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“Overturning Elections Has Consequences”: Perry v. Lehmberg And The Veto That Illuminated An Unsettling Trend

A truism: Almost nobody looks good in his booking photo.

That said, the 47th governor of Texas, one James Richard Perry, certainly gave it his best shot when he faced the camera at the Travis County Courthouse last week. The resultant image is … not terrible. Perry is caught somewhere between a tight smile and an outright grimace, his mien taut with confidence and seriousness of purpose.

Gazing on that photo, one cannot help but suspect that a transparently political indictment designed by his Democratic opponents to cripple this presumed presidential aspirant might actually help him instead. One is not usually disposed to think of Texas’ swaggering governor as a victim, but darn if this indictment hasn’t turned the trick.

Of course, if Democrats in Texas have done the Republican governor an inadvertent favor, they sure haven’t done the country one. What is this thing lately of political parties using the courts as weapons of political destruction, trying to win judicially what they could not win at the ballot box?

A few words of definition before we proceed. The reference here is not simply to lawsuits and prosecutions with political import. Obviously there has been no shortage of those. But the sins and alleged sins of Rod Blagojevich, William Jefferson, Larry Craig, Bob McDonnell, Tom DeLay and others — money-laundering, corruption, disorderly conduct — are at least recognizable as crimes.

By contrast, Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner is suing President Obama for issuing an executive order. Faced with mulish obstructionism from the GOP, Obama chose that route to make a technical change in a law — the Affordable Care Act — Boehner’s party hates. Now here’s Perry, indicted on felony abuse of power charges that could theoretically send him to prison for over a century. His crime? He issued a veto.

Here is the backstory: The district attorney of Travis County, Democrat Rosemary Lehmberg, was arrested last year for drunk driving. Video captured her being belligerent toward police. Perry called on Lehmberg, who oversees the state public integrity unit, to resign, perhaps so that he might appoint a friendly Republican successor to head an agency that has been a thorn in his backside. Lehmberg refused, so Perry vetoed $7.5 million in state funding for the integrity unit.

Neither principal in this sordid episode emerges covered with glory. Lehmberg’s behavior suggests the opposite of public integrity; she should have resigned. And Perry’s veto smacks of scorched earth, bully-boy politics, which is not pretty. It is also not a crime.

Things were not always thus. Once upon a time, the losing party felt itself bound to accept the will of the electorate with some modicum of grace. You weren’t happy about it, but you embraced the role of loyal opposition and bided your time until the next election in hopes your fortunes might change.

But that’s so 20th century.

For six years, the GOP has been trying to undo the election of 2008; Boehner’s lawsuit is only the latest of their many loopy schemes. Now, if Travis County is any bellwether, at least some Democrats are doing the selfsame thing.

It is behavior that should give all fair-minded Americans pause, regardless of party affiliation, for it illustrates with stark clarity the sheer brokenness of our political system. Flooded with corporate money, gerrymandered beyond any semblance of reason, it limps along prodded by those whose devotion to the “game” far outweighs any devotion they might have to that quaint relic we once called the public good. Now there is this misuse of the courts for political payback, this attempt to criminalize ordinary political activity.

The public should take note. Elections have consequences, folks used to say.

Overturning them does, too.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist, The Miami Herald; The National Memo, August 25, 2014

 

August 26, 2014 Posted by | Elections, John Boehner, Rick Perry | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Suing The President”: Another Un-American Step For Today’s GOP

Any genuine conservative, any real American patriot should be outraged at the way the Republicans are treating the President of the United States. Our founders did not envision any president being treated this way.

The latest affront is the lawsuit the House Republicans have brought against the president. That suit should ring an alarm bell for conservatives because it is unprecedented in American history. To a conservative, what is unprecedented is inherently suspect: There’s likely a good reason it has not been done before.

But this suit is just the latest episode in a disgraceful story.

Never before has the party in opposition made its top priority to stop the president from accomplishing anything. And, with the House of Representatives controlled by the Republican opposition, never before has a Congress accomplished so little. Republican obstructionism has intentionally prevented the system our founders gave us from dealing with grave challenges. This is a record no patriot should celebrate.

Lest anyone imagine that Republicans have obstructed because the president’s proposals are extreme, note that Republicans in Congress have blocked measures — on gun control, immigration, minimum wage — that are supported by large majorities of Americans, favored even by majorities of Republican voters. Republicans have also regularly opposed their own ideas once the president favors them.

It is only at the superficial level that the object of the Republican assault is President Obama. This is an attack against the system of government our founders gave us.

That system created a job of great importance — the presidency — and provided a means for the American people to choose who should perform that job on their behalf. If the people choose a president who has run on a promise to enact a major piece of legislation, our founders would want the opposition to honor the people’s choice, and to use their influence to make that measure as effective as possible. But Republicans have shown no such respect for the people’s decision; even though this president was elected and re-elected with large majorities, Republicans have done everything possible to sabotage the measure that they named Obamacare.

And so it has been with every other effort by the president to do what he was elected to do.

Which brings us to this ludicrous lawsuit. Republicans are suing Obama for delaying implementation of a part of a law that they hate and have voted to repealed some 50 times, yet Republicans made no objection when George W. Bush did essentially the same thing with the prescription drug law.

Clearly, Republicans are determined to block Mr. Obama from performing the role of president. Having set records for blocking the legislative process, the Republican-controlled House now votes to sue the president for trying to meet the nation’s needs by the only route that remains to him — executive action.

Americans are angry with Congress. But Republicans figure they can get the American people to blame the “party in power” (meaning the White House) for the failure they themselves have caused. Injuring the nation for partisan advantage — that’s the very opposite of patriotism. And it is unprecedented.

Also unprecedented: Never has an opposition party treated a president with this kind of contempt. Even when Americans have serious reservations about a particular president, it is an American tradition to treat the president with respect.

One has to wonder how these Republicans can get away with talking about a president with scorn and condescension the likes of which we’ve never seen before. One has to wonder if, when white Republicans come, day after day, in front of the cameras to belittle and mock a duly elected president who happens to be the first African-American elected to the office, they are relying on an old cultural current that once said it’s alright for a white person — man, woman or child — to demean a black adult male by calling him “boy.”

In every way, we see validated the conservative judgment about the suspect nature of the unprecedented. In this unprecedented Republican treatment of a president, we see the worst angels of our nature exercising the power to defeat the best of our potential.

 

By: Andy Schmookler, The Huffington Post Blog, August 11, 2014

August 12, 2014 Posted by | Founding Fathers, House Republicans, Patriotism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Not-So-Secret GOP Strategy For Everything”: Do Nothing, And Blame Obama

You almost have to feel sorry for House Speaker John Boehner. He’s taken on the task of crafting a punitive, stingy, self-contradictory GOP version of a bill to deal with the border crisis that most of his party wants to blame solely on President Obama. There’s no reward for that.

His apparent leadership rival, Sen. Ted Cruz, has been whipping Boehner’s members to oppose Boehner’s bill. As part of an attempted compromise, the speaker is going to let his members vote to end the president’s deferred action on deportations, even though they have no power to do that. But he wants to keep that issue separate from the border-crisis bill, and Cruz, the shadow speaker, is telling members to say no.

In the Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol sides with Speaker Cruz. Passing Boehner’s bill, he says, will interfere with the GOP’s top priority – running up big election wins in November. The only reasonable GOP response to the border crisis is to do nothing – and blame Obama.

Now, it’s been obvious since early 2009 that this is the GOP agenda. Rarely, however, does any Republican lay bare the craven political logic behind the party’s anti-Obama obstructionism. But wrong-way Bill Kristol is no average guy. His inbred arrogance lets him treat thuggish political sabotage as political genius. He seems to think he’ll get his point across to House backbenchers if he speaks very slowly and enunciates.

Here’s how he spells it out:

If the GOP does nothing, and if Republicans explain that there’s no point acting due to the recalcitrance of the president to deal with the policies that are causing the crisis, the focus will be on the president. Republican incumbents won’t have problematic legislation to defend or questions to answer about what further compromises they’ll make. Republican challengers won’t have to defend or attack GOP legislation. Instead, the focus can be on the president.

Get it? If they listen to Kristol, Republicans won’t have to do any of the heavy lifting associated with governing. Just vote with Speaker Ted Cruz, get back on the campaign trail to bash Obama, and all will be well.

While he’s at it, Kristol also backs up the Obama administration’s claim that the House GOP plan could make things worse at the border. Both sides seem to agree that Boehner’s bill is a mess. But that’s not the reason to kill it, Kristol argues. The reason to kill it is entirely political.

Boehner’s team seems to think that by passing a bad bill that will never become law anyway, Republicans will nonetheless get credit for trying to deal with the border mess, rather than just point fingers at the president. Kristol thinks Boehner has that entirely backward: No one who matters – meaning, nobody in the GOP base that’s so crucial to 2014 midterm success – is going to care that Boehner tried to solve the problem. That’s just distracting. The entire point is to blame Obama — while giving him absolutely no help in making things better.

Oh, and to my false-equivalence-loving, “both sides do it” friends in the media: Bill Kristol sees you, and he’s not fooled. Republicans might get credit from the media for tackling the issue “perhaps for one day,” but it “will take the focus off the man who is above all responsible for the disaster at the border — the president.” On the other hand, if Republicans kill the bill, Kristol knows he can count on leading pundits to go back to asking their most urgent question: Why can’t Obama lead?

Kristol’s strategy is not just politically craven, it’s cruel to the children and families at the border. But Republicans can’t be expected to care about them. And yet, if you believe the new immigrants are vectors of crime and disease, as many conservatives do, inaction is also cruel to the good red-state voters of Arizona and Texas who are bearing the brunt of the influx. You might want to help those red states protect themselves, by passing some funding and some legislative relief to reduce the logjam at the border, and send those who don’t deserve asylum home more quickly.

Nah.

Any kind of legislative solution — even a sham one like Boehner’s — would accept the premise that the border crisis is a complicated bipartisan creation, the result of years of drug, immigration and national security policies that worsened the poverty and political corruption driving Central Americans to flee their homes or send their children north. Any kind of solution also commits the GOP to being a partner in governing, and they’ve given up on that, in the age of Obama and perhaps permanently.

Better to do nothing and blame Obama, and count on the media to fall for it – again. Kristol has been proven wrong about virtually everything else in his career, but he’s been right about the media, so his corrupt strategy may just work.

 

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, July 31, 2014

August 1, 2014 Posted by | Border Crisis, GOP | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Nail In Your Political Coffin”: An Open Letter To John Boehner And House Republicans

Dear Mr. Speaker…

On behalf of Democrats everywhere, I would like to ask you to impeach President Obama. Please. I implore you. Nothing would make us happier. You know you want to. You know that merely suing him is not going to satisfy you and your rabid brethren. Impeachment is the only solution. So just go ahead and do it. You have our full and unyielding support!

And why are we so supportive? Because it’ll be the nail in your political coffin. It will finally convince moderate Republican and independent voters that you’re nothing but a worthless cabal of self-serving, tone-deaf, obsessed, manic, hateful, polarizing obstructionists. With your approval ratings swirling in the toilet, and your intransigence paralyzing Washington, impeachment would obliterate any shred of doubt that America’s best interests are the last of your priorities. Not the economy, not jobs, minimum wage, immigration, education or the environment. Screw America. If only you guys worked half as hard at doing your job as you do at tearing down Obama…

He’s Kenyan! He’s an illegal alien! He’s a socialist! He’s a constitutional criminal! He must be stopped! You do realize how crazy you sound, right? And we love every convoluted, insane word of it.

We also support you in this mad quest because we know it will ultimately have no impact on Obama’s presidency or the liberal agenda. To the contrary, it will empower him. Think of all the executive orders he’ll use to push through his policies after he’s impeached. He’ll make you the laughingstock of Washington.

You might want to pay attention to history. What happened to the post-impeachment Bill Clinton? How did former Speaker Newt Gingrich and his merry band of revolutionaries, of which you were one, materially affect his presidency with their venomous lynching? Clinton emerged the victor from that shameful partisan witch hunt. He was acquitted by the Senate, became the most popular politician on the planet, and is still the guy who can charm the pants off folks on both sides of the aisle. And Newt? He was forced to step down as Speaker, left Congress shortly thereafter, and cost his party appreciable seats. And you lost your leadership post for the next decade.

Mr. Speaker, if you relish being this decade’s Gingrich, and want to feel what it’s like to suffer humiliating defeat again over an out-of-control obsession with destroying a Democratic president, we will gleefully watch as you drive the GOP crazy-car straight off the cliff and into utter irrelevance and obsolescence.

 

By: Andy Ostroy, The Huffington Post Blog, July 29, 2014

July 30, 2014 Posted by | House Republicans, Impeachment, John Boehner | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“President Obama Is No Bush”: Obama Has Accomplished Far Too Much In The Face Of Far Too Much Adversity

If anyone had said five years ago that President Obama’s popularity rating would nosedive to the dreadful level of George W. Bush’s ratings the last years of his presidency, they’d be fitted for a strait-jacket. Obama’s popularity ratings at that point had soared past 70 percent and there was the firm consensus that his numbers would stay comfortably high and that no matter how rocky things got during his tenure, they could never bottom out to Bush’s abysmal numbers.

The recent CNN/ORC International poll seems to show that the worst has happened and that Obama’s popularity rating now is virtually identical with Bush’s low rating. The added insult is that Bush seems to be getting more popular with his numbers on the uptick. There are two ways to look at this. One is that Bush had sunk so low in popularity ratings by the time he left office that he had nowhere to go but up and that it’s easy for the public to wax nostalgically about and to even find a few good things to say and think about an ex-president years removed from office than a president who sits in the office. This is made even easier by the constant barrage from the GOP’s inveterate Obama bashers playing up Bush’s alleged accomplishments while relentlessly pile driving Obama’s supposed failures.

That’s the other way to look at Obama’s drop. In the backwash of now defrocked former House Majority leader Eric Cantor’s ouster from Congress, it’s worth remembering Cantor was a prime ringleader of the now infamous dinner meeting the night of Obama’s first inauguration in January 2009. Their sole goal was to figure out everything they could do to dither, delay and flat out obstruct any and every initiative and piece of legislation, as well as key nominees, that Obama pushed, while savagely harassing and defaming his key appointees, most notably Attorney General Eric Holder and former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius.

This was the front door assault plan. The GOP’s backdoor strategy was to wink and nod at the dirty smear campaign from the coterie of right wing talk show hosts, bloggers and web sites that lambasted Obama with an avalanche of subtle and outright racist digs, barbs, taunts and harangues. The dual strategy had one aim and that was to make him a failed one term president, and failing that, a failed presidency. The added key to making that work was to play up to the hilt any and every real or perceived stumble. The NSA spy debacle, the lingering anger over Benghazi, the AP leaks, the worry over the Affordable Health Care Act website glitches, and the Bergdahl-Taliban prisoner swap, and now the militant Islamist insurgency in Iraq are prime examples.

The GOP gloat that Obama is now no better than Bush in the public’s eye still falls appalling flat. Bush’s miserable record on the two greatest issues that matter the most to Americans are glaring proof of that. They are the economy and war. Bush hit the skids the second go round because of public souring on a failed, flawed and financially and human-draining war, and a financial collapse that had much to do with his disastrous two tax cuts that gave away the company store to corporations and the rich and sent the budget deficit skyrocketing. In glaring contrast, Obama’s fiscal and budgetary record shows steady joblessness drops, a deficit drop, and an unprecedented surge in the markets that ironically has made more millions for many of the corporate rich that pile onto the assault against Obama.

His wind down of the Iraq and Afghan war has been a special sore point for GOP hawks who never tire of telling all who’ll listen that this supposedly puts Americans at horrible risk from terrorism and war. It’s bunk. Obama simply fulfilled commitments that were already in place to disengage the American military in both countries — commitments that are supported by the overwhelming majority of Americans.

Bush can lay claim to none of these achievements.

But laying aside for a moment the silly notion that Obama is as bad as Bush, the brutal political reality is that past presidents have certainly had their share of second term woes. This was the case with Eisenhower, Nixon, of course, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Clinton. This shouldn’t surprise. They were in office for a relatively long time. They run a big sprawling government with thousands of appointees and personnel. It is simply beyond the pale of one person to control every facet and decision their appointees and personnel make. Just as time can work for a second term president, it can also work against him, too. The longer he’s in office, it’s almost assured that some issue, event or catastrophe will happen that can mar a president’s image, and that he may or may not have any real control over.

Obama has accomplished far too much in the face of far too much adversity. To spin his plunging popularity numbers as if he’s a complete failure is to horribly mangle the comparison with the president who clearly was a failure.

 

By: Earl Ofari Hutchinson, The Huffington Post Blog, June 14, 2014

June 15, 2014 Posted by | George W Bush, Politics, President Obama | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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