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“Stupid Is As Stupid Does”: Bobby Jindal’s Guidance To Republicans Comes With A Catch

In the wake of his party’s defeats in the 2012 elections, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) has positioned himself as a leader in setting the GOP on a smarter path. He was the first Republican to publicly condemn Mitt Romney’s “gifts” comments, and soon after, Jindal declared he wants Republicans to “stop being the stupid party.”

And while these efforts are drawing praise from some on the right, let’s pause to note the superficiality of Jindal’s vision. Take his comments yesterday on Fox News, for example.

Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) accused failed Senate candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock of saying “stupid” and “offensive” things that damaged the Republican Party.

“We also don’t need to be saying stupid things,” he said. “Look, we had candidates in Indiana and Missouri that said offensive things that not only hurt themselves and lost us two Senate seats but also hurt the Republican Party across the board.”

On abortion, while Jindal said he’s pro-life, “we don’t need to demonize those that disagree with us. We need to respect the fact that others have come to different conclusions based on their own sincerely held beliefs.”

Here’s the detail Jindal neglected to mention: he opposes any and all abortion rights, without exception. If the Louisiana governor had his way, women impregnated by a rapist would be forced by the American government to take that pregnancy to term. The same would be true in cases of incest or pregnancies in which the health of the mother is at risk.

In other words, as far as public policy is concerned, the only difference between Jindal, Akin, and Mourdock is word choice. Jindal doesn’t want candidates in his party “saying stupid things,” but he’s entirely comfortable with those candidates adopting the same extremist positions he espouses.

Indeed, the larger irony of Jindal presenting himself as a forward-thinking, far-right leader is realizing just how odd a choice he is.

On the one hand, the Louisiana governor says he’s “had enough of this dumbed-down conservatism”; on the other, Jindal is a fierce, anti-gay culture warrior who wants children to be taught creationism and believes he participated in an exorcism.

As this relates to abortion, Jindal is effectively urging his party to adopt the same vision as Mourdock and Akin, but present their agenda with less-offensive talking points. It’s reminiscent of Charles Krauthammer’s advice to the GOP: “The problem … for Republicans is not policy but delicacy.”

They’re both misguided if they think softer, more polite language can make the right-wing social agenda seem more palatable to the American mainstream.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, November 19, 2012

November 20, 2012 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Gift From God”: Richard Mourdock Collapses In Polls In Indiana Senate Race

According to a new Howey/DePauw Indiana Battleground poll, Republican Richard Mourdock’s infamous remarks about rape have doomed his chances of winning Indiana’s Senate election.

The poll shows Democrat Joe Donnelly leading Mourdock by a 47 to 36 percent margin. 11 percent are undecided, and 6 percent support Libertarian Andrew Horning.

Mourdock and Donnelly were statistically tied in nearly every survey of the race, until the candidates met for a debate on October 23rd. There, Mourdock explained his total opposition to abortion by saying “even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape… it is something that God intended to happen.”

According to the Howey/DePauw poll, those fateful words all but ended Mourdock’s campaign, as 87 percent of respondents were aware of Mourdock’s remark, and 40 percent said that it made them less likely to vote for the Republican state treasurer. Additionally, Mourdock’s favorable/unfavorable rating has cratered to 30/49 percent, down from 26/32 in Howey/DePauw’s previous survey in September. And among the crucial independent vote, his favorable/unfavorable numbers stand at a distinctly unimpressive 12/48 with women and 23/51with men.

The poll, which was conducted by Democratic pollster Fred Yang and Republican pollster Christine Matthews, surveyed 800 likely voters with a partisan split of 45 percent Republican, 34 percent Democrat, and 21 percent independent.

If these results hold, then the Republican Party would essentially have no hope of winning a Senate majority. The GOP needs to gain a net of four seats to claim control of Congress’ upper chamber, a challenge that has become much more difficult due Republican candidates’ inability to stop talking about rape. In Missouri, Senator Claire McCaskill — who was once considered to be the most vulnerable incumbent Democrat — is on track to win re-election with the help of Rep. Todd Akin’s startling comments that a woman cannot become pregnant as a result of a “legitimate rape.” Now Mourdock’s “gift from God” comments appear likely to cost Republicans a seat in Indiana. Depending on how competitive races play out in Arizona, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Virginia, and Wisconsin, the Democrats may actually increase their Senate majority — something that seemed impossible just a few months ago.

If Mourdock and Akin lose, then this would be the second straight election cycle in which erratic candidates cost the GOP a chance at a majority. In 2010, right-wing candidates Sharron Angle, Ken Buck, and Christine O’Donnell defeated more mainstream opponents, and went on to lose to vulnerable Democrats.

By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, November 2, 2012

November 3, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, Senate | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Until The Umbilical Cord Is Cut”: In GOP View, Life Is Sacred, Except When It’s Not

“… And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”
— Richard Mourdock, GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate

Life is sacred.

That, Mourdock would later insist, was what he was trying to say last week during a debate with his opponents. Instead, he became the latest in a growing list of conservatives to trip over women’s bodies. The Indiana Republican said he didn’t mean it the way it sounded, i.e., that rape is something God intends or approves. Rather, his point was that “Life is precious. I believe (that) to the very marrow of my bones.” His party agrees.

This year, the GOP adopted — again — a platform under which no woman could ever legally have an abortion. Not if she was impregnated by her own father. Not if she was raped. Not if the abortion were needed to save her life. Never. Because life is sacred.

And that leaves you wondering: what about the 12-year-old girl who has grown up dreading the midnight creak of her bedroom door, the weight settling above her, the whispered assurances that “This is our secret.”

What about the sixth-grader whose barely adolescent breasts are suddenly swollen and who wakes up racing for the toilet every morning, sick to her stomach? Is her life sacred?

What about the co-ed who can still feel the stranger’s hands forcing her knees apart, still feel his hot breath on her cheek, the lashing whip of his curses, that terrible moment of penetration, invasion, violation and bitter, impotent rage?

What about the student who now holds the home pregnancy test strip in her hand, watches it change colors and feels, as she slips to her knees on the bathroom floor with that hateful seed growing in her womb, as if she was just raped all over again? Is her life sacred?

What about the mother of three, just diagnosed with an aggressive cancer, the woman whose doctor says she needs chemotherapy immediately if she is to have any hope of survival? What about the agonizing decision she must now make, to refuse chemo, knowing it will mean dying and abandoning her existing children, or to take the drug, knowing it will kill the child she carries inside? Is her life not sacred?

It doesn’t seem to be, at least, not in the formulation embraced by the Grand Old Party. In that formulation, women are bystanders to their own existence, their individual situations subordinate to a one-size-fits-all morality, their very selves unimportant, except as vessels bearing children.

For that matter, the children themselves, once born, are not particularly sacred, especially if they have the misfortune to be born into less-than-ideal circumstances, situations where they might need help from the rest of us. But you see, “life” is not just the fact of existence. The term refers also to the nature and quality of that existence. So if we truly hold life sacred, we do not balance budgets by denying funding to programs that feed hungry children. We do not look the other way when kids have no access to health care. We do not countenance easy gun availability that makes the playground a war zone. We do not put up with child welfare agencies where tragedies routinely befall children who are always said to have “fallen between the cracks.”

Mourdock and other conservatives frequently tout the sacredness of life, but they seem to have a rather narrow definition thereof. They seem to consider life sacred only until the umbilical cord is cut. So for all its moral earnestness, their argument against abortion rights always manages to go too far and yet, not nearly far enough. If life is sacred when it is in the womb, well, it is also sacred when it is not.


By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., The National Memo, October 31, 2012

November 1, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Libyan Head Fake”: GOP Pretends No One Cares About Abortion

With a major storm and presidential election arriving within a week of each other, the penultimate batch of Sunday morning political talk shows before the election were dominated by talk of how Hurricane Sandy might impact the election. But abortion and Libya also made appearances. Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson wins our award for hackiest political analysis of the week (and there’s a lot of competition) for saying people care more about the GOP’s pet Libyan conspiracy theory than about abortion.

As for the storm, everyone of course said their focus is on the well-being of people in the storm’s path, but pundits couldn’t help but try to find the political angle as well. There seem to be two main theories: One is that the race will essentially be frozen in place as the media and everyone else shifts focus away from the election for the next few days. Since Obama remains slightly ahead in key swing states, this scenario is seen as helping him by preventing Romney from gaining traction. Obama could also earn points by “looking presidential” while leading a successful federal response to the disaster, pundits said.

On the other hand, Obama is crushing Romney in early voting, which is already going on in key states, especially Ohio, and any obstacle to getting people to the polls this week could be bad for the president. Likewise, if the storm lowers turnout in general on election day, that’s also seen as hurting Obama, since he needs strong support from demographics that tend to vote in lower numbers, like young people and Latinos.

But here’s how the storm will actually affect the election: No one knows. Anything else is pure speculation, but apparently both the Obama and Romney campaigns are concerned. For what it’s worth, Bob McDonnell, the Republican governor of battleground Virginia, which is expected to get hammered, said on CNN that they’re prioritizing election infrastructure in their response to the storm, so everything should be normal by election day.

Leave it to Newt Gingrich to politicize the storm to an almost comical degree. “You’ll notice he’s canceling his trips over the hurricane. He did not cancel his trips over Benghazi. And so you have to wonder, between Benghazi, the price of gasoline, and unemployment, just how much burden the president’s going to carry into this last week,” Gingrich told George Stephanopoulos on ABC. From there, it was quick jump to: “I think [Romney’s] actually going to end up winning around 53-47.”

Benghazi, of course, refers to the attack on American diplomats in the Libyan city, over which Republicans have been hammering Obama. It almost sounds like Gingrich doesn’t think Obama should cancel trips to deal with the hurricane, but it’s also unclear why Obama would have canceled a trip to deal with Benghazi, as the whole incident lasted a matter of hours, not days like the hurricane will. As for Newt’s political forecast, it seems only slightly more plausible than a moon base. Real Clear Politics’ polling average has Romney less than a percent ahead of Obama nationally. Nate Silver projects Obama squeaking out a two point popular vote victory over Romney on November 6. It’s entirely possible that Romney wins the popular vote, but not by six points, sorry Newt.

But Benghazi did come up a lot today, suggesting the GOP has decided to concentrate its fire on the topic. Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, on CBS’ Face the Nation today, suggested it was even worse than Watergate. “This tragedy turned into a debacle and massive coverup or massive incompetence in Libya is having an effect on the voters because of their view of the commander in chief,” he said. “Somebody said to me the other day, ‘This is as bad as Watergate.’ Nobody died in Watergate,” McCain added.

While there’s no doubt officials made some tragic errors around the attack, the Republican narrative against Obama just isn’t based in reality, as Candy Crowley’s real-time fact check of Romney in the second debate demonstrated. Their smoking gun is an erroneous bit of early intelligence that ended up being wrong and it’s not even clear what they’re accusing Obama of doing anyway. Mostly, their obsession with the topic comes off as little more than party-endorsed conspiracy theorizing that seems to be dog whistling that the president actually wanted the Americans killed, or at least didn’t mind much that they died.

It’s interesting that Romney surrogates and allies are going all in on Libya considering that the man himself has been largely avoiding it. Libya disappeared from Romney’s stump speeches in recent days. And in last week’s foreign policy debate, he completely passed on every opportunity to slam Obama on the attack. In that debate, moderator Bob Schieffer’s first question was on “the controversy over what happened” in Libya. But Romney’s response almost completely ignored Libya, spending more time on Syria and Mali instead.

Which brings us to our Sunday Best, which has to do with the intersection of Benghazi and abortion, which apparently exists somewhere. A frequent topic of discussion today was Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock’s comments on how a pregnancy from rape is actually a “gift from God.” But according to the (almost all male) representatives of the Republican Party on TV today, no one cares. “I think the reality is, Candy, overwhelmingly, I promise you, people out there are not talking about what Richard Mourdock said,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus assured CNN’s Crowley.

Gingrich again gets the prize for going too far. Asked by Stephanopoulos to respond to Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter’s comments on Mourdock, Gingrich told Cutter to get over it. “OK, so why can’t people like Stephanie Cutter get over it? We all condemn rape,” Gingrich helpfully explained. As we’ve noted, conservatives seem to have a thing for dismissing Cutter in personal ways.

But Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson won the day. Abortion is “not even an issue here in Wisconsin,” Johnson said on Fox News Sunday after being asked about Mourdock’s comments. “It doesn’t even move the radar at all… What people are concerned about, like I said yesterday — it was amazing how many people are coming up to me demanding answers on Benghazi,” Johnson said.

Considering that barely half the country even knows about Benghazi, according to a recent Pew poll, that seems hard to believe. The Pew survey found that 56 percent said they were following news about the attack, and that almost 30 percent had no opinion about the administration’s handling. Contrast that with polling on abortion, which regularly shows that upwards of 97 percent of Americans have strong opinions on the issue.

Abortion is by far the “most important issue for women in this election,” according to women polled by Gallup. A plurality of 39 percent listed it as their top issue, while jobs came in a distant second at 19 percent, followed by healthcare at 18 percent. Not even one percent of women listed national security as their top concern. Among men, just 4 percent did.

By the way, after a week dominated by talk of abortion in the wake of Mourdock’s comment, who did the Romney campaign and the GOP send onto the major Sunday shows? About a dozen Republican men and just one woman. The one woman was Carly Fiorina, the former HP exec and former California GOP Senate candidate. On Meet the Press, she denounced Murdock’s comment, but said they don’t really matter. “Women care about the role of government. Women care about their children’s education,” she said.

That’s all true, according to the polls, but they care about abortion more and it will only hurt Republicans as long as they pretend that’s not true.


By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, October 28, 2012

October 29, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Interesting Dynamic”: Are Mitt Romney’s Congressional Shackles Slipping?

What is potentially the most dramatic of all electoral subplots seems to be building with virtually no public comment: even as Mitt Romney postures to swing voters as the newly re-emerged Moderate From Massachusetts, the shackles of a Republican congressional majority that once guaranteed the slippery Mitt couldn’t violate his various blood oaths to the conservative movement may not be so tight any more.

Richard Mourdock has taken another big step towards throwing away a safe Senate seat in Indiana. Todd Akin is showing no signs of recovery in Missouri. The latest polls are showing Tim Murphy beginning to overcome Linda McMahon’s money in Connecticut, and Elizabeth Warren building a consistent lead in Massachusetts. Angus King again looks safe in Maine. Sure, GOPers could run the table of close races in Montana, North Dakota, Virginia and Nevada, but overall, prospects for Senate control are looking grim.

So the conservative game-plan, articulated many months ago by Grover Norquist, whereby a newly elected GOP congressional majority would pass the Ryan Budget via reconciliation procedures and present about a decade or two worth of demolition work to a newly elected President Romney, who had promised to sign it–doesn’t look quite so healthy. And this scenario hasn’t been discussed much because pretty much everybody figured an election in which Mitt won would surely produce a Republican Senate, given the GOP’s massive advantages in the landscape of that chamber in this particular cycle.

With Election Day just 13 days off, it’s far too late for conservatives to publicly demand fresh Vows of Total Submission from Romney–vows he’s already made, for one thing, but that most conservatives didn’t really think they’d need with a Republican Congress. They’ll have to grin and pretend to admire the Moderate Mitt talk, barren as it actually is. But you have to figure that behind the scenes there’s some serious don’t-you-dare-cross-us talk going on, whether or not Romney has any intention of using a Democratic Senate as an excuse to go back on his promises to let the conservative movement run wild in 2013 in exchange for tolerating his nomination.

It’s an interesting dynamic to watch, though one that is obviously of academic interest if Mitt loses and conservatives quickly consign him to the ashbin of failed RINOs.

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, October 24, 2012

October 26, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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