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“Mitch Has Got Some ‘Splainin’ To Do”: McConnell Recycles His Own Ad, Ignores 188,130 Kentuckians Whose Insurance He’d Repeal

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) failed in his goal to make President Obama a one-term president, but he’s still one of the most crafty and ruthless campaigners in politics, as his latest ad proves.

McConnell’s new ad recycles a message the senator knows works because it helped him win in 2008. The new ad is far more affecting. It focuses entirely on Robert Pierce, a worker from the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, where exposure to radiation left several employees with cancer. Pierce says throat cancer has weakened his own whispery voice, but he praises the senator for using his voice to help him.

McConnell is boldly trumpeting his help to the plant with the testimony of a man few will want to question. The record is much more complex, according to The Huffington Post‘s Jason Cherkis and Zach Carter.

The senator didn’t “spring into action” on Paducah until 1999, 14 years after the first workers became sick, when a Washington Post article uncovered that radioactive exposure was still occurring at the plant. But once the story was in the limelight, McConnell pushed for a practical solution: “He worked to pass what amounted to a new entitlement that allowed plant workers over age 50 access to free body scans and free health care.” Recently McConnell’s absence from the debate about the plant’s potential closing has led a union leader to say the senator has “given up on Paducah.”

An ad touting the ability to get people government-run health care is an unlikely way to open the campaign of a man who has vowed to repeal Obamacare “root and branch.”

Thanks to the president’s health reforms, 188,130 residents of McConnell’s state now have health coverage; of those, 100,359 have completely subsidized health insurance through Medicaid or SCHIP.

McConnell needs to explain what will happen to the more than 100,000 people who would lose coverage if his goal of repealing Obamacare is accomplished, says The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent.

“McConnell’s new ad tells us he should be re-elected because his efforts to bring health coverage to people who lack it shows his willingness to ‘knock down walls’ for Kentucky’s ‘working families,’ helping ‘save people’s lives,’” Sargent writes. “So what about all the working people who would lose coverage if McConnell got his way?”

Unfortunately for McConnell, 2014 isn’t 2008.

Six years ago the senator could brag about providing some deserving workers with government health care without having to go into his actual policies on health care. In 2014, Obamacare is no longer theoretical; millions of Americans have gained coverage through Obamacare exchanges or by remaining on their parents’ coverage until age 26, thanks to the law.

If McConnell is arguing he did the right thing by helping those in need, he must also explain what would happen to these people if he gets his way and they lose their coverage.


By: Jason Sattler, The National Memo, January 22, 2014

January 23, 2014 Posted by | Health Insurance, Mitch Mc Connell | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Nasty Piece Of Work”: There’s No Getting Rid Of David Vitter, America’s Most Contemptible Senator

I was once shooting the breeze with a Democratic senator I knew fairly well. This was a few years ago, back when the toxic atmosphere wasn’t quite as hideous as it would become. Just on a personal level, I asked: Who on the other side is surprisingly nice, and who’s just a real prick? I don’t remember the surprisingly nice answers, but on the S.O.B. factor the senator’s response was immediate: David Vitter.

He’s a nasty piece of work, the junior senator from Louisiana. He doesn’t seem to like anybody. He loathes senior senator Mary Landrieu, he detests Governor Bobby Jindal, he despises the media. They all pretty much hate him back. And yet, by merely announcing, he immediately became the odds-on favorite to win the governor’s race in 2015. Why?

The announcement may seem surprising to those of us outside the state, but “this was the worst-kept secret in Louisiana,” a political operative with knowledge of the state told me Monday. Vitter has been holding a series of town-hall meetings and tele-town-hall meetings, signaling the obvious intention.

I’ll get to race handicapping in a few paragraphs, but first let’s deal with the only thing most people know about David Vitter (who has not, by the way, distinguished himself in the Senate in any way). I’ve always wondered: How in the world did he survive that hooker business? Not only did he admit he was a client of Deborah Jeane Palfrey’s escort service. She then went and hanged herself. Not over him personally. Over the whole mess, and staring at serious jail time. But still. Extramarital relations are one thing, with a staffer or a woman of accomplishment; politicians almost always slog their way through that. But here we had the guy calling on hookers, and the dead body of the madam. And Vitter skated through it and sailed to reelection two years later. How?

“He hid for a year and a half,” says my operative. At first, when his name was revealed by Hustler in connection to the case, Vitter acknowledged it. He said he’d asked for and received his wife’s and (somewhat presumptuously) God’s forgiveness. After that he would say no more—“out of respect for my family.” Nice touch.

By the time 2010 came around, Palfrey was less important to the state’s voters than the fact that Charlie Melancon, the Democrat who challenged Vitter, had “voted with Barack Obama 98 percent of the time” in Congress. That’s all Vitter said. That, and the forgiveness thing, and the “fact” that illegal immigrants were cutting holes through chain-link fences and being welcomed by bleeding-heart Melanconistas with a brass band and a waiting limousine, as this really vile and racist TV ad of his had it. Vile and racist works down there, so what had seemed at first like a close-ish race became a 19-point whupping.

Ever since, Vitter has been fine, with his approval rating up in the high 50s. I guess all it takes to do that is to be right wing and anti-Obama. And so, he’s the favorite to be the state’s next governor.

But that could change. The declared field so far is no great shakes—the Republican lieutenant governor and a Democratic state representative. Not even any members of Congress yet. But here are a couple of developments to keep an eye on. First, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, a Democrat, faces reelection on Feb. 1. He’s expected to roll to an easy win. “If it’s a landslide, he’ll have to consider the governor’s race,” says the operative. Second, there’s Mary Landrieu’s (they’re brother and sister) reelection this fall. That’s expected to be very close. If she loses and is out of a job, might she give it a shot? She and Vitter have the reputation of disliking each other more, maybe a lot more, than any other state’s two U.S. senators. Landrieu v. Vitter for governor would be awesome.

But even if the field doesn’t get a lot stronger, Louisiana politics blogger Robert Mann still thinks Vitter might have a harder time than he did in 2010. It’s not always great to be the front-runner this far out, because everyone below you is attacking you. And, Mann notes, Vitter’s not going to be able to make this race about Obama, who’ll be on the way out in 2015.

There’s an interesting Vitter-Jindal subplot going on here, which is nicely detailed by Marin Cogan at The New Republic, and the issue of whom Jindal might endorse is an interesting one. Though he’s unpopular overall in the state, he’s still in decent shape among the state’s Republicans, so his word might carry some weight. But he’ll be off running for president in 2015 (yes, he still apparently thinks he can do this!).

So Vitter is all in. And even if he somehow loses the governor’s race, it’s no real skin off his nose—he’d remain a senator, because that seat isn’t up until 2016. And running for reelection then, he can just run ads with Hillary Clinton welcoming swarthy illegals with open arms. Easy peasy. One way or another, we’re stuck with this guy for a while.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, January 22, 2014

January 23, 2014 Posted by | David Vitter, Politics | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Poor Pitiful Persecuted Bullies”: From A Position Of Feigned Weakness, Conservatives Portray Themselves As Victims

On the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, it seems the antichoice movement is focused less on extending its recent state-level gains than on denying their significance as a rollback of basic reproductive rights. Sarah Posner captured their rhetoric nicely at Religion Dispatches yesterday:

What with autopsies and rebrandings, and a new Pope decrying “obsessions,” you would think that tomorrow’s March for Life might not be such a big event. But on the anniversary this week of Roe v. Wade, the Pope is still Catholic, and the GOP is still Republican. The rebranding, if there is one, is to portray anti-abortion absolutism as mainstream, not extreme.

This effort at rhetorical but not substantive repositioning is the GOP’s big message today, notes Posner:

When the RNC convenes for its winter meeting, it will take up a proposed resolution, CNN reports, “urging GOP candidates to speak up about abortion and respond forcefully against Democratic efforts to paint them as anti-woman extremists.” The “Resolution on Republican Pro-Life Strategy” calls on the party to only support candidates “who fight back against Democratic deceptive ‘war on women’ rhetoric by pointing out the extreme positions on abortion held by Democratic opponents.”

Antichoice pols are the victims here, you see. That’s why they’ve seized on comments by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo about the consensus in his state supporting abortion rights as evidence they are poor pitiful refugees against intolerance (an act Charlie Pierce aptly calls “driving nails into their own palms”).

It’s all a shuck, though, as Posner concludes:

The March for Life is still a big deal. One of the nation’s two major parties supports it, and will later in the week that party will consider whether its candidates should be punished for being too weak in response to “deceptive” charges they are waging a war on women. Rebrandings, truces, lamentations about singular obsessions–none of that changes the Republican and the conservative movement commitment to making abortion illegal, and, barring that, to making it inaccessible.

The silly foot-stomping over Cuomo’s comments are from a defensive posture, but it would be a mistake to engage in much schadenfreude about the conservative position being weak. The foot-stomping is strategic: an opportunity to portray themselves as victims strengthens the resolve of their followers. (See, there is no war on women, only an elitist war on conservatives!)

Interesting, isn’t it, that from this position of feigned weakness the antichoicers are gearing up for another election cycle of bullying Republican politicians into doing their will, all in the broader cause of bullying women to give up control over their reproductive systems.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, January 22, 2014

January 23, 2014 Posted by | Abortion, Reproductive Rights, Republicans | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Chris Christie’s Hypocritical Transformation”: Hypocrisy Is Very Political And The Antithesis Of His Waning Brand Strength

Revisionism, which takes at least a generation in the study of history, is much more rapid in politics. It’s fast, sometimes in the same news cycle. Consider New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. His bridge follies were considered his comeuppance, justice for his arrogance and a sign that his team lacked the experience necessary for his stature as the Republican candidate for president. In other words, overnight Christie transformed from post-partisan icon to typical Jersey pol. But that story-line was just settling in when a new one has emerged: Christie’s troubles with the bridge are not (insert traffic metaphor here) a detour in his political rise, but rather an opportunity to burnish his suspect conservative credentials.

Chris Cillizza and Roger Simon argue that Christie is cleverly using the scandal to show conservatives he is firmly in their camp. Christie’s approach, according to these observers: attack the “liberal media” (in this case, MSNBC) and point out that he is a victim of a partisan witch hunt. While it is certainly a familiar conservative tactic, it won’t work. Chris Christie’s brand, before it hit (insert traffic metaphor here) a speed bump was about being a different kind of Republican. Yes, that may have made his road to the nomination rocky, but he need only look at Mitt Romney to see what happens when a moderate tries to reinvent himself as an arch-conservative to kow-tow to the Republican right. Indeed, not only was Christie smart not to reinvent himself, he realized that being a post-partisan figure was the key to his success. He wanted to be seen as someone who put the job before politics, who could work with others, who was practical. Not only would this image help him in the general election, where he would be seen as a different kind of Republican, but it could even help in the primaries where he would get credit for standing for his beliefs. Moreover, the fundraising base in the Republican Party, at least the less ideological part of it, knows it can’t nominate a right-wing candidate and/or a lightweight. Candidates such as Ted Cruz and Rick Santorum are too extreme; Marco Rubio, too light; and Rand Paul, a little too out-there. Thus, Christie’s front-runner status. Cross-over appeal is the heart of Christie’s allure. This explains why Christie, unlike most Republicans, appeared regularly on MSNBC, the network his office now decries. Whoops! Hypocrisy is very political and the antithesis of Christie’s waning brand strength.


By: Carter Eskew, Post partisan, The Washington Post, January 22, 2014

January 23, 2014 Posted by | Chris Christie, Politics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Rendering Unions Toothless: Supreme Court Aligns Against The Have-Nots

Among the causes most frequently cited for the dizzying rise in American inequality in recent decades — globalization, technology, de-unionization — one culprit is generally left off the list: the Supreme Court. But the justices (more precisely, the conservative justices) must be given their due. In cases ranging from Buckley v. Valeo in 1976 to Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in 2010, they have greatly increased the wealthy’s sway over elections — which, in turn, has led to public policies that have reduced taxes on the rich, curtailed regulation of Wall Street and kept workers from forming unions.

On Tuesday, the justices were presented with a golden opportunity to further increase inequality. The court heard arguments in Harris v. Quinn , a case testing whether home-care providers who work under a union contract with the state of Illinois can avoid paying dues that support the union’s collective-bargaining work. (Under the law, they already can decline to pay the share of dues that goes to the union’s political work.)

Home-care workers are hired by aging or disabled individuals and their families, some of whom are eligible to have the expense picked up by Medicaid. That arrangement means the home-care workers’ pay levels are set by the states — making both the state and the individual a worker’s employer of record.

Over the past two decades, an increasing number of states, acting as employers, have given home-care workers the right to vote on whether they wish to form a union. Home care costs states one-third the amount they spend for comparable care in nursing homes or long-term-care facilities. The wages won by those workers’ unions ensure less employee churn and better care, which is why disability advocacy groups such as the American Association of People With Disabilities have submitted amicus briefs in Harris supporting the union.

It’s no mystery why a majority of home-care workers in Illinois and many other states have voted to form unions. In 2012, the median hourly wage for direct-care workers hired out by agencies was $10.21. Such workers covered by union contracts in Illinois are paid $13 an hour and get health insurance. In Washington state, according to an American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees official, the unionized workers make $14.34; in Oregon, $13; in California, $12.20.

The eight workers who brought the lawsuit the court heard Tuesday don’t want to pay dues to the union that won them their raises, though I’ve seen no reports suggesting they’ve volunteered to give back this additional money and forgo health insurance. In the 1977 case Abood v. Detroit Board of Education , the court ruled that members of public-sector unions were required to pay the portion of union dues that went toward bargaining and administering their contracts. Two years ago, however, an opinion by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., joined by the court’s four other Republican appointees, suggested that the court should reconsider Abood.

The effects of such a reconsideration could be far-reaching. If workers can benefit from contracts without paying even what it costs the unions to secure those contracts, those unions would suffer revenue declines that could render them toothless. Once their unions lost power, home-care givers — a group that is overwhelmingly female, disproportionately minority and almost universally poor — would be highly unlikely to get any more raises. Turnover rates within the care-provider workforce would surely rise.

Such a reconsideration could be of even greater consequence if Alito & Co. go further and rule that no member of a public-employee union should be required to pay the dues that go to securing his or her contract. With the decline of private-sector unions, ­public-employee unions have become the preeminent organizers of voter mobilization campaigns in working-class and minority communities, the leading advocates of immigration reform, the foremost lobby for raising the minimum wage and the all-around linchpin of the modern Democratic Party. A sweeping, party-line ruling by the five conservative justices in Harris could significantly damage the Democrats.

Whatever its effect on the nation’s partisan balance, a ruling that neuters the organizations that poor, working women have joined to win a few dollars an hour more would put a judicial seal of approval on the United States’ towering economic inequality. Well into the New Deal, the Supreme Court consistently overturned laws that enabled workers to win higher wages, helping to delay the advent of the middle-class majority that emerged after World War II. It now has the option to speed that middle class’s demise.


By: Harold Meyerson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, January 21, 2014

January 23, 2014 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Supreme Court, Union Busting | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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