WATBs Are…Whining

One aspect of the bipartisanship fetishization that I haven’t really fleshed out yet is the extent to which Republicans will always pitch a fit if Democrats aren’t sufficiently accommodating to Republican legislative goals. Over at his new home, The Plum Line, Greg Sargent writes about Rep. Eric Cantor’s pearl-clutching complaints against Democratic interest groups’ ads attack Republicans. Sargent quotes Cantor saying:

“President Obama should immediately disavow plans by some political groups who announced they will run attack ads against Republicans,” Cantor says. “Let us be clear: attack ads will not create jobs or help struggling families but will only serve to undermine our nation’s desire for bipartisanship. Instead of thinking about winning at any cost, we should all be thinking about creating the jobs Americans need.”

You know, I’m not even sure that Cantor is right when he says “attack ads will not create jobs” — as they do in fact provide jobs to actors, editors, media buyers, writers, etc. That’s really neither here nor there, though.

Cantor is creating a red herring. The ads aren’t the problem, as they didn’t stop Republicans from voting for the stimulus, which while smaller than needed is still expected to create 2-3 million jobs. Republicans are the problem , through their  obstructionism, opposition for the sake of opposition, and whining to the media that Obama is using his mandate to pass things the American public gave him mandate to pass.

I don’t doubt that there are many Americans that genuinely want to see bipartisanship (in this context used by its definition, not as Cantor or Mark Halperin define it). But more than abstract ideas about comity, Americans want government that works. Not all ideas, policies, and programs are created equally. Some are right, some are wrong, some are good, some are bad.

I don’t recall a single point in the stimulus debate where Obama and his administration made the substantive items a question of winning or losing on them. There was no “win” orientation when they pulled funding for birth control. There was no care of “winning at any cost” when they pulled bankruptcy reform from the stimulus.

Cantor is simply making things up.  But the effect of Cantor’s lies is to add inertia to their “Obama wasn’t bipartisan enough” meme. Expect this to continue to gain traction as the whine reaches an increasingly high pitch.


Here’s the ad in question. Good lord Cantor is whining. This is about as soft an attack ad I’ve ever seen. Hell, it’s not even an attack!

Disclosure: I’m proud to work for the Service Employees International Union. This post was neither approved by nor with the knowledge of SEIU. It represents my views alone.

Bipartisanship, Writ Halperin

Steve Benen’s take down of Mark Halperin’s logical twister regarding the stimulus and bipartisanship is a must-read example of how the fetishization of bipartisanship is illogical and leads to anti-Democratic narratives. It’s absurd to argue that it was Obama’s responsibility to please the right wing of the House GOP caucus by throwing Democratic ideas — ideas Obama campaigned on — out the window in order to win Republican votes. But that’s what the pleas for bipartisanship are. Moreover, it’s clear that Halperin and the Conventional Wisdom creating crowd around him care more about the makeup of a vote than the outcome of a vote. A compromise bill was passed with a strong majority yesterday; it’s incidental that no Republicans voted for it, as it did in fact contain concessions that they had asked for. Halperin’s analysis makes no sense. Democrats listening to Halperin’s analysis would make even less sense, but I have no doubt that it will be an area of deep concern for people on the Hill and anyone in the Whitehouse who thinks the opinions of a hack like Halperin or the votes of regressives in the House caucus should have any bearing on the Obama administration’s stewardship of this country.

New Crackdown in Tibet

The Washington Post reports that Tibet is still not free and Tibetans still live under the crushing weight of China’s ongoing military occupation:

Chinese authorities carrying out a “strike hard” campaign in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa have raided thousands of homes and businesses, run checks on 5,766 suspects and detained at least 81 people, including two for having reactionary music on their cellphones, according to official reports and news accounts.

The Lhasa Evening News adds that two of the people detained “had reactionary opinions.” Not only is some music banned in Tibet, some opinions are illegal.

It’s pretty hard to overstate how brutal China’s rule in Tibet is. The ubiquitous police and military presence isn’t merely aimed at maintaining physical control of the population. Rather it is a tool to break the spirit of Tibetans, to silence dissent and even thoughts and songs that scare the ruling Chinese government.

The continued silence by the global community is truly disheartening. I hope the Obama administration and the State Department under Hillary Clinton seriously evaluate how the US can shift our policy towards China regarding Tibet. I think there are a few substantive steps that could be made and I would hope to see including:

  • At least double the size of the State Department staff dedicated to Tibet;
  • Have President Obama host the Dalai Lama on a state visit, including a meeting in the Oval Office;
  • Include demands for the release of all Tibetan political prisoners on Secretary of State Clinton’s first visit to China or the first visit by a Chinese head of state to the US, whichever comes first;
  • Demand immediate information about the whereabouts of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the 11th Panchen Lama;
  •  Set strict policies for the conditions in which American companies – including mining, internet technology, security/surveillance, tourism, and rail – can do business with China inside of Tibet; and
  • if and when the Tibetan Government in Exile shifts their demands from autonomy to independence, as is a distinct possibility in the next four years, have President Obama offer to host the first round of meaningful, substantive negotiations on the path towards Tibetan independence.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but each step would facilitate a march towards freedom for Tibet. China must pay a price for their ongoing occupation of Tibet – be it socially, economically, or politically. These steps make it harder for China to continue their illegal occupation and thus bring Tibetans closer to their birthright.