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“Rethinking Their Attitudes On McCarthy”: Republican Support For McCarthyism Is Sometimes Literal

Exactly three years ago this week, a reporter from the Dallas Morning News told Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) he’s been compared at times to Joe McCarthy. Cruz said that criticism “may be a sign that perhaps we’re doing something right,” which seemed like a curious response given the context.

Asked specifically, “Is McCarthy someone you admire?” Cruz wouldn’t answer. “I’m not going to engage in the back and forth and the attacks,” he replied.

Three years later, this has come up again, but this time it’s not with the senator himself, but rather it’s one of his national security advisers. TPM noted yesterday:

Clare Lopez, a national security adviser to Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) presidential campaign, earlier this month said the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) was “spot on” about communists infiltrating the United States government in the 1950s.

As Right Wing Watch discovered, the Cruz adviser compared Americans’ lack of preparedness for Muslims trying to infiltrate the government to communist spies during the Cold War.

“We can go all the way back, of course, to the time of the Cold War and back to the 1920s, ’30s, ’40s when communists, you know, the KGB, infiltrated our government at the very highest levels,” Lopez said. “And then, like now, we were unprepared and in large measure unaware of what was going on, at least until the House Un-American Activities got rolling in the 1950s with Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who absolutely was spot-on in just about everything he said about the levels of infiltration.”

Oh my.

There was a point in the not-too-distant past that both parties considered McCarthyism and the former senator’s legacy to be a scourge to be avoided forevermore.

But as Republican politics has shifted to the even-further-right, conservatives have begun to rethink their attitudes on McCarthy. Missouri’s Todd Akin, for example, compared himself to McCarthy two years ago, and he meant it in a good way.

In 2010 in Texas, conservative activists rewriting the state’s curriculum recommended telling students that McCarthy was a hero, “vindicated” by history. Around the same time, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) endorsed bringing back the House Un-American Activities Committee.

In conservative media, headlines such as “It’s Time to See Joe McCarthy For the Hero He Was” are not uncommon.

As we discussed a couple of years ago, when the political world considers how much the Republican Party has changed over the last generation, look no further than those who’ve decided McCarthyism wasn’t so bad after all.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 23, 2016

March 24, 2016 Posted by | McCarthyism, Steve King, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“What Is The GOP Thinking?”: The Nation Will Have To Stand By Until Realists And Ideologues Reach Some Sort Of Understanding

There they go again. Given control of Congress and the chance to frame an economic agenda for the middle class, the first thing Republicans do is tie themselves in knots over . . . abortion and rape.

I’m not kidding. In a week when President Obama used his State of the Union address to issue a progressive manifesto of bread-and-butter policy proposals, GOP leaders responded by taking up the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” — a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. But a vote on the legislation had to be canceled after female GOP House members reportedly balked over the way an exception for pregnancies resulting from rape was limited.

The whole thing was, in sum, your basic 360-degree fiasco.

At least there are some in the party who recognize how much trouble Republicans make for themselves by breaking the armistice in the culture wars and launching battles that cannot be won. It looks as if the nation will have to stand by until GOP realists and ideologues reach some sort of understanding, which may take some time.

It’s important to understand that the “Pain-Capable” bill was never anything more than an act of political fantasy. The only purpose of the planned vote was to create an “event” that the annual antiabortion March for Life, held Thursday in Washington, could celebrate.

You might think the demonstrators already had reason to cheer. The abortion rate is at “historic lows,” having dropped by 13 percent in the decade between 2002 and 2011, according to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The main reason is that there are fewer unwanted pregnancies, which suggests logically that if Republicans really want to reduce abortion, what they should do is work to increase access to birth control.

More to the point, according to the CDC, only 1.4 percent of abortions take place after 20 weeks. This means the bill, if it somehow became law, would have minimal impact.

But it won’t become law, as everyone in Congress well knows. The White House has announced that Obama would veto the measure, if it ever reached his desk. To get that far, the bill would have to pass the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would have to win over enough Democrats to cross the 60-vote threshold, which is highly unlikely.

Theoretically, though, any ­reasonable-sounding antiabortion measure should at least be able to make it through the House, with its expanded GOP majority. But even in the context of today’s far-right Republican Party, the “Pain-Capable” bill struck many House members, particularly women, as unreasonable.

At issue, apparently, is that, in making exceptions for abortions of pregnancies resulting from rape, the bill specifies that the rape must have been reported to law enforcement. This restriction cannot help but bring to mind the grief Republicans suffered in 2012 over Senate candidate Todd Akin’s appalling attempt to distinguish between “legitimate rape” and some other kind of rape.

Although the House leadership maintained that all was sweetness and light, reporters heard rumblings Wednesday that the bill was in trouble with moderate Republicans, especially women. Then an unusual number of female GOP House members was seen leaving the offices of the majority whip. Then the bill was pulled and a different antiabortion measure — prohibiting federal funding for abortions — was substituted.

I should note that there is no generally accepted scientific basis for the premise of the “Pain-Capable” bill. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has said there is no legitimate research supporting the idea that fetuses feel pain at 20 weeks.

I understand that, for those who believe in their hearts that abortion is murder, there is an imperative to do something, anything, to stop it. Some people have similar moral passion about capital punishment or the thousands of lives lost each year to gun violence.

Given that the Supreme Court has decided abortion is a legally protected right, the antiabortion movement has done what it could — made abortions very difficult to obtain in some states where the pro-life position has sufficient support. Hooting and hollering on Capitol Hill do nothing for abortion opponents except fleece them of campaign contributions.

People, we are in an economic recovery whose fruits are not reaching the middle class. We have a crucial need to address U.S. infrastructure and competitiveness. We face myriad challenges abroad, including Islamic terrorism and global warming.

If a renewal of the culture wars is your answer, Republicans, you totally misheard the question.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, January 22, 2015

 

January 27, 2015 Posted by | Abortion, Culture Wars, GOP | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“GOP Wants To Define Rape… Again”: How Lindsey Graham Reawakened The Ghost Of Todd Akin

Ah, Lindsey Graham. The South Carolina senator who says he’s thinking about running for president no doubt thought he was helping the GOP get beyond its meltdown over its 20-week abortion ban bill, which leadership dropped unexpectedly when some GOP congresswomen balked, by asking antiabortion zealots attending the “March for Life” to help him “find a way out of this definitional problem with rape.”

One major issue with the bill was the way it defined rape: a women would have to have made a police report in order to get an abortion under the bill’s rape exception. (Katie McDonough has the details here.) Most rape victims don’t report the crime.

So Graham went to the “March for Life” today and came clean with the group, which is seething over its betrayal by GOP leadership. There’s going to be some kind of rape exception in the bill, and he needs their input to shape it.

“I’m going to need your help to find a way out of this definitional problem with rape,” Graham told the marchers, according to Dave Weigel.  ”We need to find a consensus position on the rape exception. The rape exception will be part of the bill. We just need to find a way definitionally to not get us into a spot where we’re debating what legitimate is. That’s not the cause. We’re not here debating legitimate rape. We’re talking about saving babies at 20 weeks.”

So there it is again, the GOP’s lust for getting into the gritty details of defining rape, to make sure slutty women aren’t using rape exceptions to get around various types of abortion bans. That’s what former Rep. Todd Akin was getting at in 2012, when he talked about women rarely becoming pregnant as a result of “legitimate rape,” because  “a woman’s body has a way of shutting that whole thing down.” As you’ll recall, instead, women shut the GOP down that November. Republicans don’t want that to happen again in 2016.

The funny thing is, clearly Graham thinks he’s smarter than Akin: he insists he doesn’t “want to get us into a spot where we’re debating what legitimate is.” But he doesn’t seem to understand that the whole effort to “define” rape, which he’s apparently now spearheading, is precisely about deciding whether a woman’s claim of rape is “legitimate” or not.

At its heart, this Republican project is predicated on the belief that women lie about rape, but Republicans can outsmart them. If some Republican women believe that requiring women to make a police report is draconian, then Graham is searching for another way to define a woman’s rape as legitimately deserving of an exception to their 20-week abortion ban.

Rep. Renee Ellmers, who supported the very same bill in 2013, had second thoughts this time around. “We got into trouble last year, and I think we need to be careful again; we need to be smart about how we’re moving forward,” Ellmers told National Journal. ”The first vote we take, or the second vote, or the fifth vote, shouldn’t be on an issue where we know that millennials — social issues just aren’t as important [to them].”

So Ellmers is not exactly the picture of integrity here. She’s not worried about passing a terrible bill that could hurt women; she’s worried about how it looks to millennial voters.

Still, there looks to be a real split between GOP congressional men and women over the issue. Only women came forward to take their names off the bill; then male leadership acquiesced to withdraw it from consideration. Reportedly the party had the votes to pass the bill in the House at least, but Speaker John Boehner and others were concerned about the “optics” of ignoring women in the caucus.

I guess that’s a kind of progress for women’s rights, albeit tiny. But in walks Lindsey Graham to try to mansplain the right way to handle this whole rape “definition,” and even as he thinks he’s helping, he’s making his party’s problems much worse.

I never thought Graham had a prayer of winning the presidency, or even the GOP nomination, but his chances just got a lot worse. Republicans did well in 2014 by avoiding Akin-like controversies over defining rape and holding forth on the intimate workings of women’s bodies generally. It seems they just can’t help themselves, and that’s good for Democrats generally in 2016.

 

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, January 22, 2015

January 26, 2015 Posted by | GOP, Lindsey Graham, Womens Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“From Extreme To Extreme-Lite?”: “Religious Liberty” Campaign Not Working Out That Well

In the wake of a predictable GOP filibuster of a Senate bill seeking to reverse the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, Republicans are publicly complaining that Democrats are trying to “change the subject” from this or that issue (real or imaginary) they want to talk about, but are privately conceding the peril for their team of any extended conversation involving reproductive rights. At National Journal Sophie Novack reports they’d just as soon not go there:

Republican strategists who were around for [Todd] Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment in 2012 warn candidates to tread carefully on the issue. The GOP’s continued meetings on how to connect with women show the party is still haunted by his loss, and members have denounced his return to the political scene with the release of his new book.

“The fact that the Supreme Court made the decision—Republicans should let that stand and not engage in the debate. It will get them nowhere and take them off the message of real issue Americans are concerned about,” said Ron Bonjean, a GOP strategist and former spokesman for House and Senate leadership. “I think Republicans saw what happened with Todd Akin—it was a stupid and bad campaign strategy. It would be political malpractice for Republicans to engage with that kind of conversation.”

This is another way of admitting that the effort begun in 2012 to reframe the GOP’s extremist position on reproductive rights as a defense of “religious liberty” hasn’t worked as well as party strategists had hoped. Indeed, by shifting the focus from abortion to “abortifacient” birth control, the “religious liberty”-driven attack on Obamacare’s contraception coverage mandate has actually increased opportunities for Republican pols to say things that sound stupid or crazy to a big percentage of the population.

Was Akin’s disastrous “legitimate rape” commentary really any farther from the mainstream than talk about IUDs being little Holocaust machines? Is there really any way to frame the unchanging extremist position on abortion (life begins when ovum fertilized; ban all abortions with no exceptions for rape or incest) most Republicans embrace in a way that doesn’t hurt the party with swing voters generally and single women in particular? I don’t think so. But I also think “don’t talk about it” demands like Bonjean’s will infuriate the antichoice activists who set the GOP’s position in the first place and convince them to demand even more demonstrations of loyalty.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, July 17, 2014

July 18, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Religious Liberty, Reproductive Rights | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“The GOP Self-Destruction Is Complete”: Millennials Officially Hate Conservatives

Conservatives are stuck in a perpetual outrage loop. The reappearance of Todd Akin, the horror-movie villain immortality of Sarah Palin, the unseemly celebration of the Hobby Lobby decision – these all speak to a chorus of “la-la-la-can’t-hear-you” loud enough to drown out the voice of an entire generation. Late last week, the Reason Foundation released the results of a poll about that generation, the millennials; its signature finding was the confirmation of a mass abandonment of social conservatism and the GOP. This comes at a time when the conservative movement is increasingly synonymous with mean-spirited, prank-like and combative activism and self-important grand gestures. The millennial generation has repeatedly defined itself as the most socially tolerant of the modern era, but one thing it really can’t stand is drama.

Republicans were already destined for piecemeal decimation due to the declining numbers of their core constituency. But they don’t just have a demographic problem anymore; they have stylistic one. The conservative strategy of outrage upon outrage upon outrage bumps up against the policy preferences and the attitudes of millennials in perfect discord.

We all can recognize the right’s tendency to respond to backlash with more “lash” (Akin didn’t disappear, he doubled down on “legitimate rape”), but it seems to have gained speed with the age of social media and candidate tracking. The Tea Party’s resistance to the leavening effect of establishment mores and political professionals has been a particularly effective accelerant. Palin’s ability to put anything on the internet without any intermediary has rendered her as reckless as any tween with a SnapChat account. Akin’s whiny denouncement of Washington insiders is likely to make him more credible with a certain kind of base voter. The midterms are, as we speak, producing another round of Fox News celebrities, whether or not they win their races: the Eric Cantor-vanquishing David Brat, Mississippi’s Chris McDaniel and the hog-castrating mini-Palin, Jodi Ernst of Iowa.

The fire-with-fire attitude of hardline conservatives has its roots in the petulant cultural defensiveness adopted by the GOP – especially the Christian right – during the culture wars of the 90s. Their siege mentality bred an attitude toward liberals that saw every instance of social liberalization as proof of their own apocalyptic predictions and conspiracy theories. Gay marriage will lead to acceptance of beastiality and pedophilia. “Socialized medicine” will lead to the euthanizing Grandma. Access to birth control will lead to orgies in the streets.

Then came Obama’s election, the Zapruder tape for the right’s tin-foil hat haberdashers – a moment in history that both explained and exacerbated America’s supposed decline. Dinesh D’Souza, the Oliver Stone of the Tea Party, has now made two movies about the meaning of Obama’s presidency. The first, 2016: Obama’s America, garnered an astounding $33m at the box office, and his lawyers blamed disappointing returns from this summer’s America on a Google conspiracy to confuse moviegoers about its showtimes. (Of course.)

The GOP has long staked a claim on The Disappearing Angry White Man, but they have apparently ever-narrowing odds of getting a bite at millennials, who appear to be more like The Somewhat Concerned Multicultural Moderate. This generation is racially diverse, pro-pot, pro-marriage equality and pro-online gambling. They are troubled by the deficit but believe in the social safety net: 74% of millennials, according to Reason, want the government to guarantee food and housing to all Americans. A Pew survey found that 59% of Americans under 30 say the government should do more to solve problems, while majorities in all other age groups thought it should do less.

The Rupe-Reason poll teases out some of the thinking behind the surge of young people abandoning the GOP, and finds a generation that is less apt to take to the streets, Occupy-style, than to throw a great block party: lots of drugs, poker and gays! Millennials don’t want to change things, apparently – they want everyone to get along. The report observes “[m]any specifically identified LGBTQ rights as their primary reason for being liberal”; and “[o]ften, they decided they were liberals because they really didn’t like conservatives.”

But liberals can’t be complacent about their demographic advantage. Their challenge is to resist the impulse to copycat the hysteria that has worked so well for the right historically. “No drama Obama” was the millennials’ spirit animal – his popularity has sunk with the economy, but also with the administration’s escalating rhetoric. Today, under-30 voters show a distinct preference for Hillary Clinton (39% according to Reason, 53% according to the Wall Street Journal), and no wonder: she’s as bloodless as Bill was lusty, as analytical as Bill was emotional. The professorial Elizabeth Warren is the logical (very logical) backup.

Right now, Democrats benefit from both the form and content of conservative message: this next generation is not just inclusive, but conflict-adverse. Millennials cringe at the old-man-yelling-at-gay-clouds spectacle of the Tea Party. Perhaps this comes from living in such close proximity of their parents for so long. If this generation does have a political philosophy, it’s this: “First, do no harm.” If it has a guiding moral principle, it’s simpler: “Don’t be embarrassing.”

 

By: Ana Marie Cox, The Guardian, July 14, 2014

July 15, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Millennnials, Republicans | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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