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Sep 26 2010

Punting the Pundits

Punting the Punditsis an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

New York Times Editorial: The G.O.P.’s ‘Pledge’

Extravagant promises and bluster are the stuff of campaign rhetoric, but the House Republicans’ “Pledge to America” goes far beyond the norm.

Its breathless mimicry of the Declaration of Independence – the “governed do not consent,” it declares, while vowing to rein in “an arrogant and out-of-touch government of self-appointed elites” – would be ludicrous, if these were not destructively polarized times.

While it promises to create jobs, control deficit spending and restore Americans’ trust in government, it is devoid of tough policy choices. This new “governing agenda” does not say how the Republicans would replace revenue that would be lost from permanently extending all of the Bush tax cuts, or how they would manage Medicare and Social Security, or even which discretionary programs would go when they slash $100 billion in spending. Their record at all of these things is dismal.

The best way to understand the pledge is as a bid to co-opt the Tea Party by a Republican leadership that wants to sound insurrectionist but is the same old Washington elite. These are the folks who slashed taxes on the rich, turned a surplus into a crushing deficit, and helped unleash the financial crisis that has thrown millions of Americans out of their jobs and their homes.

Not only are the players the same, the policies are the same. Just more tax cuts for the rich and more deficit spending. We find it hard to believe that even the most disaffected voters will be taken in. But again, these are strange and worrying times.

Still, the pledge was worth a careful reading. It is a reminder that there is a choice to be made this fall.

Maureen Dowd: Slouching Toward Washington

Holy Roddy McDowall.

Christine O’Donnell doesn’t understand why monkeys can’t turn into people right before her eyes.

Bill Maher continued his video torment of O’Donnell by releasing another old clip of her on his HBO show on Friday night, this time showing one in which she argued that “Evolution is a myth.”

Maher shot back, “Have you ever looked at a monkey?” To which O’Donnell rebutted, “Why aren’t monkeys still evolving into humans?”

The comedian has a soft spot for the sweet-faced Republican Senate candidate from Delaware, but as he told me on Friday, it’s “powerful stupid to think primate evolution could happen fast enough to observe it. That’s bacteria.

“I find it so much more damaging than the witch stuff because she could be in a position to make decisions about scientific issues, like global warming and stem cells, and she thinks primate evolution can happen in a week and mice have human brains.”

Nicholas D. Kristof: Birth Control Over Baldness

Over the next decade, some astonishing new technologies will spread to fight global poverty. They’re called contraceptives.

This is a high-tech revolution that will affect more people in a more intimate way than almost any other technological stride. The next generation of family planning products will be cheaper, more effective and easier to use – they could be to today’s condoms and diaphragms what a smartphone is to the bricklike cellphones of 20 years ago.

Contraception dates back to ancient Egypt, where amorous couples relied on condoms made of linen. Yet after three millennia, although we can now intercept a missile in outer space, we’re often still outwitted by wandering sperm.

Largely, that’s because research on contraception is pitifully underfunded; if only family planning were treated as seriously as baldness! Contraception research just hasn’t received the resources it deserves, so we have state-of-the-art digital cameras and decades-old family planning methods.

Ray McGovern: Petraeus Cons Obama on Afghan War

One thing that comes through clearly in Bob Woodward’s new book, Obama’s Wars, is the contempt felt by Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, toward President Barack Obama.

One of Woodward’s more telling vignettes has Petraeus, after quaffing a glass of wine during a flight in May, telling some of his staff that the administration was “[expletive] with the wrong guy.”

No need to divine precisely what may be the “expletive deleted.” Petraeus’s Douglas-MacArthur-style contempt for the commander-in-chief comes through clearly enough. But Obama is no Harry Truman, facing down a popular general who may fancy himself a future president.

Pity poor Obama. Journalists favored with an advance peek at Woodward’s new book, like Peter Baker of the New York Times, report that Obama last year pressed his advisers to come up with ways to avoid a major escalation in Afghanistan.

Baker notes that at one meeting the President “implored” them. “I want an exit strategy,” Obama said.

Obama implored in vain. Petraeus, then the head of Central Command, and the other generals refused to come up with an exit strategy from Afghanistan. What does that tell you? Among other things that Barack Obama is “no Jack Kennedy,” either.

David Swanson: On Voting for Bad Democrats: the Perriello Predicament

What if you told your local congress critter you’d oppose them if they funded more war, and they funded more war, but their opponent is even worse and a Republican? . . . .

Some well-meaning souls tell me that Perriello is with us in his heart and would vote the right way if he thought he could. Supposedly, he does vote the right way when bills fly under the radar and won’t be a big deal to his constituents. The evidence for that is underwhelming. The approach to democracy that it establishes is disturbing. If Perriello believes his district is lagging behind, he ought to use the platform he has to educate people, not make enlightened votes when, and only when, nobody’s watching.

When I look for the very best members of Congress, I notice that some of them are in similar situations to Perriello. Congressman Alan Grayson is a first-term Democrat from a traditionally Republican district in Florida. He, like Perriello, came in through a narrow victory in a year in which a presidential race turned out lots of new and excited voters. Grayson quickly became a leader in the progressive caucus and went beyond what most of its members would do. He took an out-spoken position in support of peace, justice, and the social good on a wide range of issues. He didn’t just vote against more war. He publicly organized people around the country to lobby other congress members to vote No. That kind of leadership is almost unheard of. It almost makes it look as if the congressman actually wants to end the wars. People have responded by flooding Grayson’s reelection campaign with support and funding. Perriello, too, has raised lots of money, so much that the Democratic Party has an excuse for not giving him more, despite his loyalty.

But here’s the difference: people are excited and energized to back Grayson. His blunt outspokenness for progressive positions generates endless controversy and free media attention. He aggravates people who would never have voted for him anyway. And he excites people who would otherwise likely stay home to get out and vote and bring all their neighbors. I tell people to help Grayson, and I live in Perriello’s district. Here, the arguments for Perriello are mumbled more than shouted. They focus on his supposed goodness at heart, his voting record notwithstanding, and the horror of his opponent.

Ralph Nader: Why Say Yes to the Party of No?

How does the Big Business-indentured Republican Party get away with expectations of a runaway election victory this November? If such a victory should occur in Congress and for many governorships and state legislatures, it will be due to a ten percent or so shift in voters who voted Democratic in 2008 and are expected to vote Republican this year or stay home in despair or disgust. The rest of the voters who do vote will still stay with their hereditary Republican or Democratic candidates.

Jeff Cohen: Colbert Annoys Press Corps . . . Again

Let’s face it: Some in the Washington press corps still resent Stephen Colbert because he so brilliantly lampooned them to their faces at the 2006 White House Correspondents Dinner over their coziness with the Bush White House.

Yesterday, some elite journalists couldn’t contain their anger after Colbert testified before Congress on behalf of immigrant farm workers — mostly in character (with some funny and not-so-funny jokes) and partly in total seriousness:  “I like talking about people who don’t have any power and it seems like some of the least powerful people in the United States are the migrant workers who come and do our work and don’t have any rights as a result . And yet we still invite them to come here, and at the same time ask them to leave.”

Thanks to Colbert, a hearing on migrant workers that would have been ignored by mainstream journalists was jam-packed with mainstream journalists.

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