Yes, an assault-weapons ban is dead. But, argues Michael Tomasky, a decent gun bill still stands a chance of passage—provided five red-state Democrats do the right thing.
Matters look bleak indeed when 50 senators vote for a measure requiring that any bill changing gun laws get a two-thirds majority. Nothing else, not taxes, not anything (except some internal Senate rules), requires a two-thirds vote. That 50 senators voted this way—including six Democrats—shows what a collection of cowards and lickspittles these people are on the issue. If the NRA said gun bills should only be passed after sundown on Tuesdays between Columbus Day and the Ascension of Abdul Baha, they’d rush in with amendments stipulating that it also had to be raining. And yet, there is still a chance—yes, even with the assault-weapons ban dead—that the Senate at least will pass some fairly decent legislation. The NRA can still lose here. It’s important that you know this. They don’t want you to.
People with Occupy The NRA signs protest investments in gun manufacter companies outside the headquarters of Owl Creek Management on Fifth Avenue in New York on March 18, 2013. (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty)
The demented legislation that passed recently emerged from the mysterious gray matter of Mike Lee, the Utah senator. It proved again the maxim, a maxim being re-proven about every few days in contemporary Washington, that no matter how far right the GOP is, it’s never far enough. A two-thirds majority to change any gun law! Someone like Utah Republican Orrin Hatch had to know deep down what a procedural and constitutional abomination this was. But they all had to vote for it on the Republican side—except Mark Kirk, who’s from Illinois. The roll of Democratic dishonor featured Joe Manchin (WV), Max Baucus (MT), Joe Donnelly (IN), Kay Hagan (NC), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), and Mark Pryor (AK).
It didn’t pass, of course, because anything like that needs 60 votes in the Senate. But the mere fact that it got 50 is chilling. Yet even so, a decent bill on background checks is possible. It actually would make a difference, maybe a big difference—maybe a bigger difference than the already failed assault-weapons ban.
The RNC's report on the state of the Republican Party was resoundingly on point. Stuart Stevens, Mitt Romney's chief 2012 strategist, on how to fix the phony debates and the troubling influence of corporate money.
The Republican National Committee’s post-2012 election analysis (which the RNC wisely elected not to call an autopsy) was an unusually honest and smart self-critique. One of the problems it addressed was the troubling explosion of primary debates. In 1988 there were seven Republican primary debates. In 2000, there were 13. In 2012, the number soared to 20.
President Barack Obama smiles as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney speaks during the third presidential debate at Lynn University on Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (Rick Wilking/AP)
This debate escalation is somewhere between silly and dumb and serves no public good. We pick a president with three general-election debates but it takes 20 debates to understand that maybe Ron Paul wants to blow up the Federal Reserve? Other important national questions are decided more expediently: it only takes 12 shows for The Bachelorette and The Bachelor to pick a mate.
The RNC report recommends cutting the number of debates in half and shortening the debating season. That’s a good start. But I think we should go further. To improve the quality of the debates and eradicate the commercial toxicity tainting the events, news organizations should get out of the business of sponsoring debates.
Hint: A lot came from Justice Scalia. See the five most bizarre moments from the Supreme Court’s Prop 8 and DOMA arguments this week, from cellphones to the ‘essential thrust.’
Anybody else got a bit of a Supreme Court hangover?
Gay marriage supporters rally outside the Supreme Court during oral arguments in a case challenging the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) March 27, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty)
The Supreme Court spent Tuesday and Wednesday arguing about gay marriage with proponents and opponents of the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s gay marriage ban, Prop 8. To be sure, it was a seminal moment in American history. But transcripts of the arguments can sometimes read like they were written by a lawyerly Samuel Beckett—less humor, more absurdity. One minute we’re weighing the perspective of the 40,000 children of gay parents who want their parents’ unions validated with marriage, the next minute Justice Antonin Scalia is warning y’all to watch out because gay marriage is younger than cellphones and the Internet. One minute we’re considering whether the proponents of Prop 8 even have standing to defend the law, and the next we’re talking about procreation and “thrusting.”
It was a weird two days.
This won’t help that rebranding effort. Todd Kincannon, a former executive director of the South Carolina GOP, says he wishes the Iraqis had killed an antiwar veteran. Eliza Shapiro reports.
When Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus said that to improve the party’s bruised image, Republicans needed to stop saying “stupid, idiotic things,” this can’t have been what he had in mind.
On Sunday, Todd Kincannon, a South Carolina lawyer and the former executive director of the South Carolina Republican Party, tweeted that it was a “shame” an antiwar veteran “didn’t come home in a body bag.”
The actress won't be taking on Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell in 2014 after all. See her statement, released piecemeal via Twitter.
Dear Friends, Thank you for these months of remarkable support & encouragement, for your voices, exhortations, & prayers. I have decided.
My full statement will soon be on my website, http://ashleyjudd.com Please know that is my voice & truth; don't fool with the distortions!
After serious and thorough contemplation, I realize that my responsibilities & energy at this time need to be focused on my family.
Regretfully, I am currently unable to consider a campaign for the Senate. I have spoken to so many Kentuckians over these last few months ~
~ who expressed their desire for a fighter for the people & new leader. While that won't be me at this time, I will continue to work as ~
as hard as I can to ensure the needs of Kentucky families are met by returning this Senate seat to whom it rightfully belongs: the people &
The former president’s new rationalizations on DOMA are a futile effort to redeem his tarnished legacy.
I wrote in No Excuses: Concessions of a Serial Campaigner about Bill Clinton’s 2004 advice to John Kerry that he should consider supporting a ban on same sex marriage. I’m obviously not the only source: Newsweek independently reported the story eight years ago. My book came out six years ago and no one denied the accounts then or since then—until now. A Clinton spokesman told The New York Times that the anecdote was completely false. But the story is true and I stand by it. The long silence speaks more powerfully than a pro forma, convenient denial at this late date.
John Kerry and Bill Clinton at a DNC luncheon in Boston in 1999. (Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty)
I don’t even see the point of the denial. Attempting to rewrite the history—tortured rationalizations for Clinton’s signing of the Defense of Marriage Act in the first place, a reflex defensiveness about advice in 2004 that was wrong in principle and even politically—seems a futile effort to redeem a tarnished part of a presidential legacy. I applaud Bill Clinton’s change of position—and that change highlights where we are now and where our country should and will go. A movement for equality should welcome converts, and his statement that the law he signed is both discriminatory and unconstitutional is not only remarkable, but almost certainly unique in the annals of the presidency. That doesn’t alter what happened earlier, but it affirms and advances the progress we are making.
I admired John Kerry for being the only senator up for reelection in 1996 who voted against DOMA—and he was in a tough race. I admired his commitment to civil unions in 2004 and his refusal to advocate overturning the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s decision legalizing marriage equality—which Kerry subsequently endorsed. So has Bill Clinton and so do nearly 60 percent of our people. No one, or almost no one, predicted the speed and breadth with which our society has moved ahead.
In a macho culture that some equate with men in dark glasses gallivanting with prostitutes, Julia Pierson has made it to the top. Eleanor Clift on the woman tapped to whip the Secret Service into shape.
The highest-ranking female agent in the U.S. Secret Service, Julia A. Pierson, will be sworn in Wednesday at the White House to head the organization where she has worked for over 30 years. The first woman tapped for the top job, she takes over an agency rocked by a prostitution scandal last year.
Julia Pierson. (US Secret Service via AP)
Pierson has been chief of staff in the director’s office in Washington since 2008, where her main areas of responsibility have been technology and modernization. Over three decades, beginning as a special agent in Miami, she has held a wide variety of protective and investigative assignments and served as deputy assistant director in the Office of Protective Operations.
In announcing her appointment, President Obama said, “Julia is eminently qualified to lead the agency that not only safeguards Americans at major events and secures our financial system, but also protects our leaders and our first families, including my own. Julia has had an exemplary career, and I know these experiences will guide her as she takes on this new challenge to lead the impressive men and women of this important agency.”
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for a case challenging California’s controversial law known as Prop 8, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Read the full transcript and listen to the courtroom audio here.
As the Supreme Court hears arguments today on California's gay marriage ban, follow along as we collect the smartest court-watchers' latest tweets.
Remember the Obamacare ruling debacle? Pundits read too much into the oral arguments—and got the outcome wrong. Adam Winkler warns against overanalyzing the clues in today’s gay marriage hearings.
In Arthurian legend, the sorceress Morgan Le Fay lured sailors to their death by using magic to create false yet alluring images of fairy castles out at sea. She was said to be capable of enticing even the most experienced ship captain to veer from his course and meet an untimely end. Her mirages offer a valuable lesson for prognosticators and legal commentators weighing every word spoken by the justices in the Supreme Court hearings over gay marriage this week.
People queue to enter the Supreme Court in Washington on March 25, 2013. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty)
Oral argument can be a window into the court and its deliberations. Justices hostile to a lawyer’s argument often reveal their disagreement through penetrating—sometimes devastating—questions, while a friendly justice can offer a struggling advocate a helping hand. Court watchers eager to get an early lead on how the justices will decide the most important questions of the day look to these hints, analyzing each change in tone and expression of frustration.
Even before the beginning of the marriage hearings, people have been reading the clues. On Monday, reports circulated that the lesbian cousin of Chief Justice John Roberts was attending one of the arguments as his guest. Was this is a sign that Roberts will rule in favor of gay rights? The cousin was hopeful: “I believe he sees where the tide is going,” she said. “I absolutely trust that he will go in a good direction.”
Forget the legal handicapping, says Michael Tomasky. This Supreme Court is virtually guaranteed to decide same-sex marriage on political—and maybe moral—grounds. Not a comforting thought.
I’ll leave it to the masters of the jurisprudential universe to handicap how the Supreme Court might deal with the two same-sex marriage cases in legal terms. But since this Court is the most nakedly political since at least the New Deal if not ever, I’ll do a little handicapping on political grounds, since it is largely on political grounds that I think the justices (especially the conservatives) decide things. The question, I think, comes down to two factors: how deeply this heavily Catholic conservative majority feels a collective moral antipathy to same-sex marriage; and the role this majority sees the Court playing in the post-2012-election era—what kind of role the Court should play in this alleged redefining of conservatism that’s going on. My hopes, it may not shock you to hear, are not high on either point, but especially the second one.
(L-R) Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan applaud before President Barack Obama's State of the Union address during a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington on Feb. 12, 2013. (Charles Dharapak/AP)
Let’s just go over the basics quickly. The Court is hearing two cases today and tomorrow, the Prop 8 case out of California and a challenge to the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage federally as being between a man and a woman. Because the DOMA case also deals with issues of states’ rights, it seems to most experts I read that the Court will rule against DOMA. Liberal Scotus blogger Scott Lemieux of The American Prospect told me yesterday that he expects to see a 6-3 decision here against DOMA, or maybe even 7-2, leaving only Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito defending the usual reactionary flank.
The Prop 8 case is more complicated. The legal question here involves whether to uphold a federal court decision from California that Prop 8, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman and passed as a ballot referendum in 2010, is unconstitutional. It can uphold the courts that ruled against Prop 8, in which case same-sex couples can start marrying, perhaps only in California, or perhaps across the nation, depending on how such a decision were to be written. It could strike the California ruling down on narrow grounds in a way that wouldn’t necessarily have much reach beyond California. Or it can say the courts were wrong, the voters were right, Prop 8 stands, and bans on same-sex marriage do not violate the Constitution.
The former presidential candidate talks to Howard Kurtz about Republicans in denial, the 2016 race, forging a positive message—and returning to the moon.
Newt Gingrich is talking to me about landing on the moon.
But he’s not being a space cadet; he is building an argument about how Republicans have to get in touch with reality by conjuring up positive plans. Gingrich believes the GOP made huge mistakes in last year’s campaign—he doesn’t exempt himself—by believing its own propaganda.
Newt Gingrich, former presidential candidate and speaker of the House, at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) March 16, 2013 in National Harbor, Maryland. (Pete Marovich/Getty)
“You have a combination of large donors and very clever consultants, neither of whom have any interest in building a healthy party, so they look for nasty ways to have more impact,” Gingrich says. “If it becomes how clever we can be in vilifying Hillary Clinton, that’s a party that will not win in 2016.”
With public opinion shifting at ‘breathtaking’ speed, Republican politicians are finding themselves on the wrong side of gay marriage—but they must also keep their conservative donors happy, reports Eleanor Clift.
On no other public policy issue have attitudes have changed as rapidly as on gay marriage, and Karl Rove, the man George W. Bush dubbed “the architect” of his reelection, epitomizes the shift in the Republican Party. Asked on ABC’s This Week if he could “imagine” a Republican presidential candidate unequivocally backing gay marriage, Rove replied, “I could.”
Karl Rove and moderator Tom Brokaw appear on "Meet the Press" in Washington, D.C., Sunday, March 14, 2010. Rove, the former Senior Adviser to President Bush was a proponent in trying to pass anti-gay marriage legislation but said on the show over the weekend that he could see the possibility of a republican president who embraces gay marriage in the future. (William B. Plowman/NBC via Getty)
This is the same Karl Rove who in 2004 helped push a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and worked to put similar bans on the ballot in swing states such as Ohio to generate conservative turnout. Once a wedge issue that worked to the advantage of the GOP, gay marriage is now seen as benefiting the Democratic Party.
“This issue has been lost. It’s about time Republicans get over it,” says Ron Haskins, a former Bush White House official who co-directs the Center for Children and Families at the Brookings Institution. “Having hung out with Republicans for many years and knowing Republicans who either themselves were gay or had sons or daughters who were gay, Republicans always were very queasy about this issue,” he says. “Republicans think the less said, the better, but there’s a certain amount of relief. It’s hard to be a consistent conservative and be opposed to gay marriage.”
Add the Office of Congressional Ethics to the long list of probes and lawsuits that may be the only enduring legacy of Bachmann’s presidential face-plant. John Avlon exclusively reports.
The Hindenburg. The Titanic. Michele Bachmann.
Eighteen months ago, the Minnesota House member was considered an unlikely but undeniable Republican rising star, winning the Iowa straw poll that unofficially begins the primary season. Today, she is embroiled in a litany of legal proceedings related to her rolling disaster of a presidential campaign—including an Office of Congressional Ethics investigation into campaign improprieties that has not previously been reported.
Michele Bachmann speaks at the 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference on March 15. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
The Daily Beast has learned that federal investigators are now interviewing former Bachmann campaign staffers nationwide about alleged intentional campaign-finance violations. The investigators are working on behalf of the Office of Congressional Ethics, which probes reported improprieties by House members and their staffs and then can refer cases to the House Ethics Committee.
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.