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“Ducking For Cover On Planned Parenthood”: Message Republicans Receiving, Government Shutdown Is A Politically Losing Strategy’

Even as Carly Fiorina’s mendacious disquisition on Planned Parenthood last night encouraged those who want to shut down the government over funding for that organization, congressional Republicans continued to run for cover to the big mainline antichoice organization, the National Right To Life Committee, per a report from the AP’s Alan Fram:

Hoping to prevent the Republican uproar over the Planned Parenthood videos from snowballing into a government shutdown, GOP leaders are turning for help to polling data and one of the nation’s most powerful anti-abortion groups.

At a meeting Thursday of House Republicans, leaders described GOP polls showing the public is strongly against a federal shutdown and would likely blame Republicans if one occurred, said lawmakers who attended the closed-door session. Some conservatives want the GOP-controlled Congress to approve a bill keeping the government open starting Oct. 1 only if it also blocks federal payments to Planned Parenthood.

“The message was there that this is a politically losing strategy that would put our own majority in peril,” Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., who is close to party leaders, said of the polling.

In addition, top Republicans have spread the word that even the National Right to Life Committee — which favors cutting off Planned Parenthood’s funds — doubts the wisdom of risking a shutdown over that issue. The group is the largest and perhaps most influential anti-abortion organization.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said of Right to Life on Wednesday, “It’s a strategy they don’t think makes much sense because it doesn’t succeed….”

Right to Life’s leaders released a statement this week endorsing a bill by Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., halting federal payments to Planned Parenthood for a year. The House plans to approve that bill on Friday, along with another by Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., setting criminal penalties for medical providers who don’t try saving babies born live during abortions.

But the Right to Life statement was pointedly silent about the merits of enmeshing a cutoff of Planned Parenthood’s money with legislation keeping government functioning.

“We want people to think about what a government shutdown would do,” National Right to Life President Carol Tobias said in an interview Wednesday. She said of Obama, “As long as he’s in that Oval Office with a veto pen, it’s difficult to see how we could win that battle.”

Tobias said Right to Life is concerned that a shutdown over Planned Parenthood could harm the anti-abortion cause in the long run, adding, “If we want to save babies, if we want to defund Planned Parenthood, we have to put a pro-life president in the White House” in next year’s elections.

Wonder if Tobias is hearing today from members who got all riled up by Fiorina last night, or for that matter, by Bobby Jindal shrieking at the cowardly surrender-monkeys of the Senate who won’t throw away the filibuster in order to advance to a Clash of Civilizations with Obama over Planned Parenthood funding. It also wouldn’t shock me if more militant antichoice groups go all Hamas to the NRLC’s Fatah.

You even have to wonder if some antichoicers are rethinking the whole sting video strategy, which has mainly served to lather up the faithful rather than earn any converts. Some upcoming craziness could confirm that judgment.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 17, 2015

September 18, 2015 Posted by | Carly Fiorina, Government Shut Down, Planned Parenthood | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“America Is Not A Planet, So Let Us Pollute”: For The GOP, Climate Know-Nothingism Is Out. Climate Do-Nothingism Is In

There are many reasons why a Republican politician might oppose action on climate change. Addressing the problem requires government regulation, which many Republicans think is inherently bad. People they despise think we ought to address the problem, which makes it unpalatable. The Obama administration has taken a number of moves to address the problem, and everything Obama does is wrong by definition. Yet at the same time, there’s a vast scientific consensus that global warming is happening and we should act on it, and most Americans agree — even significant numbers of Republicans.

So if you’re a GOP candidate, what do you do?

Judging by last night’s debate and what the candidates have said lately, what you don’t do is say that it’s all a hoax. You don’t even have to take the widely ridiculed “I’m not a scientist” line in order to argue that we have no idea whether it’s happening or not. Instead, the emerging Republican position appears to be a kind of passive acceptance of climate change — less “This is a real problem” than “Sure, it’s probably happening, whatever” — accompanied by an insistence that we absolutely, positively can’t do anything about it, at least not anything that requires government action.

In the debate, moderator Jake Tapper presented the climate change question by noting that George Shultz, who served as secretary of state under Ronald Reagan, says we should take out an “insurance policy” by acting to address climate change the way we did decades ago on ozone depletion. “Secretary Shultz asks, why not take out an insurance policy and approach climate change the Reagan way?” You can see this question as either a clever way to force the candidates to address the issue outside of a partisan frame, or a ridiculous attempt to shoehorn Reagan in there instead of just dealing with the facts. Either way, the candidates weren’t biting.

To Tapper’s question, Marco Rubio answered, “Because we’re not going to destroy our economy the way the left-wing government that we are under now wants to do.” After explaining that any attempt to reduce emissions would practically leave all Americans wearing sackcloths as they stood morosely in bread lines waiting for scraps of food, Rubio brought in a second element that has become common to the Republican argument, that there’s no point in America reducing its emissions because “America is not a planet.”

Though that’s technically true, it ignores the fact that we can’t get other countries to agree to a collective effort if we make no effort of our own, not to mention the fact that it’s the kind of logic that would have me dump all my garbage in the street on the theory that my house is just one part of my neighborhood and I can’t control whether everybody else is keeping the neighborhood clean. Chris Christie then argued that his state had reduced its emissions without the government taking any steps because New Jersey uses nuclear power, and Scott Walker jumped in to say EPA rules on greenhouse gases would destroy thousands of jobs.

Because Tapper was eager to move on to other issues, nobody got a chance to toss in the final element of the current Republican argument on climate change: “innovation.” For that we can turn to an interview Carly Fiorina gave earlier this week. “The answer is innovation. And the only way to innovate is for this nation to have industry strong enough that they can innovate,” she said, after contemptuously dismissing the idea that nations could band together to confront climate change. “We need to become the global energy powerhouse of the 21st century, for so many reasons. To create jobs, to make the bad guys less bad, and so we have industries — including the coal industry — that’s powerful enough to be able to innovate.”

You may be thinking that the coal industry being insufficiently powerful isn’t high on the list of the reasons we haven’t solved the climate change problem yet. But the handy thing about “innovation” is that it sounds like the person advocating it is forward-looking and optimistic. And there will certainly be a part for innovation to play in addressing climate change; the problem is that it’s impossible to know exactly what that role will be. In the meantime, we can’t just wait around for some spectacular new invention to come along.

That’s why, if somebody advocates “innovation” as the solution to climate change, they ought to be asked two questions. First, what do you think government should  do to spur this innovation? If their answer is to make a huge investment in clean energy research and technologies, then that’s something (and it’s also what the Obama administration has done). If their answer is “Get out of industry’s way,” then you can be pretty sure it’s just a cover for “Let them pollute, like they already want to.” Not to mention that allowing industry to pollute lets them off the hook without any need for innovation at all; force them to meet emissions targets, and out of necessity they’ll find innovative ways to do it.

The second question the advocate of innovation ought to be asked is, “What do we do in the meantime while we’re waiting for this innovation you promise?” If by way of answering they talk about all the terrible things regulation will do, that means their real answer is, “Nothing.”

Which is the end point of the entire argument Republicans are making on climate change (except for those lonely few who actually propose to confront the problem). That applies to the remaining conspiracy theorists who think it’s a hoax, the ones like Ben Carson who falsely believe that scientists aren’t sure whether humans contribute to it, or the ones who acknowledge that climate change is a problem but only want to talk about how terrible government regulation is. The answer they all have is the same.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, September 17, 2015

September 18, 2015 Posted by | Climate Change, Climate Science, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Fiorina’s Fast And Loose With The Facts”: Fiorina Relies On Speed And Specificity To Give The Impression Of Substantive Knowledge

I noted at Lunch Buffet that the fact-checkers are having a ball with Carly Fiorina’s performance last night. But it’s worth remembering that’s a real pattern with her. Back on August 20, WaMo intern Celeste Bott deconstructed a Fiorina appearance at Campbell Brown’s education summit in New Hampshire, and found the former CEO did not really know what she was talking about:

Many of her responses in the Q&A stuck to the same GOP talking points the other candidates mostly stuck to, criticizing the Common Core standards and an overinvolved Department of Education. Her biggest argument? Increased federal spending on education hasn’t led to substantive improvement.

“Let’s talk about what’s not working. It’s pretty obvious what’s not working. The Department of Education has gotten more money every year for roughly 30 years, and yet these income disparity gaps I described are getting worse. We’re not improving in terms of our achievement rates relevant to other nations. So we know factually speaking that when Washington spends more money, the quality of education in this nation does not improve.”

What Fiorina said, however, is factually inaccurate, even if it plays to common misperceptions about our “failing” public schools. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which education experts generally agree is the most reliable measure of K-12 attainment, reading scores for American nine year olds have increase by 12 points, or an entire grade level, and math scores have gone up 24 points, or two grade levels, since the early 1970s. And the disparities between advantaged and disadvantaged students she says have widened have in fact narrowed: black and Latino students’ test scores have risen faster than white scores. Though the topline NAEP scores are flat, making it seem like there has been little progress, as the conservative American Enterprise Institute has pointed out this is a statistical quirk arising from the fact that in recent decades the percentage of students who are affluent and white (and generally score relatively high) has decreased while the percentage who are lower-income and minority (and generally score relatively low) has increased. In fact, NAEP scores for all subgroups have increased substantially, during the same period that federal spending and involvement has grown.

That wasn’t the only problem with Fiorina’s education rap.

A great deal of Fiorina’s responses centered around promoting school choice, going so far as to say that if elected, she would surround herself with people who have built successful charter schools. When asked about challenges to choice, she pointed to federal programs like the Obama administration’s Race to the Top.

“Federal government money is being used to pick winners and losers. You see a program like Race to the Top being used to determine, ‘Well, you’re doing it the way we want you to do it, so you get federal money’ and ‘You’re not doing it the way we want you to do it, so you don’t get federal money.’ That’s not going to work. The truth is more federal money ought to flow out of Washington D.C. into the states, and money at the state level ought to flow into the community level.”

Race to the Top, a so-called barrier to school choice, awarded grants to states for lifting their caps on charter schools, effectively providing incentives for states to offer more choices and create innovative programs, the very things Fiorina is advocating.

Bott concludes by noting Fiorina’s assertion that the federal government should get out of education policy and instead focus on its primary responsibilities, like “repairing roads and bridges.”

Wrong again, Batman!

In fact, the vast majority of roads and bridges in America are owned and maintained by state and local governments, with the federal government picking up only 24 percent of all surface transportation costs, mostly for interstate highways and mass transit systems.

As we saw again last night, Fiorina relies on speed and specificity to give the impression of substantive knowledge, even if it’s not actually there. But what else would you expect from some fast-talking politician who’s been in office playing these games for years?

Oh, wait….


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 17, 2015

September 18, 2015 Posted by | Carly Fiorina, Education, GOP Primary Debates | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Chief Justice John Roberts Just Isn’t Far Enough To The Right”: When Even Conservative Justices Aren’t Conservative Enough

Over the weekend, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) added a new line of attack to his offensive against his party’s Beltway establishment: the Republican presidential hopeful insisted that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts just isn’t far enough to the right.

In fact, the GOP senator, who was an enthusiastic Roberts booster in 2005, even criticized former President George W. Bush for his reluctance to “spend some political capital” in support of a genuinely right-wing nominee.

Jeb Bush was asked in last night’s debate whether Cruz was right, and though the former governor’s answer meandered a bit, Bush suggested he’d nominate different kinds of justices than his brother: “Roberts has made some really good decisions, for sure, but he did not have a proven, extensive record that would have made the clarity the important thing, and that’s what we need to do. And I’m willing to fight for those nominees to make sure that they get passed. You can’t do it the politically expedient way anymore.”

Cruz added in response:

“I’ve known John Roberts for 20 years, he’s amazingly talented lawyer, but, yes, it was a mistake when he was appointed to the Supreme Court. […]

 “It is true that after George W. Bush nominated John Roberts, I supported his confirmation. That was a mistake and I regret that. I wouldn’t have nominated John Roberts.”

Watching this unfold last night, some viewers might have been left with the impression that Chief Justice Roberts is, well, retired Justice David Souter. One President Bush nominated a jurist who seemed conservative enough, but who turned out to approach the law from a center-left perspective, and then another President Bush did the same thing.

Except, that’s not even close to being true.

When Cruz and others on the right complain bitterly about Roberts, they’re generally referring to the justice’s rulings on the Affordable Care Act. But the fact remains that both of the major “Obamacare” rulings were genuinely ridiculous cases – and it’s not Roberts’ fault that he took the law, court precedent, and common sense seriously.

Health care cases notwithstanding, though, Roberts is not a moderate by any fair measurement. We are, after all, talking about a court that handed down the Citizens United ruling. And then later gutted the Voting Rights Act. Roberts didn’t even support marriage equality.

Souter he isn’t.

If Roberts isn’t radical enough for Cruz, who exactly would the Texas Republican like to see on the court? Three times last night he mentioned Judge Edith Jones of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Given Jones’ jaw-dropping record, that tells us an awful lot about Cruz.


By: Steve Benen, The Madow Blog, September 17, 2015

September 18, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, John Roberts, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Hillary Was The CNN Debate’s Real Winner—Seriously”: “It’s Clearer Than Ever That The GOP Presidential Candidates Are Jokers

Well, that was all kind of…interminable. For a time there in the middle, I thought Ben Carson had strolled out to perform some elective surgery. I guess we kind of agree that Carly Fiorina won, since she did manage to convey some real or at least manufactured-real passion on about three or four occasions.

But you wanna know who really won that debate? Hillary Clinton. Go ahead, go ahead, laugh all you want. Yes, her stock is selling awfully low right now. Nate Silver says, accurately, that she is in a “self-reinforcing funk” right now and that there’s no obvious way out for the time being.

But consider. She is still the overwhelming favorite to be the Democratic nominee. She still leads the Republicans in a strong majority of the general election head-to-head matchups. And that’s after two horrible media months in which, by Silver’s count, she has endured 29 negative news stories while enjoying just one positive one. All that, and she’s still mostly ahead.

And being the Democrat, she has the Electoral College advantage that any plausible Democrat has these days because the GOP has just positioned itself too far right to win states that it regularly won back in the Nixon-to-Bush Sr. era. That advantage is either 257 electoral votes that tilt strongly Democratic, or 247, if you put Iowa and New Hampshire on the fence as, for example, Larry Sabato does. I do not, because those two states have both gone Democratic five of the last six times, which is trend enough for me. The comparable Republican number, the “natural” Republican Electoral College vote, is 206. If Clinton holds every state that’s gone Democratic in five out of the last six and sneaks by in Virginia, boom, Madam President. She doesn’t even need Ohio or Florida.

All that speaks to the advantages she still enjoys, even with the quicksand she’s been stuck in lately. But all that isn’t why she won the debate. She won the debate because these people are jokers. Donald Trump, come on. I mean, look: I’ve come to believe here lately that he’d be a better president than most of them in some ways. I could picture the Trump whom Jonah Goldberg detests nominating someone to the Supreme Court who is not a knuckle-dragger. But that doesn’t erase the fundamental and self-evident preposterosity of the idea of President Trump. He slipped Wednesday night. That moment when he said he’d know plenty about foreign policy in good time was embarrassing.

Ben Carson. Yes, he seems like a nice enough man. But he had nothing interesting to say. Carly Fiorina had good lines. She’s well prepped for these things. But if she actually did call “the supreme leader”—did you notice how she called him that, just like the quisling Obama does?—on her first day in office and change the terms of the Iran deal as radically as she suggested, Tehran would have a nuclear weapon in about four months. She was also well prepped on her Hewlett-Packard tenure, how to answer the disaster charge (she walked away with a $40 million parachute, by the way). But that doesn’t change the fact that it was bad, and not just because of the economy. Her Compaq decision, among others, had a lot to do with it. If we’re sizing up business people, she is less qualified than Trump.

As for the “serious” ones, Jeb Bush and the others, they are in their way even worse. Unlike the outsider triumvirate, they know actual facts about governmental policy, and yet they still persist in uttering this fantasy gibberish to assuage the hard right base. It’s one thing for Trump to say he can bully the Ford Motor Company in one day to keep a plant in Michigan. He probably truly believes he could. But it’s quite another for Bush to say his brother “kept America safe.” Yes, he did. Except for 9/11. Well, whatever. And what were those brainwashed idiots doing applauding that line? This is the kind of thing that only conservatives believe, because it’s just obviously not true, and everyone else knows it.

There were a few moments of quasi-reality. Rand Paul and John Kasich were sort of interesting on foreign policy, which we can assume hurt them badly. But basically, the whole thing was ridiculous. The jokers are ahead, and they haven’t offered a serious proposal among them. The allegedly serious ones are mostly just doing what Mitt Romney did, to his peril, in 2012, jumping up in front of the base saying, “See, I can be crazy right-wing, too!”

Meanwhile, Clinton has offered serious policy proposals one after the other. No Republican even comes remotely close, with the partial exception of Paul, who has been rewarded for his quasi-seriousness with what, 3 percent support. Compare, for example, Clinton’s tax proposal to Bush’s. Yes, they both want to end the carried-interest loophole for hedge-fund managers, which is the headline.

But look beyond the headline. In a July 12 speech, Clinton paired that announcement with a series of other steps that would do what eliminating the carried-interest loophole is designed to do: try to alleviate inequality. Bush, in contrast, tossed elimination of the loophole in there as a look-good sop in a package of tax proposals that otherwise will exacerbate inequality and continue the party for the 1 percent that his brother so diligently advanced.

I could go on, and on. But suffice it to say: Clinton is putting forward policy after policy that address America’s great problems. These people are just making stuff up. Eventually, issues will matter. And voters will see what they saw in 2008 and 2012, two elections when Republicans couldn’t believe they lost to such a lightweight. In 2016, they’ll say we can’t believe we lost to such a corrupt blah-da-de-blah, and the answer will be the same as it was then: You people aren’t in the real world where most Americans live.

The best line of the night? Rick Santorum, at the JV debate. When he said his party is all about business owners but won’t talk to workers. The 11 on the main stage failed Santorum’s test, except with respect to government workers who feel their religious beliefs are being violated. Clinton passes his test, and by Election Day, it will matter.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, September 17, 2015

September 18, 2015 Posted by | Election 2016, GOP Primary Debates, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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