This post first appeared on Think Progress. The Daily Caller’s Jon Ward reports that there is “pretty widespread” discontent inside the GOP caucus with the recently-released “Pledge to America,” citing the document’s omission of an earmarks ban and its regurgitation of many health reform elements contained in the Affordable Care Act. But, Ward reports, the House GOP leadership was able to restrain much of the internal consternation among its members by circulating a positive editorial written by the National Review. In the editorial titled “We’ll Take The Pledge,” the National Review editors lauded the document as being “bolder” than the Contract for America. The editorial also called the Pledge “compelling,” “praiseworthy,” and “a shrewd political document.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, Republican sources told the Daily Caller that the GOP leadership colluded with the National Review in prearranging the editorial:
Two high-level Republican sources said that the National Review editorial had been prearranged, however, by Neil Bradley, a top leadership aide who is close to April Ponnuru, the executive director of the National Review Institute, and Kate O’Beirne, NRI’s president. “It was a political blowjob,” one Republican aide said of the National Review editorial. Bradley denied the accusation: “The assertion that I ‘prearranged’ the National Review editorial, or any editorial, is 100 percent false,” he said. O’Beirne also denied the allegation, calling it “absolutely, categorically false.
In his weekly address, President Obama ripped the “Pledge to America.” “It is grounded in the same worn out philosophy: cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires; cut the rules for Wall Street and the special interests; and cut the middle class loose to fend for itself. That’s not a prescription for a better future. It’s an echo of a disastrous decade we can’t afford to relive,” he said.
This story first appeared on Think Progress. Earlier this year, radical right-wing congressman Steve King (R-IA) introduced a discharge petition in the House to repeal health reform. Thus far, his measure has attracted 173 signatures. Rep. Gene Taylor (D-MS) became the first Democrat last week to sign the petition. King told conservative blogger Ed Morrissey he’s “likely to get more Democrats.” But King seems more worried that the leadership of his Republican caucus — some of whom have said they won’t campaign for a full health care repeal — won’t carry through with a pledge to repeal ObamaCare. Roll Call reports that King is now demanding a “blood oath” from House Minority Leader John Boehner to include a repeal of health care reform in every appropriations bill next year, even if a government shutdown results:
“We must not blink,” he said, noting that money cannot be spent without the House voting to pass it. “If the House says no, it’s no.” Their new tea party backers won’t tolerate anything less than a full repeal of the health care law, he said. “They will leave us if we go wobbly,” he said. “I am worried about that, but that’s why I think it’s got to be a blood oath.”
King said, in the event a government shutdown occurs, he wants to ensure “there wouldn’t be a repeat of 1995 where the House caved.” Earlier this month, Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) said shutting down the government would be the right thing to do, even if means halting veterans benefits. The Washington Post reports that Republicans “haven’t said much about what would replace” health reform if it were repealed, noting that “a GOP bill rejected by the Democratic-led House last year is the closest thing to a starting point. That plan would cover an additional 3 million people by 2019, compared with nearly 33 million under the Obama health-care law.”
Update It seems “blood oaths” are all the rage these days among Republicans. Last week, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) said he wanted a “covenant” from the GOP, signed “in blood if necessary,” to extend Bush tax cuts for the rich.
Update The Wall Street Journal reports, “A vote in the House to repeal the health-care overhaul would be among the GOP's top priorities. … House Republicans say a full repeal would pick up a few Democratic votes, but acknowledge the effort would fail in the Senate.”
Update Steve Benen warns, "It's not theater; it's not posturing; it's not an idle pre-election threat. Voters should appreciate how serious this is before heading to the polls."
This post originally appeared on Think Progress. As ThinkProgress and many other outlets noted earlier today, a Muslim New York City cab driver appeared to be the first physical casualty of the controversy surrounding the Islamic center near Ground Zero. The passenger reportedly asked the cab driver if he was a Muslim. After the driver responded affirmatively, the passenger said, “Assalamu alaikum — consider this a checkpoint!” and slashed the driver’s neck and face. But in addition to acts of bodily harm against Muslims, the ugly and emotional Ground Zero debate has generated hate crimes against a mosque in California. The Fresno Bee reports that a brick was thrown through a window of the Madera Islamic center last Friday. There have been repeated instances of hate directed against this particular mosque. Signs have been left at the Islamic center carrying inflammatory messages, like this one: hatecrimesign.standalone.prod_affiliate.8 The other signs left at the Madera mosque read: “Wake up America, the Enemy is here. ANB” and “American Nationalist Brotherhood.” ThinkProgress has previously noted that there has been a spate of hate crimes against mosques in America. For instance, a mosque in South Arlington, Texas, was vandalized earlier this month. “The vandals also cut a pipe, allegedly thinking that it was a natural gas line.” Also, the Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Nashville, Tennessee was vandalized with anti-Muslim graffiti. And in a Jacksonville mosque this year, a pipe bomb was set off and a “tissue stuffed inside with white powder” was sent in the mail to one of the community’s local religious leaders.
This post first appeared on Think Progress. Last Thursday, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) held a town hall with his constituents in Shelby, Ohio, and fielded questions on a variety of topics ranging from health care to the economy. At one point, a constituent asked him about Republicans’ plans to throw “a monkey wrench in the gears of everything Obama does” if they re-take the House of Representatives. Jordan replied by saying that “most of what [the GOP] can get done” if they happen to capture the House is “have the big fight, have the big debate, and have the framework for the 2012 election”:
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Assuming it’s accurate that Republicans will get the House, how effective will that be in throwing a monkey wrench in the gears of everything Obama does?JORDAN: If we win, what will we get done? Mostly, I’ll be honest, most of what we can get done is have the big fight, have the big debate, and have the framework for the 2012 election.
Watch it: Jordan’s comments are the latest piece of evidence that suggests that the GOP does not have a substantive policy agenda it plans to implement if it makes gains in the 2010 congressional elections. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) said that if the GOP wins, “all we should do is issue subpoenas.” And Rep. Peter King (R-NY) argued the GOP shouldn’t lay out an agenda because it might become “a campaign issue.”
Update The National Review's Daniel Foster calls Jordan's comments troubling. "Winning in 2010 would mean that Republicans are winning that debate — or at least that Democrats are losing it. At that point, the House GOP might want to think about putting people back to work, beating back Obamacare, reforming entitlements, and a zillion other things before they think about 2012," Foster writes.
This post originally appeared on Think Progress. On Morning Joe earlier today, a pair of leading Republicans — host Joe Scarborough and former Bush strategist Mark McKinnon — blasted the GOP for its xenophobic and unconstitutional stance against Muslims’ right to build a new Islamic center in lower Manhattan. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has claimed that the new Islamic center project “would be like putting a Nazi sign next to the Holocaust Museum.” Referencing that quote, Scarborough expressed angry disdain at Gingrich’s intolerance. “I don’t know where to begin,” Scarborough said. “To suggest that someone trying to build a tolerance center for moderate Muslims in New York is the equivalent of killing six million Jews is stunning to me.” McKinnon then chimed in, arguing that the debate surrounding the Cordoba House project is contrary his party’s principles. “We may get our membership [by the GOP] revoked,” McKinnon joked. “Screw ‘em,” Scarborough responded. McKinnon then said that the GOP’s stance is “reinforcing al Qaeda’s message”:
McKINNON: Usually Republicans are forthright in defending the Constitution. And here we are, reinforcing al Qaeda’s message that we’re at war with Muslims. So we’ve got this issue; then we’ve got the 14th Amendment issue, where Republicans are saying you’re not welcome here, when we were the architects of the 14th Amendment. So, I see a bad pattern where we’re headed as a Republican Party.
McKinnon said he believed President Obama has “done the right thing in stepping forward at this time on this issue.” He added, “Tolerance means tolerating things you don’t like, especially when you don’t like them. … I respect the President for making this move.” Watch it: Writing in the Washington Post today, former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson — using Bush-era terminology — reinforced McKinnon’s view. “Those who want a president to assert that any mosque would defile the neighborhood near Ground Zero are asking him to undermine the war on terrorism. A war on Islam would make a war on terrorism impossible,” Gerson writes. This morning, Scarborough remarked that when he first entered Congress in 1994, he was deemed to be some “crazy,” “right wing nut job” for his ideological views. He explained that, while he still holds “the same views,” he is “feeling further and further distant from the people who are running my party.”
This post originally appeared on Think Progress. Much of the discussion at yesterday’s annual Major League Baseball’s All Star festivities in Anaheim, CA centered on “next year’s game in Phoenix and the state’s controversial immigration law.” An array of progressive activists and organizations — including America’s Voice, National Council of La Raza, AFL-CIO, Service Employees International Union, People For the American Way, and others — have called on MLB Commissioner Bud Selig to move the game if the Arizona law is not changed. San Diego Padres All Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez has already indicated that he may not play in Phoenix next year. Yesterday, a host of new players added their names to the cause:
Yovani Gallardo is firm. Even if he’s fortunate enough to make the All-Star team again next summer, he’ll skip it. “If the game is in Arizona, I will totally boycott,” the Milwaukee Brewers pitcher said Monday. […] Kansas City reliever Joakim Soria, who leads the majors with 25 saves, said he would support a Latino protest and stay away. Detroit closer Jose Valverde can see himself steering clear, too. […] “They could stop me and ask to see my papers,” Soria said. “I have to stand with my Latin community on this.”
Valverde called the law “dumb.” And while St. Louis Cardinals’ manager Tony LaRussa supports Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, his All Star slugger Albert Pujols said he opposed it.
This post originally appeared on Think Progress. This week, in announcing his choice of Gen. David Petraeus to replace Gen. Stanley McChrystal to lead the U.S. war in Afghanistan, President Obama emphasized, “this is a change in personnel but it is not a change in policy.” A key tenet of this policy, as Obama has reiterated frequently, is to “disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda.” The U.S. has committed nearly 100,000 troops to the mission in Afghanistan. ABC This Week host Jake Tapper asked CIA Director Leon Panetta how big is the al Qaeda threat that the soldiers are combating:
TAPPER: How many Al Qaeda, do you think, are in Afghanistan? PANETTA: I think the estimate on the number of Al Qaeda is actually relatively small. I think at most, we’re looking at 50 to 100, maybe less. It’s in that vicinity. There’s no question that the main location of Al Qaeda is in the tribal areas of Pakistan.
The 100,000 U.S. forces that have been tasked to dismantle the 100 or so al Qaeda members — a ratio of 1000:1 — is complicated by the fact that we are also engaged in operations going after the Taliban leadership. Panetta said the Taliban insurgency is “engaged in greater violence right now” than when Obama took office. “They’re doing more on IED’s. They’re going after our troops. There’s no question about that. In some ways, they are stronger, but in some ways, they are weaker as well.” Addressing whether the U.S. is pursuing the right strategy, CIA Director Leon Panetta meekly responded, “We think so.” Panetta added that the U.S. is making progress in Afghanistan. “It’s harder, it’s slower than I think anyone anticipated.” “Winning in Afghanistan is having a country that is stable enough to ensure that there is no safehaven for al Qaeda or for a militant Taliban that welcomes al Qaeda,” Panetta told Tapper. “That’s really the measure of success for the United States.” Watch it:
Update Marcy Wheeler adds some figures: "1,000 US troops per al Qaeda member, at a cost of $1 million each. That’s $1 billion a year we spend for each al Qaeda member to fight our war in Afghanistan."
This post originally appeared on Think Progress. Last month, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) signed legislation to allow “concealed carry permit holders to bring loaded guns” into establishments that serve alcohol. The law does not permit gun holders to consume alcohol, though the gun lobby is working to get that changed. Virginia isn’t alone in its quest to arm its bar patrons. The Georgia state house has also passed a bill that would make it “legal to enter a bar or restaurant with a licensed concealed weapon and get drunk,” as long as the individual doesn’t fire the weapon. Tennessee, too, is trying to follow in Virginia’s footsteps. Last year, the legislature overrode Gov. Phil Bredesen’s veto to pass a law providing gun owners the right to carry their weapons into any restaurant, except those whose predominant business was to serve alcohol. But the law was declared unconstitutionally vague by a state court, so Tennessee is trying again. This time, the law provides “no exclusions for where guns can be carried, as long as permit holders don’t consume alcohol.” Rep. Joe McCord, a Republican state legislator with an A+ plus rating from the NRA, explained what is going on: ‘Essentially, NRA is saying to us, if you don’t support and vote for carrying guns in bars, we will not endorse you,’ McCord said. ‘This line of reasoning borders on lunacy. ‘What line will we not cross for the NRA? At what point do we say that’s too much?’ asked McCord, who is not seeking re-election. ‘I’m sorry for those of you who feel you have to hold your nose and vote for it … because of the NRA.’ Indeed, some legislators voted for it despite voicing concerns about the bill, presumably due to pressure from the NRA. In fact, an NRA lobbyist reportedly was invited to speak to a meeting of the House Republican Caucus just hours before the vote took place. Gov. Bredesen is waiting to decide whether to veto the “guns in bars” bill. He has said the revised measure “hasn’t been made any better.” When he vetoed the bill last year, Bredesen cited a gun safety class he took in high school, sponsored by the National Rifle Association: “A basic tenet taught at that class was this: ‘Guns and alcohol don’t mix.’” UPDATE According to a poll conducted for the Brady Campaign, a majority of respondents -- 56 percent – “favor Starbucks and other retail establishments establishing strict ‘no guns’ policies for their businesses - and far more gun owners support a ‘no guns’ policy for Starbucks than believe Starbucks and other businesses should allow firearms on their premises.”
This story originally appeared on Think Progress. In candid remarks made before a group of students at DePaul University, RNC Chairman Michael Steele said African-Americans “don’t have a reason” to vote for Republicans because “we haven’t done a very good job of giving you one.” The Chicago Sun-Times reports:
Why should an African-American vote Republican? “You really don’t have a reason to, to be honest — we haven’t done a very good job of really giving you one. True? True,” Republican National Chairman Michael Steele told 200 DePaul University students Tuesday night. […] “For the last 40-plus years we had a ‘Southern Strategy’ that alienated many minority voters by focusing on the white male vote in the South. Well, guess what happened in 1992, folks, ‘Bubba’ went back home to the Democratic Party and voted for Bill Clinton.”
Of course, anytime Democrats make similar arguments, Steele is quick to accuse them of issuing “blind charges of racism, where none exist.” Steele himself claims not to “play the race card,” but in addition to his comments last night, he has said that he has a “slimmer margin for error” because of his race and that white Republicans are “scared” of him.
Editor's note: Obama just signed the historic legislation into law, joined on stage by Ted Kennedy's widow Vicki Kennedy, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and a host of other lawmakers and guests, including the sister of the woman battling breast cancer and high insurance premiums. This post was originally published on Think Progress. In just a few minutes, President Obama will sign a comprehensive health care reform bill into law. On March 24, 2007 — nearly three years ago to this day — then-candidate Obama attended a health care forum in Las Vegas sponsored by the Center for American Progress Action Fund and SEIU. At the forum, Obama delivered this pledge:
OBAMA: In addition to those basic principles, what I think is most important is we recognize that every four years we hear somebody’s got a health care plan. Every four years, somebody trots out a white paper — they post it on the web.But the question we have to challenge ourselves: Do we have the political will and the sense of urgency to actually get it done? I want to be held accountable for getting it done. I will judge my first term as president based on the fact on whether we have delivered the kind of health care that every American deserves and that our system can afford.
Watch it. The health care forum in 2007 served as a kind of epiphany for Obama. Time’s Karen Tumulty, who moderated the forum, wrote that Obama “was noticeably uncomfortable when pressed for details” about his health care plan. As Ezra Klein wrote at the time, “Compared to John Edwards, who had a detailed plan, and Hillary Clinton, whose fluency with the subject is unmatched among the contenders, he seemed uncertain and adrift.” Obama himself acknowledged that the health care forum revealed, “I am not a great candidate now, but I am going to figure out how to be a great candidate.” Now, by delivering on the basic health care principles he pronounced three years ago, Obama is already earning praise as “one of America’s finest presidents.”