While you all presumably have been having “fun” living your “fun” lives, I have been reading conservative media Twitter tear itself apart and man, it is GREAT. Want me to fill you in? No? OK, here’s how it’s going down.
The problem is ugh, that guy, Donald Trump. Most prominent conservative commentators who are interested in a Republican winning the presidential election are not pleased with Donald Trump — probably because he’s a jackass who’s making the Republican Party “look” terrible and, ha ha, he’s never going away. But then there are some conservative commentators, reporters and outlets that absolutely love Donald Trump, because he continues to give them either access or perhaps even direct cash infusions.
Basically, Breitbart.com, which gets tons of readers, supports Donald Trump and everyone hates them for it.
Salon has been proud to cover Breitbart.com’s hilarious shilling for Donald Trump. About a month ago, Breitbart wrote a piece criticizing George Will for not disclosing that his wife works for Scott Walker while trashing Donald Trump. (I’m going to guess that this has little influence on George Will’s dislike for Donald Trump. If George Will’s wife was working for Trump, George Will still would have very nasty things to say about him. George Will and Donald Trump are … let’s say … temperamentally different creatures.)
Commentary’s John Podhoretz picked up on this month-old news item this week and offered the following criticism:
Breitbart editor John Nolte then made a joke at Podhoretz about how he only has a job because his father gave him a magazine to run, a classic and true joke about John Podhoretz.
I'll pass your opinion along, Son of Someone. https://t.co/VSN75pTUzb— Let's Start Our Own MAGA CHAZ! (@Let's Start Our Own MAGA CHAZ!) 1439836389.0
And then Podhoretz was all, You’re a disgrace to the legacy of Andrew Breitbart, which would be true except that Andrew Breitbart wasn’t a great newsman.
Among the other targets Breitbart has taken on is Rick Wilson, a GOP strategist who may or may not have clients but definitely gets quoted in a lot of political stories and appears on cable news all the time. Wilson has been using these free platforms to voice his dislike for what Trump’s done to the Republican Party, i.e., entering the race for its presidential nomination and then earning a lot of support from Republican voters. When Wilson went on television calling Trump’s supporters “low-information” voters — the political world’s great euphemism for stupid people — Breitbart called him out in a piece.
Thus began an exchange about which side’s
stupid “low-information” fan sends the most barbarous email threats, with Ann Coulter and Erick Erickson getting in the mix.
What, @noltenc? No witty rejoinder for your readers making rape threats on my daughter? I'll take your silence as assent to their views.— Rick Wilson (@Rick Wilson) 1439823164.0
One of your fans just threatened to chainsaw my whole family! Unblock me so we can discuss this!!! https://t.co/AApIjGX179— Let's Start Our Own MAGA CHAZ! (@Let's Start Our Own MAGA CHAZ!) 1439823416.0
Hilarious public meltdown: THEY'RE THREATENING TO RAPE MY DAUGHTER! http://t.co/rTYn8QRDgW #RickWilsonIsAGirlInAPinkPartyDress— Ann Coulter (@Ann Coulter) 1439913638.0
And so on and so forth.
Each side has a point: the other’s fans are all a bunch of violent, perverted morons.
OK, but more points. Wilson, Podhoretz and the like are correct that the Republican Party and its 2016 chances are not, not served well by Donald Trump, and that point should be spoken loudly and clearly as much as possible. Breitbart, Coulter et al. are also correct (ugh), though, that millions and millions of Republican voters like Donald Trump for his Buchanan-esque views on immigration and trade, and prominent Republican operatives and commentators are only going to reinforce that bond when they call such voters “low-information.”
How can they reconcile these competing arguments? Ha ha, I have no idea and it’s not my problem.
Pope Francis Makes Tea Party Heads Explode - Why Louie Gohmert and Steve King Have It in for the Pontiff
The Bishop of Rome is coming to Washington in September to address a joint session of Congress, and boy are things already getting frisky. Pope Francis is an extraordinarily popular Pope who’s not afraid to wield that popularity for human rights and economic justice. In other words, he’s well to the left of most members of Congress, and he may well get up in their faces about issues near and dear to him. Since you’re sort of required to clap for the Pope, this is going to make for an interesting scene.
“Such an economy kills,” wrote Pope Francis, denouncing the current economic system as “unjust at its roots” and one “which defend(s) the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation.” Such a system, he warned, is creating a “new tyranny,” which “unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules.”
On foreign affairs he’s made his priorities known, too. Earlier this year, Francis helped broker the thawing of relations between the United States and Cuba, and just this week,the Vatican announced that it would sign a treaty recognizing a Palestinian state. As Patricia Miller writes in Salon, these sorts of moves aren’t some radical break in policy for the Vatican. It’s just that American conservatives were able to turn a blind eye to these actions before “rock star Francis” commanded their attention. “It’s more accurate,” Miller writes, “to view this particular step in the Vatican’s relationship with Palestine both as a continuation of the Holy See’s long-standing support for Palestinian statehood and as an expression of Francis’ overriding interest in fostering international peace—and his unique ability and willingness to put his finger on the scales to do so.”
The fine congressional reporters at Politico did that thing where they asked the usual funny, good-for-a-quote Republican suspects for their opinion on Francis’ upcoming speech in light of his treaty recognizing Palestine and other heretical moves, like his criticism of unregulated capitalism. And the members were, indeed, good for various funny quotes.
Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina is stunned to see the Pope getting so “political” and demands he rein in his activities to more traditional church-y stuff. “It’s interesting how the Vatican has gotten so political,” Duncan said, “when ultimately the Vatican ought to be working to lead people to Jesus Christ and salvation.” Iowa’s Steve King echoed Duncan, saying he’snot sure that he’s as good of a politician as he is a Pope.”
Know your place, sweetheart.
Rep. Tim Huelskamp holds the interesting position that Catholicism is agnostic on issues of poverty, and Francis should stick to what he describes as Catholicism’s “non-negotiables,” like its opposition to abortion and gay marriage and its support for school choice. “How do you deal with a poverty problem? There’s not a Catholic [fix], contrary to the arguments of certain economists that work at the Vatican… But there’s a Catholic view on life, on marriage, on the rights of parents and education. So I hope he sticks to this.” As for foreign policy, Huelskamp gives Francis his permission to speak to “faith and morals… but on foreign affairs, maybe not.” Because morals certainly have no place in foreign affairs.
The quotiest of them all, Rep. Louie Gohmert, describes the Palestinians as “haters” and wants the Pope to know that they don’t take too kindly to his style of Popin’ down in East Texas. “The Pope is the head of his religion, and he makes those calls for himself,” Gohmert generously concedes, “but I represent 700,000 people from East Texas and a vast majority agree with me.”
There’s a whole lot more in here, including Rep. Trent Franks questioning Pope Francis’s grasp of scripture.
It’s fascinating to see these members trying to impose constraints on what’s acceptable for the Holy See to say in his address to Congress. Just a few months ago, conservatives were apoplectic that anyone would dare criticize Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to trash the President’s foreign policy before a joint session of Congress. The man has a right to speak his mind! It helped, of course, that Netanyahu’s mind and the Republican mind were one and the same. Now the Pope might come and say “Palestinians have rights too” and everyone’s all, Whoa whoa whoa, let’s stick to the fetus here, guy.
Jeb Bush is rapidly losing weight, and the New York Times is on it. The former Florida governor has lost 30 pounds since December on the Paleo diet, the fad du jour where you eat only things cavemen ate, like rocks and dirt and the flesh and brains of your vanquished foes from the nearby heathen tribe. Also: salad.
The Times can’t simply write a lifestyle story about Jeb’s diet and exercise and leave it at that, though. It has to throw in the political dimension, and it does so in spectacular fashion:
The rigid abstemiousness runs the risk of putting him at a dietary distance from an American electorate that still binges on carbohydrates and, after eight years of a tea-sipping president, craves a relatable eater-in-chief.
It is a proud tradition for campaign reporters based in New York or Washington to worry on behalf of the candidates about how the fat, vulgar slobs of middle America will receive them. It is the conventional wisdom among top reporters that a full 100% of the electorate in Iowa, in addition to being functionally illiterate and hypnotized by some obscure mystical persuasion called “religion,” eats nine pounds of cheeseburger-flavored pancake pies soaked in butter per day. The traditional Heartland nightcap is a 64-ounce cup of uncut trans fats, and sodium.
The idea that Jeb’s elitist diet-and-exercise regimen may thwart his ability to “relate” to the drooling, carb-hoovering, bedridden trolls of Real America brings to mind stories from two election cycles ago, when the “tea-sipping president” was running his first presidential campaign.
“Too Fit To Be President? Facing an Overweight Electorate, Barack Obama Might Find Low Body Fat a Drawback.” This was an August 1, 2008 story from the Wall Street Journal’s Amy Chozick, now the New York Times’ Hillary Clinton reporter.
“Listen, I’m skinny but I’m tough,” Sen. Obama said.
But in a nation in which 66% of the voting-age population is overweight and 32% is obese, could Sen. Obama’s skinniness be a liability? Despite his visits to waffle houses, ice-cream parlors and greasy-spoon diners around the country, his slim physique just might have some Americans wondering whether he is truly like them.
The candidate has been criticized by opponents for appearing elitist or out of touch with average Americans. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll conducted in July shows Sen. Obama still lags behind Republican John McCain among white men and suburban women who say they can’t relate to his background or perceived values.
It was damaging enough that Barack Obama was physically fit. On top of that, the few things he did eat were offensively fancy. See, out there in god-fearing Iowa, they don’t take kindly to vegetables, the thinking went. But if you’re going to eat something green, it had better be good old iceberg lettuce – not “ay-roo-gulla,” whatever Devil’s green that is. We refer you back to the original 2007 New York Times story that launched a thousand right-wing culture war memes:
One line that landed a little flat, though, was when Mr. Obama sympathetically noted that farmers have not seen an increase in prices for their crops, despite a rise in prices at the supermarket.
“Anybody gone into Whole Foods lately and see what they charge for arugula?” the senator said. “I mean, they’re charging a lot of money for this stuff.”
The state of Iowa, for all of its vast food production, does not have a Whole Foods, a leading natural and organic foods market. The closest? Omaha, Minneapolis or Kansas City.
Skinny, physically fit Barack Obama, eating his rich man’s lettuce, purchased at a supermarket unknown to immobile Iowans without the means to venture more than a mile or two from their hometowns over the course of a lifetime. So damaging was this gaffe and the smug, cosmopolitan lifestyle it represented that Barack Obama went on to win the Iowa caucuses decisively. He would also win Iowa in both the 2008 and 2012 general elections.
All of which is to say that when the New York Times writes, “after eight years of a tea-sipping president,” the electorate “craves a relatable eater-in-chief,” it is quite possibly making an unfounded assertion.
Gabby Giffords Really Doesn't Care that Gun Nuts Call Her 'Mean' for Fighting to Spare Others from Being Shot in the Head
A few years back someone walked up to then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords outside a Safeway in Tucson, Arizona, and shot her in the head. The shooter, Jared Loughner, killed six and injured a dozen or so others. In 2012, another nut shot up a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. Later that year, a shooter walked into a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school and murdered 20 children. These are only a few high-profile examples of the dozens of mass shootings that have taken place in the last several years.
After Newtown, President Obama and many members of Congress finally felt compelled to make the first serious push for gun control legislation in decades. Their demands were eventually whittled down to some modest measures, such as expanding background checks for gun buyers. But even that effort, pushed hard by then-former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and backed by vast majorities of the American people, failed to overcome a Republican Senate filibuster.
Oddly enough, it strains certain imaginations that the above sequence of events is something that people could get really, really angry about it. That masses of people, including members of Congress, movie-theater patrons, and children could get shot, and that members of Congress — mostly Republicans, with a handful of conservative Democrats — wouldn’t even accede a minimal piece of legislation shoring up the country’s porous background check laws. It’s horrifying and enraging, and those public figures who work to maintain or even loosen what we might generously called the “loopholed” status quo of American gun law should expect to be treated as accomplices to this farce.
As Giffords herself recovered, retired from Congress and became an ardent advocate for stricter background checks, she first tried to play nice. She implored members of both parties to work together to pass common-sense gun regulations, like those closing background check loopholes for private sales on the Internet and at gun shows. The advocacy commercials she and/or her husband appeared in were mostly to urge action, not to attack. As we know, that didn’t work very well.
So this cycle, Giffords’ super PAC, Americans for Responsible Solutions, is getting “mean.” That’s how Politico describes the group’s tactics this cycle.
“He had threatened her before. I knew. I just knew,” Vicki says. A narrator then declares that McSally “opposes making it harder for stalkers to get a gun.”
So mean! You can watch the ad below:
You bet it’s a “tough” ad, as other handicappers have described it. It’s “emotional.” That’s because when, say, a vengeful ex-boyfriend, or anyone, walks up to another person and shoots them, it’s a very “tough,” “emotional” thing. It’s a bloody violent awful tragedy. Yet somehow, politicians who support the lax gun policies that inevitably lead to such episodes, and won’t even consider the slightest tweaks toward restricting gun ownership, feel that they don’t deserve to be subjects of these sort of attack ads. They feel they can proselytize about the glories of gun culture all they want, and that’s fine, but if the dirty gun-grabbers then connect them and their preferred policies to instances of gun violence … well, that’s impolite and Over the Line, the arbiters of civility tell us.
The editorial board of the Arizona Republic is disgusted with this Vicki ad. “It is base and vile. It exploits a family’s tragedy to score cheap political points. And when the ad makes news because it goes too far, Gabrielle Giffords makes news with it. Because it’s her group.” The editorialists, see, couldn’t imagine that Giffords herself would condone these sort of tactics, and warns the management at Americans for Responsible Solutions that they’re sullying the reputation of Giffords, the Magical Cuddly Sparkle Bear of American politics.
So we ask again, Americans for Responsible Solutions, do you know what you’re doing?
Do the people who control your messaging know they are marring the legacy of a congresswoman known for her decency and good judgment, who practiced civility in office with such consistency she did not just reach across the aisle but found cherished friends there? [...]
Perhaps the Tucson shooting changed Gabby Giffords. Perhaps she is the one who controls the message. But we doubt it.
That’s not who she is.
Maybe the writers of this are being cheeky, to add yet another layer of condescension to an editorial that’s already dripping with it. Perhaps they know that Giffords is A-OK with this strategy and are giving her a tut-tutting pat on the head as a fatherly warning against breaching the standards of “civility” to which they’d prefer she adhere. As if Giffords’ legacy is theirs to write, her priorities theirs to determine.
But Giffords is under no contract to serve as mascot for superficial “civility” standards. She tried to approach her policy priorities the friendly way, by using her celebrity to unite Democrats and Republicans behind new gun legislation, and it didn’t work. So now she’s approaching them the other way: by tying politicians who resist things like expanded background checks to the outcomes of that. Politico reports that Giffords is indeed “deeply involved in the making of the ads.”
Gabrielle Giffords is not, and is under no obligation to be, a Civility Unicorn. She got shot in the head and is furious about other people getting shot, too. She wants to change gun laws in the United States — even if that means disrupting an atmosphere of good cheer with insertions of grisly reality.
Just as the various Senate prediction models were solidifying around Republicans taking control of the chamber this November, a Democratic pickup opportunity in … Kansas? … has become a possibility? A real possibility, at that — none of this “well umm we could pick up a seat in Mississippi?” buck-raising pablum that the Democratic Party will throw around every now and then.
The Democratic candidate, Chad Taylor, who was supposed to take on Sen. Pat Roberts this fall, withdrew from the race yesterday at the last minute. The (few) polls of this race had been showing Taylor, surprisingly, within a single-digit margin of Roberts. And independent candidate Greg Orman, according to a PPP poll, was already putting forward a formidable showing as well. Now that Taylor is out, the better-funded Orman is in a strong position to scoop up the state’s Democratic voters, pick off moderate Republicans who’ve been turned off by the Tea Party and Gov. Sam Brownback’s destruction of the state, and maybe even win.
Polling analysts, who usually sneer at the possibility of “game-changers” disrupting the fundamental trends of a race, are now all worked up about the game-changing possibilities on display here. Nate Silver declares that the Kansas Senate race “just got crazy,” adding that his “totally wild guess” early on is that the contest is now a “toss up.” (Studious Nate, as always, would like to think about this for a little while.) Princeton’s Sam Wang puts Orman’s “winGO probability at 85 percent,” meaning “the probability of Democratic control of the Senate is about to pop up by 20-30 percent.” Nathan Gonzalez, writing at the Rothenberg Political Report, dubs Roberts the “most vulnerable Republican Senator in the country.” (Not that that means a whole lot, since the only other vulnerable Republican senator in the country is Mitch McConnell, and he’s not all that vulnerable.)
Gonzalez goes on to explain how the Kansas Republican Party found itself in this unfortunate reality:
A spectacular confluence of events has built the credible scenario that a Republican could lose a U.S. Senate race in Kansas. Roberts is a long-time incumbent who doesn’t live in or regularly return to his home state. He faces a credible and well-funded independent candidate who is striking all the right tones in his message and doesn’t have a legislative record to be picked apart. And Republican Gov. Sam Brownback has fanned the flames of a long-time civil war in the state that is rallying some GOPers against establishment figures within their own party. [...]
Roberts is also vulnerable because he faces a very unique challenger. Businessman Greg Orman ran for the U.S. Senate as a Democrat in 2008 but dropped out during the primary and he has contributed to Democrats in the past, including Barack Obama. But Orman also doesn’t have an extensive legislative record to be picked apart. And he hasn’t been attacked for the last year, like McConnell’s challenger, Allison Lundergan Grimes.
Now that Orman is officially Roberts’ main challenger, Republicans will certainly do a deep dive into his record. And it may be a couple weeks before we find out whether there is a piece of opposition research that will doom Orman’s campaign.
For now, it looks like Orman is doing everything right. He’s running ads that cover nearly the entire state that strike a moderate tone. “I’m a businessman who solves problems every day,” he said in a recent spot, for example. And Orman unveiled endorsements from more than 70 former Republican lawmakers on Wednesday.
Gonzalez also points out that Roberts has a weak campaign infrastructure and reportedly hasn’t been doing much campaigning at all since he (somewhat narrowly) defeated Milton Wolf in the Republican primary.
What’s exciting about these developments is that we may actually get an interesting general election Senate race in 2014. So many of the relatively close races — North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, Arkansas, Alaska — pit a lame, scripted centrist Democratic robot fighting against some standard jerk Republican. Last night’s North Carolina Senate debate between Thom Tillis and Sen. Kay Hagan, for example, was about the most hollow, lifeless viewing experience that’s ever aired on C-SPAN, and C-SPAN is a network that regularly airs footage of an empty House of Representatives chamber with elevator music playing in the background. For so many of these races, the contours have been established, the scripts have been written, and it’s going to be an uninspiring grind to the finish.
In Kansas, meanwhile, we’ve suddenly got moving parts. How will Greg Orman run, and how will Pat Roberts run against him? Orman won’t want to jump whole-hog into Democratic arms, but he’ll at least need to do something to appeal directly to the Democratic voters who’ll now constitute much of his voting base. And while Orman doesn’t have a voting record for Roberts to chew away at, he has run as a Democrat and donated to Barack Obama in the past. Those two things alone should be enough for Roberts and the national Republican Party to run the “Liberal Greg Orman will be a liberal Democrat rubber-stamp for his beloved liberal Barack Obama” playbook. On the other hand, if Republicans run that campaign and Orman still somehow wins, it would be much harder to convince Orman to caucus with Republicans in the Senate.
The race will hinge on how Orman chooses to define himself and how Roberts and the Republicans choose to define Orman. If it breaks down into an effective Democrat vs. Republican race, you’d think, just given the fact that this is Kansas in a strong Republican year with an unpopular Democratic president, that Roberts would be able to pull it off. But if Orman can manage to maintain the “independent” image and marry a coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans, then he could pull off this most unlikely of upsets.
The fact that “moderate Republicans” are even available for the picking off this year is the amazing story at the root of all this. It’s mostly the fault of Gov. Sam Brownback, who’s horribly unpopular after enacting an extremely conservative economic agenda that the citizens of Kansas determined they didn’t like. Brownback’s in serious danger of losing his own reelection this year to a Democratic challenger. Tea Party Republicanism was enacted in the state, and the distaste for it among moderate Republicans could end up clubbing the party across the board.
Update: The GOP secretary of state in Kansas won’t let Taylor off the ballot. So now we’re in the strange situation where Republicans are trying as hard as possible to keep a Democrat’s name on the ballot while Democrats could wage a legal fight to have their candidate removed. See? This is fun!
Rick Perry is just so… adorable. And hardworking. And charming!
This is the gist of a long profile of “The New Rick Perry” in National Journal, the latest in a series of Rick Perry Is Adorable pieces to have emerged as the longtime Texas governor mulls another presidential run. The last one didn’t get very far, mostly because Perry hadn’t prepared and was all drugged up following back surgery and also isn’t a very bright guy. But the New Rick Perry is ready for the next sucker, according to this puff piece published in National Journal, which opens with a 10-million-word explanation for why Rick Perry now wears eyeglasses, and then offers credulous passage after passage. “The new Perry isn’t just working harder than his 2012 incarnation. He’s also seeking to occupy a different political space,” the author, Michelle Cottle, writes. “Last time, Perry ran as a conservative firebrand. This time, with Cruz and others sucking up all the oxygen on the right, he is trying out a new message. Forget the wild-eyed cowboy squawking about how Texas might be forced to secede from the union. Today’s Perry is pitching himself as a thoughtful, seasoned elder statesman.” Sure he is.
And does Cottle mention how charming Rick Perry is?
• “One Perry asset that was largely obscured in 2012 is just how charming he can be one-on-one.”
• “Whether or not you find him good-looking, it’s tough not to at least find him personally charming.”
• “You can tell that, even as he deploys his innate, somewhat free-wheeling charm, Perry is also mindful of the need to tread carefully.”
He is, in sum, a dreamboat: “Looking especially presidential — gray suit, burnt-orange tie, and, at 64, still the best head of hair in politics — he bounced from topic to topic, but kept returning to a couple of overarching themes.”
Around the same time that National Journal was publishing this press release from Rick Perry’s political team, the Washington Post was publishing a piece of journalism regarding a case with which Perry is well familiar: the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was convicted of burning his house down and murdering his three young daughters trapped inside, and ultimately put to death in 2004.
The Willingham case — which is not mentioned once in Cottle’s lengthy Perry profile — has not aged well. Forensic experts have settled around the conclusion that the fire was not arson and more likely the result of an accident. When Perry was governor, he dismissed last-minute appeals to stay Willingham’s execution. He’s also fired members from and gutted the Texas Forensic Science Commission who’ve cast doubt and tried to hold hearings on the matter.
The case against Willingham relied not just on phony arson experts who didn’t know what they were talking about, but also on testimony from an inmate who claimed that Willingham spontaneously confessed the crime to him in prison. The prosecutor, John Jackson, has for years denied that he offered the inmate witness, Johnny Webb, anything in return for his testimony. But new evidence in the Post story, in the form of letters between Webb, Jackson and others, shows pretty clearly that Jackson offered Webb a lot – a reduced prison sentence and cash from a wealthy rancher friend — and spent years trying to secure those things for him.
Newly uncovered letters and court files show that Jackson worked diligently to intercede for Webb after his testimony and to coordinate with the rancher, Charles S. Pearce Jr., to keep the mercurial informer in line.
“Mr. Pierce and I visit on a regular basis concerning your problems,” Jackson wrote to Webb in August 2000, eight years after the trial, when his former witness was threatening to recant. (Jackson misspelled the rancher’s last name.) “We worked for a long time on a number of different levels, including the Governor’s Office, to get you released early in the robbery case. . . . Please understand that I am not indifferent or insensitive to your difficulties.” [...]
Jackson’s campaign for Webb’s early release escalated in May 1996, after Webb reported that he continued to receive threats and demanded to be transferred to federal prison or the Navarro County Jail.
“Here the state offered me certain benefits in exchange for my testimony which resulted in sending a man to death row,” Webb wrote to Jackson. “Because I kept my end of the promise, the state is bound to uphold theirs until my release from incarceration.”
What we have here is further evidence that the Willingham trial was a joke and that the state, when led by Rick Perry, may well have executed an innocent man, something that Perry has exerted a lot of energy trying to cover up. This should be very bad for Rick Perry if he runs for president, again.
But in a Republican presidential primary, sadly, it probably won’t be.
The Willingham stuff never really damaged Perry when he ran in 2012. When the death penalty was brought up in one of Perry’s first debates, the governor responded: “In the state of Texas, if you come into our state and you kill one of our children, you kill a police officer, you’re involved with another crime and you kill one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas, and that is you will be executed.” The applause was so raucous that moderator Brian Williams had a difficult time asking a follow-up.
None of Perry’s rivals ever had to bother pressing the Willingham scandal during the rest of Perry’s disastrous, short-lived campaign — dispatching with Perry didn’t require much else besides letting him talk. The last time a Perry rival did try to use Willingham against him, however, was in the 2012 Texas gubernatorial primary. The coverup at the Texas Forensic Science Commission was in the news. This is how Perry’s challenger, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, tried to attack Perry in a statement:
“As hard as Rick Perry’s office and his campaign may try to divert from the issue, this is not about one man or one case. The issue is Rick Perry’s heavy-handed politicization of a process and Commission established by the legislature to provide critical oversight. First, Rick Perry delayed the formation of the Texas Forensic Science Commission, then he tried to ensure it didn’t have funding and when all else failed, he fired everyone he could. The only thing Rick Perry’s actions have accomplished is giving liberals an argument to discredit the death penalty. Kay Bailey Hutchison is a steadfast supporter of the death penalty, voted to reinstate it when she served in the Texas House and believes we should never do anything to create a cloud of controversy over it with actions that look like a cover-up.”
You’ll notice that Hutchison’s campaign didn’t hit Perry forthrightly for, well, presiding over the execution of an innocent man. It hit Perry for giving liberals an excuse to whine about the death penalty, as though that would be unwarranted.
Why did Hutchison’s team dance around the issue? As we found out later, it was because her campaign had focus grouped various Willingham messages and found that the “killing an innocent man” thing somehow helped Perry among Republicans. Emphasis ours:
Veterans of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s unsuccessful 2010 primary challenge to Perry recalled being stunned at the way attacks bounced off the governor in a strongly conservative state gripped by tea party fever. Multiple former Hutchison advisers recalled asking a focus group about the charge that Perry may have presided over the execution of an innocent man — Cameron Todd Willingham — and got this response from a primary voter: “It takes balls to execute an innocent man.”
If Perry runs in 2016, who’s to expect anything different in the primary campaign? He may have executed an innocent man, sure, but that was awesome. And besides, he’s so charming. Have you heard that he’s charming?
Rep. Kerry Bentivolio is a freshman House Republican who’s facing a primary challenger on Aug. 5. Yesterday afternoon, he pulled what some might call a “campaign stunt.” He returned, and made a big fuss about returning, a Chamber of Commerce “Spirit of Enterprise” award given by the top business lobby earlier this year. Not that it’s much of an award — the Chamber gave them to 205 members this year, and Bentivolio got one even though the Chamber has endorsed his primary opponent.
Bentivolio announced that “it is with great pride that I reject their award, and call on them to stand on the side of America, instead of on the side of China and corporate interests seeking to exploit people for profit.” His chief of staff was even more efficient: “The US Chamber is in the pocket of Communist China and big companies seeking cheap labor in the United States.” Bentivolio, according to the Washington Post, also “criticized the Chamber for supporting the comprehensive immigration bill that passed the Senate last year.”
Invocations of “Communist China” are a time-tested sign that a close election is down the home stretch. What’s newer, though, is the toxicity of the Chamber of Commerce, one of the GOP’s most traditionally loyal allies.
The Chamber’s president and CEO, Tom Donohue, and its political director, Scott Reed, chose this election cycle to help “establishment” candidates against “Tea Party” insurgents — or, more accurately, to usher the most electable GOP candidates through their primaries, lest any “goofballs” blow the party’s chances of winning control of the Senate yet again. The effort has mostly worked, as the Chamber helped secure primary victories for its candidates in North Carolina, Kentucky, Iowa, South Carolina, Mississippi and elsewhere.
Until recently, it’s been better to be the primary candidate with the Chamber’s money, even though that comes with the risk of being labeled the “establishment” candidate and suffering a grass-roots backlash. But now it’s starting to look like the costs are outweighing the benefits.
Earlier this week, the Chamber endorsee, Rep. Jack Kingston, suffered a mildly surprising defeatin the Georgia Senate runoff against businessman David Perdue. The Chamber had spent millions for ads backing Kingston’s campaign. Kingston also had a lot of “Tea Party” support — although neither of the two runoff candidates grass roots’ top picks. And yet Perdue was able to pull it off. RedState’s Erick Erickson, a Georgian and a Kingston supporter, argued that Perdue’s final ad push to make Kingston “own” the Chamber endorsement put him over the top.
Every night for the last month on my show I’ve gotten the same concern on the phones, in emails, on twitter, on Facebook, etc. Kingston had the Chamber of Commerce’s endorsement. The Chamber of Commerce is bad on immigration. Therefore Kingston would be bad on immigration. In fact, his opponent and now the GOP nominee for the Senate in Georgia made a point to tell people that Kingston was the Chamber endorsed candidate. His closing argument in advertising made Kingston own the endorsement.
I tried pointing out that Kingston had consistently opposed amnesty, but it did not matter. After the Mississippi Senate primary, the conservative voters in Georgia were having none of it.
In the last two weeks, David Perdue made hay out of walking out of his meeting with the Chamber. He claimed the Chamber wanted him to vote with them 100% of the time. He would not.
That message resonated. Kingston was the career politician in the pocket of the Chamber and would pass amnesty.
But why are attacks against Chamber-endorsed candidates more effective now than they were earlier in primary season? Chalk it up to a couple of factors.
The first is something Erickson mentions: “After the Mississippi Senate primary, the conservative voters in Georgia were having none of it.” The Mississippi Senate primary, in which Sen. Cochran and his backers expanded the electorate to win the nomination, was the Chamber’s last big primary victory. And because of the way in which it was won — “stolen!” — it may, in fact, be the Chamber’s last big primary victory.
And then there’s immigration. If someone had suggested earlier this summer that the anti-amnesty fever among the Republican base would somehow run even hotter, it wouldn’t have seemed possible. And yet here we are! The border crisis, and belief among the GOP rank-and-file that the promise of impending “amnesty” are the “magnet” that’s drawing thousands of child migrants to the southern border, has made anything even approaching support for comprehensive immigration reform a complete no-go for Republican politicians. It was the border crisis that forced John Boehner to (officially) bury immigration reform legislation’s prospects for the indefinite future. As comprehensive immigration reform’s toxicity level — again, somehow — rose to previously unseen levels, so too did the Chamber’s for supporting it.
The Chamber is fortunate that its right-wing vilification didn’t reach this sort of status until late in the primary calendar, after it had already catalogued an impressive number of victories. But it may want to keep its opinions to itself, for a while, at least. Because if we’re not there yet, we’re nearing the bizarre reality where the Chamber’s endorsement, of candidates or legislation, is a kiss of death — among Republicans.
The congressional battle to save America’s children from the scourge of nutritious school lunches and reinstate the Old Guard of frozen pizza and chicken nuggets is heating up. And since first lady Michelle Obama is now participating, the level of argument should devolve from “school lunch personnel have some concerns about the implementation of new regulations” to “ARGLE BARGLE ELITIST BWWWARRR!” in short order.
As we wrote last week, House Republicans are trying to insert a provision into the latest agriculture spending bill that would grant waivers to schools that can prove they’re losing money meeting nutrition standards outlined under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. This measure, which Michelle Obama lobbied heavily for during the 2010 lame-duck session, authorized funding for federal school lunch programs to begin serving more fruits, vegetables and whole-grain pasta and less sodium-saturated frozen fried crap. This didn’t go over well with the well-funded sodium-saturated frozen fried crap industry and its army of lobbyists. Now the same shady operators who fought tooth-and-nail over retaining pizza’s status as a vegetable are back, trying to keep America’s children nice and plump.
At first, the arguments by House Appropriations Committee chair Rep. Hal Rogers and subcommittee chair Rep. Robert Aderholt focused on what they were hearing from “lunch ladies” about the waste stemming from these new provisions. “The problem is, kids are saying ‘I don’t want it,’ and they go someplace else to get their food,” Rogers said. Aderholt, meanwhile, denied that he was hearing from “industry” on this issue. “I don’t know where industry is on this,” he said. “I am hearing from lunch ladies I talk to.” As we noted, the “lunch ladies” in question are members of the main lobbying group behind this waiver, the School Nutrition Association, which represents school lunch professionals but gets plenty of funding from the enormous corporations that produce food items.
The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture just rolled back major steps toward a healthier school lunch. On May 20, during the subcommittee’s markup of the 2015 Agricultural Appropriations Bill, Subcommittee Chair Robert Aderholt revealed a provision that would allow schools to opt out of meeting the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s school food requirements and still receive federal reimbursement for meals that fall below federal nutritional standards….
Congressman Sam Farr, the ranking member of the subcommittee, protested the provision, citing concern that school districts would continue to receive federal funds to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables but not be required to buy them. He recognized that meeting the requirements can be challenging, but he said, “We don’t allow kids to opt out of math or opt out of science because it’s tough. Changing the American diet is fundamental to bringing down health care costs.”
Now Michelle Obama is personally getting involved. It is a rare expenditure of political capital on her part. But this is “her bill,” and besides, what the hell is this “waiver” business?
In one of the most overtly political speeches during her tenure as First Lady, Obama slammed Republicans on Tuesday for trying to weaken school nutritional standards, one of her key policy achievements.
“This is unacceptable,” Obama said at a White House meeting with school leaders and experts. “It’s unacceptable to me not just as First Lady but also as a mother.
“The stakes couldn’t be higher on this issue,” she said, pointing to obesity statistics in both children and adults. “The last thing we can afford to so right now is play politics with our kids health.”
There are pros and cons to Michelle Obama’s involvement here. On the one hand, the first lady’s involvement will draw much more attention to what otherwise would have been an obscure House subcommittee appropriations markup spat. On the other, her involvement will almost certainly dumb the debate down from a policy question to one about how Michelle Obama is an elitist hypocrite nanny who … just … GRRR!
Look, for example, at the change in tone from Rep. Robert Aderholt, who just last week was basing his argument on pushback from school lunch trade associations. Now that Michelle Obama has gotten involved, he’s popping up on Laura Ingraham’s wingnut radio show to level ad hominem culture war attacks on the Obama family.
Laura Ingraham @IngrahamAngle tweeted: