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“Marco Rubio, Leader Of The Pack”: The Best Way To Stop A Lynch Mob Is To Lead It

It really is amazing the extent to which partisan and ideological predispositions can affect how one interprets the same data. I look at Marco Rubio’s behavior on the immigration issue over the last sixteen months and see an unusually shameless flip-flop by a man willing to do almost anything to become president. Byron York looks at the same behavior, and even acknowledges the remarkable extent of self-contradiction going on; yet he purports to see Rubio as a brave and realistic pro-immigration-reform leader who is executing a “course correction” because he understands “the people” need some good vicious border enforcement before they’ll calm down enough to accept the mass legalization, a.k.a. “amnesty,” that conservative activists are sworn to oppose to the very last ditch.

This strikes me as the equivalent of saying the best way to stop a lynch mob is to lead it, but I’d guess York and I would probably agree that there is something of a mob mentality among “the base” on immigration policy these days–a sense of grassroots rage being liberated from the pragmatic designs of calculating pols. And that’s a real problem for those Republican pols, as Jonathan Chait astutely points out today. There’s now no gathering of GOP presidential wannabes with the grassroots conservative activists who will largely determine their fate where DREAMers won’t show up and make things very, very uncomfortable:

The trouble for Republicans is that the political theater created by the Dreamers is not going to stop. They can try their best to control officially sanctioned media debates, but the Dreamers are staging debates without permission, endlessly highlighting the cruelty of the Republican stance. It is a strategy for which the Republicans so far have no answer.

Now you have to figure that Frank Luntz or somebody will come up with a script the pols can use to defuse confrontations with DREAMers in a way that sounds less Steve Kingish. But it’s real hard to train “the base” to behave itself as well. In the famous King/Paul video, what impressed me most were the fundraiser attendees who were chanting “Go Home!” as King ranted at the DREAMers about “your country” (Mexico) being lawless. And at the instantly famous Rubio event in SC earlier this week, Rubio was being egged on by what appeared to be a roomful of angry hooting nativists.

So you can rationalize Rubio’s behavior (and that of similarly shrill GOP pols) all you want, and suggest he’s being a leader on immigration. But at best he’s the leader of a howling pack, with no real control over its future direction.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, August 27, 2014

August 31, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Immigration Reform, Marco Rubio | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“An Onion Of Crazy”: Republicans Have A Joni Ernst Problem

Throughout the 2014 campaign season, the Iowa Senate seat held by retiring Democrat Tom Harkin has emerged as a surprisingly strong pickup opportunity for the Republican Party. President Barack Obama is wildly unpopular in Iowa, and Democratic nominee Bruce Braley has struggled to gain traction throughout the race (over the past five months, he’s seen a 10-point lead evaporate). But Republicans have a problem: their own nominee, state senator Joni Ernst.

Ernst has been an unconventional candidate from the beginning, but recently her curiosities have developed from quirky to extreme. In May, Ernst claimed that Iraq did, in fact, have weapons of mass destruction when the U.S. invaded. In June, video emerged of her vowing to stop Agenda 21, a non-binding UN resolution that she erroneously sees as a nefarious plot to outlaw property ownership. In July, she struggled to explain her flip-flop on whether President Obama “has become a dictator” who needs to be removed from office. Later that month, it was reported that Ernst believes that states can nullify federal laws they dislike.

Now another of her far-right positions is drawing widespread attention. In a Monday interview with the Globe Gazette, Ernst called for completely eliminating the federal minimum wage.

“The minimum wage is a safety net. For the federal government to set the minimum wage for all 50 states is ridiculous,” she said.

“The standard of living in Iowa is different than it is in New York or California or Texas,” she added. “One size does not fit all.”

Ernst’s comments represent a fundamental misunderstanding of how the minimum wage works. It is not “one size.” Although the federal government guarantees that the minimum wage cannot dip below $7.25 per hour, states can set their own rates (and they do — for example, New York’s is $8, and California’s is $9).

This is not the first time that Ernst has spoken out against the minimum wage; sensing opportunity, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has compiled an extensive list of her statements that government should have no role in the issue.

But Iowa voters seem unlikely to give her credit for consistency. In terms of both policy and politics, Ernst’s position is far out of line with her own state.

Iowa, which currently has a $7.25-per-hour minimum wage, would benefit greatly from the bill proposed by Senator Harkin and Rep. George Miller (D-CA) to gradually raise the federal minimum to $10.10. According to an Economic Policy Institute analysis, a $10.10 minimum wage would increase wages for 306,000 workers in Iowa — more than one-fifth of the workforce — and generate $272,483,000 of economic activity. Eliminating it altogether? Not so much.

Polls have consistenly shown that Iowans side with Braley, who favors an increase to $10.10, over Ernst in this case. So it’s no surprise that Braley has been using the issue to go after the Republican nominee.

The minimum wage attacks are just one part of Democrats’ broader campaign to paint Ernst as too far on the fringe for Iowa (or “an onion of crazy,” as Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz recently put it). They have also targeted her as out of touch on Medicare and Social Security.

If Democrats can’t make Iowans fall in love with Bruce Braley by November, it appears that they will try to do the next best thing: Make them view Ernst as extreme to the point of unelectability. And nobody is helping them make that case more than Ernst herself.


By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, August 26, 2014

August 31, 2014 Posted by | Joni Ernst, Republicans, Senate | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Quite The Candidate”: Ben Carson Stands By U.S., Nazi Comparisons

Remember neurosurgeon-turned-conservative-activist Ben Carson? He’s apparently still around, still making needlessly provocative remarks, and still moving forward with his presidential plans.

In fact, Ben Terris reported from Iowa yesterday on a Carson event in Des Moines.

He’s inside this meeting hall, before a sellout crowd of nearly 400 people at the Polk County Republicans’ end-of-summer fundraiser, to discuss bullies of a different order. He wants to talk about the “secular progressives” in the news media, politics and academia who will stop at nothing to change the nation as we know it. He also wants to do this in Iowa, while raising money for local Republicans, coinciding with the start of his new PAC, which will “lay the groundwork” should he decide to run for president. […]

He speaks softly, almost as though he’s reading a child to sleep. But this is a scary story. If Republicans don’t win back the Senate in November, he says, he can’t be sure “there will even be an election in 2016.” Later, his wife, Candy, tells a supporter that they are holding on to their son’s Australian passport just in case the election doesn’t go their way.

Just so we’re clear, the implication here is that Carson believes President Obama, tyrant that he is, may not allow elections in 2016. It’s why Carson’s family is preparing to flee the United States, just in case.

As for Carson arguing earlier this year that contemporary American life as “very much like Nazi Germany,” the right-wing doctor told Terris, “You can’t dance around it…. If people look at what I said and were not political about it, they’d have to agree. Most people in Germany didn’t agree with what Hitler was doing…. Exactly the same thing can happen in this country if we are not willing to stand up for what we believe in.”

I guess that means he’s not sorry?

Fox News’ Chris Wallace said yesterday that Carson, himself a Fox contributor, probably doesn’t have a “serious chance” to actually be elected president, but Wallace added he’d “love” to see Carson run anyway.

It’s not clear why.

For those who’ve forgotten Carson’s rise to Tea Party notoriety, Carson last year equated homosexuality with pedophilia and bestiality. He soon after started comparing the Affordable Care Act to slavery, before comparing Americans to Nazis.

I swung by the page Right Wing Watch set up to document Carson’s more notable remarks and I was amazed at some of the recent entries. Carson said political correctness contributed to Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, and those who protested the shooting reminded him of Hamas.

Last month, Carson characterized the debate over marijuana legalization as a distraction from Benghazi. Seriously.

He’ll be quite a candidate.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 29, 2014

August 31, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Republicans, Right Wing | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Money Is Not Speech”: McConnell’s Appeal To Millionaire Donors Makes Case For Constitutional Amendment On Political Money

He surely did not intend it, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has made a stunningly compelling case for a constitutional amendment allowing Congress and the states to restore sensible limits on the influence of money in politics. We appreciate his help and his clarity.

The good news is that the Senate will vote on just such a proposal next month, the Democracy for All Amendment (S.J. Res 19). Senators still undecided about the amendment should study Sen. McConnell’s remarks carefully.

Speaking to a roomful of ultra-rich political investors in June (audio here), McConnell voiced his delight at their collective success in unharnessing political money. “The worst day of my political life” was when then-President George W. Bush signed the McCain-Feingold law with its limits on independent political spending, he declared. He paid particular tribute to industrialists Charles and David Koch, the country’s most prolific political spenders: “I don’t know where we’d be without you,” he told them.

McConnell calls the Democracy for All Amendment radical; it is anything but. The amendment simply restores an understanding of the Constitution that was in place for at least a century until the Supreme Court began unraveling it in the 1970s. It affirms that money is not speech and that no one, however wealthy or powerful, has a constitutional right to spend unlimited sums to influence our elections.

A poll conducted for CBS News in May found that 71 percent of Americans support reasonable limits on political spending. A survey taken this month in battleground states for this November’s elections—including McConnell’s home state of Kentucky—found 73 percent support a constitutional amendment.

The senator argues that proposals to limit political spending are aimed at silencing critics of government. Singling out Common Cause, he charges that those who favor a system that pays for campaigns with a mix of public funds and small-dollar donations from individuals are really trying to elevate Democrats and defeat Republicans.

Neither claim stands up to scrutiny. The Democracy for All Amendment and the spending limits it would permit would protect the First Amendment; every citizen’s right to express his or her views, however unpopular or unconventional, would remain fully intact. Corporations also would continue to speak; the amendment simply would permit sensible controls on how much they and individuals can spend to influence elections.

As for public financing, Republicans routinely run and win using public funds in states where voluntary public financing systems are in place. In my home state of Connecticut, GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley has opted to run on public financing this year; Arizona Governor Jan Brewer used her state’s public financing system in her victorious 2010 campaign. The “clean elections” or “fair elections” systems in these states encourage candidates of all parties to focus on issues important to the general public rather than the parochial concerns of a handful of funders.

The real radicals are those who argue that their free speech rights include the right to use their wealth—corporate or individual—to drown out the voices of other Americans. They view the Citizens United decision, which invited corporations to spend freely on our elections, as—in Sen. McConnell’s words— having “leveled the playing field for corporations.”

The American people know better.


By: Mles Rapoport, The American Prospect, August 28, 2014

August 31, 2014 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Democracy, Mitch Mc Connell | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Bill O’Reilly And White Privilege”: Race Hustler, Bathing In Privilege

Is white privilege real? Not according to Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly.

This week O’Reilly debated the issue of white privilege with a fellow host and then returned to the topic the next day with this doozy of a statement:

“Last night on ‘The Factor,’ Megyn Kelly and I debated the concept of white privilege whereby some believe that if you are Caucasian you have inherent advantages in America. ‘Talking Points’ does not, does not believe in white privilege. However, there is no question that African-Americans have a much harder time succeeding in our society than whites do.”

It is difficult to believe that those three sentences came in that order from the same mouth. Why would it be harder for blacks to succeed? Could interpersonal and, more important, systemic bias play a role? And, once one acknowledges the presence of bias as an impediment, one must by extension concede that being allowed to navigate the world without such biases is a form of privilege.

That privilege can be gendered, sexual identity based, religious and, yes, racial.

When one has the luxury of not being forced to compensate for societal oppression based on basic identity, one is in fact privileged in that society.

O’Reilly even trotted out the Asian “model minority” trope to buttress his argument, citing low unemployment rates and high levels of income and educational attainment for Asians compared not only to blacks but to whites.

Whenever people use racial differences as an argument to downplay racial discrimination, context is always called for.

What O’Reilly — like many others who use this line of logic — fails to mention (out of either ignorance or rhetorical sleight of hand) is the extent to which immigration policy has informed those statistics and the extent to which many Asian-Americans resent the stereotype as an oversimplification of the diversity of the Asian experience.

A 2012 Pew Research report entitled “The Rise of Asian Americans” found:

“Large-scale immigration from Asia did not take off until the passage of the landmark Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. Over the decades, this modern wave of immigrants from Asia has increasingly become more skilled and educated. Today, recent arrivals from Asia are nearly twice as likely as those who came three decades ago to have a college degree, and many go into high-paying fields such as science, engineering, medicine and finance. This evolution has been spurred by changes in U.S. immigration policies and labor markets; by political liberalization and economic growth in the sending countries; and by the forces of globalization in an ever-more digitally interconnected world.”

Following the publication of the Pew report, the news site Colorlines spoke with Dan Ichinose, director of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center’s Demographic Research Project, who was critical of some parts of the Pew report, but seemed to echo the role immigration had played. Colorlines put his response this way:

“The more complex and far less exciting explanation for Asian Americans’ relatively high rates of education has more to do with immigration policy, which has driven selectivity about who gets to come to the U.S. and who doesn’t, said Ichinose.”

Much of the African-American immigration policy came in the form of centuries of bondage, dehumanization and unimaginable savagery visited on their bodies. And that legacy is long and the scars deep.

O’Reilly mentions this in his rant, as a caveat:

“One caveat, the Asian-American experience historically has not been nearly as tough as the African-American experience. Slavery is unique and it has harmed black Americans to a degree that is still being felt today, but in order to succeed in our competitive society, every American has to overcome the obstacles they face.”

But this whole juxtaposition, the pitting of one minority group against another, is just a way of distracting from the central question: Is white privilege real?

In arguing that it isn’t, O’Reilly goes on to raise the seemingly obligatory “respectability” point, saying:

“American children must learn not only academics but also civil behavior, right from wrong, as well as how to speak properly and how to act respectfully in public.”

Then he falls back on the crux of his argument:

“Instead of preaching a cultural revolution, the leadership provides excuses for failure. The race hustlers blame white privilege, an unfair society, a terrible country. So the message is, it’s not your fault if you abandon your children, if you become a substance abuser, if you are a criminal. No, it’s not your fault; it’s society’s fault. That is the big lie that is keeping some African-Americans from reaching their full potential. Until personal responsibility and a cultural change takes place, millions of African-Americans will struggle.”

No, Mr. O’Reilly, it is statements like this one that make you the race hustler. The underlying logic is that blacks are possessed of some form of racial pathology or self-destructive racial impulses, that personal responsibility and systemic inequity are separate issues and not intersecting ones.

This is the false dichotomy that chokes to death any real accountability and honesty. Systemic anti-black bias doesn’t dictate personal behavior, but it can certainly influence and inform it. And personal behavior can reinforce people’s belief that their biases are justified. So goes the cycle.

But at the root of it, we can’t expect equality of outcome while acknowledging inequality of environments.

Only a man bathing in privilege would be blind to that.


By: Charles M. Blow, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, August 27, 2014

August 31, 2014 Posted by | Bill O'Reilly, Racism, White Privilege | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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