Expecting morally serious debate from any would-be Republican presidential contender is like waiting for a check from a deadbeat. It could arrive someday, but don’t count on it.
But listening to someone like Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) feign outrage over a real moral issue can still be amusing, if you know enough about him to laugh. The Kentucky Republican has seized on stories about millions of dollars donated by Saudi Arabian agencies and interests to the Clinton Foundation, demanding that the Clintons return those funds because of gender inequality under the Saudi version of Islam.
Speaking to reporters in New Hampshire, the senator said the Saudi monarchy is waging “a war on women,” turning a phrase often used to describe what Republican politicians do to women here. Like all aspiring leaders in the GOP, Paul wants to prove that he would be tough enough to take on Hillary Rodham Clinton in a national campaign. Women and men alike may admire her and hope that she will become America’s first female president — but how can she speak on behalf of women and girls if her husband’s foundation accepted support from the Saudis?
Certainly it is true that the Saudi monarchy inflicts special oppressions on its female subjects. But before examining how that should influence the policies of a charitable foundation – and a former president or secretary of state – it is worth considering the feminist credentials of Rand Paul and his fellow Republicans.
Presumably, Paul favors permitting women to drive and exercise other rights that they would be denied in Riyadh. In his habitual hostility to any legislation improving the status of women in this country, however, he is all too typical of his party. He opposed the Paycheck Fairness Act, designed to ensure that women are paid equally to men for similar work, as an assault on the “free market” worthy of the “Soviet Politburo” (which somebody should tell him no longer exists).
Like Senators Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham and other presidential hopefuls, he co-sponsored the Blunt Amendment, a mercifully defeated law that would have deprived millions of women of contraceptive and other vital insurance coverage at the whim of any employer. He sponsored a constitutional amendment to outlaw abortion and some forms of birth control. And he even opposed reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act – a vote that the ultra-right Saudi imams would no doubt approve.
If Paul wants to confront an enemy of women’s advancement, he need only glance in the mirror.
As for the Clinton Foundation, leave aside the fact that the senator only knows about any Saudi donations because the foundation’s transparency exceeds anything required under U.S. law – and that the Carter Center, the Bush 41 and Bush 43 presidential libraries, Oxfam, and the World Health Organization, among many other charities, have also accepted Saudi funding.
Paul and other critics ought to explain specifically how the foundation’s receipt of support from Saudi Arabia has compromised its mission of empowering women and girls. Anyone who has attended the annual meetings of the Clinton Global Initiative, for instance, has seen and heard that commitment repeated again and again, around the world, in Muslim countries and everywhere else.
The fact that economic and social development demand full gender equality has been the unmistakable message of those meetings, year after year, for more than a decade. And no Saudi official who looked at the foundation’s programs in health, education, or economic development could misunderstand what the Clintons and their foundation are saying and doing.
To consider just one example: Over the past dozen years, the Clinton Health Access Initiative has helped to save millions of lives, including many women and girls suffering from HIV/AIDS. In Ethiopia, the Saudi billionaire Sheik Mohammed Al Amoudi donated $20 million to a Clinton Foundation program providing AIDS drugs to infected men, women, and children.
Would it have been better to refuse the Saudi money, provide less medicine, and let some of those Ethiopians die?
While Bill Clinton’s answer is plain enough, let’s not pretend such moral quandaries really trouble Rand Paul and his ilk. We already know that politicians like him are quite prepared to “let ’em die” here as well as over there, because they are eager to repeal the Affordable Care Act, ruin Medicare, and gut the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
But it is a question for the rest of us to consider seriously.
By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editor’s Blog, The National Memo, March 20, 2015
“GOP Strategy Won’t Fool Women”: All The Rhetoric In The World Won’t Make Up For Republicans Opposing Pro-Women Policies
If they’re going to pull out a victory in the midterm elections, Republicans need to win over women. But they’re doing everything in their power to alienate them, from pushing extreme anti-abortion measures that even most Republican voters oppose to blocking equal-pay legislation to, well, just opening their mouths. A leading Republican congressional candidate in Georgia recently said, sure, a woman can run for office if she is “within the authority of her husband.”
A report actually commissioned by Republican groups and reported in Politico found that women view the party as “intolerant” and “stuck in the past.” The report found that women are “barely receptive” to GOP policies.
In other words, Republicans are losing female voters faster than their anti-contraception policies can produce them.
What are Republicans to do? The Republican Party seems reluctant to change its actual policies to support women’s economic and reproductive choices and, ya know, generally acknowledge the realities of modern liberated women. So instead, several Republican candidates are coming out against domestic violence in an attempt to seem sensitive to us girls and our issues. That should do the trick, right?
“My ex-husband beat me with a baseball bat, threw me in a garbage can filled with snow and left me in a frozen storage locker to die,” a woman says, looking straight at the camera, in one such ad for Scott Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin. “At that time, I was pregnant, and I lost the child I was carrying. But I fought to stay alive for my other two children, and today I am fighting for Scott Walker.”
Similar ads have been run by Steve Daines, Republican Senate candidate in Montana, and Scott Brown, Republican Senate candidate in New Hampshire.
There’s just one problem: All the rhetoric in the world doesn’t make up for Republicans opposing and obstructing pro-women policies. It’s not just the repeated attempts to crush reproductive freedom and block equal-pay legislation; Republicans also opposed the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. That’s the law that was actually supposed to do something about domestic violence, a law that Republicans blocked for over a year before finally caving and allowing it to pass.
Republicans objected to provisions in the bill that would expand domestic violence protections for Native Americans and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans; they even tried to pass their own version of the bill with these protections stripped out. Ultimately, after a year of obstructionism, Republicans allowed the more expansive and bipartisan Senate version of the act to come up for a vote in the House — and even then, a majority of Republicans voted against the measure.
Fast-forward to election season. Florida Republican Steve Southerland has one of the toughest re-election fights in the country. In the House, Southerland voted against the expanded version of the Violence Against Women Act, the version that ultimately passed, but voted for the narrow Republican version that didn’t pass. Now, Southerland is running an ad featuring a survivor of domestic violence who says, “Our congressman, Steve, is advocating for things like (the) Violence Against Women Act.” Well, kinda sorta but not really, Steve.
Southerland’s opponent, Gwen Graham, had her response ad up within 24 hours, accusing Southerland of “saying one thing in TV ads, doing the opposite in Congress.” Which basically sums up all the attempts of Republicans to appeal to female voters on rhetoric but abandon them on policy.
And to be clear, equal pay and reproductive freedom are also key to preventing domestic violence. As the National Network to End Domestic Violence writes, “Like all women, survivors of domestic violence need equal pay initiatives like the Paycheck Fairness Act. As long as women are paid less than men, most survivors will have less ability to gain financial stability and independence.” Many of these women are low-wage workers, who would also be helped by raising the minimum wage.
And a new study this week finds (PDF) that as many as one in four women who seek an abortion experience violence from an intimate partner. Women often say one primary reason for seeking an abortion is to avoid exposing their children to domestic violence. Another reason: They don’t want to remain tied to an abusive partner. According to this long-term study, when these women are able to access abortion services, their odds of being abused decrease by 7% each month after — while women who can’t get an abortion see their rates of domestic violence remain the same or even increase.
Reproductive choice, including abortion rights, and wage equity, including raising the minimum wage and passing gender-equity legislation, are key not only for all women and their families but for victims and survivors of domestic violence, for whom economic and reproductive freedom translates directly into freedom from abuse.
The Republican Party has do more than just talk about domestic violence and women’s opportunity and actually support the real policies that support women’s freedom and choices — or otherwise, women will keep choosing to vote for Democrats.
By: Sally Kohn, CNN Opinion, October 9, 2014
This election season, there are really only a handful of House Republican incumbents who are in real trouble. Freshman Rep. Steve Southerland (R), who narrowly won in his North Florida district in 2012, is one of them.
In a district in which registered Democrats outnumber Republicans, it seems Southerland would be smart to play it safe and try to avoid alienating key constituencies. And yet, the GOP congressman seems to have a knack for pushing women voters away.
For example, Southerland was recently caught misleading voters about his vote on the Violence Against Women Act. Making matters worse, voters recently learned the conservative lawmaker hosted a men-only fundraising event a few months ago. The invitation, obtained by BuzzFeed, encouraged attendees to “tell the misses not to wait up” because “the after dinner whiskey and cigars will be smooth & the issues to discuss are many.”
Southerland’s opponent, school administrator Gwen Graham (D), criticized the fundraiser, prompting the congressman to make matters just a little worse.
Asked to respond to the Democrats’ criticism that he’s anti-women, Southerland laughed and said: “I live with five women. That’s all I’m saying. I live with five women. Listen: Has Gwen Graham ever been to a lingerie shower? Ask her. And how many men were there?”
He didn’t appear to be kidding. In Southerland’s mind, a sitting congressman hosting a policy discussion with donors is comparable to women hosting a “lingerie shower.”
Just as an aside, I’ll confess to having the exact same reaction to this as the Miami Herald’s Marc Caputo: “What’s a ‘lingerie shower?’ Most people know what baby showers are. And a few are probably familiar with lingerie shows. To combine the two is kinda creepy.” When a reader noted that “lingerie showers” are usually held for brides to be, Caputo added, “And that makes Southerland’s comment even less helpful to his cause.”
MSNBC’s Anna Brand talked to Gwen Graham’s campaign manager about Southerland’s comments.
Graham’s campaign manager Julia Gill Woodward responded to the comparison to msnbc, saying “This isn’t just stuff Steve Southerland says; given his pattern of troubling actions and disturbing comments, it is obviously what Steve Southerland believes. Southerland says these things out of a fundamental disrespect for women.”
“Only if Southerland disrespects women could he hold an official, Men-Only Southerland campaign fundraiser and laugh it off after the fact,” Woodward continued. “Only if Southerland disrespects women could he air TV ads claiming to have voted for The Violence Against Women Act while he actually voted against it in Congress. Only if Southerland disrespects women could he make this insulting ‘lingerie party’ comment about a woman like Gwen Graham.”
The DCCC’s interest in this race was strong before. I have a hunch it just got stronger.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 15, 2014
This question has stymied political strategists and pundits for a long time. As an expert in the women’s market, I too am baffled by the way people, especially women, vote against those who share their ideals and values in lieu of voting for those who don’t.
I have frequently been asked and often pondered the question: “Why would a woman vote Republican when they clearly have a war on women?” I wish I had a great answer for this. Perhaps they have always voted Republican, and thus continue down this path. Perhaps they are wealthy and the tax breaks the Republicans fight for, that primarily benefit the rich, is the most important reason. Perhaps they believe the falsehoods and phony rhetoric of the Republican Party. Whatever the reason, I find it truly disturbing.
Both women and men should vote for elected officials whose actions show that they have the best interests of the citizens and country in mind, but for some reason, they don’t.
While I acknowledge that many Republican women are pro-life, offering choice, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, just makes good sense. I’m not advocating abortion; I am saying that I should have the choice to decide what is best for me and my family.
Equally troubling is why Republican women support a party who barely passed the Violence Against Women Act, who don’t support legislation to guarantee that a women receives equal pay for equal work, and who think women’s bosses should have the right to determine her health care and reproductive decisions.
As Republican governors refuse to accept billions of dollars in free federal money to expand Medicaid, hundreds of thousands of people are going without medical care and are dying needlessly. As the GOP continues to cut billions from food stamps, many women and children are going hungry.
Men are also hurt by the policies of the Republican Party. Many men support the party because they are pro-gun, but Republicans also vote to keep the minimum wage at poverty levels and are against extending unemployment benefits. These policies hurt the working class.
Republicans want to reduce government spending and control, but I wonder if the populace realizes that many solidly red states that they live in receive a huge percentage of their income from the federal government? In actuality, the amount many red states pay in federal taxes is small compared to the amount they receive back from the government.
Do they think about how the government spends this money building the roads they drive on daily, or providing funds for the fire department that comes to their home if there is an emergency? When a natural disaster strikes them, do they accept F.E.M.A’s help? These and many more necessities are government-funded programs.
To cut spending on these and other projects as the Republicans suggest, would greatly impact both the men and women in these states in a very destructive way. It reminds me of the old saying, “cutting off your nose to spite your face.” It makes no sense.
In reality, the Republicans don’t want to cut spending, just redistribute it from the poor and middle class to the wealthy. The Republican budget once again gives massive tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans, while it cuts programs and safety nets that help many of the people who vote Republican. I don’t understand why people vote against their own best interests, especially when it hurts their family, the economy and the principles on which America was founded.
I respect the two-party system and believe it is healthy for a democracy to have differences that exist in many areas of fiscal and social governance. But the right-wing fringe has hijacked the sanity of the Republican Party, and the GOP needs to get back on track. Gerrymandering, suppressing the vote, allowing unrestricted funds and unlimited terms have led to undemocratic practices which will destroy America if voters don’t stand up and fight for what is right.
Citizens, whether Republicans, Democrats or Independents, all have much to gain by voting for politicians who are interested in the good of the country: working together, listening to each other, and compromising. If they continue to choose representatives who do not support our fragile Democratic Process, citizens will soon have more reasons to fear Washington D.C. than foreign terrorists.
By: Gerry Meyers, CEO, President and Co-founder of Advisory Link;The Huffington Post Blog, April 21, 2014
“Another Case Of Willful Deception”: Mitch McConnell Shouldn’t Brag About Supporting Bills He Opposed
Several weeks ago, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) got caught misleading Kentucky voters about his record on the Violence Against Women Act. This morning, he was even more brazen on the subject (via Joe Sonka).
A press release distributed by Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) campaign at a “Women for Team Mitch” event on Friday brags about the Senate Minority Leader’s support for the Violence Against Women Act, even though McConnell voted against the measure in 1994, 2012, and 2013.
“Mitch was the co-sponsor of the original Violence Against Women Act — and continues to advocate for stronger polices to protect women. I am proud to call him my senator,” the document quotes a voter as saying.
For months, a variety of congressional Republicans have pretended to support the Violence Against Women Act, even after they voted against it, hoping voters and reporters wouldn’t know the difference.
But the fact that McConnell has a lot of company doesn’t make this any better. His campaign is now trying to give voters the impression that he’s championed VAWA, but in reality, McConnell has voted against it repeatedly. Indeed, he voted against it even when he knew with certainty it would pass — suggesting he opposed the law just to make a point about the depth and seriousness of his opposition.
As for the notion that McConnell “continues to advocate for stronger polices to protect women,” let’s also not forget that the Senate Minority Leader voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act.
If McConnell wants to defend his record, fine. If he wants Kentuckians to find merit in the votes he cast, the senator is welcome to make his case. But the fact that he sees willful deception as the appropriate course is a problem.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 30, 2013