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“A Return To Baseline Crazy”: Lindsey Graham Hits Bottom, Again

Oh, that Lindsey Graham, that formerly moderate, mavericky senator from South Carolina. Only a day ago he was among eight senators who seemed to be defying the Tea Party gridlock of the last four years, joining together to back a “framework” for comprehensive immigration reform. Now he’s threatening to kill any legislation that includes protections for same-sex couples, growling to reporters, “Why don’t we just put legalized abortion in there and round it all out?”

Good one!

An irritated Sen. John McCain, who’s now spent a full 24 hours looking like someone we haven’t seen in at least six years, shot back, “We haven’t even gotten that far yet. This is thrown out by the people who think we have gotten into the details, which we haven’t.”

Um, “thrown out by the people who think we have gotten into the details”? One of those people is one of your seven Senate partners, Sen. McCain.

That’s not the only crackpot Tea Party talking point from Graham over the last day. He also claimed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “got away with murder” on Benghazi, and threatened to put a hold on former Sen. Chuck Hagel’s nomination as defense secretary because … well, there’s no connection between Hagel and Benghazi. Graham says he’s mad that outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta hasn’t yet answered his questions about the Sept. 11 attack, so he’ll block Hagel, whom he’s already attacked as anti-Israel, which would seem to have nothing to do with Benghazi.

It seems Graham was too cowardly to stand up to his buddy McCain and block John Kerry’s nomination to replace Clinton, so he’ll target Hagel and make neocons and right-wing Tea Party Christianists happy at the same time.

Here’s what Graham actually said to Fox’s Greta von Susteren about Clinton Monday night. “I haven’t forgotten about Benghazi. Hillary Clinton got away with murder, in my view.” Now, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he’s using “got away with murder” figuratively, rather than saying Clinton murdered Ambassador Chris Stevens or the three other Americans who died in Benghazi last fall.

You can never be sure, though, since wingnuts have accused Clinton and her husband of murder before, from vicious theories disputing the suicide of Vince Foster to Rev. Jerry Falwell’s “Clinton Chronicles,” which accused the president of responsibility for “countless” murders. Even if Graham is just talking overexcitedly about last week’s hearings, he can count on the lunatic fringe of his target Tea Party base hearing the charge that the outgoing secretary of state “got away with murder” any way they like. And applauding.

It would seem that Graham’s short stint as one of eight “reasonable” senators had to be immediately followed by his return to crazy, in order to keep away the potential Tea Party primary challenge he fears most next year. As recently as the summer of 2010 he cooperated with Robert Draper’s admiring New York Times magazine profile, “Lindsey Graham, This Year’s Maverick,” in which Graham boasted of his unpopularity with the rising Tea Party and promised to continue to back legislation that would attract “Democrats and Republicans alike.” But that was barely a year into a new Senate term. Now, barely a year before his next campaign, Graham has ramped up the extremism, with a nasty crusade to block Susan Rice from the secretary of state’s job as well as regular insults to President Obama on politics and policy. (He told him to “man up” during the fiscal cliff negotiations.) The former moderate who once warned about the danger of not raising the debt ceiling openly brayed that his party should take it hostage again in January, then caved.

It’s a shame Graham’s moment of sanity on immigration reform didn’t last – but it was also predictable. Even during his maverick phase in 2010 he had a hissy fit when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid briefly prioritized immigration reform before climate change legislation Graham was set to co-sponsor with John Kerry and Joe Lieberman. Even after Reid relented and put the climate change bill first, Graham refused to rejoin as co-sponsor. Look for him to play a similarly unreliable role on immigration reform, whether or not it contains protections for same-sex couples.

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, January 29, 2013

January 31, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Straight From Central Casting”: Wayne LaPierre Tries To Manhandle Facts And Logic

Wayne LaPierre, the National Rifle Association’s chief executive, arrived for his hearing on Capitol Hill in the organization’s trademark fashion: violently.

When he and his colleagues stepped off the elevator in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Wednesday morning and found TV cameras waiting in the hallway, LaPierre’s bodyguards swung into action. One of them, in blatant violation of congressional rules, bumped and body-checked journalists out of the way so they couldn’t film LaPierre or question him as he walked.

“You don’t have jurisdiction here!” a cameraman protested as an NRA goon pushed him against a wall. After the melee, congressional officials informed the NRA officials that, in the halls of Congress, they had to follow congressional procedures — which prohibit manhandling.

This must have come as a surprise to the gun lobbyists, whose swagger seems to suggest that they are, in fact, in control of Congress. In their world, nothing trumps the Second Amendment — not even the First Amendment.

From beginning to end, LaPierre’s appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee was a study in vainglory. The written testimony he submitted to Congress came with a biography describing him as a “Renaissance man,” a “skilled hunter,” and an “acclaimed speaker and political force of nature” as he preserved freedom. “There has been no better leader of this great cause than Wayne LaPierre!” the bio boasted.

After his decades with the group, LaPierre is the public face of the NRA, and the man gun-control advocates most love to hate. His unsmiling manner, his snarling statements and even his memorable name are from villainy central casting. “Mr. LaPierre, it’s good to see you again,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said from the dais, recalling bygone fights with her nemesis. “We tangled — what was it? — 18 years ago. You look pretty good, actually.”

Usually, LaPierre comes out the victor in these tangles, and on Wednesday he was so confident of another win that he boldly declared that the NRA would oppose the most innocuous of proposals to reduce gun violence: criminal background checks.

Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) reminded LaPierre that the NRA once supported checks with “no loopholes anywhere, for anyone.” So does the NRA favor closing the “gun-show loophole” that allows people to avoid background checks?

“We do not,” LaPierre replied.

His reasoning, as always, is that existing gun laws aren’t being enforced — but he seems to have pulled the evidence out of his gun barrel. “Out of more than 76,000 firearms purchases supposedly denied by the federal instant check system, only 62 were referred for prosecution,” LaPierre declared in his opening statement.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) looked up the actual statistic. “In 2012 more than 11,700 defendants were charged with federal gun crimes,” Whitehouse said, “a lot more than 62.”

LaPierre had been caught. “So those — the 62, Senator, statistic, was for Chicago alone,” he clarified, a salient fact omitted from his original testimony.

His logic failed him as badly as his facts. “My problem with background checks is you’re never going to get criminals to go through universal background checks,” he argued, unwilling to admit that deterring criminals from buying guns is a good thing, even if some eventually get theirs on the black market.

Surely LaPierre understands that, but much of his performance was about concealing inconvenient realities. When former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords made a brief and emotional plea for gun control at the hearing, LaPierre was hidden away a few rows back, in the last seat of the row. This minimized the chance that he’d be in the camera shot with the popular Giffords, who lost much of her ability to speak and walk when a gunman with a history of psychiatric disorders shot her in the head.

The NRA chief made all the well-known arguments against gun laws; he reminded senators that the founders didn’t want Americans to “live under tyranny,” and he agreed with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) that the proposed ban on assault weapons merely targets “cosmetic features” of guns. LaPierre also added the novel idea that people may need guns if they are “abandoned by their government if a tornado hits, if a hurricane hits.”

Most people don’t have such apocalyptic paranoia. But LaPierre’s job is to stir up the active minority who are frightened and resentful. “If you’re in the elite, you get bodyguards,” he told the senators. “You get high-cap mags with semiautomatics protecting this whole Capitol. The titans of industry get the bodyguards.” He said it’s only “the hardworking, law-abiding, taxpaying American that we’re going to make the least capable of defending themselves.”

Minutes after that denunciation of the well-protected elites, LaPierre rejoined his bodyguards, who were waiting in a back room.


By: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, January 30, 2013



January 31, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“At Stake, The Core Of The GOP”: How Conservatives Might Hurt Republicans On Immigration

Us. Them.

There is quite a lot of posturing about who will introduce what part of comprehensive immigration reform (CIR), 2013-style. It seems an article of faith that Republicans will take the lead on several initiatives, because they know that a bill associated with President Obama will be too much for them to sell to their base, and because party leaders genuinely want to take the issue off the front burner.

But how is this supposed to work?

GOP strategists and the establishment certainly understand that the party has a problem with Hispanics. And yes, the inability of Congress to pass immigration reform has contributed to the idea that Republicans don’t want it.

But the real thing that’s turned off Hispanics has nothing to do with legislation or even enforcement. (If enforcement was correlated with political adulation, President Obama would be in trouble with Latinos. He is not.)

What mattered is what the party stood for at its core: What it expects of others and what it expects of everyone else. And the core of the Republican Party today does not believe that the immigration reform approach now championed by its own leaders is right for the country or fair to Americans who already live here.

And for Republicans who are looking to shake up the party, immigration remains a fabulous issue. Fabulous. A conservative revolt is inevitable, I think. The talk show vocalists of the base just hate the idea that de-facto amnesty will depend upon President Obama’s enforcement initiatives. They hate the fact that the GOP leadership has bought into the (Democratic/media) idea that undocumented Latinos need and want government subsidies and sanction for their crime. They don’t believe that Hispanics will shift toward the GOP anyway, unless the GOP truly focuses on the things that conservatives like to essentialize about Hispanics: They’re family-oriented, religious, entrepreneurial.

But they recognize that Marco Rubio is the best voice the party has right now, and it’s still January of 2013.

Give it time.

Is it fair to magnetize U.S. borders and give businesses a cheap supply of new labor at the expense of Americans who are looking for jobs? Will the tax base really broaden because most new immigrants won’t make enough money to pay federal income taxes?

The moment conservatives make immigration into a 2014 election issue, insisting that their candidates either disavow what they voted on in 2013 or promise to repeal it is the moment that the party’s attempt to make amends with Hispanics gets put on hold.

An enterprising 2016 presidential candidate (Sen. Ted Cruz? Sarah Palin?) could step in to represent this part of the party.

Truth be told, I don’t know how Republicans solve their “Latino” problem anytime soon. It is manifold and multi-causal. But the coming “us versus them” backlash will not be helpful.

By: Marc Ambinder, The Week, January 30, 2013

January 31, 2013 Posted by | Immigration Reform | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The New Politics Of Immigration”: Opportunist Republicans “Leading From Behind”

Think back to the battle over health-care reform. Can you imagine that Republicans, upon hearing that President Obama was about to offer his own proposals, would want to rush ahead of him to put their own marker down — and take positions close to his?

That’s the comparison to keep in mind to understand the extraordinary transformation of Beltway politics on immigration reform. Until Obama was reelected, party competition translated into Republican efforts to block virtually everything the president wanted to accomplish. On immigration, at least, the parties are now competing to share credit for doing something big. It’s wonderful to behold.

Republicans who always held views on immigration similar to the president’s — notably Sen. John McCain — are now free to say so. Other Republicans who thought a hard line on the issue was a political winner have been forced by the electoral facts to change their minds. Democrats, aware of how important Latino votes are to their party’s future, are determined to get immigration reform done. Nothing is certain in Washington, especially in the Republican-led House of Representatives, but the odds that we will finally fix a broken immigration system are very high.

The behind-the-scenes wrangling over the choreography of this week’s twin immigration announcements — by a bipartisan group of senators and by the president in a speech in Nevada — shows how strong the bias toward action has become.

We’ve become so accustomed to the politics of obstruction that we forget there is still such a thing as legislative craftsmanship. Monday’s unveiling by eight senators of their ideas for reform was months in the making as Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) worked closely with their colleagues to prepare for this moment.

But Obama felt compelled to make clear early on that immigration reform was one of his highest priorities. The Senate negotiators worried that if Obama got out front with positions more progressive than theirs, particularly on a speedier path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, he could foil their efforts to reach accord.

This fear reflected the GOP’s Obama-can’t-win response to whatever he does. Until now, Republicans criticized him for not taking “leadership” in pushing for immigration reform. But as soon as he was ready to speak out, the GOP switched direction, warning that his leadership was the last thing they wanted — and could get in the way of a compromise. Thus did House Speaker John Boehner use a spokesman to instruct Obama to be “careful not to drag the debate to the left and ultimately disrupt the difficult work that is ahead in the House and Senate.”

As it happened, by letting it be known that he planned to give an immigration speech, Obama sped up the timetable of the Senate group, said a House Democrat active on the issue, and even encouraged a small collection of House Republicans eager for reform to let it be known that they, too, were working toward compromise. Obama sought to thread the political needle by laying out his principles while holding off on proposing a bill of his own. He would send up legislation only “if Congress is unable to move forward in a timely fashion.” A relieved Schumer, using words almost never heard in Washington, declared that the president “is handling this perfectly.”

There will be much posturing over the next several months. By going slightly to the progressive side of the senators, Obama may ease the way for Republicans to strike a deal since they will be able to claim they stayed to the president’s right. Conservative supporters of reform, such as Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, will keep saying critical things about the president to preserve their credibility with the right. And if Boehner is interested in reform, he, too, must play a delicate game of distancing himself from Obama to persuade his most conservative colleagues to acquiesce to a vote on a bill.

But make no mistake: This is immigration reform’s time. It was poignant to hear McCain state plainly and eloquently what he has always felt. “We have been too content for too long,” he said, “to allow individuals to mow our lawn, serve our food, clean our homes and even watch our children, while not affording them any of the benefits that make our country so great.” Thanks to an election, those words are no longer politically incorrect inside John McCain’s party.


By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, January 30, 2013

January 31, 2013 Posted by | Immigration | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Skeptical Argument”: It’s Silly To Oppose A Path To Citizenship Because It’s “Unfair”

Senator Ted Cruz isn’t a fan of the “path to citizenship” for illegal immigrants already in the United States. His remarks on the subject were a response to a new immigration proposal in Congress. “There are some good elements in this proposal, especially increasing the resources and manpower to secure our border and also improving and streamlining legal immigration,” he said. “I have deep concerns with the proposed path to citizenship. To allow those who came here illegally to be placed on such a path is both inconsistent with the rule of law and profoundly unfair to the millions of legal immigrants who waited years, if not decades, to come to America legally.”

Over the years, I’ve grown increasingly skeptical of that argument.

The typical illegal immigrant is born, through no fault of his own, into an impoverished country with low standards of living, endemic corruption, and few economic opportunities for bettering his lot. There are richer countries where he could live a much better life. But the people born into those richer countries, owing to nothing but dumb luck, have enacted restrictive immigration laws that make it effectively impossible for someone of his stature to immigrate legally.

In one of those rich countries, the United States, most people who made the restrictive laws wouldn’t even be here but for the unrestricted immigration policy that prevailed when their ancestors arrived.

But back to the typical illegal immigrant.

In his impoverished land, he faces a choice: severely limit his life opportunities by staying in his home country; play the lottery of immigrating legally, which almost always consigns him to the same fate; or bid his family goodbye, sneak across the border, get a job, send much-needed money home to his loved ones, and radically improve his own life prospects by performing honest labor for people who want to buy it. His sneaking in doesn’t take anyone else’s “spot.” No legal immigrant was slowed down by his illegal entry. But he did break a duly codified law.

Is that unfair? Let’s say that it is.

Here he is in the United States seven years later. He’s been regularly employed. He hasn’t committed any crimes. He’s better off. His family back home is better off. His employer is better off. There may be people without high-school diplomas who are slightly worse off due to lower wages.

Am I to understand that fairness demands that the people born into the rich country through sheer luck forcibly repatriate the man to the poor country where he was born through no fault of his own?

That’s counterintuitive!

In fact, it’s among the worst of the arguments against a path to citizenship. And it isn’t improved by invoking supposedly wronged legal immigrants. There’s a tiny subset of people from other countries so unusually lucky that they win the immigration lottery — they get to come here legally, without sneaking across a dangerous border, because of luck. You’re telling me that fairness is advanced if, for those lucky few, we deport the guy who lost the immigration lottery?

When he is arrested, jailed for a few months, flown to a city not his own in his home country, and returns to the place of his birth, an impoverished village where he has no friends or prospects, I’m supposed to look at that outcome and think, Well, good, the fair thing happened!?

There may be good arguments for opposing a “path to citizenship.” Fairness is not one of them.


By: Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, January 29, 2013

January 31, 2013 Posted by | Immigration | , , , , | Leave a comment

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