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“What It Means To ‘Love America'”: To Believe We Should Evolve And Change Toward Becoming A More Diverse And Just Society

On May 30, 2013, Kalief Browder was finally released after more than three years in Rikers Island. His crime? There wasn’t one. He was accused of stealing a backpack and the backlog in the courts meant that Browder, who refused to plead guilty to a crime he didn’t commit, stayed behind bars until the prosecutor finally dropped the case. He attempted suicide while in prison.

Meanwhile, it was announced today that Maureen McDonnell, wife of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, has been sentenced to one year and a day. The former governor received just a two year sentence. That means that after being convicted in federal court on fourteen counts of corruption, both McDonnells will likely serve less time in jail than a black teenager who was never convicted and never even went to trial.

This is what FBI Director James Comey meant in his speech last week, titled “Hard Truths About Law Enforcement and Race” when he said, “there is a disconnect between police agencies and many citizens – predominantly in communities of color.” Comey went on to say that bridging that divide is a two-way street that requires law enforcement and communities of color seeing each other more fairly and equally.

But as Jonathan Capehart has pointed out, unlike when President Barack Obama or Attorney General Eric Holder discusses race, the right and its organs like Fox News paid Comey no attention. Because when a white male Republican law enforcement official points out the racial imbalance in America’s justice system, the right wing noise machine suddenly goes silent.

And that goes to the heart of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s ghoulish, repulsive, race-baiting assertion that President Obama doesn’t “love America.” The fact is that Giuliani’s view of America and its history privileges the powerful, so any acknowledgment of the Kalief Browders of the world must be a sign that someone doesn’t “love America.” This has also been manifested in the growing national fight over AP History classes, which conservatives now complain are insufficiently patriotic. Last fall, thousands of students fought back against the right wing ideologues on the Jefferson County School Board here in Colorado a valuable lesson in civil disobedience; and more recently an proposal by Republicans in the Oklahoma state legislature to defund AP history classes gained national attention.

Maybe some of us love our country enough to believe its judicial system should hold the powerful as much to account as the powerless. Maybe some of us love our country enough to believe access to health care shouldn’t depend on your income, that a poor kid with asthma deserves a doctor as much as a rich one. Maybe some of us love our country enough to believe that sacrificing our soldiers to war shouldn’t be done out of dishonesty or caprice.

Maybe some us love our country enough to believe that Dr. Marting King Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail is a profoundly patriotic document. Maybe some of us love our country enough to believe that we should embrace and correct its flaws, not turn a cruel and blind eye to them. Maybe some of us love our country enough to believe it should evolve and change toward becoming a more diverse and just society, not remain calcified by class.

And maybe some of us love our country enough to believe that it is the Rudy Giulianis of the world, and his cowardly enablers like Bobby Jindal and Scott Walker, who betray what we stand for and who we aspire to be as a nation.


By: Laura K. Chapin, U. S. News and World Report, February 20, 2015

February 22, 2015 Posted by | American History, Criminal Justice System, Rudy Giuliani | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Family Values Week Is Over”: A Rough Week In America For Women

Mark Sanford’s heralded engagement to Maria Belen Chapur is apparently over. The rep. from South Carolina released the news to America through a Facebook post. That’s how Chapur found out, too.

Gallantry has been in especially short supply this month. Prominent American men have been roughing up their women in spectacularly public ways — ranging from coldly calculated mind games to a knockout punch.

September opened with former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s unsuccessful attempt to swat away felony charges by making his wife take the entire rap for rampant corruption. The governor’s lawyers smeared Maureen as “manipulative,” “unpredictable,” “deceptive” and, most famously, a “nut bag.”

For a taste of the media response, Google “Maureen McDonnell under the bus.”

McDonnell had long touted his traditional values, pasting pictures of his photogenic wife and children on every available surface. His master’s thesis was on family breakdown and contained the line, “As the family goes, so goes the nation.”

Guess family values week is over.

To think, many Republicans had put McDonnell on their list of potential presidential candidates.

As for Sanford, an antiseptic breakup note marked the latest in a series of callous behaviors toward women and just plain weirdness. Recall that as South Carolina governor, Sanford sneaked off to Argentina to visit Chapur, a TV journalist there, for nearly a week. He told his staff that he was “hiking the Appalachian Trail” and could not be reached. Recall that his disgusted wife threw him out of the house and initiated divorce.

To pretty up the adulterous activity for his socially conservative voters, Sanford framed the affair as an unstoppable joining of soulmates. He promised to put aright the perceived wrong by marrying Chapur. And he layered on top of that an inspirational journey of redemption, starring himself.

“I’ve experienced how none of us goes through life without mistakes,” he said in a campaign ad when running for Congress. “But in their wake, we can learn a lot about grace, a God of second chances, and be the better for it.”

Two years went by, and Chapur eventually demanded an actual wedding date, which he wouldn’t make.

“I think that I was not useful to him anymore,” she told an interviewer. “He made the engagement thing four months before the elections.”

The ex-wife is now trying to restrict Sanford’s visits with their 15-year-old son. She also wants the court to order the congressman to have psychological counseling and take anger management classes.

True to form, Sanford is now blaming his ex-wife’s custody fight for his inability to wed Chapur. Don’t blame the ex-wife, Chapur responded.

To think, many Republicans had put Sanford on their list of potential presidential candidates.

To be clear, narcissistic abuse of women is hardly a Republican monopoly. Consider the Democrats’ 2004 vice-presidential nominee, John Edwards — who declared devotion to his cancer-ridden wife on the campaign trail while fathering a child with a tawdry filmmaker.

Between the McDonnell and Sanford stories emerged the video of football star Ray Rice punching his girlfriend, now wife, cold in an elevator and then dragging her limp body out. The now-former Baltimore Ravens running back saw no need to blame the woman for provoking the attack. She did it for him.

Say this for the Rice assault: It was straightforward brutality. It happened in a moment and without burdening the public with baroque explanations. The victim knew exactly what had happened to her, once she came to.

But what are Rice’s prospects of getting a second chance? The practitioner of psychological cruelty tends to be slicker than the man with the fist. And the businessmen running the NFL are a tougher sell than the electorate.

Meanwhile, September isn’t over.


By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, September 18, 2014

September 19, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Family Values, Women | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“In Conflict With A Man’s Interests”: More Proof That The Religious Right’s “Family Values” Obsession Is Really About Misogyny

One of the great self-justifying myths of the conservatives is that their support for traditional gender roles is not rooted in misogyny, but in “family values.” They don’t hate women and want to keep them down, the argument goes, so much as they believe everyone–including women–benefits if women are relegated to a submissive role in marriage and prevented from exercising reproductive rights. They’re not trying to oppress women for the benefit of men, they argue. They’re trying to protect them.

It’s easy to uphold those “family values” when only women have to pay the price for them. But the real test is when the purported beliefs of the religious right conflict with what men want. Women are asked to sacrifice a lot in the name of family values, such as the right to leave unhappy marriages or the right to abort unwanted pregnancies. But are conservatives willing to ask the same of men? Two recent examples demonstrate that when family values conflict with a man’s interests, suddenly family values aren’t as important as the right generally says they are.

The case of former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell is a particularly stomach-churning example. Along with Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee, Bob McDonnell was supposed to be one of the great Christian right politicians whose commitment to a fundamentalist view of family life would set an example for the rest of America. The Christian right argument regarding marriage, which Bob McDonnell laid out in his 1989 master’s thesis at the conservative Christian Regent University, is purportedly one of exchange: Women submit to their husbands, staying home to serve their husbands and raise children; and in exchange, men offer protection and cherish women to the point of coddling.

As Dahlia Lithwick explained on Slate, “The thesis was an argument for infusing Christian Republican values into government policy,” on the grounds that traditional marriage is “the best safeguard against immorality and selfishness.” In order to preserve this traditional definition of marriage, McDonnell expected women to sacrifice reproductive rights, independent thinking and employment outside of the home. McDonnell claimed his views had softened since then, but as Lithwick notes, his actual policy positions as a politician suggested otherwise. Not only did McDonnell fight against abortion rights, he also pushed to make divorce much harder to get in the state of Virginia. Even though stricter divorce laws usually serve to make it harder for women to escape abusive relationships, asking women to give up personal safety in the name of “family values” was clearly not too great a sacrifice for McDonnell.

But recent months have put McDonnell’s commitment to marriage and family to the test; he and his wife have been subject to a 14-count federal indictment for public corruption. As Dana Milbank noted, McDonnell was given an opportunity to protect his wife, as the family values set tells us husbands are supposed to do in exchange for women’s submission. But given the choice between protecting his wife by taking a plea deal and going to court, McDonnell chose himself over family values, heading to court. Indeed, McDonnell not only refused to protect the woman he vowed to love and protect, his defense is built around throwing his wife under the bus, blaming her for everything and employing some tawdry sexist stereotypes about women being crazy and weak to sell the argument.

Don’t get me wrong: There is a strong amount of evidence that Maureen McDonnell is corrupt and a terrible decision-maker, and she seems to be admitting she had a cheater’s heart that led her to push one of her husband’s benefactors for illegal gifts. But that changes nothing. McDonnell has dedicated his career to the idea that women should sacrifice everything for the good of “family,” including bodily autonomy and personal safety, but the second he’s called upon to take on the responsibility of a good Christian husband to protect his wife, he ran away and tried to foist as much as the blame as he could on her. Turns out family values wasn’t about men and women sacrificing together for family, just a cover story to excuse male dominance over women.

McDonnell’s corruption charges all came out after he was out of public office. In order to see how conservative voters act when one of their leaders puts the interests of straight men over their supposed commitment to family values, look no further than the state of Tennessee. Rep. Scott DesJarlais is running for his third term for Congress as a “family values” Republican, and his bona fides with conservative voters were proved again when he won a primary last week against another conservative challenger.

All this, despite the fact that DesJarlais has a long history showing that while he firmly believes women should have to lose their basic human rights in the name of family values, he, as a man, has never shown any interest in making even the teeniest sacrifice for those same values.

DesJarlais has a 0% rating from NARAL. He believes women who are facing an unwanted pregnancy that could derail their lives should suck it up and be made to suffer, you know, for “life.” But when faced with the prospect of an unintended pregnancy that could hurt him, he suddenly became a big fan of abortion. DesJarlais encouraged, some would say badgered, his mistress to get an abortion during his first marriage. He also supported his first wife’s abortions.

DesJarlais’ enthusiasm for abortions that helped him is hardly the only incidence of him exempting himself from the family values he wishes to impose on women. During his first marriage, he admitted to having eight affairs, some with patients. He also admitted under oath that he threatened his first wife with a gun. DesJarlais portrays these events as long past and argues he’s a different man now. But he still voted against the Violence Against Women Act, suggesting he has not actually developed any real concern about women’s safety in marriage since then.

Not that the voters mind enough to vote him out of office. If family values were actually about valuing families, voters would demand more of Republican leaders. But that someone as hypocritical as DesJarlais can still win elections shows that family values was never about families; just a transparent cover story for old-fashioned misogyny.


By: Amanda Marcotte, AlterNet, August 14, 2014

August 15, 2014 Posted by | Family Values, Religious Right | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Desperation Mode”: What ‘Draft Mitt’ Reveals About The GOP’s Future

Could Mitt Romney really run for president again in 2016?

According to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), the answer is yes. During a Monday evening appearance on MSNBC’s Hardball, Chaffetz insisted that Romney will not only run — but that this time, he’ll win.

“A hundred times he says he’s not, but Mitt Romney has always accomplished what he’s set out to do,” Chaffetz explained to host Chris Matthews. “I think he’s proven right on a lot of stuff. I happen to be in the camp that thinks he’s actually going to run, and I think he will be the next president of the United States.”

Chaffetz, who endorsed Romney early in the 2012 primaries, is not the only Republican to call for a third Romney run. Former Bush administration Assistant Treasury Secretary Emil Henry penned a Politico op-ed which (favorably) compared Romney to Richard Nixon. The Washington Post reported on a GOP donor summit which “quickly became a Romney revival,” and quoted several of the attendees pining for another presidential bid from the twice-failed candidate.

“Everybody realizes we’re devoid of leadership in DC,” top Republican fundraiser Harold Hamm told the Post. “Everybody would encourage him to consider it again.”

The report also notes that MSNBC host and former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough encouraged the crowd “to begin a ‘Draft Romney’ movement in 2016,” insisting that “this is the only person that can fill the stage.”

Such a movement now exists; more than 51,000 people have signed a petition urging Romney to run in the next election.

Despite all of this “Mittmentum,” the odds of a Romney run remain extremely long. Romney himself has repeatedly denied any interest in another White House bid, and after the long string of indignities he suffered during his two presidential campaigns, it’s easy to believe him.

Still, the “Draft Mitt” drive is undisputably a real and growing movement within the GOP. And that must be profoundly sad for Republicans.

For years, Republicans boasted of their “deep bench” of 2016 presidential contenders (a narrative that was eagerly embraced by the political media). But by 2014 the bench has been left, as Salon’s Joan Walsh deftly put it, “in splinters.” New Jersey governor Chris Christie entangled himself in “Bridgegate” as his state’s economy sank. Wisconsin governor Scott Walker is fending off ethics questions of his own, and is no longer even a safe bet to be re-elected in 2014. Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal boasts a 32 percent approval rating in his own state. Florida senator Marco Rubio’s clunky attempts to appeal to both sides of the GOP civil war left him detested by both. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) is literally Democrats’ dream candidate. And former Viriginia governor Bob McDonnell is literally on his way to jail.

Of course, Romney has plenty of baggage of his own. He’s still the same stiff, sneering right-wing plutocrat who struggled to fight off the likes of Herman Cain and Rick Santorum before losing the general election by 126 electoral votes. In 2016, he’d face the added hurdles of age (at 69, he’d be tied with Ronald Reagan as the oldest president to ever enter the office), and the fact that it’s been nearly a decade since he’s held a job other than unsuccessfully running for president.

It’s not as though Republicans aren’t aware of Romney’s flaws; many of them vocally and repeatedly pointed them out in 2008 and 2012, when Romney still had a realistic shot at becoming president. That some are now crawling back to him when his odds would be longer than ever speaks volumes about the damaged state of the Republican Party.


By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, July 9, 2014

July 10, 2014 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Mitt Romney | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“So Much For Republican Rebranding”: The Mike Huckabee Boomlet Betrays The GOP’s Lack Of Seriousness

Since Mike Huckabee delivered his anti-contraception “Uncle Sugar” speech to the RNC two weeks ago, he has catapulted to the top of two GOP presidential primary polls.

Yes, that is what it takes to become the Republican frontrunner these days. Not innovative policy solutions. Not an impressive legislative record. No, what you need is to let loose a politically incorrect swipe at a liberal caricature, stir up a bunch of media outrage, and Republican primary voters will want to give you the nuclear codes.

The Republican Party is suffering record low favorability and struggling to be seen as capable of governing. And the Huckabee boomlet provides the latest evidence that the party’s rank-and-file are still allergic to seriousness.

With the first 2016 primary contests two years away, Republicans have already begun replicating the dynamic of the 2012 primaries. Last time around, primary voters fleetingly embraced anyone, regardless of their plausibility, so long as they tossed out fresh “cable catnip” to make liberal heads explode. Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum… The revolving door of unpresidential wingnuts reduced the Republican primary to a traveling circus, hamstringing eventual nominee Mitt Romney as he struggled to keep up in the pander parade.

Another circus is not what party poo-bahs have in mind. Indeed, they’re already moving to condense the primary schedule and wrest some control of the debates away from the media in hopes of dialing down the nuttiness.

Wipe the dust off of the RNC’s year-old “autopsy” of its 2012 debacle, and you’ll find a forgotten plan to “Promote Our Governors” because they “have campaigned and governed in a manner that is inclusive and appealing. They point the way forward … working successfully with their legislatures to enact meaningful changes in people’s lives.” In other words, the governors were supposed to be the ones with the ideas to make the party look serious again.

But over the course of 2013, the only governor that got widely promoted — or, more accurately, promoted himself — was New Jersey’s Chris Christie, and we know how that turned out. Other governors touted in the autopsy have had their own struggles, be it Virginia’s Bob McDonnell, who was recently indicted for corruption, Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal ,who flopped trying scrap his state’s income tax, or Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, who is polling below 50 percent in his re-election campaign this year.

There are other low-key Republican governors who are doing just fine. In particular, Nevada’s Brian Sandoval is hugely popular, and is a swing state Latino to boot. Unlike the controversial Walker, Sandoval doesn’t even have a serious opponent to his re-election this year. But he’s popular because he is governing pragmatically, implementing ObamaCare in good faith and forging budget compromises that raise some tax revenue. And so he is completely ignored by Republican primary voters.

The upshot is this: No Republican governor begins the race as a top-tier presidential candidate. No Republican governor’s ideas are reshaping and rebranding the party. And a joke candidate like Huckabee can waltz into the lead, however briefly, with a low-rent crack.

Why are Republicans insistent on setting themselves up for more mockery? Because conservative obsession with fighting political correctness clouds their political thinking, compelling them to repeatedly alienate the moderate voters they need to get back in the game.

Many conservative Republicans seem to believe that political correctness is such a societal scourge, silencing ideas and warping debate, that it must be fought at all costs — even at the cost of forgoing new ideas.

This is why RNC Chair Reince Priebus was engaging in folly last week when he dropped everything to demand MSNBC apologize for a tweet suggesting the “right wing” is racist (after the network had already apologized). He was scratching the Republicans’ politically incorrect itch, instead of finding the ointment.

Priebus can cram the primary schedule down to two weeks and turn every debate into an infomercial. But until he can clamp down on the victimhood and crank up the idea machine, 2016 will be another cacophonous GOP circus.


By: Bill Scher, The Week, February 4, 2014

February 5, 2014 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Mike Huckabee | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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