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

“Empathy For The Devil”: Mark Sanford Proudly Champions The Most Self-Righteous Instincts Of His Privileged Class

At New York Magazine, Jason Zengerle’s got a long article on Mark Sanford’s fall and rise, focusing on his very touchy relationship with his ex-wife Jenny, who could have easily preempted his comeback congressional campaign with one of her own, and could sink his today with a few tart words.

Reading the piece, I couldn’t help but marvel at what a relatively easy time Sanford has had recovering from such a spectacular implosion, spending his post-gubernatorial days “almost Thoreau-ing” on his family’s plantation, building a cottage to house his political memoranda, mulling life in the big picture and occasionally jetting off to New York or Miami or Buenos Aires to spend time with his lover (and eventually fiancee). If Sanford hit bottom or struggled through a Dark Night of the Soul, it was in considerable comfort. Nor did his first steps back involve community service or anything selfless at all:

After a year and a half, he left Coosaw [the plantation] and moved to an apartment in Charleston. He did some commercial-real-estate deals and joined a couple of corporate boards. He popped up on Fox News to offer some political analysis. Then last summer, he took the plunge and traveled to Tampa for the Republican National Convention.

But here’s the most revealing part of the story:

Empathy is a dominant theme of Sanford’s campaign, and it came up in my own conversations with him. “I would argue, and again I’m not recommending the curriculum to my worst enemy, but if one fails publicly at something, there’s a new level of empathy toward others that could not have been there before,” he told me.

When I asked Sanford how that new empathy had changed his views on public policy—whether it had made him, for instance, more inclined to support public-assistance programs he’s long denounced as unnecessary—he said it had not. “Convictions are convictions,” he explained. His empathy is for other public figures recovering from sex scandals and personal humiliations. “I used to open the paper and think, How did this person do that? Now it’s all, But by the grace of God go I.”

Unbelievable. Here’s this man who grew up on a plantation and married an heiress, and then presided over a state that is a living monument to inequality, proudly championing the most churlish and self-righteous instincts of its privileged classes. But his new empathy still extends no further than people just like him. And odds are he’s going to go back to Congress, where I suspect he will declare his rehabilitation complete.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, March 4, 2013

March 6, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“SCOTUS Naive On Super PACs”: Insulated From The Machinations Of Political Campaigns And Campaign Finance Realities

When the Supreme Court paved the way for unlimited independent spending in elections with its Citizens United decision, the justices assumed a key protection to prevent corruption: The expenditures would be truly independent, so it would make it impossible for a candidate and a donor to engage in a quid pro quo. In theory, this makes sense. If there’s no coordination between the independent groups like super PACs and candidates — and coordination remains technically illegal — then donors will fund independent expenditures purely out of their own political beliefs and not in the expectation of getting anything in return.

In practice, however, this distinction completely breaks down because groups are often established to fund a single candidate, as opposed to a broad cause, and there are plenty of ways to communicate intentions or expectations without violating narrow coordination laws.

A new report from Public Citizens shows just how absurd it is to assume that outside groups are truly independent. Of all the major super PACs and 501(c) nonprofit groups that engaged in the 2012 election, about half backed a single candidate exclusively, effectively making themselves auxiliary organs of the candidate’s campaign, the report found. Generally, these groups were “founded, funded or managed by friends, family members, or recent campaign aides of the candidate they supported,” the report adds.

The most obvious examples are Priorities USA, the Obama super PAC founded by a former White House aide, and Restore Our Future, the Romney super PAC founded by the general counsel of Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign. These groups allowed wealthy donors who had already maxed out their donations to either candidate’s official committee to give unlimited additional funds to the auxiliary super PAC to support their candidates.

Meanwhile, another 30 percent of spending came from groups designed specifically to aid the parties. For instance, the Democratic-affiliated House Majority PAC acted as an auxiliary to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. All of this is aboveboard.

In total, candidate-specific and party-allied groups accounted for more than 65 percent of all spending by outside groups in the 2012 elections, including seven of the top eight groups, according to the report. Among super PACs alone, that percentage climbs to 74.4 percent.

“The emergence of entities using unlimited contributions to aid candidates and parties with which they have close relationships threatens to gut the anticorruption policy underlying campaign finance laws, which the court claimed it did not intend to weaken,” Taylor Lincoln, the research director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch, and his co-authors wrote.

In its Citizens United decision, the Court approvingly quoted from an earlier decision, Buckley v. Valeo, observing that in independent expenditures, “The absence of prearrangement and coordination of an expenditure with the candidate or his agent not only undermines the value of the expenditure to the candidate, but also alleviates the danger that expenditures will be given.”

Clearly, if independent expenditures de facto operate as direct contributions, the distinction is meaningless and the supposed protection of independence is destroyed. This was obvious to almost everyone before the decision — except for the justices, apparently. They are insulated from the machinations of political campaigns and campaign finance realities, which is usually a good thing, but it allowed them to base a major overhaul of the nation’s campaign finance laws on a flawed and naive understanding of the world.

None of this is particularly surprising to anyone even vaguely aware of the campaign finance dynamics of the 2012 cycle, but the report adds critical numbers and details.


By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, March 5, 2013

March 6, 2013 Posted by | Campaign Financing | , , , , | Leave a comment

“And The Beat Goes On”: Is Jeb Bush Trying To Scuttle Immigration Reform?

In what appears to be a remarkable about-face, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on Monday stepped back from his previous position on immigration reform, telling NBC’s Today that he does not support a path to citizenship for immigrants who entered the country illegally. “I think there has to be some difference between people who come here legally and illegally,” Bush said. “It is just a matter of common sense and a matter of the rule of law. If we’re not going to apply the law fairly and consistently, we’re going to have another wave of illegal immigrants coming into the country.”

Bush is even more explicit in a forthcoming book called Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution that he co-authored with lawyer Clint Bolick. According to Elise Foley at The Huffington Post, who nabbed a copy of the book before its official publication date, Bush and Bolick write, “It is absolutely vital to the integrity of our immigration system that actions have consequences — in this case, that those who violated the law can remain but cannot obtain the cherished fruits of citizenship.” They continue: “To do otherwise would signal once again that people who circumvent the system can still obtain the full benefits of American citizenship.”

Technically, Bush says he does support a path to citizenship, but only if undocumented immigrants return to their home countries and apply through legal channels. That is miles away from his previous stance on the issue. As recently as January, Bush and Book wrote the following in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal (emphasis added):

A practicable system of work-based immigration for both high-skilled and low-skilled immigrants — a system that will include a path to citizenship — will help us meet workforce needs, prevent exportation of jobs to foreign countries and protect against the exploitation of workers…

America’s immigration system should provide opportunities for people who share the country’s core values to become citizens, thereby strengthening the nation as have countless immigrants have before them. [The Wall Street Journal]

In addition, Bush spent much of the 2012 presidential campaign criticizing Republicans — and by implication, standard-bearer Mitt Romney — for taking a hard-line stance on immigration. Bush’s new position has angered at least one member of the Romney campaign, according to The Miami Herald:

“Where the hell was this Jeb Bush during the campaign?” said one advisor. “He spent all this time criticizing Romney and it turns out he has basically the same position. So he wants people to go back to their country and apply for citizenship? Well, that’s self deportation. We got creamed for talking about that. And now Jeb is saying the same thing.”

Asked to respond, Bush said by email: “I am not advocating self deportation. Read the book.” [The Miami Herald]

What is the former Florida governor hoping to accomplish? There was immediate speculation that Bush, who is considered a possible presidential contender in 2016, is seeking to place himself to the right of Sen. Marco Rubio, a fellow Floridian who is leading a bipartisan effort to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill that would likely include a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers. When asked by NBC whether he was running for president, Bush left the door wide open. “I have a voice,” he said. “I want to share my beliefs about how the conservative movement and the Republican Party can regain its footing, because we’ve lost our way.” When pressed, he refused to rule out a run. “I won’t,” he said, “but I’m not going to declare today either.”

Others say that Bush’s shift reflects the stubborn fact that the GOP is not serious about comprehensive reform, despite Rubio’s efforts and the appeals of party leaders (one of whom used to be Bush himself). “If I had to hazard a guess,” writes Jamelle Bouie at The American Prospect, “this is another sign Republicans are moving away from comprehensive immigration reform, and towards something more piecemeal and less effective.”

And where does that leave Rubio’s proposal? According to Benjy Sarlin at Talking Points Memo:

“Wow,” Marshall Fitz, director of immigration policy at the liberal Center For American Progress, told TPM in an email. “For a guy who has been a luminary on this issue for the GOP, his endorsement of such a regressive policy is deeply troubling.”

The big question going forward, Fitz said, is “whether it cuts Rubio’s legs out from under him” by pressuring his right flank, or merely gives Rubio more power within the bipartisan gang negotiating a bill by demonstrating that conservative concerns about a bill are still a major hurdle that only he can address. [Talking Points Memo]


By: Ryu Spaeth, The Week, March 4, 2013

March 6, 2013 Posted by | Immigration, Immigration Reform | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Conceived In Delusion, Sold In Deception”: The Iraq War, The Most Comprehensive & Dishonest Propaganda Effort Our Country Has Seen

On March 19, two weeks from now, it will be ten years since the United States military commenced the invasion of Iraq. Even though some details are fading from memory, one bit that sticks in my mind—those final days before the war and its dramatic countdown, the 48 hours George W. Bush gave Saddam Hussein and his sons to get themselves out of the country. It was a fitting end to the pre-war campaign, some theatricality to lend an extra bit of drama to a conflict conceived in delusion and sold in deception. This anniversary is a good time to remind ourselves of what happened then and how so many of the people who continue to shape our public debate behaved.

The campaign to sell America on an invasion of Iraq was probably the most comprehensive and dishonest propaganda effort our country has seen in the last century. As we discuss it over the next few weeks, those who continue to hold that it was a good idea—akin to saying to this day that the Titanic was unsinkable—will claim that though there was certainly bad intelligence, the Bush administration did not actually lie about Iraq, that their intentions were good and they forthrightly made their case to protect America.

Don’t let them get away with it, not for a second. The truth is that they planned and executed a campaign designed to muddle heads and bring terror to hearts, one so shameless we may never see its like again (if only the plan for war itself had been constructed with such care). It was an all-hands-on-deck effort, with Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld and Rice and so many others trotted out to deceive and dissemble, mislead and misdirect. The examples are so numerous we can’t even scratch the surface here, but for the flavor, let me refer you to the speech Dick Cheney gave to the Veterans of Foreign Wars on August 26, 2002.

Cheney said, “The Iraqi regime has in fact been very busy enhancing its capabilities in the field of chemical and biological agents. And they continue to pursue the nuclear program they began so many years ago.” These assertions were obviously false. Saddam’s fictional nuclear program, Cheney warned, would come to fruition before you knew it, and then, “Armed with an arsenal of these weapons of terror, and seated atop ten percent of the world’s oil reserves, Saddam Hussein could then be expected to seek domination of the entire Middle East, take control of a great portion of the world’s energy supplies, directly threaten America’s friends throughout the region, and subject the United States or any other nation to nuclear blackmail. Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us.”

Be afraid, they said over and over again. They warned of “mushroom clouds” over U.S. cities. They spun fictions of Iraqi involvement with the September 11 attacks. And 4,000 dead Americans later (not to mention at least 100,000 dead Iraqis) and a couple of trillion dollars spent, after Fallujah and Abu Ghraib and untold damage to America’s image in the world, many of them still—yes, still—claim it was a terrific idea.

But that’s all ancient history, isn’t it? What’s the point of rehashing it now? Yes, most of the Bush administration officials responsible have moved on to various cushy sinecures. But rest assured, the next time Republicans control the executive branch, many will be back in positions of power. And the amen chorus that made the propaganda campaign such a success is right where it was a decade ago, populating the nation’s op-ed pages and television panels. In the coming days they’ll be telling the same old story, as will some of those Bush aides, interviewed again for the occasion. Dick Cheney will no doubt slither out of his subterranean lair to snarl that anyone who thinks the war was anything but a glorious victory must be a secret Saddam-lover.

So you’ll forgive those of us who were right about Iraq if this anniversary brings up some raw feelings. Let’s remember that the people who were so apocalyptically wrong—both those who knew they were lying, and those who bought and resold the lies—not only helped America into disaster. While pushing the country toward chaos, they attacked anyone who disagreed with the most scurrilous of charges, calling the war’s opponents naïve fools at best and outright traitors at worst. And then what happened? Not only was there nothing resembling accountability for the people who planned, executed, and cheered the war, quite the opposite: they were all rewarded, many quite handsomely. Bush and Cheney won a second term. Paul Wolfowitz became president of the World Bank. Tommy Franks and Paul Bremer, the pair of bumblers whose disastrous decisions cost so many people their lives, were each given the Medal of Freedom, as was George “slam dunk” Tenet, who so confidently assured the administration and the country that the case for war was airtight. The pundits who filled page after page and hour after broadcast hour with falsehood and calumny, the Kristols and Krauthammers and so many others, barely saw their reputations nicked, and today their sage analysis on why we ought to do the whole thing over again in Iran is given a respectful hearing and not the mockery it deserves.

As James Fallows says, this is a good time for everyone who had a public voice at the time to reckon with what they believed, what they accepted, and what they said and argued at the time. As David Brooks wrote, “the idea that we should pay attention to the people who took the last invasion of Iraq and turned that military triumph into a stunning political defeat, is simply mind-boggling.” Those people, he said, “should live in ignominy” and “hide in disgrace,” but “instead ride high. It is an amazing example of the establishment’s ability to protect their most incompetent members.”

True, Brooks was writing in September 2002, and the targets of his disdain were veterans of the George H.W. Bush administration, whose enthusiasm for another Iraq war Brooks deemed insufficiently vigorous. But his point is nevertheless well taken. One day, another administration will come before the country proposing that we start another war. They’ll swear that we have no choice, that our very survival is at stake, that their motives are pure and their words are true. They’ll promise, as the Bush administration did, that it will be easy and neat and cost us little in lives and dollars. They’ll say that the blowback will be minimal, and assure us that there are no unforeseen consequences to worry about. And they will find enthusiastic support among the pundit class, with more than a few enlistees ready to amplify every absurd claim and heap contempt on anyone who would raise a voice in dissent. When that time comes, we should all try to remember what happened ten years ago.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, March 5, 2013

March 6, 2013 Posted by | Iraq War | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Boosting Their Bottom Line”: The Koch Brothers Revel In The Sequester

Although everyone from President Barack Obama to House Speaker John Boehner has lamented the negative impact of the $85 billion budget sequestration, at least two major Washington figures are thrilled about the severe cuts. For Charles and David Koch, the sequester accomplishes the goal that motivated the billionaire brothers to help launch the Tea Party movement in 2010: weakening the federal government. And now that the cuts have begun to take effect, the Koch brothers are reveling in their success.

Americans for Prosperity, the right-wing dark money group founded by the Koch brothers in 2004, sent out an email to supporters over the weekend claiming credit for sequestration. The email, from AFP President Tim Phillips, claims, “While Speaker Boehner and the GOP deserve credit and thanks for taking a gutsy stand, it’s important to realize what an incredible impact AFP activists like you” have had in convincing Congress to slash the federal budget across the board.

“These combined efforts helped spread a message across the country that enabled House Republicans to take heart and do the right thing knowing that conservatives had their back,” Phillips continues. His full letter, which also brags that USA Today “recognized the effectiveness of AFP activists and gave us the opportunity to articulate the importance of sequester cuts,” can be read here.

The Koch brothers are also taking to the airwaves to keep up the pressure for even more cuts. Public Notice, to which Charles and David Koch donated $8 million between 2009 and 2011, released a new ad Tuesday minimizing the impact of the sequester — and encouraging the government to make even deeper cuts.

“President Obama calls sequestration a ‘meat cleaver’ that will ‘eviscerate’ government services,” the ad’s narrator ominously charges. “What is sequestration? A three-percent cut in government spending. Three cents out of every dollar the government spends. We’re more than $16 trillion in debt, and the government wastes billions each year on duplicate programs.”

“Americans have made tough choices and cut back. Washington refuses,” the ad concludes. “Call Washington and ask them why it’s so hard to cut spending.”

The ad — which ignores the fact that government spending under President Barack Obama has grown at a slower rate than it did under any president since Dwight Eisenhower was president in the 1950s — will reportedly run until March 15.

Charles and David Koch’s enthusiasm for the sequester isn’t hard to understand. Although the cuts will have a devastating effect on society’s most vulnerable, they will likely boost Koch Industries’ bottom line. The budget sequester is expected to hamstring the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory efforts, and Energy Secretary Stephen Chu has warned that “under sequestration, funding reductions would decelerate the nation’s transition into a clean energy economy.” Both outcomes would seem to be very good news for the oil billionaires.


By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, March 5, 2013

March 6, 2013 Posted by | Koch Brothers, Sequester | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

%d bloggers like this: