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This morning, Republican senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania made an astonishing admission: The whole reason Republicans opposed expanded background checks for gun-purchasers was President Obama. It wasn't that the president went too far or that he was making unreasonable demands; it was just that Obama supported the proposal on the table. As Toomey said, “There were some on my side who did not want to be seen helping the president do something he wanted to get done, just because the president wanted to do it.”
That is incredible. It’s as if a good chunk of the GOP has regressed to kindergarten, where they refuse to play with toys that someone else likes.
If there’s a silver lining to this revelation, it’s that it offers a way forward for President Obama as he tries to pursue his agenda. Namely, he has to pretend that it isn’t his agenda.
That’s right. Expanded background checks are off the table because Republicans already know what Obama wants. But climate-change legislation? Immigration reform? A grand bargain on taxes and spending? These are things where there’s still a little ambiguity. The White House should take advantage of it and loudly declare that, in fact, Obama doesn’t want any of these things.
In fact, he doesn’t want to enforce immigration laws at all, and he’s afraid of what Marco Rubio might do if they can get an immigration bill through the Senate. If Toomey is right—and the past four years strongly suggest he is—then this should be enough to get Republicans to sign on to some form of comprehensive immigration reform. After all, Obama doesn’t like it!
And if that doesn’t work? Well, Obama can always bring Mitt Romney back into public life as “president for a day.” On days that Congress passes something that needs signing, Romney can take his place and sign in his stead, that way, House Republicans don’t have to tell their constituents they voted with Obama.
The administration gets to govern, and Republicans get to maintain their purity. It’s win-win!
SO THEY SAY
"I'm not a Marxist. But I worry that political conservatives are going to turn me into one."
—Matt Yglesias, writing about Republicans unwilling to lessen the sting of income inequality through redistribution
DAILY MEME: "WHY ARE WE DOING THIS?"
- The United States's detention facility at Guantánamo Bay is back in the news again following a hunger strike that now involves around 100 detainees.
- As The New Yorker's Amy Davidson describes it, "The Navy sent reinforcements to the prison there on Monday—forty medics, added to the cohort guarding a hundred and sixty-six prisoners, watching them in their cells, and, increasingly, pulling them into rooms where they are strapped to chairs and have rubber tubes stuck into their noses and snaked down to their stomachs, then pumping in a can’s worth of a liquid nutritional supplement. That is what our sailors are assigned to do now."
- The strike was captured horrifyingly by Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel in theTimes: "The situation is desperate now. All of the detainees here are suffering deeply ... People are fainting with exhaustion every day. I have vomited blood. And there is no end in sight to our imprisonment. Denying ourselves food and risking death every day is the choice we have made."
- At Swampland, Michael Scherer sums up the situation thusly: "The detention center at Guantánamo Bay now operates with the dizzying logic of a Franz Kafka novel. By administration policy, no new prisoners arrive, 166 remain."
- The New York Times editorial board heaped on more scorn: "It is a blight on the nation’s reputation. It mocks American standards of justice by keeping people imprisoned without charges. It has actually hindered the prosecution and imprisonment of dangerous terrorists."
- Obama agrees: "It’s not sustainable. The notion that we’re going to keep 100 individuals in no man’s land in perpetuity [makes no sense.] All of us should reflect on why exactly are we doing this? Why are we doing this?”
- So why, five years after then-candidate Obama promised to close Guantánamo, are we force-feeding 23 detainees who refuse to eat? When coupled with the administration's troubling history with drones and other foreign-policy decisions, itdoesn't look good.
- But as The Washington Post puts it, "the challenge in closing the prison at Guantánamo Bay is not actually the detention facility itself. The problem is the 166 detainees, each of whom has to be moved somewhere else." There arecomplications concerning all the proposed ways the prison could be emptied.
- Colonel Morris Davis, a former chief prosecutor at Guantánamo, is campaigning for the prison's closure, and started a Change.gov petition that has already gathered more than 64,000 signatures.
- In the wake of the Boston bombing, 61 percent of American now say they are more worried about civil liberties. Although Guantánamo may be off our shores, we should also spare concern for the civil liberties being given up there too.
WHAT WE'RE WRITING
- Taking a principled stand backfired for Russ Feingold, whose opposition to Dodd-Frank gave Republicans leverage to cut one of its key provisions. Gabriel Arana writes that gay-rights activists should keep Feingold's tale in mind before opposing immigration reform: The bill will likely open a path to citizenship for a quarter million LGBT immigrants but not recognize their same-sex marriages.
- When considering whether to intervene in Syria, the mistakes of the past bear heavily on the present, writes Steve Erickson. So heavily that Barack Obama is facing one of his most difficult decisions as president: "It’s hard to remember a problem this large for which there were so few prospects that were so barely tolerable."
WHAT WE'RE READING
- Three of Dzokhar Tsarnaev's friends were charged in a criminal complaint today for concealing evidence and misleading the Boston police, and their testimony provides details about what the bombing suspect did in the days after the explosions.
- A five-year-old boy in Kentucky fatally shot his two-year-old sister with a Crickett rifle yesterday. The gun company's tagline is "My first rifle."
- NPR looks at the history of chemical weapons, and why they've been a "red line" since World War I.
- In other news, 29 percent of Americans think we might need an armed rebellion in the next few years.
- Mother Jones's Andy Kroll asks, will Andrew Cuomo go the distance on campaign-finance reform?
- The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates's guide to how to be a political-opinion journalist.
POLL OF THE DAY
In a New York Times/CBS poll that will worry privacy activists, over three-quarters of Americans say they support placing surveillance cameras in public places while only one-fifth say the government has gone too far in restricting civil liberties in fighting against terrorism. The survey found most people believe terrorism is a fact of life, but that regulation and rigorous law enforcement can effectively combat it.