Tape Shows Benghazi 'Scandal' Kept Artificially Alive by Far Right Activists

About a week ago, President Obama mentioned "phony scandals" that were drawing attention and effort away from the real work Washington needs to do to rebuild the economy. "With an endless parade of distractions, political posturing and phony scandals," he said in a speech on the economy at Knox College, "Washington has taken its eye off the ball. And I am here to say this needs to stop... Our focus must be on the basic economic issues that the matter most to you -- the people we represent."

Those remarks became a minor scandal in itself, the daily worst thing ever! we've all become so familiar with. The unceasingly outraged right were outraged at the outrageousness of this latest outrage. "It is dismissive. It is insulting. It is minimizing. It's not validating the concerns that people have," Rep. Michele Bachmann said, as if validating unfounded concerns was something anyone should be interested in doing.

A lot of critics ran to the Benghazi story -- although the president didn't mention it directly. People died, they said, did they make those deaths up?

Well, no. They didn't make up the deaths, just the controversy over them. New evidence shows a concentrated effort between GOP leadership and conservative activists to turn a foreign policy tragedy into a "scandal" that was supposed to rock the presidency.

David Corn: As Mother Jones revealed last week, Groundswell, the hush-hush right-wing strategy group partly led by Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, wanted to hype the Benghazi tragedy into a full-fledged scandal for the Obama administration, as part of its "30 front war" on the president and progressives. A secret audio tape of one of Groundswell's weekly meetings shows that prominent members of the group pressed House Speaker John Boehner and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the chair of the House oversight committee, to expand the Benghazi investigation and make this supposed scandal a top-priority for congressional Republicans. This recording indicates Groundswell's mission extends beyond message coordination to scandal-stoking.

The tape has been posted at Crooks and Liars, a progressive web site, and it captured the first 20 minutes of Groundswell's May 8 meeting. (The site does not say how the recording was obtained.) The meeting opened with a prayer ("Father, we thank you for the opportunity to gather here as free Americans"), and a roll call was taken. Among those present were former GOP Rep. Allen West, Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy, Jerry Boykin of the Family Research Council, Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch, Stephen Bannon of Breitbart News, and Ginni Thomas. Catherine Engelbrecht, a founder of True the Vote, led the meeting, and the first order of business was a report on the Benghazi controversy from Boykin and Gaffney.

The pair reported on meetings they had held the previous night with Boehner and Issa. The two Groundswellers had encouraged the lawmakers to set up a special committee to investigate the attacks on the US facilities in Benghazi. Boykin, according to the recording, noted that Boehner had said he wanted the process "to play out" first, apparently meaning that he wasn't yet ready to step up the GOP Benghazi campaign. Boehner, Boykin recounted, had expressed the concern that were he to create such a committee, the media would cover it as a political stunt designed to bring down Obama.

The wingnut propagandists/activists still haven't gotten their special committee, they've gotten their scandal. The Breitbart hack told them how to handle the hype; "Don't mention impeachment of Hillary Clinton, he cautioned, for that would only politicize the issue and 'hurt the goal' of establishing a special congressional committee."

A couple of names in that group leaped out at me. Family Research Council is a bona fide hate group, in which Boykin is a perfect fit. And if you had to describe Gaffney as anything, you'd have to say he was a "hate person" or a one man hate group. He's also a birther. That Ginni Thomas is associated with these crazies does not say good things about her ideology and that these people have what seems to be on demand access to House GOP leadership is pretty disturbing. Go any farther right on the political spectrum than these lunatics and you're talking genuine neo-Nazis, Timothy McVeigh-style survivalist/militia types, or the Westboro Baptist Church hate cult.

That a plan for keeping Benghazi alive is the product of this particular brain trust tells you all you need to know about its status as a "scandal." They're all about as credible as Glenn Beck and their conspiracy theories have as much basis in reality.

In the end, the scandal isn't Benghazi -- which has been so thoroughly debunked that you wonder why Republicans still want to bring it up. The real scandal is that this small group of crazies has any influence at all with the leadership of the Republican Party. If we can be judged by the company we keep, then John Boehner and Darrell Issa should be judged very, very poorly.

And yes, Benghazi is a phony scandal, kept lurching along in undead zombitude by the mad political scientists at wherever Groundswell HQ happens to be. Phony as they come.


[photo via Wikimedia Commons]


Economic Hardship; the Other Demographic Shift that Dooms the GOP

Vintage photo of unemployment line
It would be hard to think of a more poorly placed set of priorities. While Americans struggle to get by in an economy that seems to be recovering only for a few, Republicans wage ideological warfare. When employment and the economy should be job one, the GOP has wasted time with nearly forty votes to repeal Obamacare, chased around phantom "scandals," and worked on measures to restrict abortion that have zero chance of ever becoming law. It's bad out there, but the party is acting as if all other problems have been solved, freeing them up to dick around with trivial pet projects.

How bad is it? This bad:

Associated Press: Four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.

Survey data exclusive to The Associated Press points to an increasingly globalized U.S. economy, the widening gap between rich and poor and loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs as reasons for the trend.

The findings come as President Barack Obama tries to renew his administration’s emphasis on the economy, saying in recent speeches that his highest priority is to “rebuild ladders of opportunity” and reverse income inequality.

Add this to the slow-motion suicide the Republican Party has been committing by trying to alienate everyone. Other than the trickle-down BS that has been disproved by practice so many times,  a hallmark of conservative economic mumbo-jumbo is the belief that people in poor economic situations are there by their own choice -- and if you punish the poor for being poor, the unemployed for being unemployed, their situation will improve. You slash spending on food stamps, cut off people from unemployment benefits, and they'll soon discover that it's too difficult to be poor or unemployed, "pull themselves up by their bootstraps," and just stop be poor. The conservative conception of economic hardship seems to be informed entirely by Ronald Reagan's "welfare queen" myth, not by anything resembling the real world.

But why is this approach to economics suicidal for the party of the rich white people? Well, because rich white people are becoming an endangered species. According to the AP, "Hardship is particularly on the rise among whites, based on several measures. Pessimism among that racial group about their families' economic futures has climbed to the highest point since at least 1987. In the most recent AP-GfK poll, 63 percent of whites called the economy 'poor.'"

The "welfare queen" story has always been about dog whistle racism. The politics of division had previously worked so well for Republicans. But now the people struggling to get by are the people they seek to appeal to, while pushing the most unappealing economic policies imaginable to those same people. There are plenty of poor whites who vote Republican -- without checking, I'd guess the majority of them who actually vote -- but at a certain point the law of diminishing returns kicks in and you begin to run out of chumpish poor people. Right now, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds that "83 percent of Americans disapprove of Congress' job" and "nearly six-in-10 voters say they would vote to defeat and replace every single member of Congress if they had such an option on their ballot."

MSNBC reports that "Republicans are shouldering more of the blame for the situation in the nation's capital: just 22 percent say they believe the GOP is interested in unifying the country in a bipartisan way, versus 45 percent who say the same about Obama."

Those aren't numbers you can win with.

Any those numbers can only get worse. White Americans are learning from personal experience that being economically disadvantaged isn't the sweet deal that everyone in the GOP says it is. Trying to get by on food stamps or unemployment benefits isn't the gravy train and cutting those benefits is the opposite of being helpful. While the racial divide in economic inequality still exists, there's a lot of crossover now and GOP lies are exposed. It's awfully hard to tell someone who's fallen into the social safety net that that net is actually a cushy "hammock."

If it didn't hurt so many people, I would invite Republicans to continue to be economic flatearthers, continue to attack consumer demand wherever it rears its head, and throw themselves off that particular cliff. But the fact is that as the GOP sinks with their own fiscal mismanagement, they're taking a lot of innocent Americans down with them. Unfortunately, they really don't have anything else left. They've mocked real world economics for so long that they can't win a primary espousing anything other than Reaganaut fantasy -- the base demands to be lied to.

So they continue along, ruining lives and harming America, until their con finally runs completely out of steam. Given what that con is doing to the country right now, that end can't come soon enough.


[photo via Wikimedia Commons]


Rubio's Plan to Wreck the Republican Party

Wrecking ball
Things could turn out very poorly for Republicans on November of 2014 and, if so, Marco Rubio would be at least partially to blame. Taking a beating with the base over his work on comprehensive immigration reform, Rubio's been engaged in some image rehab, to prove to Republican presidential primary voters that he really is as crazy as they are. Not only is he planning a high-profile -- but completely doomed from the start -- push for a national 20-week abortion plan, but he has another idea to display his extremism for the nutjobs:

Politico: Sen. Marco Rubio says upcoming spending battles this fall could be the “last best chance” to enact changes to Obamacare.

“It’s still not too late,” the Florida Republican wrote in an op-ed published Thursday on FoxNews.com. “This September may be our last best chance to do anything about this disastrous law.”

Rubio and other Senate Republicans have already signed a letter promising not to support a continuing resolution or appropriations bill that funds further implementation or enforcement of the law.

It may or may not be Rubio's idea, but he's clearly taking leadership with it. And whether or not this actually happens is an open question. It's looking more and more like it won't. Steve Benen reports, "On Wednesday, the number of Republican senators on record with the government-shutdown threat was 17. Yesterday, while the right tried to find new signatories [to the letter Rubio mentioned], the number of backers actually dropped to 12 -- Sens. Ayotte, Boozman, Cornyn, Kirk, and Wicker all pulled their support without explanation."

Meanwhile, Republicans who haven't signed the letter are piling on this idea as the dumbest thing they've seen in a while. Republicans Tom Cole, Roy Blunt, John McCain, Richard Burr, and GOP pollster Brock McCleary have all publicly declared Rubio's position the stupidest thing ever. Obama's approvals may be down right now, but they still soar over those of congress. President Obama is easily the most popular leader in Washington. If there's a government shutdown or a debt default over Obamacare, Republicans will almost certainly take the blame for it.

"If you ask me what is the one thing that could reshuffle the deck on an otherwise stable mid-term environment in 2014, the answer is a government shutdown," McCleary told Politico. "Convincing voters that the other side is to blame would become a game of high-stakes politics."

But the damage may already be done. The mere existence of the plan may be enough to derail Republican prospects. What happens if there isn't a shutdown could be as bad for Republicans as what happens if there is. According to Politico, "Republican leaders are growing concerned by the fervor with which some members are demanding that Boehner defund the health care law as part of the government funding talks."

Of course, rightwing talk radio is really excited about the whole idea, because people like Limbaugh and Hannity have never met a stupid idea they didn't absolutely love. And that means the base is getting riled up over the idea. If it doesn't happen, a lot of Republicans who didn't back a shutdown -- i.e., most of them -- could face primary challenges from Tea Partiers as part of another round of RiNO hunting. And that means lots of Todd Akins and Steve Kings saying stupid, extremist things and throwing away their elections.

So if they go ahead with this awesome plan, they lose elections. If they ditch it, they lose elections. No matter what happens, Marco Rubio probably won't be getting many thank you notes from his Republican colleagues.

[photo by Rhys Asplundh]


GOP vs. the Voting Rights Act

Historic photo of African-American votersYou remember Rep. Trent Franks, right? He was the Arizona congress critter who decided America was ready to hear another completely insane Republican rape theory. You might also remember that he was wrong on that point. Turns out that Trent Franks is not the guy you turn to when you want to get the pulse of the American people.

Yesterday, the House held its first meeting on what to do about the Supreme Court's gutting of the Voting RIghts Act and it was up to Franks to explain House Republicans' position:

If House Republicans are interested in patching the Voting Rights Act, they aren’t showing it.

“Historically I fully understand why they addressed the situations they did,” Republican Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona, who chairs the House judiciary subcommittee that would handle new voting rights legislation, said to reporters after the hearing. “I am just of the opinion today that we should do as the court said and that is to not focus on punishing the past but on building a better future.”

The House GOP held their first hearing Thursday on how to handle the Voting Rights Act in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s ruling striking down Section 4 of the law. Section 4 determines which parts of the country must submit in advance their election law changes to the Justice Department, a process called “preclearance.” Republicans have criticized the Section 4 formula for being based on outdated information, even though when the Republican-held Congress in 2006 reauthorized the Voting Rights Act it looked at data showing that the jurisdictions affected by the formula were more likely to engage in discriminatory election practices. Since the Supreme Court’s ruling, states formerly covered by the Section 4 formula have rushed to implement new voting restrictions.

Yes, let's not look at past behavior to determine which states are using racist voter supression techniques, let's use... Wait, what did he say we should use?

The answer would appear to be nothing.

The court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires pre-clearance from the Justice Department for certain areas with a history of racist voter supression efforts to change their election laws. This section was updated every time the VRA was renewed, but despite the opportunity to change and evolve the pre-clearance list on a regular basis, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that it was all based on "obsolete statistics." Unable to actually point out what part of the Constitution the VRA violated, Roberts declared it unconstitutional anyway. This is what you call your "judicial activism." Like so many things, judicial activism is bitterly opposed by Republicans, right up until its not.

Lo and behold, the states previously covered by the VRA rushed to pass partisan voter ID laws, designed in part to suppress the minority vote. I guess the statistics weren't so obsolete after all.

And Republicans at the hearing got right to work proving that they were gleeful to see the VRA whither and die, despite the solemn faces they put on while talking about how very, very historically important it is. Here's Steve Benen on their main witness called to testify on the issue:

The Heritage Foundation's Hans von Spakovsky, for example, was called by Republicans to offer his "expert" testimony on voting rights, despite the fact that von Spakovsky is best known for the loathsome voter-suppression tactics he championed during his tenure in the Bush/Cheney Justice Department. If this is the guy GOP lawmakers are turning to for guidance, the future of the Voting Rights Act is bleak.

Indeed, von Spakovsky assured the Judiciary Committee panel that the "the systematic, widespread discrimination against blacks has long since disappeared."

Sure, Hans, whatever you say.

The guy who's careeer has revolved around racist voter suppression says that racism is over with and we don't have to worry about voter suppression. Isn't that grand? Next up, John Dillinger testifies that bank robbery is a thing of the past, so banks should just leave everything unlocked.

It's at this point that I realize why so many conservatives are arguing that immigration reform will only create Democratic voters. Republicans lost African-Americans more than a generation ago and have shown absolutely no interest at all in winning them back. They've written the community off so completely that they no longer care about alienating them with racist  laws. And if you take a quick trip through the rightwing blogosphere, you'll see that the Zimmerman verdict has brought out calls for increased racial profiling -- as if George Zimmerman's suspicions about Trayvon Martin were correct, instead of so tragically wrong. Minority outreach is something Republicans like to talk about, but don't actually do. They do the opposite.

Republicans have written off Latino voters for the same reason they've written off African-American voters -- in their truest heart of hearts, the GOP is a deeply racist party that refuses to even acknowledge that different populations face different challenges. Laws that protect populations from discrimination get twisted up as discriminatory in themselves; i.e., "reverse discrimination." Meanwhile, Republicans are more than happy to discriminate with voter suppression efforts.

The GOP is so racist that it would rather eliminate minority voters than compete for their votes. And that's because they've burned so many bridges over the years that they can no longer be competitive. From the defense of the racist book The Bell Curve back in the '90s to the smearing of Trayvon Martin today, too many Republicans have completely given up on minority voters.

Republicans won't do anything to restore the Voting Rights Act to anything resembling enforceability, because -- as the racist party -- they're more than happy to see it die. Their bigotry has alienated so many demographic groups that they can no longer win national elections, but instead have to try to steal them.


[photo via Wikimedia Commons]


Griper Blade: Censoring the Lessons of History

Anthony Weiner
Today's manufactured outrage of the day, brought to you by the New York Post:

Anthony Weiner has come under intense fire from Jewish leaders for invoking Nazi Germany while criticizing the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program.

“Last year, more than 700,000 in New York were stopped — the overwhelming majority of them were young men of color. Ninety-seven percent of them did nothing wrong,” Weiner told largely black congregants in Staten Island’s First Central Baptist Church Sunday.

“And the mayor stood up and said, ‘Wait a minute, statistically this’ and ‘statistically that.’ Well, you can have 100 percent statistical reduction in crime if you stop everybody.

“You could have 1938 Germany, because everyone has to show their papers.”
Apparently, it's terribly offensive to compare a minority population subjected to police state tactics to another minority population subjected police state tactics. Although, I get the feeling that NYP, being a tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch, is grossly overstating the situation, cherry-picking their outraged Jewish leaders (who were likely Weiner opponents to begin with) and ignoring the ones who support him. It seems to me that the lessons of the Holocaust are lost if they're never applied. And to attack anyone who draws a historical parallel to one of the modern world's greatest crimes is to guarantee that those lessons are never applied -- and therefore, never learned. No one's saying "stop and frisk" is the Holocaust -- or even that it's anything approaching genocide -- merely that it's totalitarianism...[CLICK TO READ FULL POST]

Censoring the Lessons of History

Anthony Weiner
Today's manufactured outrage of the day, brought to you by the New York Post:

Anthony Weiner has come under intense fire from Jewish leaders for invoking Nazi Germany while criticizing the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program.

“Last year, more than 700,000 in New York were stopped — the overwhelming majority of them were young men of color. Ninety-seven percent of them did nothing wrong,” Weiner told largely black congregants in Staten Island’s First Central Baptist Church Sunday.

“And the mayor stood up and said, ‘Wait a minute, statistically this’ and ‘statistically that.’ Well, you can have 100 percent statistical reduction in crime if you stop everybody.

“You could have 1938 Germany, because everyone has to show their papers.”

Apparently, it's terribly offensive to compare a minority population subjected to police state tactics to another minority population subjected police state tactics. Although, I get the feeling that NYP, being a tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch, is grossly overstating the situation, cherry-picking their outraged Jewish leaders (who were likely Weiner opponents to begin with) and ignoring the ones who support him. It seems to me that the lessons of the Holocaust are lost if they're never applied. And to attack anyone who draws a historical parallel to one of the modern world's greatest crimes is to guarantee that those lessons are never applied -- and therefore, never learned. No one's saying "stop and frisk" is the Holocaust -- or even that it's anything approaching genocide -- merely that it's totalitarianism.

And the thing is, Weiner's right. When 97% of the targets of racial profiling turn out to have done nothing, then you really have to admit that the profiling is a failure. To continue the profiling anyway, despite the obvious failure of the program and despite protests from the targeted community, is a practice that has a long history and a name -- institutional racism. No, it's not exactly the same as the Holocaust -- and that's not what Weiner was saying anyway -- but it's way over on that side of the spectrum. When you single out one population as the cause of society's problems, you're heading down a road that does not go to a good place. That's the lesson the New York Post would rather we just ignore, because it's more important that Anthony Weiner lose than to recognize the humanity of the black community in New York City.

If you're like me, you've noticed that the right has drawn an "us vs. them" line between themselves and the black community. Always ready to demonize any group for political gain, Republicans have let their racist flags fly. They can't openly despise Latinos anymore, Islamophobia just doesn't pack the punch it used to, and homophobia seems to have become taboo overnight. Who are the GOP without someone to scapegoat, to sow division with, and to hate?

So we come 360 degrees. The "new n*gger" is the old one again. Over at Politico, National Review's Rich Lowry echoes the Washington Post's Richard Cohen -- while amping the stupid up to eleven. Like Cohen, Lowry argues that racial profiling is just great and that Zimmerman was right to do it, while completely undermining that argument by saying it wasn't about race.

That's right, racial profiling is no longer about race. Up is down, left is right, night is day. The gist of both columns is that George Zimmerman should get some sort of freakin' medal for being the guy who had the courage to be afraid of black people. If Trayvon Martin didn't want to be racially profiled, he shouldn't have walked around at night being all black. What did he expect?

Meanwhile, the lesson Rush Limbaugh has taken from the Zimmerman trial is that it's now OK to say "'nigga' with an A on the end." And thanks to Rush for that, actually. Because it demonstrates so directly what everyone else on the right are saying so obliquely -- that the Zimmerman verdict somehow made open racism OK.

These are the kinds of "lessons" people learn when you rope off one section of history as off limits. It's not a violation of decorum or respect to say that people are starting to act like a certain notoriously racist society. Nor is it a violation of Godwin's law. You really do get to compare institutional racism to institutional racism. Especially when that racism is politically motivated.

I know the outrage against Weiner is phony. Hopefully it'll have the shelf-life of most phony outrages and die before the end of the day. But censoring a historical lesson for the sake of winning one election campaign is supremely cynical -- and dangerous.

It's a parallel that people dearly need to hear, so let it be said.


[photo by Boss Tweed]


Republicans are 'Pro-life' -- Except for Most of the Time

Vintage drawing of elephant skeleton
Since the political news cycle has such a short memory, let's take a little trip in time, back to the heady days of the end of last June, when Texas legislator Wendy Davis had caught America's attention with a filibuster of Texas' restrictive abortion bill (sadly, later to become law). Texas governor and noted intellectual flyweight Rick Perry decided that the thing to do would be to attack Davis' humble beginnings as a single teenage mother. It was slut-shaming by allusion and it was done so hamhandedly that Perry immediately caught flak for it.

"She was the daughter of a single woman. She was a teenage mother herself. She managed to eventually graduate from Harvard Law School and serve in the Texas Senate," Perry said in a speech before the National Right to Life convention. "It’s just unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example that every life must be given a chance to realize its full potential and that every life matters."

As I say, that went over like a lead balloon and so Perry -- being a Republican -- decided that more of what wasn't working would be he key its eventual success. So he went on talk radio and repeated his slur. Most people would not touch the red-hot handle again, seeing that it just burned them, but most people aren't elected Republicans.

"I said I was proud of what Wendy had accomplished in her life," Perry said. "I’m sad that she does not understand that every life is precious, and certainly her own."

Here's the thing: Rick Perry does not believe that "every life matters" or that "every life is precious." That's something he's proven over and over during his career as the nation's most prolific serial killer governor of the state leads the nation in executions. And it's that hypocrisy that State Rep. Harold Dutton, Jr. is hoping to highlight.

ThinkProgress: ...State Rep. Harold Dutton, Jr. (D) has introduced HB 45, which would prevent Texas from enforcing any of the abortion restrictions passed during this year’s special session until 60 days after Texas abolishes the death penalty:

LIMITATION ON ADDITIONAL ABORTION RESTRICTIONS. Notwithstanding any other law, a law enacted on or after June 1, 2013, that restricts access to abortion or the availability of abortion does not take effect until 60 days after publication in the Texas Register of a finding of fact made by the attorney general that the state has abolished the use of the death penalty as a punishment available on final conviction of a criminal offense.

At the end of June — right before the extra lawmaking sessions began — Texas executed its 500th person. The state has led the country in death penalty executions, contributing to one-third of the total number of Death Row inmates executed in the United States over the past several years.

Here's the thing about Texas leading the nation in executions -- it proves that capital punishment doesn't work. If capital punishment did work, then obviously Texas would have the lowest crime rate in the nation and their rate of execution would fall, not rise. But the fact is that the death penalty isn't the deterrent to violent crime that supporters claim it is. It's the opposite. The death penalty encourages a single murder to turn into a killing spree, as a desperate criminal's fight to avoid capture also becomes a fight to save their own life. Someone may be fine with taking their chances with a jury in life in prison is a likely outcome. The same can't be said the outcome is likely to be death. Murderers tend not to turn themselves in or give up peacefully in Texas. They're more likely to kill witnesses and fire on police. As a deterrent to crime, the death penalty sucks. There isn't even any logical reason to expect it to work as one.

But does Rick Perry and his GOP prayer squad believe that "every life is precious?" Obviously they do not. If they did, they'd be right on board with shutting down Texas' death factories and commuting the sentences of death row inmates to life in prison.

No, Perry and the Texas GOP have learned that the way to keep getting elected is the George W. Bush way, a former Lone Star guv himself. You convince enough gullible voters that the only thing standing between them and destruction is to reelect Republicans. The death penalty is ineffective and expensive -- and may even increase violent crime -- but Texas Republicans can demagogue how "tough on crime" they are by displaying the shrunken heads of the executed on their belts. Texas Republicans, like all Republicans, are "pro-life" -- except for most of the time, when they want to execute people, fight wars, starve the poor, neglect the sick, or have everyone hold loaded guns to everyone else's heads, in the name of "public safety."

Every life matters -- right up until snuffing it out is better politics.

Dutton's bill is a stunt, to be sure. It's doomed to fail and designed to bring attention to Republican hypocrisy. But it shouldn't just be a stunt. If there was any consistency in Republican reasoning, these "pro-life" politicians would work to end capital punishment.

But of course, that would require sincerity from Republicans -- which is always too much to ask.


[image via Wikimedia Commons]


GOP Racism Protected by the Conservative Culture of Victimhood

If anything structurally supports racism, it's a collection of myths. Stereotypes and caricatures that a closer look at reality tosses to the wayside. Behind a lot of the support for George Zimmerman is a lot of these myths. And it's possible to be racist without realizing it is racism. You just have to believe the myths. Being racist doesn't necessarily mean you're a nazi. It may mean you're wrong. When you refuse to be corrected, then you get into more dangerous moral territory. Then you're not falling into racism because of ignorance, but by choice.

But there's a resistance to the charge of racism that's hard to explain from a logical standpoint; if everyone tells you your shoe's untied or your fly's open, you check. You believe them. There's no reason why you shouldn't. If everyone tells you you keep spelling a word incorrectly, you check. You believe they may be right.

But if everyone keeps telling you you're being racist, you do not check. You don't believe them. And -- if you're a conservative -- the more people tell you this, the more you claim to be the victim of some sort of slander. They're constantly being warned about their racism and they're constantly claiming to be the victims of a massive smear campaign because of it. They refuse to be corrected and make that choice.

The George Zimmerman trial and verdict is only the latest to bring this trend to the forefront. But every time an issue involving race arises, Republicans and conservatives take the side opposite whatever minority is at the center of the controversy. Like Stephen Colbert's "colorblind" shtick, they pretend not to see skin color at all and want everyone to believe this means they aren't racist -- as if ignoring the specific and all too real problems faced by people of color is the very opposite of racism, rather than a hallmark of it.

Yesterday, I assumed that Rick Perry chiming in on the Zimmerman verdict (while being the quintessential "colorblind" racist that Colbert mocks) would be seen as a major gaffe for a man contemplating a presidential run. For some reason, I thought Republicans had finally learned their lesson about race and would know enough to just leave it alone. I was quickly proved wrong, as Republican after Republican lined up to politicize a verdict that left so many Americans deeply disappointed and angry. As always when an issue shocks the American conscience, Republicans are there to remind us all that the real victims aren't the dead kids or the people turned away from voting booths.

No, the real victims are always healthy and wealthy white Republicans. That kid dead in the street? He got what he had coming to him. Despite having no criminal record, Trayvon Martin was a supposed "thug." George Zimmerman, with a rap sheet that included assaulting an officer and domestic abuse, was the angelic hero, tragically forced to defend himself from a wanna-be Gangsta armed with Skittles of Mass Destruction.

This is a party that's so alienated every other demographic that they pin all their 2016 presidential hopes on getting more white voters to the polls. And it's not because they're racist -- not if you ask them, anyway. It's because everyone else is racist against them.

It was a mistake for me to think that the GOP had learned some sort of lesson about race and politics. And my assumption wasn't that they'd stopped being racist, but that they'd just be smart enough to shut up about it. But they can't even do that. They have to go on national TV, shout their racism to the four corners of the nation, and remind us that whenever an African-American teenager lies dead in the street -- killed for no good reason -- the real victims are white Republicans.



GOP Thinks Embracing Their Racism Counts as a Strategy

Poster: 'Welcome to America - Now speak English'
If you read my headline posts (and I've missed a few this week, sorry. I'll most likely miss tonight's too), you'll know that "David Brooks wrote something stupid again" is a running gag with me. He often goes to great lengths to promote the idea both parties are to blame for Washington being broken, taking Evel Knievel-like leaps of logic to arrive at his predetermined conclusions. But like pretty much all pundits, it proves impossible to always be wrong and the frustrating thing about Brooks is that he can be insightful when he drop his trademark false equivalency -- which he very seldom does. So I wasn't extremely surprised when I saw Taegan Goddard pick up two paragraphs from Brooks about immigration reform that were dead on the money. It's not that Brooks tends to be wrong so much as he's committed to not being right -- I guess because it gets him on TV so much (TV news show producers also love the innoffensive "both sides are just as bad" lie).

Here's his take on the GOP and immigration reform:

It's beginning to look as though we're not going to get an immigration reform law this year. House Republicans are moving in a direction that will probably be unacceptable to the Senate majority and the White House. Conservative commentators like my friends Bill Kristol and Rich Lowry are arguing that the status quo is better than the comprehensive approach passed by the Senate. The whole effort is in peril.

This could be a tragedy for the country and political suicide for Republicans, especially because the conservative arguments against the comprehensive approach are not compelling.

The thing about Brooks is, as the current Pope of the Church of High Broderism, that people take him seriously when he singles out one party as being the problem. Republicans won't of course -- mostly because they've become some weird hybrid fantasists/nihilists who don't take anything that happens to be real seriously -- but other pundits in the pundit echo chamber will. Not so much the political suicide part, which is pretty much what most of them are already saying, but the part about GOP arguments against reform being made out of suck. Republican excuses for killing immigration reform are mostly unpopular and all stupid.

And the stupidest of all is the mythical "missing white voter."

If you're unfamiliar with that particular hypothesis (it doesn't rate being labeled a theory), it's basically that Mitt Romney lost not because he alienated everyone who wasn't white, it's that he didn't get enough not-so well-to-do white people to the polls. But there are a lot of problems with this idea -- the most obvious being that the Republican Party is committed to policies that would backhand those same voters across the mouth. Take a look at the Farm Bill. Which demographic makes up the greatest share of food stamp recipients? Poor whites. Republicans like to use the word "welfare" as a dog-whistle to signify blacks -- and maybe they've done it for so long that they believe that only blacks get some form of federal assistance -- but when a party votes to cut food stamps and you're on food stamps, they haven't won you over.

"[M]ore than 60 percent of those benefiting from unemployment insurance are white," Paul Krugman wrote in dismissing the "missing white vote" idea. "Slightly less than half of food stamp beneficiaries are white, but in swing states the proportion is much higher. For example, in Ohio, 65 percent of households receiving food stamps are white. Nationally, 42 percent of Medicaid recipients are non-Hispanic whites, but, in Ohio, the number is 61 percent."

"Vote for us and we'll starve your kids" isn't really a great campaign slogan.

Another reason why this "missing white voter" idea is crazy BS is that -- assuming it's even true -- it can't work forever. Maybe even not next time. The demographic trends are undeniable and relying on white voters means relying on a dwindling share of the American demographic. Those who know the difference between a strategy and a tactic will recognize this as an opportunistic tactic. As a long-term strategy, it's a dog.

Of course, the best argument against it is that it's racist. You can't be the "screw minorities" party without being seen as racist by those minorities. That's no way to win the votes you'll need later. Part of what's driving this whole anti-immigration sentiment on the right is the belief that it just gives Democrats more voters. This is an astonishingly fatalistic view, since the very newest citizen created by the path to citizenship under the Senate bill wouldn't come into being for thirteen years. Republicans, in embracing the argument that more Latino voters means more Democratic voters send two messages: the first being that they have no interest in winning over Latino voters. Ever. If more than a decade isn't enough time to swing a few Latinos your way, then you just aren't planning on trying.

The second is that immigration reform would be a pander to Latinos to win over votes Republicans take a cost/benefit view of immigration reform and conclude that, whether it's the right thing to do or not, there's no pay off for them in it, so they won't do it. It's a purely political calculation, with any human cost completely ignored. In this message, the GOP is already damaging themselves, because even a vote for immigration reform comes across as false and calculating.

But maybe the biggest problem here is that it assumes that only Latinos care about immigration reform. This is very, very wrong. A new Quinnipiac poll out today reports, "54 percent of voters favor allowing those here illegally to stay and eventually become citizens, while 12 percent favor allowing them to stay but not become citizens and 28 percent say they should be deported." Last time I checked, we weren't a 54% Latino nation. They say they want to get more white voters to the polls? Then why do they keep voting against issues that have majority support? It's the same mistake they made with closing the gun show loophole. You can't keep handing political losses to the majority of Americans and expect them to reward you for it. This is already starting to take hold, as the same poll faults Republicans for gridlock in Washington.

And that last is the Republicans' biggest problem. On nearly every issue, they represent the minority opinion. When you don't represent the majority of Americans, you can hardly expect to win the majority of votes. Being the party of narrow special interests may help out with the fundraising, but 2012 proved that it wasn't enough. And as the demographics of America change, those special interests become narrower and narrower. Not everyone owns a fracking company or a prison, you know.

It's looking like Republicans killing comprehensive immigration reform is a done deal. They seem to believe they're headed for a win, but the truth is they'll wind up with a knife in their backs. That knife will have their fingerprints on the handle. As Brooks wrote, Republicans are racing toward political suicide. And they're doing it apparently convinced that it's the smartest thing anyone ever did.


[photo by C. G. P. Grey]


In Wisconsin, Champions of 'Fiscal Restraint' Begin Shoveling Money Into a Furnace

Pro-choice demonstrators
It's all so painfully predictable. Republicans pass a restrictive abortion law that clearly violates Roe -- and therefore, the Constitution -- in a blatant pander to the Christian conservative base. Planned Parenthood and the ACLU sue to stop the bill and a federal court does its job.

NBC News: A federal judge Monday temporarily blocked part of Wisconsin's new abortion law and scheduled a hearing for next week.

The law, which went into effect Monday, includes provisions similar to those in several other states that require women to undergo an ultrasound procedure before having an abortion and require doctors who provide abortion services to have admitting privileges at a hospital.

Opponents, including Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, which is representing two doctors and an abortion clinic in challenging the law, said the measure was rushed into effect and that the provision affecting doctors would force two of the state's four clinics to close.

The blocked provision is the one that requires clinics to have admitting privileges at hospitals. This is an obvious attempt to regulate these clinics out of business and the judge found that the evidence "strongly supports a finding that no medical purpose is served" and that claims that the provision safeguards women's health "does not bear even superficial scrutiny on the current record."

So now we begin pouring taxpayer money down a rathole. The purpose of this rathole-feeding is not to defend the law. I'm pretty sure all but the most ideologically driven see that it's unconstitutional and will not survive a court test. No, the purpose is to buy the votes of anti-choice zealots who can always be counted on to vote for anyone demonstrating "pro-life" bona fides -- even when they're driving the state's economy into the ground.

Walker and Wisconsin Republicans can't run on economic success. The state is not a sinking ship, it is a sunken ship. So between now and the next elections, expect social issues to domnate. It's social issues that rile up the intellectual lightweights who believe it's more important to punish "un-Christian" behaviors than it is to make sure that people have jobs, food, or a decent education. The Capital Square here in Madison is thick with homeless sleeping in doorways and benches, but doing anything to turn that around means admitting that conservative economic policies are the failures that they've always been. Be grateful for one thing -- Scott Walker's presidential ambitions are pretty much dead. No one could get elected with his dismal record. He makes even George W. Bush look like an economic genius.

We'll throw money at hopeless fights to defend unconstituional abortion laws, but people on food stamps have to take a hit. In any other scenario, Walker and Republicans would argue that times are too tough to spend taxpayer money needlessly. But give them a hopeless abortion law to defend and there's suddenly money to burn.

So the next time you hear one of these guys bragging about their fiscal restraint and love for limited government and liberty, keep in mind that they're lying. There is no other way to put it. They'll waste piles of money trying to crush out women's rights, not because it's necessary, but because it buys them a few extra votes in the next election. They love power, not freedom -- and they'll buy all the power they can with taxpayer dollars.


[photo by thecrazyfilmgirl]


The GOP's Nosedive Among Latino Voters

A new poll by Latino Decisions [pdf] includes an interesting factiod -- in 2004, George W. Bush carried 40% of the Latino vote. The idea that Latinos are all automatically Democratic voters -- an idea pushed by anti-immigrant white nationalists -- is obviously untrue. The thing is, even as Latinos grow as a segment of the population, you don't need to win a majority of that particular demographic to win an election. You can come up short of half and make up for it in other populations. The Latino vote didn't used to be hopelessly out of reach for Republicans. That is, until the Tea Party came along and began worshipping racists like Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Once that happened, Republicans were circling the drain with Latino voters.

Today, one of the very best performing potential Republican presidential candidates is Marco Rubio. And "best performing" isn't a whole lot to brag about.

The Hill: A new poll of likely Hispanic voters in the 2016 presidential election shows strong support for the two candidates seen as potential Democratic nominees: former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Biden.

The survey, by Latino Decisions, also revealed Republican candidates continue to significantly trail among Hispanic voters, with even champions of immigration reform like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush significantly behind top Democrats.


According to the survey, Clinton remains the most popular candidate among the Hispanic electorate, mirroring other recent national surveys. The former first lady is seen positively by 73 percent of likely Hispanic voters, while 17 percent have a negative view.

The candidate with the best chance against Clinton is Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who would lose the Latino vote to her 66%-28%. Clearly, the GOP has done a lot to damage their brand since the heady days of 2004. Rubio's chances increase substantially if comprehensive immigration reform passes -- 55% say they'd be more likely to vote Rubio if it passes. But the House is killing him. Recent moves to punish the children of undocumented people are extremely unpopular, with 75% saying the House's vote to defund the President's Deferred Action program makes them less likely to vote GOP. Wait until the ball really starts rolling and racist House Republican morons start opening their yaps about immigration reform. Once rank and file Republicans start talking like Ann Coulter, the jig is up.

Latino Decisions sums up their findings by saying, "Major Republican candidates have an opportunity to win 40% or more of the Latino vote if they demonstrate leadership on immigration reform." But that's as things are now, before it gets to be an issue in the House. When it goes big in the asylum, the GOP is going to wind up giving themselves quite a beating.

Those days of winning 40% of the Latino vote are probably far behind them,


[poll graphic from Latino Decisions]


How Gerrymandering is Forcing the GOP to Self-Destruct

It's not well-remembered -- mostly because the media didn't do much with the story -- but earlier this year the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) released a report praising their own gerrymandering efforts and giving those efforts credit for the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. In other words, they admitted to stealing elections. The organization poured money into state races, with the strategy of redrawing district boundaries around solidly conservative populations -- i.e., choosing voters, instead of voters choosing them. "The rationale was straightforward," RSLC's report bragged. "Controlling the redistricting process in these states would have the greatest impact on determining how both state legislative and congressional district boundaries would be drawn."

These lines were so unfairly drawn that Republicans kept their House majority despite the fact that the Democrats got 1.1 million more votes nationwide. Want to know why congressional approval ratings are so rock-bottom low? There ya go: we wound up with a House that's the opposite of what we voted for. The fact that democracy was thwarted doesn't have to be well-known for the effects to be felt. All that we have to know is that the House of Representatives is going in the opposite direction than that for which most of us voted. Not surprisingly, there are consequences to this -- and they aren't good for the Republican Party.

Politico: Some top GOP strategists and candidates warn that the ruby red districts the party drew itself into are pushing House Republicans further to the right — narrowing the party’s appeal at a time when some GOP leaders say its future rests on the opposite happening. If you’re looking for a root cause of the recurring drama within the House Republican Conference — from the surprise meltdown on the farm bill to the looming showdown over immigration reform — the increasingly conservative makeup of those districts is a good place to start.

The shellacking Republicans took in 2012 has triggered months of consternation that the party is too white, too conservative and too male. But tell that to the increasing number of House Republicans who are safely ensconced with nary a worry that a Democrat might unseat them in the next election.

But what they do have to worry about is a primary challenge from the right. By choosing only the most reliably rightwing voters to elect them, Republicans haven't given themselves a lot of wiggle room. These are the talk radio-brainwashed types for whom compromise is more than a dirty word, it's a crime. Republicans must toe Rush Limbaugh's completely unworkable line or be thrown out as RiNOs or "Republicans in Name Only" -- which is somewhere in the conservative spectrum between communists and people who deny that Obama's a secret illegal alien Muslim terr'ist.

And, as Politico points out, this ideological straitjacket is starting to force their decisions on immigration reform. Over at Wonkblog, Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas document the way that the voters in congressional districts are forcing Republicans' hands. Although they leave the issue of gerrymandering largely out of it, it's pretty clear that they've quarantined themselves from reality. Only 16% of House districts have a Latino population of 20% or better and only 28 of 234 are "even remotely at risk of being contested" in any real way by a Democrat. The GOP has chosen their voters, but those voters have extremely narrow interests and brook no deviation from talk radio-approved talking points. At a time when making headway with Latino voters is essential to the party's survival, the voters the party has chosen to steal elections with are so far to the right as to be genuinely anti-Latino. Klein boils it down:

So for about 200 of the House’s Republicans, a primary challenge by conservatives angry over “amnesty” is probably a more realistic threat than defeat at the hands of angry Hispanic voters, or even angry Democrats. “Our guys actually do primary over immigration,” a top House Republican aide who wants to get immigration done told me.

If you want an example of this, take the Republican face of immigration reform -- Marco Rubio. Prior to becoming a key player in the push for reform, Rubio was a Tea Party darling and possible 2016 presidential candidate. Since taking up the cause, his approvals have nosedived with Republican voters. Rubio's been taking a beating for immigration reform on talk radio and from such brilliant luminaries as Ann Coulter and it's taking its toll. As a Senator with a statewide electorate, Rubio is immune from the ideological rigidity of the gerrymandered voter, but House Republicans are not. This may cause them to not only reject immigration reform, but to undermine the party's messaging on the issue and alienate Latino voters with bigoted statements. Because it may not be enough to merely defeat immigration reform, rabid voters in House districts may demand that it be burned in effigy as well.

In the end, gerrymandering may wind up doing the party more harm than good, just as the Supreme Court's right-biased decision on the Voting Rights Act could. It isolates and segregates the party from the general population, making it more responsive to its gerrymandered hothouse environment than to the real world. What they think is saving them is actually destroying them and it's hard to see a way out of it. They may have set themselves on a road with no exits -- a fast-lane to oblivion.


[photo by Fibonacci Blue]