In other news, water is still wet

Perhaps you heard a loud thunderclap this morning, as the bounds of human knowledge were torn asunder by the following insight from The New Republic's E.J. Dionne:

Beneath the warm pledges of bipartisanship and the earnest calls for cooperation in the midst of a grave crisis lurks an unpleasant fact: From the moment it loses power, the opposition party turns immediately to the task of getting it back.
I know, I know. I can't have been the only one who believed that, with the inauguration of our 44th President, the Republican Party had been gripped with a fever of blissful comity. I half expected to see Mitch McConnell riding around the Mall on a unicorn while Antonin Scalia fed butterflies with a potion of fairy tears. Anyone else with me? No?

It didn't take long for the GOP to realize that Joseph Lowery's prayer didn't actually include a mystical incantation that compelled them to play nice, and thus they are free to obstruct unfettered.

Republicans plan to test President Barack Obama’s commitment to bipartisanship as his $825 billion stimulus package heads to the floor of the House of Representatives this week, with the House Republican leader saying Sunday morning that many in his party will vote no unless there are significant changes to the plan.


Senator McCain, who lost the presidential election to Mr. Obama in November, said that he planned to vote no unless the bill were changed.

“We need to make tax cuts permanent, and we need to make a commitment that there’ll be no new taxes,” Mr. McCain said. “We need to cut payroll taxes. We need to cut business taxes.”
I know that cutting taxes is the Republican answer to every fiscal question, but I don't think that the last eight years have been particularly validating for that outlook. And I wonder how much sense it makes to cut the means of generating revenue while simultaneously undertaking a massive increase in spending.

However, far more hilarious is this:

Republicans have already settled on a five-letter messaging counter-attack to President Obama's plan to shutter the Guantanamo Bay prison within a year: NIMBY. Within the past few days, John McCain and Karl Rove have helped reinforce the perception that Guantanamo detainees could not be moved to U.S. soil without a popular backlash.


Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, is the military's only maximum-security prison, making it a strong option for the Obama administration during deliberations on the future of Guantanamo's 240 or so remaining occupants. But not if Sen. Sam Brownback has anything to say about it. He and three House Republicans from the state already have introduced bills in Congress that would bar the government from moving detainees from Cuba to Kansas.
I've written about this before, and my response hasn't changed. There are already plenty of very dangerous people already in custody in the United States, and the dangerous ones from Guantanamo do not pose some kind of material threat orders of magnitude greater than those already incarcerated. To introduce legislation that would prevent their being imprisoned at Leavenworth, or anywhere else, is obstructionism plain and simple, and deserves a veto.

I also don't buy the idea of a "popular backlash." Call me crazy, but I actually think few people would even notice if the prisoners were transferred. That is, unless certain lawmakers decide to make a big stink about it, all but implying that terrorists might be released to roam in downtown Wichita.

Memo to Sen. Brownback -- if you're going to accept a whole bunch of federal dollars for your state, you're going to have to accept that nasty people might end up there.

Update: Glenn Greenwald shows pretty convincingly that this is probably not a winning strategy for the GOP.


  1. Isn't pointing out flaws the job of the opposition party? If Repubs believe that spending $1T of our children's money on pork and Barney Frank's friends might not be a Good Thing, then they have an obligation to loudly proclaim the folly of it and vote against it.

    On the issue of national defense, the Dems (in the role of opposition) loudly proclaimed that Mr. Bush's policies made us all less safe. Without question the Dems would have held Mr. Bush responsible if the US had been attacked again on his watch. Now, the shoe is on the other foot, and if the Repubs believe Mr. Obama's policies make us less safe, they have an obligation to say so. Dissent is patriotic! Mr. Obama and his policies ought to be held to account for both success and for failure on this front.

    As an aside, I have never seen such a rapid evolution of thought as Mr. Obama seems to have undergone since gaining access to the security briefings. One would almost think his policies are Bushian (we'll close GITMO eventually, the military handbook needs a revision on interrogation techniques, we need a surge for Afghanistan, we'll blow up innocent civilians if terror masterminds hide among them). The thing that worries me is Mr. Obama has advocated invading Pakistan well before he was elected. Even a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal Jacksonian such as myself doesn't think invading a nuclear power is a smart course of action. I fervently hope Mr. Obama has become more Bushian in this regard. Aside over.

    I believe, and I don't think I am alone in this, that it would be a grievous error to treat terrorists captured in battle against the US military in a civil justice system. A military tribunal, while not without problems, seems like a more appropriate venue for deciding these cases. I'm with you in that the location of the prison is not an important issue; GITMO is fine, and Leavenworth fine as well, as far as holding the prisoners. I'm concerned, however, that once on US soil, we'll hear a non-ending bleat to use the US civil courts to decide these cases. That's the problem with closing GITMO, IMHO.

  2. OK, so that's a lotta comment.

    First of all, of course there is a benefit to a principled opposition. See my post about Susan Collins above. One of the failures of the current GOP is that it's been hijacked by an anti-intellectual, jingoistic, fundamentalist faction that's more interested in opposition for its own sake.

    The arguments about Gitmo that I referenced are ridiculous on their face. I certainly understand the objections to using the civil court system for terrorism suspects, though it's been used successfully for many of them. Regardless, prolonged detention with no legal action is not the correct answer.

    And I don't believe that deeper tax cuts are the way out of our current recession. There's probably some place for them, but holding up the economic package in pursuit of ever lower taxes is not helpful.

  3. I agree with you that the GOP has been hijacked by the Forces of Evil; that's why I no longer support the GOP. Unfortunately, the Dems were there first, so I can't really support them either. I'm hoping the opposition is more than reflexive, the Random Forces of Nature know there are plenty of principled reasons for voting against the Obama-Reid-Pelosi Debt for Generations plan.

    I disagree with the no legal recourse part. POWs under the Geneva Conventions have no legal recourse to indefinite detention, and non-uniformed fighters captured on the field of battle do not even qualify as POWs. Even so, I agree that we should have some plan for handling these cases; I suggest military tribunals. Of course, this applies only to combatants seized on the field of battle (or in very close proximity and possessing military arms). Want civilian-style protections, be a civilian.

    About tax cuts, AIUI, the ORP Debt for Generations plan will cost, order of magnitude, about $20K per family. Suppose, instead of spending that money on Friends of Barney and infrastructure projects starting in 2010 or later, we gave every family in the US a check for $20K and told them to spend it in 2009. Which plan (ORP or Jv2) will result in greater stimulus to Get America Working again? Just a thought.