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“A Political Strategy To Bring Down Hillary Clinton”: GOP Leader Tries To Undo Damage After Benghazi Concession

On Tuesday night, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) acknowledged a fact that everyone knows, but which Republicans aren’t supposed to admit out loud: the GOP’s taxpayer-financed Benghazi committee is all about the Republicans’ “strategy to fight and win” against Hillary Clinton. It’s not, in other words, about investigating an attack that left four Americans dead.

As the uproar continued yesterday, McCarthy and GOP leaders spent the day “scrambling to undo the damage.” That included the California Republican sitting down with Fox News’ Bret Baier in the hopes of putting out the fire. McCarthy, the likely next Speaker of the House, stuck to an awkwardly worded script.

“I did not intend to imply in any way that [the committee’s] work was political. Of course it is not; look at the way they have carried themselves out. […]

 “I do not want to make that harm Benghazi committee in any way because it’s not political.”

On a substantive level, McCarthy’s explanation was a mess. Just two days after acknowledging reality, the GOP leader now wants to pretend the obvious partisan exercise isn’t “political” at all. As proof, he urges us to “look at the way they have carried themselves out.” That’s clumsy phrasing, but if we do examine how the committee has conducted itself, a picture of a brazenly political tool emerges.

On a rhetorical level, McCarthy didn’t exactly inspire confidence. At one point in the interview, he said, “It wasn’t what I, in my mind, was saying out there.” Good to know.

Behind the scenes, some Republican insiders are quietly starting to refer to McCarthy as “the new Dan Quayle.” I don’t think they mean it as a compliment.

With less than a week remaining before the House GOP leadership elections, it’s not unreasonable to wonder whether McCarthy’s bid to become the next Speaker of the House is now in jeopardy. He has some critics within his party, and his accidental truth-telling this week has them on the offensive.

What’s more, away from Capitol Hill, influential Republican media figures – including Erick Erickson and Bill Kristol – are making clear that they have real concerns about McCarthy’s likely promotion.

The fact remains, however, that McCarthy does not yet have a credible rival for the Speaker’s gavel. In his Fox interview yesterday, he added that he’s “close” to securing the votes necessary to replace John Boehner.

As for congressional Democrats, who were delighted to hear McCarthy confess what they’ve feared all along, there’s been some chatter that Benghazi committee Democrats might resign from the panel in protest. Yesterday, however, the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent reported that House Democrats have decided not to do that.

Greg’s report added that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) warned that Democrats “just might pull their participation one of these days, but that she is encouraging Democrats to attend, for now, anyway.”

Senate Democratic leaders, meanwhile, urged Boehner yesterday to shut down the committee, ending this farce. The outgoing Speaker is unlikely to pull the plug, however, on his own party’s taxpayer-funded election stunt.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 2, 2015

October 2, 2015 Posted by | Benghazi, Hillary Clinton, House Select Committee on Benghazi, Kevin McCarthy | , , , , | 1 Comment

“Dems Won’t Be Boehner’s Cavalry”: Unlikely To Save House Speaker John Boehner From A Conservative Revolt

House Speaker John Boehner could face a leadership challenge this fall, especially if he cuts a deal with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and her Democrats to circumvent or end a government shutdown. So would Democrats ride to his rescue – vote to keep him in the speakership if enough Republicans deserted him that he was denied a majority of votes in a speaker’s race?

He shouldn’t count on a strange bedfellows twist to save his job, one key Democratic lawmaker said this morning. “I cannot say that he can count on the support of Democrats,” Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee said at a press breakfast organized by the Christian Science Monitor. “My view is that the Republican caucus is going to have to make its own decisions. I would have to think long and hard about [voting for Boehner], but my view is that the Republican caucus should find its leader. … I really think that those decisions should be ultimately left to the Republican caucus.”

It’s an interesting dilemma: Go with the ultimately pragmatic devil you know or let chaos reign and see if the GOP ends up giving a firebrand the speaker’s gavel – which, maybe, could help Democrats retake the House. The fact that Van Hollen said he would even consider voting for Boehner shows how weird the situation is getting.Boehner’s problem is that there are enough hard-liners in his caucus to grind everything to a halt every time they have a temper tantrum. Conservative hard-liners have rounded up signatures of more than 40 GOP House members who have vowed not to vote for any government funding that includes money for Planned Parenthood, which has recently been the subject of some deceptively edited sting videos. Either Boehner can accede to them and pass a spending bill which won’t get enacted or he can spurn them and face a challenge to his speakership. Or, arguably most likely, he can let the government shut down for a couple of days before cutting a deal with Democrats, which would still put him in the crosshairs for conservatives.

Ultimately, as Bloomberg Politics wrote yesterday, if Boehner is serious about avoiding a government shutdown (and it seems reasonable to assume that he is), he’s going to need help from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and her Democrats. It’s a fair point – it was Democrats with a few score Republicans, for example, who voted to end the 2013 shutdown (which, Van Hollen noted, incurred “$24 billion in economic loss [and] 120,000 jobs not created because of the lack of additional economic activity”). That calculus is unlikely to change.

Where do things stand? Boehner and Pelosi huddled Thursday night to talk about how to avoid a shutdown. But if any progress was made, no one has told Van Hollen. “You have a speaker who … to my knowledge has not reached out to Democrats in any way to resolve this issue,” he said, adding that “it’s unfortunate that we seem to be on a rerun of a very bad movie” in terms of repeating the shutdown that occurred two years ago.

Van Hollen speculated that Boehner “is much more worried about his own speakership than he is about shutting down the government at least as of today. … We hope that will change.”


By: Robert Schlesinger, Managing Editor for Opinion, U.S. News & World Report, September 18,2015





September 19, 2015 Posted by | Democrats, Government Shut Down, House Republican Caucus, John Boehner | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Trading Symbolism For Substance”: An Issue That Is The Bedrock Of Civil Rights…The Right To Vote

Last week Democrats in the House started attaching an amendment to appropriation bills curtailing the display of Confederate flags on graves in federal cemeteries and the sale of the Confederate flag in national park gift stores. When some Southern representatives objected to it, Speaker Boehner was forced to bring the whole process to a halt. On Thursday the Democrats, led by the Congressional Black Caucus, offered a compromise.

Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.), the third-ranking House Democrat, said Thursday that Democratic leaders will drop their push to attach flag-related amendments to appropriations bills, freeing Republicans to pursue their spending agenda, if GOP leaders will agree to consider an update to the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a central part of which was gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013.

“I’m here to say to you that the members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the full Democratic Caucus are willing to sit down with the Speaker and work out a way for us to allow the proper display and utilization of … the flag in certain instances if he would only sit down with us and work out an appropriate addressing of the amendments to the Voting Rights Act,” Clyburn said during a press briefing in the Capitol.

Ever since the Supreme Court gutted sections of the Voting Rights Act, Democrats have pushed to amend the law in ways that continued to protect the franchise – especially for those who have historically faced repeated attempts to challenge their rights. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi laid out the offer Democrats have now put on the table:

“There has been an opportunity for the Republican majority not just to send a condolence card or show up at a service but to translate that into action,” Pelosi said. “And we are now segueing from the conversation about the flag to a conversation about voting rights now.”

This is exactly the kind of thing Rev. William Barber was talking about.

Taking down the flag is a good thing. But when we look at the voting and policy records of most of the political leaders who helped to lower it, we should be careful with equating its removal as a history-altering event. Systemic racism is alive and well; they show no intention yet of dealing with the fundamental inequalities racism still causes in our society…

Let us be clear about what’s being said: nine Black deaths may get the flag lowered, but it will not get you one pen to sign Medicaid expansion throughout the South, which would save thousands of Black lives. Black deaths will not get full voting rights, which saves Black political power and produces policies that save black, brown and poor white lives. It will not get criminal justice reform, which liberates Black lives. Nor will it get you full funding for public education, a living wage, or economic empowerment that will lift the lives of black people, minorities, and the poor. It will not get gun reform.

What Rep. Clyburn and the Congressional Black Caucus are saying is that they’re willing to put aside arguments about symbolism in exchange for some substance on an issue that is the bedrock of civil rights…the right to vote.


By: Nancy leTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, July 19, 2015

July 20, 2015 Posted by | Confederate Flag, Congressional Black Caucus, Democrats, John Boehner, Voting Rights Act | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Conservatives Rectitude And Piety”: Coach Denny, Grandma Nancy, And America’s Family Values

Republicans on Capitol Hill keep telling everyone how terribly shocked they are by the tawdry tale of Dennis Hastert, the former Speaker of the House indicted last week for violations of federal money-laundering statutes in an effort to cover up alleged sexual abuse of a male high-school student many years ago.

Long upheld as a paragon of Midwestern conservative values, Hastert represented a suburban Illinois district and became his party’s longest-serving Speaker. Like Newt Gingrich, who preceded him in that post, Hastert avidly prosecuted the impeachment of Bill Clinton for trying to conceal an extramarital affair. Unlike Gingrich, whose own serial adulteries became a national joke, Hastert was evidently never suspected of any such “misconduct,” as the indictment described it.

“I don’t see how this didn’t come up on the radar before,” said a former Hastert aide following the release of his indictment.  “It’s sort of beyond belief.”

But is it truly beyond belief, at this very late date, to learn that yet another moralizing politician or preacher was always an utter hypocrite? Not unless you haven’t been paying attention for the past two decades or so. Or you’ve been mesmerized into believing the propaganda that claims only one party — the GOP — represents “family values.”

A decade ago, Hastert was hailed as a partisan symbol of superior virtue, notably in John Mickelthwaite and Adrian Wooldridge’s The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America, which gleefully predicted endless victories for the Republicans and doom for the Democrats. Written by a pair of British Tories who then held top positions at The Economist magazine, that work invidiously contrasted then-Speaker Hastert with Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, his counterpart on the other side of the aisle – and described their districts as emblematic of red and blue America.

Mickelthwaite (now editor-in-chief at Bloomberg) and Wooldridge waxed on lyrically and at daunting length in praise of Coach Denny and “Hastertland,” while they cast a censorious gaze upon Nancy and “Pelosiville,” also known as San Francisco or, again in their words, “the capital of gay America.” Their description of Hastert — “a fairly straightforward conservative: antiabortion, anti-gay marriage” – rings with irony today. So does their depiction of Pelosi’s urban constituency as “a peculiar mix of blue bloods and gays, dotcom millionaires and aging hippies,” set against the “resolutely ‘normal’ ” people represented by Hastert, who “think of themselves as typical Americans.”

Key to understanding the two districts and therefore American politics, according to the authors, were differing attitudes toward “the importance of family life,” orthodox religion, and “social disorder.” In Hastertland, churches and families were growing, streets were clean, and vagrancy eliminated – and in Pelosiville exactly the reverse, with secularism rampant, bums everywhere, and even an outpost of the Church of Satan.

“Looking at ‘Pelosiville’ and ‘Hastertland,’“ they concluded, “it is not difficult to see why American politics has shifted to the Right.”

As it turned out, The Right Nation was mostly wrong, about the fates of the two major parties and much else besides. But what was most wrong was the insinuation that Republicans stand for more elevated values than Democrats, or that conservatives are morally purer than liberals. To take their own example, we now know what we know about Hastert – and we also know that Pelosi, mother of five, grandmother of eight, married more than 50 years to the same husband, advocate of gay marriage and reproductive rights, is today far more credible as a symbol of “family values” and family life.

None of this should be surprising, with all due respect to the shocked, shocked, shocked Republicans. In 2003, after Hastert already had ascended to third in line from the presidency, I reviewed the endless ranks of right-wing moral mountebanks – the cheating celebrity evangelists, the homophobic gay politicians, the lecherous legislators, and others too raunchy to mention here – in one chapter of a book called Big Lies. I included many stories about Hastert’s House colleagues, partying amid their pursuit of Clinton; some were amusing, some quite depressing. Of course, I didn’t know about “Coach Denny” back then.

But with or without his sad story, the conclusion would be the same: that liberals “care about families and children just as much as conservatives do – and that their more tolerant, humane policies do more to help families than the selfish and self-righteous approach of the Republican right.”

What should have changed by now, whenever conservatives start to cluck about their rectitude and piety, is whether anybody still listens.


By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editors Blog, The National Memo, June 3, 2015

June 4, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, Dennis Hastert, Family Values | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Boehner’s Pointless Leadership”: Wasting Everybody’s Time, He Has No One To Blame But Himself

House Speaker John Boehner needs to decide whether he wants to be remembered as an effective leader or a befuddled hack. So far, I’m afraid, it’s the latter.

Boehner’s performance last week was a series of comic pratfalls, culminating Friday in a stinging rebuke from the House Republicans he ostensibly leads. Boehner (R-Ohio) wasn’t asking for much: three weeks of funding for the Department of Homeland Security, which was hours from shutting down. He came away, humiliated, with just seven days’ worth of operating money for the agency charged with keeping Americans safe from terrorist attacks.

By any standard, the whole situation is beyond ridiculous. The government of the world’s leading military and economic power cannot be funded on a week-to-week basis. There’s no earthly excuse for this sorry spectacle — and no one to blame but Boehner.

As everyone knows, the speaker is being stymied by far-right conservatives who insist on using the Homeland Security funding measure as a vehicle to protest President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. And as everyone except those far-right conservatives knows, this is a self-defeating exercise in utter futility. The Senate won’t pass these immigration provisions. The president won’t sign them into law. For the House conservatives, this is not a winnable fight.

Boehner knows this. He also knows that the sprawling government department in charge of airport security, border protection and a host of other vital tasks has to be funded. And he knows that while failing to pass an appropriations bill would impact many Homeland Security functions, the agency charged with implementing Obama’s immigration orders — the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services — gets about 95 percent of its funding from application fees, meaning it would be largely unaffected.

Finally, Boehner knows that a clean Homeland Security funding bill without the ridiculous immigration measures would surely pass the House. But he has refused to do his duty and bring such a bill to the floor.

We’re supposed to feel sorry for him. We’re supposed to boo-hoo about the fact that his majority refuses to fall in line — and might even take away his gavel if he dares to face reality. Mr. Speaker, would you please get over yourself?

When Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) held that job, she faced a similar impasse in 2007 over a funding bill for the Iraq War. Pelosi and most Democrats in Congress were, at that point, vocal opponents of the war. However, it was unthinkable to leave the troops without adequate funding. Democrats managed to push through both chambers an appropriations bill that specified a timetable for troop withdrawals. George W. Bush vetoed it.

So Pelosi swallowed hard and did what was necessary. She ended up bringing a funding bill — with no timetables — to the floor, and it was approved with the votes of Republicans and moderate Democrats. Pelosi voted against it, knowing it would pass.

I am the speaker of the House,” she told reporters that day. “I have to take into account something broader than the majority of the majority of the Democratic caucus.”

When do we hear words like that from Boehner? Never.

He does eventually bow to reality, but not before a lot of pointless brinkmanship that wastes everybody’s time. There are those who argue that standing with the far right in these lost causes somehow strengthens Boehner’s hand as speaker. Really? To me, he seems to be demonstrating, again and again, that every time the children throw a tantrum, they’ll get to stay up all night watching television and eating candy.

Immigration is a matter of principle for conservatives. Everyone gets that. But guess what? It’s also a matter of principle for liberals and moderates. Whose principles triumph depends on arithmetic: Who has the votes to pass a bill or override a veto? In this case, the winner is Obama.

What amazes me is that Boehner had the perfect opportunity to declare victory and get the Homeland Security funding mess behind him. Last month, a federal judge in Texas temporarily blocked Obama’s executive actions on immigration. I think it’s likely that the judge’s order will eventually be reversed. But in the meantime, Boehner could have said, “See, our view about presidential overreach has been vindicated. Now we’ll let the courts take it from here.”

But no. Instead, Boehner knowingly led House Republicans up a blind alley.

One major theme for the Democratic presidential nominee next year, obviously, will be sharp criticism of the GOP-controlled Congress. At this rate, the Republican nominee will be tempted to join in.


By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 2, 2015

March 16, 2015 Posted by | Dept of Homeland Security, House Republicans, John Boehner | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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