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“Anecdotes With Made-Up Details”: Maine’s LePage Fails To Defend The Indefensible

It was the sort of story that made Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) look so awful, he managed to even surprise his critics. In mid-April, the far-right governor vetoed a bipartisan bill that would have allowed pharmacists to dispense an effective anti-overdose drug without a prescription. But it was LePage’s explanation that added insult to injury.

“Naloxone does not truly save lives; it merely extends them until the next overdose,” LePage said in a written statement. As we discussed at the time, the governor, in a rather literal sense, made the case that those struggling with opioid addiction don’t have lives worth saving.

Maine’s legislature soon after overrode LePage’s veto, but the governor recently hosted a town-hall meeting at which he defended his position. The Bangor Daily News reported:

“A junior at Deering High School had three Narcan shots in one week. And after the third one, he got up and went to class. He didn’t go to the hospital. He didn’t get checked out. He was so used to it. He just came out of it and went to class,” LePage said.

That’s quite an anecdote, which the Republican governor appears to have completely made up.

The Huffington Post reported yesterday that the principal at Deering High School described LePage’s story as “absolutely not true,” adding that the anecdote doesn’t even make sense – because Narcan isn’t available at the school.

On Monday, the governor again insisted the story was accurate, and pointed to Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck as someone who could verify the incident.

Soon after, Sauschuck also said every relevant detail of LePage’s story is wrong.

Circling back to our previous coverage, Naloxone – sometimes known by its brand name, Narcan – is a safe and effective life-saving treatment that counteracts overdoses. The point is not to cure someone of an addiction, but rather, to prevent them from dying.

The treatment is inexpensive; it’s easy to administer; and it’s harmless to others. Common sense suggests it should be readily available, especially in areas where the addiction crisis is especially acute.

LePage, however, said he’s principally concerned with not “perpetuating the cycle of addiction.” If that means more of his constituents will overdose and die, so be it.

And if defending this posture lead Maine’s Tea Party governor to share anecdotes with made-up details, apparently that’s all right, too.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 25, 2016

May 26, 2016 Posted by | Drug Addiction, Maine, Paul LePage | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Keeping The Jackasses Out Of Power”: Trump’s Unique Ability To Help Clinton Unite Democrats

One of the most common questions in Democratic politics is obvious, though it’s not easy to answer: Once the primaries are over, how will Hillary Clinton unify progressive voters ahead of the general election? Much of the discussion involves speculation about Bernie Sanders’ strategy, the party’s convention, the party’s platform, Clinton’s eventual running mate, etc.

But there’s a piece to this puzzle that sometimes goes overlooked: Clinton will try to bring Democrats and progressive independents together, but it’s Donald Trump who’ll seal the deal.

Last October, Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi covered the House Republicans’ Benghazi Committee and its 11-hour grilling of Clinton, and he wrote a very memorable piece soon after. Taibbi, a Clinton detractor, conceded at the time that he started to feel more sympathetic towards the Democrat, not out of pity, but in response to the GOP’s outrageous antics.

Those idiots represent everything that is wrong not just with the Republican Party, but with modern politics in general. It’s hard to imagine a political compromise that wouldn’t be justified if its true aim would be to keep people like those jackasses out of power.

In context, none of this had anything to do with Bernie Sanders or the Democratic primary, but Taibbi’s point – there’s value in compromise if it means keeping “those jackasses out of power” – lingered in my mind because I suspect many of Sanders’ die-hard supporters will be making a similar calculation in the coming months.

And Donald Trump, whether he realizes it or not, is going to help.

This is sometimes forgotten, but for much of Bill Clinton’s presidency, he was popular with Democrats, but not that popular. The former president developed a reputation, which was well deserved, for adopting a “triangulation” posture and taking advice from the likes of Dick Morris. Among congressional Democrats at the time, they supported Clinton, but often through gritted teeth.

How did Bill Clinton eventually bring Democrats together, uniting them behind his presidency? He didn’t; Tom DeLay did. The more intense the congressional Republicans’ anti-Clinton crusade became – culminating, of course, in impeachment – the more congressional Democrats rallied around their ally in the White House. It wasn’t overly complicated: Dems may have been annoyed by the president triangulating, but they were far more disgusted with Republican extremism.

Nearly two decades later, consider how Donald Trump is shifting his focus to the 2016 general election: Trump is attacking Hillary Clinton over her gender; he’s blaming her for ’90s-era sex scandals; and in a line of attack that no sane person should consider normal, he’s suggesting that she might have had something to do with Vince Foster’s death. You’ve heard the cliche, campaigns are always about the future? The presumptive Republican nominee, who has no real policy agenda or specific goals of his own, has decided this campaign is entirely about the past.

There may be Republican voters who find all of this compelling, but let’s not discount the fact that these are the kind of attacks that also motivate Democratic and progressive voters in the opposite direction.

The number of liberal Sanders supporters watching the news this week, eager to hear more from Trump about Vince Foster conspiracy theories, is probably infinitesimally small. But the number of progressive voters watching all of this unfold, thinking about keeping “people like those jackasses out of power,” is probably quite high.

The question of how Clinton and Sanders will reconcile, keeping left-of-center voters together, obviously matters. But the question of how many of these same voters will gravitate to Clinton instinctively out of contempt for the Republican nominee may end up mattering just as much.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 25, 2016

May 26, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“RINO Trophies”: In Georgia, Two Republicans Face Primary Challenges For Not Being Extremist Enough

With the Republican nomination contest being essentially over (yes, there’s a primary in Washington, but it doesn’t matter who wins or loses) and the Democratic battle taking a brief break (yes, Washington Democrats will vote, but it’s only a nonbinding “beauty contest” primary), it will be a quiet political Tuesday night except for runoff elections in Texas and down-ballot primaries in Georgia.

In the latter primaries, though, there’s an intriguing right-wing effort to purge two North Georgia Republican congressmen for being insufficiently right-wing: specifically for voting for John Boehner for speaker before the Ohioan quit and for voting to keep the federal government open despite its funding of Obamacare and Planned Parenthood.

What makes it all interesting is that the two solons in question — 11th-district representative Barry Loudermilk and ninth-district representative Doug Collins — would be considered a tad out there themselves in much of the country. Loudermilk (a freshman who ran to the right of another hero of the mad fringe, Bob Barr, in his original primary) is a member of the House Freedom Caucus and an outspoken “constitutional conservative.” Collins, who’s notable for being both an ordained Baptist minister and a lawyer, is probably best known for defending military chaplains (he’s one himself in the Reserves) who get a little carried away with proselytizing.

But while both congressmen are facing multiple opponents all shrieking at them for their alleged betrayal of True Conservatism, Collins has drawn the marquee challenger: his former House colleague Paul Broun, a favorite of extremism aficionados everywhere.

Until he left the House for a failed Senate bid in 2014, Broun was one of those pols who said incredible things with every other breath. Perhaps his most famous moment was when this member of the House Science Committee delivered a speech in his district referring to evolution and various other scientific teachings that conflict with his conservative Evangelical views as “lies from the pit of hell.” So notorious was Broun as a proud know-nothing that a significant number of write-in votes in his district were cast for Charles Darwin.

Now Broun is aiming his peculiar brand of thunder and lightning at Collins, and he has the advantage of having represented about half the current ninth district before the last rounds of redistricting. But Broun is being dogged by ethics charges dating from his congressional service that recently led to a criminal indictment of his former top chief of staff.

Both Loudermilk and Collins are expected to come out on top in tonight’s returns. But the catch is that Georgia requires majorities for nominations, and being knocked into a crazy-low-turnout runoff would be perilous for either incumbent. A wild card is that North Georgia right-wing activists have already been stirred up by the treachery of another of their own: Governor (and former ninth-district congressman) Nathan Deal, who recently vetoed a “religious liberty” bill aimed at making anti-LGBT discrimination easier. (On the principle of in-for-a-penny, in-for-a-pound, Deal, who is safely in his second and final term, subsequently infuriated the gun lobby by vetoing a “campus carry” bill getting rid of restrictions on shooting irons at colleges and universities. Where will the betrayals end?)

The one thing we know for sure is that there’s no degree of extremism in the GOP that will give Democrats a chance at either House seat. These are two of the most profoundly Republican districts east of Utah. And, so far as we know, Charles Darwin’s not even in the race.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, May 26, 2016

May 26, 2016 Posted by | Down Ballot Candidates, Georgia, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Donation That Did Not Exist”: Caught Fibbing, Trump Scrambles To Address Veterans Controversy

In a normal year, in a normal party, with a normal candidate, it would be the kind of controversy that effectively kills a presidential candidate’s chances of success. In January, Donald Trump skipped a Republican debate in order to host a fundraiser for veterans. He boasted at the time that he’d raised $6 million for vets – which led to a related boast that Trump contributed $1 million out of his own pocket.

The Washington Post reported this week that Trump’s claims simply weren’t true. He did not, for example, raise $6 million. And what about the $1 million check the Republican bragged about? His campaign manager insisted this week that Trump did make the contribution.

Except, that wasn’t true, either. The Post reported last night:

Almost four months after promising $1 million of his own money to veterans’ causes, Donald Trump moved to fulfill that pledge Monday evening – promising the entire sum to a single charity as he came under intense media scrutiny.

The check is apparently going to a group called the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation, whose chairman received a call from Trump on Monday night, the day the campaign controversy broke.

Let’s put aside, for now, why the Trump campaign said he’d made a donation that did not exist. Let’s instead ask why it took nearly four months for the candidate to do what he claimed to have already done.

“You have a lot of vetting to do,” Trump told the Washington Post yesterday.

That might be a decent response were it not for the fact that the New York Republican doesn’t appear at all interested in vetting veterans’ groups – as the story of the sketchy “Veterans for a Strong America” helps prove.

CNN, meanwhile, reported last night that when it comes to the candidate’s support for veterans’ groups, there have been “discrepancies between the amount of money Trump touts, and the amount actually donated.”

You can find one example right on Trump’s own website, where Trump boasts of saving an annual veterans parade in 1995 with his participation, and a cash donation, “Mr. Trump agreed to lead as grand marshal,” and “made a $1 million matching donation to finance the Nation’s Day Parade.”

Trump did save the event, according to the parade’s organizer, but he didn’t give $1 million to it.

He actually donated “somewhere between $325,000 and $375,000” – about a third of what he claimed – and Trump was not the parade’s grand marshal, a honor reserved for actual veterans.

CNN’s report has not been independently verified by NBC News, but if accurate, the revelations will only make the controversy more severe.

I can appreciate why some observers get tired of the “imagine if a Democrat did this” framing, but in this case, it’s worth taking a moment to consider. If Hillary Clinton and her campaign had been caught making blatantly false claims about donations to veterans’ charities, is there any doubt that it would be one of the biggest stories of the election season? How much punditry would we hear about this being proof about Clinton’s dishonesty and willingness to say anything to get elected?

Postscript: Asked about the January fundraiser, and his claim that he’d raised $6 million for veterans, Trump told the Washington Post yesterday, “I didn’t say six.” Reminded that he did, in reality, use the specific $6 million figure – out loud, in public, on video – Trump changed the subject.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 26, 2016

May 26, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Veterans | , , , | 1 Comment

“Trump Is Empowering Extremists In Congress”: His Campaign Will Do Damage Even If He Loses In A Landslide

Every once in a while, I have to remind folks of some basic facts about Alabama Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III. This is one of those times.

In 1986 (otherwise known as the year of Iran-Contra), President Ronald Reagan nominated Beauregard the Third to serve as a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama. During the Judiciary Committee hearings on his nomination, it became clear that Sessions suffered from a common conservative fear: namely, mouth-rape.

Like so many of his Republican brethren, Sessions was terrified of having things “rammed down his throat” by the NAACP, ACLU, or some “un-American” and “Communist-inspired” guy who might decide to attack his home with a small arsenal.

When it became clear that Jefferson Beauregard the Third was not only named for the president of the Confederacy and one its more effective generals, but actually held the same beliefs in common with those two gentlemen, the Judiciary Committee declined to send his nomination to the floor. Alabama Senator Howell Heflin decided that Sessions was simply too racist to serve on the bench in Alabama, and so Reagan had to go back to the drawing board.

Of course, Sessions got his revenge by getting elected to the same Senate that had rejected him as a judge and then winning an appointment to the same Judiciary Committee that had declined to send his nomination to the floor. Keeping Alabama racism at bay is like trying to drown a cork, and Sessions soon defined himself as one of the most extreme and intemperate opponents of Latino immigration in this country’s power structure. He was also the first U.S. Senator to endorse Donald Trump, and that’s now paying dividends.

In the Senate, Jeff Sessions (R-AL) may not have been a backbencher, but his extreme positions on immigration relegated him to the fringe of his party during the 2013 immigration debate when many Republicans came out publicly in support of giving immigrants a chance to stay in the U.S. legally if not a path to citizenship. After the Republican National Committee’s autopsy report outlined the need to make inroads with Hispanic voters, Sessions’ positions were seen as a relic of the past. Now, he is smack dab in the middle of the Trump campaign…

…”He’s right now the congressional guy most connected to the campaign so right now if there is any question about anything we want to raise with the campaign, he’d probably be the guy you’d want to go through,” says Sen. John Thune (R-SD), a member of the GOP leadership team.

Something similar has happened over on the House side, where Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania and Rep. Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee have seen their profile and influence rise substantially as a result of their early endorsements of Trump.

Barletta rose to prominence as the mayor of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, where he enacted a series of local ordinances that were so anti-immigrant that they were ultimately ruled unconstitutional. His reward was a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives representing the Party of Lincoln.

Scott DesJarlais was recently dubbed “America’s worst congressman” by the National Review, and for once the Review had a good point.

In 2014, [DesJarlais] won his primary election by 38 votes after reports surfaced that DesJarlais, a doctor, “had sexual relationships with two patients, three coworkers and a drug representative.” It was reported that in one instance the anti-abortion advocate had encouraged one of the women he’d had a brief affair with to have an abortion.

I know that winning by 38 votes is not a lot, but is there anything a Republican can do besides agree to pay our bills on time that will get them beaten in a primary?

In any case, DesJarlais is no longer the House Republicans’ biggest embarrassment:

As establishment Republicans in Washington come around to a bombastic Trump, DesJarlais has emerged as a liaison between skeptics, the media and the Trump campaign, massaging fears that Trump is a loose cannon with promises that Trump is more reserved and thoughtful behind the scenes.

DesJarlais says he helped organize a meeting between the Freedom Caucus board and Trump’s campaign operative Paul Manafort last week. And before Trump met with House Speaker Paul Ryan last month, DesJarlais was one of a handful of members who sat down with the speaker and encouraged Ryan to unite behind the nominee.

As for Barletta, Talking Points Memo reports that he “now spends more time in the middle of the action and has sent his policy ideas over to Trump on immigration.”

If history is our guide, those ideas on immigration policy are probably unconstitutional.

So, we begin to see something take form, which is how the rise of Trump will change the Republican Party by empowering some of its worst people.

In this way, Trump’s campaign will do damage to our country even if he loses in a landslide.

And that’s not even considering what it will do to your neighbors who find ways to excuse Trump’s moral lapses and hate-baiting, thereby losing a tight grip on their moral compasses.

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 25, 2016

May 26, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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