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In January 2009, President Obama journeyed to Capitol Hill to meet with Congressional Republicans on the stimulus.  Unbeknownst to the President, Minority Leader John Boehner had already instructed his entire GOP caucus to vote "no" on the bill they were to discuss with Obama.  Now, history is repeating.  Even as the President was asking his Republican White House guests Tuesday to look for "common ground" on taxes, the GOP leadership was already promising to block him on everything else.

Of course, with their record-setting use of the filibuster, unprecedented obstruction of presidential nominees, and unified no votes on almost every major piece of legislation, the past performance of Congressional Republicans should have been a guarantee of future results for Barack Obama.  But with his self-defeating obsession with bipartisanship, Obama has committed himself to being the "thank you, sir, may I have another?" President.

Even before Barack Obama took the oath office, Republicans leaders, conservative think-tanks and right-wing pundits were calling for total obstruction of the new president's agenda.  Bill Kristol, who helped block Bill Clinton's health care reform attempt in 1993, called for history to repeat on the Obama stimulus - and everything else.  Pointing with pride to the Clinton economic program which received exactly zero GOP votes in either House, Kristol in January 2009 advised:

"That it made, that it made it so much easier to then defeat his health care initiative. So, it's very important for Republicans who think they're going to have to fight later on on health care, fight later on maybe on some of the bank bailout legislation, fight later on on all kinds of issues.."

And so, as the chart above reveals, it came to pass.

On issue after issue, even when President Obama extended his hand, Republicans showed him the back of theirs.  Despite dedicating 40% of the $787 billion stimulus package to tax cuts (making it, as Steve Benen noted, the "biggest tax cut ever"), Obama got no GOP votes in the House and only three in the Senate.  Months of painful concessions to supposedly moderate Senate Republicans only served to produce a watered-down health care bill - and no GOP support.

Time after time, President Obama could count the votes he received from Congressional Republicans on the fingers (usually the middle) of one hand.  The expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) to four million more American kids earned the backing of a whopping eight GOP Senators.  (One of them, Arlen Specter, later became a Democrat.)  Badly needed Wall Street reform eventually overcame GOP filibusters to pass with the support of just three Republicans in the House and Senate, respectively.  This summer, it took 50 days for President Obama to get past Republican filibusters of extended unemployment benefits and the Small Business Jobs Act.  As for the DISCLOSE Act, legislation designed to limit the torrent of secret campaign cash unleashed by the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, in September Republican Senators prevented it from ever coming to a vote.

And when they weren't showing up to vote no on President Obama's initiatives, Senate Republicans blocked voting altogether.

Back in 2007, former Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott explained the successful Republican strategy for derailing the new Democratic majorities in the House and Senate:

"The strategy of being obstructionist can work or fail. So far it's working for us."

And the Republicans of the 110th Congress were just getting warmed up.  The Senate GOP hadn't merely shattered the previous records for filibusters.  As McClatchy reported in February 2010, the Republicans of the 111th Congress vowed to block virtually everything, counting on voters to blame Democrats for the GOP's own roadblocks:

As even Robert Samuelson (no friend of Democrats) acknowledged, "From 2003 to 2006, when Republicans controlled the Senate, they filed cloture 130 times to break Democratic filibusters. Since 2007, when Democrats took charge, they've filed 257 cloture motions."  The Senate's own records reveal obstructionism is the new normal for Republicans:

The Republicans didn't merely eviscerate the old mark for cloture motions and filibusters after their descent into the minority in 2007. As Paul Krugman detailed, the GOP's obstructionism has fundamentally altered how the Senate does - or more accurately, doesn't do - business:

The political scientist Barbara Sinclair has done the math. In the 1960s, she finds, "extended-debate-related problems" -- threatened or actual filibusters -- affected only 8 percent of major legislation. By the 1980s, that had risen to 27 percent. But after Democrats retook control of Congress in 2006 and Republicans found themselves in the minority, it soared to 70 percent.

Earlier this year, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow put those numbers of threatened or actual filibusters into an easy-to-read chart so simple that even John McCain could understand it:

But for Barack Obama, the perpetual Republican roadblock isn't just personal.  It's personnel.

While the GOP in the 111th Congress has turned to the filibuster at more than double the previous Democratic rates, Barack Obama's nominees to the federal bench are half as likely to be confirmed.

That's the jaw-dropping conclusion of an analysis this summer by the Center for American Progress.  Thanks to the Republicans' historic use of Filibusters, anonymous holds, and other obstructionist tactics, President Obama's confirmation rate is "falling off a cliff."  The CAP assessment of data from the Congressional Research Service, the Justice Department and the Senate Judiciary Committee found that:

Such tactics are completely unprecedented, and so are their results. Fewer than 43 percent of President Obama's judicial nominees have so far been confirmed, while past presidents have enjoyed confirmation rates as high as 93 percent. And President Obama's nominees have been confirmed at a much slower rate than those of his predecessor--nearly 87 percent of President George W. Bush's judicial nominees were confirmed.

To be sure, the Republicans' successful rearguard action is helping to preserve conservative dominance of the federal judiciary.  But with its sluggish pace of nominations, the Obama administration isn't helping itself.

Last November Charlie Savage of the New York Times warned that the "opportunities to reshape judiciary are slipping away."  And Republican obstructionism was only part of the story:

By this point in 2001, the Senate had confirmed five of Mr. Bush's appellate judges -- although one was a Clinton pick whom Mr. Bush had renominated -- and 13 of his district judges. By contrast, Mr. Obama has received Senate approval of just two appellate and four district judges...

Mr. Bush, who made it an early goal to push conservatives into the judicial pipeline and left a strong stamp on the courts, had already nominated 28 appellate and 36 district candidates at a comparable point in his tenure. By contrast, Mr. Obama has offered 12 nominations to appeals courts and 14 to district courts.

In March, the Los Angeles Times reported that the same dynamic of a distracted Obama White House and scorched-earth Republican opposition was continuing to leave vacancies across the federal courts:

During President Obama's first year, judicial nominations trickled out of the White House at a far slower pace than in President George W. Bush's first year. Bush announced 11 nominees for federal appeals courts in the fourth month of his tenure. Obama didn't nominate his 11th appeals court judge until November, his 10th month in office...

Key slots stand without nominees, including two on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the body that reviews decisions by federal agencies and a court that is considered second in importance only to the Supreme Court. Federal judicial vacancies nationwide have mushroomed to well over 100, with two dozen more expected before the end of the year. To date, the Obama administration has nominees for just 52 of those slots, and only 17 have been confirmed.

And that's just federal judges.  In February, Americans learned that Alabama Republican Senator Richard Shelby single-handedly put a hold on 70 nominees destined for slots across the Obama administration.  At the current pace of GOP procedural delays, another CAP study suggested in September, confirming all of the President's nominees could literally take years.

Unbelievably, the Republicans' scorched earth campaign to block the Obama agenda hardly ends there.  Hoping for better luck than in Bill Clinton's time, GOP leaders have threatened to shutdown the government both during the upcoming lame duck session and, as means of killing health care reform, during the 112th Congress.  (In September, Senator Jim Demint briefly played chicken with the "Doomsday Device," warning his colleagues he might opt to "place a hold on all legislation that has not been 'hot-lined' by the chamber or has not been cleared by his office.")  And then there's the "I word."

I, as in "Impeachment."  While Darrell Issa (R-CA), GOP's would-be chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said last week there's "not a chance at this point" that he will pursue a baseless impeachment crusade against President Obama, Issa and his colleagues have already hinted that everyone should expect the Republican Inquisition.  In July, Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota Congresswoman and the head of the new Congressional Tea Party caucus, vowed perpetual investigations of the Obama administration:

"Oh, I think that's all we should do. I think that all we should do is issue subpoenas and have one hearing after another, and expose all the nonsense that has gone on."

In August, Politico detailed the plans of Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Lamar Smith (R-TX) to lead a new Republican majority into perpetual investigations of the White House. It's no wonder that Clinton veteran Lanny Davis lamented, "I actually think it will be even worse than what happened to Bill Clinton because of the animosity they already feel for President Obama." In its preview of the potential "season of subpoenas", Politico reported:

Everything from the microscopic -- the New Black Panther party -- to the massive -- think bailouts -- is on the GOP to-do list, according to a half-dozen Republican aides interviewed by POLITICO...

Issa would like Obama's cooperation, says Kurt Bardella, spokesman for the ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. But it's not essential.

"How acrimonious things get really depend on how willing the administration is in accepting our findings [and] responding to our questions," adds Bardella, who refers to his boss as "questioner-in-chief.'

Then in an October 19 interview with Rush Limbaugh, Issa jumped the shark as he described America's potential future under Republican majority rule on Capitol Hill:

"You know, there will be a certain degree of gridlock as the president adjusts to the fact that he has been one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times."

And so its goes.

On January 5th, 2009, Krugman warned then President-elect Obama about the stimulus plan, "Look, Republicans are not going to come on board. Make 40% of the package tax cuts, they'll demand 100%." The next day on January 6th, Krugman warned that the $787 billion recovery package was not only too small, but would pose dire political consequences for President Obama:

I see the following scenario: a weak stimulus plan, perhaps even weaker than what we're talking about now, is crafted to win those extra GOP votes. The plan limits the rise in unemployment, but things are still pretty bad, with the rate peaking at something like 9 percent and coming down only slowly. And then Mitch McConnell says "See, government spending doesn't work."

Two years later, Krugman's Law is still in effect.  Despite overwhelming public support (even on Election Day) to end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent of Americans, President Obama outsourced the building of a compromise that will almost certainly break his popular campaign promise.  And in return for his flexibility, Obama received not thanks from appreciative Republicans, but an extortion letter.

From the beginning, Republicans have been clear that whatever the question, the answer is no.  And yet, two years after he took the oath office, President Obama is still asking for more of the same.

** Crossposted at Perrspectives **

UPDATE: Almost on cue, Howard Fineman writes, "Obama's naivete on bipartisanship has finally caught up to him."  Meanwhile, outgoing Ohio Governor Ted Strickland pleads with the President to see the light about his GOP adversaries:

"After all of this you don't realize these people want to destroy you and your agenda? How many times do you have to be, you know, slapped in the face?"

Originally posted to Jon Perr on Wed Dec 01, 2010 at 10:43 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thing is Angel... (12+ / 0-)

    ...that you assume that Obama actually wants to do what he says he wants to do and is just being played.

    What if it is Obama that is doing the playing and this is all going according to plan?  

    •  At this point, one needs to question that (6+ / 0-)

      "This" is what he WANTS to do?

      •  That's easy... (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Aspe4, RaulVB, nymosyn, Willa Rogers

        Tear up America's social contract, privatize everything, and send all the money to the rich through the corporations. And, it is going very well indeed.

        •  I don't buy that, (0+ / 0-)

          but I don't really expect it to change.  Obama is going to keep trying it some more.  And I don't think its because he is a sellout, or something like that.  

          (note - what follows is merely speculation, based on looking at things from the peanut gallery)

          I believe that, fundamentally, Obama believes we have to have a Republican party (or more to the point, an opposition party/conservative interested in governing) actually involved and debating policy, if we want good government.  Failing to have that makes it impossible to have good government.  And so he keeps hoping that the R's come to their senses, and are actually willing to work with him.  

          Ultimately, its not about bipartisanship - its about a sane Republican party.  

          •  This is exactly why he is so powerful (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            nymosyn, Bluefin, allenjo

            ...his effectiveness depends on loyalists like you to give him the benefit of the doubt time and time again.

            It is impossible for you to imagine that, despite all the evidence, he is actually in league with those who's goal is to continue to transform America into a corporate oligarchy, and that's why he is so successful at it.

            Wake up, there is a wolf in the hen house and he's coming after your eggs.

            •  I am not apologizing for him (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              and what he has done & doing is pissing me off royally

              Its kinda like the situation with DADT - I am convinced that if it weren't because Obama wants it, DADT repeal would've already happened.  Its not about homophobia for enough Republicans to stop it, but combine that with a "No No No" attitude, and DADT remains in effect.  Doesn't make much difference in terms of outcome.  

              In many ways, its a real tragedy IMHO.  

      •  What I find interesting is that Obama has not (8+ / 0-)

        had to answer any questions from anyone for months.  He gives a couple of speeches but we have no way of finding out where he stands on specifics. At this point I have no idea where Obama stands on anything other than his track record of caving on everything.

        •  Good point... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          nymosyn, skaye19, allenjo

          ...he did a little of the "Yes We Can" dance for some students out on the campaign trail, but for substance nothing but spokesmen capitulating.

        •  Open Government and Transparency (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          all that was promised..

          And we really do not know, and Obama rarely takes questions from the press so we are not likely to find out.

          I had such incredibly high hopes for this presidency that has slid into the muckiness of business as usual.

          Daniel Ellsberg - "It was always a bad year to get out of Vietnam."

          by allenjo on Wed Dec 01, 2010 at 12:31:28 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Damn good point. Facing a similar set of (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          challenges, FDR formulated policy, made decisions, revisited and then revised policy and decisions until they worked; and most of all, communicated to the public, all citizens, what he expected and what was going on. All the while defying his sworn enemies at every turn.
          FDR was fortuitously a great 'Leader'. Obama isn't even in the running. In some ways he has been worse than GW Bush, with Bush we knew what we had going in (some of us); with Obama, we have found that we didn't.

          He may have had the potential, but never even attempted to exercise it effectively, and his repetitive mewling about "bipartisanship" in the face of implacable enemies like todays R's is inexcusable.

          As he took office our nation was at the edge of a precipice, facing multiple disasters after eight years of massive malfeasance and lost opportunities, in an unforgiving domestic and world environment hardly ever faced before with lasting ramifications.
          A turning point in history in which either a true Leader steps up to the challenges and overcomes as many as possible, or not. President Obama has been a fatal failure, and our nation and children will pay forever for his utter lack of leadership.

          Is it fair that so much was at stake after the massive misgovernment that preceded his administration? Hell no, life's not fair.
          But much has been expected, little has been realized. Not near enough, the losses of the recent election will be insurmountable now.

          Republicans: "Double your pleasure, double your fun, double your National Debt, and blame 'The One' "

          by Bluefin on Wed Dec 01, 2010 at 04:06:42 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  I used to think that was the case. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RaulVB, kurt, crankyinNYC

      Not anymore.  I'm not one of the constant Obamabashers here.  Nor am I an Obamabot.  

      The President capitulates on so many things seemingly at the drop of a hat.  This is who he is.  I don't like it. It makes him weak. There are also many Dems in Congress that are doing the same thing unfortunately so it's not just an Obama thing.  The GOP knows this and has no qualms into browbeating The President and a good number of Democrats into doing what THEY want. If Obama is the nominee in 2012 I will vote for him because the alternative is far, far worse.  I doubt there will be a viable candidate to go up against him in a primary, but if there is, I will likely support that person in the primary.

  •  Sure you can have another President (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Major Tom, SouthernBelleNC49, MartyM

    which one would you like -

    Palin, Huckabee, Romney, Pawlenty,  Barbour

    In the choice between changing ones mind and proving there's no need to do so, most people get busy on the proof.

    by jsfox on Wed Dec 01, 2010 at 10:50:10 AM PST

  •  The CCC presidency (11+ / 0-)

    Caving, capitulation and cowardice.

    And then they wonder why the Republicans continue to obstruct.  When you continually show weakness, you only embloden the other side.

    "We have to deal with the world as we find it." The rallying cry of Vichy Dems.

    by Paleo on Wed Dec 01, 2010 at 10:52:56 AM PST

  •  still as ridiculous as two days ago (4+ / 0-)

    several diaries a day straining to come up with a new way to mock the leader of the Democratic Party on this Democratic Blog.

    there are only so many ways to say the president is a masochist.  actually saying he was a masochist would at least be an intelligent and mature way to mock him.  this animal house metaphor is just stupid.

    messaging:  YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG!

    Any war requires forces that use their pen against the enemy, not in foolish tirades against their own leader, abetting the enemy. ~qua

    by mallyroyal on Wed Dec 01, 2010 at 11:00:53 AM PST

  •  I was hoping & praying.... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bouwerie Boy, moira

    that Obama would show some spunk and fight FOR the middle class by rejecting tax cuts for zillionaires, but apparently it's not to be. :(
    And this will be one more reason for Democrats to stay home in 2012.

    •  Yeah- stay home in 2012 (0+ / 0-)

      that'll show 'em!

      Yet again Democrats can't unify.

      Many of you knew that there are not enough votes in the Senate for just middle-class tax cuts? That's right.

      Doesn't matter what their President wants, there are Democrats voting with the Republicans.

      Would you ever see Republicans fighting against their own? Never.

  •  Republicans just playing chicken again (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    And we keep blinking.

    "What is essential is invisible to the eye."

    by greywolfe359 on Wed Dec 01, 2010 at 11:17:39 AM PST

  •  And you disrupted HOW MANY Republican (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mos1133, Larsstephens, lightshine

    town hall meetings?

    You had HOW MANY anti-Republican rallies all over the country?

    So when Republicans do something bad, you attack the President for it?

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White

    by zenbassoon on Wed Dec 01, 2010 at 11:22:01 AM PST

    •  Just to Be Clear... (8+ / 0-)

      ...I'm an Obama supporter.  I busted my ass on health care reform, Bush tax cuts, the estate tax and a lot more.  And I'll still in his corner over the next two years and beyond.

      But that doesn't mean he's immune to criticism or that I'm immune to disappointment.

      In the face of all-out opposition, President Obama could have done more - much more - to commit to policies, sell them to the public and punish the GOP for its unprecedented obstructionism.

      They say the first step to addressing a problem is to recognize you have one.  Some of Obama's wounds are self-inflicted.  It's long past time he stop hitting himself.

      •  I'm not talking about pushing policy. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Larsstephens, SouthernBelleNC49

        I'm talking about when Republicans come out and say something stupid and try to block everything.  We attack Democrats for what Republicans do.

        "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White

        by zenbassoon on Wed Dec 01, 2010 at 11:48:14 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  There's a problem alright (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kurt, Bluefin

        ... and it appears to be the President's self-image. He views himself as someone with a special ability to gather a disparate group around a table and solve problems in a way that everyone can see as a win. Apparently he actually did that successfully earlier in his political career; but it was obvious to any realistic observer that he would not be able to play that role as President, not in this political climate.

        That he still clings to that vision of himself after two years is astounding, and it's making me wonder about the man on a personal level. Did you hear him pretty much admit this limitation of his to Barbara in the meeting he had with a few bloggers a while back? She was trying to impress upon him the need to deal with intransigent Republicans in a more realistic way, and he countered with "that's just not who I am," or something to that effect. All I can say is that people do have the ability to grow and change; and if he lacks the ... what? flexibility? humility? maturity? whatever... to learn that the thing in his way is his own definition of who he is and nothing more, his presidency is doomed.

        Thanks for this thoughtful diary!

  •  AA...i hope you get auto-rec list (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bouwerie Boy

    status around here...your diaries are so full of information and knowledge...they are terrific references...thanks for your hard work!!

  •  I Think (0+ / 0-)

    he could still save his sinking bipartisanship. He could tie all this together, the tax cuts, Republican screwery, even his capitulation, but the bottom line has to be JOBS.

    People aren't going to be paying attention to the political details, but they'll remember the administration that was in power when their situation improved.  

    He could start a micro campaign, call it Let's Work Together or somesuch. Build up a lot of enthusiasm for it, make Republican recalcitrance the issue, and devote his agenda to job creation.  That way he doesn't have to fight anyone, he stays 'the good guy', and anyone who gets in the way can be accused of not wanting to 'work together' for Team America or whatever, they look like the meanies who don't want people to have jobs.  He'd be unstoppable in 2012.

    Just an idea, not saying it's the answer to everything.

    Make Vegan chocolate chip cookies, not war :-)

    by Maori on Wed Dec 01, 2010 at 11:30:27 AM PST

  •  "We don't have the votes" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    At present. But any party can be made to cave, IF they are publicly called on their extortion.

    LET the Republicans block middle class tax cuts.

    And then mount an information campaign, every bit as serious as any election campaign could be, to make sure the American people know it, and know why they did it.

    Use everything. Not just TV, radio, print, Intertubes, the usual. Those, too of course, but we all know how these are tilted and distorted by fat-cat owners and media celebrities. Use billboards; banners trailed by small planes; special rallies; house parties; bumper stickers; house signs. Wherever you go, whatever else you are doing, whoever you are talking to, insert message. Chalk it on curbstones. Wear it on shirts, hats or buttons. Make up a jungle that will stick in the head. ASK RANK AND FILE DEMOCRATS TO HELP: YES, WE CAN save middle class tax cuts! Talk to your neighbors!

    Everybody concentrating on one message, almost one wording of the message. Imagine this is a blitz electoral campaign and ending very, very soon.

    Goal is that within about 2 weeks, 80% of everybody in the U.S.A. could repeat one or two key facts of this situation if stopped in the street. E.g., "The Republicans blocked a tax cut for middle class people. They said the billionares have to have their own, bigger tax cut first."

    The roar will be heard as far as Capitol Hill, trust me for that, and if they remain stubborn, the people may not elect another Republican Senator for a generation. You can campaign on that.

    I suggest this only because this is not just "another issue."  This goes to the long-term stability of the nation.

    We can't afford another 2-3 years of our economy and infrastructure bleeding out, just so the superrich can continue their pre-Waterloo grand ballroom spectacle, leaving the middle class and poor to pay for the champagne.

    •  FYI, the GOP never had 60 votes during .......... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kurt, Bluefin

      ..... their tenure.  This strawman of "you need 60 votes" needs to be slashed, burned, and buried.  

      The Republic did not stop nor did you hear Republicans whining about 60 votes.

      "We don't have the votes"

      We do have the votes.  We're just incapable of knowing how to govern.  

      If I am mischaracterizing what you're saying I apologize in advance.  

      "I wonder how many times you have to be hit on the head before you find out who's hitting you?" Harry Truman - 1948

      by ThAnswr on Wed Dec 01, 2010 at 12:54:33 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  In This Environment, the Center is Where... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RaulVB, kurt, Bluefin

    ...political principle and good public policy go to die.

    Bill Clinton said it well long ago:

    "When people are insecure, they’d rather have somebody who is strong and wrong than someone who’s weak and right."

    By compromising on the Bush tax cuts, President Obama is weak and wrong - the worst of all worlds.

  •  So where do we sign for the 2012 Obama GOTV? ;) (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I'll let Harry Truman do the talking:  

    "I wonder how many times you have to be hit on the head before you find out who's hitting you?" Harry Truman - 1948

    How many more times do we have to watch this president do his imitation of lawn chair in the act of folding up?

    What would it take to wake Obama up?  Does the GOP have to literally piss on him before he gets the message?  

    I understand Obama hoped for bipartisanship. However, at some point, hope turns into delusion.  Obama has been delusional for nearly 2 years.  

    Now, where's that 2012 Obama GOTV sign-in sheet?  ;)

    "I wonder how many times you have to be hit on the head before you find out who's hitting you?" Harry Truman - 1948

    by ThAnswr on Wed Dec 01, 2010 at 12:46:07 PM PST

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