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“Very Little Blowback From His Own Party”: Trump Has GOP Defenders Despite Racially Charged Rhetoric

In his presidential announcement speech, Donald Trump wasted no time in creating controversy. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” the Republican candidate said. “They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

Offered a variety of opportunities to walk the comments back, Trump has, at least for now, refused. This week, he insisted his remarks were “totally accurate.”

As Rachel noted on the show last night, this has led a variety of businesses, including NBC/Universal, to end their relationships with the controversial candidate. But what remains striking is the degree to which Trump is facing very little blowback from his own party.

Fox’s Sean Hannity has defended Trump, as has Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). “I like Donald Trump. I think he’s terrific,” the Republican senator said, “I think he’s brash, I think he speaks the truth.”

Last night, Politico published a piece by National Review editor Rich Lowry on the candidate. The headline read, “Sorry, Donald Trump Has A Point.”

As for his instantly notorious Mexico comments, they did more to insult than to illuminate, yet there was a kernel in them that hit on an important truth that typical politicians either don’t know or simply fear to speak. “When Mexico sends its people,” Trump said, “they’re not sending their best.”

This is obviously correct. We aren’t raiding the top 1 percent of Mexicans and importing them to this country. Instead, we are getting representative Mexicans, who – through no fault of their own, of course – come from a poorly educated country at a time when education is essential to success in an advanced economy.

As for Trump’s assumptions about these immigrants being drug-running rapists, Lowry didn’t dwell on these details while praising the candidate’s broader immigration argument.

This is not a wise strategy.

Even if we put aside the fact that Trump’s argument is factually wrong, and he most certainly does not “have a point,” the truth remains that the Republican Party has alienated immigrant communities in recent years, and the latest Trump fiasco offers the GOP an opportunity to distance itself from offensive, racially charged rhetoric.

But for many Republicans, it’s an opportunity better left ignored.

In fairness, Trump has not enjoyed universal praise among conservatives. Sean Spicer, the Republican National Committee’s Chief Strategist & Communications Director, conceded two weeks ago that Trump’s anti-Mexican rhetoric is “probably something that is not helpful to the cause.”


Look, I’m not suggesting the onus is on Reince Priebus to pick up one of the Trump pinatas that have become popular in some circles, and destroy it on camera, but I am suggesting leading Republican voices show some courage and denounce offensive rhetoric from one of their own.

Trump, obviously, is pushing Latino voters away. But the more voices on the right defend Trump, and the more Republican voters express their support for his candidacy, the broader the damage will be to the party.

Indeed, as msnbc’s Amanda Sakuma noted yesterday, Trump’s antics raise “uncomfortable but genuine questions over how Republicans expect to make inroads with Latino voters in light of the harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric.”


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

July 4, 2015 Posted by | Bigotry, Donald Trump, GOP | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The ‘Right’ In It’s ‘Wrong’ Mind”: Will The GOP Scrap Obama’s State Of The Union address?

In early 1999, the political environment in Washington, D.C., bordered on surreal. President Clinton had just been impeached. House Speaker Newt Gingrich had just been ousted from his leadership post, forced out by his own members. Gingrich’s apparent successor, Louisiana’s Bob Livingston, was soon after forced to resign in the wake of a sex scandal.

And at the same time, the U.S. Senate was weighing the charges against Clinton, hearing arguments as to whether or not to remove the sitting president from office.

It was against this backdrop that the White House announced in mid-January that it was time for the annual State of the Union address. TV preacher Pat Robertson, an influential figure in Republican politics at the time, gave his GOP allies some stern advice: don’t let Clinton speak. To give the president an august national platform, Robertson said, would allow Clinton to solidify his support and end the impeachment crusade. Congress isn’t required to host the speech, so there was nothing stopping Republicans from denying Clinton’s request.

GOP leaders on Capitol Hill weren’t prepared to go nearly that far. So, Clinton spoke, he pretended like impeachment hadn’t just happened, and Gallup showed the president’s approval rating reaching 69% soon after.

Nearly 16 years later, another Democratic president, also hated by his Republican attackers, is poised to deliver his penultimate State of the Union address. And like Pat Robertson, the idea of denying the president a SOTU invitation is once again on the right’s mind.

“Yes, there’s a risk to overreacting, but there’s a risk to underreacting as well,” said Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review. “And I fear that’s the way the congressional leadership is leaning.”

Mr. Lowry suggested one way Congress could react. “If I were John Boehner,” he said, referring to the House speaker, “I’d say to the president: ‘Send us your State of the Union in writing. You’re not welcome in our chamber.’”

Lowry may not dictate GOP decision making the way Limbaugh and Fox News do, but it’s important to note that he isn’t the only one publicly pushing the idea.

Politico reported yesterday that congressional Republicans are weighing a variety of tactics to “address” their disgust over Obama’s immigration policy, and “GOP aides and lawmakers” are considering the idea of “refusing to invite the president to give his State of the Union address.”

Late last week, Breitbart News also ran a piece of its own on the subject: “Congress should indicate to President Obama that his presence is not welcome on Capitol Hill as long as his ‘executive amnesty’ remains in place. The gesture would, no doubt, be perceived as rude, but it is appropriate.”

For the record, I rather doubt Republican leaders will go this far. Indeed, if they seriously pursued the idea, GOP officials would risk a backlash that would help, not hurt, the White House.

That said, don’t be too surprised if this talk grows louder between now and the big speech.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, November 26, 2014

November 26, 2014 Posted by | Congress, GOP, State of the Union | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Vast Conspiracy Of Silence Against God”: Conservatives Confuse Science For Religion, And Vice Versa

Recently a friend posted a video on Facebook that he asserted would demolish the Godless theory of evolution. On it, a fellow sitting in a pickup and wearing a backward baseball cap smugly explained that Darwinian evolution contradicts the Second Law of Thermodynamics, a fundamental principle of physics.

This hoary chestnut has long been a favorite of creationist apologetics — appearing to use scientific evidence to support a theological conclusion. Never mind that the fellow’s science was as backward as his baseball cap. The Second Law states almost the opposite of his description. Indeed, if it said what creationists claim, not only evolution but life itself would be impossible.

But what struck me as equally significant was the implied attitude toward scientists. Because if what the fellow claimed was even halfway right, it could only mean that every physics professor in every university in the world was part of a vast conspiracy of silence against God.

And why would they do that? I suppose for the same reason that climate scientists worldwide all but unanimously warn that increased levels of carbon dioxide and other “greenhouse gases” in the atmosphere are contributing to a potentially catastrophic warming of the planet.

No less an authority than Sarah Palin once characterized them as employing “doomsday scare tactics pushed by an environmental priesthood that capitalizes on the public’s worry and makes them feel that owning an SUV is a ‘sin’ against the planet.”

The ex-governor’s use of religious metaphor is no accident. To millions of Americans calling themselves “conservatives,” at least for partisan purposes, science is religion, and religion science. Hardly anybody acts on this stuff in real life. People don’t quiz their veterinarian about Darwin.

However, when it comes to climate science, people who wouldn’t dream of diagnosing the family cat feel comfortable hearing the entire worldwide scientific community described as engaged in a gigantic hoax. Supposedly for the sake of one-world government or some similar absurdity.

Clearly, such people simply don’t know what scientific inquiry consists of, how hypotheses are tested, theories arrived at, and consensus achieved — all the things about science that make large scale conspiracies impossible.

Individual scientists are certainly as prone to temptation as anybody else. However, a single instance of serious fraud — misrepresenting experiments, faking data — is fatal to a career. The higher the profile, the more dramatic the fall.

So what happens when ideologically motivated pundits single out scientists for abuse? We may be about to learn from the lawsuit filed by renowned climatologist Michael Mann against the National Review. Do defamation laws protect even famous scientists from politically motivated smears against their professional integrity and private character?

Is calling an internationally known scientist “intellectually bogus,” a “fraud” and “the Jerry Sandusky of climate science,” as National Review blogger Mark Steyn did, a First Amendment-protected opinion? Or is it libelous, a provably false allegation published with reckless disregard for the truth and the malicious purpose of harming Mann’s reputation?

“[I]nstead of molesting children,” Steyn’s post explained, Mann “has molested and tortured data in the service of politicized science.” Does it need to be added that National Review provided no evidence of same? Mann asked for a retraction and apology. Receiving none, he sued.

The director of Penn State’s climatology program — hence the Sandusky reference — Mann drew the ire of climate change deniers as the inventor of the “hockey stick graph.” First published in Nature, it combined so-called “proxy records” — tree ring studies, ice core and corals — of temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere over the past 1,000 years with contemporary thermometer records.

It showed the climate trending irregularly cooler until the Industrial Revolution, when temperatures trended sharply upward — the blade of the metaphorical hockey stick. Since then, numerous studies based on different data have drawn the same conclusion: Earth’s climate is warming rapidly, with potentially catastrophic consequences.

Mann’s misfortune, however, was getting caught up in the largely phony “Climategate” controversy. Admiring emails referencing “Mike’s trick” of sophisticated statistical analysis were made to appear sinister. Eight investigations by everybody from Penn State’s science faculty to the British parliament have vindicated Mann’s work in every respect.

However, Mann’s not a shy fellow. His book, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars, constitutes not only a lucid explanation of his own work, but a vigorous defense of climate science against industry-funded denialists. In a recent pleading filed in the D.C. Court of Appeals, National Review argues that this makes him a public figure and fair game for abuse.

In a separate article editor Rich Lowry alibied that the offending post was merely “a loose and colorful expression of opinion that did not allege any specific act of fraud in the literal sense.”

In short, accusing a respected scientist of faking data and comparing him to a child molester was just a colorful way of saying they disagree with his conclusions.

Welcome to Washington, professor.


By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, August 13, 2014

August 15, 2014 Posted by | Climate Change, Conservatives, Religion, Science | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Republicans, All Talk, No Action”: No House Alternative, No Conference Committee, No Attempt At Finding Common Ground

Without a hint of humor or shame, the Republican National Committee issued a press release this morning accusing President Obama of being “All Talk, No Action” when it comes to the “Hispanic Community.” No, seriously, that’s what the RNC said.

Someone at the RNC’s communications office probably should have thought this one through a little more, since, when it comes to issues important to Latino voters, it’s the lack of “action” from congressional Republicans that’s proving to be so problematic.

Indeed, when it comes to comprehensive immigration reform, which is facing long odds in the face of fierce opposition from the House GOP, the question is whether these Republican lawmakers are prepared to do anything on the issue. National Review‘s Jonathan Strong reports they may not (via Greg Sargent).

Speaker John Boehner wants to pass a series of small bills dealing with immigration reform piece by piece, but it’s not clear whether 218 votes, the required number for passage, will be there for any of them.

Top Democrats are already signaling they’ll oppose the various bills being prepared by the GOP leadership, and conservative Republicans, especially, are wary. Many Republicans will prefer to simply vote against any bill, even if they agree with elements of the legislation, just to prevent Boehner from going to conference with the Senate. Such a conference, many conservatives fear, could lead to a consensus bill that includes amnesty.

When it comes to the future of the policy, this is obviously important. House Republican leaders don’t intend to consider the bipartisan Senate bill, but they also don’t want to do nothing. Boehner & Co. figure they can at least put a positive face on failure by instead taking up elements of immigration reform piecemeal.

But Strong, whose sourcing among Republicans on Capitol Hill is excellent, is reporting that rank-and-file House Republicans aren’t even willing to go this far. Indeed, they’ll even oppose measures they like for fear that they’ll go to a conference committee and become slightly more progressive after negotiations with the Senate Democratic majority.

It’s easier, they figure, to just kill every element of immigration reform and hope the electoral consequences aren’t too severe.

If this sounds vaguely familiar, there’s a good reason for that. This is the strategy outlined just last week by Weekly Standard editor William Kristol and National Review editor Rich Lowry — two of the most influential Republican voices in media — who co-signed an editorial urging House Republicans to put “a stake through” immigration reform’s “heart.”

More specifically, they urged GOP lawmakers should do literally nothing on the issue — no House alternative, no conference committee, no attempt at finding “common ground.”

It appears the advice was well received.

And so this once again puts the Speaker in an awkward position, as it sinks in that many in his own caucus prefer inaction — and he’s already committed to the so-called “Hastert Rule” that effectively gives these far-right House members a veto power over which bills reach the floor.

What was that the RNC was saying about “All Talk, No Action”?


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 16, 2013

July 17, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Immigration Reform | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Party That Can’t Decide To Chose”: The GOP Establishment Fractures On Immigration

Over the course of this year’s immigration debate, we’ve come to view the Republican party division as follows. On one side, advocating for comprehensive immigration reform, you have a group that is sometimes called “the establishment” or “the elite,” made up of people whose primary interest is in the party’s long-term national prospects. These are the big money people, the top consultants, some senators, and so on. On the other side, opposing comprehensive reform, you have “the base,” which is not only voters but also members of the House with a narrow interest in getting re-elected, usually by appealing to extremely conservative constituencies. On that side you also have some conservative media figures and others with strong ideological motivations against immigration reform. And then caught in the middle you’ve got the Republican congressional leadership, which can’t afford to antagonize the base but also worries about the effect killing immigration reform will have on the party.

But we may be reaching the point where these categories are no longer adequate to describe what’s going on within the GOP. This morning, William Kristol and Rich Lowry, the editors of the two most important conservative magazines (the Weekly Standard and National Review) joined together to write an unusual joint editorial titled “Kill the Bill,” coming down in opposition to the “Gang of 8” immigration bill that passed the Senate. The substance of their argument is familiar to anyone following this debate—the Obama administration can’t be trusted, it won’t stop all future illegal immigration, the bill is too long—but the substance isn’t really important. What’s important is that these two figures, about as establishment as establishment gets, are siding firmly with the anti-reform side.

Those of us who have been around for a while can’t help but be reminded of a memo Kristol wrote to Republicans 20 years ago, when Bill Clinton was trying to enact health-care reform. It argued that from a substantive and political point of view, Republicans should not try to negotiate with the Clinton administration or work with them to pass a reform that was as conservative as possible; instead, they should wage all-out war to kill it. “The plan should not be amended,” Kristol wrote, “it should be erased.”

Politically speaking, it was good advice; Republicans followed it, and they won. Sixteen years later they used the same strategy during the debate over the Affordable Care Act, and they lost.( It turned out, however, that conservative Democrats like Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman did the Republicans’ substantive work for them, extracting a number of concessions from the administration that moved the bill in a more conservative direction). There’s a difference in this debate, however. Those two efforts at health care reform were always understood as a conflict between a Democratic administration seeking a longtime Democratic goal, and Republicans in Congress trying to stop them. It was reported like a sporting event: Clinton loses, Republicans win; Obama wins, Republicans lose. Immigration, on the other hand, has been reported largely as a battle within the Republican party. President Obama, knowing full well that anything he advocates immediately becomes toxic for most Republicans, has been using a lighter touch when it comes to public advocacy for comprehensive reform.  (I’m not saying he hasn’t been pushing for it, but he hasn’t done the all-out, campaign-style barnstorming tour that would help turn it into a purely Democrats-versus-Republicans issue). The story has always been, “What will the Republicans do?” and if reform goes down, the headlines won’t read, “Obama Defeated on Immigration Reform,” they’ll read, “Republicans Kill Immigration Reform,” with subheadings like “Danger ahead for GOP as Latino voters react.”

I once knew a professor who would say to his students, “Institutions don’t speak. People speak.” His point was that we often ascribe a unified intelligence or will to things like the government or a corporation or a political party, glossing over the fact that it’s individuals making those decisions and statements. There may be a single most beneficial path for the Republican party to take, but the Republican party can’t just decide to choose it. A party is made up of lots of individuals, each with their own opinions, self-interest, and levers of influence, who will push it in one direction or another. With Kristol and Lowry coming out in opposition to reform (and perhaps other people like them to follow), it may no longer even be possible to say that the party establishment has a single position on the issue.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, July 9, 2013

July 10, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Immigration Reform | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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