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“Progressives Can Differ Honestly”: Most Of The “Most Valuable Progressives” Named By ‘The Nation’ Have Endorsed…Hillary?

If like me you’re a longtime and faithful reader of The Nation — a venerable publication celebrating its 150th anniversary — then you probably saw its recent cover editorial endorsing Bernie Sanders for president. That lengthy essay, along with many other Nation articles over the past several months, leaves the unmistakable impression that Sanders is the only truly progressive choice for Democratic voters.

Yet just a month ago, The Nation published its 2015 Progressive Honor Roll, an annual feature written by John Nichols, who happens to be a highly enthusiastic Sanders supporter — which named several strong supporters of Hillary Clinton among America’s “most valuable” progressives. In fact, of the individuals named on Nichols’ list, nearly every single one is backing Clinton (one exception is Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Matthews Burwell, “most valuable Cabinet member,” who must observe administration neutrality in the primary but — as a former top Clinton administration official — would very likely endorse her).

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), named “most valuable Senator,” officially endorsed Clinton back in January 2014. Rosa DeLauro, “most valuable House member,” endorsed her last April. Pam Jochum, the Dubuque Democrat who presides over the Iowa State Senate — chosen from hundreds of local pols across the country as “most valuable state legislator” — announced her support for Clinton last October. Cecile Richards, the Planned Parenthood president named “most valuable activist,” led her organization to back Clinton earlier this month (and earned a sour-grapes dismissal by Sanders as “the establishment”). Newark’s Ras Baraka, the “most valuable mayor,” hasn’t officially endorsed a presidential candidate yet, but his political organization has shown every sign of backing Clinton since last summer. And “most valuable memoir” author Gloria Steinem, the great feminist leader and thinker, will campaign for Clinton in New Hampshire tomorrow.

As voting approaches, primary rhetoric gets super-hot, and partisans inevitably utter silly, uninformed, and even offensive remarks about the opposing candidate. But it is worth remembering that progressives can differ honestly over which of these two candidates will represent the nation’s real interests most effectively.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editor’s Blog, Featured Post, The National Memo, January 28, 2016

January 29, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democrats, Hillary Clinton, The Nation | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“New ‘Select Committee’ On Planned Parenthood”: Where Do GOP Investigations Of Planned Parenthood Go Now?

The shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs on Friday was a vivid reminder that the organization isn’t just a political lightning rod for conservatives who oppose abortion rights. It’s also under constant threat of harassment and violence from radical anti-abortion advocates, ranging from hate mail and vandalism all the way up to arson, bombings, and in a few cases, the murder of clinic staff or patients.

The Colorado attack comes at a time when the Republican Congress is trying to figure out new ways to go after the group. So where will those efforts go now?

At the moment, we don’t have direct confirmation that Robert Dear, the alleged killer, was motivated by objections to abortion. What we do know is that, according to anonymous law enforcement sources, he said “no more baby parts” to officials, which would be a clear reference to the “sting” videos created by an anti-abortion group showing Planned Parenthood personnel discussing the transfer of fetal tissue to researchers. (Though many have charged that the videos show Planned Parenthood “selling baby parts,” that is not in fact true. The organization only accepts small reimbursements on the order of $50 or so to cover their costs when making these transfers, and the videos don’t show them doing anything different.)

In any case, the important context to understand is that Planned Parenthood has almost never not been under attack, both from violent extremists and from Republicans in Congress who would like to see the organization disappear, or at least deprive it of the Medicaid reimbursements it gets for things like pap smears and cancer screenings (no government money can go to fund abortions). The nature and intensity of that assault ebbs and flows, but a confluence of events has caused the attack in Colorado Springs to get even more attention than it otherwise would have.

After those videos were released, Republican presidential candidates began condemning Planned Parenthood in unusually vituperative terms, accusing the group of murder and all manner of other crimes. Their colleagues in Congress saw an opportunity to renew what had been a sporadic attack on the group, so they mounted multiple investigations in an attempt to find something they could use as a justification for cutting off the group’s Medicaid reimbursements. When the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s lengthy grilling of Planned Parenthood chief Cecile Richards not only didn’t prove any wrongdoing but made the Republicans on the committee look foolish, outgoing Speaker John Boehner announced the creation of a Benghazi-style committee to investigate the organization.

The idea, as it seems to be in most congressional investigations Republicans launch, is that while they don’t really know what they’re looking for, if they look hard enough then they’ll find something that can be used against Planned Parenthood. And it’s possible they will, though there isn’t actually much reason to think so. If they do find something that sounds problematic, it will suddenly become the one aspect of the abortion issue Republicans care about above all others.

Don’t forget that before those videos came out and Republicans decided that “selling baby parts!” was a handy tool that could be used to bludgeon the group, they weren’t crusading to end fetal tissue research. Some of them even supported it; notably, Mitch McConnell voted for the law that allowed such research to take place. They’ve shown no interest in any new law changing the regulations covering how that research is conducted. If any of the presidential candidates who were in such high dudgeon over the videos have a plan to outlaw fetal tissue research, I haven’t heard about it.

The truth is that Republicans don’t despise Planned Parenthood because they genuinely believe the organization is breaking the law. They despise it because they despise abortion rights, and also because Planned Parenthood’s political activities support Democrats. It’s not complicated.

And now we have a situation where the Colorado murders help establish a context in which further “investigations” of Planned Parenthood in Congress will take place. Will the group’s advocates bring up those murders again and again, arguing that clinic violence and congressional harassment are all parts of the same animal? You bet they will. That won’t change Republicans’ desire to go after Planned Parenthood, but it might make them a little hesitant about doing so, at least until memories have a chance to fade.

The Benghazi committee has been going for a year and a half, and shows no sign of ever wrapping up its work so long as there’s some miniscule chance it might find something incriminating on Hillary Clinton. So Republicans might just make their select committee on Planned Parenthood semi-permanent, even if they put it on the back burner for a while.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, November 30, 2015

December 2, 2015 Posted by | Abortion, Conservatives, GOP, Reproductive Choice, Women's Health | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“GOP’s Case Against Planned Parenthood Collapses”: Jason Chaffetz Admits He Uncovered No Wrongdoing

As if truth-telling worked out so well for his colleague Kevin McCarthy, Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz has just admitted that the GOP’s investigation into Planned Parenthood’s misuse of federal funds turned out to be a dud.

“Did I look at the finances and have a hearing specifically as to the revenue portion and how they spend? Yes. Was there any wrongdoing? I didn’t find any,” Huffington Post’s Jennifery Bendery reports the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman admitted during yet another hearing on Thursday.

Chaffetz is of course, currently preoccupied lobbying to lead his fellow House Republicans after current House Speaker John Boehner announced his surprise resignation from Congress at the end of this month (Boehner has since offered to stay on as speaker until a replacement is found).

Chaffetz announced his upstart challenge to McCarthy last week, but after continued fallout over McCarthy’s boast to Fox News’ Sean Hannity that the Select Committee on Benghazi has served as a successful political tool against Hillary Clinton, McCarthy’s coronation turned into a collapse. Curiously, the Utah Republican has followed a similar route to McCarthy’s, admitting that his committee’s investigation into Planned Parenthood has been unsuccessful.

“Did we find any wrongdoing? The answer was no,” Chaffetz said.

Just last week, all three cable networks covered his grilling of Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards and his tearful introduction blaming her organization for causing the death of his parents by wasting limited federal resources that could otherwise have been used for cancer research.

“Cancer in this country kills about 1,500 people a day,” Chaffetz said. “A day — and yet our federal government only spends $5 billion to fight it. If they were shooting 1,500 people a day, if there were rockets coming in, we would be fighting this with everything we’ve got.”

“Every time we spend a federal dollar,” Chaffetz added, “what we’re doing is we’re pulling money out of somebody’s pocket and we’re giving it to somebody else.”

For five hours, Republican lawmakers grilled Richards about her salary, the organization’s travel budget and of course abortions, all the while ignoring that Planned Parenthood provides crucial cervical cancer screenings.

“I think there will continue to be investigations,” Chaffetz said of the ongoing charade to prop up a series of  selectively edited undercover videos that purport to show the discussion of fetal tissue donation sales that triggered this latest defunding effort.

During Thursday’s hearing, Republicans successfully admitted a graphic abortion video, that a witness testified under oath was not even filmed inside a Planned Parenthood location, into the Congressional record as evidence against the women’s health organization.

 

By: Sophia Tesfaye, Salon, October 9, 2015

October 13, 2015 Posted by | House Government Oversight Committee, Jason Chaffetz, Planned Parenthood | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Chaffetzed!”: A “Grandstanding Charlatan” Who Seems To Have A Tiny Problem With The Truth

It’s not a real good sign when your name is turned into a synonym for political backstabbling. That seems to have happened beyond retrieval to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who wants to be the next Speaker of the House. Here’s a Tweet from the guy who first lifted Chaffetz from obscurity to power in Utah:

Here’s the essential background from the Salt Lake Tribune’s Paul Rolly:

Chaffetz fell into the chief-of-staff position under then-Gov. Jon Huntsman almost by accident. He had left a sales job with the multilevel marketer Nu Skin in 2004 to be the press liaison for the Huntsman campaign. The campaign manager abruptly resigned. So Chaffetz was promoted to that job, even though his only previous experience in political campaigns was as Utah co-chairman of Democrat Michael Dukakis’ presidential campaign in 1988.

It was one of those Peter Sellers’ “Being There” moments for Chaffetz. A Huntsman victory was practically guaranteed, so Chaffetz success was all but certain. His work as campaign manager earned him the lofty role as the governor’s chief of staff.

Chaffetz’s first real public action was to gather a number of veteran employees of the governor’s economic-development office into a room and fire them. He had them escorted out by armed guards.

Huntsman took some heat, but administration officials blamed Chaffetz for how the shake-up went down.

Chaffetz quickly earned a reputation as a jealous guardian of the governor’s time, often telling legislative leaders who wanted an audience with Huntsman that they must talk to him instead.

More than one critic complained that Chaffetz seemed to think he was the governor.

Chaffetz left the job well-before Huntsman’s first term ended amid rumors that fellow staffers wanted him and his power plays gone.

It’s not a good sign when you are compared to the Chauncey Gardner character in Being There, either.

I dunno exactly when Huntsman decided to rethink his opinion of Chaffetz, but it’s likely the absolute latest date would have been in 2012 when his protege endorsed Mitt Romney for president instead of Himself.

At Salon today Digby calls Chaffetz a “grandstanding charlatan” who “seems to have a tiny problem with the truth,” especially during his disastrous interrogation of Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards last week. Odds are, he will return to relative obscurity in a few days. But it’s hard to keep a backstabbing parvenu down for long.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 6, 2015

October 8, 2015 Posted by | House Republican Caucus, Jason Chaffetz, Jon Huntsman | , , , , | 1 Comment

“Lapdog Role”: Benghazi, Emails, Planned Parenthood; How D.C. Press Keeps Enabling The GOP’s Orchestrated Distractions

Within the span of just twelve hours this week, multiple Republican-sponsored political pursuits partially unraveled in plain sight.

The long-running investigations were the Benghazi select committee and the related probe into Hillary Clinton’s private emails, and Republicans’ crusade targeting Planned Parenthood. Journalists would be wise to take note of the pattern of plain deception and ask themselves if they want to keep sponsoring these planned distractions.

The first to crumble was the right-wing smear campaign against Planned Parenthood, which was launched this summer and sponsored by Fox News and the Republican Party. Creating a whirlwind of controversy and endless media attention, the undercover sting operation by anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress was even elevated by some to be pressing enough to shut down the federal government.

Tuesday’s Congressional hearing about defunding Planned Parenthood was to be the centerpiece of the right wing’s orchestrated attack campaign. The problem was that in recent weeks we’ve learned the gotcha videos at the center of the campaign were deceptively edited. And so far six statewide investigations have found no wrongdoing on the part of Planned Parenthood. That meant the Congressional production was likely destined for failure.

“The entire hearing was premised on a series of mischaracterizations,” reported The New Yorker. Republicans were left with little but bouts of bullying in an effort to intimidate Planned Parenthood chief Cecile Richards as she testified.

It didn’t work. So after ten weeks, the sustained attack against Planned Parenthood produced no tangible evidence of wrongdoing and no serious damage to the organization. (Of course, despite their failures so far, Republicans are now reportedly considering creating “a special panel to investigate Planned Parenthood.”)

Then just hours after the hearing completed, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who’s now in line to become the next Republican Speaker of the House, brazenly bragged on Sean Hannity’s Fox program about how the Benghazi select committee was responsible for damaging Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. To which Hannity responded, “That’s something good, I give you credit for that.”

With one brief Fox appearance, McCarthy laid bare the facts about both the never-ending Benghazi investigation and the related, still-churning email witch hunt: They’re both built on politics, plain and simple. The Republicans created a Benghazi select committee in order to try to take out the Democratic frontrunner for president. Period. That’s the story.

Sadly, the busted Planned Parenthood, Benghazi and email diversions simply represent the latest creations from the GOP distraction model. Conservatives have been using it, on and off, for two decades — and the model works best when the Beltway press plays along. It works best if the Beltway press pretends virtually every other Republican-produced scandal pursuit hasn’t been a  bust.

Many of the same Republicans who have spearheaded the dishonest Planned Parenthood probe are the same ones leading the charge on Benghazi and the email story. And the press continues to breathlessly quote them as they try to hype these supposed scandals.

So yes, much of the press has been culpable in the latest Republican distractions since day one. In fact, the press has been playing the same lapdog role for well over twenty years when it comes to endlessly hyping and even marketing orchestrated Republican distractions. These self-contained circus productions that suggest all kinds of Democratic wrongdoing are long on conspiracy theories but short on facts, and leave pundits and reporters breathlessly chronicling the possible downside for Democrats.

One reason these Groundhog Day scenes keeping play out, again and again and again, is due to the fact too many journalists are absolutely wed to the very simple definition of what constitutes news: What are conservatives angry about?

Given that kind of carte blanche to create news cycles, Republicans and conservatives in the media have taken full advantage and have settled into a predictable pattern: Manufacture distractions designed to make life miserable for Democratic leaders; force Democrats to use up energy and resources to swat down endless unproven allegations, and spawn waves of media “gotcha” hysteria fueled by disingenuous leaks.

But here’s the thing: it’s exhausting. It’s disheartening. And it’s a colossal waste of time and energy. But this is how the right wing plays politics in America and the D.C. press has shown an unbridled enthusiasm to want to play along; to want to abandon common sense in order to chase GOP-designated shiny objects for weeks, months or sometimes years on end. And then do it all over again when the current distraction disintegrates.

The pattern began in earnest during the 1990s when Republicans became obsessed with personally pursuing the Clintons. Remember the dubious Clinton pardon distraction, the parting gifts distraction, and of course Ken Starr’s $80 million Inspector Javert routine.

Charles Pierce at Esquire recently detailed that decade’s signature string of orchestrated GOP obfuscations:

To use a more relevant, example, TravelGate was a distraction. FileGate was a distraction. The disgusting use of Vince Foster’s suicide was a distraction. Castle Grande was a distraction. The cattle futures were a distraction. The billing records were a distraction. Webster Hubbell’s billing practices were a distraction. Hell, the entire Whitewater part of the Whitewater affair was basically a distraction, as was the pursuit of Bill Clinton’s extracurricular love life. Kathleen Willey was a distraction. The monkeywrenching of a settlement in the Paula Jones case was to make sure that the distraction that was that case survived. All of these were distractions created to make it difficult for a Democratic president to govern, and the reason I know that is because the people creating distractions were not shy about admitting what they were all about to each other.

Over time, the vast majority of those endless Clinton allegations were proven to be hollow. Yet aided by some regrettable journalism, the relentless scandal culture took hold and managed to damage to the Clinton administration. Indeed, the whole point of the GOP’s Clinton distraction model was to create the infrastructure to hound the Democrats.

With President Obama’s inauguration, the old model was unpacked, but this time with Fox News playing a much more aggressive role. The results have been an endless parade of diversions and hoaxes designed, in various shapes and sizes, to hamstring a Democratic administration and, more recently, to damage the leading Democratic candidate for 2016.

Here’s just a handful of manufactured distractions:

*ACORN

*Benghazi stand down order

*”Climategate

*Clinton Cash

*Department of Education official Kevin Jennings

*Economist Jonathan Gruber’s Obamacare comment

*Food stamps

*Gibson Guitar raid

*New Black Panthers

*Shirley Sherrod

*Voter fraud

As Media Matters can attest, virtually none of the often-hysterical allegations attached to those distractions were ever proven to be true. Instead, the pursuits imploded under their own weight. Yet too often, these supposed scandals broke out of the Fox News bubble and became mainstream “news.”

So when’s the press going to get the message and stop enabling these charades?

 

By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America, October 1, 2015

October 4, 2015 Posted by | GOP, Hillary Clinton, House Select Committee on Benghazi, Planned Parenthood | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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