Tea Party Dupes, Healthcare Politics, and Glenn Beck

Here are some good pieces of analysis and commentary about today's hot topics.


Today’s news brings provocative commentaries on issues I have touched on in recent posts, like the Tea Party, the damage done by the demise of the union movement, healthcare reform, and Glenn Beck.

I pass them on for your consideration.

Two of the pieces are from the op-ed page of the Washington Post. The first, a column by Dana Milbank, opens with a sentiment I’ve shared (“Dear Tea Party voter: You’ve been had.”) in this space.

The new crop of Republicans have not waited to officially take office before beginning to betray their Tea Party allies, says Milbank, and he details his argument with a flurry of anecdotes. My favorite is of Tea Party doyenne Rep. Michele Bachmann, explaining to Politico that the pork barrel transportation projects she wants for her district are not really earmarks. [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on the Tea Party.]

“This isn’t trying to be cute,” Bachmann said. “We have to address the issue of how are we going to fund transportation projects.”

Also in the Post is this column by Harold Meyerson, about America’s economic health. One would think that this fall’s Republicans and their Chamber of Commerce allies, who claimed to be so worried about the hollowing out of the U.S. economy, would applaud the Obama administration’s efforts to clap a tariff on cheap Chinese tires. On Monday, the World Trade Organization found that China was guilty of cheating, okayed the tariff and gave Obama a win for American workers. [See photos of the Obamas behind the scenes.]

“A clear victory for Team USA, right?” asks Meyerson. “Not according to U.S. tire manufacturers. Their trade group, the Rubber Manufacturers Association, had no part in petitioning the administration to seek a WTO ruling. The complaint originated with the United Steelworkers, whose members include rubber workers. The companies oppose the tariffs. And not coincidentally, all the major companies – Goodyear, Cooper and the rest – have factories in China, some of which are required by the Chinese government to export every single tire they produce.”

As Peggy Noonan would say: Good for the union. Shame on the companies.

Moving on, we find that the Center for American Progress has published an intriguing piece on federal District Court Judge Henry Hudson, whose ruling on the Obama administration’s healthcare reform plan has caused so much stir. The center demonstrates how a political judge issued a political opinion for a political plaintiff, and how even conservative legal scholars are now deploring Hudson’s legal scholarship.

These are three fine pieces of analysis and commentary. But the best is still to come. The stars for the day belong to Maureen Dowd, at the New York Times, and Christopher Hitchens, of Vanity Fair.

Maureen went where the rest of us weren’t, and attended the court martial of a Birther hero who refused to deploy with his Army unit because, he claimed, the commander-in-chief is not an authentic American. Dowd has a fine description of the poor misguided serviceman, his shoulders slumped, trying to explain how he made the career-threatening mistake of believing in the reckless Birthers and their wacko conspiracy theories.

The balding, gray colonel may not have truly changed his beliefs. But he looked small and shaken as he admitted to disobeying orders from his boss, Gordon Roberts, a Medal of Honor recipient. He murmured “Yes, ma’am” over and over in a low voice as the precise Judge Lind pressed him…

Sobered by the prospect of a dishonorable dismissal, losing his pension and serving hard time, as well as facing a panel of military superiors in dress uniforms, Colonel Lakin said the winter had been “a confusing time, a very emotional time for me.” His shoulders slumped, he offered excuses about how he had gotten conflicting advice from lawyers — his defense was underwritten by Birthers.

“I understand that it was my decision, and I made the wrong choice,” he told the judge.

As elegantly, Christopher Hitchens uses his column in Vanity Fair to take Beck and his right-wing cohorts to task for spreading similarly crazy paranoia, like the work of that laughable dingbat, the late W. Cleon Skousen.

Beck’s “9/12 Project” is canalizing old racist and clerical toxic-waste material that a healthy society had mostly flushed out of its system more than a generation ago, and injecting it right back in again. Things that had hidden under stones are being dug up and re-released. And why? So as to teach us anew about the dangers of “spending and deficits”? It’s enough to make a cat laugh. No, a whole new audience has been created, including many impressionable young people, for ideas that are viciously anti-democratic and ahistorical. The full effect of this will be felt farther down the road, where we will need it even less.

Hitchens reserves special scorn for those conservative commentators (he singles out Ross Douthat at the Times) who enable the haters and think the tiger can be ridden.

Judge for yourself. Here is Douthat’s response.