By: Richard Cohen, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, February 27, 2012
When prominent members of Congress are considering retirement, there’s nearly always some kind of hint in advance of the announcement. Maybe they stop raising money; perhaps they’re slow to put a campaign organization together; maybe key staffers are seen moving to new jobs elsewhere; something.
But with Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) of Maine, all of the evidence pointed in the other direction. Not only were there no hints about a pending departure, the Republican senator gave every indication of seeking another term, even moving considerably to the right.
It’s what made Snowe’s retirement announcement late yesterday such a stunning surprise.
“As I enter a new chapter, I see a vital need for the political center in order for our democracy to flourish and to find solutions that unite rather than divide us. It is time for change in the way we govern, and I believe there are unique opportunities to build support for that change from outside the United States Senate. I intend to help give voice to my fellow citizens who believe, as I do, that we must return to an era of civility in government driven by a common purpose to fulfill the promise that is unique to America.”
There are a few angles to a story like this. First, in terms of the electoral consequences, Snowe’s announcement is a brutal setback for Republican plans to retake the Senate majority next year. As Steve Kornacki explained, “With Snowe in it, Democrats had virtually no chance of winning the Maine Senate race this year. Now they are likely to do so, given the state’s partisan bent.”
Second, I can’t help but wonder how much Snowe regrets her shift to the right, taking positions she never would have adopted earlier in her career.
Consider just the last few months. In October, she partnered with a right-wing Alabama senator to push a plan to make the legislative process even more difficult. A week earlier, she demanded the administration act with “urgency” to address the jobs crisis, only to filibuster a popular jobs bill a day later. The week before that, Snowe prioritized tax cuts for millionaires over job creation. Shortly before that, Snowe tried to argue that government spending is “clearly … the problem” when it comes to the nation’s finances, which is a popular line among conservatives, despite being completely wrong.
There can be little doubt that Snowe has been Congress’ most moderate Republican for the last several years, but that doesn’t change the fact that as her party moved sharply to the right, she moved with it. Indeed, no matter how extreme the GOP became in recent years, Snowe simply kept her head down, going along with the crowd. When David Brooks complains about “Opossum Republicans,” he might as well have been referring to the senior senator from Maine.
And third, there’s the mystery surrounding what, exactly, led to yesterday’s announcement.
Snowe’s retirement wasn’t just a surprise; it’s practically bizarre. After three terms in the Senate, and giving every indication of seeking re-election, Olympia Snowe waited until two weeks before Maine’s filing deadline to bow out, and didn’t even tell her staff until yesterday afternoon. It all happened so quickly, the senator’s office hasn’t even posted her announcement online yet.
The news doesn’t appear to have been planned at all.
What’s more, Snowe’s statement is a little cryptic. Instead of the obligatory “spend more time with my family” rhetoric, the senator references “unique opportunities … outside the United States Senate.” What opportunities? She didn’t say.
Jon Chait’s theory may sound silly, but it’s a strange year and ideas that may seem foolish at first blush probably shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.
This sounds exactly like the kind of rhetoric emanating from Americans Elect, the third-party group that believes that both parties should put aside partisanship and come together to enact an ever-so-slightly more conservative version of Barack Obama’s agenda. Moderate retiring senators often deliver lofty, vacuous paeans to bipartisanship on their way to a lucrative lobbying career. But Snowe’s statement seems unusually specific (“unique opportunities to build support for that change from outside the United States Senate”) about her intent to do something.
This strikes me as unlikely, but I guess it’s something to keep an eye on.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 29, 2012
We all know that homosexuals are big on indoctrinating our children and pushing their agenda. But in their favor, did you also know they’re incapable of committing domestic violence? It’s true! Just ask South Dakota.
In a political statement that basically says, “La la la, I can’t hear you so you don’t exist,” the state’s House on Tuesday approved a bill to revise the South Dakota’s definition of domestic abuse — and to conspicuously exclude the same-sex variety. Of course, it’s not just the Gays who are today magically rendered incapable of domestic abuse. Siblings, roommates – you’re all in the clear now.
You can thank Republican Rep. Mark Venner for clarification. He’s the guy who voted in favor of Bible study in the public schools last month. And it passed. He has also supported drug testing for welfare recipients, the regulation of registered midwives and – wait for it — rules requiring pre-abortion counseling and a waiting period. Little wonder he’s the one who moved to revise the “legal definition of the term, domestic abuse” so that on the bill, the words “relationship,” “partners” or “intimate relationship” would be followed with “with a person of the opposite sex.” A majority of his peers agreed.
Forget that the American Bar Association says that same-sex cohabitants report more domestic abuse than their straight counterparts. Or that the Gay Men’s Domestic Violence Project says that one in four gay men will experience abuse. And thanks, Venner, for understanding that just like marriage itself, domestic violence is something that God intended to occur between strictly a man and a woman.
By: Mary Elizabeth Williams, Salon, February 29, 2012
Let’s take a trip back to 1992. Then-Gov. Bill Clinton, in his campaign manifesto, said: “Middle-class taxpayers will have a choice between a children’s tax credit or a significant reduction in their income tax rate.”
By February 1993, President Clinton’s position on a middle class tax cut had morphed into this:
Before I ask the middle class to pay, I’m going to ask the wealthiest Americans and companies, who made money in the ’80s and had their taxes cut, to pay their fair share. And I’m going to cut more government spending. But I cannot tell you that I won’t ask you to make any contribution to the changes we have to make.
To justify the reversal, Clinton cited a budget deficit that was $50 billion larger than what he thought it was before the election. Fast forward to today.
Former Gov. Mitt Romney has pledged to cut income tax rates by 20 percent for every American, not just the middle class. He has also embraced Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare reform plan, which would convert the program from a defined benefit to a defined contribution scheme.
Romney emerges from Michigan committed not only to the Ryan plan, but also to a 20 percent cut in tax rates, above and beyond his prior commitment to making the Bush tax cuts permanent. …That’s not the race I’m sure Romney intended to run. But it will be hard to change now.
Yes, hard to change now—and impossible to realize once in office.
Such deficit-exploding tax cuts will never become law. Romney—a sane man—already knows this. There will be no need for Clintonian “evolution.” And, especially if the Senate remains under Democratic control, the odds for which increased with Sen. Olympia Snowe’s surprise retirement announcement, the Ryan plan stands little chance of even reaching President Romney’s desk.
To review: Mitt Romney has set himself up to (ahem) severely disappoint conservatives who already suspect his ideological convictions.
As I see it, Romney could blunt this backlash-in-the-making by picking up the pieces of last year’s aborted Grand Bargain. There is a solid left-right consensus on raising badly-needed federal revenue by reigning in the billions we spend through the tax code. Pair reduction in tax expenditures with modest entitlement reforms and you can see at least the lineaments of restored budget sanity.
This is probably the best outcome our political system can manage these days.
The question is, as president, would Mitt Romney be able to sell it to conservatives who don’t trust him?
By: Scott Galupo, U. S. News and World Report, February 29, 2012
Mullah Rick has spoken.
He wants religion returned to “the public square,” is opposed to contraception, premarital sex and abortion under any circumstances, wants children educated in what amounts to little red schoolhouses and called President Obama a “snob” for extolling college or some other kind of post-high school education. This is not a political platform. It’s a fatwa.
But that’s not all. On the Sunday shows he even lit into John F. Kennedy’s famous 1960 speech to Protestant ministers in Houston, in which he called for the strict separation of church and state. Santorum said the speech sickened him.
“What kind of country do we live in that says only people of non-faith can come into the public square and make their case?” Santorum asked George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week.” “That makes me throw up.”
Earlier, he said, “I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute,” not noticing that he was speaking from what amounts to the public square.
Kennedy’s speech is actually a sad document, a necessary attempt to combat the bigoted and ignorant notion that a Catholic president might take orders from the Vatican. He told the ministers in attendance that he believed “in a president whose views on religion are his own private affair, neither imposed upon him by the nation, nor imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.”
Oddly, the assurances that Kennedy offered that day are ones that I would like to hear from Santorum. He, too, is a Catholic, although not of the Kennedy variety. Santorum is severe and unamusing about his faith, and that is his prerogative. But he has shoved his beliefs in our faces, leaving no doubt that his presidency would be informed by his extremely conservative Catholicism. Santorum’s views are too conservative even for most Catholics.
This is a perilous and divisive approach. We have all of world history to warn us about what happens when religion takes too prominent a role. The public square gets used for beheadings and the like. While that is not likely to happen now — zoning rules and such forbid it — we do know that layering religion over politics is dangerous. Santorum cannot impose — and should not argue — that his political beliefs come from God. That closes all debate and often infuriates those who differ.
This belief that religion has been banished from public discussion is a conservative trope without foundation. New York City is now recovering from a frenzy of celebratory publicity regarding the elevation of Timothy Dolan to cardinal. We have applauded the feats of Tim Tebow, the so-called praying quarterback, who seems unintimidated in publicly expressing his religious convictions. And, of course, we have the prattling of Newt Gingrich, who believes in belief and believes you and I ain’t got any — certainly not if we vote Democratic. As any European can attest, the American public square is soaked in religion or religion-speak.
Santorum’s views on the place of religion and his quaint ideas about education are so anachronistic they would be laughable. But whenever I start to giggle a bit, I find that some absurd statement resonates with Republican primary voters. On the other hand, when Rick Perry said it was fine to help the children of undocumented immigrants go to college, he got pilloried for it. When Gingrich balked at deporting literally millions of people, he was excoriated. Every time some Republican says something sensible, the roof falls in on him.
But for nutty ideas, Santorum is a one-man band. His intellectually abhorrent defense of what might be called blue-collar culture — no education past high school — is a prescription for failure. What he calls their “desires and dreams” is a sucker’s game: Welcome to an economy that can provide few, if any, jobs for the minimally educated. And his jibe at Obama for wanting to do something about it is not politics as usual — it’s just plain irresponsible.
Rick Santorum is not, as some would have it, the Republican Party’s problem. The GOP is half the political equation, and so its inability to offer candidates of sound views and judgments is everyone’s problem. We have to vote for someone after all. But when I mull Santorum’s views on contraception, the role of women, the proper place for religion and what he thinks about education, I think he’s either running for president of the wrong country or marooned in the wrong century. The man is lost.
So Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, Barack Obama, and a whole bunch of other people in politics want to be president.
What a bunch of snobs.
That is, of course, if we use Santorum’s definition, which seems oddly to equate the quest for success with snobbery. Santorum called Obama a “snob” for encouraging young people to go to college, which is pretty much the opposite of what most parents say to their kids. It’s especially odd when we consider that Santorum has his MBA and law degree, and is encouraging his own children to go to college. And as for Santorum’s claim that all Obama wants is for young people to be recreated in his image by liberal college professors ready to indoctrinate them, is that how Santorum explains Harvard Law and Business grad Romney? With an estimated wealth of $250 million and a wife who, the candidate disclosed recently drives “a couple of Cadillacs,” Romney’s not exactly from the ‘hood.
Snobbery isn’t defined by inclusion. It’s defined by willful exclusion. Wanting more people to attend college isn’t snobbery; it’s advocating a route that statistically puts the individual in a place of higher wealth and lower unemployment. Refusing to talk to someone at the PTA meeting who didn’t go to college is snobbery. Refusing to associate with people simply because they don’t have money or fancy cars is snobbery. It may be more than that, of course. It may just be that people tend to hang around people from similar backgrounds. But encouraging someone to seek higher education isn’t snobbery at all. It’s the opposite.
Santorum is correct if he was saying that four-year colleges aren’t for everyone. Not everyone has the interest or the intellect to attend such institutions, and the world indeed needs laborers, artists, performers, and technicians who can do their work well with other kinds of training. Community colleges in particular provide critical education for people not suited to four-year school, and they have the added advantage of training people for jobs that for the most part can’t be outsourced. As Rep. Barney Frank once astutely observed, “You can’t stick a needle in somebody’s ass from Mumbai.”
But what’s really happening on the campaign trail is the tired and unbelievably hypocritical effort to seek the snobbiest job in America by demonizing parts of the electorate as “snobs.” And where does the concern for the non-snobby among us go after the campaign? Candidates may tout the value of “Joe The Plumber,” but they let guys like ”Sheldon The Las Vegas Casino Billionaire” bankroll their campaign through unlimited super PAC donations. All the candidates have at least one million-dollar donor helping out. Santorum, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports, just got $1 million from Louisiana businessman William Dore; Foster Friess has also been dumping cash into the Red, White and Blue Fund for the former Pennsylvania senator. If Santorum wins the White House, who will guide his decisions—Joe the Unsnobby, or the billionaires who paid for his campaign?
By: Susan Milligan, U. S. News and World Report, February 28, 2012