mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

Mitt Romney The Weathervane: What Our Most Changeable Politician Can Tell Us About The Modern GOP

As Mitt Romney enters the Republican presidential race this week, there will be plenty of attention on his shifting political views. But Romney’s changing positions are not just the tragicomic tale of a man so desperate for the presidency he’ll say anything to get there: they’re also a valuable measure of what it takes to make it in the modern GOP.

Romney’s many breathtaking U-turns — on universal health care, on gay rights, on abortion rights — have been extensively documented and parsed, and have become a reliable punchline. The former governor’s willingness to adopt the position that he thinks will get him the most votes in whatever election he happens to be running in does speak to his own character. But Romney’s ease at shifting also makes him a perfect weathervane for measuring the audiences he is trying to appeal to. And the speed with which Romney has been spinning to the right is an alarming sign of the political winds within the Republican Party.

This weekend, Romney will be making an important appearance among a group that has historically mistrusted him: the Religious Right. Speaking at the annual conference of Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition, Romney can be expected to once again disavow his previously convenient reasonable positions on abortion rights and gay equality. But he is also likely to go a step farther.

At a similar event in 2007, as he tried to shake off his image as a socially moderate Massachusetts Republican in preparation for his first presidential run, Romney spoke at the Values Voter Summit hosted by a coalition of right-wing social issues groups. In his speech, he rattled off Religious Right catchphrases, speaking of the United States’ “Judeo-Christian heritage,” the “breakdown of the family,” and making “out-of-wedlock birth out of fashion again” and passing an anti-gay marriage amendment to “protect marriage from liberal, unelected judges.” He promised a federal “marriage amendment,” funding for vouchers for religious schools and across-the-board anti-choice policies. By earlier that year, he had impressed Ann Coulter enough that she endorsed him in a speech made famous by her use of an anti-gay slur.

At last year’s Values Voter Summit, having done full penance to the Religious Right for his previous statements in favor of gay rights and choice, Romney focused his speech on right-wing economic policies, including an odd tribute comparing Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton to the Founding Fathers. But the company he kept revealed the friends he was hoping to make. The event was sponsored in part by the Family Research Council and the American Family Association, two groups who were soon to be named “hate groups” by the SPLC for their long histories of false anti-gay rhetoric. Romney’s fellow speakers included Religious Right stalwarts Phyllis Schlafly, Tony Perkins, Planned Parenthood scam artist Lila Rose, and the AFA’s Bryan Fischer, who has gained infamy with his vicious rhetoric about gays and lesbians, Muslims, African Americans and progressives. I wrote a letter to Romney warning him about associating himself with Fischer — he didn’t respond.

The Religious Right leaders that Romney is eager to curry favor with aren’t just hostile to gays, Muslims and the social safety net — many have expressed concern or even outright hostility to Romney’s own Mormon faith. Fischer recently confronted Romney’s faith, declaring that there is “a direct contradiction between Mormon theology and the teaching of Jesus Christ.” A writer for a leading Religious Right publication declared, “If Mitt Romney believes what the Mormon Church teaches about the world and how it operates, then he is unfit to serve.” As Romney angles himself into an increasingly extreme GOP, he will have to make nice to those who insult not only his past politics but his core religious beliefs.

At the Faith and Freedom Conference this weekend, Romney will have a similar opportunity to reinforce his social conservative bona fides while tying in his newly adamant anti-gay and anti-choice positions with the Tea Party’s love of pro-corporate anti-tax talk. Ralph Reed, the resurgent mastermind behind the Christian Coalition, will perhaps be the perfect ally in his effort to paint himself as a true Tea Party candidate who wants small government for corporations and big government for individuals. Reed was, after all, partly responsible for bringing the passion of American evangelicals to the Republican anti-regulation agenda and schmoozes equally comfortably with Pat Robertson and Jack Abramoff. He is the perfect power-broker for an age when GOP politicians are supposed to oppose universal health care while supporting IRS involvement in abortions – the niche that Romney is trying to carefully fit himself into.

Romney will try to take advantage of the GOP base’s newfound love of tax breaks for the rich, while continuing to pretend that he never supported choice and gay rights and reasonable environmental and health policies. If he can get away with it, he’ll be the perfect candidate for today’s ultraconservative GOP. But either way, he’s bound to become a powerful symbol of just how far to the Right you have to go to make it in today’s Republican Party.

 

By: Michael B. Keegan, President, People For The American Way: Posted June 3, 2011 in The Huffington Post.

June 5, 2011 Posted by | Conservatives, Democracy, Economy, Elections, GOP, Health Care, Ideologues, Ideology, Mitt Romney, Politics, Public Opinion, Religion, Republicans, Right Wing, Tea Party, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Return Of Back-Alley Abortions

Underground abortions have returned to the United States, just as pro-choice activists have warned for years. And women have started going to jail for the crime of ending their own pregnancies, or trying to.

This week Jennie L. McCormack, a 32-year-old mother of three from eastern Idaho, was arrested for self-inducing an abortion. According to the Associated Press, McCormack couldn’t afford a legal procedure, and so took pills that her sister had ordered online. For some reason, she kept the fetus, which police found after they were called by a disapproving acquaintance. She now faces up to five years in prison, as well as a $5,000 fine.

Idaho recently banned abortions after 20 weeks, and McCormack’s fetus was reportedly between five and six months old. But according to Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, a staff attorney for the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, under Idaho law, McCormack could have been arrested even if she’d been in her first trimester because self-induced abortion is illegal in all circumstances. “It doesn’t matter if it’s an 8- or 10- or 12-week abortion,” says Kolbi-Molinas. “If you do what you could get lawfully in a doctor’s office—what you have a constitutional right to access in a doctor’s office—they can throw you in jail and make you a convicted felon.”

While horrific, McCormack’s case is not unique. In recent years, several women have been arrested on suspicion of causing their own abortions, or attempting to. Most have come from conservative rural states with few clinics and numerous restrictions on abortion. In America’s urban centers and liberal enclaves, the idea of women being prosecuted for taking desperate measures to end their pregnancies might seem inconceivable, a never-again remnant of the era before Roe v. Wade. In fact, it’s a slowly encroaching reality.

Even more, these cases demonstrate that criminalizing abortion means turning women who have abortions into criminals.

In 2005, Gabriela Flores, a 22-year-old Mexican migrant worker, was arrested in South Carolina. Like McCormack, she had three children and said she couldn’t afford a fourth, and so she turned to clandestinely acquired pills. (The drug she took, Misoprostol, is an ulcer medicine that also works as an abortifacient and is widely used in Latin American countries where abortion is illegal.) Initially facing two years in prison, she ended up being sentenced to 90 days.

In 2009, a 17-year-old Utah girl known in court filings as J.M.S. found herself pregnant by an older man who is now facing charges of using her in child pornography. J.M.S. lived in house without electricity or running water in a remote part of the state, several hours’ drive from the nearest clinic, which was in Salt Lake City. Getting there would have required not just a car—her area had no public transportation—but money for a hotel in order to comply with Utah’s 24-hour-waiting period, as well as for the cost of the abortion itself.

According to prosecutors, when J.M.S. was in her third trimester, she paid a man $150 to beat her in the hopes of inducing a miscarriage. The fetus survived, but she was charged with criminal solicitation to commit murder. When her case was thrown out on the grounds that her actions weren’t illegal under the state’s definition of abortion, legislators changed the law so they would be able to punish women like her in the future.

Meanwhile, prosecutors have appealed J.M.S.’ case to the Supreme Court, and observers expect it to rule against her. She could still face a trial and prison time.

A woman doesn’t even have to be trying to abort to find herself under arrest. Last year, a pregnant 22-year-old in Iowa named Christine Taylor ended up in the hospital after falling down a flight of stairs. A mother of two, she told a nurse she’d tripped after an upsetting phone conversation with her estranged husband. Though she’d gone to the hospital to make sure her fetus was OK, she confessed that she’d been ambivalent about the pregnancy and unsure whether she was ready to become a single mother of three.

Suspecting Taylor had hurled herself down the stairs on purpose, the nurse called a doctor, and at some point the police were brought in. Taylor was arrested on charges of attempted feticide. She spent two days in jail before the charges were dropped because she was in her second trimester, and Iowa’s feticide laws don’t kick in until the third.

These cases are a harbinger of what’s to come as abortion laws become increasingly strict and abortion clinics harder to access in the more conservative parts of the country. They demonstrate the lengths to which women will go to end unwanted pregnancies. But even more, they demonstrate that criminalizing abortion means turning women who have abortions into criminals.

The antiabortion movement likes to see itself as pro-woman. Most of its spokespeople talk about protecting women from abortion, insisting they’re not interested in seeing them punished. “It’s tragic that this young woman felt that this was her only way out,” National Right to Life President Carol Tobias said in a statement in response to questions about the McCormack case. “The pro-life movement has never supported jail sentences for women who are victims of the abortion culture and abortion industry.”

Tobias said her group calls on Idaho officials “to engage in more publicity about the network of pregnancy resource centers and about the existence of Idaho’s safe haven law—either of which would have helped this young mother and saved her child.” But she didn’t call on them to release McCormack or to change the laws under which she’s being charged. If these sorts of prosecutions aren’t what the antiabortion movement had in mind when it pushed wave after wave of state-level legislation, now might be a good time to speak up.

 

By: Michelle Goldberg, Contributing Writer, The Daily Beast, June 3, 2011

 

 

June 5, 2011 Posted by | Abortion, Anti-Choice, Class Warfare, Conservatives, Constitution, Education, Equal Rights, GOP, Government, Governors, Health Care, Human Rights, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Planned Parenthood, Politics, Privacy, Pro-Choice, Public Health, Republicans, Right Wing, Sex Abuse, State Legislatures, States, Uninsured, Women, Women's Health, Womens Rights | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ryan Plan “V” Word: A Voucher By Any Other Name…

When President Obama met with congressional Republicans this week, GOP leaders were particularly incensed about Democrats using the word “voucher” when describing the Republican plan to end Medicare. Paul Ryan and others prefer “premium support,” and consider the Dems’ rhetoric to be “demagoguery.”

There are two main problems with this rhetorical disagreement. The first is that the GOP plan really does rely on vouchers, whether the party cares for the word or not. The second is that plenty of far-right Republicans are inclined to ignore their party’s talking-point instructions.

Here, for example, was Sen. Ron Johnson (R) of Wisconsin, a Tea Party favorite, explaining one of the things he likes most about his party’s Medicare plan.

“What I like about the Paul Ryan plan is it’s trying to bring a little bit of free-market principles back into Medicare.

“If you need subsidized care, we’ll give you vouchers. You figure out how you want to spend. You select what insurance carrier you want to use. It’s a start.”

It’s not just Johnson. Last week, GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain argued, “Nobody’s talking about the fact that the centerpiece of Ryan’s plan is a voucher. Now, a lot of people don’t like to use that term because it has a negative connotation. That is what we need.” Even Fox News has referred to the Republican plan as being built around “vouchers.

If conservative Republicans are using the word, why is it outrageous when Democrats do the same thing? Are Johnson, Cain, and the Republican cable news network all secretly siding with the left?

As for the substance behind the claim, it’s worth noting that this isn’t just about semantics — the GOP claim that their scheme doesn’t include vouchers is just wrong. Paul Krugman explained yesterday:

[T]he ACA is specifically designed to ensure that insurance is affordable, whereas Ryancare just hands out vouchers and washes its hands. Specifically, the ACA subsidy system (pdf) sets a maximum percentage of income that families are expected to pay for insurance, on a sliding scale that rises with income. To the extent that the actual cost of a minimum acceptable policy exceeds that percentage of income, subsidies make up the difference.

Ryancare, by contrast, provides a fixed sum — end of story. And because this fixed sum would not grow with rising health care costs, it’s almost guaranteed to fall far short of the actual cost of insurance.

This is also why Ryancare is NOT premium support; it’s a voucher system. No matter how much they say it isn’t, that’s exactly what it is.

Given this reality, why do Republicans throw such a fit about the use of the “v” word? Because vouchers don’t poll well. For the right, the key is to come up with phrasing, no matter how deceptive, that persuades the public. If GOP leaders throw a big enough tantrum, they’re hoping everyone — Dems, pundits, reporters, even other Republicans — will use the words they like, rather than more accurate words that make the party look bad.

No one should be fooled.

 

By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, June 4, 2011

June 5, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Conservatives, Consumers, Democrats, GOP, Government, Health Care, Health Care Costs, Health Reform, Ideologues, Ideology, Journalists, Media, Medicare, Middle Class, Politics, President Obama, Press, Public, Pundits, Rep Paul Ryan, Republicans, Right Wing, Tea Party, Uninsured | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

%d bloggers like this: