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

“Breaking Point”: With No Light At The End Of The Tunnel, John Boehner Is Losing Control

Trust between John Boehner and his Republican Caucus members has worn so thin that he’s been forced to swat down rumors (again) this week that he’s retiring, while conservatives worry the speaker is plotting to pull a fast one on them in the immigration reform debate.

Of the 234 Republicans in the House, just 20 percent reliably support the speaker, according to a recent Washington Post analysis. And a new poll shows that among Republican voters overall, just 37 percent think GOP leaders are taking the party in the right direction, while 52 percent say leadership is going the wrong way. Compare that to 72 percent of Democrats who favor their party leadership’s approach. And all this comes on the heels of the Farm Bill debacle, the latest in a string of legislative misjudgments for Boehner and his leadership team.

But nowhere is the divide between leadership and base more apparent than on immigration reform, where conservative House members and outside activists are now worried that Boehner will actively deceive them through procedural trickery to pass his alleged ”amnesty” agenda. Never mind that it’s not even clear Boehner really wants a comprehensive bill passed. He said Sunday that immigration isn’t his top priority (though he also said, “If I come out and say I’m for this and I’m for that, all I’m doing is making my job harder”). And never mind that Boehner has repeatedly pledged to stick to the “Hastert Rule,” the informal rule that nothing be given a vote unless it already has support from a majority of Republicans.

But some House conservatives are convinced that Boehner is planning a secret “gambit to save [the] amnesty agenda,” as the conservative news site TownHall explained yesterday. When the House and Senate pass different versions of the same bill, lawmakers meet in a bicameral Conference Committee, where they hash out the differences and produce a single final bill. The Senate has already passed a bill with a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. The House has not passed anything, in part because conservatives fear that Boehner will use it as a backdoor way to introduce “amnesty” into the final bill.

TownHall explained that “the worry among Capitol Hill conservatives was that Boehner would take any House-passed bill with the word ‘immigration’ in it and set up a conference that would produce a bill with the trappings of compromise,” but would really be something unacceptable to the right. Conservative firebrands like Rep. Steve Stockman and Steve King have already raised the alarm. Ann Coulter told Fox News, “If they pass a bill that does nothing but enforce e-verify, does nothing but enforce the fence, it will go into conference with the Senate and it will come out an amnesty bill.” “Ann Coulter got it exactly right,” an unnamed senior aide to a conservative lawmaker told Breitbart News. “We are scared to death of what we figure is already Boehner’s end game.”

What these conservatives seem to miss is that the House would still need to pass whatever comes out of the conference committee. And the only way a pathway to citizenship will pass after the conference, as now, is if conservative Republicans allow it, or if Boehner is willing to break the Hastert rule and let it pass with Democratic votes. But he’s already said: “For any legislation, including a conference report, to pass the House, It’s going to have to be a bill that has the support of the majority of our members.”

If Boehner went back on that pledge, he’d face open revolt in his caucus, just as he would if he broke it now to bring the Senate bill up for a vote (which would likely pass with Democratic votes). Boehner has also so far done everything he can to avoid a revolt, considering his speakership would be on the line, and there’s no reason to think he’d be any more willing to risk it in a few months, after a conference committee, than he is now.

Perhaps it’s that conservatives don’t trust themselves to recognize secret “amnesty” in a conference bill. Breitbart’s Matt Boyle warned that the report would only “get a short amount of time for actual review, and votes would be whipped up and sold using talking points just like how the Senate bill passed,” as if talking points are some kind of Jedi mind tricks. But if a conferenced bill contained a pathway to citizenship and they vote for it, that’s on them, especially given their “read the bill” rhetoric.

Worse yet for Boehner, there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. Immigration reform will come to a head after the August recess, just as the debate ramps up on the debt ceiling, another issue which will inevitably pit Boehner against his rank-and-file. Maybe retirement will start to sound like a pretty good idea.


By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, July 23, 2013

July 24, 2013 Posted by | John Boehner, Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Just A Shift In Strategy”: Virginia’s Gov Bob McDonnell Repays Loans, Says He’s “Deeply Sorry”

The scandal surrounding Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), which has intensified in recent weeks and threatens to push him from office, took an unexpected turn today when the governor apologized for causing “embarrassment” and announced he has repaid the loans he and his wife received from Star Scientific CEO Jonnie R. Williams Sr.

From a statement posted online (pdf) today:

“Being governor of Virginia is the highest honor of my 37 years in public service. I am deeply sorry for the embarrassment certain members of my family and I brought upon my beloved Virginia and her citizens. I want you to know that I broke no laws and that I am committed to regaining your trust and confidence. I hope today’s action is another step toward that end.

“Virginia has never been stronger and I plan to focus on creating even more jobs and facilitating greater opportunity during the last five months of my term as your Governor. Our work together on education, transportation, pension reform, voting rights, and economic expansion has produced great results for Virginia.”

The statement, the authenticity of which has been confirmed by The Rachel Maddow Show, goes on to say that Virginia’s first family has repaid Williams’ loans, including a $52,278. 17 loan to Maureen McDonnell in 2011 and two 2012 loans totaling $71,837 given to a real-estate business the governor owns.

The Washington Post noted today’s move “appears to represent a shift in strategy.” That’s certainly true — up until now, the governor insisted he had nothing to apologize for, and wasn’t in any rush to repay the generous loans the Star Scientific CEO sent his way.

Of course, if McDonnell expects this to resolve the matter, he’s going to be disappointed. After all, the scandal goes well beyond the loans, and included, among other things the extravagant shopping spree, the engraved Rolex watch, the lake house vacation, and the use of a Ferrari. There’s also all the steps, of course, the governor took on Williams’ behalf.

In other words, the scandal is far from over.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 23, 2013

July 24, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Like Thieves Covering Their Tracks”: North Carolina Republicans Push Extreme Voter Suppression Measures

This week, the North Carolina legislature will almost certainly pass a strict new voter ID law that could disenfranchise 318,000 registered voters who don’t have the narrow forms of accepted state-issued ID. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the bill has since been amended by Republicans to include a slew of appalling voter suppression measures. They include cutting a week of early voting, ending same-day registration during the early voting period and making it easier for vigilante poll-watchers to challenge eligible voters. The bill is being debated this afternoon in the Senate Rules Committee. Here are the details, via North Carolina State Senator Josh Stein (D-Wake County):

If anyone had any doubt about the bill’s intent to suppress voters, all he/she has to do is read it. The bill now does the following:

*shortens early voting by 1 week,
*eliminates same day registration and provisional voting if at wrong precinct,
*prevents counties from offering voting on last Saturday before the election beyond 1 pm,
*prevents counties from extending poll hours by one hour on election day in extraordinary circumstances (like lengthy lines),
*eliminates state supported voter registration drives and preregistration for 16/17 year olds,
*repeals voter owned judicial elections and straight party voting,
*increases number of people who can challenge voters inside the precinct, and
*purges voter rolls more often.

Meanwhile, it floods the democratic process with more money. The bill makes it easier for outside groups to spend on electioneering and reduces disclosure of the sources. It also raises the contribution limits to $5k per person per election from $4k and indexes to amount to rise with inflation.

The bill even eliminates Citizens Awareness Month to encourage voter registration, notes Brent Laurenz, executive director of the nonpartisan North Carolina Center for Voter Education. Because God forbid we encourage people to vote! The proposed bill eliminates nearly all of the democratic advances that made North Carolina one of the most progressive Southern states when it comes to voting rights and one of the top fifteen states in voter turnout nationally, guaranteeing that there will be longer lines at the polls, less voter participation and much more voter confusion.

The legislation is likely to be deeply unpopular. For example, 56 percent of North Carolinians voted early during the 2012 election. Blacks used early voting at a higher rate than whites, comprising a majority of those who voted absentee or early. According to Public Policy Polling, 78 percent of North Carolinians support the current early voting system and 75 percent have used it in the past.

In addition, over 155,000 voters registered to vote and voted on the same day during the early voting period in 2012. “Voters expressed their satisfaction and gratitude that North Carolina had a process that afforded citizens with more opportunities to register and vote,” said a 2009 report from the state board of elections.

Republicans in North Carolina have taken abuse of the democratic process to a whole new extreme: they’ve won elections with the help of huge corporate money, they’ve gerrymandered the legislative maps to resegregate the state and drastically limit the representation of their political opponents, they’ve passed a slew of extreme right-wing bills in the past few months to benefit the top 1 percent and harm everyone else—and now they’re going all out to prevent those opposed to that political agenda from exercising their democratic rights. “There’s a certain evil symmetry to the proposal,” writes Rob Schofield, director of research for NC Policy Watch. “After having spent months passing scores of regressive and destructive proposals into law, state leaders are now, like thieves covering their tracks, doing everything in their power to make sure they’re not caught or punished for their actions.”

In the final depressing twist, North Carolina no longer has to clear these voting changes with the federal government, since the Supreme Court invalidated Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. Nevertheless, it’s almost certain parts of the legislation—if enacted—will be challenged under the state constitution or other provisions of the VRA, and could very well spark a major backlash among North Carolina voters. In twelve weeks, more than 900 North Carolinians have been arrested for peaceful protest as part of the Moral Monday movement. Recently, Senate Rules Committee Chairman Tom Apodaca boasted that North Carolina would no longer have to go through the legal headache of complying with Section 5 of the VRA. Responded Rev. Barber of the North Carolina NAACP, “If you think you can take away our voting rights, you’ll have a headache.”

[UPDATE, 3:22 pm, July 23: The bill passed the Senate Rules Committee this afternoon, now goes to full Senate and then to House.]


By: Ari Berman, The Nation, July 23, 2013

July 24, 2013 Posted by | Civil Rights, Voting Rights | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Race Hustlers, Inc”: Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly And Sean Hannity Stoking Racial Tensions For Cash

I was in Ireland when President Obama made his surprise 18-minute comment about the George Zimmerman verdict, so I didn’t see it. I read a wide range of reactions, but they didn’t prepare me for what he actually said. It was a sober, balanced, thoughtful and painful portrait of how race is lived by African Americans, particularly black men. I can even understand, though I don’t support, the criticism from the left: while making the powerful statement “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago,” the president also went out of his way to praise the judge and jury in the Zimmerman trial and to say the system worked; to acknowledge the problem of so-called “black on black” crime; and to observe that this country is getting better every generation when it comes to race, which it surely is.

On their entirely separate planet, though, the right wing race hustlers went crazy, and they aren’t shutting up. Monday night Fox’s Bill O’Reilly accused Obama himself of making life worse for African Americans, because his speech showed he had “no clue” how to combat “gangsta culture.”

An unusually crazed, agitated O’Reilly declared that the plight of black America “has nothing to do with slavery. It has everything to do with you Hollywood people and you derelict parents… Race hustlers and the grievance industry,” he went on, “have intimidated the so-called ‘conversation,’ turning any valid criticism of African-American culture into charges of racial bias,” leaving African-Americans to “fend for themselves in violent neighborhoods.” I can’t wait to hear the ignorant O’Reilly generalize more about “African American culture.”

But I agree with O’Reilly about “race hustlers and the grievance industry” being the problem here – only we define them differently. Bill-O himself is a consummate race hustler and grievance peddler, pushing the drug of racial grievance to white people, making himself rich by worsening racial tension. He’s second only to Rush Limbaugh in terms of spewing ignorance to a vast, frightened audience.

Limbaugh confessed to almost losing it on his show Monday over Obama’s speech – of course he loses it every day, he just doesn’t admit it; he really lost it a long, long time ago. On his Monday show he spewed:

Obama and [Rev. Jesse] Jackson and [Rev. Al] Sharpton have the same objective, same mind-set, same cultural references, same views of America….Obama is grievance politics, and the primary reason for that grievance is race.  It’s in everything that he’s done. It’s in every policy. It’s in almost every speech.

And Limbaugh, like O’Reilly, is fed up with people whining about slavery. “It’s preposterous that whites are blamed for slavery when they’ve done more to end slavery than any other race,” he declared. The radio bully may be hustling for a spot on Sen. Rand Paul’s staff because that’s essentially the point “Southern Avenger” Jack Hunter made about whites and slavery, in a CD obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. Hunter resigned, so maybe Rush is getting restless, or is feeling the pinch of his advertiser boycott, and wants Paul’s social media director job.

Sean Hannity may be the worst of all, using the president’s saying he could have been Trayvon Martin 35 years ago to smear both Martin and Obama with drug charges. “Is that the president admitting that I guess because what, he was part of the Choom Gang and he smoked pot and he did a little blow — I’m not sure how to interpret because we know that Trayvon had been smoking pot that night.”

I mostly try to ignore grievance peddlers like O’Reilly, Limbaugh and Hannity, because I could write about an outrage every hour and still never finish. They’re part of the “conservative entertainment complex” David Frum has attacked for destroying his party; Joe Scarborough, another conservative, went in on Hannity Monday morning, accusing him of using the Zimmerman case “to gin up his ratings.”

Every once in a while, though, it’s important to pay attention to what the braying bullies say, because they have large audiences and when they turn on a dime to one topic, you know you’re getting a view of the right-wing id. And since they offer a guide to the right-wing id as well as to getting rich, when they convene on a new narrative, others always follow.

Now even former Bush press secretary Dana Perino is getting in on the race hustle, complaining on ABC’s “This Week” that Obama was ignoring the issue of crime by African American males, when in fact he talked about it in his remarks. “When you think of a young mother whose two year old son was shot in the face by the two black teens who approached her in Atlanta, and that baby has died—Why do presidents choose to speak about one case and not the other? That’s why it’s better maybe not to talk about any of them. They chose to talk about this one.” Perino is obviously studying at the Sarah Palin School of Elocution, Reasoning and Race Baiting.

It’s worth remembering that before Obama made the comment, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon,” reaction to the Martin case wasn’t strictly ideological. Many Republicans expressed regret at the killing of the unarmed teen, including Mitch McConnell and Florida Gov. Rick Scott. Obama’s remarks made the issue partisan, and I don’t blame Obama, I blame the race-baiting Republican opportunists who saw the president’s entry into the debate as a new way to polarize and rile up vulnerable and/or racist white people into seeing themselves as George Zimmerman.

This is the new right wing racket. Well, it’s not entirely new – race baiting is an old racket on the right – but the extent to which conservatives are now comfortable telling white people they’re the new victims, in danger of being unfairly prosecuted like George Zimmerman when they should actually be thanked for ending slavery, is unique and brazen and dangerous. We need more Republicans, as well as more media figures, to call it what it is: a race hustle.


By: Joan Walsh, Editor-at-Large, Salon, July 23, 2013

July 24, 2013 Posted by | Racism | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Cold And Unfeeling”: Who Knew, Republicans Don’t Like The Republican Party Either

You know who doesn’t seem to like the Republican Party very much? Republicans.

A couple of new polls were released today which in part detailed voter dissatisfaction with the GOP and its roots. First up is a Washington Post-ABC News poll that asked Republicans and GOP-leaning independents whether the party is on the right or wrong track. An astounding 52 percent of Republicans see their party as being on the wrong track, while only 37 percent see it as on the right one. By contrast, Democrats have a net favorable view of their party, with the favorable/unfavorable split at 72-21.

Similarly, a new survey from Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research for Stan Greenberg and James Carville’s Democracy Corps showed that Democrats are happier with their party than GOPers. The Greenberg poll finds 79 percent of Democrats have a “warm, favorable” feeling about their party as opposed to 11 percent with a “cold, unfavorable feeling,” while 63 percent of Republicans have a warm feeling for their party against 23 percent with a cold feeling. “One of the things that emerges here is how negative Republicans are about their own party,” Greenberg told reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast this morning.

Greenberg’s poll sketches out some of the party’s fault lines, identifying key elements of the GOP coalition and repeatedly noting where the sizable chunk of moderate GOP voters (25 percent of the party) is often at odds with the more dominant evangelicals (30 percent) and tea party supporters (22 percent), as well as true independents (people who don’t lean toward one party or the other). So, for example, 85 percent of evangelical Republicans and 93 percent of tea party-supporting Republicans “strongly disapprove” of President Obama, while only 54 percent of moderate Republicans do and 40 percent of independents.

Or while 82 percent of the evangelical Republicans are “strongly” unfavorable of gay marriage, only 37 percent of moderate Republicans and 29 percent of independents feel that way. And while 64 percent of evangelicals and 58 percent of tea party Republicans are “strongly favorable” toward pro-life groups, only 24 percent of moderate Republicans and 17 percent of independents agree. Or while 71 percent of tea party supporting Republicans feel strongly favorable toward the NRA, only 34 percent of moderate GOPers and a like number of independents feel that way.

Perhaps most tellingly, only half of self-described moderate Republicans said that they mostly vote for the GOP, as compared to 82 percent of evangelical Republicans and 90 percent of tea party Republicans.

So it seems fair to assume that some level of the internal GOP dissatisfaction comes from these Republican moderates who are out of step with their party and are a sizable enough chunk for it to register in polls, but not sizable enough to take control.

I think there’s another factor at work, however: Republicans don’t like the party because Republicans don’t like the party. Take the two sides struggling for control over the party’s direction: The very conservative evangelical-tea party faction that seems most intent on enforcing philosophical purity through primaries and the alliance of moderates and conservative pragmatists who look at demographics and look at the gap between swing voters and conservatives and worry about how the GOP is going to win a national election again.

On the one hand you have moderates and pragmatists unhappy with the direction of the party, either because they disagree with the dominant ideology or – in the case of pragmatic conservatives – the way it’s being packaged. On the other hand, you have unreconstructed ideological conservatives who dominate the party but also endlessly warn themselves and their allies about how its “establishment” can’t be trusted, must be purged and is composed entirely of “squishes” intent on capitulating to President Obama’s authoritarian encroachments.

One side, in other words, sees the GOP for what it is and hates it and the other sees what they need it to be – an establishment straw man ready to betray the glorious conservative revolution – and also hates it.

No wonder Republicans don’t like the Republican Party.


By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, July 23, 2013

July 24, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: