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“The Next Jim DeMint”: Tom Cotton’s Harsh, Unyielding, Judgmental Political Philosophy

At The Atlantic, Molly Ball has penned a long profile of Arkansas Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, and it confirms pretty much all my negative instincts about the dude. Here’s her summary of the real meaning of his famously dazzling resume:

From the time he was a teenager, Cotton has been nurtured and groomed by conservative institutions—scholars, think tanks, media, and advocacy groups—to be the face of their political crusade. Pure, upright, and ideologically correct, he is their seemingly flawless mascot. (Conservatives would surely argue that a potent network consisting of regular academia and the mainstream media nurtures left-wing candidates.) And now he is finally on the cusp of achieving the platform consummate to his talents, a seat in the U.S. Senate.

Cotton’s special status as the not-so-secret superstar of the GOP’s future isn’t just attributable to the resume or to his intellectual or political talents (the latter, in fact, are suspect when it comes to actual voters). A lot of it is about the way in which he manages to be a True Believer in the most important tenets of all the crucial Republican factions. He’s adored by Neocons, the Republican Establishment, the Tea Folk, the Christian Right, and most of all by the Con-Con cognoscenti that draw from both these last two categories. He will immediately be a national leader if he’s elected to the Senate, perhaps succeeding Jim DeMint as the guy who is in charge of keeping the pressure on the party to move steadily right on every front. (One might think Ted Cruz performs that function, but he’s a bit too clearly self-serving).

Ball puts a lot of emphasis on what we can learn about Cotton from his college thesis, which she gained access to in an exclusive. I’d say it mostly confirms what we already know: the man believes America has drifted from an inflexibly perfect ideology down the road to serfdom and conquest via the willingness of politicians to follow rather than lead the greedy masses who look to government to compensate for their moral weaknesses.

[The thesis] is in keeping with the rigidly idealistic persona, and the starkly moralistic worldview, he has exhibited since he was an undergraduate. It is a harsh, unyielding, judgmental political philosophy, one that makes little allowance for compassion or human weakness.

It’s especially revealing that this Man of Principle is campaigning in Arkansas as a generic Republican, counting on the partisan leanings of the state and midterm turnout patterns to give him a Senate seat that a more candid presentation of his views might endanger, even in such a conservative state. I don’t know that it would matter to most Arkansans that they have the power to make or break Cotton’s career as a smarter version of Jim DeMint, but they do.

 

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

September 19, 2014 Posted by | Politics, Senate | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Family Values Week Is Over”: A Rough Week In America For Women

Mark Sanford’s heralded engagement to Maria Belen Chapur is apparently over. The rep. from South Carolina released the news to America through a Facebook post. That’s how Chapur found out, too.

Gallantry has been in especially short supply this month. Prominent American men have been roughing up their women in spectacularly public ways — ranging from coldly calculated mind games to a knockout punch.

September opened with former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s unsuccessful attempt to swat away felony charges by making his wife take the entire rap for rampant corruption. The governor’s lawyers smeared Maureen as “manipulative,” “unpredictable,” “deceptive” and, most famously, a “nut bag.”

For a taste of the media response, Google “Maureen McDonnell under the bus.”

McDonnell had long touted his traditional values, pasting pictures of his photogenic wife and children on every available surface. His master’s thesis was on family breakdown and contained the line, “As the family goes, so goes the nation.”

Guess family values week is over.

To think, many Republicans had put McDonnell on their list of potential presidential candidates.

As for Sanford, an antiseptic breakup note marked the latest in a series of callous behaviors toward women and just plain weirdness. Recall that as South Carolina governor, Sanford sneaked off to Argentina to visit Chapur, a TV journalist there, for nearly a week. He told his staff that he was “hiking the Appalachian Trail” and could not be reached. Recall that his disgusted wife threw him out of the house and initiated divorce.

To pretty up the adulterous activity for his socially conservative voters, Sanford framed the affair as an unstoppable joining of soulmates. He promised to put aright the perceived wrong by marrying Chapur. And he layered on top of that an inspirational journey of redemption, starring himself.

“I’ve experienced how none of us goes through life without mistakes,” he said in a campaign ad when running for Congress. “But in their wake, we can learn a lot about grace, a God of second chances, and be the better for it.”

Two years went by, and Chapur eventually demanded an actual wedding date, which he wouldn’t make.

“I think that I was not useful to him anymore,” she told an interviewer. “He made the engagement thing four months before the elections.”

The ex-wife is now trying to restrict Sanford’s visits with their 15-year-old son. She also wants the court to order the congressman to have psychological counseling and take anger management classes.

True to form, Sanford is now blaming his ex-wife’s custody fight for his inability to wed Chapur. Don’t blame the ex-wife, Chapur responded.

To think, many Republicans had put Sanford on their list of potential presidential candidates.

To be clear, narcissistic abuse of women is hardly a Republican monopoly. Consider the Democrats’ 2004 vice-presidential nominee, John Edwards — who declared devotion to his cancer-ridden wife on the campaign trail while fathering a child with a tawdry filmmaker.

Between the McDonnell and Sanford stories emerged the video of football star Ray Rice punching his girlfriend, now wife, cold in an elevator and then dragging her limp body out. The now-former Baltimore Ravens running back saw no need to blame the woman for provoking the attack. She did it for him.

Say this for the Rice assault: It was straightforward brutality. It happened in a moment and without burdening the public with baroque explanations. The victim knew exactly what had happened to her, once she came to.

But what are Rice’s prospects of getting a second chance? The practitioner of psychological cruelty tends to be slicker than the man with the fist. And the businessmen running the NFL are a tougher sell than the electorate.

Meanwhile, September isn’t over.

 

By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, September 18, 2014

September 19, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Family Values, Women | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“November Gets Iffier”: The Worm Has Turned A Bit; The GOP Victory Parade Seems A Bit Premature

Just when much of the punditocracy was settling in for a few happy weeks of arguing over the extent of the Republican “wave” in November, while Mitch McConnell figuratively measured curtains for the Majority Leader’s offices, the worm has turned a bit, at least in the polling data, and the GOP victory parade seems a bit premature. WaPo’s Chris Cillizza sums up the confused state of prophecy:

Democrats are now (very slightly) favored to hold the Senate majority on Nov. 4, according to Election Lab, The Post’s statistical model of the 2014 midterm elections.

Election Lab puts Democrats’ chances of retaining their majority at 51 percent — a huge change from even a few months ago, when the model predicted that Republicans had a better than 80 percent chance of winning the six seats they need to take control…..

The movement toward Democrats in the Election Lab model isn’t unique. LEO, the New York Times’ Upshot model, gives Republicans a 51 percent chance of winning the Senate — but that is down significantly over the past few weeks.

Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight model now has Republican chances of winning the Senate at 55 percent, down from 64 percent 12 days ago.

Meanwhile, Princeton Election Consortium’s Sam Wang, the forecaster who focuses strictly on polling data, and refuses to tilt the data to reflect “fundamentals” like historical precedents, presidential approval ratings and the condition of the economy, has the probability of continued Democratic control of the Senate at 81%.

As Cillizza notes, though, the most prominent traditional forecasters–who do not use statistical models and tend to put a greater emphasis on factors like campaign spending and “momentum” and national trends–seem to be moving in the opposite direction:

What’s interesting about the election models is that they are moving in the opposite direction of political handicappers. In recent days, Stu Rothenberg and Charlie Cook, the two best-known, nonpartisan prognosticators in Washington, have each written that the possibility of large-scale Republicans gains is increasing, not decreasing

I don’t know if this disconnect between poll- and non-poll-based analysis will generate the level of ferocious debate we saw during the Great “Skewing” Battle of 2012. But it is interesting that despite the shifting winds, in the heart of conservative-land there’s not even a scintilla of doubt that Republicans are on their way to a historic win in November that will carry over into 2016, and presumably last foreover. Check out these lines from TV celebrity pundit S.E. Cupp in the New York Daily News:

It’s hard to imagine Democrats can course-correct in less than two years the failures they — and Hillary Clinton, in particular — have overseen for more than six.

In the lead-up to the 2014 midterms, Democrats have tried and failed to figure out successful campaign strategies. They tried to resurrect the “war on women,” but believe it or not, Democrats have a bigger problem with men than Republicans do with women.

According to GWU battleground polling, Republicans are only six points behind among women, whereas Democrats are 15 points behind among men, and 28 points behind among white men in particular. That’s a lot of ground to make up.

Raising the minimum wage turned out not to be the barnstormer Democrats hoped it would be either.

Another of their “big ideas” was to make tax inversion, where businesses move to foreign countries to avoid steep corporate taxes here, a turnout issue. Last week Politico called that effort a “massive dud.”

Without any cohesion — united only, it seems, by their desire to distance themselves from their standard-bearer — Democrats are having to run a spaghetti strategy: throw it on the wall and see what sticks.

Republicans won big in the 2010 midterms but weren’t able to swing back to the center in time for 2012. With all this momentum behind them, the pathway is clear. And not even Hillary Clinton should be able to stop them.

There’s a rather obvious and irreconcilable gap between those who look forward to elections by consulting at empirical data and those who view them as representing moral judgments on the truth or error of world views. Think I’ll stick to empirical data, but then I would, wouldn’t I? I’m a liberal, God help me.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, September 17, 2014

September 19, 2014 Posted by | Election 2014, GOP, Midterm Elections | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A New Round Of Conservative Complaints”: Even A Response To Ebola Can Apparently Be Politicized

President Obama traveled to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta this week to unveil an ambitious U.S. response to the Ebola outbreak in Africa, including money, materials, and military and health personnel.

It’s one of the most aggressive responses in U.S. history to a disease outbreak. Michele Richinick reported that “as many as 3,000 military personnel will assist in training new health care workers and building treatment clinics in the countries affected by the disease,” and some of our financial resources will be used to “construct 17 new treatment centers, each with 100 beds, and 10,000 sets of protective equipment and supplies to help 400,000 families protect themselves from the epidemic that is spreading exponentially.”

A day later, the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, announced plans to establish “a new on-the-ground mission in West Africa to coordinate the struggle against Ebola,” while the World Bank Group issued a report warning of a “potentially catastrophic blow” to the economies of countries like Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.

Given all of this, it seems like an odd time for conservative media to start a new round of complaints.

Right-wing media are using President Obama’s plan to fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa as another opportunity to attack him. Conservatives are calling the president a “hypocrite” because he’s sending “more soldiers to fight Ebola than we are sending to fight ISIS”; labeling the plan “arrogant” because of problems with HealthCare.gov; and accusing him of trying to “change the subject” by “fighting a really bad flu bug.”

It was former Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) who equated the Ebola virus with a “really bad flu bug.”

Rush Limbaugh added, “We are sending more soldiers to fight Ebola than we are sending to fight ISIS or other Muslim terrorists…. I didn’t know you could shoot a virus. Did you?”

For what it’s worth, there’s a credible argument to explain why a military component should be part of the response to an outbreak like this. Julia Belluz had an interesting piece on this yesterday, noting the larger debate.

Obama has repeatedly referred to the threat of Ebola in security terms, arguing the virus could cripple the already fragile economies in the African region. He’s made the case that this will have consequences for not only the security of countries there, but also for nations around the world – even if the virus doesn’t spread beyond Africa.

For examples of this war-like mentality, look no further than the president’s address, delivered Tuesday from the Centers for Disease Control headquarters in Atlanta: “If the outbreak is not stopped now, we could be looking at hundreds of thousands of people infected, with profound political and economic and security implications for all of us. So this is an epidemic that is not just a threat to regional security – it’s a potential threat to global security if these countries break down, if their economies break down, if people panic. That has profound effects on all of us, even if we are not directly contracting the disease.”

It’s a fairly easy argument to make. There are critics of the “securitization” of these public-health crises, but in countries facing “potentially catastrophic” economic and destabilizing conditions, it’s not hard to imagine unrest and possible violence.

The point is not to “shoot a virus”; it’s to create conditions in which people who contract the virus can receive care.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 18, 2014

September 19, 2014 Posted by | Conservative Media, Public Health, Public Safety | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Suffering Is The Whole Point”: This Is Going To Hurt You More Than It Hurts Me

We’re now having a national debate on the merits of corporal punishment, an issue that has many facets and brings up all kinds all kinds of complications involving religion, culture, gender, authority, and tradition. I’m not going to begin to address even a small portion of them, but I do want to talk about one thing that gets me a little perturbed about this discussion.

If you actually look at what corporal punishment advocates (and yes, there are people who do that on a semi-professional basis) say, there’s a constant effort to characterize “good” corporal punishment as something that isn’t really all that unpleasant for the child. They say it should never be done in anger (and if more than one out of 20 actual spanking incidents in the real world isn’t done in anger, I’d be shocked), but only in a controlled, limited way that is over quickly, causes no injury, produces only temporary discomfort, and carries the ultimate message, “I love you.”

As Focus on the Family founder James Dobson wrote in his book Dare to Discipline, which has sold millions of copies, a bit of “minor pain” is the way nature instructs us about things that are unwise to do. “God created this mechanism as a valuable vehicle for instruction,” he writes. Dobson also recommends using a “neutral object” of some sort, “because the hand should be seen as an object of love.” And if your child cries for more than five minutes after a spanking, you can shut that whole thing down “by offering him a little more of whatever caused the original tears.”

I will give Dobson credit for not shying away from the central philosophical underpinning of corporal punishment, which is that the infliction of pain and fear on your child is the whole point of the practice.

The assumption of corporal punishment is this: the child did something wrong, and in order to convince the child not to do it again, I will subject them to physical anguish. Thereafter, their fear of living through that anguish again will be so powerful that it will constrain their behavior. That this is the logic at work is utterly undeniable. If that wasn’t the logic, there would be no point. You can’t say the purpose of a pain-based physical punishment is to “get their attention,” because there are a hundred ways to get someone’s attention. The purpose is to hurt them and render them fearful of reliving that pain.

By that logic, Adrian Peterson’s actions only seem a tad overenthusiastic. His four-year-old son snatched a video game controller from another kid, and as a consequence got a vicious beating from a muscle-bound adult. You can bet he won’t be snatching any more game controllers from anyone! Mission accomplished.

Or maybe he will; there’s a raft of research showing that “short-term compliance” — i.e., stopping what the kid is doing right at that moment — is pretty much the only positive outcome from corporal punishment, while it’s associated with a range of negative long-term psychological and behavioral outcomes. But even if you think that it’s good for your kid (or somebody else’s), you should at least have the courage to acknowledge that making the child suffer is the whole point.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, September 18, 2014

September 19, 2014 Posted by | Child Abuse, Corporal Punishment | , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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