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“Here They Go Again”: Why Women Do Not Love Mike Huckabee

A few weeks ago, right after the dark clouds gathered over Chris Christie’s presidential prospects, some friends and I were having the usual Washington conversation of discussing the rest of the field. After we agreed that it was an awfully B-list bench, someone piped up: Hey, don’t forget Mike Huckabee! He’s losing all the weight!

Clearly, some of that vaporized body mass came out of his brain matter, based on his unhinged comments Wednesday at the Republican Party’s winter meeting. Discussing the GOP’s need to get more of the women’s vote, he said the Democratic Party tells women “they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of government.”

He said this, amazingly, in a speech that, in his mind anyway, was all about how the Republican Party is the true friend of women: “The fact is the Republicans don’t have a war on women, they have a war for women, to empower them to be something other than victims of their gender.”

Here we go again. What galaxy do these right-wing men live in? So now contraception is like welfare? I’m reading him right, right? This is what he said—in essence, that birth control, provided by people who think women can’t control their libidos, makes women “helpless.” It’s the culture of dependency again, but this time transferred from the ghetto to the uterus. The Democrats, I guess, want women to go out and have unrestrained sex, so Democrats can then go out and destroy America by distributing these sinful contraceptive devices. So women, you see, are not human beings with agency and volition about their sexuality in Huckabee Land. They’re nothing more than the cat’s paws of the godless, baby-killing Democrats, who want to keep them on the Democratic plantation. The Pill, the welfare check, the Earned Income Tax Credit—all the work of Satan, propagated by the party of Satan.

As with Todd Akin and other recent Republican men who’ve been such marvelous spokesmen for the female side, it’s just hard to believe that this offensive gibberish even came out of his mouth. And not in an interview, as was the case with Akin, who was caught off-guard, but in a prepared speech! How do these men come to these views?

Just yesterday I discovered an old news clip from late 2012, in which some bozo Ohio state legislator is being interviewed on Al Jazeera. He’s throwing lightning bolts around about how evil abortion is, and he’d really prefer if we could ban it all the time. Then the reporter asks: “What do you think makes a woman want to have an abortion?” This genius hems and haws and finally says: “I don’t know. It’s a question I’ve never even thought about.”

What can one say? The man is trying to ban abortion in the state of Ohio, and he’s never thought about why a woman might want one. Certainly he’d never actually asked a woman. That, I think, is what makes these right-wing men say these deranged things. They either never discuss these matters with women, or they discuss them only with women who are as right-wing and moralistic as they are and who don’t just speak as a normal, apolitical woman with the normal level of sexual desire and activity would. So they haven’t the slightest idea what regular women think, nor the slightest interest in it. That’s just incuriosity. But it’s an incuriosity that produces ignorance and intolerance, which is what the GOP specializes in these days.

The thing about Huckabee is that he used to hide this very well. I’d imagine that deep down, he’s as Old Testament fire-and-brimstone as they come—a biblical literalist, right down to Jonah living in the whale’s stomach, the whole schmear. But he managed not to come across that way. He cracked jokes. He liked reporters (a media-friendly conservative!). He played rock ’n’roll bass guitar, for gosh sakes. If he was a mullah, he was at least a good-natured one who didn’t seem threatening.

But after this speech, forget that. He’s just a mullah now. He’s mad at birth control, which virtually every woman uses and which has been legal in this country for 54 years! And there was no small dose of acid in his voice as he spit out the infamous sentences, and he looked mad. Now, he’s going to be lumped in with Akin and cited, and very rightly so, as Exhibit B (Akin is still A) in why the Republicans would just be better off not talking about women at all and living with a 12- to 14-point gender gap, because every time one of them opens his mouth it just increases.

Incidentally, his cluelessness Wednesday wasn’t limited to women. My colleague Ben Jacobs, who was there, tells me Huck rhapsodized about The Beatles, and how he once fantasized about being the “fifth Beatle” and delivered the opinion that they healed the country after Kennedy’s assassination. He has no idea what he’s talking about. They weren’t interested in “healing” anything. Quite the contrary, they started the revolution that split the country in two, the two sides that are still doing battle, and Huckabee sure ain’t on their side. Reactionary fundamentalists of Huckabee’s ilk despised The Beatles in 1964, and The Beatles—authority-haters and atheists one and all (except for George later, but that was very different), and Lord knows great believers in the powers of contraception—would have despised him. Besides which, they already had a pretty good bassist, Bub.

His rewriting of Beatles history is a minor transgression but it’s of a piece. These people live in a morally simplistic fantasy land that’s impervious to facts and to the very real complexities of life. And he’s reportedly thinking of seeking the GOP nomination again? Come to think of it, he’d be perfect.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, January 24, 2014

January 26, 2014 Posted by | Birth Control, Mike Huckabee, War On Women | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Nobody Is Falling For This”: House Republicans Make Their Regularly Scheduled Threat To Destroy The Global Economy

House Republicans will huddle at their annual retreat next week to decide what will they demand in exchange for raising the debt ceiling.

If the limit on how much the government can borrow to pay off debts Congress has already voted to incur is not raised by late February, the U.S. will default purposely for the first time in American history, triggering a financial crisis that many experts feel would be at least as devastating as the economic meltdown of 2008, which put millions out of work and destroyed trillions in wealth.

The government shutdown in October dominated the discussion during the weeks leading up to the last debt limit crisis. Republicans released a comical list of demands. The White House offered nothing, and that’s essentially what Republicans accepted when they folded on the government shutdown.

Earlier in 2013, Republicans demanded that the Senate pass a budget in exchange for raising the debt limit. The Senate agreed and House Republicans followed the strategy of Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and refused to go into conference with Democrats in the upper house — 18 times. And that’s how we got the shutdown.

Of course, you only have to feed a stray once to keep it scratching at the door. In 2011, House Republicans successfully used the debt limit to extract the automatic cuts known as the sequester, while triggering a near-panic that erased some 1,200 points from the Dow. Because the House has folded twice since then, Wall Street now takes the GOP’s threats as seriously as a Sarah Palin presidential bid, even when America was just hours from a default in October.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) seems to have taken the reins of his caucus after the shutdown disaster and has since passed a two-year budget with little drama over the objections of the outside groups that backed Cruz last year. But the man who negotiated that deal — Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) — was one of the driving forces behind the 2011 crisis and is saying the House will demand something in exchange for raising the debt limit. The chairman of the Budget Committee has keyed in on the so-called “Obamacare Bailout,” which not a bailout at all, but a complex set of mostly deficit-neutral mechanisms that could help insurers if they are forced to take on too many sick customers, or could help cut the deficit if they don’t.

The problem for the GOP is the same mechanism exists in Medicare Part D, which was signed into law by George W. Bush and passed by Republicans — including Paul Ryan.

Still, Republicans plan to dare the president to default “to preserve a massive bailout for insurance companies” knowing that what they’re saying is “one enormous lie.”

Will Republicans give in when they recognize that the president will not cave to their demands, as he has vowed not to over and over again?

New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait believes they will.

Chait — who called the last debt ceiling standoff a domestic “Cuban Missile Crisis,” which the president won —  notes that the House GOP’s argument has devolved from sanctimonious prattle about the debt to a straight-up demand for scattershot “concessions,” which only makes sense if they want to destroy the economy and need some incentive not to do so.

“But you can only try this bluff once,” Chait wrote. “The only way it could still work would be if Obama either paid a ransom or Republicans shot the hostage. Once the mark knows you’re bluffing, it’s over. You can’t do it again. Nobody is falling for this.”

The GOP’s debt scaremongering made a little sense in 2010 when the deficit was over $1 trillion and the long-term debt projections were skyrocketing — though threatening default increased the deficit and an actual default would have exploded it astronomically. But the deficit has been cut in half, mostly thanks to the end of some of the Bush tax breaks for the rich, and any threat of a long-term debt “crisis” may be disappearing, thanks to Obamacare.

debt share gdp

Now the GOP’s theatrics just play into the notion that they blind obstructionists. And if they go too far, they could actually blow the 2014 elections.

Speaker Boehner needs his bluff to be taken seriously by only one constituency — a majority of his caucus.

The 50-70 members of the “suicide caucus” who are more aligned with outside conservative groups than the Speaker are already furious about the budget deal. They’re plotting a rebellion over piecemeal immigration reform that Boehner is preparing to take up, and they’re even planning on joining a retreat organized by Heritage Action that will immediately follow the one being held by leadership.

Boehner has to appear that he’s willing to default up until the exact moment when the pressure from the business community forces him to cave. And hopefully then there will be enough Republicans behind him when he does, so he can prevent a needless catastrophe at the last possible moment.


By: Jason Sattler, The National Memo, January 24, 2014

January 26, 2014 Posted by | Debt Ceiling, GOP | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Fox News’ Unique Approach To Polling”: Foxy Facts, Less Concerned About Accurately Reflecting Public Attitudes

Major news organizations conduct polling and eagerly tout the results, but as regular readers know, Fox News’s polling operation is … what’s the word I’m looking for … unique.

Take the results, for example, from the news network’s latest national survey, published this morning. It included this truly extraordinary gem:

“In the aftermath of the attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Libya, the Obama administration falsely claimed it was a spontaneous assault in response to an offensive online video, even though the administration had intelligence reports that the attacks were connected to terrorist groups tied to al Qaeda.”

Remember, this is part of a question in a poll conducted by an ostensible news organization. It went on to ask respondents, “Which of the following do you think best describes why Obama administration officials gave false information?”

Got that? In a poll that’s supposed to be a legitimate measurement of public attitudes, Fox News tells respondents what to think and then asks them to reflect on the “facts” Fox News has presented to them in the least-objective way imaginable.

Respondents were then asked how much they blame former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the attack in Benghazi, followed by a question about how much they blame President Obama. There were no questions about how much the public might blame the perpetrators of the attack, presumably because that falls well outside the agreed upon narrative.

The more one considers the details of Fox News polling, the more amazing the operation appears.

My colleague Mike Yarvitz flagged another gem from a Fox News poll several months ago:

“The Internal Revenue Service admitted it targeted Tea Party and conservative groups for extra scrutiny. How concerned are you that the government’s surveillance program designed to track terrorists using phone and Internet records will be used in the same way to target specific groups and individuals that may disagree with an administration’s policies?”

Again, note the impressive artistry on display. The question tells you what to think about a manufactured faux controversy, and in this case, quickly changes the subject to raise the specter of government abuse.

As we’ve discussed before, this has been going on for a long while. Indeed, I’ve long marveled at the kind of questions that make their way into a Fox survey, starting in March 2007 when the network’s poll asked, in all seriousness, “Do you think the Democratic Party should allow a grassroots organization like to take it over or should it resist this type of takeover?” Soon after, another Fox poll asked, “Do you think illegal immigrants from Mexico should be given special treatment and allowed to jump in front of immigrants from other countries that want to come to the United States legally, or not?”

In 2009, a Fox poll asked, “Do you think the United Nations should be in charge of the worldwide effort to combat climate change and the United States should report to the United Nations on this effort, or should it be up to individual countries and the United States would be allowed to make decisions on its own?”

In March 2013, a Fox poll asked, “Former President George W. Bush stopped golfing after the start of the Iraq war. Do you think President Barack Obama should stop golfing until the unemployment rate improves and the economy is doing better?”

As a rule, professional news organizations put a great deal of care into how they word polling questions. To get reliable results that accurately reflect public attitudes, surveys have to be careful not to guide respondents or skew their answers.

It’s possible – just possible – Fox is less concerned about accurately reflecting public attitudes, and more interested in advancing an agenda.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 24, 2014

January 26, 2014 Posted by | Fox News, Public Opinion | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Rebranding, Who Needs It: A Genuine Rebranding Is Only A GOP Emergency Fallback Measure

The Mike Huckabee brouhaha yesterday offered about the 155th recent opportunity for non-conservatives to observe that the “rebranding” exercise of the Republican Party isn’t going that well. But as The Atlantic‘s Molly Ball observes today, Republicans really just don’t care:

While Democrats fixate on what they consider the GOP’s failed makeover, Republicans have moved on. The delegates at Thursday’s RNC meeting weren’t brooding over the party’s lack of reorientation. They were getting upbeat briefings about how far the party has come in the past year and how bright the future looks. As Massachusetts Republican committeeman Ron Kaufman told me, the time for “painful self-examination” has passed. “Now we’re implementing it, and it’s going to pay off. Everything couldn’t be better right now for us.”

He’s not wrong. Without changing a thing, Republicans are very well positioned for the midterm elections this year and even for the 2016 presidential election. As the University of Virginia political analyst Larry Sabato recently noted, Republicans are almost guaranteed to keep the House of Representatives in November; they have about a 50-50 chance of taking the majority in the U.S. Senate; and they are likely to keep their majority of the nation’s governor’s mansions. The erosion of public trust in Obama and Democrats spurred by the botched introduction of the healthcare exchanges continues to reverberate in public polling of contests up and down the ballot, erasing the public-opinion edge Democrats gained from the government shutdown and tilting more and more contests in the GOP’s favor, according to Sabato, who on Thursday revised his ratings of three Senate contests, tilting all of them more toward Republicans.

Now anyone who reads this blog surely knows by now that the bright 2014 prospects for an unregenerated GOP are largely baked into the cake, thanks to a sizable midterm turnout advantage, a House landscape with few marginal districts, and a very favorable Senate landscape. And there are just enough grounds for 2016 optimism among Republicans to make a good midterm outcome quite enough to convince most of these birds that a genuine “rebranding” is a fallback measure, only to be used in emergencies, and vastly less attractive than taking a chance on winning with their full freak flag displayed. Meanwhile, there are plenty of bells and whistles a party as wealthy as the GOP can deploy to improve their chances on the margins, as Bell notes:

At Thursday’s RNC meeting, delegates got closed-door briefings on all the ways the GOP has upped its game in the past year. The RNC has been raising money at a record clip, enabling Chairman Reince Priebus to fulfill his goal of staffing an unprecedented national political operation. There are more than 160 field staffers living and organizing in 26 states, and they’ll be in all 50 by the end of the year. There are Hispanic outreach staffers in Colorado, Asian-American staffers in California, African-American organizers in Detroit, a youth director in Pennsylvania. The chairman of the Alaska Republican Party, Peter Goldberg, marveled to me that there are now full-time-staffed RNC field offices in Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau, with more on the way. “That’s never existed before,” he said.

Republicans are also investing tens of millions of dollars in their data, digital, and Internet operations, opening an office in Silicon Valley and hiring numerous tech-savvy staffers. Meanwhile, they’re undertaking a series of picayune but potentially consequential changes to the presidential nominating process….

Democrats roll their eyes at these efforts—see, they say, Republicans think they can dress up the same old ideas with fancy Facebook doodads and slick new slogans, but they’re not fundamentally changing what it is they’re offering in policy and philosophical terms. But to Republicans, the idea that they would change what they stand for was always oversold. The Growth and Opportunity Project’s only policy recommendation was immigration reform—which, granted, hasn’t happened, blocked by House Republicans, though it still could get done this year. The bulk of the report, though, focused on changing the party’s image and effectiveness through rhetoric and tactics.

So no: other than the occasional outcast like John Weaver who still has cache with the MSM, there’s really not much Republicans interest in rebranding any more. They’d just as soon go with what they’ve got and avoid the necessity of compromise if they do win big in 2014 and 2016. All they need now is a decent 2016 presidential candidate, and the troubles afflicting Chris Christie could make that decision more of a fashion show than a civil war. So we’d all do well to stop marveling at the contradictions between “rebranding” rhetoric and the underlying reality. That’s all history now, and will remain so until such time as Republicans find themselves in really big trouble.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, January 24, 2014

January 26, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Media Fantasy Becoming Completely Undone”: GOP’s “Deep Bench” For 2016 Is Now In Splinters

Last time I saw former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, he was sashaying around Tampa, Fla., in 2012 as though we’d see him again, big time, in 2016. Elected with Chris Christie in that 2009 statehouse rebuke to President Obama, he’d been a rising star, tapped to make the 2010 GOP State of the Union reply and an opening night convention address in Tampa. He made sure to shake my hand as I replaced him in the shared CNBC/MSNBC makeup cubby off the convention floor.  Good times. Now McDonnell’s only thoughts of 2016 are making sure he doesn’t spend it in prison, as he fights public corruption charges for taking an estimated $165,000 in gifts from a grifting donor.

Meanwhile his class of 2009 buddy Chris Christie looks at McDonnell and has to worry: the wheels of justice turn slowly, but they turn, and they are inexorably turning now for Christie – lots of them. Between the genuine George Washington Bridge retribution scandal involving his closest aides, and newer charges that his lieutenant governor threatened to use Sandy aid as payback if Hoboken’s mayor blocked a Christie donor’s development deal, the New Jersey governor is vulnerable on more fronts than McDonnell ever was, though to be fair, investigators aren’t in Christie’s kitchen – not yet, anyway.

So concern-troll Hillary Clinton all you want, Beltway pundits. You’re missing the only 2016 story that matters, and not surprisingly, it involves a lot of you. The mainstream media fantasy of a remarkably “deep bench” of 2016 contenders for the GOP was never founded in reality – but such a bench, if it ever existed, is surely in splinters today.

That “deep bench” metaphor, by the way, seems  to have come directly from Mitt Romney’s V.P. vetter Beth Myers, although you had to ask, then and now: if the GOP bench was so deep, how did they wind up with Paul Ryan, who couldn’t even carry his home state of Wisconsin? (More on Ryan in a moment.)

But for now, let’s revisit that bench: It’s not just McDonnell (No. 3 on the National Journal’s 2012 “deep bench” list for 2016) and Christie (he was No. 1) who are finished. No. 2 contender Sen. Marco Rubio is, too: He made a play for the center with immigration reform, panicked and tacked right, and now he’s nobody’s top choice.  Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (lucky No. 7!) flamed out after telling the GOP to stop being “the stupid party,” then acting, well, stupidly, and becoming, by August of 2013, the most unpopular Republican governor in the country (and that’s saying a lot).

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz isn’t even on the list, but he deserves some attention. He came out of nowhere in 2012, but he’s already imploded spectacularly, going from a top-tier contender in early polls to far behind because of his self-promoting and nasty (not to mention extremist) brand of politics.

Sen. Rand Paul made many lists (the National Journal’s No. 6), and he still has a few admirers, especially among his father’s old fans. But Paul has proven to be a lightweight with a plagiarism problem whose one somewhat interesting attribute – his national security and foreign policy skepticism — is politically suicidal with the GOP (and most of the Democratic) establishment. He will not be the GOP nominee.

Then there’s Rep. Paul Ryan, last seen reinventing himself as a friend of the poor and a fan of Pope Francis (even if he couldn’t resist lecturing the pope for his faulty knowledge of capitalism).  He plays a wonk on TV, but badly; his only contribution to the 2012 ticket was to hurt Romney. While the National Journal had Ryan at No. 5, no defeated V.P. candidate has ever become president except FDR, and no number of loving McKay Coppins profiles will ever make Paul Ryan FDR.

While we’re in Wisconsin, let’s look at Gov. Scott Walker, who’s getting a little play now that Christie is tumbling. Walker is a charisma-free Koch brothers toady who has more in common with Christie than alleged statehouse pragmatism:  his own ethically challenged aides, back in Milwaukee. Three Walker associates were convicted in an earlier probe into campaign finance violations; last October, a new investigation began. Walker was named one of the nation’s “worst governors” by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. He is not ready for the glare of a national campaign.

That leaves Jeb Bush (National Journal’s No. 4*). He and his brother are disliked by the Tea Party, but the former Florida governor is beloved by the GOP establishment; he could be said to embody it. But is the country ready for another Bush? His own mother says no, and his wife, Columba, is also said to be against it. And as long as pundits insist Hillary Clinton’s ties with Wall Street could hurt her in this populist era – and they could – Bush’s will do the same thing, because they’re even closer. He went to work for doomed Lehman Brothers after leaving the governor’s mansion, because apparently Bushes aren’t wealthy enough.

Then, sadly, Florida’s state and local pension funds lost $1 billion when the firm went bankrupt. Bush came in for blame, since he was also on the State Board of Administration, which invests public funds, but he insists he played no role in advising public fund administrators to use Lehman. Still, the potential conflict would get new oxygen from a national race.

So let Larry Sabato and Ron Fournier concern-troll Hillary Clinton. It’s true, she may not run, and if she runs, she may not win. But if you want to be president in 2016 — man or woman, black or white, Republican or Democrat — you’d rather be Hillary Clinton than anyone else in the world.

Especially anyone on that shattered GOP bench.

* Just in case you’re curious, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, South Dakota Sen. John Thune and Indiana Rep. Mike Pence rounded out the National Journal list.


By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, January 24, 2014

January 26, 2014 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Media | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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