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“The Next Todd Akin”: All The Things Steve King Has Said Are Going To Be Hung Around His Neck

Iowa Republican Rep. Tom Latham said yesterday that he won’t run for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Tom Harkin, paving the way for one of liberals’ favorite villains to run for the seat: Rep. Steve King.

King hasn’t announced yet, but has said he’s leaning toward a run. It’s enough to concern Steve Law, the president of the Karl Rove-affiliated American Crossroads, which has made it its mission to help non-Tea Party Republicans win GOP primaries. “We’re concerned about Steve King’s Todd Akin problem,” Law told the New York Times. “This is an example of candidate discipline and how it would play in a general election. All of the things he’s said are going to be hung around his neck.”

It’s an understandable concern, and Democrats are giddy at the thought of King winning the nomination. A PPP poll from earlier this month explains why: King is the overwhelming favorite in a Republican primary, but trails every Democratic candidate they tested by at least 7 points. The most likely Democratic candidate at the moment, Bruce Braley, would start out 11 points ahead. But Latham was the only Republican who came anywhere near King, making it difficult for the Rove camp to find a another candidate.

King has been trying to clean up his act lately, coming out in favor of comprehensive immigration reform, for example, and he could be more of a challenge than Democrats expect. He easily won reelection this year against a strong Democratic challenger, edging her by 7 percentage points (by comparison, Michele Bachmann won reelection with a narrow 1.2 percent margin).

But his 4th Congressional District is significantly more conservative than the state overall. Mitt Romney won King’s district by 8 points, but Obama won Iowa by almost 6 points, for a swing of 14 points.

And Democrats will have no qualms hanging the things he said around his neck, as Law warned, such as:

– King is an ardent opponent of the “gay-rights agenda,” opposing the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and warning that if conservatives don’t “defend marriage,” “children will be raised in warehouses.” He’s also said that gay people should keep their sexuality secret.

Iowa legalized same-sex marriage in 2009 and a plurality of Iowans approve of the decision today.

– On immigration, King has compared immigrants to dogs and joked (we hope) that a liberal should be deported for every new immigrant granted legal status. Democrats, he said, win over Latinos by giving them a “great big check.”

Fifty-eight percent of Iowans want a comprehensive immigration reform law with a pathway to citizenship.

– No fan of abortion, King defended Akin’s claim that women don’t often get pregnant from rape and has said that states should be able to ban birth control.

By a 16 point margin, Iowa voters said Mitt Romney was “too conservative on issues involving women’s rights,” and King is several notches to the right of Romney.

– King doesn’t like Obama, no surprise, but has ventured into pseudo-birtherism on occasion and called the president a Marxist who doesn’t “have an American experience” because he was not raised in the U.S., “Though he surely understands the Muslim culture.”

Obama’s approval rating is around 50 percent in Iowa and the state has been famously friendly to the president, giving him a critical win in the 2008 Democratic primary and helping him win in 2012.

– He’s also a fan of racial profiling and has warned of the threat of “radical quasi-militant Latinos

– He’s also cool with dog fighting.

If King does run, and especially if he wins the nomination, Iowa will quickly become the must-watch race for liberals, much as Massachusetts’ Senate campaign was last year with Elizabeth Warren. The race would also be sure to attract a ton of money and enthusiasm on both sides, with Tea Party and liberal activists pouring in from neighboring states to help either candidate.


By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, February 28, 2013

March 1, 2013 Posted by | Senate | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“At The Urinals In The Bathroom”: Falling Into Bob Woodward’s Den Of Iniquity

When I got to my computer this morning and saw how many people were blathering about Bob Woodward, a wave of despair washed over me. First, because this is the kind of stupid argument from which we thought we could get something of a reprieve once the campaign ended, and second, because Bob Woodward himself, and the deference with which he is treated, just make me depressed.

It’s not that Woodward isn’t a good reporter, of a sort. But Watergate was pretty much the last time his reporting enhanced public understanding in a meaningful way. Woodward’s modus operandi since then has been to approach powerful people and convince them to tell their side of major events through him. Knowing that if they don’t, someone else will and they might come out looking bad, many of them give him their spin in great detail, which his books then pass on to a wide readership. They aren’t so much a record of events as a record of events as the people who talked to Bob Woodward would like us to see them. Nobody has done more than Woodward to elevate insiderism, the belief among many journalists that what matters isn’t the effect government has on people’s lives, but who said what to whom when, that if you can get the Secretary of State to tell you what he said to the National Security Advisor while they were at the urinals in the bathroom down the hall from the Oval Office, then you’re a hero of democracy.

I’m not saying there’s no value in that kind of reporting—we do want to know what policy makers are thinking, how they interact with each other, and so on. The mistake is to think it’s the only thing that matters. And I think that explains why Woodward is now finding himself at odds with the White House.

This whole thing started because Woodward had previously reported that the idea for the sequester originally came from the White House, in his last book. When the book was published it seemed like just one detail among many, but as we approached the sequester, Republicans decided that it was hugely important, making “Don’t blame us, it was all his idea!” their primary talking point, and citing Woodward again and again. Now the truth is that the question of who thought of it first is completely irrelevant; Republicans agreed to it and voted for it, so they can’t absolve themselves of responsibility for it, not to mention the fact that this all came about because of their hostage-taking, and we’re only in the position we are now because they refuse to compromise with Democrats. But now that important people in Washington were talking about a piece of information that came out of his reporting, Bob Woodward rushed to tell everyone that this piece of information is the most important thing to understand about this debate. After all, it was his scoop! And he got it by getting powerful people to tell him about their conversations with other powerful people. So that must be what matters.

When asked, he might have said, “Sure, I reported that the idea first came from the White House, but at this point, who cares?” Instead, he decided to wade in like he was auditioning for a job at the Daily Caller. He went on television to talk about this fantastic scoop of his. Then he wrote an op-ed charging that because the sequester itself doesn’t have tax increases in it, Obama is “moving the goalposts” by demanding that a deal to replace the sequester have at least some revenue in it, which is kind of like arguing that if yesterday we said we were going to have pizza for lunch today, but it turned out nobody wants pizza, you’re being unfair by suggesting sandwiches, because yesterday you had agreed to pizza. Then he poured contempt on Obama for not just breaking the law and having government do everything it was otherwise doing, regardless of the sequester (this is a variant of the most bizarre delusion currently gripping centrist Washington, that any problem could be solved if Obama would just “lead,” or maybe make a “firm presidential statement”).

Then after White House Budget Nebbish Gene Sperling yelled at Woodward about that op-ed, he gave an interview to Politico claiming Sperling had threatened him in an email. In fact, in the email Sperling apologized for yelling at Woodward, and the “threat” was this: “But I do truly believe you should rethink your comment about saying saying that Potus asking for revenues is moving the goal post. I know you may not believe this, but as a friend, I think you will regret staking out that claim. The idea that the sequester was to force both sides to go back to try at a big or grand bargain with a mix of entitlements and revenues (even if there were serious disagreements on composition) was part of the DNA of the thing from the start…” That’s some terrifying threatening, which is probably why Woodward replied, “You do not ever have to apologize to me. You get wound up because you are making your points and you believe them. This is all part of a serious discussion. I for one welcome a little heat; there should be more given the importance.” You can just smell his fear, can’t you?

Anyhow, Bob Woodward is very good at getting powerful people to tell him their side of a given story, when they might ignore similar requests from other reporters. The mistake is to assume that once you’ve gotten that, there isn’t much more to know. I’ll leave you with this, from Jonathan Chait, who argues persuasively that Woodward’s problem is that whatever his abilities as a reporter, he’s a terrible analyst:

To reconcile Woodward’s journalistic reputation with the weird pettiness of his current role, one has to grasp the distinction between his abilities as a reporter and his abilities as an analyst. Woodward was, and remains, an elite gatherer of facts. But anybody who has seen him commit acts of political commentary on television has witnessed a painful spectacle. As an analyst, Woodward is a particular kind of awful — a Georgetown Wise Man reliably and almost invariably mouthing the conventional wisdom of the Washington Establishment.

His more recent books often compile interesting facts, but how Woodward chooses to package those facts has come to represent a barometric measure of a figure’s standing within the establishment. His 1994 account of Bill Clinton’s major budget bill, which in retrospect was a major success, told a story of chaos and indecision. He wrote a fulsome love letter to Alan Greenspan, “Maestro,” at the peak of the Fed chairman’s almost comic prestige. In 2003, when George W. Bush was still a decisive and indispensable war leader, Woodward wrote a heroic treatment of the Iraq War. After Bush’s reputation had collapsed, Woodward packaged essentially the same facts into a devastating indictment. Woodward’s book on the 2011 debt negotiations was notable for arguing that Obama scotched a potential deficit deal. The central argument has since been debunked by no less a figure than Eric Cantor, who admitted to Ryan Lizza that he killed the deal.

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, February 28, 2013

March 1, 2013 Posted by | Journalists, Sequester | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Third Strike For The Hastert Rule”: Violence Against Women Act Win Shows Obama Has House GOP’s Number

The Violence Against Women Act passed the House today with bipartisan support. The renewal of the law represents a win for good public policy. It also marks another win for President Obama’s legislative strategy as he reaps the rewards of the conservative movement’s widening schism from the main stream of American thought.

Congress-watchers well remember the “Hastert Rule,” a guideline created by former House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert that said nothing would reach the floor of the House that didn’t have the support of a majority of the majority; in other words nothing could pass that didn’t have the support of a majority of House Republicans. I think that we can safely say that the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act puts the final nail into the Hastert Rule’s coffin—it’s taken three strikes this year and now it’s out.

First 151 Republicans voted against the deal which resolved the tax portion of the so-called fiscal cliff (remember that the “cliff” was composed not only of tax hikes but also of spending cuts, the ones which go into effect tomorrow), while 85 voted in favor of it; then 179 Republicans voted against the Hurricane Sandy relief package with only 49 voting in favor; and now 138 Republicans have voted against the Violence Against Women Act while 87 supported it.

In all three cases the Republican-controlled House passed bills that had been roundly criticized by conservatives. Why? Because they were broadly popular and while individual GOP legislators are undoubtedly voting the way their constituents would like, the party’s leadership has to keep an eye on the broader picture. And what they saw was that the party’s base is on the unpopular side of issues that are poisoning the GOP brand. That’s why the GOP is doing even worse now than it was during the depths of their shutdown-induced toxicity in the mid-1990s, according to this week’s NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. So the leadership made the smart choice—to get past toxic issues while giving their rank and file a chance to vote against them.

The problem for Republicans and House leaders is that Obama’s State of the Union address, as I wrote a couple of weeks ago, which laid out his agenda for the year, is chock full of such items—ones on which he has the advantage of a significant cleavage between mainstream voters and conservatives.

How many more times will House leaders be forced to bring unpopular-with-their-caucus measures to the House floor? And is there a point at which conservatives rebel against it? The famous industrialist Auric Goldfinger was fond of the old Chicago maxim: “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action.” Will the right conclude that many more of these votes qualify as enemy action?


By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, February 28, 2013

March 1, 2013 Posted by | Domestic Violence, GOP | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Skepticism Of Conservative Ideas Requires No Bias”: When Will Conservatives Get Over The Liberal Media Myth?

It’s the perfect recipe for conservative apoplexy: On the one hand you have the Politico reporting that journalists are dissatisfied with their access to the president and, on the other, you have Chuck Todd saying the media isn’t liberal.

The response has been predictable. “Are you kidding me?” conservatives say. “What difference does access make when you agree with everything the president says? And your kneejerk agreement is proof enough that you are biased.”

It’s a line of reasoning that folds neatly into a larger conservative narrative: If only the media were doing its job and accurately reporting on the White House we all would be as disenchanted with the administration as they are. If that argument seems familiar to you, it should. We’ve been hearing it from conservatives for a long, long time.

Back in 1944 Gunnar Myrdal wrote a book on American race relations. One of his theses was that change would come to the segregated South when journalists began reporting on the conditions there. Myrdal’s notion was that most Americans didn’t understand just how bad things were for African-Americans under segregation, but that once they learned they wouldn’t be able to ignore it.

You can argue the merits of Myrdal’s work, but one thing that proved prescient was his understanding of the role the media would play in changing public attitudes about segregation. When Northern press turned its attention to the civil rights movement, the stories and photos they published helped shape the national debate about Jim Crow and arguably hastened its end.

The reaction of Southern conservatives to these news reports, however, was a little different. The problem, they said, isn’t segregation, it’s the way a Northern press infected with integrationist sympathies reports it. Of course, that was hogwash. Segregation was exposed and, eventually, ended. But in the embers of an ideological defeat, conservatives found a handy bit of linguistic Jujitsu. If the facts prove inconvenient, don’t argue them. Instead, shift the focus and question the integrity of the fact-finder. If you’re successful, then in one broad stroke you may be able to disqualify the facts without ever having to argue them on the merits.

Impugning the motives of those we’ve entrusted with separating fiction from fact has proven an effective strategy for the right. Don’t agree with a judicial decision? Blame the “activist” judge. Think an academic paper might be damaging to your cause? No worries. Academia is “liberal” and “elitist.” Worried that global warming might prove nettlesome? It’s the product of scientists harboring a “hidden agenda.”

And today a news media that might otherwise be making reasoned judgments about what’s news and what isn’t has become so cowed by conservative complaints that just about any allegation, no matter how outlandish, must receive “equal time.” Donald Trump’s birther claims are a terrific example. Trump has all the credibility of a squirrel monkey. And the charges he mounted in 2011 were completely bereft of anything resembling a fact. Yet when he was pressing his “questions” about the president’s place of birth, the media felt compelled to put him on the air in an endless loop, and to book guests to argue “both sides” of the “controversy.” Ridiculous.

But suggest that the media might not be so liberal after all, and you elicit ferocious conservative push-back. Just ask Chuck Todd. Last week, when he said media bias was a myth, the conservative response was perhaps best typified by Greg Gutfeld’s 90 second uninterrupted monologue on Fox, which I think can be fairly boiled down to: The media is liberal because the media is liberal and it’s preposterous to think otherwise.

There’s another way of looking at this, of course. As hard as this may be for conservatives to swallow, it may be that 65 million people voted for the president precisely because they have a clear understanding of his record, and what he wants to do—and they agree with it.

Look, in my work, I have found many occasions to be frustrated with reporters. Sometimes they do a good job and sometimes they don’t. But clinging to the notion that they are wittingly or unwittingly involved in some kind of mass liberal conspiracy is a little nutty.

If that’s the case, you may ask, how can it be that I sometimes find unflattering coverage of conservative ideas? Well, one might ask in return, have you taken a look at the ideas conservatives have championed over the years? Segregation is the way to go. Women shouldn’t work. The government is filled with hidden communists. People on the lower end of the economic spectrum are there because they are lazy. Cutting taxes for the rich is the best economic program for everyone. America is one step removed from becoming a totalitarian state. Etc.

In other words, my conservative friends, it may finally be time to come to terms with the following: Its your ideas that leave something to be desired, not the media’s coverage of them.


By: Anson Kaye, U. S. News and World Report, February 28, 2013

March 1, 2013 Posted by | Journalism, Media | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Voters Send A Loud Anti-NRA Message”: The Days Of The NRA Hostage Taking Are Coming To An End

Robin Kelly, who as a young state representative sponsored gun-safety legislation with state Senator Barack Obama, swept to victory Tuesday night in an Illinois US House primary that sent a powerful signal about the National Rifle Association’s dwindling influence within the Democratic Party.

Kelly won 58 percent of the vote in a crowded field, easily defeating former Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson and other Democrats to win the nomination to replace former Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., as the representative from Illinois’s 2nd district.

In a multiracial district that includes parts of Chicago, as well as suburbs and rural regions of a district that stretches across northeastern Illinois, Halvorson began the race as the front runner. In addition to her status as a former House member, she was the only white candidate in a field where the African-American vote was divided among more than a dozen contenders.

After the Newtown, Connecticut, shootings focused the attention of the country—and Illinois—on the gun debate, however, Kelly made support for gun-safety legislation central to her campaign.

Kelly’s “Help Me Fight Gun Violence” message united African-American and progressive white voters against Halvorson, who had accepted NRA support in previous races and who continued to support NRA positions on many issues.

Though President Obama, who has made the fight for gun-safety legislation a priority of his second term, stayed out of the race, Kelly promised to champion legislation backed by the president—who her ads noted she had worked with a decade ago, when they both served in the Illinois legislature.

As she claimed victory Tuesday night, Kelly told her backers, “Today you did more than cast a vote. You did more than choose a Democratic candidate for Congress…You sent a message that was heard around our state and across the nation; a message that tells the NRA that their days of holding our country hostage are coming to an end.”

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has pledged to fight the NRA’s political influence nationwide, used his Independence USA political action committee to air more than $2 million to oppose Halvorson and back Kelly.

The Illinois Rifle Association, an NRA affiliate, backed Halvorson with late-stage mailings.

But it was Kelly’s steady focus on the gun debate that gained her the upper hand in the race.

The NRA and its apologists will, of course, claim that the Illinois district was a bad battleground for the group and its message. Illinois is not West Virginia or North Dakota, after all. And the Chicago area has bitter experience with gun violence, as Kelly noted in a campaign that focused on the anger and pain felt in neighborhoods where too many young lives have been lost to shootings.

But advocates for tougher gun laws recognized the significance of the Illinois result.

“Robin Kelly’s victory tonight is a withering blow to the NRA and others who think we shouldn’t do anything to prevent the gun violence that took the lives of 20 children in Connecticut in December and ravages the streets of cities like Chicago every single day,” announced Arshad Hasan, the executive director of Democracy for America, which backed Kelly. “This was the first time since the tragedy of Newtown that advocates for gun violence prevention have taken on the NRA and their allies—and we won. We’re incredibly proud of the over $15,000 and hundreds of volunteer hours Democracy for America members contributed to Kelly’s win tonight, because we know she’ll fight in Congress for the stronger, common sense gun laws that most Americans support.”

Whatever the dynamic of the district and the state, there is no question that Halvorson had initial advantages that were undone by her association with the NRA and by Kelly’s decision to run on a five-point pledge that declared she would work to:

1. Pass a comprehensive ban on assault weapons.

2. Eliminate the gun show loophole.

3. Pledge never to receive support from groups that oppose reasonable gun safety legislation.

4. Ban high capacity ammunition magazines.

5. Support laws that prohibit conceal-and-carry permits.

“While we don’t know who will represent Illinois’ second district in Congress, we do know that addressing the issue of gun violence will be among the very first issues they face,” Kelly declared early in the campaign. “I believe we need more leaders in Congress addressing the issue of gun violence in our cities and our communities. For this reason, I believe we must all speak with one voice on this urgent matter.”

Primary voters in the 2nd district of Illinois spoke with that united voice Tuesday. And they said “no” to the NRA. Loudly. Perhaps so loudly that Democrats in Congress, many of whom have been cautious gun-safety advocates, will help Robin Kelly fight gun violence.


By: John Nichols, Salon, February 27, 2013

March 1, 2013 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Violence | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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