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“Voting Record On Gun Violence Could Tip The Scale”: Kelly Ayotte Should Be Worried About Losing Her Seat Over Gun Control

Gun violence “is something we should politicize,” President Barack Obama insisted in emotional, frustrated remarks on Thursday after a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon left ten people dead.

Obama’s speech charged politicians to lead with gun control legislation, but he left out the more obvious point: Congress’s makeup needs to change if there’s any hope of ever passing the most basic of gun control legislation, universal background checks. This starts with targeting vulnerable pro-gun politicians and replacing them with Democrats or Republicans who better represent public opinion.

And no one is more vulnerable than Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, who faces reelection in a presidential swing state in 2016.

Ayotte is an incumbent of an unpopular Congress in a blue-leaning state. No matter what, she’d already face an uphill climb during a presidential year, when turnout is generally better for Democrats. But it’s her record on gun violence that could tip the scale in favor of Democrats.

After the Newtown, Conneticut shooting in late 2012, Ayotte was considered a possible GOP vote in favor of the Toomey-Manchin amendment to strengthen background checks. In the end, only four Republicans broke with their party to vote for the bill, leaving it to fail 54-46 in the Senate. Ayotte was one of the votes against it. For weeks after her vote, Ayotte faced tough questions at town halls over her vote, including one memorable encounter with the daughter of a Newtown victim. “You had mentioned that the burden to owners of gun stores that these expanded background checks would cause,” the daughter Erica Lafferty said. “I’m just wondering why the burden of my mother being gunned down in the hall of her elementary school isn’t as important as that?” Ayotte’s poll numbers fell. According to an April 2013 survey by the left-leaning Public Policy Polling, before the vote, 48 percent of New Hampshire voters approved of the job she was doing, while 35 percent disapproved. After the vote, she went underwater, with 44 percent approving while 46 percent disapproved. Since then, she’s recovered her poll numbers.

Ayotte won’t be the only Republican facing scrutiny for a pro-gun record. Other vulnerable politicians are in a similar position—in 2016, more Republicans are running in moderate swing states. Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Senator Rob Portman of Ohio also voted against background checks in 2013, face competitive Democratic challengers, and received intense scrutiny for their votes.

Now, none of this is a guarantee that gun control will remain a top concern 13 months from now, but there are some encouraging signs that 2016 might be a key moment for the gun violence movement, despite the political power of the National Rifle Association.

For one thing, they have deep-pocketed groups on their side: Independence PAC, Everytown for Gun Safety, and Mayors Against Illegal Guns, backed by Michael Bloomberg. These groups saw some unexpected, if spotty successes in a 2014 cycle, which otherwise went poorly for Democrats overall. Colorado ousted the pro-gun Republicans who had replaced legislators recalled over passing gun control and saw a successful ballot measure to expand background checks in Washington state.

Admittedly, there aren’t many examples of Democrats winning a seat from Republicans based on gun control alone. But it could motivate voters, particularly in states that have dealt with high-profile shootings of late. And Virginia might prove to be a model for 2016. Every seat in the Virginia General Assembly is up for election in 2015, and the narrowly Republican-controled legislature voted down background checks, while sending pro-gun bills to the Democratic governor (who vetoed). Republicans are expected to hold on to a majority, but since two Virginia journalists were slain on camera in August, guns have reemerged as an issue in the state. According to a late September poll from the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University, 14 percent of Virginia voters say reducing gun violence should be the top priority of state legislators, behind concerns over public schools and federal spending but above issues like health care and traffic.

As Virginia could show, it sometimes takes a tragedy to change the politics around gun violence. The changing politics around guns might mean bad news for Ayotte, too.

 

Rebecca Leber, Staff Writer for The New Republic; October 2, 2015

October 3, 2015 Posted by | Gun Violence, Kelly Ayotte, Mass Shootings, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Badly In Need Of Some New Talking Points”: Rubio Needs A New Excuse To Ignore The Climate Crisis

As recently as two years ago, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) made his favorite case for doing absolutely nothing about the climate crisis. First, the far-right senator argued “government can’t change the weather,” suggesting the Floridian’s understanding of the issue lacked maturity.

But Rubio then added, “There are other countries that are polluting in the atmosphere much greater than we are at this point. China and India, they’re not going to stop doing what they’re doing.”

This year, the Republican repeated the talking point at a Koch brothers event: “[A]s far as I can see, China and India and other developing countries are going to continue to burn anything they can get their hands on.”

This rationale for simply allowing the crisis to continue with no American leadership at all was always bankrupt, but last week, it started collapsing in new ways. China, for example, announced its first-ever commitment to a cap-and-trade policy – a step Rubio and others on the far-right insisted China would never take.

And now India is taking steps of its own.

Under growing pressure to join in an international accord to battle climate change, India on Thursday announced its long-term plan to reduce its rate of planet-warming greenhouse gas pollution and to aggressively ramp up its production of solar power, hydropower and wind energy.

So, when Rubio said China and India are “not going to stop doing what they’re doing,” he had it largely backwards.

It’s important to emphasize that India’s announcement isn’t nearly as ambitious as it should be, and does not constitute a sweeping plan to curtail carbon emissions. That said, as the New York Times’ report added, “some environmental advocates praised the plan’s commitment to renewable energy and said that, if enacted, it could put India on track to reduced carbon emissions in the long run.”

And given that Republicans have insisted for years that China and India intend to do literally nothing about the crisis – a claim that the GOP has used an excuse to ignore the climate emergency – it seems the right is badly in need of some new talking points.

The Rubio campaign was asked to respond to these developments the other day. A spokesperson for the Republican senator responded, “Marco is opposed to cap-and-trade and other forms of a national energy tax. He has outlined concrete proposals that will help us seize our energy potential without increasing the reach of the E.P.A.”

The answer had nothing to do with the question, and Rubio’s position still doesn’t make sense.

 

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

October 3, 2015 Posted by | Climate Change, Global Warming, Marco Rubio | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Bold Vision Of Women’s Emancipation”: Champions For Modern Womanhood; A Thank-You Note, Margaret

Q: Quick, who was Margaret Sanger?

A: A champion for modern womanhood, one we don’t hear about in history textbooks. Yes, she was an avant-garde figure who lived in Greenwich Village. Yes, she opened the first birth control clinic in a Brooklyn storefront. Yes, she was banned in Boston.

Thank you, Margaret Sanger. How little has changed since you founded Planned Parenthood — the major women’s health care provider Republican lawmakers threaten to “defund.” That kind of sore talk was nothing new to you.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaking Thursday at the Washington Ideas Forum hosted by The Atlantic and the Aspen Institute, defended Planned Parenthood from critics in Congress. She noted, “Not one federal dollar goes to pay for abortions.” She added, “All I can say is we’ve been in that world before. … I’m talking about a world where women committed suicide rather than go forward with a pregnancy.”

Speaking of the threat to cut off access to cancer screenings, Warren said, “They’re going to have a real fight on their hands. Let them do it.”

A century ago, Sanger sat before a House committee, fielding the “sometimes hostile questions of congressmen,” as biographer Jean H. Baker described the scene.

Used to fire, Sanger deftly handled her congressional squad. So did Hillary Clinton on the civilian deaths at Benghazi. (She has to face the same committee on her email server.) But it’s not pretty to see a woman get harassed by a gaggle of ganders.

Apparently, that’s still the treatment you get if you are president of the organization Sanger founded. Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards gamely answered questions from a House panel this week. Yet chairman Jason Chaffetz of Utah, treated his witness so rudely that he left people gobsmacked.

Sanger, a nurse galvanized by immigrant women’s plight, started a movement that traveled the world. She invented the term, “birth control,” and publicized contraception as a way for women, to control their destiny. She saw too many women die in childbirth on the job.

Also advancing American women’s status at the same time, in the same spirit, was suffrage leader Alice Paul in Washington. Both were early 20th-century women, only six years apart. The leaders were also jailed for their actions — roughly 100 years ago. Birth control was seen as “pernicious” and to this day is frowned upon by Rome and the pope.

Sanger and Paul departed from the old ways of being “good girls” as they defied authority. Paul was not one to obey President Woodrow Wilson, the main target of her Votes for Women movement. In their eyes, they were not there in the public square to compromise, but to realize their bold vision of women’s emancipation. They were not friends, but allies on different fronts of a shared struggle.

As Sanger put it, she followed her own compass:

“I never asked advice. I just kept going, night and day, visualizing every act, every step, believing, knowing that I was working in accord with … a moral evolution.”

They were each improvising, since they were pioneers leading into the unknown. Neither felt their work was ever finished.

There’s much to learn right now from Sanger’s fiery civil disobedience in these times when women feel under siege in Congress. In my favorite Sanger story, she is gagged onstage in Boston, to protest the mayor’s ban on her speaking on birth control in the 1920s. In a dramatic scene, the Harvard historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Sr. read her speech while she was gagged. This took place in 1929.

Sanger led a full life of passion, to borrow Baker’s phrase. Men found her captivating. Her family life was streaked with the loss of a young daughter, Peggy. An intense presence, she went door to door on her crusade. She soon launched a magazine, The Birth Control Review, and organized international conferences.

Sanger’s early turning point was on the Lower East Side, where she saw Sadie Sachs, 28, beg a doctor to tell her how to prevent another pregnancy, saying it would kill her. “Tell Jake to sleep on the roof,” he said. The next time Sanger went to the Sachs apartment, Sadie was gone from a botched abortion.

“It was the dawn of a new day,” Sanger wrote. She was so right.

 

By: Jamie Steihm, The National Memo, October 2, 2015

October 3, 2015 Posted by | Margaret Sanger, Planned Parenthood, Women's Health | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Political Dead Weight”: Bobby Jindal Is A False Prophet Without Honor In His Own Country

Seems Bobby Jindal might as well spend all his time in Iowa right now. He’s sure as hell not doing himself any good by any time he’s spending in Louisiana, doing the job to which he was elected. Check out the numbers from this new poll of the Pelican State, per WWL-TV in Nawlins.

In a heavily Republican state like Louisiana, there’s a good amount of interest in the Republican presidential primary, but if you think Donald Trump is at the top of the list with voters in this state, think again.

The billionaire real estate mogul may be the candidate grabbing the attention of the public and media, but according to the exclusive WWL-TV/Advocate poll, it’s the more soft-spoken Ben Carson who seems to be winning people over. 23 percent of voters in Louisiana say they would vote for Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, if the Republican presidential primary were held today. 19 percent say they would choose Trump.

“That’s rare right now because most of the polls are showing Trump ahead, and I think that’s largely because Ben Carson has become the favorite of many evangelical Christian conservatives,” said pollster Dr. Ron Faucheux, whose Washington, D.C.-based firm, Clarus Research Group, conducted the survey for WWL-TV and The Advocate.

Hey, wait a minute. Hasn’t Bobby Jindal spent the entire last year making sure nobody could possibly outdo him in pandering to the Christian Right, doing everything short of handling snakes? Isn’t he being supported by the Christian Right megastars of the Duck Dynasty Clan?

The Christian Conservative voting bloc is the same voter base Gov. Bobby Jindal is trying to win over, but the poll puts Jindal in the eighth spot among Louisiana voters surveyed. Despite being the sitting governor, only three percent of voters in this state said they would vote for Jindal.

“Bobby Jindal in Louisiana is political dead weight right now,” said Faucheux.

Wow. These numbers shock even me. Jindal is a false prophet without honor in his own country.

What can Bobby possibly do to deal with this rather emphatic repudiation of his stewardship? I guess he can emulate Carly Fiorina, who argues she was run off at HP not because she had ruined a fine old family-run company through her arrogance, but because she was just too good for the hide-bound suckers who didn’t see a merger with the dying COMPAQ outfit as the keys to the kingdom. Maybe Bobby’s just too good for Louisiana, or really, for America.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Post, October 2, 2015

October 3, 2015 Posted by | Bobby Jindal, Christian Right, Evangelicals | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Why Kevin McCarthy Will Be Worse Than Boehner”: Boehner Isn’t Going To Be Holding The Worst Speaker Title For Very Long

John Boehner has been far and away the worst speaker of the House of Representatives in many decades, presiding over the two least productive Congresses in modern American history, overseeing those endless and ridiculous Obamacare repeal votes, and most of all not having the stones to bring the immigration bill to the floor. It would have passed any day he chose to let that happen, which at least would have given the newspapers one positive item to include in the lead paragraph of his obituary when the time comes.

But from the looks of things, Boehner isn’t going to be holding the worst speaker title for very long.

There was a time in this country when the speaker of the House thought of himself more as a servant of the entire country. He’s called speaker of the House, after all, not speaker of a certain party in the House. He was third in line for the presidency, which meant he needed to hold the idea in the back of his mind that someday, he might be called upon to run the country under circumstances that would inevitably be tragic, thus requiring that he not be seen as too partisan a figure.

It was norms and traditions like these that led Democratic Speaker John McCormack, who ran the House in the 1960s, to say after Richard Nixon’s election that “direct confrontation between Congress and the president is going to be harmful to the country and should be avoided if possible.”

Boehner hardly had a single McCormack cell in his body. But compared to Kevin McCarthy, he’s a virtual David Broder. You know of course by now what McCarthy said about the true nature of the Benghazi committee. But what you may not know, if you’re just relying on news accounts that snipped the quote, is the full context in which he said it. Usually, the full context of comments reproduced in news snippets has a way of making them not as bad as they first seemed. But here, the context makes McCarthy’s words far worse. See for yourself:

HANNITY: But in February didn’t you guys end up funding it, you passed the “crum-nibus,” you gave up your leverage.

MCCARTHY: No, no. Sean, no, because the courts had put a stay on that. So there was no funding going towards that. The question I think you really want to ask me is, how am I going to be different?

HANNITY: I love how you asked my questions. But go ahead, that is one of my questions. Go right ahead.

MCCARTHY: I knew you’d want to ask it. What you’re going to see is a conservative speaker that takes a conservative Congress that puts a strategy to fight and win.

And let me give you one example. 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 un-trustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened—

In other words, he and Hannity were having an exchange about substance—about how Republicans had failed, from Hannity’s point of view, to control spending, defund Obamacare, defund the president’s executive orders on immigration. Then McCarthy volunteers that he will be different. And how will he be different? Not by controlling spending or defunding Obamacare or Obama’s immigration initiatives. By being more political and more partisan!

And anyway, why is the Benghazi committee a relevant example of how McCarthy is going to be different from Boehner? Has he been some secret power behind the whole thing from the start, like Akim Tamiroff in The Great McGinty, calling the shots, telling Trey Gowdy whom to depose and badger with nine hours’ worth of questions that have nothing to do with the deaths of Chris Stevens and other three Americans? It would be very interesting, I think, for America’s taxpayers, on the hook here for $4.6 million so far, to know whether the next speaker has been the Rasputin behind Gowdy’s little throne.

That McCarthy would say this reveals to us that he doesn’t remotely think that the American people are a constituency with which he need concern himself. The constituencies that concern him are Hannity, Fox viewers, and conservatives. Not even all Republicans, some of whom are reasonable human beings who do not wish for perpetual political war. Only all highly partisan conservatives. This is the man who’ll be presiding over the people’s chamber. People think Donald Trump is a farce, and he is, but he’s no worse a farce than this.

Meanwhile, what can Hillary Clinton and the Democrats do with this egregious statement? Probably not as much as they’d like, alas. Wednesday, in the wake of McCarthy’s comments (uttered Tuesday night), there was some discussion among Benghazi committee Democrats about whether they shouldn’t just end the whole charade, or at least their part in it, by boycotting any remaining proceedings.

That sounds great on the surface, but remember that Clinton is testifying on Oct. 22. The committee’s ranking Democrat, Elijah Cummings, is apparently of the view that leaving Clinton to fend for herself in a committee room full of Republicans is a really bad idea, so he’s going to make sure the Democrats are there that day to pull the reins on Republicans when they start galloping off into fantasy land. A boycott would be emotionally satisfying, but Cummings is right. Clinton has to be broadly seen as winning that showdown to start putting this mess behind her, and she probably can’t do that without Democrats in the room.

So my guess is that McCarthy’s statement may not do the damage to him or his party that it so richly deserves to. But if you’ve read this deeply into this column, I hope that you, at least, care. This is not just about Clinton and the next election. This is about customs and norms that once kept this government functioning (admittedly sometimes better than other times, but functioning).

But those customs and norms have been under assault for two decades. Newt Gingrich wounded them. Tom DeLay and Denny Hastert, that great American now desperately negotiating a plea bargain so that Americans never learn the details about his career as a “wrestling coach,” killed them. John Boehner pissed on their corpse. And Kevin McCarthy looks like the guy who’s going to set the corpse on fire.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, October 2, 2015

October 3, 2015 Posted by | House Republicans, John Boehner, Kevin McCarthy | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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