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“Just Take A Look At The Man In The Mirror”: Saudi Money And The Moral Posturing Of Rand Paul

Expecting morally serious debate from any would-be Republican presidential contender is like waiting for a check from a deadbeat. It could arrive someday, but don’t count on it.

But listening to someone like Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) feign outrage over a real moral issue can still be amusing, if you know enough about him to laugh. The Kentucky Republican has seized on stories about millions of dollars donated by Saudi Arabian agencies and interests to the Clinton Foundation, demanding that the Clintons return those funds because of gender inequality under the Saudi version of Islam.

Speaking to reporters in New Hampshire, the senator said the Saudi monarchy is waging “a war on women,” turning a phrase often used to describe what Republican politicians do to women here. Like all aspiring leaders in the GOP, Paul wants to prove that he would be tough enough to take on Hillary Rodham Clinton in a national campaign. Women and men alike may admire her and hope that she will become America’s first female president — but how can she speak on behalf of women and girls if her husband’s foundation accepted support from the Saudis?

Certainly it is true that the Saudi monarchy inflicts special oppressions on its female subjects. But before examining how that should influence the policies of a charitable foundation – and a former president or secretary of state – it is worth considering the feminist credentials of Rand Paul and his fellow Republicans.

Presumably, Paul favors permitting women to drive and exercise other rights that they would be denied in Riyadh. In his habitual hostility to any legislation improving the status of women in this country, however, he is all too typical of his party. He opposed the Paycheck Fairness Act, designed to ensure that women are paid equally to men for similar work, as an assault on the “free market” worthy of the “Soviet Politburo” (which somebody should tell him no longer exists).

Like Senators Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham and other presidential hopefuls, he co-sponsored the Blunt Amendment, a mercifully defeated law that would have deprived millions of women of contraceptive and other vital insurance coverage at the whim of any employer. He sponsored a constitutional amendment to outlaw abortion and some forms of birth control. And he even opposed reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act – a vote that the ultra-right Saudi imams would no doubt approve.

If Paul wants to confront an enemy of women’s advancement, he need only glance in the mirror.

As for the Clinton Foundation, leave aside the fact that the senator only knows about any Saudi donations because the foundation’s transparency exceeds anything required under U.S. law – and that the Carter Center, the Bush 41 and Bush 43 presidential libraries, Oxfam, and the World Health Organization, among many other charities, have also accepted Saudi funding.

Paul and other critics ought to explain specifically how the foundation’s receipt of support from Saudi Arabia has compromised its mission of empowering women and girls. Anyone who has attended the annual meetings of the Clinton Global Initiative, for instance, has seen and heard that commitment repeated again and again, around the world, in Muslim countries and everywhere else.

The fact that economic and social development demand full gender equality has been the unmistakable message of those meetings, year after year, for more than a decade. And no Saudi official who looked at the foundation’s programs in health, education, or economic development could misunderstand what the Clintons and their foundation are saying and doing.

To consider just one example: Over the past dozen years, the Clinton Health Access Initiative has helped to save millions of lives, including many women and girls suffering from HIV/AIDS. In Ethiopia, the Saudi billionaire Sheik Mohammed Al Amoudi donated $20 million to a Clinton Foundation program providing AIDS drugs to infected men, women, and children.

Would it have been better to refuse the Saudi money, provide less medicine, and let some of those Ethiopians die?

While Bill Clinton’s answer is plain enough, let’s not pretend such moral quandaries really trouble Rand Paul and his ilk. We already know that politicians like him are quite prepared to “let ’em die” here as well as over there, because they are eager to repeal the Affordable Care Act, ruin Medicare, and gut the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

But it is a question for the rest of us to consider seriously.


By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editor’s Blog, The National Memo, March 20, 2015

March 25, 2015 Posted by | Clinton Global Inititiave, Hillary Clinton, Rand Paul | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Rand Paul Remains Preoccupied With Bill Clinton”: Beware Of Those Who Protest Too Much

Nearly two weeks ago, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) decided to go after former President Bill Clinton, focusing on the Lewinsky affair from 19 years ago. The former president, Paul said, was guilty of “predatory behavior.” He added that this would be relevant if Hillary Clinton runs in 2016 because “sometimes it’s hard to separate one from the other.”

Asked later about the comments, Paul suggested that Clinton isn’t really on his mind. “It’s not as if I’m bringing this up 20 years later. I was asked a direct question,” the Kentucky senator said. “However, if I’m asked a direct question, I’ll usually answer it.”

For a guy who only mentioned Clinton because he was “asked a direct question,” Rand Paul seems oddly preoccupied with the former president.

The senator’s original criticism came on “Meet the Press” on Jan. 26. Paul then took another rhetorical shot at Clinton on Jan. 28. And then another on Jan. 29. And then another on Feb. 5. And then again later on Feb. 5.

This morning, there was the Kentucky Republican, once again talking about the subject he only reluctantly broached in the first place.

“[Democrats] can’t have it both ways,” Paul said on C-Span’s “Newsmakers” set to air Sunday.

“And so I really think that anybody who wants to take money from Bill Clinton or have a fundraiser has a lot of explaining to do. In fact, I think they should give the money back,” Paul said. “If they want to take position on women’s rights, by all means do. But you can’t do it and take it from a guy who was using his position of authority to take advantage of young women in the workplace.”

This is getting a little weird.

To reiterate a point from last week, much of this likely has to do with 2016 and Paul’s concern that Bill Clinton remains a very popular national figure. Indeed, even Republicans who hated Clinton with a passion during his time in office – up to and including impeaching him – have since decided he wasn’t such a bad guy after all. Robert Schlesinger labeled the phenomenon “Clinton Nostalgia Syndrome.”

The senator is no doubt aware of this, all while remaining cognizant of the fact that Hillary Clinton is a possible candidate. The calculus isn’t subtle: Rand Paul is probably worried that Clinton nostalgia will make the former Secretary of State that much more difficult to defeat. As a consequence, he’s become oddly preoccupied with a sex scandal from the mid-90s, which the American mainstream has long since given up caring about.

But I also wonder if there’s a touch of defensiveness lurking just below the surface. After all, Paul not only supports government intervention in restricting reproductive rights, he’s also voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Violence Against Women Act, while voting for the Blunt Amendment on contraception.

With a record like that, the senator may be understandably concerned about alienating women voters. I’m not a political strategist, but I don’t imagine constant complaining about Bill Clinton will address Paul’s underlying trouble.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 7, 2014

February 9, 2014 Posted by | Rand Paul, War On Women | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Extremely Deceptive”: Scott Brown Is Lying About His Reproductive Rights Record

Running for Senate in a deep-blue state—where support for abortion rights has been measured at nearly 70 percent—Republican Scott Brown needs to make it clear that he supports reproductive rights. That’s why he’s telling reporters that he “promise[s]” never to vote in the Senate to curb reproductive rights, and why he has a new ad airing statewide today with this script:

NARRATOR: Scott Brown is pro choice, and he supports a woman’s right to choose.

WOMEN: I like that Scott Brown is independent, he really thinks for himself. His record shows that he supports women, he supports families. When my daughters grow up, I want to make sure that they have good jobs with equal pay, and I know Scott Brown will fight for that. I support Scott Brown because I know he wants to get our economy moving forward again. I’m a mom, I have a family, and I know that Scott Brown will fight hard for families.

BROWN: I’m Scott Brown and I approve this message.

Sounds nice. And it’s true Brown did object to the GOP platform language on abortion. But his actual record—touted in the ad—directly contradicts the new message.


Brown was a co-sponsor of the Blunt Amendment earlier this year, which would have allowed employers to deny women preventive care options under the company plan—including contraception, mammograms, pre-natal screenings, cervical cancer screenings. (It was written broadly enough to allow any employer to do this, not just religious ones). This would have jeopardized the preventive health services of 20.4 million women nationwide, and 517,000 in Massachusetts alone.

Brown voted to defund Planned Parenthood last year when he supported House Resolution 1, the Republican spending plan that was ultimately defeated in the Senate. It would also have removed funding under Title X for health centers for low-income women. 

Brown may have supported the Stupak-Pitts Amendment to the Affordable Care Act, which would have stripped any funding for abortions by any health insurance product subsidized by the government. It wasn’t included in the Senate version that Brown voted on. But his staff told the Associated Press in November 2009 that Brown would have supported it—though he told Boston’s WBUR that same month that he would have opposed it.

It’s extremely deceptive, then, for Brown to pretend he supports a woman’s right to choose, as the ad claims. Or in the words of said Stephanie Schriock, President of EMILY’s List: “Scott Brown is straight-up lying to Massachusetts voters with his latest ad. Brown does not support a woman’s right to choose – his anti-choice voting record has earned him the support of an anti-choice organization in this very campaign.”

Indeed, Massachusetts Citizens for Life has endorsed Brown in his race against Elizabeth Warren. “We consider him a senator who votes prolife,” Anne Fox, the president of that group, told the Boston Globe last month. (Though Republican Majority For Choice has also backed him).

Brown is also misleading about his record on women’s issues elsewhere in the ad. For example, a woman featured says that “I want to make sure [my daughters] have good jobs with equal pay, and I know Scott Brown will fight for that.” But in November 2010, Brown supported a Republican filibuster of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would have required employers to prove that any gender disparities in pay were directly related to job performance. That bill was passed by the House two years ago, but has never cleared a Senate filibuster.

BY: George Zornick, The Nation, September 14, 2012

September 16, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Corporations Are Not People”: Elizabeth Warren Rips Mitt Romney

Democrat Elizabeth Warren is running to unseat Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts, but she took off today after Mitt Romney when she ripped the “Romney-Brown vision” of economic policy.

“Corporations are not people,” she told the crowd at Netroots Nation, an annual event. “People have hearts, they have kids, they get jobs, they get sick, they love, they cry, they dance, they live and they die. Learn the difference. And Mitt, learn this. We don’t run this country for corporations. We run it for people.”

Romney, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, was widely criticized for telling an Iowa crowd last year that “corporations are people, my friend.”

Warren is the biggest political star to speak at this year’s gathering of liberal bloggers and activists, and she drew an ovation both before and after her talk.

Warren and two other women candidates — Rep. Mazie Hirono, who is running for the Senate from Hawaii, and Darcy Burner, a Washington state congressional candidate — said Democrats need to make a better case to voters in favor of the Obama administration’s health care overhaul – and against Republican legislation on abortion and contraception.

“How much have we gotten out there and sold it? Not very much,” Warren said.

Republicans have pushed back on Democratic rhetoric about the Blunt amendment, which would have allowed employers not to cover contraception in health insurance, and a pay-parity bill rejected by the Senate last week. Both have been characterized as attacks on women.

“I do see this as a war on women. I don’t use these words frivolously,” Hirono said. “It’s so clear that there is an all out frontal assault on reproductive rights. Are people not paying attention?” Drawing a laugh from the audience, she added, “Do they not watch Rachel Maddow?”

Even an event centered on women in politics was not safe from sports analogies. Citing her role in creating the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, Warren compared financial markets to football: It requires rules “and an official with a whistle to enforce them,” she said. “Without rules and a ref, it isn’t football, it’s a mugging.”


By: Martha T. Moore, USA Today, June 8, 2012

June 10, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, Senate | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


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