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“There Is A Contradiction In Almost All Their Positions”: Does It Matter If The GOP Presidential Candidates Would Attend A Gay Wedding?

Presidential candidates have to face a lot of tough questions over the course of a campaign, ones that are directly relevant to the problems the next president will face. For instance: “What would you do with the millions of undocumented immigrants already in the U.S.?” Or: “Which programs would you cut to reduce the deficit?” Or: “Under what circumstances would you invade Iran?”

There’s another class of questions that is designed to bore deep into the candidate’s heart and reveal what kind of person he or she really is. These are mostly irrelevant or inane.

The question all the 2016 GOP hopefuls are now being forced to answer — Would you attend a gay wedding? — seems to be of that latter kind. But perhaps we can salvage something informative and useful from it.

First, let’s look at how the candidates who have been asked directly have answered:

  • Scott Walker: When he was asked, Walker treated it as a question about the past, not the future. “For a family member, Tonette and I and our family have already had a family member who’s had a reception. I haven’t been at a wedding. That’s true even though my position on marriage is still that it’s defined between a man and a woman, and I support the constitution of the state. But for someone I love, we’ve been at a reception.” So…maybe?
  • Marco Rubio: He may have been the most straightforward: “If it’s somebody in my life that I love and care for, of course I would. I’m not going to hurt them simply because I disagree with a choice they’ve made.”
  • Ted Cruz: The rock-ribbed conservative and defender of traditional marriage wouldn’t say. When radio host Hugh Hewitt asked him, Cruz said, “I haven’t faced that circumstance…what the media tries to twist the question of marriage into is they try to twist it into a battle of emotions and personality.”
  • Rick Perry: The former Texas governor said, “I probably would, but I think the real issue here is that’s the gotcha question that the left tries to get out there.”
  • Rick Santorum: So far, Santorum is the only one who has put his foot down. “No, I would not,” he said when Hugh Hewitt asked. “I would love them and support them, I would not attend that ceremony.”

One assumes that Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, and the rest of the field will get asked the question before long. So is this a “gotcha” question? The answer is complicated.

On one hand, there are few issues on which the personal and the political are more entwined than gay rights. The increasing openness of gay Americans is what has spurred the rapid transformation of public opinion and law on this issue. It becomes much harder to oppose those rights when you have loved ones who are gay. A question like this can help us get insight into the personal feelings that might guide these candidates in the future.

But on the other hand, what a candidate does or doesn’t do in his personal life is ultimately irrelevant. We’re electing a president, not choosing a best man. The important question is what laws and policies they would or wouldn’t change. Unless they’re actually related to him, no gay couple is affected by whether Marco Rubio will come to their wedding. But they may well be affected by the policies he supports, which include allowing certain vendors to discriminate against them.

So when the candidates protest that the real question is about the law and the Constitution, not about their personal feelings, they’re absolutely right. That’s what they ought to be pressed on, so we understand exactly what decisions they’d make if they win.

Having said that, there is a contradiction in almost all their positions (Santorum excepted; he’s the consistent one) that reveals something important: At this moment in history, the Republican Party is in a very uncomfortable place. They all support the idea that marriage is only between a man and a woman; and they all support the idea that state governments should be able to exclude gays and lesbians from the institution of marriage. Yet they also want to show voters that on a personal level, they’re friendly and caring and open-minded and tolerant. We’ve now reached the point where a national figure is expected to have gay friends or family members, and treat them with dignity and respect.

The problem is that the policy position the Republican candidates have taken isn’t friendly or caring or open-minded or tolerant, and focusing on what they would or wouldn’t do personally lets them off the hook. Does a presidential candidate deserve credit for not being a jerk to his cousin who’s getting married? Sure. But what really matters is the decisions he’d make that would affect millions of lives.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, April 22, 2015

April 23, 2015 Posted by | Discrimination, GOP Presidential Candidates, Marriage Equality | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Dr. Evil” Turns Out To Be “Dr. Silly”: A Self-Serving Huckster Who Grubs For Corporate Dollars By Offering To Do Their Dirty PR Work

Big Oil, labor exploiters, industrial food factories, frackers, and other corporate profiteers have been paying a lot of money to a man who celebrates himself as “Dr. Evil” — the scourge of all progressive groups!

But Rick Berman is not a doctor, not evil, and not a scourge. While he is a wholly unprincipled little man, he’s just a self-serving huckster who grubs for corporate dollars by offering to do their dirty PR work. His specialty is taking secret funding from major corporations to publicly slime environmentalists, low-wage workers, and anyone else perceived by his corporate clients as enemies.

Berman’s modus operandi is not exactly sophisticated. Taking money from the likes of Philip Morris, Monsanto, and Tyson Foods, he sets up tax-exempt front groups (with nondescript names like Center for Consumer Freedom, Employment Policies Institute, and Environmental Policy Alliance), posing them as independent research and academic outfits. Each one is an empty shell, run by his small staff of political hacks out of his Washington, D.C., office, and, using the names of the front groups, Berman and Co. buy full-page newspaper ads and write opinion pieces filled with made-up facts and manufactured horror stories for clueless media outlets that amount to raw hatchet attacks on whatever progressive groups or public policies the corporate funders want to kill.

His mad-dog style is hardly worrisome to those targeted, for rather than drawing converts to the corporate funder’s cause, it merely rallies the usual anti-labor, anti-enviro, anti-“fill in the blank” crowd. But it still appeals to brand-name corporate clients, for Berman promises to spew their message into the media without having any of the nastiness stick to them. “We run all this stuff through nonprofit organizations that are insulated from having to disclose donors,” he assured energy executives last year. “There is total anonymity,” he bragged. “People don’t know who supports us.”

And can you even imagine a political PR campaign against environmentalists that was so negative, so ridiculously slanted and downright dirty, that it actually repulsed executives of some of America’s biggest fracking corporations?

Wow — it’s got to take a big wad of ugly to gag a fracker! But in the gross world of political rancor, few cough up hairballs as foul as those produced by Berman. Last year, he was in Colorado Springs, speaking at a meeting of Big Oil frackers about his down-and-dirty plan to smear and ridicule the grassroots enviros who’ve dared to oppose the fracking of Colorado’s land, water, people, and communities. Dubbing the campaign “Big Green Radicals,” the Berman team revealed that their PR firm had dug into the personal lives of Sierra Club board members, looking for tidbits to embarrass them. Gut it up, Berman cried out to the executives, “You can either win ugly or lose pretty.” The Little Generalissimo then urged them to pony up some $3 million for his assault, saying they should “think of this as an endless war,” adding pointedly, “and you have to budget for it.”

Unfortunately for the sleaze peddler, one appalled energy executive recorded his crude pitch and leaked it to the media. “That you have to play dirty to win,” the executive explained, “just left a bad taste in my mouth.” Even Anadarko, an aggressive fracking corporation with 13,000 fracked wells in the Rockies, publicly rejected Berman’s political play, telling the New York Times: “It does not align with our values.”

Berman likes to be called “Dr. Evil,” but he’s so coarse, strident, bombastic, and clownish that he’s become known as “Dr. Silly.” And oops, not only is this huckster an ineffectual fake, but big holes in his curtain of anonymity are now revealing some of the corporations hiding behind it and his big funders want no part of that. To take a peek, go to www.BermanExposed.org.

 

By: Jim Hightower, The National Memo, April 22, 2014

April 23, 2015 Posted by | Corporations, PR Campaigns | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Stealth Religion-Based Support”: Jeb’s Strategy With The Christian Right; Osmosis

If you are used to thinking of Jeb Bush as this Establishment Republican that hard-core conservatives–including the Christian Right–mistrust, this little nugget from a recent National Journal piece by Tim Alberta and Tiffany Stanley might be a jarring reminder of the long reach of Jeb’s family:

[P]owerful Christian conservatives are operating what amounts to a stealth campaign on Bush’s behalf. Some are old allies from the Florida days; others are holdovers from George W. Bush’s 2000 and 2004 campaigns. Some are both, including Ralph Reed, president of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a longtime friend of Jeb’s who served as Southeast regional chairman of George W.’s 2004 reelection effort (and thus practically lived in Florida). Multiple GOP sources say that Reed has been urging Jeb Bush for several years to make a 2016 run and spoke with him recently to game out the campaign. Like many of the organizations that Bush’s supporters lead, Reed’s coalition demands impartiality from its leaders, so Reed can’t openly back his man—unless, as some suspect will happen, Reed ultimately decides to join the campaign officially.

This makes Jeb’s decision to blow off the big Iowa cattle-call of Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition this weekend a bit more interesting, eh? Seems Jeb would prefer quiet consultations with his close friend Ralph Reed to open pandering. And indeed, that’s the theme that comes through from stem to stern in the Alberta/Stanley article, which begins with Jeb simultaneously refusing a formal vetting session with Iowa Christian Right kingpin Bob Vander Plaats while trying to charm him privately. We also learn that last summer Jeb flew out to Colorado to hobnob with the leadership of Focus on the Family, and spent a whole day with Russell Moore, the highly influential head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. He’s extremely close to the president of Florida’s Ave Maria University, sort of the Harvard of hyper-traditionalist Catholicism (and the site of Rich Santorum’s now-famous “spiritual warfare” speech). And he has the support and advice of Mark DeMoss, who was the Romney campaign’s chief liaison to conservative evangelicals in 2012–not to mention the positive memories of many Christian Right folk about his role in the Terri Schiavo saga of 2005.

At a minimum, if Jeb wins the GOP nomination, he will not have to waste time on any courtship of conservative Christians. But at a time when (a) some Christian Right leaders like Russell Moore are expressing a preference for less noisy and more strategically minded political champions and (b) there will be an awful lot of the noisy types in the field, Bush may be quietly competing already with Scott Walker for stealth religion-based support. And he doesn’t really even have to blow many dog whistles: it’s more a strategy of osmosis, where Christian Soldiers learn to view him as a comrade-in-arms who is all the more effective for trying not to set off too many alarms in the secular-socialist enemy camp.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 22, 2015

April 23, 2015 Posted by | Christian Conservatives, Jeb Bush, Religious Right | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Liberals Discomfort With Power”: No Good Argument For Clinton Needing A Challenger

Even before Hillary Clinton formally announced her intention to seek the office of the presidency, left-of-center pundits had been worried about the appearance of primogenitor. While the Republicans are generally comfortable with the coronation of heirs to the party’s nomination, the Democrats are not. There’s something monarchical about political ascension, the pundits say, something authoritarian and dynastic: it’s anathema to the principles of egalitarianism and meritocracy.

After Jeb Bush announced the launch of his exploratory committee, Glenn Greenwald, the civil-libertarian journalist, said a matchup between the wife and son/brother of former presidents would “vividly underscore how the American political class functions: by dynasty, plutocracy, fundamental alignment of interests masquerading as deep ideological divisions, and political power translating into vast private wealth and back again. The educative value would be undeniable.”

David Corn didn’t go as far as Greenwald. But he found Clinton’s apparent inevitability equally distasteful. Corn advanced the name of former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley as a foil. O’Malley, he said, “would make a good sparring partner. He’s a smart guy with sass, but he’s not a slasher, who could inflict long-lasting political damage.” Critically important, he said, is that Clinton shouldn’t assume victory. Only with a primary fight, Clinton would “earn—not inherit—the nomination,” Corn wrote. “She’d be a fighter, not a dynastic queen. The press and the public would have something to ponder beyond just Clinton herself.”

I admire Corn and Greenwald immensely, and agree with them mostly. But I’d argue their assessments, as well as those of others in the left-liberal commentariat, are not arguments. Instead, they are statements reflecting a discomfort with power, a discomfort widely shared among Democrats. Meanwhile, Republicans have no such qualms whatsoever.

Despite her flaws, Clinton and her campaign represent a singular moment in the history of the Democratic Party. Namely, there probably has not been this much party unity since 1964 when President Lyndon Baines Johnson, campaigning in the memory of an assassinated president, beat conservative Barry Goldwater in a landslide. But that unity failed to last. Four years later, in the shadow of Vietnam and in the backlash against the Civil Rights Act, LBJ’s Democratic Party would crack up forever.

In the wake of that crack-up, the Republicans routinely won by deploying an array of wedge issues to divide and conquer—from Richard Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” in 1968, to George H.W. Bush’s “Willie Horton” attack in 1988, to his son’s “gays, guns, and God” in 2004. But by 2008, something essential had shifted. Barack Obama forged a coalition among minorities, young voters, and white liberals and John McCain refused to go negative on his opponent’s race, fearing backlash. In 2012, the Obama coalition held despite Mitt Romney’s clumsy attempts at race baiting.

Holding that coalition together is vital to maintaining the gains, large and small, made in eight years of unprecedented, massive, and total resistance on the part of the Republicans. And I’m not only talking about the Affordable Care Act, which is transforming life for millions, nor the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, which is finally taking effect.

Since 2013, when Obama realized he’d get nothing in terms of legislation from the Republicans, the president used his executive authority to make several small-bore advances in climate change, immigration, foreign policy, gay rights, and the minimum wage (among federal contractors). All it takes to turn that around is the next Republican president.

In 2000, Ralph Nader won a few million votes by claiming there was no difference between the major parties. While his message was undeniable, his campaign was indisputably destructive. Nader’s take of the popular vote was enough for George W. Bush to beat Al Gore by a hair. In addition to a disastrous war, giveaways to the wealthy, and incompetent governance, we have Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito, who, along with the high Court’s Republican majority, believe money has no corrupting effect on politics and that closely held businesses may discriminate on the basis of religious liberty.

Nader isn’t responsible for the Bush era. My point is that the stakes are high—too high to worry about a candidate’s foibles and fret over a “dynastic queen.” That matters less than Clinton’s being a Democrat who will, at the very least, hold the line against attempts to redistribute more wealth upward, to dismantle the welfare state, to privatized the public sphere, and wage more war abroad. Hopefully, if Clinton wins in 2016, she will build on the progressive record started by her predecessor.

Left-liberals are right in saying Clinton must clarify her positions on immigration, Wall Street, unemployment, foreign policy, and a host of other issues. She has been and will continue to be like her husband: maddeningly circumspect and hard to pin down. But that, in addition to all the other complaints thus far, doesn’t amount to an argument against her winning the nomination. Those complaints reflect liberals’ unease with power and the use of that power to protect hard-won progressive gains.

It’s time to get over that.

After all, voting is a political strategy that hopes to achieve political ends, not a quadrennial occasion to assess a candidate’s ideological worth.

 

By: John Stoehr, Managing Editor of The Washington Spectator; Featured Post, The National Memo, April 21, 2015

April 23, 2015 Posted by | Election 2016, Hillary Clinton, Liberals | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Cop’s ‘Large Hunch’ About Criminal Wrongdoing Won’t Do”: The Supreme Court Just Checked Cops’ Power To Extend Traffic Stops

Cases involving the Fourth Amendment’s proscription on unreasonable searches and seizures are the sleepers of every Supreme Court term. Unless the justices are confronted with new technologies or particularly invasive government practices—like body-cavity or thermal-imaging searches—these decisions rarely grab headlines, leaving only prosecutors, defense attorneys, and law professors to ponder their significance.

But this can’t be the norm—not in the wake of Ferguson, with heightened awareness of abusive policing. Today more than ever, an understanding of what limits the Constitution places on police and the Supreme Court’s interpretation of those limits should be essential knowledge. Anything less, to borrow the words of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, would simply reduce the Fourth Amendment “to a useless piece of paper.”

Because at the root of Rodriguez v. United States, decided Tuesday by the Supreme Court, lies one of the most common, and perhaps the only, interaction law-abiding citizens will ever have with law enforcement: traffic stops. Being pulled over is so mundane, I wondered in February whether Chief Justice John Roberts had ever been inconvenienced by the practice, perhaps as a result of driving with a broken taillight—the kind of infraction that triggered the killing of Walter Scott in South Carolina earlier this month.

When Rodriguez was argued in January, Roberts asked how exactly traffic stops go down in real life, saying lightheartedly, “Usually, people have told me, when you’re stopped, the officer says, ‘License and registration.’” That drew laughs from the courtroom—the implication being that Roberts wouldn’t admit to ever having broken the law—but it also suggested that perhaps he doesn’t quite grasp how humiliating these encounters can be. This prompted a rebuttal in open court from Sotomayor, who told the chief that she’d been stopped and that the experience of being kept longer than the time required to give her a ticket was “annoying as heck.”

Whether Roberts eventually grasped as much is unclear, but he did join the six-justice majority that agreed that police can’t extend the length of a traffic stop beyond the time necessary to inquire into the alleged traffic violation. In a triumph for citizens’ rights, the Supreme Court ruled that “a police stop exceeding the time needed to handle the matter for which the stop was made violates the Constitution’s shield against unreasonable seizures.”

That’s a big deal, if only because a lot can happen whenever police extend a traffic stop, even for a few minutes longer than necessary. To be sure, police already have wide latitude to stop anyone who is observed violating traffic laws; if probable cause exists that you’re not obeying the rules of the road, police are justified in stopping you. But what if, during the course of the stop, police also suspect you’re up to no good? Can they just hold you while they call in the dogs, as happened in Rodriguez, or for backup to conduct a wider criminal investigation? The lower courts that originally considered Rodriguez thought so, reasoning that a stop lasting, say, seven to ten minutes longer than necessary “was not of constitutional significance”—that the annoyance merely amounted to a “de minimis intrusion” on a motorist’s freedom of movement.

The Supreme Court didn’t buy that argument. “Authority for the seizure… ends when tasks tied to the traffic infraction are—or reasonably should have been—completed,” wrote Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for the majority. The court focused exclusively on the true “mission” of traffic stops—incidentals such as “checking the driver’s license, determining whether there are outstanding warrants against the driver, and inspecting the automobile’s registration and proof of insurance.” All of these things are well and good when the initial stop is valid.

The problem arises when a well-meaning officer turns the traffic inquiry into a prolonged, crime-fighting one. Such unrelated “detours” away from the original traffic mission, the court observed, are unconstitutional without independent, reasonable suspicion that an actual crime has taken place. A cop’s “large hunch” about criminal wrongdoing won’t do.

That’s a commonsense approach—no one should be stopped for even a moment longer than absolutely necessary. But will the ruling deter police from trying other dilatory tactics? Rodriguez, for one, doesn’t explicitly forbid officers from, say, taking their sweet time while running your license plate or from engaging in “friendly” small talk aimed at eliciting consent. These end-runs are still largely acceptable, and only time will tell what other methods cops will employ to bide their time and divine suspicion where initially there was none.

Until then, the Supreme Court should be commended for making the right call and delivering a ruling that, though far from a blockbuster, should encourage anyone who cares about the continued vitality of the Fourth Amendment. In post-Ferguson America, there’s just no other section of the Constitution that matters more—the power of policing rises and falls with every pronouncement on it.

 

By: Cristian Farias, The New Republic, April 22, 2015

April 23, 2015 Posted by | 4th Amendment, Rodriguez v United States, U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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