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“Consider The Source”: The Women-Folk Screwed Up American Education With Their Uppity Ways

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant appears to have crossed the Todd Akin Line in an online discussion at WaPo today, as WaPo’s own Valerie Strauss reports:

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) said Tuesday that America’s educational troubles began when women began working outside the home in large numbers.

Bryant was participating in a Washington Post Live event focused on the importance of ensuring that children read well by the end of third grade. In response to a question about how America became “so mediocre” in regard to educational outcomes, he said:

“I think both parents started working. The mom got in the work place.”

Bryant seems to have instantly realized he’d stepped in it (and/or a frantic staffer signaled to him off-camera), and so he started qualifying and back-tracking without retracting his remarks. And so they remain on the record.

Is it unfair for us progressive gabbers to pounce on him? I have somewhat mixed feelings. Sure, politicians say things they don’t mean to say from time to time. But it’s not exactly my job to help the likes of Phil Bryant stay on message. So the simple approach in trying to decide if a “gaffe” like Bryant’s is significant is to consider the source. After all, Todd Akin himself in his famous and politically fatal ruminations on rape was echoing a very familiar meme of the anti-choice movement, in defense of a position (no exceptions to an abortion ban for victims of rape and incest) that he continued to maintain without interruption before and after the “gaffe.” It was fair to say that although he regretted his failure to confine the remark to entirely friendly audiences, he was honestly if inadvertently giving us a glimpse into his world-view, and that’s always relevant, particularly when you are talking about someone who would very much like to deny women the right to choose.

So what about Phil Bryant? Are there reasons to suspect he’s prone to the view that the women-folk screwed up American education with their uppity ways?

Well, there was this incident back during the 2009 battle over a “personhood” initiative (banning all abortions, all “abortifacients” like Plan B, and arguably many forms of regular old contraception) that turned out to be too extreme even for Mississippi voters (as reported at the time by the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal):

Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant said Monday that “Satan wins” if voters reject Initiative 26 that defines personhood at fertilization.

“This is a battle of good and evil of Biblical proportions,” the Republican gubernatorial nominee told a pro-26 rally attended by about 30 supporters at Tupelo City Hall.

Bryant appeared with American Family Association’s Rev. Donald Wildmon, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker and Rep. Alan Nunnelee in support of the initiative.

Cristen Hemmins of Oxford, an opponent, attended the event with four other anti-26 advocates. Hemmens, who was raped and shot twice during a kidnapping as a college student, asked Bryant, “Why can’t you men have any sympathy for women like me?”

Bryant told her he is sympathetic to situations like hers but said he believes “that the child has some rights, too, even in that condition.”

Does this perhaps create a soupcon of reasonable suspicion that Bryant believes in an eternal social order dictating that women just need to get used to second-class citizenship and focus on their reproductive duties? Call me unbalanced if you wish, but I think it does. And since the jesuitical practice of hiding one’s true views as a tactical matter is very commonplace among Christian Right types, I think we are at least entitled to consider Bryant’s remarks today as a valid data point.


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

June 6, 2013 Posted by | War On Women, Womens Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Beset By Condescending Outsiders”: Michael Bloomberg’s Gift To Arkansas’ Pro-Gun Sen Mark Pryor

In the unlikely event that Mark Pryor wins re-election as Arkansas’ senior U.S. Senator in 2014, he should send New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg a thank-you gift. Something like a sugary 44-ounce Big Gulp or a case of Dr Pepper. Offering His Honor a 30.06 deer rifle would be churlish.

Unlike liberal groups who scared up a primary opponent for former Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln in 2010, predictably helping her lose to a cookie-cutter GOP conservative, Bloomberg’s group Mayors Against Illegal Guns has given the beleaguered Democrat, well, a target to shoot at.

Angered with Pryor’s Senate vote against broadening background checks for gun sales—one of four Democrats to do so—Mayors Against Illegal Guns has been running TV ads in Arkansas citing the murder of state Democratic Party chair Bill Gwatney by a deranged gunman in 2008.

Narrated by former Democratic Party official Angela Bradford-Barnes, the commercial expresses the disgust of just about every Arkansas Democrat I know with what they saw as Pryor’s cowardly vote. “The Caspar Milquetoast of Arkansas politics,” one acerbic columnist dubbed him.

“When my dear, innocent friend was shot to death, I didn’t blame guns,” Bradford-Barnes says, “I blamed a system that makes it so terribly easy for criminals or the dangerous mentally ill to buy guns.”

Pryor has said that he found the politicizing of his friend’s murder “disgusting.” Maybe he did.

Tactically speaking, the problem with the Bloomberg ad is that just about every Democrat I know lives either in Hillcrest, basically the Upper West Side of Little Rock, or in the college town of Fayetteville—completely atypical of Arkansas voters generally. They can be as disgusted as they like. But they have exactly nowhere to go.

Blanche Lincoln carried Hillcrest handily against Rep. John Boozman in 2010. She lost statewide 58 to 37 percent.

President Obama also carried Pulaski County (Little Rock) in 2010; Mitt Romney won Arkansas by 24 points.

So you can see Pryor’s dilemma. Meanwhile, the billionaire-coddling Club for Growth (or “Club for Greed” as former Gov. Mike Huckabee once called it) has also been hammering the Arkansas Democrat with TV ads blaming him for President Obama’s supposedly runaway spending.

But more about that to come.

Do I think Pryor’s vote against background checks was cowardly? I did then. However, Democrats like The Daily Beast’s Mike Tomasky, who cite polls showing strong majorities of Arkansans favoring universal background checks, may be overlooking the difference between a mild preference expressed to a telephone pollster and a conviction strong enough to hold against a barrage of paranoid NRA propaganda.

Can a majority of Arkansans be convinced that bogeyman Obama is coming to confiscate their guns? I wouldn’t bet against it in Arkansas or any state it borders upon—Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee or even Missouri.

Simply put, fear and loathing of President Obama has reached cult-like proportions across the region, and there’s little Mark Pryor can do about it before November, 2014. Almost everywhere you go—dentists’ offices, auto dealers, fitness centers, airports—the waiting room TV is tuned to Fox News, and people are swallowing it whole.

So more than a year early, Sen. Pryor has come out swinging against his dream opponent: Michael Bloomberg. Even though no Republican rival has yet declared, he’s begun airing a 30-second TV spot complaining that, “The mayor of New York City is running ads against me because I opposed President Obama’s gun control legislation.”

The commercial ends with the Senator striking a belligerent pose: “No one from New York or Washington tells me what to do,” he growls. “I listen to Arkansas.”

Take that, limousine liberals! As much as the vote, it was the impression of weakness that may have been Pryor’s greatest liability. Months of unanswered Club for Growth ads also didn’t help.

Now the question is whether he can carry the fight to his presumptive, albeit undeclared GOP opponent Rep. Tom Cotton, the favored candidate of the aforementioned Club for Greed. Also of GOP kingmaker Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, whose greatest hits as a political prognosticator include the Iraq War and Sarah Palin.

The hand-picked selection, that is, of another passel of New York/Washington elitists. A superficially appealing candidate with impressive credentials, Cotton also appears to be a stone right-wing zealot who not only voted against federal disaster aid for storm victims, but recently proposed a law punishing relatives of lawbreakers—parents, siblings, aunts and uncles—for their transgressions. In a word, a crackpot.

Basically, Pryor’s got to portray himself as an advocate of the Arkansas Way—a moderate Democrat like his father, former Sen. David Pryor, like Dale Bumpers, and Bill Clinton—a just-folks pragmatist beset by condescending outsiders, and one who’ll fight for you as hard as he fights for himself.

A longshot? Definitely. But it’s been done before.


By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, June 5, 2013

June 6, 2013 Posted by | Background Checks, Gun Control | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Maybe It’s Just A Coincidence”: Chris Christie’s Self-Serving Senate Election Calendar

So Chris Christie’s announced the schedule for a special election to replace the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, and short of appointing himself, he’s taken the route most likely to serve his own political interests. Here’s NBC’s report:

Christie announced at a press conference that he had opted against appointing a successor to Lautenberg to serve until the 2014 election, and scheduled a general election on Oct. 16. The primary will be held in August. Christie also said he would appoint an interim senator to serve between now and November, though he explained that he had not decided on that temporary appointee yet.

With this decision, Christie is potentially helping create the conditions for a big win in his re-election contest against Democrat Barbara Buono this November. Without a contested Senate campaign happening at the same time as his own re-election, turnout among Democrats is likely to be far lower, allowing Christie to run up the margin of victory in a race he is already a big favorite to win.

That, in turn, could make him look like a more formidable presidential candidate in 2016 should he choose to run.

Beyond that, it gets Christie off the hook of an obligation to appoint a senator that pleases both his party’s conservative “base” (not just in New Jersey, but nationally) and a general electorate, and gives the former a decent shot to get a conservative senator into office via a low-turnout special election. That will probably, however, be viewed as a consolation prize to right-wingers who wanted him to appoint one of their own to the seat right on up to November 2014 (a legally dubious proposition).

And there’s another problem:

Christie’s decision to hold a special election in October could also be a gamble, leaving the governor open to criticisms of making a self-serving decision and causing a hefty financial cost to the state that could run as high as $24 million for the special election.

Christie said he wasn’t aware of what the cost would be – but in typical Christie fashion, said it didn’t matter.

“I don’t know what the cost would is, and quite frankly I don’t care,” he said. “The cost cannot be measured against the value of having an elected representative in the United States Senate when so many important issues are being debated this year.”

Blah blah blah. Rationalizations aside, Christie looked at the angles and did what was best for Chris Christie. Maybe it’s just a coincidence.


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

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

“Your Tax Dollars At Work, Or Not”: Marco Rubio Wants To Amend The Constitution To Repeal Obamacare

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) proposed a constitutional amendment Tuesday that, if approved, would nullify Obamacare’s individual mandate. The amendment is the latest in a string of failed GOP attempts to repeal Obamacare, which many Republicans still view as unconstitutional.

The “Right to Refuse” amendment would make any laws that tax Americans who fail to purchase goods or services unconstitutional, targeting the Affordable Care Act’s stipulation that nearly all Americans must purchase health insurance. The amendment was introduced by Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS) in the House in February.

In a press release, Rubio cited the recent Internal Revenue Service scandal as one of his reasons for introducing the bill:

“ObamaCare is a disastrous policy that is not only destructive to job creation, it will also unleash the corrupt and scandal-ridden IRS on taxpayers simply for not buying health insurance,” said Rubio. “We should put our faith in the American people to decide what goods and services they want to buy, not have Congress dictate it and have the IRS empowered to harass Americans to make sure they do it.”

The Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that Obamacare’s individual mandate could be considered a tax, and therefore was upheld under the constitution. But that hasn’t stopped many Republicans from claiming Obamacare is unconstitutional — the act has survived at least 37 repeal attempts since Republicans took control of the House in 2011, the most recent repeal vote occurring in mid-May. Since news broke in May that the IRS flagged certain conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status for additional scrutiny, several Republican leaders have used the scandal to question whether the IRS can be trusted to implement Obamacare.

Constitutional amendments are far more difficult to pass than bills — amendments proposed by Congress require a two-thirds majority vote in the House and Senate. With a Democrat-controlled Senate, Rubio and Palazzo’s amendment would have difficulty achieving even a simple majority. Rubio has been billed as a rising star in the Republican party and likely 2016 presidential candidate, but his fervent opposition to Obamacare — along with several other positions — show that his views don’t stray far from the status quo of the Republican party.


By: Katie Valentine, Think Progress, June 4, 2013

June 6, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Farce That Is Darrell Issa”: Just Another Symbol Of Today’s GOP

The only thing that makes Rep. Darrell Issa remotely qualified to chair the House Oversight Committee is his personal familiarity with the investigative process – on the receiving end. The man Republican House Speaker John Boehner put in charge of investigating government wrongdoing was himself indicted for stealing a car, accused of stealing at least one other car, arrested for carrying a concealed weapon, and twice suspected of insurance fraud – and once extensively investigated by authorities for arson, because his former business associates accused him, on the record, of burning down a building to collect the insurance payout.

Democrats love to hate the silly, camera-chasing Issa, who came to power in 2011 promising to put the White House under generalized investigation. But now even some Republicans are happy to criticize Issa too. It’s easy for them to denounce his calling Jay Carney a “paid liar,” as well as his evidence-free claim that the IRS mess was directed from Washington, D.C., while they continue to participate in smearing the White House with non-scandals themselves, nonetheless.

Issa’s extremist idiocy lets “reasonable” Republicans denounce him and/or his rhetoric, while they continue their own ethically, intellectually and politically blinkered crusades against President Obama. Sure, Sen. John McCain says it was wrong to call Carney a “paid liar” – but also on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” he compared the IRS mess to Ronald Reagan’s deadly Iran-Contra scandal. Um, no.

Scandal-drunk Sen. Lindsey Graham says Issa went too far when he said the IRS agents who keyword-targeted Tea Party groups “were directly being ordered from Washington.” But he continued to hype the IRS story. “At the end of the day, the IRS scandal really is scary,” he told Fox’s Brian Kilmeade. “How would you like your own government to turn on you?” Is that really what happened, Lindsey Graham? And if so, it happened most brutally to a Democratic group, Emerge America, which had its tax-exempt status revoked.

Of course, McCain and Graham are also the guys who brought us the ultimate non-scandal: Benghazi. Issa’s idiocy lets them retain their role as “statesmen,” gets them invited back on the Sunday shows, and gives the media an excuse to consider them arbiters of what’s politically acceptable – while they’re themselves on the right fringe. Of course it’s guys like Issa who constantly move that standard of what’s politically acceptable to the right.

Honestly, when David Plouffe started raising Issa’s past on ABC’s “This Week,” and then on Twitter, part of me winced. But that’s because I didn’t completely remember Ryan Lizza’s amazing Issa profile in the New Yorker – which was respectful while also documenting Issa’s troubling history with law enforcement – as well as my own life in California during the surreal 2003 recall of Gray Davis (another example of GOP nullification of election results, by any means necessary, usually big money).

Issa financed the recall, and hoped to run for governor himself, but then the Los Angeles Times and other California papers began reporting on his earlier legal troubles. There was particular attention to his indictment for grand theft when he reported his Mercedes stolen after his brother William sold it; William had earlier obtained the right to do so from his brother. The two men had different stories for a while, and authorities believed they’d conspired to sell the car, report a “theft” and collect insurance on it.

(I personally think the arson investigation was even more damning: An Issa colleague gave investigators vivid detail that indicated his car-alarm factory had been intentionally torched, after Issa increased his insurance from $100,000 to $462,000. “Quite frankly,” Joey Adkins told authorities, “I feel the man set the fire.” But the local fire marshal never determined the fire’s cause.)

In the end, the scrutiny doomed Issa’s chance to run for governor – but his wealth funded the successful recall of Davis. Sure, Issa could continue to hold his House seat in his conservative San Diego district, but a guy as ethically compromised (and as blinkered ideologically) as Issa could never win a statewide election in California – let alone a national one. So he tearfully stepped aside for Arnold Schwarzenegger.

So that’s the guy who’s heading up the House GOP’s investigation into alleged Obama White House “scandals.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer got a lot of attention Monday for telling “Meet the Press’s” David Gregory that Issa’s overreach is setting up a GOP loss in 2014 – just like the impeachment witch hunt against President Clinton set up his party’s historic gain of seats in the 1998 midterms. I hope Schumer’s right. But I find myself taking little comfort even in that uncertain outcome.

Democrats, including myself, like to declare that impeachment didn’t resonate with the American people, who gave Clinton ever-higher approval ratings as the witch hunt continued. And yes, Clinton’s party won seats in the ’98 midterm. But impeachment, and the myriad baseless investigations that preceded it, from Whitewater to Travelgate to alleged Chinese fundraising scandals, preoccupied both the White House and the media, to the detriment of Clinton’s agenda, particularly in his second term. They certainly didn’t help Vice President Al Gore in his campaign to win the presidency.

While I’ve always rejected the claims of some anti-Clinton centrist Democrats that Clinton’s philandering cost Gore the election, there was at least some polling that suggested it hurt Gore with suburban women. Certainly the cloud of scandal – and the stalling of the Clinton-Gore agenda – couldn’t have helped Gore, who won the popular vote and by reliable accounts the electoral vote in a race that shouldn’t have even been as close as it was, given the strength of the economy and the deficits of George W. Bush. I would argue that Clinton’s experience proves GOP scandal-mongering works – and once again, the media let the party get away with it.

I’m happy even some mainstream media pundits are warning that Issa’s overreach could hurt the GOP in 2014. And yet that new rhetorical twist puts the focus on horse race politics, where all of journalism appears most comfortable today. Issa’s extremism may or may not hurt his party at the polls. All I know is it should be hurting him, and the GOP, more with the American people, when they think about what they want in their leaders.


By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, June 4, 2013

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

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