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“A Longstanding Framework”: What The Republican Party’s New, Unspeakably Racist Attack Ad Is Really About

The National Republican Congressional Committee wants you to believe that Nebraska state Sen. Brad Ashford, the Democratic challenger to incumbent Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), unleashed a very scary looking black man on the people of Nebraska to commit multiple murders. That’s the message conveyed by an ad they posted on their YouTube page on Friday, which focuses on a series of high profile murders committed by a man who had recently been released from prison on unrelated charges:

The reality, however, is far more nuanced than the narrative presented by this ad. And the events that led up to these murders have very little to do with Ashford.

Nikko Jenkins is a severely mentally ill man who was previously incarcerated on robbery and assault charges. A prison psychiatrist diagnosed him with schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder, and labeled him “one of the most dangerous people I have ever evaluated.” While he was incarcerated, Jenkins repeatedly told prison officials that he “planned a violent, murderous rampage upon his release.” Less than a month after he was released from prison in 2013, Jenkins carried out his threats, killing four people in Omaha.

Jenkins believes that he was ordered to kill by Apophis, an evil, ancient Egyptian serpent god. A report by the Nebraska State Ombudsman’s Office criticized state prison officials for not attempting to have Jenkins committed due to his mental illness once it became clear that it was not safe to release him from prison.

The NRCC’s ad, however, tells a very different story. In the GOP’s narrative, “Nikko Jenkins was released from prison early, after serving only half his sentence” thanks to a law that Ashford supports.

The law at issue is the state’s “good time” law, which has existed in various forms for nearly half a century. Under the good time law’s framework, prisoners earn “good time” for the time that they spend in prison, and this good time is counted against the time that they need to serve behind bars. Meanwhile, prisoners who commit various offenses can lose their good time — Jenkins for example, lost 18 months of good time for offenses that included an assault upon a prison guard. Thus, the law gives prison officials some flexibility to release inmates who behave well while incarcerated, while requiring other prisoners to serve more time.

Under a 1992 amendment to the good time law that overwhelmingly passed the state legislature, prisoners earn one day of good time for each day they spend in prison — that’s the likely basis for the GOP’s claim that Jenkins served “only half his sentence” (Ashford was a member of the state legislature when this amendment was enacted, but he was not present for the vote). In 2011, the state’s Republican Gov. Dave Heineman successfully lobbied the legislature to increase the amount of good time earned by inmates even further. This 2011 amendment was proposed by Heineman’s own Corrections Department. Ashford cosponsored this bill.

In the wake of the Jenkins incident, Heineman has reversed course, and he now wants to make it harder for inmates to earn good time. He’s also attacked the Ombudman’s report which suggested that the Corrections Department was at fault for freeing Jenkins. Ashford, by contrast, has defended the report — though he also endorsed Gov. Heineman’s decision to increase the amount of good time corrections officials can take away from inmates who commit serious offenses.

So the reality is that Nebraska has a longstanding framework of relatively long prison sentences that are moderated by the good time law. Ashford has only played a minor role in shaping this framework, and the 2011 amendment that Ashford co-sponsored enjoyed the enthusiastic support of the state’s GOP governor. There is now an important debate going on in Nebraska about whether the state’s good time law should be amended once again, as Heineman argues, or whether the errors which led to Jenkins being released are best addressed within the Corrections Department, as Ashford appears to believe.

But it is absurd to suggest, as the GOP ad does, that Ashford is responsible for Jenkins’ release and the tragedy that soon followed. If his support for the state’s good time law makes Ashford responsible for Jenkins’ crimes, then Heineman and numerous other state lawmakers share that blame.

 

By: Ian Millhiser, Think Progress, October 17, 2014

October 19, 2014 Posted by | NRCC, Politics, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Attack First, Get The Facts Never”: Republicans Couldn’t Wait To Go On The Attack After Bowe Bergdahl’s Release

Bowe Bergdahl. How long is this going to continue?

Cable chatter, talking heads with little to talk about, Republican orchestrated guests with (surprise!) more Obama attacks, facts be damned.

It reminds me of the disappearance of former congressional intern Chandra Levy, where the cable guys couldn’t get enough but didn’t know enough, or the recent 24/7 coverage of a lost airliner where all the reporting was that there was nothing to report.

Republicans called for action to get Bergdahl released and criticized Obama for not doing enough, then, when he was released, condemned the release. Here are some examples:

Sarah Palin before: “Todd and I are praying for Private First Class Bowe Bergdahl, his family, and all of his fellow soldiers who are putting their lives on the line to defend our freedom and protect democracy abroad,”

Sarah Palin after the release: “No, Mr. President, a soldier expressing horrid anti-American beliefs – even boldly putting them in writing and unabashedly firing off his messages while in uniform, just three days before he left his unit on foot – is not ‘honorable service.’ Unless that is your standard.”

Former Rep. Alan West, R-Fla., before: “Then there is Army SGT Bowe Bergdahl still held by the Islamic terrorist Haqqani network, probably in Pakistan, in the same place where Osama Bin Laden was hiding. This past POW/MIA national day of recognition, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel reiterated a pledge to secure the young Army NCO being held captive, but have there been any actions? Any time, attention, or even mention from the Commander-in-Chief? Nah, no camera highlights in it for him.”

Alan West after the release: “Ladies and gentlemen, I submit that Barack Hussein Obama’s unilateral negotiations with terrorists and the ensuing release of their key leadership without consult — mandated by law — with the U.S. Congress represents high crimes and misdemeanors, an impeachable offense.”

There are plenty more examples of the before/after effect from Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and James Inhofe, R-Okla., to name a few.

Some Republicans put up tweets of praise, then withdrew them, but Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., takes the cake with this statement which was later deleted from his website:

“A grateful nation welcomes the news of the return of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. I have the pleasure of regularly speaking with our nation’s active duty military and veterans and I know that there is nothing more solemn than the pledge to never leave one of their own behind on the field of battle.

“Sgt. Bergdahl is a national hero. It’s my hope that once he ultimately retires from active duty service, implementation of reforms to our nation’s VA hospitals are made so that he will have access to the long-term care he has rightfully earned from the horrors he endured.”

OK, fine, this is politics. This is gladiator cable TV. This is a “hot” story.

But, maybe, just maybe, we ought to let the military examine what we know, what we don’t know, what are rumors and what are facts. Maybe we ought to hear from Sgt. Bergdahl before attacking his family, his friends, anyone who ever knew him. Maybe we should not be so quick to judge and cast aspersions on all involved before we know more.

But that is not how the emotional vice that is our politics works – you sense an opening, go for the jugular, any jugular, even if there is collateral damage.

 

By: Peter Fenn, U. S.News and World Report, June 5, 2014

June 8, 2014 Posted by | Bowe Bergdahl, Politics, POW's | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“From Obsession To Insanity”: The GOP Is Unhinged By Obamacare

Whacking yourself on the head with a ball-peen hammer would be stupid. But doing it again and again — that’s insane.

Welcome to your U.S. House of Representatives, presently led by a pack of Tea Party Republicans. They are so crazed by Obamacare that they repeatedly hammer themselves over the head with it, having voted 46 times (so far) to dismantle, defund, delay, deny, and otherwise destroy this landmark health care bill — all to no avail. They would be hilarious, were they not so pathetic.

But now, their anti-government, anti-Obama obsession has turned into insanity. Acting as though the USA is nothing more substantial than a banana republic, this Tea Party clique of petty potentates has forced a shutdown of our national government. The craziest part of their stunt is the duplicitous claim that finally providing health care for millions of uninsured Americans will have, as one leader of the mad-dog pack put it, “horrific effects.”

Yet, even as they publicly insist that they’re heroes for trying to save the people from the horror of receiving fairly decent health coverage, the GOP hierarchy is quietly warning its members that defeating Obamacare now is essential to their own health. Why? Because they know the program will work, providing better care and nearly universal coverage at a cheaper price. It will become widely popular, and any politico who tries to kill it later will become wildly unpopular. Even the senator from Oz, Ted Cruz, understood that the program had to be aborted before it was born. It will be so loved, Cruz candidly conceded (as he desperately tried to suffocate Obamacare with a painfully-long “filibuster”), that the public will be “hooked” on it for the long haul.

Yes, Sen. Oz, the American people tend to support policies that are beneficial to them. What’s crazy is you and your cohorts thinking they’re crazy for thinking that.

So now, Dr. Hightower offers this advice: Don’t fume about the GOP’s lunatic effort to kill health care reform — just laugh at their farcical show. It won’t affect them, but it can improve your mental health.

For starters, take Ted Cruz’s 21-hour blabathon that he said would stop Obamacare in its tracks. Not only did he fail spectacularly, but senators voted 100 to zero against his crazy ploy. Yes, that means that even he ended up voting against it! What a hoot he is.

A shameful hypocrite, too. While going to extremes to keep millions of Americans from getting vitally needed health coverage, Cruz goes to great lengths to keep the people from being reminded of his own health care, past and present.

Having been born in Calgary, Canada, little Ted’s parents were able to take advantage of the country’s universal health care, or as the Tea Party darlings like to call it, “socialized” medicine. That’s right, for the first four years of Ted’s life in Calgary, he was covered under government subsidized healthcare. I find it absolutely hysterical that little Ted would grow up to throw a 21-hour-long temper tantrum over affordable health care for hardworking American people. Recently, Cruz had been repeatedly refusing to answer whether taxpayers covered his health care. Finally, he piously responded that he was eligible for taxpayer coverage, but had nobly declined.

Such slapstick! It turns out that Ted was fibbing, for he’s covered by his wife’s policy. As a millionaire top executive at Goldman Sachs, she and her family are given gold-plated Cadillac coverage by the Wall Street giant. Goldman pays some $40,000 a year for her and Ted’s policy (more than most families make in a year) — a benefit-cost that the firm passes on to us taxpayers by deducting it from its corporate tax bill. Hilarious, huh?

Then there’s the comic twist that’s included in Congress’ current government shutdown. While more than a million regular government workers are going without a paycheck, the congresscritters who forced the furlough continue to collect their $174,000 in annual pay. Some lawmakers are donating their checks to charity, but four out of five are happily pocketing theirs. “Dang straight,” barked Rep. Lee Terry. “I’ve got a nice house and a kid in college,” the Nebraska Republican said. “Giving our paycheck away when you still worked and earned it? That’s just not going to fly,” Terry told his constituents.

And that’s your Congress at work. Laugh ’til it hurts.

 

By: Jim Hightower, Featured Post, The National Memo, October 10, 2013

October 11, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, GOP, Uninsured | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

   

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