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“The Big Tent Just Got Smaller”: Congressional Republicans, Nobody Here But Us Christians

Among the many shocking things about Eric Cantor’s defeat yesterday, the one that shocked me most is the realization that he is currently the only publicly-identified non-Christian Republican in Congress. Not just the highest-ranking Jewish Republican, or the highest-ranking non-Christian Republican, but the only non-Christian Republican in either chamber, at least according to a Pew analysis of the religious affiliations of Members of Congress conducted after the 2012 elections. It’s always possible, I suppose, that a non-Christian GOPer can be nominated later this year and elected in November, but for now, the estimated 27% of Americans who don’t identify themselves with some form of the Christian faith will likely have no representation among Republicans House and Senate members come next year.

Even if you only look at the disappearance of Republican Jews in Congress, that’s pretty amazing to those of us old enough to remember Jacob Javits and Rudy Boschwitz and Arlen Specter and Warren Rudman and Chic Hecht, all members of the Senate. Lord knows there’s been a significant Jewish presence among right-bent intellectuals over the years, from Milton Freidman to Frank Meyer to Ayn Rand and her “collective” (which included, of course, Alan Greenspan). That’s not to mention Jewish Republican journalists and flacks from the Kristol clan to William Safire and David Brooks and Jonah Goldberg and Jennifer Rubin, or major donors like Sheldon Adelson. And these are just the names that come to mind instantly.

Cantor, of course, was on track to become the first Jewish Speaker of the House, and played a central role in validating conservative criticisms of Democrats as unfriendly to Israel. I can recall a long moment in the rehearsal room for the 2008 Democratic Convention when a congressman scheduled to defend Barack Obama’s record on Middle East issues lobbied convention managers for additional time on grounds that “Eric Cantor will be given all the time he wants at the Republican convention to attack Obama as an enemy of Israel.” Now, presumably, Christian Right GOPers will fully assume control of this line of attack on Democrats in Congress.

But the bigger picture here is that at a time when Republicans are huffing and puffing to depict themselves as a Big Tent Party bound together by ideology rather than race or ethnicity or religion, they likely won’t be able to point to a single Member who isn’t at least formally a Christian. And yes, that’s shocking.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, June 11, 2014

June 13, 2014 Posted by | Eric Cantor, GOP | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Replacing One Disingenuous Politician With Another”: Dave Brat, Eric Cantor’s Career Killer, Nowhere Near Ready For Prime Time

Dave Brat—the college economics professor who pulled off a stunning primary defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District—was taking a victory lap through the land of talk TV this morning when he ran into a buzz saw in the guise of MSNBC’s Chuck Todd.

Spending the first part of the interview happily discussing his position as a free-market supporter, all was going according to Brat’s script until Todd dared to ask the Republican nominee some actual questions on national policy.

Chuck began by tossing Professor Brat a softball, asking whether the candidate supported a federally mandated minimum wage.

Bear in mind that this is a candidate, an economics professor, who had spent the majority of the interview up the point of Todd’s question, extolling the virtues of a free market. Yet, when asked for his position on a federal minimum wage he struggled to avoid the question, obviously afraid of angering any voters who might be listening or create any news he felt could be harmful to his chances in November.

Smelling blood in Brat’s lack of a solid response, Todd pushed him for an answer, causing Mr. Brat to reply—

“ I don’t have a well-crafted response to that one.”

Call me crazy but I would have thought that a tenured, 18 year economics professor running for Congress on a free market platform might have given some though to the issue of a federally mandated minimum wage at some point before this morning’s interview.

Indeed, one cannot help but wonder whether Professor Brat’s economics students would manage a passing grade in Econ 101 were they to respond to an exam question with “I don’t have a well-crafted response to that one.”—even if that student had not received much sleep the night before the exam (what student ever does?).

Given the reaction by Mr. Brat when facing a question that one would expect a free market expert to have previously pondered, it becomes difficult to avoid the reality that Dave Brat is more of a typical politician than he’s been letting on.

While Brat’s response to an easy question should be distressing to every Virginian who gave him their vote, let alone those who did not, it all got substantially worse when Todd asked Mr. Brat a fairly simple foreign policy question.

“On a foreign policy issue, arming the Syrian rebels. Would you be in favor of that?”

This was, to Mr. Brat’s thinking, going to far. How dare the media quiz a guy favored to enter the House of Representatives in January about his thoughts on a critical foreign policy matter?

For the man who had just toppled the House Majority Leader, a foreign policy question qualified as unfair sandbagging—and Brat wasn’t afraid to say so.

“Hey, Chuck, I thought we were just going to chat today about the celebratory aspects,” Brat said. “I’d love to go through all of this but my mind is just— I didn’t get much sleep last night. I love all the policy questions but I just wanted to talk about the victory ahead and I wanted to thank everybody that worked so hard on my campaign. I’m happy to take policy issues at any time, I just wanted to call out a thanks to everybody today.”

Really? Talk about a disingenuous response. Mr. Brat had began his interview by launching into the six tenets of Republican philosophy that he claims to hold so close to his heart—six policy positions he was clearly not too tired to recount. Brat then treated Todd’s audience to a lecture on the wonders of a free market—a recitation and message he managed to find sufficient energy to deliver, despite his stated lack of sleep that rendered him incapable of telling us his position on minimum wage.

As Erik Wemple notes in the Washington Post:

“Chuck Todd is the ultimate issues guy. How can you go on his show and wave off a question on substance?”

And, so we are all clear, MSNBC spokeswoman Lauren Skowronski confirms that “No promises were made to Brat in advance of his interview on The Daily Rundown this morning.”

Here is a tip for Mr. Brat—if you are too tired to answer a few incredibly easy policy questions, get some sleep before showing up for an interview. I can assure Mr. Brat that journalists like Chuck Todd—as well as a great many others who do what we do—also didn’t get much sleep last night. And yet, we find that we are still able to conjure up our thoughts along with a few simple questions for the candidate this morning.

Is it really asking too much of Dave Brat to be reasonably prepared to answer those questions?

After all, nobody was asking Brat to provide a full-on presentation of his policy positions—only that he tell us where he stands on minimum wage. And if Brat was expecting an MSNBC interview to be a simple opportunity to share the joy he is experiencing in his big win, voters in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District should be very concerned, indeed.

Make no mistake—I am truly pleased to see Mr. Cantor sent packing as I have long viewed the Majority Leader as little more than an opportunist who will say or do most anything to gain the support of his party’s many factions while pocketing as many political chits as he can. Cantor’s fealty to Wall Street has been very well documented, often placing the needs of the moneyed interests who fill his offices and his campaign coffers well above the needs of his constituents—something the voters of his congressional district have apparently figured out.

However, the voters of Virginia’s 7th Congressional District now need to ask themselves a question—do they really want to replace one disingenuous elected official with another disingenuous elected official?

When a candidate like Dave Brat suggests that he cannot give a simple ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ when it comes to his position on minimum wage because he didn’t get enough rest last night, how can he be described as anything but another, run-of-the-mill disingenuous politician dodging what should be a no-brainer question?

And if Mr. Brat hasn’t take a moment to think about our foreign policy, he can only be described as a seriously unprepared candidate engaging in political malpractice.

Either way, as the general election gets underway to fill Eric Cantor’s seat under the glare of a national spotlight, let’s hope that Virginians recognize that replacing one disingenuous politician with another does absolutely nothing to advance either their own interests or the interests of the nation as a whole.


By: Rick Ungar, Op-Ed Contributor, Forbes, June 12, 2014

June 13, 2014 Posted by | Eric Cantor, Republicans, Tea Party | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Banana Republicans”: Appalling Content Of Policies Aside, When Not Torturing, They Lie, They Cheat, They Steal

If they can’t offer policies that a majority of voters will support without relentless brainwashing, they free up the billionaire beneficiaries of the policies they actually offer to help them buy elections.

If buying elections won’t give them a majority, they rig the districting so they can hold a minority of seats with a minority of votes.

If they can’t win even in gerrymandered districts, they try to keep Democrats from voting.

If they still lose, they resort to outright bribery.

In the latest case, they offered a Democratic state senator in Virginia – whose vote resulted in a tied chamber, giving the Lieutenant Governor the deciding vote – a cushy job for himself and a judgeship for his daughter if he’d resign, giving the GOP 20-19 majority.

Similar deals have been done recently in New York and Washington State, though in those cases the bribes were legislative leadership positions rather than external jobs.

I can confidently predict that a not a single elected Republican, and few if any Red-team pundits, will speak out against this grossly corrupt deal. If the state AG or the U.S. Attorney decide that it’s a prosecutable quid pro quo, Fox News and the National Review will howl about the “criminalization of policy differences.”

“Puckett” deserves to enter the language alongside “Quisling.”

The appalling content of its policies aside – the latest dirty trick is part of an effort to deny medical coverage to the working poor –  the modern Republican Party is a threat to the principles of republican government. Even when they’re not torturing, they lie, they cheat, and they steal.

Footnote And note the way the Washington Post uses the morally neutral “outmaneuver” to cover the payment and acceptance of a bribe. Did the Communists “outmaneuver” Jan Masaryk? Did the House of Guise “outmaneuver” the Huguenots on St. Bartholomew’s Day?


By: Mark Kleiman,  Professor of Public Policy at The University of California Los Angeles: Washington Monthly, Ten Miles Square; Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]; June 12, 2014

June 13, 2014 Posted by | Electoral Process, GOP, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Very Troubled Man”: Time For Right To Let Go Of Bowe Bergdahl Political Controversy

Today, the Post published excerpts of Bowe Bergdahl’s journal, along with emails and other writings, giving us the most intimate, complex, and in many ways sad view we’ve yet had of the young man who had been held prisoner by the Taliban for five years.

What the journal ultimately shows suggests that as a partisan political issue, Bergdahl’s release is likely to fade before long. The right has gotten about as much as they can out of it, and now that we know how troubled Bergdahl was before he wandered off his base, they may just let it go.

The idea that Bergdahl wasn’t sufficiently deserving of rescue has been central to the conservative criticism of the deal to obtain his release. Even as they wildly exaggerate the danger of the five former Taliban we released (to hear Fox News tell it, you’d almost think the five not only planned and executed the September 11 attacks, they also have super-powers that will enable them to reduce our nation to ashes any day now), many on the right attacked Bergdahl and his family relentlessly, accusing him of being not just a deserter but an outright traitor. Some even mobilized a PR campaign to promote soldiers who would go in the media to criticize Bergdahl.

But his writings, which were shared with the Post by a close friend, tell a story that doesn’t fit into the kind of box that can be easily used for partisan purposes. Among other things, we now know that Bergdahl joined the Coast Guard in 2006 and was quickly discharged for psychological reasons, though he claimed to friends that he had faked mental illness in order to get released (a claim about which they were skeptical). But it’s Bergdahl’s own words that are the most revealing:

The 2006 discharge and a trove of Bergdahl’s writing — his handwritten journal along with essays, stories and e-mails provided to The Washington Post — paint a portrait of a deeply complicated and fragile young man who was by his own account struggling to maintain his mental stability from the start of basic training until the moment he walked off his post in eastern Afghanistan in 2009.

“I’m worried,” he wrote in one journal entry before he deployed. “The closer I get to ship day, the calmer the voices are. I’m reverting. I’m getting colder. My feelings are being flushed with the frozen logic and the training, all the unfeeling cold judgment of the darkness.”

A few pages later, he wrote: “I will not lose this mind, this world I have deep inside. I will not lose this passion of beauty.”

At another point, using his often un­or­tho­dox spelling, he wrote: “Trying to keep my self togeather. I’m so tired of the blackness, but what will happen to me without it. Bloody hell why do I keep thinking of this over and over.”

At another point Bergdahl writes: “I want to change so much and all the time, but then my mind just locks down, as if there was some one else in my mind shutting the door in my face. . . . I want to pull my mind out and drop kick it into a deep gorge.” And then: “In a file dated a few days later, repetitions of the phrase ‘velcro or zipper/velcro or zipper/velcro or zipper’ cover nearly two pages.”

We shouldn’t be too quick to make a conclusive psychiatric diagnosis based on these words. But if you’re someone committed to painting Bergdahl as a traitor who didn’t deserve to be released — or at least, didn’t deserve to have much given up in exchange for him — what do you think when you see that? And let’s recall that until the deal for Bergdahl was actually made, many on the right were attacking the Obama administration for not getting him out sooner; for some, he’s never been anything more than a cudgel with which to beat the administration.

So maybe now they’ll decide that all the personal attacks on Bergdahl have outlived their usefulness. The administration’s opponents have every right to argue, if they choose, that those five Taliban are history’s most terrifying super-villains, and we shouldn’t have made the deal even to get back Audie Murphy. But now that we’re getting a fuller picture of what a troubled soul Bergdahl was, conservatives may decide that there isn’t much margin left in attacking him, lest they end up looking (for the umpteenth time) like they’ve overplayed their political hand and been blinded to everything, even human compassion, by their hatred of this president.


By: Paul Waldman, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, June 12, 2014

June 13, 2014 Posted by | Bowe Bergdahl, Conservatives | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Busy Obama, Lazy Congress”: The Shiftless Good-For-Nothings In The House Often Don’t Even Show Up For Their Jobs

Since his presidency began, and as of June 14, 2014, President Barack Obama will have made 36 international trips to 47 different countries, in addition to the Vatican and the West Bank. This, in addition to his frequent visits to domestic sites such as tornado and hurricane disaster areas, not to mention such institutions as the West Point Academy, Andrews Air Force Base, the Worcester Technical High School, and local bars and restaurants, makes him the busiest president in American history.

By contrast, the 111th Congress may be the laziest political body in American history. For the past six years, it has been composed of no-accounts who collect huge sums from the government (not to mention free handouts from large corporations and wealthy businessmen) without doing any work besides campaigning for their second term. This Congressional session will break records for the number of bills it has not passed, the presidential appointments it has not approved, the political advances it has tried to reverse. No wonder Obama is now governing largely by executive order. The shiftless good-for-nothings in the House often don’t even show up for their jobs, letting their empty seats collect dust, while tooling around in federally-financed limos blaring Church music through open windows.

As for the Senate, its main activity now is filibustering. Filibuster is a term derived from the Spanish “filibustero” (or privateer, pirate, robber) — in other words, a kind of black market verbosity that substitutes for persuasive speechifying. Americans did not work all their lives to see their hard-earned tax dollars lining the pockets of political rappers, or providing free tea to the Mad Hatters on the Hill. Like a lot of law-abiding taxpayers, I don’t think these welfare cheats should be supported any longer by honest, patriotic Americans. I realize this may sound like racism, but when you compare President Obama’s dedicated example with the parasitical weakness of the 111th mostly-white Congress, you begin to wonder whether Caucasians still have the energy to tote that barge or lift that bale.


By: Robert Brustein, The Blog, The Huffington Post, June 12, 2014

June 13, 2014 Posted by | Congress, House Republicans, Senate | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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