Republican Obstruction Gives Way to Reduction

DDAlong with Republican obstructionism, add another wedge-based, ideological power tool: reductionism. Reduce every incident of the magnitude of the world’s greatest tragedies to a simple formula of failure and lay them neatly at the President’s feet.

In the Republican playbook, reductionism is a call to action; it focuses on President Obama as the enemy-in-chief; at once inept and over-reaching, an indecisive President making too many decisions, a weak President who has preserved America’s peace, a budget-cutter who spends too much, a President who ignores Congress after spending an entire term seeking a Grand Bargain with the Republican Speaker; an international leader who has squandered America’s leverage even as his policies of international sanctions are working; a leader who doesn’t understand and stifles businesses and finance, even as his Justice Department settles a civil case against a global behemoth of a bank for violations of the laws of business practices, settling for $7 billion, $2.5 billion of which will go to assist mortgage holders, with $180 million used to build affordable housing, the first time fees from government penalties will go to taxpayers.

Reduction presents a simple fact as it engages in massive distortions of the truth. True, no President in history has experienced or overseen the kind of humanitarian crisis involving children along the US southern border as Obama has, but no President has improved the US image as a beacon of hope to attract a pilgrim’s journey of thousands of children threatened by death and violence, by sexual exploitation by national gangs of drug thugs who hold power through force and intimidation in several Central American nations.

Reductionism ignores causes and settles on blame. Often without more than the appearance of evidence based on circumstances and without proof.

Reductionism is the exception that denies it’s the exception; it makes victims out of people who are then blamed as victims. It’s a double-edged sword that cuts both the leadership and the people: health care costs are rising—Obama’s fault—yet lazy workers are waiting on a handout—healthcare is affordable if you are willing to work.

Can’t find a job? Your fault. Obama’s fault.

Other reasons? Nope. The above sums it up. Well, add too many taxes on business, too much noise about higher wages, fears of inflation, too much regulation in every business sector, too much interference in what should be the rights of the states.

Reductionism works best in an atmosphere of anger. Much of the racial opposition to Obama has been reduced to anger, anger waiting to attach itself to a cause that supports its cherished conclusions of power, privilege and competence. Reductionism docks with that anger. Both are then gravity-fed by high-pressure blame. Continue reading Republican Obstruction Gives Way to Reduction

Stormy Monday, 6/9/14

StormyMondayWith every lurid allegation and wheezing harrumph over Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and the circumstances of his captivity and release being debunked, Republicans are left to stand around looking not just damn foolish, but hypocritical and heartless. That’s not a novelty, of course; they’ve been doing it pretty much forever. Sgt. Berhdahl is simply the latest excuse for GOP poutrage spun out of whole cloth. On the brighter side, at least Republicans are spending so much time hyperventilating about him that they’ve hardly had time to keep grinding the stubs of their ax handles over Benghazi, the IRS, Syria, and whatever other pseudo-scandals have slipped my mind at the moment. Small mercies. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel testifies on the Bergdahl release before the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday.

Any remaining unexploded Republican heads will probably explode today as direct talks begin in Geneva between officials of the US and Iran, as efforts continue to reach a final deal on Iran’s nuclear program by July. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns leads the US delegation.

The results of an internal audit on the VA’s hospital scheduling issues were released this morning. The details were heartbreaking and infuriating. Over 57,000 vets have been awaiting initial appointments for more than 90 days, and 64,000 enrollees over the past decade have never got an appointment. Also today, the House Veterans Affairs Committee hears testimony from the office of the VA’s Inspector General and representatives from the GAO. Acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Sloan Gibson has vowed swift reform.

Hillary Clinton, who says in an interview with Diane Sawyer airing tonight that she won’t announce her presidential plans until 2015, is kicking off a national book tour this week, during which she’ll be asked by every local media figure and every autograph-seeking fan at every stop in every city whether she intends to run in ’16. She’ll also be campaigning for a variety of Democrats, each of whom will ask her whether she intends to run in ’16.

The President kicks off the week with an expansion of the “Pay As You Earn” program and other executive modifications to student loans, while urging Congress to take legislative action. Presumably, he won’t be holding his breath about the latter. The President hosts a Monday event at the White House, with Dr. Jill Biden and Education Secretary Arne Duncan in attendance.

On Tuesday, the focus on education cost and quality continues with the “President’s first-ever Tumblr Q&A” at 4:00 p.m. Eastern. The event will be moderated by Tumblr founder David Karp. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 6/9/14

Rand Paul's Vicarious Politics

DDRand Paul is a political predator with a double standard.

In talking about a prospective Hillary Clinton candidacy, he mentioned the incident with Bill. The incident Newt Gingrich tried to impeach Bill for, Rand Paul reframed and called Bill’s involvement an act of “violence.” “Violence”? “The kind we should all be opposed to,” Rand Paul said.

So how did Rand Paul, who said “we should all oppose” sexual “violence” vote on the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in the Senate last year? He voted “no”.

It seems some violence he doesn’t oppose. Here’s why, in his own words: “The legislation would increase benefits available under VAWA to specifically include victims of stalking and ‘cyber-stalking,’ as well as same-sex couples, and illegal immigrants who are victims of any sort of violence.”

It seems he doesn’t oppose the “violence” of GOP elected members of Congress, which, if framed from the same time period as President Clinton, includes inappropriate activities with pages and staffers’ wives, and more.

In 2004, Rep. Robert Sherman (PA) admitted a five-year affair with a staff member who had locked herself in the bathroom of his apartment and called 911 saying he tried to choke her. No charges were filed, but she later sued and won a non-disclosed settlement. The GOP leadership supported Sherman for re-election and so did Rick Santorum, who made a robo-call on his behalf.

2007 brought us Larry Craig (ID) and the bathroom toe tapping at the airport (considered a sign of solicitation for anonymous same-sex encounters) and Joseph McDade (PA), accused of flashing two women on a Florida beach in front of several eye witnesses. He reportedly fondled himself as he followed one.

In 2010, Congress member Mark Jackson (IN) admitted to having an extra-marital affair with a married woman hired to prepare weekly audio tapes of Rep. Jackson’s views on family values. When he resigned from Congress, he said in his statement, “I sinned against God, my wife and my family by having a mutual relationship with a part-time member of my staff.”

An earlier post I wrote on Rep. Scott Desjarlais (TN) covers Congress’ biggest stud: a doctor who had multiple affairs with hospital staff and even patients. An anti-abortion politician whose wife had an abortion as a result of his affairs.

Rand Paul is silent against the long-trending epidemic of inappropriate forms of sexual contact that plague his party. At the state and local levels, it often involves children. For safety’s sake, I omitted the stories and facts.

In fact, the Speaker, John Boehner, first won his seat after he beat Rep. Buz Lukens in a Republican primary. Lukens had been found guilty of paying a 16-year-old $40 for sex, and refused to resign from his Congress.

And of course, by Rand Paul’s own words, he’s open to cyber-stalking and sexual violence against gays and undocumented residents; this violence is okay—since it caused him to vote “no”.

But Rand Paul, who offers Hillary fake concern that doesn’t jibe with his politics or actions, gives a second reason for opposing VAWA and bringing his policy bona fides into question. Again, in his own words: “mandatory arrest laws can actually aggravate further domestic violence.” Continue reading Rand Paul’s Vicarious Politics

Stormy Monday, 11/4/13

StormyMondayTomorrow, Virginians choose one of milquetoast Clintonista Terry McAuliffe or Tobacco Belt Taliban Ken Cuccinelli to succeed Bob McDonnell in the Executive Mansion. The Democrat’s lead in the polls still holds, though a low projected voter turnout suggests Cuccinelli could pull off an upset with a sufficiently large turnout of irate Teabaggers and/or plain old Republican electoral tampering. Two Obamas, two Clintons and a Biden have been campaigning on McAuliffe’s behalf, while Cuccinelli’s audiences have, deservedly, been talked at by the likes of Marco Rubio, Reince Priebus, Rick Santorum, the Duggars and Rand Paul.

Speaking of Rand Paul, expect more fun this week centering on his weakness for “borrowing” words and ideas without attribution or shame. If a few more examples of the Senator’s plagiarism turn up, he could be forced to issue a major “clarifying” statement to try and muddy the waters. If it comes to that, I hereby offer him a preliminary draft that he’s welcome to pass off as his own: “I am not a crook and I have not yet begun to fight, or to remember the Maine. It’s been the best of times, it’s been the worst of times, it’s been a date which will live in infamy, but I have nothing to fear but fear itself and I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky. Now, watch this drive and read my lips: no new taxes. For the rich, anyway. Ask not what your country can do for you, but what it can do for me. So long, and thanks for all the fish, and good night and good luck, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are. Oh, and would somebody please tear down this wall?”

Voters in 11 Colorado counties get a chance to weigh in tomorrow on whether they want to secede from the state. One of these rural (meaning Republican) counties would supposedly become part of Wyoming, while the other 10 would form a new state called North Colorado or Brigadoon or something.

Chris Christie is the odds-on favorite to win another gubernatorial term in New Jersey tomorrow, so certain of victory that he spent part of Saturday afternoon indulging in one of his favorite activities, publicly belittling a constituent. Christie wagged his finger in the face of teacher Melissa Tomlinson, who says he told her, “I’m tired of you people.” A Christie staffer later disputed the quote, so you just know Tomlinson described it accurately. Once safely sworn in for another term, Christie will immediately forget about New Jersey and turn his attention to a presidential run.

Boston’s mayoral election is also happening tomorrow, with last-minute polls still showing a tight race between Democrats Martin Walsh and John Connolly, and a significant number of voters still undecided. New York City, by contrast, will shock nobody by electing Bill de Blasio to succeed Michael Bloomberg; a poll released this morning shows the Democrat leading GOP opponent Joe Lhota by 41 points. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 11/4/13

Take Five (Stool for Scandal edition)

ONE: Living for the City

My erstwhile hometown North Miami was supposed to elect a new mayor on May 14, but no winner has yet emerged, ballots are still being recounted, and the air is thick with innuendo and accusations of skullduggery. So far, nothing unusual for a Florida election, but this particular election has expanded the frontiers of weirdness in other ways.

Candidate Anna Pierre, who likes to refer to herself as a princess and who once had a hit song in her native Haiti, claimed that someone placed voodoo artifacts – “candles, food and dolls with pins stuck in them” – outside the door of her campaign headquarters on Easter Sunday. She also filed a complaint with police over the alleged theft of 50 campaign signs, and claimed that she had received phone calls telling her to abandon her candidacy.

The malevolence arrayed against her could only be countered with some sort of godsend, and she got one in the form of what she called “a spiritual endorsement” from none other than Jesus Christ. In spite of that, she finished dead last in the field of seven candidates. While she didn’t publicly express disappointment that Christ’s backing had failed to secure her a win, Pierre had plenty to say about other topics on her Facebook page:

The results are in. The administration screwed me big time…. They claimed I only have 56 votes – YOU CAN BELIEVE THEM IF YOU WANT

I do, as it happens, but I confess to admiring Pierre’s deep commitment to the truth, which actually prompted her to revise her post midway through:

To this, I’ ll make a correction – since I voted for myself also – I will say that I AM GIVEN ONLY 55 VOTES FROM ALL THE BALLOTS THAT WERE CAST FOR ME.

So is she bitter about her defeat? It’s actually a little hard to tell, but the caps do hint at some degree of discomfiture:

NOT ONLY I AM COVERED UNDER THE BLOOD OF JESUS…I AM SWIMMING IN IT. MY JESUS HAS CONTROL OVER MY LIFE & THE TITLE OF MAYOR DOESN’T DEFINE WHO I AM AS A PERSON. NORTH MIAMI CHOSE “LUCIEFER” OVER JESUS.

Pierre generously left her dozens of supporters with one potential consolation, at least:

Keep my campaign flier as a souvenir. It might worth a lot one day.

Well, maybe. If a grilled cheese sandwich with a fuzzy image of the Virgin Mary on it can fetch $28,000 on eBay, I suppose anything’s possible. Despite Pierre’s difficulties, she’s had it easier than at least one of her rivals, who got punched in the mouth:

Officers arrested Blaise Felix, 58 [May 7] at the campaign headquarters of candidate Jean Marcellus, after an attack that left the candidate with a bruised lip.

“We were just talking, he just attacked me and threw the punch and you can see the damage,” said Marcellus, pointing to his swollen lip…

[Campaign worker Louis] Ricardo also said Felix lunged for a knife that was laying on a snack table, but was tackled by other campaign workers.

Candidates Kevin Burns and Lucie Tondreau came in first and second, respectively, and will advance to a June 4 runoff, but first, a recount is underway at the behest of third-place finisher Joseph Smith, who, like Marcellus, believes that votes have gone missing. Marcellus contends that 746 absentee ballots have vanished, although election officials claim there was a simple clerical error and that no votes have disappeared.

Assuming the recount finds nothing nefarious, will the runoff result in a clear winner? It’s Florida, of course, so nothing is guaranteed, but if neither James Baker nor David Boies is spotted in the vicinity over the next few weeks, I’ll take it as a good sign.

TWO: Boy Wonder

Next time around, North Miami might want to consider emulating Dorset, Minnesota, which chooses its mayor by drawing a name from a hat. The current mayor, Robert “Bobbie” Tufts, seems to have a firm though surprisingly small hand on the municipal tiller. Tufts is four years old, but don’t for a second underestimate him:

“He’s amazing. He’s just completely amazing,” said Kathy Schmidt, whose family has lived in the area for four generations. “He’s right in your face and well-spoken. You can’t imagine what a ball of fire he is.”

Tufts’ one-year term is up in August, when the 22 citizens of Dorset will meet again to draw another name. What’s next for Hizzoner? Fishing, dancing and singing, probably. It’s a pity he can’t be persuaded to relocate to South Florida, but he probably wants to finish kindergarten first.

THREE: Dark Horse’s Ass?

Republicans face a difficult choice for the 2016 presidential election: go with a lackluster but known commodity (Tim Pawlenty, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee) or nominate a callow, intemperate know-nothing who will spend most of the campaign trying to keep his or her feet out of his or her mouth (Rand Paul, Kathy McMorris Rodgers, Bobby Jindal). Personally, I think their dream candidate is already waiting noisily in the wings. He’s a Southerner, he’ll be a young-but-not-too-young 48 in ’16, he’s as dumb as a jar of paint thinner, and his views on a wide variety of issues are shaped by a caustic combination of appalling bigotry, misinformation, arrogance, rudeness, spite, and a complete inability to show remorse. Like I said, a dream GOP presidential candidate. His name is Stacey Campfield.

The state Senator from Tennessee has “graced” this column several times in the past, first for getting banned from Nashville’s Bistro at the Bijou because its owner, Martha Boggs, found his blatant homophobia objectionable. She described Campfield as “an embarrassment to the state” and noted:  “He’s really gone from being stupid to dangerous.” More recently, I commented on Campfield’s outrageous scheme to slash TANF benefits to families whose kids perform unsatisfactorily in school, a saga that ended (for now) with Campfield putting a hold on his bill shortly after being bested in a battle of wits with an eight-year-old girl.

Campfield’s newest political performance art happening was inspired by the University of Tennessee’s first annual Sex Week. He was scandalized – scandalized! – by reports of louche and lascivious activities at the event, including: “A lesbian bondage expert and a campus-wide condom scavenger hunt…”

Why, even the names of some of the events seemed calculated to drive uptight conservatives sprinting for the fainting couch:

“Getting Laid,” “Sex Positivity; Queer as a Verb,” “Bow Chicka Bow Woah,” “How to Talk to Your Parents About Sex,” “Loud and Queer,” and “How Many Licks Does It Take…” – a workshop about oral sex.

But even Campfield realizes he can’t just clamber up on a soapbox and scream about how icky sex is, so when university president Joe DiPietro appeared at a Senate subcommittee hearing last Thursday, Campfield resorted to the dependable tactic of using “fiscal responsibility” as a fig leaf for his mutated version of Victorian social conservatism, maintaining:

… the issue is “forcing students to pay for speech they find objectionable.” He cited as an example a “transgender cross-dressing show” during the April week of events.

“If someone wants to dress up like a duck, God bless them. But I shouldn’t have to pay for it.”

Campfield also took the opportunity to pout about a list of guest speakers at the university over a three-year period, a roster he claimed consisted mostly of “a whole lot of ‘left.’”

In other Campfield news this week, a 2008 Democratic candidate for the state House had a libel suit against Campfield thrown out, but has filed notice of appeal:

Campfield… blogged before the 2008 election that he had heard candidate Roger Byrge had multiple drug arrests, and that the mug shots were “gold.” It was later determined the arrest record belonged to Byrge’s son.

The suit was tossed by a – surprise! – Republican judge on the grounds that Campfield didn’t know that what he posted was false. Appeal or not, Campfield blithely continues to use his blog to offend, insult and demean, as he did with an April 21 post entitled “Here comes Feinstein again,” which consisted of a cutaway graphic of an “assault pressure cooker” with sarcastic captions describing its component parts; the bottom handle is a “tactical pistol grip,” the top handle a “folding stock,” and the body of the cooker itself is described as “evil, black.”

Campfield followed up this laugh riot with an appearance on CNN’s Piers Morgan Live, where he commented:

“We’re talking about an inanimate object that does nothing by itself,” said Campfield comparing a firearm to a pressure cooker. “It does absolutely nothing by itself just like a pressure cooker does absolutely nothing by itself.”

“The joke was really about the left and how they push for gun control on inanimate objects just like pushing for spoon control for obesity, it doesn’t do anything.”

If you think that’s a knee-slapper, just wait until Campfield’s acceptance speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention. Continue reading Take Five (Stool for Scandal edition)

Hooking Up the Wrong Way

Have Republicans forgotten they were elected to govern? Not when it comes to money and power. Money, especially. It’s being used in South Carolina to raise support for Lindsay Graham, up for reelection next year, by touting an immigration solution that matches his work with the Senate bill introduced by the Gang of Eight. Now in committee, the bill is the object of scorn by Alabama’s Jeff Sessions. But Graham says he, “believes in it with all his heart.”

The same 501(c)(4) money supporting Graham opposes Vincent Sheheen, a Democratic candidate for governor, a moderate from an established political family, the kind of Democrat that once won easily in South Carolina, as Bill Clinton once did in Arkansas. A 30-second commercial opposes Sheheen by saying he wants South Carolina to be the only Southern state to accept Obamacare. The spot openly touts the region’s solidarity with regression.

Win or lose, Republicans have put buzz words in place. Now at the state level, voters hear the bell and respond. This is one reason why Republicans repeatedly raise Benghazi. It’s not only to tie Hillary Clinton to the incident, but to pound into it a connotation of failure, weaknesses and cowardice. Hence the angry testimony of State Department officers in a recent hearing which added nothing to what was known except more reports and confessions of anger.

The white men expressed their anger at being told troops would add to the confusion, especially when conditions were not clearly understood. The Republican purpose is to add anger and fear—to turn Benghazi into a brand like Obamacare. All one need do is hear the word, and a parade of negatives immediately comes to mind for the uninformed majority.

If Benghazi is in, military sexual assault is out. Silence reigns about a problem so severe that both males and females in a US uniform are more likely to be sexually assaulted than killed in combat. The Republican concern for mission-readiness and discipline so displayed when gays were allowed to serve openly does not extend to violence and force within inter-gender (and intra-gender) relationships.

Any civilian organization facing year-on-year statistics for sexual assaults at the level of the military would be gravely criticized and shut down. Yet the focus of Congressional national security is on e-mails about Benghazi talking points, while the rampant, growing, out-of-control epidemic of military sexual assaults undermines military working order—widespread reports cite the difficulties of working with your rapist—and puts the nation’s security at risk. And brings home a lot of hurt.

Last year, 26,000 assaults were committed, by the military’s own score. The Air Force Chief of Staff discussed it in a Senate subcommittee hearing as the result of a “hook-up” culture. Yet the Air Force’s officer in charge of the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention was charged two weeks ago with groping an unknown woman in a Virginia parking lot, and was arrested by civilian authorities. Yesterday, the Army reported the arrest of an officer at Fort Hood, a Texas base, who was the Sexual Assault Prevention Office Coordinator. He is being held on multiple charges of abusive sexual misconduct.

Outrage? The tempest over revised talking points and e-mails also ignores three of the most important global developments in recent weeks: the factory fire in Bangladesh that left more than 1,100 workers dead, calling into question issues of global working conditions and safety; the massacres in Northern Nigerian villages by the Nigerian army; and the conviction of Guatemala’s former president and military dictator, 86-year-old Efrain Rios Montt on charges of genocide. Continue reading Hooking Up the Wrong Way

Stormy Monday, 4/15/13

After the President rolled out a 244-page budget last week that I’m told consists solely of the words “chained CPI,” I doubt the coming week will offer up comparable oddities, but I’ve been wrong before.

At least a little oddly, it seems the Senate might produce some bipartisan gun legislation yet. Illinois’ Mark Kirk and Maine’s Susan Collins have signaled support for the Toomey/Manchin compromise bill expanding background checks to internet and gun show purchases, albeit with a “personal transfer” exemption that rolls out a plush red carpet for the tragic headlines of tomorrow. Debate on the bill will move ahead after a filibuster was averted by a 68-31 vote on Thursday. While this all sounds encouraging, any Senate gun bill will likely be shot dead by the House.

The full Senate might also be presented with a proposal that would provide a defined path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who entered the United States on or before December 31, 2011 (and renewed fear of deportation for those who arrived a day or more later). A new guest worker program for farm workers has reportedly attained bipartisan consensus in the eight-senator group trying to hammer out a comprehensive immigration bill. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 4/15/13

Clinton Presidential Library provides contrast to Obama's transformative presidency

Last month, I visited the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock. It was my second visit since its opening in 2004 so it was nice to see it again, this time with completed grounds and the nearby Heifer International headquarters. It’s worth a visit if you haven’t been.

While walking through the exhibits, I thought back to Obama’s comments during the ’08 primary about the need for a more transformative presidency. He argued the Democratic party needs a President like Reagan, who changed the trajectory of American politics, as opposed to someone like Bill Clinton, who did not.

Some liberal blogs and Hillary Clinton’s campaign tried to gin up outrage by accusing Obama of praising Reagan’s conservative agenda. But, when touring the Clinton Library, it’s easy to see what Obama really meant.

Most of the accomplishments Bill Clinton brags about were undone within a year of George W. Bush taking office.

The Clinton budget surplus became Bush’s record deficits. Responsible fiscal and tax policies that were more fair to the middle-class were scrapped for Paris Hilton tax cuts and government run on credit card debt. Strong job growth gave way to the Bush recession. His reduction in the crime rate ended as soon as the next recession hit. A time of relative peace and good relations with most of the world was squandered by Bush’s war of aggression that made the United States more hated than it has ever been.

In contrast, the damaging aspects of the Clinton presidency are more enduring. Trade agreements destroyed the American manufacturing sector. Clinton’s lending and financial deregulation, done near the end of his presidency, contributed to the housing mortgage collapse. Deregulation left the media in the hands of a few mega-corporations, limiting the diversity of viewpoints in news and homogenizing American culture. All of these were touted as accomplishments in the Clinton Library.

Plus, one can’t ignore Clinton’s adoption of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the Defense of Marriage Act, his failure to take meaningful action on climate change, and his lack of effort in pushing for universal health care after the ’93 failure. The truth is that Obama isn’t just cleaning up Bush’s mess. He’s also fixing the damage done by Clinton.

If Obama’s first-term accomplishments are defended against future efforts to dismantle them, they will profoundly change America. Consider:

  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
  • Obamacare
  • Reducing dependence on oil
  • Saved the US auto industry from collapse and pushed them to modernize their gas-guzzling fleet
  • Most significant re-regulation of Wall Street, lending, and credit cards since the New Deal
  • Largest investment in clean energy and efficiency projects in American history
  • Ended a war, began deescalation of another, and reduced the world’s nuclear weapons stockpile
  • Taking student loans back from the banks
  • Half a dozen EPA rule changes that will reduce pollution from coal

These are accomplishments progressives spent years fighting for; that previous Presidents have attempted and failed to achieve. The impact of these actions will be felt decades from now. If Obama goes on to effectively deal with climate change, he can easily be listed among the most effective Presidents in American history.

The difference can also be seen in how Obama advocates for progressive ideals. Obama often pushes progressive proposals in language that appeals to moderates. The fact that he’s still advancing progressive ideals is sometimes lost on the netroots, who would rather be pandered to with fiery Kucinich-style speeches. Continue reading Clinton Presidential Library provides contrast to Obama’s transformative presidency

Take Five (Yes, Virginia edition)

ONE: Suppose They Gave a Primary and Nobody Came

A funny thing happened on the way to March 6. That’s the date on which Virginians will cast their vote in the state’s Republican primary, and the funny thing is that Newt Gingrich, a Virginia resident who has recently been at or near the top in virtually all GOP polling, couldn’t come up with the signatures needed to get on the ballot. Just to add to the fun, neither could Rick Perry, Jon Huntsman, Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann.

Instead, Virginia primary voters will have to choose between the only two candidates running campaigns savvy and organized enough to have qualified: Ron Paul and Mitt Romney. Their rivals simply couldn’t meet the state’s dauntingly stringent qualifying requirements, which include finding 10,000(!) Virginians conservative enough to sign a Republican nominating petition, with a minimum of 400(!) signatures gathered from each(!) of the state’s Congressional districts, a Sisyphean task made even harder by the shocking stipulation that those gathering signatures in the state must be qualified Virginia voters(!), just like Virginia resident Newt Gingrich.

The Perry team supposedly submitted almost 12,000 signatures by the filing deadline, while the Gingrich campaign claimed 11,050, but sufficient signatures were found to be invalid to sink both bids.

Gingrich, that longtime veteran of the Party of Personal Responsibility, immediately started pointing his surrogate’s finger at others. In a Facebook post which will live in infamy, campaign director Michael Krull stated:

“Newt and I agreed that the analogy is December 1941. We have experienced an unexpected set-back, but we will re-group and re-focus with increased determination, commitment and positive action. Throughout the next months there will be ups and downs; there will be successes and failures; there will be easy victories and difficult days – but in the end we will stand victorious.”

Hmm. Stirring stuff. Krull tersely noted that the campaign is “exploring alternate methods to compete in Virginia – stay tuned.” Actually, one such alternate method was invoked to no avail in a statement last weekend:

Krull said Gingrich… will pursue “an aggressive write-in campaign” to appear on the ballot.

The only problem with that being that write-ins are prohibited on Virginia primary ballots, something that Newt Gingrich (who – it bears repeating – is a Virginia resident) might have known if only he’d ever paid any attention to something other than himself.

But Krull’s larger point remained: Newt is not to blame! It’s society’s fault, man:

“Only a failed system excludes four out of the six major candidates seeking access to the ballot. Voters deserve the right to vote for any top contender, especially leading candidates.”

By yesterday, Newt must have realized the “failed system” gambit wasn’t working, so he abruptly switched scapegoats:

… the former House speaker said the “mistake” occurred because one of their workers committed fraud.

“We hired somebody who turned in false signatures. We turned in 11,100 – we needed 10,000 – 1,500 of them were by one guy who frankly committed fraud.”

At this rate, a few more days and he’ll be claiming to have uncovered evidence of an ACORN connection.

Mitt Romney hurried to ridicule his opponent:

“I think he compared that to Pearl Harbor,” Romney said of the Gingrich campaign’s failure to get on the Virginia ballot, which the former speaker’s adviser called a “set-back.”

“I think it’s more like Lucille Ball at the chocolate factory,” Romney said. “You’ve got to get it organized.”

Well, that’s clever enough, though as one CNN reader commented: “Nothing says relevance like references to a black & white, long off-the-air sitcom.” We’ll just leave Mitt to his cynicism. Krull has already reassured Gingrich’s Facebook followers that the campaign “will continue to learn and grow,” and I for one can’t wait. It’s over two months away, but next year’s Super Tuesday is already shaping up to be the most super ever!

TWO: A Candidate Named Sue

Unlike Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry’s not the sort of petulant guy who would throw an adolescent fit about not making the Virginia ballot. He’s the sort of petulant guy who would file a lawsuit over it:

“Gov. Perry greatly respects the citizens and history of the Commonwealth of Virginia and believes Virginia Republicans should have greater access to vote for one of the several candidates for President of the United States,” Perry campaign spokesperson Ray Sullivan said in a statement.

The suit challenges “the constitutional validity of the Virginia statute which regulates access to the ballot by presidential candidates and limits the rights of voters to vote for the candidate of their choice,” the campaign said.

Perry’s filing (PDF available here) claims:

20.              Virginia’s requirement for petition circulators to be either eligible or registered qualified voters in the state imposes a severe burden on Plaintiffs’ [sic] freedoms of speech and association because it substantially limits the number of eligible petition circulators.

21.              Virginia’s requirement for petition circulators to be either eligible or registered qualified voters in the state is a severe burden on Plaintiff’s freedoms of speech and association because it prohibits an otherwise qualified candidate for the Office of the President of the United States from circulating his own candidate petitions.

22.              Virginia’s requirement for petition circulators to be either eligible or registered qualified voters in the state prohibited Plaintiff from recruiting petition circulators who live outside the Commonwealth of Virginia to circulate petitions on his behalf.

Amusingly, Exhibit F to the filing is a web page printout from foxnews.com featuring an AP report about Perry failing to make the ballot.

Now, I’m not one of those activist judges Perry’s always railing about except when he wants one to find in his favor. In fact, I’m not a judge at all, but if I were, my rulings with regard to the above would be pretty much as follows:

20.              Virginia’s requirement for petition circulators to be either eligible or registered qualified voters in the state limits the number of eligible petition circulators to a maximum of roughly 5,000,000 people, based on available tallies by the Virginia State Board of Elections in 2008 and excluding several years of population growth, thereby imposing no demonstrable burden on the Plaintiff.

21.              The inability of the Plaintiff to find a sufficient number of petition circulators from a pool of roughly 5,000,000 people suggests that a significant number of Virginians might dispute the Plaintiff’s claim to be a “qualified candidate for the Office of the President of the United States.”

22.              It is undeniable that Virginia’s requirement for petition circulators to be either eligible or registered qualified voters in the state prohibited the Plaintiff from recruiting petition circulators who live outside the Commonwealth of Virginia to circulate petitions on his behalf, but the Court is frankly baffled by the Plaintiff’s willingness to believe that people from other states like him any better than Virginians do.

In layman’s terms, suck it up, Rick. Case dismissed.

THREE: Pop Charts

Gallup released its annual year-end “Most Admired” lists on Tuesday. Hillary Rodham Clinton tops the list of most admired women for the 10th consecutive year, earning a nod from 17% of survey respondents, while Barack Hussein Obama, also at 17%, is first on the men’s list for the fourth consecutive year.

The President had no meaningful competition for top slot; placing a very distant second on the men’s list, at 3%, was George W. Bush, which I interpret to signify that respondents were nearly six times more likely to admire someone who cleans up messes than someone who makes them.

Sharing 2% were Billy Graham, Bill Clinton and Warren Buffett. Steerage on this little ego voyage was occupied by Donald Trump, Bill Gates, Pope Benedict and Newt Gingrich with 1% each, along with President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Thomas Monson, a ranking not approached by the two Mormon presidential hopefuls.

Oprah Winfrey placed second to Secretary Clinton at 7%, with the First Lady a couple of points back at 5%. From there, the women’s list meanders down into murkier territory, with the bottom five names on the list each at 2%. These last include Queen Elizabeth, Margaret Thatcher, Ellen DeGeneres, Laura Bush and none other than Michele Bachmann, who makes the list for the first time, proving perhaps that if you’re in the news sometimes, by gosh, someone’s going to admire you. Continue reading Take Five (Yes, Virginia edition)

Sunday Talks, 10/23/11

The death of deposed Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi and the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq by year’s end are the pressing issues on this Sunday’s television talk shows.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appears on . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 10/23/11