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“Ted Cruz’s A.G. Fight Already Misguided”: More So Than Usual, Cruz Has No Idea Of What He’s Talking About

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) does not believe in wasting time. Less than 24 hours have passed since Attorney General Eric Holder announced he’s stepping down, and at this point, no one seems to have any idea when the White House will announce a successor or who he or she will be.

But for Cruz, that just means now is a good time to start drawing battle lines.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) issued a political call to arms for conservatives, saying that outgoing senators should not vote on the nominee during the post-election lame-duck session. “Allowing Democratic senators, many of whom will likely have just been defeated at the polls, to confirm Holder’s successor would be an abuse of power that should not be countenanced,” Cruz said in a statement.

Perhaps more so than usual, Cruz has no idea what he’s talking about.

As Kevin Drum noted in response, “Unless Cruz is suggesting that they should be banned completely, then of course business should be conducted during lame duck sessions. What else is Congress supposed to do during those few weeks?”

Right. Members of the Senate are elected to serve six-year terms. The Constitution, which Cruz usually loves to talk about, is quite explicit on this point. Article I does not say senators’ terms end after 5 years and 10 months, with the final two months designated as goof-off time.

Indeed, if Cruz is still confused, he can look to very recent history to understand that nominating and confirming cabinet officials during a lame-duck session is the exact opposite of “an abuse of power.”

In November 2006, then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced he was stepping down at the Pentagon. Almost immediately thereafter, then-President George W. Bush nominated Robert Gates as Rumsfeld’s successor, and during the lame-duck session, the Senate held confirmation hearings, a committee vote, and a confirmation vote on the Senate floor.

Gates was confirmed, 95 to 2, and he was sworn in the week before Christmas 2006. Some of the senators who voted in support of the nominee, to use Cruz’s language, had “just been defeated at the polls,” but it didn’t make a bit of difference.

Why not? Because they were still senators who had a job to do. Indeed, 2006 was an especially important year: the Republican majority in the Senate had just been voted out in a Democratic wave election, in large part because of the Bush administration’s national-security policy. And yet, the Senate still moved quickly and efficiently to consider and confirm a new Pentagon chief.

This wasn’t an “abuse of power.” It was just the American political process working as it’s designed to work.

The same is true now, whether Cruz understands that or not.

Of course, there’s another scenario the far-right Texan may also want to keep in mind: the longer Cruz and his cohorts delay the process, the longer Eric Holder will remain the Attorney General. Indeed, Holder made it quite clear yesterday that he intends to stay on until his successor is ready to step into the office.

Under the circumstances, and given the right’s uncontrollable hatred for the current A.G., shouldn’t Cruz want the Senate to vote on Holder’s replacement during the lame-duck session? Has he really thought his current posturing through?

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 27, 2014

September 28, 2014 Posted by | Eric Holder, Senate, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Overturning Elections Has Consequences”: Perry v. Lehmberg And The Veto That Illuminated An Unsettling Trend

A truism: Almost nobody looks good in his booking photo.

That said, the 47th governor of Texas, one James Richard Perry, certainly gave it his best shot when he faced the camera at the Travis County Courthouse last week. The resultant image is … not terrible. Perry is caught somewhere between a tight smile and an outright grimace, his mien taut with confidence and seriousness of purpose.

Gazing on that photo, one cannot help but suspect that a transparently political indictment designed by his Democratic opponents to cripple this presumed presidential aspirant might actually help him instead. One is not usually disposed to think of Texas’ swaggering governor as a victim, but darn if this indictment hasn’t turned the trick.

Of course, if Democrats in Texas have done the Republican governor an inadvertent favor, they sure haven’t done the country one. What is this thing lately of political parties using the courts as weapons of political destruction, trying to win judicially what they could not win at the ballot box?

A few words of definition before we proceed. The reference here is not simply to lawsuits and prosecutions with political import. Obviously there has been no shortage of those. But the sins and alleged sins of Rod Blagojevich, William Jefferson, Larry Craig, Bob McDonnell, Tom DeLay and others — money-laundering, corruption, disorderly conduct — are at least recognizable as crimes.

By contrast, Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner is suing President Obama for issuing an executive order. Faced with mulish obstructionism from the GOP, Obama chose that route to make a technical change in a law — the Affordable Care Act — Boehner’s party hates. Now here’s Perry, indicted on felony abuse of power charges that could theoretically send him to prison for over a century. His crime? He issued a veto.

Here is the backstory: The district attorney of Travis County, Democrat Rosemary Lehmberg, was arrested last year for drunk driving. Video captured her being belligerent toward police. Perry called on Lehmberg, who oversees the state public integrity unit, to resign, perhaps so that he might appoint a friendly Republican successor to head an agency that has been a thorn in his backside. Lehmberg refused, so Perry vetoed $7.5 million in state funding for the integrity unit.

Neither principal in this sordid episode emerges covered with glory. Lehmberg’s behavior suggests the opposite of public integrity; she should have resigned. And Perry’s veto smacks of scorched earth, bully-boy politics, which is not pretty. It is also not a crime.

Things were not always thus. Once upon a time, the losing party felt itself bound to accept the will of the electorate with some modicum of grace. You weren’t happy about it, but you embraced the role of loyal opposition and bided your time until the next election in hopes your fortunes might change.

But that’s so 20th century.

For six years, the GOP has been trying to undo the election of 2008; Boehner’s lawsuit is only the latest of their many loopy schemes. Now, if Travis County is any bellwether, at least some Democrats are doing the selfsame thing.

It is behavior that should give all fair-minded Americans pause, regardless of party affiliation, for it illustrates with stark clarity the sheer brokenness of our political system. Flooded with corporate money, gerrymandered beyond any semblance of reason, it limps along prodded by those whose devotion to the “game” far outweighs any devotion they might have to that quaint relic we once called the public good. Now there is this misuse of the courts for political payback, this attempt to criminalize ordinary political activity.

The public should take note. Elections have consequences, folks used to say.

Overturning them does, too.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist, The Miami Herald; The National Memo, August 25, 2014

 

August 26, 2014 Posted by | Elections, John Boehner, Rick Perry | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Everyone Was Let Go”: Darren Wilson’s Former Police Force Was Disbanded For Excessive Force And Corruption

While news outlets and commentators have attempted to analyze every action of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teen shot to death six times in Ferguson, Missouri two weeks ago, we seem to know very little about his shooter, Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. Wilson, who just months ago won a commendation in a Town Council ceremony, now remains under the police’s protection and hasn’t spoken about the incident.

But as the public continues to search for answers, the Washington Post has published a report on Wilson’s career, including a brief biography, that offers some insight into Wilson’s past.

According to officials interviewed by the Post, Wilson maintained a clean record, but the Post reports that his first job “was not an ideal place to learn how to police.” He entered the police force in 2009, joining a nearly all-white, 45-member task force that patrolled Jennings, Missouri, a small, impoverished city of 14,000 where the residents were 89 percent African-American. The racial tension was high, and the police were accused of using excessive force against its residents:

Racial tension was endemic in Jennings, said Rodney Epps, an African American city council member.

“You’re dealing with white cops, and they don’t know how to address black people,” Epps said. “The straw that broke the camel’s back, an officer shot at a female. She was stopped for a traffic violation. She had a child in the back [of the] car and was probably worried about getting locked up. And this officer chased her down Highway 70, past city limits, and took a shot at her. Just ridiculous.”

Police faced a series of lawsuits for using unnecessary force, Stichnote said. One black resident, Cassandra Fuller, sued the department claiming a white Jennings police officer beat her in June 2009 on her own porch after she made a joke. A car had smashed into her van, which was parked in front of her home, and she called police. The responding officer asked her to move the van. “It don’t run. You can take it home with you if you want,” she answered. She said the officer became enraged, threw her off the porch, knocked her to the ground and kicked her in the stomach.

The department paid Fuller a confidential sum to settle the case, she said.

The department also endured a corruption scandal. In 2011, city council members voted 6-1 to shut down the force and start over, bringing in a new set of officers. Everyone was let go, including Wilson, but he soon found a job at the Ferguson police department, where he has been since.

Lt. Jeff Fuesting, who took over command of the Jennings force, assessed the problems of the former task force like this:

“There was a disconnect between the community and the police department. There were just too many instances of police tactics which put the credibility of the police department in jeopardy. Complaints against officers. There was a communication breakdown between the police and the community. There were allegations involving use of force that raised questions.”

 

By: Prachi Gupta, Assistant News Editor, Salon, August 24, 2014

August 25, 2014 Posted by | Darren Wilson, Ferguson Missouri, Law Enforcement | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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