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“The New Willie Horton?”: This Particular Story Is A Microcosm Of The Republican Challenge On Immigration

Is Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez the new Willie Horton?

There are some people who would obviously like him to be. The story, which is about an undocumented immigrant who allegedly murdered a young woman in San Francisco named Kathryn Steinle after having been released from jail, has gone national. And it’s working its way into the presidential campaign. The way the candidates deal with it (or not) will tell us a lot about the state of immigration politics today.

It’s important to understand that there’s no consensus even on the right about how much attention to give to Lopez-Sanchez’s case. Most of the Republican candidates are treading carefully so far. While they oppose the “sanctuary city” policies that meant that Lopez-Sanchez wasn’t turned over to immigration authorities when he had been arrested for lesser crimes, they haven’t yet tried to use this case as a bludgeon to attack Democrats. (The unsurprising exception to this is Donald Trump; meanwhile, for the record, many Democrats have said that a sanctuary city policy should still have allowed someone like Lopez-Sanchez to be turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.)

Yet at the same time, conservative talk radio and Fox News are practically vibrating with delight over this story. When I checked in to the network’s web site this morning, it was the subject not only of the main screaming headline, but five other written stories and four videos, with more coming all the time.

What does this one case tell us about crime in America and our immigration policies? The real answer is not much, because one case is always just one case. According to the latest FBI crime statistics, around 38 Americans are murdered each and every day; every one is a tragedy. We know that as a group, immigrants are actually much less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans. And though it illustrates an extreme negative consequence that can come from a sanctuary city policy, police in cities with sanctuary policies often argue that they help fight crime by allowing residents of immigrant communities to work with law enforcement without the fear that they’ll be turned over to immigration authorities.

Nevertheless, we’re always looking for individual stories through which we can understand larger issues, and those stories can be used for good or ill. For instance, the case of Ryan White, an Indiana teenager who contracted HIV in 1984, taught the country that AIDS wasn’t just a disease of people who (at the time) were on the fringes of society; after his death in 1990, Congress passed a bill expanding funding for AIDS research and treatment in his name. Then there are stories like Horton’s, which was supposedly about criminal justice policies but was actually just a way for George H.W. Bush to stir up racist fears among white voters in the 1988 election.

If Republican candidates are treading more carefully with regard to this story, it isn’t just because the two cases are different — it’s because there’s serious political danger in trying to make Lopez-Sanchez a reason why people should vote against Democrats. Don’t forget that Bush’s use of Willie Horton worked. Laden with the theme of dangerous and hyper-sexualized black men terrorizing white women while their emasculated husbands looked on helplessly, it resonated with white voters and didn’t produce any noticeable backlash, at least not enough to overcome the benefit Bush got from repeating the story.

But if someone like Scott Walker or Jeb Bush tried to make Lopez-Sanchez the new Horton — a symbol of fear meant to get whites to pull the lever for the GOP — he would undermine all the party’s efforts to convince Hispanic voters that whatever the party’s history on immigration reform, it isn’t blatantly hostile to them. As Michael Gerson advised yesterday: “As the old Southern strategy fades, it would be a terrible mistake to replace it with a different form of fear and exclusion.”

So we’re left with a situation where most of the candidates will criticize sanctuary city policies and make a case for tougher border enforcement, but they’ll be doing it within a context created by their side’s media, the media the primary voters they’re trying to win over are watching and listening to every day. And the Lopez-Sanchez story is exactly the kind of tale that the conservative media feast on: personal, vivid, tragic, just waiting to have all the outrage and anger they can muster poured into it. While the candidates say, “Yes, this is terrible,” behind them will be the media figures Republican voters trust, screaming at the top of their lungs that everyone should be enraged.

In that way, this particular story is a microcosm of the Republican challenge on immigration. Caught between a base eagerly eating up the red meat conservative media are feeding them and a general electorate they can’t afford to alienate, they still haven’t quite figured out how to chart a path that avoids those dangers and gets them to the White House.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, July 8, 2015

July 9, 2015 Posted by | Conservative Media, GOP, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Expensive And Partisan Excursion Into Nowhere”: Benghazi! Why Trey Gowdy Is Still Hiding Blumenthal Transcript

The strange saga of the House Select Committee on Benghazi continues as its chair, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) fends off renewed questions about the committee’s purpose, as well as demands to release the sworn deposition of Sidney Blumenthal, taken behind closed doors on June 16.

In a July 7 CNN interview, Hillary Clinton – the actual target of Gowdy’s investigation – brushed off accusations about her use of a private email server and mocked his partisan probe. “This is being blown up with no basis in law or in fact,” she said. “That’s fine. I get it. This is being, in effect, used by the Republicans in the Congress, OK. But I want people to understand what the truth is. And the truth is everything I did was permitted and I went above and beyond what anybody could have expected in making sure that if the State Department [servers] didn’t capture something, I made a real effort to get it to them.”

Gowdy answered by reiterating previous claims that only his committee’s intrepid work had revealed Clinton’s email practices. “The fact of the matter is it took the Benghazi Committee to uncover Secretary Clinton’s use of personal email and a server to conduct official State Department business,” the chairman insisted after her interview aired. He went on to make a series of further accusations about the emails, insisting that the messages about Libya sent to her by Sidney Blumenthal were “solicited” by her and not, as she described them, “unsolicited.”

These disputes might be cleared up if Gowdy would release Blumenthal’s testimony, since he answered all the committee’s questions on these and other matters under oath.

In actuality, Blumenthal probably mentioned the indisputable fact that Clinton’s use of a private email server was revealed not by the Benghazi committee but by a Romanian hacker known as “Guccifer” — now serving time in prison for stealing messages from Blumenthal as well as former Secretary of State Colin Powell and Dorothy Bush, the sister of former president George W. Bush. Many of those emails, obtained by Guccifer in a suspected Russian intelligence operation, were published on the Internet months before the Benghazi committee came into existence.

And Blumenthal surely noted, again under oath, that his emails to Clinton were “unsolicited,” despite Gowdy’s strained attempt to prove otherwise — as Gowdy undoubtedly knows. That is one of many reasons why he continues to suppress the former Clinton aide’s testimony. The excuse proffered by committee Republicans is that releasing closed testimony might discourage candor by future witnesses – an argument undercut by letters from Blumenthal attorney James Cole, urging the committee to release it.

No, it is now clear that Gowdy prefers to leak the Blumenthal testimony to smear both Clinton and the witness he claims to be protecting. For weeks, snippets of Blumenthal’s testimony and of his emails to and from Clinton have turned up in the media, to advance negative, highly distorted perceptions of both the former Secretary of State and her longtime friend.

These cowardly, bullying tactics are designed not only to embarrass Clinton and Blumenthal but to justify the committee’s increasingly expensive and partisan excursion into nowhere.

On July 7, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen too took a hard shot at Gowdy, under the headline “Placating The Right-Wing Clinton Haters.” He capably sums up the results of the committee’s inquisition into Blumenthal and Clinton:

The committee, the eighth to look into the Benghazi matter and determine if Clinton, as Secretary of State, was somehow complicit in the deaths of four colleagues — you know, those Clintons are capable of anything —asked Blumenthal 160 questions regarding his relationship with Clinton and fewer than 20 regarding Benghazi. (The Democratic minority kept count.)

The committee also asked Blumenthal more than 50 questions about his relationship with the Clinton Foundation and only four about security in Benghazi [the ostensible purpose of its existence]. Blumenthal was additionally asked more than 270 questions about his business dealings in Libya, which, considering that he has none, is commendable thoroughness run amok.

The committee in its wisdom came to appreciate that regarding Libya, Blumenthal not only had no business interests there, but also that he had never even been in the country. The emails concerning Libya that he had passed on to Clinton had come originally from Tyler Drumheller, the CIA’s one-time top spy and someone who just might have had something interesting to say. It seemed reasonable to Blumenthal to relay them to Clinton and it seemed reasonable for her to relay them to her staff for vetting. In fact, it seems downright admirable, because the last thing you want is a government official who operates in a bubble. Given what the committee learned, its Republican majority then nimbly pivoted from insinuating a Blumenthal conflict of interest over Libya to accusing him of having nothing of interest to say about it. They got him there.

The Republicans, led by Gowdy, have learned little of significance, despite spending millions of taxpayer dollars. But they have keenly pursued political matters of interest to them, such as Blumenthal’s work for Correct The Record, a political committee that publicly defends Clinton and other Democrats, and Media Matters for America, the watchdog against right-wing misinformation wherever it appears. Today Gowdy also received a sharply worded letter from David Brock, the founder of both groups, and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the former Maryland lieutenant governor who chairs Correct The Record’s board.

Noting that Gowdy and other Republican committee members asked at least 45 questions about Blumenthal’s “association with our organizations,” the letter from Brock and Townsend urged him to disgorge the testimony in full:

Mr. Chairman, we are entitled to know what questions you and other committee members asked about our organizations in Mr. Blumenthal’s deposition. Judging by the portions that have been leaked to favored people in the press and various right-wing blogs by Republican committee staff aides in direct violation of your committee’s own rules, presumably with your approval, aspersions have been cast upon our work. Your unethical leaking was a further abuse of Congressional power. The only way we can clear our good name is by knowing exactly what innuendoes and insinuations Republican members made about us behind the committee’s closed doors.

Indeed, Gowdy no longer seems to expect anyone to believe his denials that the leaks emanate from him and his staff. In his Washington Post media blog, Erik Wemple wrote that the Select Committee chair seemed to “wink” at a recent leak to Politico that sparked a brief controversy last week. And nobody else would have either the motive or the opportunity to orchestrate the leak campaign.

Meanwhile, the New York Times and other outlets that have published the leaks continue to slant their reporting against Blumenthal and Clinton. The easiest way to measure the Times bias is to note that Blumenthal’s attorney, former Deputy Attorney General James Cole, has written not one or two but three pungent letters to Gowdy, protesting the committee’s cheap-shot leakage and urging the release of his client’s testimony. For reasons best known to Michael S. Schmidt, the Times reporter covering the Benghazi committee, the paper has failed to mention those letters from Cole, let alone to quote them.

Times editors might well ask themselves why their Washington bureau is in cahoots with a congressional committee that epitomizes partisan abuse. Even Maureen Dowd, of all people, understood what was going on when she aptly renamed it “the House Select Committee To Keep Republicans in Power and Harass Hillary Clinton.”

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editors Blog, Featured Post,  The National Memo, July 8, 2015

July 9, 2015 Posted by | Benghazi, Hillary Clinton, House Select Committee on Benghazi, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Trump Proves GOP Proclamations Of Mortal Affront Untrue”: He’s Only Repeating What His Party’s Has Been Saying All Along

In 2006, then-Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce advocated the return of a 1954 program for the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants. It was called “Operation Wetback.”

In 2010, Sen. David Vitter, Republican from Louisiana, released a campaign ad that depicted a bunch of seedy-looking Mexicans, some with gang bandannas, slipping through a hole in a border fence to invade America.

In 2011, Rep. Mo Brooks, Republican from Alabama, said of undocumented immigrants: “I will do anything short of shooting them” to make them stop “taking jobs from American citizens.”

That same year, Republican presidential contender Herman Cain vowed to build an electrified border fence that would shock Mexicans who sought to slip into the country.

In 2013, Rep. Steve King, Republican from Iowa, said that for every illegal immigrant who becomes a valedictorian, there are another hundred with “calves the size of cantaloupes” because they are drug mules.

Yet the party is shocked and offended by what Donald Trump said? Jeb Bush calls his recent comments on undocumented Mexican immigrants “extraordinarily ugly”? Sen. Marco Rubio finds them “not just offensive and inaccurate, but also divisive”? A major donor tells the Associated Press Trump should be excluded from the debates?

Beg pardon, but there is something rather precious in all this ostentatious umbrage. If you didn’t know better, you might forget that the GOP has sought votes for years by stoking fear and anger toward Mexicans who enter this country illegally. If you weren’t paying attention, you might not know that various Republican officials and pundits routinely characterize those people — most of them just dirt poor and trying to put bread on the table — as a disease-ridden invasion force of drug smugglers and gang members, not to mention pregnant women splashing across the Rio Grande in order to drop so-called “anchor babies” on U.S. soil.

This is not to say Trump’s words were not ugly. They were. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” he said. “…They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems [to] us. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists, and some, I assume, are good people.”

But ugly as it was, Trump’s xenophobia broke no new ground. So you have to wonder at the pious denunciations it is generating. You’re tempted to say people are reacting like this because Trump was blunter than we are used to. On the other hand, there is nothing particularly subtle or ambiguous about threatening to shock Mexicans. Maybe folks weren’t paying attention before.

It’s worth noting that Trump’s comments came as he announced his intention to run for President of the United States, a nation whose last census found about 32 million of us identifying as Mexican-American (some, presumably, good people). Indeed, Mexican-Americans are far and away the largest group under the umbrella rubric “Hispanic.” All the Cuban-, Puerto Rican-, Argentinean-, and Spanish-Americans combined don’t equal the number of Mexican-Americans in this country. So when the GOP talks about “Hispanic” outreach, it is, in a very real sense, talking Mexican-American outreach. Yet this “outreach” seems always to be overshadowed by insult.

The party seems not to realize that you can’t have it both ways, can’t insult people, then ask them to vote for you. How telling is it that, even as party elders assure us his remarks don’t represent the GOP, Trump vaults to second place in the polling of Republican contenders? It’s a truth that gives the lie to these proclamations of mortal affront.

It’s hypocritical and unfair to put all this on Trump. He only repeated what his party’s been saying all along.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, July 8, 2015

July 9, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP, Hispanics | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Stunningly Adacious, Inveterate Liar”: Why A New Jersey Puffer Fish Should Not Be President

When Mitt Romney’s campaign was investigating potential choices to be his 2012 running mate, they gave each prospect a fish-themed code name, such as Lake Fish, Filet-O-Fish, etc. Their name for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a tireless self-promoter known for his bloated ego, was Puffer Fish.

The Romneyites determined that the prima donna governor was wholly unqualified to be America’s vice president, but the rejection didn’t deflate Christie’s puffed-up self-esteem one dot, and he has continued to brag, bluster, and bully his way into national politics. Having convinced at least himself that he’s the can-do, big-idea, forceful leader America needs, the Jersey guv is now offering to be our president and has become No. 14 on the Republican presidential dance card! How exciting is that?

Before accepting, however, you might check with one group of voters who are less than enchanted: the people of New Jersey. With a moribund economy, a state budget mess, a growing pension crisis, the state infrastructure crumbling and his own office caught in a web of scandals, Christie is not faring well with the homefolk, earning a sorry 30 percent approval rating, with most voters saying they dislike “everything about him.”

Nationwide, only Donnie Trump is rated lower than Christie by Republican primary voters. But he has found one friend — Maine governor Paul LePage has enthusiastically endorsed him! Problem is, LePage is even more insufferable and insolent than Christie, so arrogant and autocratic that he’s even alienated fellow Republicans in Maine and is now threatened with impeachment.

Still, if anything, the Puffer Fish’s ego is puffier than ever. Asked on Fox News why 65 percent of New Jersey voters say he’d make a poor president and shouldn’t run, the vainglorious governor actually said: “They want me to stay. Don’t leave to run for president, because we want you to stay.”

It’s one thing for a politician to say that, but — far scarier — Christie is so out of touch with reality that he actually believes it!

The Big Man from New Jersey entered the race with all the chutzpah and hullaballoo that marked his five and a half years as governor of the Garden State, promising to be a truth-telling leader: “There is one thing you will know for sure,” he roared in his announcement speech. “I say what I mean and mean what I say.”

Swell, Chris… but when your campaign slogan is “Telling It Like It Is,” it would help if you were not infamous in your home state as a stunningly audacious, inveterate liar. Even the editor of Jersey’s largest newspaper felt a journalistic duty to warn America about Christie. “Don’t believe a word the man says,” the editor wrote, pointing not to a few fibs and fabrications, but a lengthy “catalog” of “over-the-top, hair-raising type of lies,” including these gems:

  • Having assured public employees that their pensions were “sacred” to him, Christie then made cutting their pensions the centerpiece of his first term in office.
  • This June, he bragged on national TV that a court had approved those pension cuts — but the court actually ruled them unconstitutional.
  • At a recent South Carolina gun rights meeting, Christie crowed that “no new (gun laws) have been made since I’ve been governor,” when in fact he has enacted three gun-control measures.
  • After he and his family racked up a $30,000 hotel bill during a luxurious weekend getaway at a Jordanian resort, paid for by the King of Jordan, Christie claimed the junket was not a violation of the state gift ban, for he and the king were personal friends — but he’d only met the king once at a political dinner.

Beware of Christie the compulsive liar. As the newspaper editor bluntly put it: “He’s a creep.”

 

By: Jim Hightower, Featured Post, The National Memo, July 8, 2015

July 9, 2015 Posted by | Chris Christie, GOP Presidential Candidates, New Jersey | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Potential Usefulness As A New Rhetorical Framework”: The Republican Party Is Still Trying To Decide If Minorities Matter

The Republican party has had well-documented difficulty making inroads with minority voters since the 2012 election. It’s probably more accurate to say that since the 2012 election Republicans have been engaged in a quiet and unresolved debate amongst themselves over which of the following three strategic courses to pursue:

1) Making genuine, substantive concessions to minority voters.

2) Making symbolic and rhetorical concessions to minority voters, without making significant changes to the GOP’s substantive agenda.

3) Making no concessions to minority voters whatsoever, in the hope of increasing the GOP’s already sizeable margins among white voters.

Two developments in the past month—the mass killing of black worshippers by a white supremacist at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, and the launch of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign—have thrown into stark relief how badly option one lost out to options two and three. The ongoing Republican presidential primary has become a contest to determine which of the latter two approaches the party will adopt in the general election next year.

The Emanuel AME killings set off a furious backlash to the southern right’s glorification of the Confederacy. And after a brief but conspicuous stumble, Republican presidential candidates neared a consensus that the party should no longer support conspicuous celebrations of it. Republicans began lowering Confederate battle flags from government buildings, and, in South Carolina, have begun the legislative process required to place the Confederate flag flying on the state’s capitol grounds into a museum.

This isn’t a meaningless concession. A CNN/ORC poll taken in late June found that 66 percent of whites, 77 percent of Republicans, and a majority of the country at large view the flag as a symbol of Southern pride more than a symbol of racism—a view that, while wrongheaded, suggests Republicans were willing to commit an affront to their own voting base in order to demonstrate that the Charleston killings had moved them in some meaningful way.

After initially whiffing on the Confederate flag question, former Texas Governor Rick Perry dedicated a major presidential campaign speech to acknowledging that the Republican party’s minority rut is one of its own making:

Blacks know that Republican Barry Goldwater in 1964 ran against Lyndon Johnson, who was a champion for Civil Rights. They know that Barry Goldwater opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He felt parts of it were unconstitutional. States supporting segregation in the south, they cited states’ rights as a justification for keeping blacks from the voting booth and the dinner table.

As you know, I am an ardent believer in the 10th Amendment, which was ratified in 1791, as part of our Bill of Rights. The 10th Amendment says that the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved for the states respectively, or the individual. I know that state governments are more accountable to you than the federal government.

But I’m also an ardent believer in the 14th Amendment, which says that no state shall deny any person in its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. There has been, and there will continue to be an important and a legitimate role for the federal government in enforcing Civil Rights.

Too often, we Republicans, me included, have emphasized our message on the 10th Amendment but not our message on the 14th. An Amendment, it bears reminding, that was one of the great contributions of Republican party to American life, second only to the abolition of slavery. For too long, we Republicans have been content to lose the black vote, because we found we didn’t need it to win. But, when we gave up trying to win the support of African-Americans, we lost our moral legitimacy as the party of Lincoln, as the party of equal opportunity for all.

It’s exceedingly, depressingly rare for conservatives to admit that African-American support for Democrats is historically well grounded. Held up against that low bar, Perry’s clarity here is refreshing. But the meaning of this passage lies less in his concession to historical reality than in his stipulation that “state governments are more accountable…than the federal government” and his promiscuous use of the term “message.” Perry’s interest in the 14th Amendment isn’t a harbinger of his support for, say, same-sex marriage. It is mostly limited to its potential usefulness as a new rhetorical framework in which to squeeze existing conservative policy commitments that have little or nothing to do with equal protection or due process.

If Perry represents the Republican faction committed to improving the Republican party’s “message” to minority voters, then Trump represents the faction that believes conservatives should run on the presumption that Republicans still don’t need minority votes to win.

Several Republicans, including Perry, joined the immense backlash to Trump’s suggestion that undocumented immigrants are disproportionately rapists and drug criminals. But the right didn’t react in lockstep. Among presidential candidates, Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, and Ben Carson have all spoken up for Trump, as have conservative intellectuals like Rich Lowry, who argued that “Trump’s rant on immigration is closer to reality than the gauzy cliches of immigration romantics.”

The view that there are enough aggrieved white voters in the country to elect a GOP president no longer dominates Republican strategic thought as it once did, and it will probably shrink further over time, as changing demographics make it less and less tenable politically.

But in this election, with this primary field, it could win the day one more time. What it lacks in broad appeal it makes up for in its ability to lend Republican policy arguments internal coherence. The range of issues that both affect minorities and demand substantive concessions from Republicans is growing, and that will make Perry-like efforts to smooth the sharp edges of conservative policy with gentler rhetoric more tortured as time goes on. In the long run, the only real option is for the GOP to change party dogma on issues like voting rights or immigration or social spending.

But for now, the notion propounded by Trump and Cruz and others, is that the Republican party doesn’t need to go to any trouble at all.

 

By: Brian Beutler, The New Republic, July 8, 2015

July 9, 2015 Posted by | Minority Voters, Republicans, White Voters | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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