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“The Dumbest Rock In The Box”: Unemployed Ken Cuccinelli Finds A Job With Rand Paul Suing Obama

Say you’re Ken Cuccinelli. You’ve recently lost the Virginia governor’s race to Terry McAuliffe, of all people. You’ve given up your post as America’s most litigious state attorney general. A good chunk of the GOP establishment resents your hyper-conservative crazy talk for damaging the brand. Yet another snowstorm is bearing down on the nation’s capital in what has been a particularly cold and miserable winter—and despite this, most Americans still believe that global warming is a real thing. How on earth do you pull yourself out of this funk?

Sue the president, of course! And the Director of National Intelligence! And the heads of the FBI and NSA! And anyone else you can think of who might know anything about the massive government spying program that Edward Snowden revealed to such great effect. And to guarantee public attention (because, really, at this point, why should anyone be paying attention to you?), file the suit on behalf of someone vastly more popular than you—for instance, libertarian nerd-chic rockstar and 2016 presidential hopeful Rand Paul.

So it was that, late Wednesday morning, Cuccinelli and Paul stood before a gaggle of political reporters on the freezing plaza outside the E. Barrett Prettyman district court house, a vaguely Soviet-looking box of a building just a couple of blocks west of the Capitol, to tout their freshly filed complaint against a government gone wild in its violation of the Fourth Amendment. In his brief remarks, Paul cited the “huge and growing swell of protest” against the government’s overzealous monitoring of its own citizenry. To illustrate what he predicts will be “a historic lawsuit”—a class action complaint on behalf of every American citizen who has used a telephone in the past seven-plus years—Paul brandished two fistfuls of cell phones (including one with an especially snazzy leopard-print case). Considering the hundreds of millions of Americans who use phones, he noted gravely, this case “may well be the largest civil action lawsuit on behalf of the Constitution.”

Paul and Cuccinelli did not stand alone, physically or metaphorically. The Tea Partying libertarians at FreedomWorks are co-plaintiffs in this case, and a couple dozen of the groups’ young ground troops had been milling about in the cold for the past hour, chanting and snapping pics and generally lending some pep to the proceedings. After Paul got the presser rolling, FreedomWorks president Matt Kibbe, characteristically hipsterish in his black-rimmed specs and blade-like sideburns, offered his take. “This is one of the most important things my organization has been involved in,” he asserted. “This isn’t a Republican vs. Democrat issue. It isn’t about the Obama administration. The government has crossed a line.” Kibbe then assured everyone that FreedomWorks was going to “put that genie back in the bottle.”

As lead counsel, Cuccinelli fielded questions about the legal whys and hows of the suit. Yes, he is optimistic that this will go all the way to the Supreme Court. No, he does not expect it to be tried in conjunction with a similar suit brought by Larry Klayman, the lawsuit-happy conservative gadfly who has a similar complaint wending its way through the courts. Is he worried about “standing”—that is, showing that his clients have themselves been injured and so have the legal right to file this complaint? Don’t be ridiculous! “If you use a phone—and both my clients do—then they are injured by the gathering of this information,” he insisted. Most fundamentally, why exactly are Paul et al even bothering with this crusade when there are multiple other suits already farther along in the pipeline? “The other cases thus far are on behalf of individuals,” explained Cuccinelli. “That does not provide relief for every American using telephones.” By contrast, this class action seeks not only to end the data collection but also to compel the government to purge its databases of all info amassed since 2006. In other words: When Paul wins, we all win!

And make no mistake, Senator Paul has his eye on winning—though political watchers suspect he is focused on a juicier prize than some random lawsuit, even a constitutionally “historic” one. It has, for instance, been repeatedly noted that Paul’s online effort to gather the signatures of Americans upset by the NSA’s spy games will yield a fat database of like-minded voters that could be usefully mined for, say, a presidential campaign.

As for Paul’s new BFF, bringing Virginia’s lightning-rod ex-AG on board with this case makes better political sense than legal sense. Not to question Cooch’s legal chops, but surely Paul had his pick of Fourth Amendment geniuses. In fact, Paul and Cuccinelli are currently embroiled in a nasty spat with former Reagan administration attorney Bruce Fein—who spent the past several months working with Paul on this complaint before being unceremoniously jettisoned for Cuccinelli.

It’s not just that Fein’s people are ticked that Cuccinelli has taken over the case; they are accusing the former AG of appropriating huge chunks of a legal brief previously written by Fein. As Fein’s spokesman (and ex-wife) Mattie Fein fumed to the Washington Post on the very day of the presser, “I am aghast and shocked by Ken Cuccinelli’s behavior and his absolute knowledge that this entire complaint was the work product, intellectual property and legal genius of Bruce Fein.” Testy emails have been zipping back-and-forth between Teams Paul, Cuccinelli, and Fein, complete with finger-pointing and name calling. In one, Mattie, somewhat indelicately, called Cucinnelli “dumb as a box of rocks.” Bottom line, she told the Post, “Ken Cuccinelli stole the suit.”

From a political perspective, however, one can easily imagine why Paul would value this particular box of rocks. While the senator already has the love and trust of the GOP’s small-government enthusiasts, he needs to do some serious wooing of its social conservatives. Thus, for example, his recent efforts to revive the Clinton scandals of the 1990s. So who better to ally himself with in his current undertaking than anti-abortion, anti-gay-rights champion Cuccinelli? For many of the same reasons that Virginia women gave their AG the cold shoulder in November’s gubernatorial election, Republican “values voters” love the guy. Paul’s making common cause with Cuccinelli could help soothe some of the base’s suspicions regarding the libertarian senator’s moral fitness.

Not to suggest that the senator isn’t genuine in his outrage over the NSA’s antics. Those Paul men are nothing if not consistent in their small-government passions. But if linking arms with Cooch in this crusade happens to serve Paul’s broader political aims, where’s the harm? (Unless you’re Bruce Fein, of course.)

Certainly, Cuccinelli seems happy with the arrangement.  At Wednesday’s presser, after Paul bid the media farewell to return to his senate duties, the former AG hung around to answer additional questions. As the TV camera guys broke down their equipment and the FreedomWorks activists began drifting back down Constitution Ave., Cuccinelli lingered on the plaza, surrounded by a tight circle of reporters. Nothing takes the sting out of a frigid winter day like a warm bath of attention.


By: Michele Cottle, The Daily Beast, February 13, 2014

February 14, 2014 Posted by | Politics, Rand Paul | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Cultivating The Right Wing”: Rand Paul Woos The Base With Hot Monica Lewinsky Talk

What on earth is Rand Paul thinking, bringing up Monica Lewinsky? On cable TV, they shake their talking heads: ancient history, irrelevant, etc. Quite true, it’s all those things. But in terms of intra-GOP presidential-positioning politics, I think it’s actually quite shrewd, and another sign that he is not to be underestimated in terms of possibly nabbing the GOP nomination. Unfortunately for Paul—although fortunately for America—it’s only shrewd in terms of intra-GOP politics. Among the rest of the electorate, responses will range from indifference to hostility, and the “GOP War on Women” narrative won’t suffer a scratch.

Here’s what Paul is doing. First, he’s getting right with the base. As a devolutionist-libertarian, he takes some unorthodox positions from the conservative point of view—his neo-isolationist, anti-neocon foreign policy views, his comparatively soft-line views on same-sex marriage (he’s not for it, but he’d leave it to the states). There are reasons, in other words, for hard-shell conservatives to give him the gimlet eye.

Given that, what are some ways to make conservatives think you’re “one of us” without having to alter those positions, which he surely knows would be a disaster for him, destroying the very basis of his appeal as principled and so on? Find something conservatives hate and say you hate it too. What bigger something than the Clintons? Well, there’s Obama, but hating on him is old hat. Dredging up Lewinsky, on the other hand, shows that some care was taken to cultivate conservatives. As Paul knows, Clinton-hatred is still mother’s milk for that crowd.

He is also, as Peter Beinart noted, aiming specifically at the Christian Right. He’s been doing this for some time now, talking, for example, of the persecution of Christian minorities around the world. His father never bothered much with evangelicals, an error the son, recognizing their importance in the Iowa GOP caucuses, clearly hopes not to make.

I think there’s a final reason, which emotionally is the most important of all. When Muhammad Ali was Cassius Clay, when he was still months away from a title shot against champ Sonny Liston, he’d knock out the latest second-rater in three rounds and then, when they stepped into the ring to interview him, carry on about how all he wanted was a fight with Liston: “I want that big brown bear!” The more he talked, the more promoters and fans were able to visualize a Clay-Liston fight.

The more Paul talks about the Clintons, the more he sets up the mental picture in the brains of Republican primary voters of him being the logical guy to step into the ring with them. After all, they’ll think, he’s sure not afraid of them!

It’s very smart (all this assumes of course that Hillary Clinton runs and is the Democratic nominee). All the other Republican candidates laying into the Clintons will look like Johnny-come-latelys. Paul spoke up first.

But the good it does him ends there. Here we return to the age-old Republican blind spot on issues relating to groups that don’t vote for them. Republicans think they can make everything better with words and symbolism. Just get our candidates to stop saying these stupid things like Todd Akin did. Speak respectfully. Sensitively. Appoint more women to high-profile thingies. It’ll be fine.

That isn’t how politics works. How politics works is that people actually care about substance to a surprising degree, and they know which party is representing their interests and which party is not. And women, by 12 percentage points at last count, know that Republicans are not. All right, it’s slightly more complicated than that—married women vote Republican, as do white women. But last I checked, African American women and Latina women and single women are women, too, and each of them has the same one vote that a married white woman has.

And overall—don’t take it from me, take it from the numbers—the women of America have decided that the GOP isn’t on their side. And it’s not because of the offal that flows out of the mouths of Todd Akin and company, really. It’s because of policies. And Rand Paul supports every one of those party policies.

Funny, but his libertarianism does not extend to giving a woman the right to decide whether to have an abortion. It did, however, in March 2012, extend to the “freedom” of religious institutions that were fighting the expanded requirement for contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act. You may remember the Blunt Amendment, which sought vast conscience exemptions from the coverage requirement. Paul voted for it.

I could keep going and going. Just last month, Paul floated the idea of a federal cap on welfare benefits for women who have more children. It is true that 16 states have such caps, and it’s not necessarily an ill-intentioned thought that saying “no more money for another child” might produce the desired effect of women not having those children. The problem is that in real life there seems to be no correlation. So the net effect is really just to increase the number of women and children living in poverty.

Then there’s little gem of a quote: “The whole thing with the War on Women, I sort of laughingly say, ‘yeah there might have been,’ but the women are winning it.” He said this two weeks ago. Let’s just say I doubt many professional women would agree.

If Paul really thinks that he can get women to overlook this record (and there’s much more) and decide to vote for him because Bill Clinton made some yakahoola with an intern, he’s as clueless as Reince Priebus is with his Latino and gay outreach. This is a case where the better scenario is that he’s just being cynical for the sake of snagging GOP votes. If he actually believes what he’s saying—well, God help us, but it does make him a natural to become the nominee of that party.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, February 12, 2014

February 14, 2014 Posted by | Rand Paul, Right Wing | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Universal Voting”: The “No Lines” Solution To Long Election Lines

As we wonder whether the sensible bipartisan recommendations of the president’s “Lines Commission” will gain any real traction, WaMo Contributing Editor (and former Oregen Secretary of State) Phil Keisling reminds us once again in a piece at Governing that there’s one election reform available that makes the whole issue moot:

During the 2012 election, an estimated 10 million voters spent at least 30 minutes — and some of them many hours — waiting in line. Amidst contentious partisan accusations about “voter fraud” and “voter suppression,” perhaps we can’t expect more than a catalog of small to mid-sized fixes to build a better polling place.

However, the core problem with America’s election system – or, more accurately, with its 8,000 separately administered election systems – isn’t too-long lines or poorly run polling stations. The real problem is our insistence on polling stations, period, and the small-ball assumption that voting lines can only be shortened — rather than abolished entirely.

The way to abolish them entirely, of course, is to adopt a universal vote-by-mail system like those already utilized by Oregon, Washington, and–beginning this year–Colorado.

Universal ballot delivery fundamentally upends the election-administration universe. In 47 states, governments require registered voters to seek out their ballots, either by going to a polling place (refurbished or not) or by applying for an absentee ballot. Meanwhile, America’s three “voter-centric” states require the government to mail ballots to all registered voters.

By eliminating polling places and the need for so many election-day workers, Oregon taxpayers save millions of dollars each election cycle. Ballot processing and verification procedures — checking all signatures against voter registration records, which also renders moot the whole photo-ID debate — can be more uniformly applied than at the precinct-by-precinct level. Recounts… are based on individual paper ballots, not software code.

Creating such a voter-centric election system also significantly increases voter turnout, especially in elections where the absence of lines is the real problem. In the 2010 mid-term elections, Oregon and Washington ranked first and second in percentage of registered voters casting ballots. (Across all 50 states, the same turnout rates would have meant about 25 million more votes cast.) More dramatic still, party-primary turnout rates of 40 percent or higher in states with universal ballot delivery are double, even quadruple, the rates in most states.

I’d note that California utilizes a limited version of this system, allowing one to register as a “by mail” voter who will automatically receive ballots (and background materials on issues and candidates) by mail that can be cast by mail or in person, so long as the voter keeps voting. The percentage of California ballots cast by mail rose to 65% for primaries and 51% for the general election in 2012.

Voting by mail is obviously more convenient for most voters–particularly those who work on Election Day–but as Keisling points out, it also eliminates much of the chicanery attempted by local election officials with respect to in-person balloting, whether it’s done before or on Election Day.

And there are no lines between your kitchen table and the mailbox.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, February 13, 2014

February 14, 2014 Posted by | Elections, Voting Rights | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Voting For Default”: Paul Ryan’s Embarrassing Debt Ceiling Vote

After Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) decided to put a clean debt ceiling bill up for a vote yesterday evening, he had a new challenge: finding enough Republican votes to go along with the Democrats to pass it.

Although Boehner doesn’t normally vote, he did this time. He then asked others in the Republican leadership to follow his lead.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif) both did so, along with lead deputy whip Peter Roskam (R-Ill.).

He hoped some of his committee chairmen would step up as well. Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.), Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) and Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) all gave their support.

One name absent from that list: Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.).

Ryan’s vote against the debt ceiling bill was particularly disappointing.

In recent months, Ryan has transitioned from a stubborn ideologue to a pragmatic leader, most notably in his willingness to broker a budget deal that relaxed sequestration. Just yesterday, he criticized the vast majority in the Congress for looking to undo the changes to military pensions that were included in that budget agreement. (A bill undoing the cuts passed 326-90 in the House.) Despite facing numerous bipartisan opposition, Ryan has stuck by those cuts.

He also undoubtedly understands how catastrophic it would be for the United States to default. He understood that leadership was concerned about the bill passing and were looking for leaders in the House to vote for it.

In addition, raising the debt ceiling authorizes the spending that he personally negotiated in the Murray-Ryan budget. Ryan knows this isn’t new spending. It’s not a blank check. This just allows us to actually pay our bills.

For Ryan, this was likely all about politics. He may still have his eye on a 2016 presidential run (though I don’t think he does) and if not, he certainly will consider it in the future. If the deciding vote came down to him, I have no doubt that he would have voted in the affirmative. Once he realized he didn’t need to support the bill, he took the easy way out and opposed it.

This should be embarrassing for Ryan. For someone who prides himself on being serious, he voted for a possible U.S. default instead of authorizing paying for spending that he personally negotiated. Sometimes, leaders need to take tough votes for the sake of their caucus and the country. Both the Republican Party and the United States needed yesterday’s bill to pass. That’s why Boehner, McCarthy and the 26 other Republicans voted for it. They knew it wouldn’t play well with their constituents, but they did it anyway.

Ryan should have been a part of that group.


By: Danny Vinik, Business Insider, February 13, 2014

February 14, 2014 Posted by | Debt Ceiling, Paul Ryan | , , , , | 1 Comment

“Gun Crazy In South Carolina”: America’s Next Top Shooting Gallery

Is South Carolina America’s next O.K. Corral?

If that sounds like an exaggeration, then take a look at the radical, pro-gun proposal just endorsed by Governor Nikki Haley, the Tea Party favorite who is running for reelection this year, after a tumultuous first term. Crafted by state Senator Lee Bright of Spartanburg, one of Lindsay Graham’s opponents in the GOP Senate primary, the “Constitutional Carry Act” would eliminate the state’s permit and training requirements for citizens who want to carry guns.

That’s right: If you were a resident of South Carolina and wanted to carry a weapon—concealed or otherwise—then under this law you could. No classes, no tests, no background checks, no questions. I have no problem with guns—I grew up in a gun-owning household, and I’ve used firearms myself—but this is insane.

Sen. Bright, explaining the proposal, told The State newspaper that the Second Amendment “gives Americans the right to carry firearms without any government restrictions.” Permits, in other words, are unnecessary. And Governor Haley, offering her take, told reporters that “criminals are dangerous,” and that she thinks “that every resident should be allowed to protect themselves from criminals.”

Because this bill lowers the barrier to owning a firearm in South Carolina, there’s a good chance it would spark a measurable increase in gun ownership, as well as guns owned per person. And while someone, somewhere, might stop a crime with their firearm, it’s far more likely—in the absence of any kind of safety training or background checks—that this law would exacerbate accidents and violence involving guns, to say nothing of boosting the export of firearms to other states, where South Carolina is a national leader—the state has the sixth highest rate of “gun exports,” i.e., guns sold legally in South Carolina that are later used in crimes in other states.

Yes, Vermont has a similar law on the books, but it doesn’t have South Carolina’s terrible reputation for gun violence. Haley’s state is the seventh-deadliest for gun crime, with 5 gun murders for every 100,000 people in 2010, compared to the national average of 3.6 per 100,000. Overall, from 2001 through 2010 there were 5,991 people killed by guns in South Carolina. Law enforcement officers are especially vulnerable—between 2002 and 2011, sixteen law enforcement agents were killed by guns, the fourth worse rate in the nation.

Worse, South Carolina is the fourth worst state in the country on the rate of women murdered by guns—64 percent above the national average—and it ranks second-worst on the rate of women murdered by men in domestic violence incidents. In half of those crimes, guns were used.

When you also consider that South Carolina has a “Stand Your Ground” law that—like Florida’s—is a boon to the trigger happy, then—if this bill becomes law—you have a recipe for even more gun violence in the name of “stopping criminals.”

Now, if you see the Second Amendment as inviolable—a sanctification of our supposedly God-given right to firearms—then I doubt this weighs on you. Senseless death is just the price of freedom. For the rest of us, however, the prospect of a fully armed state—where guns flow freely and the law is biased toward shooters—is terrifying.


By: Jamelle Bouie, The Daily Beast, February 13, 2014

February 14, 2014 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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