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."
Conservatives are vowing revenge for the Republican senator’s background-check compromise. With 94 percent of constituents behind him, they may be firing blanks.
Sen. Pat Toomey, the man who perfected Republicans’ eat-your-own politics as the president of the Club for Growth, found himself on the wrong end of conservatives’ pitchforks Thursday after he struck a deal with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) to expand criminal background checks to the sale of most guns. The background-check bill would not apply to all guns, nor would it ban the future sale of any specific gun or ammunition. But the backlash from conservatives and gun groups on even that slim piece of gun-control legislation was fast and furious.
“You, sir, are a lying treasonous #&$,” read one comment on the newly created “Sen. Arlen Toomey” Facebook page, a right-of-center rant-athon named for Toomey and the late Sen. Arlen Specter, the man Toomey challenged twice and eventually banished to the Democratic Party for his insufficient conservatism. “Your [sic] are a backstabbing RINO. Gun owners had a big part in putting you in office,” another Facebook user posted, after 15 Republicans joined Toomey to defeat a filibuster against the bill.
Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia (left) and Republican Sen. Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania announce that they have reached a bipartisan deal on expanding background checks to more gun buyers on April 10. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
Toomey insisted Wednesday that the bill itself wasn’t about guns at all. “I gotta tell ya—candidly—I don’t consider criminal background checks to be gun control,” he said. “I think it’s just common sense. If you pass a criminal background check, you get to buy a gun, it’s no problem.”
How to handle the volatile leader of North Korea? Howard Kurtz says the ex-veep knows what to doo-doo.
Dick Cheney has such a reassuring way about him.
Dick Cheney speaks at an event in October 2012 in Woodbury, New York. This week Cheney offered Republican leaders in Washington his assessment of North Korea. (Bruce Bennett/Getty)
This is a man who was determined to go after Saddam Hussein, who wanted to stand up to Iran, who pushed domestic surveillance, who championed such a bellicose foreign policy that George W. Bush had to rein him in during his second term.
There would be every expectation, therefore, that Cheney, in this week’s briefing with Republican leaders in Washington, would counsel a very aggressive stance toward the young North Korean leader who is striking a warlike pose toward the United States.
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.
The liberal governor told The Baltimore Sun that he is considering a presidential run in the next election, the first potential contender to openly test the waters. Why now?
The starter gun for the 2016 presidential race went off Wednesday, however so slightly, when Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley indicated for the first time that he is seriously considering a bid.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (right) and Gov. Martin O'Malley, both Maryland Democrats, at a 2011 news conference in Washington, D.C. O’Malley has indicated that he is considering running for president in 2016. (Tom Williams/Getty)
The Democrat told The Baltimore Sun, “I need to be spending a lot more energy and time giving serious consideration and preparation to what—if anything—I might have to offer should I decide to run for president in 2016,” during a meeting with the paper’s editorial board tied to the end of the legislative session in Maryland.
Although potential candidates are hiring key staff and visiting the early primary states of New Hampshire and Iowa, O’Malley’s comments are among the most explicit yet by anyone on either side of the aisle about the next campaign.
The Democrats beat back a GOP filibuster in a critical test of strength. Howard Kurtz on whether the gun-control legislation really has a chance.
The Senate beat back a Republican filibuster on gun legislation Thursday morning by a vote of 68-31, clearing the way for possible floor votes and giving the Obama administration and its allies a glimmer of hope.
A view of the Capitol building in Washington D.C. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call, via Getty)
It was only a tentative first step, but a crucial showdown nonetheless. The GOP failed to muster the necessary 60 votes to cut off debate, opening the door to a legislative compromise that would still face numerous obstacles on the road to passing the Republican-controlled House.
In the early skirmishing, Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut said: “It’s just gotta end. The answer can’t be as it has been for 20 years that we’re gonna do nothing.”
Assuming there’s no big budget deal, says Michael Tomasky, Obama has to stop trying to meet maniacs halfway—and instead spend his waning days in office giving America some serious truth medicine.
With the release of the Obama budget, coming into view now just on the far horizon is an image of how the rest of his time in office might play out. Right now Obama is making what I think and hope is his final offer to Republicans. He has put changes to entitlement programs on the table in a big and visible way. Once they refuse this deal, as I and most people expect they will, then what happens? Right now we’re seeing Obama being moderate, cautious; trying to seem reasonable. But after the rejectionists reject him yet again, I want to see a president who turns the tables on these jokers and uses his remaining time not aiming to meet a group of maniacs halfway, but trying to reframe these conversations entirely for the sake of his legacy and for the sake of future presidents and battles.
President Obama delivers a speech on gun control April 8 at the University of Hartford in West Hartford, Connecticut. (Spencer Platt/Getty)
What’s going to happen here is the following bleak sequence of events. First the GOP is going to say no no no no no, because Obama’s budget calls for $580 billion in revenue (by the way, it proposes $2 in cuts for every $1 in revenue, for a total of $1.8 trillion in deficit reduction). The sequestration cuts are going to continue. Then will come mid-May, when Congress needs to raise the debt ceiling again. The Republicans will probably extract more cuts there. But as they will never accept more revenue or do anything to give Obama a political victory, we will just keep limping along through this year and into next with Congress funding the operations of government on an ad hoc basis.
Then the election will come. Obama will campaign saying, folks, I’ve tried everything I could to reason with these people, but they won’t settle for half a loaf, or even two thirds of a loaf; they want the whole loaf, and nobody in life gets the whole loaf. They are the problem, and you must throw them out. Give me a Democratic House—it’s the only way we’ll get anything done in the next two years.
Liberals are blasting the president’s budget proposals—and on Wednesday they also attacked Nancy Pelosi for not publicly opposing his Social Security changes. Lloyd Grove reports.
President Obama is an old hand at absorbing attacks from his left flank. He got plenty of incoming hostility Wednesday during a conference call staged by a liberal advocacy group to highlight perceived flaws in his budget proposals.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi addresses an audience during an event held to mark the 20th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act on March 25 in Boston. Pelosi is being criticized for not publicly opposing the President Obama’s proposals for Social Security. (Steven Senne/AP)
But it’s a novel—and not altogether pleasurable—experience for House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi to serve as target practice for the left.
Pelosi, the 13-term San Francisco congresswoman who was toppled from the House speakership during the Republican landslide of 2010, came in for harsh criticism from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.
The publisher emeritus of The Nation magazine examines and pays tribute to the wordless attack in ‘The Art of Controversy’ and picks his favorites, from Daumier to Steadman.
1. Art Young’s “Jesus Christ Wanted” (1917)
Art Young’s “Jesus Christ Wanted” (1917).
2. Robert Minor’s “The Perfect Soldier” (1916)
Robert Minor’s “The Perfect Soldier” (1916).
Anthony Weiner just wants to be loved—and he wouldn’t mind being New York City mayor. Michael Daly on why the recovering sexter should be given a second chance.
Last month, some crazy whim compelled me to text the former New York congressman who knows better than anybody that cyber messaging can elicit surprising impulses.
Anthony Weiner testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on January 6, 2011. (Harry Hamburg/AP)
“Why don’t you just run for mayor and remind everybody how much you have to offer and how tough you are?” I wrote. “The worst than can happen is you lose.”
The response from Anthony Weiner was: “Not a crazy idea.”
Obama’s new fiscal proposal isn’t all about chained CPI. From algae-powered ships to a rendezvous with an asteroid, see five of the most exciting science and tech projects in the plan.
President Obama’s new budget proposal is a mostly modest document, mostly emphasizing modest trims and reducing inefficiencies. But if you dig deep enough, there are a handful of exciting science and technology projects in there, including NASA’s plan to capture an asteroid and haul it to the moon. The Daily Beast rounds up five of the most interesting projects.
President Obama's budget proposal included research for algae-powered naval vessels (top right), and a plan to capture an asteroid. (Getty (2); AP (2))
Lasso an Asteroid!
NASA gets $78 million to start working on a plan to capture a small asteroid and move it into the moon’s orbit, where scientists can study it and eventually (Obama’s goal is 2025) visit in person. The research would be a boon to prospective space miners and, NASA says, help develop technology that could prevent an asteroid from slamming into the Earth and killing everyone. The budget also asks for continued funding for the Orion rocket, which will eventually take humans to Mars, and money to send a large rover to the red planet by 2020.
President Obama’s new budget contains sensible proposals for public investment and tax reform. But it still falls victim to the needless politics of austerity.
Meat Loaf famously said that “two out of three ain’t bad.” By this standard, President Obama’s fiscal year 2014 budget, released Wednesday, ain’t bad. It certainly makes more sense than most of what passes for serious fiscal discussion in Washington. But it doesn’t do all that is necessary to boost U.S. growth—now or in the future.
President Obama, accompanied by acting budget director Jeffrey Zients, speaks in the White House Rose Garden on April 10. (J. David Ake/AP)
The best economic-growth plan would be built around three elements: an ambitious public-investment agenda; serious measures to broaden the tax base and pare entitlement benefits for well-to-do retirees—not for now, but over the long term; and reforms to resolve festering issues from the 2008 financial meltdown. The president’s plan has versions of at least the first two elements. It moves beyond mindless austerity by offering up new public investments. It also uses a sensible mix of new revenues and entitlement changes to restore long-term fiscal sanity. Equally important, the budget phases in those changes down the road when the economy (we hope) will be stronger.
To appreciate why continued austerity would be economically reckless, just review the economic data for 2012. The United States did grow faster than most other advanced economies. But that’s only because the euro zone has been back in recession since mid-2012, France and Britain barely grew at all last year, with rates of 0.1 percent and 0.2 percent growth, respectively, and Germany expanded less than 1 percent. So, the United States looks good with 2.2 percent growth for 2012—even though it slumped to 0.4 percent in the final quarter. Among the major developed economies, only Australia (3.3 percent) outpaced America in 2012.
He’s sorry! He wants a second chance! He’s maybe running for mayor! The most, ahem, revealing details from Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin’s tell-all in The New York Times Magazine.
This week’s New York Times Magazine offers Anthony Weiner roughly 9,000 words—to wax poetic about the fallout over the tweeted photograph of his boner—and the chance to informally throw his hat back in the ring for a possible New York City mayoral run. N.Y.C.’s potential first “Crotch Shot Mayor” and his wife, Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, discuss Weiner’s Twitter scandal, his political downfall, his bizarre behavior, her decision not to leave him, and his possible political comeback.
Anthony Weiner speaks to the media during a news conference in New York on June 16, 2011. (Seth Wenig/AP)
“We have been in a defensive crouch for so long,” Weiner says, explaining why they’re addressing the scandal now. “We are ready to clear the decks on this thing.” Abedin agrees. “I have now gotten used to people asking, over and over, again, ‘How is Anthony?’ Oh, he’s good! ‘But how is he doing?’ He’s doing fine.” How fine? Here, the 10 juiciest bits from “Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin’s Post-Scandal Playbook.”
He’s running, basically. Mercifully, the lede is not buried here. “Weiner quickly put all the speculation to rest: he is eyeing the mayor’s race,” writer Jonathan Van Meter begins the fifth paragraph. More than $100,000 was poured into polling and research to test the waters for Weiner’s comeback. The question, according to David Binder, Obama’s longtime pollster hired by Weiner’s political committee, was, “Are voters willing to give him a second chance or not, regardless of what race or what contest?” Binder says the response, generally, was, “Yeah, he made a mistake. Let’s give him a second chance.”
Spending time with the Newtown families, Joshua DuBois realized that the gun control debate isn’t about ideas or policies or politics. It’s about human beings.
It was the only time I have ever regretted putting my hand on someone’s shoulder.
I was standing in a classroom somewhere behind the auditorium at Newtown High School in Connecticut. I had arrived a few hours before, and my job was to staff President Obama as he visited the families of the children who had been killed just two days before.
Families of children killed in the Newtown school shooting, including Mark, second from left, and Jackie Barden, parents of 7-year-old Daniel; William Sherlach, second from right, husband of Mary, the Sandy Hook Elementary School psychologist; and Neil Heslin, right. father of 6-year-old Jesse, listen as President Barack Obama speaks at the University of Hartford in Hartford, Connecticut, on April 8, 2013. (Susan Walsh/AP)
The task was straightforward: work with a team of logistical experts (in Washington-speak, the “advance team”) to set up a series of classrooms where the families of the fallen could meet quietly with President Obama. And then, as the faith-based office director and religious adviser, I was to accompany the president on these somber visits.
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.