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“No Nutritional Value”: A Farewell To Newt

It’s not easy letting him go. Not easy at all. Sort of like swearing off bedtime Ben & Jerry’s: there’s valor and the promise of self-improvement in the sacrifice, but also the sad awareness that the world just got a little less naughty. A little less fun.

No matter. It’s time to cut Newt out of our diets.

He has no nutritional value, certainly not at this point, as he peddles his ludicrous guarantee of $2.50-a-gallon gasoline, a promise that would be made only by someone with his own bottomless strategic reserve of crude. Doubly oily entendre intended.

There were calls for him to desist two weeks ago, after he lost Alabama, which abuts his home state of Georgia. But they fell on a deaf Newt.

There were fresh appeals last week, when he failed to wring even one measly delegate from Illinois on Tuesday and then Louisiana on Saturday. But Newt doesn’t need anything as prosaic as delegates, so long as there’s still pocket lint from Sheldon Adelson and the warmth of Callista’s frozen smile.

If he refuses to quit, we in the news media must quit him. Starve him of his very sustenance: attention. Exert a kind of willpower that we’ve lacked in this primary, which we turned into too much of a circus by encouraging too many clowns.

We’ve begun. As the weekend came to a close, The Times’s Trip Gabriel reported that Gingrich’s “full-time traveling press corps is down to a handful of embedded television reporters.” The Associated Press, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and even Politico had packed up their bags. I envision Newt as a larger, grayer, windier version of the little boy at the end of “Shane,” watching the last of these stubborn scribes recede into the horizon, begging them for one last sweet tweet, promising a tasty sound bite about Trayvon Martin or Robert De Niro or … “The Hunger Games!” There must be some harbinger of cultural decline to rail about there! Do “Hunger Games” contestants use food stamps? Those are always good for a diatribe or three.

I implore Fox News to pull up its drawbridge, CNN to bolt its doors. If a Newt falls in the forest and not a single news anchor listens, can he really hang around?

He says he’s propelled by a desire to promote “big ideas,” but his candidacy has devolved into ever smaller talk and ever more desperate sideshows that drag an already undistinguished debate ever lower. Late last week he actually resurrected the Obama-as-Muslim bile, saying the president’s policies raise legitimate suspicion in voters’ minds.

In truth Newt 2012 has never been a lofty enterprise. Although he loves to tout his intellectualism, he got what brief traction he did for visceral and theatrical reasons, with fits of rage and flights of fancy.

He took off when he lashed out at “the elites,” pretending not to be one of them. He soared when he savaged the news media. He rocketed to a colony on the moon.

And he illustrated a dynamic that will survive this campaign season and that we should all think about: how much the profusion of cable channels, Web outlets, other news platforms and commentary of all kinds (including this column) rewards flamboyance, histrionics and a crowded field. A brash candidate is never more than a bellow away from three minutes of air time or two paragraphs somewhere. The beast is ravenous, and I don’t mean Newt.

Yes, the serial surges of the Republican contest since August had grounding in a fickle electorate and changeable polls. But we eagerly abetted them. En route to our beige destiny of Mitt, we craved color. And showcased it.

Newt is one of the few surviving peacocks, especially if you discount Ron Paul, who’s less peacock than emaciated ostrich — never airborne, head in the sand — and so consistently discounted that no one even bothers to implore him to fold his tent. No one can remember that he pitched one.

It’s time to forget Newt as well. His delegate count is closer to Paul’s than to Rick Santorum’s. His strategy — a generous noun — hinges on a replay of the 1920 Republican convention, which picked Warren G. Harding on the 10th ballot.

The 10th ballot? That’d really send the Republican nominee into the general election with a head of steam. I can see the bumper stickers now. Newt: Battle ready. Ballot hardened.

Great politicians are memorialized with holidays, monuments, libraries. For Newt I think an ice cream flavor is in order, something in the clogged vein of Chubby Hubby or Chunky Monkey, although not so physique-focused. Nutty Professor is too obvious a suggestion, though it opens the door to pralines, aptly Southern.

Maybe Peaches ’n’ Scream? That would honor the state he comes from while acknowledging the state he’s been in — unsubtle, overwrought. Not qualifying for the Virginia primary was a blow akin to Pearl Harbor. The Palestinians are “an invented” people.

Newt is empty calories. A pointless pint of them.

 

By: Frank Bruni, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, March 26, 2012

March 27, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Matter Of Basic Values”: Burden Of Proof In The Battle Over Voting Rights

One of the most predictable characteristics of the battle over voting rights in this country, which now largely centers on Republican efforts in a number of states to institute various photo ID requirements, is a very different take on the burden of proof. Again and again, progressives point to the signal lack of evidence of any “voter fraud” problem anywhere. In Texas, the state that has filed suit to strike down the entire preclearance procedure of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 because the Justice Department refused to preclear its new photo ID law, there have been during the last two election cycles a grand total of four allegations made to the Attorney General’s office of people ineligible to vote impersonating qualified voters. As Think Progress’ Josh Israel notes, these are pretty damning statistics:

Though [Gov. Rick] Perry has claimed Texas has endured “multiple cases” of voter fraud, even of the paltry 20 election law violation allegations the state’s attorney general handled in the 2008 and 2010 elections, most related to mail-in ballot or campaign finance violations, electioneering too close to a polling place, and a voter blocked by an election worker.

It is unclear how many Texans attempt to illegally check out library books while impersonating neighbors or dead people, each year. But in a state of more than 25 million people, the odds of being even accused of voter impersonation in the Lone Star State are less than one in 6,250,000.

Conservatives typically ignore these numbers and instead of answering “why” new and burdensome voting requirements need to be instituted, ask “why not,” comparing proposed voting hurdles to the identification often demanded for various legal or commercial transactions, or more indirectly, asking why honest people would object to verification of their identities? Others rely on public opinion polls to “prove” the reasonableness of voter ID laws, a particularly shaky argument for conservatives who in other contexts believe unnecessary regulations and mandates are intolerable regardless of public support for their purposes.

Aside from the obvious fact that people in both parties understand these requirements would have a disproportionate impact on people more likely to vote Democratic, this kind of dispute often misses the rather obvious point that many conservatives do not view participation in elections as a fundamental right of citizenship. Occasionally they even admit it, but more often that conviction is simply reflected in how the question of “voter fraud versus voting rights” is framed. Anyone viewing the right to vote as fundamental is most unlikely to support burdens placed upon it without a compelling case to show the burden is necessary. “It wouldn’t hurt you” arguments or comparisons to other transactions that do not involve the exercise of fundamental rights are irrelevant.

No wonder a growing number of conservatives favor repeal of the Voting Rights Act altogether. The reasoning is closely parallel to the now-common-place argument on the Right that the discrimination against people of color is largely a thing of the past, and that exceptional government efforts to fight such discrimination amount to a racist effort to discriminate against white people. If that’s the case, then “why not” make access to the ballot just like any other public service, many of which are conditional on compliance with all sorts of rules?

So while the debate over voting in this country often sounds like a competition of people with competing views of the facts, it’s really not: it’s a matter of basic values, and of the burden of proof borne by those who support or oppose a right to vote.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, March 26, 2012

March 27, 2012 Posted by | Civil Rights, Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Denied The Right To Vote”: Texas Had ‘Fewer Than Five’ Voter Impersonation Cases Over Three Years

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Justice blocked a new Texas state law that would institute strict photo identification requirements for all citizens trying to vote. The DOJ refused to grant the law pre-clearance under the Voting Rights Act, noting that the bill would unfairly disenfranchise Hispanic voters.

Supporters of the bill say the law is needed to prevent voter impersonation. Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) argued:

Texas has a responsibility to ensure elections are fair, beyond reproach and accurately reflect the will of voters. The DOJ has no valid reason for rejecting this important law, which requires nothing more extensive than the type of photo identification necessary to receive a library card or board an airplane. Their denial is yet another example of the Obama administration’s continuing and pervasive federal overreach.

How big has the problem been? According to the San Antonio Express-News:

Fewer than five “illegal voting” complaints involving voter impersonations were filed with the Texas Attorney General’s Office from the 2008 and 2010 general elections in which more than 13 million voters participated.

The Texas attorney general’s office did not give the outcome of the four illegal voting complaints that were filed. Only one remains pending, according to agency records.

And as ThinkProgress Justice previously reported, more people than that have been denied their right to vote due to these sorts of strict voter ID laws.

Though Perry has claimed Texas has endured “multiple cases” of voter fraud, even of the paltry 20 election law violation allegations the state’s attorney general handled in the 2008 and 2010 elections, most related to mail-in ballot or campaign finance violations, electioneering too close to a polling place, and a voter blocked by an election worker.

It is unclear how many Texans attempt to illegally check out library books while impersonating neighbors or dead people, each year. But in a state of more than 25 million people, the odds of being even accused of voter impersonation in the Lone Star State are less than one in 6,250,000.

 

By: Josh Israel, Think Progress, March 26, 2012

March 27, 2012 Posted by | Civil Rights, Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“In Text And History”: Founding Fathers Would Approve Of National Healthcare Policy

Our Constitution’s text and history demonstrate that the national healthcare crisis—in which tens of millions of Americans lack access to quality, affordable care—is the sort of national problem that the framers of our founding charter wanted the federal government to have the power to solve.

Our Constitution was drafted in 1787 “in Order to form a more perfect Union”—both more perfect than the British tyranny against which the Founding generation had revolted and more perfect than the flawed Articles of Confederation under which Americans had lived for a decade since declaring independence. George Washington and the other delegates to the Constitutional Convention shared a conviction that the Constitution must establish a national government of substantial power, in contrast to the extremely weak central government of the Articles, which was so dysfunctional that Washington thought it nearly cost us victory in the Revolutionary War. (George Washington was also apparently fine with government mandates—he signed into law the 1792 Militia Act, which required young men to outfit themselves with a musket, knapsack, and, in some cases, a serviceable horse.)

Under our enduring Constitution, Congress has the express constitutional authority to regulate interstate commerce—the healthcare industry comprises nearly 20 percent of our nation’s economy—and tax and spend for the general welfare, as well as the broad power to pass laws that help execute these specific grants of authority.

Given the Constitution’s grant of significant authority to the federal government to act in the interests of the country as a whole, it is no surprise that a majority of the lower court judges who have ruled on the healthcare law have upheld it, including prominent conservative judges. Reagan-appointee Judge Laurence Silberman on the D.C. federal appeals court explained that the attacks on the law have no support “in either the text of the Constitution or Supreme Court precedent.” Another conservative appeals court judge, Jeffrey S. Sutton—who clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia—explained that whether you think the law is good policy or not, it clearly passes constitutional muster.

If the Supreme Court Justices are faithful to the Constitution’s text and history, principles of federalism, and precedent—including decisions authored or joined by some of the current conservative Justices—the Court should conclude the healthcare law is constitutional.

 

By: Elizabeth Wydra, U. S. News and World Report, March 26, 2012

March 27, 2012 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Constitution | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Power To Regulate Commerce”: Constitution, Court’s Precedent On Affordable Care Act’s Side

In the words of Judge Laurence Silberman, a leading conservative who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush, the lawsuits challenging the Affordable Care Act have no basis “in either the text of the Constitution or Supreme Court precedent.” And Silberman is right. The Constitution gives the United States power to “regulate commerce … among the several states,” and there is simply no question that a law which regulates one sixth of the nation’s economy regulates the nation’s commerce.

This not a particularly new idea. As Chief Justice John Marshall put it nearly two centuries ago, there is “no sort of trade” that the words “regulate Commerce” do not apply to, and these words give the United States “full power over the thing to be regulated.” The Affordable Care Act regulates trade in healthcare services, and thus America has the full power to regulate this important market.

In challenging the Affordable Care Act, the law’s opponents seek an unprecedented expansion of judicial power that would eradicate all limits on what the nine unelected judges on the Supreme Court can do. Because their entire legal argument has no basis in the Constitution itself, it eliminates any bounds on what judges can do to impose their will on the American people. If judges are free to ignore the Constitution just this once, they can do it whenever they want, and there will no longer be any limits whatsoever on judicial discretion.

In other words, if judges have the power to strike down the individual mandate, there is nothing preventing the Supreme Court from forcing you to eat broccoli.

 

By: Ian Millhiser, U. S. News and World Report, March 26, 2012

March 27, 2012 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Constitution | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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