“Victimhood”: Ignoring One Wrong And Vilifying The Other, Republicans Decide To Care About Big Government Overreach
Government officials and employees responsible for the allegedly inappropriate scrutiny of right-wing groups applying for non-profit, tax-exempt status as “social welfare organizations” (taxpayer subsidized, supposedly non-partisan 501(c)(3) and (c)(4) groups) should be investigated and, if appropriate, disciplined, fired and/or charged under criminal statutes.
Government officials and employees responsible for secretly subpoenaing the phone records of AP reporters ought to similarly be investigated and, if appropriate, disciplined, fired and/or charged under criminal statutes — though it is likely that the government has already given itself legal dispensation to carry out that sort of invasive, seemingly extra-Constitutional, certainly un-American intimidation of whistleblowers and journalists alike.
That said, it’s been predictably amusing over the past 24 hours or so, witnessing the outrage – outrage! – of right-wingers over the very things that they not only didn’t give a rat’s ass about when the same, and often much worse, was carried out by the Bush administration, but that they actively supported at the time.
“They say two wrongs don’t make a right, but ignoring one of those wrongs while vilifying the other is intellectually dishonest and violently hypocritical, among other things,” writes Bob Cesca at The Daily Banter, noting that “Democrats have almost universally condemned the actions of the IRS, as they’ve done when the congressional Republicans and, naturally, the Bush administration used the nearly unlimited might of the government to engage in similar investigations — or worse.”
“Republicans,” he writes, “spent eight years defending, applauding and enabling Bush abuses on this front, while subsequently cheerleading the congressional Republicans as they carry forward the politics of intimidation and government overreach into the Obama era.”
Cesca goes on to list “10 Examples of Bush and the Republicans Using Government Power to Target Critics”, beginning with the Republican-supported Big Government assaults on Planned Parenthood, ACORN (which succeeded in putting a four-decade-old community organization out of business), and on even the ability of perfectly legal American voters to simply cast a vote in their own elections. He also reminds us of the abuse of the Bush Dept. of Justice which, specifically, targeted Democrats for prosecution, and for the firing of U.S. Attorneys without cause, other than they were not partisan enough for the tastes of the Bush White House.
But while the Obama administration deserves appropriate scrutiny and investigation and accountability for whatever its part in both the developing IRS and DoJ/AP scandals, let us not forget some of these certainly-as-bad, arguably-worse scandals related to both the IRS and the DoJ — from during the Bush administration — that Republicans not only didn’t give a damn about, but often applauded for most of the past decade…
6. The Bush IRS Audited Greenpeace and the NAACP. Not only was the NAACP suspiciously audited during Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign, but high-profile Republicans like Joe Scarborough had previously supported an audit of the organization even though he’s suddenly shocked by the current IRS audit story. Also in 2004, the Wall Street Journal reported that the IRS audited the hyper-liberal group Greenpeace at the request of Public Interest Watch, a group that’s funded by Exxon-Mobil.
7. The Bush IRS Collected Political Affiliation Data on Taxpayers. In 2006, a contractor hired by the IRS collected party affiliation via a search of voter registration roles in a laundry list of states: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin. This begs the obvious question: why? Why would the IRS need voter registration and party affiliation information?
8. The Bush FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Force Targeted Civil Rights / Anti-War Activists. In 2005, an ACLU investigation revealed that both the FBI and the JTTF surveilled and gathered intelligence about a variety of liberal groups including PETA and the Catholic Workers, along with other groups that it hyperbolically referred to as having “semi-communistic ideology.”
9. The Bush Pentagon Spied on Dozens of Anti-War Meetings. Also in 2005, the Department of Defense tracked 1,500 “suspicious incidents” and spied on four dozen meetings involving, for example, anti-war Quaker groups and the like. Yes, really. The Bush administration actually kept track of who was attending these meetings down to descriptions of the vehicles used by the attendees, calling to mind the pre-Watergate era when the government investigated 100,000 Americans during the Vietnam War.
10. The Bush FBI Targeted Journalists with the New York Times and the Washington Post. Yesterday, it was learned that a U.S. attorney, Ronald Machen, subpoenaed and confiscated phone records from the Associated Press as part of a leak investigation regarding an article about a CIA operation that took place in Yemen to thwart a terrorist attack on the anniversary of bin Laden’s death. Well, this story pales in comparison with the Bush administration’s inquisition against the reporters who broke the story about the NSA wiretapping program. In fact, the Justice Department considered invoking the Espionage Act of 1917, the archaic sequel to the John Adams-era Alien and Sedition Acts. The Bush FBI seized phone records — without subpoena — from four American journalists, including Raymond Bonner and Jane Perlez. How do we know this for sure? Former FBI Director Robert Mueller apologized to the New York Times and the Washington Post.
I’m delighted, personally, that the Republican Party and its adherents have finally decided to be outraged about actual governmental abuses of power. I’m even more delighted that they may now be focusing some of that outrage on actual abuses (as opposed to all of the pretend “scandals” they’ve been pretending to be outraged about over the past four years). But it will be all too convenient if the only such abuses they ultimately concern themselves with are the ones that affected their own special-interest groups, rather than those that have illegally and/or unconstitutionally affected the interests of all Americans for at least the past decade and more.
It will be a shame if the result of all of this is that the 501(c)(4) and (c)(3) racket that exploded in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United atrocity goes unexamined and un-overturned. As is, the IRS was doing a dreadful job in cracking down on that particularly obvious scam, and it’s almost certain that all of this will only make the appalling taxpayer-subsidized abuse by purely political groups masquerading as non-partisan “social welfare organizations” even worse.
But it will be even more of a shame if the Big Government abuses of power under the Obama administration are dealt with as special cases that occurred in a vacuum. They did not. They have been happening for years, under the Bush administration and now under the Obama administration. (For that matter, the IRS abuses now in question happened while the agency was headed up by George W. Bush’s appointee.) All of those Big Government abuses deserve oversight and governmental action and legislation to ensure that none of them can ever happen again in the future.
Unfortunately, that is unlikely to happen in a political atmosphere where one party (the Republicans) and its supporters have chosen “victimhood” as a personal political philosophy and a wartime footing against their perceived enemy (the Democratic Party) as a point of personal pride, rather than displaying any interest whatsoever in actually governing on behalf of the American people or in ending the opportunities for the very Big Government abuses they decry — but only when it affects them.
By: Brad Friedman, The National Memo, May 15, 2013, Originally posted at The Brad Blog
“The Lineage Of Today’s Republican’s”: What Rand Paul Doesn’t Get About Abe Lincoln, Abe Vigoda, And Black Voters
Here’s something that someone might want to share with Rand Paul. Abraham Lincoln was a president. Abe Vigoda was an actor. The fact that they both have the same first name, does not make them the same person.
That may seem obvious to you, but it’s something that I feel compelled to share. Because after listening to his Howard University speech, I’m not sure it’s a concept that Senator Paul fully understands.
Here’s why: On some basic level, Paul’s speech was an inquiry into the alienation that exists between the GOP and African-Americans. His conclusion: It’s all just a big misunderstanding.
You see, Abraham Lincoln was a Republican and he signed the Emancipation Proclamation. It was Democrats who led the South’s retrenchment after Reconstruction, established segregation and fought tooth and nail to protect Jim Crow. So it’s Republicans, not Democrats, according to Paul, who have always been the party of civil rights.
So why aren’t more African-Americans Republicans? Paul has an explanation: Having achieved electoral and civil rights African-Americans wanted economic equality, too. Republicans offered one way to get it, according to Paul, the free market, while Democrats offered another, government largesse. Thus far, Paul says, African-Americans have preferred the latter path to the former and what Republicans need to do is better explain why African-Americans should instead embrace the free market model. That’s his theory anyway.
Here Paul’s trying to pull off an interesting trick: using Republican performance from the pretty distant past to try and credential current policies. But in his historical retelling, Paul essentially collapses the timeline and says: look, we’ve always been for civil rights, and our free market prescriptions are just the latest iteration of that.
Now, it may be that this is the argument the GOP’s been looking for. Perhaps, having heard it, African-Americans will vote Republican in droves in 2014. But I’m not convinced.
First, despite Paul’s convictions, there’s a pretty obvious reason why African Americans vote for more Democratic candidates than Republicans: They prefer Democratic policies. That’s how most voters decide who to vote for – they review the candidate’s positions on issues important to them, and then vote for the one whose views are more in sync with their own.
Paul probably wouldn’t contest that – but he’d place the blame for Republican losses on someone who you might not expect: the voter. Instead of concluding that to compete for African-American votes Republicans have to change their policies, he suggests that the problem is the failure of African-Americans to fully comprehend the policies Republicans propose. That’s what he means when he says that Republicans have to find a different way to talk about them, right? The policy isn’t the problem, it’s your ability, (or lack thereof) to grasp it.
And here, Paul finds himself on something of a slippery slope. I mean, politics isn’t rocket science. And somehow every couple of years voters across the country manage to sift through the various policy papers and pronouncements of politicians up and down the ballot to make decisions about who to support. It’s peculiar (at the very least) to suggest that African-Americans are somehow incapable of engaging in the required analysis to do it when it comes to Republicans.
There’s something else about Paul’s thesis that just doesn’t add up. Yes, Abraham Lincoln was a Republican, and Democrats dominated southern politics during segregation. But really, which of these parties of the past has more in common with the iterations that exist today?
If the answers not obvious to you, there’s another bit of history that can help clear it up. Starting in the 1940s and accelerating in the 1960s national Democratic attitudes about segregation moved to the left, while the attitudes of the southern conservatives who had long affiliated with the Democratic Party pushed further to the right. This created an untenable intraparty tension that couldn’t last forever. And it didn’t, because southern conservatives found a new, more comfortable party to call home, one that expressed values in sync with their own. It was the Republican Party. They switched to it in droves.
All of which means, you guessed it, the lineage of today’s Republican party traces much more directly to those pro-segregation Democrats than it does to any southern Republicans who may have been around in that day.
So let’s be clear: Yes, Rand Paul is a Republican but when it comes to civil rights, his version of the GOP has about as much in common with the one that helped free the slaves as Abe Lincoln has with Abe Vigoda.
Which is to say: once you get past the name, not very much at all.
By: Anson Kaye, U. S. News and World Report, April 12, 2013
“Rand Paul Goes To Howard”: Ignoring Past Generations Of Egregious And Willfull Acts Of Insensitivity
The Republican Party is struggling with its future. Will it be a regional, Congressional party fighting a last-gasp battle for a shrinking base in a David and Goliath war against ominously expanding federal government? Or will it become a national, presidential party capable of adapting to a new American reality of diversity and expression in which the government serves an essential function in regulating public safety, providing a safety net and serving as a safeguard against discrimination?
Senator Rand Paul is trying to find a balance between the two. The same week that a dozen defiant senators threatened to filibuster any new gun control legislation, Paul ventured across Washington to historically black Howard University and gave a speech aimed at outreach and bridge building.
The man is mulling a presidential run after all.
The speech was a dud. It was a clipped-tail history lesson praising the civil rights record of the pre-Southern Strategy Republican Party, while slamming the concurrent record of the Democrats.
It completely ignored the past generation of egregious and willful acts of insensitivity by the G.O.P. toward the African-American community.
During the speech Paul asked, rhetorically and incredulously:
“How did the party that elected the first black U.S. Senator, the party that elected the first 20 African-American Congressmen, how did that party become a party that now loses 95 percent of the black vote? How did the Republican Party, the party of the Great Emancipator, lose the trust and faith of an entire race? From the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement, for a century, most black Americans voted Republican. How did we lose that vote?”
You can’t be serious, Senator Paul. In fact, I know that you’re not. No thinking American could be so dim as to genuinely pose such questions.
Let me explain.
Republicans lost it when Richard Nixon’s strategist Kevin Phillips, who popularized the “Southern Strategy,” told The New York Times Magazine in 1970 that “the more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans.”
They lost it when Nixon appointed William Rehnquist to the Supreme Court, a man who, while he was a law clerk in Justice Robert Jackson’s office, wrote a memo defending separate-but-equal during Brown v. Board of Education, saying, “I realize that it is an unpopular and unhumanitarian position, for which I have been excoriated by my ‘liberal’ colleagues, but I think Plessy v. Ferguson was right and should be reaffirmed.”
They lost it in 1976 when Ronald Reagan adopted the racially charged “welfare queens” trope. They lost it when George Bush used Willie Horton as a club against Michael Dukakis. They lost it when George W. Bush imperially flew over New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when people were still being plucked from rooftops and were huddling in a humid Super Dome.
They lost it when the McCain campaign took a dark turn and painted Barack Obama as the other, a man “palling around with terrorists,” a man who didn’t see “America like you and I see America.”
They lost it when Republican Representative Joe Wilson yelled “You lie!” at the president during a speech to a joint session of Congress. They lost it when a finger-wagging Republican Gov. Jan Brewer publicly chastised the president on an Arizona tarmac.
They lost it in 2011 when a Republican presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich, who was the front-runner for a while, falsely and preposterously claimed that: “Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works. So they literally have no habit of showing up on Monday. They have no habit of staying all day. They have no habit of ‘I do this and you give me cash’ unless it’s illegal.”
They lost it when another Republican presidential candidate, Rick Santorum, he of “blah people” infamy, accused President Obama of “elitist snobbery” and “hubris” for supposedly saying “under my administration, every child should go to college.” (For the record, the president never actually said that.)
The Republicans lost the black vote when Herman Cain, an African-American candidate for the Republican nomination, began using overt slave imagery to suggest that he had left “the Democrat plantation.”
They continued to lose it when the African-American Republican of the moment, Dr. Benjamin Carson, echoed Cain and said of white liberals:
“Well, they’re the most racist people there are. You know, they put you in a little category, a little box. You have to think this way. How could you dare come off the plantation?”
The Republican Party has a tarnished brand in the eyes of the African-American community, largely because of its own actions and rhetoric. That can’t be glossed over by painting the present party with the laurels of the distant past.
By: Charles M. Blow, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, April !0, 2013
Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated 45 years ago yesterday, and one of the interesting little sidelights to the debate over guns that you might not be aware of is that gun advocates claim King as one of their own. You see, King had armed guards protect his family, and at one point applied for a permit in Alabama to carry a concealed weapon himself. He was turned down, since in the Jim Crow days the state of Alabama wasn’t about to let black men carry guns.
You can find references to these facts on all kinds of pro-gun web sites, as nonsensical as it may seem. Gun advocates want to claim King as part of their cause, but also want to completely repudiate everything he believed about the power of nonviolence, which is kind of like Exxon saying John Muir would have favored drilling for oil in Yosemite because he sometimes rode in cars. The reason Martin Luther King sought armed protection was there were significant numbers of people who wanted to kill him, and eventually one of them succeeded. If you’re a target for assassination, you should go ahead and buy a gun. But most of us aren’t.
This gets back to the threatening world so many gun advocates believe they live in. As they tell it, every one of us needs an arsenal of handguns and shotguns and AR-15s, despite the risk they might pose to ourselves and our families, because the risk from outside is so much greater. The imagine themselves as vulnerable as a civil rights activist in the Deep South in 1968. And they also believe that the authorities that are charged with our protection are indifferent or even hostile to our safety. That was certainly the case with King and other civil rights activists in the South in the 1960s; they knew that the government and the police wouldn’t be there to protect them, and some might even participate in trying to harm them.
But guess what: that’s not the world we live in today. The idea that the government is going to come knocking down your door, and you need to be ready to engage in a firefight with the police when that happens, is as ludicrous as the idea that MLK would be an advocate for further proliferation of guns if he were alive today.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, April 5, 2013
“Virginia Is The New Florida”: New Voter Suppression Efforts Prove The Voting Rights Act Is Still Needed
In 2011 and 2012, 180 new voting restrictions were introduced in forty-one states. Ultimately, twenty-five laws and two executive actions were passed in nineteen states following the 2010 election to make it harder to vote. In many cases, these laws backfired on their Republican sponsors. The courts blocked ten of them, and young and minority voters—the prime target of the restrictions—formed a larger share of the electorate in 2012 than in 2008.
Despite the GOP’s avowal to reach out to new constituencies following the 2012 election, Republican state legislators have continued to support new voting restrictions in 2013. According to a report by Project Vote, fifty-five new voting restrictions have been introduced in thirty states so far this year. “The 2013 legislative season has once again brought an onslaught of bills to restrict access to the ballot, including proposals to undercut important election laws that have recently opened the electorate to more voters,” writes Erin Ferns Lee. These measures include “strict photo ID policies…voter registration restrictions; voter purges; [felon] disenfranchisement; and policies to cut back or revoke voting laws that have made voting more convenient.”
Here’s the breakdown of where such laws have been introduced.
• Mandating a government-issued photo ID to cast a ballot: Arkansas, Connecticut, Iowa, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Washington, Wyoming
• Restricting voter registration drives: Illinois, Indiana, Montana, New Mexico, Virginia
• Banning election-day voter registration: California, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska
• Requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote: Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia
• Purging the voter rolls: Colorado, Indiana, New Mexico, Texas, Virginia
• Reducing early voting: Arizona, Indiana, South Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin
• Disenfranchising ex-felons: Virginia.
(On the plus side, thirty states have also introduced measures to make voting easier by adopting online voter registration, election-day registration, expanded early voting and the restoration of voting rights for ex-felons.)
Most of these measures are still pending before state legislatures, but Virginia, which has gubernatorial and legislative elections this year, is leading the way in enacting new voting restrictions. On January 21, 2013, as Virginia State Senator Henry Marsh, a longtime civil rights activist, attended President Obama’s second inauguration on Martin Luther King Day, the deadlocked Virginia Senate took advantage of Marsh’s absence to pass a new redistricting map that reduced Democratic seats by diluting black voting strength in at least eight districts. The measure was ultimately defeated in the Virginia House, but the move set the tone on voting rights for the legislative session.
On Tuesday morning, as the nation followed the debate over Proposition 8 at the Supreme Court, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell signed a strict voter ID bill. In the last election, Virginians could vote by showing a number of different IDs, including a utility bill, a Social Security card or, this being the South, a concealed handgun permit. The new law restricts the forms of acceptable ID to a driver’s license, a passport, a state-issued photo ID card, a student ID with a photo on it or an employee photo ID. The Commonwealth Institute, a progressive research group, estimates that 869,000 registered voters in Virginia may lack these forms of photo ID, and says the new law will cost the state anywhere from $7 to $21 million to implement.
McDonnell’s spokesman called the photo ID law “a reasonable effort to protect the sanctity of our democratic process.” Yet the measure will likely only exacerbate the existing problems in Virginia’s election system, according to voting rights experts. In the last election, Virginia voters waited up to seven hours to cast a ballot. “Long lines across the state were a result of insufficient resources, poor allocation of resources that did exist, and frequent breakdowns of aging voting equipment,” according to a post-election report by the Election Protection coalition.
Moreover, study after study has shown that voter ID laws disproportionately impact young and minority voters. Not only are these constituencies less likely to have photo ID, but even in states without ID laws, black and Hispanic youth were significantly more likely than whites to be asked to show ID. According to a Politico write-up of a new report by political scientists at the University of Chicago and Washington University, “17.3 percent of black youth and 8.1 percent of Latino youth said their lack of adequate ID kept them from voting, compared with just 4.7 percent of white youth.” Mamie Locke, chairman of the Virginia Black Legislative Caucus, called the ID law “a continuation of attempts by Republicans to suppress the vote of individuals who are not likely to support their right wing agenda.”
Nor is voter fraud a rampant problem in Virginia, as supporters of the voter ID law suggest. There have been only thirty-five cases of alleged election fraud since 2000 in the state, according to an exhaustive survey by News21, and only five cases led to plea deals or convictions. Ironically, the one major case of election fraud in the state last year concerned a GOP firm charged with dumping voter registration forms.
Virginia must receive approval for its election change from the federal government under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. The new voting restrictions enacted in Virginia and introduced elsewhere across the country show why Section 5 is still very much needed. If anything, the statute should be expanded in light of contemporary voter suppression efforts, not eliminated.
Virginia is quickly becoming the new Florida when it comes to electoral dysfunction. Like Florida, Virginia also passed new laws this year to restrict voter registration drives and to purge the voter rolls of alleged non-citizen voters. In Florida, such measures forced groups like the League of Women Voters to halt voter registration efforts and wrongly labeled thousands of eligible voters as non-citizens. All of this is happening, coincidentally, in a crucial election year for the Commonwealth.
The continued push to restrict the right to vote reveals the extent to which conservative power remains deeply embedded in the states, thanks to the 2010 election and subsequent aggressive gerrymandering by GOP state legislatures to protect their majorities. To combat this imbalance, Howard Dean’s group Democracy For America is launching a new effort to flip state legislatures from red to blue. The group will start, fittingly, in Virginia this year, and then expand to Iowa, Michigan and Pennsylvania in 2014. DFA plans to spend $750,000 targeting five seats in the Virginia House of Delegates in 2013. Jamelle Bouie explains why this is savvy politics:
It’s hard to overstate how smart a way this is for liberal groups to invest their time and money. Virginia, in fact, is a great case study for why it’s key for Democrats to make gains on the state level. Democrats control both Senate seats in the state, and it was key to Barack Obama’s victories in 2008 and 2012. Despite this, Republicans control all three statewide offices (governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general), the House of Delegates, and have the tie breaking vote in the state senate. The result? Republicans have been able to push a strong conservative agenda in the state.
With Congress deadlocked, the states are where the action is. It’s good that people are finally taking notice, especially as state politics continue to shift further to the right in many places.
By: Ari Berman, The Nation, March 28, 2013