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“A Lot Of Homework To Do”: Rand Paul’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week

It’s probably safe to say Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has had better weeks. Just over the last few days he started to lose his cool on NPR when asked about a neo-confederate he co-authored a book with; he was caught making ridiculous boasts about his record on minority rights; and he repeated a bizarre conspiracy theory about George Stephanopoulos that’s already been debunked.

And then, after all of this, the Kentucky Republican sat down for a chat with Businessweek‘s Josh Green.

Green: A recent article in the New Republic said your budget would eviscerate the departments of Energy, State, Commerce, EPA, FDA, Education, and many others. Would Americans support that?

Paul: My budget is similar to the Penny Plan, which cuts 1 percent a year for five or six years and balances the budget. Many Americans who have suffered during a recession have had to cut their spending 1 percent, and they didn’t like doing it, but they were able to do it to get their family’s finances back in order. I see no reason why government can’t cut 1 percent of its spending.

Except, whether the senator realizes it or not, his description of his plan is extremely deceptive. As Ezra Klein explained, Paul’s response wasn’t actually an answer: “Paul’s budget eliminates the Department of Commerce. It also eliminates the Department of Education. And the Department for Housing and Urban Development. And the Department of Energy. The State Department gets cut by more than 50 percent. Meanwhile, it increases spending on defense by $126 billion. Perhaps these are good ideas! But Paul doesn’t defend them. He obscures them. He tries to make his cuts sound small even though, in the areas Green asked about, they’re huge.”

In theory, Paul could at least try to explain why he thinks cutting the State Department budget in half would be good for the United States. But he either can’t or won’t do that, so he repeats vague talking points that obscure the facts.

Wait, it gets worse.

Green: Any political consultant who saw that list [of cabinet agencies Paul intends to eliminate] would tear out his hair and say the American people would never accept it. You disagree with that conventional wisdom?

Paul: You know, the thing is, people want to say it’s extreme. But what I would say is extreme is a trillion-dollar deficit every year. I mean, that’s an extremely bad situation.

Except, we’re not running trillion-dollar deficits every year. If the senator takes this issue so seriously, shouldn’t he keep up with the basics of current events?

Green: Who would your ideal Fed chairman be?

Paul: Hayek would be good, but he’s deceased.

Green: Nondead Fed chairman.

Paul: Friedman would probably be pretty good, too, and he’s not an Austrian, but he would be better than what we have.

Again, Paul doesn’t seem to know what he’s saying. As Jon Chait explained, the senator’s answer “makes no sense” because, “Paul is a hard-money fanatic who wants to abolish the Federal Reserve’s role in using money policy to stabilize the economy. That’s the joke. Milton Friedman, though, had the complete opposite view of monetary policy. His central academic insight was support for very active monetary policy.”

My principal concern with Rand Paul is not his ideology. On plenty of subjective questions, he and I would recommend very different courses of action, which is what spirited political debate is all about.

Rather, what troubles me about the senator is that he doesn’t seem to have the foggiest idea what he’s talking about. Worse, it’s not like he’s ignorant of obscure policy details on issues he deems irrelevant — Paul is strikingly confused about the issues he claims to care about most.

This Businessweek interview was a mess for the senator on economic matters, but let’s not forget that Paul also doesn’t seem to understand his own views on the use of drones, which is another issue he says he cares deeply about.

If this guy intends to seek national office and ask the American mainstream to consider him credible, he has a lot of homework to do — homework he probably should have done before making the transition from self-accredited ophthalmologist to U.S. senator.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 9, 2013

August 10, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Whether He Knows It Or Not”: Edward Snowden Is A Political Prisoner In Russia And Putin Won’t Let Him Go

Just in case you’re curious, or for that matter to confirm your worst suspicions, there was no way that the Russians (and former KGB agent Vladimir Putin) were about to allow perhaps their greatest intelligence windfall in history – that being NSA leaker Edward Snowden – to slip through their fingers.

So they didn’t allow it, and they won’t.

Instead, Putin gave Snowden “temporary asylum” in Russia or some other such nonsense status – and a “job,” to keep him there. Will they exploit him? Sure, and my guess is that he won’t be able to leave until they get all he knows, one way or another.

In other words, the “cover story” they put out for Snowden will change, if necessary, to be whatever it has to be until they get everything he has – or knows – about U.S. intelligence operations. In short, he’s – in a very practical sense – a political prisoner, whether he has figured it out yet or not. This is because the Russians, just like the Soviets were, are obsessed with what we know about them and how we know it, and more than anything else they seek to prevent anyone from finding out what they are doing.

In fact, it’s far more than an obsession with them – it is probably the most important thing driving Russian political and international behavior since the Czars, through the revolution, Lenin, Stalin, the Cold War and through the end of the Soviet Union itself.

But it didn’t end there, because to many, and especially the KGB, it was Gorbachev’s “Glasnost,” or “openness” that brought the old Soviet Union down in the first place, and Putin certainly has that view of what he needs to do to stay in power. He intends to keep his corrupt regime around for a long time, and has no intention of allowing any kind of Western government “transparency” to bring him down.

So, the allegedly naïve Edward Snowden is just the latest window that the Russians have into what we know about them and how we know it – the others being convicted spies Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, and to a lessor extent, Pfc. Bradley Manning. Sure, Ames and Hanssen were motivated by money, and Manning and Snowden by “principal,” they allege, but it’s all the same to the Russians.

And they’ll laugh all the way to the next summit.


By: Daniel J. Gallington, U. S. News and World Report, August 9, 2013

August 10, 2013 Posted by | National Security | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Offensive And Disturbing” : It’s No Laughing Matter, Slapping Hillary Or Any Woman Is Not A Game

A Republican super PAC is promoting an online game allowing people to virtually slap the former secretary of state across the face. Depending on the person’s fancy, one can slap an animated image of Hillary Clinton while she is either speaking or sitting still via the convenient click of a button.

At first, I thought I had stumbled upon The Onion.

But no, “Slap Hillary,” a “game” originally launched in 2000, is real. The Hillary Project resurrected it this Monday, excitedly tweeting to reporters, “Have you slapped Hillary today?”

Is the game offensive? Is it funny? Or is it just something Clinton needs to “learn to deal with” as a public figure? .

I cannot believe I actually have to write the following: Encouraging people to slap a woman across the face — in essence, advocating violence against women — is offensive and disturbing, whether or not that woman is a public figure, and it is part of some “game” or joke.

The good news is some 105,000 people agree. That’s how many signatures UltraViolet, an online anti-sexism group, collected in 48 hours in support of a petition to The Hillary Project to pull the game. But, so far, no response.

So, women’s groups like Miss Representation and Emily’s List are joining UltraViolet in going over the super PAC’s head to the Republican leadership – RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner – to demand that they unequivocally condemn this sexist game, and to ensure the party does not benefit financially from promoting violence against women.

In less than 24 hours, UltraViolet’s second letter received nearly 20,000 signatures.

“For women, this issue is no laughing matter,” Nita Chaudhary, co-founder of UltraViolet said. “A woman is assaulted every nine seconds in our country. Everyday, three women die because of domestic violence.”

Many are taking to Twitter to voice their frustration and disgust:

@efxkaty As someone once publicly slapped in the face by an abusive ex, humor of a ‪#SlapHillary game c/o GOP PAC is sick to me

@sfpelosi Odious ‪#SlapHillary game a flashback to sexist ‪@Milbank/‪@TheFix  “Mad B*** Beer” during 2008 campaign. Misogyny train is never late.

@coolmcjazz Repub PAC ‪@projecthillary spreads truth about how misogynistic Repubs are: ‪  ‪@akmcquade ‪@SaraLang ‪#SlapHillary

“People everywhere are outraged,” Chaudhary continued. She said UltraViolet has received a flood of support from men and women alike and from both major political parties.

But “Slap Hillary” is merely the latest instance of a frustrating norm of sexist attacks on women in power. Take the misogyny-laced campaign against economist Janet Yellen, one of the top candidates to take control of the Federal Reserve. And surely we have not forgotten the 2008 presidential election, during which critics knocked the two major female candidates for being a shrill harpy and a dumb shopaholic.

In response to those outraged about  “Slap Hillary,” the Super PAC fired back on Twitter this week that no one seemed to be upset with the “Slap Palin” game. And they do have a point…sort of.

“Whether it’s Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachmann does not matter,” Chaudhary said. “Jokes about slapping women — of any party — ought to have no place in our politics.”

In other words, The Hillary Project supporters, you are correct in saying misogynistic attacks are common fare for women leaders regardless of their political affiliation. That does not, however, give you or anyone else the license to counter sexism with more of it.

Those at The Hillary Project and in the Republican leadership are remaining silent, much to their detriment.

On Wednesday, the Ready for Hillary PAC took advantage of the “disgusting tactics” of the Republican super PAC (which self-describes as “The Only Thing Standing Between Hillary and the White House”) by reaching out to supporters for donations.

Under pressure from the Virginia attorney general’s gubernatorial campaign, The Hillary Project’s treasurer awkwardly cut ties with the super PAC, Talking Points Memo reported Thursday.

By early Friday morning, The Hillary Project had suspended its Twitter account.

Until the “Slap Hillary” game is pulled, Chaudhary said women’s groups are not backing down. If the Grand Old Party, the same party that almost did not reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act earlier this year, really wants to combat its “War on Women” stigma, it should start listening.

By: Alyson Neel, The Washington Post, August 9, 2013

August 10, 2013 Posted by | Violence Against Women | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Dudley Brown’s War”: The 2016 GOP Presidential Primary Is Going To Be A Cannibalistic Train Wreck

Chances are, unless you’re a Colorado political insider, you’ve never heard of Dudley Brown, the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners or the National Association for Gun Rights. But Dudley, as he’s universally known in Colorado, is one of the reasons Democrats have turned Colorado blue, and his scorched-earth tactics on gun rights could very well play in the 2016 Republican presidential primary. Dudley’s National Association for Gun Rights spent more money opposing gun legislation than the NRA, a group he considers soft, and has become closely affiliated with Senator Rand Paul.

Dudley is the subject of “Dudley Brown’s War” an extensive profile by reporter Eli Stokols in this month’s 5280 Magazine. It leads with this telling and appalling anecdote:

True to form, last July, two days after James Holmes shot 70 moviegoers in Aurora, killing 12, I asked him about proposals to limit ammunition purchases. When I mentioned Holmes had 6,000 rounds with him that night, Brown said, “I call 6,000 rounds running low.”

Dudley has a long history of attacking Colorado Republicans he considers too-compromising on gun rights, ensuring a weak, extremist candidate in the general election. Stokols continues:

Brown’s hostage-holding of any center- or left-tilting Colorado Republican has crippled the GOP’s ability to regain a political foothold, making Colorado a swing-state microcosm of the national GOP’s biggest problem: breaking free of its base and becoming more “inclusive,” an imperative Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus outlined in March.

Dudley is an equal-opportunity misogynist: the object of some of his worst vitriol has been Republican women. He was responsible for an ugly anti-gay mailer in a Republican state Sen. primary that pitted incumbent Jean White, who voted for civil unions, against challenger Randy Baumgardner (who’s now running for Senate). The gay couple featured in the hate mailer is now suing for unauthorized use of their photo. White lost. And even if he beats 2010 GOP nominee Ken Buck, who just filed papers for the race, Baumgardner can’t beat Democratic Sen. Mark Udall.

Dudley also went after Republican State Rep. B.J. Nikkel for supporting civil unions. As B.J. told me on Twitter, “He can’t stand any woman he can’t control.”

So the cannibalistic exercise that will be the Republican 2016p primary is hardly unfamiliar to Colorado voters. It’s gained volume with the Rand Paul-Chris Christie spat, and shows no signs of abating with Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz visiting Iowa and urging a government shutdown. Meanwhile Paul, a senator from Kentucky, and the National Association for Gun Rights have already started attacking other Republicans for being too soft on gun rights.

According to Politico, back in April during the height of the gun safety bill debate in Congress, “The group has blitzed the districts of Virginia Republicans Cantor and Rep. Scott Rigell with $50,000 worth of TV and radio ads accusing them of helping President Barack Obama pass gun control legislation.”

Sound familiar? Rigell had an A- from the NRA. But that wasn’t good enough for Rand Paul and Dudley Brown.

If Paul makes a serious run at the nomination, he’ll have Dudley Brown to thank. And if he loses the election, Democrats will have Dudley Brown to thank.


By: Laura Chapin, U. S. News and World Report, August 9, 2013

August 10, 2013 Posted by | Election 2016, GOP | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A New Toy To Play With”: Where Darrell Issa Sees A Potential Political Scandal, Everyone Else Sees Reality

The discredited IRS controversy clearly didn’t work out the way House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) had hoped, to the point that he no longer remembers the serious-but-false allegations he carelessly threw around just a month ago. The far-right Californian now wants to “expand” his investigation, which is a pleasant-sounding euphemism for, “The questions I asked produced answers that didn’t fit my preconceived narrative, so I’ve come up with new ones.”

And this week, after Issa grew tired of his broken old toys, he found something new to play with: officials at the Federal Election Commission apparently asked the IRS’s tax exemption division last year about the status of some conservative political groups. Issa pounced, ordering the FEC to produce “all documents and communications between or among any FEC official or employee and any IRS official or employee for the period January 1, 2008 to the present.”

So what seems to be the trouble? There’s no evidence that the IRS shared private information with the FEC, but Issa and his allies want to know if maybe it happened anyway, and if there’s some convoluted way to connect this to the debunked “scandal” Issa was so invested in.

As Dave Weigel explained, there’s just not much here.

This level of scrutiny, with this much evidence, is a puzzle to some former FEC commissioners. “From what I’ve seen so far this doesn’t look like anything,” said Larry Noble, a Democratic appointee until 2000 who now advocates for public funding of elections. “It looked like what happened was that the staff contacted the IRS and asked for what was public. When I was there, certainly, it was always clear that the IRS would not give out anything that was not public. The IRS has a list of c3 groups, but it’s often out of date, so people check with the source. This looked like a routine inquiry for public information.”

A former Republican FEC commissioner said largely the same thing.

Where Issa sees a potential political scandal, everyone else sees routine and uncontroversial bureaucracy.

Tax Analysts reported this week:

“There are many legitimate or at least innocuous reasons for the FEC and the IRS to be sharing information about politically active nonprofits. The two agencies share regulatory oversight authority,” [James P. Joseph of Arnold & Porter LLP] said.

Ofer Lion of Hunton & Williams LLP said it makes sense for the IRS and FEC to talk to each other when dealing with politically active tax-exempt organizations and applicants. “Most of this probably falls within the FEC’s field of expertise anyway, so it makes sense that they would collaborate,” he said. He added that it would be disastrous if the two agencies went after organizations for political reasons but that he sees no evidence yet that they have done that.

John Pomeranz of Harmon, Curran, Spielberg & Eisenberg LLP said it’s possible an FEC staffer contacted Lerner to find out if a particular group had tax-exempt status, which is public information. If Lerner provided an answer, that would be fine, he said.

“It would be great if everybody went through official channels to get information like that, but I think there are a lot of people who rely on contacts inside the IRS to get a quick answer when it takes too long to get an answer the other way,” Pomeranz said.

Gregory L. Colvin of Adler and Colvin said he is not surprised the IRS and FEC contacted each other regarding the AFF and other organizations that spend money on broadcast advertising featuring candidates for federal office. He said that for years the two agencies have been criticized for not coordinating their enforcement of tax and election laws, which “overlap in some respects and leave gaps in others.”

In other words, the “scandal” is that some folks at the FEC were looking for official information on a couple of political groups that were flouting tax-exempt rules, and instead of following bureaucratic, inter-agency procedures, they just sent emails to the IRS.

If you care deeply about bureaucratic, inter-agency procedures related to the FEC and the IRS, this might be fascinating, but if Darrell Issa wants the political world to stay awake, he’s going to have to do better than this.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 9, 2013

August 10, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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