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“First They Must Take A Stand”: Who Can Save The GOP From Trump? Women

Donald Trump is the kind of man women are taught to avoid.

He’s arrogant. He blusters about physical violence. Listening is not really his thing, because his mouth is usually running full steam. And, worst of all, he has a special loathing for women who are intelligent, accomplished and not deferential to him. When challenged on this, he veers to smarmy protestations that he loves women.

These are the attributes of a toxic male acquaintance, boss or leader (not to mention husband or boyfriend).

This is not to knock his current wife, Melania Trump. She is everything that Trump wants women to be: unquestioningly devoted, strikingly gorgeous and willing to have sex with him.

Unfortunately for Trump, women who do not share this profile comprise virtually the entire female electorate. And that, in turn, is a problem for the Republican Party. Women are 53 percent of all voters, and Trump has a 73 percent negative rating among those who are registered.

Two questions present themselves: How much damage is the GOP willing to let Trump do to the party’s image with women? And what can it do to stand up to him on this issue?

This week, there was a sign that Trump has reached the limit of tolerance within his party. A recent convert to the pro-life point of view, Trump made a gaffe that embarrassed the entire movement when he busted out the idea that women who have an abortion should be punished if the procedure is ever outlawed.

No, no, no, Donald. One doesn’t say such things in public. Uncharacteristically, he retracted his remarks. Even he sensed it was a blunder on the order of the musings on rape and pregnancy that sank Republican frontrunners in two 2012 Senate races.

Add that screed to The Donald’s on-going attacks on Megyn Kelly, the putdowns of Carly Fiorina and so many other women who have dared to displease him, and it is easy to imagine a cumulative effect that spells crushing defeat in the general election if he is the nominee.

So far, the men of the GOP have been subdued in their response. Note the vile scuffle between Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz over their wives. It wasn’t until Heidi Cruz was personally attacked that her husband reacted strongly and defended her, as he should.

One would imagine that at some point a cohort of leading Republican women would take a principled stand, calling out Trump for betraying the party’s supposed commitment to gender equality. But, alas, they’ve been eerily silent, apparently too fearful of crossing their party’s likely nominee.

Some, like Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Rep. Barbara Comstock of Virginia, are in re-election campaigns and may fear losing support from Trump voters. (Comstock at least had the good sense to re-gift a $3,000 Trump donation to her campaign, buying a little bit of distance from him.) What a lost opportunity to stand up to sexism!

The Democrats will not waste the opportunity.

Recall the politically charged Senate judiciary hearings in 1991 to consider the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court. The nomination was controversial from the start, owing to Thomas’ positions on a range of issues. But when testimony was reopened — and televised — after disclosure of Thomas’ alleged history of sexual harassment, things exploded.

The hearings turned to belittling questions and overt displays of sexism by the panel of male senators, as they grilled Anita Hill, Thomas’ accuser, about her allegations.

Women were outraged by what they witnessed. As a direct result, they became politically motivated to increase their numbers in the Senate. The following year, four women — all Democrats — were elected to the Senate, tripling female representation in the chamber.

Women in Congress remain overwhelmingly Democrats. According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers, the U.S. Congress is about 19 percent female. Of the 104 women, 76 are Democrats and only 28 are Republicans. Moreover, the women in Congress who have been given plum committee posts tend to be Democrats. In the U.S. Senate, there are only six Republican women, compared to 14 Democrats.

And although Republican women tend to fare well in state politics, their more moderate voices haven’t been able to make it through the increasingly conservative primary process to reach national office.

There couldn’t be a better time for women to demand a greater role — and be the voice of reason — in the GOP. They have a compelling pretext to halt a candidate who almost certainly will damage their party. And even if they cannot derail him on his path to the nomination, they may be able to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of the election.

But first they must take a stand.

 

By: Mary Sanchez, Opinion-Page Columnist for The Kansas City Star; The National Memo, April 1, 2016

April 2, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP, Women | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“So Impressed With Trump”: Patrol Agents Union Endorsement Raises Troubling Questions

Far be it from me to suggest that any American ought to be penalized for his or her choice of presidential candidate. One of the many things that make this democracy worth fighting to preserve is its premise of one person, one vote — a radical notion that gives the poorest citizen the same franchise as the wealthiest.

Furthermore, the secret ballot is designed to protect that fundamental right from bribery or coercion, intimidation or blackmail. You get to go into the voting booth and choose whoever you believe will best represent the national interest — and your own. You don’t have to worry about losing your job or your home or your livelihood because of the choice you’ve made.

Nevertheless, I have to wonder about the 16,500 members of the National Border Patrol Council, a union that has endorsed the candidacy of Donald Trump. Its members are federal law enforcement agents, charged with securing the country’s borders in a manner that respects the rights of those it may need to apprehend. Border Patrol agents should be evenhanded, prudent and circumspect, unflagging in upholding basic human rights.

But Trump hasn’t shown even a simple decency toward those who have entered the country illegally, especially Mexicans. Last June, he announced his candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination in a speech laced with stunning bigotry.

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. … They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people,” he said.

Since then, the real estate mogul has only ramped up the racism. He insists that he would build a wall on our southern border — forcing Mexico to pay for it — and he’d ban entry to all Muslims. Further, he has said, he’d round up the estimated 11 million undocumented workers already here and deport them. That’s not only imprudent, but it’s also irrational.

Yet, the Border Patrol union is so impressed with Trump that it has chosen to, well, trumpet its endorsement, breaking with union history in its first-ever official support for a presidential candidate during the primaries.

“We need a person in the White House who doesn’t fear the media, who doesn’t embrace political correctness … who won’t bow to foreign dictators, who is pro-military and values law enforcement, and who is angry for America and NOT subservient to the interests of other nations. Donald Trump is such a man,” the union said in a statement.

It’s not unusual for law enforcement officers to lean to the right; they often support Republican political candidates. But the union’s statement endorsing Trump is a hodgepodge of anti-Obama, ultra-right-wing memes shot through with a healthy dose of paranoia.

Claiming its members protect the country in “an environment where our own political leaders try to keep us from doing our jobs,” they paint President Obama’s tenure as a mistake. “America has already tried a young, articulate freshman senator who never created a job as an attorney and under whose watch criminal cartels have been given the freest border reign ever known,” the statement says. Really? These people represent federal law enforcement?

That Trump has tapped into a deep reserve of xenophobia among the Republican base is no great surprise; a GOP establishment that is now panicked by his rise spent years pandering to that xenophobia. But it is surprising that a union representing more than 75 percent of the nation’s Border Patrol agents has gone into league with that base, unveiling, in the process, a dangerous hostility toward Mexicans that hardly befits the agents’ status as law enforcement representatives. Their endorsement will only undermine confidence in their ability to carry out their duties fairly.

In 2011, an Arizona-based human rights organization, No More Deaths, published a report, “A Culture of Cruelty,” alleging systematic abuse of migrants and detainees by Border Patrol agents. Further, activists with No More Deaths contend that the Homeland Security hierarchy ignores or whitewashes those abuses.

With its endorsement of Donald Trump, the National Border Patrol Council has simply given those claims even more credibility.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker Haynes, Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2007; The National Memo, April 1, 2016

April 2, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Mexico, National Border Patrol Council | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Disclosures Neither Accurate Nor Honest”: Why Hasn’t Bernie Sanders Released His Tax Returns? (Or Cruz Or Kasich, Either…)

Bernie Sanders holds himself out to huge and adoring crowds as a model of personal, political and financial integrity. But when it comes to revealing his income tax returns, Sanders is as tricky a politician as Republicans Ted Cruz and John Kasich.

In this bizarre political year, Donald Trump has shown more candor than Sanders when it comes to his tax returns. That is an amazing and disturbing feat, given Trump’s penchant for exaggeration and just making stuff up, as I have been documenting since 1988. Understand that while Trump has fabricated an excuse for not disclosing any of his income tax returns, he was being more forthright than Sanders, who tries to pretend that he has disclosed his taxes.

What may surprise some is that of the five remaining Presidential candidates, only Hillary Clinton has been completely candid and forthright about her and her husband’s income tax returns, a policy of theirs that dates at least to 1992. Despite her singular transparency, news organizations routinely write, without citing any verifiable supporting facts, about Clinton’s perceived mendacity.

So what’s the issue? The Sanders, Cruz and Kasich campaigns have all distributed what they claim are tax returns; Kasich for seven years, Cruz for four, and Sanders for just one year, 2014.

But those proclaimed disclosures were neither accurate nor honest. None of those candidates has released even a single tax return.

What they made public instead was merely a summary known as IRS Form 1040. That form is no more a tax return than the Preamble is the Constitution.

No, a tax return is the entire document filed with the IRS – the forms, schedules, and statements that reveal the numbers and calculations about income, deductions, and tax liabilities behind the summary information on Form 1040. Without the full tax return, the public cannot know sources of income, justifications for deductions, or how aggressively tax law was applied to reduce the income tax due.

History tells us that disclosing complete tax returns, not just a summary form, is vital to determining a president’s trustworthiness. It was only 45 years ago that (freshly “resigned”) Vice President Spiro Agnew plead guilty to one count of tax evasion, making him a felon. Without the action of an IRS employee who illegally leaked President Nixon‘s 1969 through 1972 tax returns, we would never have known about the tax crimes in which the president was an unindicted co-conspirator, and for which one of his advisors plead guilty. If all we had were Nixon’s and Agnew’s Form 1040s, their tax crimes would have remained unknown.

On disclosing tax returns Trump scores better than Sanders, because while Trump will not release his returns, citing a bogus excuse, he has not tried to pretend that he did disclose. But that is exactly what Sanders, Cruz and Kasich did. (Trump says he can’t disclose because he is under IRS audit, even though revealing his returns would have no impact on the audit of a tax return, which is signed under penalty of perjury.)

Contrast their conduct with Hillary Clinton, whose every tax return signed by her and husband Bill has been disclosed since at least 1992. That’s how we know they are far more charitable than the self-described “ardent philanthropist” Donald Trump or any other of the various presidents back to FDR (and some presidential wannabes like Newt Gingrich) who have made public their tax returns. Those returns, and in some cases only Form 1040s, are posted at taxhistory.org, a website maintained by the nonprofit Tax Analysts, for which I write critiques of tax policy.

As for Sanders, the single Form 1040 he released raises more questions than it answers, especially since the junior senator from Vermont has a history of making incomplete and misleading financial disclosures.

In 2014, he reported an adjusted gross income of $205,271, most of it from his Senate salary.

What appears unusual are his itemized deductions, totaling $56,377, a whopping 27.4 percent of his income. People in his income class of $200,000 to $500,000 on average take 15.6 percent of their income as deductions, while those in the $100,000 to $200,000 range averaged 18.8 percent. Both averages are far below the Sanders itemization rate.

Sanders and his wife paid $27,653 in federal income tax, or 13.4 percent of their adjusted gross income.

When I tried to look more closely at Sanders’ taxes, Michael Briggs, the chief spokesman for his campaign, sent a statement that is simply not true, although he may not have understood why at first. In an email, Briggs wrote that Sanders and his wife Jane “made public his federal and state income tax returns last year when he became a candidate for president and intends to do so again this year.”

I wrote back to Briggs repeatedly, explaining that a Form 1040 is not a tax return. Perhaps that was unnecessary, since Briggs has more than two decades of experience as a political reporter and publicist for various U.S. senators. More than two decades ago on C-SPAN, he displayed a nuanced understanding of legal issues.

That background raises difficult questions about Briggs’ responses, which i tried to explore despite his failure to answer follow-up questions. The Cruz and Kasich campaigns also ignored emails asking for their complete tax returns or an explanation of why only Form 1040s were released

To readers who think this sounds too harsh, I’d say that when Sanders holds himself out as a paragon — running a campaign built on the idea that he remains untainted by money from the rich and powerful — he should be expected to walk the talk.

Sanders set the standard here. I am holding him to the same measure of integrity that I have used to assess Bill and Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush, Steve Forbes, and numerous other politicians at the federal, state and local levels going back almost 50 years to my first investigative story.

Last fall, Sanders revised his 2012 and 2014 financial disclosures twice. His 2013 disclosure was revised three times. Sanders failed to disclose four mortgages, all of them at market interest rates, which raises a question about his judgment, since nothing appears improper except the failure to fully disclose.

Mark Lippman of Daily Kos was evidently the first to report the Vermont senator’s incomplete disclosures. He also noted that the value of Jane Sanders’ “retirement accounts appreciated in value from $285,000 in 2011 to $481,000 in 2014.” Nothing wrong there, by the way, though readers may find the 68.8 percent increase puzzling because Lippman failed to give context. The broad stock market rose 64 percent during that period, indicating the big gain was basically owed to stock market returns, plus about $400 a month in additional deposits to Ms. Sanders’ retirement portfolio.

Why Sanders would play games with his income taxes is a mystery. While he is much better off than most Americans, he is a man of modest means compared to Clinton, Cruz, and Trump. But his conduct raises a question politically. Is  he hiding something? Certainly Trump is, since the boastful billionaire probably pays close to zero in income taxes, as I have explained here, here and here.

The question to ask Sanders – as well as Cruz, Kasich, and Trump – is why they are hiding the information they supplied under penalty of perjury to the IRS as a true, complete, and accurate description of their income, deductions, and taxes.

And whatever you may think of Hillary Clinton, she deserves real props for more than two decades of being forthright and complete in disclosing her tax returns.

 

By: David Cay Johnston, The National Memo, April 1, 2016

April 2, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Tax Returns, Ted Cruz | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Very Enthusiastic Cycle For Democrats”: There Are New Signs That Trump Is Indeed Energizing Democrats

It’s been a long time — eight years, to be exact — since the words Democrats and enthusiasm have been credibly uttered in the same sentence. And even now, it seems the most enthusiastic Democrats are those highly attached to a presidential candidate who is probably going to lose the nomination on what will feel like a technical knockout or just points. Meanwhile, Republicans are very excited — or in some cases, freaked out — and are participating in primaries at high levels.

Observers have naturally wondered if the very things that so excite Republicans in the presidential contest will eventually excite Democrats — negatively, of course, by creating the specter of an extremist presidency occupied by either a white-identity politician or a throwback to Barry Goldwater.

Now via Greg Sargent comes some data from Stan Greenberg on engagement in the election indicating the Trump Factor could indeed be making a difference with Democratic groups:

Last November, Greenberg warned that the lack of engagement of Dem voter groups loomed as a big problem for Democrats. Now, however, this new poll shows a big bump in engagement among college educated women, minorities, white unmarried women, and Democrats overall. This would suggest a potential downside with Trump’s apparent strategy of unleashing white (male) backlash: Anything Trump says and does to keep that backlash at fever pitch — like the things he’s been all over the media for lately — risks increasing the engagement of Dem leaning groups.

It’s the age-old problem with highly conspicuous voter-mobilization techniques: the more loudly you labor to rev up your “base,” the more you do your opponents’ work in revving up their base as well. It’s why Get Out the Vote programs are often more effective when they operate under the radar screen. There’s nobody more on the radar screen than Donald J. Trump.

If Cruz manages to beat Trump in Cleveland, here’s guessing his scary-to-Democrats features will become rapidly more evident when they are no longer eclipsed by Trump’s. There will always be a few Susan Sarandons out there who insist there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the two major parties unless one or the other is under entirely new management. But this could turn out to be a very enthusiastic cycle for Democrats even if they have some misgivings about their nominee. Back in the heyday of racial politics in the 1960s and 1970s, there was talk of reactionary backlash sometimes stimulating progressive frontlash. That could be what we are beginning to see right now.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, April 1, 2016

April 2, 2016 Posted by | Democrats, Donald Trump, General Election 2016 | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Let’s Do Our Jobs”: Maybe It’s Time For The ‘Grassley Rule’

The Democratic line on the ongoing Supreme Court fight is pretty straightforward. Indeed, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) summarized it well a couple of weeks ago when she told her Republican colleagues, “Do your job.”

For weeks, the Republican response has been rooted in semantics. Technically, the Constitution gives the Senate an “advise and consent” role in the confirmation process, but since the document doesn’t literally say senators have to vote on a nominee, the GOP argument goes, then maybe Republicans can do their jobs by refusing to do their jobs.

It’s a clumsy and unpersuasive pitch, but that’s the talking point and they’re sticking to it.

At least, that’s the argument now. Right Wing Watch yesterday dug up an interesting quote from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who said in 2005, in reference to judicial confirmations, “Let’s do our jobs.”

Eleven years ago, with a Republican in the White House, Grassley was emphatic that the Senate act quickly on the president’s judicial nominations, telling colleagues that slowing down the confirmation process was “like being a bully on the schoolyard playground.”

According to Grassley in 2005, for the Senate to do its job, George W. Bush’s nominees would have to receive up-or-down votes.

In May 2005, Grassley said to deny a senator an up-or-down vote on a judicial nominee would be to undermine a senator’s “constitutional responsibility.”

Perhaps, the right will argue, standards change when it’s a seat on the Supreme Court at stake. Maybe so. But the same Right Wing Watch report noted that when then-President George W. Bush nominated Samuel Alito to the high court Grassley issued a fascinating press release quoting Alexander Hamilton:

The Constitution provides that the President nominates a Supreme Court Justice, and the Senate provides its advice and consent, with an up or down vote. In Federalist 66, Alexander Hamilton wrote, “it will be the office of the President to nominate, and, with the advice and consent of the Senate, to appoint. There will, of course, be no exertion of choice on the part of the Senate. They may defeat one choice of the Executive, and oblige him to make another; but they cannot themselves choose – they can only ratify or reject the choice he may have made.”

Grassley now believes, however, that he has the authority to block a qualified Supreme Court nominee from even receiving a confirmation hearing.

Obviously, 2005 Grassley would be outraged by 2016 Grassley. In fact, given Senate Republicans’ propensity for making up “rules” out of whole cloth, perhaps these new revelations could serve as the basis for a Grassley Rule: in order for senators to do their job, they actually have to consider Supreme Court nominees.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 8, 2016

April 2, 2016 Posted by | Chuck Grassley, Merrick Garland, Senate Republicans, U. S. Supreme Court Nominees | , , , , | Leave a comment

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