Sunday, April 24, 2011

If Words are Stricken from the Congressional Record, Were They Ever Uttered in the First Place?

You know the saying: "If a tree falls in the forest but nobody heard it fall, did it make a sound?" Well what if a Senator says something on the floor of the Senate, his words are recorded, and then those words are quietly removed from the record at a later time? Did he actually utter those words?

Ask Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) who said the following during debate over the FY2011 budget deal: "Everybody goes to clinics, to hospitals, to doctors, and so on. Some people go to Planned Parenthood. But you don’t have to go to Planned Parenthood to get your cholesterol or your blood pressure checked. If you want an abortion, you go to Planned Parenthood, and that’s well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does." Realizing that the Senator was way off in his accounting, Kyl's staff walked back Kyl's statement a few hours later noting that his remarks were "not intended to be a factual statement but rather to illustrate that Planned Parenthood, an organization that receives millions in taxpayer dollars, does subsidize abortions." And several days later, Kyl's office had his remarks removed from the Congressional Record altogether.

Hat Tip: Political Wire

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Origins of the Birther Nonsense

Politico does a great job this week of walking readers through the beginnings of the birther movement. For those of you who do not know what the birther movement is, they are the nutjobs and conspiracy theorists who are convinced that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States (Hawaii to be specific) and is therefore ineligible, based on the Constitution's qualification requirements, to serve as president. This is a topic of never-ending frustration for me and I have written about it a couple times before (here and here).

Politico shows that the birther movement actually began when Obama first ran for a a U.S. Senate seat in Illinois: "The original smear against Obama was that he was a crypto-Muslim, floated in 2004 by perennial Illinois political candidate and serial litigant Andy Martin. Other related versions of this theory alleged that Obama was educated in an Indonesian “madrassa” or steeped in Islamist ideology from a young age, and the theories began to spread virally after Obama appeared on the national stage – to the casual observer, from nowhere – with his early 2007 presidential campaign announcement."

The rumors were taken to a new level by supporters of Hillary Clinton during the 2008 presidential primaries: "As Obama marched toward the presidency, a new suggestion emerged: That he was not eligible to serve. That theory first emerged in the spring of 2008, as Clinton supporters circulated an anonymous email questioning Obama’s citizenship."

From there the lunacy has evolved and continues to thrive as GOP presidential and congressional candidates and elected office holders alike either subscribe to the birther conspiracy theory or do nothing to discount it. The disturbing part of the birther craziness is not that some fringe conspiracy theorists believe it's true. From the 9/11 Truthers to the fake moon landing adherents, there will always be a lunatic fringe who believe such conspiracy theories. However, when you have people running for president who start banging the drum, using conspiracy theories to rally the faithful, there's a problem. Donald Trump seems to be banking much of his early unofficial campaign on this madness. And when 45% of Republicans say they believe President Obama was not born in the United States and another 22% of Republicans aren't sure where he was born, that is downright scary.

So why does this notion of Obama's birth trouble so many Americans? Frankly, I think when you boil all this down to its core, it comes down to race. President Obama doesn't look like the 42 presidents who preceded him. He is a man of color. Even in the 21st Century, there are many white Americans who have a huge problem with that. And to them I say: too bad. Get over it. Disagree with his policies. Vote against him in 2012 if you so decide. White males no longer hold a monopoly on the White House so deal with it. Our first Hawaiian president is also our first president of color. In the future, this will be more and more commonplace. And what menagerie of conspiracy theories will be created then?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mama Grizzly: Out of Her Cave

Politico Arena Topic: Is Palin-mania Dying Out?

Don’t worry, Mama Grizzly was just hibernating for a spot. While she was resting she saw interlopers Michele Bachmann and Donald Trump getting all the attention by committing Mama Grizzly-type gaffes and making Mama Grizzly-style outlandish statements. That woke her out of her slumber. Mama Grizzly and her pack are back now, on the prowl. The big game-following media will have no problem spotting her from now on…

Permalink to Politico Arena comment

Trump: Seriously?

Politico Arena Topic: Just How Serious is Donald Trump for President?

Donald Trump should be taken seriously if only because he has two things going for him which are critical for making a successful run for higher office: money and name recognition. Often, wealthy candidates such as Ross Perot had to use their money to boost their name ID. Not Trump. People know the name. In a Gallup Poll taken last month, 98% of respondents had at least heard of Donald Trump. Unfortunately for him, they also know the Trump brand. You know—the real estate mogul who has had multiple wives, television shows, and has never met a camera he won’t pose for. He’s a divisive figure. The negatives in that same Gallup Poll were higher than the positives. And that’s before opposition researchers have had much of a chance to start culling his public and private statements, business dealings, and personal life. Oh how those oppo researchers are salivating at a chance to pick him apart.

It’s no secret that Trump has been courting the Tea Party and other anti-establishment folks with his public conversion to the birther cause. This is no accident. It’s strategic. The Republican establishment will never warm to him. As I have said in this forum before, Trump’s easiest way onto the presidential stage may not be through the GOP primary thicket. Instead, his pockets may be deep enough and his ego large enough that he may fancy a third party/independent run for the White House. Trump needs these folks for either an insurgent Republican primary campaign or an independent run. And the folks at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and at Obama’s campaign HQ in Chicago are quietly rooting for him.

Politico Arena comment

Monday, April 18, 2011

Putting Himself on the Presidential Radar: Paul Ryan and the Federal Budget

Republicans clearly had the upper hand when negotiating the FY2011 budget. Democrats were forced to go more than halfway to avert a government shutdown. However, Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) has handed President Obama and the Democrats a huge gift in the form of his FY2012 budget proposal by taking on Medicare—a programm made far more expensive when Republicans rammed through Part D in 2003 and tied the federal government’s hands in negotiating drug prices. Seniors and soon-to-be seniors vote. Even anti-government seniors like their government-run Medicare. It’s one of the reasons Ryan’s budget is DOA.

But Ryan’s proposal is much less about the budget than the 2012 election as Republicans will argue that they are the sober, responsible party addressing America’s debt problem. Democrats will counter that Republicans are trying to balance the budget on the backs of America’s seniors and middle class. I think Democrats win that argument. As for Paul Ryan, himself, he knew exactly what he was doing. By placing Medicare in the bull’s-eye, Ryan looks like a gutsy deficit hawk, putting himself on the map. I have no doubt that Ryan will be one of those mentioned as a possible vice presidential running mate for the GOP nominee in 2012 or a presidential contender himself in 2016 if Obama is reelected.

Permalink to Politico Arena comment

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tim Kaine, Macacas, and Sharron Angle Redux

Politico Arena Topic: Will Obama Help or Hurt Tim Kaine?

Tim Kaine will make a formidable Senate candidate, and regardless of his GOP opponent, will have a decent chance of keeping the Virginia seat in Democratic hands. It will be anything but a cakewalk, however. If former Senator George Allen gets the Republican nomination, Kaine would have his hands full as Allen is a skilled and experienced campaigner. But an Allen nomination would ensure that the term “macaca” will again enter into our everyday lexicon as the infamous “macaca incident” will be retold and replayed countless times by the media and the Kaine campaign. Tea Party candidate Jamie Radtke, on the other hand, is a complete wild card. Who knows how she would hold up in a full-blown run for the U.S. Senate? Would she be Sharron Angle redux?

As DNC chair and former governor of Virginia, Kaine will not lack for funds. He will have the money to fully contest the seat. Whether or not President Obama will help or hurt Kaine’s chances will in large part be based on how the economy is performing. If the economy continues to improve and the unemployment rate continues to drop, Kaine’s chances will be good. If we are headed for a double-dip recession as some analysts fear, Kaine and Obama are in serious political trouble. One thing is absolutely certain, both parties will be all-in to win the Virginia seat. It should make for a hell of a show.

Permalink to Politico Arena comment

Friday, April 1, 2011

John Boehner: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Politico Arena Topic: Boehner Cornered by GOP Frosh?

Speaker of the House John Boehner is caught between a rock and a hard place and Democrats have purposely placed him in that uncomfortable position. After all, with the GOP demanding $60+ billion in cuts and Democrats willing to meet them halfway, in a normal time and place a deal would get quickly done. But this is not a normal time we live in and the political waters are more toxic than the cast members’ hair on Jersey Shore. The pressure on Boehner and establishment Republicans from Tea Party freshman in the House is especially intense.

In the end, however, a government shutdown could be a catastrophe for the GOP especially given the Democrats public willingness to meet them halfway. Establishment Republicans also remember how they were blamed for two government shutdowns during the Clinton era. Boehner and the House leadership know these things all too well. My best guess is that Boehner will cobble together enough votes to pass a FY2011 budget acceptable to Democrats and the White House either before a shutdown or shortly thereafter. To do otherwise would court disaster for the GOP as current polling has shown that the brief romance the American public had with the GOP during the 2010 election is over. It is in everyone’s interests, except perhaps House Tea Party folks hell-bent on making a name for themselves, to put the FY2011 budget crisis behind them so they can begin the same exercise for the FY2012 budget.

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