representing Florida’s 22nd congressional district since January 2011 – an ex-Army guy who served in Iraq and was a civilian adviser in Afghanistan. Yes, he put in more than twenty years of active duty, ending up a lieutenant colonel, but he elected to retire after an investigation of his conduct during the interrogation of a detainee:

While serving in Taji, Iraq, West received information from an intelligence specialist about a reported plot to ambush him and his men. The alleged plot reportedly involved Yahya Jhodri Hamoodi, a civilian Iraqi police officer. West, who was not responsible for conducting interrogations in Iraq and had never conducted nor witnessed one, had his men detain Hamoodi. In the process of detaining Mr. Hamoodi, soldiers testified that Hamoodi appeared to reach for his weapon and needed to be subdued. Hamoodi was beaten by four soldiers from the 220th Field Artillery Battalion on the head and body. West then fired his pistol near Hamoodi’s head, after which Hamoodi provided West with names and information, which Hamoodi later described as “meaningless information induced by fear and pain.” At least one of these suspects was arrested as a result, but no plans for attacks or weapons were found. West said “At the time I had to base my decision on the intelligence I received. It’s possible that I was wrong about Mr. Hamoodi.”

But he was angry and did what he did, and got what turned out to be completely meaningless information. But he insists he was right to do that, because he was so very angry. It’s a Tea Party thing.

But he also got this:

West was charged with violating articles 128 (assault) and 134 (general article) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. During a hearing held as part of an Article 32 investigation in November 2003, West stated, “I know the method I used was not right, but I wanted to take care of my soldiers.” The charges were ultimately referred to an Article 15 proceeding rather than court-martial, at which West was fined $5,000. West accepted the judgment and retired with full benefits in the summer of 2004. Asked if he would act differently under similar circumstances again, West testified, “If it’s about the lives of my soldiers at stake, I’d go through hell with a gasoline can.”

He’s that kind of guy, and a letter supporting him was signed by ninety-five members of Congress and sent to the Secretary of the Army. Bob Gates was not moved. He seemed to think this guy was a jerk, so West retired and taught high school for a time, and gave speeches all over, and spoke in defense of anyone in our military who got mad and tortured prisoners for useless information, and who now faced charges. It wasn’t fair. But that was beside the point. Those who induce fear and unbearable pain were angry, and that’s what mattered.

And earlier this year, as an angry new congressman, he spoke out during a hotly contested Florida primary:

This is a battlefield that we must stand upon and we need to let president Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and my dear friend, the chairman of the Democrat National Committee, we need to let them know that Florida ain’t on the table. Take your message of equality of achievement, take your message of economic dependency, and take your message of enslaving the entrepreneurial will and spirit of the American people somewhere else. You can take it to Europe, you can take it to the bottom of the sea, you can take it to the North Pole, but get the hell out of the United States of America. Yeah, I said hell.

This is not about 1% and 99%. This is about 100% – 100% American. And I will not stand back and watch anyone defame, degrade or destroy that which my father fought for, my older brother, my father-in-law, myself, my nephew and all my friends still in uniform. I will not allow Obama to take the United States of America and destroy it. So if that means I’m the #1 target for the Democrat Party, all I gotta say is one thing: “Bring it on, baby.”

You can see why Sarah Palin likes the guy. He told all the damned Democrats to get the hell out of the country. This isn’t their country. They’re not Real Americans. They should leave, now.

And now, according to Roll Call, he’s at it again:

Florida Rep. Allen West (R) said Tuesday that “he’s heard” scores of Democratic Members of Congress are communists, according to the Palm Beach Post and confirmed by West’s campaign to Roll Call.

“I believe there are about 78 to 81 members of the Democratic Party that are members of the Communist Party: It’s called the Congressional Progressive Caucus,” West said at an event Tuesday, according to a partial YouTube video and his campaign manager, Tim Edson, who was there. West was responding to a question: “What percentage of the American legislature do you think are card-carrying Marxists or International Socialists?”

“He stands by his words,” Edson said.

Perhaps he was showing off, to impress Romney, as Romney is looking, but Steve Benen is reminded of something else:

During the height of the Red Scare, Republican Sen. Joe McCarthy reportedly said, “I have here in my hand a list of 205 – a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.”

McCarthy never shared the list of names, which was largely the point – “McCarthyism” was about creating fears and sowing seeds of suspicion based on nothing. The resulting hysteria led to blacklisting, ruined lives, and a witch-trial atmosphere, motivated by little more than paranoia.

McCarthy was disgraced, but his tactics live on.

And Benen is amazed:

For all the talk about McCarthyism in politics, we don’t usually come across literal examples like these. Here’s an unhinged congressman who’s “heard” that roughly half of the House Democratic caucus are secretly members of the Communist Party, and though he’s not prepared to say who’s on the alleged list, the federal lawmaker feels comfortable sharing this in public.

But there was a clarification:

Rep. Allen West’s (R-FL) campaign is disputing a media report that he said there were 80 members of the Communist Party among congressional Democrats, without naming any. Indeed, West’s team has given a more complete video clip to the Daily Caller, showing the full context: He did name them.

The unedited video shows West’s declaration at a town hall event. “I believe there are about 78 or 81 members of the Democrat Party that are members of the Communist Party,” he said, followed by a long, dramatic pause, during which there were assorted moans and whispers in the audience.

After about 30 seconds, West unfurled his deadpan punch line: “The answer to that: It’s called the Congressional Progressive Caucus.”

As so he did name names:

The Progressive Caucus is, of course, an internal grouping of the most left-leaning members of House Democrats. Current and past members have included Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (who relinquished her membership after she became House Democrats’ leader in late 2002), Rep. Barney Frank, civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, and many others.

Does that make it better? Benen reminds us that Steve King, the Republican congressman from Iowa, wants to reconvene Joe McCarthy’s old panel, the House Un-American Activities Committee – and Michele Bachmann famously told Chris Matthews that she supports investigations to determine which members of Congress are “pro-America or anti-America” – and then there’s Texas rewriting the state’s public school curriculum to reflect the fact that McCarthy was a hero, “vindicated” by history, if that’s a fact. There seems to be some disagreement. Benen says he’d gladly chip in to buy copies of Good Night, and Good Luck for West, King, and Bachmann.

And then there’s this:

A top official of the Communist Party USA on Wednesday ripped Rep. Allen West’s “sad ploy” for claiming that as many as 80 Democratic members of the House are communists.

“I just think it’s an absurd way to cast a shadow over his colleagues. It’s kind of a sad ploy,” Libero Della Piana, a vice-chairman of the national Communist Party, said of the Florida Republican’s charge that about 80 House Democrats were members of the radical party.

“It’s just guilt by association taken to an extreme,” he told POLITICO. He also said there are no members of Congress who are members of the Communist Party – not even avowed socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

“I think it’s just absurd,” Della Piana said.

Della Piana seems to be saying communists aren’t all that bad, and at least they’re not Democrats, or something. But Cocktailhag sees a larger issue here:

I just don’t know what it is about Republicans and the 1950′s, but you may rest assured it isn’t the top tax rate of 91%, the high rate of unionization, or even Ike and Mamie. No, the things they like about the 1950′s are all the things normal people recognize today as, tacky, retrograde, and short-sighted. Segregation, suburban sprawl, social conformity, DDT, atomic anything, apron-clad housewives, gas guzzlers, and Joe McCarthy; these are the things that, to the admittedly addled Republican mind, made America great.

This weird and selective nostalgia became clear during the dark and equally discredited George W. Bush era, when “the 60s” became shorthand for everything that went wrong with America to this day. If only a re-imagined past before darkies, hippies, and broads got so uppity could be somehow restored, everything would be, well, hunky-dory. Never mind that the reason so many 1950′s notions fell by the wayside was because they had failed so catastrophically; devastating urban riots exposed the racial and class divides that emptied out and impoverished once-prosperous cities, choking smog and rivers catching fire made a mockery of  “progress” that relied on heedless environmental destruction, a futile and bloody war cost 58,000 Americans and countless southeast Asians their lives, and a merciless pogrom against purported domestic “enemies” ruined hundreds of lives and careers while “exposing” a few romantic malcontents whose only crime was once wanting a better world than what was being relentlessly advertised on the TV.

But the idea here is that Allen West is too young to have any real grasp of what the McCarthy era was really like:

Forget sock hops, tail fins and Leave it to Beaver; what makes West long for the age before Aquarius is the sleazy showmanship of a booze-addled lowlife from Wisconsin whose name is synonymous with fear-mongering and character assassination.

And West should be glad the sixties came along:

If West had two brain cells to rub together, he would realize that his very presence in the House is a product of the racial progress that finally began in the 1960s, just as the fact that he’s able to live in, much less represent, a suburban district in a Jim Crow state like Florida would have been impossible without the pioneering efforts of, gasp, the Communist Party, which in his idealized mid-century was virtually alone in championing equal rights for black Americans.

But then in the Daily Caller, West’s campaign manager, Tim Edson, refers to the original report in the Palm Beach Post – “One stupid reporter with a local publication misquoted the entire thing, and they all jumped on one press account without verifying.” And it’s all a conspiracy – “The real point is these people speak for themselves, and if you listen to the words of the Progressive Caucus it’s clear that these people are opponents of capitalism. They oppose free markets, they oppose individual economic freedom. So you can call them whatever you want, whether they’re socialists or Marxists or communists.”

Fine, but Romney now may not choose Allen West to run with him, in spite of Sarah Palin’s advice.

But Romney has to do something, or not, given this odd item from Talking Points Memo:

Why hasn’t Congress impeached President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder? Rep. Todd Akin says it’s simply a lack of votes. But he says that may change eventually.

“That’s a good question,” Akin told a constituent on Tuesday who asked just that. “I can’t speak for the other 400 and some congressmen, but I believe when they take a look at impeachment the question is do you have the votes to do it and, if you do it, it goes to the Senate, what’s going to happen with Harry Reid?”

And the background:

The exchange was captured on video by Democratic tracker American Bridge at an event held by the Boone County Pachyderms in Columbia, Mo., and provided exclusively to TPM. Impeachment is generally considered a taboo topic among national Republicans, who prefer to limit their disagreements with the president to the political arena.

But if you cannot get rid of Obama in a general election, because your candidate is boring and he probably won’t choose an angry war criminal to run with him, you can impeach him – all you have to do is rename policies you don’t like, enacted into law by majority vote, High Crimes and Misdemeanors. But that can backfire.

Clinton was impeached and his poll numbers rose, and he got off, and the Republicans came off as smarmy jerks. It’s probably better to hold your nose and get behind Romney and see if you can help him win.

But that gets harder all the time:

Mitt Romney took one of his first swings at eliminating a daunting gender gap with President Barack Obama here today, and missed.

Wielding a flier and standing before three dozen Connecticut businesswomen, Romney highlighted what he said is Obama’s terrible record on getting jobs for women.

“I was disappointed in listening to the president as he’s saying, ‘Oh, Republicans are waging a war on women,’” Romney told a crowd in a cramped printing company warehouse here. “The real war on women is being waged by the president’s failed economic policies.”

Romney then read from one of his glossy fliers titled, “Women & the Obama economy,” that his team had distributed before his arrival.

“This is an amazing statistic,” Romney said. “The percentage of jobs lost by women in the president’s three, three and a half years, 92.3 percent of all the jobs lost during the Obama years have been lost by women. Ninety-two point three percent!”

So Obama is the one waging a war on women. Except he isn’t and the claim was considered mostly false by PolitiFact. Kevin Drum has all the data, and cool charts, that show the source of the misunderstanding – and First Read checked in with the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Brian Davidson, an economist at BLS, told First Read: “The math they use is correct; the terminology is completely wrong.”

Davidson noted that women actually make up a larger share of the workforce now than they did in Jan. 2008 before the financial meltdown, and since January 2009, it is a statistically insignificant change.

In January 2008, women made up 48.8 percent of the workforce; in January 2009, 49.5 percent; now 49.3 percent.

“Do we still have the same amount of women workers relative to men in the ‘net-change’? Yes we do,” Davidson said.

He added, “It’s like trying to pull a bunny out of a hat, but there’s no bunny inside.”

There’s no bunny in the hat. And Allen West is no bunny in the hat either, in spite of what Sarah Palin says.

And there’s this:

And during a Wednesday morning call with reporters, Romney policy chief Lanhee Chen and other surrogates were asked three separate times how the Obama administration has been worse for women than men and provided no specifics.

They had no answer, and this was worse:

On the Wednesday conference call, Sam Stein of the Huffington Post asked for Romney’s position on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act – the first law Obama signed as president – that eliminated the statute of limitations for women to sue to receive equal pay for performing the same jobs as men.

Following a six-second pause, an unidentified voice replied, “Sam, we’ll get back to you on that.”

No, they weren’t prepared for that. Later in the day they issued a statement that Romney, as president, probably wouldn’t repeal the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. They were having a bad day.

And so the general election begins. Romney has some problems to solve, and those problems have little to do with communists. And this isn’t the early fifties. And no one likes him.

And that’s the shape of things to come. We now know what to expect.

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About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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