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“On The Crazy Train To 2016”: The Most Endangered U.S. Senator Going Into His 2016 Reelection Race

I know the air is filled with Republican hysteria about the Iran nuclear deal, but it’s still possible to distinguish honest disagreement on a complex topic with politically motivated or just plain crazy treatment of this highly contingent multilateral agreement as one of the worst moments in human history. I mean, it’s one thing to talk about acceptable and unacceptable risks, but some of these birds are acting as though the missiles aimed at Tel Aviv are being armed as we speak.

With that in mind, read this series of quotes served up by Buzzfeed‘s Andrew Kaczynski and see if you can figure out who might have uttered them:

“This agreement condemns the next generation to cleaning up a nuclear war in the Persian Gulf,” ____ said. “It condemns our Israel allies to further conflict with Iran.” ____ added that he thought the agreement will yield “more nukes, and more terrorists, and more irresponsibility by the Iranians,” saying he thought Iran will now increase their influence in Iraq and Yemen.

“This is the greatest appeasement since Chamberlain gave Czechoslovakia to Hitler,” ____ continued, saying he believed Obama only went through with the deal because he has a poor understanding of history and did not realize appeasement made war more likely. _____ said he thought the deal meant that Israel would now have to take “military action against Iran.”

“The president will make this a viciously partisan issue, leading most Democrats to standing with the Iranians and hopefully losing the next election on this point,” ____ said. “He will ask the Democrats all to stand with Iran and make sure that we can’t get two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate.”

Asked if any Democrats disagreed with the president, ____ pointed to New York Sen. Chuck Schumer and New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez, who he believed “has just been indicted maybe on the crime of being against the Iran deal.”

____ said he believed the only reason the president supported legislation from Republican Sen. Bob Corker, the chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, that allowed Congress to review the deal was because he “wants…to get nukes to Iran.”

Okay, time’s up. Who do you suspect? Frank Gaffney? Jennifer Rubin? James Inhofe? Ted Cruz? Lindsey Graham? Tom Cotton?

No, it’s the junior senator from Illinois, Mark Kirk, often described as a “centrist” or a “moderate,” and universally thought of as the most endangered U.S. Senator going into his 2016 reelection race.

I guess this could be some ploy to pursue Jewish voters, though there wouldn’t be this whole meme about Netanyahu’s war with American Jews if that sort of talk was widely popular with Jewish folk. Or maybe he’s making up for lost gabbing after his recovery from a stroke. But it’s weird to see a statewide elected official from the president’s home state–a blue state at that–basically accuse him of deliberate assistance to terrorists right before voters consider him for another term.

 

BY: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, July 15, 2015

July 16, 2015 Posted by | Iran Nuclear Agreement, Mark Kirk, Terrorists | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“When Democracy Works”: The GOP’s Fear Of Higher Voter Turnout

It is rare for a politician to publicly deride efforts to boost voter turnout. It is seen as a taboo in a country that prides itself on its democratic ideals. Yet, New Jersey governor Chris Christie last week slammed efforts to simplify voter registration.

Referring to Illinois joining other states — including many Republican-led ones — in passing a same-day voter registration law, Christie said: “Same-day registration all of a sudden this year comes to Illinois. Shocking. It’s shocking. I’m sure it was all based on public policy, good public policy to get same-day registration here in Illinois just this year, when the governor is in the toilet and needs as much help as he can get.”

Christie was campaigning for Illinois GOP gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, who is challenging Democratic incumbent governor Pat Quinn, who signed the same-day registration bill into law in July.

Christie, who chairs the Republican Governors Association, denounced the effort to boost voter turnout as an underhanded Democratic tactic, despite the Illinois State Board of Elections being composed equally of Democrats and Republicans. Referring to the same-day voter initiative, Christie said Quinn “will try every trick in the book,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Christie said the program is designed to be a major “obstacle” for the GOP’s gubernatorial candidates.

The trouble with such rhetoric — beyond its anti-democratic themes — is its absurd assertions about partisan motives. After all, many of the 11 states with same-day registration laws currently have Republican governors.

In reality, same-day registration is all about turnout, not partisanship. According to data compiled by the think tank Demos, average voter turnout is more than 10 percent higher in states that allow citizens to register on the same day they vote. Demos also notes that “four of the top five states for voter turnout in the 2012 presidential election all offered same-day registration.” There was some evidence in Wisconsin that same-day registration boosted Democratic turnout, but the Wisconsin State Journal of Madison reports that “Republican areas also saw heavy use of the state’s last-minute registration law.” The registration system been also been adopted by such deeply Republican states as Wyoming, Idaho and Utah.

Unlike Christie, most Republicans who have fought voter turnout efforts like same-day registration have argued that same-day registration would increase voter fraud. This has allowed the GOP to position itself as battling crime — not as trying to block legal voters. But the GOP has been unable to substantiate that voter-fraud claim, and there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Demos, for example, surveyed data from six states with same-day registration and found that “there has been very little voter fraud in [same-day registration] states over the past several election cycles.” In GOP-dominated North Dakota — which requires no voter registration at all — Secretary of State Alvin Jaeger, a Republican, reported that “voter fraud has not been widespread in North Dakota” and that there have been “very few known incidents of voter fraud” in the state.

Those findings confirm a recent analysis of primary, general, special and municipal elections by Loyola University professor Justin Levitt. He found that since 2000, more than a billion ballots have been cast in the United States and there have been just 31 credible incidents of voter fraud.

In light of that data, Republican efforts to prevent same-day registration and preclude voting betray a fear that has nothing to do with voter fraud and everything to do with political power. Essentially, the GOP fears that when more Americans exercise their basic democratic rights, Republicans may have less chance of winning elections.

 

By: David Sirota, Senior Writer, International Business Times; The National Memo, September 5, 2014

 

 

 

September 6, 2014 Posted by | Democracy, GOP, Voter Registration, Voter Suppression | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Delusional Pro-Poverty Agenda”: This Is Why The GOP Should Be Afraid Of The Minimum Wage In 2014

Illinois businessman Bruce Rauner, a top candidate for the Republican nomination for governor, demonstrated this week why Democrats are eager to use the minimum wage as a political cudgel in the 2014 midterm elections.

On Tuesday, Rauner suggested reducing the state’s $8.25-per-hour minimum wage to the national level, a $1-per-hour reduction.

“I will advocate moving the Illinois minimum wage back to the national minimum wage. I think we’ve got to be competitive here in Illinois,” Rauner told Illinois Radio WGBZ.

Rauner’s stance sharply contrasts that of Governor Pat Quinn (D), who has said that he wants to raise the minimum wage to $10 per hour. But it’s not particularly controversial in the context of the Republican primary. After all, each of his rivals for the nomination — Kirk Dillard, Dan Rutherford and Bill Brady — oppose raising the wage. Still, throughout the rest of the state, the idea of cutting the already insufficient minimum wage sparked instant outrage.

As The Chicago Sun-Times reports, the backlash to Rauner’s plan was swift and severe.

“In my 26 years in the Legislature, I’ve seen many candidates roll out anti-poverty plans, but Bruce Rauner is the only candidate to roll out a pro-poverty plan,” Democratic state representative Lou Lang said.

“He’s delusional if he thinks that the General Assembly would bow to his class warfare on low-income workers. He needs to have his delusion shaken up,” Lang added. “He needs to come to grips with the fact that the era of robber barons is over, and impoverishing workers is no longer an economic growth strategy.”

Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson similarly blasted Rauner, insisting that “instead of alleviating poverty, this cruel and backwards proposal would take thousands of dollars from working people who are doing some of the hardest, most difficult jobs in our society.”

And Chicago labor leader Karen Lewis took even more direct aim at Rauner, who made a fortune in private equity, charging, “It is ironic that billionaire Rauner, who reported $53 million in earnings last year, or $7.36 per second, is calling for a reduction in the state’s minimum wage.

“While he sits back and ponders where to take his next exotic vacation or which mansion to lay his head, others are trying to survive in a climate of foreclosures, rising medical costs, and the shuttering of neighborhood schools,” she added. “Instead of pledging a war on poverty he is vowing to advance a war on poor and working-class people.”

The heated response to Rauner’s proposal was stunningly successful; within days, he was apparently scared away from it.

“I made a mistake. I was flippant and I was quick,” Rauner told the Chicago Tribune on Wednesday. “I should have said, ‘Tie the Illinois minimum wage to the national wage and, in that context, with other changes in being pro-business, I support raising the national minimum wage.’ I’m OK with that.”

Rauner expanded on his new position — that after cutting the minimum wage, we should raise it — in a Tribune op-ed on Thursday, writing, “Raising the national minimum wage would raise the level in Illinois and in our neighboring states, eliminating our competitive disadvantage. I support that.”

It’s not hard to understand how Rauner went from advocating a minimum-wage cut to advocating a raise in just a few days. Polls have consistently found that Illinois voters overwhelmingly favor raising the minimum wage to $10 per hour (a recent survey from left-leaning Public Policy Polling pegged support at 58 percent). It is a very difficult political environment to be running against a measure that could lift millions out of poverty.

Increasing the minimum wage isn’t just popular in Illinois; it has broad national appeal as well. So it’s not surprising that Democrats are planning to use the issue as a centerpiece of their 2014 campaigns. And if other Republicans mirror Rauner’s apparent fear of being attacked on the issue, their strategy could prove very successful.

 

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

January 11, 2014 Posted by | Minimum Wage, Poverty | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Timely Injustice”: Florida Is Not Killing People Fast Enough

At great political peril, George Ryan did the right thing.

Not to canonize the man. After all, the then-governor of Illinois was later imprisoned on corruption charges.

But that doesn’t change the fact that, in 2000, stung that 13 inmates had been exonerated and freed from death row in the previous 23 years, Ryan committed an act of profound moral courage, imposing a moratorium on capital punishment. In 2003, in the waning days of his term, he one-upped himself, commuting every death sentence in his state.

Recalling what Gov. George Ryan once did provides interesting context as Floridians and death penalty opponents around the country wait to see what Gov. Rick Scott will do.

Florida’s chief executive has on his desk awaiting his signature — or, dare we hope, his veto — a piece of legislation called the Timely Justice Act, passed by his state legislature in the apparent belief Florida is not killing people fast enough.

There are 404 people awaiting execution in Florida. We learn from a report by my colleague, Mary Ellen Klas, that 155 of them have been there longer than 20 years, and 10 have been there longer than 35 years. The average wait: 13 years.

The act would require the governor to sign a death warrant within 30 days after a review by the state Supreme Court. Execution would have to take place within 180 days. Additionally, the bill bars attorneys from using certain defense strategies. Granted, it also contains provisions favorable to inmates, including one penalizing lawyers who provide ineffective counsel, but that fig leaf does not mitigate the danger of a bill that, in effect, creates a fast track to the death chamber.

This measure, I feel constrained to point out, is brought to you by the same legislative body that brought you the ill-conceived Stand Your Ground law that has lately led people to call Florida the “gunshine state.” This latest sop to frontier justice is necessary, we’re told, because, as an editorial by Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers puts it, delayed executions are “an affront to justice — especially for victims’ families.”

Beg pardon — and I know this will be controversial — but I’m tired of hearing what we owe victim’s families. I speak from no deficit of compassion for them. I am, for goodness sake, a member of a victim’s family, albeit his extended family. R.I.P., Ted McCoy, my brother-in-law, who was murdered 20 years ago in Los Angeles.

That said, there’s something … uncomfortably barbarous in this idea that we as a society owe those families blood as recompense for the pain they have endured.

More to the point, there’s this: Since the death penalty was reinstated in the mid-’70s, Florida has executed 75 people. But it has exonerated 24, many of whom spent more than a decade on death row. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Florida has the highest error rate in the country.

So how can a state that gets it wrong at least one time in every four want to speed up the process? Does no one care about the increased likelihood of executing someone who committed no crime?

We are always called upon to be solicitous of the pain suffered by victims’ families. Where is our solicitude for innocent people, wrong place, wrong time, people — usually indigent people of color — who are rushed, perjured, bumbled, erred and “oopsed” onto death row? Why does their pain affect us less? Why are they less deserving of our compassion? Are they not victims, too?

To his lasting credit, Illinois’ former governor came to recognize capital punishment as the moral sinkhole it is. It is probably too much to hope Florida’s governor will do the same. But at a minimum he must veto this mistake in waiting. The bill his legislature has sent him imposes something that may indeed be timely.

But it sure as hell is not justice.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., The National Memo, May 20, 2013

May 23, 2013 Posted by | Death Penalty | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Voters Send A Loud Anti-NRA Message”: The Days Of The NRA Hostage Taking Are Coming To An End

Robin Kelly, who as a young state representative sponsored gun-safety legislation with state Senator Barack Obama, swept to victory Tuesday night in an Illinois US House primary that sent a powerful signal about the National Rifle Association’s dwindling influence within the Democratic Party.

Kelly won 58 percent of the vote in a crowded field, easily defeating former Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson and other Democrats to win the nomination to replace former Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., as the representative from Illinois’s 2nd district.

In a multiracial district that includes parts of Chicago, as well as suburbs and rural regions of a district that stretches across northeastern Illinois, Halvorson began the race as the front runner. In addition to her status as a former House member, she was the only white candidate in a field where the African-American vote was divided among more than a dozen contenders.

After the Newtown, Connecticut, shootings focused the attention of the country—and Illinois—on the gun debate, however, Kelly made support for gun-safety legislation central to her campaign.

Kelly’s “Help Me Fight Gun Violence” message united African-American and progressive white voters against Halvorson, who had accepted NRA support in previous races and who continued to support NRA positions on many issues.

Though President Obama, who has made the fight for gun-safety legislation a priority of his second term, stayed out of the race, Kelly promised to champion legislation backed by the president—who her ads noted she had worked with a decade ago, when they both served in the Illinois legislature.

As she claimed victory Tuesday night, Kelly told her backers, “Today you did more than cast a vote. You did more than choose a Democratic candidate for Congress…You sent a message that was heard around our state and across the nation; a message that tells the NRA that their days of holding our country hostage are coming to an end.”

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has pledged to fight the NRA’s political influence nationwide, used his Independence USA political action committee to air more than $2 million to oppose Halvorson and back Kelly.

The Illinois Rifle Association, an NRA affiliate, backed Halvorson with late-stage mailings.

But it was Kelly’s steady focus on the gun debate that gained her the upper hand in the race.

The NRA and its apologists will, of course, claim that the Illinois district was a bad battleground for the group and its message. Illinois is not West Virginia or North Dakota, after all. And the Chicago area has bitter experience with gun violence, as Kelly noted in a campaign that focused on the anger and pain felt in neighborhoods where too many young lives have been lost to shootings.

But advocates for tougher gun laws recognized the significance of the Illinois result.

“Robin Kelly’s victory tonight is a withering blow to the NRA and others who think we shouldn’t do anything to prevent the gun violence that took the lives of 20 children in Connecticut in December and ravages the streets of cities like Chicago every single day,” announced Arshad Hasan, the executive director of Democracy for America, which backed Kelly. “This was the first time since the tragedy of Newtown that advocates for gun violence prevention have taken on the NRA and their allies—and we won. We’re incredibly proud of the over $15,000 and hundreds of volunteer hours Democracy for America members contributed to Kelly’s win tonight, because we know she’ll fight in Congress for the stronger, common sense gun laws that most Americans support.”

Whatever the dynamic of the district and the state, there is no question that Halvorson had initial advantages that were undone by her association with the NRA and by Kelly’s decision to run on a five-point pledge that declared she would work to:

1. Pass a comprehensive ban on assault weapons.

2. Eliminate the gun show loophole.

3. Pledge never to receive support from groups that oppose reasonable gun safety legislation.

4. Ban high capacity ammunition magazines.

5. Support laws that prohibit conceal-and-carry permits.

“While we don’t know who will represent Illinois’ second district in Congress, we do know that addressing the issue of gun violence will be among the very first issues they face,” Kelly declared early in the campaign. “I believe we need more leaders in Congress addressing the issue of gun violence in our cities and our communities. For this reason, I believe we must all speak with one voice on this urgent matter.”

Primary voters in the 2nd district of Illinois spoke with that united voice Tuesday. And they said “no” to the NRA. Loudly. Perhaps so loudly that Democrats in Congress, many of whom have been cautious gun-safety advocates, will help Robin Kelly fight gun violence.

 

By: John Nichols, Salon, February 27, 2013

March 1, 2013 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Violence | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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