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“Live By The Teaparty, Die By The Teaparty”: Florida Governor Rick Scott Is In Deep Trouble

According to a new Public Policy Polling poll, Florida voters are eager to vote Governor Rick Scott out of office.

The poll finds Scott’s approval rating at a dismal 33 percent, with 57 percent disapproving. These numbers are unchanged from PPP’s previous Florida poll in January, despite Scott’s concerted effort to appeal to Florida’s moderates over the past two months.

If the election were held today, former governor Charlie Crist would easily defeat Scott, 52 to 40 percent. Crist, the Republican-turned-Democrat who served as governor from 2007 through 2011, holds a 46 percent approval rating, with 43 percent of Floridians disapproving. These numbers aren’t great, but should be good enough to top the deeply unpopular Scott.

The poll also finds Scott trailing two other potential Democratic candidates; former Tampa mayor Pam Iorio leads Scott 44 to 37 percent, and former Florida chief financial officer Alex Sink — who Scott defeated by less than 1 percent in the 2010 gubernatorial election — would lead the incumbent 45 to 40 percent.

Perhaps more troubling for Scott is that he is no longer even a safe bet to win the Republican Party’s nomination next year — 42 percent of Republicans say they want Scott to be their candidate in 2014, while 43 percent say they would prefer someone else. An overwhelming 55 percent of self-described moderates want to replace Scott; just 34 want him to seek re-election. “Somewhat conservative” Republicans support Scott 43 to 38 percent, and “very conservative” Republicans back him 46 to 42 percent. These numbers would theoretically leave the governor very vulnerable to a primary challenge.

Scott’s struggles among moderate Republicans help to explain his recent shift towards the center; after spending most of his term railing against government spending and Obamacare, in the past two months Scott moved to expand funding for education and accepted the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion. So far, these decisions have not helped Scott’s poll numbers.

They may have consequences with Scott’s few remaining supporters, however. Scott’s flip-flop on Medicaid expansion left one Florida Tea Party group so angry that it penned the governor a “breakup note,” wondering “how the Medicaid expansion is going to pay for the surgery to remove the knife planted in my back.”

If Scott isn’t careful, one of the first governors to be swept into office by the Tea Party movement may end up being swept out by the exact same forces.

 

By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, March 20, 2013

 

March 21, 2013 Posted by | Rick Scott | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Stuck With Each Other”: The Religious Right Can’t Get Away From The GOP, And The GOP Can’t Get Rid Of The Religious Right

Imagine you’re a religious right activist, used to being a serious player within the Republican party, the kind of person candidates court and party chieftains huddle with. You’ve done well at making sure that just about every politician in your party has the right position on your issues. You may not always get everything you want as quickly as you want, but you know that you don’t have to waste energy fighting rear-guard actions within the GOP.

But then bad things start to happen. We spend a couple of years talking about nothing but the economy and budgets, ignoring your favorite issues, and some in the party suggest that the real culture war isn’t your culture war, it’s an economic one. A couple of your favorite candidates get a little too candid with their views on rape, and end up losing at the polls, leading some influential strategists to suggest that the party needs to shift its focus away from your issues. Then one of your party’s senators comes out in support of same-sex marriage, and even though it’s only one senator, all the pundits agree that he won’t be the last, and it’s only a matter of time before your party abandons its insistence on “traditional” marriage entirely. Then some party bigwigs come out with a report on how the GOP can win future elections, and it says nothing about you and your issues. There’s talk about how libertarian the party should become and how it can appeal to minority groups, young people, and women, but all that makes you feel pretty left out.

As McKay Coppins reports, that’s leaving religious right activists more than a little peeved. But he puts his finger on a big reason that some in the party feel free to encourage a move in a leftward direction:

If Republican officials feel confident that they can soften the party’s stance on social issues without any real risk of losing their religious base, it may be because the Christian right hasn’t presented a united front in nearly a decade. Not since 2004, when Evangelicals swarmed to the ballot to support a marriage amendment in Ohio, and re-elect George W. Bush, have those voters managed to coalesce around a winning presidential candidate.

In the 2008 Republican primaries, they were split between a culture-warring Mitt Romney and the insurgent Baptist minister Mike Huckabee, and neither won. Then, in 2012, conservative Evangelicals vacillated between a bevy of Republican candidates, allowing the well-financed Mormon guy — who had dropped the social agenda rhetoric and was now just talking math — to navigate his way around them and grab hold of the nomination.

You can get a religious right leader to threaten that his people will stop voting unless they get what they want, but nobody believes that. There’s no question that the religious right is still a core part of the Republican coalition, but the problem they face is that national Republican leaders aren’t afraid of them anymore, or at least those leaders are less afraid of them than they are afraid of continuing to alienate young people and minorities.

That isn’t to say, though, that the religious right won’t continue to wield great influence. Just as they don’t have the ability to move en masse, the party leadership can’t just snap its fingers and change the party’s image. A national party is made up of thousands of people with their own agendas and ideas. Karl Rove can say, “No more Todd Akins,” but that doesn’t mean there won’t be more Todd Akins, spouting off retrograde ideas and getting lots of attention for them, because there probably will. Reince Priebus can say, “Let’s chill with the anti-gay stuff,” but that won’t stop Rick Santorum from running for president again if he wants to. The party can try to move away from the religious right, but the religious right is woven so tightly into the party at every level that it will be almost impossible to do.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, March 20, 2013

March 21, 2013 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Because It’ll Be Different This Time”: Lindsey Graham Calls For American Boots On The Ground In Syria

I often think these people do this kind of thing just to get under our skin. Here’s Lindsey Graham, speaking on the 10th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, speaking to Foreign Policy magazine:

Graham told The Cable in an interview Tuesday that whether or not the attack can be confirmed as the first use of chemical weapons in the 24-month Syrian civil war, the United States must devise and implement a plan to secure Syrian chemical weapons sites and deploy U.S. troops to do it if necessary.

“My biggest fear beyond an Iranian nuclear weapons capability is the chemical weapons in Syria falling in the hands of extremists and Americans need to lead on this issue. We need to come up with a plan to secure these weapons sites, either in conjunction with our partners [or] if nothing else by ourselves,” Graham said.

Asked if he would support sending U.S. troops inside Syria for the mission, Graham said yes.

“Absolutely, you’ve got to get on the ground. There is no substitute for securing these weapons,” he said. “I don’t care what it takes. We need partners in the region. But I’m here to say, if the choice is to send in troops to secure the weapons sites versus allowing chemical weapons to get in the hands of some of the most violent people in the world, I vote to cut this off before it becomes a problem.”

Evidently it was not chemical weapons, but I’m sure that won’t stop ol’ Lindsey. “I don’t care what it takes.”

Does making these comments take more or less gall than Rummy with that tweet this morning? Can you believe he tweeted: “10 yrs ago began the long, difficult work of liberating 25 mil Iraqis. All who played a role in history deserve our respect & appreciation.”

Wow. The one silver lining of this Rand Paul ascension is that he would put these kooks out of business. Although I already see that they’re getting to him. Madness. So little has changed really.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, March 20, 2013

March 21, 2013 Posted by | Foreign Policy | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Bombs Over Baghdad”: Ten Years On, Iraq War Skeptics Have A Right To Say “I Told You So”

Possibly you remember “Shock and Awe.” No, that’s not the title of a Rolling Stones concert tour, but of the United States’ bombs-over-Baghdad campaign that began exactly 10 years ago. American soldiers went pounding into Iraq accompanied by scores of “embedded” journalists seemingly eager to prove their patriotism and courage.

A skeptic couldn’t help but be reminded of spectators who rode from Washington in horse-drawn carriages to witness the battle of Bull Run in July of 1861. They too expected a short, decisive conflict. Even on NPR, invading Iraq was treated like the world’s largest Boy Scout Jamboree, instead of what it turned into: arguably the worst military and foreign policy blunder in U.S. history.

Skepticism, however, was in short supply. Spooked by 9/11 and intimidated by the intellectual bullies of the Bush administration, American journalists largely abandoned that professional virtue in favor of propaganda and groupthink.

Among scores of examples, the one that’s stuck in my craw was allegedly liberal Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen. Reacting to Gen. Colin Powell’s anti-Saddam speech to the United Nations General Assembly—since repudiated by its author—Cohen wrote that “Iraq not only hasn’t accounted for its weapons of mass destruction but without a doubt still retains them. Only a fool—or possibly a Frenchman—could conclude otherwise.”

“War fever, catch it,” this fool wrote.

I added that to anybody capable of remembering past intelligence hoaxes, it wasn’t clear that Powell’s presentation answered any of the objections put forward by doubters like George H.W. Bush’s national security advisor, Gen. Brent Scowcroft.

“To any skeptic with a computer modem, moreover, it became quite clear why Powell’s speech failed to convert many at the UN,” my Feb. 5, 2003 column continued.

“Key parts of [his] presentation were dubious on their face. That alleged al Qaeda base in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq? If it’s what Powell says, why hasn’t it been bombed to smithereens? British and U.S. jets have been conducting sorties in the no-fly zone for months. Because it’s a dusty outpost not worth bombing, reporters for The Observer who visited the place quickly saw.

“The mobile bio-war death labs? Please. Even if [UN inspector] Hans Blix hadn’t told The Guardian that U.S. tips had guided inspectors to mobile food inspection facilities, anybody who’s dodged herds of camels, goats and sheep and maniacal drivers on bumpy Middle Eastern highways had to laugh. Bio-war experts told Newsweek the idea was preposterous. ‘U.S. intelligence,’ it reported ‘after years of looking for them, has never found even one.’

“Then there was the embarrassing fact that key elements of a British intelligence document cited by Powell turned out to have been plagiarized from magazine articles and a California grad student’s M.A. thesis based upon 12-year-old evidence.”

I could go on. In fact, I did.

“This isn’t conservatism,” I concluded. “It’s utopian folly and a prescription for endless war.” Although the short-term outcome wasn’t in doubt and Americans could be counted upon to rally around the troops, it struck me as almost mad to imagine that the U.S. could convert Iraq into a Middle Eastern Switzerland by force of arms.

That was basically the Frenchman’s conclusion too. Conservative Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said that although “we all share the same priority—that of fighting terrorism mercilessly,” invading Iraq without just cause would likely “exacerbate the divisions between societies, cultures and peoples, divisions that nurture terrorism.”

If it were up to me, the Post columnist’s byline would read like a prizefighter’s robe: Richard “Only a Fool or a Frenchman” Cohen. However, there are no penalties in Washington journalism for being proven dramatically wrong.

The safest place during a stampede is always the middle of the herd.

My own reward was getting Dixie Chicked out of a part-time teaching job halfway through a series of columns about Iraq. Supposedly, Hendrix College ran out of money to pay me. My most popular offering had been a course about George Orwell. Oh well.

But the purpose here isn’t to blow my own horn. (OK, maybe a little.) It’s to point out that not everybody got buffaloed. Many thousands of American and European citizens took to the streets to protest what they saw as imperialist folly.

I was also very far from being the only journalist to notice that the Bush administration’s case for Saddam Hussein’s imaginary “weapons of mass destruction” didn’t add up. Anybody reading the astringent dispatches of Knight-Ridder (now McClatchy) reporters Jonathan Landay, Warren Strobel, John Walcott and Joe Galloway couldn’t help but know the score.

But the prediction I’m proudest of was a cynical observation I made after morons began smashing Dixie Chicks CDs and renaming fried potatoes “Freedom Fries.”

A former Hendrix student emailed me proof: a photo of a vending machine in a rural Arkansas truckstop.

Sold only for the prevention of disease: “Freedom Ticklers.”

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, March 20, 2013

March 21, 2013 Posted by | Iraq War | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Too Little, Too Late”: Why The GOP’s Efforts To Reach Out To Women Are Doomed To Fail

Why should women vote for a party that’s actively working against their needs and interests?

On Monday, the GOP released a report detailing its “Growth and Opportunity Project,” a new initiative that explores reasons for the party’s November defeat and posits strategies for winning future elections. If it wasn’t evident before, it is now abundantly clear that the Republican establishment officially attributes its November loss to a failure in style, not substance. The 100-page report details the party’s inability to effectively communicate its policies and priorities to women, immigrants, young people, and people of color. It largely ignores the possibility that what motivated the majority of American voters, and in particular women, to give President Obama a second term was an aversion to the GOP’s outdated vision for the nation.

Acknowledging that Obama won the single women’s vote by a “whopping 36 percent,” the report’s authors suggest ways the party can be more inclusive of this critical voting bloc: Making a better effort to listen to female voters; fighting against the Democratic rhetoric against the “so-called War on Women”; doing a better job communicating the GOP’s policies and employing female spokespeople to do it; and using Women’s History Month to “remind voters of the Republican’s Party historical role in advancing the women’s rights movement.”

I’m glad they specified “historical” role in advancing the women’s rights movement, given that their current role seems squarely focused on rolling back women’s rights. It’s encouraging that GOP strategists in Washington want to spend more time listening to women voters, but there is no indication that Republican lawmakers will respond to that feedback. As Rachel Maddow said on her program this week, while Beltway leaders are “preaching about how to appear more reasonable to the womenfolk among us,” Republican governance has become a competition – a race – “to see who can get the most extreme the fastest.”

And a race it is.

This week Andrew Jenkins of RH Reality Check reported on some of the most recent Republican efforts to chip away at women’s access to care:

Arkansas just passed a bill banning abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy, while South Dakota just passed a bill to expand its 72-hour waiting period, which was already one of the longest in the country, in a state with only one abortion clinic. The North Dakota Senate just approved a ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, the most restrictive in the country. And in Kansas, a state House committee just passed a 70-page bill that defines life at fertilization and requires that physicians lie to their patients.

That’s not all.

Republicans in Texas remain hard at work leading national efforts in steamrolling access to women’s health care. Previous budget cuts and funding restrictions have already closed more than 50 clinics and are making it more difficult, if not impossible, for nearly 200,000 women to access care. Last week the Texas Senate Education Committee moved a bill forward that would ban Planned Parenthood and other organizations from providing sexuality education in schools, and the governor recently promised to advance a 20-week abortion ban.

In Wisconsin, four Planned Parenthood clinics closed as a result of a GOP-led ban that prevents the organization and other clinics from receiving state funds. In Oklahoma, a major Planned Parenthood facility closed after the state’s department of health cut off funding through the WIC program, forcing low-income women to go elsewhere to obtain vouchers for themselves and their children. Last month, Republicans in Michigan introduced a bill that would require women to get a vaginal ultrasound at least two hours before obtaining an abortion.

Mississippi is about to close its only abortion clinic thanks to a requirement that abortion doctors have admitting privileges at a local hospital (and local hospitals’ refusal to grant those privileges) – a move the Republican governor has applauded as being the first step in ending abortion in that state. Earlier this year, a Republican (female!) representative in New Mexico proposed legislation that would have allowed for women who terminated pregnancies resulting from rape to be charged with a felony for tampering with evidence. (She promptly rescinded and then proposed a new bill that would instead charge abortion providers with facilitating the destruction of evidence.)

The new GOP report also suggested that Republicans “talk about people and families, not just numbers and statistics.” In releasing his 2014 budget proposal last week, Paul Ryan certainly provided an interesting perspective into how the GOP proposes taking care of women and families. According to the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), the Ryan budget includes significant reductions for “childcare and Head Start, K-12 education and Pell grants, job training, civil rights enforcement, women’s preventive health care, domestic violence prevention and more.” It would dismantle Medicaid, Medicare, and the food stamp program. It would repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), denying nearly 15 million women access to affordable health insurance and Medicaid and forcing women to pay more for prescription drugs, including family planning. As NWLC pointed out, repealing the ACA would “allow insurance companies to continue charging women higher premiums than men, deny coverage to women with so-called pre-existing conditions like domestic violence, and refuse to cover maternity care.”

The ACA is certainly providing fertile ground for GOP lawmakers to show how much they care about women. Twenty states now restrict abortion coverage in health insurance plans that will be offered through the insurance exchanges, and 18 states restrict abortion coverage in insurance plans for public employees. Nearly all of those states are Republican-led. Additionally, 14 Republican governors have reported they will not participate in the Medicaid expansion programs that are a critical part of the ACA, denying access to a broad range of health services to millions of women.

On top of all this, 22 Republican senators and 138 Republican members of the House voted last month against the Violence Against Women Act, a critical piece of legislation that provides assistance to victims of domestic and sexual violence.

In their report, the GOP strategists recommended developing training programs in messaging, communications, and recruiting that address the best ways to communicate with women. “Our candidates, spokespeople and staff need to use language that addresses concerns that are on women’s minds in order to let them know we are fighting for them,” they state. Given the above-mentioned pieces of legislation, the GOP will be hard-pressed to convince women the party is fighting for them. It’s patronizing to think that using different language, new messaging, and female spokespersons will convince women to support a party that is so clearly working against their best interests. Women are smart enough to know that a party that calls itself home to lawmakers relentlessly fighting to chip away at family planning and abortion access, food stamps, affordable health care, education, civil rights, and a social safety net providing tenuous stability to millions of marginalized individuals is not a party committed to truly understanding or addressing their priorities.

Maybe next year the GOP will make a more earnest attempt at celebrating Women’s History Month. Although, by that time, their state leaders might have alienated half the women in the country, and it will be too late.

 

By: Andrea Flynn, Fellow, The Roosevelt Institute; The National Memo, March 20, 2013

March 21, 2013 Posted by | War On Women, Womens Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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