Tea Party

The Less Said, The Better

Ted Cruz is an evangelical Christian who once defended a ban on dildos in Texas, has referred to birth control as “abortifacients,” and pulled an ad during the 2016 primary when he discovered one of the actors he’d hired was a softcore porn actress.

I thought that was important context for this:

Sen. Ted Cruz‘s official Twitter account appeared to “like” an explicit tweet Monday night, causing a stir on social media.

The Texas senator’s account, which has more than 3 million followers, liked a tweet from the account @SexuallPosts, which posts explicit content and porn. The “like” was later removed from the senator’s account, Cruz’s senior communications adviser Catherine Frazier said.

So… that happened.  It’s amusing and hard to know where to take the joke, but in this age of Trump, Ted can probably ride it out by doing nothing. No attempt to say “my account was hacked”.  Just…. nothing.

UPDATE:  I stand corrected.

Texas GOP Platform

It’s no fun to live in North Carolina sometimes, with its backward state legislature.

But at least it ain’t Texas.  Check out the Republican Party of Texas Platform below.

Here are some of my favorites:

The Rights of a Sovereign People- The Republican Party of Texas supports the historic concept, established by our nation’s founders, of limited civil government jurisdiction under the natural laws of God, and we oppose the humanistic doctrine that the state is sovereign over the affairs of men, the family, and the church. We believe that government properly exists by the consent of the governed and must be restrained from intruding into the freedoms of its citizens. The function of government is not to grant rights, but to protect the unalienable, Godgiven rights of life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. Texans should be free to express their religious beliefs, including prayer, in public places

which is right on the same page as….

United States Senators- We support the repeal of the 17th Amendment of the United States Constitution and the appointment of United States Senators by the state legislatures.

So much for government existing by the consent of the governed.

And then there is

Unelected Bureaucrats- We oppose the appointment of unelected bureaucrats and we support defunding and abolishing the departments or agencies of the Internal Revenue Service, Education, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Labor, and Interior (specifically, the Bureau of Land Management), Transportation Security Administration, Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and National Labor Relations Board. In the interim, executive decisions by departments or agencies must be reviewed and approved by Congress before taking effect.

And the internally contradictory:

Voting Rights- We support equal suffrage for all United States citizens of voting age who are not felons. We oppose any identification of citizens by race, origin, or creed and oppose use of any such identification for purposes of creating voting districts. We urge that the Voter Rights Act of 1965, codified and updated in 1973, be repealed and not reauthorized

They are in favor of equal suffrage, but want to do away with the Voter Rights Act, which enforces equal suffrage.  Makes sense?

Homosexuality?  Same-sex marriage?  Forget about those…

Homosexuality- Homosexuality is a chosen behavior that is contrary to the fundamental unchanging truths that has been ordained by God in the Bible, recognized by our nations founders, and shared by the majority of Texans. Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable alternative lifestyle, in public policy, nor should family be redefined to include homosexual couples. We oppose the granting of special legal entitlements or creation of special status for homosexual behavior, regardless of state of origin. We oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values.

As Texas Monthly rightly points out, the first sentence in the section above actually says that homosexual behavior “has been ordained by God in the Bible, recognized by our nations founders, and shared by the majority of Texans.”  That’s probably not what Texas Republicans meant.

corrected_custom-a76243e666eb54ccc0f70826ac9948fdf758dec6-s800-c85

And ..

“Climate Change” is a political agenda promoted to control every aspect of our lives.

Lots more in here… enjoy:

 

On His Deathbed, Bob Bennett Apologizes For What He Wrought

Bob Bennett was a rightwing conservative senator from Utah.  He served in the US Senate for 18 years, and I rarely agreed with him on anything. He was consistently earning high ratings from conservative activist groups such as the National Rifle Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and American Conservative Union.

But in 2010, something happened — the emergence of the Tea Party.  They deemed Bob insufficiently conservative.  Despite an enthusiastic endorsement from Mitt Romney, Bennett was denied a place on the primary ballot by the 2010 Utah State Republican Convention, placing third behind two Tea-Party-backed candidates.

He never practiced national politics again.  He died two weeks ago of pancreatic cancer.

And how did he spend much of his last few days?  Feeling regret for what the GOP had become, regret for Trump, and regret for the hand that he had in its creation:

Former GOP senator Bob Bennett lay partially paralyzed in his bed on the fourth floor of the George Washington University Hospital. He was dying.

Not 48 hours had passed since a stroke had complicated his yearlong fight against pancreatic cancer. The cancer had begun to spread again, necessitating further chemotherapy. The stroke had dealt a further blow that threatened to finish him off.

Between the hectic helter-skelter of nurses, doctors and well wishes from a long-cultivated community of friends and former aides, Bennett faced a quiet moment with his son Jim and his wife Joyce.

It was not a moment for self-pity.

Instead, with a slight slurring in his words, Bennett drew them close to express a dying wish: “Are there any Muslims in the hospital?” he asked.

“I’d love to go up to every single one of them to thank them for being in this country, and apologize to them on behalf of the Republican Party for Donald Trump,” Bennett told his wife and son, both of whom relayed this story to The Daily Beast.

The rise of Donald Trump had appalled the three-term Utah senator, a Republican who fell victim to the tea-party wave of the 2010 midterms. His vote for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, had alienated many conservative activists in his state, who chose lawyer Mike Lee as the GOP nominee for Senate instead.

But as Bennett reflected on his life and legacy in mid-April, following the stroke, he wasn’t focused on the race that ended his political career. Instead, he brought up the issue of Muslims in America—over and over again.

He mentioned it briefly in a hospital interview with the Deseret News, a Utah news outlet. “There’s a lot of Muslims here in this area. I’m glad they’re here,” the former senator told the newspaper in April, describing them as “wonderful.”

In the last days of his life this was an issue that was pressing in his mind… disgust for Donald Trump’s xenophobia,” Jim Bennett said. “At the end of his life he was preoccupied with getting things done that he had felt was left undone.”

Trump’s proposal to ban Muslim immigrants from America had outraged the former senator, his wife Joyce said, triggering his instincts to do what he could on a personal level. They ultimately did not canvass the hospital, but Bennett had already made an effort in his last months of life.
As they traveled from Washington to Utah for Christmas break, Bennett approached a woman wearing a hijab in the airport.

“He would go to people with the hijab [on] and tell them he was glad they were in America, and they were welcome here,” his wife said. “He wanted to apologize on behalf of the Republican Party.”

“He was astonished and aghast that Donald Trump had the staying power that he had… He had absolutely no respect for Donald Trump, and I think got angry and frustrated when it became clear that the party wasn’t going to steer clear of Trumpism,” his son relayed.

Emphasis mine.

Not the first time this has happened.  I remember Lee Atwater — the creative mind behind the “Southern strategy” — doing the same thing.  Isn’t it interesting that as people get closer to seeing their God, they become liberals?

 

Texas Republicans Debate Whether A Muslim Can Be A Republican

A Texas pastor stood up Monday in a local GOP meeting to vocally oppose one precinct chair’s appointment because he is Muslim, the Washington Post reported.

Trebor Gordon, the chaplain for the Harris County Republican Party, said Syed Ali should not be able to serve as a leader in the local GOP “on the grounds that Islam does not have any basis or any foundation.”

Watch:

You know, in the current Republican party,.maybe a Muslim can’t be a member.

Who Is To Blame For Trump?

A short incomplete list by conservatives and even GOP moderates to explain how Trump happened.

 

ANSWER ONE: Obama is to blame for Trump says Bobby Jindel in the Wall Street Journal. We’ve had eight years of the “cool, weak and endlessly nuanced” Barack Obama, he argues, which means now voters are hungry for the precise opposite – they want “a strong leader who speaks in short, declarative sentences.” Per Jindal: “You can draw a straight line between a president who dismisses domestic terrorist attacks as incidents of workplace violence and a candidate who wants to ban Muslims from entering the country.”

Well, you can draw a straight line between ANY two points, Bobby, no matter how far and remote that are to each other.  One of the many problems with that argument is that Trump is running a campaign that is a clear revolt against the Republican Party as much (if not more) than Obama.

 

ANSWER TWO: Obama is to blame for Trump says conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat. Presidential campaigns have always had a celebrity component, argues Douthat, but Obama “raised the bar” by getting Oprah’s endorsement and appearing in music videos.  Even more than that, Obama cloaked himself in almost-religious iconic imagery, creating a cult of personality that Trump is merely exploiting now.  Also, by abusing executive authority, Obama became Caesarian, an imperial president, and attractive to those power-and-fame hungry like Trump.

 

ANSWER THREE:  The media is to blame for Trump says Redstate co-founder Ben Domenech.  Hour-to-hour coverage, softball interviews with no follow-up, and so on.  The media just fawns over Trump.  Even when something happens that has nothing to do with Trump, the first question from the media is “What will Trump say?”  He’s good TV, Domenech writes.  That accounts for his rise.

Domenech isn’t wrong, although he is answering the “how” rather than the “why”.  And if you want a better understanding of the media’s complicity, read The Rude Pundit today.

 

ANSWER FOUR:  Franklin Roosevent is to blame for Trump argues Jonah Goldberg, National Review contributing editor.  Because FDR took all kinds of power into his hands.  For example, he interred all those Japanese Americans during WWII (and Trump had already supported that decision).  It is the power grab that appeals to Trump.

To which I say, WHOA there.  Let’s being the horse back into the stable.

 

ANSWER FIVE: Al Franken is to blame for Trump says the stupidest theory of all, written by Josh Kraushaar at the National Journal behind the pay firewall.  His argument goes something like this: Franken’s narrow 2008 Senate victory in Minnesota provided Barack Obama with a 60-vote supermajority, which enabled him to pass the Affordable Care Act without Republican support, which then became the rallying cry for the Tea Party wave, which crashed into Washington and turned everyone crazy.  THAT begat Trump. If Franken hadn’t won, writes Kraushaar, then Obama would have been forced to win the vote of at least one Republican senator to pass healthcare reform, which would have made things better somehow.

Also, a butterfly flapped its wings in China.

But seriously, the Trump phenomenon isn’t a blacklash against the Affordable Care Act.  When trying to figure out how Trump came to be, you have to discern what is the appeal of Trump.  What is it that gets his crowds riled up.  And it isn’t healthcare.

What connects Trump supporters is plain to anyone who can see: his adherents are grounded in a common anti-immigrant nativism and anti-Muslim xenophobia.

Trump is the direct product of the Republican Party’s years-long strategy of aggravating racial and ethnic resentments to scare up votes from white conservatives.  It used to be spoken in the form of dog whistles as far back as Reagan’s invocation of the legendary “welfare queen” who drove around the streets of Chicago in a fancy Cadillac.  The Welfare Queen actually existed, although she actually bilked the government out of only $8,000 dollars and she committed even far worse crimes which proved more lucrative (kidnapping, etc).  She hardly was a representative example of common fraud against the government, but Reagan invoked her often in a not-so-subtle way suggesting that people of color were lazy and living off of government handouts.  The Welfare Queen myth exists today, where people believe that people on government assistance are out blowing all that “free money” on iPhones, fancy shoes and lobster.

You can draw a line from Reagan’s Welfare Queen through the Willie Horton commercial from Bush 41 to the Tea Party insurgence right up to Romney’s 47%. It is all about racially-coded messages that strike nervousness, or even hatred, within the white person about the “other”

But it was always in code… until Trump came along and said “what people are thinking” (a phrase we hear from many Trump supporters).  Meaning, Trump effectively gave permission for people to hate Mexicans, followers of Islam and other ethnic and religious minorities.

538 has an interesting study of political voters over time.  The study started in 2007 and follows the same large group of voters over time.  It enables us to see what Trump supporters were ideologically before Trump came along.  And not surprisingly, Trump appeals to those who possessed high levels of prejudice and strong concerns about unauthorized immigration.  Trump didn’t create them.  They were already there. . . from decades of being nurtured by the GOP.  Trump just picked them up without resorting to the dog-whistle code.  The GOP is to blame.

 

P.S.  Or maybe we can pin it on the daddy issues of the dwindling white working class.

You Read Digby Now

She wrote about how Trump has revealed something very important about the conservative movement for Salon this morning. A good many of its believers have just been mouthing words all these years. They don’t care about their elaborate ideology. They just hate the other team…. a snippet:

The Republican establishment is under a tremendous amount of stress right now. Donald Trump has the party functionaries running around like his personal factotums and the elected officials are all figuring out the angles to ensure they come out on the Donald’s good side. It’s possible it may not survive in the form we’ve come to know it.

But the conservative movement is equally under pressure.  They thought their years of carefully growing and indoctrinating the right wing of the Republican Party had resulted in a common belief in a certain conservative ideology, strategic vision and commitment to a specific agenda.  It turns out that a good number of the people they thought had signed on to their program just wanted someone to stick it to ethnic and racial minorities and make sure America is the biggest bad ass on the planet — authoritarian, white nationalism. If you’ve got a man who will deliver that you don’t need ideology. And he doesn’t need democracy.

The mystery is why all these smart conservatives didn’t see this coming. They unleashed this beast a long time ago with the hate radio and the media propaganda and the ruthless politics. It was only a matter of time before it turned on them.

Can You Hear The Dog Whistles?

This:

The Trump Backlash Continues

A $6 billion golf community under construction in Dubai is removing his name from the project. Trump was tossed from a respected business network in Scotland, where the billionaire says he invested more than $300 million in golf courses and other developments. And Lifestyle, a retailer that does business in an enormous marketplace spanning the Middle East, India and Africa, stopped selling Trump branded products. Trump lost his honorary doctorate at Robert Gordon University (RGU) in Scotland.

Trump says that these nations are “caving to political correctness”.

In the national media, Tom Brokaw, the veteran NBC News anchor, has called Trump’s proposal “dangerous,” and likened it to the Holocaust and the Japanese internment. On its front page, The New York Times has said Trump’s idea is “more typically associated with hate groups.” Dan Balz, of The Washington Post, has called Trump’s rhetoric “demagogic,” while BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith has informed staff that it is acceptable to refer to Trump on social media as a “mendacious racist,” because, he said, those are facts.  Thankfully, journalism has moved into the ‘have you no shame’ mode, rather than the typical “he-said she-said”.

Muslim-Americans are speaking out.  The prize goes to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for his Time editorial, which begins:

The terrorist campaign against American ideals is winning. Fear is rampant. Gun sales are soaring. Hate crimes are increasing. Bearded hipsters are beingmistaken for Muslims. And 83 percent of voters believe a large-scale terrorist attack is likely here in the near future. Some Americans are now so afraid that they are willing to trade in the sacred beliefs that define America for some vague promises of security from the very people who are spreading the terror. “Go ahead and burn the Constitution — just don’t hurt me at the mall.” That’s how effective this terrorism is.

I’m not talking about ISIS. I’m talking about Donald Trump.

This is not hyperbole. Not a metaphor. Webster defines terrorism as “the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal; the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.”

If violence can be an abstraction — and it can; that’s what a threat is — the Trump campaign meets this definition. Thus, Trump is ISIS’s greatest triumph: the perfect Manchurian Candidate who, instead of offering specific and realistic policies, preys on the fears of the public, doing ISIS’s job for them. Even fellow Republican Jeb Bush acknowledged Trump’s goal is “to manipulate people’s angst and fears.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, however, defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” Now, we don’t require by law that our candidates tell the truth. They can retweet (as Trump did) racist “statistics” from a white supremacist fictional organization that claimed 81% of murdered whites are victims of blacks, when the truth is 84% of whites are murdered by whites. They can claim (as Trump did) to have seen on TV thousands of Muslims in New Jersey cheering on 9/11, even though there is no evidence of this. They can say (as Trump did) Syrian refugees are “pouring” into the country when only 2,000 have come (out of 4.3 million U.N.-registered refugees). Then, when caught lying (as Trump has been over and over), they can do what every belligerent child does: deny, deny, deny.

While Trump is not slaughtering innocent people, he is exploiting such acts of violence to create terror here to coerce support. As I have written before, his acts could be interpreted as hate crimes. He sounds the shrill alarm of impending doomsday even though since 9/11, about 30 Americans a year have been killed in terrorist attacks worldwide — as The Atlanticpointed out, “roughly the same number as are crushed to death each year by collapsing furniture.” Trump’s irresponsible, inflammatory rhetoric and deliberate propagation of misinformation have created a frightened and hostile atmosphere that could embolden people to violence. He’s the swaggering guy in old Westerns buying drinks for everyone in the saloon while whipping them up for a lynching.

About 30,000 foreign fighters have gone into Syria to join ISIS, thousands of them from Europe and at least 250 from the United States. What most of us in these bountiful countries can’t understand is how our young, raised with such opportunity, choose to abandon our values to embrace a culture of pitiless violence. Before going, many of these recruits spend much of their time on social media being brainwashed by propaganda videos. One 23-year-old woman, a devout Christian and Sunday school teacher, was recruited via Skype. The recruiter spent hours with the lonely woman teaching her the rituals of Islam. Maybe that’s because, according to some psychologists, the brain’s default setting is simply to believe because it takes extra work to analyze information.

The same process works for Trump’s supporters. They are impervious to facts or truth because their (understandable) frustration and anger at partisan greed and incompetence have fatigued them out of critical thinking. Like deranged newscaster Howard Beale in Network, they are mad as hell and they aren’t going to take it anymore. To express their outrage, they have rallied around a so-called “outsider” with no political experience, no detailed policies, and whacky ideas that subvert the very Constitution that he would be required to swear to uphold. Electing him would be like asking the clown at a child’s birthday party to start juggling chainsaws.

Muhammad Ali hit Trump with this released statement:

I am a Muslim and there is nothing Islamic about killing innocent people in Paris, San Bernardino, or anywhere else in the world. True Muslims know that the ruthless violence of so called Islamic Jihadists goes against the very tenets of our religion.

We as Muslims have to stand up to those who use Islam to advance their own personal agenda. They have alienated many from learning about Islam. True Muslims know or should know that it goes against our religion to try and force Islam on anybody.

Speaking as someone who has never been accused of political correctness, I believe that our political leaders should use their position to bring understanding about the religion of Islam and clarify that these misguided murderers have perverted people’s views on what Islam really is.

Even Ted Cruz, who has taken pains to avoid critiquing Trump, remarked at a private fundraiser that he would have problems with Trump as President and having his finger on the button.

None of this, of course, has affected Trump in the polls.  He leads in NH and SC by quite a bit.

Interestingly, there is an article in the New York Times today which reads

Fear of Terrorism Lifts Donald Trump in New York Times/CBS Poll

I am among the many who thinks it should read

Donald Trump Lifts Fear of Terrorism in New York Times/CBS Poll

The San Bernadino shootings (and to a lesser extent, the Paris attacks), of course, started the fear, but Trump is exploiting that fear in a way that even ISIS couldn’t.

On the other hand, not everyone is in Trump’s grip.  He is viewed as strongly negative by the electorate in general.  Here are some graphics from a WSJ/NBC poll released today:

WSJNBC1

WSJNBC2

Again, I think Trump has a ceiling and he’s a media phenomenon, but I don’t think he has a chance in hell to be the GOP nominee.  That’s almost irrelevant though, as his behavior this week is actually damaging to national security.  This is the culmination of years of anti-government right wing radio and TV — an actual honest-to-God fascist candidate who doesn’t see what he advocates as fascism.  In the guise of rejection of political correctness, he rejects the US Constitution and American values.

He’s yuge among white supremacists and crazy people.  The Ku Klux Klan is using Donald Trump as a talking point in its outreach efforts. Stormfront, the most prominent American white supremacist website, is upgrading its servers in part to cope with a Trump traffic spike.

This typifies a Trump fanatic/.  This lady, I am embarrassed to say, is a state representative in New Hampshire:

This is an interesting chapter in American politics, like the McCarthy Era was at one time.  I can’t wait until it is over.

UPDATE: It’s getting ugly too.  Here are Trump protesters being forcefully removed from a Trump event at the Plaza Hotel


UPDATE #2:  The first poll conducted entirely after Trump’s Muslim remarks just came out.  It was conducted by Reuters/Ipsos:

Trump led the pack of candidates seeking the Republican Party’s nomination in the 2016 election with 35 percent of support from Republican voters, the opinion poll released on Friday found, the same lead he held before Monday, when he said Muslim immigrants, students and other travelers should be barred from entering the country.

Most Republican voters said they were not bothered by his remarks, though many said the comments could still hurt Trump’s chances of becoming president. Twenty-nine percent of Republicans, who will pick the party’s nominee for the November 2016 election, said they found Trump’s remarks offensive against 64 percent who did not.

***

Still, in a sign of how Trump’s rhetoric has polarized the electorate, 72 percent of Democrats and 47 percent of voters overall said they were offended by Trump’s comments.

Forty-one percent of Republicans polled said Trump’s remarks could hurt his chances of becoming president; that figure was higher among all respondents.

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson came in second among Republicans with 12 percent in the Reuters/Ipsos poll, and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush tied with 10 percent.

Palin Started It

Light blogging as things are busy, but I had to draw attention to this op-ed by William Paley in the Washington Post, entitled “The GOP’s dysfunction all started with Sarah Palin” because I think it is right on the money, i.e.:

Once McCain put Palin on the ticket, Republican “grown-ups,” who presumably knew better, had to bite their tongues. But after the election, when they were free to speak their minds, they either remained quiet or abetted the dumbing-down of the party. They stood by as Donald Trump and others noisily pushed claims that Obama was born in Kenya. And they gladly rode the tea party tiger to sweeping victories in 2010 and 2014.

Now that tiger is devouring the GOP establishment. Party elders had hoped new presidential debate rules would give them greater control. But they are watching helplessly as Trump leads the pack and House Republicans engage in fratricide.

It’s hard to feel much sympathy. The Republican establishment’s 2008 embrace of Palin set an irresponsibly low bar. Coincidence or not, a batch of nonsense-spewing, hard-right candidates quickly followed, often to disastrous effect.

In Delaware, the utterly unprepared Christine O’Donnell promised “I’m not a witch,” but it didn’t save a Senate seat that popular, centrist Republican representative Mike Castle would have won, had he been the nominee.

In 2012, Missouri Republicans hoped to oust Sen. Claire McCaskill (D). Those hopes died when GOP nominee Todd Akin opined that “the female body” could somehow prevent pregnancy from “a legitimate rape.”

Party leaders aren’t responsible for every candidate’s gaffe. And Republican primary voters, not party honchos, choose nominees. But it’s easy to draw ideological lines from Palin to O’Donnell to Akin and so on to some of the far-from-mainstream presidential contenders of 2012 and today.

Then-Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) was rising fast in Republican presidential polls in July 2011. Pizza company executive Herman Cain led the polls three months later. Does anyone now think Bachmann and Cain had the skills, experience and temperament to be president?

True, the party eventually settled on Mitt Romney. But for months, Americans wondered, “Is this party serious?” Now the Republicans’ leading presidential contenders are Trump — who vows to make Mexico pay for a “great, great wall” on the U.S. side of the border — and Ben Carson, who questions evolution and asks why victims of the latest mass shooting didn’t “attack the gunman.

This isn’t to heap new scorn on Palin. But let’s not diminish the recklessness of those who championed her vice presidential candidacy. It was well known that McCain, 72 at the time of his nomination, had undergone surgery for skin cancer. It wasn’t preposterous to think Palin could become president.

Now Republicans ask Americans to give them full control of the government, adding the presidency to their House and Senate majorities. This comes as Trump and Carson consistently top the GOP polls. Republican leaders brought this on themselves. Trump calls Palin “a special person” he’d like in his Cabinet. That seems only fair, because he’s thriving in the same cynical value system that puts opportunistic soundbites above seriousness, preparedness and intellectual heft.

Hillary Clinton vs. Benghazi Committee

Before I get into this, if you’re not up to speed on what the whole Benghazi controversy is about, Vox has a really great primer on the issue.

As the primer states, the number of investigations and hearings into the Benghazi incident is unprecedented.  Check out these graphs:

investigations-02-816x487

investigations-03-816x438

Today, Hillary Clinton is appearing before the House Benghazi Committee to testify, and the media is playing it up like a wrestling match.  “What Hillary needs to do is blah blah blah”.  They keep saying the stakes are high for Hillary.  They say emotions are high, and if she slips up just once, that sound bite will be repeated over and over again.

I don’t think the stakes are high at all.  I think all Hillary needs to do is go in there and tell the truth.  If the Committee beats her up, she’ll look good, and they will look bad.

The Committee has been under fire because members within the Committee have basically revealed that their raisen d’etre is to ding Hillary, rather than investigate what happened in Benghazi.  In fact, a new CNN poll released today says that 73% of Americans think the Committee is politically motivated.

Is this political?  Listen to this NBC reporter:

Here’s a livefeed which obviously won’t be working once the whole thing is over:

I’ll be having live updates as the day goes on…. if anything happens.

UPDATES:

10:09 am:

Gowdy (the chair of Committee) seems to be launching into an impassioned defense of the Committee’s existence, stating the goals of the Committee.

He’s very much in a defensive crouch.  He strains to make the link between Hillary’s email and the “whole point” of the Committee — what happened in Benghazi.  Also, he uses the word “truth” a million times.

Oddly, he’s bashing all the other investigative committees (all led by Republicans) in order to justify his own committee.  Sounds like SOME Republicans were wasting taxpayer money.

10:20 am:

Elijah Cummings (D-Md), the Democratic ranking member.of the Benghazi Committee, is speaking now… and he has turned it up to 11.  A viscous attack on the Committee and its politically motivated investigation.  He points out that Trey Gowdy cancelled interviews with DoD and CIA officials in favor of interviews with Hillary Clinton campaign staffers.  Boom!  Says “Republicans are squandering millions of taxpayer dollars on this abusive effort to derail Sec. Clinton’s campaign.”  Pow!  He makes the point that all the Republican-led national security committees already exonerated the administration.  Bam!

As he wrapped up, Cummings mocked the accusation that Sidney Blumenthal was Clinton’s “primary foreign policy advisor on Libya” and noted that it been awarded four Pinocchios by the Washington Post.

The thing for Hillary to do now is be quiet, responsive and helpful.  Cummings is doing the fighting.

10:28 am:

Cummings is done.  I’m trying to be objective, but Gowdy just looks like a guy who got spanked publically.

Hillary is talking. “I am here to honor the service of those four men…and the work their colleagues do every single day all over the world.”  Unlike the two previous speakers, she talks about the people who died in Benghazi.  HUGE points.

Hillary Clinton on death of Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi: “I was the one who asked Chris to go to Libya as our envoy … after the attacks, I stood next to President Obama as they carried his casket”

Hillary Clinton on foreign policy post-2012 Benghazi attack: “America must lead in a dangerous world and our diplomats must continue representing us in dangerous places”

Hillary’s strategy is to rise above the din.  She’s the only one paying tribute to those who died in the Benghazi attacks.  She’s the only one talking about the history of embassy attacks.  Her strategy is very effective.  She’s coming off as the only grown-up.  She says she “took responsibility” and “launched reforms to better protect our people in the field.”

“There is more to do, and no administration can do it alone. Congress has to be our partner as it has been after previous tragedies.”

CR7d0s9UEAAlZ5w

10:45 am:

Gowdy pats himself on the back for not interrupting Hillary’s opening statement.

And now we’re into the Q&A.  Here’s the part where it get boring and everybody tunes out.  Because nobody cares about details.  In truth, THIS is how the an investigation SHOULD be.

9 more hours of this?  Yawn.  Don’t expect more fireworks or updates for a while.

11:05 am:

Cummings destoys a talking point.  He played a clip of Darrell Issa lying on cable television about Clinton denying requests for extra security in Benghazi. In truth, that decision was made without Clinton’s knowledge or input, as all previous investigations have already concluded.

Clinton clarified that all State Department cables carry a stamp with the secretary’s signature, so a signature stamp doesn’t indicate that she has seen something. She claimed that the State Department didn’t have enough money appropriated for their security requirements and so naturally they had to make decisions about priorities.

Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Ind., presents piles of Hillary Clinton’s emails from 2011 and asks why so many from 2011 and so few from 2012 when Libya became a hot spot.  Weird GOP pivot from “How could you use email for such sensitive work?” to “Why are there not way more emails about this stuff?”  Is Sen Brooks upset that Hillary did NOT conduct classified business via email?? Clinton answers that she didn’t work primarily from e-mails (she didn’t even have a computer in her office, which to me is the biggest scandal to be revealed so far), and that she got classified briefings, met with staff, etc.  That was how she got informed.

12:15 pm:

Hillary Clinton blows back against myth that she denied security requests from our embassy in Libya:

12:30 pm:

Generally speaking, the questions are Benghazi-centric and not email-centric.  I’ve scanned a few popular rightwing blogs, and there seems to be little interest (other than repeating long-debunked talking points).  The few that are following it seemed discouraged and angry at the “feckless” Republicans on the Committee who are “incompetent” at bringing Clinton down.  These people just refuse to accept the possibility that Clinton didn’t do anything wrong.

12:45 pm:

Jim Jordan (R-Oh) is laying into Clinton (and not letting her respond) about why the attacks happened.  He openly states that Hillary was part of an administration lie saying that the attack was caused by a protest against a video, rather than a pre-planned terrorist attack.  His focus is on statements and emails coming from Clinton within the first 24 hours of the attack, when, of course, nobody was quite sure why. Clinton to Jim Jordan: “I’m sorry that it doesn’t fit your narrative, congressman. I can only tell you what the facts were.”  She points out that even today, you can’t get into the head of every attacker to determine why they attacked the embassy, and some were there because of the video.  And not for nothing, but the CIA initially thought it was the video as well.

1:15 pm:

Gowdy banging Secretary of State about emails from Sydney Blumenthal.  He’s saying that the Obama team rejected Blumenthal to work in State Dept., but that Hillary used information from Blumenthal anyway.  (Ironically, this is just after Gowdy insists that this isn’t a prosecution where you try to prove something).  Not sure what relevance this has to Benghazi, and Hillary says so. It will not help us understand security at the Benghazi mission or why we didn’t know an attack was imminent. It’s just an attempt to undermine Clinton’s reputation by linking her with Blumenthal. I think everyone watching this show understands that.

Fireworks at the end before the break as Cummings demands a recorded vote to release Blumenthal transcript.  He says that if Gowdy is going to ask questions about the Blumenthal emails, why not release his testimony so people can understand the context?  Cummings and Schiff accuse Gowdy of selective releasing of emails to make Hillary look bad. Gowdy adjourns. In a snit. He threatens more and bigger Blumenthal drama to come. I’m still not sure what this is all about or why it has anything to do with the Benghazi attacks.  I guess Gowdy is trying to say that Blumenthal advised Clinton on Libya, and he shouldn’t have been so important.  Yet, Clinton has already testified (today and many times before, as well as in her book) that Blumenthal was not her primary source on Libya. Actually, at one point Gowdy claimed Blumenthals emails are relevant because former Libya ambassador Chris Stevens, who died in the Benghazi attack, had to read them. As if to say, “well Chris Stevens read these emails, and just look what happened to him.” It doesn’t come close to passing the laugh test. And I assume Republicans know it. Or maybe the objection is that Clinton had more access to Blumenthal than Stevens?  No, that’s dumb too.   Anyway, if Blumenthal’s emails are so important, the Committee should release his deposition transcript.

Aaaaand why CNN is going downhill….

I like Josh Marshall’s take on how things are at halftime:

Listening to the questions from Republicans questioning Hillary Clinton, it’s hard not to step back and ask what it is they’re even trying to prove or what their point is. The lines of questions are disjointed and they’re pressing points she either freely concedes (yes, it was terrible and she’s ultimately responsible) or the point of which isn’t even clear (why did Sid Blumenthal send you so many emails?). It’s not going well for the committee at all. And what’s most revealing about the testimony so far is that they definitely get that: they know it’s going badly for them. And that’s led to a rather churlish and defensive tone to the whole proceeding that’s further deflated any sense that this is more than a clown show where the clowns are struggling. As I’ve now said several times, it’s a world of difference that this happening post-McCarthy and not pre-McCarthy. The questions wouldn’t necessarily have been different. The arguments from the GOP would not have been any better. But now the assumption from the press is that Hillary is on the upswing (both in her poll numbers and on the ‘Benghazi’ question) and the committee members are on the defensive. At least to a degree, she’s been vindicated in this whole drama and the committee has been discredited. *** Because of all this, Republican committee members just seemed pissed because this was supposed to be awesome – after all, a committee designed to bring down Hillary and circulate all those numskull conspiracy theories about Chris Stevens wearing a chest cam and how President Obama was watching everything happening live on his iPhone. Hillary’s yet to get at all flustered and has even had the opportunity to gently explain to Republican members how the State Department works. She looks poised; they’re radiating spittle.

But Gowdy hinted at some kind of Blumenthal-related bombshell in the next segment… is it something actually damaging?  Or is it one of those insinuation-if-you-read-between-the-line things that maybe could be damaging if you hold it up to the light at just the right angle?

3:30 pm:

Hearings restarted about an hour ago.  No flashbangs, a little more about Sid.  But we can all relax because Chuck Woolery has weighed in:

3:50 pm:

Peter Roskam (R-Il) is asking questions now and….

Very true.  And of course, this relates to security at Benghazi how?

Illinois Rep. Peter Roskam:

Let me tell you what I think the Clinton Doctrine is. [Reads from prepared card.]I think it’s where an opportunity is seized to turn progress in Libya into a political win for Hillary Rodham Clinton. And at the precise moment when things look good, take a victory lap, like on all the Sunday shows three times that year before Qaddafi was killed, and then turn your attention to other things.

See? This hearing is nothing more than a disinterested investigation into the events surrounding the Benghazi attacks of 9/11/2012. You partisan naysayers who think it’s just about attacking Hillary Clinton on national TV should be ashamed of yourselves.

And now we’re on another break.

GOP In Disarray: House Freedom Caucus Cools To Ryan

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced Tuesday night that he will consider a bid for House speaker as long as a few conditions are me and one of those conditions is that he doesn’t have to kiss ass to the House Freedom Caucus, the group of 40 far-right Republicans who don’t want to compromise, who want to shut down government, etc.  Basically, he doesn’t want to do what Boehner had to do, dealing with all the in-fighting and spending most of his time fundraising for people who are giving him problems.

You can’t really blame Ryan.  It’s not a great job, trying to lead the contentious and fractured GOP.

But political reporters suggest that the unbendable House Freedom Caucus may not be warming to Ryan today.

You know you’re in trouble when the voice of reason is Peter King.

King is right.  Anyway, the HFC is supposed to meet with Ryan later today.  Could be fireworks if they push Ryan too far and he says “screw it”.  I don’t think that will happen, but it could.

David Brooks On His Own Party

He’s pissed:

Over the past 30 years, or at least since Rush Limbaugh came on the scene, the Republican rhetorical tone has grown ever more bombastic, hyperbolic and imbalanced. Public figures are prisoners of their own prose styles, and Republicans from Newt Gingrich through Ben Carson have become addicted to a crisis mentality. Civilization was always on the brink of collapse. Every setback, like the passage of Obamacare, became the ruination of the republic. Comparisons to Nazi Germany became a staple.

This produced a radical mind-set.

***

Welcome to Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and the Freedom Caucus.

Really, have we ever seen bumbling on this scale, people at once so cynical and so naïve, so willfully ignorant in using levers of power to produce some tangible if incremental good? These insurgents can’t even acknowledge democracy’s legitimacy — if you can’t persuade a majority of your colleagues, maybe you should accept their position. You might be wrong!

People who don’t accept democracy will be bad at conversation. They won’t respect tradition, institutions or precedent. These figures are masters at destruction but incompetent at construction.

These insurgents are incompetent at governing and unwilling to be governed. But they are not a spontaneous growth. It took a thousand small betrayals of conservatism to get to the dysfunction we see all around.

Brooks isn’t a moderate Republican.  He’s a conservative.  A conservative’s conservative.  The thing that separates him from the Tea Party/Freedom Caucus is that he believes that government has a role and a function.

Dems In Disarray*

*If you don’t get the joke, there is a political meme out there known as “Dems In Disarray”.  It seems that certain columnists and websites every so often love to write what is known as a “Dems in Disarray” piece, usually when there is very little about the Democratic Party which is in disarray.  (I’ve even seen “Dems In Disarray” opinion pieces simply because Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are running against each other). My use “Dems In Disarray” as a post title here is tongue-in-cheek.  The story is that Republicans are in disarray.  It’s so bad that even conservative sites cannot deny it.

Anyway, what is clear in the fight for the Speaker of the House position is that nobody wants it, and the conservative House Freedom Caucus has a litmus test that nobody wants to try to meet.  However, a party turns its lonely eyes to one man: Paul Ryan.  It seems every Republican is hoping, begging, pleading with Paul Ryan to run for Speaker. And it seems clear he has the votes and then some.

I don’t really know why.  For a conservative, he is very practical and pragmatic.  I don’t think he is the type to shutdown the government and engage in hostage-taking over raising the debt limit or defunding Planned Parenthood.  Yet, that’s just what the HFC wants in a leader.   So why does everybody think Ryan will make the HFC happy?

In the meantime, this disarray gets disarray-ier. Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI) dropped out of the conservative House Freedom Caucus yesterday, citing the caucus’ recent focus on the speaker race

Still, the HFC seems to hold all the cards.

UPDATE:

And why won’t Paul Ryan take the job as Speaker of the House?

The former 2012 vice-presidential candidate isn’t much more conservative that McCarthy, but he’s arguably the one Republican with the national stature to overcome the reflexive insurrection from the right. So far, no good. “While I am grateful for the encouragement I’ve received, I will not be a candidate,” the Wisconsin Republican said in a statement on Thursday.

Why not? A Ryan pal offered this explanation to me: “Because he’s not a f—ing moron.” Translation: Ryan has a real future. No speaker has ever been elected president (Since James Polk in the 1840s, anyway) — and no speaker dragged into ugly budget crises by his strife-stricken party is ever, ever going to be.

Breaking: Who Is The House Speaker?

As my Twitter feed suggests, something is happening with the GOP House.

Kevin McCarthy was expected to voted in as House Speaker.  But the rumor is he is out.  He dropped out.

Chaffetz is it.

Yup, not a rumor.  McCarthy, who admitted that the Benghazi investigation was politically motivated to get Hillary, dropped out.  Election postponed.

Remember, this person comes after the Veep in the line of succession.

It’s not clear why McC dropped out (or was allowed to “drop out” when he was actually forced out) or what forces are at work here.  Something in his past?  Are the uber-far righties rallying against him?  Have the moderates made a comeback?  To be continued….

UPDATE:  NBC News reports that US House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy recognized he had no path to get to 218 votes to claim the speaker’s chair. The House Freedom Caucus, which is believed to have about 40 members, announced it would back Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Fla., to become the next speaker.  The conservative House Freedom Caucus is the group that thinks funds for Planned Parenthood should be blocked as part of a bill to keep the government open.

The HFC has received criticism among Republicans like Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), who publicly broke with the caucus last month. McClintock, a social and fiscal conservative, wrote in a letter to the HFC: “I know that every member of the HFC sincerely supports these (conservative) principles, but as I have expressed on many occasions during our meetings, I believe the tactics the HFC has employed have repeatedly undermined the House’s ability to advance them.”

Basically, this means that even Kevin McCarthy is not wingnutty enough for the far right.

Palin Word Salad: “Speaking American” Edition

Immigrants to the United States should “speak American,” former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin said on Sunday, adding her voice to a controversy triggered by Donald Trump’s criticism of Republican rival Jeb Bush for speaking Spanish.

“Speaking American” is a punchline of a joke to show how stupid we are as Americans.  Yet, when Palin used it, she really meant it.  She actually believes there is a language called “America”.

Obviously, no such language exists, but even if it did, “America” isn’t the United States anyway.  We live in North America.  Mexicans and others live in Central America.  And there is South America.  So basically, anyone in North, Central, or South America who speaks their native tongue IS speaking “American”.

But geographical bigotry aside, Palin added hilarity to insult when she spoke more about this on CNN, and made up an “American” word that doesn’t exist:

Partial transcript: I think Republicans and independents, that is the party of tolerance! It certainly doesn’t matter the color of your skin! And some of the other things that uh, you know, are banted round as being, um, kind of the judging barometer of whether somebody is welcome in the party or not.

Wuuuuuuut?!? That is such lovely Palin salad-ism.

And “banted”?? She means bandied, I suppose.  Heck, she’s speaking American — who can refudiate that?

Video I Love And Hate

On the one hand, there’s nothing better than low information Fox News voters arguing with each other (over, of all things, Donald Trump).

On the other hand, these people are from my home state of New Hampshire. (Thank God I don’t know any of them).

Enjoy

I’m still not too worried about Donald Trump.  Because I’ve seen this movie before:

The American public is sick and tired of politics as usual. They’re angry at Congress and angry at the president. You can almost feel it out on the campaign trail. That’s why _______ is getting so much support. He’s different. He doesn’t represent politics as usual. He taps into that anger.

We heard this about Herman Cain (and a cast of thousands of others) in 2012, Rudy Giuliani in 2008, Howard Dean in 2004, John McCain in 2000, Pat Buchanan in 1996, Ross Perot and Jerry Brown in 1992, Gary Hart in 1984, John Anderson in 1980, etc. etc.

Do you notice how many of these folks won their party’s nomination?

The New Word For “RINO” (And What It Says About Republicans)

In the early 2000s, just as the wars in the Middle East were ramping up, a new word started appearing in the Internet lexicon: RINO.  It stands for “Republican In Name Only”.  It is an insult hurled from Republicans to any member of the GOP who’s more liberal than a Republican “should be”.  Any politician tagged as a RINO — and many were — virtually became extinct in the GOP over the following decade, as fewer and fewer moderate Republicans got re-elected.

There is a new similar phrase floating about.  It is “cuckservative”.  It’s a play on the words “conservative” and “cuckold”. “Cuckold” in this sense has a sexual connotation:

A cuckold, of course, is a legitimate word for the husband of an adulterous wife — but that doesn’t really do justice to what they’re suggesting here, either. The people who throw this term around are most likely referencing a type of pornography whereby a (usually, white) man is “humiliated” (or ironically thrilled) by being forced to watch his wife having sex with another (usually, black) man. I’m not going to link to this, but feel free to Google it.

Being a combination of those two words, a “cuckservative” is a conservative who sells out his racial heritage — i.e., a race traitor.  Underlying the use of the word — which comes up ion debates about immigration reform, criminal justice reform, etc.– id the notion that whites should only support policies that help whites. The goal is to stir up fear among whites — “Don’t be a cuckservative” — and to encourage more tribalism and polarization.

Over at Salon, Joan Walsh is alarmed by the prevalent use of this word, a word rooted in racism and misogyny:

“Cuckservative” started showing up in my Twitter mentions last week, after I suggested Donald Trump supporters might not be the brightest bulbs. As I clicked around, I came to a shocking conclusion: I’ve been uncharacteristically downplaying the amount of racism and misogyny powering the right today. The spread of the epithet “cuckservative” is a sign that the crudest psycho-sexual insecurity animates the far right….

This is not merely a new way to shout “RINO.” It’s a call to make the GOP an explicitly racist party, devoted to the defense of whites. It’s no accident it’s taken off in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign launch/performance art, where he attacked illegal Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and “criminals.”

White nationalist Richard Spencer of the National Policy Institute explained Trump’s appeal to Dave Weigel: “a) he is a tougher, superior man than ‘conservatives’ (which isn’t saying much), and b) he seems to grasp the demographic displacement of European-Americans on a visceral level. We see some hope there.”

Rush Limbaugh helped spread the term to the mainstream when he praised Trump like this: “If Trump were your average, ordinary, cuckolded Republican, he would have apologized by now, and he would have begged for forgiveness, and he would have gone away.”

The folks behind the term are also wildly anti-Semitic. Huckabee became a popular target after he claimed President Obama’s Iran deal was “marching Israelis to the ovens.” The guys who bray “cuckservative” hate Obama, of course, but they may hate Israel more.

These are the people that 17 presidential candidates are catering to.  And not one of them as the decency to say enough is enough.

The Penny Drops

Over at the right wing site The Daily Caller — one of the many right-wing websites that has grown from a steady diet from Fox News and AM talk radio to form the final wall in the echo chamber — a lonely columnist quietly looks and Donald Trump’s antics and wonders aloud this:

What If The Base Is Wrong?

by Matt Lewis
Senior Contributor

One of the explanations for Donald Trump’s surging poll numbers goes like this: The base doesn’t trust Republican leaders on immigration. This manifests in support for a man who tells it like it is.

The problem with this is that the immigration schism on the right is largely about rhetoric. Almost everybody agrees we must secure the border, and even the most hawkish anti-immigration reform advocates won’t admit they want to deport the 11 million, or so, illegals. There are differences of opinion on whether to allow for a pathway to citizenship or to legalize them, but almost nobody is advocating for mass deportation.

As such, the real disagreement, it seems, is about rhetoric: Should we talk about immigrants in a way that suggests we believe they are children of God who (in most cases) are seeking a better life for their family — or should we assume most of them are rapists?

Based on Trump’s popularity, there is a market for doing the latter.

Now, suppose you’re a Republican “leader” tasked with winning elections today — and in the future. Demographic shifts suggest that doubling down on white, working class, non-college educated males from rural areas won’t cut it forever.

Putting aside the fact that you might support immigration reform on its merits, wouldn’t it make sense to try to tone down rhetoric guaranteed to turn off segments of the national electorate that are actually growing? (And here, I’m not just talking about Hispanics.) That way you might be able to win elections, finally secure the border, defend the right to life, cut job-killing regulations, etc.

This brings us to some fundamental questions about leadership: Should leaders merely reflect the opinions of their followers, or try to lead them? My take is that, ideally, leaders persuade followers to follow them. But sometimes that doesn’t work. And then we’re left with this: If you’re the captain of a ship, and your most vocal passengers insist you to steer towards something that looks to you like an iceberg, do you do it?

In other words he’s asking, “Can we win by putting forth nominee blowhards like Trump?”

The answer of course is “no”, but if the comments section is any hint, the base is, if nothing else, tenacious.  You pass their litmus test or else they’ll . . . well, I don’t know.  Not vote (which is good) or start a revolution with their guns from their confederate flag be-decaled Chevy pickups (not so good).

Update To “A Tea Party Patriot Says He Might Have To Vote For Hillary”

A few days ago, I posted a video from a tea party patriot who gave his reasons why he might have to vote for Hillary.

Well, he made up his mind.  He’s NOT going to vote for Hillary.

Kinda has the look and feel of a hostage video, doesn’t it?

The guy’s quick reversal is telling. He doesn’t walk back anything he said in his first video. He doesn’t say Obamacare hasn’t been a boon to his life or that he wants it repealed. He just says a lot of people watched the first video. The implication in his astonished chuckle is that he’s gotten more and angrier feedback than he expected — he’s been lashed by the people he thinks of as his allies and praised by the people he considers his enemies.

It’s an excruciating experience to find yourself at odds with your political tribe. So, for most people, it’s actually borderline irrational to pick fights with your side. This guy’s vote in the 2016 presidential election isn’t going to save Obamacare or doom it; his vote will have no effect on his life at all. But publicly coming out as a Hillary Clinton supporter when he attends the next meeting of his local Tea Party Patriots chapter? He’ll be attacked by his friends, kicked out of a group he loves, smeared on the internet. His public heterodoxy can really hurt his life. It’s not rational for him to announce he’s voting for Hillary Clinton. Policy interests matter, but they’re much more remote from us than our friends, family, and even our email inbox.

I’ll bet he votes for Hillary.

Palin’s Nail In The Coffin

Palin has no friends, including Matt Lewis, who supported her before you even heard of her:

You Betcha I Was Wrong About Sarah Palin

It’s time to admit that, whatever their motivation was at the time, the Alaska governor’s critics always had a point.
Has conservative genuflection at the altar of Sarah Palin finally come to a halt?

In case you missed it, her speech in Iowa this week was not well received on the right. The Washington Examiner’s Byron York called it a “long, rambling, and at times barely coherent speech” and National Review’s Charles C.W. Cooke said she slipped into self-parody. And there’s more. The Examiner’s Eddie Scarry, for example, contacted several conservative bloggers who were once Palin fans, but have since moved on.

But here’s my question… what changed?

Yes, in 2008, Sarah Palin delivered one of the finest convention speeches I’ve ever heard (trust me, I was there), but she hasn’t exactly been channeling Winston Churchill ever since. Remember her big speech at CPAC a couple of years ago? You know, the one where she took a swig out of a Big Gulp and said of her husband Todd: “He’s got the rifle, I got the rack.” Not exactly a great moment in political rhetoric.

So why is anyone surprised when, this weekend, she said: “‘The Man,’ can only ride ya when your back is bent?”

Demosthenes, she is not, but there’s nothing new about Palin’s penchant for populism or lowbrow rhetoric. What does feel new is that she has finally gotten around to roundly losing conservative opinion leaders. (OK, this has been a long time coming. In 2011, Conor Friedersdorf noted that the hard right was skewering Palin, and that Kathleen Parker had been vindicated. And as recently as this past April, I wondered whether it was finally safe for conservatives to criticize her publicly. But it does feel like we have finally reached a tipping point where criticizing Palin isn’t only acceptable for conservative opinion leaders, it’s now almost expected.)

***

In fairness, Palin was once a reform-minded governor who enjoyed an 88 percent approval rating. But something happened on the way to Des Moines. I suspect the most vicious attacks (especially the “Trig Truther” stuff) radicalized her and embittered her, but I also suspect she also took the easy way out. Instead of going back to Alaska after the 2008 defeat, boning up on the issues, continuing her work as governor, and forging a national political comeback, she cashed in with reality-TV shows and paid speaking gigs.

***

Palin has contributed to this phenomenon by playing the victim card, engaging in identity politics, co-opting some of the cruder pop-culture references, and conflating redneck lowbrow culture with philosophical conservatism.

And this makes me wonder if I might have contributed to this by boosting her—and by publicly chastising her conservative critics.

My harshest criticism was directed at conservative writers whom (I felt) prematurely attacked her during the months of September and October in the 2008 presidential campaign—and possibly even contributed to her radicalization. (In my mind, Palin changed after the 2008 loss, a shift that correlates closely with the election of Obama and the rise of the Tea Party.)

But you could argue that the conservatives who went after Palin back in ’08 have now been vindicated—regardless of their motivation. And my counterfactual argument (that Palin might have turned out better had everyone had cut her some slack in 2008) feels increasingly tenuous.

Is it possible that Kathleen Parker saw something I didn’t when she attacked Palin? I saw it as strangling the conservative baby in the crib; Parker probably saw it as snuffing out a monster.

Such is the plight of a writer; I got some stuff right, and my position was justifiable at the time, but in hindsight I regret contributing to the premature deification of Sarah Palin.

 

Palin’s Speech This Weekend Was So Painfully Bad That Even Conservatives Lament

Falll-out continued for former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin following her speech at the Freedom Summit in Iowa this weekend, that one commentator called “bizarro,” with others calling it “rambling” and “painful.”

On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough lamented  Palin’s decline from the candidate who once wowed a national audience with her speech at the Republican  nominating convention in 2008.

“I think it’s a tragedy, too. We all remember that night she spoke in 2008 at the convention,” Scarborough said. “I will say, it remains one of the most electrifying performances I’ve seen in the last four or five conventions I’ve been to. Nobody expected her to do well. She delivered the lines well; she hit it out of the park.”

Following Palin’s Saturday speech, Washington Examiner columnist Byron York — described by former Palin adviser Nicolle Wallace as one of her “staunchest supporters” — spoke with conservative activists who attended the speech, few of whom had anything good to say about the one-time GOP star or her speech.

Sam Clovis, a conservative Iowa college professor and radio commentator who recently lost a primary campaign to Palin-endorsed, now-Senator Joni Ernst, claimed it is now hard to take Palin seriously.

“I know she is popular, but it is hard to take her seriously given that performance,”  Clovis said. “Palin was a sad story Saturday. With every speech she gives, she gets worse and worse. If one were playing a political cliche drinking game, no one would have been sober after the first 15 minutes of an interminable ramble. It was really painful.”

Another attendee, described by York as “a well-connected Iowa Republican” was less impressed, saying Palin has reached the end of “shelf-life.”

“Calling Gov. Palin’s remarks bizarre and disjointed would be charitable,” he said. “Her shelf-life, even with the most conservative voters in our party, seems to be near the end. In a day filled with strong performances from likely candidates ranging from Scott Walker to Ted Cruz, her remarks were a distraction.”

Writing on the Iowa Republican blog, Craig Robinson said he had a hard time finding anyone who reacted positively to Palin’s speech.

“Of all the people I talked to about Palin’s speech, only one person didn’t have a negative reaction. That person basically said it was a typical Sarah Palin speech. It was received poorly by everyone else I spoke with, ” he wrote. ” I’m not comfortable sharing everything I heard about the speech — it was that bad.”

Robinson concluded “No offense to Gov. Palin, but I do think it is problematic to have someone give a speech like that in the midst of a string of serious speeches by people who are seriously thinking about running for president. Palin made a guy like Trump look like a serious presidential candidate today. Incredible.”

Why was the speech so awful?  Talking about the 2016 campaign, Palin babbled, “It is war. It is war for the future of our country, for the sovereignty and solvency of the United States of America. The other side, the far left, they see a need for change. It is by offering real change, again. Coronation, rinse, replay. Clinton, rinse, repeat. These leftists promoting these ‘Ready for’ campaigns. Ready for Hillary. Well, these hopey-changey DC businesses disguised as grassroots, don’t you wonder what the White House thinks of them out there, prancing around, squealing they are ready for someone else? They have to admit it even.”

You think that was nonsense? You think that was incomprehensible? Oh, wait. As the gears in her tiny, fucked-up mind started to break down, Palin’s synapses misfired and she lost the ability to complete a thought. On the national debt (maybe? who can tell?), she rambled on, “From debt, when you are in a hole, you don’t want to be in the first thing they stop digging. I don’t know what is wrong with the leaders in this country who understand we are in a hole we don’t want to be in and they keep digging. From debt to energy, proving the inherent links between American-made energy and prosperity, and energy insecurity to solutions like the tax that we need, to stop this unhealthy obsession that we are hearing about, even on our side of the aisle, the subjective income gap we are supposed to be obsessed with. We don’t have to be obsessed with it.”

Now to be fair, the teleprompter went down and the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee flipped through a binder of notes and strung together a series of one-liners – and some of them made little sense.  But isn’t being teleprompter-reliant HER criticism of Obama?

Here’s a brief painful excerpt:

Calling It Quits

Jimmy LaSalvia co-founded political action group GOProud to prove to America that the Republican Party is a safe home for gay conservatives. But he no longer believes his own arguments. On Monday, he announced on his blog that he could no longer take his own party’s refusal to stand up to bigotry: he was leaving the Republican Party and had registered as an Independent. “I am every bit as conservative as I’ve always been, but I just can’t bring myself to carry the Republican label any longer,” he wrote.

His condemnation of the GOP was even stronger when he explained his decision to TIME on Wednesday. The Republican brand, he says, is so tarnished that he no longer believes it is salvageable. “I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s time to pull the plug on the patient. It’s been brain-dead for a long, long time.”

He adds:

I spent my career working to create an atmosphere in the conservative movement where gay conservatives can be open and honest and live their lives and work within the conservative movement. I wanted it to be a place where straight conservatives could publicly support gay Americans and even eventually come to support civil marriage for gay couples.  I feel like I have accomplished that. I had hoped that would be enough to melt the anti-gay bigotry that runs through the ranks of some in the Republican Party. I’ve come to realize that it is not, and that the leadership of the party tolerates bigotry, not just antigay bigotry, but anti-Muslim, any people who are not like us it seems like, because they are afraid of losing that sliver of their base who are anti-gay. And the truth is they are turning off millions more Americans by kowtowing to a group that frankly is losing and who most Americans think are wrong.

I could have told him it wouldn’t make a difference.

Rand Paul And Doughnuts

Rand is all up in arms over the jack-booted doughnut snatchers:

Sen. Rand Paul warned Americans that the federal government is targeting doughnuts, the latest example of the oppressive nanny state in America.

"They're coming after your doughnuts!" the Kentucky Republican said, referring to the Food and Drug Administration decision to ban trans fats.

Paul added that if the FDA was banning trans fats, the employees of the agency should be forced to get healthy themselves.

"I say we should line every one of them up. I want to see how skinny or how fat the FDA agents are that are making the rules on this," Paul said…

"Because if we're going to have a nanny state and everybody's got to eat the right thing, and you can't eat a doughnut, maybe we just ought to enforce it on the government workers first," he said.

Apparently he thinks you can't make doughnuts without trans fats. I think that's going to come as a surprise to Krispy Kreme. Or anyone who's ever eaten real doughnuts made with real ingredients.

He's all upset about the nanny state in this piece, but keep in mind who he sees as the truly aggrieved party: the major food industry manufacturers who want to keep poisoning people with cheap, chemical ingredients that are killing them.

Post Shutdown Polls

Post-shutdown polls are coming in and they are brutal:

The numbers:

* Dems lead in the generic ballot matchup by 49-38. Among independents — a key midterm constituency — those numbers are 46-35.

* Only 21 percent of Americans approve of the way the Congressional GOP is handling the federal budget, versus 77 percent who disapprove. Among independents: 20-78. Among moderates: 14-85.  Among seniors: 18-79. Fewer than one in three regard the GOP favorably.

* Only 20 percent think Republicans are “interested in doing what’s best for the country,” while 77 percent think they’re “interested in what’s best for themselves politically.” Among independents: 14-83. Among moderates: 18-81. Among seniors: 24-74.

* Americans blame the GOP for the shutdown by 53-29; moderates by 60-24; indys by 49-29; and seniors by 46-35.

Crucially, large majorities think the shutdown damaged the country. Eighty six percent say it has damaged the U.S.’s image in the world, and 80 percent say it damaged the U.S. economy.

Will all this change by the time of elections?  Many say yes.  And perhaps that is true.  But coming up from a disadvantaged position is worse than coming from an advantaged one, and this is bad news for the GOP.

UPDATE:

Check out these numbers from the latest ABC/Washington Post poll (Sep. 15 results) on what Republicans did to themselves during their government shutdown:

Barack Obama, net approval: -1 (0)

Democratic Party, net favorability: -3 (+7)

Republican Party, net favorability: -31 (-14)

Tea Party, net favorability: -33 (-14)

So while Democrats and President Obama saw their net ratings drop by 10 and 1 points, respectively, Republicans and tea partiers saw their ratings drop by 17 and 19 points, respectively.

Government Shutdown Is Over (For Now); “Nobody Won” Says Obama…

… and he's right in a sense.  The Democrats didn't have to concede anything and they didn't gain anything; the Republicans didn't have to concede anything and they didn't gain anything.

On the other hand, the Democrats weren't trying to gain anything, and the House Republicans were (they wanted to defund Obamacare), sosomebody did lose in all this.

New_demandsx

And then there's public opinion:

The Tea Party's standing with Americans is at its lowest point since the movement took shape in 2010, according to a Pew Research Center poll released Wednesday.

The survey, conducted from Oct. 9-13, reports that nearly half (49 percent) of the public now view the Tea Party unfavorably, compared with 30 percent who view it favorably. Since February 2010, when Pew first began gauging opinion on the Tea Party, unfavorable views have nearly doubled, and the number of "very unfavorable" views has tripled.

In June, when Pew last polled on the Tea Party and before the latest Washington budget battle fully ratcheted up, 45 percent said they held an unfavorable view of the Tea Party, while 37 percent reported they had a favorable view.

Michael Dimock, the director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, told All Things Considered host Audie Cornish that one of the issues is that people don't really know what the Tea Party is about.

"There's not really a consensus about what the Tea Party is, whether it's kind of an outside group trying to steer policy or whether it's working within the Republican Party itself," Dimock says.

The poll, which was in the field as congressional Republicans continued their push to remove financing for President Obama's health care law as part of a deal to reopen the government, found that the Tea Party's popularity is falling even among Republicans.

Pew reported that 53 percent of Republicans now view the Tea Party favorably, down from 62 percent in June; and 27 percent view it unfavorably, up from 23 percent in June.

To show you just how crazy the far right has gotten, they've even lost Ross Douthat.  Even him!

But with tonight’s vote done and the government open once again, I want to return to the theme of my Sunday column, and stress once more the essential absurdity of the specific populist gambit we’ve just witnessed unfold, drag on, and now finally collapse. However you slice and dice the history, the strategery, and the underlying issues, the decision to live with a government shutdown for an extended period of time — inflicting modest-but-real harm on the economy, needlessly disrupting the lives and paychecks of many thousands of hardworking people, and further tarnishing the Republican Party’s already not-exactly-shiny image — in pursuit of obviously, obviously unattainable goals was not a normal political blunder by a normally-functioning political party. It was an irresponsible, dysfunctional and deeply pointless act, carried out by a party that on the evidence of the last few weeks shouldn’t be trusted with the management of a banana stand, let alone the House of Representatives.

This means that the still-ongoing intra-conservative debate over the shutdown’s wisdom is not, I’m sorry, the kind of case where reasonable people can differ on the merits and have good-faith arguments and ultimately agree to disagree. There was no argument for the shutdown itself that a person unblindered by political fantasies should be obliged to respect, no plausible alternative world in which it could have led to any outcome besides self-inflicted political damage followed by legislative defeat, and no epitaph that should be written for its instigators’ planning and execution except: “These guys deserved to lose.”

And it’s important for conservatives and Republicans to recognize this, and remember it, because what just happened can happen again, and next time the consequences may be more severe. The mentality that drove the shutdown — a toxic combination of tactical irrationality and the elevation of that irrationality into a True Conservative (TM) litmus test — may have less influence in next year’s Beltway negotiations than it did this time around, thanks to the way this has ended for the defunders after John Boehner gave them pretty much all the rope that they’d been asking for. But just turn on talk radio or browse RedState or look at Ted Cruz’s approval ratings with Tea Partiers and you’ll see how potent this mentality remains, how quickly it could resurface, and how easily Republican politics and American governance alike could be warped by it in the future.

Oh. Please Sarah. Weigh In.

Politico reports:

President Barack Obama is risking “impeachable” offenses with the way he is handling the debt limit debate, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said in a post on her Facebook page Monday.

“Defaulting on our national debt is an impeachable offense, and any attempt by President Obama to unilaterally raise the debt limit without Congress is also an impeachable offense,” Palin wrote.

That has to be the most densely packed stupid that I have seen in a long time.  Where to begin?

First of all, Obama has no control for defaulting on the national debt.  If Congress does not raise the debt ceiling, we default, but Obama hasn't created an impeachable offense.

Secondly, I don't know how he could raise the debt limit without Congress, but if he could, how can that both be an impeachable offense while avoiding one?

It's scary that some people actually think she makes sense.

The WWII Vet Protest

Just below a picture of Sarah Palin from this weekend's march, Fox News writes:

Veterans marched on Sunday in Washington in protest of the partial government shutdown that has kept them and other Americans from visiting war memorials across the country, with support from several star conservatives.

“This is the people's memorial,” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz told a crowd of several hundred gathered near the WWII Memorial on the closed National Mall, which has become a national symbol of the shutdown and the country’s response. “Simple question: Why is the federal government spending money to keep veterans out of the memorial? Why did they spend money to keep people out of Mount Vernon, Mount Rushmore? Our veterans should be above political games.”

And you had people like Ted Cruz there speaking in front of the Oathkeepers:

BWfs91XCQAAnyNl

But it turns out, the actual vets group that organized the march wasn't too happy that the tea party types took over.  In underlined red letters on the front page of their website:

The political agenda put forth by a local organizer in Washington DC was not in alignment with our message. We feel disheartened that some would seek to hijack the narrative for political gain. The core principle is about all Americans honoring Veterans in a peaceful and apolitical manner.

And on Facebook:

We have, as a group, been prevented from certain groups that have piggy-backed off our grassroots efforts, to effectively create a comprehensive media message campaign. We made the mistake of trying to partner with some Washington insiders that thwarted many of our genuine concerns for keeping this apolitical and grassroots. While we support many of those groups common causes for Veterans, we do not support the manner in which they go about it. We chose instead to not incite or create panic.

What's amazing to me is how completely the narrative of this group was co-opted. Their objective was, indeed, to hold gatherings at closed memorials, but with the express intention of showing gratitude, and they specifically talk about how visitors should pick up after themselves. There's no fury at the park workers, no insults thrown, no ugliness in the intial posts…

 

Hot Mic Conversation Shows This Is About Optics And “Winning”, Not About Americans

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) were caught on a hot mic Wednesday night while discussing their party's messaging on the government shutdown. 

 

Paul ran into McConnell, who was wired for an interview, in front of a camera after wrapping his own interview with CNN, according to Western Kentucky news station WPSD

"I just did CNN and I just go over and over again 'We're willing to compromise, we're willing to negotiate.' I think — I don't think they poll tested 'we won't negotiate.' I think it's awful for them to say that over and over again," Paul said of the Obama administration's stance on the shutdown.

"Yeah, I do too, and I just came back from that two hour meeting with them, and that was basically the same view privately as it was publicly," McConnell said.

President Barack Obama met with congressional leaders Wednesday night to discuss opening the federal government and raising the debt ceiling, but the meeting brought the two sides no closer to ending the budget impasse.

In the video recording, Paul was confident that the GOP's pivot from demanding Obamacare be defunded to seeking out compromise would succeed.

"I think if we keep saying 'We wanted to defund it. We fought for that but now we're willing to compromise on this,' I think they can't — we're gonna, I think — well I know we don't want to be here, but we're gonna win this I think," he said.

Cruz Taken To Woodshed

TPM:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) took heat from his Republican colleagues Wednesday in a closed-door meeting to discuss the government shutdown, Politico reported.

At the meeting that was hosted by the Senate’s conservative Steering Committee, one GOP senator after another pressed Cruz to offer a proposal to end the shutdown, according to Politico. The junior senator from Texas reportedly had no solution nor could he explain how he would defund the Affordable Care Act – an effort led by Cruz and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) that served as the impetus for the current shutdown.

“It was very evident to everyone in the room that Cruz doesn’t have a strategy – he never had a strategy, and could never answer a question about what the end-game was,” an unnamed senator told Politico. “I just wish the 35 House members that have bought the snake oil that was sold could witness what was witnessed today at lunch."

At one point in the meeting, Republicans pressed Cruz to tell them what he would have done had the party united behind his call to filibuster a House-passed continuing resolution to keep the defunding hopes alives. Only 19 Republicans backed Cruz's attempt to block the bill.

“He kept trying to change the subject because he never could answer the question,” the anonymous senator said. “It’s pretty evident it’s never been about a strategy – it’s been about him. That’s unfortunate. I think he’s done our country a major disservice. I think he’s done Republicans a major disservice."

The meeting turned quite heated when Cruz was asked if he would renounce the attacks lobbed at Republicans by the Senate Conservatives Fund, a powerful organization that targets moderates in the party.

"I will not," Cruz reportedly said. 

The Senate Conservatives Fund has marched in lockstep with Cruz on the defunding campaign, even expanding its scope to target House Republican incumbents.

I hear rumblings from some corners that this shutdown stunt is the beginning of the end for the Tea Party conservatives.  I'm not that optimistic, but it really does look like their brand is hurting.

Government Shuts Down; Obamacare Begins

(1)  I have to start with one crazy lady Bachmann said to crazy website outlet, World Net Daily:

Pulling no punches, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., told WND exactly why she thinks President Obama and Democrats are unwilling to negotiate with the GOP over Obamacare’s well-documented problems.

“I think the reason is because President Obama can’t wait to get Americans addicted to the crack cocaine of dependency on more government health care.

“Because, once they enroll millions of more individual Americans, it will be virtually impossible for us to pull these benefits back from people,” the congresswoman explained.

“All they want to do is buy love from people by giving them massive government subsidies,” Bachmann summed up.

I have a question for Ms. Bachmann — is giving people what they want a BAD thing?  Isn't that what representatives are supposed to do?  If people LIKE those benefits, doesn't that mean they are, you know, a good thing?  

And what the hell is wrong with giving people something for their money?  People pay taxes for the betterment of themselves and their country — so what's wrong with something that does just that?

(2)  Who said that government was the problem, not the solution?

10032989935_133ddf04f6_b

(3)  They really are idiots at Fox & Friends:

 

(4)  The Vitter Amendment would put congressional staffers on the hook for their entire health insurance.  That puts them in a worse position than the rest of the work force, because for most employees, their employers help pay for the plan.

Oh, don't get me wrong.  I hope it passes.  Because then you'll have a LOT of pissed of GOP staffers.

(5)   “It’s kind of an insult to lemmings to call them lemmings…”

–  

Rep Devin Nunes (R-Ca.) on the far right members of his party who pushed for a government shutdown. 

(via New York Times)

 

 

(6)  Rockin' Shutdown:

 

 

 

 (7)  Rightwing bloggers have been mocking the Obamacare websites which started today — both the federal and state exchanges where people can sign up for health insurance.  It seems that many of the websites aren't working.  "Ha, ha" say the rightwing bloggers.  "Typical Obamacare stuff.  Doesn't work".

Keep laughing.  The reason they're not working is because they are so popular:

Heavy volume contributed to technical problems and delays that plagued the rollout Tuesday of the online insurance markets at the heart of President Obama’s health care law, according to state and federal governments, with officials watching closely for clues to how well the system will work and how many people will take advantage of it.

On Tuesday morning, people trying to shop for coverage athealthcare.gov, the federally run exchange that serves as the marketplace for residents of most states, met with messages citing high traffic and advising, “Please wait here until we send you to the login page” or “The system is down at the moment.” A state-run exchange in Maryland also posted a message saying it was “experiencing connectivity issues” and asking visitors to try again later. Other states reported scattered problems.

New York State’s exchange began operating at 8 a.m. and received 2 million visits in the first hour and a half, “which far exceeds what we were expecting,” said James O’Hare, a spokesman for the state Department of Health. Though some consumers encountered error messages or delays, the site was functioning and processing applications, though how many was not known, he said.

By 9:30 a.m., Kentucky’s exchange, which went live at midnight, had received 24,000 visitors and processed more than 1,000 applications, said Gwenda Bond, a spokeswoman for the state’s health care agency. “The high volume of traffic is causing a few technical glitches,” presenting problems for people who want to apply but not for those who are just browsing, she said.

Most predictions had been for a trickle of new customers at first, rather than a flood, on the online exchanges, where people can shop for competing health plans and see if they qualify for federal subsidies. Polls show that many Americans remain uncertain about the purpose of the exchanges and unconvinced that the law will help them.

 

NC Is Focus of NY Time Editorial Again

And it ain't good (again):

A Sharp Turn to the Right in North Carolina

By ALBERT R. HUNT | BLOOMBERG VIEW

WASHINGTON — North Carolina is channeling Alabama and South Carolina when it comes to the best economic, social and political model for a Southern state.

For more than half a century, North Carolina has been progressive on education and public investments, and pro-business — witness the celebrated Research Triangle between Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill and the financial center in Charlotte — with less racial strife than other Southern states.

As Republicans took full control of the state government in Raleigh, there has been a shift to the right. Taxes for the wealthy have been slashed, and spending for education and programs that benefit the poor has been cut. Abortion has been restricted, and guns rights expanded.

At the end of the legislative session in July, in a state that has enjoyed relatively good race relations — which the business community both encouraged and benefited from — provisions that ensured higher black voter participation were targeted.

Governor Pat McCrory, a Republican elected last year, says the turn to the right is necessary and is paying off.

“We’re getting tremendous positive feedback from the business community,” he said in an interview. His state had “lost its focus” and needed to be “shaken up.”

To critics, this conservative agenda — much of it orchestrated by Art Pope, the governor’s budget director and a multimillionaire retailer who is seen by some as the state’s equivalent of the Koch brothers — threatens the state’s legacy.

“We’re turning back everything that made us different from other Southern states,” said Jim Goodmon, the chairman of CBC New Media Group and owner of the Durham Bulls Minor League baseball team. “With this shift, economic development is broken.”

Ronnie Bryant, the chief executive of the Charlotte Regional Partnership, the area’s top economic development recruiter, recently complained to The Charlotte Observer that all the efforts of recent years to promote Charlotte as a business center “have been negated in the last few weeks.” He said business leaders elsewhere were asking: “What the hell are you guys doing?”

Ann Goodnight, a powerful advocate for higher education in the state, whose husband is the chief executive of the technology company SAS Institute, wrote a letter to The Raleigh News and Observer charging that cuts in education funding were a “grievous mistake.” The places that succeed in economic competitiveness, she wrote, “are investing in education and using the playbook we once embraced.”

The biggest firestorm erupted when the Legislature changed voting procedures, requiring a state-issued photo ID, limiting early voting and ending same-day registration — steps that disproportionately hamper black voters in elections.

“They are extremists and are playing the race card,” said the Rev. William Barber, head of the state’s chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. The civil rights group is organizing multiracial coalitions around the state and turning out thousands to protest these changes.

On taxes, the Republicans cut the corporate rate, ended the progressive personal income tax and eliminated the estate tax, which affected, on average, fewer than 75 families annually and will cost the state $300 million in lost revenue over the next five years. The Legislature also decided not to continue the earned income-tax credit for the working poor.

North Carolina requires a balanced budget, and new expenses must be offset elsewhere.

“They put in place tax cuts that overwhelmingly benefit millionaires,” said Alexandra Sirota, director of the leftist North Carolina Budget and Tax Center, “while choosing not to extend a tax credit for the working poor.”

The governor, who is as moderate in demeanor as his previous record as mayor of Charlotte suggests, denied that he had been captured by the right. The tax cuts were essential, he said, because North Carolina was falling behind economic competitors like South Carolina. He pointed out that spending for kindergarten through 12th grade had increased (though not enough to keep up with inflation and population growth) and that funding for community colleges was cut because enrollment was down. Asked about support for the world-class University of North Carolina, the 56-year-old governor replied, “They can’t be satisfied with the status quo.”

Ms. Goodnight, he said, is a Democrat. Besides, he added, her husband supports him. When asked about the alleged voting fraud that mandated the changes in procedure, he offered no specifics: “It’s like insider trading; you don’t know until you look.”

The governor bristled at claims that Mr. Pope was the real kingmaker. “When he made Pope the budget director,” Mr. Goodmon said, Mr. McCrory “became a puppet.” Mr. Pope’s political contributions, the governor said, are no different from Mr. Goodmon’s giving to Democrats. He depicted his budget director as a fiscal conservative, a benign libertarian with no racial animosity.

Mr. Pope declined a request for an interview. The governor said he had headed off some far-right moves, vetoing a bill subjecting welfare recipients to drug tests and sidelining a measure that would have created an official state religion.

Yet, Ms. Goodnight points out she is a registered Republican. Mr. Goodmon’s contributions — mainly, though not exclusively, to Democrats — pale next to the millions in family wealth that Mr. Pope has given to the Republican Party through his political action committee, foundations and personal contributions.

As for the competition with South Carolina, the two states had roughly identical, solid economic growth last year, and both have jobless rates worse than the national average. Multiple surveys have long rated North Carolina’s business climate as one of the best in the United States. Its higher education system is better than its neighbor’s, wages are higher, and poverty is less pervasive.

Dating from the 1960s, under the leadership of Terry Sanford, the country’s best one-term governor, and four terms of Jim Hunt, North Carolina produced a much-envied system of higher education and community colleges, good race relations, a desirable quality of life and a healthy business climate. The debate about its usefulness today will persist. But the North Carolina model, which served the region and country so well, is gone in the Tar Heel State.

It's really astonishing and disheartening how the legislatre of this state, in a matter of only a few weeks, has placed North Carolina in such a bad position.  And no, it's NOT good for business.  If you were a company from California or New England, or even some of the midwest states, would you want to move to North Carolina?  Would your assets (your employees) come along, knowing their kids wlll get shit education?

Town Hall Follies

The nice thing about when Congress is out of session, is that Congresscritters go back to their constitutents and have town halls, and then we get good stuff like this.  This is Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), fielding questions at the event in Afton, Oklahoma.  And a woman asks him about Obama's qualifications.

That's right.  There are still people who STILL believe that Obama was not born in the United States.  The old tired birth certificate trope.  Now, the Congressmen tries to persuade the woman that it is a losing argument (while saying he "agrees with it" – oy!), causing the women to leave in disgust (after presenting a 71 page affidavit from Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio claiming that the birth certificate is forged).

Good times.

 

Mullin is the second House Republican to endorse birtherism just this week.

It’s Okay, Bigots. The GOP Isn’t Really Embracing “Tolerance”

Following their 2012 election debacle, the Republican National Committee and the College Republicans issued reports which urged the party to go through an image makeover without adjusting its political stances. Essentially, they argued, the party should only appear to be changing and becoming more open-minded, empathetic and welcoming.

Speaking with David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network posted today, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus confirmed that the party will try to reach out to groups like gays and lesbians by simply appearing to be more respectful without actually changing its views on issues such as marriage equality.

After Brody said conservative evangelical voters are nervous that the GOP thinks “we have to be more tolerant,” Priebus said there is nothing to worry about. “I don’t know if I’ve used the word ‘tolerance,’ I don’t really care for that word myself. I don’t have a problem with it, I just think it has another meaning politically that can go the other direction,” the party chairman said.

“It’s not what you say, I think, it’s sometimes – like our moms used to tell us – it’s how you say it. And I think that’s really the issue. And quite frankly, I think some of that has been overblown.”

Priebus assured Brody that the GOP will continue to represent “things that are very square with our beliefs as Christians” and recognize that “there’s only one sovereign God.”

Watch:

 

Why The Tea Party Is Against Immigration Reform

In their own words:

 

This is Ken Crow, who used to be president of Tea Party of America until he bungled logistics of a Sarah Palin speech and is now affiliated with Tea Party Community.  He got up and started talking about "well-bred Americans."

Here is some video of what followed, in which he made a straightforward case for racial purity.

The transcript:

From those incredible blood lines of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington and John Smith. And all these great Americans, Martin Luther King. These great Americans who built this country. You came from them. And the unique thing about being from that part of the world, when you learn about breeding, you learn that you cannot breed Secretariat to a donkey and expect to win the Kentucky Derby. You guys have incredible DNA and don't forget it.

 

Michelle, We Hardly Knew Ye

NYT:

Representative Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota Republican who made an ill-fated run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, announced Wednesday that she would not seek a fifth term in Congress next year.

She made the announcement just six months after being re-elected in what was her most challenging Congressional campaign since she was first elected to the House in 2006. Her announcement also comes as her former presidential campaign faces inquiries into its fund-raising activities.

“I have decided next year I will not seek a fifth Congressional term,” she said in a video on her campaign Web site. “This decision was not impacted in any way by the recent inquiries into the activities of my former presidential campaign or my former presidential staff,” she added.

But then again, she didn't exactly say why she was hanging it up, so… yeah, it's the ethics investigations.

I don't think the news has totally sunk in for me.  Maybe I'm feeling reassured by the fact that there's a whole new crop of tea party legislators who are — god forbid — just as nuts.  But none of them are going to have the Bachmann brand of nutiness.  Alas.

I suppose I should insert a "best of Bachmann" reel here, but there will be time for that later.  Instead, I give you the BLR treatment of dear Michelle:

 

From Think Progress:

Bachmann leaves behind one of the most politically heated Congressional careers in recent memory. Her stances on major issues — and the initiatives she has pushed throughout her eight years — have been dangerous and insensitive. Here is a look back at some of Bachmann’s most controversial moments:

1. Bachmann peddled a dangerous anti-vaccine conspiracy. Bachmann pushed the disproved theory that the vaccine for HPV — which prevents cervical cancer — can cause mental retardation. That misinformation has had a wide and lasting impact: Vaccination rates are still remarkably low, and experts blame figureheads like Bachmann who communicated misleading information to the public.

2. Bachmann called being gay ‘personal enslavement.’ On the issue of LGBT rights, Bachmann has a long record of either mocking gay and trans (like when she said she’d mistaken ex-gay therapy for anti-aging therapy, ‘pray away the grey‘). But when she isn’t mocking sexual orientation, she has treated it more like a mental disorder. Famously, Bachmann once said, “It’s a very sad life. It’s part of Satan, I think, to say this is gay. It’s anything but gay. […] Because if you’re involved in the gay and lesbian lifestyle, it’s bondage. Personal bondage, personal despair, and personal enslavement. And that’s why this is so dangerous.”

3. Bachmann considers climate climate change ‘a hoax.’ While experts warn that global climate change is already set to have a lasting impact on our environment, Bachmann calls climate change “all voodoo, nonsense, hokum, a hoax.” She also cast doubt on the entire field of climate science. At a town hall in her district, Bachmann informed constituents that climate science is not “real science” but “manufactured science.”

4. Bachmann led an Islamophobic witch hunt. Last year, Bachmann sought to “expose” members of the Muslim Brotherhood within the U.S. government. The totally unfounded witch hunt was essentially Bachmann’s personal indictment of one of then-Sec. of State Hillary Clinton’s aides, Huma Abedin, but it also served to fuel anti-Muslim bigotry. Bachmann’s fellow party members came out against her, with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) slamming her on the Senate floor for her “unwarranted and unfounded attack.”

5. Bachmann claimed Obamacare would ‘literally’ kill people. In a screed against Obamacare on the House floor, Bachmann warned that the law “literally kills women, kills children, kills senior citizens.” She also questioned, in an interview with a fringe website that peddles conspiracy theories, whether Obamacare would allow the IRS to “deny or delay access to health care” for conservatives.

6. Bachmann told the American people that Iran had plans to nuke the U.S.During a presidential debate on the issue of national security, Bachmann falsely claimed that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had laid out plans to bomb the United States with a nuclear weapon.

7. Bachmann called on the American media to investigate ‘anti-American’ politicians. Bachmann’s first witch hunt of her career was against her own colleagues in Congress. In 2008, Bachmann told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that she hoped the media would investigate Democratic members of Congress, including Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV). “I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress,” she said, “and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America?”

8. Bachmann wanted to ban all porn. As part of her crusade for conservative values, Bachmann has pushed to ban “all forms of pornography.” This is actually contradictory to the Tea Party’s focus on the constitution, given the fact that pornography clearly falls within First Amendment right to freedom of expression.

Retaliation Against Judges

Republican politicians have no scruples.

In 2009, the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously held that the Iowa Constitution does not permit marriage discrimination against gay couples. Four of the seven justices who reached that decision remain on the court today, and a pair of Iowa lawmakers have a plan to punish them four years after they extended the blessings of liberty to gay Iowans:

“It’s our responsibility to maintain the balance of power” between the three co-equal branches of government, Rep. Tom Shaw, R-Laurens, said Tuesday.

The justices “trashed the separation of powers” with their unanimous Varnum v. Brein decision and implementation of same-sex marriage without a change in state law banning any marriages expect between one man and one woman, added Rep. Dwayne Alons, R-Hull.

Their amendment to Senate File 442, the judicial branch budget bill, would lower the salaries of the four justices on the seven-member court who were part of the unanimous Varnum v. Brein decision to $25,000 – the same as a state legislator.

It’s difficult to view this bill as anything other than an effort to drive these justices off the bench. As of 2010, an associate justice of the Iowa Supreme Court earned $163,200, so this bill would cut their pay by nearly 85 percent. Iowa state legislators are not full-time, which explains why they receive such low salaries.

Bachmann’s Ethic Troubles Get Worse

Last week, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) participated in a press conference about Medicaid reimbursement, but reporters had some questions about the right-wing congresswoman's ethics troubles. Instead of responding, Bachmann literally ran away, while some aides "physically blocked reporters" to keep them at bay, and other aides were seen "pushing reporters out of the way as Bachmann left the room."

It would seem that Bachmann and her team are concerned about something. Or in this case, perhaps more than one thing.

Yesterday, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that congressional ethics investigators continue to examine whether Bachmann improperly used campaign funds. What's more, two former staffers for the Republican lawmaker suggested that the ethics review "has widened beyond initial allegations that Bachmann improperly mixed funds between her campaign and her independent political organization."

Today, another Minneapolis Star Tribune report highlights a separate ethics issue for Bachmann.

GOP operative Andy Parrish, a former chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, is expected to tell an Iowa Senate ethics panel that her 2012 presidential campaign made improper payments to its state chairman.

Having maintained a public silence so far, Parrish referred questions Wednesday to his attorney, John Gilmore, who said his client will corroborate allegations from another former Bachmann aide, Peter Waldron.

Waldron, a Florida pastor, claims that the campaign hid payments to Iowa Sen. Kent Sorenson, in violation of Iowa Senate ethics rules that bar members from receiving pay from presidential campaigns.

Parrish, who had not previously been identified, will reportedly provide an affidavit bolstering Waldron's accusations.

The story can get a little convoluted — Bachmann allegedly paid a Republican state lawmaker $7,500 a month, funneling the money through a business owned by a Bachmann fundraiser — but it's serious enough to do lasting damage to the congresswoman's career.

The GOP Split Is Starting To Get Real

Over the past few months, the GOP has talked a lot about re-branding, and softening its views on gay marriage and immigration, in order to appeal to normal people.

The base is not happy:

Tony Perkins says religious conservatives should stop donating to the Republican Party until it clarifies its position on social issues. 

The president of the Family Research Council, a top religious political group, said Thursday night that conservative activists should withhold their political donations to Republicans until the party decides where it will stand on social issues.

Tony Perkins, in an email sent to his supporters, criticized the Republican National Committee over a report released last month that suggested the party should reconsider its messaging on same-sex marriage to appeal to younger voters.

 

"Until the RNC and the other national Republican organizations grow a backbone and start defending core principles, don’t send them a dime of your hard-earned money," Perkins said in the email, a copy of which was obtained by CNN. 

"If you want to invest in the political process, and I encourage you to do so, give directly to candidates who reflect your values and organizations you trust — like FRC Action."

Perkins says that the RNC proposal will only drive away young voters who do not support same-sex marriage.

"Instead of trying to appease millennials, Republicans should try educating them on why marriage matters," Perkins wrote. "There’s an entire group of 'Countercultural Warriors' full of compelling young leaders who are all going to the mat to protect marriage."

In a CBS News poll released late last month, 49 percent — a plurality — of Republicans under 30 years old say they support same-sex marriage, while 46 percent who do not believe gay couples should be allowed to wed. Overall, 73 percent of Americans under 30 back gay marriage.

Still, Perkins says Republicans must "pass a resolution reiterating the GOP’s support for the party platform that was overwhelmingly adopted in Tampa last year."

That platform included provisions saying the party would oppose same-sex marriage. Members of the Republican National Committee were meeting Friday in California, and are expected to take up a resolution reaffirming that position.

Steve Benen is right.  Social conservatives are over-reacting:

Why, exactly, do social conservatives feel so aggrieved? On a purely superficial level, the party does not want to be perceived as right-wing culture warriors because Priebus and Co. realize that this further alienates younger, more tolerant voters. But below the surface, Republicans, especially at the state level, are banning abortion and targeting reproductive rights at a breathtaking clip, pursuing official state religions, eliminating sex-ed, going after Planned Parenthood, and restricting contraception. Heck, we even have a state A.G. and gubernatorial candidate fighting to protect an anti-sodomy law.

What's more, folks like Pribus are condemning Planned Parenthood and "infanticide," while Paul Ryan is speaking to right-wing groups about a future in which abortion rights are "outlawed."

And social conservatives are outraged that Republicans haven't pushed the culture warenough? Why, because the RNC hasn't officially declared its support for a theocracy yet?

Religious right activists, I hate to break it to you, but Republican policymakers are already doing your bidding. You're not the ones who should be whining.

Over-reacting? Whining?  That's what the Tea Party types do.

Shorter Rand Paul

Shorter Rand Paul: I was NEVER against the Civil Rights Act. I just think the whole desegregating lunch counters went a bit far.

His attempt to snow the people at Howard University was a disaster.  TPM covers it:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), a proponent of civil liberties, told a professor on Wednesday that he never opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

"I've never been against the Civil Rights Act. Ever," he said during a question and answer session at the historically black Howard University in Washington.

"This was on tape," countered the questioner.

"I have been concerned about the ramifications of the Civil Rights Act beyond race…but I've never come out in opposition," Paul clarified.

Paul caused a stir during his 2010 campaign when he said on the Rachel Maddow Showthat he was opposed to sections of civil rights law requiring private businesses to accommodate all comers. After an awkward walkback claiming he actually supported the provision, he said he ultimately would have voted ‘yes’ on the bill had he been in Congress back in the 1960s.

The junior senator from Kentucky's speech at the college was billed as part of GOP outreach to young and minority voters, who largely rejected the party during the 2012 presidential campaign.

 

Oh Noes! Michelle Is In Trouble!!

From The Daily Beast:

The Hindenburg. The Titanic. Michele Bachmann.

Eighteen months ago, the Minnesota House member was considered an unlikely but undeniable Republican rising star, winning the Iowa straw poll that unofficially begins the primary season. Today, she is embroiled in a litany of legal proceedings related to her rolling disaster of a presidential campaign—including a Office of Congressional Ethics investigation into campaign improprieties that has not previously been reported.

The Daily Beast has learned that federal investigators are now interviewing former Bachmann campaign staffers nationwide about alleged intentional campaign-finance violations. The investigators are working on behalf of the Office of Congressional Ethics, which probes reported improprieties by House members and their staffs and then can refer cases to the House Ethics Committee.

God told Michele Bachmann to run.  I wonder if the investigators will interview Him next.

What Happens When Tea Baggers Boycott Fox News

First of all, some irate Tea Party activists have decided to boycott Fox News because, well, because grumble grumble grnarf gnarf.

No, actually, it is because Fox News hasn't been covering the Benghazi scandal, largely because there is no scandal to cover, as even Fox News has found out.

So, irate teabaggers are boycotting Fox News for going "soft".

The boycott is pretty funny news in and of itself.  But what is even more amusing is how difficult it is for the protesters to ween off Fox:

“I am having withdrawal. I do like Fox News,” said Kevin Avard, a former state lawmaker in New Hampshire who is participating in the boycott. “I have been going to CNN, and to Headline News just to get some kind of fix. I usually probably only watch them once or twice a year.”

Hjerlied said that “if I want news, I go to Breitbart News and Drudge and I can find all the news I need, very quickly,” and after the first boycott, says he may have “kicked the habit” for good.

“I used to have it on all day long, and I probably watched maybe six hours last week,” he said. “The more I looked at it, I have come to the conclusion that Fox is not as fair and balanced as I thought. They shade the truth also.”

You don't say!!!

Donnie Farner, 48, works as a chimney sweep in central Pennsylvania and runs a website, Proud Conservative, which sells right-leaning memorabilia like “Liberals Are Friggin Idiots” T-shirts and bumper stickers that read “Ten Out of Ten Terrorists Recommend Voting Democrat.”

He said staying away from Fox News, and in particular its website, is harder than he realized.

“It is honestly because Fox is everywhere. If you are on Twitter, you click on a link, chances are it might go through Mediaite or Drudge, but it ends up at Fox because Fox originated the story.”

He quickly clicks away, instead relying on Glenn Beck’s website The Blaze to stay informed.

Oh, yes.  That's much better.

And what's a good Teabagger story without a Hitler reference?

“We need Fox to turn right,” said Hjerlied. “We think this is a cover-up and Fox is aiding and abetting it. This is the way Hitler started taking over Germany, by managing and manipulating the news media.”

HITLER!!!

Gee, it must to be hard to be a crazy rightwinger.

Report From The Conservative Front

From TPM political reporter Benjy Sarlin:

Palin Still Self-Unaware

From her recent Facebook post:

Put a fork in us. We’re finished. We’re going to default eventually and that’s why the feds are stockpiling bullets in case of civil unrest.

Same post – the very next sentence:

If we ARE serious about putting our fiscal house in order, then let’s stop the hysterics…

*Facepalm*

Guns Needed To Protect Us From Sharia Law

Tea Party Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-TX) told a conservative radio show on Thursday that the GOP must oppose gun regulations to protect the country from the threat of “Sharia Law.”

Appearing on The Voice of Freedom, Gohmert said he “hoped and prayed” that Congress rejects gun safety legislation, arguing that Americans may need to use the rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment to avoid succumbing to Muslims:

[The Second Amendment] is for our protection and the founders’ quotes make that very very clear and including against a government that would run amuck.We’ve got some people who think Sharia Law should be the law of the land, forget the Constitution. But the guns are there… to make sure all of the rest of the Amendments are followed.

I have one question for Gomer, uh, Gohmert: Who are these "some people" who think Sharia Law should be the law of the land?

Moron.

Stay Classy, FreedomWorks!

FreedomWorks is the political action commitee supporting tea party candidates.  Right now, there's an internal investigation by its members, who seem to be displeased with some past behavior from its former president, Matt Kibbe.  David Corn of Mother Jones brings us the latest in FreedomWorks creepiness (my emphasis):

FreedomWorks staffers worried last year about a promotional video created ahead of FreePAC, a FreedomWorks conference held on July 26, 2012, where thousands of conservative grassroots activists nearly filled the American Airlines Center in Dallas to hear from tea party favorites, including Glenn Beck and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah). The short film hailing FreedomWorks was intended to play on the large video screens inside the arena.

In one segment of the film, according to a former official who saw it, [FreedomWorks executive vice president Adam] Brandon is seen waking from a nap at his desk. In what appears to be a dream or a nightmare, he wanders down a hallway and spots a giant panda on its knees with its head in the lap of a seated Hillary Clinton and apparently fellating the then-secretary of state. Two female interns at FreedomWorks were recruited to play the panda and Clinton. One intern wore a Hillary Clinton mask. The other wore a giant panda suit that FreedomWorks had used at protests to denounce progressives as panderers.

According to Corn's report, FreedomWorks staffers were "outraged and stunned" when they previewed advance copies of the film. Brandon, who is still with the organization and is the right-hand man to president Matt Kibbe, defended it as being funny and in good taste, but the video was nonetheless shelved.

Violence Against Women Act Is Unfair To Men, Say Conservatives

Of all the astonishingly bad reasons conservatives oppose reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, concern for men is probably the worst. Make that definitely the worst. Via Sahil Kapur at TPM:

Claiming that the reauthorization would expand the definition of domestic violence to include “emotional distress,” Heritage [Action] declared that the “expansive and vague language will increase fraud and false allegations, for which there is no legal recourse.”

“Under VAWA, men effectively lose their constitutional rights to due process, presumption of innocence, equal treatment under the law, the right to a fair trial and to confront one’s accusers, the right to bear arms, and all custody/visitation rights,” the group wrote. “It is unprecedented, unnecessary and dangerous.”

FreedomWorks also worried that the legislation would be unfair to men.

Um, no. No, wrong, incorrect, false, fail, no. There's absolutely nothing in the nearly 20-year-old legislation that deprives anyone of their constitutional rights—not even men who beat the crap out of women. But according to these conservative groups, it's unfair to men that this legislation funds, for example, violence prevention programs, or rape crisis centers. Because if communities are better equipped to reduce violence, well, that's not very fair to the perpetrators of violence, is it? And is it really fair to them that their victims might have a safe place to go after being raped or beaten? Obviously not.

Freedomworks went on to say:

Supporters of the VAWA portray women as helpless victims – this is the kind of attitude that is setting women back.

Oh, I see. The best way to support victims of violence is to tell them to drop that whole helpless victim attitude, defund programs to help them, and make sure our legal system understands that prosecuting rapists and wife-beaters just subverts the whole Constitution so don't bother.

Thanks, Freedomworks.

Michele Bachmann Won’t Pay Staff, So Staff Rats Her Out To The Feds

Michele_bachmann_is_invincible (1)Oh, Michele.  I was worried that, after your embarassing but hilarity-filled run for president, you would fade away into oblivion and no longer light my days with your unique brand of stupidity.

I guess I was worried for nothing.

First, we learned that Bachmann is refusing to pay five staffers unless they sign a nondisclosure agreement that prohibits them them from talking to any reporters or police about any "unethical, immoral, or criminal activity" they may have witnessed during the campaign. And it seems they did witness some, um, questionable activities—including stealing an email list from a home-schooling group.

Then, because leaking that story did not motivate Bachmann to open the checkbook and just pay her damn staff, her especially bitter former field coordinator, Peter Waldron, started dishing the dirt about how Bachmann was basically mind-controlled by her debate coach, whose "Rasputin-like" relationship was so powerful, he even forbade her own husband from sleeping in the same room with her on the trail. Which, as we all know, must have been just devastating for poor Marcus.

In today's episode of why you should probably not refuse to pay staffers who know an awful lot of juicy things about you and your potentially illegal campaign activities:

A top adviser in Michele Bachmann's 2012 White House bid has filed a complaint with federal election officials alleging campaign finance violations involving her presidential campaign and the independent political action committee she leads. […]

Waldron, formerly Bachmann's national field coordinator, is accusing the campaign of improperly dipping into money from MichelePAC to pay longtime fundraising consultant Guy Short for presidential campaign work he performed in the critical final weeks ahead of Iowa's caucuses last year.

Waldron also alleges that the campaign concealed payments to Iowa state campaign chairman Kent Sorenson, a state senator who abruptly left the Bachmann camp to join then-U.S. Rep. Ron Paul's insurgent campaign.

Call me Bachmann-crazy, but I don't think Waldron is going to shut up until he gets a check in his hands.

What We Have To Deal With

Or, more precisely, what Obama has to deal with: the "hell no" caucus.

Meet freshman Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR), one of the newest member of House Speaker John Boehner's caucus, who was singled out and bankrolled by the Club for Growth in his competitive primary, allowing him an easy general election victory in this deeply Republican district.

In an interview in his still-bare office a few hours before being sworn in, Cotton told us he would have voted against both Speaker John Boehner’s “Plan B” tax on millionaires, and the final tax hike that got the country off the fiscal cliff. He vowed to vote against raising the debt limit in two months, absent the sort of massive cuts the president opposes.

… There is zero chance he will vote for any new gun laws. And he sees a need to deal with immigration — but in small steps that avoid granting legal status or citizenship to people here illegally.

To much of the country, Cotton is nothing more than a straight, Southern, white, male, “radical” conservative—a befuddling relic of a fading slice of politics. But in Washington, he is the Republican Congress. Only through understanding lawmakers like him can you understand why the grand bargain collapsed, why raising the debt limit is not a given and why Boehner has vowed to quit for good his private chats with President Barack Obama, and instead invest more power in the Tom Cottons of the world.

It is also the key to understanding the futility of negotiating with and of conceding anything to House Republicans. If Boehner truly has decided that he's throwing his lot in with the nihilists, there's no point in negotiating in the coming fight over the debt ceiling and the delayed sequester. The options for Obama are using the trillion dollar platinum coin or the 14th amendment to avert the debt ceiling, and going over the second fiscal cliff, letting the spending cuts kick in.

Because this is what you're dealing with: Cotton, an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran, thinks that "the evidence is inconclusive" on whether Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11. There's no working with that. The only option is circumventing the House on the big stuff, and in doing so, defeating them.

It's going to be a tough second term.

The Dick Armey Coup At Teabag Central

WTF?

The day after Labor Day, just as campaign season was entering its final frenzy, FreedomWorks, the Washington-based tea party organization, went into free fall.

Richard K. Armey, the group’s chairman and a former House majority leader, walked into the group’s Capitol Hill offices with his wife, Susan, and an aide holstering a handgun at his waist. The aim was to seize control of the group and expel Armey’s enemies: The gun-wielding assistant escorted FreedomWorks’ top two employees off the premises, while Armey suspended several others who broke down in sobs at the news.

The coup lasted all of six days. By Sept. 10, Armey was gone — with a promise of $8 million — and the five ousted employees were back. The force behind their return was Richard J. Stephenson, a reclusive Illinois millionaire who has exerted increasing control over one of Washington’s most influential conservative grass-roots organizations.

Stephenson, the founder of the for-profit Cancer Treatment Centers of America and a director on the FreedomWorks board, agreed to commit $400,000 per year over 20 years in exchange for Armey’s agreement to leave the group.

The episode illustrates the growing role of wealthy donors in swaying the direction of FreedomWorks and other political groups, which increasingly rely on unlimited contributions from corporations and financiers for their financial livelihood. Such gifts are often sent through corporate shells or nonprofit groups that do not have to disclose their donors, making it impossible for the public to know who is funding them.

In the weeks before the election, more than $12 million in donations was funneled through two Tennessee corporations to the FreedomWorks super PAC after negotiations with Stephenson over a preelection gift of the same size, according to three current and former employees with knowledge of the arrangement. The origin of the money has not previously been reported.

Read the whole article, it's just delicious. 

More Racism At The RNC

They’re not just chucking peanuts at black people at the RNC:

An unscripted moment happened late this afternoon that caused the assembled mainstream media to turn away in the hope that it would disappear. As I was standing in line for a sandwich next to an Italian and a Puerto Rican correspondent, a controversy was unfolding on the floor. The RonPaulites, whose furious devotion to a single idea have made them the Ellen Jamesians of the right, were protesting a decision by RNC officials not to seat members of the Maine delegation, which was split between Paul and Romney supporters following rule changes made just prior to the convention. There were energetic shouts of “Aye!” and “Nay!” as a Puerto Rican party functionary—Zoraida Fonalledas, the chairwoman of the Committee on Permanent Organization—took her turn at the main-stage lectern. As she began speaking in her accented English, some in the crowd started shouting “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”

This poor woman.  Watch as her own party shouts "USA!" because she is Puerto Rican.

 

Fox News Latino reported:

A visibly upset Zoraida Fonalledas, Chairwomen of the Committee on Permanent Organization, was greeted by chants of "USA, USA, USA" when RNC Chairman Reince Priebus introduced her to the convention crowd. The chants kept coming until Priebus stepped back up to the podium and told the delegates to let Fonalledas take care of her business. Just a little bit awkward.

Tennessee Tea Party Wants To Whitewash History

At a press conference, two dozen Tea Party activists presented their proposals — I’m sorry, their “demands” — for the new state legislative session. Among them are sweeping changes to school materials. Like this:

The material calls for lawmakers to amend state laws governing school curriculums, and for textbook selection criteria to say that “No portrayal of minority experience in the history which actually occurred shall obscure the experience or contributions of the Founding Fathers, or the majority of citizens, including those who reached positions of leadership.”

Fayette County attorney Hal Rounds, the group’s lead spokesman during the news conference, said the group wants to address “an awful lot of made-up criticism about, for instance, the founders intruding on the Indians or having slaves or being hypocrites in one way or another.”

Um…. okay.  But the founders DID, uh, "intrude" on the Indians (to say the least), and they DID own slaves, while at the same time signing (or writing) documents that "all men are created equal".  

Short Takes

*  Britney Spears – who used to be famous – is engaged.  Uh, to be married.  Uh, again.  She's 16 years old still.

* Naughty Republicans — the mayor of Grandaven, Mississippi for 14 years — a guy named Greg Davis — re-ran for mayor in 2008 on a family values platform.  You know where this is going, right?  He's in trouble now for using thousands of dollars of taxpayer money on liquor, expensive dinners at a local restaurant, and a visit to an adult store catering to gay men.  The latter revelation forced him to admit that he is gay.

* Naughty Tebaggers – Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark Meckler was taken into custody Thursday morning after he tried to check in for a Delta flight to Detroit with a locked gun box containing a Glock pistol and 19 cartridges of ammunition, Queens prosecutors said. [CBS News]

*  The Florida Family Association can suck it.  Seriously.  The new show on TLC, called American Muslim, portrays Muslims in America as normal everyday Americans with normal everyday American problems.  The Florida Family Association objects to the show… because it portrays Muslims in America as normal everyday Americans with normal everyday American problems.  Apparently, you can now protest stuff because it ain't bigotted enough for you.  Oh, and screw you Loew's.

*  Every once in a while, Congress will do something good — like ban traditional incandescent light bulbs (which are inefficient and hurt the environment).  Unfortunately, the good die young.

OWS vs Tea Party

Fun infographic (click to enlarge).  I think it oversimplifies both movements, and adds to the notion that they are competing movements (in my view, the two movements overlap in many important respects), but it's still interesting:

OWS_teaparty

Occupy Wall Street versus The Tea Party

Favorable Opinion of Tea Party: 27%

Favorable Opinion of Occupy Wall Street:  54%

National Poll by Time magazine

And when you factor in disfavorability, the Occupy Wall Street folks have a huge net positive, compared to the tea party.

OWS-v.-Tea-Party-poll_web_graphic

Oddly, there are reports that Tea Party organizations are trying to distance themselves from the Occupy Wall Street movement:

“The left is trying to create a counter force to the tea party, but it’s almost laughable that anyone is comparing the two, because they’re totally different,” said Sal Russo, chief strategist for the Tea Party Express.

But the two movements are not opposite:

“We’re both populist movements, but this is not an answer to the tea party,” asserted Kevin Zeese, an organizer of an anti-war group that has affiliated itself with the Occupy D.C. protests. “This has nothing to do with the tea party. We welcome them to come participate if they share our anger about economic insecurity.”

Meanwhile, Reuters has a new story that breathlessly concludes that George Soros is behind the entire #OccupyWallStreet venture because – wait for it – some kid saw a poster in a cafe criticizing Wall Street, the poster was made by a small group of arch-liberals in Canada, the arch-liberals in Canada receive a small amount of their funding (less than 5%) from the Tides foundation, and the Tides foundation receives some of their funding from George Soros.

Seriously, read the Reuters article.  The "connection" between Soros and OWS is that tenuous.

Is Occupy Wall Street the Antithesis of the Tea Party?

A lot of comparisons are being made between these two movements.  And if one were to watch the media, it certainly looks like the fault lines are drawn, i.e.,:

Tea Party = loved by Fox News = conservative
Occupy Wall Street = treated with disdain by Fox News = liberal 

But some are noting that the OSW movement really isn't hippies in a drum circle with union guys giving speeches.  It seems to hae drawn libertarians as well.

But why?

Here's why:

What’s wrong's with the country?  The unity of government and corporate power against people’s freedom and prosperity.

That's a message that both movements can rally behind.

Teabaggers To The Rescue!

Problem:  Texas wildfires!

Is It Serious?:  The worst in Texas history.  The wildfires, which can now be observed from space, move incredibly fast, as this video from the Texas Park & Wildlife people shows:

 

Have these fires been around for a while?  Oh yes, this is wildfire season – it's been going on for months.

But thank God for the TEABAGGERS TO THE RESCUE:

(Reuters) – Texas lawmakers are set to slash funding for the agency responsible for fighting wildfires in the midst of a historic wildfire season in which some 2.5 million acres have burned.

The Texas Forest Service faces almost $34 million in budget cuts over the next two years, roughly a third of the agency's total budget. The cuts are in both the House and Senate versions of the proposed state budget.

The Forest Service has about 200 firefighters and offers assistance grants to volunteer fire departments. Assistance grants are likely to take the biggest hit.

I swear to God… these people are so anti-government they're all going to end up dead.