ONE: ZOMG? Really?
Heavens to Betsy Ross! Another Obama Administration… uh… scandal. The NSA has been metadata harvesting. Of course, they’ve been doing so for years, with Congressional oversight and sanction of the FISA court, both a result of restrictions placed on executive branch power by a bipartisan legislative consensus after unlawful abuse by the Bush (mis)Administration. Still, this is totally outrageous, yes?
Well, no. It’s the latest flimsy “scandal” the corporate media and its leering Republican friends want us to believe the Obama White House is “mired in” or “overwhelmed by,” with an added fillip of racy intrigue provided by a mysterious young NSA contractor whose motives, biography and even current whereabouts all remain tantalizingly shadowy.
The applicable law and degree of oversight both need substantial improvement. Perhaps that would have already happened had so many of us on the left not essentially gone silent about this until these recent “revelations” (which so far have been in no meaningful way revelatory). An honest national dialogue about surveillance and a host of other “War on Terror” issues is years overdue. Unfortunately, the odds seem stacked against it.
For starters, it would have to exclude a Congress plainly not up to the task of reform. Worse, there’s a panoply of untrustworthy interests out there whose fondest desire is to gin up issues like this into improbably grave and gathering threats to the Republic itself.
Thus the hallelujah chorus of impeachment-starved Republicans, paranoid Teabaggers and Paulite nincompoops is now accompanied by the off-key descant of ostensibly progressive Obama “critics” who, implausibly, fancy themselves his base and routinely mistake being unreasoning hotheads for being principled firebrands.
Worse still, “discussion” of pretty much every legitimate issue nowadays – like the very legitimate issue of balancing domestic security with civil liberties – ends up spun into something apocalyptic, with strenuous blogospheric adjectives like “shocking” or “Orwellian” or “authoritarian” or “chilling” breezily deployed on the way to proving, one more tiresome time, that Mike Godwin is a genius.
Worst of all – or simply saddest – the histrionic, helium-pitched high dudgeon is an inadvertent but unmistakable admission by its subscribers of an attention deficit that stretches back through some or all of the past decade, at a minimum. So I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for an honest national dialogue on this.
As I’ve noted before, the real scandal is that this is the sort of thing that now passes for a scandal. A few years back, we were all congratulating ourselves about having “become the media.” Ironically, in some not at all positive ways, we truly have.
TWO: FFS Coalition
Meanwhile, on Planet Not Earth, Smilin’ Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition recently concluded its fourth annual “Road to Majority” conference, placating hardcore Republicans who believe the Values Voter Summit and CPAC just don’t provide enough flat-out ignorance, offensive oratory and general communitarian buffoonery every year. Unsurprisingly, the FFC has declared the event “a Success!”
And so it was, if the intention was to gather in one venue the nation’s worst and dimmest, spoon-feed credulous attendees with a ton of high-cholesterol cant, showcase the impressive range of horrendous ideas Republicans embrace, and – best of all – provide the rest of us with some laughs. The laughs began with the speaker roster, which included luminaries like – well, I’ll just let the Coalition’s own event recap speak for itself:
… the three day event… kicked off with a luncheon featuring Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Rand Paul, Sen. Ron Johnson, and Sen. Mike Lee.
Our general sessions included speeches from Sarah Palin, Rep. Paul Ryan, Gov. Jeb Bush, Rep. Michele Bachmann, Gov. Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sen. Rick Santorum, and many more! At the Patriot Awards Gala Banquet, we recognized Pat Robertson with the Winston Churchill Lifetime Achievement Award, and heard from speakers such as Donald Trump, Rep. Scott Rigell, Rep. Louie Gohmert, Rep. Randy Forbes, and special entertainment by Grammy & DOVE Award winning artist Sandi Patty!
When it comes to volume, Ms. Patty’s supple four-octave voice had nothing on the yawping succession of gum-flapping know-nothings who serially seized the podium to offer up cloying patriotic clichés and half-digested Randian roughage.
Newly risen from the dead but still lacking anything approximating charisma, Mark Sanford had a whole lot of stuff to say about government spending, all of it as simpleminded and desolately pointless as if he were reading it off the back of a cereal box:
“Historically, bad things have happened when you spend too much… and I think it’s a moral issue, because it’s the ultimate case of taxation without representation when you have systematically at a government level basically taking from young to afford benefits to old…
“We are at a tipping point the likes of which we have never seen…”
Why, it’s enough to make a principled conservative run screaming for the Appalachian Trail, unless said conservative just mustered up enough gullible poltroons to reward him with another taxpayer-funded gig working for the government he and his fellow Republicans want us to believe they hate so danged much. In which case you can count on him to go away about the same time venereal disease does. Sanford did, however, get one thing right:
“… in many ways I recognize the ways in which I am unworthy of offering my opinion or my perspective on a whole host of things given my failures in 2009.”
Those last five words were completely redundant, of course.
As most such conservative gatherings do, this one featured a scary, washed-up celebrity. With Victoria Jackson, Ted Nugent and Chuck Norris seemingly unavailable, the role went to John Ratzenberger, who loudly requested that a little of Allen West’s, uh, essence be distributed in all 50 states, and presumably in Puerto Rico, Guam and American Samoa, as well:
“We should really take something from his gene pool and put it everywhere across this great country… [a] real American hero, my friend, Allen West.”
Herman Cain was also there, and his fact-free musings actually made Sanford’s sound statesmanlike by comparison:
“This train is running full speed down the tracks towards socialism and towards communism,” he told the Faith and Freedom Coalition. “Yes, I said it.”
Yes, he said it. Actually, he says it a lot, mostly when he’s earning some absurd fee to do so. Speaking of absurdity, he also offered up this curious observation:
“After I dropped out of the presidential race because of the viciousness of the media, they thought I was going to be quiet.”
Now, that’s odd. I thought he dropped out because he considers women chattel and couldn’t keep his creepy hands off of them, but I guess that’s something I read in the commie press. No, it seems that the would-be commander-in-chief was forced out of the race because Rachel Maddow and EJ Dionne were being mean to him.
Cain wasn’t the only laughingstock former presidential wannabe at the conference. Rick Perry was there, sharing his inner Rick Perry:
“I woke up the morning after the election of 2012 and was feeling a bit humbled…It was really clear that the case we made as conservatives and, frankly, some of us as candidates, we didn’t move the majority of people in this country…
“I’ve learned a little bit about humility, particularly on national television. God hasn’t called the perfect to go into public service. He’s called people like you and me. ”
As if to underscore the point, he also said this about (I think) Benghazi:
I fear where we’ve come to in America, where our administration won’t make one phone call to save our men and women in an embassy in Lebanon…”
Silly Rick! Everyone knows Lebanon is a city in Pennsylvania. But Perry, Cain, Sanford and all the other addlepated flat-earthers who spoke were simply prelude to the headliner, that indisputably perfect exemplar of utter know-nothingness, Sarah Palin, who brought a whole steamer trunk full of ludicrous one-liners down from Wasilla. On American intervention in Syria:
“Until we have a commander in chief who knows what he is doing….let Allah sort it out!”
On the Brothers Tsarnaev, with a side order of suddenly-fashionable NSA poutrage:
“Our government spied on every single one of your phone calls but it couldn’t find two pot smoking dead-beat Bostonians with a hotline to terrorist central in Chechnya. Really?”
She also revisited her moth-eaten “death panels” calumny while discussing Obamacare, joked about her own fertility in a swipe at Jeb Bush’s “Road to Majority” comment on fertile immigrants, and in an another apparent swipe – this one at Michelle Obama’s reaction to the boorish Ellen Sturtz – said this:
“If there’s any protesters here, speak now or forever hold your peace…because facing the protesters, facing the critics, that’s something I do well…”
Usually by quitting. Continue reading Take Five (Woe Is Us edition)
The Supreme Court never seems to see its own reflection in the law. I wonder if any of the current justices participated in a popular 1970s self-awareness training exercise, Johari’s window.
The exercise, whose roots go back to Karl Jung and his archetypes and reflects the later influence of the popular Myers-Briggs assessment, replied on four windows that were intersections between self-knowledge and society, and the known and unknown. The facade window was unknown to society and known to you. The internet has turned the facade into a negative space; it is now the space in which you are known to others by dark secrets or ignorance, by insulting absurdities, vitriol and hatred, masked by a cute avatar and narcissistic screen name. Flaming in chat rooms has given way to trolls who are relentless in replacing logic with personal attacks, stereotypes, and repeated failures of common sense flaunted as searing insights, protected by their rights. It is closer to what Johari’s window labeled the arena, a place of shared exposure.
The exercise assumed certain psychological and personality customs that the internet has stripped away as it tossed the old facade aside. The exercise did not see this future.
Johari’s window also had a blind spot. It was a frame where others knew things about us that were oblivious to our own self-awareness. In the internet media today, its equivalent is a place of spin and denial. Denial not as a psychological defense, but as a social strategy of deceit and misdirection, positive or negative, that conceals real intent.
My favorite blind spot was Herman Cain’s. Framing opportunity and merit as entitlements, he shouted out in the last campaign about African-Americans being on Democratic plantations. He subverted the history of the institution from the horrific tragedy of enslavement to a place where its room and board was a poison pill that killed motivation and freedom! In the logic of Cain’s world, sleeping and eating—rest and community—broke the spirit and chained the enslaved in a way that the exploitation and supposed ownership of their labor did not!
That ownership, and the involuntary extraction of labor by force and law, was approved unequivocally by the institution of the American Supreme Court, then lead by Maryland-born Roger B. Taney, considered one of its greatest Chief Justices and the first Roman Catholic Chief Justice. In the 1857 Dred Scott decision, Taney and six other justices saw no contradiction in a creed of freedom that permitted the ownership of human families, or between human liberty and human property—and said so, from the highest court of the land.
In fact, in his dissent, Justice Benjamin R. Curtis, the Massachusetts-born son of a merchant vessel captain, painstakingly points out that the Dred Scott decision denies the court decisions that Africans and persons of African descent were given legal citizenship in the several states, and this legal grant of citizenship gave them standing before the Court—a standing that Taney, in his majority decision, denies, calling it “unagreeable.” Curtis then points out how ludicrous it is to declare Scott is without standing before the Court, and then to have ruled anyway!
If it looks at its own reflection, the Supreme Court would see how it avoids the institutional evidence of its own magnanimous failures, going back to Dred Scott. Perhaps we, too, forget that the Court was not intended to be an institution of democracy, or rather of democratic interests: the expansion of individual liberties and rights, the ending of discrimination, the leveling of the ever-expanding playing field. The Court did not rule in support of equal protection prior to an inclusion in the Constitution by amendment, nor for women’s voting rights prior to its inclusion, nor for civil rights prior to a Congressional act, or for ending slavery before a Constitutional amendment. Continue reading Gay Marriage and Deliberate Speed
ONE: Brainy Nights in Georgia
In the wake of the Newtown massacre and other recent mass gun murders, the NRA helpfully busied itself with supporting secession for Wisconsin, decrying the “vicious, violent videogames” that they insist provoke (conveniently well-armed) people to indulge in vicious violence, and, um, rolling out their new videogame.
In vivid contrast, Georgia legislator Paul Battles, being a pragmatic guy, thought and thought and thought about how best to protect children, and after all that thinking came up with House Bill 35:
The Georgia House of Representatives Rules Committee will consider a bill this week that would let school systems arm their staff members. House Bill 35 allows school systems to designate administrators, teachers, or other staff members to carry concealed weapons.
Now, before you go making any mistaken assumptions about Battles, a – surprise! – Republican, he emphatically rejects the suggestion that he’s, you know, a gun nut or something:
“From the very beginning, I’ve said this is a school security piece of legislation,” said Battles. “It’s not about guns. It’s about securing our schools.”
House Bill 35 immediately made me think of Mrs. Hale, my 6th grade teacher, who had a pronounced esotropic strabismus. Forgive me, Mrs. Hale, but I’m very glad you were never packing in our placid Savannah classroom. That I know of, anyway.
The bill passed out of the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee last week. And Rep. Battles says that was the biggest hurdle, adding, “I’m sure we’ll have a lively debate on the floor, but I feel like it has great momentum.”
Oh. Great, then.
But inane legislation in Georgia is often a bipartisan thing. State Rep. Earnest Smith, a – crap! – Democrat, is all riled up about Photoshop, especially when it’s used to make fun of Earnest Smith:
… Smith pointed, as proof of the problem, to a picture of his head that was recently edited onto a porn star’s body. That image was created by a blogger who used the image to mock Smith.
Last word to Andre Walker of Georgia Politics Unfiltered, the pixel surgeon responsible for the digital transplant:
“I cannot believe Rep. Earnest Smith thinks I’m insulting him by putting his head on the body of a well-built porn star.”
TWO: “Nothing has changed.”
Attendees at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference can expect to see the likes of Rand Paul, Scott Walker, Allen West and Marco Rubio whip up the sort of rank gumbo of exaggerations, distortions, outright falsehoods and nutrition-free bromides that has kept previous CPAC crowds in drooling thrall.
But wait, there’s more!
Someone named Mitt Romney, who apparently once ran for President, will speak, as will someone named Sarah Palin, who apparently once ran for Vice President.
Of course, I’m being facetious. While I really have no idea who Mitt Romney is, I do remember Sarah Palin. She’s the former mayor of Wasilla who burdened the town with astonishing municipal debt, before going on to become the former Alaska governor who resigned halfway through her term, after burning through many thousands of dollars of public money for no good reason. She did leave her successor a tanning bed, though.
Indications are that Alaska voters have put down their bongs and would now prefer Hillary Clinton over Palin by a 16-point margin in a hypothetical presidential election cage match. Even better, Public Policy Polling also asked respondents to choose their preference of Congress or Palin, and Congress, for all its legendary disapproval ratings, beat Palin 50% to 35%.
And wait, there’s less!
AMERICABlog pointedly notes that CPAC 2013 will again feature the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre, a man determined to live the rest of his wretched life being less popular than gonorrhea, but the conclave has once again barred GOProud, a high-profile gay conservative organization.
“We got kicked out last year because we are gay,” tweeted GOProud Executive Director Jimmy LaSalvia. “Nothing has changed. We won’t be at CPAC.”
However unintentionally, Mr. LaSalvia has just given CPAC a perfect new slogan. “Nothing has changed,” indeed.
THREE: Squawking Heads Redux
In light of recent news that Palin and Fox News have parted company, followed shortly after by the network axing Dick Morris (the World’s Wrongest ManTM), you might be concerned that Fox is going to suffer an acute stupidity deficit. Fear not. They’ve announced with great fanfare that both Herman Cain and Scott Brown have joined the Fox conservative commentator crew.
Proving that he has never actually watched the network, Cain enthused:
“I’m excited about joining the FOX family as a contributor because it is an opportunity to be one more voice for intelligent thinking in America.”
Cain hit the ground running, which is to say he ran aground, in his first appearance with Bill O’Reilly. When the discussion turned to President Obama’s popularity, Cain gave viewers this taste of his intelligent thinking:
“We have a severe ignorance problem with the people who are so mesmerized by his popularity that they are not looking at the facts…
“Martin Luther King Jr. said 50 years ago in 1963 something that is so appropriate to today… There is nothing more dangerous than serious ignorance, and that’s what we have and he gets away with it with the help of establishment media.”
Really? Cain’s new employer has spent more than a decade atop the cable news network heap, which strikes me as pretty much about as establishment as you can get, but maybe I just have a severe ignorance problem.
As to Brown, his first appearance was with Sean Hannity, who asked him why he didn’t want to run for John Kerry’s vacated Senate seat:
Brown… told Hannity that the pace of special elections would have put him in five campaigns in six years and that he might have had to raise another $30 to $50 million, only to “participate in a Congress that’s really dysfunctional and extremely partisan.” Instead, he said, “I felt I could make a difference being on this show…”
Mm-hmm. Far better to participate in a “news” network that’s really dysfunctional and extremely partisan than a Congress that is. Presumably, the Fox gig pays better. Continue reading Take Five (Busyness as Usual edition)
Just what the hell is it with Republicans and bad pizza?
Remember Tom Monaghan, founder of the resoundingly crummy Domino’s? Monaghan, a Republican and possible religious fanatic to boot, was last seen in the fetid swamps of my perpetually embarrassing home state, building a model God-centric community he calls Brigadoon. Or maybe Del Boca Vista.
A previous edition of this column featured the May 2011 Manhattan summit meeting of Sarah Palin and Donald Trump, which began at the Trump Tower on 5th Avenue but, at Palin’s request, continued at the Famous Famiglia Pizza outlet near Times Square. Famous Famiglia claims that their pie is “New York’s Favorite Pizza” so you know damned well it’s no such thing.
Erstwhile Republican presidential gag candidate Herman Cain once helmed Godfather’s Pizza and later became part owner of the chain in a leveraged buyout from previous owner Pillsbury. He sold his ownership stake in 2006. Godfather’s woeful product has been excoriated by worstpizza.com as:
… about as good as any gas station or c-store heat and eat.
Now comes word that John Schnatter – founder and CEO of Papa John’s Pizza, Romney booster, and free-range asshat – warned his shareholders the other day that “Obamacare” will force the chain, every time some benighted soul orders one of its joyless pizzas, to tack on:
… 11 to 14 cents extra, “or 15 to 20 cents per order from a corporate basis.”
Schnatter raised this nightmare scenario because he prefers Mitt Romney’s economic positions, positions which would lead directly to a considerable segment of Papa John’s clientele deciding that delivery pizza is a frill they can no longer afford, even if they do get to pocket that “Obamacare” mark-up. If all this defies reason, and good business sense, welcome to the exciting world of savvy Republican entrepreneurs.
TWO: Stall Tales
The old expression “spend a penny” became hopelessly outdated the day then-Senator Larry Craig took his wide stance into a men’s room at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport a little more than five years ago. “Spend $217,000” is the updated version.
Craig and his bathroom habits are in the news again as the disgraced ex-politician fights a lawsuit filed by the Federal Election Commission over $217,000 in campaign funds Craig diverted to his legal defense against charges stemming from his licentious potty break. In the process, Craig and his lawyer Andrew Herman have raised the bar when it comes to ingenious legal strategies:
Craig counters that money tied to his airport bathroom trip was for neither personal use nor his campaign, but fell under his official, reimbursable duties as senator because he was traveling between Idaho and the nation’s capital for work.
He cites a U.S. Senate rule in which reimbursable per diem expenses include all charges for meals, lodging, hotel fans, cleaning, pressing of clothing — and bathrooms.
“Not only was the trip itself constitutionally required, but Senate rules sanction reimbursement for any cost relating to a senator’s use of a bathroom while on official travel,” wrote Andrew Herman, Craig’s lawyer in Washington, D.C., in documents filed Thursday.
Genius! And the icing on the urinal cake is that Craig and his legal counsel adduce another rank Republican hypocrite, Jim Kolbe, as precedent:
In documents supporting his bid to have the complaint dismissed, Craig cites the case of former U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona, who tapped campaign money in 2006 to defend himself after allegations of improper behavior emerged against him following a Grand Canyon rafting trip with two former male pages.
The trip by Kolbe, the second openly gay Republican to serve in Congress, was an official visit with support provided by the National Park Service.
The phrase “openly gay” should be taken with a big fat grain of salt in Kolbe’s case, by the way, since he came out only after gay-rights groups threatened to out him after his gutless vote in favor of DOMA. Craig, in contrast, is immortal for the line: “I am not gay.” And soon, I suspect, he’s going to be immortal for skating on egregious misuse of campaign funds, but happily, the $217,000 that a bunch of misguided Republicans steered into Craig’s coffers helped pay for, among other things, a lot of free entertainment for the rest of us.
THREE: Party of Personal Responsibility Update
Speaking of legal defenses, New Jersey Assemblyman Robert Schroeder is now facing criminal charges over $400,000 worth of bad checks alleged to have been written to investors in All Points International Distributors Inc., a military contracting business owned by Schroeder. If you inferred from that that he’s a Republican, you inferred quite correctly.
This is only the latest legal trouble Schroeder has faced. According to the north Jersey Record, Schroeder’s entrepreneurial career:
… includes more than a dozen lawsuits from vendors and creditors stretching back to at least 1997.
Uncharacteristically for a Republican, Schroeder initially seemed to signal that he knows who’s at fault here:
“I made a mistake, I apologize,” Schroeder said. “I’m responsible for my actions. It’s a sad day for my family.”
If you find that statement remarkably mature for a Republican politician who finds himself in hot water, don’t be too hasty. Schroeder has a ready explanation for why he “made a mistake”:
“We’re having tough business times like everybody else,” said Assemblyman Robert Schroeder, who represents the 39th District. “Business has been in decline during the Obama administration.”
Thank goodness. You can’t count on much in this crazy old world, but I’ve always believed you can count on Republicans invariably shifting the blame for their misdeeds onto somebody else. Bonus points for making your scapegoat Barack Obama, Mr. Schroeder. I guess we’ll see how that stands up in court. Continue reading Take Five (Saucy, Cheesy & Sorta Greasy edition)
With his certain victory today in the Texas primary, Mitt Romney will finally have his party’s nomination more or less sewn up, but is there anyone, even among Republicans, who actually likes Romney? Of course not, but it’s fascinating to watch those who, for various reasons, are pretending that they do.
Let’s start with evangelicals, a voting bloc without which the Republican Party would be about as viable as Whigs. Romney has a dual problem with evangelicals: he’s nowhere near conservative enough, no matter how much he pretends to be, and his religion is regarded by a large swath of the Christian right as little more than Scientology with a big-ass choir.
Romney made the quadrennial ritual forelock-tugging visit to Liberty “University” on May 12. Despite a large turnout to hear him speak, and the faint praise of some in attendance, others on campus were less than welcoming:
Liberty teaches that Mormonism is a cult, and university officials took down a commencement Facebook page after it was flooded with hundreds of posts objecting to Romney’s appearance.
Jerry Falwell Jr., the “school” chancellor, showed off his versatility with a little stand-up routine before Romney’s speech, likely sending Jerry Sr.’s corpse into rapid rotation:
… Jerry Falwell Jr. told parents, staff and students that “we are electing a commander-in-chief, not a pastor-in-chief.”
Not to be outdone, the candidate did some comedic ancestor-spinning of his own:
Romney went right at the latest hot-button issue, bringing much of the audience to its feet in cheers by declaring: “Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman.”
Romney has also received lukewarm plaudits from another previously hostile demographic, his former primary rivals. Erstwhile Swiss citizen Michele Bachmann, for example, had contended as far back as December:
“No, he cannot beat Obama because his policy is the basis for Obamacare… You can’t have a candidate who has given the blueprint for Obamacare. It’s too identical. It’s not going to happen. We have to have a candidate, a bold distinct candidate in the likeness of Ronald Reagan.”
Not having found such a candidate, Bachmann has since decided that if she squints tightly enough, a flip-flopping, suspiciously moderate, milquetoast venture capitalist is close enough. Bachmann also accompanied fellow has-been Herman Cain to a DC press conference on May 16, where Cain issued his own full-throated “yeah, he’ll do” endorsement:
“We as conservatives know that in order to win, we have got to rally around our nominee… It is clear that Governor Mitt Romney is going to be our nominee, so I wanted to formally endorse him today… I know there are lot of people who may not be as excited as some of us about the process, or as excited about the ultimate nominee…”
Another vocal Romney skeptic has finally come around, if only because it keeps his incessantly marketed name in the news:
… Donald Trump is delighted that Mitt Romney is using The Donald’s star power to lure lottery contestants and donors to a major fundraiser June 28 for Romney’s presidential juggernaut.
… fortunate attendees will receive, according to the campaign, “airport transportation in the Trump vehicle… stay at the Trump International Hotel & Tower… [get a] tour of Trump Tower” and “dine with Donald Trump and Mitt Romney.” Trump will host a fundraiser for Romney, featuring a drop-by by former rival Newt Gingrich, next Tuesday at the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas.
Trump managed to fake enthusiasm for Romney better than most, but can’t do so without, as is his wont, paying homage to himself:
“I feel strongly that Mitt is really doing well. I think he’s gonna be a great candidate and a great president. We need a great president. I feel a lot of people listen to what I have to say.”
Funny stuff, though not as funny as his tellingly phallic comments from April of last year:
“I’m a much bigger business man and have (a) much, much bigger net worth. I mean, my net worth is many, many, many times Mitt Romney,” Trump said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Romney, a candidate who will unhesitatingly cozy up to any abrasive jackass, is perfectly cool with another of Trump’s look-at-me gambits, his birther obsession. In fact, it was precisely this topic that yesterday prompted Romney to make his first honest statement of the campaign:
Asked… whether Trump’s questioning of President Barack Obama’s birthplace gave him pause, Romney simply said he was grateful for all his supporters.
“You know, I don’t agree with all the people who support me and my guess is they don’t all agree with everything I believe in,” Romney said. “But I need to get 50.1% or more and I’m appreciative to have the help of a lot of good people.”
Whether that appreciation extends as far as granting Trump a plum turn at the podium in Tampa remains to be seen:
“Mr. Trump’s massive popularity is just one of the many reasons he is being sought as a keynote speaker at the Tampa RNC Convention,” Michael Cohen, special counsel to Trump, told The Daily Caller.
Trump’s not the only major league asshat who seems to have succumbed to a mild case of Romney fever recently. You might remember a Republican éminence grise – or bête noire – named George W. Bush:
“I’m for Mitt Romney,” Bush told ABC News this morning as the doors of an elevator closed on him, after he gave a speech on human rights a block from his old home — the White House.
Alas, since Bush was essentially as welcome as herpes to the organizers of the 2008 Republican convention in Saint Paul, I don’t expect his being “for Mitt Romney” will net him much mic time this go-round, which is a pity. It would be a real highlight of the convention to see Bush and Trump on stage together, spinning plates, perhaps, or maybe doing a combover-and-paper version of “Dueling Banjos.” Continue reading Slouching Towards Tampa (With Friends Like These edition)
Republicans have rushed to embrace the distraction of possible running mates for Mitt Romney, probably because it beats sitting around lamenting that their nominee is going to be Mitt Romney. The good news for the GOP is there’s no shortage of potential names; the bad news is that all of them are wretched.
Speaking of wretched, Senator John McCain was recently asked by CBS if he had any bright ideas for VP. “I think it should be Sarah Palin,” he said, and then he giggled like a schoolboy on nitrous oxide. Make of that what you will.
There’s no question that Palin still has a solid core of support among a certain type of no-information Republican voter. The party powers-that-be, however, might have reason to feel differently:
At the website for… Sarah PAC, donors are assured that funds they give to the PAC will be “dedicated to building America’s future by supporting fresh ideas and candidates who share our vision for reform and innovation.” According to Politico, however, those funds are currently doing nothing of the sort.
The committee’s [April 11] filing says that Sarah PAC raised $388,000 between January and March and spent $418,000 over the same time period, most of it on further fundraising and a bevy of political consultants, as well as a down payment on building space in Tampa, Florida near the site this summer’s Republican National Convention.
None of the funds have been spent on candidates or donations to other conservative causes…
And if Palin’s “ask not what you can do for your party” approach isn’t off-putting enough to the Republican establishment, there’s also the fact that she hasn’t come up with any new material in four years. In an interview with Sean Hannity about Hilary Rosen’s completely justified characterization of Ann Romney, for example, Palin’s contribution to the “nontroversy” was the same old same old:
“The comments that Hillary Rosen made today certainly have awakened many mama grizzlies across the nation,” the former Alaska governor asserted.
Mama grizzlies, Governor? Really? Palin won’t say one way or the other whether she’s interested in being a two-time failed VP candidate, but she did toss out an intriguing name in a March interview on Fox News:
“You know who I’d like to see… Colonel Allen West. Colonel Allen West, who’s been to the school of hard knocks, he should be the one who should be considered seriously for VP.”
Why, yes, he should be, by any party determined to lose 50 states this November. Yet Palin’s not the only one who thinks West’s jib is sufficiently well cut to take up residence at the Naval Observatory. Nikki Haley, who has herself been mentioned as a possible Romney running mate, echoed Palin, albeit a little tepidly:
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a top surrogate for GOP front-runner Mitt Romney, suggested Wednesday night that controversial Tea Party freshman Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) could be a “good” choice as the party’s vice presidential nominee.
“You’ve got great ones. You have heard Gov. Palin talk about West, and he’s good.”
And if the Palin and Haley endorsements aren’t enough to persuade the Republicans to go West, maybe that of novelty presidential candidate and serial philanderer Herman Cain will:
“Colonel Allen West out of Florida. Here’s why. He is well-spoken, he is direct, people in Florida love him, he has a huge following. He is from Florida. Florida is going to be one of those key states… But more importantly, Colonel Allen West is a dedicated patriot. He served in the military, and he is willing to serve his country some more.”
And a vice president isn’t subject to Article 15 proceedings, which is a huge plus, but if Romney wants to tap West as his running mate, he might need a time machine. The Congressman was most recently spotted hanging out in the year 1954:
… at a town-hall event in Palm Beach, he told supporters that he has “heard” that up to 81 Democrats are, in fact, communists, the Palm Beach Post reports.
In the video… someone asks West how many members of the Democratic Party are “card-carrying Marxist Socialists.”
“I believe that there are about 78 to 81 members of the Democratic Party that are members of the Communist Party,” West responds…
When pressed for specifics, a spokeswoman for the West campaign said that West was referring to the 76 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Some days later, West proffered more implausible specifics:
I think that if you would take the time to study the political spectrum of ideologies, you’d understand that at the turn of the [20th] century, American Communists renamed themselves as progressives. If you study the Woodrow Wilson administration, people referred to the Woodrow Wilson administration as a progressive administration…
There’s a very thin line between communism, progressivism, Marxism, socialism — or even, as Mark Levin has said, statism. It’s about nationalizing production, it’s about creating and expanding the welfare state. It’s about this idea of social and economic justice. And you hear that being played out — you know, now with fairness, fair share, economic equality, shared sacrifice, ad nauseam, ad infinitum.
I’m starting to think Palin, Haley and Cain are onto something here. That’s certainly one of the most forthright, unequivocal attacks on social and economic justice I’ve ever seen. Sadly, this courageous asininity landed West in hot water with another bunch of America-hating Bolsheviks: Continue reading Slouching Towards Tampa (Veep Doo-doo edition)
The absurdity is still compelling, but I just don’t find the Republican primary battle much fun anymore. I miss Michele Bachmann. I miss Rick Perry. I miss Herman Cain. I even miss Jon Huntsman, since it was always enjoyable to watch him standing onstage with his rivals while I hummed “One of These Things Is Not Like the Others” to myself.
Sure, there are still some laughs to be had. Last Wednesday’s CNN debate from Mesa, Arizona, for instance, provided a few. The first came 10 minutes before the debate got underway, when former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer, playing pundit, said something to the effect of: If Rick Santorum can look presidential tonight, he could blow this thing wide open. Comedy gold, right?
And the candidates themselves did their best to turn my frown upside-down, beginning with Santorum accusing Romney of adopting Occupy Wall Street’s rhetoric. Even the live audience at the Mesa Arts Center tried to keep me amused, as when they reacted to moderator John King reading a viewer question asking which candidate believed in birth control, and if not, why, by booing lustily. It was a vivid snapshot of the Republican zeitgeist, AD 2012, and – hell, yes – I laughed. Continue reading Slouching Towards Tampa (Blab Four edition)
ONE: Fired Up and Ready to Stay Home!
A couple of weeks back, Take Five looked at a CBS News poll which indicated that voter enthusiasm (meaning a lack thereof) could be a huge problem for the Republicans this year.
The Atlantic Wire recently examined other polls that pretty much confirm the hypothesis. A January 30 Pew poll, for example, pegged the number of Republicans happy with their field of candidates at 46%, while those dissatisfied with it were measured at 52%. As has become a cliché this election year, they can’t resist citing yet another Gallup poll purporting to demonstrate that Republicans remain more enthusiastic about this election than Democrats. The only problem with this is that the accumulating empirical evidence suggests it’s not true.
Nate Silver notes that among “Republican identifiers” only, turnout in Iowa was down 11% over 2008 and New Hampshire was down 15%, and while South Carolina’s turnout jumped 20% over the last presidential election cycle, driven by Gingrich zealots, Florida’s was down 16% from ’08. According to CNN, Nevada’s Republican numbers last Saturday were down by one-third from four years ago.
Watch for increasingly desperate and increasingly amusing spin about all this to emanate from Republican Party apparatchiks and pundits in the coming weeks, but they’ll have to really exert themselves to outdo Romney spokesmouth John H. Sununu, who said this with a resolutely straight and characteristically dour face on MSNBC Monday morning:
In an odd sense when turnout is down, contrary to what you are hearing, people are satisfied with the winning and the candidate that’s winning. They are satisfied with Mitt Romney.
Yeah, sure they are. I’m hoping they’re so satisfied they’ll all stay home in November, too. Sununu’s explanation for that will be priceless.
Ron Paul, seemingly unaware that he himself is a candidate, made some caustic remarks about the Nevada and Florida numbers:
“There’s a lot of people not satisfied with any of the candidates out there,” the Texas congressman said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” “And that’s why in many ways we’re seeing a lower turnout right now…”
Mr. Paul said Republicans are wondering why they haven’t been offered someone else besides Mr. Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
The last time I looked, Republicans were also being offered, aggressively, not only Ron Paul but also Rick Santorum, and not long ago they also had such choices as Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman and Herman Cain, not to mention perplexingly premature dropout Tim Pawlenty and even perennial wingnut darling Roy “Ten Commandments” Moore. And then there was the contingent of maybes whose trial balloons, for the most part, never got any altitude: Chris Christie, Donald Trump, Mitch Daniels, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani.
I apologize for taxing your digestive tract with this litany of names, gentle reader, but I think it points up the fact that GOP voters have had no shortage of choices; they’ve only had a shortage of remotely acceptable choices, even by famously lax Republican standards.
So Romney remains the frontrunner, his three remaining challengers – for various reasons – will hang around a while yet, and Republican voters are less than impressed with the whole spectacle. Hey, it’s nice to agree with Republicans about something, I guess.
TWO: Y’all don’t come back now, hear?
The Charleston Place Hotel has filed suit against the Southern Republican Leadership Conference for non-payment of a $227,872 bill. The SRLC disputes the charge and has declared its intention to launch a counterclaim. In a statement released Monday, the organization said:
“After prepaying over $235,000 to the Charleston Place Hotel, we at SRLC 2012 had an unprofessional experience that directly and indirectly breached our contract causing great harm and distraction to our attendees, sponsors, and staff. The Charleston Place’s attempt to mischaracterize this legitimate dispute as the SRLC’s walking away from a bill is in keeping with the pattern of deception and misrepresentation that is a significant part of our ongoing disagreement.
“We continue to seek a reasonable and equitable settlement even as the Charleston Place’s Management seeks to sensationalize. We sincerely hope that cooler heads at the Charleston Place will prevail and they will acknowledge serious errors and actions resulting in a fair agreement.”
The conference lined up a Jan. 19-22 stay… and booked nearly every room in the luxury hotel in the center of downtown Charleston, according to the lawsuit. Political consultant Robert Cahaly signed the agreement on behalf of the group…
The hotel wants to hold Cahaly and others personally responsible for the tab, arguing that the Southern Republican Leadership Conference is nothing but a corporate shell Cahaly uses to hide from his obligations, the lawsuit states.
Cahaly has kept a pretty low profile since threatening to sue the SC SLED before turning himself in on an arrest warrant last fall on charges of making illegal robocalls in half a dozen House Districts in the 2010 election. While there don’t seem to be any recent updates about that case, I’m already looking forward to this new one. If the hotel really has evidence that the SRLC is a corporate front for Cahaly, I can’t wait to read the details. It’s also going to be fascinating to see if the organization’s counterclaim is predicated on something more substantial and credible than Charleston Place management being unprofessional, deceptive, sensationalistic hotheads.
THREE: You’re Nobody ’til Rick Santorum Hates You
Fresh off of telling a seriously ill child and his mother that drug companies should be free to charge whatever the hell they want for the boy’s medication, Rick “Mr. Sensitive” Santorum told a gay Missouri man that he didn’t deserve the “privilege” of marriage. In doing so, Santorum briefly opened a wormhole into the strange and uncharted dimension that is his mind when he said:
“[Marriage is] not a right, it’s something that has existed since the beginning of human history as an institution where men and women come together for the purposes of forming a natural relationship as God made it to be. And for the purposes of having children and continuing that civilization. It is an intrinsic good… And as a result of that, we extend a privilege. We extend certain privileges to people who do that because we want to encourage that behavior…”
Actually, Senator, you don’t need to bother encouraging that behavior, since your enthusiastic advocacy of another type of behavior helps ensure that humans, gay or straight, won’t be around to mess up Creation much longer anyway:
A day before Republicans voice[d] their presidential preferences in the Colorado caucuses, Rick Santorum dismissed climate change as “a hoax” and advocated an energy plan heavy on fossil fuels.
True to form, Santorum couldn’t opine on this without dragging his close personal friend, God, into it:
“We were put on this Earth as creatures of God to have dominion over the earth, to use it wisely and steward it wisely, but for our benefit not for the earth’s benefit,” Santorum told an audience at the Colorado School of Mines where he was a guest speaker Monday at the Colorado Energy Summit.
“We are the intelligent beings that know how to manage things and through that course of science and discovery if we can be better stewards of this environment, then we should not let the vagaries of nature destroy what we have helped create…”
The former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania argued that science has been hijacked by politicians on the left, and that climate change is “an absolute travesty of scientific research that was motivated by those who, in my opinion saw this as an opportunity to create a panic and a crisis for government to be able to step in and even more greatly control your life…
“I for one never bought the hoax. I for one understand just from science that there are one hundred factors that influence the climate. To suggest that one minor factor of which man’s contribution is a minor factor in the minor factor is the determining ingredient in the sauce that affects the entire global warming and cooling is just absurd on its face and yet we have politicians running into the ramparts, unfortunately politicians who happen to be running for the Republican nomination for president who bought into man-made global warming and bought into cap and trade…”
Small wonder that Sarah Palin’s star has faded; with Rick Santorum in the news, fans of nonsensical word salad can get their fill and more. At least until catastrophic climate change leads to their extinction, that is.
Oh, and about that “sauce” he mentioned… never mind. Continue reading Take Five (Do Not Disturb edition)
Tomorrow’s Florida primary probably won’t result in Rick Santorum or Ron Paul heading for the exit sign, but it will move both of them a step closer to it.
That pleasant thought got me wondering what the other Republican dropouts were up to these days. Turns out they’re all keeping busy, though probably not without some regrets here and there about what they’re busy with.
Michele Bachmann has set her sights on another term representing the Minnesota 6th. Well, maybe:
Speaking on Fox News, Bachmann seemed caught off guard when asked directly if she’d be running for a fourth term.
“I, very — yes,” she said.
However, Bachmann quickly qualified her response to indicate that it was an option she would be considering.
“I believe I’ll be looking at that, very seriously looking at coming back for a fourth term.”
Her hesitance seems to be contagious:
The contentious nature of the primary season, coupled with some high-profile missteps, sent her back to Minnesota with a low favorability rating in her home state.
According to a statewide Public Policy Polling survey released on Tuesday, only 34 percent of those polled have a positive view of her, while 57 percent have an unfavorable view.
Only 37 percent said she should run for reelection.
She can look forward to some traveling, at least:
Former Republican presidential candidate and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann has been named as a witness in a messy, multimillion-dollar federal lawsuit in Nashville.
Led by prominent Republican fundraiser and millionaire Bill Hemrick of Brentwood, a group of Middle Tennessee conservatives sued California businessman Anthony Loiacono for $19 million in November over a failed venture to create a television network devoted to the tea party movement. The plaintiffs claim Loiacono used their investments as his “personal bank account.”
Loiacono first responded by challenging Hemrick to a “lie detector challenge.” He has since formally responded to the lawsuit and claims Hemrick and co-plaintiff Mel Martin are primarily responsible for Tea Party HD’s demise. He has countersued the plaintiffs for $1 million alleging defamation and abuse of process.
He also filed a lengthy list of 50 anticipated witnesses in the case, including Bachmann and other prominent conservatives such as commentators Ann Coulter and Phil Valentine; Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips; and state lawmakers Rep. Glen Casada and Sen. Jack Johnson of Williamson County.
Great stuff. The report goes on to note that Tea Party HD produced Bachmann’s response to the 2011 SOTU. That was the response where she looked earnestly at a spot somewhere off-camera, as if she were speaking not to you, the viewer, but to your neighbors. Tea Party HD will be missed.
You’ll be delighted to know that the former candidate still finds time for fun, and one thing she’s always found fun is denying non-heterosexuals their rights:
Eagan, Minn. — Minnesota pastors and lawmakers who support a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between one man and one woman aim to develop varied strategies to win voter support.
At a strategy session [Friday]… the Faith and Freedom coalition discussed ways to sell the marriage amendment to people who may not hold their fervent views.
… the room came to its feet for a last-minute appearance by Republican U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, who first proposed a marriage amendment when she was a state senator…
“I think if you want to talk to people who are not interested in talking about the morality you can also come at it as “should people be allowed to vote,” Bachmann said.
A minister in the back of the room offered up a prayer for Bachmann. A pastor from Minneapolis asked for advice on how to talk about the amendment with parishioners who are parents of gay children.
Bachmann said she wasn’t an expert, and switched back to her main line of argument, that people should get to decide the laws they live under.
Coincidentally, Bachmann had appeared on The O’Reilly Factor the night before to share her lack of expertise about running for the presidency. Some snippets:
I loved the debates. I wish I could have been a part of every single debate. I wanted to answer every question. It’s a wonderful process because it helps to explain positions to people across the United States and explain why Barack Obama can’t have a second term. It’s a wonderful process…
… if you go all the way back to August — whoever goes to the top, they don’t stay there very long and they go straight down. And people have a very short shelf life. And it’s almost like the voters have whiplash. They go from one candidate to another and they — they completely go with one candidate and then they’ll hear some information and they’ll move away. And so people are looking for perfection…
The fact on the ground is that you have to have money to be able to keep the mother ship going.
Bachmann’s not the only ex-candidate to return home with a tarnished reputation:
Governor Rick Perry has gotten a rocky welcome home to Texas, facing low poll numbers and criticism over state expenses related to his failed campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.
Travel for Perry’s security team cost the state nearly $800,000 between September and November, according to a new report from the state Department of Public Safety.
Money well spent, I’d say, since it indirectly helped the nation remain safe from a Perry presidency by keeping him on the stump week after uproarious week. Texas Democrats are demanding that he reimburse the state, but Perry’s probably more concerned over a different sort of fallout from his face-plant on the national stage: Continue reading Slouching Towards Tampa (Where Are They Now edition)
Equipped with my special Political Blogger Kit (a double martini straight up with two olives, and a Mead 3″ by 5″ memo book and a ballpoint pen) I planted myself securely on the couch between our dogs Tuesday night, mere minutes before the start of what CNN grandly billed as its Southern Republican Debate. When I turned on the TV, CNN’s go-to alternative to dead air, Wolf Blitzer, was proclaiming giddily that the candidates would “come out swinging,” which struck me as pretty unlikely on the very day that Newt Gingrich’s second wife came forward with the story about her ex proposing an open marriage as an alternative to divorce.
As is their wont, CNN began with a montage conferring a ridiculous honorific on each of the participants: Mitt (“The Frontrunner!”) Romney, Newt (“On the Rise!”) Gingrich, Rick (“Increasing Momentum!”) Santorum and Ron (“The Insurgent!”) Paul. With that nonsense out of the way, a brief rundown of the debate rules and a handsome rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” by Citadel cadets followed, and then each of the candidates got a chance to say “hey” to the audience and those of us watching at home.
Finally, at 8:08 pm, debate moderator John King posed the first question of the evening, about – surprise! – whether Newt had pushed wife #2 for an open marriage. I suwannee, few folks can bring the righteous indignation like Speaker Gingrich. The steam coming out of his ears could have cooked collard greens. Umbrage doesn’t get any more umber. And strangely enough, I agreed with him. Yes, it was in the news; no, it was inappropriate as a debate question.
After Gingrich got most of the high dudgeon out of his system (I always feel bad for the janitorial staff who have to mop up the high dudgeon after a Republican debate), Ron Paul used the first available opportunity to note that he and his wife have been together for 54 years. Classy, Dr. Paul.
Mitt Romney jumped at a chance to deride president Obama as a “crony capitalist” and used Solyndra and the Keystone XL pipeline as examples; a predictable Romney gumbo of lies and nonsense, in other words, ending with the applause line: “… it is capitalism and freedom that makes America strong.” The audience obliged. After this nincompoopery, he segued into some states’ rights boilerplate and then tried to equate “ObamaCare” to Amtrak and the USPS.
At 8:43, Dr. Paul took us back to a simpler time:
“I had the privilege of practicing medicine in the early ’60s, before we had any government.”
At 8:51, Rick Santorum told us he’s not flamboyant. Thanks, Rick. We hadn’t noticed. But he is nasty, as he proved when he started kicking Gingrich about the 1994 election. The two clashed with their differing versions of an era nobody cares about any more, and then a smiling Romney used the opportunity to portray himself as an outsider (a position Mitt often uses as cover for the fact that no one much likes him). For good measure, he mocked Gingrich’s attempts to portray himself as an heir to Ronald Reagan by pointing out that the Gipper’s diary mentions Newt only once, and then only as someone who had an idea Reagan didn’t like, adding:
“I mean, he mentions George Bush a hundred times. He even mentions my dad once.”
But scant minutes later, a retired broker in the audience asked the candidates as a group when they would release their tax returns. Gingrich jumped:
“An hour ago.”
Paul’s answer was slower and less nimble, but earned him some laughs and applause:
“Well — well, I hadn’t thought it — thought it through. I don’t have an intention of doing it, but for a different reason. I’d probably be embarrassed to put my financial statement up against their incomes. I don’t want the embarrassment because I don’t have a greater income.”
Romney’s response was quintessentially Romneyesque. If you’re still wondering why even Republicans dislike him even as he seems poised to become their nominee, well, here you go:
“… I know that if I’m the nominee the president’s going to want to insist that I show what my income was this last year and so forth. When they’re completed this year in April I’ll release my returns in April, and probably for other years as well.
And I know that’s what’s going to come. Every time the Democrats are out there trying their very best to — to try and attack people because they’ve been successful, and I — and I have been successful. But let me tell you, the — the — the challenge in America is not people who have been successful. The challenge in America — and President Obama doesn’t want to talk about this — is you got a president who’s played 90 rounds of golf while there are 25 million Americans out of work. And — and — (cheers, applause) — and you’ve got — and — and while the price of gasoline has doubled, he said no to the Keystone pipeline. And while we’ve got 15 trillion (dollars) of debt, he said, look, I’m going to put another trillion of debt for ‘Obamacare.’ That’s the problem in America, not the attacks they make on people who have been successful…”
“But some of the questions about when you’ll release your taxes have not come — the president has raised them — his campaign has raised them, you’re right on that. But so have some of your rivals up here. Speaker Gingrich has said you owe them to the people of South Carolina before they vote. Governor Perry made that point as well before he left the race. Why not should the people of South Carolina before this election see last year’s return?”
As the exchange continued, Romney began to sound a little, for want of a better word, Trumpish:
“Because I want to make sure that I beat President Obama. And every time we release things drip by drip, the Democrats go out with another array of attacks. As — as has been done in the past, if I’m the nominee, I’ll put these out at one time so we have one discussion of all of this. I obviously pay all full taxes. I’m honest in my dealings with people. People understand that. My taxes are carefully managed. And I pay a lot of taxes. I’ve been very successful. And I — when I have our — our taxes ready for this year, I’ll release them.”
Romney was reminded that his father had released 12 years of his own tax returns in a 1967 campaign. King described the release as “a groundbreaking standard in American politics” and asked Mitt:
“When you release yours, will you follow your father’s example?”
There were audible boos and catcalls (and not just in our living room) when Romney responded:
“Maybe. I — you know, I don’t know how many years I’ll release. I’ll take a look at what the — the — what our documents are. And I’ll release multiple years; I don’t know how many years. And — but I’ll be happy to do that.”
He then tried to hijack the discussion again, circling back around to how he’s not your ordinary fat cat; he’s a self-made fat cat:
“I didn’t inherit money from my parents. What I have, I earned. I worked hard, the American way.”
The cheering I could hear from the crowd had to be coming from Romney staffers; it’s hard to believe that anyone else in attendance believed this drivel. Continue reading Slouching Towards Tampa (Incredible Shrinking Field edition)