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“Judgment Of A Woman’s Value”: Republicans Make Their Incredibly Unpopular Abortion Position Crystal Clear

With all the talk about Donald Trump and Megyn Kelly, people might not have noticed that there was quite a bit of discussion of abortion in Thursday’s Republican debate, and that discussion is continuing through today. While it wouldn’t be accurate to say the party and its candidates are moving to the right, what’s happening is that they’re making clear just how far to the right they are.

One moment in the debate that may have struck some as odd occurred when Marco Rubio got a question about him supporting exceptions for rape and incest victims to abortion bans, and he insisted that he supports no such thing. Mike Huckabee declared that “I think the next president ought to invoke the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution now that we clearly know that that baby inside the mother’s womb is a person at the moment of conception.” Scott Walker went even further, stating his opposition to exceptions to save the life of the pregnant woman (“I’ve said many a time that that unborn child can be protected, and there are many other alternatives that can also protect the life of that mother”). Walker recently signed a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, which did contain an exception to save the life of the mother, but no exceptions for rape or incest.

This is a deeply unpopular position, to say the least. When pollsters ask whether people think that rape and incest victims should be able to get abortions, more than 80 percent will say yes, including majorities of Republicans (there are some examples here). Between 60 and 70 percent are against overturning Roe v. Wade, a position on which Republicans are united. And the GOP platform has for some time called for a complete ban on abortion without any exceptions.

Rubio in particular is attempting to take a radical position and present it as the soul of thoughtful moderation. Yesterday, he went on “Meet the Press” and clarified that he has supported legislation with rape and incest exceptions because “I’ll support any legislation that reduces the number of abortions,” and if that means voting for a ban that contains those exceptions, he’ll go along. But I don’t think Rubio is quite telling the truth on that point. For instance, I doubt he’d support legislation that mandates comprehensive and fact-based sex education and does away with the farce of “abstinence only” — which would absolutely reduce the number of abortions. What he really means is that he’ll support any legislation that reduces abortion by restricting women’s reproductive rights.

Even though I’m firmly pro-choice, I’ll grant that Rubio (and the party itself) is being intellectually consistent by opposing rape and incest exceptions to abortion bans. If you think abortion is murder, then you should believe it’s murder no matter what led to a woman becoming pregnant. When you say we’ll make exceptions for rape and incest victims, what you’re saying is that whether a woman is able to get an abortion should be a function of someone else’s judgment of her virtue. If she got pregnant because she was the victim of a crime, then okay, she can have the abortion. But if she willingly had sex, then she should be punished by being forced to carry her pregnancy to term.

If Rubio is at all different from other members of his party, it’s only in his tone. Here’s what he said when Chuck Todd asked where the line is between the fetus’ rights and those of the woman:

That’s why this issue is so hard. There is no doubt that a woman has a right to her own body, has a right to make decisions about her own health and her own future. There’s no doubt. And there’s this other right, and that’s the right of a human being to live. And these rights come into conflict when it comes to this issue, and so you have to make a decision. And it’s hard. I don’t say it’s easy. Listen, you’re 15 years old, and you become pregnant, and you’re scared, and you have your whole life ahead of you, and you’re facing this, that is a hard situation. I tell people all the time, don’t pretend this is easy. This is a difficult question. But when asked to made a decision between two very hard circumstances, I’ve personally reached the conclusion that if I’m going to err, I’m going to err on the side of life.

There’s a lot of empathetic language there, but here’s the substantive difference between Marco Rubio and other Republicans on this issue: Other Republicans won’t even acknowledge that women have any right to control their own reproductive lives, while Rubio says women have such a right, but believes that in practice that right should always be trumped by the state’s desire to force her to carry that pregnancy to term. Which means that he doesn’t actually believe her right exists. He sounds a lot friendlier when he says it, though.

I’m sure he hopes that will be enough to overcome the fact that he’s taking a position most Americans disagree with. And in the right circumstances, it might be — so long as this isn’t an important issue on Election Day, and Democrats aren’t making too much of a big deal about all that “war on women” stuff. Republicans probably shouldn’t count on that, though.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, August 10, 2015

August 11, 2015 Posted by | Abortion, Marco Rubio, Womens Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Find A New Trump Card”: Insulting The Media And His Fellow Candidates Will Only Get The Donald So Far

Donald Trump is leading in the national presidential polls – nearly doubling his closest rival Jeb Bush, according to the latest Real Clear Politics average. He is also outpacing the field in inappropriate comments. It is time for Trump to add some new cards to his deck.

Earlier this summer, the real estate mogul made disparaging remarks about Sen. John McCain’s military service, questioning his heroism because he was captured. Other Republican candidates quickly denounced Trump’s statement and defended the former prisoner of war.

Trump’s latest outrageous comments came as a result of last Thursday’s Republican presidential debate as Trump criticized debate moderator Megyn Kelly’s line of questioning, which included asking him about previously calling women “fat pigs,” “dogs,” “slobs” and “disgusting animals.” Talking with CNN’s Don Lemon on Friday evening, Trump said, “She gets out and she starts asking me all sorts of ridiculous questions. You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever. In my opinion, she was off-base.”

On Saturday morning, Trump clarified that “wherever” was referring to her nose, not her period. But his comment led many, including rival candidate Carly Fiorina, to criticize Trump for his inappropriate remark, and RedState’s Erick Erickson disinvited him to a weekend RedState Gathering.

Trump, of course, responded in kind with personal attacks against those who criticized him. He called Erickson a “total loser. Fiorina was his target Sunday, when he tweeted, “I just realized that if you listen to Carly Fiorina for more than ten minutes straight, you develop a massive headache. She has zero chance!”

In a sense, the events of the last week show that the debate and primary process is working. Trump’s comments give the American people the chance to learn more about his views and his temperament under pressure, as he seeks one of the most high-pressure jobs in the world. The next president certainly should be able to answer tough questions without getting rattled.

Trump and his defenders claim that he is the latest victim of our overly politically correct culture, and that the country’s problems are too large to worry about petty insults and offenses. But Trump has done little to demonstrate that there is any substance to his candidacy – evading the opportunity to offer specifics or policy proposals that he would bring to the White House.

For Republicans, Trump’s campaign is a distraction in what is otherwise an encouraging early primary. Last week’s debates featured a roster of impressive candidates – including four senators, the governors or former governors of some of the most populous states in the nation (including Texas, Florida and New York), the first woman CEO of a Fortune 50 company and a neurosurgeon.

For those who looked past Trump’s reality TV sideshow, the debates offered the beginning of a serious policy discussion about how to address the nation’s problems, from our lagging economy to health care reform to the threat of international terrorism. There are some disagreements among the candidates, and Republicans benefit from seeing those differences on display.

It is easy to understand why many voters are sick of Washington politicians and eager to embrace a blunt, populist candidate who promises big changes. But if The Donald is going to stay in the race, he needs to find a new trump card – leaving the personal attacks and name-calling back at “The Apprentice” set.


By: Karin Agness, Founder and President of The Network of Enlightened Women; Thomas Jefferson Street Blog, U. S. News and World Report, August 10, 2015

August 11, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primary Debates, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Bad News, Republicans”: Donald Trump Is Practically Bulletproof

This time, he’s gone too far. That’s what Republicans said after Donald Trump insulted John McCain over his military record, people lined up to criticize Trump and the party’s leaders hoped this ridiculous (if entertaining) political reality show could finally be wound down. But it didn’t turn out that way, and now they’re saying it all over again, after Trump sparred with Fox News’s Megyn Kelly during Thursday’s debate, then continued to throw insults at her all weekend. As The Post’s Philip Rucker and Robert Costa wrote yesterday, “Republican leaders who have watched Donald Trump’s summer surge with alarm now believe that his presidential candidacy has been contained and may begin to collapse because of his repeated attacks on a Fox News Channel star and his refusal to pledge his loyalty to the eventual GOP nominee.”

Perhaps they really believe that in their hearts. Or perhaps they hope that if they tell themselves and the rest of the world it’s true, then it will come to pass.

Trump’s campaign may be a chaotic mess, as Costa and Rucker report today, but for the moment, it doesn’t seem to matter. The only poll released since the debate is this one from NBC News, which was conducted online and uses a sample drawn from people who have taken Survey Monkey polls. While they attempt to make it as representative as possible (with a large sample and weighting for demographics), it would be a good idea to wait for confirmation from other polls before putting too much stock in it. Nevertheless, the poll showed Trump still at the top with 23 percent support among Republicans. Don’t be surprised if the other polls we see in the next few days show his support essentially unchanged. I suspect that the people who are behind him don’t care if he threatens to run as an independent or if he insults women, just like they didn’t care that he jabbed at McCain and said we ought to deport 11 million people. It’s a feature, not a bug.

If this were an ordinary Republican presidential primary campaign — one obvious front-runner, five or six other candidates taking long-shot bids, a predictable arc in which a challenger emerges to that front-runner and is eventually vanquished — the presence of a character like Trump might not make much of a difference. In a year like that, he might still have managed to get support from the same one out of five primary voters who are backing him now, but it wouldn’t have put him at the front of the pack and made him the center of the campaign. After a while, he probably would have gotten bored and dropped out.

But it’s plain that as long as Trump is ahead of the other candidates, he can convince himself he’s going to win. With 17 candidates splitting the vote and the next-highest contender managing to garner only 12 or 13 percent, that could be for quite some time.

If you’re a Republican, you may be telling yourself that this will get sorted out eventually, and your party will get itself a real nominee. And you’d be right. But by the time that happens, the party will have spent months tying itself in knots. The voters Trump represents will be only more convinced that their party is, in the words Trump himself might use, a bunch of total losers. The GOP’s image is already hurting, not only among voters in general but also among its own partisans; according to a recent Pew Research Center poll, 32 percent of Americans have a favorable view of the Republican Party, and only 68 percent of Republicans view it favorably (86 percent of Democrats have a favorable view of their party).

Keep this in mind, too: While Trump may be setting out to alienate one key demographic group after another, his opponents are doing much the same thing, albeit in slightly less vivid ways. Trump calls Mexican immigrants rapists and drug dealers, but the other Republicans are offering Hispanic voters exactly what Mitt Romney and John McCain did, i.e., not much. Trump insults women with, shall we say, colorful language. But in that same Thursday debate, Scott Walker and Marco Rubio emphatically declared their support for banning abortion even in cases of rape and incest. Their friends on Capitol Hill are trying to stop women from getting health care at Planned Parenthood, a position Barack Obama pummeled Romney for in 2012.

True to form, Trump himself is insisting that women will actually will flock to his campaign, just as he said Hispanics would. As he said on yesterday’s “Face the Nation,” “I will be phenomenal to the women.” (I was hoping he’d add, “And then, when the women hit their forties, I’ll trade them in for younger, prettier women, to whom I’ll also be phenomenal.” No such luck, though.)

While all this is going on, Hillary Clinton is waltzing toward the Democratic nomination with a bunch of popular policy proposals (today she’ll unveil a plan to make college more affordable) and a broad electoral coalition. That isn’t to say that Clinton doesn’t have her own image problems, but her eventual Republican opponent will have to slog his way through this crazy primary, offering voters reasons not to vote Republican all along the way.

So the next time Donald Trump says something outrageous or offensive (or, more likely, both) and Republican leaders say that this is finally going to be the end of his campaign, remember that you heard it before.


By: Paul Walman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, August 10, 2015

August 11, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primary Debates, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The ‘Bad Ideas’ Category”: Cruz Gets Creative To Undermine U.S. Foreign Policy

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) isn’t exactly shy about his opposition to the international nuclear agreement with Iran, but it’s not exactly within his power to derail it. He’s just one far-right senator with limited influence on Capitol Hill.

But over the weekend, it seemed as if the Republican presidential candidate was starting to turn his attention away from federal policymakers altogether. Indeed, as Roll Call reported, Cruz is looking to states to help sabotage American foreign policy.

Sen. Ted Cruz said Sunday that doing everything possible to thwart the Iran deal should include states exploring imposing their own sanctions.

The Republican presidential candidate from Texas was asked at a raucous town hall-style forum here about the prospects of states taking action to impose sanctions on the money the Obama administration has agreed to release as part of the deal regarding the country’s nuclear development.

“I think that states should act and lead to do exactly that,” Cruz said during a campaign appearance in Pelham, Alabama. (Note, Alabama is a Super Tuesday primary state, which votes just a week after the Nevada caucuses early next year.)

More so than usual, the far-right Texan seemed willing to hint that this fight wouldn’t turn out well for his like-minded allies. “It’ll be a fight,” Cruz said. “It’s not an open and shut legal argument, but we ought to do everything we can to resist this … Iranian deal.”

I’m inclined to put this in the “bad ideas” category.

For one thing, it’s probably not legal. It’s not up to states to create their own foreign policies; it’s up to the United States at the federal level. I’m reminded of this Vox piece from January, when congressional Republicans began trying to sabotage American officials in earnest.

The Supreme Court has codified into law the idea that only the president is allowed to make foreign policy, and not Congress, because if there are two branches of government setting foreign policy then America effectively has two foreign policies.

The idea is that the US government needs to be a single unified entity on the world stage in order to conduct effective foreign policy. Letting the president and Congress independently set their own foreign policies would lead to chaos.

And letting states and the United States have competing foreign policies would lead to even greater chaos. If the White House is principally responsible for American foreign policy, in conjunction with congressional oversight, there’s definitely no role for state legislators.

What’s more, I’m not exactly sure how Cruz envisions this plan working on a practical level. States aren’t in a position to create an international coalition to impose new sanctions against Iran – other countries partner with the United States government, not governors’ offices and state legislators – and states also don’t have authority of federal banking laws or international finance.

My suspicion is Cruz already knows this, but didn’t want to disappoint a far-right group in Alabama by telling them there’s nothing Alabama can do to undermine U.S. foreign policy. That said, this isn’t exactly responsible rhetoric from a prominent presidential candidate, either.

In the larger context, thought, let’s not overlook the fact that if Cruz were confident that Congress would kill the diplomatic agreement, he probably wouldn’t bother talking about states taking the “lead.” Perhaps even he realizes the writing is on the wall?


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 10, 2015

August 11, 2015 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Iran Nuclear Agreement, Ted Cruz | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Struggling To Justify A Heresy”: Are Republicans Falling Out Of Love With Ronald Reagan?

The first big Republican presidential primary debate defied expectations in any number of ways. But one of the most surprising things may have been that only five of the 10 candidates invoked the memory of that most sainted Republican, that giant among dwarves, that demigod among mortals, America’s greatest president and a man who walked the Earth without sin. I speak, of course, of Ronald Reagan.

How on Earth did the other five candidates forget to speak his name and clothe themselves in his holy memory?

In the “undercard” debate that took place hours before the main event, the ratio was a bit better — four of the seven candidates invoked Reagan. But the trend still held. Could it be that the power of invoking Reagan is beginning to fade — even if only a bit?

Consider that, with the exception of Donald Trump, the Republican candidates who mentioned Reagan in the prime-time debate — Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, and John Kasich — are all stuck in single digits, as are all the candidates from the undercard. Furthermore, many of the mentions came when a candidate was struggling to justify a heresy, as if to say, “Please don’t be too angry with me about this, because Reagan did it too.”

Defending his switch from pro-choice to pro-life, Trump said, “Ronald Reagan evolved on many issues.” Paul, explaining why he’s not the hawk other Republicans are, said, “I’m a Reagan conservative. Reagan did negotiate with the Soviets.” And Kasich explained his support of the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid by saying, “President Reagan expanded Medicaid three or four times.” Only Cruz offered a good old-fashioned song of praise, when he said with a stirring voice and passion in his eyes, “It is worth emphasizing that Iran released our hostages in 1981 the day Ronald Reagan was sworn into office.” (I won’t bother going over the history of that event, except to say that it didn’t happen because the Iranians were so terrified of Reagan’s steely resolve.)

In a group of people who worship Reagan, maybe there’s little to be gained by reiterating your love for him; it would be like a cardinal saying he ought to be pope because he is in fact a Catholic. Or maybe it’s that a full quarter-century after Reagan left office, even Republicans have a somewhat more realistic view of his presidency than they used to.

I’d like to think that if the importance of Reagan as a totem is fading, it has at least something to do with liberals like me, even if that seems a little far-fetched. We have spent a lot of time not only mocking Republicans for their worship of Reagan, but also pointing out that he was a far more complicated president than they claim. His record even includes a number of decisions that today look downright liberal. He did indeed negotiate with the Soviets (to the dismay of many Republican hard-liners at the time), he raised taxes repeatedly, the deficit ballooned on his watch, and instead of setting out to destroy government entitlements, he partnered with liberals to save Social Security in 1983 (more details can be found here).

That isn’t to say that Reagan wasn’t a strong conservative, because he was. But he was president in another era, when being a Republican meant something rather different than it does today.

Up until the last few years, you could be a Republican in good standing while still being pragmatic. But today’s Republican Party isn’t just more conservative on policy, it has become doctrinaire in a way it didn’t used to be. Compromise itself — regardless of the context or the content — is now held by all right-thinking Republicans to be inherently evil. Far too much is made of Reagan’s alleged friendship with Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill, but it’s true that Reagan could be friendly with his political opponents. Today, every Republican has to express a deep and intense loathing for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton if they hope to win their party’s favor. The Tea Party essentially took over the GOP after Obama’s election, forcing everyone in the party to prove again and again that their hearts are pure and they’d rather lose everything than willingly give an inch on anything. Entire organizations now exist to police elected Republicans for signs of heresy, and punish those who fail to measure up.

So maybe that’s why you now hear Reagan invoked mostly defensively. The one who does it knows that he has transgressed, and hopes that the aura of Saint Ronnie will cleanse him of his sins and bring him before the primary electorate clean and unsullied. But it doesn’t seem to work — Republicans are vigilant for even the faintest whiff of impurity, and no amount of Reagan-invocation will distract them once they’ve caught the scent. If that’s true, we might hear his name spoken less and less often as time goes on.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, August 10, 2015

August 11, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, GOP Primary Debates, Ronald Reagan | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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