Watching the second Republican presidential debate on CNN and its aftermath, millions of Americans learned again what we already know about the candidates: These people embellish, prettify, and fabricate their own biographies without hesitation, from Donald Trump’s much-parodied boasting about his business acumen to Carly Fiorina’s super-selective accounting of her tenure at Hewlett-Packard to Chris Christie’s highly romanticized account of his appointment and record as U.S. Attorney to Jeb Bush’s wildly inflated claims about the Florida economy when he was governor.
But as Christie himself pointed out – in a remark targeted at Trump and Fiorina – why would anybody even pay attention to the tall tales told by these politicians (or the self-styled political “outsiders,” who sound exactly like politicians) about themselves? While the bickering is sometimes amusing and mostly annoying, does anyone believe that it matters?
For these characters to prevaricate endlessly about their résumés and achievements is neither surprising nor important. Of much greater consequence are the bat-winged lies they emit about issues that affect all of our lives, as well as the future of the United States and the world.
Evidently all of the Republicans on the stage at the Reagan presidential library wanted us to believe that Planned Parenthood should be shut down everywhere because its clinics sell post-abortion fetal body parts for profit. That is a false and outrageous accusation, disproved in the same videotapes that they cited as proof. Attacking the venerable women’s health organization, Fiorina went even further, furiously describing a scene in those videos supposedly showing a “fully formed fetus” with legs kicking and heart beating while someone prepares to “harvest its brain.”
Such horrific practices, she declared, “erode the character of our nation.” What erodes the character of our nation, in fact, is Fiorina’s blatant chicanery, repeated by her the next morning on ABC News. The video she claims to have watched does not exist, according to Vox.com reporter Sarah Kliff, who viewed all 12 hours of those videos.
What exist in reality are hundreds of thousands of women who will lose access to health care if fanatics like Fiorina and her fellow Republican candidates ever succeed in wrecking Planned Parenthood. Having “harvested” tens of millions of dollars from Hewlett-Packard for nearly wrecking the company, however, she doesn’t need to worry about medical care for other people.
Nearly every Republican on that stage brayed his or her opposition to the Iran nuclear agreement – and every one of them falsely described that deal. Typical was Senator Ted Cruz, who warned, “We won’t know under this agreement—there are several facilities in Iran they designate as military facilities that are off limits all together…the other facilities, we give them 24 days notice before inspecting them.”
None of what Cruz said is true or relevant. All of Iran’s designated nuclear facilities will fall under continuous video and electronic monitoring in addition to physical visitation by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), who will also monitor any movements of nuclear materials or equipment there. Hostile to scientific facts as they are, Cruz and his fellow Republicans are probably unaware of how easily as little as a billionth of a gram of radioactive dust could be detected by IAEA inspectors, as the Center for National Security at Fordham University noted in a factsheet.
These examples represent only a few of literally dozens of mendacious statements about crucial public issues, usually bordering on absurdity, broadcast by CNN with little contradiction on Wednesday evening. Senator Marco Rubio insisted that we can do nothing about man-made climate change without destroying the economy, when every reputable study shows that the economy and the world will be destroyed if we do nothing. Christie promised to “save” Social Security from insolvency by denying payments to wealthy recipients, when that won’t significantly improve the system’s finances – and the “crisis” he touted is overblown anyway. Trump insisted that life-saving vaccines cause autism, complete with anecdotal “proof” from an “employee” whose “beautiful baby” contracted a fever and then “became autistic” after being vaccinated.
Not only did Trump concoct that sad story, but there is little doubt that his own children, including little Barron Trump, have received proper vaccinations. (Manhattan private schools don’t accept the unvaccinated.) Disgracefully, neither of the two physicians on stage, Rand Paul and Ben Carson, had the guts to forcefully contradict him.
Try as they will to reject Trump, he fits in perfectly among Republicans – and not only because he worships money, spews xenophobic nonsense, and encourages callous bigotry. Like them, he relies on fabrications and falsehoods, manipulating the prejudices of ill-informed voters.
The Republican rejection of reality – which these candidates will act out in debate after debate for months to come – inflicts grave costs on this country every day. It is hard to imagine the damage that will be done if one of these deceivers comes to power.
By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editors Blog, The National Memo, September 17, 2015
What do women want? Republicans are trying to answer that question and, as usual, they are getting it wrong.
The party has an unerring genius for alienating exactly the demographics it needs to win the White House. Republicans have made it harder for students, urbanites, and minorities to vote. Many of their presidential candidates are competing over who can deport the most immigrants and build the best border wall. Why should the GOP approach to women be any different?
Donald Trump, who has been flamboyantly insulting to immigrants, isn’t helping Republicans with women, either. His history of crude insults about female appearances led NBC’s Chuck Todd to ask him, “Why do looks matter to you so much?” He still talks in weird generalizations and 1950s stereotypes about women (see: “I cherish women” or “women love me” or “I understand the importance of women”).
You’d think Carly Fiorina, another presidential contender from the business world, and the only woman in the GOP field, would have a better handle on this. But she has become a lightning rod because she opposes a requirement that businesses offer paid leave to new parents. She wants it to be a perk companies offer to attract workers.
The United States is the only advanced country that doesn’t give employees paid parental leave, as President Obama has noted repeatedly. But Fiorina says requiring paid parental leave discourages the hiring and promotion of women. Besides, she asks, who would pay for it?
Fiorina’s position, however, carries its own health and monetary costs. Mothers who don’t take leave are less likely to breastfeed or bring a baby to doctor appointments. And low-income workers who take unpaid leave to care for an infant often rely on government help. “When a low-wage worker cannot even have a sick day or a paid leave day after the birth of an infant, she is far more likely to go on assistance, public assistance,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) sponsor of a bill requiring paid leave, told Fortune magazine. The upshot is that taxpayers foot the bill, she added.
As for the politics of paid leave, Fiorina’s stand is a loser. Polls show 60 to 80 percent of Americans support requiring paid leave for new parents. That 80 percent figure, from a CBS/New York Times poll in May, includes 71 percent of Republicans and 85 percent of women.
Now abortion is preoccupying the GOP, thrust there by conservatives who secretly filmed Planned Parenthood executives talking casually and graphically about the mechanics and costs of donating tissue from aborted fetuses for research. Republican candidates have grabbed at the chance to demonstrate their credentials as cultural conservatives — emphasizing their opposition to abortion and demanding an end to federal funding of Planned Parenthood, even if that leads to a government shutdown. Some 50 advocacy groups are co-sponsoring protests in nearly 300 cities this weekend to highlight what the Family Research Council calls “Planned Parenthood’s harvesting and selling of aborted baby parts.”
Ohio governor John Kasich explained the rising prominence of the abortion issue this way recently on CNN: “Now that the issue of gay marriage is kind of off the table, we’re kind of down to one social issue.”
The nature of the GOP primary electorate requires that Republican candidates take as hard a line as they can against abortion and explain in great detail their positions on exceptions, restrictions, and any shifts in thinking they may have undergone. They may be convinced that this won’t hurt them with women or moderates in a general election. Gallup found in May that 21 percent of Americans would only vote for a candidate who shared their view on abortion. That’s an all-time high in the 19 years the question has been asked, but they were about equally divided on both sides of the issue.
So does that make it a wash? Probably not. For one thing, the tide seems to be turning in the other direction. Half of Americans told Gallup in May that they were “pro-choice” on abortion compared with 44 percent who said they were “pro-life.” Analyst Lydia Saad wrote that was the first statistically significant lead for the “pro-choice” position in seven years. In addition, polls show pluralities of Americans have positive views of Planned Parenthood and oppose cutting off its federal money.
That hasn’t stopped various Republican hopefuls from calling for a Justice Department investigation into Planned Parenthood. Bobby Jindal, the Louisiana governor, has even vowed to sic the IRS on the group. The crusade is a classic example of overreach that could backfire in a general election. Republicans are their own worst enemy on this, but here’s the real problem: They are jeopardizing health care for low-income women who need birth control, cancer screening, or — yes — an abortion. The potential political bonanza for the Democratic nominee is not worth that price.
By: Jill Lawrence, The National Memo, August 20, 2015
If you’re looking for true Republican policy innovations, don’t bother with tax policy or national security; the place where the GOP is really exercising its creativity is in coming up with new ways to restrict abortion rights. In the latest inspired move, Republican state legislators in Ohio have introduced a bill to make it illegal for a woman to terminate her pregnancy because she has discovered that the baby would have Down syndrome. The bill is expected to pass, and though he hasn’t yet taken a position on it, it would be a shock if Governor John Kasich—who is both an opponent of abortion rights and currently in search of votes in the Republican presidential primary—didn’t sign it.
After it passes in Ohio (and even if by some strange turn of events it doesn’t), look for identical bills to come up in state after Republican-controlled state. Anyone who objects will of course be accused of wanting to kill children with disabilities.
As the New York Times article about the Ohio bill notes, this isn’t entirely unprecedented; there are a few states that have outlawed abortion for sex selection, and North Dakota has a similar law passed in 2013 forbidding abortions because of fetal genetic anomaly, though “advocates are not aware of enforcement of any such laws in the states that have them.” But this one lands not only in during a presidential primary, but also amid Republicans’ latest offensive against Planned Parenthood, driven by secretly recorded videos in which Planned Parenthood officials discuss the transfer of fetal tissue for research.
That effort may not accomplish all that much; while many conservatives (and a few presidential candidates) would like to shut down the government in order to “defund” the group, that probably won’t happen, and efforts by states to discover that Planned Parenthood is doing something illegal have come up empty. But it still creates a context in which Republicans are aggressive on the issue of abortion—particularly when it may be the only “culture war” issue on which they aren’t in full retreat.
This is one of those issues where there’s an emotionally freighted case for one side, a case that can seem compelling as long as you don’t think about it too deeply. Conservatives will argue that the law is necessary because so often when women learn that a fetus they’re carrying has the genetic anomaly that causes Down’s, she winds up having an abortion. And they’ll note that people with Down’s can have happy, fulfilling lives, which they can. They’ll no doubt tell stories of wonderful individuals they know who have the condition.
But if the question is only, “If this woman carried her pregnancy to term, would it be possible for the baby that would ultimately result to have a happy, fulfilling life?” then no abortion would be allowed. Some women have abortions because they got pregnant accidentally and are too young to raise a child. Is it possible for a child born to a young woman to grow up to have a happy, fulfilling life? Of course. Some women have abortions because they don’t want to raise a child with the biological father. Is it possible for a child raised by a single mother to grow up to have a happy, fulfilling life? Of course. Some women have abortions because they already have all the children they want. Is it possible for a child born to a family that already has plenty of children to grow up to have a happy, fulfilling life? Of course.
But if we’re going to say that a woman who wants to end her pregnancy because of Down syndrome will be legally barred from doing so, we’re saying that it will now be the government’s job to evaluate whether her reasons are good enough, and if the government thinks they aren’t, then she will be forced against her will to carry the pregnancy to term. For all the restrictions Republicans have successfully placed on abortion rights throughout the country, it isn’t yet the case that women have to explain to the government why they want the abortion and prove that they’re doing it for what the government considers the right reason.
Perhaps to expedite things, every women’s health clinic could come equipped with a special hotline to the state legislature, where any woman who wants to end her pregnancy would have to justify it to a Republican state representative, who would have the final say. Maybe that will be the next bright policy idea from the party that says it’s committed to getting government off your back.
By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, August 23, 2015
Another year, another controversy over Planned Parenthood. Selectively edited videos filmed by an anti-abortion activist have given partisans another excuse to attack women’s reproductive services, starting with those provided by a well-established non-profit dedicated to women’s health care. Never mind that abortions represent a tiny percentage of Planned Parenthood’s work.
Some Republicans have gone so far as to threaten to shut down the government unless all federal funding for Planned Parenthood is eliminated. (By law, none of that money supports abortion services.) Even as prominent Republicans such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell try to tamp down that impulse, others — firebrand Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) among them — continue to insist that the entire government should be brought to its knees when Congress returns to work after Labor Day.
This is really just another opportunity to try to limit women’s reproductive choices, another chance to grandstand and exaggerate. If this outrage reflected genuine concern about lives ended while still in the womb, wouldn’t more conservatives be worried about what happens to poor babies once they are born?
For decades now, I’ve listened to anti-abortion activists rail against a “culture of death,” a callous disregard for the unborn, the “murder” of babies still in the womb. I’ve witnessed protests outside abortion clinics, listened to “pro-life” state legislators mischaracterize rape, and covered misleading campaigns that suggest abortions lead to breast cancer and mental illness. I’ve watched as hostility toward Roe v. Wade has become a litmus test inside the Republican Party.
But here’s the disconnect: Over those years, I’ve also seen anti-abortion crusaders become increasingly hostile to programs and policies that would aid poor kids once they’ve come into the world. Conservative lawmakers have disparaged welfare, criticized federal housing subsidies and even campaigned against food assistance. How does that affect those children for whom they claim so much concern?
In Alabama, where anti-abortion sentiment is as commonplace as summer heat waves, the state legislature is contemplating cutting millions from Medicaid, the program that provides health care for the poorest citizens, including children. Meanwhile, the state’s two U.S. senators, Republicans Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby, are among those demanding that Planned Parenthood receive no more federal funds because of the controversy over the sale of fetal tissue.
To be fair, there are those among abortion critics who show a principled concern for poor children, whose opposition to abortion is paired with a passion for social justice. Take Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is among the rare GOP governors to support the Medicaid expansion offered by the Affordable Care Act. “Now, when you die and get to the meeting with Saint Peter, he’s probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small. But he is going to ask you what you did for the poor. You’d better have a good answer,” he said in June.
Then there are the Catholic Health Association and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, led by nuns. They’ve also adopted assistance to the poor as a core mission.
Their compassion stands in contrast to the U.S. Conference of Bishops, which is largely known for its conservative stances on abortion and same-sex marriage. (That may change with Pope Francis, who has made social justice his hallmark.) Last year, I attended a Catholic high school commencement where the headmaster, a priest, bragged about the number of his students who had attended anti-abortion protests. He said nothing about protests over cuts in assistance to the poor.
It’s easy enough to inflame with the Planned Parenthood videos; without context (again, selective editing), leaders of the organization are heard discussing money for the donation of fetal tissue. That’s not a conversation that’s easy to hear.
But Planned Parenthood is doing nothing illegal, and fetal tissue research has been vital to improving the quality of life for an aging America. Many of those who are angered by the videos would be surprised to know that they may have benefited from fetal tissue research.
Still, I’d take their criticism more seriously if they’d spend as much time trying to help poor children once they are born. Since they don’t, they’re just engaging in a war on women — especially women who don’t have any money.
By: Cynthia Tucker, Pulitzer Prize Winner for Commentary in 2007; Featured Post, The National Memo, August 15, 2015.
Hillary Clinton fielded some questions from campaign reporters yesterday, and not surprisingly, she was asked about Donald Trump. But the Democratic frontrunner clearly had a different group of Republicans on her mind.
“I think if we focus on [Trump’s antics], we’re making a mistake,” she said. “What a lot of the men on that stage in that debate said was offensive.” Highlighting Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) recent comments on prohibiting all abortions, regardless of circumstances, Clinton added, “[T]he language [Trump uses] may be more colorful and more offensive, but the thinking, the attitude toward women, is very much the same.”
She went on to say. ‘What Marco Rubio said has as much of an impact in terms of where the Republican Party is today as anybody else on that stage.”
It’s an important point. Rubio has now argued, more than once, that if a woman is impregnated by a rapist, the government has the authority to force her to take the pregnancy to term, regardless of her wishes. For Clinton, this matters every bit as much – if not more – than Trump’s ugly remarks about Fox’s Megyn Kelly.
For his part, Rubio seems to think he has a winner on his hands. Yesterday, the far-right Floridian, using social media and his campaign website, even launched a new initiative, alongside a big picture of a cat:
“Watch this video and sign this petition if you know that a human life won’t become a donkey or a cat.”
Yes, Marco Rubio, who last week seemed to adopt the posture of some kind of wonk, is now pushing a bold, new campaign message: fertilized human eggs don’t develop into cats.
As for the video Rubio is eager for the public to see, Slate’s Amanda Marcotte has the backstory:
When Rubio appeared on CNN after Thursday night’s Republican debate, he kept insisting that this vague entity called “science” has declared that human life begins at conception. (Actual biologists, for what it’s worth, argue that life is continuous and that a fertilized egg is no more or less alive than a sperm or an unfertilized egg.) CNN host Chris Cuomo vainly tried to point out that “science” says no such thing, and Rubio got a little excited.
“Let me interrupt you. Science has – absolutely it has. Science has decided… Science has concluded that – absolutely it has. What else can it be?” he asked. Then Rubio reared up for what he clearly intended as his wowza line: “It cannot turn into an animal. It can’t turn into a donkey. The only thing that that can become is a human being.”
Rubio, clearly pleased with himself, added, “[If scientists] can’t say it will be human life, what does it become, then? Could it become a cat?”
When Rubio’s website says “watch this video,” it shows the interview in its entirety.
Just so we’re clear, not even the most ardent pro-choice advocates believe fertilized human eggs could become a cat. They do believe, however, that there’s a difference between people and fertilized human eggs that might someday become people – in much the same way we differentiate between acorns and trees. What something is and what something may become under the right conditions are not identical.
Nevertheless, the far-right Floridian seems quite excited about his argument. He’ll have to hope it’s persuasive to a broad audience – Rubio’s no-abortions/no-exceptions position is further to the right than any Republican presidential nominee in the modern era.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 11, 2015