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“Not A Single GOP Ripple”: So Much For Politics Stopping At The Water’s Edge

We talked earlier about Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who brought three television cameras, three photographers, six reporters, a political aide, two press secretaries, and far-right activist David Bossie to Guatemala for a “stage-managed political voyage.” But it appears that wasn’t the only reason for the trip.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) told the Guatemalan president the surge of child immigrants flooding the U.S. border this year is a result of President Obama’s policies, not problems in Central America.

“I told him, frankly, that I didn’t think the problem was in Guatemala City, but that the problem was in the White House in our country, and that the mess we’ve got at the border is frankly because of the White House’s policies,” Paul told Brietbart News in an article published Thursday.

According to the report in The Hill, the Kentucky Republican sat down with Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina for 45 minutes, and the senator discussed politics with the foreign head of state.

“I think what’s happened at the border is all squarely at the president’s lap,” Paul said. “The problem and the solution aren’t in Guatemala. The problem and solution reside inside the White House.”

As a substantive matter, the senator’s position is tough to defend or even understand. President Obama didn’t sign the 2008 human-trafficking measure into law; he didn’t create awful conditions in Central American countries; and he didn’t encourage anyone to lie to desperate families about what would happen to their children. If there’s a coherent explanation for why the White House is to blame, it’s hiding well.

But even putting that aside, since when is it kosher for U.S. officials to travel abroad to condemn U.S. leaders like this?

In fairness, it’s hard to say with certainty exactly what Rand Paul told President Molina during their discussion. I haven’t seen a video of the meeting and all we have to go on is the senator’s own claims.

But if Paul is telling the truth, he traveled abroad, visited with a foreign leader, and spent time trashing the president of the United States.

I seem to remember a time when there were norms that deemed actions like this unacceptable.

Under traditional American standards, some considered it inappropriate to criticize the president when he was overseas. More importantly, when U.S. officials were outside the country, norms called on those officials to refrain from criticizing America’s elected leaders.

I guess that doesn’t apply anymore? These standards were certainly in place during the Bush/Cheney era.

Here’s what happened in 2006 when Al Gore gave a speech at a conference in Saudi Arabia in which he criticized Bush policies towards the Muslim world – as summarized by The New York Times’ Chris Sullentrop:

“As House Democrats David Bonior and Jim McDermott may recall from their trip to Baghdad on the eve of the Iraq war, nothing sets conservative opinionmongers on edge like a speech made by a Democrat on foreign soil. Al Gore traveled to Saudi Arabia last week, and in a speech there on Sunday he criticized ‘abuses’ committed by the U.S. government against Arabs after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. A burst of flabbergasted conservative blogging followed the Associated Press dispatch about the speech… The editorial page of Investor’s Business Daily accused Gore of ‘supreme disloyalty to his country’….”

The Wall St. Journal’s James Taranto accused Gore of “denouncing his own government on foreign soil” and quoted the above accusation of “disloyalty.” Commentary was abundant all but accusing Gore of treason for criticizing the U.S. in a foreign land.

I’ll concede that such niceties may be antiquated, and maybe no one cares about this anymore. But if presidential criticism abroad was outrageous in the Bush/Cheney era, why does it barely cause a ripple now?

Update: Just to flesh this out further, in 2010, then-House Minority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) traveled to Israel in the hopes of undermining U.S. foreign policy towards Israel. At the time, this caused quite a stir in foreign-policy circles – it seemed extraordinary for an elected American official to travel abroad in order to work against his own country’s position.Perhaps now, with the Rand Paul example in mind, the practice is becoming more common.

For even more context, note that in 2007, then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) met with Syrian officials in Syria. Republicans, including Cantor, suggested Pelosi may have violated the Logan Act, “which makes it a felony for any American ‘without authority of the United States’ to communicate with a foreign government to influence that government’s behavior on any disputes with the United States.”

One wonders who, if anyone, will raise similar allegations against Rand Paul.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 22, 2014

August 23, 2014 Posted by | Border Crisis, GOP, Rand Paul | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Good Deal For Him”: Rick Perry Is Basically Charging Texas Taxpayers $4 Million A Week For His Presidential Ambitions

On Thursday, the first Texas National Guard troops arrived at the U.S. border as part of Operation Strong Safety, Gov. Rick Perry’s (R) unilateral border-security mission. And before rallying the border-bound troops at Camp Swift outside Austin on Wednesday, Perry had spent part of the week in Iowa, making not-so-subtle intimations that he will be coming back a lot before the first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses in 2016.

It’s hard not to see those events as intimately connected. And sure, sending the National Guard to the border will probably get Perry some extra votes in the Iowa caucuses. But Iowa won’t be footing the bill.

Perry says that he had to send 1,000 National Guard troops to the Rio Grande Valley because the federal government isn’t doing enough to keep out “narco-terrorists” and illegal immigrants. The influx of 63,000 unaccompanied children since October, which has slowed significantly in the past few months, is a “side issue,” Perry said on Wednesday. “You now are the tip of the spear protecting Americans from these cartels” and “their tentacles of crime, of fear,” he told about 90 National Guard members, specifically mentioning the danger drug traffickers posed to Iowa, South Carolina, and a state that doesn’t have an early presidential caucus or primary, North Carolina.

Democrats are openly and directly accusing Perry of sending down the National Guard for no other reason than his presidential ambitions. Perry took umbrage at that suggestion: “The idea that what we’re doing is politics versus protecting the people of Texas, the people of this country is just false on its face.”

But what other explanation is there, really? The border crisis that has grabbed everyone’s attention is a “side issue” that Perry insists he isn’t sending the troops to address. And the 63,000 young, mostly Central American migrants really are a problem for Texas — but a humanitarian problem, not a military one. The U.S. Border Patrol is struggling to house and care for these children, and some number of them will surely end up in Texas schools and social services programs.

The $17 million to $18 million a month that Perry is spending to fund his open-ended border operation looks shakier when you consider what the National Guard will be doing: Watching. The troops will have the authority to detain, but not arrest, immigrants. But mostly they are going to be manning watchtowers and truck-mounted surveillance equipment.

The Associated Press spoke with Rodolfo Espinoza, the police chief of Hidalgo, a Texas town a mile from the border where the first wave of National Guard troops landed. The two police towers that the troops took up watch in Thursday “have cameras that can pan the area and record activity,” the AP‘s Christopher Sherman noted, though Espinoza said it’s more useful to have people in the towers. “It is good to have them,” Espinoza said, adding, “I think the only way you could secure the river is if every 10 yards you had someone standing there. It’s impossible.”

So who was crying for military reinforcements? The border-county sheriffs wanted more money, not National Guard troops. And at a July 29 hearing on the cost of Perry’s operation, the heads of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and Texas National Guard — Steve McCraw and Maj. Gen. John Nichols, respectively — said they had not recommended that the governor deploy the National Guard, though, as the Houston Chronicle puts it, they were “appreciative of his idea.”

Now, that’s not to say nobody wants the National Guard at the border. The idea is very popular among Republicans nationwide, especially conservative and Tea Party–aligned Republicans who vote in primary elections. In a mid-July CNN/ORC poll, for example, 76 percent of Republicans said the main focus of U.S. immigration policy should be “stopping the flow of illegal immigrants into the U.S. and for deporting those already here,” versus 49 percent of independents and 35 percent of Democrats.

In fact, a few days before Perry announced his National Guard deployment, a group of conservative and Tea Party activists met in Austin and publicly criticized him for his inaction, specifically urging the governor to send troops to the border. It’s easy to see how a politician with his eye on 2016 might leap at the opportunity to please this group, even if his “solution” actually does nothing to truly address America’s immigration problem. It’s the optics that matter.

But back home, Texas Republicans are concerned about how Perry is paying for this. The governor redirected $38 million from a DPS allocation for radio equipment to finance the operation; $7 million of that is to pay for the beefed-up DPS presence in the valley and $31 million is for the National Guard deployment.

That money is expected to run out sometime in October, and Perry’s plan to get the federal government to pay for his operation seems a little quixotic, given that Congress is doing almost nothing these days, and will probably do even less in the run-up to the crucial midterm elections in November. That means Texas taxpayers are on the hook.

“The border has got to be secured — we’ve got to stop this,” said state Sen. Jane Nelson (R), the chairwoman of the Senate Finance Committee, who doesn’t oppose the deployment. But “month by month, we’re draining state resources that should go to education, should go to highways, should go to water, and we can’t do it forever.”

It should be noted that Texas taxpayers also pay for Perry’s trips to Iowa (and Israel, and the Bahamas), but even at the height of his last run for president, in 2011 and early 2012, the bill for his security detail was only $400,000 a month. (A ruling this week by state Attorney General Greg Abbott — the GOP nominee to replace Perry as governor — means Texans will no longer get a detailed accounting of Perry’s security expenses, despite a 2011 state law mandating their release.)

Look, $18 million a month — or $216 million a year, if extended — is a small slice of the state’s $100 billion annual budget. But if Rick Perry’s low-tax, low-service Texas is so frugal that it can’t find enough money for things like transportation infrastructure and education — things that are important to the state’s continuing economic growth — it’s hard to argue that Operation Strong Safety is much of a good deal for anybody but Rick Perry.


By: Peter Weber, Senior Editor, The Week, August 15, 2014

August 16, 2014 Posted by | Border Crisis, Humanitarian Crisis, Rick Perry | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Dumb And Dumber”: House Republicans Vote To Deport As Many Kids As Possible

Dumb and dumber. That’s the best way to describe two bills passed by House Republicans on Friday night. They passed a supplemental funding bill allocating about $700 million for the crisis on the border. It includes changes to current law that will make it easier to send child migrants back to Central America. They also voted to wind down the Obama administration’s Deferred Action program for young immigrants. So forget about comprehensive reform: House Republicans have settled on the “Let’s deport as many kids as possible” approach.

These two bills do not represent a coherent response to our border crisis. They reflect House Speaker John Boehner’s failed leadership as well as the triumph of immigration extremists. While these bills will have zero policy impact, the GOP will likely feel their political impact for years to come — and not in a good way.

To understand why these bills passed, let’s back up for a moment. Recall that Speaker Boehner originally wanted to vote on a border crisis bill on Thursday. But he couldn’t round up enough votes, and the bill was pulled. This was a major embarrassment for the Speaker. Amazingly, Boehner then suggested that President Obama should take executive action on immigration. “There are numerous steps the president can and should be taking right now, without the need for congressional action,” he said in a statement, “to secure our borders and ensure these children are returned swiftly and safely to their countries.”

Huh? Right now the House is suing the president for taking executive action. For the Speaker to suggest that President Obama act on his own on immigration is inconsistent and hypocritical (Does that mean he will support the president’s expected executive action on immigration?).

As it turned out, in order to get the votes for a border bill Boehner allowed a vote on a bill that would end the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) program. Introduced by the Obama administration in 2012, DACA grants relief from deportation to undocumented immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as children. About half a million of these young people, also known as Dreamers, have so far qualified for its protection.

In case you’re wondering, DACA has nothing to do with the crisis on the border. Although some Republicans have surmised that it caused the ongoing influx of child migrants, there is no evidence to support this claim.

Now Boehner can say that House Republicans did something on immigration before they left for the August recess. Yet this is a hollow victory, because these bills are going nowhere. The Senate would never approve them and even if they did, the president has pledged to veto them.

The anti-DACA vote, however, will have real consequences for the Republican Party. Consider that recent polling from Latino Decisions showed that 75 percent of Latino voters said that any move to dismantle DACA would make them less favorably inclined towards the GOP. Ana Navarro, a Republican strategist, tweeted that the anti-DACA vote “antagonizes Latinos, energizes Democratic base, and emboldens the GOP ‘No’ caucus.” She is right — and the GOP will be paying the price for years to come. Two hundred sixteen House members, many of whom harbor national ambitions, are now on record as opposing a policy supported by overwhelming majorities of Latino voters.

Obviously, a majority of House Republicans supported these measures — or they wouldn’t have passed. “The changes brought into this (the border bills) are ones I’ve developed and advocated for over the past two years. It’s like I ordered it off the menu,” Rep. Steve King (R- Iowa) told CQ Roll Call. The fact that the GOP position on immigration is now in sync with King, a man who once compared Dreamers to drug mules, should be alarming to Republicans concerned about their long-term viability as a national party. As disappointing as President Obama has been on immigration, these mean-spirited votes make it clearer than ever which party values Hispanic voters.

Friday’s House votes were a sad spectacle. On immigration, the GOP has taken another hard lurch to the right, and Latino voters will not soon forget it.


By: Raul A. Reyes, The Huffington Post Blog, August 4, 2014

August 5, 2014 Posted by | Border Crisis, House Republicans, Immigration | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“They’re Only Suggestions”: Ted Cruz Doesn’t Want Credit For Destruction In His Wake

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) met privately with a group of House Republicans on Wednesday to urge them to ignore their own leadership and oppose their party’s border bill. Less than a day later, House GOP leaders were forced to pull their preferred legislation – too many of House Speaker John Boehner’s members were listening to Cruz, not him.

When no one seemed sure what the House majority would do next, Democratic lawmakers were heard joking with reporters that they should ask Cruz, since he seems to be in control of the lower chamber.

Robert Costa had a fascinating report overnight on the behind-the-scenes efforts, including details from the Wednesday night meeting in Cruz’s office, though the far-right Texan apparently doesn’t want to be held responsible for his handiwork.

In an interview, Cruz said that he did not dictate what the members should do, but only reaffirmed his position against Boehner’s plan.

“The suggestion by some that House members are unable to stand up and fight for their own conservative principles is offensive and belittling to House conservatives,” Cruz said. “They know what they believe and it would be absurd for anyone to try to tell them what to think.”

And yet, by all appearances, Cruz guided their hand, telling House Republicans that “Boehner was distracted and … they should stick to their principles.” The senator “also reminded them to be skeptical of promises from House leaders, particularly of ‘show votes’ – legislative action designed to placate conservatives that carry little, if any, weight.”

For a guy who doesn’t try to tell Republicans what to think, Cruz seems eager to offer, shall we say, suggestions.

I don’t think the political world fully appreciates just how regularly the Texas Republican intervenes in the affairs of the House chamber.

The list we’ve been updating keeps getting longer. Last September, for example, Boehner presented a plan to avoid a government shutdown. Cruz met directly with House Republicans, urged them to ignore their own leader’s plan, and GOP House members followed his advice. A month later, Cruz held another meeting with House Republicans, this time in a private room at a Capitol Hill restaurant.

This year, in April, the Texas senator again gathered House Republicans, this time for a private meeting in his office. In June, less than an hour after House Republicans elected a new leadership team, Cruz invited House Republicans to join him for “an evening of discussion and fellowship.”

Last week, Cruz and House Republicans met to plot strategy on the border bill. This week, they huddled once more.

The Texas Republican doesn’t seem to get along with other senators, but he spends an inordinate amount of time huddling with House Republicans who actually seem to listen to his advice.

As for the senator’s motivations, Danny Vinik had a good piece arguing that Cruz’s principal goal seems to be doing the right thing for Ted Cruz.

He was the architect of the “defund Obamacare” movement last year that ended in a politically toxic government shutdown and eventual Republican capitulation. In February, Cruz forced some of his Republican colleagues to take a politically-damaging vote to raise the debt ceiling. In all of these situations, Cruz has been focused on his own political future, staking out a position as far to the right as he can. He didn’t care that his antics damaged the party. They were good for Ted Cruz – and that’s what mattered.

That’s what happened again on Thursday with the House GOP’s bill to address the border crisis. And it’s going to continue happening in the future….


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 1, 2014

August 2, 2014 Posted by | Border Crisis, House Republicans, Ted Cruz | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Another ‘Do Nothing’ Embarrassment”: House Fails To Pass Immigration Bill, Asks Obama To Act Alone

House Republicans pulled their embattled immigration legislation on Thursday, after failing to find enough Republicans to vote for the pared-down funding bill. The embarrassing defeat for Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) greatly increases the odds that the House will not do anything to act on the border crisis before leaving Washington for its August recess.

The Republican majority will hold a conference meeting at 3pm EST, after which House leaders will announce whether they will try again to hold a vote.

The House had planned to vote on two separate measures before leaving town: A $659 million funding bill to respond to the humanitarian crisis at the border, and a bill that would bar President Obama from expanding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which grants temporary work permits and relief from deportation for some young immigrants. But House leaders failed to gather the 218 votes needed to move forward.

Ironically, Speaker Boehner — who, one day earlier, advanced his plan to sue President Obama for allegedly exceeding his authority with executive orders — urged President Obama to act alone on securing the border. In a statement, Boehner and fellow House leaders Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Steve Scalise (R-LA), and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), said:

This situation shows the intense concern within our conference – and among the American people – about the need to ensure the security of our borders and the president’s refusal to faithfully execute our laws. There are numerous steps the president can and should be taking right now, without the need for congressional action, to secure our borders and ensure these children are returned swiftly and safely to their countries. For the past month, the House has been engaged in intensive efforts to pass legislation that would compel the president to do his job and ensure it can be done as quickly and compassionately as possible. Through an inclusive process, a border bill was built by listening to members and the American people that has the support not just of a majority of the majority in the House, but most of the House Republican Conference. We will continue to work on solutions to the border crisis and other challenges facing our country.

The House’s failure to gather enough votes for the bill represents a huge defeat in the first legislative test for McCarthy, the new majority leader, and Scalise, the new whip. The pair were apparently outmaneuvered by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), who reportedly met with more than a dozen House Republicans on Wednesday night to press them to oppose leadership’s bill.

Even if the House had passed either bill, neither would have had any chance of becoming law. The $659 million in the House bill fell far short of the $3.7 billion President Obama had requested to confront the the growing funding crisis at the border, as well as the $2.7 billion in the bill advanced by the Senate on Wednesday. Additionally, as David Rogers pointed out in Politico, the bill contained very little money for hiring additional immigration judges, and no money for legal representation for the children at the border. Instead, it focused on expediting the deportation process by mandating that children coming from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala face a court hearing within a week of being screened by child welfare officials, and that the judge make a ruling within 72 hours of the end of the hearing.

The White House had vowed that President Obama would veto the House bill if it somehow reached his desk, saying in a statement that it “could make the situation worse, not better.”

The second bill, which would have barred President Obama from taking an executive action expanding DACA, existed purely to placate Tea Party conservatives who did not want to vote for leadership’s funding bill. As a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent before the vote, “If the House passed the DACA provision, it would go straight into the trash and never get a vote.”


By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, July 31, 2014

August 1, 2014 Posted by | Border Crisis, House Republicans, John Boehner | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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