I’m afraid that TPM writer Brian Beutler’s “Biggest Challenge” piece is actually more “noise” than “touchstone” as David Kurtz calls it. It is absolutely the left-of-center CW that Obama should not have parroted GOP fiscal rhetoric, particularly on the debt. I hear it every day. It is, no doubt, true.

The trouble with the “touchstone” imprimatur is that this fact is basically irrelevant. Ask yourself if we would be materially better off if Obama had made the strong Keynesian argument early on, when only Paul Krugman and a handful of liberal economists supported such a measure. One, it would never have passed (the argument the administration made at the time about attempting a bigger initial stimulus) and two, Obama would have been way out in left field with no policy success to show for it.

Would the public be better educated about macroeconomic theory? If practically the entire global field of professional economics – from Chicago to Berlin – still doesn’t get it, I see no reason to believe that such a campaign would have educated John Q. Public to any great extent.

Obama’s problem isn’t that the public is confused about deficits or the stimulative effects of short-term deficit spending (they actually understand quite well that the government should be focusing on jobs and economic growth before deficits and debt, even Republicans), Obama’s problem is that he’s being blamed to a certain extent for the current economic conditions.

Obama’s rhetorical failure was not coming out of the bi-partisan box when the new Republican House was sworn in and calling on John Boehner to pass a jobs bill every single day since then, putting the responsibility and blame squarely where they belong. His bi-partisan Kabuki has worked wonders on the likes of Chris Matthews and David Frum but it has left the public deeply confused about who is to blame for not fixing our economic malaise.

Obama’s “biggest challenge” isn’t that he failed to differentiate saltwater from freshwater economics, it’s that he failed to differentiate the Democratic brand. That’s what too much fake bi-partisanship will do for you. In this case, not making it clear who is to blame.

Chris Matthews’ pummels Michelle Bachmann and the “Tea Party” (VIDEO)

Oh, Chris Matthews, will you never cease to amaze us?

You’re like a slow-moving, beefy, first baseman who hits about .240, striking out too often with men on base. But on occasion you step up to the plate and — oh! — you power the baseball over 500 feet into the upper deck bleachers and it takes our breath away:

Speaking of Michelle Bachmann, isn’t it now becoming painfully obvious that Sarah Palin’s moment in the spotlight is over? Think about it: shouldn’t this speech have been given by her?

Head Games

Watch and pay attention to certain tricks of diversion as Republicans try to muddy the water on torture.

Chris Matthews \'Slams\' Republican on New Torture Information

Abu Ghraib’s unsupervised “amateurs” are the problem – translation: everyone’s seen the pictures – but systematic torture by “professionals” using the exact same methods and motives, following the exact same orders from George Bush and Dick Cheney, is OK because the professional torturers tortured under “carefully-controlled circumstances”.

The thing to remember is this: all torture happens in your brain, whether the sensation of having water start to fill your lungs or the thought that you will never see your family and friends again in your life, or both at the same time. The critical difference for waterboarding done for training, demonstration or entertainment purposes is knowing that the torture will stop and that you won’t be killed. Conversely, the terror of uncertainty is exactly the torture the Bush/Cheney/SERE program – the forced nudity, the dogs, the blindfolds, the isolation, waterboarding, all of it – was designed to inflict. No one much cares whether they’re being terrorized by “amateurs” or “professionals”. Anyone who believes that our “high-value” terror suspects (as well as thousands of others, most of whom were probably innocent of anything) weren’t “tortured” nearly every second we held them captive is a psychological cretin.