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“Why I Want It All”: Gloria, Madeleine And We

The last time I stood in front of Gloria Steinem, in the fall of 2012, she spent little time talking to me.

Instead, she trained her laser-focus on the 24-year-old woman next to me. This was my daughter, whose favorite doll in early childhood was a blonde Cabbage Patch girl named Gloria Steinem.

We were in Hartford for a sold-out panel discussion for the Connecticut Forum — featuring Ashley Judd, Michelle Bernard, Gloria and me — on “The State of Women.” When Cait heard that I would be less than two hours from her home in Providence, she considered driving up. When I told her Gloria Steinem was also on the panel, I closed the deal.

What I remember most about that evening was the glow on my daughter’s face as Gloria leaned in and asked her about her life. I couldn’t recount a word of their exchange, but I will never forget the full-circle joy that blurred my vision.

I share this story not to excuse what Gloria said on Bill Maher’s show last week but to explain why I won’t let one clumsy comment diminish who I know her to be.

Maher asked her why so many young women are supporting Bernie Sanders. She has since apologized for this response: “Women get more radical as we get older. Men tend to get more conservative because they gain power as they age, and women get more radical because they lose power as they age. … When you’re young, you’re thinking, ‘Where are the boys?’ The boys are with Bernie.”

I understand the angry response of many young women, but when the outrage turns to rancor and declarations of her irrelevance, I bristle. Gloria Steinem has been a steadfast champion of this millennial generation of women, many of whom have likely never said her name aloud before this week. At 81, she has earned our benefit of the doubt.

It didn’t help that, in the same weekend, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stood next to Hillary Clinton and warned younger women, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” She has said the same thing countless times, often to rapturous cheers, but her timing was off.

At 58, I’m young enough to have found Steinem and Albright inspiring for many years. I even admire their impatience in this presidential year. It is comforting to see a small part of me in my heroes.

How to explain this? I think about that a lot. It’s not that I believe young women have to support Hillary Clinton. I just want them to understand why it’s so personal for many of us who do. We can rattle off all Clinton’s qualifications as the reasons to elect her, and we mean it. But there’s also the woman-ness of it all. Why are we still such a tough sell, even to one another?

In our family, three daughters and a daughter-in-law have careers and young children and a sense of self that triggers a deep longing in me. Sometimes I watch them and wonder, “Who are you?” It is a question of awe, not envy, and a reflection of my own what-ifs. Who might I be now had I been like them in my 20s? It took me so much longer to turn up the dimmer on my own ambition.

Not this generation. Everywhere I go, it seems, I meet young women who leave me breathless. They are teaching and preaching and delivering babies. Once a year, one of them calms my nerves before she walks behind the wall and tells me to hold my breath for the mammogram.

Sometimes, I am at my clumsiest with them, feeing a rush of unearned pride. Who am I, a stranger, to take glory in these young women’s lives? I feel so silly, so full of this song in my heart.

Finally, it seems, I understand how my own mother felt as she watched her daughters leave her behind to navigate a world she had never imagined for herself. Days before she died, she told me she wished she had stuck up for herself more in her marriage.

I braced myself and said, “What would you have done differently, Mom?”

She lifted her weak, manicured hand and pointed to her head. “I would have dyed my hair red,” she said. “And I would have had cats.”

They used to ask for so little, the women in my family.

Maybe that, too, is why I want it all.


By: Connie Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Columnist and Professional in Residence at Kent State University’s School of Journalism; The National Memo, February 11, 2016

February 12, 2016 Posted by | Gloria Steinem, Madeleine Albright, Women | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Popping Out Of Every Hole”: Mitch McConnell Faces A Real Threat, And It’s Not Left-Wing Leaks

As is often the case, we’ve been burying the lead as we dissect the leaked recording of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s private whack-a-mole strategy session.

Most of the talk, on the recording and in the media, has been about the cold-blooded, ruthless assessment of the alleged weaknesses of Democratic activist-actress Ashley Judd as a reelection challenger. Riveting if revolting stuff. But what caught my eye was the very last paragraph of the colloquy, in which the Kentucky Republican’s staffers assure their boss that they are going to vet and figure out how to destroy “potential primary folks.”

Specifically, they said they would investigate a wealthy Louisville, Ky., businessman Matthew Bevin, who has been willing at least to listen to some tea party types.

To understand what the Republican Senate leader is up to these days, you need to remember that he now lives in fear less of his home-state Democrats — whom he has essentially neutered in his nearly 30 years in the U.S. Senate — than of tea party and other Republicans who hate his grip on the GOP in Kentucky and his record of talking a better conservative game than he plays.

Working on that resentment is how now-Sen. Rand Paul managed to defeat McConnell’s handpicked GOP candidate for junior senator from Kentucky in 2010. And even though Paul now pledges support for McConnell, and Paul’s former campaign manager is now on McConnell’s team, the five-term incumbent can’t be sure that he is a lock in the May 2014 GOP primary.

That is one reason why McConnell took the unusual step (for a party leader) of joining a list of other senators who vowed to filibuster any and all new gun control legislation.

That is why McConnell hit the floor the other day to roundly denounce — in far more caustic terms than those used by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) — the president’s new budget.

And that is why McConnell is screaming bloody murder about what he claims was the involvement of the “left” in the “bugging” of his campaign office in Louisville last February.

McConnell and his minions have no proof of who was responsible for the recording and the gifting of it to Mother Jones. He may turn out to be correct.

But it is equally possible that the guilty party was a disgruntled Republican — or even that someone on McConnell’s team tried to emulate the tactic allegedly used by GOP strategist Karl Rove in a Texas gubernatorial race in 1986. Rove was widely suspected by the Texas press, and many Republicans, of having bugged his own office so that the device could be “discovered” and he could denounce the Democrats.

No device was found in the McConnell office, though no one apparently looked for one until this week, when the Mother Jones story broke.

Whatever the leak’s provenance, McConnell rushed to the microphones in the Capitol on Tuesday, surrounded by his loyal Senate GOP followers, to denounce the recordings as an example of how the “left wing” was out to get him in Kentucky.

McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton stepped up the hysteria level on Wednesday, saying on Mike Huckabee’s radio show that the recording’s release were evidence of “Gestapo kind of scare tactics.”

Translation: Hey, Tea Party! You think I’m an unprincipled dealmaker with centrist tendencies? Look how the left wing hates me!

The idea that a Kentucky Republican might have gotten hold of the recording and leaked it is not so far-fetched in a state party that has begun to feel stale and discontented after decades of control by the Louisville-based McConnell.

“There is a lot of discontent in McConnell Land,” said David Adams, who blogs in Kentucky and was Rand Paul’s first campaign manager in 2010. “People aren’t feeling like the Republican Party in the state is going in the right direction.”

The relationship between McConnell and Paul — who were ferocious enemies until the end of the 2010 primary — is described by one Kentuckian on the Hill as merely “transactional.” McConnell was the tea party’s real target in that election, with his chosen candidate, Trey Grayson, just the stand-in.

Now it is McConnell himself who has to face the grassroots wrath, at a time when his overall approval rating in the state is 36 percent — the worst of any senator.

Adams ticked off his major complaints about McConnell on the issues: “The bank bailout. The sum total of all the wasteful federal budgets he voted for, especially in the Bush years. The Patriot Act and the National Defense Authorization Act, for what they did to privacy and civil rights. All the pork barrel money he brings back and all the press releases he puts out it.

“We’ve got hundreds.

“Just all the years of him claiming that he cares about freedom and liberty when his long record shows otherwise.

“He’s playing his own form of whack-a-mole. He pops out of every hole there is.”


By: Howard Fineman, The Huffington Post, April 10, 2013

April 12, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“McConnell Hardball”: The Scope Of Mitch McConnell’s Anxiety Is Still Coming Into Focus

I’ve long believed we can learn a lot about politicians by how they conduct their campaigns. Candidates who are honest and above board before the election tend to be honest and above board after the votes are tallied. Those who choose to be dishonest and sleazy during the race are often less than forthright once in office.

And if this adage is true, we’re learning some unsettling things about Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

For months, McConnell has made no real effort to hide his anxiety about his re-election. Despite his power and leadership role, and despite representing a “red” state, McConnell is not at all popular in the Bluegrass State. He’s sitting on an $8.6 million campaign war chest, which he’s already been forced to tap into — McConnell was the first incumbent to launch television ads in this cycle, 20 months before Election Day.

Is the panic justified? Probably — new results from Public Policy Polling shows McConnell with a 36% approval rating from his own constituents. Though his party affiliation is enough to lift him above likely Democratic challengers, PPP found his advantage over Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes at only four points, 45% to 41%.

The scope of McConnell’s anxiety is still coming into focus. Mother Jones‘ David Corn has obtained another secret recording and published this report this morning.

On February 2, Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the US Senate, opened up his 2014 reelection campaign headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky, and in front of several dozen supporters vowed to “point out” the weaknesses of any opponent fielded by the Democrats. “They want to fight? We’re ready,” he declared. McConnell was serious: Later that day, he was huddling with aides in a private meeting to discuss how to attack his possible Democratic foes, including actor/activist Ashley Judd, who was then contemplating challenging the minority leader.

During this strategy session — a recording of which was obtained by Mother Jones — McConnell and his aides considered assaulting Judd for her past struggles with depression and for her religious views.

Even by contemporary GOP standards, some of the planned lines of attack were unusually ugly.

For example, during their strategy session, one McConnell aide argued that Judd is “emotionally unbalanced,” pointing to her “suicidal tendencies.”

Judd wrote in her autobiography about her struggles with depression, including having considered suicide as a sixth-grader.

But what kind of campaign looks at that as a legitimate area for a political attack?

On religion, Judd had described herself this way: “I still choose the God of my understanding as the God of my childhood. I have to expand my God concept from time to time, and you know particularly I enjoy native faith practices, and have a very nature-based God concept. I’d like to think I’m like St. Francis in that way. Brother Donkey, Sister Bird.”

Apparently, Team McConnell found this hilarious. Corn reported:

Laughter erupted again, with one guy in the meeting exclaiming, “Brother Donkey, Sister Bird!” The group didn’t seem to realize that Judd was referring to well-known stories about St. Francis, who once preached a sermon to birds—”my little sisters”—and who referred to his own body as the “Brother Donkey.” (In her book, Judd identifies herself as a Christian and often refers to church and prayer.)

With his comrades laughing about Judd’s reference to donkeys and birds, the chief presenter remarked, “That’s my favorite line so far. Absolute favorite one so far.”

Obviously, with Judd no longer considering the race, the specific lines of attack are a moot point. There’s no point in a senator attacking the personal life of a movie star just for the sake of doing so.

But the fact that this is where McConnell and his team were prepared to go doesn’t speak highly of the Senate Minority Leader’s values.

Postscript: The Republican senator hasn’t commented on the substance of David Corn’s report, but McConnell’s campaign wants an FBI investigation to determine how Corn obtained the recording. McConnell’s campaign manager Jesse Benton accused “the Left” of “Watergate-style tactics,” and believes “a criminal investigation” is warranted.

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 9, 2013

April 10, 2013 Posted by | Senate | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Obstructionist-In-Chief”: It’s Past Time To Make Mitch McConnell Pay

There’s been no end to the grief Mitch McConnell’s taken for his declaration early in Barack Obama’s first term that his party’s top goal was to make Obama a one-term president. Ironically, though, the failure of McConnell and the GOP to realize their goal may be the best thing he has going for him as 2014 approaches.

McConnell has been the Senate minority leader since 2006, succeeding Bill Frist just as the party lost its majority in the chamber. Twice in his tenure – in 2010 and again in 2012 – Republicans have seemed poised to win back the majority only to fall short thanks to a combination of counterproductive primary results and a national image problem that turned off swing voters in key races. As ’14 approaches, Republicans are again looking at a favorable map, though it would take some big breaks for them to overcome the Democrats’ current 55-45 advantage. But McConnell himself has a much simpler concern: saving his own job.

The Kentuckian, who turns 71 on Wednesday, has never exactly been beloved in his home state, where voters have moved closer to the GOP in recent years but are still more than willing to vote Democratic. In his first campaign, back in 1984, McConnell scored an upset over incumbent Democrat Walter Huddleston by a fraction of a point, a victory owed entirely to Ronald Reagan’s formidable coattails. When McConnell last faced the voters, in 2008, he held on by 6 points against Democrat Bruce Lunsford – this on the same day that John McCain carried Kentucky by 16 points. And in early polling for ’14, he’s running under 50 percent and leading Ashley Judd, the Kentucky native and Hollywood actress who is edging closer to a candidacy, by a high single-digit margin.

Senate leaders have become irresistible targets for the rival party’s activists in recent years. The trend was kicked off in 2004, when Republicans made toppling Democratic leader Tom Daschle one of their top priorities. The GOP recruited a top-notch candidate, John Thune, poured millions into his coffers and even coaxed then-Majority Leader Bill Frist into coming to South Dakota on Thune’s behalf – a violation of a tradition of party leaders refraining from each other’s home state battles. The gambit worked and Daschle was defeated in a close race. Democrats then made a serious run at McConnell in ’08, although Majority Leader Harry Reid stayed away from Kentucky during the race, and Republicans made Reid their No. 1 Senate target in ’10; if GOP primary voters hadn’t insisted on nominating the erratic, self-destructive Sharron Angle, Reid would likely have been felled.

And now it’s McConnell’s turn to face a full-court press from the other party. Already, a liberal group has aired an anti-McConnell ad in Kentucky, criticizing the minority leader for his opposition to a new assault weapons ban. Under any circumstance, grass-roots Democrats would be excited over the prospect of giving McConnell a fight. But his emergence as the face of reflexive Republican opposition to Obama and his agenda has only ratcheted up the left’s resolve to make him pay.

The question is whether they can actually beat him. The good news for Democrats is that Kentucky isn’t quite the Republican bastion it’s often thought of as. Sure, it’s voted Republican by lopsided margins in the last four presidential elections, but Bill Clinton did manage to carry it twice in the 1990s. It also boasts an impressive run of Democratic governors. The state’s top job is now held by Steve Beshear, a second-term Democrat, and only three Republicans (Ernie Fletcher, Louie Nunn and Simeon Willis) have held it over the last 70 years. Democrats also control one of the state’s two legislative chambers, and while no Democrat has won a U.S. Senate race since Wendell Ford in 1992, the party has come close a few times: In addition to McConnell’s 6-point scare in ’08, Republican Jim Bunning only narrowly fended off Daniel Mongiardo in 2004 and Scotty Baesler in 1998.

So Kentucky is willing to vote Democratic, McConnell has never set the world on fire at the ballot box, and after 30 years of incumbency a change message could be a formidable weapon against him. Plus, as my colleague Alex Seitz-Wald wrote on Tuesday, Tea Party groups in Kentucky – which mobilized behind Rand Paul in 2010 to defeat McConnell’s protégé, Trey Grayson, in a Senate primary – are threatening to challenge McConnell in a primary, which could force him farther to the right and away from the general election mainstream.

And now the bad news for Democrats: There’s reason to believe that Kentucky has moved farther to the right – and grown more hostile to the national Democratic Party – since President Obama came to office. Nationally, Obama’s popular vote margin was down last November from its ’08 level, but Kentuckians turned against him particularly hard. In ’08, he lost the state by 16 points, but last November the margin was 22. To put that in some perspective, that’s even worse than Walter Mondale fared in Kentucky in 1984, when he lost the state by 21 points amid a 19-point national landslide defeat. Obama’s unpopularity in the state was driven home last spring, when a majority of the state’s counties voted for “uncommitted” over the president in the Democratic primary. Since Obama became president, Democrats have also lost one of their House seats in the state, leaving them with just one.

Race has clearly played a role in Kentucky’s Obama-phobia, as it has in other swaths of Appalachia. The Obama administration’s supposed “war on coal” is a big factor too. These attitudes aren’t likely to dull in the next 21 months, which will give McConnell a chance to survive simply by linking his opponent to the president. Already, an attack ad from a Karl Rove affiliated group is bashing Judd as “an Obama-following radical Hollywood liberal.” Judd was an active campaigner for Obama last year and was a delegate (from Tennessee) for him at the Democratic convention. She’s also spoken out against mountain top coal mining, which could play right into the GOP’s “war on coal” theme.

There’s also the matter of Judd herself. She has Kentucky roots, comes from a famous country music family, and is a visible and vocal presence at University of Kentucky basketball games. So she has some serious ammunition to fight charges of carpetbagging. And she’ll obviously be able to raise a ton of money. But Republicans have some ammunition of their own, to portray her as a cultural elite who’s too close to Obama. Judd’s candidacy would attract national attention and money, but it’s not clear she’s the best option for Democrats. If she runs, though, the nomination will probably be hers.

One look at his electoral history shows that McConnell has been ripe for a serious challenge for years. He’s going to get it next year. If he survives, ironically enough, he’ll have the president to thank for it. Without the Obama boogeyman to run against, he wouldn’t have much else going for him.


By: Steve Kornacki, Salon, February 20, 2013

February 23, 2013 Posted by | Senate | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


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