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“Cheney Family Values”: A Political Maneuver Tailored To A Conservative Electorate

If Liz Cheney, whose bid for the Senate has always had a stench of extreme opportunism, wants to discuss traditions and values, I’m all for it. Let’s start here: Isn’t there a tradition of close-knit family members’ taking care not to wound one another? Is there not value in that?

From the moment that Liz decided, from the perch of her longtime home in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, to act the part of an honest-to-goodness Wyoming resident and challenge an incumbent senator (and family friend) from that state, she must have known that the issue of same-sex marriage would come up. It is, after all, a prominent thread in the news. It’s also a prominent thread in stories about her family, given that her father, Dick, bucked his party to become an early Republican supporter of same-sex marriage, and given that her lone sibling, Mary, has a female spouse.

She must also have entertained speaking out against it, because that’s what she ended up doing on Sunday, on Fox News, saying that she believed “in the traditional definition of marriage.” And she must have foreseen that this would pain Mary, who was married last year and whose two children are being brought up with the understanding that their family has the same dignity as any other.

But she plunged forward anyway, disregarding the inevitable discord. As Jonathan Martin reported in The Times, Liz and Mary aren’t speaking to each other now, and there’s a long shadow over the Cheneys’ holiday get-togethers.

Is any political office worth that? Would victory redeem the public message that Liz just sent to her niece and nephew? I’m imagining her awkwardness the next time that she goes to hug or kiss them (and I’m assuming that she’s a hugger or kisser, which may be a leap). If there’s not a knot in her stomach, then there’s nothing at all in her heart.

Having a lesbian sister doesn’t compel her to support marriage equality. Having a gay relative doesn’t compel anyone to. There are earnest divisions here, often driven by deep-seated religious convictions.

But Liz’s decision to chart a course and publicize a view bound to offend her sister is entirely volitional. It’s also entirely different from airing other ideological disagreements within families. Conflicting views on abortion or the death penalty don’t challenge the very structure and foundation of a loved one’s home. Questioning the validity of a marriage does. You’re not saying that you part with the way someone thinks. You’re saying that you have qualms with who they are, and this is a statement — a sentiment — you can keep to yourself. Even once Liz had elected to run, she could have chosen to say that the issue of gay marriage wasn’t going to be part of her campaign.

Is she even being genuine in her opposition? In a 2009 interview about gay marriage on MSNBC, she said that “freedom means freedom for everybody.” On Monday I talked with three people who worked with her in the Bush administration, and all were very surprised by her current stance. They’d had the strong impression that she favored same-sex marriage.

Perhaps Mary and her wife, Heather Poe, did as well, because Poe wrote this on Facebook after Liz’s appearance on Fox News: “Liz has been a guest in our home, has spent time and shared holidays with our children, and when Mary and I got married in 2012 — she didn’t hesitate to tell us how happy she was for us.”

Happy back then, self-serving and seemingly cowardly now. This feels to me like a political maneuver tailored to a conservative electorate, and an unnecessary maneuver at that, with the risk of making her seem inauthentic and uncharitable to Wyoming voters who’ve had more than a decade to absorb her dad’s socially moderate views. Gay marriage won’t be those voters’ primary, secondary or tertiary issue, anyway.

In a statement released Monday, Dick and Lynne Cheney insisted that Liz had “always believed in the traditional definition of marriage.” I suppose that’s the politically prudent tack at this point, but now the Cheneys’ support for gay marriage, so moving over the years, is buried beneath a family feud. Their statement paid less attention to Mary, who’s not running for anything, not carrying her parents’ ambitions into a new era.

One word stood out. They said that Liz had shown Mary “compassion.” This echoed a statement of Liz’s own, in which she noted that she had “always tried to be compassionate” toward Mary and her family. What a curious vocabulary. It was as if they were all talking about some charity case.

I hope the Cheneys find their way out of this. It’s an ugly spot that Liz, in all her compassion, has put them in.

By: Frank Bruni, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, November 18, 2013

November 19, 2013 Posted by | Marriage Equality, Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Promoting The Right-Wing Agenda”: Ted Cruz And Koch Brothers Embroiled In Shadowy Tea Party Scheme

A national conservative network (whose backers include the Koch brothers, event sponsors include Facebook, and alumni include Ted Cruz) misrepresented its agenda and activities, and reaped the benefits of mainstream respectability and nonprofit status — while coordinating across states to push a hard-right agenda and enrich its corporate backers — a new report alleges.

Specifically, the report by the Center for Media and Democracy focuses on the State Policy Network, a little-known network. “What we uncovered through our investigation is that SPN along with its affiliates amount to $83 million just flooding into the states to push and promote this agenda …,” CMD director Lisa Graves told reporters on a Wednesday call. “And that money is on the rise.” The paper was released Wednesday along with a set of state-level reports on SPN affiliates, authored by affiliates of the progressive network ProgressNow.

The CMD report accuses SPN affiliates of mounting “coordinated efforts to push their agenda, often using the same cookie-cutter research and reports, all while claiming to be independent and creating state-focused solutions …” It charges that, “Although SPN think tanks are registered as educational nonprofits, several appear to orchestrate extensive lobbying and political operations to peddle their legislative agenda to state legislators, despite the IRS’ regulations on nonprofit political and lobbying activities.”

Asked about the CMD report, SPN emailed a statement from its president, Tracie Sharp, saying, “Because we are legally and practically organized as a service organization (not as a franchise), each of the 64 state-based think tanks is fiercely independent, choosing to manage their staff, pick their own research topics and educate the public on those issues they deem most appropriate for their state.” But Sharp said each of those 64 “rallies around a common belief: the power of free markets and free people to create a healthy, prosperous society.”

Sharp said that SPN respected “the privacy of our donors,” but that they gave “voluntarily,” which she contrasted with “groups like Progress Now and the Center for Media and Democracy who receive hefty gifts from unions, who in turn force their members to donate to political causes with which they may not agree.” The Supreme Court ruled in 1988 that contracts between unions and companies can only require workers represented by unions to pay what is “necessary to ‘performing the duties of an exclusive representative of the employees in dealing with the employer on labor-management issues.”

Based on a 2010 document, SPN lists a number of major corporations as past SPN funders including Microsoft, AT&T, GlaxoSmithKline, Kraft Foods, Philip Morris, Verizon Communications, Comcast and Time Warner Cable Share Service Center. Several of the same groups sponsored SPN’s 2013 annual meeting, as did Facebook.

While SPN is no household name, CMD notes it has at least one celebrity alum: former SPN-affiliated think tank fellow and current filibustering Sen. Ted Cruz, the co-author of a 2010 paper for Texas Public Policy Foundation arguing the Affordable Care Act violated the 10thAmendment. That paper notes that the TPPF is working with partners to develop an “Interstate Compact for Health Care Reform,” which it says would provide that member states “may opt out of Obamacare entirely …” The San Antonio Current noted that a “Health Care Compact Act” echoing Cruz’s concept is among the model legislation pushed by the American Legislative Exchange Council, the conservative group whose members include major companies and scores of state legislators. CMD notes that the same year Cruz issued that report, the Koch-backed Donors Capital Fund provided his think tank a $65,300 grant “for the organization’s project, Turning the Tide Unifying the States to Oppose Federal Outreach.”

The CMD report also cites numerous SPN ties to the better-known ALEC, including a grant from Donors Capital Fund, which Mother Jones called the “dark money ATM of the conservative movement,” specifically to fund SPN member groups to participate in an ALEC gathering. SPN or its member groups sit on eight ALEC task forces; the largest number are in the Task & Fiscal Policy and Education groups. According to CMD, SPN’s annual meeting in September included representatives from Koch Industries, the Charles Koch Institute, the Charles Koch Foundation and several Koch-backed right-wing groups like Americans for Prosperity.

CMD suggests that SPN’s billionaire backers may not be motivated by ideology alone. “Be it the Koch brothers and environmental policy, the Waltons and minimum and living wage laws, or the Bradley Foundation and education privatization,” charges the report, “SPN funders end up being a ‘client’ to the think tanks, receiving a service – influencing state legislators and promoting a right-wing agenda – that benefits them.”

 

By: Josh Eidelson, Salon, November 15, 2013

November 19, 2013 Posted by | Koch Brothers, Right Wing, Tea Party | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Notorious Republican Prevaricators”: The Wrong Message, The Wrong Messengers

Over the last five or six years, Republicans have gone after President Obama with quite a bit of ferocity, launching attacks that most Americans have no doubt heard many times. Indeed, we can recite them from memory: Obama’s a radical socialist, power-mad tyrant who hates American traditions, wants to grab your guns, and is too dumb to speak without a teleprompter.

Putting aside whether that critique is in any way sane, Republicans generally haven’t had too much to say about President Obama’s trustworthiness. That changed rather dramatically in recent weeks, as we learned that instead of 100% of Americans gaining health care coverage or keeping the health insurance they like, about 95% of Americans will gain health care coverage or keep the health insurance they like.

And this has led some poor messengers to deliver an odd message. Here, for example, is Dick Cheney:

In an interview with Larry King, former Vice President Dick Cheney said that President Obama’s famous “If you like your plan, you can keep it” remark was a lie that the president repeated “over and over and over again.”

And here’s Mitt Romney:

Republican Mitt Romney is accusing President Barack Obama of being “dishonest” about his health care law…. In an interview on “CBS This Morning,” Friday, Romney said several times that Obama had been “dishonest.”

And here’s Paul Ryan:

“The next time you have a famous politician coming through Iowa, breezing through the towns, talking about big government, let’s be a little more skeptical,” Ryan said after berating President Barack Obama and Democrats for the troubled rollout of the health-care law.

Look, reasonable people can disagree about the severity of the “if you like your plan…” claim. It strikes me as an oversimplification of a complex policy, a position folks realized at the time was more of a shorthand than a 100% guarantee for literally every consumer in the nation, but if Obama’s critics want to consider it the Most Important Lie Ever Told, that’s up to them.

But listening to Dick Cheney, Mitt Romney, and Paul Ryan talk about honesty, credibility, and the need for skepticism is just a bit too much. Romney broke new ground as one of the most brazenly mendacious politicians of his generation; Ryan’s fondness for falsehoods is extraordinary even in a Congress where dishonesty is the norm; and Dick Cheney is, well, Dick Cheney.

Americans shouldn’t turn to Lance Armstrong for wisdom on performance-enhancing drugs in sports; we shouldn’t turn to Miley Cyrus for guidance on public modesty; and we shouldn’t turn to Cheney, Romney, and Ryan for lectures on honesty in politics. It’s not complicated: they have no credibility because they have a nasty habit for saying things that aren’t true.

It’s a subjective question and your mileage may vary, but on balance, I’d say President Obama’s track record on telling the truth has been very strong. Fair-minded observers can debate the efficacy of his agenda and the merit of his ideas, but it’s difficult for even the fiercest Obama detractor to say the president has established a track record of saying one thing and doing another, making promises he has no intention of keeping, or flat out lying.

He’s made predictions that haven’t panned out, and he’s changed direction based on circumstances, but thinking about some of the notable presidential whoppers, Obama hasn’t exactly offered his critics anything comparable to “Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa,” “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky,” or perhaps most alarmingly, “We did not – repeat, did not – trade weapons or anything else for hostages.”

So maybe notorious Republican prevaricators can pick something else to focus on?

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, November 18, 2013

November 19, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Things Are Neither Perfect Nor Disastrous”: Obamacare Panic To Enter Even Stupider New Phase

No, Democrats are not abandoning it en masse, and no, it isn’t going to be repealed.

I want to follow up on what I wrote Friday about those who are deciding that because of a) web site problems and b) the largely manufactured controversy over people who have one private insurance plan but now face the unfathomable horror of moving to a different private insurance plan, the Affordable Care Act is an unrecoverable disaster that has destroyed Barack Obama’s second term. I’m sensing that this is about to move into a new phase of inane speculation that we should think about before it starts.

I’ll just use one article as an example. This morning, under the headline “Why Obamacare Is On Life Support,” Josh Kraushaar of the National Journal all but declares that the law is about to be repealed. “Unless the HealthCare.gov website miraculously gets fixed by next month,” he writes, “there’s a growing likelihood that over time, enough Democrats may join Republicans to decide to start over and scrap the whole complex health care enterprise.” That’s so blindingly stupid I’m almost not sure where to start, but let’s give it is a shot. First, would it really be “miraculous” if Healthcare.gov got fixed by next month? It’s a website. Yes, a complicated one, and yes, one that had many problems. But it isn’t as though those problems are somehow beyond the ken of human ingenuity to solve, requiring heavenly intervention. The administration isn’t trying to achieve faster-than-light transport or make us all immortal. It’s a website. It may not be perfect, but it’ll work.

Kraushaar then goes through some counting of vulnerable Democratic seats in both houses to argue that it’s a real possibility that a repeal of the entire ACA could not only pass, but pass with a wide enough margin to override a veto from the President. His main evidence is the 39 House Democrats who voted last week for a symbolic Republican proposal to undo some of the individual-market reforms; he thinks the number for full repeal of the ACA will be even greater. But that’s completely backwards. It would take some kind of as-yet-unforeseen utter catastrophe to transform even those votes into a vote for full repeal. As Jonathan Bernstein says, “There’s an enormous difference between playing along on a symbolic vote and abandoning a policy Democrats are stuck with, like it or not.” Not even House Democrats from swing districts are dumb enough to think that voting to repeal the law would serve their political interests, despite Kraushaar’s bizarre and demonstrably false assertion that already, “Even [the ACA’s] most ardent supporters are running for the hills.”

If you’re going to start speculating about repeal, you have to confront what’s going to happen six weeks from now, on January 1. Let’s have a little reminder:

  • Millions of people will begin getting coverage through Medicaid. Repeal would mean kicking these people off their insurance.
  • Millions of people will begin getting subsidies to pay for private insurance. Repeal would mean taking away their subsidies, making it unaffordable for them to get insurance.
  • Denials for pre-existing conditions will be officially over. Repeal would mean that once again, insurers could deny people coverage if they’ve ever been sick.
  • Annual limits on coverage will be outlawed. Repeal would mean that people will once again start being forced to pay huge medical bills, in many cases forcing them into bankruptcy, if they have a serious illness or accident.

And that’s not to mention the parts of the bill that have already gone into effect, like “rescission” becoming illegal, children not being allowed to be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions, or young people being allowed to stay on their parents’ insurance until they’re 26. You think some news stories about people in the individual market having to pay more for a new insurance plan tug at lawmakers’ heartstrings? Wait until you see the stories about the 5-year-old girl with leukemia who’ll get kicked off her coverage if Republicans in Congress have their way. Right now we’re talking about a few people who are supposedly the “losers” in the ACA, but the most they’ve lost is some money they’ll have to pay for a more comprehensive plan. If you repeal the law, the country would be overflowing with people whose losses are genuinely catastrophic.

January 1 is the end of any talk of repeal, and Republicans know it—as many of them have been saying all along, once you start giving people benefits, it’s all but impossible to take them away. That doesn’t mean there isn’t still work to do, and it doesn’t mean there aren’t things that could go wrong. Nor does it mean there might not be piecemeal fixes to one or another provision debated in the future; there almost certainly will be. But unless you think that in the next six weeks Republicans are going to manage to put together a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress to repeal the ACA—something you’d have to be nuts to believe—it’s never going to happen.

I realize that there’s an impulse as a reporter or a pundit to cast everything in the most dramatic terms possible. “Things are neither perfect nor disastrous” is a much less interesting assertion to make than “Everything has changed! Earth-shattering developments are afoot!” But that happens to be the truth.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, November 18, 2013

November 19, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Politics, Republicans | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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