“The Day The NRA’s Gun Dam Began To Crack”: The Ongoing Holocaust The NRA And The Republicans Are Abetting
I couldn’t believe Wednesday night that some liberals were expressing indifference or even suspicion toward the House Democrats’ sit-in. I wouldn’t say this was all that widespread, but I did see it, and it was based on the fact that one of the bills they were demanding a vote on, the one banning people on watch lists from buying guns, is problematic from a civil-libertarian point of view.
Oh please. Do these people know history happening when they see it? The sit-in was about the two bills only in the most nominal sense. It was really about dead bodies. It was about the NRA and its stranglehold on their institution. It was about saying “enough.”
I wrote earlier this week that yes, the NRA won again on those four Senate votes, but “someday, this dam will break.” Well, it’s coming a hell of a lot faster than I thought it would. No, the dam isn’t broken—yet. That will still take a fair amount of time. But after Wednesday night, it’s now possible to see a different future, one in which the NRA is not all-powerful. It’s no longer crazy to think that its back can be broken.
Sure, there are serious civil liberties concerns about government lists. Here’s what the ACLU has to say about them. If you are a man with an Arabic name in particular, the risk of being put on one of these lists because of error or confusion is not inconsiderable. That has to be addressed, and a citizen has to be able to go to the government and demonstrate wrongful harm.
But everyone agrees on all this. As I watched the coverage Wednesday, every single Democrat I saw interviewed said as much. I wish I could retrieve for you what Illinois Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky told Chris Hayes late last night, but the video wasn’t posted on his site yet as I sat down to write. She said in essence: Of course, we all agree, fix the bill, build in an appeals process for individuals to challenge being put on the list. Given. In the meantime, actual dangerous people who deserve to be on that list can go buy assault weapons and mow down innocent people. Let’s stop that first, then we’ll fine-tune the bill.
What on earth is objectionable about that? Nothing. And anyway, the bill isn’t going to pass even if Paul Ryan does allow a vote. But it would have the effect of calling the Republicans’ bluff. That is, the standard Republican criticism of the bill has been precisely this civil-libertarian critique. So if the Democrats come to them en masse to say fine, we agree with you, let’s find a way to build in a workable appeals process, and the Republicans still vote against the bill, they will stand exposed, and everyone will know that civil liberty concerns aren’t what’s driving GOP opposition. Fear of Wayne LaPierre is. We all know this already anyway, but if there is a vote and they still vote against it, we’ll have proof.
Legislating is ugly business. The choices are usually between okay and not okay, or often between bad and much worse. You take what you can get. This is why the sit-in merits support and admiration (and if you really want to be a liberal who’s on the opposite side of the great John Lewis, be my guest). This is very different from the civil rights actions of the 1950s. Then, activists had a country to persuade; they had to move the mountain of public opinion. And so activists in Birmingham settled on segregated buses as the target that would tangibly and visibly make segregation stark for white Americans outside the South. They bided their time, deliberately chose Rosa Parks as the woman to do it, and slowly won public opinion over to their side.
But here, the public doesn’t have to be persuaded. It’s 80 or 90 percent on the Democrats’ side on guns. Even most NRA members support background checks, the subject of the other bill over which the Democrats staged their action. The boulder that has to be moved—or crushed—is the Republican Congress. So it’s up to congressional Democrats to make that fight, and they have to do it with the imperfect implements at their disposal, which means particular pieces of legislation that are bound to be deficient in one way or another.
And they’re finally making that fight. It was remarkable to see lawmakers holding those pieces of paper with the names of victims from Newtown and Orlando. That wasn’t about watch lists. It was about the ongoing holocaust that the NRA and the Republicans are abetting. It was all the more remarkable for the fact that it was done in an election year, when everyone’s supposed to be double-terrified of the NRA.
So the sit-in is ending as I write, on Thursday afternoon. But one of these days, the NRA will lose a vote. Two or three more Orlandos (which is of course two or three too many) will have the nation tearing its hair out. Democrats will finally stand firm, and enough Republicans from purple districts and states will defect. The stranglehold will end. And maybe in time, after LaPierre has gone off to whatever place eternity has reserved for him, the NRA will again become what it used to be, which is an organization that promotes reasonable Second Amendment rights but stops insisting that these death machines that were never intended to be in civilian hands deserve constitutional protection.
And when that time comes, historians will point to June 22, 2106 as the day the dam started to crack. I’m clear about which side I’m on.
By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, June 24, 2016
A big part of the angst Republicans are expressing over Donald Trump’s presidential nomination is the fear that he’ll doom GOP candidates down ballot. In part, that reflects the reality that ticket-splitting has been declining steadily in recent presidential years. The GOP’s Senate majority is fragile because of a particularly bad landscape. But now even the 59-seat margin Paul Ryan commands in the House could be in peril, though that’s a more remote contingency.
Ace House-watcher David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report has a new analysis at FiveThirtyEight that weighs the odds of a Democratic takeover pretty carefully. The GOP majority in the House is entrenched, he explains, by factors that have little to do with the popularity of the two parties:
Democratic voters have never been more concentrated in big urban areas than they are now. In 2012, President Obama won by 126 electoral votes while carrying just 22 percent of America’s counties — even fewer than losing Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis’s 26 percent in 1988. That means Democrats are wasting more votes than ever in safe congressional districts they already hold …
Republicans’ astounding state legislative gains in the 2010 midterms — the year before the decennial redistricting cycle — allowed them to redraw four times as many congressional districts as Democrats in 2011 and 2012, stretching their geographical edge even further. As a result, in 2012, Democrats won 51 percent of all major-party votes cast for House candidates but just 47 percent of all seats.
A third thumb on the scales for House Republicans is that Democrats did not anticipate the possibility of a presidential landslide, and thus did not recruit top-flight candidates in some districts that now look vulnerable. With candidate-qualifying windows having passed in 79 percent of districts, it’s too late to do anything about that in much of the country.
All in all, Wasserman estimates, Democrats would need something like an eight-point national popular-vote margin to put themselves into a position to achieve the 30-net-seat gains necessary to retake the House. That’s hardly unprecedented since Democrats matched that margin in 2006 and exceeded it (with 10.6 percent) in 2008 (the much-ballyhooed Republican landslides of 2010 and 2014 were based on 6.8 percent and 5.8 percent House popular-vote margins, respectively). And current polls certainly indicate that a win by that sort of margin at the top of the ticket by Hillary Clinton is entirely feasible. But Wasserman’s own ratings for Cook show only 26 Republican-held seats — along with seven Democratic seats — being competitive. A “wave” election would require that additional seats come into play. There’s also an argument that if the presidential race gets out of hand for Republicans, they could make an implicit or explicit “checks and balances” argument in congressional races. That is supposedly how the losing presidential party minimized down-ballot losses in the landslide years of 1972 and 1984. It’s unclear that would happen again in this straight-ticket-voting era, but it’s not inconceivable.
The Senate’s a different situation. Of the 34 seats up this November, Republicans are defending 24 and can only afford to lose 3 and hang on to control if Democrats retain the White House and thus the vice-president’s tie-breaking Senate vote. Seven Republican seats are in states Obama carried twice (no Democratic seats are in states carried by McCain or Romney). Looking at the races more closely, Cook’s ratings show seven Republican-held seats in competitive races, with just two among the Democratic-held seats. A Democratic wave could make several other Republicans vulnerable. And none of the factors that give Republicans an advantage in keeping control of the House are relevant to Senate races.
If anyone’s going to be privately hoping something disastrous happens to the Trump candidacy before he’s nominated in Cleveland, it should be Mitch McConnell. But for Paul Ryan, the time to panic likely won’t arise, if at all, before the leaves begin to turn.
By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, June 21, 2016
Things have not been going well for the House Republicans’ Benghazi committee, which is overseeing an investigation that, as of last week, has now lasted over two years. This morning, things have managed to get worse for the GOP’s partisan witch hunt.
As of a couple of weeks ago, the Defense Department started pushing back against the committee Republicans’ increasingly outlandish demands. In no uncertain terms, the Pentagon let Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) know the panel’s requests have become “unnecessary” and “unproductive.” Worse, the DoD believes the partisan committee is guilty of “encouraging speculation” from witnesses, rather than focusing on facts and evidence.
Today, however, the beleaguered committee, whose very existence has become something of a joke, is facing a new round of embarrassing headlines. The Huffington Post reported:
Shortly before the House Benghazi committee ramped up its battles with the Department of Defense in its probe of the 2012 terrorist attack, the committee’s own top lawyer admitted at least four times in interviews with military officials that there was no more they could have done on that tragic night.
That’s according to a letter obtained by The Huffington Post that was sent Sunday to the chairman of the committee, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), from the top Democrats on the Benghazi panel and the House Armed Services Committee, Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Adam Smith (D-Wash.).
Remember, the whole point of the right-wing conspiracy theory is built around the idea that the military could’ve done more to intervene in Benghazi the night of the September 2012 attack, but it didn’t for political reasons. Military leaders, the State Department, and multiple congressional investigations all concluded that the conspiracy theory is wrong, but House Republicans don’t care, which is why they created a committee, led by Trey Gowdy, to tell conservatives what they want to hear.
Now, however, there’s evidence that Gowdy’s former top committee staffer already concluded that the question has been answered truthfully. The Benghazi panel is investigating a conspiracy theory that the committee’s lawyer considers bogus.
According to the letter, that staffer, former Gen. Dana Chipman, said in interviews with former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and former Defense Department Chief of Staff Jeremy Bash that the department did all it could on that night when Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed.
“I think you ordered exactly the right forces to move out and to head toward a position where they could reinforce what was occurring in Benghazi or in Tripoli or elsewhere in the region,” Chipman told Panetta in the committee’s January interview with the former defense secretary, according to transcribed excerpts. “And, sir, I don’t disagree with the actions you took, the recommendations you made, and the decisions you directed.”
Chipman was similarly deferential to Bash. “I would posit that from my perspective, having looked at all the materials over the last 18 months, we could not have affected the response to what occurred by 5:15 in the morning on the 12th of September in Benghazi, Libya,” said Chipman, who himself served 33 years in the Army.
And if the military did everything it could that night, the conspiracy theory is no more. The Benghazi committee is asking questions that have been answered to the satisfaction of the committee’s top lawyer, chosen by the committee’s Republican chairman.
Circling back to our previous coverage, Republicans have already admitted the Benghazi panel is a partisan exercise, making it that much more difficult to justify its prolonged existence – at a cost of nearly $7 million. Now there’s evidence the committee is not just annoying the Department of Defense for reasons no one seems able to defend, the panel’s former top lawyer has also seen the evidence and rejected the investigation’s basic premise.
To reiterate a recent observation, though I find the Republicans’ Benghazi Committee ridiculous, I’m not suggesting the deadly terrorist attack in Libya, which left four Americans dead, is unworthy of investigation. Just the opposite is true – Congress had a responsibility to determine what happened and take steps to prevent similar attacks in the future.
But therein lies the point: seven separate congressional committees investigated the Benghazi attack before the Select Committee was even created. This was already one of the most scrutinized events in American history. Republican lawmakers, however, didn’t quite care for what the evidence told them, so they effectively concluded, “Maybe an eighth committee will tell us something the other seven committees didn’t.”
But even now, Republicans can’t substantiate the various conspiracy theories, which their own lawyer has dismissed.
It’s long past time for the farce to end.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 16, 2016