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“Out In The Fever Swamps”:The One Thing To Know About Obama’s Philosophy On Executive Actions

There he goes again: President Barack Obama is issuing an executive order to tighten regulations of gun sales to make background checks modestly more effective. And in doing so, Obama is thumbing his nose at Republicans who claim his habit of end-running the legislative branch to act on his own reveals a dictatorial temperament and perhaps even a threat to the Constitution. Out in the fever swamps, the conspiracy theory holding that Obama is going to cancel the presidential elections and rule by decree will gain new adherents. And here and there (and from “centrist” pundits as well as Republicans) you will hear angry talk about the president once again betraying the bipartisanship he promised to bring to Washington back in 2008. You’ll even hear some progressive and Democratic validation of this treatment in the form of claims that Obama is pursuing extremism in the defense of this or that urgent policy goal.

Obama himself laid the political groundwork for this action not by insisting on his as opposed to Republicans’ ideas about gun safety, but by noting repeatedly that the Republican-led Congress has refused to act even in the wake of catastrophes like those at Sandy Hook and San Bernardino. Here’s the relevant statement from the White House:

The president has made clear the most impactful way to address the crisis of gun violence in our country is for Congress to pass some common sense gun safety measures. But the president has also said he’s fully aware of the unfortunate political realities in this Congress. That is why he has asked his team to scrub existing legal authorities to see if there’s any additional action we can take administratively.

If you look back at Obama’s record on big executive actions — on guns, climate change, and immigration — you see the same situation. It’s not that he’s fought for “liberal” as opposed to “conservative” policies in these areas. It’s that congressional Republicans, pressured by conservative opinion-leaders and interest groups, have refused to do anything at all. They are in denial about climate change and in paralyzing internal disagreement on immigration, and refuse to consider any new gun regulations. So there’s literally no one to hold bipartisan negotiations with on these issues, and no way to reach common ground. In all these cases, the absence of action creates its own dreadful policies, most notably on immigration where a refusal to set enforcement priorities and to fund them forces arbitrary actions no one supports.

So taking executive actions is hardly a betrayal of bipartisanship, but rather a forlorn plea for it. And it’s significant that Obama is usually acting on issues in which the Republican rank-and-file are far more supportive of action than their purported representatives in Congress.

Back during his announcement of candidacy in 2007, Obama made it reasonably clear that he didn’t just want to cut deals between the two parties in Washington, but also intended to force action on them when gridlock prevailed. After discussing several national challenges, he said:

What’s stopped us from meeting these challenges is not the absence of sound policies and sensible plans. What’s stopped us is the failure of leadership, the smallness of our politics — the ease with which we’re distracted by the petty and trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, our preference for scoring cheap political points instead of rolling up our sleeves and building a working consensus to tackle big problems.

Knowing that a Republican president could and probably would roll back all his executive actions, Obama is not taking a preferred course of action. If, of course, a Democratic succeeds him, his policies will take root and probably endure. Eventually, the two parties may come to agree on the challenges the country faces, and then have actual discussions — and disagreements and competition — over how to address them. That’s bipartisanship. And counterintuitive as it may seem, Obama’s executive actions may be necessary to produce bipartisanship down the road.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, January 5, 2016

January 7, 2016 Posted by | Bipartisanship, Gun Regulations, Gun Violence, Republican Obstructionalism | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“His Hated Foe Might Not Be A U.S. Citizen”: Donald Trump Goes Birther Again — This Time On Ted Cruz

Well, well, Donald Trump is now having some fun with his new main rival, Ted Cruz. And this new line of attack against Cruz is actually an old line of attack for Trump, one he used to great effect against a certain somebody else. Trump is once again alleging that his hated foe might not really be an eligible U.S. citizen.

Remember that Trump practically built his political following back in 2010 and 2011 by promulgating all manner of conspiracy theories about President Obama’s birthplace. So it only makes sense that he could really have a ball against a candidate who was actually born in another country.

Cruz was born in the Canadian province of Alberta. In 2014, he legally renounced his dual citizenship in Canada — after the very fact of his having it had taken him somewhat by surprise.

The Washington Post reports:

“Republicans are going to have to ask themselves the question: ‘Do we want a candidate who could be tied up in court for two years?’ That’d be a big problem,” Trump said when asked about the topic. “It’d be a very precarious one for Republicans because he’d be running and the courts may take a long time to make a decision. You don’t want to be running and have that kind of thing over your head.”

And just to up the ante here, Trump seemingly invoked the language of protection rackets:

Trump added, “I’d hate to see something like that get in his way. But a lot of people are talking about it and I know that even some states are looking at it very strongly, the fact that he was born in Canada and he has had a double passport.”

Shorter message from Trump to Cruz: That’s a nice American identity you’ve got there — would sure be a shame if something happened to it.

For his part, Cruz has responded via Twitter — by invoking the classic “Jump the Shark” scene from Happy Days.

My response to @realDonaldTrump calling into question my natural-born citizenship? https://t.co/gWfAHznlCY

— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) January 5, 2016

 

By: Eric Kleefeld, The National Memo, January 5, 2015

January 6, 2016 Posted by | Birthers, Birthright Citizenship, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz | , , , , | Leave a comment

“How Much Change Can The Right Take?”: Trump Is Getting Too Much Media Attention

Brent Budowsky is experiencing some exuberance. Whether it’s irrational exuberance or not, we may never know.

Stop the presses! According to a new poll by Quinnipiac University on Tuesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) destroys Republican candidate Donald Trump in a general election by 13 percentage points. In this new poll, Sanders has 51 percent to Trump’s 38 percent. If this margin held in a general election, Democrats would almost certainly regain control of the United States Senate and very possibly the House of Representatives.

It is high time and long overdue for television networks such as CNN to end their obsession with Trump and report the all-important fact that in most polls, both Hillary Clinton and Sanders would defeat Trump by landslide margins. In the new Quinnipiac poll, Clinton would defeat Trump by 7 percentage points, which is itself impressive and would qualify as a landslide, while the Sanders lead of 13 points would bring a landslide of epic proportions.

Obviously, polls like this taken eleven months before a general election aren’t worth much. But there’s a point here regardless. There’s a pretty strong assumption in many quarters that a Brooklyn-raised seventy-four year old self-proclaimed socialist Jewish guy from granola-chomping Vermont doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of being elected president of the United States. Yet, this Quinnipiac poll shows he’d schlong the current Republican front-runner, and schlong him like a drum. Not only that, but he’d have more potential coattails than Hillary Clinton.

Maybe that’s true right now–maybe it would even still be true next November–but that’s not the main point that Budowsky wants to make. His point is that Trump is getting too much media attention and Bernie Sanders (especially) and Hillary Clinton are getting too little.

I know a lot of regular voters who are not media-types who would vote for Sanders over Clinton in a heartbeat if only they could be assured that he wouldn’t lose a very winnable election. And who knows what happens when the Republicans bring out all their Willie Hortons and Swift-Boat Veterans for Truth? Does Sanders have the kind of teflon that the Clintons are famous for possessing?

I don’t know the answers to those questions. I do sometimes wonder if the right in this country will just completely and finally lose their shit if we elect someone like Sanders as president. Putting up with a President Hillary Clinton seems like indignity enough for these folks who have been raised on Vince Foster watermelon conspiracies and Benghazi heat-fever dreams. But, at least the Establishment knows that the Clintons are what happens to you when you lose an election and not some earth-shattering proof that your country has been lost forever and turned over to the communists.

Then part of me just has a prurient interest in seeing just how mental the right will go if it turns out that Sanders can not only win but that he can destroy them in a wipeout landslide.

What I am pretty sure about is that Trump is at least as unorthodox and unacceptable to a huge swath of the electorate as Sanders would be. In a matchup between the two of them, we’d be assured of getting something we’ve never seen before and basically no one thought was possible.

I’d have plenty to write about, that’s for sure.

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, December 23,2015

December 25, 2015 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Media | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Unleashing Common Jewish Stereotypes”: Donald Trump To Republican Jews; You Can’t Buy Me

Donald Trump’s speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition this morning was a sober-minded and detailed analysis of the security threats Israel faces and the most effective way to eliminate the Islamic State.

Haha, just kidding!

He spent most of the time talking about how Jews are good negotiators and then saying they wouldn’t support him because they couldn’t buy him. A wild, stereotype-filled ride from start to finish, yes, indeed.

The Republican presidential frontrunner kicked off his talk by doing the obvious thing and talking up his poll numbers, as one does, and saying Obama “is the worst thing that’s ever happened to Israel.”

He also sought to connect with the Jewish audience by touting his business experience.

“I’m a negotiator like you folks,” he said.

Like other candidates, he criticized the president’s negotiating abilities on the Iran deal. But unlike other candidates, he suggested the president’s decision not to use the term “radical Islamic terrorism” means he is likely harboring a dark secret.

“I’ll tell you what, we have a president that refuses to use the term,” Trump said. “He refuses to say—there’s something going on with him that we don’t know about.”

The line drew immediate, noisy applause. It isn’t the first time Trump has floated curious theories about Obama’s origins; he became a Tea Party darling by vociferously questioning whether the president was born in America. He told Fox News in 2011 that secret religious beliefs might explain the president’s alleged caginess about his birthplace (Hawaii, btw).

Perhaps the most curious part of the speech—which is really saying something—came when he suggested the Jewish audience wouldn’t support him because they couldn’t control him through donations.

“I don’t want your money, therefore you’re probably not gonna support me,” he said.

“Trump doesn’t want our money, therefore we can’t—” he continued, launching into an imagined dramatic inner monologue of what the audience must be thinking, “Even though he’s better than all these guys, even though he’s gonna do more for Israel than anybody else, even though Bibi Netanyahu asked me to do a commercial for him and I did and he won his race, I was very happy.”

That sentence, you will notice, includes both the first and third persons—really terrific. His mention of Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, drew more applause. And he didn’t really make his point.

But a few minutes later in the speech, he found himself back at the same idea: mulling over whether the audience would be able to support him even if he didn’t take campaign contributions that would make them his assumed puppet masters.

“You know, you’re not gonna support me because I don’t want your money,” he said, drawing audience laughter.

The stereotype of Jews using their money to insidiously manipulate global politics is an old one, as Anti-Defamation League founder Abraham Foxman detailed in his book Jews and Money: The Story of a Stereotype. He notes that anti-Israel Middle Eastern groups often use the ugly stereotype “to claim that Israel’s survival reflects not its moral status as a nation among nations but rather the manipulation of world opinion and, especially, of U.S. policy by wealthy, self-interested Jews.”

Later in his ramble, Trump suggested Jeb Bush’s acceptance of campaign contributions means his donors control him.

“He raised $125 million, which means he’s controlled totally, totally controlled, by the people who gave him the money,” he said.

This has been a theme throughout the mogul’s campaign. He’s argued repeatedly that other candidates are beholden to their donors and won’t prioritize the country’s best interests because of their muddied loyalties.

Trump, without saying it directly, made it clear that his loyalties will remain where they have always been: to himself.

 

By: Betsy Woodrull, The Daily Beast, December 3, 2015

December 4, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Islamophobia, Israel, Jewish Voters | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Koch Spy Agency Led By Voter Fraud Huckster”: Clandestine Surveillance Operation Focused On Perceived Political Enemies

The Kochs have been complaining about a “lack of civility in politics” as they seek to boost their public image–but one of their top operatives helped propel perhaps the most egregious case of race-baiting voter fraud hucksterism in recent years.

At the same time that the Kochs have been on a PR blitz, publicly spinning an image of themselves as well-intentioned patriots trying to make the world a better place and decrying “character assasination,” they’ve been quietly ramping up a clandestine surveillance and intelligence gathering operation focused on their perceived political enemies, Ken Vogel reports at Politico.

At the helm of this “competitive intelligence” operation is a man named Mike Roman, Vice President of Research for Kochs’ Freedom Partners and who was paid $265,000 last year, according to Freedom Partners’ recent tax filing.

But who is Mike Roman? He’s been described generally as a longtime GOP operative. However, he’s also the guy who was behind the release of the 2008 “New Black Panthers scaring old white ladies at the polls” video. The clip dominated Fox News for months and went on to fuel unfounded allegations that the Obama administration’s Department of Justice was biased against white people.

Roman made a name for himself by releasing the video, which showed a New Black Panther Party (NBPP) member holding a billy club outside a Philadelphia polling place, on his voter fraud-peddling “Election Journal” website. He then worked with Republican vote fraud conspiracist J. Christian Adams to try uncovering evidence that voters were intimidated–which they could not find. But that didn’t stop Roman, along with Fox News and the conservative echo chamber, from conjuring up a vast racist conspiracy inside the Obama administration, a theme that continues today.

As the conspiracy theories grew, Roman was given a column at Breitbart.com, where he continued to push a “scandal” narrative and to suggest a wide-ranging conspiracy involving ACORN, NBPP, and the Obama administration to steal elections. (Roman even launched a voter fraud app.)

In 2010, another vote fraud conspiracy theorist, the Wall Street Journal‘s John Fund, put right-wing video hitman James O’Keefe in touch with Roman for intel about a purported SEIU voter fraud scheme in Boston, which turned out to be bunk.

During this same period, the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) was similarly targeting ACORN and pushing a model “Voter ID Act” to combat the nonexistent scourge of voter fraud–but which had the documented impact of disenfranchising potentially millions of students and voters of color who do not have the limited forms of IDs required under the law.

In 2010, Roman was named chief of staff to Rep. Bobby Schilling (R-IL) when he was elected to Congress for one term. Koch Industries and John Fund were among Schilling’s top donors.

It is not clear when Roman was formally folded-in to the Koch network. Freedom Partners’ new tax filing for 2014 is the first where he appeared as Vice President of Research. But tax filings as far back as 2012 describe Roman as the trustee of the mysterious “Public Engagement Group Trust,” which has the same address and suite number as another Koch group, the Center for Shared Services Trust.

Apparently Roman’s years of stoking unfounded paranoia about stolen elections prepared him for a high-ranking position in the Koch operation.

In his role as the Kochs’ top spy, Vogel reported, Roman has “worked to keep himself and his activity low-profile even within the discreet Koch operation.”

“They act all cloak and dagger–like the CIA,” one source told Vogel. “There was a joke about how hardly anyone ever met Mike Roman. It was like, if you wanted to find him, he’d be in a trench coat on the National Mall.”

Roman’s GoodReads profile fits his carefully-cultivated cloak-and-dagger persona.

His favorite reads include books like “Data Mining and Analysis” and “Intelligence Analysis: a Target-Centric Approach,” as well as Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, the left-wing organizer’s manual that has gained traction on the right in recent years.

Mike Roman’s favorite author? Charles Koch.

 

By: Brendan Fisher, Center for Media and Democracy; CMD Executive Director Lisa Graves contributed research to this article; November 19, 2015

November 23, 2015 Posted by | ALEC, Koch Brothers, Mike Roman, Racism | , , , , , | 1 Comment

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