Latinos are a left-leaning demographic–and Republican support for an immigration deal won’t change that, writes Jamelle Bouie.
In the ongoing argument over how the Republican Party can move forward after losing last year's elections, Florida Senator Marco Rubio has had a clear, coherent perspective. The GOP doesn't need to change its policies—it just needs to reach out to key voters, like Latinos, and bring them into the tent. To do that, Republicans need to appeal to the immigrant identity, and present the Democratic Party as a throwback to "the countries that your parents and grandparents came here to get away from."
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., center, speaks at a Capitol Hill news conference with a bipartisan group of leading senators to announce their agreement on the principles of sweeping legislation to rewrite the nation's immigration laws on Jan. 28, 2013. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
But there's a roadblock. As he put it during a January address to the conservative Hispanic Leadership Network, "It’s a difficult message to get to because the gateway issue of immigration stands in the minds of so many people who we live next to and love."
In other words, the party's stance on immigration keeps it from building common cause with voters who, as Rubio has described them, have a native social conservatism and enthusiasm for entrepreneurship.
Speaking with more emotion than he has publicly on any issue, the president castigated the senators who defeated a background checks measure. But he vowed to fight on, reports Eleanor Clift.
A visibly angry President Obama, reacting to the defeat of an exceedingly modest gun control measure, called it “a pretty shameful day for Washington” when the wishes of 90 percent of the American people can’t be translated into Senate action.
US President Barack Obama, accompanied by former lawmaker Gabrielle Giffords (L), US Vice President Joe Biden (C) and families who suffered gun-violence, speaks on gun control and the vote at the US Senate on April 17, 2013 in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty)
The president spoke with more emotion and for a more sustained period of time than he has publicly on any issue, castigating the minority of senators who blocked the measure and saying he wanted to talk “plainly and honestly about what’s happened here.”
Standing in the Rose Garden on Wednesday with the parents of Sandy Hook children who lost their lives and former Rep. Gabby Giffords, Obama made no attempt to hide his outrage at the Republican-led filibuster that killed the bill “even as these families looked on from the Senate gallery.” A handful of Democrats stood with the GOP as 90 percent of Democrats supported the measure, “but it’s not going to happen because 90 percent of Republicans voted against it,” Obama said.
Supporters concede the bipartisan push to tighten rules on gun purchases has faltered. Howard Kurtz on why the post-Newtown legislation fell short.
Despite the backing of longtime NRA backer Harry Reid and conservative Republican Pat Toomey, the Senate has failed to muster enough support to pass a compromise measure tightening background checks for gun purchases.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D–West Virginia), left, and Sen. Patrick Toomey (R–Pennsylvania) coauthored the bill to expand background checks. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
As the echoes of the Newtown massacre have faded, and with some conservative Democrats wavering, it was clear on Wednesday that the amendment backed by the White House would fall at least five votes short of passage, and probably more.
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, another NRA champion who broke ranks to support background checks with Pennsylvania’s Toomey, is conceding they don’t have the votes. The duo had hoped to round up 60 votes to defeat any GOP delaying tactics, but now some risk-averse Democrats may vote against the measure because it appears doomed to defeat. Two potential supporters—Nevada's Dean Heller and Alaska's Lisa Murkowski—now say they will vote no.
In the wake of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, Bobby Kennedy delivered a beautiful prayer for the nation. Jon Favreau on what we can learn from RFK’s speech in the wake of the Boston tragedy.
Ten years away from Boston, and I’ve never felt farther from home than I did on Monday night. At the White House, the predictable chaos of a last-minute statement would have offered me a welcome connection and distraction all at once. But alone on my couch, comforted by calls and texts from friends and family who were OK, heartbroken by bloody images of spectators who weren’t, all I really wanted was to be there.
From left: Robert F. Kennedy speaks to supporters during a campaign stop on April 5, 1968, following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. A woman reacts while at a memorial in Boston on April 17. (AP (2))
The voice that plays in my mind during times like these belongs to a proud son of Boston who was also killed by a horrific act of violence. Forty-five years ago this April, a few short months before being gunned down in Los Angeles, Bobby Kennedy climbed onto a flatbed and ended his extemporaneous eulogy of Martin Luther King Jr. with a simple prayer for the nation:
“We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times. We’ve had difficult times in the past, and we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; and it’s not the end of disorder. But the vast majority of … people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings that abide in our land.”
The Palestinian prime minister did everything Israel and America asked of him. But in the end, they didn’t have his back. Peter Beinart on the downfall of an admirable politician.
“We don’t listen to what you say,” a friend from Ramallah told me a while back. “We see what you do.” Poor Salam Fayyad, who resigned this weekend as prime minister of the Palestinian Authority. He put his faith in what America and Israel say.
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad speaks during an interview in the West Bank city of Ramallah on June 28, 2011. (Majdi Mohammed/AP)
American and Israeli officials say they want Palestinian leaders to champion nonviolence, fiscal integrity, and the two state solution. Judged by those criteria, Fayyad was a dream come true. In 2010, Israeli President Shimon Peres compared him to Israel’s own revered founder, David Ben Gurion. In 2011, the International Monetary Fund declared that the Palestinian Authority was “now able to conduct the sound economic policies expected of a future well-functioning Palestinian state.” In 2012, in part because of improved Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation, Israel’s internal security service, the Shin Bet, reported that for the first time in almost 40 years, not a single Israeli had died from Palestinian terrorism from the West Bank.
But if Fayyad delivered, Israel and America did not. Logic would suggest that faced with a West Bank prime minister who makes the IMF swoon and a Hamas leadership in Gaza that calls Osama Bin Laden a “holy warrior,” the Israeli and American governments would have gone to great lengths to help Fayyad succeed. To the contrary, they helped seal his doom.
Not so long ago, plenty of Republicans favored gun control.
Every now and then I encounter some random piece of historical trivia and I remember: the Republican Party used to be sane. The last such epiphany occurred when I was researching the assault-weapons ban, which first passed the Senate in 1993. Scanning the roll call, I noticed an odd letter—“R”—next to some of the senators who had voted yes. Overall, 10 Republicans voted for the assault-weapons ban back then, almost a quarter of the GOP caucus. Today, by contrast, not a single Republican senator supports such a ban. Even the Obama administration’s less controversial proposal for background checks faces overwhelming GOP opposition. Today, in fact, most Senate Republicans don’t merely oppose new gun-control legislation; they oppose even holding a vote.
Back in 1993, almost a quarter of Senate Republicans voted for the assault weapons ban. Today, it’s a very different story. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)
Looking at those names from 1993 is like fingering pottery shards from a once-robust civilization, now in ruins. Of the 10 yes votes, six came from Rhode Island, Vermont, Delaware, Oregon, and Colorado. Those states don’t have Republican senators anymore. In the presidential elections of the 1970s and 1980s, Oregon, Vermont, Delaware, and Colorado were almost always red; Rhode Island fluctuated between the parties. Last fall, Barack Obama won each handily.
But that’s only half the story. It’s not just that states that are now bright blue once elected moderate Republicans to the Senate. Conservative states used to elect Republican moderates too. The other four Republicans who backed the assault-weapons ban were Missouri’s John Danforth, Kansas’s Nancy Kassebaum, and Richard Lugar and Dan Coats from Indiana. What happened to each is instructive. Danforth soon left the Senate, and later condemned his party’s “fixation on a religious agenda.” He called last year’s Republican primary debates “embarrassing.” For her part, Kassebaum endorsed Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be Defense secretary, a nomination that most current Senate Republicans not only opposed but filibustered. A year ago, a Tea Party challenger defeated Lugar in the GOP primary. In his concession statement, Lugar warned that if the kind of ideological zealotry that defeated him “expands in the Republican Party, we will be relegated to minority status.” Six months later, a Democrat claimed Lugar’s seat. Of the four, only Coats remains in the Senate. (Actually, he left and returned.) But he now opposes any new limitations on gun ownership, despite having voted for them repeatedly in the 1990s.
Jim Wallis’s biblically based challenge to Washington.
Abraham Lincoln was raised Baptist and had a powerful personal faith. But he refused to affiliate with any organized church. Emailing me this week from the road, where he is on an 18-city book tour, the Rev. Jim Wallis wrote, “Maybe Lincoln was one of the first ‘None of the Aboves’”—referring to the 60 percent of today’s young people who, he says, “have just chosen not to affiliate with any religion in large part because of the behavior of the religious.” Yet Lincoln captured perfectly the way people of faith should consider God in the public square. “My concern,” he famously said, “is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side.”
Wallis—an evangelical Christian minister, a political liberal, and (full disclosure) a friend—has chosen Lincoln’s observation as the starting point for an important sermon. His new book, On God’s Side, purposefully challenges both the religious right and the religious left to come together on higher ground for the common good. A political junkie, Wallis removed himself from much of the coverage of the 2012 campaign; he didn’t even know who won the New Hampshire primary for days. He went on retreat, seeking silence and solace and sanity. When he returned, he wrote On God’s Side. It is in many ways a slap in the face to politics as usual, a plea for all sides to heed the scriptural command to find a time to mend and not just to tear; to love and not just to hate; to search and not just give up.
As a practicing pundit and political consultant, as well as a practicing Catholic, I found that Wallis’s book contained a special challenge for me. He has come up with a Covenant for Civility: seven biblically based rules for political combat. One is a commitment to pray for one another—even and especially our political adversaries. Another is to follow the Epistle of James, to be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” I probably violated that one before I even finished the book. Still, it is helpful and healthy that Wallis has set the bar high for us pundits. Wallis argues passionately for men and women of good will to reach across the ideological divide and join in advancing the common good. I agree wholeheartedly. But what about those whose goal is not the common good? What if, instead of dealing with goodhearted conservatives who truly want every American to succeed, President Obama is actually dealing with a different hard-core conservative cadre that denies and even denigrates the notion of the common good?
Because he is a Christian who lives his life by biblical precepts, Wallis sometimes suffers from projection: he thinks everyone else is as public spirited and compassionate as he is. Indeed, many (perhaps even most) conservatives are. The late Jack Kemp used to call himself “a bleeding-heart conservative,” and even Ronald Reagan remarked about the unfairness of a tax code that charged a bus driver a lower rate than a millionaire. But it may be that some of today’s conservatives are cut from a different cloth. Rather than the Bible, these new militant individualists regard Atlas Shrugged as their sacred text. Its author, Ayn Rand, was contemptuous of Christ and sneered at compassion.
Anti-taping laws hurt democracy by shielding the powers that be from accountability, writes provocateur James O’Keefe.
“Break in, bribe, seduce and lie; anything to break through that palace guard and get the story,” said investigative reporter Robert Scheer, according to a article by Abbie Hoffman in a decades-old edition of Mother Jones magazine. Sometimes I’ve broken through the palace guards, and other times the palace guards have nearly broken me. What didn’t jail me made me stronger and smarter. I’ve become all too familiar with civil and criminal statutes that are bad for democracy because they insolate those vested in a public trust from democratic accountability.
David Corn, a political journalist and author, chief of the Washington bureau for Mother Jones, inside the East Room of the White House in March 2009. (Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty)
Those embroiled in fraud rarely make unprovoked admissions of licentious behavior, which is precisely why covert tactics are effective in exposing the truth. Yet the problem lies in the consequences of applying Scheer’s rule. If I were on the left, pushing the legal limits of recordings by secretly taping meetings of the National Rifle Association, I’d be a cause célèbre and win awards for journalistic excellence. Because my passion so far has been exposing government-funded sacred cows and disrupting statist narratives, I am an apostate. Therein the tragedy lies; a free press is supposed to defend the rights of journalists with whom they disagree. It’s not just ignoble for the mainstream to ignore my First Amendment crises when they’ve arisen; journalists who reflexively call for my prosecution put themselves outside their own values, assuming that support for the First Amendment is one of them. They must now confront these values head-on as surreptitious recordings spark a mainstream renaissance, opening the floodgates to a veritable constitutional crisis over privacy, consent, and the ability to protect anonymous whistleblowers.
Mother Jones magazine’s Washington bureau chief, David Corn, recently won a Polk journalism award after publishing a series of clandestine recordings. Writing later about how he came into possession of the tape, Corn noted that the recording raised a “question of possible criminal prosecution” in Florida, a two-party-consent state. His lawyers advised Scott Prouty (the bartender who captured then candidate Romney’s now famous “47 percent” comments), his anonymous source at the time, to “shut up and keep your head low.” This week, Corn stands to win another journalism award from Ithaca College for “outstanding achievement in independent media,” a week after a recording was released that captured a private conversation in Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Kentucky campaign office. Corn’s latest story could trigger felony eavesdropping charges. The FBI is investigating, and an official in the group Progress Kentucky has subsequently resigned, saying he “does not condone any allegations of illegal activity that might have taken place.” The murky nature of the Kentucky law makes it unclear whether it’s legal to record a barely audible conversation, according to NBC News. Sadly, rather than being viewed from the onset as a freedom-of-press issue, these debates split neatly down party lines, contingent upon who’s being investigated.
From Sarah Palin to Paul Ryan and now Greg Walden, why do Republicans keep attacking Obama for trying to save money? Peter Beinart explains this weird phenomenon.
Washington Republicans believe passionately in deficit reduction, except in two circumstances: when they’re in power and when Democrats are.
During the George W. Bush years, Dick Cheney famously said that “deficits don’t matter.” And by their actions, many prominent Republicans sent exactly the same message. Between 2001 and 2008, even anti-debt crusaders like Paul Ryan voted for three tax cuts and two wars that, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, will add $6 trillion to the national debt by 2019. They also supported the costliest new Medicare plan ever and a highway bill that included the infamously wasteful Bridge to Nowhere.
President Obama and Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR). (Getty; AP)
Since President Obama took office, the GOP’s rhetoric has radically changed. Most Washington Republicans still don’t believe enough in deficit reduction to want to cut the Pentagon or raise taxes, but when it comes to domestic spending, the Republican Party has begun breathing fire. Some Republicans have even chastised their own party for being too free spending during the Bush years.
Running for reelection as mayor and eyeing Obama’s path.
Mayor Julián Castro is on his way to Austin. This wasn’t always part of the plan, or so I’m told. Castro was originally scheduled to spend the day in San Antonio, the sprawling South Texas metropolis over which he’s presided since 2009, so that he could smile and wave at a press conference for the city’s annual spring street fair.
“For far too long, there has not been a voice of reason to provide an opposing idea about the direction [Texas] should take on issues like this.” And that, apparently, is where Castro comes in. (Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters)
But now he has other business to attend to. Statewide business. National business.
Last week Texas’s top three politicians—Republican Gov. Rick Perry, Republican Sen. John Cornyn, and Republican Sen. Ted Cruz—announced they’d be appearing together at the statehouse in Austin to explain (yet again) why accepting tens of millions of federal dollars to expand the state’s Medicaid program would be a terrible idea, and Lone Star Democrats were faced (yet again) with their usual problem. Texas hasn’t elected a single Democrat to statewide office since 1994; the last of the breed vanished from Austin four years later. The result, as Castro tells me somewhere between San Antonio and the capital, is that “for far too long, there has not been a voice of reason to provide an opposing idea about the direction the state should take on issues like this.” And that, apparently, is where Castro comes in.
How activists helped to defeat (for now) a Tennessee bill that would have cut monetary assistance to poor families if their children fell behind in schools. By Joshua DuBois.
Little Aamira went to the Capitol to stare down a Senator—and she won.
Classroom in Memphis, Tenn., on Sept. 27, 2012. (Mike Brown/The Commercial Appeal, via AP)
Aamira Fetuga is an 8-year-old from Nashville, Tennessee. Sporting a purposeful walk and a smile that stretched from ear to ear, Aamira and her mother traveled to the Capitol building in Tennessee this past Thursday to protest a piece of legislation that offended her deeply.
State Senator Stacey Campfield, a Republican from Knoxville, had introduced a bill that would cut monetary assistance to poor families if their children fell behind in school. Aamira, like many around the country, didn’t like this, so she decided to let Senator Campfield know.
The Republican jeremiads were expected—but why can’t liberals see the sense in the president’s not-at-all draconian budget proposals? Robert Shrum says it’s time to face reality.
You would think President Obama was proposing to repeal the New Deal. (Well, actually, that’s Paul Ryan.)
President Barack Obama speaks on the budget as Office of Management and Budget Acting Director Jeffrey Zients watches, in Rose Garden of the White House on April 10,2013 in Washington, DC. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty )
This wasn’t the Republican reaction, of course, to a budget that was pre-dead on arrival, dismissed in advance by House Speaker John Boehner and disdained by the Tea-spooked Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who couldn’t take yes for an answer when the president called for the entitlement changes McConnell had previously promised “would get Republicans interested in new revenue.” Aside from the fiscal fallout of a failed budgetary process that could slow the economic recovery, the episode points to a likely and grim outcome of these two years—that not much will emerge living or lasting from this Congress.
And don’t just blame GOP members, largely trapped in their gerrymandered red districts, incapable of doing right even if they recognize it, as they cower before the threat of primary challenges. The Democratic base, and prominent Democrats in the Senate and House, rushed to scorn the president’s Social Security and Medicare reforms as a betrayal of progressive principle. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren was “shocked,” which presumably means she hadn’t been reading the wave of advance stories on the Obama budget. Iowa’s Tom Harkin denounced “an unnecessary attack on a critical program.” And Rhode Island’s Sheldon Whitehouse insisted that Social Security “has no place in this debate over federal spending.”
From a representative suggesting bulletproof vests for town meetings to a GOP committeeman comparing gays to alcoholics, our weekly roundup of way-off-message politicos.
Michigan: Agema Ain't Going Away
We wrote about Michigan Republican National Committeeman David Agema a couple of weeks ago after the former state representative shared an article on his Facebook feed about the "filthy lifestyle" of homosexuals. This week he doubled down on his comments, telling a local radio station that he wants to help homosexuals out of their “lifestyle” because "the next thing that will occur is your kids will come home and say, 'I think this is a good thing and I think I want to be one.'" But it was the way he closed the interview that made headlines, when he compared gays with alcoholics: "If you really love someone, if you really were concerned about someone, if you saw your friend, for example, dying of alcoholism, would you just stand quietly by and watch it happen?"
North Carolina: Is That a Trick Question?
North Carolina State Representative Michele Presnell, a Republican, was caught out this week after an email exchange with one of her constituents was made public. In it, the constituent asks Presnell how she would feel if a prayer was made to Allah before legislative meetings, to which she responded: "No, I do not condone terrorism." Presnell continued linking the religion of Islam to terrorism at large as the constituent continued the debate, which eventually ended with a curt response from Presnell: "No, you are wrong. Have a good day."
Obama’s plan privileges America’s bondholders over its retirees, writes Lloyd Green.
This week, President Obama birthed a still-born budget that Herbert Hoover could have loved. With little surprise but much fanfare, Barack Obama unveiled his new call for austerity in the midst of a near-jobless recovery. The budget does nothing for the bulk of working Americans— who endured a 2 percent Social Security tax hike as the price of not tumbling over the fiscal cliff—except, of course, leaves a tax increase in place that will cost a family making $40,000 a year an extra $800 in payroll taxes.
Two young residents at a Hooverville shantytown in Washington, D.C., 1932. (MPI/Getty)
But the Dow and the S&P have hit new highs since the budget’s Wednesday release. Obama, the self-proclaimed agent of change, has discovered establishment economics and happily embraced the creed of the grand bargain. Centrists of an elite variety are toasting the onetime Chicago community organizer who may now rightfully sit at the right hand of Pete Peterson.
Already, the Democratic left is thundering against it. Usually, it is Republicans who get zapped by stepping on the “third rail” of Social Security. But this time, it is the president who has put his foot in it.
Eric Nordstrom, who worked at the Benghazi consulate on the day it was attacked, choked up during Wednesday's hearings. 'It matters,' he said, that the committee investigate what happened before, during, and after the siege.
Corry Booker’s the hero mayor of Newark, and, yes, he’s running for Senate. By Lloyd Grove
The president’s push for $9 an hour has the GOP on the defensive. Eleanor Clift on the strategy behind the move. But this push could take the politics out of the perennial argument.
Meet the new Treasury secretary, same as the old Treasury secretary. Lloyd Green on nominee Jack Lew.
For John Kael Weston and other men on the frontlines of Iraq and Afghanistan drone strikes raise many uncomfortable questions. He writes on why we need clearer policy and guidelines for these silent killers.