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“Politics Overwhelming Policy”: It’s Good Politics To Oppose The Black Guy In The White House

There’s a growing number of Republican-run states accepting Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, at least at the gubernatorial level, but South Carolina isn’t one of them. Gov. Nikki Haley (R) ruled out the possibility months ago, despite the pleas of South Carolina hospital administrators and public-health officials.

In fact, physicians in South Carolina are still hoping to change the state’s policy against Medicaid expansion, lobbying legislators this week on a White Coat Day organized by the South Carolina Hospital Association. Will it succeed? Consider the take of one insider.

Rep. Kris Crawford, a Republican from Florence and also an emergency room doctor, supports the expansion but expects the Republican caucus to vote as a block against the Medicaid expansion.

“The politics are going to overwhelm the policy. It is good politics to oppose the black guy in the White House right now, especially for the Republican Party,” Crawford said.

As it turns out, “the politics” were so successful in “overwhelming the policy” that Crawford himself voted against the policy he said he supports.

Kris Crawford, a Florence emergency room doctor, says he thinks South Carolina should accept billions of federal dollars to help pay the health care costs for poor people — also known as Obamacare.

There are only two problems: Crawford is a Republican, and he is a member of the state House of Representatives. So on Tuesday, when it was time to vote on whether to accept the money, Crawford voted not to accept it.

For what it’s worth, Crawford still supports Medicaid expansion as part of “Obamacare,” and regrets the way his party is concerned more about the “political argument” than the “policy discussion.”

So why did he vote with his party? Crawford cited procedural concerns, and wants the issue to be considered outside the state budget process. He intends to propose separate legislation later this year.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 14, 2013

March 15, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Medicaid | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Deception And Self-Deception”: The Beatings Will Continue For The GOP Until Morale Improves

Some of you may recall that the day after last November’s elections, I published a fairly extensive piece at TNR answering the question of whether a chastened Republican Party would now proceed to undertake an internal criticism-and-self-criticism process similar to that which among Democrats led to the rise of Bill Clinton and his two consecutive presidential victories:

The short answer is “no.” (And I’m tempted to say the long answer is “Hell, no!”)

I then went through the various factors that led to the “New Democrat” movement in the Donkey Party–particularly the leadership of elected officials and a mass base for something different–and how they were all largely missing in the contemporary GOP.

Today at the Daily Beast a guy with a much better pedigree than mine for making these comparisons has weighed in on the subject: Progressive Policy Institute president and Democratic Leadership Council co-founder Will Marshall. And though he goes into far greater detail than I did of the conditions that created the DLC and the Clinton presidency, he reaches the same conclusion:

[E]lected Republicans seem AWOL in the fight to take back their party. On the contrary, House Republicans seem as intransigent as ever, even as polls show that Americans increasingly blame them for the fiscal impasse in Washington.

This underscores the key difference between Democrats in 1989 and Republicans in 2013. The DLC spoke to, and for, a Democratic rank and file that was considerably more moderate than [the] party establishment. For Republicans, however, the “base” is the problem, not the solution. Radicalism rises from the grass roots. The Tea Party-Club for Growth axis is still eager to punish ideological deviation, threatening to “primary” GOP officeholders who show the slightest inclination toward compromise. And it’s not just intimidation: thanks to a combination of geographic sorting and gerrymandering, many House Republicans can truthfully claim to be faithfully representing their constituents who sent them to Washington to pull down the Temple, not to do deals with Democrats. That’s why the House stands for now at least as the Proud Tower of unbending right-wing orthodoxy.

With the “base” and elected officials (not to mention the vast noise machine of activists and gabbers) alike embracing every available excuse for maintaining the GOP’s ideological totems, the handful of wonks and scribblers calling for a fundamental reexamination of those totems are laughably outgunned. Marshall doesn’t specifically note the complicity of the MSM in mis-describing the various “rebranding” and “better messaging” projects of the GOP as something far more consequential than they actually are. But that, too, encourages the deception and self-deception that keeps Republicans from facing the music, and helps, as Marshall does observe, prevent a divided federal government from functioning on a whole host of issues. Thus:

[I]t will probably take more GOP losses to convince conservatives that they need to build majorities within an actually existing America, not the America of their dreams.

Listen to the speakers at CPAC the next three days, and ask yourself if you hear any serious talk of conservatism itself being a political problem. I’d be shocked if you do. These people just need the honesty that comes with chronic defeat. That won’t be easy for those who still think of Barry Goldwater’s calamitous loss in 1964 as a moral victory.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, March 14, 2013

March 15, 2013 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Changing The Legal Paradigm”: NRA Money Helped Reshape Gun Laws

In 1977 at a Denver hotel, Don Kates paced a conference room lecturing a small group of young scholars about the Second Amendment and tossing out ideas for law review articles. Back then, it was a pretty weird activity in pursuit of a wacky notion: that the Constitution confers an individual right to possess a firearm.

“This idea for a very long time was just laughed at,” said Nelson Lund, the Patrick Henry professor of constitutional law and the Second Amendment at George Mason University, a chair endowed by the National Rifle Association. “A lot of people thought it was preposterous and just propaganda from gun nuts.”

More than 35 years later, no one is laughing. In 2008, the Supreme Court endorsed for the first time an individual’s right to own a gun in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller. The 5 to 4 decision rendered ineffective some of the District’s strict gun-control laws. And Justice Antonin Scalia’s majority opinion echoed the work of Kates and his ideological comrades, who had pressed the argument that the Second Amendment articulates an individual right to keep and bear arms.

As the Obama administration pushes for gun-control legislation, it will have to contend with the changed legal understanding of the Second Amendment that culminated in Heller. That transformation was brought about in large part by a small band of lawyers and scholars backed by the NRA.

For more than three decades, the NRA has sponsored legal seminars, funded legal research and encouraged law review articles that advocate an individual’s right to possess guns, according to the organization’s reports. The result has been a profound shift in legal thinking on the Second Amendment. And the issue of individual gun-possession rights, once almost entirely ignored, has moved into the center of constitutional debate and study.

For proponents of stricter gun control, the NRA’s encouragement of favorable legal scholarship has been a mark of its strategic, patient advocacy.

“I think this was one of the most successful attempts to change the law and to change a legal paradigm in history,” said Carl T. Bogus, a professor at Roger Williams University School of Law in Rhode Island and the editor of “The Second Amendment in Law and History,” a collection of essays that challenges the interpretation of the individual right. “They were thinking strategically. I don’t think the NRA funds scholarship out of academic interest. I think the NRA funds something because it has a political objective.”

The Second Amendment states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Before the Heller decision, the Supreme Court and lower courts had interpreted the language as “preserving the authority of the states to maintain militias,” according to a Congressional Research Service analysis.

“It was a settled question, and the overwhelming consensus, bordering on unanimity, was that the Second Amendment granted a collective right” enjoyed by the states, not individuals, Bogus said. Under this interpretation, the Constitution provides no right for an individual to possess a firearm.

Lund agreed that there was a consensus but said it was “based on ignorance.”

Throughout most of American history, there was little academic interest in the Second Amendment. From 1912 to 1959, only 11 law journal articles were published on the subject, all of them endorsing the prevailing opinion that it “affects citizens only in connection with citizen service in a government-organized and -regulated militia,” according to an analysis by Robert J. Spitzer, a professor of political science at the State University of New York at Cortland and the author of “The Politics of Gun Control.”

The first articles advocating an individual right appeared in the 1960s, and scholarship endorsing that view took off in the late 1970s. From 1980 to 1989, as NRA support began to be felt, 38 articles on the Second Amendment were published in academic journals, 21 of which advocated an individual right. In the following decade, 87 articles appeared, and a clear majority — 58 to 29 — took an individual-rights position, Spitzer’s analysis showed.

To Kates, the explanation for the burgeoning scholarship is obvious. “Gun control became a matter of enormous political controversy, and this focused attention on the Second Amendment,” he said in an interview.

Kates, a Yale Law graduate who describes himself as a liberal, said he began carrying a gun when he spent the summer of 1963 as a civil rights worker in eastern North Carolina.

“I never believed the nonsense that was then current that the Second Amendment had to do with states’ rights,” he said. Alarmed by calls for stricter gun control and outright bans, Kates started the seminars in the late 1970s and ran them for more than a decade with support from various groups, including the NRA and the Second Amendment Foundation, another gun rights organization.

Stephen P. Halbrook attended the Denver seminar in 1977 when he was an assistant professor of philosophy at Howard University and studying for a law degree at Georgetown. Three years later, he published his first article on the Second Amendment in the George Mason University Law Review. He went on to publish more than 20 law review articles and four books dealing with the Second Amendment, some with grants from the NRA, where he has served as an outside counsel.

Halbrook, who has a law office in Fairfax city, said the NRA started funding scholarly research. “I would think that’s important in the sense that scholars, unless you’re independently wealthy, you need to be paid for your time,” he said.

He and others noted that Bogus has received outside funding for symposia and publishing that excludes the individual-rights point of view. Bogus said he was transparent about his funding.

The NRA also began essay competitions for law students with prizes of up to $12,500, with the understanding that the winners would try to place their work in a law review.

Halbrook was one of a number of lawyers — including Kates; Dave Hardy, a legal consultant for the NRA; and David Caplan, a member of the NRA’s board of directors — who were at the forefront of this writing. They drew on their reading of colonial history, the founders’ statements and early American constitutional history to make their case for an individual right.

Hardy said most of this work was published in minor reviews, but the individual-rights argument got a big boost in 1989 when Sanford Levinson, a leading professor of constitutional law at the University of Texas at Austin, published “The Embarrassing Second Amendment” in the Yale Law Journal. He argued that the “legal consciousness of the elite bar” on the Second Amendment might be wrong. He also was sympathetic to the “insurrectionist theory” that citizens have a right to be armed so they can fight their government if it becomes tyrannical. Levinson singled out Kates’s work and cited Halbrook.

Other leading scholars followed, and advocates for the NRA’s position began to speak about a new “standard model.” In 1997, Justice Clarence Thomas acknowledged the growing mass of law review material when he wrote, “Marshaling an impressive array of historical evidence, a growing body of scholarly commentary indicates that the ‘right to keep and bear arms’ is, as the Amendment text suggests, a personal right.”

In 2003, the NRA marked the Second Amendment’s new stature as a subject of serious study when its foundation endowed Lund’s Patrick Henry chair at George Mason University with $1 million. The law school had established a reputation as a bastion of conservative legal thought.

“What they were looking for was a means of legitimating the fact that the Second Amendment had arrived as a legitimate subject of study in constitutional law,” said Daniel D. Polsby, the dean of the George Mason University School of Law.

For advocates of an individual’s right to bear arms, the Heller decision in 2008 was a vindication. In writing the majority opinion, Scalia said, “The second amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm, unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.”

He cited Kates and Halbrook.


By: Peter Finn, The Washington Post, March 13, 2013

March 15, 2013 Posted by | Gun Control, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“In The Thicket Of Fine Print”: Elizabeth Warren Rips NRA And GOP For “Keeping The Game Rigged”

Senator Elizabeth Warren (R-MA) used her speech at the Consumer Federation of America Thursday to make a wide-ranging argument defending the role of government and ripping Republicans and the National Rifle Association for intentionally keeping the American public in the dark.

After calling out the NRA’s “armies of lobbyists [that] are fighting to rig the system so that the public remains in the dark,” the senior senator from Massachusetts attacked the organization’s efforts to stop public research into gun violence.

“If as many people were dying of a mysterious disease as innocent bystanders are dying from firearms, a cure would be our top priority,” Warren said. “But we don’t even have good data on gun violence. Why? Because the NRA and the gun industry lobby made it their goal to prevent any serious effort to document the violence.”

Her defense of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which she first conceived and helped create as part of the Dodd-Frank financial reforms, was especially pointed.

“This agency is about making consumer credit clear — no more hiding tricks and traps in a thicket of fine print. It is about letting consumers see the deal — and not worrying about the things they can’t see,” Warren said.

Senator Warren discussed the creation of the CFPB in a 2010 speech at the Consumer Federation of America that you can watch here.

Republicans have praised the work of CFPB director Richard Cordray, who President Obama installed via recess appointment after the GOP blocked his nomination. But they are blocking him again because they are bent on increasing congressional oversight of the bureau, while weakening its power.

“Blocking Rich Cordray is about keeping the game rigged, keeping the game rigged so that consumers remain in the dark — and a few bad actors can rake in big profits,” Warren said.

Republicans are basically working to void a federal law simply because they don’t like it. And by abusing the filibuster, they’ll likely be effective.

Senator Warren called out this unprecedented obstruction at Cordray’s nomination hearing:

“What I want to know is why every banking regulator since the Civil War has been funded outside the Appropriations process, but unlike the consumer agency, no one in the United States Senate has held up confirmation of their directors demanding that that agency or those agencies be redesigned.


By: Jason Sattler, The National Memo, March 14, 2013

March 15, 2013 Posted by | GOP, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Joining The 21st Century”: The GOP Can Learn A Thing Or Two From The Catholic Church

The cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church are hardly a liberal lot. They’ve doubled down against abortion and gay marriage (or even acceptance of gays). Church hierarchy has verbally slapped down nuns who have gently challenged the priorities of the church. So it really says something when the GOP last year nominated a white guy named Mitt to run for president, while the cardinals—who could be described as the tea party caucus of the Catholic faith—picked a South American guy named Jorge.

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio is from Argentina and speaks Spanish. That alone makes him a more 21st century choice for leadership (although he is a staunch social conservative, being vocal in his opposition to gay marriage). And it may well be as much about demographic strategy as it is about merit; the Roman Catholic Church, after all, does a better recruitment job in Latin America than in, say, the U.S. But the very fact that such a conservative group would pick a Latin American to be the public face (not to mention the spiritual leader) of the worldwide faith shows that they are way ahead of the U.S. Republican party.

Bergoglio, notably a Jesuit, took the name Francis, after St. Francis of Assisi, who was known for his vow of poverty. House Republicans, on the same day Francis became Pope, pushed through a bill to ban the granting of waivers on the work requirement for welfare—in other words, toughening up rules on the poor whom St. Francis wanted to help.

Many Republicans realize they need to do a better job with outreach. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, one of the young stars of the party, noted humorously in a dinner speech last Saturday night that he was hamstrung by his image. How could a skinny guy with dark skin and a funny name ever dream of becoming president?, Jindal quipped, as President Obama sat nearby. It was meant to be a joke, but the Republican candidate slate last year was, mainly, a slew of white men. The voter outreach and get-out-the-vote strategy was similarly ill-focused. The heavily traditional and old-fashioned church has made a move to join the 21st century. The GOP ought to consider following suit.


By: Susan Milligan, U. S. News and World Report, March 14, 2013

March 15, 2013 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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