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“A Political Strategy To Bring Down Hillary Clinton”: GOP Leader Tries To Undo Damage After Benghazi Concession

On Tuesday night, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) acknowledged a fact that everyone knows, but which Republicans aren’t supposed to admit out loud: the GOP’s taxpayer-financed Benghazi committee is all about the Republicans’ “strategy to fight and win” against Hillary Clinton. It’s not, in other words, about investigating an attack that left four Americans dead.

As the uproar continued yesterday, McCarthy and GOP leaders spent the day “scrambling to undo the damage.” That included the California Republican sitting down with Fox News’ Bret Baier in the hopes of putting out the fire. McCarthy, the likely next Speaker of the House, stuck to an awkwardly worded script.

“I did not intend to imply in any way that [the committee’s] work was political. Of course it is not; look at the way they have carried themselves out. […]

 “I do not want to make that harm Benghazi committee in any way because it’s not political.”

On a substantive level, McCarthy’s explanation was a mess. Just two days after acknowledging reality, the GOP leader now wants to pretend the obvious partisan exercise isn’t “political” at all. As proof, he urges us to “look at the way they have carried themselves out.” That’s clumsy phrasing, but if we do examine how the committee has conducted itself, a picture of a brazenly political tool emerges.

On a rhetorical level, McCarthy didn’t exactly inspire confidence. At one point in the interview, he said, “It wasn’t what I, in my mind, was saying out there.” Good to know.

Behind the scenes, some Republican insiders are quietly starting to refer to McCarthy as “the new Dan Quayle.” I don’t think they mean it as a compliment.

With less than a week remaining before the House GOP leadership elections, it’s not unreasonable to wonder whether McCarthy’s bid to become the next Speaker of the House is now in jeopardy. He has some critics within his party, and his accidental truth-telling this week has them on the offensive.

What’s more, away from Capitol Hill, influential Republican media figures – including Erick Erickson and Bill Kristol – are making clear that they have real concerns about McCarthy’s likely promotion.

The fact remains, however, that McCarthy does not yet have a credible rival for the Speaker’s gavel. In his Fox interview yesterday, he added that he’s “close” to securing the votes necessary to replace John Boehner.

As for congressional Democrats, who were delighted to hear McCarthy confess what they’ve feared all along, there’s been some chatter that Benghazi committee Democrats might resign from the panel in protest. Yesterday, however, the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent reported that House Democrats have decided not to do that.

Greg’s report added that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) warned that Democrats “just might pull their participation one of these days, but that she is encouraging Democrats to attend, for now, anyway.”

Senate Democratic leaders, meanwhile, urged Boehner yesterday to shut down the committee, ending this farce. The outgoing Speaker is unlikely to pull the plug, however, on his own party’s taxpayer-funded election stunt.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 2, 2015

October 2, 2015 Posted by | Benghazi, Hillary Clinton, House Select Committee on Benghazi, Kevin McCarthy | , , , , | 1 Comment

“Cheney For Speaker”: Let Lord Vader’s Dark Force Make A Dent In Washington’s GOP Leadership Black Hole?

Watching Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy – the current favorite to replace Speaker John Boehner – interviewed by Fox News’ Sean Hannity this week left my heart and mind empty. Deflated. Much like Washington itself, with its persistent leadership vacuum.

As The Onion rightly pointed out this week with the headline “Boehner Resignation Leaves Massive Leadership Vacuum in Congress Intact,” last week’s announcement by the speaker has served mostly to highlight what we all knew, deep down: Our capital city is in an ongoing leadership crisis. Russia telling the U.S. to get out of the way so that it can drop bombs in Syria this week underscores how dangerous this is.

Filling the Washington leadership vacuum is a very, very tall order. It’s why the Republican presidential contest is such big news – it’s terribly important that our next president be exceptional.

A new House speaker probably can’t come close to filling this urgent leadership vacancy, but it would be nice to come up with a decent stopgap until we have a new president (preferably one who commands respect across the country and around the globe).

So here’s the problem with McCarthy and his attempt to step into this vacuum. He seems like a really nice guy. A guy who listens to all sides. A guy who will try to make sure everyone gets at least a little bit of what they want. A guy who might shed a tear over a touching moment – I think I just figured out why McCarthy leaves me hopeless.

With all due respect to nice guys everywhere (and, to be sure, they need more respect and credit in this world), I must implore House Republicans: Please. Not another one. No more Mr. Nice Guys with Gavels. At this moment in our history, that approach just isn’t working.

Here’s what I have in mind: Instead of another man with a big, mushy heart, how about a man whose critics wonder whether he has a heart at all? Someone who commands respect and fear, is brilliant and decisive, who has literally lived without a pulse and now makes due with a donated heart.

I am, of course, referring to Dick Cheney. And, yes, I am suggesting he be the next Speaker of the House.

The Constitution does not require the House speaker to be an elected House representative (which is why some have already suggested Newt Gingrich return – not a bad idea, but I think Cheney would be even better).

Cheney was in the House for 10 years (1979-1989) and served in leadership during that time. He’s been secretary of defense as well as vice president, so whether you agree or disagree with his foreign policy positions, you can’t deny that he knows the subject matter awfully well. And wouldn’t it be nice to have a leader in Congress who’s the smartest guy in the room on foreign policy but isn’t running for president?

There’s something in this for everyone, seriously. Even if you don’t like the Tea Party caucus – don’t you just know that they will be respectfully scared of Cheney? I can already hear them saying, “Yes, sir.” Cheney is the type mere mortals reference as “sir.”

If the ultra liberals get out of line, well, you know what Dick Cheney will say. (Just ask Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont.)

And if you want business to get done in Washington, rest assured Cheney won’t screw around with shutdowns or debt ceilings. He’s a Washington workhorse. He can run things.

On the other hand, if you sympathize with the “we’re not gonna take it anymore” government-shrinking sentiments of the Tea Party, you can be confident that the government won’t be growing on Dick Cheney’s watch, unless it involves defeating some international bad guys.

House GOP: It is time. Admit you have no leader and bring in a ringer – someone who suffers no fools. Someone who is smarter, more decisive, more experienced than all of you. Let Lord Vader’s dark force make a dent in Washington’s leadership black hole.

 

By: Jean Card, Thomas Jefferson Street Blog, U. S. News and World Report, October 1, 2015

October 2, 2015 Posted by | Dick Cheney, GOP, Speaker of The House | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Right’s Rekindled Affection For Russia’s Putin”: Back To Drawing Hearts On Their Pictures Of Putin

It was early last year when Republicans decided Russian President Vladimir Putin was an autocrat worthy of their gushing affections. In March 2014, Rudy Giuliani (R) said of Putin, “That’s what you call a leader.” The same month, Mike Rogers, at the time the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, expressed his own admiration: “Putin is playing chess and I think we are playing marbles, and I don’t think it’s even close. They’ve been running circles around us.”

At one point last summer, a Fox News personality went so far as to say she wanted to see Putin serve as “head of the United States,” at least for a little while.

By late last year, however, Republicans were no longer drawing hearts on their pictures of Putin. Russia’s economy was deteriorating quickly; Putin was isolated on the international stage; Russia’s standing and credibility around the world was in tatters; and the sanctions President Obama helped impose on Russia were making a real difference.

Suddenly, the U.S. conservatives who’d enrolled in the Putin fan-club fell quiet, realizing that their contempt for the American president led them to praise the wrong foreign leader.

As of this week, however, many Republicans have apparently come full circle.

One day after President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin made little headway in their standoff over Syria at their first formal meeting in more than two years, Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump is agreeing with Putin on his backing of Syrian President Bashar Assad. […]

 “I will tell you that, in terms of leadership, [Putin’s] getting an ‘A’ and our president is not doing so well,” he said.

Jennifer Rubin, a conservative voice at the Washington Post, added this morning, “In taking this action just days after meeting with President Obama, Putin is delivering one more finger in the eye of a president whom he continues to out-wit and out-muscle.”

Yes, we’ve apparently reached the point again at which Republicans once more see Putin as some kind of strategic mastermind.

As the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman explained yesterday, [T]oday’s reigning cliche is that the wily fox, President Vladimir Putin of Russia, has once again outmaneuvered the flat-footed Americans, by deploying some troops, planes and tanks to Syria to buttress the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and to fight the Islamic State forces threatening him. If only we had a president who was so daring, so tough, so smart…. Putin stupidly went into Syria looking for a cheap sugar high to show his people that Russia is still a world power.”

For Republicans, the response seems to be, “At least Putin is going after targets in Syria.” What the White House’s GOP critics have refused to acknowledge for the last 14 months is that President Obama has launched thousands of airstrikes against ISIS targets.

There are two main differences between Putin’s engagement in Syria and Obama’s. The first is that the size of Obama’s military commitment is vastly larger. The second is that Russian lawmakers actually authorized Putin’s mission, while the Republican-run Congress in the United States has done literally nothing since the American military offensive began in August 2014, preferring to watch developments unfold on TV while Obama’s mission continues.

Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum added this morning, “Do you know how many military bases the US has in the Middle East? Nearly two dozen. Plus the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean and the Fifth Fleet in the Persian Gulf. Plus a whole bunch of close allies. And we’re supposed to be quaking in our boots because Putin hastily upgraded a single aging base in Latakia under pressure from his sole remaining ally? You’re kidding, right?”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 1, 2015

October 2, 2015 Posted by | GOP, Syria, Vladimir Putin | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Two Months From Now, We’ll Be Doing It All Again”: Republicans Aren’t Averting A Government Shutdown, They’re Just Delaying It

Congratulations, America: It looks like your government will not be shutting down this week after all.

Now that John Boehner has announced he will be resigning next month, he is supposedly free to do what he was actually perfectly free to do before, which is to allow a vote on a “clean” continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government, i.e. one that doesn’t include a provision cutting off all Medicaid reimbursements to Planned Parenthood.

But before you get too relieved, there’s something else you ought to know. The CR that’s now working its way through Congress will only fund the government through December 11. In other words, two months from now we’ll be doing it all again.

There’s no way to know for sure whether we’ll still be arguing about Planned Parenthood at that point, but if it isn’t Planned Parenthood it’ll be something else. There will be something conservative Republicans in Congress want to do, or more likely, stop, that will be so titanically important to them that they will refuse to fund the government unless they get their way. What that thing is doesn’t really matter.

You’ll recall that when they shut the government down in 2013, it was because the goal of repealing the Affordable Care Act was the most important thing ever, so vital that it necessitated the shutdown. Then later they threatened another shutdown, but this time it was President Obama’s executive actions on immigration that were so monumentally awful that they had no choice but to move toward a shutdown. Today it’s defunding Planned Parenthood that is so utterly essential that we must shut everything down if it doesn’t occur. By December it could be something else entirely.

It’s pretty obvious that what drives these crises isn’t the substance of the issue everyone ends up taking about, it’s the battle itself. That’s what the tea partiers who create the crises are after. They want to stand up to Obama, to get their leadership to show some spine, to banish compromise, to fight, fight, fight! They’ll fight about anything.

This was what John Boehner struggled with for nearly five years as speaker of the House: a significant portion of his caucus had zero interest in governing, which made them almost impossible to work with. They didn’t come to Washington to write laws or solve problems, they came to fight, and if there’s no fight going on then they have no purpose. Shutdowns don’t bother them too much, because they think almost everything government does is bad anyway.

These members judge their own success not by the outcome of any battle, but by whether along the way they acquitted themselves with sufficient fierceness. The only opposition in their home districts they ever fear comes in the form of an attack from the right. When they go home they tell their constituents, “I stood up to Barack Obama!”, and “I stood up to John Boehner!” That’s an accomplishment as far as they’re concerned, and it’s greeted with cheers. It doesn’t matter whether they won, or whether they actually achieved any of the conservative policy goals they claim to seek.

And now they’ve been emboldened. They see Boehner’s resignation as a victory for them and a validation of their entire view of politics. The likely next speaker, Kevin McCarthy of California, has spent a good deal of time building relationships with the Tea Party representatives who despised Boehner, but they are going to be watching him very closely. At even the slightest hint that he wants to engage in any governing — of the kind that entails working with the other side and taking some of what you want even if you can’t get it all — they will rise up against him.

That doesn’t mean they will be able to depose him (they couldn’t depose Boehner, after all, mostly because nobody else wanted the job badly enough to challenge him). But they will put every ounce of pressure on him they can, and, as of yet, we have no idea how McCarthy will respond.

So we’ll have a situation very much like what he had up until Boehner’s announcement: some irreconcilable policy disagreements, a Republican caucus itching for a fight with the president, and a speaker under pressure to go all the way to a shutdown. The only difference is that the new speaker will be particularly keen to demonstrate to his restive members that he’s different from his predecessor.

And by the way, we’re going to have to raise the debt ceiling in November or the United States of America will default on its obligations. This will give House Republicans yet another opportunity to threaten catastrophe if they don’t get what they want. Should be a fun couple of months.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, October 1, 2015

October 2, 2015 Posted by | Government Shut Down, House Republicans, Planned Parenthood | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Republican Brand Is Tea Party”: GOP Reactions Are Revealing, Especially Among Senators Facing Voters In Blue And Purple States

House Republicans will hold their leadership elections next week and all signs point to them remaining more interested in appeasing a narrow base than governing a diverse country.

Consider: The only woman positioned to run for Majority Leader, Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, decided not to make a bid. The two men competing for the job are conservatives from the Deep South. The favorite for Speaker, Kevin McCarthy of California, is less experienced than John Boehner, less accomplished, and — if he follows through on private promises — more confrontational.

McCarthy has already signaled with a potentially costly gaffe that he may not be ready for primetime. It came when he boasted to Sean Hannity on Fox News that the House investigation of the 2012 murders of Americans in Benghazi has done serious damage to Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought and made that happen,” he said.

Not that this was a secret, but thanks for the gift of a sound bite that makes clear the Benghazi probe — the latest of many — is not entirely about getting to the truth. The incident recalls a classic moment in 2012 when Mike Turzai, majority leader of the Pennsylvania House, ran down a list of achievements that ended: “Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.”

Later that year, President Obama beat Mitt Romney by 5 percentage points in Pennsylvania. And a judge ultimately struck down that voter identification law. The larger point is that until Turzai’s brag, conservatives across the country had religiously stuck to talking points about good government and rooting out (virtually nonexistent) fraud, as opposed to giving their side an edge by making it harder for some people — like urban minorities — to vote.

One of the deepest rifts in today’s chasm-ridden GOP is whether to try to attract a larger swath of voters or to double down on the party’s dwindling core of loyalists. The latest test — over whether to shut down the government in an attempt to strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood — illuminated the divide. Republican reactions were revealing, especially among senators facing voters next year in blue and purple states.

You had Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire demanding of Sen. Ted Cruz, presidential candidate and chief agitator in the upper chamber, exactly what he hoped to accomplish when the Senate GOP did not have 60 votes to overcome a Democratic filibuster, much less 67 to override a veto by the Democratic president. And Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois tweeting Wednesday, after the Senate passed a bill to fund the government (including Planned Parenthood), “When our govt shut down in 2013, it cost U.S. $24 billion. We were elected to govern responsibly, not by crisis.” And Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who tweeted “Troubling that a #governmentshutdown was even an option, causing great economic hardship to the 15,000 Alaskans employed by the fed. gov.”

I don’t doubt the sincerity or passion of conservatives fighting abortion. I don’t even argue with the idea that by giving Planned Parenthood money for services like contraception, cancer screenings and STD tests, the federal government frees up money for the group to perform abortions. But the facts on the ground are stark. It will take a Republican Senate supermajority and a Republican president to get what conservatives want, and what they want does not have broad public support. That’s the case whether the issue is defunding Planned Parenthood, curbing abortion, or shutting the government.

Only 36 percent in a new NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll said more restrictive laws on abortion would be a step in the right direction. Majorities in that poll and two other new ones, meanwhile, said Planned Parenthood should continue to receive federal funds. One of the polls, from Quinnipiac University, found sentiment running 3 to 1 against shuttering the government over the issue. Only 23 percent favored a shutdown.

To cap off the bad-news week for the GOP, Planned Parenthood had a 47 percent positive rating in the NBC poll — the highest of any entity or person tested. Obama came closest at 46 percent, followed by the Democratic Party at 41 percent and Joe Biden at 40 percent. The most positively viewed on the Republican side were presidential candidate Ben Carson and the party itself, each at 29 percent.

Democrats have their own problems, but they are far more in step with mainstream America on a number of important issues — not least the idea that shutting down the federal government is an acceptable substitute for winning the elections you need to prevail.

 

By: Jill Lawrence, The National Memo, October 1, 2015

October 2, 2015 Posted by | GOP, Government Shut Down, House Republicans, Planned Parenthood | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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