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“Ted Cruz Tackles ‘The Condom Police'”: He’s Never Met “Any Conservative Who Wants To Ban Contraceptives”

Ted Cruz doesn’t usually stray too much from his usual campaign stump speech at various events, but last night in Iowa, NBC’s Vaughn Hillyard reported that the Texas Republican was asked about his position “on making contraception available for women.” Cruz seized the opportunity to share some unexpected rhetoric, calling the controversy surrounding Republicans and birth control “an utterly made-up nonsense issue.”

“Last I checked, we don’t have a rubber shortage in America,” Cruz exasperatingly said to the rather boisterous crowd. “Like look, when I was in college, we had a machine in the bathroom. You put 50 cents in – and voila!”

Cruz added that he expects Hillary Clinton to run against “the condom police” in order to “try to scare a bunch of folks that are not paying a lot of attention into thinking someone’s going to steal their birth control.”

And if there were only one form of birth control available to American consumers, Cruz would almost have a credible point. At the Iowa event, the senator said he’s never met “any conservative who wants to ban contraceptives” – Cruz might want to chat with Rick Santorum – but the Texan’s focus was exclusively on condoms.

Cruz is right that there is no “rubber shortage.” What he’s wrong about is, well, literally everything else.

Part of the problem is that Republicans sometimes seem surprised by descriptions of their own policies. In one of my favorite moments of the 2012 debates, President Obama argued “employers shouldn’t be able to make the decision as to whether or not a woman gets contraception through her insurance coverage. That’s not the kind of advocacy that women need.”

Mitt Romney scoffed at the very idea, responding, “I don’t believe employers should tell someone whether they could have contraceptive care or not. Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives.”

Romney seemed repulsed by Obama’s description of Romney’s own position, but the truth of the matter was that both the Republican nominee and his running mate endorsed a policy that would leave contraception decisions for millions of workers in the hands of employers.

Cruz’s posture is similar, in that he seems baffled by Democratic rhetoric. If condoms are readily available, and there’s no meaningful effort to restrict their sales, why in the world are Democrats always running around complaining about a “war on women” and Republican hostility towards contraception?

The answer, of course, is that there are other forms of contraception, and women’s access to them would be curtailed by the GOP agenda.

Cruz really ought to know this. He not only personally voted against a measure to protect workers’ access to contraception, regardless of possible objections from their employers, but Cruz has also argued that he considers birth-control pills “abortifacients.”

What’s more, the Texas senator has endorsed a “Personhood” policy, which would have the practical effect of banning common forms of birth control.

In other words, Cruz would have voters believe that the entire issue is “nonsense” because Republicans aren’t actively trying to limit access to condoms, which necessarily means, in his mind, that there is no “war on women.” But the GOP senator is inadvertently proving his critics’ point with a myopic understanding of what contraception even is.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 1, 2015

December 3, 2015 Posted by | Birth Control, Reproductive Choice, Ted Cruz, Women's Health | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Republicans Cloaking Their Extremism”: The Values Election We Didn’t Have — And Must Have

Tuesday’s elections have left us with a dismal political landscape in Washington, D.C. and exposed the deep dissatisfaction many Americans feel with the economy and the functioning of government.

The results also, let’s be frank, pay sad tribute to the dishonest genius of Republican Party strategists, who coached candidates to hide clear records of extremism, and who spent six years laser-focused on making Congress dysfunctional while managing to convince voters it was the fault of President Obama and the Democrats.

By cloaking their extremism, and by evading responsibility for anti-government and anti-governing obstructionism, Republican leaders kept voters from having a clear sense of the real contest this year’s elections represented. In 2008 and 2012, there was no denying that the elections were between two very different systems of values and ideas about the role of government in promoting and protecting the well-being of its people. This year’s election was largely a failure to the extent that it was not about values and policies but the personal unpopularity of President Obama, any and all government failings, and the dysfunction in Washington.

In fact, there’s a troubling paradox in the election results: some of the best news for progressives is also some of the most depressing, because it points to the depth and cost of our political failures.

Here’s what I mean. Voters in red states and blue cities alike voted to raise the minimum wage, which polls show has majority support across the political spectrum. But those same voters elected Republican candidates who have opposed efforts to raise workers’ wages. Colorado and North Dakota both rejected anti-choice “personhood” amendments, but voters elected officials in favor of “personhood” laws and hell-bent on closing down health clinics. Polls show support for equal rights for LGBT people way up, but many voters still supported candidates who are committed to resisting any gains toward legal equality.

Voters are rightly dissatisfied with an economy that leaves so many workers and families with stagnant or sinking wages and opportunities. Yet they voted for candidates most likely to make those problems worse. Americans who are hurting are not the ones who will benefit from further tax cuts for the rich, policies that give wealthy corporations and shadowy political groups more influence over elections than voters and ordinary people, and the gutting of regulations that protect consumers and communities from wrongdoing by unaccountable corporations. They’re concerned about climate change yet their votes yesterday hand the gavel of the Senate committee responsible for dealing with it to a climate change denier.

The deck was clearly stacked against progressives this year. Democrats faced contested races in a number of conservative states. There was seemingly no end to the bad news overseas, some of which found its way home. And President Obama’s popularity dwindled even as the economic picture brightened, because so many people were not feeling any of the benefits in their own pockets.

But that’s no excuse for the wave of defeats. Too many Democrats did not make a clear and convincing case about the consequences of policies pushed by far-right activists and promoted by Republican elected officials. And that allowed the debate to become a referendum on voters’ feelings about Barack Obama — and on an insider’s squabble about where the buck stopped on the lack of effective action in Congress.

We must not let Republicans continue to get away with the sleight-of-hand they used to distract voters from their extremism this year. Progressive leaders must make clear what values are at stake in the upcoming policy debates — and whose policies are aligned with the American values and the interests of American families. We must push Democrats to draw clear distinctions between the values of the far-right lawmakers who will make this the most ideologically extreme Congress in memory and the voters who believe our nation’s future depends on prosperity that is broadly shared, not funneled only to those at the very top. This also requires Democrats to have a clear agenda that excites the people who sat out this week’s elections.

Moving forward, the most important mission for President Obama and Democratic congressional leaders is not to show how well they can work with Republican congressional leaders, but to show voters that they can and will take principled stands when core values are at stake, and to help Americans understand how the policy agenda of far-right Republicans undermines the kind of communities and country they want to live in.

 

By: Michael B. Keegan, President, People For the American Way; The Huffington Post Blog, November 5, 2014

November 9, 2014 Posted by | Democrats, Midterm Elections, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Same Old Issues”: Why The Media Are Ignoring The Dangerous Ideas of Joni Ernst And Other Extremists Now On The Cusp Of Power

Joni Ernst, who may become Iowa’s next senator, denies climate change, supports a personhood amendment and says she’d use her “beautiful little Smith & Wesson” to defend herself “from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important.” She’s also seriously flirted with a John Birch Society–backed conspiracy theory about an evil plot called Agenda 21.

But all you’d know from the corporate media is that Ernst made a really catchy ad about castrating pigs and that she is supposedly (but not really) the victim of a sexist remark made by outgoing Democratic senator Tom Harkin.

Norman Ornstein, the pundit who was once quoted all over until he dared to say that Republicans are the real obstructionists, explains such grand omissions brilliantly:

The most common press narrative for elections this year is to contrast them with the 2010 and 2012 campaigns. Back then, the GOP “establishment” lost control of its nominating process, ended up with a group of extreme Senate candidates who said wacky things—Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, Sharron Angle—and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in races that should have been slam dunks. Now the opposite has happened: The establishment has fought back and won, vanquishing the Tea Party and picking top-flight candidates who are disciplined and mainstream, dramatically unlike Akin and Angle.

It is a great narrative, a wonderful organizing theme. But any evidence that contradicts or clouds the narrative devalues it, which is perhaps why evidence to the contrary tends to be downplayed or ignored. Meantime, stories that show personal gaffes or bonehead moves by the opponents of these new, attractive mainstream candidates, fit that narrative and are highlighted.

Of course, this does not mean that the press has a Republican bias, any more than it had an inherent Democratic bias in 2012 when Akin, Angle, and Mourdock led the coverage. What it suggests is how deeply the eagerness to pick a narrative and stick with it, and to resist stories that contradict the narrative, is embedded in the culture of campaign journalism. [My italics] The alternative theory, that the Republican establishment won by surrendering its ground to its more ideologically extreme faction, picking candidates who are folksy and have great resumes but whose issue stances are much the same as their radical Tea Party rivals, goes mostly ignored. Meanwhile, there was plenty of coverage of the admittedly bonehead refusal by Kentucky Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes to say she had voted for Obama—dozens of press references to NBC’s Chuck Todd saying it was “disqualifying”—but no stories saying that references to Agenda 21 or talking about terrorists and drug lords out to kill Arkansans [as Republican senatorial candidate Tom Cotton does] were disqualifying.

 

By: Leslie Savan, The Nation, November 3, 2014

November 4, 2014 Posted by | Joni Ernst, Media, Midterm Elections | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Media Just Hasn’t Reported On It”: Why Republicans Have Gotten Away With Craziness This Year

We don’t know if Joni Ernst is going to be the next Senator from Iowa, but one thing we can say is that Democrats failed to paint her as a radical Tea Partier with dangerous ideas. (Actually, there’s another thing we can say: her replacing liberal lion Tom Harkin would have to be the widest ideological swing in a Senate seat from one Congress to the next in a long time.) The question is, why? And more broadly, why have they failed to do that with any of the GOP Senate candidates running this year? It’s not like this is a bunch of moderates. One explanation is that the establishment triumphed by weeding out the nutcases:

National Republicans managed this year to snuff out every bomb-throwing insurgent who tried to wrest a Senate nod away from one of their favored candidates. They spent millions against baggage-laden activists such as Matt Bevin, the Louisville investor who mounted a ham-fisted challenge to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel, the conservative upstart who imperiled a safe seat by nearly ousting longtime Sen. Thad Cochran.

The confrontational approach—by both party committees and outside super PACs—represented a sharp departure from the GOP’s cautious strategy in the 2010 and 2012 cycles, when cartoonishly inept nominees aligned with the tea party lost the party as many as five Senate seats.

All that’s true, but it’s not just that they kept crazy people from winning primaries, they also kept primary winners’ craziness from undoing their campaigns. Ernst has managed to skate away from accountability for her more disturbing ideas, like her embrace of the “Agenda 21” conspiracy theory or her statement that she might have to start shooting government officials if they trample her rights. That’s not to mention her beliefs that there should be no federal minimum wage and that weapons of mass destruction were actually found in Iraq.

And it isn’t like Democrats haven’t tried to convince voters that Ernst is a radical. So why hasn’t she, like Todd Akin and Sharron Angle before her, gotten all kinds of negative attention for her comments that ultimately drove her to defeat?

There are many factors, like the fact that the Republican party has stuck by her, that had an impact. But I think the biggest reason is that the media just haven’t reported on it very much. Ernst’s Agenda 21 conspiricizing may have gotten attention from liberal bloggers, but it didn’t get much notice in the Iowa media, or from national political reporters. In contrast, when Bruce Braley told attendees at a fundraiser that if Republicans took the Senate, the Judiciary Committee would be chaired by “a farmer from Iowa without a law degree,” meaning the state’s senior senator, Chuck Grassley, it was huge news. The Des Moines Register, the state’s largest paper (and one that Ernst complains is biased against her) did editorialize once against Ernst’s radical and constitutionally demented views on “nullification,” but that’s the only substantive article about the topic that comes up when you search the paper’s web site (though there are a few letters to the editor that mention it). On the other hand, when I searched for Braley’s statement about Grassley being a farmer in the DMR, I got 79 hits.

While I haven’t done a systematic analysis of the rest of Iowa or national media, that doesn’t seem unrepresentative—I’ve seen the Grassley farmer thing mentioned many, many times in mainstream sources, but not Ernst’s crazier beliefs. Perhaps it’s because reporters are just tired of writing the “Republican candidate says extreme things” story. But I think it’s also that the Braley “gaffes,” whether it’s implying that farmers are not necessarily the font of wisdom in all things, or being upset when his neighbor’s chickens crap on his lawn, are personal in a way Ernst’s statements aren’t. They supposedly imply that Braley might be a bit of a jerk, whereas you can be friendly and nice and also believe the UN is coming to kick you off your land.

The trouble is that when we’re talking about electing people to the nation’s legislature, this is completely backward. The personal stuff is of only the tiniest importance, if any at all, while beliefs about the world are very relevant. Joni Ernst’s ideas about the UN, about guns, and about the legal status of zygotes will actually make a difference in how she does her job, should she win. In contrast, unless Harry Reid has his chickens crap in Bruce Braley’s Capitol Hill office just before a critical budget vote, I don’t think that’s going to really be an issue. But that’s what the campaign coverage has focused on.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, November 3, 2014

November 4, 2014 Posted by | Media, Midterm Elections, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Bullets Outweigh Ballots”: Joni Ernst And The Right To Revolutionary Violence

The picture of IA GOP SEN nominee Joni Ernst that’s emerging from exposure of her pre-2014-general-election utterances is of a standard-brand Constitutional Conservative embracing all the strange and controversial tenets of that creed. There’s Agenda 21 madness. There’s Personhood advocacy. There are attacks on the entire New Deal/Great Society legacy–and perhaps even agricultural programs–as creating “dependency.” And now, inevitably, there’s the crown jewel of Con Con extremism: the belief that the purpose of the Second Amendment is to enable “patriots” to violently overthrow the government if in their opinion it’s overstepped its constitutional boundaries. Sam Levine of HuffPost has that story:

Joni Ernst, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Iowa, said during an NRA event in 2012 that she would use a gun to defend herself from the government.

“I have a beautiful little Smith & Wesson, 9 millimeter, and it goes with me virtually everywhere,” Ernst said at the NRA and Iowa Firearms Coalition Second Amendment Rally in Searsboro, Iowa. “But I do believe in the right to carry, and I believe in the right to defend myself and my family — whether it’s from an intruder, or whether it’s from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important.”

Now this is a guaranteed applause line among Con Con audiences, for reasons that have relatively little to do with gun regulation. The idea here is to intimidate liberals, and “looters” and secular socialists, and those people, that there are limits to what the good virtuous folk of the country will put up with in the way of interference with their property rights and their religious convictions and their sense of how the world ought to work. If push comes to shove, they’re heavily armed, and bullets outweigh ballots. It’s a reminder that if politics fails in protecting their very broad notion of their “rights,” then revolutionary violence–which after all, made this great country possible in the first place–is always an option. And if that sounds “anti-democratic,” well, as the John Birch Society has always maintained, this is a Republic, not a democracy.

This stuff is entirely consistent with everything we’ve been learning about how Joni Ernst talked before she won a Senate nomination and decided upon an aggressively non-substantive message based on her identity and biography and one stupid but apparently irresistible joke comparing the kind of treatment she’ll give to the pork purveyors of Washington (presumably those who support obvious waste like food stamps and Medicaid) to hog castratin.’ Issues are absolute kryptonite to her campaign, so it’s no surprise she’s decided abruptly to cancel all meetings with editorial boards between now and November 4, according to Des Moines Register columnist Rekha Basu:

Is Joni Ernst afraid of newspaper editorial boards? After much negotiating, she was scheduled to meet his morning with writers and editors at The Des Moines Register, but last night her people called to unilaterally cancel. She has also begged off meetings with The Cedar Rapids Gazette and The Dubuque Telegraph-Herald.

Is Ernst that sensitive to the kinds of criticisms that invariably will come in such a high profile U.S. Senate race? Is she afraid of the scrutiny? Sure, it’s stressful, but all the other candidates for Congress are doing it to get their messages out, including Steven King, the target of frequent editorial criticism.

Maybe Ernst’s cynicism will be justified by the results, but I dunno: Iowans are pretty old-school about this kind of thing, and the Register actually influences votes, probably more than any newspaper I can think of. If she does win, nobody in Iowa has any excuse to be surprised if she turns out to be Todd Akin or Sharron Angle with better message discipline. As I said in another post recently, that’s pretty much who she is. Knowing she’s played the “I have the right to overthrow the government with my gun” meme makes that even clearer.

Still, somebody should ask Joni Ernst: “Since you brought it up, exactly what circumstances would justify you shooting a police officer or a soldier in the head?” Oh yeah: that would require her taking questions, which I doubt we’ll see in the last days of this campaign.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal, The Washington Monthly, October 22, 2014

October 24, 2014 Posted by | Iowa, Joni Ernst, Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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