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“Social Conservatives’ Misplaced Fury”: Republican Policymakers Are Already Doing The Bidding For The Religious Right

Officials at the Republican National Committee can read polls just as well as anyone else, and they realize their party’s social agenda is not popular with the American mainstream. Indeed, just this week, a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found by a 2-to-1 margin, Americans disagree with the Republican Party’s approach to social and cultural issues.

With that in mind, Reince Priebus and others are at least paying lip service to rebranding the party, hoping to move away from “Old Testament” associations. It’s apparently driven social-conservative activists and the religious right movement to the brink of apoplexy.

A group of high-profile social conservatives warned Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus in a letter this week that their supporters could abandon the GOP if the party seeks to change its position on social issues, particularly same-sex marriage.

Thirteen social conservatives, representing various influential groups, wrote Priebus ahead of the RNC’s quarterly meeting this week in Los Angeles to sternly rebuke the conclusions of a post-election report that advised Republican elected officials to adopt a softer tone toward social issues.

“We respectfully warn GOP Leadership that an abandonment of its principles will necessarily result in the abandonment of our constituents to their support,” concludes the letter, which was obtained by and independently verified by NBC News in advance of the meeting this week.

The letter further asks GOP committeemen to pass a resolution at their meeting this week re-affirming the party’s 2012 national platform, which includes language calling for bans on abortion and same-sex marriage.

That nine of the 13 groups involved in this effort are 501(c)3 tax-exempt organizations, legally prohibited from supporting political parties, may be of interest to the Internal Revenue Service.

Nevertheless, the warning coincides with a call from Tony Perkins, president of the right-wing Family Research Council, that social conservatives stop contributing to the RNC until the party starts “defending core principles.”

I understand that social conservatives are furious. I just don’t understand why.

Given the intensity of the reactions from these far-right leaders, one might think Republicans were giving up on the culture war altogether and the RNC had just named a new LGBT outreach coordinator.

I’m not sure where social conservatives are getting their coverage of current events, but I’ve got some news for them: the Republican Party hasn’t given up on their issues. On the contrary, GOP officials appear to be fighting the culture war harder than ever.

Why, exactly, do social conservatives feel so aggrieved? On a purely superficial level, the party does not want to be perceived as right-wing culture warriors because Priebus and Co. realize that this further alienates younger, more tolerant voters. But below the surface, Republicans, especially at the state level, are banning abortion and targeting reproductive rights at a breathtaking clip, pursuing official state religions, eliminating sex-ed, going after Planned Parenthood, and restricting contraception. Heck, we even have a state A.G. and gubernatorial candidate fighting to protect an anti-sodomy law.

What’s more, folks like Priebus are condemning Planned Parenthood and “infanticide,” while Paul Ryan is speaking to right-wing groups about a future in which abortion rights are “outlawed.”

And social conservatives are outraged that Republicans haven’t pushed the culture war enough? Why, because the RNC hasn’t officially declared its support for a theocracy yet?

Religious right activists, I hate to break it to you, but Republican policymakers are already doing your bidding. You’re not the ones who should be whining.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 12, 2013

April 13, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Eyes Wide Shut”: GOP Representatives Now Realize Effects Of The Sequester They Voted For

Representative Renee Ellmers (R-NC) introduced a bill on Tuesday that returns sequester-cut funding to physicians to provide chemotherapy drugs to patients. The Cancer Patient Protection Act of 2013, H.R. 1416, restores sequester cuts made to Medicare Part B in order to provide cancer treatment and reimburse physicians for the costs of cuts already made.

Ellmers, who voted in favor of the Budget Control Act of 2011, called these cuts to cancer treatment “unintended consequences.” However, the cutback in funding wasn’t accidental, as Ellmers suggests—the Budget Control Act explicitly orders a sweeping two-percent cut to Medicare.

Despite her efforts to reverse its inevitable effects, Ellmers still defends the sequester. “I do believe it will start a very important process that will help our economy to start to grow,” she said. “The debt that we have at the federal level is our biggest threat for our country.”

Representative Blake Farenthold (R-TX) joins Rep. Ellmers in opposing elements of sequestration despite having voted for it. Farenthold, among others, was disturbed to hear of the closing of 149 air traffic control towers—especially those in Texas. The congressman sent a letter to FAA Deputy Administrator Michael Huerta, stating, “I am deeply troubled for your public statements and proposed actions regarding the effect of the sequester on smaller, local airports. These airports have long played a vital role in economies across the country.”

Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) was among the 269 representatives who voted in favor of the Budget Control Act, yet he too did not hesitate to criticize its effects. In Frelinghuysen’s district, children in Washington Township may be unable to enroll in Head Start programs due to lack of funding. Frelinghuysen said, “I view potential budget cuts to such an important program as another reason why sequestration is a bad idea.”

To date, sequestration has had significant effects on many Americans, and is expected to cause upward of $85 billion in cuts to communities across the country. The elderly have lost vital programs like Meals on Wheels; veterans may face difficulty accessing mental health, substance abuse, and job counseling services; and funding can be cut for medical research of illnesses like Alzheimer’s Disease.

The effects of sequestration are tangible; millions across the country have faced cuts across a range of industries. Rather than criticizing the effects of the sequester and introducing legislation to obtain certain exemptions from these imminent cuts, perhaps members of Congress like Ellmers, Farenthold and Frelinghuysen should have weighed the consequences before even voting for the measure.


By: Allison Brito, The National Memo, April 11, 2013

April 13, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Sequester | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“There Is No Gosnell Coverup”: Blame Existing Policies And Public Indifference To Low-Income Communities

This week, the right wing has been working the refs, demanding to know why the press has been allegedly silent on the trial of Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia doctor who allegedly committed horrific acts against his patients with impunity for years. Fox News’ Kristen Powers kicked it off with an Op-Ed in USA Today, claiming, “The deafening silence of too much of the media, once a force for justice in America, is a disgrace.” Michelle Malkin has helped spearhead a Twitter campaign. calls it “a full-blown, coordinated blackout throughout the entire national media.”

And mostly, the campaign is working, generating a series of sheepish responses (and a near-instant BuzzFeed listicle). In an Atlantic piece headlined, “Why Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s trial should be a front page story,” Conor Friedersdorf admits, “Until Thursday, I wasn’t aware of this story … Had I been asked at a trivia night about the identity of Kermit Gosnell, I would’ve been stumped and helplessly guessed a green Muppet.” Slate’s Dave Weigel congratulated the tweeters for getting his attention and then filed a piece sympathetic to the coverup claim, lecturing pro-choice people that “You really should read that grand jury report,” and concluding, “Social conservatives are largely right about the Gosnell story.”

No, they aren’t right about the Gosnell story. If you’ve never heard of the Gosnell story, it’s not because of a coverup by the liberal mainstream media. It’s probably because you failed to pay attention to the copious coverage among pro-choice and feminist journalists, as well as the big news organizations, when the news first broke in 2011. There would be something rich, if it weren’t so infuriating, about these (almost uniformly male, as it happens) reporters and commentators scrambling to break open this shocking untold story. You know, the one that was written about here, here and here, to name some disparate sources.

I can’t speak for big news organizations like CNN and the networks, but let’s think about this question another way: How often do such places devote their energies to covering the massive health disparities and poor outcomes that are wrought by our current system? How often are the travails of the women whose vulnerabilities Gosnell exploited — the poor, immigrants and otherwise marginalized people — given wall-to-wall, trial-level coverage? If you’re surprised that in the face of politicized stigma, lack of public funding or good information, and a morass of restrictive laws allegedly meant to protect women, the vacuum was filled by a monster — well, the most generous thing I can say is that you haven’t been paying attention.

But since you’re here, guys — welcome. Here are some important things to know about the tragedies committed in Gosnell’s clinic, based on the sources you missed. This week, as Virginia-based pro-choice activist Michelle Kinsey Bruns noted on Twitter, “Fitting that the right is trying to whip folks into a frenzy over #Gosnell the same day VA is trying to put safe abortion care out of reach.” She’s referring to so-called TRAP laws, which are regulations aimed at abortion clinics that have nothing to do with safety — say, the size of parking lots — to seek to drive them out of business, and which are expected to go forward in a vote today. According to Tara Murtha, a Philadelphia-based reporter who has been covering the Gosnell case from the start, in the aftermath of Pennsylvania’s own TRAP laws, the state went from 22 free-standing clinics to 13. As Murtha puts it, “The bottom line is that politicizing abortion led to Gosnell. Their answer? Politicize it more.”

After all, the question is not just why the state failed to respond to the complaints of women and advocates who visited the clinic, although that matters hugely. It’s why women kept going there anyway: because they felt they had no alternative. Read this account from Jeff Deeney, a social worker from Philadelphia, who points out that the lack of public funding for abortion is a big factor leading desperate women to Gosnell: “It’s worth noting for outsiders that Health Center #4 which serves the same neighborhood is the best in town, providing quality care for the uninsured poor. But Health Centers don’t do abortions, and Medicaid, where a TANF mom’s insurance coverage would come from, if she had any at all, doesn’t pay for them. And for these women the cost of paying for an abortion out of pocket breaks the budget, leaving mom scrambling to make next month’s rent or possibly wind up on the street.” Cost is also how women often get past the legal gestational limit, as they struggle to save up enough money — and Gosnell’s willingness to break the law was what made him their last chance. To everyone who thinks his case was a reason for more abortion restrictions: What he did was already illegal.

A new abortion clinic opened up recently in Kansas, a rare event that itself directly pointed to why there are ever-fewer legitimate abortion providers. It’s housed in a clinic that once housed the practice of Dr. George Tiller, murdered by an antiabortion extremist. As RH Reality Check reported, the clinic’s new providers are already being threatened, and in a jailhouse conversation with Tiller’s murderer, another extremist said of the opening, “It is a reckless act. It is not the act of someone who values their own safety. It is a gauntlet thrown down, by someone who wants a fight.” How much have you heard about that?

By all means, be up in arms about Kermit Gosnell. But blame existing policies and public indifference to low-income communities.


By: Irin Carmon, Salon, April 12, 2013

April 13, 2013 Posted by | Abortion, Women's Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Be Reasonable”: The NRA Would Rather Stand By Their Guns Than Their Word

It is time for the National Rifle Association to admit that universal background checks should include gun shows … kind of like they did in 1999 after Columbine.

In 1999, Wayne LaPierre told Fox News, when asked if he was protecting gun shows, “That’s ridiculous … the fact is that we’re supporting the bill in the Senate that provides a check on every sale at every gun show, no loopholes at all.” The NRA took out ads in papers across the country in a campaign entitled “Be Reasonable” and wrote: “We believe it’s reasonable to provide for instant background checks at gun shows, just like gun shops and pawn shops.”

Why won’t the NRA stick by their statements? Because they would rather stick by their guns.

One simple reason: They were being cute back then and they are being cute now. They rail against fees, or records, or private citizens getting hurt. It is all baloney.

They will not admit that according to a New York Times-CBS News poll over 90 percent of Americans want more background checks; they won’t admit that criminals are kept from buying guns; they won’t admit that 20 to 40 percent of gun buyers escape the scrutiny because they don’t go to gun shops.

They deny reality every day.

They can take away their “A ratings” of Sens. Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey. They can rail against those 16 Republicans who refused to go along with a filibuster to prevent the Senate from acting. They can claim they are worried about a “slippery slope” on gun control.

But it all rings hollow to those families from Columbine, from Newtown, from Aurora. It all rings hollow to those innocent bystanders who have been gunned down in street violence, or who have died when families are torn apart, or those returning veterans with easy access to a gun who have committed suicide at the rate of three a day.

It is long past time for the NRA to do what is right for America’s families – “be reasonable” should be the cry Wayne LaPierre hears every day.


By: Peter Fenn, U. S. News and World Report, April 12, 2013

April 13, 2013 Posted by | Gun Control, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Ticket To Long Term Love”: The Liberal Media’s Gift To Mitch McConnell

After a recording of an opposition research strategy meeting was leaked to Mother Jones, Mitch McConnell is demanding that the FBI investigate the bugging of his office by the “political left.” This is silly. McConnell knows it’s silly. The meeting was almost certainly recorded by an attendee, not by “bugs” planted by liberal spies.

But the point isn’t really to catch the perpetrator. The point is this ridiculous splash on his campaign website, in which visitors are told that McConnell’s office was “wiretapped” by “liberals” and are encouraged to respond by sending all of their contact information, along with some money, to Mitch McConnell’s reelection campaign.

A good “victim of liberal persecution” story is a ticket to long-term love — and cash — in the persecution-fixated conservative movement. That’s why Fox hired Juan Williams and why people gave money to Michele Bachmann and Allen West. Mitch McConnell, who is among the least popular humans on the planet, especially in Kentucky, needs to get conservatives excited to support him, and a fantastical tale of wiretapping by leftist thugs will help.

He shouldn’t actually need this, though. The weird thing about Mitch McConnell is that he’s easily the best friend the conservative movement has in Washington, and yet the activist right-wing base hates him.

No one has done more to thwart Barack Obama than McConnell. But the CPAC rabble reserve their affection for loudmouthed clowns like Louie Gohmert, who has never accomplished anything. McConnell operates quietly, but more effectively than almost any other major conservative elected official in Washington. He is keeping liberal (or, more often, moderate) judges from being confirmed, he’s hobbling the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and effectively stopping the National Labor Relations Board from carrying out its mandate. If Senate Republicans were led by a squishier, more moderate senator, one who actually took seriously the “tradition” and “civility” bullshit the chamber’s old men pretend to hold dear, they might not have been willing or able to carry out four straight years of delay and filibuster on every single piece of Senate business. Despite that, McConnell is derided as a squishy moderate. In fact, it’s only through McConnell’s considerable political skill that he’s managed to avoid a serious right-wing primary challenger.

That’s why McConnell needs this battle with “the political left.” His very bright campaign manager — Jesse Benton, whom you may know from the Rand Paul and Ron Paul campaigns — clearly knew that the smart move was to immediately hype the fact that The Liberals are Attacking Mitch McConnell. While Tea Party types distrust McConnell, they loathe all liberals. That’s why McConnell kept repeating that the “bugging” of his office was carried out by “the political left,” and that’s why he broadly attempted to associate that phrase — though not assign responsibility for the taping — to the Kentucky liberal group that recently made headlines for a racist attack on McConnell’s wife. (A racist attack that much of “the political left” criticized as racist.)

If you want proof that this is working, check out this column by the National Review’s Michael Walsh, a man who used to write under a pseudonym as a parody of Hollywood liberalism, and who now writes under his own name as a much funnier and more cutting (if unintentional) parody of hysterical right-wing ranting. Walsh is pleased that Sen. McConnell has recognized the essential truth of modern politics: That the Left is vicious and unrelenting.

Good to see that Senator Mitch McConnell has finally figured out what some of us have been shouting for years: The Left plays to win and they don’t much care how they do it. When they say, “by any means necessary,” they mean it.

He goes on:

As the Mother Jones story ripples through the rest of the compliant, complicit media, the takeaway won’t be the substance of the story, or lack of it. It will be: Those mean Republicans, blah, blah, blah. In other words, it’s not a story in the old journalistic sense. It’s a meme-reinforcer. And that’s how the Democrat-Media Complex plays the game; even a nothing-burger story like this can be used as a club with which to pound the opposition, with the ultimate goal of delegitimizing them completely.

The only people here exploiting the appetite of a portion of the political press for simplistic “memes” are the Mitch McConnell campaign, who know that easily riled-up dopes like Walsh will freak out in a grand style when presented with any excuse to.

Once the FBI has finished its investigation, McConnell should send David Corn a fruit basket.

By: Alex Pareene, Salon, April 10, 2013

April 13, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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