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“In The Hopes Of Appearing Normal”: New GOP Ad Campaign; ‘Republicans Have Feelings’

Vinny Minchillo, a Republican campaign strategist based in Texas, isn’t the most famous GOP consultant in the country, but he did claim to have “reinvented political advertising” while working for Mitt Romney’s failed presidential campaign in 2012.

But that was two years ago. In 2014, as Danny Vinik discovered, Minchillo is spearheading an entirely different kind of campaign. It’s called “Republicans Are People, Too.” … aims to combat the partisan rancor directed at the GOP. In short: to humanize Republicans demonized by the left as women-hating, nature-destroying Fox News addicts. A 97-second video on the site informs viewers that Republicans do things that you may not associate with conservatives. […]

Minchillo is now an executive at Glass House Strategy, a public affairs company that specializes in political campaigns – although, despite the upcoming midterms, Minchillo is not advising any campaigns at the moment. That, he says, makes it the perfect time to start a grassroots campaign to change the Republican Party’s image.

The whole video is posted below, and you’ll just have to see it to believe it. The message did not go so far as to say, “Republicans are capable of functioning as well-adjusted human beings,” but that seemed to be the general direction of the message.

Indeed, for those who can’t watch clips online, here’s the entire on-screen text: “Did you know? Republicans drive Priuses. Republicans recycle. Republicans listen to Spotify. Republicans put together Ikea furniture. Republicans are white. Republicans are black. Republicans are Hispanic. Republicans are Asian. Republicans read the New York Times in public. Republicans use Macs. Republicans are grandmas, daughters, Moms. Republicans are left handed. Republicans are doctors, welders, teachers. Republicans donate to charity. Republicans enjoy gourmet cooking. Republicans shop at Trader Joe’s. Republicans like dogs and cats, probably dogs a little more than cats. Republicans have tattoos and beards. Republicans have feelings. Republicans are people who care. Republicans are people, too.”

It’s almost as if we’re seeing a promotional video put together by a group most Americans find repulsive, so its members put something together for YouTube in the hopes of appearing normal.

Indeed, let’s make this plain: if you’re a member of a political party, and you find it necessary to remind the public that your party is capable of human emotion and routine human behavior, then your party may have a very serious problem.

It’s not that Minchillo’s ad is wrong, of course. Obviously, Republicans are human beings living normal American lives. The problem is the overly defensive nature of the argument – if you have to remind the public that Republicans “are people” and “have emotions,” then you’re implicitly suggesting that Republicans’ basic humanity is, at least for some, in doubt.

Jon Chait joked, “It’s just always suspicious when somebody strenuously denies an accusation that has not been made.”

This video no doubt intended to convey the opposite message, but “Republicans Are People, Too” underscores a branding issue for which there is no easy solution.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 25, 2014

September 26, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Public Policy, Republicans | , , , | 1 Comment

“Florida Goes Down The Drain”: The Concept Of ‘Going Down To The Water’ Has Extended To ‘Stepping Off The Front Porch’

On Miami Beach, rising sea levels have interesting consequences. The ocean periodically starts bubbling up through local drainpipes. By the time it’s over, the concept of “going down to the water” has extended to stepping off the front porch.

It’s becoming a seasonal event, like swallows at Capistrano or the return of the buzzards to Hinckley, Ohio.

“At the spring and fall high tides, we get flooding of coastal areas,” said Leonard Berry, the director of the Florida Center for Environmental Studies. “You’ve got saltwater coming up through the drains, into the garages and sidewalks and so on, damaging the Ferraris and the Lexuses.”

Ah, climate change. A vast majority of scientific studies that take a stand on global warming have concluded that it’s caused by human behavior. The results are awful. The penguins are dwindling. The polar bears are running out of ice floes. The cornfields are drying. The southwest is frying.

There is very little on the plus side. Except maybe for Detroit. As Jennifer Kingson reported in The Times this week, one scientific school of thought holds that while temperatures rise and weather becomes extreme in other parts of the country, Detroit’s location will turn it into a veritable garden spot.

Miami is probably not used to being compared unfavorably to Detroit. But there you are. “We’re going to wander around shin-deep in the ocean — on the streets of Miami,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, who is planning to go on a climate-change tour this month with Florida’s senior senator, Bill Nelson. (The junior senator, Marco Rubio, who’s no fan of “these scientists,” will presumably not be joining the party.)

Once a week, when the Senate is in session, Whitehouse gets up and makes a speech about rising sea levels or disappearing lakes or dwindling glaciers. He’s kind of the congressional climate-change guy. He’s also looking for bipartisan love and feeling lonely. “I’ve got exactly no Republican colleagues helping me out with this,” he said.

There was a time, children, when the parties worked together on climate-change issues. No more. Only 3 percent of current Republican members of Congress have been willing to go on record as accepting the fact that people are causing global warming. That, at least, was the calculation by PolitiFact, which found a grand total of eight Republican nondeniers in the House and Senate. That includes Representative Michael Grimm of New York, who while laudably open-minded on this subject, is also under indictment for perjury and tax fraud. So we may be pushing 2 percent in January.

This is sort of stunning. We’re only looking for a simple acknowledgment of basic facts. We’ll give a pass to folks who accept the connection between human behavior and climate change, but say they don’t want to do anything about it.

Or that China should do something first.

Or: “Who cares? I’m from Detroit!”

In Congress, Republican environmentalists appear to be terrified of what should be the most basic environmental issue possible. Whitehouse blames the Supreme Court’s decisions on campaign finance, which gave the energy barons carte blanche when it comes to spending on election campaigns. It’s certainly true that there’s no way to tick off megadonors like the fabled Koch brothers faster than to suggest the globe is warming.

“At the moment, there’s a dogma in the Republican Party about what you can say,” Tom Steyer told me. He’s the billionaire who formed a “super PAC” to support candidates who acknowledge that climate change exists, that it’s caused by human behavior, and that we need to do something major about it.

Steyer has committed to spending about $100 million this year on ads and organizing in seven states. Many in the campaign-finance-reform community think this is a terrible idea, and that you do not combat the power of right-wing oligarchs to influence American elections by doing the same thing on the left. They have a point. But think of the penguins.

Florida’s Republican governor, Rick Scott, who’s running for re-election, has been asked many times whether he believes in man-made climate change. Lately, he responds: “I’m not a scientist.” Scott is also not a doctor, engineer, computer programmer, personal trainer or a bus driver. Really, it’s amazing he even has the confidence to walk into the office in the morning.

The governor did visit last month with some climate scientists. He began the meeting by making it clear that he did not intend to go anywhere near the word causes. After the group had pulled out their maps and projections — including the one that shows much of Miami-Dade County underwater by 2048 — Scott asked them questions. Which were, according to The Miami Herald, “to explain their backgrounds, describe the courses they taught, and where students in their academic fields get jobs.”

If they’re lucky, the students will wind up someplace where there’s no seawater in the garage.


By: Gail Collins, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, September 24, 2014

September 26, 2014 Posted by | Climate Change, Global Warming, Rick Scott | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Taking Exception To American Exceptionalism”: No One’s Patriotism Should Be Impugned, Certainly Not By The Likes Of Dick Cheney

I didn’t really think it possible for Dick Cheney to lower my opinion of him. But then this happened (per Politico‘s Kendall Breitman):

Dick Cheney says it’s “outrageous” that President Barack Obama mentioned the summer’s unrest in Ferguson, Mo., while speaking about ISIL during a speech at the United Nations.

“I was stunned,” the former vice president said on Wednesday during an interview on Fox News’ “Hannity….”

“In one case, you’ve got a police officer involved in a shooting, there may be questions about it to be sorted out by the legal process, but there’s no comparison to that with what ISIS is doing to thousands of people throughout the Middle East through bloody beheadings of anybody they come in contact with,” Cheney said. “To compare the two as though there’s moral equivalence there, I think, is outrageous.”

Obama, of course, in NO WAY “compared” the two phenomena (sorry to “shout,” but it’s hard to overstate how little support there is for what Cheney is saying). The reference to Ferguson was in the midst of a long litany about America’s view of how it serves as a leader in a global collective security arrangement, and he immediately touted the domestic debate over Ferguson as a sign of our strength and virtue.

Cheney’s assertion is perhaps the most willfully stupid thing I’ve heard in years.

Having said that, I think the real objection on the Right to Obama’s speech is that he treated collective security as something other than an extension of America’s Sovereign and Imperial Will. The secular religion of American Exceptionalism–and I call it a religion because it sweeps aside all the universalism associated with crucial cultural influences from Christianity to the Enlightenment–is so powerful a force among conservatives these days that anything Obama said that wasn’t an arrogant insult to the rest of the world would not have satisfied them.

Sometimes I chafe at Obama’s efforts to propitiate the idol of American Exceptionalism rhetorically, even as he is explicitly treating America as subject to the same standards as any other people. Sometimes I wish my fellow-citizens in the country I love would wake up and acknowledge that the only “freedom” we enjoy that is denied to our global peers is the right to easily acquire lethal weapons. America largely invented the system of collective security that Obama is so avid to vindicate in his actions–wise or foolish–in the Middle East. His patriotism should not be impugned for taking it, and America’s claim to represent values beyond self-interest, seriously. And certainly not by the likes of Dick Cheney.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, September 25, 2014

September 26, 2014 Posted by | American Exceptionalism, Dick Cheney, Patriotism | , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Protection Racket”: The Corrupt Bargain Between Politicians And The NFL

For a number of years, I have been uneasy about the symbiotic and corrupt relationship between lawmakers and professional sports leagues, especially football. Many years ago, I got a call from a reporter with Sports Illustrated. I returned the call, mostly out of curiosity about why a sports reporter was calling a politics/Congress person. It turned out there was a legitimate reason. The SI reporter had noticed that Senator John Warner of Virginia served on the board of directors of the Washington Redskins; he wondered whether that was allowed under the ethics rules of the Senate—and if so, why?

Of course, as a general matter, members of Congress could not serve on corporate boards. But somehow, the sports team was viewed differently. It should not have been. The Redskins, then owned by Jack Kent Cooke, was a very large for-profit company, with clear and important interests in front of the federal government. Professional football had an antitrust exemption, worth a fortune and even then controversial. The Redskins, like the other National Football League teams, enjoyed very favorable depreciation rules for its players, tax advantages that meant less revenues for the government and more profits for the owners. Warner was a great senator, a man of integrity. But as a member of the board of the team, he had a fiduciary responsibility to look after its interests. And as a senator, he had a duty to look after the interests of Virginia and America. What if those duties clashed?

The Redskins, back then, were the only game in town, an obsession for Washington. Cooke’s owner’s box each weekend was filled with Washington power brokers, including senators, House leaders, the chairman of the Fed, cabinet officers, and others. Cooke reveled in their friendship; they reveled in their access.

The buddy-buddy relationship between the NFL and lawmakers led to the antitrust exemption in 1961. This is a multibillion-dollar business; why should it be given an exemption denied to other businesses and industries not doing professional sports? There was even less legitimacy to the decision Congress made subsequently to enable the NFL itself to function as a nonprofit organization, with all the benefits that accrue to other nonprofits. Nonprofit? Find me a nonprofit that pays its CEO $44 million! Of course, the NFL is not a nonprofit in reality, and it has spun a web of offshoots that pull in bundles of money for licensing and other lucrative businesses.

The unhealthy and unholy relationship the NFL has long maintained with Congress has also been evident with local and state governments that eagerly jump in to make taxpayers pay through the nose to attract or keep teams through separate tax breaks; public financing of stadiums; giveaways or bribes in the form of granting luxury boxes and their huge streams of revenue to the team owners instead of to the taxpayers footing the bill for the stadiums; and so on. If local politicians are not eager enough, team owners bludgeon them into submission with threats to move the teams. As Steve Almond wrote in The Washington Post, this is crony capitalism plain and simple—I would add, along with a dose of a protection racket.

Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, has his own links to Washington. His father, whom I knew and deeply admired, was a Republican senator from New York who was courageous in his deep opposition to American involvement in Vietnam, infuriating the Nixon administration—not the only position he took that broke from party orthodoxy. I became disillusioned with son Roger long before the current fiasco, when he quickly blew off the Obama administration’s request to have the NFL help uninsured football fans learn about their access to health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. This was not about endorsing or supporting a political side; it was about informing people about getting insurance. No doubt many younger NFL fans play football themselves—and some otherwise healthy athletes will get concussions, fractures, spinal injuries, and more while doing so; without insurance, they could have their lives devastated. Goodell’s move was a craven one.

Now he is under siege for his stumbles and missteps over domestic violence. He is also facing criticism for the league’s longtime indifference to the brain injuries suffered by so many players in the violent sport. But he is for the moment secure in his job; the owners are firmly behind him. And why not? His stewardship, built on that crony capitalism, makes these very wealthy people even wealthier, and they have been happy to reward him with staggering benefits.

I am a sports nut and an ardent football fan. Whether Goodell stays or goes is not really the issue here. To me, the issue is that it is past time for Congress to reexamine its unhealthy relationship to this huge set of businesses, to reconsider both the antitrust exemption and the farcical nonprofit status of the league. Football is sport, its fan base is huge, including members of Congress. But it is first and foremost a business, and it is simply wrong to ignore that reality in making public policy.


By: Norm Ornstein, The Atlantic, September 25, 2014

September 26, 2014 Posted by | Congress, Major League Sports, National Football League | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Weighty Decision”: Boehner Ready To Punt On ISIS Vote Until 2015

It was Aug. 8, seven weeks ago tomorrow, that President Obama launched U.S. airstrikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq. It was this week when the president expanded the mission to include strikes on ISIS targets in Syria.

And it was last week when Congress decided to give itself another 54 days off, rather than extend legal authority to the Obama administration to conduct this military offensive.

Most of us have been working under the assumption that Congress had one of two options: (1) debate the use of force during Congress’ post-election, lame-duck session; or (2) return to work before the election to do its duty and meet its constitutional obligations.

But in a new interview with Carl Hulse, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) points to Door #3 – also known as See You Next Year.

[Boehner is increasingly convinced that Congress must hold a full debate on granting President Obama the authority to use military force against terrorists…. But Mr. Boehner believes a post-election, lame-duck session is the wrong time for such a weighty decision.

“Doing this with a whole group of members who are on their way out the door, I don’t think that is the right way to handle this,” he said.

Mr. Boehner, who is open to a more expansive military campaign to destroy the Islamic State, thinks lawmakers should take up the issue after the new Congress convenes in January. At that time, he said, President Obama should come forward with a proposal for consideration.

Greg Sargent noted in response, “You have to love the idea that this is too ‘weighty’ a decision to make during the lame duck session, but not ‘weighty’ enough to vote on before the escalation actually launched, let alone before an election in which voters deserve to know where lawmakers stand on a matter of such great consequence.”

Indeed, it’s difficult to think of a defense for Boehner’s new posture.

Not to put too fine a point on this, but Americans elect members to specific terms, during which they’re expected to meet their obligations. The key word in “lame-duck session” is “session” – these elected federal lawmakers have jobs to do, and the fact that they’re nearing the end of their term doesn’t negate the fact that there’s important work to do.

Boehner makes it sound as if Congress is high school, and everyone can just coast for the last couple of weeks after final exams. That’s crazy – the United States is engaged in combat operations and the people’s elected representatives aren’t supposed to just take a pass on the crisis for the sake of convenience.

As for the notion that the White House “should come forward with a proposal,” I’d remind the Speaker that Congress is a co-equal branch of government. Waiting for the executive branch to write a draft resolution for the legislative branch isn’t a requirement – but Congress approving wars is.

As we talked about yesterday, Americans can take every Republican anti-Obama argument of late – about separation of powers, about co-equal branches of government, about the importance of institutional checks and balances – and throw them right out the window, confident in the knowledge that the GOP didn’t mean a word of it. For all the chatter about the president being an out-of-control, lawless tyrant, here’s an instance in which Obama really is acting without any congressional authority, only to find congressional leaders saying, “No big deal. We’ll think about doing something in a few months, maybe.”

Fair-minded observers can debate the propriety of the president’s actions, but for over two centuries, presidents have gone as far as Congress will let them. Especially in times of war, every Commander in Chief has sought as much power and authority as he can muster.

It’s up to Congress – filled with members who spent the summer complaining about Obama golfing instead of working – to meet its responsibilities. This Congress isn’t even going through the motions. Lawmakers aren’t even keeping up appearances. They’re not even trying.

I thought this Congress couldn’t get any worse. I stand corrected.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 25, 2014

September 26, 2014 Posted by | Congress, Constitution, John Boehner | , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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