The 2014 Values Voter Summit wrapped up Sunday in Washington, and Omni Shoreham Hotel staff must be working hard to expunge the building of the heavy stench of gunpowder and cliché. Like previous editions, this year’s version was a consummate freak show with a gaggle of grotesques worthy of Todd Browning, but even speakers making their second, third or fourth appearance seemed to bring a little extra Republican bile, guile and vile to the festivities this time around.
The theme this year was “Defending the Dream, Defining the Future,” a phrase so vague it could be used for a corporate training seminar, a high school valedictory address, or a Shriners convention. But VVS organizers know what they’re defending and defining; they proudly state their intention is to “inform and mobilize citizens across America to preserve the bedrock values of traditional marriage, religious liberty, sanctity of life and limited government that make our nation strong.”
Yes, that’s right. The same snake oil they’ve been peddling since the first iteration of the conclave back in 2006. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s terse description of the VVS really summarizes it much better: “An annual political conference bringing together some of the most extreme groups on the religious right.” That includes host organization and lead sponsor, the Family Research Council (which the SPLC calls a hate group), along with other America-hating organizations like Liberty Counsel (shouldn’t that be “council”?) and the American Family Association (which wants to destroy your family, if you’re gay).
But of course the real, ahem, elephant in the room is, as always, the Republican Party, which coyly maintains no “official” connection to the VVS even as elected Republicans madly stampede to its podium year after year to pander, preen and pose. Why, there’s even a presidential straw poll conducted, which purulent demagogue Ted Cruz topped for a second consecutive year, with up-and-coming conservative clod Ben Carson a close second and perennial pious pseudo-Christian Mike Huckabee a distant third.
As always, though, the real “attraction” was the speechifying. The Values Voter Summit showcases more know-nothing arch-conservative blowhards than any venue outside the even bigger freak show known as the United States House of Representatives, and VVS speakers don’t even have to make a pretense of obeisance to parliamentary decorum. Nor do attendees, who seem to spend much of their time whooping like gibbons on nitrous oxide. Thanks to the event’s video archives, which get sadly more generous every year, we can all experience the horror of being at an event we wouldn’t actually be caught dead attending.
The “values voters” were thrilled by lame duck Congresswoman and future convicted felon Michele Bachmann, who described herself, unasked, as “a normal, real person.” She decried the bailout that saved the automobile industry as “gangster government,” said that the “trillion dollar” stimulus that prevented the economy from collapsing “didn’t work so well,” and bragged about introducing “the very first repeal bill” against Obamacare.
She waxed nostalgic about her “deep dive into the leading foreign policy and national security issues of our day.” She also griped about Benghazi, the Bergdahl prisoner swap, and Iran “racing toward completing nuclear weapons,” called Barack Obama “the first anti-Israel President in American history,” averred that Hillary Clinton will be defeated in 2016, and thundered that “it is never too late to save the country.” The fierce urgency of whenever, you might say.
Ted Cruz smirked more than anyone I’ve ever seen not named Bush. He called Obamacare a “disaster,” which I suppose it is if you hate seeing the number of Americans without health coverage drop by 26% and counting. He made a Cat in the Hat joke harking back to his ludicrous “faux-libuster” last year, to show how charmingly self-deprecating his handlers have coached him to be. He served up a tasteless quip about the White House fence-jumper (which he admitted he stole from Jimmy Fallon), and then added one of his own. He called for a debate between Hillary Clinton and the Little Sisters of the Poor. He called the Democratic Party an “extreme radical party.” In short, he said not a single truthful, worthwhile or remotely intelligent thing. Naturally, the crowd loved his speech.
Rick Santorum has appeared at every one of these things so far, and so most of his speech was heavily recycled from his previous heavily recycled speeches. He spent a little of his time hawking his upcoming book, Bella’s Gift, about raising a special needs child. (Will Bella’s gift be saving her old man from having to get a real job for yet another year? Probably not, but we’ll see.) Santorum called the President “a descendant of the French Revolution,” which – bien sûr – was a refreshing change from years of ridiculous allegations about Kenya. Mostly, though, he stuck with the self-evident and obvious, as in his observing at one point that: “You don’t have any Baptist ministers going on jihad.” Continue reading A Good Year for the Poses
Rand 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
ONE: It’s All Over Now, Sacre Bleu
The first edition of this column, three years ago today, began with an item about Bob Dylan’s handwritten lyrics for “The Times They Are A-Changin’” selling for $422,500. Last week, the Stratocaster Dylan (possibly) played at the ’65 Newport Folk Festival fetched $965,000, a world record auction price for a guitar. The previous record was for another Strat, formerly belonging to Eric Clapton, which sold at auction in 2004 for $959,500.
The guitar was sold by a New Jersey woman named Dawn Peterson, whose father, Victor Quinto, had been a pilot employed by Dylan’s then-manager Albert Grossman. Quinto claimed the Strat and two other guitars were left on his plane, and that his attempts to contact Grossman about them got no response. After the guitar was authenticated in 2011 by experts from PBS’ History Detectives, Dylan initiated legal proceedings (since settled) to get it back, although he disputed its Newport connection:
“Bob has possession of the electric guitar he played at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965,” his attorney, Orin Snyder, said in a statement. “He did own several other Stratocaster guitars that were stolen from him around that time, as were some handwritten lyrics.”
Dylan is now enmeshed in legal proceedings of a different sort, having been charged in France with “public insult and inciting hate.” The charge stems from comments he made in a 2012 interview, comments that did not sit well with the Council of Croats in France:
“If you got a slave master or Klan in your blood, blacks can sense that. That stuff lingers to this day. Just like Jews can sense Nazi blood and the Serbs can sense Croatian blood.”
The Council of Croats is demanding that Dylan “present an apology to the Croatian people.” The charge was filed a couple of days prior to Dylan becoming an Officier of the Légion d’Honneur.
TWO: The Liar Next Time
Rand Paul says he’s “seriously thinking” about a presidential run. His wife doesn’t want him to do it, but his father thinks he “probably will.” And, you know, why the hell not? Last time around, Republicans tried hard to convince the nation that the likes of Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, the aforementioned Ron Paul, and – most outlandishly – Mitt Romney were actually suitable candidates for the Oval Office. Other than that improbable thatch of pubic hair on his head, Rand Paul’s not significantly worse or weirder than any of them. Or is he?
Paul already has a surefire plan to get unemployed Americans back to work. He wants to cut off their benefits:
“When you allow people to be on unemployment insurance for 99 weeks, you’re causing them to become part of this perpetual unemployed group in our economy,” he said on Fox News Sunday. If the unemployed stopped receiving benefits sooner, they would be back to work sooner, he suggested.
Wow! It’s genius, I tells ya, and it’s the kind of approach that could be extended to all sorts of issues. Cut SNAP benefits and people will immediately hunt their own meat and grow their own crops. Get rid of Medicare and the elderly won’t get sick anymore. Cut education funding and we’ll reap a generation of self-taught geniuses. Cut police budgets and crime will be a thing of the past.
Give Rand Paul the presidency and watch the country circle the drain. Continue reading Take Five (100th edition)
Tomorrow, 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
Will HHS Secretary Sebelius fall on her sword? Will Websitegate force Barack Obama from office? Will Republicans ever shut their damn mouths and concentrate, for once, on doing something positive, rather than devoting all their time and tons of public money to futile attempts at de-legitimizing this President? No, no, and hell no.
After initial refusals, followed by scheduling issues, it now appears that Secretary Sebelius will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday. Expect majority members on the Committee to grandstand vigorously, hoping to compile some tasty video clips they can use for next year’s reelection efforts when they try to convince their constituents to save them from having to go and earn an honest living for another two years.
Wednesday morning, the 29-member Conference Committee holds its first meeting on the budget. Can Democrats and Republicans agree on a way forward? Can anything actually get done? Well, one thing that might get done this week is the passage of a House resolution formally giving the President a wag of the finger for having the colossal temerity to suspend the debt ceiling until February 7. Laissez les bipartisan temps rouler! Continue reading Stormy Monday, 10/28/13
With the House and Senate now shuttered until September, anyone seeking a quick fix of foolishness this week will have to look beyond the Beltway. Ames, Iowa would be an ideal place to start.
On Saturday, Ames hosts the second annual “FAMiLY LEADERSHIP SUMMIT,” where you’ll be able to hear a variety of speakers each “address a ‘singular’ and ‘major’ threat to America and to America’s families, along with the opportunity for leadership solutions to these threats,” and maybe even find out why “The FAMilY LEADER” organization exempted the “i” from their all-caps name. For a mere $49, you can savor speakers such as washed-up actor Stephen Baldwin, washed-up politican Rick Santorum, and tufted pink windbag Donald J. Trump, and your boxed lunch is included. I have no inside info, but I’m guessing that the “singular” and “major” threats to America will include minorities, gay people, SNAP recipients, Girl Scouts and Democrats.
If that shindig seems insufficiently compelling, you might consider Tuesday’s fundraiser for New Hampshire Republicans in Wolfeboro, headlined by someone named Mitt Romney, who apparently has a summer home there. It seems not all fools and their money are soon parted; as of this writing, there are still $1,500 VIP tix available.
Deputy Secretary of State William Burns has just wrapped up another Cairo trip after discussions with various Egyptian politicians and interest groups, and conjoined twits Lindsey Graham and John McCain are likely to head there this week at the behest of the Obama Administration. If their efforts falter, I hope the President sees fit to send reinforcements, like maybe the other 44 members of the Senate Republican Conference. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 8/5/13
This afternoon, the Senate will probably attempt a vote on an omnibus amendment to the comprehensive immigration bill, following last week’s agreement on inclusion of border security measures. If the amendment passes, the bill moves one large step closer to Senate approval. This coincides with a TV ad sponsored by the US Chamber of Commerce debuting today, featuring Rand Paul and Marco Rubio (and someone named Paul Ryan) pitching the need for reform to skeptical Republican viewers. Presumably, Rubio was plenty hydrated before the cameras rolled.
Yesterday, Paul told CNN’s Candy Crowley that the failure of his proposed amendment granting Congress final authority to decide if border security is adequate will lead him to vote against the bill. Pendejo.
Speaking of immigration, Edward Snowden is said to be seeking asylum in Ecuador, aided by legal advisers provided by WikiLeaks. The leaker’s passport has supposedly been revoked, but he traveled to Russia on Sunday from his previous fastness in Hong Kong.
Tuesday, Massachusetts voters will fill John Kerry’s Senate seat with either Democratic House veteran Ed Markey or self-described “moderate Republican” Gabriel Gomez. The latest polls put Markey up by eight to 12 points, which Gomez tacitly acknowledged on Fox News over the weekend by discussing his intention to make another run for office if he loses this one.
With Congress as useless on climate change as it is on most other issues, the President will lay out a series of executive measures in a Tuesday speech at Georgetown University. Details of the speech have been closely guarded, but the fate of the Keystone XL Pipeline will apparently not be part of the subject matter, and might not be announced until 2014. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 6/24/13
One glorious June afternoon in 1990, I was thrilled to be part of a huge crowd assembled outdoors to hear Nelson Mandela speak about freedom and justice, just four months after his release from what was then called Victor Verster Prison. His condition is currently described as “serious but stable” as he fights a lung infection. Please join me in sending good vibes to a very great human being.
A vote is expected early this week on S.954, the Senate’s farm bill, which will cut SNAP benefits by $400 million a year, a reduction already approved by 28 members of the Democratic majority. The Republican House majority is pressing for even larger cuts.
After weathering some asinine posturing by House Republicans on Thursday and some transparently timed bleating from Senators Cornyn and Rubio on Friday, the comprehensive immigration bill crafted by the bipartisan so-called Gang of Eight is expected to move to the Senate floor this week. Over the rest of the month, 100 eager contestants – including New Jersey Republican Jeffrey Chiesa, newly appointed by Chris Christie as a placeholder for the seat of the late Frank Lautenberg until an October special election – will each whip up a rhetorical soufflé from equal parts high-minded boilerplate and stale constituent catnip. Tasty!
Friday, Vermont’s Patrick Leahy, a good man who seems strangely unaware that stalling is what Republicans reflexively do whenever Democrats are in the majority, urged Republicans to stop stalling the bill. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 6/10/13
ONE: “Please run for president. Please run for president.”
They nominated an entitled, anti-charismatic corporate raider whose positions change with the tides and whose religion is considered by much of the party’s base to be a cult, and they still can’t seem to shake off their amazement that they failed to regain the White House. Nevertheless, Republicans are already desperately rummaging around for their next presidential contender, and they might want to be careful what they wish for.
Donald Trump has apparently spent about a million bucks on “electoral research” in advance of a possible 2016 run. Although he routinely overstates his net worth, this kind of money is no big deal to Trump, and of course we’ve all seen this reality show before, when he hinted and flirted and teased about thwarting a second Obama term before finally endorsing Romney, so perhaps there’s nothing to this beyond typical Trumpian hot air. Or maybe this is how he gets revenge for being dumped from the program at the Republican National Convention. Or maybe he’s serious, in which case it’ll be a groove watching the party scramble to cut him off at the knees.
With no apparent awareness of the irony, Trump recently told a gathering of the Oakland County Republicans in Michigan:
“Everybody tells me, ‘Please run for president. Please run for president.’ I would be much happier if a great and competent person came along.”
TWO: Ventura Biway
But what if an even more egregiously self-aggrandizing blowhard came along instead? Former Minnesota Governor and inveterate clod Jesse Ventura was in Saint Paul last Friday to honor a retiring State Patrol sergeant, and mused about an independent run in 2016:
“… 2016 is an opportune moment because there’ll be no incumbent,” he told reporters after the reception. “I believe one issue that would carry me to victory … I would give the people of America to their first opportunity to elect a president who doesn’t belong to either party, since George Washington.”
Or at least their first opportunity since 2012, when the last spate of deluded independents threw their hats in the ring to no avail. If a Ventura candidacy might worry The Donald at all, the Star Tribune has some reassuring words for him:
The fact that [Ventura] lives in Mexico much of the year and that he would want shock-jock Howard Stern as his running mate suggest that this seed might never germinate.
And if it ever does, Candidate Trump could just tap Gary Busey for his running mate, and the balance of kitschy weirdness would be instantly restored.
THREE: Yawn Top of the World
As for that entitled, anti-charismatic corporate raider I mentioned above, he and his arrogant, peevish, spectacularly insincere spouse are back in the news, because… well, frankly, I have no idea why. Perhaps they’re already tired of playing with their car elevator.
Mitt is currently hosting a two-day something-or-other in Park City, Utah, attended by Chris Christie and Paul Ryan, among others. Ann, meanwhile, recently talked to CBS, vaguely, about possible ’16 nominees:
“There are some great candidates out there and, you know, I think Mitt and I are always very, very partial to Paul Ryan but, you know, we don’t even know if he’s going to run… but there are some good candidates.”
Mitt had his own interview with the Wall Street Journal, and talked, vaguely, about his personal life, which sounds a little like a Habitrail: Continue reading Take Five (Party Down edition)