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

“Cleaving Unto Rand Paul”: Did Mitch McConnell Call For African-American Outreach To Republicans?

Last night Roll Call’s Meredith Shiner published a report on Mitch McConnell’s obsessive efforts to head off (or undermine) a right-wing primary challenge in 2014 (perhaps, other observers suggest, from Louisville business figure Matthew Bevin, who is being courted by Kentucky Tea Party activists, or perhaps from some other heavily funded direction.

That’s all interesting to be sure, but here’s what caught my attention in Shiner’s story, as part of a general theme of McConnell cleaving unto Rand Paul for protection:

McConnell has shown a special deference to his freshman partner. He has held multiple votes on Paul’s amendments, even though many of them barely attract supporters in the double digits, sometimes at the expense of veteran lawmakers’ proposals. He has repeatedly been among only a handful of Republicans to vote for Paul’s budget alternative. He hired Paul’s 2010 campaign manager. And aides take frequent opportunities to link the two men.

McConnell’s address to the National Urban League, for example, sounded a lot like Paul’s at Howard. According to a source familiar with McConnell’s speech, the leader told the room of black business leaders: “I want to see a day when more African-Americans look at the issues and realize that they identify with the Republican Party.” That message echoed Paul’s at the historically black university.

Yes, McConnell did his own “African-American outreach” speech the same week as Paul’s, though it attracted about one-tenth of one percent of Paul’s media attention. But check out the direct quote above. Sounds like Mitch is standing pat on the GOP’s merits and asking African-Americans to figure it out.

There are a lot of different ways for a guy like McConnell to send valentines to disgruntled wingnuts. But calling for African-Americans to conduct “outreach” to an unmoving GOP is a new one.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington MOnthly Political Animal, April 15, 2013

April 16, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“We Snookered The Other Side”: Proof That Congress Is A Captive Of The Extremists

Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey’s (R-PA) bipartisan compromise on expanding gun sale background checks was widely praised by gun safety advocates as an important reform, and slammed by the National Rifle Association as a step in the wrong direction. But at least one major gun group thinks that the conventional wisdom has it backwards.

Daylight Disinfectant has obtained video of Alan Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation, bragging that “we snookered the other side” by loading the Manchin-Toomey bill with pro-gun amendments.

“It’s a Christmas tree,” Gottlieb said to a Portland, OR crowd on Friday. “We just hung a million ornaments on it.”

“We’re taking the background check and making it a pro-gun bill,” he continued. “Unfortunately, some of my colleagues haven’t quite figured it out yet because they weren’t sitting in the room writing it. My staff was.”

“If you really read what’s in the Manchin-Toomey bill — man, it’s a godsend. We win rights back like crazy,” he later added. “I think we snookered the other side. They haven’t figured it out yet.”

Gottlieb also suggested that maybe he should have kept his opinion to himself, noting, “If we talk about it too much, the other side’s gonna find out about it and they’re gonna realize we’re gonna win off of this thing.” Video of the speech via Daylight Disinfectant::

Indeed, although the Manchin-Toomey compromise would represent the most significant gun reform in two decades, it contains many elements that should please the “gun rights” crowd. The bill exempts private, not-for-profit sales from background checks (falling far short of the universal standard sought by many Democrats), allows concealed-carry permits to transfer across state lines, and explicitly bans the creation of a national gun registry, among other provisions. The compromises were enough to lead New York governor Andrew Cuomo, a prominent gun reform advocate, to lament, “This is a Congress that is captive of the extremists and there is no clearer proof of that than this.”

In addition to the Second Amendment Foundation, the Citizens’ Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms — which claims to be the nation’s second-largest “gun rights” group, and with which Gottlieb is also closely associated — has also publicly endorsed the bill.

Still, it’s unclear whether this push from gun interest groups will actually make a difference in the final vote. As of now, just four Republican senators — Toomey, Susan Collins (R-ME), John McCain (R-AZ), and Mark Kirk (R-IL) — have signaled their intention to vote for the bill. Several red-state Democrats have also suggested that they will oppose the bill, despite the political cover provided by the gun interest groups. If a bipartisan bill that is so tame that “gun rights” groups hail it as a major victory cannot move through the Senate, then it would be safe to question whether any reform is truly possible.


By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, April 15, 2013

April 16, 2013 Posted by | Background Checks, Gun Control | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Right-Wing Demand For Garbage”: The GOP Politics Of Paranoia Won’t Go Away

If the pending legislation intended to prevent gun violence is as awful as critics claim, they should, in theory, have a fairly easy task ahead. After all, they simply have to point to the legislation’s many flaws, and watch it crumble under the weight of its own futility, right?

But that’s always been the funny thing about demagoguery — it’s what desperate people rely on when they can’t win a debate on the merits. If accurate talking points are ineffective, just make stuff up, scare the bejesus out of people, and hope fear triumphs in the end.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), for example, published this tweet over the weekend, warning of a “national gun registry.” As a factual matter, is there a “national gun registry”? No. Has anyone proposed a “national gun registry”? No. Would the pending legislation lead to a “national gun registry”? No.

Does the bipartisan compromise on expanded background checks explicitly rule out the possibility of a “national gun registry”? Yes.

But it doesn’t matter. Either Ted Cruz has created a fantasy world in which legislative details are the opposite of reality, or Ted Cruz assumes his far-right allies are easily fooled into believing nonsense. Either way, by counting on paranoia to rule the day, the Texas Republican — a U.S. senator, not some random media personality — has no qualms about promoting a ridiculous message like this.

Similarly, in recent days, Red State blogger and Fox News contributor Erick Erickson argued that “believing in a resurrected Jesus” will make you ineligible for gun ownership in five years under the bipartisan background-check compromise. Why does Erickson believe such silliness, and feel the need to share this nonsense with others? I haven’t the foggiest idea.

I do know, however, that it’s spreading — as we talked about over the weekend, Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council also argued that Christians may be prevented from buying firearms.

None of this relates to our version of reality in any way, but for the right, real-world arguments are apparently unpersuasive, creating a demand for garbage.

The politics of paranoia are apparently all conservatives have left.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 15, 2013

April 16, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Gun Control | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Balking At Their Own Ideas”: The GOP Offers President Obama A Chained-CPI Off-Ramp

When Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee who’ll oversee his party’s 2014 midterm efforts, accused President Obama of waging “a shocking attack on seniors,” it took an enormous amount of chutzpah. At issue, of course, is a controversial proposal to change the way Social Security is indexed — the “chained-CPI” policy — that the White House does not like, but which Obama offered as a concession to congressional Republicans who demanded it.

In effect, Walden was condemning the president for his own party’s proposal. A day later, House Speaker John Boehner, one of the officials who demanded Obama put chained-CPI on the table, subtly rebuked Walden’s craven criticism.

But let’s not lose sight of the fact that Walden isn’t alone. Last week, Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.) said he’s “not a fan” of the policy, and soon after, they had some company.

“The president is trying to say this draconian thing that no one likes is the Republicans’ fault,” Rep. James Lankford (Okla.), the chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee, told reporters on Friday.

“It’s not my plan,” Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) said about chained CPI. “This is the president’s plan.”

Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), a House Ways and Means Committee member, added, “I’m very sensitive to the fact that you’re impacting current seniors in particular. It’s something I’m very hesitant to jump up and down and support.”

The word “bullpucky” keeps coming to mind.

Yes, plenty of congressional Republicans, including members of the GOP leadership, have welcomed Obama’s offer — while refusing to point to any comparable concessions they’d accept, of course — so this isn’t a party-wide phenomenon.

But the larger point is that having even some congressional Republicans balk at their own idea offers the president an opportunity.

Remember, the White House doesn’t actually like chained-CPI. Obama freely admits he doesn’t want this policy, and only offered it because Republicans are such enthusiastic supporters of the idea. From the president’s perspective, he and his team are going to have to tolerate some measures they don’t like if there’s going to be a bipartisan compromise in which both sides accept concessions they would otherwise reject.

But over the course of just a few days, GOP lawmakers have called this policy — the one Republicans demanded — a “shocking attack on seniors,” a “draconian” policy, “the president’s plan.”

It is, of course, painfully absurd for the right to criticize Obama for doing exactly what Republicans asked him to do, but therein lies the point: there’s nothing stopping the president from simply walking away from the idea if the GOP has suddenly discovered they dislike their own proposal.

As I mentioned briefly last week, Obama, who doesn’t like chained-CPI anyway and realized his own party is furious, could credibly declare right now, “I thought Republicans wanted this policy. But if they consider this ‘a shocking attack on seniors,’ I’ll gladly drop the idea.”


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 15, 2013

April 16, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Social Security | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Guns Make Us Safer Is A Cruel Lie”: The “NRA 500” Suicide Highlights Our Hidden Epidemic

News that a man shot and killed himself at a NASCAR race sponsored by the National Rifle Association Saturday night is sure to launch a thousand columns and politicians’ statements making liberal use of the word “irony” — and rightly so — but it also underscores a type of gun violence that is the least talked about in Washington but also the most common: suicide.

Here’s what we know about the incident: 42-year-old Kirk Franklin was found dead in the infield of the Texas Motor Speedway, where he had been camping. Police say the man died of a “self-inflicted” gunshot wound, apparently after getting into an argument with other campers. Alcohol may have been involved.

Of the more than 32,000 firearm-related deaths in 2011, almost 20,000 — 62 percent — were suicides. While horrific mass shootings like the one in Newtown, Conn., provoke national outrage and demands for legislation, they represent less than 1 percent of all gun deaths. It’s the kind of quotidian but lethal admixture of mental health issues, interpersonal dispute and the presence of a firearm that is responsible for the majority of all gun deaths in this country.

“Gun suicide is our ‘hidden’ epidemic — the type of gun violence that results in the most fatalities, yet which is rarely discussed by the media or legislators,” Ladd Everitt of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence told Salon this morning.

“More than anything, Kirk Franklin’s death provides additional proof that the NRA’s ‘guns make us safer’ claim is a cruel lie. In the end, the gun that Franklin brought to the NRA 500 offered him no protection. Instead, in an intense moment of anger or depression, it allowed him to snuff out his own life in an instant—without any recourse to a second chance,” he added.

And these suicide attempts need not end in death, gun safety advocates say. Sure, people will find other ways to attempt suicide, but nothing is nearly as deadly as firearms, which are fatal 85 percent of the time they’re used in an attempt to take one’s life. By contrast, “Many of the most widely used suicide attempt methods have case fatality rates below 5 percent,” according to data from the Harvard School of Public Health.

“Easy access to guns by mentally ill people, even if it’s temporary insanity like among teenagers, can lead to depression turning into a death,” John Rosenthal of Stop Handgun Violence told Salon. “A gun in the home is three to five times more likely to be used against somebody in the home — in a teenage suicide or a domestic argument turning into a homicide. So many of these deaths are preventable.”

Meanwhile, the fact that an interpersonal dispute with some fellow campers, which might otherwise have run its course and been forgotten, became deadly is all too common. Indeed, it’s all too common that a domestic or other personal dispute leads to death simply because a firearm was available, as researchers from Johns Hopkins University have explained.

By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, April 15, 2013

April 16, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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