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Posted at 8:35 AM ET, 11/29/2010

The Morning Plum

By Greg Sargent

* A big, big week ahead: The events of this week could go a long way towards establishing just how tenacious and confrontational the White House and Democrats will prove to be in dealing with the new, emboldened GOP leadership. Obama meets with GOP leaders on Tuesday for their first sit-down meeting over a range of issues, most notably the Bush tax cuts, which will produce the most contentious and high-stakes standoff of the lame duck session.

Also Tuesday: The Pentagon is set to release its report gauging the impact of repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell, and it's expected to find exactly what moderate Republicans inclined to back repeal claim to hope for: It can be accomplished with minimal risk.

With Republican leaders confidently predicting they can hold the Senate GOP caucus together against repeal, it will be telling to see whether Dems are willing to invest the time necessary to hold a floor debate and hold moderate GOPers to their word on an issue where big majorities side with Dems. If Dems walk out of the lame duck session with repeal of DADT in hand, it would constitute a big, much needed victory, particularly since Dems are expected to strike a "compromise," i.e. get rolled, on the Bush tax cuts.

* Lindsey Graham vows GOP will pull away football again on DADT: One key thing to watch this week is how moderate GOP Senators react to the Pentagon study at the Senate hearings set for Thursday, and even though a number of them have signaled openness to repeal, Lindsey Graham promises in advance that no GOPer will support it in the end.

* Transparently absurd misdirection of the day: Also in the above link, note Graham's comically ridiculous claim that the only thing we should be studying about DADT is whether to repeal it, not what the impact of repealing it would be.

* McCain still refighting the 2008 campaign: The Arizona Senator says the promise to repeal DADT was nothing but a "political promise made by an inexperienced candidate for President of the United States," which is interesting, since it has the support of the military leadership, and even Dick Cheney has said it's time to reconsider the policy.

It's worth noting that the new talking point about DADT on display from McCain and Graham is basically, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," but according to polls, even majorities of Republicans know it is indeed broken and needs fixing.

* Showdown set for this week over Bush tax cuts: With Obama set to meet with newly emboldened GOP leaders on Tuesday to negotiate over the Bush tax cuts, Senate Democrats are divided over how to approach the endgame, with some Dems favoring an extension of all the cuts and others favoring hiking the threshold to $1 million. That should strengthen the Dem hand!

* Will Obama fight? The brinkmanship over the Bush tax cuts may help set the tone for two years of Obama-GOP relations, and E.J. Dionne asks whether the President has it in him for a sustained struggle with people who are out to destroy him.

* Quote of the weekend: GOP may be "beyond redemption" on New START: So says former GOP Senator John Danforth:

"If Dick Lugar, having served five terms in the U.S. Senate and being the most respected person in the Senate and the leading authority on foreign policy, is seriously challenged by anybody in the Republican Party, we have gone so far overboard that we are beyond redemption."

* Meanwhile, Senator Jon Kyl says consideration of New START can wait until the GOP majorities officially increase in January, even though the White House has spent months addressing his purported concerns.

* And: It's apparently not enough for Susan Collins that former Bush officials support passing New START right away; she wants the former president himself to support it, too.

* Another WikiLeaks document dump: Among the most interesting revelations in the latest batch of documents from WikiLeaks is Defense Secretary Robert Gates's apparent belief that a military strike on Iran would be largely counter-productive.

Gates believes that a strike would only temporarily delay Iranian nuke plans "by one to three years, while unifying the Iranian people to be forever embittered against the attacker."

* The White House view: Officials fear that other countries can no longer be certain they can share confidential information with the U.S. without it becoming public, potentially harming counter-terror efforts.

* Liberal groups to propose deficit reduction plans that will be ignored: Several liberal groups are proposing their own alternative to the forthcoming plan from the deficit commission, but since it doesn't advocate for draconian cuts to Social Security and for keeping tax cuts for the rich, it will never be taken seriously.

* Meanwhile: The deficit commission wise-men are tinkering with their proposals in hopes of getting it passed in a vote this Wednesday.

* GOP 2012 contenders chase that Sarah Palin magic: With Republican candidates all trying to outdo each other by bashing Obama for supposedly not believing in American exceptionalism, White House comm director Dan Pfeiffer argues it's all about trying to recapture the Palin magic of 2008.

And thanks, all, for putting up with a slow weekend. What else is happening?

By Greg Sargent  | November 29, 2010; 8:35 AM ET
Categories:  2012, Foreign policy and national security, Morning Plum, Senate Dems, Senate Republicans, gay rights, taxes  
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Next: What the right's "American exceptionalism" attack on Obama is really about

Comments

America still has a track that allows hard work and a positive attitude to ratchet a person's SES upward. This does not exist in many other countries, Slumdog millionaire notwithstanding. Other than that, it has many exceptional characteristics, some great, some not so great, but the economic mobility is not a small thing. Equal opportunuity and justice for all is worth protecting. I see crony capitalism as its greatest threat.

Posted by: shrink2 | November 29, 2010 8:44 AM | Report abuse

Methinks Lindsey Graham doth protest too much.

Posted by: shrink2 | November 29, 2010 8:47 AM | Report abuse

Dionne concludes with this question:

"And what will Obama do about all this? Ronald Reagan, Kirkpatrick's hero, found a way to stand strong, to fight back and to win. We will soon know whether our current president has this in him."

We'll see. But I fear we already know the answer to that question. So the real question is how do Liberals effect change outside the corporate political duopoly? Suggestions?

Posted by: wbgonne | November 29, 2010 8:57 AM | Report abuse

What else?

"'Plagiarized' GOP-Commissioned Climate Change Report Laid Groundwork For Climate-Gate"

http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/11/plagiarized_gop-commissioned_climate_change_report.php?ref=fpb

And this is how the War On Science is conducted. Expect lots more over the next 2 years. When it comes to the Cons take Bruuuce's advice: Trust none of what you hear and less of what you see.

Posted by: wbgonne | November 29, 2010 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Krugman:

"The bad news about America is that a powerful political faction is trying to shackle the Federal Reserve, in effect removing the one big advantage we have over the suffering Spaniards. Republican attacks on the Fed — demands that it stop trying to promote economic recovery and focus instead on keeping the dollar strong and fighting the imaginary risks of inflation — amount to a demand that we voluntarily put ourselves in the Spanish prison"

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/29/opinion/29krugman.html?_r=1&ref=opinion

One thing for certain: Obama will never lack for opportunities to stand up to the Cons for the good of the nation. How many will Obama let pass before he acts like a president?

Posted by: wbgonne | November 29, 2010 9:14 AM | Report abuse

RE: DADT

At some point, can the media stop asking DADT questions like this:

"Do you support the repeal of DADT?"

and instead start asking quesitons like this:

"Why do you support a discriminary policy that negatively impacts our miliary readiness?"

Posted by: TheBBQChickenMadness | November 29, 2010 9:15 AM | Report abuse

RE: DADT

At some point, can the media stop asking DADT questions like this:

"Do you support the repeal of DADT?"

and instead start asking quesitons like this:

"Why do you support a discriminary policy that negatively impacts our miliary readiness?"

Posted by: TheBBQChickenMadness | November 29, 2010 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Yup. The question presented is this: Will the United States military protect homosexuals or homophobes? Same question as when Truman ordered the integration of black troops. Do you protect blacks or racists? Choose.

Posted by: wbgonne | November 29, 2010 9:20 AM | Report abuse

"The events of this week could go a long way towards establishing just how tenacious and confrontational the White House and Democrats will prove . . ."

You sure you don't mean "tendentious"? Ba-dum-dum.

@BBQ: "Why do you support a discriminary policy that negatively impacts our miliary readiness?"

I think they probably don't ask the question that way because it reflects a particular point of view that, rightly or wrongly, would be perceived as biased. It's technically a leading question, as it presupposes a lot of things that there is disagreement about regarding the issue itself and about the person they are asking the question of.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | November 29, 2010 9:25 AM | Report abuse

The Republican conquest of "The South" is almost 100% complete now. The few Democrat holdouts are leaving the Democrat party and joining the G.O.P.

It's things like repeal of DADT that fuels the Democrat implosion. Amnesty for outlaw "immigrants" is another.

When will the Democrat party quit sponsoring losers??

Posted by: battleground51 | November 29, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

"The Republican conquest of "The South" is almost 100% complete now. The few Democrat holdouts are leaving the Democrat party and joining the G.O.P."

Please secede.

Posted by: wbgonne | November 29, 2010 9:32 AM | Report abuse

@wbgonne: "Please secede."

No, you move to Canada. :P

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | November 29, 2010 9:38 AM | Report abuse

The policy is discriminatory and has led to expulsion from the military of those with critically needed skills (notably, linguists). There is no disagreement on either of those points and contending that there is simply puts up fog where none exists.

The standard defense is unit cohesion and morale. Surveys of the military indicate the problem is minimal and largely confined to older and higher ranking individuals. Given that the same issues arose regarding integrating the military, was Truman wrong to do so?

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | November 29, 2010 9:46 AM | Report abuse

wbgonne posted: "Please secede."

I see this notion posted by blog commenters of the liberal persuasion quite often, now.

The south, as defined by the Census Bureau, is the most populous region in the USA.

It is the home of America's largest ports and its petrochemical industry. It is the region that controls most Atlantic and all Gulf Coast entry to the nation and the nation's major inland shipping artery, the Mississippi River.

Texas alone produces more than half of all America's wind energy plus significant oil, natural gas, and coal resources. It is a huge exporter of agricultural produce and by itself would be the world's 9th largest economy. It controls most of the southern border. It has provided about 15% of all our fighting men and women over the last ten years.

For you liberals to even joke about secession plays right into the hands of people like Rick Perry, who don't know they are joking. BTW, I am giving you the benefit of the doubt when I suggest that you know that, "surely you jest".

Posted by: mark_in_austin | November 29, 2010 9:53 AM | Report abuse

I ♥ Canada. America Jr. is a great country.

Posted by: shrink2 | November 29, 2010 9:55 AM | Report abuse

@Greg - I think what seems to be your narrow stipulation that John Danforth's observation/complaint has only START as it's subject is incorrect. It reads to me that he's giving it as an example of something rather broader.

Posted by: bernielatham | November 29, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Adhering to the common shorthand, we'll presume "two sides to a story". Here's one, from Paul Rosenberg...

"US Death & Lies Machine Temprorarily Disrupted
Of course the US government is freaking out, warning of blood on the streets. News flash: There's already blood on the streets. As Daniel Ellsberg has explained countless times, this is what they always say. And it's virtually always a false alarm. Besides, blood in the streets, that's pretty much what wars, espionage and such are all about, in'it?

We're supposed to worry that this massive leak will impede the ability of the US government to connive in secret behind everyone's back? Well, after the past 10 years in particular, who in the world honestly thinks that would be a bad thing?

Maybe if Barack Obama had changed that policy one iota, as his entire campaign was implicitly and explicitly based upon doing, folks might feel a little differently. But as things stand today? Not so much."

http://www.openleft.com/diary/20970/wikileaks-releases-250000-diplomatic-cables

Posted by: bernielatham | November 29, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

There is a time issue for the expiration of the tax cuts that does not apply to the military DQ of homosexuals. The DQ can be taken up after the new Congress is empaneled.
The expiration of the tax cuts occurs before the new Congress is empaneled.

I don't believe the Ds or the Admin will stand firm on allowing the top tax bracket to revert to 39.6% but I think they should. Let that be an incentive to look at the tax overhaul that Bowles-Simpson recommends, where "tax expenditures" are limited or eliminated, but rates are somewhat reduced, increasing overall revenue.

I count myself a fiscal conservative and I remember when Sen. Bradley and Rep. Kemp led the last simplification and overhaul of the Code, which eliminated "tax expenditures" and lowered rates, while raising revenue. Since the, the special interests have carved in new "tax expenditures" AND lowered rates, a recipe for disaster fiscally speaking.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | November 29, 2010 10:08 AM | Report abuse

@BB: "Given that the same issues arose regarding integrating the military, was Truman wrong to do so?"

Nope. Not sure if you're replying to me, but if you are, you missed my point, which is that the reason mainstream media organizations don't ask the question in the manner BBQ proposed is because they almost never ask questione freighted with so much presupposition. I said nothing about the accuracy of the presupposition.

They ask the question in such a manner that a capable responder can make their case. If they ask the question at all, they are given an opening for the case to be made in a compelling fashion. That will be the extent of visible bias, no matter how justified.

Don't operate under the supposition that bias is synonymous with inaccuracy. It is not. But asking those sorts of questions in the way BBQ (and others) often say they want (i.e., reporters stating that a particular policy is bad and hurting America or the War on Terror of the poor in the question) would be a case of the reporters editorializing (transparently) in the question. It's why reporter and anchors rarely position themselves that way. Pundits, on the other hand, can ask the questions any way they like, with any presupposition they like, and they do (so, it's not a case of a shortage of such questions being so posed by punditry).

It might be a fair argument, re: why doesn't Rachel Maddow specifically ask the question that way when Bill O'Rielly would ask it from the opposite directon. But as to why "the media" doesn't presuppose a correct response in every question, it's because that's not what they do. And it's unlikely that they are going to.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | November 29, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Canada would welcome the new American provinces.

One important advisory - we don't use such terms or concepts as "mother-land" or "father-land". However, "uncle-land" is fine with us.

Posted by: bernielatham | November 29, 2010 10:14 AM | Report abuse

@bernie: "Canada would welcome the new American provinces."

Oh, no, no, no. We're holding on to the land. We just think the lefties should go move to Canada (those not there already). We'll take Canada's right wingers. You'll all enjoy mandatory healthcare, and we won't have any. We'll just bootstrap our own healthcare and, if afflicted with a cancerous tumor, simply gnaw it out with our teeth.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | November 29, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

"We just think the lefties should go move to Canada (those not there already)."

Shorter KW:

"We won't secede because we are deadbeats who need your Blue State tax dollars to subsidize our Walmart lifestyle. Our total dependence on artificially cheap gas and fast food -- both immensely subsidized by the Federal government -- means we support free market principles and hate Big Government."

Posted by: Ethan2010 | November 29, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

@Kevin

"It might be a fair argument, re: why doesn't Rachel Maddow specifically ask the question that way when Bill O'Rielly would ask it from the opposite directon. But as to why "the media" doesn't presuppose a correct response in every question, it's because that's not what they do. And it's unlikely that they are going to."

First off, stop the false equivelency of Maddow and O'Reilly. Maddow is leaps and bounds more objective, honest, and factually accurate than O'Reilly is. Just because they may exist in on the opposite sides of the political spectrum doesn't automatically equate to how they conduct themselves as political journalists/pundits.

Second, what exactly would be a "question from the opposite direction", that's as factually accurate as my question was? Remember, my question is based on the fact that DADT fits the defination of discriminatory as well as the fact that study after study shows little-to-no impact of having gays serve, while also showing that discharging well qualified soliders (esp. translators) has hurt our military readiness. I have the feeling that developing a question as accurately framed from the "other side" would end up sounding rather bigoted - but I'm welcome to hear it, and welcome to hear it asked by a national reporter.

Lastly, my question doesn't "preassume a correct response". It merely frames the question in a way that forces the person being interviewed to respond on the POLICY ITSELF, instead of hiding behind the more abstract "repeal" of the policy. In my mind, there's no such thing has a "hard" question in politics. If the framing is negative towards your viewpoint, challenging the framing is totally fair game.

The thing is, challenging the framing still requires the politician to take a position on the policy itself, rather than jump from excuse to excuse and spin to spin. That's why utterly innocuous questions like "are you for or against repeal?" don't get anywhere. It doesn't actually require politicians to argue WHY they support a particular position. Instead they can do what Sen. McCain has done for over a decade now...constantly shift the goalposts and nuance their way into totally new positions on the fly.

I agree that we won't see journalists ask questions like mine (from either side), but then again I would also argue that we don't have many journalists left in DC in the first place...the fact that "that's not what they do" is actually the problem.

Posted by: TheBBQChickenMadness | November 29, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse

All, my take on the right wing's "American exceptionalism" attack on Obama:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2010/11/what_the_rights_american_excep.html

Posted by: Greg Sargent | November 29, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

"For you liberals to even joke about secession plays right into the hands of people like Rick Perry"

I agree with Perry. Texas should secede. In fact, I bet if the GOP Con South wishes to depart the Union no one would fight to keep them. I certainly wouldn't. And it will be a fine experiment comparing the Liberal United States to the new Conservative Confederacy of Free Enterprise. Let's see who's philosophy is right. Maybe the CCOFE could even reinstitute slavery since the CCOFE will be a Plutocratic Paradise and labor doesn't get much cheaper than slaves. Just so long as the CCOFE keeps its pollution, gun-floods and other nuisances to itself, let em go.

Posted by: wbgonne | November 29, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

@BBQ: "First off, stop the false equivelency of Maddow and O'Reilly."

This is an interesting a constant objection made when comparing people to each other--and the great irony is the same objection of "false equivalence" will be raised on both sides, if for opposite reason.

Even better yet, this "false equivalency" objection has become such a rote, kneejerk reaction that it is invoked where no statement of equivalence was made. All I avered was that Maddow and O'Rielly are coming at things from opposite directions (not equivalently opposite directions, just opposite directions). I think I specifically mentioned that Maddow might not freight her questions with presuppositions where O'Rielly would, thus such a question as to why she isn't doing it would be legitimate.

"Maddow is leaps and bounds more objective, honest, and factually accurate than O'Reilly is."

I'm going to have to take your word on that. I just don't watch enough of either show, but I've found both shows pretty good. That doesn't mean they are equal, though. Just sayin'.

"Just because they may exist in on the opposite sides of the political spectrum doesn't automatically equate to how they conduct themselves as political journalists/pundits."

Which I believe is exactly what I said, isn't it?

"the fact that 'that's not what they do' is actually the problem."

Maybe, but I think they do what they do. I could argue that the problem with my toaster is that it doesn't make coffee, but most people who rightly point out there are separate coffee makers, and I could buy one of them. Ergo, I don't expect the average journalist to ask questions of interviewees like a Rachel Maddow, or a Bill O'Rielly, or a Keith Olberman, or a Rush Limbaugh (and I am, by the way, not implying these people are identical in every way, merely that none of them are operating in the capacity of a traditional reporter or journalist, as those have the liberty to ask probing questions that may seem biased towards one thing or another).

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | November 29, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

BTW, Mark, I really like Austin. Maybe we can divide it up like Berlin after WWII.

Posted by: wbgonne | November 29, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

@Ethan2010: "We won't secede because we are deadbeats who need your Blue State tax dollars to subsidize our Walmart lifestyle. Our total dependence on artificially cheap gas and fast food -- both immensely subsidized by the Federal government -- means we support free market principles and hate Big Government."

As with some other things, I don't think you really understand the concept of doing a "Shorter" restatement of somebody else's supposed viewpoint. First, you cram way too much into it. While perhaps shorter than what I said, it's certainly not short. But, while at least related, still remains as irrelevant to what I said as most of your "shorter" attempts.

Ergo, blue states are only blue because you and wbgonne live in them. In my admittedly jocular riposte, I suggested that you and your ilk should move to Canada (ergo, get out of America proper), rather than having the red state secede. As such, your argument that we want your Blue State dollar to subsidize anything would be incorrect, as those states, minus the presence of you and other liberals (presumably) would no longer be blue. Thus, your tax dollars would be going to finance the Canadian utopia while all-red America would be marching it's way towards becoming a 50 state trailer park. Thus, we could not be anticipating living off all you hard working liberals, because you'd all be living it up in Canada.

BTW, I have no knee jerk hatred (or even dislike) for Big Government in the abstract. And, clearly, you should support the blue states propping up the red states--what is the point of redistributing wealth unless you're taking from the greedy (wealthy blue states) to give to the needy (impoverished red states)?

You seem to be objective to liberalism in action when it appears to benefit the wrong people. ;)

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | November 29, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

@Kevin

"...the great irony is the same objection of "false equivalence" will be raised on both sides, if for opposite reason."

The difference is that when the left argues that Maddow is not O'Reilly/Hannity/Whatever, they back it up with numerous (very, very numerous) examples of mistakes, lies, and general partisan hackery on the parts of the right-wing commentator. When the right decries the likes of Maddow, they generally can't say anything beyond "she's a liberal" or that she frames questions that make the GOP look bad (though still factually accurate).

Yet again, to claim that the left and right are arguing the same thing from opposite directions is just another false equivilency - ignoring any sort of analysis of the actual arguments the two sides present.

As for Maddow and O'Reilly, you implied that they represent the two sides...but you are correct that you didn't "exactly" equate them as the same. Basically you just named and left and right person as an example of who would use the questions. That's fair enough - though history tells us that O'Reilly is not nearly as fair an interviewer to Dems as Maddow is to Reps.

"Maybe, but I think they do what they do. I could argue that the problem with my toaster is that it doesn't make coffee, but most people who rightly point out there are separate coffee makers, and I could buy one of them."

I'm not arguing that my toaster doesn't make coffee...I'm arguing that my toaster doesn't make toast.

Limbaugh, and other Talk Radio hosts out there are not journalists. When a politician goes on their show, I don't expect journalism - that's not their job. They are the rah-rah-rah group. When a politician goes on The Daily Show, I don't expect journalism - that's now their job. It's a comedy show that pokes fun at the process.

That's not to say that either "cannot" make news or practice journalism. Just that it's not what they are billed as.

But the "average journalist" in DC gets to interview politicians on a regualer basis, and report on those interivews (or air them) on NEWS programs...you better believe I'm going to expect actual news, at a standard beyond fluff peices or empty "I don't want to lose my access" questions.

While I know that there is a certain amount of blending between "opinion" and "news" going on...the just means they are selling me a toaster AND a coffee maker. We are more than allowed to complain when the toaster still refuses to make toast.

Whew...stretched that metaphor as far as it would go!

Posted by: TheBBQChickenMadness | November 29, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

@BBQ: "though history tells us that O'Reilly is not nearly as fair an interviewer to Dems as Maddow is to Reps."

Fair enough. I was not trying to equate them, and I'm going to assume you are correct. That being said, you make a good point, and I'm not going to say you're wrong for being dissatisfied. But I would suggest they probably aren't going to change any time soon. I used to fret about the exact same thing when I was 15 years old. Circa 1985, 1986. Eventually you realize it just ain't gonna change.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | November 29, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

@Kevin - The question is clearly slanted. It's also not the way it's generally asked, but I prefer to construct my own straw men. It is undisputed that DADT affects military effectiveness. There are many stories out there about individuals who left military service voluntarily because they could no longer

The costs have long been known. The negative side-effects have been frequently asserted, but not proven. The study about to be released shows that whatever side effects there once may have been, they're no longer an issue. So, now the reasons to hold onto DADT boil down to catering to the prejudices of a diminishing fraction of society.

Well, that and the fact that John McCain is a VERY sore loser. Just ask Pres. George W. Bush. His "principled" stands against Bush initiatives in 2001 - 2003 looks increasing like a sore loser rather than a maverick.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | November 29, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Maybe McCain doesn't appreciate being gang-raped in that POW camp.

Posted by: clawrence12 | November 29, 2010 8:47 PM | Report abuse

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