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“Nostalgia And The Good Old Days”: Only In The GOP; So Much For Forward Looking And Relevance

It seems a little harsh to say the Republican National Committee is living in the past, but when the shirt fits….

Republicans have been boasting of their new digital campaign toolbox, but as the 2016 presidential race kicks into gear, they have gone retro by using vintage T-shirts as a fund-raising device.

The Republican National Committee is making a year-end push to peddle red and blue “Reagan/Bush ‘84” shirts for $27. The shirts are a “throwback to the days of strong, principled leadership in the White House,” the committee says. (They are also a throwback to a very good year for Republican presidential politics: President Ronald Reagan carried 49 states.)

Just a few months after President Obama’s first inaugural, Jeb Bush appeared at a Republican event and urged his GOP allies to move past “nostalgia.”

“You can’t beat something with nothing, and the other side has something,” the former Florida governor said at the time. ‘I don’t like it, but they have it, and we have to be respectful and mindful of that.”

Bush added, “So our ideas need to be forward looking and relevant. I felt like there was a lot of nostalgia and the good old days in the [Republican] messaging. I mean, it’s great, but it doesn’t draw people toward your cause.”

That was over five years ago. As of this week, the RNC is still counting on shirts promoting their presidential ticket from 30 years ago to boost a year-end fundraising pitch.

So much for “forward looking.”

Indeed, it’s a curious message from the RNC. The party longs for “the days of strong, principled leadership in the White House”? Even if we assume they hold Clinton and Obama in contempt, doesn’t this RNC message seem a little insulting to the Bush/Cheney and Bush/Quayle eras?

Sure, Democrats have won the popular vote in five of the last six national elections, but does the RNC really have to go back three decades to find a presidential election cycle the party is excited about?


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

December 30, 2014 Posted by | Election 2016, GOP | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Thin-Skinned Blue Line”: Civilian Authority Is The Essence Of Democracy

To the New York police officers who turned their backs on Mayor Bill de Blasio at a slain officer’s funeral: How dare you.

So a wave of grief met a mean-spirited blue wall of silence. And how did they know the slain officer, Rafael Ramos, would have wished for an ugly political stunt amid bagpipes and farewells in his memory?

The nation’s eyes watched conduct unbecoming and saw salt poured in an open wound over violent police practices toward black men. The staged insubordination was a gauntlet thrown down to de Blasio’s first place in the chain of command and to the citizens of New York who elected him in 2013.

Whether the mayor “turned his back on them” by speaking of his worry for his biracial son Dante has nothing to do with it. Whether he questioned a fatal chokehold of a nonviolent black man, Eric Garner, by a scrum of police officers has nothing to do with it. Personal opinions are not the point. The point is, the mayor is the mayor.

If the invective of Patrick Lynch, president of a large police union, incited the silent mob action, it does not justify it. To state there’s blood on the mayor’s hands, as Lynch claimed, is an outrage. It was too much for Republican Rudy Giuliani, the tough-talking former mayor.

Time-out for a hard-headed moment of truth. Civilian authority is the essence of democracy. A public uniformed police or military rebellion is absolutely un-American. The Pentagon tried to do the same thing to President Bill Clinton, when he was new to his job, led by Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who openly opposed Clinton’s gays in the military reform. At first, military leaders did not give Clinton the respect he was due as the elected commander in chief.

Both Democrats, Clinton and de Blasio came in on a tide that signalled social change in the military or the police department. De Blasio campaigned on making police contacts and tactics such as frisking less hostile. That’s what the majority of New Yorkers want from the police, more peace, and that’s what they should get.

On city streets, civilians have lost a lot of ground to police since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The trend is that police officers have become overly aggressive toward people of color as we (white) people act timid and deferential. In an age of homeland anxiety, many of us bought into the narrative that the police were, by definition, heroes. That’s just not so.

In New York, Baltimore, Milwaukee, Ferguson and so on, respect is the ideal, but let’s make it a two-way street. For his part, Police Commissioner William J. Bratton found the funeral spectacle “inappropriate,” as he put it on the Sunday shows. And so were the Puritan witch trials. Maybe Bratton fears a mutiny, as he walks a mighty fine blue line.

To recap, thousands of police officers flocked to the funeral of Officer Ramos, who died in the line of duty. Not all police officers turned their backs in protest at de Blasio’s eulogy for the fallen officer, fatally shot in his squad car. But hundreds of officers did, standing outside a church in Queens.

Maybe it’s time to rethink our collective view on a famed, beloved city police force in popular culture. Now all of America got to see a different, dark side of that police force, and it’s not true blue.


By: Jamie Stiehm, U. S. News and World Report, December 29, 2014

December 30, 2014 Posted by | Bill de Blasio, NYPD, Police Violence | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Economic Facts Get In The Way”: For Republicans, Pretending That ‘Up Is Down’ Won’t Cut It

Uh-oh. Now that the economy is doing well, what are Republicans – especially those running for president – going to complain about? And what are Democrats willing to celebrate?

Last week’s announcement that the economy grew at a 5 percent rate in the third quarter of 2014 – following 4.6 percent second-quarter growth – was the clearest and least debatable indication to date that sustained recovery is no longer a promise, it’s a fact.

Remember how Mitt Romney painted President Obama as an economic naïf, presented himself as the consummate job-creator and promised to reduce unemployment to 6 percent by the end of his first term? Obama beat him by two full years: The jobless rate stands at 5.8 percent, which isn’t quite full unemployment but represents a stunning turnaround.

Since the day Obama took office, the U.S. economy has created well over 5 million jobs; if you measure from the low point of the Great Recession, as the administration prefers, the number approaches 10 million. It is true that the percentage of Americans participating in the workforce has declined, but this has to do with long-term demographic and social trends beyond any president’s control.

Middle-class incomes have been flat, despite a recent uptick in wages. But gasoline prices have plummeted to an average of $2.29 a gallon nationwide, according to AAA. This translates into more disposable income for consumers; as far as the economy is concerned, it’s as if everyone got a raise.

The stock market, meanwhile, is at an all-time high, with the Dow soaring above 18,000. This is terrific for Wall Street and the 1 percenters, but it also fattens the pension funds and retirement accounts of the middle class.

All this happy economic news presents political problems – mostly for Republicans but to some extent Democrats as well.

For Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio and other potential GOP presidential contenders, the first question is whether to deny the obvious, accept it grudgingly or somehow embrace it.

For years, a central tenet of the Republican argument has been that on economic issues, Obama is either an incompetent or a socialist. It should have been clear from the beginning that he is neither, given the fact that he rescued an economy that was on the brink of tipping into depression – and did it in a way that was friendly to Wall Street’s interests. But the GOP rarely lets the facts get in the way of a good story, so attacks on Obama’s economic stewardship have persisted.

The numbers we’re seeing now, however, make these charges of incompetence and/or socialism untenable. Even the Affordable Care Act – which Republicans still claim to want to repeal – turned out not to be the job-killer that critics imagined. All it has done, aside from making it possible for millions of uninsured Americans to get coverage, is help hold down the cost of medical care, which is rising at its slowest rate in decades.

GOP candidates face a dilemma. To win in the primaries, where the influence of the far-right activist base is magnified, it may be necessary to continue the give-no-quarter attacks on Obama’s record, regardless of what the facts might say. But in the general election, against a capable Democratic candidate – someone like Hillary Clinton, if she decides to run – pretending that up is down won’t cut it.

Likewise, the Republican leadership in the House and now the Senate will confront a stark choice. Do they collaborate with Obama on issues such as tax reform, infrastructure and the minimum wage in an attempt to further boost the recovery? Or do they grumble on the sidelines, giving the impression they are rooting against the country’s success?

Democrats, too, have choices to make. The fall in gas prices is partly due to a huge increase in U.S. production of fossil fuels. “Drill, baby, drill” may have been a GOP slogan, but it became reality under the Obama administration. Is the party prepared to celebrate fracking? Will Democratic candidates trumpet the prospect of energy independence?

Likewise, Elizabeth Warren charges that the administration’s coziness with Wall Street helps ensure that the deck remains stacked against the middle class. Warren says she isn’t running for president but wants to influence the debate. She has. Clinton’s speeches have begun sounding more populist, in spite of her long-standing Wall Street ties.

You know the old saying about how there’s no arguing with success? Our politicians are about to prove it wrong.


By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, December 20, 2014

December 30, 2014 Posted by | Economic Recovery, Economy, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Today In GOP Outreach”: House Majority Whip Admits Speaking At White-Power Event

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), the third highest-ranking member in the Republican caucus, admitted on Monday that he spoke at a white-power conference in 2002.

Scalise’s presence as an “honored guest” at a 2002 European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO) conference was first reported on Sunday by Louisiana-based blogger Lamar White, Jr. EURO, which was founded by former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke, is classified as a white nationalist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

According to posts that White, Jr. uncovered from the white-power site, Scalise — who was a state representative at the time — addressed the crowd and “discussed ways to oversee gross mismanagement of tax revenue or ‘slush funds’ that have little or no accountability,” and “brought into sharp focus the dire circumstances pervasive in many important, under-funded needs of the community at the expense of graft within the Housing and Urban Development Fund, an apparent give-away to a selective group based on race.”

On Monday, Scalise’s spokeswoman Moira Bagley confirmed his attendence at the event to The Washington Post:

“Throughout his career in public service, Mr. Scalise has spoken to hundreds of different groups with a broad range of viewpoints,” Bagley said. “In every case, he was building support for his policies, not the other way around. In 2002, he made himself available to anyone who wanted to hear his proposal to eliminate slush funds that wasted millions of taxpayer dollars as well as his opposition to a proposed tax increase on middle-class families.”

She added, “He has never been affiliated with the abhorrent group in question. The hate-fueled ignorance and intolerance that group projects is in stark contradiction to what Mr. Scalise believes and practices as a father, a husband, and a devoted Catholic.”

Bagley’s statement does not specify if or when Scalise realized that he had addressed a group that believes that “the Jews are the enemy of the White race, and they are largely responsible for the ‘browning’ of America,” or that “the beautiful Germany of the 1930s with blonde children happily running through every village has been replaced with a multi-racial cesspool.” Furthermore, her claim that he “has never been affiliated with the abhorrent group in question” is rather undercut by the fact that he gave an apparently well-regarded speech to their annual conference.

Scalise is not the first prominent Republican to associate with white supremacists; Scalise’s former colleague in the House, Ron Paul, once praised Duke in a newsletter. But Paul never held a position nearly as powerful as majority whip.

It remains to be seen whether the new revelations will cost Scalise his position; GOP leaders are reportedly “monitoring” the situation.

Meanwhile, the news seems extremely unlikely to help Republicans in their mostly forgotten quest to reach out to minority voters.


By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, December 29, 2014

December 30, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Steve Scalise, White Supremacists | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Obama Is Right On Race; The Media Is Wrong”: The Rotten Apples Do Not Represent All Americans

It seemed as though President Obama couldn’t possibly say anything to make conservatives, particularly conservative members of the media, even more incredulous than they already are. But then he said what some apparently consider his biggest half-truth or untruth to date: that he believes the country is less racially divided now than it was when he took office. The disbelief was evident in article after article, with one conservative site using “President Pinocchio” in its headline.

The thinking seems to go like this: With protests across the nation over racially charged deaths, from Michael Brown to Tamir Rice, how could the president say with a straight face that our nation is not less divided than it once was? Especially when polls show that some Americans think we are. And yet the answer to that question can be found in Obama’s own words. “I actually think that it’s probably in its day-to-day interactions less racially divided,” he told NPR.

He’s right. Despite the images perpetuated by the media highlighting divisions—because that makes better television than images highlighting unity—we are not a nation at war over race. We are a nation suffering growing pains. We are a nation in which a few rotten apples are spoiling different barrels. There are a few among the police, whom some Americans no longer trust; among some of the communities currently at odds with the police; and among those more interested in securing 15 minutes of social media fame by stoking unrest than seeing our nation at peace. But those rotten apples do not represent all Americans. Those rotten apples do not represent America, and they certainly don’t represent a nation at war.

How do I know? Well, the numbers tell us so, as do all of our day-to-day interactions, just as the president said.

For starters, the number of interracial married couples reached an all-time high in 2012, three years after President Obama took office, jumping from 7 percent in 2000 to 18 percent. Those numbers don’t include those who are dating or cohabitating, an indication that the number of interracial couples is actually higher, as American marriage rates are at an all-time low.

And while a majority of Americans may not be in interracial relationships, a large number of Americans are now either related to someone or know someone who is in one or has been in one. Furthermore, mixed race children are the fastest growing population in the country. Someone who once may have been less evolved on race relations could very well now have a grandchild, niece, nephew, or godchild who is of mixed race, which will likely spark an evolution of some sort. That evolution can be seen in Gallup’s tracking of national attitudes on interracial relationships. In 1958 4 percent of Americans approved of such couples. By 1997 half of Americans approved, and by 2012 the number was 87 percent, a steady year-to-year increase in the years since the Obama presidency began.

I have been reminded of this throughout the holiday season, in both big cities and small Southern towns, where I’ve crossed paths with a number of mixed race families. No one stared at them as though they were anomalies, because they aren’t anymore. They represent the face of the new America, an America the country’s first biracial president has helped usher in, despite what critics might say.

But then again, highlighting the new America doesn’t generate the clicks or the TV ratings that highlighting people spewing angry, racially charged rhetoric does. So the story has become “America is divided by race,” and though that doesn’t represent most Americans’ day-to-day experiences, some of us are buying into the media’s toxic narrative.

I almost did. While traveling this holiday season, a relative and I were pulled over by a police officer. It was late at night, in the South, and a relatively deserted area. The officer was white, male, and had a Southern drawl. Since my relative and I are both African American and have been following the same news coverage many of you have been, I was nervous. I even began texting a friend so someone would be aware of where we were and what was occurring on the off chance the experience took a turn for the worse. It didn’t. He was courteous, explained the legitimate reason we were briefly pulled over, and then let us continue on our way. I breathed a heavy sigh of relief.

The fact that many African Americans fear the police more than our white counterparts says our nation is still a work in progress. But the next time you are tempted to say our nation is worse off on race than it was before the president took office, ask yourself this: Are your day-to-day relationships with people of other races worse? The people you work with, or see at your grocery store, or your church? Are your personal relationships worse? Or is it simply that what you are hearing and seeing about race in the media seems worse?

If that is the case, then here’s a piece of advice: Turn your TV off.


By: Keli Goff, The Daily Beast, December 29, 2014

December 30, 2014 Posted by | Conservative Media, Conservatives, Law Enforcement | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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