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“Every Time He Opens His Mouth”: Trump Veep Contender General Michael Flynn Can’t Stop Pissing Off Conservatives

Before he disappears from sight as a national political figure when Donald Trump names someone else as his vice-presidential choice, let us pause for a moment of awe at the utterances of former general Michael Flynn, who somehow manages to dig himself into a deeper hole every time he opens his mouth.

First and most famously, Flynn eliminated himself from serious consideration for a spot on the national ticket by going on a Sunday show and, via an incoherent ramble, appearing to endorse a woman’s right to have an abortion.

The next day, Flynn tried to recover by labeling himself a “pro-life Democrat” whose mother was an anti-abortion activist, but then wandered back into a swamp by suggesting the Supreme Court had for the time being resolved the issue. Then he made matters infinitely worse by saying that people who viewed the abortion issue as the most important priority for America should just stay home and let others decide the election.

And then, for his encore, Flynn allowed as how he was fine with same-sex marriage, deploying his signature clean and concise talking style:

“On the gay issue, hey, you know what, if people love each other, Jesus, I mean, come on,” Flynn told San Diego KOGO radio’s Morning News. “I’m not afraid of it. That’s my point. And I’m not afraid to tell you what I believe in.”

This statement was made at roughly the same time the Republican convention Platform Committee was beginning to approve a notably homophobic expression of GOP principles.

Flynn also commented about his position on abortion, saying it doesn’t matter that he has previously said women have a right to choose whether to have an abortion.

“I mentioned it yesterday, I’m one of these people that I don’t like, on the abortion issue, it’s not something that—I’m very uncomfortable talking about it. I’m not gonna kid you. It’s a very uncomfortable thing. I think, that, it’s a legal issue. Definitely a legal issue. It’s been decided upon by our Supreme Court.”

In case anyone out there is in doubt about this, let me be plain: Anyone joining a Republican national ticket has to be solidly and unambiguously in favor of outlawing virtually all abortions. Yes, some wiggle room is allowed over the tiny number of abortions performed in cases where pregnancy is caused by rape or incest, but that’s absolutely it. And nothing offends social conservatives much more than suggestions that their issue should be subordinated to others. Indeed, their primary grievance with the GOP is that its leaders do exactly that far too often.

To be clear, these are people who believe, or at least claim to believe, that legalized abortion is an ongoing American Holocaust and that same-sex marriage is an attack on the fundamental wellsprings of Western civilization. So no, these are not “legal issues” to them, or “divisive” topics to be put on the back burner.

Now, it’s fashionable this year, as in most years, to contend that the Christian right is a spent force in American politics, and maybe this time, unlike all of the other times, the prophecy is correct. But, for the moment, the people who say abortion is genocide or that gay people defy all of the laws of God and nature absolutely have the power to blow up Donald Trump’s convention and wreck his slim chances of becoming president. I’m guessing Trump was never serious about Michael Flynn as a running mate or he would have dispatched someone to make sure the man knew what to say on very basic ideological litmus tests like abortion policy. Once the actual veep is announced, poor Flynn can stop digging and go back to being a national-security adviser to Trump, if he hasn’t made himself so toxic that even that kind of role becomes impossible.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, July 13, 2016

July 14, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, Donald Trump, GOP Vice President Candidate | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Gun Violence On The Other Hand…”: Republican Platform Labels Pornography ‘A Public Health Crisis’

It was just a few months ago when state policymakers in Utah approved a measure condemning pornography as a “public health crisis.” Gov. Gary Herbert (R) signed a resolution, approved by the GOP-led legislature, calling for new policies to combat the porn scourge.

And at the time, much of the country had a good laugh about this, recognizing that Utah is one of the nation’s most conservative states, more likely than most to overreact to a pornography “crisis” that doesn’t really exist. But as Yahoo News reported yesterday, Republicans in Utah evidently aren’t alone on the issue.

Republican delegates unanimously adopted an amendment to their draft platform Monday morning that called pornography “a public health crisis” and a “public menace” that is destroying lives.

The language went further in its condemnation of porn than the 2012 GOP platform, which condemned child pornography and encouraged the enforcement of obscenity and pornography laws.

The new amendment, which will be added to the national party’s 2016 platform, reads, “Pornography, with its harmful effects, especially on children, has become a public health crisis that is destroying the life [sic] of millions. We encourage states to continue to fight this public menace and pledge our commitment to children’s safety and wellbeing.”

Now take a moment to read that exact same quote, only this time, replace “pornography” with “gun violence.” The national Republican Party’s platform committee unanimously approved the porn measure yesterday; is there any doubt it would have unanimously rejected the same language if it pertained to guns?

The point of a national party’s platform is to articulate its core values and priorities. Unfortunately, the RNC platform is doing exactly that.

The document, which won’t be formally approved until the Republican convention next week, also opposes “policies that encourage cohabitation,” supports crackpot “gay conversion therapy” in which sexual orientation is changed through prayer, expresses concern over electromagnetic pulse threats, declares coal power as “clean,” and seeks to turn back the clock on marriage equality.

The contemporary Republican Party, in other words, appears committed to looking backwards, and restoring policies of the past. If GOP officials are lucky, the American mainstream won’t read or hear much about their 2016 platform.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 12, 2016

July 12, 2016 Posted by | Gun Violence, Pornography, Public Health, Republican National Convention | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Why I’m Ashamed To Be Republican”: We’ve Become A Party That Preys On The Discouraged, Not One That Fosters Hope

Noticing the growing pile of rejected dresses, the saleswoman asked me what I was shopping for. I responded, “I know what I want, I just can’t seem to find it. Something conservative but cute, shorter than work length, longer than club length. I’m not opposed to a romper, but don’t really want a skirt. Help.” She laughed and asked me if I was shopping for a specific event. The words formulated in my brain but I couldn’t get them out. I didn’t want to tell her.

I couldn’t wait for the weekend reunion of my colleagues from the Bush-Cheney administration at the George W. Bush Institute in Dallas, but I didn’t want to say that. “A company picnic,” I said, “Nothing too riveting, but I’ll see co-workers I haven’t seen in a while.” As I looked in the mirror (having found the perfect shirt dress), I thought: Why did I say that? This event was exciting; I was going to see a former president, vice president, first lady and countless friends. When did I become so embarrassed to be a Republican?

I grew up in a conservative, Catholic family. I remember voting for President George H.W. Bush in my school’s straw ballot in the 1980s. I’ve voted mostly with the party over the years. I joined the College Republicans and planned rallies for the troops, went to seminars on entrepreneurship and volunteered for Sen. Jim Talent’s reelection campaign in Missouri. I swear I bled little red elephants. Following graduation, I worked on President George W. Bush’s 2004 campaign in Florida and fell further in love with politics, the party and the process. I worked on the Presidential Inaugural Committee and was honored to receive an appointment in Bush’s administration. We even had a softball league. Some of my fondest memories are from those years; it was an incredible time to be alive. I was (and still am) truly proud to have been a part of it all.

As the years passed, though, I became more liberal on social issues, not understanding why my best friend from college couldn’t marry his longtime boyfriend. I struggled with the line between the right to life and a woman’s right to make her own decisions about what to do with her body. I read and reread the Constitution, studied the Federalist Papers and came to better understand the ideals on which our nation was founded. I quickly learned what it was like to make $30,000 a year in the District (along with the necessity of having multiple roommates).

I shifted closer to the middle, but there was still so much about the Republican Party that I loved. It was the party that fought to give more funding, better equipment and training to my husband — a Navy pilot. The party that pressed for veterans’ health reform. The party that gave us a president who delivered the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief program to combat HIV in Africa. The party that encouraged and promoted the growth of small businesses.

But more than anything, it was the people. My colleagues in the Bush administration were compassionate, innovative and enthusiastic. We were men and women of various ages, demographics and backgrounds, woven together by our common belief in a president, a mission and, above all, the importance of character. The hours were long, but the years went fast. At the opening of Bush’s presidential library in Dallas three years ago, I was again surrounded by those colleagues. When President Obama was introduced, every person in attendance rose in thunderous applause. I realized then what made that group of colleagues so special: our respect for the office of the president.

Three years later, at this month’s reunion, tears came to my eyes as I listened to Bush speak about what made our country great. We fought for inclusion, not isolationism. We were patriots, not protectionists, and we worked to advance freedom, not fear.

I was proud to be a Republican. The GOP I worked for, fundraised for and fundamentally believed in put forward candidates who reflected my values. But now? I’m embarrassed to be a Republican because of who is leading in the polls. We’ve become a party that preys on the discouraged, not one that fosters hope. We’re incentivizing anger, not integrity. We tear down others to promote ourselves. If our current front-runner is the GOP candidate, I won’t vote Republican in November. I’m still stuck in that dressing room: I know what I want. I just can’t seem to find it.

 

By: T. T. Robinson, Author of the New York Times Deployment Diary and a political correspondent for NextGen MilSpouse; The Washington Post, April 24, 2016

April 25, 2016 Posted by | Bush-Cheney Administration, Donald Trump, GOP, Republicans | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“New Religious Freedom Bills Legitimize Discrimination”: Using The Bible As A Prop For Prejudice

You’d think history might serve as a guide for the politicians and preachers — good Christians all, of course — who have chosen to use the Bible to bolster their bigotry against people they’ve placed outside the magic circle. We’ve seen this before, and it didn’t turn out well for those who claimed a mantle of righteousness. Yet onward they march.

Mississippi recently passed a “religious freedom” law designed to provide legal cover for those who wish to discriminate against gays and lesbians. The law is quite specific, allowing government clerks to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and protecting businesses that refuse to serve them.

Does this ring any bells? Do any of these people remember Jim Crow, a system of legalized oppression that stunted Mississippi for generations and whose legacy the state is still struggling to overcome?

They can’t have forgotten — not all of them.

Gov. Phil Bryant, who signed the odious bill, is certainly old enough to remember. He’d remember, too, that, during his childhood, many of the leading church folk declared that God was on the side of discrimination.

And history should have taught the governor about Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple who dared to marry in 1958. The Virginia judge who sentenced them to prison for their crime wrote: “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. … The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”

Indeed, this practice of using the Bible as a prop for prejudice has a long and ignominious tradition, spanning centuries and continents. In the United States, slave owners conveniently saw in the Bible a heaven-sent sanction for their brutal greed. Throughout the 19th century, preachers delivered sermons claiming that “the Old Testament did sanction slavery,” as the Rev. Richard Fuller put it in 1847. Others saw a validation of white supremacy in a Bible verse about the descendants of Ham.

Proponents of “religious freedom” statutes point to the First Amendment, which enshrines as a central value the protection of religious views, even those that are outside the mainstream. Congress reiterated its fidelity to that founding principle as recently as 1993, when a bipartisan majority passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. It was designed for such cases as the Sikh firefighter who wants to keep his beard, or the Orthodox Jew who needs an exemption from a Sabbath work requirement.

But the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 decision legalizing same-sex marriage set off a spate of proposals that serve no purpose except bigotry — laws that prop up prejudice with Scripture. The giveaway in several of those bills is this: They allow for-profit businesses to claim to have religious beliefs and to refuse service on that basis.

(The Supreme Court opened the door for that with its unfortunate 2014 ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, which assigned religious beliefs to corporations. That involved a company’s “religious freedom” to refuse to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives.)

Churches, by the way, don’t need any extra legal protections. The First Amendment has always given religious institutions wide latitude to practice their beliefs as they see fit, even if that means making invidious distinctions. Catholic priests have long reserved the right to refuse to marry those who are divorced; many conservative churches refuse to ordain women. So clerics may decline to perform the marriage rite for same-sex couples without fear of legal sanctions.

Given that, there is no need for laws that legitimize discrimination, and some states, either through revision or veto, have stepped back from such mean-spirited laws. North Carolina, however, has forged ahead with its “bathroom bill,” passed to nullify a Charlotte law that would have allowed transgendered individuals to use public restrooms of their choosing. And other state legislators are still debating proposals meant to show their disapproval of same-sex marriage.

Onward they march — toward their heterosexual heaven.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker Haynes, Pulitzer Prize Winner For commentary in 2007; The National Memo, April 9, 2016

April 10, 2016 Posted by | Discrimination, LGBT, Religious Freedom | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Talking Encourages Effective Change”: Obama In Cuba, And The Astounding Legacy Of A Pragmatic President

I’m old. Not as ancient as, say, the dinosaurs, but I’m certainly not young. In fact, I’m only a few years younger than the president, which, while young for the White House, is kind of old in my house.

How old am I? Well, I’ll tell you: I’m old enough to remember when all manner of things now the stuff of daily life were the stuff of Hollywood — the notion of an African-American president, for one.

Or, for instance, relations with Cuba. Are you mad, son? That embargo outlived the Iron Curtain! We will never have anything to do with Cuba (other than smuggled cigars) until the Castros are dead and a unicorn sits on a throne of dollars in the heart of Havana. The sky is blue, the grass is green, and Cuba is natio non grata, forever and ever.

Until this month. Until Sunday. Until, actually, December 2014, when the president announced, “Today, the United States of America is changing its relationship with the people of Cuba” — an announcement which frankly left me gobsmacked and a little pie-eyed. I hadn’t been paying attention, you see, and seemingly out of the blue, this president had done the undoable, as if 50 years of human history could be changed with human hands. Now he’s walking around Havana and meeting with Raul Castro.

Or how about that other impossibility: U.S.-Iranian détente? I actually remember when the U.S. Embassy in Tehran was stormed. I’m also old enough to remember George W. Bush’s 2002 Axis of Evil speech, the one that torpedoed active Iranian cooperation with America in post-9/11 Afghanistan. And yet here we are, one president later, in possession of a nuclear deal with one of our most implacable foes, a foe that has in the meantime elected a slate of surprisingly moderate politicians to its parliament, reinforcing Obama’s position that talking encourages change more effectively than ceaseless saber-rattling.

Oh, I’m old enough to remember all kinds of things. I remember when “LGBTQ rights” were called “the homosexual agenda” and orange juice pitch-woman Anita Bryant told America that the gays wanted to hurt your children. I also remember the AIDS crisis, and how many people had to die before anyone in power began to treat them with dignity. I think that as a young woman I literally wouldn’t have been able to imagine a circumstance in which a sitting U.S. president would oversee the establishment of same-sex marriage as a constitutional right. Obama “evolved” on the issue, he told us — bringing America along with him, allowing us to evolve toward that more-perfect union of which our founders spoke.

And don’t think I’ve forgotten health care reform, which has been impossible since Harry Truman. I remember when the current Democratic frontrunner tried her hand at reshaping health care and got so badly burned that she and her then-president husband paid for it for years. Today, on the other hand, millions of Americans for whom basic health care was once as unimaginable as that unicorn in Havana now have insurance, and cannot be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions — such as, for instance, domestic violence or having a cervix. ObamaCare is, in many ways, feminism at its most brass-tacks, and I’m pretty sure Young Me also couldn’t have imagined having a president who is a feminist.

No one accomplishes anything on their own, no matter the office they hold. In the course of seven years, the president has had to learn from, respond to, and work with people ranging from grassroots activists to Pope Francis (while, it should be noted, the opposition party has done all it can to prevent him from accomplishing anything at all). And on many of these matters, Obama has just barely been ahead of the curve. When he announced the change in relations with Cuba, for instance, just less than half of Cuban-Americans in Miami-Dade County supported the embargo anymore — down from 66 percent in 2004 and 56 percent in 2011.

The president has never been a revolutionary; to borrow from Lin-Manuel Miranda, he is and has always been a bold pragmatist — which is, in my book, a compliment.

I don’t want to give the impression that I agree with everything Obama and his administration have presided over. Ask me (or better yet, don’t) about Obama’s record on Israel/Palestine — or maybe talk to the Central Americans deported back to their home countries after fleeing unspeakable violence. To borrow from the internet, your faves are always problematic. My faves are, too.

And yet. There are days on which this old woman looks at her young president’s record, and all but falls out of her chair. The foregoing is but a partial list, missing many things Obama has accomplished or advanced that were, as far as I once knew, impossible or pretty near. The beautiful thing, of course, is that you don’t actually have to be old to see it — you just have to be paying attention.

Thanks, Obama.

 

By: Emily L. Hauser, The Week, March 21, 2016

March 23, 2016 Posted by | Cuba, Diplomacy, President Obama, Raul Castro | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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