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Jon Favreau at The Daily Beast:
The Tea Party is the problem.

The Tea Party is the most destructive force in American politics today. Over the last few weeks, it has demonstrated again that its intent is not to shake up the establishment but to burn down the village. As a Democrat, I disagree with its policy positions, but its policy positions alone are not what make the Tea Party so dangerous. What makes the Tea Party dangerous is its members’ willful disregard for the most basic tenets of American democracy. They do not believe in the legitimacy of our president. They do not believe in the legitimacy of decisions handed down by our Supreme Court. Unlike President Obama, Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, or a host of other Democratic and Republican lawmakers who grasp the basic reality of politics, they have never, not once shown a willingness to compromise on anything. Merely uttering the word is enough to draw a primary challenge.

All this, despite the fact that the Tea Party represents the views of a small, ever-shrinking fraction of Americans. Even within the Republican Party, its members’ favorability hovers around 50 percent, the lowest of all time. Their recent legislative strategy, a word that can be used only in its loosest sense, led to 144 Tea Party House members voting against a bipartisan compromise simply to open the government and avert default. But when Reuters polled people who weren’t satisfied with last week’s outcome, only 2 percent said it was because the House passed the Senate’s bipartisan bill. Only 5 percent said it was because Republicans compromised. Only 3 percent said it was because default would have taught our government an important lesson. Most people said their main dissatisfaction was with the ugly process the Tea Party dragged us all through.

And yet, somehow, this small minority of Tea Party House members, who represent less than one half of one legislative body in one branch of government, has been given enormous influence over the national agenda—a situation without precedent in American political history. It’s insanity.

Maria Cardona at CNN:
The problem for Boehner as a leader of a fractured caucus is that he is listening to only a small but loud fraction of the American electorate. The voices of this America are vengeful if they don't get their way. [...] [G]oing to the mat for the tea party might enable Boehner to push them hard to avoid this destructive path next time. It might give him the backbone he will need to stand up to them in the coming months and listen to the other "America" that represents more reasonable middle-of-the-road voices. These also happen to be a majority of the country -- Republicans, Democrats and independents. They are the voters that decide presidential elections and are precisely the ones the tea party is alienating. [...]

The bigger problem for moderate and pragmatic Republicans is that the tea party doesn't care about the Republican Party's shrinking White House prospects. But it does care about its own and about keeping control of the House of Representatives. This could be enough to get the tea party to rethink its strategy.

Americans have had it. The most recent CNN poll shows 54% of Americans think it is a bad thing for the country that the GOP controls Congress. For the first time ever, polls show 60% of voters are ready to boot all of Congress out -- including their own representatives.

Jules Witcover at The Baltimore Sun:
Today, Mr. Cruz' one-man assault on President Obama and more significantly on the leadership of his own party, both in the Senate and across the Capitol in the House, personifies a new McCarthyism on the Hill. It requires a similar intervention by the moderate voices among the congressional Republicans if the party is to restore its own reputation as a partner in responsible governance.

Some will argue that Mr. Obama, as president, should remain above any personal confrontation with a single senator low on the totem pole as a freshman, leaving it to the Republicans to deal with Mr. Cruz. Such a presidential intervention, it will be said, will only elevate the brash Texan in the national spotlight, encouraging him to engage with Mr. Obama as a political equal.

But in the 1950s, Eisenhower learned the hard way that trying to ignore Joe McCarthy only encouraged him to press on with his phony attacks on communist infiltration of the Eisenhower State Department and elsewhere. Cruzism has not yet sunk to similar depths today. But the looks and smell of it are all too familiar to any observers of the era of McCarthyism still around.

More on the day's top stories below the fold.
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Peter Schweitzer at The New York Times writes about how our campaign contribution system is essentially legalized extortion:

Consider this: of the thousands of bills introduced in Congress each year, only roughly 5 percent become law. Why do legislators bother proposing so many bills? What if many of those bills are written not to be passed but to pressure people into forking over cash?

This is exactly what is happening. Politicians have developed a dizzying array of legislative tactics to bring in money.

Take the maneuver known inside the Beltway as the “tollbooth.” Here the speaker of the House or a powerful committee chairperson will create a procedural obstruction or postponement on the eve of an important vote. Campaign contributions are then implicitly solicited. If the tribute offered by those in favor of the bill’s passage is too small (or if the money from opponents is sufficiently high), the bill is delayed and does not proceed down the legislative highway.

Speaking of money, Juan Williams profiles the money war in the GOP:
As a very high-ranking Republican told me last week: “We have a total split between people who give us $30 and the people who give us $30,000.”

The $30 donors are the Tea Party donors. The $30,000 donors are business groups. [...]
It has long been obvious there is money to be made in catering to right-wing anger by demonizing liberals in general and President Obama in particular. But, as Cruz and Palin demonstrate, the new whipping boy for the Tea Party is the current set of Republican leaders.

It is now Republican against Republican. Specifically, Tea Party Republicans against non-Tea Party Republicans.

The only force available to counter Tea Party dollars is big bucks from big business.

Finally, on the Healthcare.gov rollout, Chris Jennings, deputy assistant to the president for Health Policy, cuts through the media frenzy and lays out the facts:
The core of the law — health insurance — works just fine.

These plans will not sell out. The prices will not change. We're only three weeks into a six-month open enrollment period. And while the website will ultimately be the easiest way to buy insurance, it isn't the only way.

You can call 1-800-318-2596 to apply. You can download an application on HealthCare.gov and mail it in. Or you can check out LocalHelp.HealthCare.gov to find out where you can apply in person. We're confident you'll find the new way of buying health insurance much easier than the old way.

The president did not fight so hard for this reform just to build a website. He did it to make health care more secure for people who have it, and more affordable and accessible for people who don't. That's what the Affordable Care Act does.

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