The Supremes Swing to the Right

We’re The Supremes!

The Supreme Court handed down their last decisions dealing crippling blows to the reproductive rights of women and labor unions. Liberals are taking some small comfort in a blistering 35-page dissent by Justice Ginsburg’s but the reasoning of the losing minority of a Supreme Court decision matters only for a day or so and then it belongs to the legal scholars and history books.

The Hobby Lobby case got all the ink and headlines because it’s a horrible slap at women and their reproductive rights, but the conservative majority stuck it to labor unions too. If these two traditionally Democratic voting blocs still want to sit on their hands (and wallets) after the gut punches Roberts and company handed them, they deserve whatever dark plans the Republicans have in store in for both of them should they retake the Senate and hold the House.

While today’s pair of horrible decisions might seem like distinct issues, in fact they are both part of a larger war on women and workers.

The absurdity of the Hobby Lobby decision (only contraceptives are exempted for religious beliefs because of sluts) is obviously part of the Republican war on women, but it is also very much a war on the poor. An IUD costs about a month’s worth of wages at the minimum wage. If an executive can’t get birth control because her employer gets too hot and bothered thinking of her having sexy time, she can afford it on her own. A Hobby Lobby floor worker? Probably not. For women workers at closely held corporations, this decision will be devastating.

The Harris case is specifically about home care workers in Illinois. Who are home care workers? Women. Poor women. Lots of African-Americans, lots of Latinos, lots of undocumented workers. Home care workers are a major emphasis for SEIU right now; a close friend of mine has spent over a decade on a campaign to organize them in one city alone. Harris threatens all of this. But moreover, it shows how little Alito and the boys care about rights for women wherever they are. It’s hardly coincidental that this case comes down the same day as the contraception mandate. The Court evidently believes that the home is not a workplace, but of course it is a workplace, especially if someone is getting paid to do work. That it is women working in the home, as it has always been, just makes it easier for conservatives to devalue that work.

Of course, it’s about more than just working women and it opens the door for Alito and Roberts’ continued desire to mandate the New Gilded Age, so no doubt we will see new challenges to public sector unionism that will probably reach the Court in 2016 or maybe 2017 at the latest. I am not a legal expert, but my guess as to why Abood wasn’t overturned entirely is that there wasn’t 5 votes for it yet.

Regardless, both of today’s decisions are very much about keeping working women without power both on the job and at home.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, U.S. Supreme Court justice.

“What? Me Retire?” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Also, when we hear in 2016 that both parties are the same because of [insert pet issue here] and therefore vote for vanity third party candidate, let us remember this day and these decisions. If you think Strip Search Sammy Alito and Ruth Bader Ginsburg are the same, you might want to rethink your positions.

Indeed.

What matters most and in fact the only thing that matters to those disappointed, dismayed and disgusted with how the Court came down in these cases is Justice William Brennan‘s Rule of Five where Brennan would hold up five fingers to his clerks and say, ”Five votes can do anything around here.”

Brennan was a prophet and the Roberts Court is the proof of it.

From 1801 to 1940, less than 2 percent of the Supreme Court’s total rulings were resolved by 5-to-4 decisions. Since then, more than 16 percent of the Court’s rulings have been decided by “minimum-winning coalitions.” In the two most recent Courts, more than a fifth of all rulings were decided by 5-to-4 votes.

Scholars consider these narrow decisions the most political. Research indicates that 5-to-4 rulings are the most likely to be overturned by later Courts. They carry the same legal authority as more unanimous opinions — but not the same moral authority. In this vein, the one branch of government designed to be above partisanship echoes the rise in hyperpartisanship seen throughout Washington.

The Roberts Court has decided more cases by a 5-to-4 ruling (about 21.5 percent) than any Court before it, though only by a narrow margin. The previous Court, led by William Rehnquist, decided 20.5 percent of its cases by this minimum coalition. That rate, however, represents roughly twice the share of 5-to-4 rulings in the Stone Court, during World War II. And the Stone Court had more than three times the rate of 5-to-4 decisions of any Court prior.

Roberts noticed the trend early in his term. “I do think the rule of law is threatened by a steady term after term after term focus on 5-4 decisions,” Roberts told The New Republic’s Jeffrey Rosen in 2006. “I think the Court is ripe for a similar refocus on functioning as an institution, because if it doesn’t, it’s going to lose its credibility and legitimacy as an institution.”

Justice Ginsburg is 81. Stephen Breyer is 75. With the Court’s term over, the speculation will begin again will either one retire while President Obama and a Democratic majority are still in power? It’s doubtful for multiple reasons.

Neither Ginsburg or Breyer’s departure tips the Court’s ideological balance. But what if Antonin Scalia (78) or Clarence Thomas (66) were to get a sudden itch to go fishing’ or spend more time with their families? Or just leave the Supreme Court to try out for The View?

Okay. It’s not gonna happen. Scalia and Thomas will announce they’re secret lovers before ever they allow Obama to appoint their replacements.

But even if one of the Justices were to suffer an untimely demise, there’s no way a Republican-controlled Senate would allow Obama to tip the axis of power of the Court to the liberal minority.

This is the current membership of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Do you think there is anyone Obama could nominate Al Franken and Ted Cruz would both vote for?

As far as Brennan’s Rule of Five goes this is a battle the Left lost years ago and it may take many years before they begin to win any.

But the last people I want to hear from are the smug elitists and professional cynics who say “there’s no difference between the Democrats and Republicans.” Yeah, sure. Look at how the justices selected by Democratic and Republican presidents voted and tell me that one again.

Don’t tell me you’re appalled (or even surprised) by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority deciding corporations have more rights than women. Tell me what you’re going to DO about it. The first thing is to vote and keep the Senate in Democratic control. That is, unless you want Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell telling President Obama whom he will allow to sit on the Supreme Court when a vacancy opens up.

"Me?  And justice?  Now THAT'S funny!'

“Me? And justice? Now THAT’S funny!’

Harry Blows Up the Senate to Save the Senate

Hey Republicans, don’t be mad you didn’t do it first.

Imagine you’re a member of the U.S. Senate and you’re part of the Democratic majority, but you’re a moderate, firmly in the mainstream and the farthest thing from a bomb-throwing ideologue.   You don’t dislike all of your Republican colleagues on the other side of the aisle.  Hell, you might even like some of them more than the feckless Harry Reid or the smug Charles Schumer.

You came to Washington for a reason and it sure wasn’t to sit there on your hands because there is no legislation that can pass and no presidential nominee that can be confirmed because a simple majority isn’t enough to do it.  It requires a super-majority of 60 votes to get anything done and what it takes to get those 60 votes is sometimes a price too high to pay.

Take a real good look at Mitch McConnell, folks.  This is nobody’s romantic daydream.  How many times would you want to have to kiss that ass?

The president’s nominees to fill three vacancies on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals were blocked from an up-or-down vote by the GOP’s refusal to allow one. The Ninth Circuit is second only to the Supreme Court in the importance of the cases it hears. The president’s ability to appoint judges to the federal judiciary is perhaps his most lasting legacy and the Ninth Circuit is where many future Supreme Court nominees come from. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) led the charge to keep Obama’s nominees off the Ninth Circuit saying they weren’t really needed (as if Grassley would be saying the same thing had Mitt Romney won) and he in effect dared Harry Reid to go nuclear.

The reason the GOP opposes everything.

Reid called Grassley’s bluff and by a 52-48 vote (with three Democrats defecting and joining the Republicans)  modified the rules to allow a simple majority to approve presidential nominees and appointments,  but permit the filibuster for legislation and  Supreme Court nominations (which means Ruth Bader Ginsburg had better stay healthy).    Now the president’s nominees will get the vote and presumably the confirmation they should be considered for. It wasn’t a matter of whether they were qualified. It was a matter of the Republican strategy to oppose the nominees because Obama picked them.

The late liberal Senator Paul Wellstone said, “If we don’t fight hard enough for the things we stand for, at some point we have to recognize that we don’t really stand for them.” Republicans have fought very hard to stand in the way of President Obama’s nominees regardless of their qualifications and finally the Democrats grew a collective spine and chose to fight back for what they stand for.

Republicans will fume and fuss and threaten dire consequences for the Democrats when they are in the minority. The Democrats will shrug and say, “Bring it.” It’s not as if there’s much left in the way of bipartisan legislation coming out of the upper chamber before Reid and the Dems dropped the bomb.

The Senate Democrats finally woke up to a fact the Senate Republicans had been hip to for years: the “rules” had ALREADY been changed. The 60-vote super majority worked only so long as senators were willing to compromise. The Republicans don’t do that anymore and have used a rule the Senate made to govern itself to make the Senate ungovernable. What happens next? The Republicans will vote for or against the President’s nominees–as they are Constitutionally bound to do.   The worst part about revoking the ability of the minority to foil the will of the majority is it makes the Senate Republicans do their freaking jobs.

It had to end someday. Sometimes you have to be willing to fight for a short-term gain even if you lose in the long run.

When your computer won’t boot up correctly, videos won’t stream, pages won’t load and the damn thing just sits like a big useless lump that doesn’t work, you can always sit there wishing and hoping and praying it will start working. Maybe if you talk sweetly to the computer and promise how good it is going to be if it just starts working right. Maybe you’ll get lucky and it will start working.

Or you can just reboot the sucker and reset it and see if that gets it to working.

Last November, the Democrats won the presidency and increased the number of Democrats in the Senate. By playing “Let’s Make A Lousy Deal” with McConnell, the Dems permitted the Republicans to grind the Senate to a halt as if they had won.

That was foolish of the Democrats and all it did was embolden the Republicans to oppose ANY nominee no matter how qualified they were.  Reid got tired of playing Robin to McConnell’s Batman. It was time for the Democrats to remember they won the last election and start acting like it.

Mission Obstruct Obama has been a major success.

Mission Obstruct Obama has been a major success.

Of course the strategy has long-term implications, but so what? You don’t think Reid and the Democrats aren’t aware of the blowback from this change if or when the Republicans take control? It was a calculated risk based upon the possible gains versus the probable losses, but the Republican intransigence had reached new levels and there was NO hope they might negotiate on allowing the president’s nominees to receive a floor vote.

The GOP does not want to let President Obama’s judicial nominees to tip the ideological balance of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. They would not have a similar problem if it were Mitt Romney submitting a future Antonin Scalia. This is pure political gamesmanship by Senate Republicans who refuse to acknowledge they lost the last presidential election, so than accept the judgment of the American voters they hide behind a procedural trick to foil their will.

Harry Reid rebooted the Senate. I didn’t think he had the gonads to do it, but I’m glad he did.

The Strange Logic of Obama Haters

barack-obama-vulcan

Your threats to impeach me are highly illogical, but fascinating.

It’s time for this week’s Crazy Republican Idea and it comes by way of Fox Nation turning over a rock as a nobody named Frances Rice and her group of fellow cranks, the National Black Republicans Association who got the bright idea to file articles of impeachment against Barry Soweto, aka. Barack Obama.

The National Black Republican Association (NBRA) based in Sarasota, FL, headed by Chairman Frances Rice, filed Articles of Impeachment against President Barack Obama with the following language:

We, black American citizens, in order to free ourselves and our fellow citizens from governmental tyranny, do herewith submit these Articles of Impeachment to Congress for the removal of President Barack H. Obama, aka, Barry Soetoro, from office for his attack on liberty and commission of egregious acts of despotism that constitute high crimes and misdemeanors.

It’s been  a right-wingnut’s fantasy to impeach Obama.   It’s not going to happen even with this crazy Congress.   The Republicans know the last time they tried this stunt with Bill Clinton they got their ass handed to them.   The same thing would happen now and with Congressional elections coming up in 2014, they aren’t about to fire up the country to rally behind a president being targeted by an overtly partisan lynching.   They would pay a terrible price at the ballot box, so they’ll allow Rice and her fellow Negro malcontents to have their moment in the sun, but this is going nowhere further than one whacked out woman’s fever dream.

frances_rice

Impeaching Obama is not the first dumb idea the NBRA has had.

Rice’s crazy-ass group is based in Florida, where brain cells go to die.   With all the other things he has to be worried about it’s a safe bet the president hasn’t devoted two seconds of thought worrying about the NBRA’s impeachment threat.

Coming from the Left flank, director Oliver Stone, probably missing his dead homey Hugo Chavez, spat a little venom Obama’s way hissing, “Obama is a snake. He’s a snake, and we have to turn on him.”  You mean the same way audiences have turned on your last few movies, Ollie?

It doesn’t hurt the president to be scorned by a has-been like Stone who hasn’t made a good film in since JFK some 22 years ago and a non-entity like Rice whose importance exists exclusively within her own head.   The disapproval of the Right is nothing new for Obama.  They always have viewed him as the Anti-Christ.   The rebuke from the left-leaning fringe is equally unsurprising

People who imprint their own cloudy and unspecific agendas upon Barack Obama are doomed to disappointment when he fails to act on them. Perhaps they are longing for the good ol’ days when Tavis ” Sub-Prime Smiley” would conduct his corporate underwritten State of the Black Union where every problem Black folks ever faced was magically dispersed by talking it to death.

The same people who grumble, groan and gripe about the failure of Obama to advance their agenda are the same ones who have not elected more conscious and proactive Blacks to the House, the Senate or statehouses across America. They fail to back efforts to repeal punitive badly written laws like Stand Your Ground and mandatory drug sentences. They know their rhetoric, but don’t know the names and phone numbers of the Congressional representatives. While White Tea Party right-wingers were sweating their elected officials at hotly contested town meetings where were all the Black folks? Staying home and watching “Love and Hip-Hop?”

When you don’t understand politics you will always be disappointed by how unresponsive politicians are. Why should they be when you aren’t putting money in their pockets or holding their feet to the fire? Some of those disappointed in Obama really thought he was the Far Left Liberal Progressive Radical Centerfold Cornel West originally fell in love with. Truth be told, Obama has always been a moderate and cautious man. When he was in the Senate he didn’t align himself with reformers like Russ Feingold, but traditional pols like Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid. Why would anyone expect a dramatic shift to the Left now?

If Obama assumed the Left would have a hissy fit about how he ran things, but still vote for him, he assumed correctly. The only alternative as the Republicans have been body-snatched by their most extreme elements is to stay home, vote for a Third Party loser or hold your nose and hope for that Change to come. Most of us have faced reality and gone with the Least Bad Choice.

“Obama is a snake and this helmet looks dumb as hell.”

I understand and I even share some of the discontent with President Obama as those who can’t stand him. But faced with a racist, reactionary Republican opposition and a occasionally soft, easily pushed around, but frequently effective Democrat, my choice is clear, if not always easily made.

In 2009, writing in The Progressive in an article entitled “How To Push Obama”, John Nichols wrote:

After his election in 1932, FDR met with Sidney Hillman and other labor leaders, many of them active Socialists with whom he had worked over the past decade or more. Hillman and his allies arrived with plans they wanted the new President to implement. Roosevelt told them: “I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it.”

Maybe the problem with Obama not making your dreams come true is you never made him do it.

Mr. Cruz Goes To Washington (To Burn it Down)

“Yes, I am a snotty bastard. Glad you noticed.”

There are many ways to become well-known as a U.S. Senator.  You can be a grinder, a workhorse who shuns soundbites on Sunday morning talk shows to busy yourself doing the dirty work of writing legislation.   You can wrap yourself up in the business of providing support for the folks back in your home state.   You can learn the rules of the Senate and take the time to build working relationships with both sides of the political aisle.

Or you can say, “screw that,” and become well-known for being a jerk.   That’s where Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) comes in.   With sharpened elbows and a nasty disposition guaranteed to annoy your allies and outrage your enemies.   There is a reason freshman Senators are often treated like children underfoot. They either don’t know or don’t care what the protocols are of the Senate. Guys like Cruz prefer throwing a sharp elbow and being a royal pain in the ass.

Cruz is a Princeton debating champion, Harvard Law School graduate, law clerk to the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and the former solicitor general of Texas.   He’s not dumb.  Just nasty.  He just goes about things in dumb ways such as his slimy attack on Chuck Hagel during his confirmation hearings to become Secretary of Defense.  “We do not know, for example, if he received compensation for giving paid speeches at extreme or radical groups,” Cruz told the Senate Armed Services Committee before it voted to approve Hagel’s nomination. “It is at a minimum relevant to know if that $200,000 that he deposited in his bank account came directly from Saudi Arabia, came directly from North Korea.”

That unsubstantiated slam against Hagel’s character earned Cruz a rebuke from John McCain.  McCain ended up voting against his former Republican colleague, but shot down the junior senator from Texas when he said of Hagel, “no one on this committee should at any time impugn his character or his integrity.”

Cruz’s bare-knuckles approach  doesn’t do much more than  calling attention to how much of a jack-ass he is.   We saw how much of mule’s patootie Cruz really is when he used a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting as an opportunity to lecture Diane Feinstein about the Constitution.   What followed was a very public display of irritation with the upstart freshman.

“Would she consider it constitutional for Congress to specify that the First Amendment shall apply only to the following books and shall not apply to the books that Congress has deemed outside the protection of the Bill of Rights?” Cruz said, speaking to Feinstein.

“Likewise, would she think that the Fourth Amendment’s protection against searches and seizures, could properly apply only to the following specified individuals, and not to the individuals that Congress has deemed outside the protection of the law?”

Pointing her finger and glaring at Cruz, Feinstein shot back.

“One, I’m not a sixth grader,” Feinstein said. “Senator, I’ve been on this Committee for 20 years. I was a mayor for nine years. I walked in and I saw people shot with these weapons.

“I’m not a lawyer,” she added, “but after 20 years, I’ve been up close and personal with the Constitution. I have great respect for it. … So I, you know, it’s fine you want to lecture me on the Constitution. I appreciate it. Just know I’ve been here for a long time.”

“I thank you for the lecture. Incidentally, this does not prohibit — you used the word ‘prohibit’ – it exempts 2,271 weapons. Isn’t that enough for the people of the United States? Do they need a bazooka? Do they need other high-powered weapons that other people use in close combat? I don’t think so.”

What a snot-nosed, swaggering rookie like Cruz probably doesn’t know is while he’s trying to score rhetorical points with the Fox and Friends crowd, Feinstein wasn’t just blowing smoke when it comes to having first-hand familiarity with gun violence. She could have lectured her caustic colleague of the bloody events that led to her becoming the mayor of San Francisco. Namely, the murders of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk.

Feinstein doesn’t suffers fools or Ted Cruz.

Feinstein went on CNN and to explain her angry reaction to Cruz’s condescending remarks.

“Well, I just felt patronized,” Feinstein told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “I felt he was somewhat arrogant about it. When you come from where I’ve come from and what you’ve seen, when you found a dead body and put your finger in bullet holes, you really realize the impact of weapons. And then as you go up the technical ladder with these weapons, and they become more sophisticated, and more the product of a battlefield, and you’ve got these huge clips, or drums of 100 bullets out there that people can buy, when you see these weapons becoming attractive to grievance killers, people who take them into schools, into theaters, into malls, you wonder, does America really need these weapons? My answer to that is no. And so it’s based on my experience.”

None of this phases Cruz who seems to revel in starting new fires as soon as the previous ones are put out.   There’s no chance a nervy punk like Cruz learns anything remotely resembling humility or even simple manners from Feinstein setting him straight. That would take a degree of class Cruz shows no signs of possessing.

That’s okay. There have always been terrible Senators like him and they usually find themselves isolated by their own rudeness, offensive ways and arrogant attitudes. Cruz isn’t even the biggest asshole from Texas serving in Congress. Not as long as Louie “Terror Babies” Gohmert is gibbering like a drunken hyena in the House.

As a senator, Cruz has six years to make a complete fool of himself. He should pace himself.

Ted hangs out with the Palins. Now you know why he’s such as ass.

The Character Assassination of Susan Rice by the Coward John McCain

“I love it when an evil plan comes together.”

Susan Rice was hounded by the yapping attack dogs of the Right.   After weeks of being destroyed by the lynch mob mentality of the Right-wing media and cowardly Republican senators, Rice gave in and formally requested to President Obama not to chose her as as the next Secretary of State.    They were probably hi-fiving in the Senate cloakroom.  They dragged her reputation through the mud with John McCain, playing the part of Torquemada calling out  Rice as, “not very bright.”

Not very bright? Susan Rice was the valedictorian of her high school class, graduated from Rice attended Stanford University, where she received a Truman Scholarship, and graduated with a B.A. in history in 1986 and was also elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

Not very bright? Rice was awarded a Rhodes scholarship and attended the New College in Oxford. She served in the Clinton Administration most notably as a member of the National Security Council and as the Assistant Secretary for African Affairs. She later would join the Brookings Institute.

Not very bright? Her tormentor John McCain graduated from the Naval Academy 894 out of 899. In 2008, he thought Sarah Palin was very bright and qualified to be the Vice-President of the United States.

I don’t have a prejudice against old White men. I have a prejudice against one specific old White man who destroyed a highly qualified and intelligent Black woman based upon nothing more but his repulsive ego, poisonous pride and nauseating vanity.

For the role he played in the destruction of Susan Rice, John McCain is a reprehensible human being.

Characterizing John McCain as an Angry Old White Man is not racist or ageist, and it is not an admission of bias toward White men.  Angry, old, or otherwise.

Too Black, too strong, too much for McCain.

It is accurate.

John McCain is angry. He has a history of displaying his temper in public.

John McCain is 76. That’s old.

John McCain is a White male.

Point of fact: John McCain is an Angry Old White Man.

I see how McCain has treated Rice and I see racism and sexism.  Calling Rice “not very bright” when she clearly extremely bright and “unqualified” when her education, experience and training makes her superbly qualified isn’t simply McCain being obtuse. He’s been that way for some time now.

This runs deeper. This runs to his resentment about the young upstart who defeated him in his last bid for the presidency and how resolute and committed an adversary of President Obama he has made himself.

McCain’s relationship with Obama was frosty during his brief time in the Senate and the two men have maintained their adversarial relationship. They still don’t like each other.  Like, at all.  McCain is a relic of a different age where guys like Obama deferred to guys like him. The fact that he had his ass handed to him by Obama must burn like acid.

Enter Susan Rice. The perfect patsy for McCain to twist the knife in Obama just a bit deeper.

There’s no higher principle here. Republican senators have ignored security concerns at U.S. embassies for years and McCain didn’t call for Watergate-style hearing when Republican administrations lost people overseas. If he can read, McCain knows Rice was merely stating the case as presented to her without all the intelligence included. He just doesn’t care.

That’s where McCain’s ugly racism and misogyny kicks in.

This is just payback. Denigrate an otherwise qualified woman as nothing but an affirmative action hire to stick it to her boss that was considering putting her name up for promotion.

The politics of personal destruction win again as brought to you by the 2008 presidential election loser.

In the absence of a more convincing argument about why John McCain went after Susan Rice with such vehemence, I’ll stick to the most obvious one.

Those who have taken umbrage at contention have yet to offer a better one. At this point, I don’t think they have one.

DeMint Takes His Hardball and Cashes Out

Whatever it is you're for, I'm probably against.

Whatever it is your for, I’m probably against.

 “If we’re able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.”
~ Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) on opposing the president’s health care reforms.

I wanted to find a picture of Jim DeMint and Barack Obama.  You know, just a standard pic of the two politicians smiling for the cameras even while they’re thinking,  “Damn but I can’t stand this guy.”  The thing is  there are no pictures of the two together.    Jim DeMint does not like a lot of people and he would probably cut his right hand off before he would ever shake Barack Obama’s hand.   It’s  personal for DeMint.  It’s not just business.

Then again, the list of who the conservative kingmaker dislikes is a long one and doubtlessly has as many Republicans as it does Democrats.   DeMint is resigning to head up the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank and will likely see a substantial six-fold pay boost in his salary.

DeMint didn’t create the incivility, the gridlock and overall dysfunction of the Senate, but he sure didn’t mind helping it along either.   As the Tea Party’s man in the upper chamber of the legislative branch, DeMint saw his job not to make Congress work better, but for it to not work at all.

Giving credit where credit is due: DeMint understood the arcane rules of the Senate and realized he could accomplish through procedure what the Republicans lacked in numerical advantage.

However, DeMint sneered at the idea of compromise and stressed absolute ideological purity even when it meant taking out his fellow Republicans such as Robert Bennett, Richard Lugar and nearly Orrin Hatch. Their crime? Being willing to work with Democrats.

The members of the Senate that will miss DeMint the least aren’t the Democrats but Mitch McConnell and the Republican caucus.

DeMint has been silent on how public of a role he’ll play in electoral politics over the next two years, and its unclear whether his new position at Heritage, a not-for-profit organization that is barred from playing in politics, will limit his ability to openly push for candidates.

Nevertheless, DeMint’s departure means he could play a pivotal role in the 2014 mid-term elections — either as a conservative kingmaker or as a spoiler who backs ideological pure but fundamentally unelectable candidates, as he did in 2010 with Christine O’Donnell.

And unlike the last two cycles, when DeMint’s activities were constrained by his promise not to target colleagues in primary races, he will be free in the coming months to pick and groom primary opponents to incumbents in the Senate.

"Need a replacement Senator?  I'm your boy!"

“Need a replacement Senator? I’m your boy!”

Remember, this is the guy who said he would prefer the GOP stay in the minority with “30 Marco Rubios than 60 Arlen Specters,” a moderate Republican that DeMint lined up in his crosshairs. As it turns out, Specter went rogue and switched over to becoming a Democrat rather than take on a Tea Party primary challenger DeMint was supporting, but the message was clear:   to create a GOP caucus that was faithful to his brand of ultra-conservatism, DeMint would not hesitate to go after other Republicans he felt were too soft and accommodating the Democrats.

Once again in 2014, the Democrats have more of their incumbents trying to defend their seats, but an unleashed DeMint may be more worrisome to Republican senators who he considers insufficiently conservative.   DeMint has been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2016, but hasn’t said if he’s considering it.  If the GOP selects someone too moderate for his taste, you can expect DeMint or a surrogate to mount a challenge from the Right.

As far as his replacement goes, DeMint is supposedly bullish on Rep. Tim Scott, the other African-American elected as a Republican to the House in 2010 along with the just defeated Allen West. Another Tea Party type, Scott is just as far to the Right as West, but not nearly as prone to put his foot in his mouth.

If chosen by Governor Nikki Haley to finish DeMint’s unexpired term,  Scott would be the first Black Republican from the South in the upper chamber since Reconstruction.   Big deal.  Scott is just another Tea Bagger right-winger.   When he won the election to the House in 2010, he declined an invitation to join the Congressional Black Caucus.   “While I recognize the efforts of the CBC and appreciate their invitation for me to caucus with them, I will not be joining at this time,” Scott said.  “My campaign was never about race.”

Even a tool like West joined the CBC.   During the 2011 clash over raising the debt ceiling, Scott warned the president might face impeachment if he invoked a clause in the 14th Amendment to by pass Congress.   “This president is looking to usurp congressional oversight to find a way to get it done without us. My position is that is an impeachable act from my perspective.”

If chosen to replace DeMint, much will be made of the historical nature of Scott’s appointment.   Much less attention will be paid to how he is little more than DeMint in blackface.

That’s a prospect that remains to be seen if it become reality.   I can respect DeMint’s unshakable commitment to conservative principles, but I despise his legacy of obstructionism and contempt for the beliefs of others.

"How big of a pay raise am I getting?  THIS big!"

“How big of a pay raise am I getting? THIS big!”

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Has Todd Aiken Screwed the GOP With “Legitimate Rape?”

McCaskill may have found the one Republican she can beat.

Normally, no one but a political junkie would pay much attention to a Missouri Republican candidate for the Senate has to say about abortion.   What Todd Akin sad was far from normal.   Even for experience campaign observers  Akin’s candid response left their jaws crashing to the floor.

First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare,” Akin told KTVI-TV in an interview posted Sunday. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

“Legitimate rape?”   Rape is an ugly crime of hate and violence.  What’s almost as ugly is how pigs like Akin trivialize it to exert their moral authority over a woman’s body.  

Akin’s ill-considered remarks set the race in Missouri on its ear and Republicans in full-blown panic mode as Democrats pounced on the gaffe.   The Republican National Committee said it would not provide funds for Akin’s attempt to unseat Claire McCaskill,  the vulnerable incumbent for control of a Senate seat the GOP desperately wants to wrest from the Democrats.     The calls for Akin to quit the race began almost immediately.

Akin is telling anyone who will listen that he’s in the race, but he’s running out of listeners. Today, even Sean Hannity said he needs to quit.

The G.O.P. needs to pick up four seats to retake the Senate and Claire McCaskill in Missouri is one of the most vulnerable Democrats out there. She was losing to all the Republican challengers before Akin won the primary. They can find a replacement with no sweat, but if Akin hangs on, with the national money drying up, McCaskill could hang on.

That wouldn’t make Karl Rove or the Kochs very happy. The elephant stampede from Akin isn’t because he’s a stupid asshole, but because he might screw up Mitch McConnell’s wet dreams of becoming Senate Majority Leader. Politics trumps decency. Same as it always was.

Bad boy. He’s gotta go.

The Republicans are hoping Akin will drop out and allow them to replace him. Probably with someone not as stupidly insensitive about rape, but likely better at hiding it.

Unless Akin drops out, McConnell could stay in the minority.

Which isn’t to say he doesn’t have his defenders   “This is an effort to try to direct attention away from…Claire McCaskill, who has been supportive of Planned Parenthood – an organization that’s been under investigation for criminal activity,” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said.

Akin’s candidacy got an unexpected boost from Democrats who poured a million dollars into ads attacking the GOP favorite, businessman John Brunner and a second challenger backed by Sarah Palin.

It was a political calculation to want the weakest and least electable Republican to run again a vulnerable Democrat. McCaskill was losing to all three of the Republicans in the primary and chose to boost the candidacy of Akin, the one she was losing to by the smallest margin.

If Akin wins the strategy will blow up in the face of McCaskill and the Democrats. If she wins because she suspected or hoped Akin would screw himself, then it was a brilliant move. Either way, she had to choose from the best of nothing but bad options. She chose the least worst one.

at the end of the day, Todd Akin is still a Republican. Akin’s idiocy gives McCaskill something she didn’t have a few weeks ago–an opening and a classic screw-up she can exploit. Akin’s repugnant views are being condemned by the GOP not because they find his view so repulsive. They don’t and his ignorant views aren’t out of the Republican mainstream, but they’re afraid Akin staying in will blow one of their best shots for a Senate pick-up.

You won’t find Mitt Romney or any other national GOP leader saying jack about that because that would mean they would have to accept blame for supporting this babbling fool in the first place–the way Paul Ryan did after Akin won the primary.

“Todd Akin has been a great asset to the House Budget Committee,” Ryan said in a joint press release last November with fellow House leaders, including NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions, and Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan. “His principled approach to fiscal responsibility is exactly the kind of leadership America needs and I appreciate his hard work.”

The Democrats may have given Akin a boost, but it was Republicans who gave him their support. He’s their boy and their problem.

 

Burning Down the House (and the Senate Too)

“Wanna go steady and hunt commies together?”

One of my favorite war flicks is Patton and as portrayed by George C. Scott in an Oscar-winning performance, the old “blood n’ guts” general was tough, ruthless, focused like a laser beam on crushing his enemies and showing up his rivals.   The fact that he was egotistical, vain, and maybe a borderline sociopath doesn’t deflect from George S. Patton’s brilliance as a military leader.

I can’t imagine Patton being effective in anything less than wartime conditions.  What works on the battlefield would be disastrous anywhere else and particularly the “no retreat, no surrender” hardline stance.  This is why the Republican Party’s “take no prisoners and make no compromises” view of how politics should be played seems to be no Republican son-of-a-bitch can win by treating the Democratic son-of-a-bitch as an enemy to be obliterated.   Even though politics is said to be war without bloodshed, without the possibility of compromise it becomes every bit as brutal as war.

Two intellectuals, Thomas Mann and Norman J. Orenstein penned a very popular column for The Washington Post (which you might want to read before proceeding) and their central premise is our government is broken and if Republicans didn’t break it, they are vested in keeping it broken.

Rep. Allen West, a Florida Republican, was recently captured on video asserting that there are “78 to 81” Democrats in Congress who are members of the Communist Party. Of course, it’s not unusual for some renegade lawmaker from either side of the aisle to say something outrageous. What made West’s comment — right out of the McCarthyite playbook of the 1950s — so striking was the almost complete lack of condemnation from Republican congressional leaders or other major party figures, including the remaining presidential candidates.

It’s not that the GOP leadership agrees with West; it is that such extreme remarks and views are now taken for granted.

We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.

“Both sides do it” or “There is plenty of blame to go around” are the traditional refuges for an American news media intent on proving its lack of bias, while political scientists prefer generality and neutrality when discussing partisan polarization.

Many self-styled bipartisan groups, in their search for common ground, propose solutions that move both sides to the center, a strategy that is simply untenable when one side is so far out of reach.

An endangered species meets the president

It is clear that the center of gravity in the Republican Party has shifted sharply to the right. Its once-legendary moderate and center-right legislators in the House and the Senate — think Bob Michel, Mickey Edwards, John Danforth, Chuck Hagel — are virtually extinct.

The essay (which has been “liked” and shared over 100,000 times on Facebook, tweeted more than 2,400 times and received up to 5000 replies before the WaPo website stopped counting) is taken from the authors book It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism. The popularity of the piece probably will sell a few more copies than a book with a clunky title normally would.

The idea that Washington has become a place where not much get done isn’t a new one. Post columnist Dana Milbank points out the House of Representatives has been in session only 41 out of 127 days in 2012 and will be on vacation for 17 of the remaining 34 weeks. On the rare occasions the House members are in town it’s only for three days.

Nice work if you want to call that work (to be fair, Milbank notes that over in the Democratic-run Senate…of the 87 votes, the majority were on just three bills: 25 on the highway bill, 16 on the postal bill and 13 on an insider-trading bill. Sixteen others were on confirmations.

What’s the problem with a Congress where nothing much gets done because one party considers “compromise” a dirty word (I see you over there Don)? If the GOP is successful in taking back the Senate and holding on to the House this fall you can bet you’ll see a lot more legislation than the 106 passed so far by the 112th Congress.

Even if President Obama wins reelection, if he finds he’s going to have to send congratulations to Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell he’s going to go through a lot of veto pens and Rolaids.

Even if you think a dysfunctional Congress that can’t pass anything but the most inoffensive and menial bills where its members regard the other side not simply as wrong on issues, but un-American isn’t a bad thing, there is no reason for anyone but the most blindly partisan to even run for office.

Why bother if you are a Democrat, you can’t reach across the aisle to your Republican colleague when he or she believes they were sent to Congress to spit in that hand. Allen West, whom Mann and Ornstein name-check has called his own Congressional representative, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, “vile” and “not a lady.” What the hell could they ever work together on to mutually benefit the people of Florida?

Let’s take the Republicans at their word the government really is the enemy. Is it really surprising they seemingly have no interest in assisting in the smooth functioning of an institution they don’t believe in? If a house divided against itself must fall how long before a bitterly rancorous House falls apart and brings the Senate tumbling down with it?

Lying liars telling lies.