A Special Thing

This is really sweet:

As his eldest son faced the prospect of resigning as Delaware’s attorney general amid health concerns, Vice President Joe Biden received an offer that floored him: financial support from his boss, President Barack Obama.

In the never been told before story, Biden recalled how concerned Obama had been.

Describing in an interview with CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger one of his weekly lunches with Obama, Biden said he told the President he was worried about caring for Beau’s family without his son’s salary.

“I said, ‘But I worked it out.'” Biden recalled telling Obama. “I said, ‘But — Jill and I will sell the house and be in good shape.'”

Obama, Biden remembered, pushed back vehemently on the thought of Biden and his wife selling their home in Wilmington, Delaware.

“He got up and he said, ‘Don’t sell that house. Promise me you won’t sell the house,'” Biden continued, speculating Obama would be “mad” he was retelling the story.

“He said, ‘I’ll give you the money. Whatever you need, I’ll give you the money. Don’t, Joe — promise me. Promise me.’ I said, ‘I don’t think we’re going to have to anyway.’ He said, ‘promise me,'” Biden recalled.

I’m really looking forward to the what I hope are numerous historical comparisons of President/Vice President relationships. These guys have something special.

Who’s Weak?

Let’s grant for a moment that Barack Obama is the wussiest wuss who ever wussed. That means that whatever he asks for is the bare minimum we need to combat ISIL, and all the chest beating manly men in the Republican party should do at least that and much more. Here’s the ask:
Here’s the response: No, Maybe and Probably Not* They’re too scared of the NRA and too unwilling to give Obama any power to do two of the three bare minimum items on the list.

*That the article has the responses to 2 and 3 mixed up due to bad editing, but you get the picture.

The Razor Cuts Deep

Hanlon’s Razor states that you should “Never attribute to malice that which can adequately be explained by stupidity.”  Maybe then I’m drastically overthinking why rural Kentucky voted Matt Bevin as governor.

The 66 percent of Owsley County that gets health coverage through Medicaid now must reconcile itself with the 70 percent that voted for Republican Governor-elect Matt Bevin, who pledged to cut the state’s Medicaid program and close the state-run Kynect health insurance exchange.

Lisa Botner, 36, belongs to both camps. A Kynector — a state agent representing Kynect in the field — recently helped Botner sign up for a Wellcare Medicaid card for herself and her 7-year-old son. Without that, Botner said, she couldn’t afford the regular doctor’s visits and blood tests needed to keep her hyperthyroidism in check.

“If anything changed with our insurance to make it more expensive for us, that would be a big problem,” Botner, a community college student, said Friday at the Owsley County Public Library, where she works. “Just with the blood tests, you’re talking maybe $1,000 a year without insurance.”

Yet two weeks earlier, despite his much-discussed plans to repeal Kynect and toughen eligibility requirements for Medicaid, she voted for Bevin.

I’m just a die-hard Republican,” she said.

Bu there’s more to it than that.

The trend seemed to hold across the state. At Transylvania University, political scientist Andrea Malji said she has crunched state data and found a “99 percent confidence level” between the counties’ Medicaid enrollment levels and their gubernatorial choices. The larger the Medicaid numbers, the more likely they were to back Bevin, she said. The lower the Medicaid numbers, the more likely they were to favor the Democratic nominee, Attorney General Jack Conway.

So Bevin — who said during the campaign that “the fact that we have one out of four people in this state on Medicaid is unsustainable” — racked up votes in rural, mostly poor counties where far more of the local population than that holds a Medicaid card. This was true even in traditional Democratic Party strongholds, such as Pike and Breathitt counties.

Malji, who is from Pulaski County, where Bevin captured 72 percent of the vote, said she heard people back home denounce “Obamacare” while thousands rushed to sign up with Kynect. They didn’t seem to realize that Kynect, Kentucky’s response to the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, is the same thing as Obamacare, she said.

There’s either voter disconnect here, where the people weren’t thinking about or weren’t aware of Bevin’s stance on health care, or these counties just have higher levels of social conservatives who thought it was more important to vote on social issues,” Malji said.

I don’t buy the former because of the correlation.  Bevin made it very, very clear what his stance was and made it clear for six months.  He went to town halls in these counties and straight up told them that he would get rid of Kynect and Medicaid expansion. His ads made it clear that he thought Kynect was going to bankrupt the state.  What I do buy is that maybe they decided that they could stick it to the party of the ni-CLANG! president, and that Bevin wouldn’t take my Medicaid, just take it from those people.

Governor-elect Bevin of course has other ideas.

I do not intend to re-enroll people at the same level going forward,” Bevin told reporters several days after his election. “There is not going to be a continuation of enrolling people at 138 percent of the poverty level. That is not going to happen.”

Perhaps we should call it Bevin’s Law:  white people will vote overwhelmingly against their own self-interest if it means it hurts those people too.

Gitmo Closure, Redux

I want Steve M. to be wrong here about Dems chickening out on accepting Syrian refugees, but given the repeated history of Dem cowardice on closing Gitmo, I don’t think he is.

And if this can’t be legally blocked by governors, the courts, or a Republican Congress, I’m predicting raw George Wallace-style resistance by the governments of the Southern states especially — or, perhaps, confrontations involving angry True Patriots with AR-15s. As I’ve said before, I lived through busing in Boston. I know how ugly this sort of thing can get if at least some of the people holding government power reject the rule of law.

We’ve been through this sort of thing before in the Obama years. The president wanted to close Guantanamo, send some of the detainees to stateside penal facilities, and conduct trials in New York City. The backlash was fierce, and no one had his back — and please recall that this was in 2009 and early 2010, when his party had large majorities in Congress. (The mayor of New York, Mike Bloomberg, who’d endorsed Obama in 2008, ultimately stabbed him in the back on this.)

When Obama’s opponents have an ideal opportunity to prey on voters’ fears, they’ll do it, relentlessly. So this is going to be a losing battle for the White House.

I don’t doubt President Obama will find a way to get something done on this, but it’s not going to be pretty.  Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire didn’t hesitate to crap out, presumably to help her Senate chances next year, even though the State Department has taken in refugees since 9/11 without problems.

So what happens?  Hearings?  Legislation tacked on to must-pass bills?  I’m not sure, but what I’m not seeing is Democrats in Congress backing the President’s position on this.  And that makes me think it’s possible that this turns into trying to close Gitmo all over again.

But betting on Democrats not named Obama to have moral courage in the face of rampant Islamophobia has already been a loser for the last seven years.  You’ll forgive me if I think it’s not a solid bet this time around, either.

[UPDATE] If this poll that Greg Sargent brings up is any indication, it’s that Islamophobic assholery in the US hasn’t changed too much in 14 years.

A major new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute suggests these GOP lawmakers and candidates may be reading the mood of the overall public — and GOP voters in particular — with dispiriting accuracy.

The poll finds that Americans overall agree by 56-41 that the values of Islam are at odds with American values and the American way of life. Meanwhile, Americans are almost perfectly split on the value of immigration: 47 percent say immigrants strengthen the country with hard work and talent, while a depressingly high 46 percent say they are a burden on the U.S. because they take jobs, housing and health care. The CEO of PRRI tells religion writer Sarah Posner that the findings show an “increased xenophobic streak” among the American public overall.

So yeah, this is not going to be a good time for refugees.

Praise Jeebus This Man is President

The idea of a Republican as President right now scares the hell out of me:

Earlier Monday, Obama had defended the U.S. strategy against the Islamic State, which has largely focused on airstrikes, amid calls for deploying a large number of ground troops in response to the Paris terrorist attacks. Obama said a ground invasion would be a “mistake” because it would require using U.S. troops to occupy Iraqi and Syrian cities indefinitely.

Obama also said he respected the debate over what to do against the Islamic State, but “if folks want to pop off and have opinions about what they think they would do, present a specific plan.”

“If they think somehow their advisers are better than the Chairman of my Joint Chiefs of Staff and the folks who are actually on the ground, I want to meet them,” Obama said. “And we can have that debate. But what I’m not interested in doing is posing or pursuing some notion of American leadership or America winning or whatever other slogans they come up with that has no relationship to what is actually going to work to protect the American people and to protect the people in the region who are getting killed and to protect our allies and people like France. I’m too busy for that.”


I’m worried how HRC would respond, too.

Goose Eggs

Yeah, Richard Mayhew is probably right about why Bevin won, because Kynect/Medicaid wasn’t a factor to voters.

You want to know why it wasn’t a factor to voters?

Big ol goddamn goose egg, that’s why.

You can feel all the sympathy you want for people who voted against their self-interest here in the Bluegrass State, but considering Conway was too busy telling people how awful Obama is, he gets a big chunk of the blame too.

Democrats.  Who Run Away.  From Obama.  Lose.

Why is this so goddamn hard for people to understand?

A Syria’s Screw Job

Second-guessing President Obama while still in office never gets tiring for Team Ezra, you know.  Max Fisher declares Syria lost and it being Obama’s fault, because hey, why not?

There was a time before Syria was a paradox, before it was unsolvable. It’s difficult to say for sure when that time ended, when the window closed. And policy analysts and historians will surely debate, for years to come, what specific US actions — had the US acted when the window was open — might have best addressed Syria’s war.

But it is clear that, at the very least, there was a period of time when the US had a range of options that could have led to a range of outcomes. But those options have since closed off, and the outcome we’ve ended up with is one of the worst imaginable. Maybe it could have been worse, but it certainly could have been better.

There was never an easy or a perfect solution to Syria. But early on, the security vacuum was not so dire, the chaos and destruction not so severe, and the world might have removed Assad without toppling Syria into an unsalvageable chaos.

The opposition was, early on, not nearly so divided by ideology and politics as it is today. Though extremists did begin joining early in 2012, the rebels were still heavily populated by moderate volunteers and defected Syrian soldiers whose primary aim was to topple Assad. Had he fallen then, the opposition might have laid down its arms rather than turning on one another. It was not until late 2013 that rebel infighting became so bad that analysts began warning Assad’s fall would lead to a second civil war.

Early on in the war, before Assad destroyed his own country’s physical and political infrastructure, there was still enough of a state that a post-Assad government could have, in a best-case scenario, restored order with the consent of the Syrian population. But even if it hadn’t, the Syrian population was less riven by sectarianism, the territory less divided among rebel groups apt to lapse into infighting and warlordism.

The point is not to retroactively advocate for a specific policy on Syria, nor to suggest that the country could have been saved completely by US intervention; it’s unlikely a war could ever have been averted once Assad decided to fire on his own people. Rather, the point is that removing him could have at least hypothetically opened up a different set of paths for Syria. Those surely would have had downsides as well, and some could be even worse than the status quo, but there is at least a range of possible outcomes that might look better than today’s reality.

While Fisher is concerned with the reality of Syria today and is correct that it is awful, he also argues that the window for doing something existing mainly between Spring 2012 and at the very latest, Fall 2013.  The reality at that point overlooks three massively important things, all of which are missing from Fisher’s analysis.

One is Congress, who made it very clear with an election coming up that the kind of intervention Fisher wanted was never going to happen. Fisher mentions Congress all of once in his piece, and even if the Republicans in the House weren’t going to tell Obama to go to hell, enough Democrats would have.  It got nowhere fast, eliminating all of 2012 in Fisher’s scenario.

You can argue that 2013 could have gone better and that there was still time to act then, but by March we were already into Assad’s chemical weapon attacks, and Russia’s reality as the Assad regime’s major patron stonewalling and buying time.

Number two is a US desperately tired of war.  Even Libya was too much for America to support anymore back in 2012, and while a robust air campaign could have helped, in an election year it wasn’t going to happen for the reasons listed above.

Third is the 2012 election itself.  If we somehow had gone into Syria’s civil war with both US political parties screaming bloody murder, Syrian intervention in 2013 would have most likely been President Romney’s problem, not President Obama’s.

Yes, Syria has devolved into a crisis now, one that won’t be solved anytime soon. But saying Obama “lost” Syria is Monday-morning quarterbacking at its worst and most of all simply untrue. Obama isn’t the only person on Earth who could have done something about Syria, and Syria was never ours to “lose” in the first place.