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“Keeping The Jackasses Out Of Power”: Trump’s Unique Ability To Help Clinton Unite Democrats

One of the most common questions in Democratic politics is obvious, though it’s not easy to answer: Once the primaries are over, how will Hillary Clinton unify progressive voters ahead of the general election? Much of the discussion involves speculation about Bernie Sanders’ strategy, the party’s convention, the party’s platform, Clinton’s eventual running mate, etc.

But there’s a piece to this puzzle that sometimes goes overlooked: Clinton will try to bring Democrats and progressive independents together, but it’s Donald Trump who’ll seal the deal.

Last October, Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi covered the House Republicans’ Benghazi Committee and its 11-hour grilling of Clinton, and he wrote a very memorable piece soon after. Taibbi, a Clinton detractor, conceded at the time that he started to feel more sympathetic towards the Democrat, not out of pity, but in response to the GOP’s outrageous antics.

Those idiots represent everything that is wrong not just with the Republican Party, but with modern politics in general. It’s hard to imagine a political compromise that wouldn’t be justified if its true aim would be to keep people like those jackasses out of power.

In context, none of this had anything to do with Bernie Sanders or the Democratic primary, but Taibbi’s point – there’s value in compromise if it means keeping “those jackasses out of power” – lingered in my mind because I suspect many of Sanders’ die-hard supporters will be making a similar calculation in the coming months.

And Donald Trump, whether he realizes it or not, is going to help.

This is sometimes forgotten, but for much of Bill Clinton’s presidency, he was popular with Democrats, but not that popular. The former president developed a reputation, which was well deserved, for adopting a “triangulation” posture and taking advice from the likes of Dick Morris. Among congressional Democrats at the time, they supported Clinton, but often through gritted teeth.

How did Bill Clinton eventually bring Democrats together, uniting them behind his presidency? He didn’t; Tom DeLay did. The more intense the congressional Republicans’ anti-Clinton crusade became – culminating, of course, in impeachment – the more congressional Democrats rallied around their ally in the White House. It wasn’t overly complicated: Dems may have been annoyed by the president triangulating, but they were far more disgusted with Republican extremism.

Nearly two decades later, consider how Donald Trump is shifting his focus to the 2016 general election: Trump is attacking Hillary Clinton over her gender; he’s blaming her for ’90s-era sex scandals; and in a line of attack that no sane person should consider normal, he’s suggesting that she might have had something to do with Vince Foster’s death. You’ve heard the cliche, campaigns are always about the future? The presumptive Republican nominee, who has no real policy agenda or specific goals of his own, has decided this campaign is entirely about the past.

There may be Republican voters who find all of this compelling, but let’s not discount the fact that these are the kind of attacks that also motivate Democratic and progressive voters in the opposite direction.

The number of liberal Sanders supporters watching the news this week, eager to hear more from Trump about Vince Foster conspiracy theories, is probably infinitesimally small. But the number of progressive voters watching all of this unfold, thinking about keeping “people like those jackasses out of power,” is probably quite high.

The question of how Clinton and Sanders will reconcile, keeping left-of-center voters together, obviously matters. But the question of how many of these same voters will gravitate to Clinton instinctively out of contempt for the Republican nominee may end up mattering just as much.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 25, 2016

May 26, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Squeaky Clean Republican Leader”: After Admitting Sex Crimes, Former House Speaker Headed To Prison

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert has been accused of sexually abusing four teenaged boys during his tenure as a high school coach many years ago, but the statute of limitations has expired and he cannot face charges for these misdeeds. The Illinois Republican was, however, arrested for lying to the FBI about covering up his sex crimes.

And this afternoon, it was this misconduct that will put Hastert behind bars.

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert was sentenced Wednesday to 15 months in prison for illegal cash withdrawals he made for payoffs to cover up sex-abuse allegations after the judge called him a “serial child molester.”

Before issuing his sentence, Judge Thomas M. Durkin pressed the former House Speaker on the details of his misconduct, asking Hastert directly if he sexually abused his victims. “Yes,” Hastert said, publicly acknowledging this for the first time. He added, “What I did was wrong and I regret it. They looked to me and I took advantage of them.”

In an additional gut-wrenching detail, one of these victims, Scott Cross, testified today that Hastert molested him when Cross was a teenager. Cross is the younger brother of former Illinois House Republican leader Tom Cross, who looked up to Hastert as a political mentor.

Hastert actually asked Tom Cross for a letter of support as part of his criminal case, despite the fact that Hastert molested his younger brother.

As part of this morning’s proceedings, the judge in the case explained, in reference to Hastert’s political career, “Sometimes actions can obliterate a lifetime of good works.” The judge referred to Hastert three times as a “serial child molester.”

In a breathtaking letter to the judge, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) recently wrote, “We all have our flaws, but Dennis Hastert has very few.” DeLay added that Hastert “doesn’t deserve what he is going through.”

Evidently, that didn’t prove persuasive.

There is, of course, the human element of this heartbreaking story, and the anguish felt by Hastert’s victims and their families. And then there are the political implications: the longest serving Republican House Speaker in American history, a man who was two heartbeats from the presidency of the United States for eight years, appears to have spent part of his life as a serial child molester, unbeknownst to anyone except Hastert and his victims.

As we discussed a few weeks ago, from 1998 to 2006, House Republicans suffered one ugly scandal after another. Democrats used the “culture of corruption” label to great effect because it was true – from Gingrich to Livingston, DeLay to Cunningham, Ney to Foley, the GOP’s House majority just couldn’t stay out of trouble.

But no matter how many scandals surrounded House Republicans, GOP officials pointed to the humble Speaker from Illinois as the squeaky clean leader, elevated to the post from relative obscurity because of his above-the-fray reputation.

And now we know his conduct was far worse than any of his colleagues’.

In addition to his 15-month sentence, Hastert will also reportedly have to pay a $250,000 fine and take part in sex-offender programs.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog,  April 27, 2016

April 28, 2016 Posted by | Dennis Hastert, House Republicans, Sexual Molestation, Speaker of The House of Representatives | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Real Scandal In Denny Hastert’s Life”: Immersed In The Immoral Swamp Of Washington’s Game Of Money Politics

Washington’s establishment of politicos, lobbyists, and media sparklies are shocked — shocked to their very core! — by the scandalous sexual revelations about Dennis Hastert.

The portly Republican, who’d been Speaker of the House a decade ago, was an affable, nondescript Midwesterner who was popular with his fellow lawmakers. A former high-school wrestling coach in rural Illinois, Hastert was viewed as a solid salt-of-the-Earth fellow embodying Middle America’s moral values. So his recent indictment for paying $1.7 million in hush money to a man he apparently molested during his coaching years has rocked our Capitol.

“I’m shocked and saddened,” said the current GOP Speaker, John Boehner. Likewise, former colleagues from both sides of the aisle were dismayed that “our Denny” would have been engaged in child molestation and now caught in an illegal financial cover-up of that abomination. “This has really come out of nowhere,” exclaimed Rep. Peter King, a longtime ally of the man whom all of Washington considered a straight arrow.

Washington’s gossip mill is spinning furiously over last week’s revelations. Before we join these officials in wailing about Dennis Hastert’s alleged long-hidden molestation, however, let me note that while they are bewildered by his sexual impropriety, they find it not worthy of mention — much less condemnation — that Denny has long been immersed in the immoral swamp of Washington’s game of money politics. The guy they profess to love as a paragon of civic virtue — “the coach,” as Rep. King hailed him — was one of the most corrupt Speakers ever. What about the filthy, backroom affair he has been openly conducting with corporate lobbyists for nearly two decades?

During his tenure as House Speaker, Hastert turned the place into the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory of corporate favors. By putting campaign cash into Republican re-election coffers controlled by him and his top hitman, Majority Leader Tom DeLay, corporate interests gained entry into Denny’s psychedelic playhouse. With Hastert himself singing “Candy Man,” the favor seekers could help themselves to the river of chocolate running through Congress’ back rooms.

Remember “earmarks,” the sneaky tactic of letting congressional leaders secretly funnel appropriations to favored corporations and projects? Earmarks became the trademark of Hastert’s regime, sticking taxpayers with the tab for such outrages as Alaska’s “Bridge to Nowhere.” Indeed, Denny grabbed a $200 million earmark for himself, funding an Illinois highway near land he owned — land he then sold, netting millions in personal profit.

When he left Congress, Hastert moved just a short limo ride away to become — what else? — a corporate lobbyist. Trading on his former title, personal ties to House members and knowledge of how the chocolate factory runs, he has been hauling in a fortune as a high-dollar influence peddler for makers of candy-flavored cigarettes, Peabody Coal Company, land developers and other giants. And guess what his specialty is? Getting “riders” attached to appropriations bills, so public money is channeled directly to his clients.

Hastert openly traded legislative favors for campaign cash, including profiting personally from his powerful position. And, when he was squeezed out because of the corruption, he didn’t return to the home folks — he became a K-Street lobbyist, continuing to profit to this day by doing corporate favors. That’s how he got so rich he was able to shell out $1.7 million in hush money to the student he abused.

Good ol’ Denny has always thought he was above the law. Just as Hastert should be held accountable for the deep personal damage his alleged molestation would’ve done to his former student, so should he also pay for his abominably indecent abuse of office, his self-gratifying groping of public funds and his repeated, sticky-fingered violations of the American people’s public trust.

 

By: Jim Hightower, The National Memo, June 3, 3015

June 5, 2015 Posted by | Corporate Welfare, Dennis Hastert, Sexual Molestation | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Eric Cantor Rebranded Himself Out Of A Job”: Like A Golden Retriever Who Tried To Run With A Pack Of Coyotes

It should have been Boehner. It’s not hard to imagine that those were the thoughts going through Eric Cantor’s head Wednesday night as he conceded defeat in his Virginia congressional primary to the Tea Party activist David Brat. After all, it was less than three years ago that Cantor was the foremost champion of Tea Party opposition to the fiscal grand bargain President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner were trying to hash out during the debt-ceiling fight. And when Cantor, the House majority leader, successfully sabotaged that deal through a series of Machiavellian maneuvers, he appeared poised to capitalize on the Tea Party’s gratitude and take the speakership from the squishy Boehnerif not that very moment, then some time in the not-too-distant future. Even Obama gave voice to that belief. “You know Cantor’s trying to get your job,” the president taunted Boehner during their 2011 debt-ceiling talks.

And yet, Boehner’s job is safehe easily won his primary last monthand Cantor is now out of his. In a way, Cantor was the victim of his own ambitions. When he was elected to Congress in 2000, he was an Establishment Republican who strongly supported George W. Bush’s agenda. As a member of the House whip team, he helped persuade his fellow Republicans to vote for many of the bills the Tea Party would later decrymost infamously the 2003 Medicare prescription-drug legislation. He was also a staunch and vocal defender of Tom DeLay against corruption charges. But, in 2006, when it looked as if the House GOP leadership was about to lose its majority, Cantor recast himself as a reformerdenouncing the corruption that had consumed his caucus and even swearing off earmarks. Then after Obama’s election in 2008, Cantor, who’d rode his reputation as a reformer to the post of House Minority Whip, began staking out more obstinately conservative positions and became the face of GOP opposition to the new president’s agenda. In 2010, he worked to recruit similarly obstinately conservative Republicans to run for the House, ultimately helping to elect 87 of them. It was those House freshmen whose frustrations and grievances Cantor was channeling during the 2011 debt-ceiling fightand it was those House freshmen, Cantor and his allies assumed, who’d eventually elevate Cantor to speaker. But when Obama was reelected in 2012, Cantor adjusted yet again. The Tea Party had become a liability and Cantor, while not quite going back to his Establishment roots, began striking more moderate notesespecially on immigration, which Brat used to great effect in his primary campaign. In the end, Cantor rebranded himself out of a job.

During his 14 years in Washington, Cantor reinvented himself so many times that I ultimately lost count somewhere around Cantor 6.0. And that was ultimately the reason for Cantor’s downfall. The serial reinventions left Cantor with few allies and myriad enemies. He was the worst thing a politician could be: someone who inspired great passion, but only negative ones. As we’ve seen this year with Boehner and with Senator Mitch McConnell, Establishment Republicans can withstand Tea Party primary challengers. But Cantor couldn’t because, unlike Boehner and McConnellwho despite their opposition to Obama never entirely cozied up to the Tea Partyhe attempted to be something he was not. Cantor was like a golden retriever who tried to run with a pack of coyotes. For a while, he was able to rely on their shared canine ancestry and fit in. But eventually, the coyotes recognized him for the domesticated creature he was. Then they ate him.

 

By: Jason Zengerle, The New Republic, June 11, 2014

June 12, 2014 Posted by | Eric Cantor, Tea Party | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Unforgivable Stupidity”: Rep Louie Gohmert Shows How Not To Respond To A Tragedy

In the wake of tragic gun violence, most politicians realize the decent, responsible thing to do is send sympathies to those affected while leaving politics out of it. Others aren’t as sensible.

After the Columbine massacre, for example, then-Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) blamed science textbooks for the murders: “Our school systems teach the children that they are nothing but glorified apes who are evolutionized [sic] out of some primordial soup.”

In 2007, after the Virginia Tech massacre, Newt Gingrich blamed liberals for supporting “situation ethics,” adding, “Yes, I think the fact is, if you look at the amount of violence we have in games that young people play at 7, 8, 10, 12, 15 years of age, if you look at the dehumanization, if you look at the fact that we refuse to say that we are, in fact, endowed by our creator, that our rights come from God, that if you kill somebody, you’re committing an act of evil.” Gingrich, explaining the VT tragedy, went on to condemn Halloween costumes and the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law.

And this morning, after the slayings in Aurora, Louie Gohmert weighed in with some stupidity of his own.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said Friday that the shootings that took place in an Aurora, Colo. movie theater hours earlier were a result of “ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs” and questioned why nobody else in the theater had a gun to take down the shooter.

During a radio interview on The Heritage Foundation’s “Istook Live!” show, Gohmert was asked why he believes such senseless acts of violence take place. Gohmert responded by talking about the weakening of Christian values in the country.

“Some of us happen to believe that when our founders talked about guarding our virtue and freedom, that that was important,” he said. “Whether it’s John Adams saying our Constitution was made only for moral and religious people … Ben Franklin, only a virtuous people are capable of freedom, as nations become corrupt and vicious they have more need of masters. We have been at war with the very pillars, the very foundation of this country.”

“You know what really gets me, as a Christian, is to see the ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs, and then some senseless crazy act of a derelict takes place.”

I see. So, in the mind of this strange Republican congressman, a madman killed 12 people because of … the separation of church and State? The First Amendment is to blame for a shooting spree in a movie theater?

If decency had any place in American politics, this would be an immediate career-ender for the ridiculous congressman from Texas. Some political missteps are simply unforgivable.

Update: Gohmert also wondered aloud why no one else in the theater was armed, complaining that the victims should have shot back.

 

By: Steve Beneb, The Maddow Blog, July 20, 2012

July 23, 2012 Posted by | Gun Violence | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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