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“It’s Actually Revealing Talk”: Quotes Of The Day; On Obama’s ‘Deep Belief’

Every once in a while, a politician speaks the truth. Today, that politician is Georgia Republican Jack Kingston, talking about the possibility of Congress voting on a resolution authorizing President Obama to use force in Iraq and possibly Syria against ISIS. Behold:

“A lot of people would like to stay on the sideline and say, ‘Just bomb the place and tell us about it later,’ ” said Representative Jack Kingston, Republican of Georgia, who supports having an authorization vote. “It’s an election year. A lot of Democrats don’t know how it would play in their party, and Republicans don’t want to change anything. We like the path we’re on now. We can denounce it if it goes bad, and praise it if it goes well and ask what took him so long.”

Now that is some serious candor. Not that it isn’t anything a hundred pundits might observe (because it’s true), but it’s not often you catch a politician being so forthright, particularly when he’s talkiong about his own party. How can such a thing be explained?

It’s not complicated: Jack Kingston is retiring. He ran for Senate this year (unsuccessfully), and in order to do so, he had to give up his House seat. So he has been liberated.

And as long as we’re on the subject of people being candid (or not), there’s another quote I want to point out from the same newspaper. In an article about President Obama saying some things that have gotten him into trouble (I’m not even going to use the “g” word), we get this little gem:

To Mr. Obama’s critics, the disparity between the president’s previous statements and today’s reality reflects not simply poorly chosen words but a fundamentally misguided view of the world. Rather than clearly see the persistent dangers as the United States approaches the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, they said, Mr. Obama perpetually imagines a world as he wishes it were.

“I don’t think it is just loose talk, I think it’s actually revealing talk,” said Peter H. Wehner, a former adviser to President George W. Bush now at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. “Sometimes words are mistakes; they’re just poorly put. But sometimes they’re a manifestation of one’s deep belief in the world and that’s what you really get with President Obama.”

So there you have it: when my guy says something that in retrospect looks misguided or mistaken, his words are just a slip of the tongue, revealing nothing (and if memory serves, Wehner’s old boss did say a few such things). But when your guy does the same, his words reveal his true nature. But only the words we don’t like! When he says things that turn out to be true or wise or right, that’s just a bunch of phony baloney and you can ignore it.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, September 9, 2014

 

September 10, 2014 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What’s Wrong With The GOP’s ‘Hell No’ Faction”: They’re Draining The Vitality From America’s Democracy

Ah, August — that time of year when the going gets tough … and Congress gets going.

On vacation, that is. And, to be fair, maybe Congress needs a vacation. All the stress of not passing laws and constantly thwarting any attempt by President Obama to fix America’s problems seems to be straining their sanity.

For starters, if you thought that, surely, partisan posturing by far-right congresscritters couldn’t get any nuttier, you’d be wrong. Last month, the GOP claimed that all the talk about impeaching President Barack Obama is being led by — guess who? — Barack Obama!

If you’ll recall, the top Republican leader, John Boehner (having discovered that the larger public is appalled that his party would even consider wasting time on such extremist nonsense) tried to do a political backflip. Impeachment talk, he fumed, is “a scam started by Democrats at the White House.” No Republican lawmakers, he barked to the media, are even discussing it.

Boehner, Boehner, Boehner! Apparently he didn’t hear Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who’s No. 2 on his own GOP leadership team, tell Fox News that he refuses to rule out impeachment. Or Rep. Kerry Bentivolio of Michigan exult that “it would be a dream come true” to impeach Obama, and that he has pursued advice from experts on how to proceed. Or Iowa’s Rep. Steve King, saying flatly, “We need to bring impeachment hearings immediately.” How about Randy Weber of Texas, who put it unequivocally: “The president deserves to be impeached, plain and simple.” And Georgia’s Jack Kingston confirmed that: “Not a day goes by when people don’t talk to us about impeachment.”

Still, Boehner did receive some backing on his claim that no one in the GOP has given a moment’s thought to impeachment. The always insightful Tea Party radio ranter Glenn Beck, for example, waded in with this question to his audience on a recent broadcast: “Have you spoken to one person (pushing such an idea)?” he demanded. “No one” has used the “I” word, he snapped. But, in fact, Beck does know one person who has: Himself! Also, Sarah Palin! And at least a dozen other likeminded sparklies on the way-out far-right horizon.

Right up to the time they departed Capitol Hill to enjoy vacations that will stretch through all of this month, much of September, and a good part of October, GOP howlers in Congress were pointing to several emergency issues that needed to be addressed — such as the humanitarian crisis of immigrant children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border and the growing crisis of our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. But … nothing. They simply adjourned and bolted off the job.

OK. They did do one thing. Incapable of legislating, they litigated. Boehner filed a frivolous lawsuit against President Obama, charging that he’s been governing unilaterally by issuing executive orders. But there are big problems with their suit.

One: Obama has issued far fewer executive orders than did his GOP predecessor, George W. Bush. Two: Their suit claims the president defied Congress by inadequately implementing the Obamacare health reform — but, hello? Republicans fought that reform tooth and nail and are still trying to stop it from being implemented, meaning they’re suing him for not doing something they don’t want done (another indicator that Congress does need to take an extended leave for mental health reasons). And three: As they vacated the Capitol, howling House leaders said that, in their absence, Obama should immediately deport the terrorized and traumatized migrant children who fled to the U.S. this summer from the gang violence and implacable poverty they faced in their Central America homes.

Again … Hello? The GOP’s call for deportations was a demand that — get this — the president should act unilaterally, by issuing an executive order.

These ideological zealots are nutty, but they’re clogging the roadway, preventing any of the progress that America desperately needs. As a result, not only is the public fed up with them but voter turnout is plummeting this year as people see that the “hell no” faction has turned democratic participation into a farce — so why bother?

Put away all hope for honesty or seriousness, ye who enter the nuthouse presently known as Boehner’s U.S. House of Representatives. Their antics could be laughed off — except that they’re draining the vitality from America’s democracy.

 

By: Jim Hightower, The National Memo, August 13, 2014

August 14, 2014 Posted by | Democracy, House Republicans, John Boehner | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Sunlight Is The Best Disinfectant”: In 2014, You Can Still Buy A Senate Seat

Leaving aside for the moment the debate over whether or not individuals, corporations or nonprofits should be able to give an unlimited amount of money to a political candidates, shouldn’t we at least know who they are and when they do it?

Our federal representatives are so controlled by the money they receive that they have not been able to pass legislation requiring simple disclosure of contributions from outside groups.

So, as is the case with many other issues these days, the states are stepping in when the federal government demonstrates no capability to lead. Which is pretty much all the time, on every issue.

Last week, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed a reasonable disclosure law requiring all groups making independent expenditures—that is, money for campaign ads and the like—to disclose their donors within seven days, or within 24 hours if it is 10 days or less before an election. Additionally, the top five donors of more than $5,000 must be listed in advertisements.

Let’s take a look at the kind of problem the lack of any federal action encourages.

Recently, a candidate for the U.S. Senate in Georgia, David Perdue, came from behind and won a tightly contested runoff against a former congressman, Jack Kingston. And it turns out he did so with the help of more than $2 million in advertising attacking his opponent that came from a couple of political organizations based in Ohio, one of which was formed in 2011 with the express purpose of “promoting a stronger economic climate in Ohio.”

Would it surprise you to learn there is a loophole in federal disclosure requirements? Technically, a political action committee is supposed to disclose its donors. But tax-exempt “social welfare” nonprofits do not. And, guess what? Nearly all the money that was dumped into the PACs that funded the George Senate race came from two nonprofits.

So we now have a candidate for the U.S. Senate in Georgia whose margin of victory was absolutely supplied by, um, we have no idea.

For all we know, Perdue may be a terrific guy and a potentially great U.S. senator. But it sure doesn’t instill faith in our system, or encourage voters to participate, when unknown special interests from outside a state can swoop in and affect the outcome of an election.

And believe me, this is not just happening in Georgia. It’s happening in most high-profile political races, with the rare exception of those where the candidates have engaged in agreements to ban outside funding, or are considering pledges to disclose all “dark money” funding.

So, as the Georgia race just proved, you really can buy a U.S. Senate seat. And, while buying a Senate seat may be constitutionally protected thanks to the Citizens United decision, there are no similar protections for doing so anonymously.

So thank you, Massachusetts, for invoking in action the words of the former Supreme Court Justice Luis D. Brandeis: “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

 

By: Mort McKinnon, The Daily Beast, August 11, 2014

 

 

August 13, 2014 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Citizens United | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Tea Party vs Establishment”: Who Won The GOP Beauty Pageant In Georgia?

You’ve probably heard that the GOP establishment won big in Tuesday’s Republican primaries, with Tea Party favorites losing out to candidates backed by business groups. Take Georgia, for example, where an 11-term congressman and a businessman worth at least $12 million will now embark on a nine-week runoff, while the two nuttiest candidates were easily weeded out, having secured less than 10 percent of the vote apiece.

What the establishment “won” in Georgia is a future nominee that will be easier to sell to voters in the general race against Michelle Nunn, the Democratic pick. The GOP’s first place finisher, David Perdue, is a telegenic management consultant and a former executive at Dollar General Reebok. He rose to the top of the heap via a campaign ad that depicted his opponents as crying babies. “Help me change the childish behavior up there,” Perdue said, while onscreen squalling infants crawled across on the grass in front of the Capitol. His opponent in the runoff will be Jack Kingston, a political veteran with support from the Chamber of Commerce and conservative figureheads like Sean Hannity.

What happened last night in Georgia was a beauty pageant, not a contest of meaningful political distinctions. Degrees of polish aside, there were few substantive differences between the establishment and the Tea Party candidates. Perdue sold himself as “the outsider” and a “hard-core conservative.” He doubts climate science, opposes gay marriage, wants to get rid of Obamacare, and has called raising the minimum wage “backward thinking.” He’s promised to oppose Mitch McConnell as Majority Leader. Herman Cain, the Tea Party choice in the 2012 presidential primary, said on his radio show that Perdue “looks like a mirror image of Herman Cain.”

Though his deep ties to Washington are fodder for attacks, Kingston is no moderate. He suggested that children should sweep floors in exchange for school lunch meals. He ran an ad—set it in some alternate America plastered in Help Wanted signs—bashing welfare recipients for “choosing a handout rather than a hand up.” He talked up his support for the Fair Tax, a regressive national sales tax scheme. He pledged never to stop fighting Obamacare. He’d like to repeal Dodd-Frank. He has a staunch conservative record in the House, voting for things like a “fetal pain” bill to ban abortion after 20 weeks.

One thing that did distinguish Kingston and Perdue from their competitors was the amount of money behind them. Perdue used more than $2 million of his own money ahead of the primary, and has said he doesn’t know if there’s a limit to how deep he’ll reach into his own funds. Kingston attracted the most outside funding, with the Chamber of Commerce spending some $1 million in ads to support him.

So who lost in Georgia? It wasn’t the Tea Party, which succeeded in turning the contest in Georgia—and many others across the country—into a race to the right. If the terms Tea Party and establishment mean anything now as features of a candidate, they are distinctions in marketability, financing, and rhetoric, not of ideology. As Matt Kibbe, president of the Tea Party group FreedomWorks, told The Washington Post, “Everybody is running against Obamacare and against overspending in Washington. It wasn’t always like that with the Republican establishment. I don’t even recognize [Kentucky Senator Mitch] McConnell from where he was a few years ago.” The establishment candidates beat the wingnuts by showing up at the same party, but in better suits.

In Georgia, it was the voters who lost. Turnout was anemic, down by tens of thousands from 2010 even among Republicans. The choices before them were narrow, the airwaves full of attack ads. Most of the money spent by outside groups—upwards of $4.6 million—went to advertising, dwarfing direct campaign contributions by a nearly four to one ratio. Now Georgians will get another nine-week dose of the same, as Kingston and Perdue duke it out.

 

By: Zoe Carpenter, The Nation, May 21, 2014

May 21, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Tea Party | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Irrational Exceptionalism”: America Is Exceptionally Dumb When It Comes To Guns

While Americans typically laud our national “exceptionalism” — a sense that the trajectory of history has bestowed greatness upon the United States — there are a few of our distinctive characteristics that don’t deserve celebration. On the subject of firearms, for example, the United States is exceptionally irrational. No other nation has set guns aside as an object of worship.

We have let a blood-soaked gun lobby dictate our laws and regulations on firearms; we have passed “stand your ground” laws that allow violent and angry men to murder unarmed people; we have given the mentally unstable the ability to buy military-style assault weapons with which they wreak havoc on crowds. Last week, Georgia governor Nathan Deal signed a bill into law that would allow denizens of his state to carry firearms into government buildings, bars and, God help us, churches.

In addition, we have allowed the gun lobby to suppress research into the public health consequences of our firearms-worshipping culture. Indeed, U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) — running in a crowded GOP primary for a U.S. Senate seat — has recently reversed himself, going back on an earlier pledge to support such studies. It hardly gets any loonier than that.

In the 1990s, the National Rifle Association successfully stymied public health researchers who wanted to study the causes and consequences of gun violence. According to ProPublica, a nonprofit news organization, “funding for firearms injury prevention activities dropped from more than $2.7 million in 1995 to around $100,000 in 2012.”

The gun lobby clearly fears that science will discover that guns are dangerous and that, well, more guns are more dangerous. (To quote that famous philosopher Stephen Colbert, “Reality has a well-known liberal bias.”)

However, after the Sandy Hook atrocity in December 2012, it appeared that the dead bodies of 20 small children — and six adults — might be enough to finally restore some sanity to the national conversation. President Obama issued a presidential memorandum ordering the CDC to “research the causes and prevention of gun violence.” The National Rifle Association didn’t immediately object, since it recognized the fraught politics of that grief-laden moment.

Some of the NRA’s supporters, too, were muted, seemingly willing to consider modest measures to improve public safety. Kingston was among those willing to support more research on gun violence, saying, “Let’s let the data lead rather than our political opinions.”

At a Savannah, Georgia, gathering shortly after Sandy Hook, he said: “You have to be a pretty sick person to squeeze a trigger on a human being, particularly unarmed children at a school. I think if we focus and keep beating up on the weapon as the problem, we are missing the big picture of mental health that we can come together on as Democrats and Republicans. I spoke with the head of the CDC last week. I think we can find some common ground.”

But Kingston now finds himself in a GOP primary in which some of his right-wing opponents have tagged him as a RINO (Republican In Name Only), despite his solidly conservative credentials. That has left him desperate to court the crazies among his constituents, lest the “fire-at-will” crowd doubt his fidelity to the notion that every American should own his own shoulder-fired missile launcher.

So Kingston has dutifully signed up to block Obama’s request for CDC funding for gun violence research, telling ProPublica recently that “the president’s request to fund propaganda for his gun-grabbing initiatives through the CDC will not be included” in the next appropriations bill.

That means that some of the questions we desperately need answered won’t get the inquiry they deserve: Do background checks deter gun violence? How many mass shooters had a detectable mental illness? What is the link between suicide and gun ownership? Even Kingston’s question about a possible link between violent video games and mass shootings won’t be studied.

That’s just nuts, a reminder of our willingness to be exceptionally dumb about some things.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker, Winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize For Commentary, is a Visiting Professor at the University of Georgia; Published in The National Memo, April 26, 2014

April 28, 2014 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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