Exactly six years ago yesterday, President Obama signed something called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 into law. Most folks probably know it as the Recovery Act, or even more simply, "the stimulus."
There's plenty of room for discussion about the president's legacy, but if we're creating a list of his most important accomplishments, this law, which rescued the nation from the grips of the Great Recession, has to be near the top.
And so, on its anniversary, Recovery Act proponents may have been inclined to take another victory lap yesterday, though that didn't seem to happen much yesterday, probably because it would seem gratuitous and ungracious. At a moment of great crisis, Republicans were wrong; Obama was right; and there's probably no real benefit to pointing and laughing at one of the GOP's more spectacular recent failures.
What I didn't expect was this message from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
On this day 6 years ago POTUS signed his failed $787 billion "stimulus" into law. Retweet if you agree: Washington spending isn't the answer.
I feel like I'm listening to a Seahawks fan arguing that Seattle really did win the Super Bowl, reality be damned. Retweet if you agree: scoring more points than the other team isn't the answer.
Look, I don't really expect John Boehner, or any other Republican, to own up to their mistakes. It's just too embarrassing. What's the beleaguered Speaker going to say, "With the economy on the brink, my entire party was wrong and Obama was right"? It's unrealistic to expect this kind of candor.
But if you're Boehner, on the sixth anniversary of the economy-saving law, why say anything at all? Why deliberately bring up one of your more colossal failures? (In 2009, the Republican leader's big idea was a five-year spending freeze -- a remedy even David Brooks labeled "just insane.")
Kaili Joy Gray joked, "Yes, Speaker Boehner, you are definitely correct that Obama's "stimulus" plan has made everything worse, except for how everything's better, but that's kind of the same thing, except for how it's the opposite."
The Affordable Care Act kicked off its first month of open enrollment in October 2013, and by any fair measure, it was a bit of a disaster. The website didn't work, and by the month's end, only 106,185 consumers signed up for insurance through an exchange.
Republicans not only celebrated, they also openly mocked the system, highlighting a variety of sports venues with more than 106,185 seats. This was all the proof the right needed -- American consumers had no interest in "Obamacare" and the Affordable Care Act itself was "hurtling toward failure."
More than 11 million people signed up or renewed for health insurance on the state and federal exchanges this year, the White House announced Tuesday. More than a million people signed up in the last nine days of open enrollment, which ended Sunday, the White House said.
"It's working a little better than we anticipated," President Barack Obama said in video posted on Facebook.
A total of 11.4 million Americans enrolled for coverage through an ACA marketplace, well ahead of the 10.3 million enrollees the Obama administration projected before this year's open-enrollment process began. This total, though impressive, does not include the millions of additional Americans who are now covered through Medicaid expansion or young adults who have insurance through their family's plan thanks to the law's consumer protections.
Of the 11.4 million, 8.6 million received coverage through healthcare.gov -- the consumers whose coverage is jeopardized by the King v. Burwell case at the Supreme Court.
Rachel Maddow and Wall Street Journal senior energy reporter Russell Gold discuss if new oil train safety regulations will be enough to prevent disasters like the derailment in West Virginia yesterday that caused huge explosions. watch
Rachel Maddow discusses how the entire North Carolina legislature took the day off due to weather – except one state Senator who braved the storm and showed up to work to find he had the capitol all to himself. watch
Rachel Maddow discusses how the Republican Party has stalled Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch’s confirmation hearings while simultaneously trying to block President Obama’s immigration policy by shutting down the Department of Homeland Security. watch
* Afghanistan: "Taliban suicide bombers dressed as police officers attacked a police station Tuesday in Afghanistan, killing at least 20 people in the latest assault targeting local security forces, officials said."
* A crisis in Libya: "Western powers on Tuesday stressed the need for a political solution to the crisis in Libya in a statement apparently distancing them from calls for military intervention in the north African state."
* More on West Virginia developments on tonight's show: "The fire from Monday's derailment of a train carrying crude oil in Fayette County continued to burn Tuesday morning, and emergency shelters for hundreds of people who had to evacuate after the derailment remained open."
* No choice: "Just one day before undocumented immigrants were set to begin applying for work permits and legal protections, the Obama administration announced on Tuesday that it would delay carrying out President Obama's executive actions on immigration, saying a federal judge's last-minute ruling had tied the White House's hands."
* It doesn't sound like the fire has ceased: "A battle for a railroad town in eastern Ukraine escalated sharply on Tuesday, with both the Ukrainian army and Russian-backed militants saying that their soldiers were engaging in pitched street battles. By midday, the separatists said they had captured the town, Debaltseve, a separatist news agency reported. The Ukrainian military denied the claim, saying its soldiers were repelling the attacks."
* A period of transition in Oregon: "Secretary of State Kate Brown said Tuesday that, after being sworn in as governor on Wednesday, she will 'lay out a series of immediate reforms needed to restore the public's faith in government.'"
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), still an unannounced presidential candidate, campaigned in New Hampshire last week and told a group of voters that he and Abraham Lincoln share an ideological bond.
"Lincoln read the Constitution, and he also read the Bill of Rights, and he got down to the Tenth Amendment, and he liked it," Perry boasted. "That Tenth Amendment that talks about these states, these laboratories of democracy.... The Tenth Amendment that the federal government is limited, its powers are limited by the Constitution."
It's easy to understand how the Texan might be confused. Lincoln and Perry share a party label, so the former governor apparently assumes they share a political outlook, too. And given that Lincoln was arguably the nation's greatest president, it stands to reason that the Texas Republican, like most candidates, would want to associate himself with the Lincoln legacy.
The problem, however, is that Perry has no idea what he's talking about. Josh Zeitz, who taught American history and politics at Cambridge and Princeton, explained the other day that the former Texas governor "got Lincoln backwards" and Perry's entire argument "betrays a regrettable ignorance of Lincoln's political outlook."
Before he reluctantly became a Republican, Abraham Lincoln was a lifelong Whig -- a party founded in opposition to Andrew Jackson and in support of a strong and active central state.... A passionate supporter of Henry Clay's "American System," Lincoln believed that states should ultimately be subordinate to a strong federal government, and that Washington had a big role to play in matters as far and wide as internal improvements, currency, banking and taxation. [...]
As president, Lincoln vastly expanded the federal government's role.... Maybe Rick Perry spent too much time reading from those widely disputed history and government standards that the Texas Board of Education, in its infinite wisdom, foisted on textbook publishers. Whatever the cause, he's confusing Abraham Lincoln -- erstwhile Whig and promoter of a strong central government -- for a strict Tenth Amendment devotee. That, he certainly was not.
As Jon Chait reminded me, Perry has also flirted openly with the idea of state secession, which probably wouldn't have impressed the president who won the Civil War.
Last fall, the New York Times ran an impressive investigatory piece on Iraqi chemical weapons from the Saddam Hussein era, documenting previously undisclosed discoveries made by U.S. soldiers.
A wide variety of Republicans, regrettably, misunderstood the piece. The right celebrated the news as proof that the Bush/Cheney administration was right all along about Saddam's WMD stockpiles. Conservatives far and wide proudly proclaimed, "We knew it! Take that, liberals!"
The right was confused. The NYT piece, though important, referenced pre-1991 weapons. Everything Republicans said in the lead up to the 2003 invasion was still completely wrong.
With this in mind, over the weekend, the New York Times had another fascinating, well-researched piece on Iraq's abandoned chemical weapons, and Republicans, apparently having learned literally nothing in October, are once again very excited by the prospect that Bush was "right all along."
[N]ote that the Times story says that these weapons were manufactured before the 1991 invasion of Kuwait. Indeed, from 1991 to 1998, U.N. weapons inspectors uncovered Iraq's secret biological weapons program and a project to enrich uranium -- and then eliminated vast stockpiles of chemical and biological agents.
Such pre-1991 chemical-weapons shells (often empty) were found by U.N. weapons inspectors just before the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the United States. The Bush administration, by contrast, staked its WMD claims on an active, on-going program that was restarted after the Kuwait conflict.
The fact that the right hasn't given up isn't admirable; it's sad. Pouncing on details Republicans don't understand actually has the opposite of the intended effect -- these bizarre, misguided celebrations serve as a reminder of just how spectacularly wrong they were, are, and will continue to be.
When it comes to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), there are basically three schools of thought. The first is that he's a terrible failure who's been unable to lead, govern, or complete basic tasks. The second is that he's a terrible failure, but it's not really his fault because the radicalization of GOP politics has made it impossible for anyone to be an effective Speaker.
And the third is that Boehner is actually decent at his job -- thanks to the Ohio congressman, Republicans have generally fallen short of doing real, lasting harm to the country. Were it not for Boehner's steady hand, the scale of GOP-imposed catastrophes would have been far worse.
This third argument has always struck me as the least persuasive, in part because Boehner wasn't able to prevent a government shutdown and a damaging debt-ceiling crisis, and in part because we should set the bar higher for success. Praising this Speaker for preventing fiascos is like giving folks the Parents of the Year award because their kids have not yet burned down the house.
And that leaves us with the other two options: (1) he's failed and it's mostly his fault, or (2) he's failed and it's mostly his members' fault.
That's admittedly a tougher call, though there are a couple of ongoing controversies that shed some light on the subject. Consider, for example, the fact that Boehner's threat to shut down the Department of Homeland Security is moving forward, while at the same time, Boehner's partnership with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is an international debacle.
[O]n the whole, Boehner is managing to combine legislative incompetence with PR incompetence. He's already sure to be known as one of the weakest speakers in American history, for at least some reasons that are out of his control. But he might also be known as one of the least effective.
Today's installment of campaign-related news items that won't necessarily generate a post of their own, but may be of interest to political observers:
* I imagine this was an interesting conversation: "Hillary Rodham Clinton held a private, one-on-one meeting with Senator Elizabeth Warren in December at Mrs. Clinton's Washington home, a move by the Democrats' leading contender in 2016 to cultivate the increasingly influential senator and leader of the party's economic populist movement."
* Asked this week about his controversial father, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) "bristled" at the question. "I think that would be a good question if I were 18 maybe, or something. I mean, I've been an adult and on my own for 30-some odd years," the likely presidential candidate told the AP. What Paul neglected to mention is that he's spent much of those adult years urging people to support his father's wacky beliefs and bizarre agenda.
* Though the Mississippi Republican establishment would probably prefer he go away, failed U.S. Senate candidate Chris McDaniel (R) is apparently moving closer to launching a primary campaign against incumbent Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves (R). Note, Mississippi is one of three states holding statewide elections this year.
* At this stage, Democratic insiders, hoping to retake the Senate majority next year, are focusing on candidate recruitment. Among those whose phones are ringing are former Gov. Ted Strickland in Ohio, Rep. Tammy Duckworth in Illinois, Gov. Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire, former Sen. Russell Feingold in Wisconsin, and former Sen. Kay Hagan in North Carolina.
* Former Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) has been laying the groundwork for a presidential campaign, but he conceded the other day that he isn't sure whether he can "put together the type of money" he needs to launch a competitive bid. Whether this was a hint he doesn't intend to run, or a subtle plea for cash, is unclear.
Launched in 2008, “The Rachel Maddow Show” follows the machinations of policy making in America, from local political activism to international diplomacy. Rachel Maddow looks past the distractions of political theater and stunts and focuses on the legislative proposals and policies that shape American life - as well as the people making and influencing those policies and their ultimate outcome, intended or otherwise.
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