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“The Dick Morris Award For Pre-Election Hype”: Pre-spinning Elections Is Even More Obnoxious Than Spinning The Results

I know I have zero influence over the rhetoric deployed by Reince Priebus, but still, I’d like to start a backlash against this particular formulation by the RNC chairman:

The way Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus sees it, 2014 won’t be an average election for the party out of power. It’ll be a “tsunami” wave election.

At a Christian Science Monitor Breakfast on Tuesday Priebus said Republicans would see massive gains in the 2014 election, especially in the Senate.

“I think we’re in for a tsunami election,” Preibus said. “Especially at the Senate level.”

“Wave elections” are big-trending events beyond normal electoral expectations. We have two recent examples in 2006 and 2010. “Tsunami” elections, if the term means anything at all, means really big wave elections. 1974 and 1994 are pretty good examples; 2010, at least at the state level, might qualify as well.

It will be normal, not a “wave,” for Republicans to make sizable gains in the Senate this November, if only because of inherently pro-Republican midterm turnout patterns, the tendency of the party holding the White House to lose seats in midterms (especially second-term midterms), and an insanely pro-Republican landscape of seats that happen to be up. If Republicans pick up eight or nine Senate seats, that might represent a “wave.” They’d have to exceed that significantly before we can talk about any sort of “tsunami.”

So cut out the crap, Reince. Pre-spinning elections is even more obnoxious than spinning the results, unless you are angling for the Dick Morris Award for pre-election hype.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, March 18, 2014

March 23, 2014 Posted by | Election 2014, Reince Priebus | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Decline Of Conservative Publishing”: The Days Of Two-Bit Hacks With Anti-Liberal Screeds Getting On Bestseller Lists Are Over

As a liberal who has written a few books whose sales were, well let’s just say “modest” and leave it at that, I’ve always looked with envy at the system that helps conservatives sell lots and lots of books. The way it worked was that you wrote a book, and then you got immediately plugged into a promotion machine that all but guaranteed healthy sales. You’d go on a zillion conservative talk shows, be put in heavy rotation on Fox News, get featured by conservative book clubs, and even have conservative organizations buy thousands of copies of your books in bulk. If you were really lucky, that last item would push the book onto the bestseller lists, getting you even more attention.

It worked great, for the last 15 years or so. But McKay Coppins reports that the success of conservative publishing led to its own decline. As mainstream publishers saw the money being made by conservative houses like Regnery and the occasional breakthrough of books by people like Allan Bloom and Charles Murray, they decided to get into the act with right-leaning imprints of their own. But now, “Many of the same conservatives who cheered this strategy at the start now complain that it has isolated their movement’s writers from the mainstream marketplace of ideas, wreaked havoc on the economics of the industry, and diminished the overall quality of the work.”

I find that last part puzzling; it isn’t as though the anti-Clinton screeds of the 1990s were carefully researched and written with style, but that didn’t stop them from selling well. It seems as though this is mostly a reflection of the problems in the publishing industry as a whole. But one sub-niche that is definitely suffering is the pre-presidential-campaign book. Bizarrely, publishers still compete fervently to sign every last senator running a quixotic presidential campaign, on the off-chance that he might become president and then his book would sell spectacularly. But all but one of the candidates fails, and then the publishers have wasted their money. Just look at the pathetic sales some of these guys have generated:

For example, Tim Pawlenty, a short-lived presidential candidate in 2012, received an advance of around $340,000 for his 2010 book Courage to Stand. But the book went on to sell only 11,689 copies, according to Nielsen Bookscan, which tracks most, but not all, bookstore sales. What’s more, Pawlenty’s political action committee bought at least 5,000 of those copies itself in a failed attempt to get it on the New York Times best-seller list, according to one person with knowledge of the strategy.

This pattern continues as you scan the works of recent and prospective Republican presidential candidates. According to one knowledgeable source, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker received an even larger advance than Pawlenty’s, and Bookscan has his 2013 book Unintimidated selling around 16,000 copies. Sen. Rand Paul’s latest, Government Bullies, has barely cracked 10,000 sold; and despite spending months in the 2012 GOP primaries, Rick Santorum’s book about the founding fathers, American Patriots, sold just 6,538 copies. Perhaps most surprising, Immigration Wars, co-authored by Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor who consistently polls in the top tier of the Republican 2016 field, sold just 4,599 copies.

Meanwhile, Marco Rubio’s 2012 autobiography, American Son, has sold around 36,000 copies — a figure one conservative agent described as “respectable,” before pointing out that Rubio received an astounding $800,000 advance, according to a financial disclosure. The publisher’s bet, he speculated, was that Rubio was going to be selected as Mitt Romney’s running mate. He wasn’t.

Frankly, I have trouble seeing why anyone would want to drop $26 on one of these books, because they’re uniformly awful, even if you really like the guy who “wrote” it. Yet when one after another of these books sells terribly, the publishers keep buying them. This is yet more evidence, in case anyone needed any, that publishers are terrible businesspeople.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, March 20, 2014

March 23, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Rand Paul’s ‘Youth’ Snow Job”: Why He’ll Never, Ever, Ever Win Over Young Voters

With a Chris Christie comeback looking less likely and a Jeb Bush shadow campaign only just now entering its preliminary stages, the political media that isn’t tethered to the Hillary Clinton beat — where news of no news is treated as news — has turned its eyes to Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul, the man who will singlehandedly bring his party into the 21st century by referencing modern cultural touchstones like Pink Floyd, Domino’s pizza and Monica Lewinsky. The narrative, pushed by Paul’s office and accepted by bored, middle-aged members of the press, is that the 51-year-old libertarian is just what Republicans needs to win over millennial voters and reclaim the White House in 2016.

To be blunt: This is a stupid narrative and everyone who isn’t being paid by the Republican Party to promote it needs to stop.

Before getting into why the idea of Millennial Man Rand Paul is nonsense, it’s worth unpacking the argument. To be fair, it’s a bit more sophisticated than what I’ve described above. As Joe Gandelman put it in a deeply unpersuasive article for the Week, the curly-haired lover of liberty “has appeal to millennials disillusioned by intrusive government surveillance and aggressive drone strikes,” and that means he “could really boost his numbers in GOP contests if he’s able to mobilize young voters…” This could “snowball,” Gandelman writes, so long as Paul can convince the kids that he’s “truly a candidate of change,” a proposition made all the more likely by the fact that “Paul would be the first GOP nominee whose ideology is genuinely anchored in libertarianism, with positions that often can’t be neatly categorized.”

Putting those last two assertions aside — I’d say Barry Goldwater’s ideology was quite clearly “anchored in libertarianism” and that libertarian positions can, in fact, be “neatly categorized” as, well, libertarian — Gandelman’s argument boils down to the following: Young people don’t like the NSA and drones, so they might vote for Paul, who is also a skeptic of the post-9/11 national security paradigm. Yet while he’s right that millennial voters are far less comfortable with spying and drone strikes than the rest of the electorate, Gandelman exaggerates the intensity of their disaffection.

On spying, for example, it’s true that young voters are more concerned with civil liberties; but as a 2013 Washington Post poll found, 18- to 39-year-old Americans still think investigating terrorist threats is more important than preserving civil liberties, by a breakdown of 52 to 45 percent. On drone strikes, meanwhile, a 2013 Fox News poll finds the conventional wisdom to be even more out of touch: by a score of 65 to 32 percent, respondents under the age of 35 said they approve of the U.S. using drones to kill suspected terrorists on foreign soil. In fact, the only scenario for which a majority of the under-35 crowd disapproves of drone strikes is if the suspect is an American citizen and the strike takes place on U.S. soil. Even then, it’s hardly a blowout, with 44 percent registering their approval.

So Gandelman’s pretty wrong, any way you slice it. But a better argument for Paul’s appealing to young voters is possible, and was indeed offered by Ross Kaminsky in the American Spectator. Instead of leaning so heavily on the assumption that kids these days hate Big Brother, Kaminsky notes that on issues where millennial voters really stick out from the rest — marriage equality and immigration reform — Paul has tried to “thread the needle” by adopting positions that are slightly more nuanced than the GOP norm. Paul’s against same-sex marriage, yes, but he thinks it’s an issue best “left to the states” and has argued that a reform of the tax code, “so it doesn’t mention marriage,” would save the country from having to “redefine what marriage is…” On immigration reform, too, Paul ultimately votes with the rest of his party, but does so while leaving some wiggle room for expanding the work visa program and legal immigration in general.

Better is a relative term, however. While it’s true that Paul doesn’t usually sound like an unreconstructed homophobe on the issue of gay marriage, it’s also true that Paul has jokingly compared same-sex marriage to polygamy and bestiality, putting himself in the same company as that noted champion of individual rights, Rick Santorum. Moreover, while nuance is nice, the fact remains that Paul is, objectively, against marriage equality. Why would a millennial voter who cares about LGBTQ issues support the guy who opposes marriage equality, and compared same-sex partnerships to bestiality, over a candidate who doesn’t do either of those things? Because nuance? Further, why would a millennial voter who wants to see immigration reform happen in this country support a candidate who doesn’t? Because he’s willing to accept immigrants as a source of labor, even if he doesn’t think they deserve a path to citizenship? Because, again, nuance?

Granted, Kaminsky and his fellow travelers would probably say that while Paul won’t win millennials over on these issues, his “balanced” approach might be enough to keep them from dismissing him before listening any further. There’s probably something to that. But there’s still a problem: It’s not like millennials are exactly in sync with Paul’s views on economic issues, either. Kaminsky’s implication that younger voters would thrill to Paul’s doctrinaire laissez faire approach to the economy, if they could only look past social issues, just doesn’t withstand even a little bit of scrutiny.

It’s true that millennial voters are not nearly as enthusiastic about the positive role government can play in promoting social and economic equality as they were in the early days of the Obama era. Back then, according to a 2009 report from the Dem-aligned Center for American Progress, as much as two-thirds of young voters said that government should provide more services, while three-fourths said there were more things the government could and should be doing. A half-decade of Democratic incompetence and Tea Party obstruction has definitely taken its toll.

Nevertheless, a Pew Research Center report put out earlier this month found that the majority of millennials still want to see their government do more, not less, to even the playing field. Asked to choose between smaller government with fewer services and bigger government with more services, 53 percent of millennials chose the latter while only 38 percent picked the former. And even though 54 percent of them oppose Obamacare, only 44 percent agree with Paul that it’s not the government’s job to ensure health insurance coverage for all. Perhaps the most telling finding of the whole report in this regard concerns Social Security, that longtime bugaboo of Paul and libertarians like him. Despite the fact that a whopping 51 percent of millennials believe they’ll receive no Social Security benefits by the time they’re eligible, and despite the fact that 53 percent of millennials think government should focus spending on helping the young rather than the old, a remarkable 61 percent of young voters oppose cutting Social Security benefits in any way, full stop.

Persuasive as they can be, though, polls can’t tell us everything. As mentioned earlier, History happens, and people’s views can change. Demography may be a more reliable metric, then (even if too many Democrats have succumbed to the fallacious “demography is destiny” belief that a more racially diverse rising electorate will guarantee Dems a permanent majority). Paul certainly appears to be thinking about the country’s demographic changes; he seemingly can’t go 10 minutes into an interview or public statement without noting that his party must be more “inclusive” and “welcoming” to what Republicans like to call, in a triumph of euphemism, “non-traditional” voting blocs.

But as his much-discussed speech last year at Howard University — and his recent decision to chide Obama for failing to remember how Martin Luther King was spied upon — can attest, Paul’s version of outreach is not without its blemishes. He deserves some amount of credit for recognizing that non-white voters matter, too, I guess. But as is the case with immigration and same-sex marriage, Paul’s attempts at nuance are more than outweighed by his concrete policy stances. Simply put, I doubt that a young voter of color is going to look sympathetically at the image of a white, Southern conservative whitesplaining Martin Luther King to the first African American president — especially if that voter happens to know that Paul supports modern versions of the voter suppression tactics King and other civil rights heroes risked their lives to end. And what do you think the chances are that a Democratic presidential candidate would bring up Paul’s infamous attack on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 during a national campaign? I’d say they’re pretty, pretty, pretty good.

To recap, here’s the case for Rand Paul, millennial hero: He’s against surveillance and drone strikes, two issues on which the millennial vote is divided; he’s against comprehensive immigration reform and same-sex marriage, two things that millennial voters strongly support; he’s against big government and universal health care, two more things a majority of millennial voters back; and he likes to talk about getting people of color to vote for him, despite supporting voter suppression and the right of businesses to engage in race-based discrimination. Oh, and he’s comfortable telling the first black president, the one who “surrounds himself with Martin Luther King memorabilia in [the] Oval Office,” how he’s failing to live up to King’s legacy.

So can we stop with this nonsense now? Please?


By: Elias Isquith, Assistant Editor, Salon, March 22, 2014

March 23, 2014 Posted by | Millennnials, Rand Paul | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Religion Is No Excuse for Bigotry Against Women”: Corporations Have No Soul, And They Certainly Don’t Have A Relationship With God

This Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in two consolidated cases, Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius, on the government’s authority to require employers to provide health care coverage that includes birth control and other pregnancy-related services under the Affordable Care Act.

The owners of two for-profit corporations, Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., claim their Christian religious beliefs justify withholding contraception coverage from their employees, never mind what their employees believe.

Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialities are not the only employers seeking the legal right to restrict their women employees’ access to birth control. Some 100 companies or nonprofit organizations — NOW calls them the Dirty 100 — have sued the United States Government for that same power.

Two issues raised by these lawsuits are receiving a lot of attention: First, can a corporation claim religious freedom under the First Amendment? Second, can a corporation block its employees from at least some forms of contraception on the grounds they are abortifacients? I’ll comment on those in a moment, but first I want to pause over a third issue: Can a corporation use its supposed Christian religion to justify discriminating against its women employees?

I want to propose that we lay to rest, once and for all, the tired old I’m-a-bigot-because-God-wants-it argument. Think about it. Proponents of discrimination have routinely used religion to justify their hurtful policies: two shameful examples are slavery in the United States and segregation in the Deep South.

More recently, religious claims were the driving force behind California’s Proposition 8, which sought to prohibit same-sex marriages. But these arguments have been thoroughly discredited. We have progressed as a society to the point where the use of religion to justify excluding, demeaning or discriminating against whole groups of people is roundly condemned, and rightly so. The idea of Hobby Lobby Stores, Conestoga Wood, or any of the Dirty 100 using religion as an excuse to block women’s access to birth control should be no less condemned.

As to whether Hobby Lobby Stores or Conestoga Wood can claim religious freedom SCOTUSblog summarized what’s at stake.

At the level of their greatest potential, the two cases raise the profound cultural question of whether a private, profit-making business organized as a corporation can “exercise” religion and, if it can, how far that is protected from government interference. The question can arise — and does, in these cases — under either the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause or under a federal law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed by Congress in 1993.

In a manner of speaking, these issues pose the question — a topic of energetic debate in current American political and social discourse — of whether corporations are “people.” The First Amendment protects the rights “of the people,” and the 1993 law protects the religious rights of “persons.” Do profit-making companies qualify as either?

As an aside, I have to wonder, if the Supreme Court decides that a corporation is a “person” with religious freedom under the First Amendment, where might that leave the status of women as “persons” with the right to equal protection of the law under the Fourteenth Amendment? In any event, Caroline Mala Corbin, a law professor at the University of Miami, succinctly rejected the idea of corporations as having the capacity for religious belief. As she said, “For-profit corporations do not and should not have religious rights. They have no soul, and they certainly don’t have a relationship with God.”

So, what about the claim that Hobby Lobby Stores and others in the Dirty 100 are making, that some forms of contraception are actually abortifacients? Two summaries by the National Partnership for Women & Families (here and here) are worth reading, and I’d be interested to know if you have the same reaction that I did when I read them.

These arguments would be laughable if the men running the Dirty 100 entities weren’t so deadly serious about blocking women’s access to life-saving health care. Because that’s what contraception is: life-saving. Unintended pregnancy is highly associated with infant and maternal mortality. Unintended pregnancy is also a significant risk factor for domestic violence.

So when these guys start saying that they have to, just have to, block women’s access to safe and effective contraception because they’re worried about the “lives” of the zygotes, I want to say: Seriously?

You are going to claim to be pro-life but ignore infant mortality? And maternal mortality? You are going to claim to be confused and worried about the fertilized egg, and the implantation, and the uterine wall, but ignore the intimate partner violence that accompanies unintended pregnancy? What business do you have talking about women’s bodies — as if we are not in the room — in the same way one might talk about, say, whether robots are more like androids or more like appliances? Seriously.

Let’s review some facts. Some 99 percent of sexually active women, including 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women, use contraception at some point. According to the National Partnership, an estimated 17.4 million women need subsidized services and supplies because they are unable to access or purchase contraceptive services and supplies on their own. And more than half of young adult women say cost concerns have led them to not use their birth control method as directed.

The Guttmacher Institute has found that about half (51 percent) of the 6.6 million pregnancies in the United States each year (3.4 million) are unintended. What’s more, the 19 percent of women at risk who use contraception inconsistently or incorrectly account for 43 percent of all unintended pregnancies.

Yet, in the face of these facts, Hobby Lobby and the others in the Dirty 100 want to restrict women’s access to this essential preventive care because of the claim that “zygotes are people too.”

If that’s the best they can do, they should surely lose this appeal. Of course, the case is before Chief Justice John Robert’s Supreme Court, which ushered in the era of corporations as people with the Citizens United case, and is widely considered the most politically active since the earliest days of our republic. So never say never. But whatever the Supreme Court does, I know what I’m not going to do: give my business or my money to Hobby Lobby or any of the other Dirty 100 that practice similar gender bigotry.

You can take action too: Click here to sign our petition telling them their bias is not acceptable.


By: Terry O’Neil, President, National Organization for Women; The Blog,  The Huffington Post, March 21, 2014

March 23, 2014 Posted by | Contraception, SCOTUS, Women's Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“David Vitter, God Bless The Koch Brothers”: The Most Patriotic Americans In The History Of The Earth

It stands to reason that Republican politicians are going to celebrate Charles and David Koch. After all, the billionaires’ generosity is critically important in conservative politics right now and may ultimately be the deciding factor in which party has power in Congress.

But Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) is willing to take his appreciation for the Koch brothers to a pretty extraordinary level, as evidenced by a town-hall event in Shreveport this week. American Bridge posted the above video (, and for those who can’t watch clips online, the conservative senator told constituents:

“I think the Koch brothers are two of the most patriotic Americans in the history of the Earth. […]

“God bless the Koch brothers. They’re fighting for our freedoms.”

Sure, Republicans are bound to be grateful to the billionaires for saturating the airwaves with anti-Democratic attack ads, but Vitter’s effusive praise seemed a little over the top.

Burgess Everett saw an even longer version of the clip and reported that Vitter, as part of the same discussion, said he’s “not defending big money in politics.”

No, of course not.  He’s just grateful that the most patriotic Americans in the history of the Earth are fighting for our freedoms.

It’s worth noting that Louisiana will host two major elections in the next two years: Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) is running for re-election this year, and she’s already facing attack ads from the Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity, and Vitter is running for governor next year, and likely hopes the Kochs’ operation will support his candidacy.

But there’s an even larger context to this: what is it, exactly, the most patriotic Americans in the history of the Earth hope to receive in exchange for their political investments?

The New York Times reports today on the bigger picture.

As [Americans for Prosperity] emerges as a dominant force in the 2014 midterm elections, spending up to 10 times as much as any major outside Democratic group so far, officials of the organization say their effort is not confined to hammering away at President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. They are also trying to present the law as a case study in government ineptitude to change the way voters think about the role of government for years to come.

“We have a broader cautionary tale,” said Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity. “The president’s out there touting billions of dollars on climate change. We want Americans to think about what they promised with the last social welfare boondoggle and look at what the actual result is.”

Leaders of the effort say it has great appeal to the businessmen and businesswomen who finance the operation and who believe that excess regulation and taxation are harming their enterprises and threatening the future of the country. The Kochs, with billions in holdings in energy, transportation and manufacturing, have a significant interest in seeing that future government regulation is limited.

Indeed, Wonkblog reported just yesterday that a Koch Industries subsidiary is the biggest lease owner in Canada’s tar sands, covering an area of 1.1 million acres. The piece added, “Separately, industry sources familiar with oil sands leases said Koch’s lease holdings could be closer to 2 million acres.”

This helps bring into sharper focus why the Democratic fight with the Koch brothers has become so important. The dispute isn’t about some misleading AFP attack ads about health care reform; this is about a broader agenda.

As Greg Sargent explained this morning, “The real purpose of the Dem strategy is to create a framework for a broader argument about the true goals and priorities of the actual GOP policy agenda. It’s about tapping into a sense that the economy is rigged against ordinary Americans, and in favor of the one percent, and dramatizing that the GOP’s economic agenda would preserve that status quo, blocking any government policies designed to address stagnant mobility and soaring inequality. Or that, as Jonathan Chait puts it, the GOP has ‘built a policy agenda around plutocracy,’ and its primary ‘organizing purpose is to safeguard the economic interests of the very rich.’”

And it’s against this backdrop that David Vitter proclaims, “God bless the Koch brothers. They’re fighting for our freedoms.”


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 20, 2014

March 23, 2014 Posted by | Election 2014, Koch Brothers, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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