Rand Paul, the Republican junior senator from Kentucky, is one quirky, if audacious, guy. During his speech yesterday at Howard University, perhaps the best-known and most celebrated of the nation's historically black colleges and universities, Paul offered comments that were, by turns, condescending, earnest and jaw-droppingly dishonest. But one of his oratorical choices was most confounding: his use of the T.S. Eliot poem, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock."

Even if intended as a tacit paean to National Poetry Month, which I kind of doubt, Paul's selection of a poem which, as I mentioned in my report on the speech ("Rand Paul Explains Black History to Black People"), is generally read as the lament of a sexually frustrated middle-aged man, is a head-scratcher -- until you read the whole poem, and not just the parts that he quoted.

What is obvious in the way that Paul employed the poem is that he was trying to say something about his beliefs regarding the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which he got himself into trouble over when, in 2010, he explained to the Louisville Courier-Journal his opposition to the section of the law that pertains to privately-owned establishments. The law mandates that establishments that offer "a public accommodation" (such as restaurants, stores and gas stations) not bar or offer lesser accommodations to anyone on the basis of race or other attributes.

Because of his belief that property rights trump nearly all other rights, Paul said that he objected to forcing people to serve those they wish to exclude, even though he contended that such discrimination is "a bad business decision."

As he ran for U.S. Senate in 2010, Rand Paul made an embarrassing appearance on The Rachel Maddow Show, during which he tried to explain himself. Although it apparently didn't hurt him with the good voters of Kentucky, Paul likely has visions of that piece of video coming back to haunt him in the 2016 presidential election, for which he appears to be positioning himself. (He's already told Politico that he's considering a run at the nation's top job.)

Here's Rand (mis)quoting Eliot:

My wife, Kelley, asked me last week: "Do you ever have doubts about trying to advance a message for an entire country?"

The truth is, sometimes. When I do have doubts, I think of a line from T.S. Eliot: “Then how should I presume* [sic]/ To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?/ And how should I presume?"

When I think of how political enemies often twist and distort my positions I think again of Eliot's words: "When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall/ how should I presume?" And here I am today at Howard, a historically black college; here I am, a guy who once presumed to discuss a section of the Civil Rights Act. That didn't always go so well for me. Some have said that I'm either brave or crazy to be here today.

Eliot's poem is often represented as the internal dialogue of a man who has something momentous to say to, or ask of, a woman -- something that fills him with fear.

In his quotation, apparently meant to be an oblique explanation for his appearance at Howard, Paul omits the lines that immediately precede those he shares with his audience. Here's the complete stanza:

And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
 And how should I presume?
What Paul seems to be saying to his audience is that he feels misunderstood, having been fixed "in a formulated phrase" -- alas, one of his own formulation, which went exactly like this (from a video of the Louisville paper's editorial board meeting with Paul during his 2010 Senate campaign):
EDITOR KEITH RUNYON: Would you have voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964?
 
RAND PAUL: I like the Civil Rights Act in that it ended discrimination in all public domains, and I'm all in favor of that.
 
RUNYON: But?
 
PAUL: (LAUGHS) You had to ask me the "but". I don't like the idea of telling private businessowners -- I abhor racism; I think it's a bad business decision to ever exclude anybody from your restaurant -- but, at the same time, I do believe in private ownership. But I think there should be absolutely no discrimination in anything that gets any public funding. And that's what most of the Civil Rights Act was about, to my mind. 
 
RUNYON: And then it was extended by most localities to include local [unintelligible]. Would you include local--?
 
PAUL: Well, on a local basis, it might be a little bit different. But the thing is, I would speak out in favor of it. I mean, I look at, like, the speech of Martin Luther King and I tell you, I become emotional watching the speeches of Martin Luther King. I loved him because he was a great transformative figure, but he was a believer. What I don't like about most of politics is that almost none of them are believers. And he was a true believer. And he fought governmental injustice, and those governmental rules and laws that forbid people from riding the bus or sitting in certain parts of the bus or drinking water from public fountains -- all of that should have ended, and I think that it's a great occurance that it did.
 
RUNYON: But under your philosophy, it would be O.K. for Dr. King not to be served at the counter of Woolworth's. 
 
PAUL: I would not go to that Woolworth's, and I would stand up in my community and say that it's abhorrent, but the hard part -- and this is the hard part about believing in freedom -- if you believe in the First Amendment, for example, most good defenders of the First Amendment will believe an abhorrent group standing up and saying awful things -- and we're here at the bastion of newspaperdom so I'm sure you understand that people can say bad things. It's the same thing with other behaviors. In a free society, we will tolerate boorish people who have abhorrent behavior, but if we're civilized people, we publicly criticize that and don't belong to those groups or associate with those people. 
 
RUNYON: But it's different with race because, certainly for 100 years, discrimination based on race was codified under federal law. 
 
PAUL: Exactly. It's institutionalized, and that's why we had to end all of the institutional racism, and I'm in favor, completely, of that.
So here's the formulation in which Paul finds himself fixed: He believes that institutions that receive federal public funding should not be allowed to discriminate on the basis of race, but people voting on a local level can apparently discriminate on that basis in certain, unspecified, conditions involving the use of local funds. (Which is quite interesting, given Paul's vote prohibiting the District of Columbia from using its local-level tax revenues to fund abortions for poor women who want them.) But if you own, say, the only department store in a city, or a taxi cab service, or a lunch counter, you should be free to turn away anyone you care to on the basis of their skin.
Let us now return to the T.S. Eliot poem Paul quoted:

There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,

And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

"I've never wavered in my support for civil rights or the Civil Rights Act," Rand Paul told the students of Howard University.

Ninety-nine revisions yet to go.

 

She was a disaster on a national ticket, abandoned her state office halfway through her term and bombed on Fox News, the network of such intellectual giants as Steve Doocy and Gretchen Carlson. But here at Conservative Political Action Conference, Sarah Palin reigns supreme.

Onto the CPAC stage -- populated for days by people in suits -- the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate strode, dressed in body-con blue jeans and carrying a 7-11 Big Gulp soda, which she would use as a prop while taking a swipe at New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. (This week, a state court struck down Bloomberg's ban on super-sized soft drink cups.)

Tossing the crowd all the red-meat right-wing themes, Palin went heavy against gun control, especially the call for universal background checks for gun purchases, a call that has gained momentum in response to the massacre in a Connecticut elementary school last December.

"And background checks?" she asked. "Yeah, to learn more about a person's thinking, associations and intentions? Background checks? Dandy idea, Mr. President. We should've started with yours."

The crowd rose to its feet with a roar, the whistle to the birther crowd heard loud and clear.

She also compared the president to convicted felon Bernie Madoff. 

Post-Massacre Christmas Presents

Palin spoke of the "run on guns and ammo" "for Christmas presents" this year without ever mentioning the killing of 20 children in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre on December 14 -- the event that precipitated the panic of assault-rifle enthusiasts who acted in anticipation of a ban on military-style weapons and high-capacity magazines of the sort the killer used.

In fact, Palin herself had a gun-themed Noel. Or a sexy-sexy Yuletide, depending on how one read her innuendo.

 “You should have seen what Todd got me for Christmas," Palin said. "It was a metal rack, case for hunting rifles to put on the back of a four-wheeler. Then, though, I had to get something for him to put in the gun case, right? So, this go-round, he’s got the rifle; I got the rack.” (Happy birthday, Baby Jesus!)

In the end, CPAC attendees were extraordinarily kind to the Republican Party's big national losers -- at least those who won invitations (John McCain apparently did not) -- giving a Rep. Paul Ryan, the 2012 vice presidential candidate, a prime speaking spot, and granting the less-than-loved presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, a polite reception.

But compared to the wild enthusiasm the audience shown for Palin, that was nothing.

The Right's New King-Maker?

It was not for nothing, however, that Palin was introduced by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, the right's latest firebrand in the World's Greatest Deliberative Body. (Yes, I'm being sarcastic.) In his introduction, Cruz rattled off the names of successful politicians who won Palin's endorsement: Sen. Pat Toomey, Penn.; Marco Rubio, Fla., and, of course, Cruz himself.

And Palin herself took her opportunity at the podium to bash the pooh-bahs who spent big bucks in campaigns for losing candidates, setting herself up as something as an alternative. "It's time to furlough the consultants," she said, indirectly taking aim at Karl Rove, whose American Crossroads superPAC won investors wins in less than 2 percent of the races in which it spent some $183 million. (That doesn't include the millions that American Crossroads' sibling organization, Crossroads GPS, threw in.)

To finish the job after Palin left the stage, Phyllis Schlafly took her turn at the podium, thanking Palin for warming up the crowd for her (as half the crowd wandered toward the exits). Schlafly, still organizing at the age of 89, had no compunction about naming names: Karl Rove, she said, spent $400 million on losers, most of it on television ads -- the placement of which yield big bucks for those who place them -- and virtually nothing on efforts to get out the vote, she said. Complaining that the GOP "establishment gave us another losing candidate," she urged the young people in the audience to run for office (Palin did, too) and "take over" the Republican Party because, she said, "a third party isn't going to cut it."

"We did it before," Schlafly said, "in 1980."

Rand Paul, winner of the CPAC presidential straw poll, was no doubt taking notes.

 

 

 

 

 

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is winning plaudits from progressives for his 13-hour filibuster, launched Wednesday morning, against President Barack Obama’s nomination of John Brennan to the post of CIA director. While Brennan deserves to be ditched for his failure to speak up against the CIA’s use of torture and the administration’s drone assassination program, Paul’s Mr. Smith move is less one of courage than one of political opportunity.

Instead of lauding the anti-woman, anti-civil rights neo-libertarian senator, progressives would do better to ask: Why have all the Senate Democrats signed onto the Brennan nomination?

Just last week, John Kiriakou, a former CIA agent who blew the whistle on the U.S. Government’s torture program, began a two-and-half year prison sentence for having done so. Meanwhile, in his nomination hearing before the Senate, Brennan admitted that, while serving in the CIA’s number two spot, he never spoke against the agency’s practice of torture. And now, through the acquiescence of Senate Democrats, he’s to lead the agency.

And instead of applauding Rand Paul’s ostensible bravery, why are his progressive fans offering scant analysis of his motives?

It’s important to recall how Rand Paul made his way into the Senate in the first place, and who put him there, namely the neo-libertarian Tea Party-fomenting astroturf group, FreedomWorks, and the Senate Conservatives Fund led by Jim DeMint, the former senator from South Carolina who now leads the Heritage Foundation. Those two organizations backed Paul’s primary challenge to a candidate hand-picked by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky’s senior senator, as a reminder to the Republican leader that he’d better toe the Tea Party line. And he has.

In his anti-drone filibuster, which admittedly offered C-SPAN viewers an often-enlightening education on the Obama administration’s flouting of the U.S. Constitution in its pursuit of al Qaeda and the Taliban, Paul also played to his paranoid base, suggesting that the U.S. Government was targeting survivalist right-wingers as potential terrorists and might soon be launching drones against them.

As right-wing activist Lee Stranahan tweeted: “I believe what Rand Paul is doing is showing how to run for president in 2016.”

What Rand Paul did last night was to put on an awesome show that won him a lot of attention. And, yes, it was gratifying to hear Spencer Ackerman, of Wired’s Danger Room site, and The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf name-checked on the Senate floor for stellar journalism that asks the hard questions about the Obama administration’s claim that it has the right to assassinate U.S. citizens -- even on U.S. soil -- in particular circumstances. (Yes, really.)

And it was surely entertaining to listen to Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, read tweets on the Senate floor, when he was dispatched by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus to give the Kentucky libertarian a break, and to state that the “technical term” for what was going on with Twitter right now because of the #standwithRand hashtag, was that is was “blowing up.”

However riveting that all was, it was horrifying to see noted progressives using that very same hashtag simply because no Democrat was willing to make as dramatic a stand against having a torture apologist and assassination strategist for a CIA director -- not to mention an attorney general who is game to give cover to the unconstitutional actions of the administration.

But to stand with Rand means to lend support to a showman who opposes the 1964 Civil Rights Act because he thinks private owners of public establishments, such as restaurants, should be able to turn black people away on the basis of race. It means giving a patina of honor to a man who held up a flood relief bill in order to attach an amendment that would give civil rights to a zygote to “end abortion once and for all.”

Courage? I suppose you could say George Wallace was courageous when he defied a federal order to integrate the public schools of Alabama. Rand Paul’s courage springs from the same well.

Progressives would do better to lean on politicians who claim to embrace the progressive agenda, and make it impossible for them to support the likes of John Brennan.

In a press conference at the White House today, President Barack Obama took questions on the across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester, which took effect today. (Video of the press conference appears at the end of this post.)

While acknowledging that not everybody would feel the pain of those cuts, and that most would not feel it immediately, the president made the case that the automatic pay cuts for federal employees -- including janitors and low-wage workers -- as well as cuts to research and defense spending would slow economic growth and job creation.

But what grabbed the media's attention was Obama's assertion that he is incapable of an extraterrestrial-style mind trick that would convince Republican leaders to change their minds to accept the closing of tax loopholes in exchange for the "reforms" to Medicare and Social Security that they claim to want. Said the president:

I understand that this has been some of the conventional wisdom that has been floating around Washington that, somehow -- even though most people agree that I’m being reasonable, that most people agree that I’m presenting a fair deal -- the fact that they don’t take it means that I should somehow do a Jedi mind meld with these folks and convince them to do what’s right.

Obama's pop-culture scramble -- the mind-meld is a Vulcan move from Star Trek, not a Jedi trick from Star Wars -- captured the imaginations of sequester-weary reporters far more than the means by which the president sought to prove his reasonableness: that he was willing to piss off Democrats by making unspecified changes to Medicare. He explained:

I mean, there are members of my party who violently disagree with the notion that we should do anything on Medicare. And I’m willing to say to them, ‘I disagree with you,’ because I want to preserve Medicare for the long haul. And we’re going to have some tough politics within my party to get this done. This is not a situation where I’m only asking for concessions from Republicans and asking nothing from Democrats. I’m saying, everybody’s going to have to do something.

As for those violently disagreeable types, the president is likely referring to signatories to a letter penned by Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., and Mark Takano, D-Calif., and endorsed by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, that reads: "We will vote against any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits -- including raising the retirement age or cutting the cost of living adjustments that our constituents earned and need."

At last count, the letter was signed by 22 Democratic members of Congress, the latest being Ed Markey, who is running for the Massachusetts U.S. Senate seat recently vacated by John Kerry, who has replaced Hillary Clinton as secretary of State.

Other groups behind the letter include CREDO Action; Democracy For America; MoveOn.org Civic Action; Social Security Works; Working Families Party; National Nurses Union; United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America; Strengthen Social Security Coalition; Progressives United; Rebuild the Dream; National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, and Color of Change.

Now, onto those tough politics....

 

Karl Rove, foe of the Tea Party movement, may turn out to be its best friend. Ever since the announcement of of a new superPAC put together by Rove and his allies at American Crossroads, Rove has himself in the cross-hairs of the Tea Party's heat-seeking fundraising missives, replacing President Barack Obama as the right wing's enemy #1. Rove, you see, is launching his superPAC -- which bears the Tea Partyish name, "Conservative Victory Project" -- to defeat Tea Party candidates in Republican primaries for U.S. Senate seats.

That was enough to see the Tea Party Patriots, in a fundraising e-mail, paint Rove as a Nazi, with the help of Photoshop.

Politico's Ken Vogel reports that TPP's latest e-mail blast features a photo of Rove dressed in the uniform of SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler, and was sent from TPP founder Jenny Beth Martin with a subject line that reads: "Wipe the Smirk Off Karl Rove's Face."

But it was all a big mistake, TPP spokesperson Jameson Cunningham told Vogel, and provided the reporter with a draft of the e-mail that showed a different image of Rove (one of the Tea Party nemesis thumbing his nose). As Cunningham tells it, the image the group had indicated for use in the e-mail was part of a slide show that also contained the Rove-as-Nazi image, so it all just got mixed up.

For progressives, it's a rather delicious turn of events in the spectacular war between Rove and the Tea Party movement. But they'd be wise not to relish it too much, since, as Salon's Alex Pareene has observed, it's a war that is likely to raise money for both sides. But Rove's new enterprise could blow up in his face, posits Nate Silver, the data geek most hated by the GOP if, in targeting primary challengers, the new superPAC generates sympathy for the insurgent candidates.

It all began with the disaster of 2012, when the whole Republican Party picked a bunch of losers in Senate races, be they the more establishment candidates backed by Rove and his Crossroads empire, or rape apologists like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, whose insurgent candidacies were launched by Tea Party activists. Rove, whose donors poured millions into losing races, sought to blame those losses on the Tea Party. And Tea Party bosses like Richard Viguerie blamed Republican losses on on Rove (as I reported here).

Of the Tea Party Patriots in particular relation to Rove, there's a battle brewing over the likely candidacy of Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Sen. Tom Harkin, a Democrat.

King -- famous for making such outlandish remarks as comparing immigrants to dogs, or claiming never to have heard of a minor becoming pregnant via rape or incest -- is exactly the kind of Republican that Rove would like to prevent from running in a statewide race. But already, King is using Rove's opposition to raise himself some bucks.

Not to be left out of the superPAC business, TPP has formed its own, the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund, which has already thrown in behind King, should he choose to launch a Senate bid. That scored TPP's Jenny Beth Martin a seat at King's side for the State of the Union, writes Salon's Jillian Rayfield.

Today, Ken Vogel reports, five hours after her Rove-as-Nazi e-mail went out, Martin issued a contrite statement:

“We apologize to Mr. Rove,” Martin said in the statement. “While we may have strong disagreements with Mr. Rove on the future of conservatism, we want to be clear this imagery is absolutely unacceptable and are working to ensure this type of mistake doesn’t happen again.”

We look forward to seeing Rove dressed as Stalin. Or King George. But that Nazi thing -- that's over.

If there's one thing that President Barack Obama and his cabinet secretaries should have learned by now, it's that right-wing leaders of misogynist religions will never, ever be happy with the administration's attempts to appease them with any kind of accommodation on matters involving the control of women's bodies by the female souls who inhabit them. But, goddess bless them, they keep trying.

Three days after a federal judge dismissed a case against the adminitration brought by the Archidiocese of St. Louis for the sin of mandating the inclusion of conception in employer-provided health-care plans, the administration amended its earlier "accommodation" of its rules for religiously affiliated institutions so as to broaden the range of institutions that would be exempted from the mandate.

On the pro-choice side, reactions are mixed. Writing at The Raw Story, David Ferguson reports:

NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood, the Guttmacher institute and other organizations have enthusiastically greeted the news that under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, steps are being taken to remove the onus of providing contraceptive coverage from employers in instances where providing such coverage would violate religious principles.

But at Catholics For Choice, the response is muted criticism. From a the written statement of CFC President Jon O'Brien:

“Today the Obama Administration did the right thing the wrong way. According to the proposed rule, some women whose employers have a religious objection to providing contraception will still be able to get access through a third party provider...but the proposed rule’s expansion of which employers can be exempted from providing comprehensive preventive healthcare, including contraception, is appalling. Women who work at Catholic schools, hospitals and social service agencies are wondering whether they’ll be able to get the same coverage as millions of other women, or if their healthcare just isn’t as important to the president as their bosses’ beliefs about sex and reproduction."

Veteran New York Times reporter Robert Pear explains the change this way:

Administration officials...proposed a new definition of “religious employers” that can be exempted from the requirement to provide contraceptive coverage.

The exemption would be available to churches, other houses of worship and certain affiliated organizations.

Under the proposal, the administration said, “a house of worship would not be excluded from the exemption because, for example, it provides charitable social services to persons of different religious faiths or employs persons of different religious faiths.”

[...]

Under the original standard, a religious employer could not have qualified for the exemption if it employed or served large numbers of people of a different faith, as many Catholic hospitals, universities and social service agencies do.

So how are the Catholic bishops and right-wing evangelical leaders expressing their joy? In the first case, like this, as reported by Pear:
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued a noncommittal statement saying he welcomed the opportunity to study the proposed regulation.
Or like this title of written statement from the Family Research Council: "Updated HHS Mandate Continues Attack on Religious Freedom."
 
There's just no pleasing some people.
 

If there's one thing that President Barack Obama and his cabinet secretaries should have learned by now, it's that right-wing leaders of misogynist religions will never, ever be happy with the administration's attempts to appease them with any kind of accommodation on matters involving the control of women's bodies by the female souls who inhabit them. But, goddess bless them, they keep trying.

Three days after a federal judge dismissed a case against the adminitration brought by the Archidiocese of St. Louis for the sin of mandating the inclusion of conception in employer-provided health-care plans, the administration amended its earlier "accommodation" of its rules for religiously affiliated institutions so as to broaden the range of institutions that would be exempted from the mandate.

On the pro-choice side, reactions are mixed. Writing at The Raw Story, David Ferguson reports:

NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood, the Guttmacher institute and other organizations have enthusiastically greeted the news that under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, steps are being taken to remove the onus of providing contraceptive coverage from employers in instances where providing such coverage would violate religious principles.

But at Catholics For Choice, the response is muted criticism. From a the written statement of CFC President Jon O'Brien:

 

“Today the Obama Administration did the right thing the wrong way. According to the proposed rule, some women whose employers have a religious objection to providing contraception will still be able to get access through a third party provider...but the proposed rule’s expansion of which employers can be exempted from providing comprehensive preventive healthcare, including contraception, is appalling. Women who work at Catholic schools, hospitals and social service agencies are wondering whether they’ll be able to get the same coverage as millions of other women, or if their healthcare just isn’t as important to the president as their bosses’ beliefs about sex and reproduction."

Veteran New York Times reporter Robert Pear explains the change this way:

 

Administration officials...proposed a new definition of “religious employers” that can be exempted from the requirement to provide contraceptive coverage.

The exemption would be available to churches, other houses of worship and certain affiliated organizations.

Under the proposal, the administration said, “a house of worship would not be excluded from the exemption because, for example, it provides charitable social services to persons of different religious faiths or employs persons of different religious faiths.”

[...]

Under the original standard, a religious employer could not have qualified for the exemption if it employed or served large numbers of people of a different faith, as many Catholic hospitals, universities and social service agencies do.

So how are the Catholic bishops and right-wing evangelical leaders expressing their joy? In the first case, like this, as reported by Pear:
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued a noncommittal statement saying he welcomed the opportunity to study the proposed regulation.
Or like this title of written statement from the Family Research Council: "Updated HHS Mandate Continues Attack on Religious Freedom."
 
There's just no pleasing some people.
 

When predictable events, such as a presidential inauguration, occur in your nation's capital, the punditocracy gather to game out what they mean. For a second-term inauguration never simply means the swearing in of an incumbant president -- where's the story in that? -- it's about setting the course, predicting potential problems, and trying to find something, anything, vaguely new to say about the thing.

And so it is that we find a story today on the front page of Politico that asks whether, during the president's second term, the Democrats can manage to hang together. And despite my lead-paragraph snark, that is something of a fair question. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, for instance, has little enthusiasm for an assault-weapons ban, while Dems from more urban states agree with the president.  But in all the conjecture, one senses the punditocracy's desire to refute the progressive, populist bent the party has taken.

The fault line among the Dems, as Politico writers Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman see it, is around projected changes to Social Security and Medicare -- but there are other strains, as well, outside of Congress. One example noted is Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's tussle with the teachers' union.

To illustrate the article, titled "Up Next for Obama: A Looming Democratic Divide," Politico editors chose a photo of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Mass., juxtaposed with one of Emanuel. But last time I looked, Emanuel was hardly a leader in the national party. 

AlterNet readers can take heart, however, in quotes from Rep. Keith Ellison, Minn., and Sen. Sherrod Brown, Ohio:

“The real struggle within the Democratic Party is where you stand on income inequality and whether the government needs to be a part of fixing that problem,” said Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “The demographics that the Democratic Party must attract are the people who need responsive government.”

[...]

 

The differences in the Democratic coalition are razor sharp. Take the question of whether Obama and Congress should consider raising the eligibility age for future Medicare recipients as a way to find savings.

“That stuff you debate out,” said Emanuel, adding: “I don’t think raising the age of Medicare to 67 is a centrist or a liberal idea.”

But to a progressive stalwart like Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) such an idea isn’t just ill-considered — it’s “morally reprehensible.”

“That is such a Washington, Heritage Foundation construction,” Brown said of raising the eligibility age.

Reminded that some of his own colleagues are open to it, he shot back: “They’re wrong.”