This post originally appeared on Think Progress. For the past year, Florida GOP Senate candidate Marco Rubio has been the model tea party candidate, receiving one of the first endorsements from Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R-SC) Senate Conservatives Fund (DeMint has called Rubio “the most impressive conservative leader I have met in a long time.”) Rubio has raised more money from the movement than any of his fellow tea party-backed candidates. But after his challenger, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (I), decided to run as an independent instead of as a Republican, Rubio has been “breaking with some Tea Party orthodoxy” in order to win over moderate voters that might now side with Crist, the New York Times reports. In an interview, Rubio’s rhetoric was noticeably tamer than in the past:
The solution isn’t just to paralyze government,” Mr. Rubio said in an interview as he traveled the state last week from here in the Panhandle to Miami. “Vote for us because you couldn’t possibly vote for them? That’s not enough. It may win some seats, but it won’t take you where you want to be.” [...] “I am not running for the United States Senate because I want to be the opposition to Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid,” he replied in a measured tone. “I’m running for Senate because I want to create an alternative.” [...] Does anything impress him about President Obama? “Yeah, there’s a lot,” Mr. Rubio said. “Obviously his personal story of someone who didn’t come from wealth is a testament not just to his tenacity, but to America. I just strongly disagree with him on public policy.”
Rubio also “did not agree with flashpoints Republican candidates elsewhere have seized on.” He said he doesn’t “want Arizona to serve as a model for other states” when it comes to immigration, and said advocating for changing the 14th Amendment, as many Republicans have, “is frankly is not the highest and best use of our political attention.” When asked for his own views on immigration, Rubio broke with his party’s absolutist sloganeering on the issue, saying his position “doesn’t fit on a bumper sticker so bear with me,” before launching into an eight-minute explanation.
This post originally appeared on Think Progress. Last night, Fox News aired the final part of its three-day special on oil drilling in Alaska, in which host Greta Van Susteren got the “inside story” from former governor Sarah Palin and her husband Todd. The special, shot on location, featured airplane flights over the tundra, boat rides in Valdez harbor, and interviews with the Palins on their dock. As Media Matters noted, the special “basically boil[ed] down to a three-day infomercial of Palin touting her positions on ANWR and her record of ‘play[ing] hardball’ with oil companies as governor.” Indeed, while the special included numerous interviews with pro-drilling advocates — including the Palins and a vice president of Shell Oil — “The Case Against Drilling in ANWR” was reserved for last night, confined to an interview with Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA). Watch a compilation: Beyond the questionable seriousness of Van Susteren’s report, there is a deeper ethical concern. Van Susteren’s husband John Coale is one of “the figures charged with guiding Palin’s political image in Washington,” but Van Susteren never revealed this connection during the special. Coale has described himself as simply a “friend” of Palin, but has acknowledged that he helped her start her leadership PAC. “Others familiar with Palin’s political team insist that Coale has far more power than he is letting on — essentially helping to run Sarah PAC,” the Washington Post first reported. Van Susteren admitted on her blog that her husband “has given Governor Palin advice and helped her,” but she said her husband is not a “paid adviser.” Still, according to a Nexis search performed by ThinkProgress, starting on the day that Sarah PAC was unveiled, Van Susteren has never disclosed her husband’s behind-the-scenes role on air. The oil special is merely the latest in a long string of Van Susteren puff pieces about Palin. During the presidential campaign, Van Susteren had perhaps the best access to Palin of any journalist, hosting a one-hour “documentary” on “Governor Sarah Palin — An American Woman.” She also scored an exclusive interview with Todd Palin, in which she grilled him “on everything from the story behind the name ‘First Dude’ to how he feels about the name ‘First Dude.’” After the election, Palin chose Van Susteren for her first national television interview. Since then, Van Susteren has consistently covered Palin, keeping an eye out for any potential slights to the governor and gushing over her popularity. For example, when Palin’s memoir came out, Van Susteren was a strong promoter of the book, devoting plenty of air time to the “buzz” surrounding its publication.
This post first appeared on Think Progress. Republicans often bristle at being called the “party of no,” yet they have thus far failed to articulate a clear positive agenda with new ideas about how to govern. Earlier this year, former Bush advisor Karl Rove and former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie helped form American Crossroads as part of proliferation of new conservative advocacy groups that were quickly dubbed the “Shadow RNC,” and were designed, in part, to help generate these new ideas. But today, Crossroads GPS, the advocacy arm of American Crossroads, will release a proposed platform on which Republicans should run in November that is based almost entirely on obstruction. As the conservative Daily Caller notes, “instead of things they think the GOP should do, the agenda…is made up mostly of things they think Republicans should oppose or eliminate.” Indeed, Crossroads GPS is even calling the platform an “emergency intervention to stop” President Obama’s policies:
The program calls on the GOP to “stop” the Bush tax hikes from expiring at the end of the year, to “end” stimulus projects deemed to be “wasteful,” to “call a ‘timeout’” on Obama’s health care bill, to enact a “moratorium” on “government handouts to banks, automakers, labor unions and other politically-connected interests,” to “block” any bill putting a price on carbon emissions, and to “stop stalling” on securing the border. On the nation’s looming entitlement crisis, Crossroads’ GPS proposes a commission to study the problem and suggest solutions, even though President Obama has already created a commission that has been meeting for most of the year.
Even the seemingly positive items on the Crossroads GPS agenda use obstructionist language. For example, the “Prioritize American Energy Development” item calls for Republicans to “block” any means of pricing carbon, while the “Protect our Borders” bullet urges Republicans to “stop stalling” on border security. American Crossroads vowed to raise $50 million to influence the 2010 elections, and are on their way thanks to just four right-wing billionaires, who alone have contributed 97 percent of the group’s money. Rove has directly credited his group’s fundraising prowess to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.
This post originally appeared on Think Progress. Three U.S. service members were killed in Afghanistan yesterday, bringing the death toll for July to at least 63, making it the deadliest month thus far in America’s longest war. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United Nations told CBS News yesterday that the U.S needs to change its strategy in Afghanistan, saying, “the way the war is being fought, it doesn’t seem winnable.” Abdullah Hussain Haroon also suggested that the insurgent attacks in Afghanistan will decrease when U.S. and NATO troops leave:
HAROON: I won’t speak for the government on this issue, because it is a touchy subject. … But in my personal opinion — I have very little hesitation in saying — that the way the war is going, it doesn’t seem winnable.
Watch it (beginning 20:00): Haroon is careful to say that his statements were merely his “personal opinion,” as they contradict the Pakistani government’s official position. Haroon also denied any substantive links between the Pakistani government and insurgents in Afhanistan, calling the WikiLeaks documents which alleged such a connection “flawed.” In fact, Pakistan needs more help fighting insurgents, he said. Al Qaeda is in Afghanistan’s Kunar province, “why isn’t anyone doing anything about it?” Haroon asked. “They want us to do more. We have limited resources,” he added.
This post originally appeared on Think Progress. This morning, President Barack Obama apologized to former USDA official Shirley Sherrod for her forced resignation based on a highly misleading video produced by right-wing media tycoon Andrew Breitbart. Obama “expressed his regret” in a phone call with Sherrod, which she described as “a very good conversation.” Sherrod also said she is considering suing Breitbart — who has refused to apologize or retract the story — for defamation, noting, “He was willing to destroy me…in order to try to destroy the NAACP.” But Sherrod isn’t the only one denouncing Breitbart’s deceitful tactics. Speaking to the Daily Caller, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) called it “unfortunate” that Breitbart “didn’t lay out the whole story, as opposed to a part of it.” “They only put a little piece of the story out there and people make judgments and they rush and they make bad decisions. They make rash decisions,” Boehner said. Meanwhile, Fox New anchor Shep Smith — whose network breathlessly promoted the smear campaign — slammed Breitbart’s BigGovernment.com as “widely discredited,” and blasted the White House for acting on its video. Smith even called out his own employer, saying, “The video, taken completely out of context, it ran all over the Internet, and television, including on this network:”
We here at Studio B did not run the video and did not reference the story in any way for many reasons, among them: we didn’t know who shot it, we didn’t know when it was shot, we didn’t know the context of the statement, and because of the history of the videos on the site where it was posted, in short we do not and did not trust the source. [...] [The White House based its decision on] an edited videotape on a widely discredited website that has had inaccurate postings of videos in the past–edited to the point where the world was deceived. … What in the world has happened to our industry and the White House:
As Media Matters documented, a number of high-profile journalists have joined Smith in condemning Breitbart. CNN’s Anderson Cooper said Breitbart’s video was “clearly edited to deceive and slander Miss Sherrod.” Cooper added that Breitbart’s efforts to “weasel his way out of taking responsibility for what he did to Miss Sherrod is a classic example of what is wrong with our national discourse.” Politico’s Ben Smith noted that “Breitbart’s sites now have a growing credibility problem.” Even conservative journalists, like the Weekly Standard’s John McCormack, denounced Breitbart. “Breitbart’s posting of the partial clip, which leaves out crucial information, was unfair to Sherrod,” McCormack wrote. “Sherrod deserves an apology from Breitbart for posting the edited video.” The National Review’s Jonah Goldberg agreed, writing Sherrod is “owed apologies from pretty much everyone, including my good friend Andrew Breitbart.” However, Breitbart has at least one defender in hate radio host Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh attacked Shep Smith for “cav[ing]” and said the NAACP should now be spelled “R-A-C-I-S-M,” Limbaugh added.
This post originally appeared on Think Progress. While the tea party movement is desperately trying to fight off charges of “racist elements” from the NAACP, Ryan J. Murdough, a Republican candidate for New Hampshire State House, has no qualms about expressing his views on race. “It is time for white people in New Hampshire and across the country to take a stand,” Murdough wrote in a letter to the Concord Monitor titled “We must preserve our racial identity”:
For far too long white Americans have been told that diversity is something beneficial to their existence. Statistics prove that the opposite is true. New Hampshire residents must seek to preserve their racial identity if we want future generations to have to possibility to live in such a great state. Affirmative action, illegal and legal non-white immigration, anti-white public school systems, and an anti-white media have done much damage to the United States of America and especially New Hampshire. It is time for white people in New Hampshire and across the country to take a stand. We are only 8 percent of the world’s population and we need our own homeland, just like any other non-white group of people deserve their own homeland.
Murdough is running as a Republican because it’s easier to get on the ballot, but the party immediately “disowned him as a candidate on their ticket,” calling him a “despicable racist” and a “fraud.” But Murdough has no love lost for the GOP, complaining, “they’ve sold white people out.” It’s unclear whether Murdough is a tea partier, but in the comments section of the Monitor’s website, where Murdough is very active, he wrote, “I think the Tea Party movement is doing great things.” His rhetoric in the comments often reflects that of the movement, and he repeatedly advises the the tea party to “embrace the fact [that] there is a racial aspect to the movement.” “White people need to stop wasting time arguing about how they are not racist,” he said in one comment, adding in another:
The Tea Party at its core is all about race but most of the Tea Partiers do not even realize it. They downplay the race issue every chance they get because they are afraid of being perceived as racist.
He also called on them to stop the “jewish appeasing.” “If the Republicans continue to put out weak, israel first, zionist, anti white, neo cons, the tea party will be for nothing,” Murdough warned. In an interview, Murdough denied that he is a racist, explaining, “I can’t really be a racist, because I don’t hate them. I just don’t want to live around areas that are heavily, predominantly non-white.” Still, Murdough believes Martin Luther King was a prostitute-chasing Communist who was just “out for the black man,” and that Abraham Lincoln was one of history’s worst presidents because “[h]e waged war against the South.” He’s also worried about white “genocide,” noting, “Nobody is flooding Africa with non-Africans.” But Murdough is an equal opportunity bigot, saying, “no group of people has exploited their victimhood as much as Jews have.” “Technically, they’re a different race than white people.” He’s also homophobic, writing that gay parenting is “child abuse” and that “Homosexuals want to get married because they hate Christ.” Murdough acknowledges his stance on race and “Jewish issues” is controversial, but claimed he has DNA evidence to support him. Murdough is the state chairman of American Third Position (A3P), “a fledgling political party…with the aim of uniting disaffected racists,” the Southern Poverty Law Center reports. Last week, the group proudly announced its “triple-digit donation” (i.e. less than $1,000) to a fund established by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) to defend her state’s draconian new immigration law. (HT: Political Correction)
This post first appeared on Think Progress. Given the weak leadership of Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, former Bush White House adviser Karl Rove launched a “shadow RNC” in April called American Crossroads, vowing to spend $50 million to influence this Fall’s election. After an embarrassing first month of fundraising, Crossroads raised $8.5 million in June, “from an even split of individuals and corporations.” On Fox News today, Rove directly credited his group’s success to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which overturned the decades-old ban on corporate money in politics:
HOST: Some suggest that the money that goes to American Crossroads might otherwise go to an organization like the RNC. ROVE: Well that’s not correct, because American Crossroads is collecting money in excess of the individual contribution limits the RNC has allowed to give. What we’ve essentially said, is if you’ve maxed out the to senatorial committee, the congressional committee or the RNC and would like to do more, under the Citizens United decisions, you can give money to the American Crossroads 527, or Crossroads GPS, so we’re not tapping the people who — if you’ve giving to American Crossroads, you’re fully capable, in all likelihood, of giving the maximum to one of the national committee organizations.
While some reports have downplayed the impact of Citizens United on this year’s election, Rove seems to be acknowledging that his high-profile group relies on the decision for its fundraising. If Crossroads and the other new conservative attack groups raise the tens of millions of dollars they plan to spend this year from corporate donors — as Crossroads has — then the impact of the decision could be huge. Rove explained that his donors are those who have “maxed out” contributions to the RNC and other national committees, but the individual contribution limit to these groups is $30,400 per election cycle, so Rove is clearly focused on the wealthiest of donors. As Rolling Stone’s Tim Dickinson noted, “By building a war chest of unregulated campaign cash…Rove would be able to wage the midterm elections on his own terms: electing candidates loyal to the GOP’s wealthiest donors and corporate patrons. With the media’s attention diverted by the noisy revolt being waged by the Tea Party, the man known as ‘Bush’s brain’ was staging a stealthier but no less significant coup of the Republican Party.” Watch the video here.
This post originally appeared on Think Progress. Having already declared health care reform a failure just three months after it passed, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) wants to alert the public that today is the day the Affordable Care Act begins to destroy America, one tanning salon at a time. Boehner blasted out a press release and tweet warning about a 10 percent tax on indoor tanning beds, which goes into affect today, to help fund the Affordable Care Act. Citing a Wall Street Journal article, Boehner wrote, the tax is “causing all kinds of problems for business owners who provide tanning services.” Indeed, the Journal notes the horror one owner of a video store that also offers tanning beds will have to deal with:
Today, she wants to offer one free tan for every three rentals. Should that freebie be taxed? Ms. Chamberlain doesn’t know.
Meanwhile, Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee cried, “no amount of sunscreen or Aloe will relieve the pain of the Democrats’ impending 10 percent tax on indoor tanning beds.” The Heritage Foundation blasted the tax as well, while Fox News dutifully whined on behalf of the tanning industry. The network reported live from a tanning salon, declaring the tax to be “unfair,” “confusing,” and even “discriminatory”: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) also refused to take this injustice lying down in a tanning bed. Proving to Americans that his party — despite what his own colleague says — has substantive policy alternatives, McCain told the Jersey Shore’s Snooki via Twitter that if he were president, “u r right, I would never tax your tanning bed! Pres Obama’s tax/spend policy is quite The Situation.” The tanning tax — in addition to raising $2.7 billion to help Americans afford health care who otherwise couldn’t — is aimed at discouraging unhealthy activities, much like taxes on cigarettes and alcohol. A recent study from the American Association for Cancer Research found that people “who tanned indoors had a 74% greater risk of developing melanoma than those who never used the machines.” Melanoma is “one of the most aggressive and deadliest cancers,” killing about 10 percent of those diagnosed — 48,000 each year worldwide. The “tax will significantly reduce the future costs of treating skin cancers,” the president of the American Academy of Dermatology told CNN. Meanwhile, fewer than 10 percent of Americans use tanning beds, and at an average cost of about $15 to $20 per visit, customer will only pay about $1.50 or $2.00 extra. But if Boehner and the cast of Jersey Shore refuse to pay the extra couple bucks, they can always switch to spray-on tans, which will not be taxed.
This post originally appeared on Think Progress. Facing possible jail time for their roles in the largest oil spill in American history, BP and Halliburton are building high-powered legal teams with “deep Department of Justice and White House ties.” But the companies are pursuing other means to defend themselves as well. Halliburton’s campaign donations have spiked as it tries to curry favor with key members of Congress investigating the disaster. The company donated $17,000 in May, making it “the busiest donation month for Halliburton’s PAC since September 2008,” Politico reports. Thirteen of the 14 contributions from May went to Republicans, while seven went to members of Congress who are “on committees withoversight of the oil spill and its aftermath”:
About one week before executive Timothy Probert appeared before the House Energy and Commerce’s investigative subcommittee, Halliburton donated $1,500 to Ranking Republican Joe Barton’s reelection effort. It was Halliburton’s second-largest donation of the month — topped only by $2,500 to former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who is running for the Senate. In the Senate, Idaho Republican Mike Crapo, who serves on the Environment and Public Works Committee, Georgia Republican Johnny Isakson, who serves on the Commerce Committee and North Carolina Republican Richard Burr (N.C.), who serves on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, all got $1,000. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) also got $1,000.
Meanwhile, a Hill analysis found that primarily during the Bush administration, BP and other oil companies “paid for dozens of trips and meals for officials” from the Department of Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Department of Homeland Security — agencies deeply involved in the regulation of oil exploration and spill cleanup. BP had the “highest tab for gifts to government officials” of all oil and gas companies:
BP and its affiliates — BP America and BP Exploration — show up in the gift reports at least 16 different times, paying for meals as well as for oil and gas industry seminars and tours of oil facilities. The cost of the gifts totaled more than $7,200.
Only two industry-funded trips took place during the first nine months of President Obama’s administration. In 2004, BP paid for a group of Interior officials to visit an offshore rig in the Gulf of Mexico. The group included then-deputy secretary J. Steven Griles, wholater went to prison for his role in Jack Abramoff scandal. In 2005, BP paid for travel and meals for then-Interior Secretary Gale Norton and then-Minerals Management Service (MMS) Director Johnnie Burton to attended the dedication ceremony of another offshore rig in the Gulf. BP also paid for officials from the EPA and the Fish and Wildlife Service to visit Prudhoe Bay, Alaska over a period of several years. A recent Interior Inspector General report covering 2005 to 2007 found a “culture of lax oversight and cozy ties to industry.” Since January of 2008, BP lobbyists have spent $30 million to influence legislation, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Some coastal governors have benefited from BP as well. BP and other oil companies gave Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) $1.8 million dollars for his campaign, and since the spill, he’s been aggressively downplaying the disaster and encouraging people to visit his state’s oily beaches. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) traveled to a BP-funded conference in Houston last month “to lobby aggressively to drill for oil and natural gas without delay.” Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) dismissed potential BP negligence by calling the spill an “act of God” at a trade association funded by BP in May.
Cross-posted from Think Progress. When Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (I) announced that he would leave the Republican party to run for the Senate as an independent, he indicated that he would be more free to support “ideas that I believe are good ideas for the people,” instead of just following “one club’s decision.” Indeed, after long supporting “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Crist has announced that he is now in favor of the new comprise legislation, which would repeal the policy but allow the Pentagon to complete its study before the repeal is implemented. In a statement, Crist said the compromise will ensure that the new policy is “what is best for our military“:
“Ultimately, as in all military matters I defer to the Pentagon and to the Generals and what the Senate is doing today is giving them the ultimate authority to do what is best for our military. So, I would be inclined to support the Senate’s action on this.
Crist has maintained a traditionally conservative record on LGBT issues, though there is some evidence to suggest he may adopt a more progressive stance now that he has been liberated from the Republican Party. He has said he is “fine” with civil unions, and in 2007, he asked the GOP to stop spending money promoting “a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in Florida” in 2007.