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“Run That By Me Again?”: Sessions Claims Credibility On Hispanic, African-American Voters

Back in February, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) did something no other senator was willing to do at the time: the Alabama Republican endorsed Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. And now that the New York Republican is the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Sessions is helping lead the charge, urging others in the GOP to get in line.

The senator told Politico, in reference to House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) skepticism, “[O]n some of these issues, Trump is where the Republicans are and if you’re going to be a Republican leader you should be supportive of that.”

And what about those in the party who believe Trump will struggle to win in November? Sessions told the far-right Daily Caller that those doubters don’t fully appreciate the breadth of Trump’s appeal.

[Sessions] is predicting presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump will attract black and Hispanic voters in the general election.

“Donald Trump is going to do better with Hispanics and African Americans, I am convinced, because he’s talking about things that will really make their wages go up,” Sessions said during a recent interview in his Capitol Hill office with The Daily Caller.

The senator didn’t specify what “better” might entail – he presumably meant stronger support than Mitt Romney received in 2012 – but it almost certainly doesn’t matter. By basing so much of his campaign on racial animus, Trump has gone to extraordinary lengths to alienate voters from minority communities.

Romney won 27% of the Latino vote four years ago and 6% of the African-American vote. There is very little evidence to suggest Trump will “do better” than this performance in the fall.

But what struck me as especially interesting about this wasn’t just the message, but also the messenger.

As we discussed earlier in the year, the New Republic published a piece in 2002 on Sessions’ background, which included a stint as a U.S. Attorney, when his most notable prosecution targeted three civil rights workers, including a former aide to Martin Luther King Jr., on trumped up charges of voter fraud.

The piece added that Sessions, during his career in Alabama, called the NAACP “un-American” because, among other groups, it “forced civil rights down the throats of people.” A former career Justice Department official who worked with Sessions recalled an instance in which he referred to a white attorney as a “disgrace to his race” for litigating voting rights cases on behalf of African Americans. Sessions later acknowledged having made many of the controversial remarks attributed to him, but he claimed to have been joking.

What’s more, Thomas Figures, a former assistant U.S. Attorney in Alabama and an African American, later explained that during a 1981 murder investigation involving the Ku Klux Klan, Sessions was heard by several colleagues commenting that he “used to think they [the Klan] were OK” until he found out some of them were “pot smokers.” Sessions once again acknowledged making the remark, but once again claimed to have been kidding. Figures also remembered having heard Sessions call him “boy,” and once warned him to “be careful what you say to white folks.”

When the Reagan administration nominated Sessions for the federal bench in 1986, the Senate rejected him because of his controversial record on race.

But in 2016, Jeff Sessions is so “convinced” he has his finger on the pulse of the electorate that he’s willing to predict increased Hispanic and African-American support for the controversial Republican nominee.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 30, 2016

June 1, 2016 Posted by | African Americans, Donald Trump, Hispanics, Jeff Sessions | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Race-Baiting Rants, Xenophobic Fear-Mongering”: Maine’s Racist Gov. Paul LePage Is A Preview Of President Trump

If you want a vision of the Donald Trump presidential future, look no further than Maine’s tantrum-throwing, race-baiting, loves-to-be-hated Gov. Paul LePage.

Since being elected in 2010, LePage has repeatedly made use of rants designed to rally white middle-class resentment and garner media attention for his pet causes. The New York Times calls him “combative,” Politico says he’s “crazy,” and the Huffington Post brands him a “racist.”

For those following the Republican presidential race, this all sounds quite familiar.

In the span of just seven months, frontrunner Trump has dispensed with any sense of decorum or restraint—whether it’s calling John McCain a “loser” who, despite surviving a Vietnamese prisoner camp, is no war hero; branding Mexicans “rapists”; making sexist remarks about rival candidate Carly Fiorina and Fox News host Megyn Kelly; demanding an outright ban on all Muslim immigration; or gleefully repeating a fan calling Ted Cruz a “pussy.”

LePage, too, relishes in “tellin’ it like it is” brutishness.

For instance, the governor has blamed the spread of infectious diseases on undocumented immigrants. “I have been trying to get the president to pay attention to the illegals in our country because there’s been a spike in hepatitis C, tuberculosis, and HIV, but it’s going on deaf ears,” he lamented, while failing to provide evidence for his claims.

While on the campaign trail in 2010, he proclaimed that he’d tell President Obama to “go to hell.” And within weeks of taking office, the businessman-turned-governor declined invitations from the NAACP to attend Martin Luther King Jr. Day events, adding that the civil rights organization—a “special interest” who will not hold him “hostage”—should “kiss my butt” if they feel slighted.

It’s not hard to envision President Trump, leaning back in his solid-gold Oval Office chair, telling a Muslim-American activist group they can “kiss my ass” after he declines to visit a mosque or entertain religious leaders.

As Maine’s executive, LePage frequently makes uncouth remarks to bash his legislative rivals. “Sen. [Troy Dale] Jackson claims to be for the people,” he said during a budget dispute, “but he’s the first one to give it to the people without providing Vaseline.”

One could easily imagine POTUS Trump making anal sex references to pressure Senate Democrats during tense negotiations.

And just like Trump has lobbed personal insults and veiled threats at media outlets he perceives as unfair, LePage, while at the controls of a flight simulator, publicly joked, “I want to find the Portland Press Herald building and blow it up.” A few months after the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, the Maine governor said he’d “like to shoot” a Bangor Daily News political cartoonist.

All of this seems to be part of LePage’s plan to thump his chest and offend or embarrass everyone until he gets his way. Just like The Donald.

The uber-conservative governor made national headlines last month when he suggested “we ought to bring the guillotine back” as punishment for drug traffickers. Before that, he went on a screed about “guys with the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty” coming from other states to “sell their heroin” and ditch, but not before “they impregnate a young, white girl.”

LePage’s communications director, Peter Steele, denied the governor’s comments had anything to do with race. But then a month later, mini-Trump admitted the racial connotations, and noted it was all part of his tantrum to get the state’s legislature to do as he wanted.

“I had to go scream at the top of my lungs about black dealers coming in and doing the things that they’re doing to our state,” he told a WVOM radio show on Tuesday. “I had to scream about guillotines and those types of things before [state lawmakers] were embarrassed into giving us a handful of DEA agents. That is what it takes with this 127th [Legislature]. It takes outrageous comments and outrageous actions to get them off the dime. They just simply don’t move.”

Interestingly, as the Bangor Daily News noted, lawmakers from both parties agreed to LePage’s drug-fighting plans before he ever threw a hissy fit. And when it came up for a vote, all but one legislator voted yes.

So his racist stand was all for show. Sounds familiar.

Oddly enough, when asked for his thoughts on the likely Republican nominee, LePage, who had endorsed Chris Christie in the primary, said, “I’m not a big fan of Donald Trump, although he should give me a stipend… for starting this whole thing about being outspoken.”

 

By: Andrew Kirell, The Daily Beast, February 11, 2016

February 13, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Maine Legislature, Paul LePage, Racism | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Diaper Dandy is Done”: I’m Just Glad To See David Vitter Go; I Never Liked That Man

Louisiana state Rep. John Bel Edwards soundly defeated David Vitter in yesterday’s gubernatorial election. Not only that, but in his concession speech, Vitter announced that he won’t seek reelection to the U.S. Senate next year. In other words, David Vitter is finished as a consequential politician, done in mainly by an eight year old prostitution scandal, but also by the immense unpopularity of the sitting Republican governor Bobby Jindal.

The Democratic Party is encouraged to see a flicker of life in the Deep South, although progressives need to keep things in perspective.

From the start of his run, Edwards knew any chance of victory hinged on distinguishing himself from the prevailing image of Democrats among voters. In meetings with small groups in rural parishes, he touted his opposition to abortion and strong support for gun ownership.

The devil is in the details when it comes to opposing abortion and supporting gun ownership. What kinds of bills would be radical enough that Edwards would veto them? Is there a different line than there would be for a Republican governor?

In some ways, it’s already a defeat if Democratic candidates feel that they need to concede the Republican position on these two very important issues in order to get a hearing on other policies. And there’s a price they have to pay when their party is more divided on issues than the Republicans. It waters down the message.

On the other hand, more than anything else, it was the Democrats’ ability to unite around one candidate while the Republicans were slugging it out in a nasty primary that brought them success. “Edwards” is a big name in Louisiana politics, but John Bel Edwards’s clan is not related to former Governor Edwin Edwards. In a pre-election analysis, The Daily Beast‘s Jason Berry did a comprehensive examination of the new Edwards family power in the Bayou State. Here’s part of that:

It also helps Edwards, 49, that his brother, Daniel, 47, is Tangipahoa Parish sheriff—a fourth-generation sheriff in a sprawling family of lawyers, politicians, and law enforcement officials with deep Louisiana roots.

Tangipahoa is a heavily rural civil parish whose seat, the town of Amite (population 4,141) is 82 miles north of New Orleans. Edwards’s law firm is in Amite; he lives in nearby Roseland (population 1,165). For much of the last century, the parish, which is 30 percent African-American, was known as “Bloody Tangipahoa,” with a history of lawlessness that included a gruesome chapter involving the Ku Klux Klan. That stigma changed under Sheriff Frank Edwards, John Bel’s father.

“Frank Edwards was one of the first sheriffs that hired blacks,” says Donald Bell, the African-American pastor of New Life Outreach Ministries in the town of Hammond.

“Frank was balanced. Everybody loved him. John Bel had good training from his daddy. I was close to Frank. He lived and died politics. If Frank told you, ‘Jerry can’t beat John,’ you could bet that Jerry wasn’t gonna beat John. And Frank would give you two, three reasons why. He was a good Catholic guy. They were committed, just like John Bel—he doesn’t miss Mass. John Bel is a people person, down to earth, what you see is what you get.”

According to Pastor Bell, Edwards has always gotten along well with the local NAACP, and he actually won a state House seat that had been drawn up to be held by a black politician. This ability to bridge the racial divide helps explain how he managed to avoid any Democratic challengers in the primary. And, of course, it was his father who paved the way.

With the endorsement of state law enforcement organizations, his strong record at West Point and as an Airborne Ranger, his family’s good reputation for piety and positive race relations, and an opponent who was best known for paying prostitutes to dress him in a diaper, it would probably be a mistake to see this election result as some kind of bellwether for anything.

The Democrats simply had a much better candidate.

They also didn’t have Bobby Jindal hanging around their neck like an anvil. Like all Louisiana Republicans these days, Vitter tried to destroy his opponent by tying him to President Obama, but this tactic was neutralized by Edwards’ efforts to tie Vitter to Jindal. This left Vitter dependent on social issues, like guns and abortion, but there weren’t any meaningful distinctions between the two candidates on those issues, and there wasn’t much question which candidate had the better record for being a good family man.

And, so, we got a result that is surprising but really was foreseeable if you drilled down into the specifics of the race.

As for what happens now, the The Times-Picayune believes that Gov.-Elect Edwards will bring Medicaid expansion to the state and that teachers unions will have more influence. Edwards will try to deliver on a campaign promise to double funding for higher education, but Jindal has left the state’s finances a mess, and he’ll need to work with a legislature dominated by Republicans.

The Democrat has promised to govern from the middle and is expected to appoint Democrats and Republicans alike to cabinet positions. For example, [Republican Lt. Governor Jay] Dardenne is likely on a short list to fill a high-profile position in the Edwards administration.

Edwards may have to govern in a bipartisan manner, not just by choice. The governor-elect has a serious budget crisis on his hands, and will need a two-thirds vote of the GOP-controlled Legislature for many of his proposals to fix Louisiana’s finances.

“I think that the Legislature and executive branch should cooperate fully,” said Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, who is likely to remain atop the state senate in 2016.

But not everyone is excited to see Edwards head up the executive office. The Democrat makes many of the state’s leading business groups nervous. Edwards has not been supportive of the school choice movement, including charter schools and the state voucher program. Business leaders also believe he is more inclined to roll back their tax credits and incentive programs to fix the state’s budget problems than a Republican would be.

Edwards will have to find an enormous amount of money somewhere to shore up the state’s finances. Louisiana is wrestling with a $500 million shortfall in its current budget cycle and a projected $1 billion budget gap in the next fiscal year.

I’m no expert on Louisiana’s legislature, so I don’t know whether Medicaid expansion will get done or not. I do know that Edwards will have four years to rebuild the Democratic Party and that a lot of people will get experience working in his administration.

Above all, I’m just glad to see David Vitter go. I never liked that man.

 

By: Martin Longman, Web Editor for the Washington Monthly; Ten Miles Square, November 22, 2015

November 29, 2015 Posted by | Bobby Jindal, David Vitter, John Bel Edwards, Louisiana | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Free Stuff!”: Jeb’s Outreach To Black Voters; It Isn’t ‘We’ll Take Care Of You With Free Stuff’

Man, Republicans just can’t help themselves, can they? Here’s Jebbie in South Carolina talking about reaching out to African-American voters, per a report from WaPo’s Sean Sullivan:

“Look around this room,” a man told Bush, who spoke to a mostly white crowd. “How many black faces do you see? How are you going to include them and get them to vote for you?” asked the man, who was white.

Bush pointed to his record on school choice and said that if Republicans could double their share of the black vote, they would win the swing states of Ohio and Virginia.

And if they had some ham, they could make a ham sandwich, if they had some bread. But I digress.

“Our message is one of hope and aspiration,” he said at the East Cooper Republican Women’s Club annual Shrimp Dinner. “It isn’t one of division and get in line and we’ll take care of you with free stuff. Our message is one that is uplifting — that says you can achieve earned success.”

The “free stuff” reference sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

According to a pool report, [Mitt] Romney, who struggled badly with minority voters in the 2012 election, said during a Montana fundraiser that year: “I want people to know what I stand for and if I don’t stand for what they want, go vote for someone else, that’s just fine. But I hope people understand this, your friends who like Obamacare, you remind them of this, if they want more stuff from government tell them to go vote for the other guy — more free stuff.” Romney was explaining his remarks that day at the NAACP’s national convention, where he was booed.

Now in commenting on this latest Bush gaffe, the ever-fair Greg Sargent notes that Jeb’s not attacking po’ folks for taking “free stuff:”

Bush was not criticizing recipients of government help as self-designated victims. Rather, he was implicitly criticizing the Democratic vision of government, suggesting that Dems want to use government handouts (“free stuff”) to destructively trap people in dependency (“take care of you”) in order to capture and hold their votes.

As applied to African-Americans, this is the old “Plantation” meme, according to which Democrats have ensnared people by the diabolical means of helping them stay alive and make ends meet, as opposed to “empowering” them with benign neglect.

This sort of rap coming from the scion of a rich and powerful family might go over better if he were preceded by some commitments to letting African-Americans vote and abandoning mass incarceration as a social control mechanism and taking seriously complaints about police misconduct. As it is, it’s just free rhetoric.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 25, 2015

September 27, 2015 Posted by | African Americans, Black Voters, Jeb Bush | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Put-Up-Or-Shut-Up”: GOP Candidates Blame Obama For Police Shootings, Cite No Evidence

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch yesterday “strongly condemned shootings of law enforcement officers in Texas and Illinois and issued an unequivocal message of support for police.” The comments came on the heels of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) arguing that “the entire Obama administration” has shown “hostility [towards] law enforcement.”

Cruz, of course, backed up his argument by pointing to … nothing. Soon after, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) appeared on Fox News and said the White House’s support for law enforcement has been “ambiguous,” which contributes to violence and lawlessness. To support the contention, the scandal-plagued Republican also pointed to … nothing.

Taking an even less subtle approach, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) published a piece on a far-right blog yesterday, reflecting on “a serious problem.”

In the last six years under President Obama, we’ve seen a rise in anti-police rhetoric. Instead of hope and change, we’ve seen racial tensions worsen and a tendency to use law enforcement as a scapegoat.

Look, eventually we’re going to reach a put-up-or-shut-up moment. We talked yesterday about how offensive it is when politicians exploit the deaths of police officers for partisan gain, but as the number of GOP candidates connecting the White House to the slayings grows, it becomes all the more important for Republican officials to do one specific thing:

Back up their ugly claims with some shred of proof.

Of course, at this point, I can imagine some conservative readers yelling at their computer screens. “Oh yeah, smart guy? What about you? Where’s your evidence that the president has offered unambiguous support for law enforcement?”

It’s not an unreasonable point, but it’s also surprisingly easy to spend a little time online and find all kinds of examples. About a month ago, Obama told the NAACP’s annual convention, “Our communities are safer thanks to brave police officers and hard-working prosecutors who put those violent criminals in jail.” In May, he said, “To be a police officer takes a special kind of courage…. It takes a special kind of courage to run towards danger, to be a person that residents turn to when they’re most desperate.”

Here was the president in May at the National Peace Officers Memorial Service:

“Your jobs are inherently dangerous. The reminders are too common. Just a few days ago, two police officers were killed in the line of duty in Mississippi. A week before that, an officer was killed in the line of duty in Queens. A few months before that, two of his fellow officers in the NYPD were killed as well.  We cannot erase every darkness or danger from the duty that you’ve chosen. We can offer you the support you need to be safer. We can make the communities you care about and protect safer as well. We can make sure that you have the resources you need to do your job. We can do everything we have to do to combat the poverty that plagues too many communities in which you have to serve.  We can work harder, as a nation, to heal the rifts that still exist in some places between law enforcement and the people you risk your lives to protect. 

 “We owe it to all of you who wear the badge with honor. And we owe it to your fellow officers who gave their last full measure of devotion.  Most of all, we can say thank you. We can say we appreciate you and we’re grateful for the work that you do each and every day. And we can thank the families who bear the burden alongside you.”

In March, reflecting on the crisis in Ferguson, Obama said, “The overwhelming number of law enforcement officers have a really hard, dangerous job, and they do it well and they do it fairly, and they do it heroically. And I strongly believe that. And the overwhelming majority of police departments across the country are really thinking hard about how do we make sure that we are protecting and serving everybody equally. And we need to honor those folks, and we need to respect them, and not just assume that they’ve got ill will or they’re doing a bad job.”

Even in this year’s State of the Union address, the president added, “We may have different takes on the events of Ferguson and New York.  But surely we can understand a father who fears his son can’t walk home without being harassed.  And surely we can understand the wife who won’t rest until the police officer she married walks through the front door at the end of his shift.”

The list goes on and on. There are so many examples like these – the ones noted above are just from 2015 – spanning Obama’s entire presidency. Over and over again, he’s voiced support and gratitude towards Americans in law enforcement.

Ted Cruz said this week that the police feel under “assault from the president,” which the far-right senator considers “fundamentally wrong.”

It is fundamentally wrong, but not for the reasons Cruz thinks.

The underlying allegation is no mild rebuke. Republican officials, some seeking the nation’s highest office, are publicly accusing the president of the United States, not only of hostility towards law enforcement, but also of contributing to a dynamic in which officers are being killed. That’s a serious accusation, which requires substantiation.

If GOP officials can’t back it up, they ought to move on to some other kind of nonsense.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 3, 2015

September 4, 2015 Posted by | Law Enforcement, Police Officers, Police Shootings | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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