On Sunday’s “Meet the Press” Chuck Todd, a journalist I respect, asked an interesting, but odd, question of Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood: “Should you be in the politics business?”
This is a circular argument: Planned Parenthood has been in the politics business since it opened its doors. Female sexuality, and the control thereof, has always been inherently political. The term “sexual revolution” is not an abstract concept – the introduction of the pill 50 years ago was what marked the full entry of American women into the workforce. The pill is credited with a third of the increase in wages for American women.
There is nothing more physically and economically determinative to a woman than deciding if or when to have children, a decision to which Planned Parenthood has made an enormous contribution for millions of us.
This is why social conservatives continue to attack not just abortion, but contraception – if you’re against abortion and contraception, it’s not just about abortion. And it’s why Planned Parenthood has become a talisman to the right, a symbol of what they fear most – women controlling their own reproductive destiny. Two-thirds of the 1 million abortions in this country are done by private practitioners other than Planned Parenthood, but there are no mass protests and bloody fetus pictures outside their offices.
Why? Because Ruth Bader Ginsburg is right – the right’s War on Women is fundamentally a war on poor women. Two-thirds of women who have an abortion already have a child, and the overwhelming reason cited for the procedure is that they can’t afford another one. There’s a reason the original Roe plaintiff, Norma McCorvey, was working class. Rich women could get abortions before Roe, and they will if the Supreme Court overturns it next spring – which is possible, since the court has taken up the Texas abortion restrictions.
Historically, fights over female autonomy are hardly unique to either our country or even our millennia. Sex and power for women have always been intertwined and an object of fascination, fear and political manipulation for men.
Anne Boleyn was executed by Henry VIII for accusations of infidelity – and not producing a son, as were many royal wives, never mind that the man determines the sex of the child. Her daughter Elizabeth I, arguably Britain’s greatest monarch, was the Virgin Queen, precisely because once she married and surrendered her sexuality to a man it diminished her imperium.
So what it comes down to, again, is that this is about power. House Republicans are creating a Planned Parenthood investigative “committee” to weaken political opponents and catalyze their base, the same way they set up the Benghazi “committee” to weaken Hillary Clinton and fire up conservatives.
And in the states, right-wing Republicans are attacking Planned Parenthood with every political means at their disposal, including electing retrograde state legislatures that in turn enact horrific, humiliating laws designed to slut-shame women out of having abortions and restrict access to contraception.
What angers conservatives about Planned Parenthood isn’t just what they do – contraception, reproductive health care and, yes, abortions. It’s how the organization does it – without judgment or shame – and the result it produces: women in control of their own bodies, both physically and politically.
By: Laura K. Chapin, U. S. News and World Report, October 6, 2015
“A Flagrant Liar For President?”: Darling Fiorina Is Not Only A Relentless Self-Promoter, But Also A Remorseless Liar
We’ve got a new darling in the GOP presidential race: Carly Fiorina!
Being the darling du jour, however, can be dicey — just ask Rick Perry and Scott Walker, two former darlings who are now out of the race, having turned into ugly ducklings by saying stupid things. But Fiorina is smart, sharp witted, and successful. We know this because she and her PR agents constantly tell us it’s so. Be careful about believing anything she says, though, for Darling Fiorina is not only a relentless self-promoter, but also a remorseless liar.
Take her widely hailed performance in the second debate among Republican wannabes, where she touched many viewers with her impassioned and vivid attack on Planned Parenthood. With barely contained outrage, Fiorina described a video that, she said, shows the women’s health organization in a depraved act of peddling body parts of an aborted fetus. “Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking,” said a stone-faced Fiorina, looking straight into the camera, “while someone says, ‘We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.’”
Oh, the horror, the monstrosity of Planned Parenthood! And how moving it was to see and feel the fury of this candidate for president!
Only … it’s not true. Although she dared the audience, President Obama and Hillary Clinton to go watch it, turns out that there is no such video — no fetus with kicking legs and no demonic Planned Parenthood official luridly preparing to harvest a brain.
So did Fiorina make up this big, nasty lie herself, or did her PR team concoct it as a bit of showbiz drama to burnish her right-wing credentials and advance her political ambition? Or maybe she’s just spreading a malicious lie she was told by some vicious haters of Planned Parenthood. Either way, there’s nothing darling about it, much less presidential.
I remember back in 1992 when the third-party candidate Ross Perot chose Admiral James Stockdale, a complete unknown, to be his presidential running mate. In his first debate, the vice presidential candidate began by asking a question: “Who am I? Why am I here?”
We should be asking the same about Carly, as she has recently surged in the polls of GOP primary voters. Her campaign is positioning her as a no-nonsense, successful corporate chieftain who can run government with businesslike efficiency. During the debate, Fiorina rattled off a list of her accomplishments as CEO of Hewlett-Packard, the high-tech conglomerate: “We doubled the size of the company, we quadrupled its topline growth rate, we quadrupled its cash flow, we tripled its rate of innovation,” she declared in PowerPoint style.
Statistics, however, can be a sophisticated way of lying. In fact, the growth she bragged about was mostly the result of her buying Compaq, another computer giant in a merger that proved to be disastrous — in fact, Hewlett-Packard’s profits declined 40 percent in her six years, its stock prices plummeted and she fired 30,000 workers, even saying publicly that their jobs should be shipped overseas. Finally, she was fired.
Before we accept her claim that “running government like a business” would be a positive, note that the narcissistic corporate culture richly rewarded Fiorina for failure. Yes, she was fired, but unlike the thousands of HP employees she dumped, a golden parachute was provided to let her land in luxury — counting severance pay, stock options, and pension, she was given $42 million to go away.
But here she comes again, lacking even one iota of humility. Fiorina is throwing out a blizzard of lies, not only about Planned Parenthood, but also about who she is. She’s the personification of corporate greed and economic inequality, and she’s trying to bamboozle Republicans into thinking she belongs in the White House.
By: Jim Hightower, The National Memo, October 7, 2015
“Lapdog Role”: Benghazi, Emails, Planned Parenthood; How D.C. Press Keeps Enabling The GOP’s Orchestrated Distractions
Within the span of just twelve hours this week, multiple Republican-sponsored political pursuits partially unraveled in plain sight.
The long-running investigations were the Benghazi select committee and the related probe into Hillary Clinton’s private emails, and Republicans’ crusade targeting Planned Parenthood. Journalists would be wise to take note of the pattern of plain deception and ask themselves if they want to keep sponsoring these planned distractions.
The first to crumble was the right-wing smear campaign against Planned Parenthood, which was launched this summer and sponsored by Fox News and the Republican Party. Creating a whirlwind of controversy and endless media attention, the undercover sting operation by anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress was even elevated by some to be pressing enough to shut down the federal government.
Tuesday’s Congressional hearing about defunding Planned Parenthood was to be the centerpiece of the right wing’s orchestrated attack campaign. The problem was that in recent weeks we’ve learned the gotcha videos at the center of the campaign were deceptively edited. And so far six statewide investigations have found no wrongdoing on the part of Planned Parenthood. That meant the Congressional production was likely destined for failure.
“The entire hearing was premised on a series of mischaracterizations,” reported The New Yorker. Republicans were left with little but bouts of bullying in an effort to intimidate Planned Parenthood chief Cecile Richards as she testified.
It didn’t work. So after ten weeks, the sustained attack against Planned Parenthood produced no tangible evidence of wrongdoing and no serious damage to the organization. (Of course, despite their failures so far, Republicans are now reportedly considering creating “a special panel to investigate Planned Parenthood.”)
Then just hours after the hearing completed, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who’s now in line to become the next Republican Speaker of the House, brazenly bragged on Sean Hannity’s Fox program about how the Benghazi select committee was responsible for damaging Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. To which Hannity responded, “That’s something good, I give you credit for that.”
With one brief Fox appearance, McCarthy laid bare the facts about both the never-ending Benghazi investigation and the related, still-churning email witch hunt: They’re both built on politics, plain and simple. The Republicans created a Benghazi select committee in order to try to take out the Democratic frontrunner for president. Period. That’s the story.
Sadly, the busted Planned Parenthood, Benghazi and email diversions simply represent the latest creations from the GOP distraction model. Conservatives have been using it, on and off, for two decades — and the model works best when the Beltway press plays along. It works best if the Beltway press pretends virtually every other Republican-produced scandal pursuit hasn’t been a bust.
Many of the same Republicans who have spearheaded the dishonest Planned Parenthood probe are the same ones leading the charge on Benghazi and the email story. And the press continues to breathlessly quote them as they try to hype these supposed scandals.
So yes, much of the press has been culpable in the latest Republican distractions since day one. In fact, the press has been playing the same lapdog role for well over twenty years when it comes to endlessly hyping and even marketing orchestrated Republican distractions. These self-contained circus productions that suggest all kinds of Democratic wrongdoing are long on conspiracy theories but short on facts, and leave pundits and reporters breathlessly chronicling the possible downside for Democrats.
One reason these Groundhog Day scenes keeping play out, again and again and again, is due to the fact too many journalists are absolutely wed to the very simple definition of what constitutes news: What are conservatives angry about?
Given that kind of carte blanche to create news cycles, Republicans and conservatives in the media have taken full advantage and have settled into a predictable pattern: Manufacture distractions designed to make life miserable for Democratic leaders; force Democrats to use up energy and resources to swat down endless unproven allegations, and spawn waves of media “gotcha” hysteria fueled by disingenuous leaks.
But here’s the thing: it’s exhausting. It’s disheartening. And it’s a colossal waste of time and energy. But this is how the right wing plays politics in America and the D.C. press has shown an unbridled enthusiasm to want to play along; to want to abandon common sense in order to chase GOP-designated shiny objects for weeks, months or sometimes years on end. And then do it all over again when the current distraction disintegrates.
The pattern began in earnest during the 1990s when Republicans became obsessed with personally pursuing the Clintons. Remember the dubious Clinton pardon distraction, the parting gifts distraction, and of course Ken Starr’s $80 million Inspector Javert routine.
Charles Pierce at Esquire recently detailed that decade’s signature string of orchestrated GOP obfuscations:
To use a more relevant, example, TravelGate was a distraction. FileGate was a distraction. The disgusting use of Vince Foster’s suicide was a distraction. Castle Grande was a distraction. The cattle futures were a distraction. The billing records were a distraction. Webster Hubbell’s billing practices were a distraction. Hell, the entire Whitewater part of the Whitewater affair was basically a distraction, as was the pursuit of Bill Clinton’s extracurricular love life. Kathleen Willey was a distraction. The monkeywrenching of a settlement in the Paula Jones case was to make sure that the distraction that was that case survived. All of these were distractions created to make it difficult for a Democratic president to govern, and the reason I know that is because the people creating distractions were not shy about admitting what they were all about to each other.
Over time, the vast majority of those endless Clinton allegations were proven to be hollow. Yet aided by some regrettable journalism, the relentless scandal culture took hold and managed to damage to the Clinton administration. Indeed, the whole point of the GOP’s Clinton distraction model was to create the infrastructure to hound the Democrats.
With President Obama’s inauguration, the old model was unpacked, but this time with Fox News playing a much more aggressive role. The results have been an endless parade of diversions and hoaxes designed, in various shapes and sizes, to hamstring a Democratic administration and, more recently, to damage the leading Democratic candidate for 2016.
Here’s just a handful of manufactured distractions:
As Media Matters can attest, virtually none of the often-hysterical allegations attached to those distractions were ever proven to be true. Instead, the pursuits imploded under their own weight. Yet too often, these supposed scandals broke out of the Fox News bubble and became mainstream “news.”
So when’s the press going to get the message and stop enabling these charades?
By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America, October 1, 2015
Q: Quick, who was Margaret Sanger?
A: A champion for modern womanhood, one we don’t hear about in history textbooks. Yes, she was an avant-garde figure who lived in Greenwich Village. Yes, she opened the first birth control clinic in a Brooklyn storefront. Yes, she was banned in Boston.
Thank you, Margaret Sanger. How little has changed since you founded Planned Parenthood — the major women’s health care provider Republican lawmakers threaten to “defund.” That kind of sore talk was nothing new to you.
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaking Thursday at the Washington Ideas Forum hosted by The Atlantic and the Aspen Institute, defended Planned Parenthood from critics in Congress. She noted, “Not one federal dollar goes to pay for abortions.” She added, “All I can say is we’ve been in that world before. … I’m talking about a world where women committed suicide rather than go forward with a pregnancy.”
Speaking of the threat to cut off access to cancer screenings, Warren said, “They’re going to have a real fight on their hands. Let them do it.”
A century ago, Sanger sat before a House committee, fielding the “sometimes hostile questions of congressmen,” as biographer Jean H. Baker described the scene.
Used to fire, Sanger deftly handled her congressional squad. So did Hillary Clinton on the civilian deaths at Benghazi. (She has to face the same committee on her email server.) But it’s not pretty to see a woman get harassed by a gaggle of ganders.
Apparently, that’s still the treatment you get if you are president of the organization Sanger founded. Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards gamely answered questions from a House panel this week. Yet chairman Jason Chaffetz of Utah, treated his witness so rudely that he left people gobsmacked.
Sanger, a nurse galvanized by immigrant women’s plight, started a movement that traveled the world. She invented the term, “birth control,” and publicized contraception as a way for women, to control their destiny. She saw too many women die in childbirth on the job.
Also advancing American women’s status at the same time, in the same spirit, was suffrage leader Alice Paul in Washington. Both were early 20th-century women, only six years apart. The leaders were also jailed for their actions — roughly 100 years ago. Birth control was seen as “pernicious” and to this day is frowned upon by Rome and the pope.
Sanger and Paul departed from the old ways of being “good girls” as they defied authority. Paul was not one to obey President Woodrow Wilson, the main target of her Votes for Women movement. In their eyes, they were not there in the public square to compromise, but to realize their bold vision of women’s emancipation. They were not friends, but allies on different fronts of a shared struggle.
As Sanger put it, she followed her own compass:
“I never asked advice. I just kept going, night and day, visualizing every act, every step, believing, knowing that I was working in accord with … a moral evolution.”
They were each improvising, since they were pioneers leading into the unknown. Neither felt their work was ever finished.
There’s much to learn right now from Sanger’s fiery civil disobedience in these times when women feel under siege in Congress. In my favorite Sanger story, she is gagged onstage in Boston, to protest the mayor’s ban on her speaking on birth control in the 1920s. In a dramatic scene, the Harvard historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Sr. read her speech while she was gagged. This took place in 1929.
Sanger led a full life of passion, to borrow Baker’s phrase. Men found her captivating. Her family life was streaked with the loss of a young daughter, Peggy. An intense presence, she went door to door on her crusade. She soon launched a magazine, The Birth Control Review, and organized international conferences.
Sanger’s early turning point was on the Lower East Side, where she saw Sadie Sachs, 28, beg a doctor to tell her how to prevent another pregnancy, saying it would kill her. “Tell Jake to sleep on the roof,” he said. The next time Sanger went to the Sachs apartment, Sadie was gone from a botched abortion.
“It was the dawn of a new day,” Sanger wrote. She was so right.
By: Jamie Steihm, The National Memo, October 2, 2015
“Two Months From Now, We’ll Be Doing It All Again”: Republicans Aren’t Averting A Government Shutdown, They’re Just Delaying It
Congratulations, America: It looks like your government will not be shutting down this week after all.
Now that John Boehner has announced he will be resigning next month, he is supposedly free to do what he was actually perfectly free to do before, which is to allow a vote on a “clean” continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government, i.e. one that doesn’t include a provision cutting off all Medicaid reimbursements to Planned Parenthood.
But before you get too relieved, there’s something else you ought to know. The CR that’s now working its way through Congress will only fund the government through December 11. In other words, two months from now we’ll be doing it all again.
There’s no way to know for sure whether we’ll still be arguing about Planned Parenthood at that point, but if it isn’t Planned Parenthood it’ll be something else. There will be something conservative Republicans in Congress want to do, or more likely, stop, that will be so titanically important to them that they will refuse to fund the government unless they get their way. What that thing is doesn’t really matter.
You’ll recall that when they shut the government down in 2013, it was because the goal of repealing the Affordable Care Act was the most important thing ever, so vital that it necessitated the shutdown. Then later they threatened another shutdown, but this time it was President Obama’s executive actions on immigration that were so monumentally awful that they had no choice but to move toward a shutdown. Today it’s defunding Planned Parenthood that is so utterly essential that we must shut everything down if it doesn’t occur. By December it could be something else entirely.
It’s pretty obvious that what drives these crises isn’t the substance of the issue everyone ends up taking about, it’s the battle itself. That’s what the tea partiers who create the crises are after. They want to stand up to Obama, to get their leadership to show some spine, to banish compromise, to fight, fight, fight! They’ll fight about anything.
This was what John Boehner struggled with for nearly five years as speaker of the House: a significant portion of his caucus had zero interest in governing, which made them almost impossible to work with. They didn’t come to Washington to write laws or solve problems, they came to fight, and if there’s no fight going on then they have no purpose. Shutdowns don’t bother them too much, because they think almost everything government does is bad anyway.
These members judge their own success not by the outcome of any battle, but by whether along the way they acquitted themselves with sufficient fierceness. The only opposition in their home districts they ever fear comes in the form of an attack from the right. When they go home they tell their constituents, “I stood up to Barack Obama!”, and “I stood up to John Boehner!” That’s an accomplishment as far as they’re concerned, and it’s greeted with cheers. It doesn’t matter whether they won, or whether they actually achieved any of the conservative policy goals they claim to seek.
And now they’ve been emboldened. They see Boehner’s resignation as a victory for them and a validation of their entire view of politics. The likely next speaker, Kevin McCarthy of California, has spent a good deal of time building relationships with the Tea Party representatives who despised Boehner, but they are going to be watching him very closely. At even the slightest hint that he wants to engage in any governing — of the kind that entails working with the other side and taking some of what you want even if you can’t get it all — they will rise up against him.
That doesn’t mean they will be able to depose him (they couldn’t depose Boehner, after all, mostly because nobody else wanted the job badly enough to challenge him). But they will put every ounce of pressure on him they can, and, as of yet, we have no idea how McCarthy will respond.
So we’ll have a situation very much like what he had up until Boehner’s announcement: some irreconcilable policy disagreements, a Republican caucus itching for a fight with the president, and a speaker under pressure to go all the way to a shutdown. The only difference is that the new speaker will be particularly keen to demonstrate to his restive members that he’s different from his predecessor.
And by the way, we’re going to have to raise the debt ceiling in November or the United States of America will default on its obligations. This will give House Republicans yet another opportunity to threaten catastrophe if they don’t get what they want. Should be a fun couple of months.
By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, October 1, 2015