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“The Republican Pity Party”: They Gave It Their All And Came Up Empty

Conservative behavior since President Obama’s reelection in November has evoked, at least in me, a keen sense of sadness. Hardly a day goes by without weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth by the likes of Rush Limbaugh on talk radio and Sean Hannity on Fox News over Obama’s return to the White House. Similar whining is heard among Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Simply put, conservatives are in agony over the president’s smashing victory. Their pain is hard to watch. Only small-minded Democrats would gloat.

What we’re seeing is the impact of losing when you believed with all your heart, soul and mind, buttressed by the predictions of pollsters and pundits, that you would win handily.

The reaction is, for me, heart-rending.

Consider the feeble attempt by House Republicans to recover political ground by threatening Obama over the debt limit.

The poor things, crazed by their defeat, didn’t realize that they had no leverage. They had to back down with a face-saving gimmick to suspend through May enforcement of the limit on federal borrowing.

Consider some Republicans’ return to the issue of what happened in Benghazi, Libya. Did they really think that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would traipse up to the Hill this week, prostrate herself before Congress and confess to something that she knew wasn’t true?

They so wanted her to say that there was mendacity and attempts by the administration to cover up malfeasance in the Sept. 11 attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility. Some seemed truly distressed that Clinton wouldn’t give them what they wanted. They were so desperate. It was so sad.

And so it has gone since election night. The lamentations abound:

●Obama’s nominations of Jack Lew as Treasury secretary and Chuck Hagel as defense secretary are confrontational; woe unto us.

●“I would have liked to have seen some outreach” in Obama’s inaugural address, complained Sen. John McCain, who, with his Republican cohorts, did everything they could to kick Barack Obama out of the White House.

●The Obama administration will “attempt to annihilate the Republican Party . . . to just shove us into the dustbin of history,” House Speaker John Boehner wailed this week.

And so it goes: one big conservative pity party.

Imagine how hard it must have been to lose.

For four long years they hit Obama with everything they had, assailing him at every turn. No insult was too offensive to be hurled; no abuse too outrageous to be tried; no name too abusive to call.

From Day One, destruction of the Obama administration and preventing his reelection was top priority; the second item too far down the list to remember.

Four years of blame, blame, blame. Blah, blah, blah.

Conservatives on Capitol Hill and right-wing commentators left nothing on the field.

They gave it their all — and came up empty.

What an emotional letdown. How not to feel at least a little sorry for them?

So where do they go from here?

This should be a time for introspection, for conservatives to examine their thoughts and look inside for answers as to why they lost when, at first blush, they had so much going for them. And why were they so dead set on not just defeating but breaking this president?

Hard-liners, of course, will take exception to my characterization of their behavior. What I might call abusive or mean they would probably describe as passionate: their passionate defense of liberty, the Constitution, smaller government, free enterprise and the individual — all things they see Obama as opposing.

The conservative wing regards itself as all that stands between freedom and tyranny, between order and chaos, between values and licentiousness.

And perhaps that self-view explains why they are taking their loss so hard.

It also may help explain why their conduct is so, well, touching.

Conservatives yakking it up in House and Senate chambers and on the airwaves these days are delusional, in much the way that the South deluded itself into thinking it was in the right during the Civil War or that Republicans held fast to the misguided belief that the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt was wrong for the country.

American principles endure. But America is changing, just as it evolved during the Lincoln era and just as it emerged from the Great Depression under FDR’s leadership.

What makes this so excruciatingly sad is that some forces on the right are too far gone to see the truth.

 

By: Colbert I. King, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, January 25, 2013

January 26, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Politics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Lesson From The Inauguration”: When Everything Is Partisan, Just Do What’s Right

I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised when Republicans started complaining that President Obama’s second inaugural address was too “partisan” and lacked “outreach” across the aisle. But who was left out? What did they find “partisan”? The acknowledgement of climate science? The idea that women should receive equal pay for equal work? The nod to civil rights struggles of our past and present? The hope that no American will have to wait in hours-long lines to vote? The defense of the existence of a social safety net? The determination to offer support to the victims of a historic storm and to find real answers to the epidemic of mass shootings? In the not-too-distant past, none of these would have raised eyebrows except on the very, very far right. But I guess that’s the point: what was once the radical fringe is now in control of the Grand Old Party.

In many ways, Monday’s inauguration ceremony was a Tea Party Republican’s nightmare-come-true. The openly gay poet. The Spanish sprinkled into the benediction. The one-two-three punch of “Seneca Falls to Selma to Stonewall.” It was the embodiment of all that the far right has tried to wall itself off from as the country begins to include more and more of the real America in its democracy.

What would have pleased this faction, short of winning the presidential election? I imagine they would have preferred a paean to the America of their imaginations — where the founders were flawless and prescient about the right to bear assault weapons and the Constitution was delivered, amendments included, directly from God; where there are no gay people or only silent ones, where the world is not getting warmer; where there have been no struggles in the process of forging a more perfect union. This, of course, would have been its very own kind of political statement — and one that was just rejected by the majority of American voters.

If embracing America as it is rather than as a shimmery vision of what it never was constitutes partisanship, and if it turns off people who cling to that dishonest vision, let’s have more of it.

 

By: Michael B. Keegan, The Huffington Post, January 24, 2013

January 26, 2013 Posted by | Inauguration 2013 | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Complete Ignorance”: Does Rush Limbaugh Think Civil Rights Activists Should Have Shot Cops?

Under the guidance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the practice of nonviolence was an historic cornerstone of the American civil rights movement. Writing in 1966, Dr. King affirmed, “I am convinced that for practical as well as moral reasons, nonviolence offers the only road to freedom for my people.”

But last week, spinning on behalf of gun advocates and continuing the far-right’s convoluted attempt to equate Second Amendment supporters to modern-day civil rights protesters, Rush Limbaugh suggested that if civil rights activists had brandished guns maybe the movement could have better protected itself from segregationist foes [emphasis added]:

LIMBAUGH: If a lot of African-Americans back in the ’60s had guns and the legal right to use them for self-defense, you think they would have needed Selma? I don’t know. I’m just asking. If (Rep) John Lewis, who says he was beat upside the head, if John Lewis had had a gun, would he have been beat upside the head on the bridge?

Basically Limbaugh, stretching to make an absurd point about guns in America, suggested it would have been better if Dr. King’s non-violent crusade had embraced firearms as a way to advance its cause.

Specifically, the right-wing talker wondered if civil rights icon John Lewis had been carrying a gun on March 7, 1965, would Lewis still have been beaten when he led 600 unarmed activists across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, AL. (aka “Bloody Sunday.”)

Not only is the gun suggestion an insult to the non-violent philosophy that Dr. King preached in the name of social justice, but it also highlights Limbaugh’s complete ignorance about the civil rights movement and who was handing out the beatings at the time. As Lewis noted while responding to Limbaugh’s comments last week, “Violence begets violence, and we believed the only way to achieve peaceful ends was through peaceful means.”

Fact: The people attacking black activists that day in Selma were Alabama state troopers. If, as Limbaugh suggested, Lewis had a gun and was willing to use it against his aggressors, if he had fired in “self-defense” after troopers charged into the crowd of peaceful protesters, that would have meant Lewis spraying bullets into a crowd of white policemen.

One can only imagine what the repercussions would have been in segregated Alabama, in 1965, and what that would have done to the cause of civil rights in the South.

Limbaugh and others are going so far around the bend trying to argue the benefits of guns and how virtually all Americans should be armed, that they’re producing historic scenarios that most people (and especially Limbaugh) would have treated as radical and revolutionary. Like civil rights marchers opening fire on policemen in 1965. (Or the idea that gun-toting African-Americans could have eradicated slavery centuries ago.)

Also, note that by telling listeners Lewis “says he was beat upside the head” during the Selma protest (emphasis on his use of “says”), Limbaugh seemed to indicate the point was open to debate or interpretation. However, this famous news photograph showing Lewis knocked to the ground in Selma and being beaten by an Alabama state trooper leaves no doubt as to what happened that day.

 

By: Eric Boehlert, The Huffington Post, January 22, 2013

January 26, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A New Awareness”: How The NRA Undermined Congress’ Last Push For Gun Control

Last week, President Obama unveiled sweeping proposals on gun control, including a ban on military-style assault weapons, a reduction of ammunition magazine capacity and stiffer background checks on gun buyers.

National Rifle Association president David Keene quickly accused the Obama administration of being opportunistic. The president is “using our children to pursue an ideological anti-gun agenda,” he said.

The NRA has already begun to lobby on Capitol Hill to counter the administration’s effort.

To get a sense of what the NRA might do, it’s helpful to look at how it scored a victory during the last major federal initiative to tighten gun control.

After a Virginia Tech student killed 32 students and faculty in April 2007, the Bush administration proposed legislation that would require all states to share the names of residents involuntarily committed to mental health facilities. The information would be provided to a Federal Bureau of Investigation database.

The idea, in part, was to help gun dealers get important information about whether potential customers were mentally ill.

In order to get the support of the NRA, Congress agreed to two concessions that had long been on the agenda of gun-rights advocates — concessions that later proved to hamstring the database.

The NRA wanted the government to change the way it deemed someone “mentally defective,” excluding people, for example, who were no longer under any psychiatric supervision or monitoring. The group also pushed for a way for the mentally ill to regain gun rights if they could prove in court that they’d been rehabilitated.

The NRA found allies on both sides of the aisle to champion the concessions.

Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) reportedly pushed the provisions, ultimately with the support of the bill’s lead sponsor, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), whose husband was killed and her son wounded in a 1993 shooting on the Long Island Railroad.

The NRA agreed to support the bill, in exchange for provisions pushing states to create gun rights restoration programs.

Here’s how it worked. It would cost money for states to share their data: A state agency would have to monitor the courts, collect the names of people who had been institutionalized, and then send that information to the FBI on a regular basis.

So, to help pay for data-sharing, Congress created $375 million in annual federal grants and incentives. But to be eligible for the federal money, the states would have to set up a gun restoration program approved by the Justice Department. No gun rights restoration program, no money to help pay for sharing data.

A spokesman for Dingell’s office did not respond to calls for comment on this story. A McCarthy spokesman, Shams Tarek, said the congresswoman is now working on new legislation to “provide more incentives and stiffen penalties for states to put names in the database.”

“We definitely think there’s a lot of room for improvement,” said Tarek.

The NRA supported Dingell and McCarthy’s version of the bill, but the group won further concessions when the legislation reached the Senate.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) who once joked he’d like to bring a gun with him to the Senate floor, blocked the legislation, citing concerns about privacy and spending.

He negotiated language that, among other things, would allow a person’s application for gun rights restoration to be granted automatically if an agency didn’t respond within 365 days of the application and allowed people to have their attorney’s fees reimbursed if they were forced to go to court to restore their rights.

The final bill was sent to President Bush for his signature in January, 2008.

The NRA praised Coburn and released a statement calling the law a victory for gun owners: “After months of careful negotiation, pro-gun legislation was passed through Congress today.” (The NRA didn’t respond to calls for comment.)

In an email, a Coburn spokesman told ProPublica that the senator “does not operate as an agent of the NRA when considering legislation regarding gun rights” and pointed to a recent statement on the president’s gun proposals. (In the statement, Coburn said he supports improving the mental health database, but said overall, “we first must ensure our Constitutional rights and individual liberties.”)

Since the bill’s passage, two analyses have shown that National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) database has significant gaps, partly because of the way the NRA managed to tweak the legislation. Many states aren’t sharing all of their mental health records.

A July 2012 report by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, found that while the overall number of records increased exponentially since the law passed, the rise is largely due to cooperation from just 12 states.

The nonprofit group Mayors Against Illegal Guns also released a report in 2011 showing that many states have failed to fulfill their obligations to report data on the mentally ill to the federal government. While Virginia and a few others have disclosed tens of thousands of records, 23 others and the District of Columbia reported fewer than 100 records. Seventeen states reported fewer than 10 records and four submitted no data at all.

“Millions of records identifying seriously mentally ill people and drug abusers as prohibited purchasers are missing from the federal background check database because of lax reporting by state agencies,” the report said.

According to the report, the reasons for such uneven compliance vary by state. Some states don’t turn over data because their privacy laws prevent them from doing so. Some states have a different interpretation on what kind of data needs to be provided, or what, exactly, constitutes “mentally ill” or “involuntarily committed.”

Still others simply can’t afford the expense of gleaning the data from the courts, providing it to the relevant state agency and then passing it on to the federal government.

The NRA-backed language creates problems for these states.

As a New York Times investigation found, many states haven’t qualified for federal funding to share their data because they haven’t established gun rights restoration programs.

In 2012, only 12 states received federal grants, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

A Coburn spokesman pointed out that some states have had trouble setting up restoration programs because gun control advocates in those states have protested them.

While mental health data has remained sparse, some states have made it easier for the mentally ill to restore their gun rights. As the Times noted, in Virginia some people have regained rights to guns by simply writing a letter to the state. Other Virginians got their rights back just weeks or months after being hospitalized for psychiatric care.

It’s difficult to know just how many people in Virginia have had their gun rights restored because no agency is responsible for keeping track.

Despite the limitations of the mental health database, some gun control advocates still see it as better than nothing.

“The fact that so many states have been able to get so many records into the database does demonstrate a willingness on the part of certain groups to work on this issue and that’s a good sign. The others really need to step up,” said Lindsay Nichols, a staff attorney at the San Francisco-based Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

The group, then known as the Legal Community Against Violence, was one of several gun control organizations that opposed the legislation when it was first signed into law.

Nichols is optimistic that the NRA won’t succeed in commandeering the gun control debate the way the group did after Virginia Tech.

“I think there’s new awareness among the public and legislators that we need to take this issue seriously and it’s not an issue where the public is going to accept political wrangling.”

 

By: Joaquin Sapien, ProPublica, January 25, 2013

January 26, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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