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“Getting In Touch With His Inner Dick Cheney”: Can Marco Rubio Bomb His Way Back Into The Right’s Good Graces?

Yes, it’s suddenly a fine time once again to be a Republican super-hawk, what with the GOP rank-and-file getting back in touch with their inner Dick Cheney, and even Rand Paul getting all macho about “destroying” IS. At that neocon fortress, the Weekly Standard, Stephen Hayes can’t help but gloat.

The Republican flirtation with dovish noninterventionism is over. It wasn’t much of a fling.

No, it wasn’t.

Hayes quickly warms to the idea that this new mood of joy in blowing things up overseas as well as at home will be a big factor in 2016. And though he mentions Paul’s back-tracking and some upcoming “big” speech by Bobby Jindal on defense (presumably because his effort to be the most ferocious Christian Right figure in the campaign hasn’t much worked), Hayes has no doubt who the biggest beneficiary will be:

Among the most-discussed prospective candidates, the reemergence of these issues probably benefits Marco Rubio as much as anyone. Rubio, who serves on both the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees, has made a priority of national security since his arrival in Washington in January 2011. And it was a point of emphasis for him in the 2010 campaign that sent him to Congress.

According to several people close to Rubio, the senator has not made a final decision about whether he’ll run for president in 2016. But a recent interview made clear that if he does run, he will do so as a proponent of U.S. global leadership and military dominance.

Not immigration reform? Just kidding.

Rubio called for dramatic increases in defense spending. He said the United States should be prepared to send ground troops to Iraq if necessary to defeat ISIS. He argued that the United States must “be able to project power into multiple theaters in the world.” He said that the United States should embrace its role as a superpower and “conduct a multifaceted foreign policy.”

For the first time, I’m seeing a glimmer of how Rubio might be able to overcome the horrendous damage he suffered among conservative activists with his advocacy of comprehensive immigration reform. His frantic back-tracking on that subject has simply reinforced the impression that he can’t be trusted. But being the chief bomb-thrower in the field–literally, not figuratively–could covereth a multitude of sins. From the emotional point of view of “the base,” wanting to kill a lot of dusky people is a decent substitute for wanting to keep a lot of dusky people from entering the country and going on welfare.

Hayes does go too far in suggesting that the militaristic mood in the GOP could go so far as to lure still another candidate in the race–one whose name would normally arouse widespread hoots of derision:

In a recent, hour-long interview, Lindsey Graham said if he is reelected to the Senate in November, he will begin exploring a bid for the presidency.

Be still, my heart. The prospect of a 2016 presidential cycle played out against the background of Lindsey Graham squawking hysterically about terrorist threats is almost too much to bear.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, October 3, 2014

October 5, 2014 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“A Perpetual State Of Republican Rebranding”: Another Venture Into The Stale Agenda Of Vague And Discredited Ideas

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus delivered a speech at the George Washington University yesterday, tackling a familiar challenge.

Republicans will unveil a rebranding effort Thursday aimed at changing its image as a political party focused solely on obstructing President Barack Obama’s agenda to instead a champion of ideas and action. […]

Despite the predictions by nonpartisan political handicappers of GOP electoral success in November, there is an acknowledgment within the party that it needs to do a better job convincing voters that its objective is greater than just derailing Obama’s agenda.

We’ll get to the substance of Priebus’ pitch in a moment, but before we do, let’s not brush past the obvious too quickly: for the love of all that is good in the world, are Republicans really pursuing another “rebranding effort”?

Note the subtlety of the Associated Press’ report: “Priebus’ speech is not the party’s first rebranding effort this cycle.”

That’s true; it’s not. Shortly after the 2012 elections, in which Republicans struggled badly, Priebus’ launched a massive rebranding campaign, which his party promptly ignored. Indeed, for the most part, GOP lawmakers did pretty much the opposite of what the Republican National Committee had planned.

But that rebranding initiative, dubbed the “Growth and Opportunity Project,” was just the latest in a long series of related efforts. Remember the “Young Guns” rebranding campaign? How about the “Cut and Grow” rebranding campaign? And the “America Speaking Out” rebranding campaign?

My personal favorite was the “National Council for a New America” rebranding campaign, in which party leaders vowed to go outside the Beltway; they held one event in a D.C.-area pizza parlor; and the initiative evaporated soon after.

And yet, here’s Priebus trying once again. Not to put too fine a point on this, but when a major political party launches five rebranding initiatives in four years, it gives the impression of being hopelessly lost, lacking in leadership, direction, and purpose.

Of course, there’s also Priebus’ speech itself.

Pushing back against criticism that the GOP had become defined entirely by opposition to President Obama, Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus released a list of 11 “Principles for American Renewal” that he said would guide the GOP agenda should it gain control of government.

“People know what we’re against,” Priebus said in a speech at George Washington University. “I want to talk about the things that we’re for.”

In theory, that sounds delightful, but in practice, what Priebus wants is a stale agenda of vague and discredited ideas, many of which have been considered and rejected: a radically dangerous constitutional amendment on balanced budgets, a Republican-friendly version of health care reform that the party can’t identify, and school vouchers to help privatize America’s system of public education, among other things. There were 11 provisions in all, none of which were substantive or interesting.

Ed Kilgore concluded that Priebus’ new plan is “pretty perfunctory at best, and more than likely meant to be mentioned rather than read.” Mocking Priebus’ message, Kilgore added, “Hey, look, conservative critics, look, pundits, we got eleven—not just ten, but eleven – principles to show what we’ll do other than shriek about Obama and Benghazi! and the IRS and Secular Socialism every day! It goes up to eleven!”


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 3, 2014

October 5, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Reince Priebus, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“In Case Anyone Is Confused”: Don’t Fall For The GOP’s Over-The-Counter Contraception Racket

It’s time to call bullshit on the GOP’s embrace of over-the-counter birth control. Several Republican candidates, under fire for radical positions on women’s health, have recently adopted the idea in a naked attempt to woo female voters. These politicians say they’re all in favor of access to contraception. But sudden calls for the pill to be available without a prescription do not signal a real shift in conservative attitudes toward reproductive rights. They simply mask tired opposition to the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that insurers cover birth control.

The list of Republicans that have endorsed the idea includes Senate nominees Cory Gardner (Colorado), Tom Tillis (North Carolina), Ed Gillespie (Virginia) and Mike McFadden (Minnesota). Republicans running for the House have also spoken up for over-the-counter access.

None of these people were championing the proposal before their campaigns. Instead, they were working to limit women’s access to abortion and other healthcare. Gardner, who started the over-the-counter trend in June with an op-ed in The Denver Post, has campaigned for “personhood” measures that would outlaw abortion and possibly some forms of birth control since at least 2006. Early in his campaign Gardner denounced the state-level personhood legislation he’d supported—yet he’s still a co-sponsor on a federal bill that would have the same impact. Gardner has resorted to claiming that bill doesn’t exist.

Then there’s Tom Tillis, who endorsed over-the-counter birth control during a debate with Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan in September. As the top Republican in the state House, Tillis shepherded extreme anti-choice legislation in a decisively dishonest manner, inserting restrictions into unrelated bills like one ostensibly about motorcycle safety. Tillis, like other Republicans trumpeting their support for over-the-counter contraception, opposes not only the ACA’s birth control mandate but the healthcare law in general, which has a range of other benefits for women.

The latest candidate to pivot to contraception when confronted about her record is Joni Ernst, a Senate hopeful in Iowa who supports a personhood amendment as well as criminal prosecution of doctors who provide abortions. “When it does come to a woman’s access to contraception, I will always stand with our women on affordable access to contraception,” she said. Her campaign did not respond to a request to clarify which specific policies she supports that would increase affordability and accessibility.

In case anyone is confused: while affordable contraception does dramatically reduce rates of unintended pregnancy, it does not solve the problems created by cutting off women’s access to abortion services. In fact, attempts to block abortion access—for example, by cutting funds for clinics like Planned Parenthood that provide a range of services besides abortion—can have the perverse effect of making it more difficult for women to get other healthcare, birth control included.

Nor is making contraception available without a prescription an alternative to the birth control mandate (or, needless to say, the entire healthcare law). Over-the-counter birth control has support from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a point that several Republican candidates have pointed out when their motives were questioned. Yet the same medical association is quite clear that women still need insurance coverage for contraception. Not all women can or want to take the pill, and other forms of birth control like the IUD are expensive and require a doctor’s appointment. In June, ACOG warned politicians against using calls for over-the-counter contraception “as a political tool.”

That Republicans need such a tool to alter their reputation among women is obvious. Young women are the key demographic in many midterm battlegrounds, and according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll conducted in July and August, they prefer a Democrat-controlled Congress by a fourteen-point margin. (Men, on the other hand, favor Republicans by seventeen points.)

But why over-the-counter birth control, specifically? It’s a win-win-win for Republicans trying to appeal to female voters, while bashing Obamacare and boosting their free-market street cred. Candidates can say they support access to contraption while celebrating a “market-based approach to medicine,” as the editorial board of National Review described it recently. The editors commended Republicans for “running…to get government out of the birth-control business as much as possible, and to free up access to it for the women who want it.”

To understand why this sudden embrace of “access” is a racket, and a dangerous one, consider Kevin Williamson, National Review’s self-described “roving correspondent.” In a recent post titled “Five Reasons Why You’re Too Dumb to Vote,” Williamson characterizes women who care about preserving access to abortion or the birth control mandate as “women who cannot figure out how to walk into Walgreens, lay down the price of a latte, and walk out with her own birth-control pills, no federal intervention necessary.” He goes on to applaud the editorial board’s endorsement of the over-the-counter birth control fad.

A few days later, Williamson declared that women who have abortions should be hanged. “I’m torn on capital punishment generally; but treating abortion as homicide means what it means,” he said on Twitter. To be clear: what “pro-life” Williamson is arguing for is putting one in every three women in the United States to death.

“Democrats are not resisting the GOP’s suggestion because of any quibbles with its policy substance,” National Review said in response to suggestions that the GOP’s embrace of over-the-counter birth control smacks of opportunism. “They hem and haw because they want to continue to depict Republicans as intent on keeping contraceptives away from women.”

It doesn’t matter what Republicans are or aren’t intent on. The bottom line is that a variety of conservative positions, from opposition to the ACA to federal funding for women’s clinics, have had or would have the very real effect of making it more difficult for women to access healthcare in general and contraceptives specifically.

Furthermore, contraception is hardly the sum of women’s medical needs. When conservatives fight to empower women to make decisions about their own bodies in all cases, regardless of income, then maybe we’ll take them seriously. In the meantime, there’s little of substance in an ideology that promotes birth control without a prescription for some women and hanging for others.


By: Zoe Carpenter, The Nation, October 3, 2014

October 5, 2014 Posted by | Birth Control, Contraception, Women's Health | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Self-Serving And Misguided”: Conservatives Want To Add Fantasy Thinking To The Budget

In yet another seemingly boring yet dramatic consequence of the midterm elections, Republicans and even some conservative Democrats are keen on adding “dynamic scoring” to the future budgeting process.

Top Republicans, eyeing full control of Congress next year, are considering changing the rules of the budget process so as to make tax cuts appear less harmful to the deficit.

They want to adopt a method called “dynamic scoring,” popular among conservatives since the 1970s, which scores budgets under the controversial assumption that tax cuts generate economic growth and make up for lost revenue — something critics have likened to “fairy dust.” The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the official scorekeeper, does not use the method, but Republicans, and even some conservative Democrats, want it to.

“In practice, dynamic scoring is just another way for Republicans to enact tax cuts and block tax increases,” economist Bruce Bartlett argued in the New York Times in 2013. “It is not about honest revenue-estimating; it’s about using smoke and mirrors to institutionalize Republican ideology into the budget process.”

Of course, tax cuts do not, in fact, generate revenue. Tax cuts almost invariably cost revenue. The fantasy that tax cuts increase revenue is based on a back-of-a-napkin gimmick called the Laffer Curve, which states that at a certain point of unreasonably high taxes, cutting taxes will generate more revenue due to higher growth. The sleight of hand, of course, is in the inflection point of the curve. The tax rate would have to be ludicrously high for tax cuts to have enough of a stimulative effect to generate enough growth actually increase government revenue. We don’t even have to speculate about whether we’re anywhere close to that inflection point in the United States: the example of other social democracies demonstrates that higher rates do lead to higher government revenues, and the experience of the budget-busting Bush tax cuts demonstrates the inverse.

Conservatives have the problem that reality continues to be punishing to their worldview. Abstinence education doesn’t prevent teen pregnancy; tax cuts don’t generate revenue; climate change is real; supply-side economics doesn’t create sustainable growth; etc.

Their usual answer to be battered by the way the world actually works, is to spend oodles of money telling voters convenient fantasies. Dynamic scoring is just another way of inserting their self-serving and misguided wishful thinking into the reality-based budget system.


By: David Atkins, Washington Monthly Political Animal, October 4, 2014

October 5, 2014 Posted by | Budget, Conservatives | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Free Enterprise Groups”: How The Koch Brothers Helped Bring About The Law That Shut Texas Abortion Clinics

In this March 6, 2014 file photo, over 40 people hold a candle light vigil in front of the Whole Women’s HealthClinic in McAllen, Texas. The clinic will close on October 3, 2014, along with 12 others in Texas after the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated part of sweeping new Texas abortion restrictions that also shuttered other facilities statewide six months ago. The state has only 8 remaining abortion clinics in operation.

In Texas politics, abortion is front and center once again—and so is the role of so-called “free enterprise” groups in the quest for government control of women’s lives.

Yesterday, there were 21 abortion clinics available to the women of Texas, the second-largest state in the nation. Today, thanks to a decision handed down from a three-judge panel on the federal 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, there are eight. But the story really begins with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United, and the flow of money to anti-choice organizations from groups that profess to care only for the deregulation of industry and markets.

The closing of some 13 abortion clinics today in Texas hinges on a provision of the highly restrictive, anti-abortion bill passed in the state legislature in special session in 2013—the part of the law that requires clinics to comply with the building code standards for hospital-quality ambulatory surgical clinics, despite the assertion of nearly every credible medical association that such requirements are medically unnecessary.

In fact, the most significant effect of the facility requirements is to prevent women from obtaining safe abortions, since the clinics cannot not afford the alterations to their facilities demanded by the law. And given the state’s other restrictions on abortion—a mandatory and medically unnecessary sonogram, a 24-hour waiting period and a ban on abortions taking place 20 weeks post-fertilization—you’d be forgiven for thinking that most significant effect to be by design.

That aspect of the law, as well as others, were challenged by the Center for Reproductive Rights and other pro-choice groups. In August, the groups won a reprieve from the requirement that clinics meet hospital building-code standards, as well as from another provision that requires physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within a 30-mile radius of the practice or clinic where they conduct the procedure. At that time, Judge Lee Yeakel of United States District Court in Austin ruled in the clinics’ favor.

Then Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate for governor, appealed Yeakel’s ruling, yielding Wednesday’s ruling from the three-judge panel in a decision that was contemptuous of Yeakel’s decision, declaring him to have exceeded his judicial authority.

But even more astonishing in the 5th Circuit’s opinion is its assertion that the shuttering of most of the state’s abortion clinics will not place an undue burden—the standard set in the Supreme Court’s 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey—on women seeking abortions. According to the New York Times, some 5.4 million women of childbearing age live in the Lone Star State, which covers more than 268,000 square miles.

The ruling puts abortion politics front and center, once again, in the Texas gubernatorial race, just a month before Election Day. In truth, it’s the issue that’s provided the subtext of that race from the get-go, as the Democratic candidate, State Senator Wendy Davis, rose to national prominence for her fortitude in launching, on June 25, 2013, an 11-hour filibuster that temporarily forestalled passage of the law, as pro-choice demonstrators poured into the state capitol building. In his role as the state’s top lawyer, Abbott is charged with enforcing that law, and has done so with gusto

But, as I reported for RH Reality Check in November 2013, the rash of anti-abortion laws that flooded the agendas of state legislatures across the nation that summer were hardly the result of spontaneous uprisings; they were fueled with the dollars of such “free enterprise” groups as Freedom Partners, Americans for Prosperity, the Center to Protect Patient Rights and 60 Plus—all part of the fundraising network organized by Charles and David Koch, the billionaire principals of Koch Industries, the second-largest privately held corporation in the United States.

The brothers may care little about killing the right to choose, but that doesn’t mean they’ll hesitate to throw women under the bus if it helps them in their anti-regulatory, shrink-the-government crusade. Religious-right leaders, in recent years, theologized the free-market cause, providing the Kochs and their ilk with foot-soldiers willing to execute it, if only they could find their way to political power.

In the wake of the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United, which gave license to groups like those mentioned above to spend unlimited sums in elections without disclosing their donors, millions of free-enterprise dollars flowed to anti-choice groups and politicians. (In Texas, for example, Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, the sponsor of the House version of the draconian 2013 abortion law, was also president of the state chapter of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the influential right-leaning group, supported by the Kochs, that crafts legislation designed to cut regulations on corporations.) The Koch network money led to an unprecedented number of anti-choice politicians elected to state legislatures in 2010 and 2012.

With a month to go before voters hit the polls, Wendy Davis is gaining on Greg Abbott, but a recent poll still has her 9 points behind the Republican. He’s likely to enjoy a flood of outside spending on his behalf by the Koch-network groups.

Then there’s money in their respective campaign coffers. “In July, Abbott had $35.6 million on hand,” reports Wayne Slater of the Dallas Morning News, “while Davis had $8.8 million.”

In Texas, as in much of the nation, it’s hard for a woman to catch a break.


By: Adele M. Stan, The American Prospect, October 3, 2014

October 5, 2014 Posted by | Koch Brothers, Reproductive Choice, War On Women | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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