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Dana Milbank looks at the Republican perception of President Obama:
President Obama is such a weak strongman. What’s more, he is a feeble dictator and a timid tyrant.

That, at any rate, is Republicans’ critique of him. With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Obama’s critics pivoted seamlessly from complaining about his overreach to fretting that he is being too cautious. Call it Operation Oxymoron. [...]

In theory, it is possible for Obama to rule domestic politics with an iron fist and yet play the 98-pound weakling in foreign affairs. But it doesn’t make a lot of sense that one person would vacillate between those two extremes. A better explanation is Obama’s critics are so convinced that he is wrong about everything that they haven’t paused to consider the consistency of their accusations.

Meanwhile, Eugene Robinson says the US has a credibility problem:
Is it just me, or does the rhetoric about the crisis in Ukraine sound as if all of Washington is suffering from amnesia? We’re supposed to be shocked — shocked! — that a great military power would cook up a pretext to invade a smaller, weaker nation? I’m sorry, but has everyone forgotten the unfortunate events in Iraq a few years ago?

My sentiments, to be clear, are with the legitimate Ukrainian government, not with the neo-imperialist regime in Russia. But the United States, frankly, has limited standing to insist on absolute respect for the territorial integrity of sovereign states.

More on the day's top stories below the fold.

Switching topics, The New York Times blasts the "small ideas" of the Republican domestic agenda:

Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the House Budget Committee chairman, has an important role to play within the Republican Party. He provides polished intellectual cover for his party to mow down as many antipoverty programs as it can see. Most Congressional Republicans would love nothing more than to eviscerate programs like Medicaid, Head Start and food stamps. But so as not to appear cruel and uncaring, they need a high-minded excuse to do so.

That’s what Mr. Ryan gave them on Monday in a 204-page report that finds flaws with almost every attempt the government has made to relieve poverty and its effects since the 1960s. The report will undoubtedly become the foundation for Mr. Ryan’s budget proposal to cut financing for these programs, and Republicans sound incredibly grateful that they can now point to an official report when their votes are challenged on the campaign trail. “Paul Ryan remains our big-ideas guy,” said Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a member of the House leadership.

The ideas are actually small and tired. There are scores of duplicative antipoverty programs, the report says, and since poverty persists, they are obviously wasteful and ineffective. “Federal programs are not only failing to address the problem,” it says, “they are also in some significant respects making it worse.”

Jay Bookman at the AJC exposes Republican tax hypocrisy:
In drafting his 978-page rewrite of the federal tax code, [Rep.] Camp tried heroically to put the vague promises of his fellow Republicans into actual policy. He took them seriously, and found them unworkable. The tax-reform package that he released last week contains a lot of good work, but in the end, after cutting a lot of tax deductions, he was able to bring the top tax rate of 39.6 percent all the way down to ... 35 percent. Even that minor reduction in the top rate was achieved by steps that the Republican caucus would find unacceptable, such as taxing capital gains as regular income for the richest of Americans. As Camp confessed to Politico, "It was a distribution issue." Cutting the top rate to anywhere near 25 percent “would have reduced taxes for the top 1 percent” and “I said we would be distributionally neutral.”

Later, when asked by reporters about the contradictions between Camp's reform plan and Republican tax rhetoric, House Speaker John Boehner had a telling response:

“Blah blah blah.”

And yes, that's a direct quote. Asked if the House would vote this year on the long-promised tax-reform proposal drafted by one of its top chairman, a plan promised for years, Boehner said, "Ah, Jesus."

Which I take is a "no".

Finally, a CBS poll exposes the depth of the divide between the Tea Party base and the rest of the Republican Party:
Tea party Republicans show the most interest in Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., as a presidential contender and the least in New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is close behind in the percent who'd like to see a run, along with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

Fifty-six percent of Republicans who identify as tea partiers would like to see Paul run in 2016 - the highest percentage of any GOPer asked about in the poll and the only potential contender to reach the 50 percent mark. Just 13 percent of tea party Republicans don't want Paul to run.

[...] Tea party supporters make up 42 percent of self-identified Republicans, and far more say they are very conservative (50 percent) than those Republicans not affiliated with the movement (13 percent). Many also have a desire for more conservative Republican candidates, generally -- half of tea party Republicans think the GOP nominates candidates who are not conservative enough.


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