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“Simply Breathtaking”: North Carolina Gov Pat McCrory Approves Sweeping Voter-Suppression Measures

That this outcome was inevitable doesn’t make it any less offensive.

Gov. Pat McCrory Monday signed into law a bill requiring voters to produce a photo ID when they go to the polls, a measure that was hailed by Republicans as a means for heightening ballot security but which was criticized by Democrats as a thinly disguised effort at voter suppression.

The bill was passed along partisan lines by the Republican majority in the legislature, over strong opposition of Democrats.

The Republican governor released a video this afternoon, explaining his reasoning over the course of 96 seconds, arguing that he approved the “common sense” state legislation in the interest of the “integrity of our election process.”

McCrory added that the “extreme left” has relied on “scare tactics.”

Unfortunately for North Carolinians, the governor has no idea what he’s talking about. (In fact, as of two weeks ago, he literally didn’t know — McCrory was praising the legislation despite not having read it, and couldn’t answer basic questions about proposals he’d already publicly endorsed.)

The governor kept using the phrase “common sense,” but when it comes to voting rights, I don’t think that means what he thinks it means.

As we discussed a few weeks ago, we’ve seen plenty of “war on voting” measures over the last few years, but North Carolina Republicans pushed the envelope in new and offensive directions. Barbara Arnwine, president of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said during the legislative fight, “This is the single worst bill we have seen introduced since voter suppression bills began sweeping the country.”

The scope is simply breathtaking — the new state law imposes voter-ID restrictions never needed before in North Carolina, narrows the early-voting window, places new restrictions on voter-registration drives, makes it harder for students to vote, ends same-day registration during the early voting period, and makes it easier for vigilante poll-watchers to challenge eligible voters.

And why on earth would Republicans consider all of this necessary? Was there a widespread outbreak of voter fraud that necessitated the most sweeping new voter-suppression tactics seen anywhere in the nation? Of course not. For one thing, since 2000, there are exactly two incidents — not two percent, literally two individuals — involving suspected voter impersonation in North Carolina, out of several million votes cast. You’re far more likely to find someone struck by lightning in the state than find an improperly-cast ballot.

For another, many of the measures signed into law today — including narrowing the early-voting window — have nothing to do with improving the integrity of the process or preventing fraud, and everything to do with making it more difficult for people to participate in their own democracy.

These are not “scare tactics” from the “extreme left”; these are simply facts.

Up until fairly recently, there’s no way North Carolina’s new voter-suppression campaign would be approved by the Justice Department, but after five Republican-appointed justices on the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, the DOJ did not have an opportunity to consider the proposal before it was signed into law.

Attorney General Eric Holder has already challenged new measures in Texas under the remaining elements of the VRA; we’ll know soon enough whether North Carolina is added to the mix.


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

August 13, 2013 Posted by | Voting Rights, Voting Rights Act | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Stop Me Before I Kill Government Again”: Republicans Tying Themselves Into Knots Yet Again

Happy as I am that a bipartisan convergence on sentencing reform just possibly could be in the works, it can’t obscure the more immediate spectacle of Republicans simultaneously trying to identify with and tamp down the “base’s” desire for a government shutdown (or debt default) over “defunding Obamacare.” Greg Sargent nicely diagnoses the malady after watching Reince Priebus tie himself into knots on a Sunday show:

After CNN’s Candy Crowley pointed out some Republicans are challenging the conservative demand for a government shutdown confrontation to force the defunding of Obamacare, Priebus actually responded:

“I think all Republicans are unified on one thing and that is defunding, delaying, getting rid of, eliminating Obamacare. So we have total unanimity on that issue and the question is what are the tactics? And you know, even if you take the position of a Ted Cruz or Mike Lee, basically what they’re saying is we actually are funding 100 percent of the government except for that small percentage of nondiscretionary — excuse me, discretionary funding the Obamacare.

“So Mr. President, if you want to shut the government down because you want to continue to fund this monstrosity that you’ve already admit is half broken, then go ahead. I mean the fact that it’s on the Republican Party I just think is spin from the Democratic Party that you ought not be adopting. I don’t know why you’re adopting that spin….”

[I]t’s not surprising that Republican officials have effortlessly internalized the framing of the coming Obamacare/government shutdown Priebus adopts above. Thanks partly to the GOP leadership’s willingness to lavish years of care and feeding on the base’s preoccupation with Obamacare repeal, large swaths of the party’s base appear to remain convinced that the law is entirely illegitimate and that they need not accept that the law is here to stay. It’s easy to get from here to the conclusion that Obama will be to blame for any catastrophic consequences that flow from the continued showdown over Obamacare; after all, this whole situation was created by Obama’s initial exercise of tyranny (Dems rammed the law through!!!) and is now being perpetuated by his continued tyrannical resistance to undoing it in the face of the popular will.

I’m guessing the next act for “adult Republicans” like Priebus will be to oppose a government shutdown confrontation on grounds that they are saving the country from Obama’s reckless behavior. The truth is that they would be acting to save their own party from the same kind of political disaster the GOP incurred with the same behavior in 1995.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, August 12, 2013

August 13, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Pleading Ignorance”: Congress Can’t Pretend It Didn’t Know About NSA Surveillance

Having been, at one place or another in my career, on each side of the perennial debate in Washington about “who knew what and when,” I knew it was a matter of time before we started hearing it about the leaked NSA operations.

Since leaving government, I have written before about the weird dynamics of “briefing” Congress on sensitive operations, e.g., Nancy Pelosi’s claim that she didn’t know about CIA’s program of “enhanced interrogations” during the Bush Administration. Now, and perhaps ironically, we have a spate of Republicans saying they knew little or nothing of the NSA operations

So, what’s the real story behind this typical Washington play to the media?

The media, of course, has a field day because on any day, they can get someone in Congress who wants to get their face on TV to say most anything – this whips up the hysteria that gives the story legs.To them, it’s media Nirvana – it’s the Trayvon Martin case of national security, and the best thing since the “torture” scandal.

Here is what’s behind all this political smoke:

There are some traditional Republican vs. Democrat tensions at work, in that it’s an opportunity for Republicans to criticize a Democratic President.

The NSA operations are very awkward for many Democrats to support (and many don’t) because of their liberal views on personal liberties and conciliatory approaches to national security.

Likewise, Republicans – who traditionally are more aggressive in national security matters – are also reluctant to support a Democratic administration, even though they may agree with the NSA operations.

The “tea party” faction of the Republican Party opposes the NSA operations – and as such is aligned with the most liberal Democrats on the issue. Strange bedfellows indeed.

Members of the two intelligence committees, Republican and Democrat, seem generally to support the NSA operations – and they also seem to know the most about them. They should.

However, complaints that “we didn’t know about this” are now being heard from both congressional Republicans and Democrats who are not on the intelligence committees.

Coming, perhaps, are internal divisions within the intelligence committees, some Republican-Democrat spats and some between the committee leaderships and rank and file committee members. This is awkward for the intelligence committee leaderships.

The lawyers at the Department of Justice, are – uncomfortably perhaps – in bed with each other on the NSA ops, because the programs were started in the Bush administration and continued into the Obama administration. And the president himself has supported the programs in every opportunity he has had to talk about them. He clearly believes that privacy and security are in proper balance with the NSA operations – or at least not out of balance.

So, who (probably) knew what and when about the compromised NSA program?

Some relevant background: Ever since Watergate, the Church and Pike Committees, the creation of the intelligence committees and the enactment of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (by the Democrats, FYI) in the 70’s, there have been various legal requirements for the intelligence community to keep the Congress informed about what they are doing. And the Congressional Seniors, often called the “Gang of Eight” (majority and minority leaders of each house and majority and minority members of the intelligence committees), get briefed in more detail on the most sensitive intelligence activities and operations.

Now, put yourself in the place of the directors of the various intelligence agencies. If you have any political sense at all (and you wouldn’t be a director if you didn’t), you are going to tell all about your agency’s various activities and operations, including all the risks – at least to the gang of eight. This way no one can later accuse you of withholding information when one of these sensitive programs goes south or is compromised. And, because the most sensitive activities and operations are often the most risky, the odds of failure or compromise are correspondingly high.

So, we can assume that – at the very least – the gang of eight was fully briefed on the NSA operations. And we can also assume that any other member of the intelligence committees who expressed interest in the programs would have likewise had a complete briefing, including on-site briefings by agency technicians, if such were requested.

How about an  ordinary member of Congress who was interested in these programs? They can also get briefings if they request them, and should approach their own party leaderships if they want additional information, or go to the leaderships of their house’s intelligence committee. Are these briefings often complex, technical and time consuming? Yes, for sure.

However, the suggestion that information is somehow being withheld from them is, frankly, silly, just as it was for Pelosi, a 10-plus year member of the gang of eight and a former chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, to say that she didn’t know about the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program.

They know. They may wish they didn’t when the story hits the news, but they know. In fact, it’s to the administration’s advantage – whether Republican or Democrat – that they know all the details. In short, they are all in this boat together, whether they like it or not.


By: Daniel Gallington, U. S. News and World Report, August 12, 2013

August 13, 2013 Posted by | National Security | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Gingrich’s Revisionist History Of Himself”: Bizarre Anyone Would Take Newt’s Advice About How To Engineer A Government Shutdown

Newt Gingrich has often relied on short memories of his political career (as I can attest from the shocked reaction I got in 2011 when writing about his well-known history as a Rockefeller Republican), but he’s clearly going too far in pretending the government shutdown he engineered in 1995 was some sort of triumph. Conservative Ramesh Ponnuru slaps him down pretty emphatically today:

Newt Gingrich is telling Republicans not to fear a government shutdown because the last one went so well for them. This is pure revisionist history, and they would be fools to believe him….

Gingrich’s current spin on the events of 1995-96 is just wrong. The election of a Republican Congress in 1994 put government spending on a lower trajectory, as the election of a Republican House did again in 2010. Whether the shutdowns contributed to that result is a different matter.

Almost nobody back then believed it. Democrats thought that they had won the battle over the shutdowns, and that the agreement to end them was a Republican surrender. Clinton made a point, in his next State of the Union address, to criticize Republicans for their strategy. It was an applause line. Clinton’s job-approval numbers started to rise as soon as the shutdown fight was over, and they never really sank again.

Republicans thought they had lost, too. A minority of them thought that they should have kept the government shuttered longer, and that Gingrich and Senate Republican leader Bob Dole had caved. (Gingrich was widely reported at the time to have told unhappy colleagues, “I melt when I’m around him,” referring to Clinton.) Most of them decided that bringing on a shutdown at all was a mistake.

It’s true, as Gingrich now says, that Republicans lost only a few House seats in the next election. But it’s also true that the shutdowns ended what had been called the “Republican revolution” of the mid-1990s. Before the shutdowns, the Republicans had talked about eliminating four cabinet departments. Afterward, they quit….

Gingrich himself accepted the conventional wisdom that his party had lost. That’s what associates of his told me (among others) at the time, and that’s how they recollect it now.

I’d say Ramesh is really pulling his punches here. The rationalization that the GOP “lost only a few seats” reflects some serious amnesia. This was the only time in U.S. history that the party holding the White House for two consecutive terms gained House seats in the second midterm election. It was perceived as a disaster at the time–after all, Gingrich stepped down as Speaker almost immediately–and was largely blamed on Gingrich’s handling of the budget negotiations that led to the shutdown. Ponnuru mentions Clinton’s rising approval ratings after the confrontation with Newt, but here’s what Gallup’s Frank Newport had to say about the saga’s effect on Gingrich’s popularity:

The public appeared to turn particularly strongly against the Speaker after his budget confrontation with Bill Clinton and the resulting U.S. Government shutdown in late 1995. (Publicity at the time, including a famous front page caricature in the New York Daily News, included the allegation that Gingrich had closed down the government because he was given a bad seat at the back of Air Force One when returning from the funeral of Yitzhak Rabin in Israel.) By January of 1996, 57% of Americans said that their image of Gingrich was unfavorable, compared with 37% who had a favorable image of him. This nearly two-to-one negative-to-positive image ratio persisted throughout most of 1996 and 1997.

It’s just bizarre that anyone would take Newt Gingrich’s advice about how to engineer a fiscal confrontation involving a government shutdown threat, and an example of the man’s invincible chutzpah that he’s offering it.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, August 12, 2013

August 13, 2013 Posted by | Government Shut Down | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Rodeo Of Racism”: GOP Content To Play To An Increasingly Shrill And Xenophobic Primary Base

It’s been quite a week for anti-Obama racism. At the Missouri State Fair Sunday, rodeo fans cheered to see a “clown” in an Obama mask get run down by a bull. On Friday in Florida the president faced a gaggle of protesters on the way to address a disabled veterans’ group; one carried a sign reading “Kenyan Go Home.” Three days earlier, Arizonans protested Obama’s visit by singing “Bye Bye Black Sheep.” One man mocked him by calling him “47 percent Negro;” another held a sign that read, “Impeach the Half-White Muslim!”

Also on Sunday, the same day as the Missouri State Fair incident, ABC’s “This Week” hosted the birther-in-chief, Donald Trump, who was fresh from a visit to the right-wing Family Leadership Summit in Iowa and a golf outing with GOP House Speaker John Boehner. When Jon Karl asked him, “You don’t still question [Barack Obama] was born in the United States, do you?” Trump let loose his tiresome birther spew. “I have no idea,” Trump replied. “Was there a birth certificate? You tell me. You know, some people say that was not his birth certificate. I’m saying I don’t know. Nobody knows and you don’t know either, Jonathan.”

With Republicans like Boehner and Iowa’s Family Leader embracing Trump as a loyal and treasured party figure, and mainstream media figures like Karl treating him like a legitimate newsmaker, it’s clear that the party, and some of the media, learned nothing from its 2012 drubbing. Reince Priebus’ infamous “autopsy” has itself gone wherever it is that fraudulent ideas go to die. Calling for more “inclusion,” the report didn’t outline policy change but rather better communication strategies to avoid repelling young voters, women, African-Americans and Latinos. “Our policies are sound, but I think in many ways the way we communicate can be a real problem,” Priebus said in March.

But now they’ve given up even on changing the way they communicate.

It’s not just Trump; one candidate after another in Iowa demonized Obama, and/or his electoral coalition. Rep. Steve King, he of the “calves the size of cantaloupes” remark, told the audience to ignore guidelines on what churches can do politically and “go ahead and defy the IRS.” King is said to be mulling his own 2016 presidential run; we can only dream. Sen. Ted Cruz got big ovations for advocating the repeal of not just Obamacare but the IRS.

But the scary demagogue award has to go to Cruz’s father, Rafael, an immigrant from Cuba who accused Obama of trying to eliminate God and impose socialism on the U.S. After all, he’d seen it happen before. “A young charismatic leader rose up, talking about ‘hope’ and ‘change,’” Cruz yelled, as the crowd booed. “His name was Fidel Castro.” Got it? Obama = Castro. Cruz doesn’t mention that he actually supported Fidel Castro’s revolution against Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, then turned against him. Now we know where the Texas senator got his penchant for demagoguery and distortion. (Imagine replacing Marion Robinson in the White House with Rafael Cruz.)

Although the Iowa convening didn’t feature anyone in an Obama mask being chased by bulls, or “Kenyan Go Home” signs, and nobody sang “Bye Bye Black Sheep” to the president, it made clear that the GOP project of inclusion is a farce. Judging from Iowa, the 2016 primary field is set to be every bit as extreme as in 2012 but without even the patina of diversity provided by Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann. And it will play to an increasingly shrill and xenophobic primary base where three nasty racist anti-Obama events can take place in one week, with near-complete silence from Republican leaders.

I should note that the Missouri State Fair rodeo was so sickening that Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder had to denounce it as “disrespectful” to the president, adding, “We are better than this.” Fairgoer Perry Beam told the Associated Press that “everybody screamed” and “just went wild” when an announcer asked if they’d like to see “Obama run down by a bull.”

“It was at that point I began to feel a sense of fear. It was that level of enthusiasm,” the 48-year-old white musician said. Another clown approached and began to play with the lips of the Obama mask. “There would have been no reason to play with his lips if he were a white president,” Beam said. “They mentioned the president’s name, I don’t know, 100 times. It was sickening. It was feeling like some kind of Klan rally you’d see on TV. I’ve never seen anything so blatantly racist in my life,” he added. “If an old country boy picks up on something like that, imagine what a person of color would think.”

Meanwhile, John Boehner golfs with birther-in-chief Trump, while he headlines ABC’s respected Sunday news show. The GOP seems content to live on the fumes of Obama-hatred. It’s not a strategy for a post-Obama politics, but they seem to reckon there are enough rodeo clowns out there to get them through 2014.

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, August 12, 2013

August 13, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Racism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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