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“RINO Trophies”: In Georgia, Two Republicans Face Primary Challenges For Not Being Extremist Enough

With the Republican nomination contest being essentially over (yes, there’s a primary in Washington, but it doesn’t matter who wins or loses) and the Democratic battle taking a brief break (yes, Washington Democrats will vote, but it’s only a nonbinding “beauty contest” primary), it will be a quiet political Tuesday night except for runoff elections in Texas and down-ballot primaries in Georgia.

In the latter primaries, though, there’s an intriguing right-wing effort to purge two North Georgia Republican congressmen for being insufficiently right-wing: specifically for voting for John Boehner for speaker before the Ohioan quit and for voting to keep the federal government open despite its funding of Obamacare and Planned Parenthood.

What makes it all interesting is that the two solons in question — 11th-district representative Barry Loudermilk and ninth-district representative Doug Collins — would be considered a tad out there themselves in much of the country. Loudermilk (a freshman who ran to the right of another hero of the mad fringe, Bob Barr, in his original primary) is a member of the House Freedom Caucus and an outspoken “constitutional conservative.” Collins, who’s notable for being both an ordained Baptist minister and a lawyer, is probably best known for defending military chaplains (he’s one himself in the Reserves) who get a little carried away with proselytizing.

But while both congressmen are facing multiple opponents all shrieking at them for their alleged betrayal of True Conservatism, Collins has drawn the marquee challenger: his former House colleague Paul Broun, a favorite of extremism aficionados everywhere.

Until he left the House for a failed Senate bid in 2014, Broun was one of those pols who said incredible things with every other breath. Perhaps his most famous moment was when this member of the House Science Committee delivered a speech in his district referring to evolution and various other scientific teachings that conflict with his conservative Evangelical views as “lies from the pit of hell.” So notorious was Broun as a proud know-nothing that a significant number of write-in votes in his district were cast for Charles Darwin.

Now Broun is aiming his peculiar brand of thunder and lightning at Collins, and he has the advantage of having represented about half the current ninth district before the last rounds of redistricting. But Broun is being dogged by ethics charges dating from his congressional service that recently led to a criminal indictment of his former top chief of staff.

Both Loudermilk and Collins are expected to come out on top in tonight’s returns. But the catch is that Georgia requires majorities for nominations, and being knocked into a crazy-low-turnout runoff would be perilous for either incumbent. A wild card is that North Georgia right-wing activists have already been stirred up by the treachery of another of their own: Governor (and former ninth-district congressman) Nathan Deal, who recently vetoed a “religious liberty” bill aimed at making anti-LGBT discrimination easier. (On the principle of in-for-a-penny, in-for-a-pound, Deal, who is safely in his second and final term, subsequently infuriated the gun lobby by vetoing a “campus carry” bill getting rid of restrictions on shooting irons at colleges and universities. Where will the betrayals end?)

The one thing we know for sure is that there’s no degree of extremism in the GOP that will give Democrats a chance at either House seat. These are two of the most profoundly Republican districts east of Utah. And, so far as we know, Charles Darwin’s not even in the race.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, May 26, 2016

May 26, 2016 Posted by | Down Ballot Candidates, Georgia, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“House Republicans Want To Impeach Someone, Anyone”: Republicans Get Serious About Impeachment, But Not Obama’s

Quick quiz: when was the last time the U.S. Congress actually impeached an appointed executive branch official? It was 1876 – 140 years ago – when the House impeached Ulysses S. Grant’s War Secretary, William Belknap, over corruption allegations.

Nearly a century and a half later, House Republicans appear eager to give Belknap some company. The Washington Post reported yesterday:

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) introduced a resolution on Wednesday to censure IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, raising the stakes in the GOP war against the tax collector days before a hearing on whether to impeach him.

The four-page resolution seeks Koskinen’s resignation or removal by President Obama and calls on the IRS chief to forfeit his federal pension.

Chaffetz, the far-right chairman of the House Oversight Committee, explained in a statement yesterday, “I view censure as a precursor to impeachment.” He added a few weeks ago, “My foremost goal is impeachment and I’m not letting go of it.”

No, of course not. That might be responsible.

By any sane metric, the idea of congressional impeachment against the IRS commissioner is bonkers. House Republicans are apparently still worked up about an IRS “scandal” that doesn’t exist, and though Koskinen wasn’t even at the agency at the time of the alleged wrongdoing, GOP lawmakers want to impeach him because they disapprove of his handling of the imaginary controversy.

Given that the year is half over, Koskinen won’t be in the job much longer – he’ll likely leave office when the Obama administration wraps up – and there’s no credible reason to believe the Senate will remove the IRS chief from office, why bother with impeachment? Politico reported something interesting yesterday:

Two weeks ago, in a closed-door meeting with Paul Ryan, Reps. Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows gave the speaker an ultimatum: They would force a House vote to impeach the IRS commissioner — unless he allowed the Judiciary Committee to take action against John Koskinen instead.

The two founding members of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus had been working behind the scenes for well over a year to take down Koskinen for accusations that he obstructed a congressional investigation. GOP leaders and senior republicans, however, had never been keen on the idea, fearing it was ultimately futile and that the spectacle would backfire on Republicans.

Right-wing lawmakers would not, however, take no for answer. Jordan and Meadows vowed to force an impeachment vote onto the floor unless House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) signed off an impeachment hearing in the Judiciary Committee, and the Republican leader relented. The hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.

But given the fact that Koskinen hasn’t actually committed any impeachable offenses, it’s hard not to get the impression that many House Republicans want to impeach someone, anyone, just for the sake of being able to say they impeached someone.

As we discussed last fall, congressional Republicans have spent years talking up the idea of impeaching President Obama. At various times, GOP lawmakers have also considered impeaching then-Attorney General Eric Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. In October, one Republican congressman said he’s eager to impeach Hillary Clinton, and she hasn’t even been elected.

I continue to believe much of this is borne of partisan frustration: Republican investigations into Benghazi and other manufactured “scandals,” including the IRS matter itself, have effectively evaporated into nothing. That’s deeply unsatisfying to GOP hardliners, who remain convinced there’s Obama administration wrongdoing lurking right around the corner, even if they can’t see it, find it, prove it, or substantiate it any way.

Unwilling to move on empty handed, impeaching the IRS chief will, if nothing else, make Republican lawmakers feel better about themselves.

But that doesn’t change the fact that this partisan tantrum is indefensible. Koskinen took on the job of improving the IRS out of a sense of duty – the president asked this veteran public official to tackle a thankless task, and Koskinen reluctantly agreed. For his trouble, Republicans want to impeach him, for reasons even they’ve struggled to explain.

It’s ridiculous, even by the low standards of this Congress.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 19, 2016

May 20, 2016 Posted by | House Republicans, Impeachment, Internal Revenue Service, John Koskinen | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Real GOP Divide”: One Of The Big Contrasts Between The Two Parties; Democrats Are More Bullish On The Future

Maybe our definition of the Republican presidential contest is a little off.

It’s often cast, accurately enough, as a choice between “outsiders” and “insiders.” But another party division may be more profound — between Republicans who still view the country’s future hopefully and those deeply gloomy about its prospects.

The pessimism within significant sectors of the GOP is more than the unhappiness partisans typically feel when the other side is in power. It’s rooted in a belief that things have fundamentally changed in America, and there is an ominous possibility they just can’t be put right again.

This is one of the big contrasts between the two parties: Democrats are more bullish on the future.

Hillary Clinton has a big lead in the national polls because Democrats broadly favor continuity, with some tweaks. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) offers a tough critique of inequality and the outsized power of the rich. But he and his supporters are comfortable with the country’s cultural direction and have enough faith in government to believe it can engineer the reforms that economic fairness requires.

These thoughts are provoked by an evening spent watching last week’s GOP presidential debate with a group of Republicans pulled together here for me by Sarah Stewart, a New Hampshire political consultant.

They were anything but pitchfork-bearing rebels, and many of them are involved with local government. There was not a Donald Trump or Ben Carson supporter in the lot, although Jon DiPietro, a libertarian-leaning businessman, said he gets Trump’s appeal and could imagine voting for him.

The debate watchers shared the media’s view in one respect: They all agreed that Jeb Bush had a bad night. DiPietro’s offhandedly devastating comment: “Bush had a typical poor performance.” Toni Pappas, a Hillsborough County commissioner, offered sympathy that was almost as crushing. “I feel badly for Jeb,” she said. “He’s really a bright guy.”

The consensus was that the strongest performance came from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, not Marco Rubio, the man lifted high by the very media he and the others enjoyed attacking during the event. Rubio gained ground with some in the group, but Newton Kershaw III, a successful developer, said the young Florida senator still hadn’t persuaded him that he had the experience to be president. Rubio, Kershaw said, looked “rehearsed and studied.”

Gary Lambert, a former state senator who chairs Lindsey Graham’s campaign here, was proud of the South Carolina senator’s performance in the undercard match. But he spoke for the group in praising Christie for having some of the evening’s best moments. Lambert also offered his take on Carson’s appeal: “He remains so calm. I could never do that.” Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) also got some nods of approval.

But the most instructive part of the evening came toward the end when Ross Terrio, a Manchester school board member, took the conversation to a different place, describing his response to President Obama’s time in office. “I have gotten so pessimistic,” he said. “I used to be such an optimistic person. Maybe Obama just sucked the life out of me.” Terrio, who works as a pharmacist, has no complaints about his personal situation but wonders how his neighbors with much more constrained incomes can make it.

DiPietro shared Terrio’s worries that the country’s problems might be beyond our ability to solve, especially if Democrats win the White House again. Terrio, for his part, wrote me later to say that he was pessimistic about the future “regardless of which party wins the presidency.” Reflecting his skepticism about the public sector, DiPietro said he had warned his daughters about a dark future in which “government’s going to be reaching into your wealth.” Lambert’s worries focused more on terrorism and the rise of the Islamic State, one reason he supports Graham’s robust interventionism.

Others in the group pronounced themselves more hopeful, Pappas, perhaps, most of all. She highlighted her faith that the inventiveness and entrepreneurial spirit of the next generation would pull the country through.

But that this argument about the country’s long-term viability could break out among these thoughtful citizens — they in no way fit the stereotypes we liberals sometimes hang on conservatives — speaks to a central reality of our politics: Many Republicans see government itself as almost irreparably broken.

This is why there’s cheering on the right for the obstructionism of groups such as the House Freedom Caucus. Throwing sand in the gears of the machine is an honorable pursuit if you believe the machine is headed entirely in the wrong direction. It’s also why Trump and Carson will not be easily pushed aside.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, November 1, 2015

November 4, 2015 Posted by | Democrats, GOP Presidential Candidates, GOP Voters, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“For Better Or Worse, You Be The Judge”: Speaker Paul Ryan Is The Tea Party’s Greatest Triumph

People of all political convictions should be excited about Paul Ryan’s assumption of the House speaker’s gavel. Even if you disagree with Ryan’s fiscally conservative politics, you have to admit that the Wisconsin congressman is smart, focused on policy, and generally an honest broker. Regardless of your political affiliation, we should all be happy when the political process puts someone of this caliber in such an important job.

Which raises the question: How did we get such a good speaker?

The short answer is this: Credit the Tea Party.

Without the Tea Party, you wouldn’t have the House Freedom Caucus, made up mostly of rambunctious, hardcore, conservative back-benchers. Without the rabble-rousing Freedom Caucus, John Boehner probably wouldn’t have been driven to resign, and Kevin McCarthy probably wouldn’t have been driven out of the speakership race. Paul Ryan is not exactly a Tea Party firebrand. But he is still highly respected within the Tea Party. And they paved the way to his speakership.

For all of the bleating in opinion columns about the supposed anti-intellectualism of the Tea Party, Ryan’s policy seriousness is very much part of his movement appeal. Tea Partiers (and I count myself among them) are serious about reforming government, and a great many of them actually do understand that you need a serious plan to get it done, not just theatrics. People in the Tea Party also know they’re often disdained as simpletons by elites on both sides of the aisle, and so they very much respect credentialed people who they feel are part of their camp. This is at least partly why the Tea Party likes Ted Cruz (former Supreme Court clerk!) and Ben Carson (former neurosurgeon!).

Another key: The conservative base feels betrayed by politicians they elect who then turn around to pass moderate policies, and they want to see credibility from politicians. The best way to assert credibility is by picking a fight on an unpopular issue. Paul Ryan first became a national figure because he took on entitlement reform, the third rail in U.S. politics. The Tea Party admires his bravery and honesty in sticking to his conservative principles, even when much of the American media and political establishment crush him for it.

I like John Boehner, but it’s clear that he is an insider politician with little taste for serious policy wonkery. He lacks the courage to put forward an ambitious entitlement reform plan on his own. And so it was with the previous Republican speakers of the House. The Tea Party-backed Speaker Ryan, on the other hand, is serious about conservative ideas, and bold in promoting them.

I point this out because this isn’t just true in the House. In general, the Tea Party has elevated a better class of politician. There’s Marco Rubio, who has put forward innovative plans on taxes, on higher education, on jobs with wage subsidies, and, at least until he got cold feet, was a leader on immigration reform (another third rail). There’s Rand Paul who, as a libertarian, is someone I don’t agree with on every issue, but certainly brings much-needed representation of that perspective in the Senate (along with the admirable libertarian Justin Amash in the House, who personally explains every single vote on his Facebook page). There’s Mike Lee who is quickly shaping up to be one of the most important policy leaders in the Senate, taking charge on everything from tax reform to criminal justice reform and even defeating the Big Government Egg Cartel in his spare time (bet you didn’t know that was a thing).

There have been a few Tea Party misfires, like Ted Cruz and that “I’m not a witch” lady, but seven years into the Tea Party, it is now clear that overall, the movement has brought to Washington a class of politicians that, whether you agree with them on the issues or not, are a refreshing improvement over their establishment predecessors.

That’s something everyone should celebrate. So keep it in mind next time you see another column about supposed Tea Party know-nothingism.

 

By: Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, The Week, October 29, 2015

October 30, 2015 Posted by | Paul Ryan, Speaker of The House of Representatives, Tea Party | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Benghazi Hearing Was A Self-Defeating Travesty”: Hillary Clinton Failed To Make A Case Against Herself

Hillary Clinton must have been mindful of the old adage that you never interrupt an enemy when he is making a mistake. She sat in the witness chair with the patience of Job, hour after endless hour, while the House Select Committee on Benghazi did all it could to make her our next president.

How much of a self-defeating travesty was last week’s hearing for the Republican Party? The answer is obvious from how quickly the GOP has sought to turn the page.

Had a glove been laid on the presumptive Democratic nominee, the Sunday talk shows would have been a jamboree of Clinton-bashing. As it was, chief inquisitor Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) could only grumble on “Meet the Press” that Clinton’s testimony lacked “wholeness and completeness,” by which he seemed to mean she failed to make a case against herself. Gowdy also said he regretted that the hearing was held publicly rather than behind closed doors.

Among the Republican presidential contenders, the most deliciously ironic reaction came from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who claimed Clinton was “unaccountable” because she left the Benghazi compound’s security arrangements to be handled by lower-ranking State Department professionals. As “Face the Nation” host John Dickerson pointed out, Christie gave a similar explanation to exonerate himself in the George Washington Bridge scandal.

Front-runner Donald Trump more wisely chose a pox-on-both-houses approach, observing in a CNN interview that the hearing was “very partisan” and “the level of hatred between Republicans and Democrats was unbelievable.” He used the occasion to paint himself as a “great unifier,” which will come as a surprise to the beleaguered GOP establishment.

Gowdy was chosen to head the Benghazi committee because of his experience as a prosecutor. Maybe he’s better at real trials than show trials. Presiding over Thursday’s marathon farce, he was a disaster.

His biggest mistake was failing to foresee the dynamics of the hearing: It was always likely that Clinton, not the committee, would dominate the room.

After all, this was hardly Clinton’s first rodeo. With all her experience at congressional hearings, both asking and answering questions, she knew it was the witness who had ultimate control over pace and tone. However aggressive the Republicans were in firing their questions, she answered calmly, slowly, almost sweetly. She was like a tennis player who just keeps lobbing the ball back across the net until her opponent becomes frustrated and makes a mistake.

Gowdy appeared to orchestrate the hearing so that his one tidbit of new information was revealed late in the day, when Clinton might be tired and more likely to stumble: a previously unreported e-mail to her daughter, Chelsea, blaming the Benghazi attacks on terrorists at a time when other administration officials were saying they began as spontaneous demonstrations.

But the committee member assigned to confront Clinton with the e-mail was Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), and it was he, not the witness, who seemed cranky and out of sorts. Perhaps the pressure of heading the Freedom Caucus of rejectionist House Republicans is getting to him.

Clinton explained that she wrote the e-mail in question after the terrorist group Ansar al-Sharia reportedly claimed credit for the attacks — but before that same group denied responsibility. Jordan ignored Clinton’s response and went on sputtering about an allegedly “false narrative.”

Clinton had already won the narrative contest, however. Hours earlier, she told the riveting story of how, as a Benghazi diplomatic compound burned, State Department security personnel desperately searched through thick black smoke for diplomat Sean Smith and Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. They found Smith’s body but did not know for many hours that Libyans had taken Stevens to a hospital and tried, but failed, to revive him.

Gowdy’s committee couldn’t decide exactly what Clinton was supposed to have done wrong. At times, the Republican members suggested she was too detached; at other times, they accused her of micromanagement. The fact that a friend and former aide named Sidney Blumenthal sent Clinton a number of self-important e-mails is somehow unforgiveable, I gather, although committee members were at pains to explain why.

In a hearing that began at 10 a.m. and ended 11 hours later, hardly any time was spent on the one legitimate issue arising from Benghazi: the wisdom of U.S. policy in Libya. U.S. military support helped oust a brutal dictator. But we also helped create a failed state where terrorism quickly took root.

Does Clinton have any second thoughts? Maybe a serious committee will ask her someday.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, October 26, 2015

October 27, 2015 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, House Select Committee on Benghazi, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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