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“Disgracing Their Party”: The GOP’s Reckless Refugee Rhetoric

Republicans need to reacquaint themselves with Robert Ray.

The Republican governor of Iowa from 1969 to 1983, Robert Ray opened his state to help settle refugees after the Vietnam War, right in the middle of America’s heartland. “I didn’t think we could just sit here idly and say, ‘Let those people die.’ We wouldn’t want the rest of the world to say that about us if we were in the same situation,” said Ray. “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.”

He led when others followed and won another two terms. People have a funny way of rewarding moral courage at the end of the day. After all, it’s so rare to see in a politician.

But in the wake of the Paris attacks, more than two dozen governors—all Republicans, except for New Hampshire’s Maggie Hassan, a Democrat—announced they did not want to have any Syrian refugees darken their states. One would-be governor, the desperate David Vitter, lost no time in cutting a negative attack ad trying to make it look like President Obama was intentionally importing terrorists to Louisiana. Folding to fear-mongering apparently seems like good politics in 2015. It will look awful in a few decades.

The presidential candidates performed even worse under this policy pressure.

By now it should come as no surprise that Ted Cruz raced to embrace the new low.  The son of a refugee from Cuba announced that he would introduce a bill to ban Muslim refugees from entering the country. Only the most venal political cynicism could explain why he pivoted from calling for more refugees as a way of hitting President Obama’s lack of early action to his 180-degree turn today.

Most of the GOP field has followed suit, smelling political vulnerability in anything less than a Fortress America pose. Jeb Bush, who should know better, aped Cruz by backing a religious litmus test for incoming refugees. Donald Trump doubled down on deporting refugees and said that we should also be looking at closing mosques. Ben Carson continued to be incoherent on the subject of foreign policy. Even the normally sensible Chris Christie fell into the trap of the center-right politicians trying to show that they can be as tough as the crazies by recklessly throwing red meat, telling radio show host Hugh Hewitt that he would not accept Syrian orphans under the age of 5 into the country.

It is worth remembering that it was the body of a 3-year old Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, washed up dead on a beach in Bodrum, that helped galvanize world opinion in favor of bringing in refugees by shaking us out of our moral myopia.

Of course the refugees fleeing ISIS are themselves victims of terrorist violence.  And as Reason’s Matt Welch detailed, contra claims by Trump and Carson, the majority of Syrian refugees are not “military-aged males,” but women and children.

Part of the ISIS mythology is based on pretending that they represent a clash between Islam and the West, instead of a clash between an apocalyptic death cult and civilization.

The way we will win this long war is not through military means alone, though that is an essential component (and it is ridiculous that the city of Raqqa has been allowed to solidify its role as the ISIS capital for so long). Ultimately, we will succeed by showing that we are different and bigger and better than the “us versus them” stereotypes that terrorists so desperately want the Arab street to believe.

That requires us living up to our best traditions, not solidifying our worst fears. And for those governors and presidential candidates who would seek to turn away refugees from ISIS, I’d recommend that they reacquaint themselves with the poem written by Emma Lazarus on the base of the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free/The wretched refuse of your teeming shore/Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me/I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

That is the spirit of Liberty. All the reflexive campaign rhetoric about America being a beacon of freedom is now being put to the test. We should screen refugees for security and then welcome them in, letting the process of assimilation work without apology.

That is the American story and it is our responsibility to carry that story forward. Failure to do so represents a rejection of our best traditions, folding in the face of fear. Governors and presidential candidates above all should hold themselves to a higher standard. And if the Statue of Liberty is too lofty a goal to reach in a mean-spirited political season then perhaps they could at least borrow some caucus-proof political courage from the example of Iowa’s own Robert Ray.


By: John Avlon, The Daily Beast, November 17, 2015

November 19, 2015 Posted by | GOP, Republican Governors, Syrian Refugees | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Steady Drumbeat”: Republican Governors Buck Party Tenets To Seek Expanded Medicaid

Republican governors are pressing forward to expand Medicaid even after being stymied by lawmakers in their own party.

As the Obama administration vows to help develop plans that will pass muster with conservatives, the governors of Utah and Wyoming said they still want the health care program for the poor broadened. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, who declined to act in 2013, may seek a federal waiver to make insurance available to more residents. Louisiana’s Republican legislature also opened a legal door.

Their views challenge party orthodoxy, even if some governors are crafting their own proposals and denying that what they’re doing is expanding Medicaid. Twenty states have refused the expansion under President Barack Obama’s 2009 health care overhaul because of cost and ideological opposition. The resistance is easing as states see a chance to recoup tax dollars and help hospitals get paid for charity care.

“This is about your citizens’ financial and health security, and it’s also about the economic health of your states,” Sylvia Mathews Burwell, U.S. secretary of health and human services, said Saturday at a National Governors Association meeting in West Virginia. “We want to help you design a system.”

This month, Alaska became the 30th state to expand, including 10 with Republican governors, according to the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, a health-research group in Menlo Park, California. Gov. Bill Walker, a first-term independent, used his authority under state law to accept the expansion unless the legislature returns by September 1 and votes it down.

“I did it unilaterally because it was the right thing to do,” Walker said in an interview.

Governors in Tennessee, Utah, and Wyoming lack the ability to act alone, and their Republican-led legislatures declined to adopt expansion this year.

Even so, Utah’s Gary Herbert plans to meet with legislative leaders this week and said he hopes to call a special session in September to pass what he’s calling an alternative to Medicaid expansion.

Herbert’s program also would require a waiver from Medicaid officials for elements designed to appeal to Republicans, such as having applicants get job training.

“I’m optimistic,” Herbert said in an interview. “I think our approach is better than traditional government-assistance Medicaid.”

In Georgia, lawmakers last year blocked the governor from expanding Medicaid without their approval. A provision tucked into this year’s budget, though, allows the state to pursue a waiver.

Wyoming Gov. Matthew Mead called his expansion effort “a colossal failure.” Still, he hopes to bring it back in February’s budget session or in 2017.

“It’s going to take probably some time and continued work by all of us to eventually get to that point,” Mead said.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, said he doesn’t know whether he’ll try next year after failing in February.

While Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican presidential candidate, has been an adamant opponent, his state still could move, said Joan Alker, executive director of the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown University.

Jindal leaves office at year’s end, and Republicans running to replace him have all expressed support for expansion in some form, she said. The legislature has passed a provision requiring hospitals to pay the state’s share of expansion.

“I don’t think we are going to see a super-large number of states moving forward,” Alker said. “But it is a steady drumbeat.”


By: Mark Niquette and Margaret Newkirk, The National Memo, July 29, 2015

August 1, 2015 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Medicaid Expansion, Republican Governors | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Hurting A Large Number Of Their Own”: Republican Refusal To Expand Medicaid Could Come Back To Haunt Them

Republican legislatures in state after state, from Tennessee to Wyoming, are rejecting the Medicaid expansion of the Affordable Care Act for no other reason than pure spite against poor people:

On Friday, the Wyoming Senate shot down Gov. Matt Mead’s expansion plan, and a House committee then pulled its bill. The double whammy effectively killed the state’s chances of enacting the Obamacare option this year.

Lawmakers there acted just days after the Tennessee Legislature shot down an expansion proposal by Gov. Bill Haslam. Together, the two rejections diminish the momentum that Medicaid expansion supporters were enjoying last month, when Indiana Gov. Mike Pence won federal approval of his particular plan and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson agreed to extend that state’s “private option” program for 18 months. Both Pence and Hutchinson are also Republicans.

There’s simply no good reason for any of it, even within the confines of conservative economic orthodoxy. The money for the Medicaid expansion comes from the federal government; the states themselves are at no risk of further expense for many years to come if at all. Republican governors are trying to get the funding for the healthcare of their citizens. Better access to healthcare means fewer illnesses, better productivity, and more money in the pockets of the sorts of consumers most likely to spend in the economy. More money for Medicaid creates a virtuous economic circle at no cost to the states.

No doubt there is a great deal of racism in the motivation of conservative state legislators to deny healthcare to their poorest residents. But in fact, the majority of those on Medicaid are not minorities–and poor whites are overwhelmingly Republicans. So even from the jaundiced view of a bigot these GOP legislators are hurting a huge number of their own.

And it’s starting to cause problems for them. Republicans in Kentucky are doing backflips to pretend to their constituents that there’s some big difference between Kynect, Kentucky’s state exchange, and Obamacare. And even now some Republicans are defecting over it:

Former Republican state Sen. Tim Johnson on Wednesday announced he’s switching parties and challenging incumbent Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves this year.

But the noted Elvis impersonator said he won’t be appearing as the King on the campaign trail.

“Why join the Democratic Party and run for lieutenant governor?” Johnson said before a cheering throng of supporters at a Capitol press conference. “I’ll tell you: We are all Mississippians first. Elected officials should be in the business of helping all Mississippians, not picking out who to hurt.”

The Republican Party has relied for decades on cultural and racial resentment to keep them afloat. But there’s only so long a political party can only abuse the entirety its own people without even an eye toward sowing cultural division, without it coming back to haunt them.


By: David Atkins, Political Animal, The Washington Monthly, February 7, 2015

February 9, 2015 Posted by | Medicaid Expansion, Republican Governors, State Legislatures | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Conservative GOP Governors Are Accepting Obamacare”: Wagging A Finger With One Hand, Holding Out The Other Hand For The Money

Many GOP governors who loudly condemned Obamacare are secretly signing up for the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid Expansion. And they aren’t just Republicans in Democrat states. A growing number are from Southern conservative states, like Alabama and Tennessee.

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam announced his state would oppose Obamacare, saying that he would rather have any money sent to his state go to private insurance, according to Bill Barrow with the Associated Press. But after getting reelected, Haslam announced that he had struck a deal that would allow that Medicaid expansion, according to Dave Boucher with The Tennessean.

Ditto Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, who once claimed that “the anything but Affordable Care Act has done nothing to gain our trust,” according to Tom Baxter with Saporta Report. But there was Bentley, after getting easily reelected, claiming “he could support the expansion in the form of a block grant, with a lot of strings attached,” Baxter writes.

In other red states, Republicans are doing the same, wagging a finger at Obamacare with one hand and holding out the other hand for the money. Kansas Governor Sam Brownback condemned GOP Governors for taking the Medicaid expansion money, as noted on his own website. But then, buffeted by a deficit from ill-advised tax cuts, Brownback took the money, calling it something else, in order to balance the budget, according to Salon.

It is unlikely that Representative Mike Pence cast many votes in favor of Obamacare while in Congress. But as Indiana Governor, he’s signed on to the Medicaid expansion, according to Dana Milbank from the Washington Post.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer joined her name to the lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of Obamacare. But then, she signed up for the dollars from Washington, DC after dodging a primary challenge, as reported by CBS.

Florida Governor Rick Scott, another Republican, had few kind words for Obama or the ACA. But once it was clear that he wouldn’t face a primary challenger, Scott took the money, according to the Miami Herald, hoping to boost his reelection chances. He was able to hold onto the Governor’s Mansion in Tallahassee as a result.

And it was Ohio Governor John Kasich who called for repealing Obamacare, well, at least most of it. Now he’s saying it is here to stay, as noted by CNN, and other Republicans better get used to it being around.

Michael Hiltzik with the Los Angeles Times is reporting that even Texas is considering the Medicaid expansion, modeled after Utah’s acceptance of the ACA plan.

There are a few reasons for this. While the House of Representatives and Senate can pass repeal after repeal votes, governors have to balance budgets. Also, many of these governors talk the conservative talk to beat back or forestall Tea Party primary challengers. Given that only a dwindling number of these are succeeding, there’s no need to kowtow to this group after reelection. They can use some creative accounting to accept the money, or call it something else so it will have a lower profile (Alabama could call it Bamacare, for example).

Of course, this is bound to infuriate the most conservative members of the Republican Party, but only if they are paying attention. Besides, this is still the party of Jeb Bush, who was linked to a firm that benefited from Obamacare, as reported by The Daily Mail. It’s also the party of Mitt Romney, whose Romneycare had many similarities to Obamacare, according to health expert Brad Burd.


By: John A. Tures, Professor of Political Science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga; The Blog, The Huffington Post, December 31, 2014

January 2, 2015 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, Republican Governors | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Right-Wing Incumbent’s”: Five Awful GOP Governors Who Need To Go

Senate, Senate, Senate. Of course it’s the most important battle this fall, the top fight on the card. But there’s a lot of other action to watch. I’ll write plenty about Senate races between now and Election Day, but today, let’s look at the key governors races. From a liberal point of view, there are five that are clearly the most important; five where taking out the right-wing incumbent would be gratifying either for its own sake, for what it might suggest about 2016, or in some cases both. Here we go, in order:

1. Rick Scott, Florida. Scott seems to be maintaining a slender lead over Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist, who’s running against him. But it’s all margin-of-error stuff at this point—Scott leads narrowly in most polls, and every so often one finds Crist ahead. There is a third candidate, Libertarian Adrian Wyllie, who’s running between 4 and 8 percent and, according to one poll, drawing equally from Scott and Crist.

The most important thing about this race is not political but—lo and behold!—substantive. If Crist wins, the biggest state in the union that is not participating in Obamacare may do so. Governor Crist would have to battle with the legislature about accepting the Medicaid money, but this has been a central plank of his campaign, just as refusing the money has been central to Scott’s campaign. If Crist were to win and push acceptance of the funds through, the state could gain $66 billion in federal dollars over the next decade and insure 1.1 million more people. It’d be a huge step forward for the Affordable Care Act.

And of course there are 2016 ramifications as well. In most states that have taken the Medicaid money, doing so has turned out to be pretty popular. If Crist gets in and manages to implement Obamacare in a reasonably successful way, that has to help whoever the Democratic candidate is. And when a party controls a governor’s mansion, its donor base is more engaged and its network of local activists and volunteers is more energized.

2. Scott Walker, Wisconsin. I’m confident I speak for all of American liberalism when I say we’d love to see this smarmy, smug, self-satisfied little blobfish go down to defeat. Right now, he’s basically tied with Democrat Mary Burke. He’s ahead by three points in one recent poll, she’s up four in another. One factor that could help Walker in turnout terms is that, of the state’s eight congressional districts, the only two in which the races are competitive are GOP-leaning districts, so that could push Republican turnout up a bit. On the other hand, Obama’s job approval in Wisconsin isn’t so bad, at 45-49, so it’s not like a Kentucky or Arkansas, where loads of conservative voters are going to vote just to register their animus toward the president.

I rank Walker second on my list because he’s a potential presidential contender for 2016. The conventional wisdom now in Washington is that he’s the 2016 Tim Pawlenty—the guy who looks good on paper but isn’t ready for prime time. But who knows, the conventional wisdom is wrong all the time about these things. And if somehow Walker were to demonstrate that he’s ready for prime time and capture the Republican nomination, then there’s a chance he could win—only a chance, I think—his home state, and that’s 10 electoral votes that would really alter the Electoral College calculus (the Democrats haven’t lost Wisconsin since 1984). Better just to take him out now and not have to worry about such exigencies.

3. Nathan Deal, Georgia. A true wingnut, former House member Deal has presided over the new gun law that lets people pack heat in America’s busiest airport, spoken fondly of the old Stars and Bars, and sent most of the other signals you’d expect someone like that to send to reactionary white voters. While in the House, he was something of a birth-certificate “truther.” That all combines to stand a chance of rendering Deal a bit much even by the hardened standards of the Peach State, where polls show him one or two goober peas ahead of Jason Carter, grandson of Jimmy. Carter is well to grandpap’s right—he supported the new gun law, for example. But at least he’d probably not say things like, “My wife tells me she could look at her sixth-grade class and tell ya which ones are going to prison and which ones are going to college.”

But here’s the real importance of this race: A Carter win would terrify the GOP heading into 2016. Remember, Obama lost the state by just eight points. I can guarantee you that on the day after the election in 2012, when political pros on both sides saw that result, their universal next thought was: Holy smokes, Hillary could win that state. And indeed, while statewide opinion polling on Clinton vs. GOP field in ’16 is scant, as often as not, it shows that she leads the major Republicans already. A Carter victory would start intensive “Will Georgia Turn Blue?” talk. Whereas a flip of Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes would make life a little more complicated for the Democrats, a flip of Georgia’s 16 would pulverize any GOP chances of the White House.

4. Rick Snyder, Michigan. Like Walker, Snyder is an anomaly, a conservative Republican who won in a usually slightly left-of-center state in 2010, the tea party year. He’s been better than Walker—he did, for example, come around to accepting the Obamacare Medicaid money after having initially opposed it. And he signed a bill raising the minimum wage. But he’s been plenty conservative, too, pushing for hugely controversial right-to-work legislation, and presiding over the usual scorched-earth public education policies. Snyder is basically tied with Democrat Mark Schauer.

Snyder is too conservative for that state. It’s as if, oh, Indiana had a Democratic governor—it’s something that happens, but it’s just not the natural order of things. Besides which, if he wins reelection, we’re going to have to endure a mountain of GOP spin about how the party is going to take back Michigan in ’16, even though Republicans haven’t carried it since 1988. If he loses, there’s a sporting chance the media will be less gullible about such nonsense

5. Paul LePage, Maine. This one has no 2016 ramifications. The Democratic presidential candidate will win Maine, although the state is one of two where it’s legal to split electors, so the Republican could conceivably win one of the state’s four electoral votes. But LePage is just America’s highest-ranking elected baboon, with a long string of comments that aren’t just “incendiary,” to employ one of the standard euphemisms, but simply embarrassing to the Republican Party, the state of Maine, and the human race. He’s running just a hair behind Democrat Mike Michaud, a member of the House of Representatives. There’s an independent candidate polling in the low double digits and stealing more from Michaud than LePage, so he might be the incumbent’s salvation.

There are several other important governor’s races. I left Kansas’ Sam Brownback off my list because it already looks as if, while there’s still plenty of time on the clock, he’s going to lose. But the significance of a Republican incumbent governor losing in Kansas would be pretty great, although obviously it wouldn’t impact 2016, since a Democratic presidential candidate will win Kansas the same year the great and powerful Oz returns in his hot-air balloon to the state fair. Arizona, Colorado, and Illinois are all tight races, too. There’s no denying it. Election night is likely to be a long night for liberals. But catching glimpses of the concession speeches from the above quintumverate would make the night a lot less painful.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, September 22, 2014

September 23, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Republican Governors | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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