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“Free Stuff!”: Jeb’s Outreach To Black Voters; It Isn’t ‘We’ll Take Care Of You With Free Stuff’

Man, Republicans just can’t help themselves, can they? Here’s Jebbie in South Carolina talking about reaching out to African-American voters, per a report from WaPo’s Sean Sullivan:

“Look around this room,” a man told Bush, who spoke to a mostly white crowd. “How many black faces do you see? How are you going to include them and get them to vote for you?” asked the man, who was white.

Bush pointed to his record on school choice and said that if Republicans could double their share of the black vote, they would win the swing states of Ohio and Virginia.

And if they had some ham, they could make a ham sandwich, if they had some bread. But I digress.

“Our message is one of hope and aspiration,” he said at the East Cooper Republican Women’s Club annual Shrimp Dinner. “It isn’t one of division and get in line and we’ll take care of you with free stuff. Our message is one that is uplifting — that says you can achieve earned success.”

The “free stuff” reference sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

According to a pool report, [Mitt] Romney, who struggled badly with minority voters in the 2012 election, said during a Montana fundraiser that year: “I want people to know what I stand for and if I don’t stand for what they want, go vote for someone else, that’s just fine. But I hope people understand this, your friends who like Obamacare, you remind them of this, if they want more stuff from government tell them to go vote for the other guy — more free stuff.” Romney was explaining his remarks that day at the NAACP’s national convention, where he was booed.

Now in commenting on this latest Bush gaffe, the ever-fair Greg Sargent notes that Jeb’s not attacking po’ folks for taking “free stuff:”

Bush was not criticizing recipients of government help as self-designated victims. Rather, he was implicitly criticizing the Democratic vision of government, suggesting that Dems want to use government handouts (“free stuff”) to destructively trap people in dependency (“take care of you”) in order to capture and hold their votes.

As applied to African-Americans, this is the old “Plantation” meme, according to which Democrats have ensnared people by the diabolical means of helping them stay alive and make ends meet, as opposed to “empowering” them with benign neglect.

This sort of rap coming from the scion of a rich and powerful family might go over better if he were preceded by some commitments to letting African-Americans vote and abandoning mass incarceration as a social control mechanism and taking seriously complaints about police misconduct. As it is, it’s just free rhetoric.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 25, 2015

September 27, 2015 Posted by | African Americans, Black Voters, Jeb Bush | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“America Is Not A Brave Nation”: Once Again, Fear Has Made Us Our Own Worst Enemy, Has Made Us Stupid

America is not a brave nation.

Yes, that’s a heretical thing to say. Yes, our military is the world’s finest and our servicewomen and men provide daily examples of incontestable courage. Yes, police officers brave bullets, firefighters rush into burning buildings and ordinary Janes stand in harm’s way to save complete strangers on a routine basis. Yes, there are brave people all over this country, people who put self second every day.

But courage is not only about putting self second. Courage is also about who you are in stressful times, about the ability to not be rattled, to act with sound judgment, to keep your head when those about you are, as Rudyard Kipling put it, “losing theirs and blaming it on you.”

And by that standard, no. There are many words you might use to describe the character of this country, but brave isn’t one of them. Rather, we are fraidy-cats and cowards.

We’ve proven this many times since that Tuesday morning in September of 2001 when Islamic extremists kidnapped four planeloads of our fellow citizens and turned them into guided missiles in an attack that ripped away our illusions of security.

We proved it by bungling into a needless war chasing terrorists who were not there, by burning mosques and criminalizing Islam, by compromising basic civil rights for the Great Pumpkin of security.

And we proved it again last Monday when Ahmed was arrested for bringing a clock to school.

Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old ninth grader from MacArthur High in Irving, Texas, had built the digital clock at home and was eager to show it to his engineering teacher, who liked it. When his English teacher saw it, however, she thought it looked like a bomb. Next thing he knew, the teenage tinkerer, who wants to be an engineer when he grows up, was under arrest.

There’s a picture of him online that’s heartbreaking: It shows a slight, brown-skinned boy in glasses, looking frightened and confused. He’s wearing a NASA T-shirt. He is also wearing handcuffs.

Ahmed says police told him he was being charged with building a hoax bomb. James McLellan, a spokesman for the Irving police, told local station WFAA, “We attempted to question the juvenile about what it was and he would simply only tell us that it was a clock.”

That, of course, is because it was a clock.

Eventually, whoever has custody of the brain at the Irving PD must have recognized this for the Islamophobic idiocy it was. Ahmed was released. No charges will be filed.

Word of all this set Twitter ablaze. Ahmed has received supportive tweets from Arianna Huffington and Hillary Clinton. Mark Zuckerberg invited him to Facebook. President Obama invited him to the White House. And his ordeal inspired a trending hashtag: #IStandWithAhmed.

Which is good. But one hopes it will also inspire a little soul-searching for this country, which would be better.

Because once again, fear has made us our own worst enemy, has made us stupid. The fact that a bright kid — a kid with initiative, a kid who only wanted to make his teacher proud, a kid who, by all appearances, is precisely what we wish more kids would be — was hauled away in handcuffs for those very attributes ought to make us sober and reflective about the nation we have become in the years since Sept. 11.

One is reminded of the time President George W. Bush strode out on an aircraft carrier beneath a celebratory banner proclaiming “Mission Accomplished.” But given that the primary goal of terrorism is to make people afraid, maybe somebody should find that banner and ship it to al Qaeda.

Judging from what happened to Ahmed, they deserve it more than we ever did.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, September 21, 2014

September 27, 2015 Posted by | 9-11, Fearmongering, Islamophobia | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Polarized Congress Will Ignore Pope’s Plea”: We Are Living Through A Deeply Polarized Era In Which Compromise Is A Dirty Word

In a more generous political climate, an adorable little girl who gave a letter and a hug to Pope Francis could make a difference. In an era with a more pragmatic Congress and a less Balkanized electorate, 5-year-old Sophie Cruz could break through the gridlock around immigration reform.

But we are living through a deeply polarized era in which compromise is a dirty word, listening to those with whom we disagree is seen as weakness and respect for different opinions regarded as betrayal. Pope Francis’ gracious address to Congress, in which he urged compassion toward “foreigners,” won’t change that. Neither will a cute little girl.

The pope’s embrace of young Sophie has flashed around the world, carried at the supersonic speed of social media. As he made his way down the National Mall in the Popemobile on Wednesday, he spotted her trying to break through his firewall of security guards and beckoned for her.

She handed him a letter — accompanied by a delightful drawing of the pope with children of different races — pleading for a comprehensive immigration reform that might save her parents from deportation. Though she is a citizen (so far, at least, since Donald Trump has not yet had his way on birthright citizenship), her parents crossed the border from Mexico illegally.

Her well-written letter and her flawless recitation of it for reporters were no accident. She and her parents, who live in Los Angeles, went to Washington with a group of immigration activists. They apparently chose Sophie as likely to get the pope’s attention because of his well-known affection for children.

Their strategy hearkens back to the days of the civil rights movement, when activists scoured the landscape for well-scrubbed and presentable symbols to show to the nation. That’s quite understandable. When an oppressed group has the opportunity to present itself on a grand stage, its leaders seek to make a good impression. And that in no way diminishes Sophie’s charm.

She gave moving testimony to the anxiety and insecurity created by the threat of deportation, writing to the pope: “I would like to ask you to speak with the president and the Congress in [sic] legalizing my parents because every day I am scared that one day they will take them away from me.”

But those voters who are willing to be persuaded by the hopes and dreams of 11 million undocumented immigrants already support changing the law. According to a recent CBS poll, 58 percent believe they should be given citizenship, while another 10 percent believe they should be granted legal status. That’s a substantial majority who support bringing those immigrants out of the shadows.

The Republican Party, however, has been captured by the xenophobic minority following Donald Trump, with his denunciation of Mexicans as “rapists” and “murderers” and his insistence on deportation for millions. Little Sophie won’t change their views. Neither will the powerful preaching of Pope Francis.

“In recent centuries, millions of people came to this land to pursue their dream of building a future in freedom. We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners. I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants,” he told Congress.

In a different political climate, that message may have moved Speaker John Boehner, a Catholic, who teared up during the pope’s address. But he seems cowed by the nativists in his restive caucus, and he has refused, so far, to force a vote on the comprehensive immigration reform plan passed by the Senate two years ago.

Our political system is paralyzed, for now, by the fears and bigotry of a few. And little Sophie can’t change that.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker Haynes, Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2007; The National Memo, September 26, 2015

 

Editor’s Note: House Speaker John Boehner announced his resignation, effective October 30, after this piece was filed.

September 27, 2015 Posted by | Congress, Immigration Reform, Pope Francis | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Poisonous Intra-Party Politics”: John Boehner’s Resignation Won’t Save Republicans From Themselves

For all his flaws, House Speaker John Boehner, who announced on Friday that he will resign from Congress at the end of October, was badly served by a lot of people.

Boehner’s decision is due not to any ostensible scandal or illness but to cruel political mathematics: His conference has become so dysfunctional that when a Republican speaker resigns, the House becomes less, not more, chaotic and reckless. The circumstances that prefigured his resignation are thus a fitting metaphor for his entire speakership and for the state of the Republican Party as a whole. It would be to Boehner’s credit to do everything in his power in the next month to protect his successor from the same fate.

What makes Boehner’s decision surprising is that the forces that drove him to it are familiar enough that they’ve become mundane. Up against a deadline to complete a basic function of government—in this case, to fund it—Boehner found himself beset by conservative demands that he condition Congress’ obligation to help run the country on President Barack Obama’s capitulating to partisan demands. This time the demand was to defund Planned Parenthood. In the past it’s been to change immigration policy, slash social spending, and defund the Affordable Care Act. In each instance, Boehner was confronted with a terrible choice: provoke a crisis, like the 2013 government shutdown, or capitulate to Obama, and face repercussions from unruly conservative members, who were constantly threatening to depose him.

These episodes of brinkmanship always resolved themselves, sometimes in damaging ways. In addition to the shutdown, Boehner’s 2011 decision to ransom the statutory debt limit brought the country within hours of an economically devastating credit default, and precipitated an agreement to impose automatic, indiscriminate spending cuts that harm the government and the economy to this day. More recently, he placated his members by embroiling the House in a lawsuit against the president, which, if successful, would precipitate a constitutional crisis. But he always maintained his brittle grip on power. Either he no longer believes he can, or doesn’t want the hassle anymore.

By stepping down, but not for a month, Boehner has freed himself from the poisonous intraparty politics that made it all but impossible for him to govern, and left himself a brief opening in which to settle some accounts, before the next speaker is elected.

If the succession of power goes as it has in recent years, his deputy—Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California—will become speaker. A conservative dark horse, like Representative Jeb Hensarling of Texas, could mount a challenge. But any insurgent candidate will have to overcome the fact that the speakership, unlike the majority leadership and other high-ranking posts, is determined by the entire House. Democrats, who can not elect a speaker on their own, are ultimately likelier to assure a victory for McCarthy over the devil they don’t know.

But no matter who comes next, the question is whether they’ll immediately confront the same tawdry dynamic that ultimately felled Boehner, or whether Boehner takes it upon himself to bring some stability to the chamber.

If he takes the path of least resistance, the next speaker will have all the same problems Boehner had, minus his years of experience. That path would end with a brief continuation of government funding—just enough to hand the same political mess over to a new leadership team. It would leave the government no less vulnerable to a shutdown, or another debt limit crisis, or a lapse in highway funding, and the party no less vulnerable to bearing responsibility for a crisis in the middle of election season. Call it Boehner’s curse.

Boehner probably can’t end the vicious cycle that hobbled his speakership. But he could plausibly clear the deck for his successor for long enough that the big issues Republicans want to fight over can play out in the election, rather than in the throes of governance. He could place legislation on the floor that funds the government for a year, extends the debt limit through 2016, and replenishes the highway trust fund, and allow Democrats to supply most of the votes required to restore calm. If Boehner were determined to make the next speakership less volatile than his own, and to end his own speakership on a note of responsible stewardship, he almost certainly could. What remains to be seen is whether he has one last fight left in him.

 

By: Brian Beutler, Senior Editor, The New Republic; September 26, 2015

September 27, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, House Republicans, John Boehner | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Bye Bye Boehner”: The Speaker’s Exit Has The Potential To Cause Chaos On Capitol Hill

Friday morning, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, announced his resignation and rocked the political world. The embattled speaker will step down at the end of October. Boehner’s latest move was abrupt and unexpected. Until this morning’s announcement, Washington was still collectively basking in the afterglow of Pope Francis’s historic visit to our city. Now, the speaker’s impending exit has everyone wondering what happens next.

The most immediate matter on Congress’ agenda is the continued funding for the operations of the federal government. Current funding is due to expire at the end of the fiscal year, which is Sept. 30. Congress has not passed the funding bills for fiscal year 2016, so it must take some type of action next week to avoid shutting the government down. According to the Washington Post, the speaker’s resignation has cleared the way for this to happen, and Congress will pass a short-term funding deal that would keep the government running.

Until this morning, some House Republicans were threatening to vote against continued funding for the government unless the necessary legislative package also included provisions to defund Planned Parenthood. The division within his own party could have left Boehner without the votes needed to pass even a temporary funding bill, but his resignation seems to have appeased the conservatives who opposed him. Rep. John Fleming, R-La., told the Post, “The commitment has been made that there will be no shutdown.”

While the initial crisis of a potential government shutdown will be averted, Congress still has much more to do before the end of the year. These matters will become more complicated with the new hole in the House’s Republican leadership. Although the member next in line for the speakership seems to be House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., the Washington Post noted that many House Republicans “believe he lacks the political and tactical gravitas to be a force in the House,” adding “The resignation sets up a bruising leadership race that will represent a long-delayed open clash between conservative and establishment Republicans.”

The crucial matters that Congress must decide on before the end of the year include a long-term funding package for the remainder of fiscal year 2016 and legislation to raise the debt ceiling, which is expected to become necessary in late October or November. The potential for a contentious leadership race, which pits conservatives against the rest of Republican conference, could make reaching consensus on these remaining matters difficult. Unless House Republicans are able to decide on a new leadership slate quickly, the rest of the year could be ugly on Capitol Hill.

Long-term, the effects Boehner’s retirement could be more far reaching. The speaker may not have been beloved by Democrats or by some of the members of his own party, but he was a force in the House and he won more than he lost. He had one of the most difficult jobs in Washington, but he worked every day to bring the factions of his House majority together so that Congress could continue with the work of the people. Most of the time, he succeeded.

It remains to be seen whether any of those who will run to replace him will be able to do the same. Recent calls from members of his own party for his removal had damaged the speaker somewhat, but he was still the most powerful, effective and thoughtful member of his party’s leadership in the House. With a relatively weak bench lined up to succeed him, Boehner’s resignation has the potential to create chaos now and in the years to come.

 

By: Cary Gibson, Government Relations Consultant, Prime Policy Group; Thomas Jefferson Street Blog, U. S. News and World Report, September 25, 2015

September 27, 2015 Posted by | Federal Budget, House Republicans, John Boehner | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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