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Time to Stand Up to the Gun Lobby

Taking on the organizations that champion guns is the best way to honor the littlest victims of our nation’s latest shooting tragedy.

The era of scraping and bowing to the gun lobby has to end, I write in The Telegraph.

"More than 200 Americans have been killed in mass shooting incidents in the last five years alone. The pattern is clear and the problem seems to be escalating: a mentally ill young man gets his hands on guns and massive amounts of ammunition. In the last six months alone we have seen slaughters in a screening of Batman in Aurora, Colorado, a Sikh Temple, an Oregon Mall and now this.

"But the reasonable policy debate that should emerge in the wake of each killing is stalled. We are numbed to the violence and hemmed in by a form of political correctness pushed by the right which says that it is insensitive to talk about gun control so soon after a shooting.

"This conformity of conversation is reinforced by the powerful gun lobby which targets politicians who vote against its interests. As a result, there has actually been an erosion of sensible gun laws in recent years, as Republicans have moved further to the Right and Democrats feel that aggressive support of gun control is a political liability in winning over rural voters."

Gun laws have actually loosened under Obama, even as he’s become a bogeyman for the National Rifle Association and the rest of the radical right. It’s time for the president to become the man the gun lobby fears.

Read the full column at The Telegraph.

PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER ONE

Rick Snyder, One Tough Nerd

Signing right-to-work legislation won’t end the fight over the issue, writes John Avlon. Expect it to be the main issue in Snyder’s 2014 reelection bid.

So this is what he meant by “One Tough Nerd.”

Rick Snyder

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder holds a news conference to talk about why he signed into law, earlier in the day, right-to-work laws in Lansing, Mich. Dec. 11, 2012. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters, via Landov)

Michigan’s Republican governor, Rick Snyder, has become public enemy No. 1 among liberals for his controversial decision this week to sign right-to-work legislation in Michigan—the birthplace of the American organized labor movement.

In 2010, he campaigned apart from the Tea Party tide, representing himself as a comparatively centrist technocrat, a CEO, and a CPA who would be relentlessly focused on balancing the state’s budget and improving its business climate. He rose from obscurity—beginning the race with virtually no statewide name recognition—to win office, largely thanks to a great TV ad that aired during the Super Bowl, introducing him as “One Tough Nerd.”

Now Michigan Democrats are calling Snyder a liar, as in State Sen. Gretchen Whitmer’s overheated Huffington Post column calling the legislation “anti-worker, anti-family, and ... anti-American.”

Coverage of the controversy at the state capital in Lansing was equally heated, as union member protesters swarmed the rotunda and circled the building. There were conflicts between the thousands of liberal activists who descended on the capital to protest the legislation, and the relative handful of conservatives there to support it.

Against this backdrop, there was an understandable temptation to replay the script of the divisive Wisconsin battles over Gov. Scott Walker’s approach there to reforming collective-bargaining rights. These fights were also labeled as labor’s last stand.

But the comparisons end at the slogans. Rick Snyder is not Scott Walker. And Michigan is not Wisconsin.

DYSFUNCTION

When Bipartisanship is a No-Brainer

The Senate’s failure to ratify a UN convention on disabled rights is a case study in everything that’s wrong with the institution, I write in my column for The Sunday Telegraph:

"It needs to be a wake-up call about a broken institution that's letting down the American people." So said John Kerry in a fit of frustration after the Senate voted against ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

This was the sort of pro-forma vote that would have passed with broad bipartisan support a decade or so ago – a symbolic signing on to a UN treaty that aimed to raise international standards on the treatment of the disabled, not to some dizzying new height but to the level the US achieved more than 20 years ago under President George H W Bush.

Harry Siegel and Ben Jacobs hash out Mike Bloomberg’s next move, Clinton, Christie and Cuomo’s presidential ambitions, and the idiot factories of legalized gambling.

Newsweek and The Daily Beast senior editor Harry Siegel and Daily Download managing editor Ben Jacobs broke down the “wonderful, strange, bizarre, quasi-corrupt world of New York politics” in a new post on Bloggingheads.tv Tuesday morning. The two discussed the influence the mere mention of Mike Bloomberg’s name has on the press, and whether or not Empire State Governor Andrew Cuomo will run for president as a Democrat in 2016. Not to mention legalized gambling:

“Casinos are basically evil,” Siegel said. “Atlantic City did all right because it had no competition. When you see the business plans for any new casino – and New York now has its first casino in the city, it’s a ‘racino,’ it’s a lottery thing. It’s nominally a lottery, but it plays exactly like slot machines, poker, all these others games. It’s fairly ridiculous, to route around a prohibition in the state constitution …. They need to build new gamblers, they can’t all just compete for the same share. They’re like adult daycare, and moron daycare, and superstitious person daycare. They are very, very depressing. They provide no social benefit.”

Check out the full video at Bloggingheads.tv.

Succession

The Man to Replace DeMint

He’s an evangelical Christian Tea Partier with impeccable social-conservative bona fides—and he just happens to be black. John Avlon on the perfect successor for Jim DeMint.

Apart from Stephen Colbert, the best pick South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley could make for Jim DeMint’s Senate seat is Congressman Tim Scott.

Tim Scott

If appointed Scott would be the first African-American Republican in the U.S. Senate since the 1960s. (Steve Jessmore / Myrtle Beach Sun-News-MCT via Getty Images)

Happily, Scott is also reportedly DeMint’s first choice, though the current senator has nothing more than advisory powers in picking his successor.

Scott’s appointment would be historic for South Carolina and the Republican Party. More important, it would be constructive for the country.

Tim Scott first made history in the Tea Party year of 2010, when he defeated Strom Thurmond’s son Paul Thurmond to win the Republican primary for the first congressional district.

To put this in perspective, the first district of South Carolina is home to Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. Paul Thurmond’s father was the Dixiecrat candidate for president in 1948, splitting with the Democrats over his staunch support of segregation, despite having fathered a black child—Essie Mae—whose paternity he denied all his life. Thurmond went on to be an architect of the Republican Party’s Southern strategy and the longest-serving senator in American history.

The fact that Tim Scott is African-American—and also conservative—should not be underestimated in the sweep of South Carolina history. The coastal first district is one of the most beautiful places in America, and the city of Charleston is one of the most elegant and evocative in the country. My parents moved there more than two decades ago and believe it’s the best decision they’ve ever made.

Certainly, Scott has played his political cards well. The local insurance-company owner and state legislator was one of Strom Thurmond’s co-chairs in his final senate campaign. When he won a Charleston City Council seat in 1995, he became the first African-American Republican elected to any office in South Carolina since Reconstruction. And these were not purely marriages of political convenience.

Must Reads

The Independent Rundown

The day's essential reads for independents and centrists.

Independent Nation gives you the day’s 5 essential reads for independents and centrists:

1. “2012 Election Ended With Deluge of Donations and Spending,” at The New York Times.
The dark money taps were opened wide as the 2012 election cycle came to a close.

2. “The Dick Morris/Newsmax Super PAC Boondoggle,” at Media Matters.
Seems the pundit may have saved some money over the election cycle to burn through while he sits out at Fox.

3. “Obama Wins Again,” at The Daily Beast.
The fiscal cliff fight can play out in different ways, writes Robert Shrum, but Obama will win.

4. “Mr. President, Don’t Even Think About It,” at The Dish.
Will the Feds push back on pot?

5. “The Drug Benefit Fiasco,” at The Daily Beast.
Daniel Gross on the fiscal cliff hostage situation, day 31.

Send stories for the Independent Rundown to Matt DeLuca at matt.deluca@newsweekdailybeast.com. Follow him on Twitter: @DeLucaMattS.

Must Reads

The Independent Rundown

The day’s essential reads for independents and centrists.

Independent Nation gives you the day’s 5 essential reads for independents and centrists:

1. “Who Will Haley Pick to Replace DeMint,” at The Daily Beast.
John Avlon runs down the contenders as Gov. Nikki Haley prepares to decide on a replacement for Jim DeMint.

2. “Fox’s Correspondent on Front Lines With Obama,” at the Associated Press.
Admits that his network overplayed its Benghazi coverage.

3. “Is Stephen Colbert Running for the U.S. Senate?” at USA Today.
A spokesman for the comedian dances around the question.

4. “The Crisis of the Republican Brand,” at The Daily Beast.
Doug Schoen and Jessica Tarlov on how the GOP is losing the fiscal cliff debate.

5. “One Month Later: 30 Post-Election Rebuilding Tips From Republicans,” at Talking Points Memo.
The great Republican rebuilding project continues.

Send stories for the Independent Rundown to matt.deluca@newsweekdailybeast.com. Follow him on Twitter: @DeLucaMattS.

Deciding who will fill DeMint’s seat for the next two years could be the most important decision Gov. Nikki Haley makes. John Avlon runs down the contenders.

Jim DeMint’s surprise announcement that he will resign his senate seat in January sent shockwaves through Washington and South Carolina on Thursday.

sc-senate-embed

AP Photo (3)

The Tea Party’s most vocal proponent in the senate will take over the Heritage Foundation at a reported salary of $1 million per year, plus –as David Frum points out– a car and driver. This is a step toward fulfilling Eric Hoffer’s aphorism: “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket."

But now the guessing game begins as to who South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley will appoint to fill out the remaining two years of DeMint’s term. It is a safe Republican seat and two years is plenty of time for an appointee to put their stamp on it, and set themselves up as the candidate to beat when it’s time to run.

My parents moved to South Carolina more than 25 years ago, and I love the state’s almost sportsman-like, full-contact approach to politics. This appointment could well be the most lasting contribution Governor Haley makes in office (just as David Patterson’s appointment of Kirsten Gillibrand to the seat Hillary Clinton left when she joined the administration will be his most lasting legacy).

So as a way of sorting the cards for this particular parlor-game, below is my list of potential appointees to DeMint’s senate seat, informed by local sources.

To get a sense of the feel for the decision on the ground, the founder and editor of the Charleston Mercury, Charles Waring, offered this assessment: “Sen. DeMint is a thoughtful conservative who wants to be effective. I believe Jim DeMint considered the idea of working two more years with Majority Leader Harry Reid and decided he could do more for his cause in another capacity, and the Heritage Foundation is a tremendous opportunity; I cannot blame my friend for wanting to thrive outside of the legislative cesspool that Senator Reid has created, and I congratulate Sen. DeMint for making a wise change in his career choice.”

Waring’s preference for the seat would be Representative Joe Wilson of “You Lied!” infamy – a favorite of many rock-ribbed conservatives in the state. Darla Moore, a local businesswoman who funded the University of South Carolina School of Business and became – alongside Condi Rice – the first woman to join Augusta National Gold Club, could also be a good choice but is highly unlikely given that Haley clashed with her and removed her from the USC Board, to great local controversy. Bob Ingliss, who lost a Tea Party primary for his congressional seat could also be a good U.S. Senator but would be far too controversial a pick. The best man for the job might actually be former Governor Mark Sanford, but because of his Appalachian Trail-related scandal at the end of his second term, that is a likely non-starter.

Must Reads

The Independent Rundown

The day’s essential reads for independents and centrists.

Independent Nation gives you the day’s 5 essential reads for independents and centrists:

1. “George W. Bush to Republicans: Embrace Immigration,” at The Daily Beast.
The former president devoted his second major policy speech since leaving office to immigration reform. It was a rebuke to Romney, says John Avlon.

2. “Sheldon Adelson: ‘I’m Basically a Social Liberal,’” at The Wall Street Journal.
So said the casino magnate in a three-hour interview.

3. “Dave Brubeck Was Jazz’s Greatest Centrist,” at The Daily Beast.
Take five – hits from the Brubeck catalog, that is. By Matt DeLuca.

4. “Montgomery Burns Explains the Fiscal Cliff,” at Slate.
Because seemingly no politician can.

5. “How the Coastline Became a Place to Put the Poor,” in The New York Times.
Why were the Rockaways devastated by Sandy? Ask Robert Moses.  

Send stories for the Independent Rundown to Matt DeLuca at matt.deluca@newsweekdailybeast.com. Follow him on Twitter: @DeLucaMattS.

COUNTERPOINT

Dave Brubeck, Jazz Centrist

Take five – hits from the Brubeck catalog, that is.

Forget politics – jazz demands civility. Like the democratic arena, the world of woodwinds and high-hat cymbals insists on both innovation and the ability to negotiate with others under shifting circumstances. Passing a bill is nowhere near as hard as, say, keeping up with Charlie Parker’s flights of be-bop fancy, or finding one with Miles Davis as he slipped through modes.

Few jazzmen knew how to meld the genre's manic moods as well as ivory-tickler Dave Brubeck, who passed away on Wednesday at the age of 91. Best known for the one song in 5/4 time almost everyone recognizes – “Take Five” – Brubeck charted a path through the thickets of polyrhythm and atonality that sometimes threaten to overwhelm mainstream jazz completely. Bringing together the best of the extremes, he ensured that jazz remained both approachable and challenging. From his early work with the Dave Brubeck Quartet, which he formed in 1951, to his work for “This is America, Charlie Brown,” Brubeck is among the musicians who gave vitality to America’s greatest original musical form.

Here are five recordings that show Brubeck at his best:

1. “Le Souk” with the Dave Brubeck Quartet, 1954.

Yes, there was a time when a jazz album could land a band on the cover of Time. Brubeck and his quintet hit the road in 1954, touring American colleges and universities. The results, including this track, were released as “Jazz Goes to College” later that year. Talk about an education.

2. “Take Five” with the Dave Brubeck Quartet, 1964.

Ideological entrenchment in Washington has led us to a completely foreseeable impasse.

Why aren’t politicians from both parties getting together behind the scenes? As the country races toward the fiscal cliff, it’s time for President Obama and Speaker Boehner to get together and strike a bargain.  “The parties need a new wake up call,” I said in an appearance on CNN Tuesday. “This is the most anticipatable problem ever. We knew the Bush tax cuts were expiring, we knew the sequestration cuts were coming in. Those cuts that everyone is so upset about, that itself was a measure of the failure of the super committee.” Now it’s time for the adults in the room to act.

 Watch the full video at CNN.

IRRESISTIBLE

Alan Simpson Goes 'Gangnam Style"

Does it get better than this?

This qualifies as an instant classic. The impressive new millennial group, The Can Kicks Back, struck viral gold today by convincing Alan Simpson to do a PSA on debt reduction that involves going "Gangnam Style" next to a giant mascot-sized can.  The video starts with the unvarnished former Senator unleashing a great diatribe against self-obsessed social media types and urges them to use their pre-occupation as a force for good - recruiting three friends a week until President Obama's inauguration to urge congress to take action on the $16 trillion debt.   A cause worth promoting by any means necessary.

W. Steps Up

Bush to GOP: Embrace Immigration

The former president devoted his second major policy speech since leaving office to immigration reform, saying the U.S. economy needs both high- and low-skilled immigrants. John Avlon says it was a rebuke to Romney.

President George W. Bush’s first postelection speech was a call for immigration reform—and an implicit rebuke of the failed GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

‘George W. Bush said immigrants fill ‘a critical gap’ in America’s labor market and ‘invigorate our soul.’

On Tuesday morning, the Bush Center held a conference on immigration and economic growth at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. It was only the second major policy speech the former president has delivered since leaving office, and Bush let himself wax poetic on the subject of immigration: “Not only do immigrants help build our economy, they invigorate our soul.”

The fact that Romney received just 27 percent of Hispanic vote, eight years after Bush got 44 percent, was not far from attendees’ minds, even though Romney’s name went unmentioned. Instead, the conference was an extended argument for the economic benefits of immigration, offering a new policy booklet to that effect (PDF). It was also by implication a meditation on the comprehensive immigration reform Bush backed in his second term, only to see it cannibalized by talk-radio conservatives such as Rush Limbaugh and those politicians who choose to pander to them, including Romney.

Economic growth, the angle taken in arguing for more immigration, was telling. This framing was designed to be accepted by the Republican base, making a pro-business case for immigration rather than extolling the cultural benefits of increased diversity. And while the keynote speech by James K. Glassman focused on the heroic CEO narrative of immigration—invoking Andy Grove and Sergey Brin, and the illuminating statistic that 25 percent of the nation’s start-ups are founded by immigrants—Glassman also took care to make an economic argument for low-skilled immigration. This is not a typical Tea Party applause line.

The core message of the conference was that America needs more immigrants, not fewer, in the current economic climate. It was bipartisan in tone, arguing that we should be competing for the best and the brightest, including offering green cards with graduate-school diplomas—one of the few immigration measures that Senate Republicans and Democrats agree on. Most notable was the call for comprehensive immigration reform of the kind Bush backed in 2007, including what a new book from the Bush Center calls “a compassionate solution” for undocumented workers now in the country. In a campaign season, that would be called “amnesty.”

All this is breathtakingly sensible given the tortured state of immigration debate in the Republican Party. Romney consistently pandered to the worst impulses in his party on this issue—first using it to get to the right of John McCain in 2007, and then Rick Perry in 2011. It was a cynical and short-sighted strategy, as Romney campaign manager Eric Fehrnstrom recently acknowledged—and contributed to the former governor’s pathetic lack of demographic diversity in this year’s general election.

Bush is not a proud policy wonk. But over the past four years, we have consistently been reminded of what a steadying and centering impulse he was on the most conservative wing of his party. The GOP—hell, the country—missed his voice during the unhinged ground zero mosque debate. Bush was always an advocate of religious tolerance, especially toward Islam at the height of the war on terror.

Must Reads

The Independent Rundown

The day’s essential reads for independents and centrists.

Independent Nation gives you the day’s 5 essential reads for independents and centrists:

1. “The Truly Grand Bargain,” at The New York Times.
A short-term deal won’t do it, writes David Brooks. Will Republicans pull through?

2. “Obama Rejects GOP ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Offer, Says Tax Rates Must Rise,” in the Los Angeles Times.
No deal without tax increases for the wealthiest two percent of Americans, President Obama said Tuesday.

 3. “Same Players, Same Disputes in Fiscal Cliff Debate,” at CNN.
A mere month until automatic spending cuts and tax hikes kick in, and the main players can’t agree on whether America’s wealthiest should pay more.

 4. “Jeb Bush, With Cash and Clout, Pushes Contentious School Reforms,” at Reuters.
Does the former Florida governor deserve the credit he gets on education?

5. “George W. Bush Says Immigrants Vital to Economy,” at Fox News Latino.
43 broke his silence on immigration Tuesday.

Send stories for the Independent Rundown to matt.deluca@newsweekdailybeast.com. Follow him on Twitter: @DeLucaMattS.

Must Reads

The Independent Rundown

The day’s essential reads for independents and centrists.

Independent Nation gives you the day’s five essential reads for independents and centrists:

1. “Obama’s Ominous Surprises,” in Newsweek.
David Frum on how Obama will handle the crises around the corner.

2. “Post-Campaign Super-PAC Cash Still Flowing to Consultants,” at Bloomberg.
Months after the election, super-PAC founders give themselves a big payback.

3. “On the Fiscal Cliff, Republicans Got Nothin’,” at The Daily Beast.
Daniel Gross on the GOP’s astounding lack of a counteroffer to the Dems.

4. “Is Immigration Reform Just Talk?” at The Daily Beast.
The proposed Achieve Act is a start toward moving beyond posturing and Band-Aids, says Mark McKinnon.

5. “Will Playing Nice Pay Off for GOP in Filibuster Fight?” at Roll Call.
Will John McCain play the elder statesman on filibuster reform?

Send stories for the Independent Rundown to Matt DeLuca at matt.deluca@newsweekdailybeast.com. Follow him on Twitter: @DeLucaMattS.

About the Author

Author headshot

John Avlon

John Avlon is senior columnist for Newsweek and The Daily Beast, and the host of Beast TV. He is a CNN contributor and winner of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ award for best online column in 2012.

Who Is Frazier Glenn Miller?

Daily Beast editor-in-chief John Avlon dissects the story of Miller, a 'nightmare image' of 'hate groups nestled in the heartland' who went on a Kansas killing spree on Sunday.

  1. The Tragedy of the Tea Party Play

    The Tragedy of the Tea Party

  2. Obama's 'Powerful Argument' Play

    Obama's 'Powerful Argument'

  3. Glenn Beck's Apology Is Not Enough Play

    Glenn Beck's Apology Is Not Enough

Unlimited Funds

Probing the Super-PAC Economy

The Dark Money Shuffle

The Dark Money Shuffle

The strange, opaque world of politically minded nonprofits. By John Avlon and Michael Keller.

Our Toothless Watchdogs

BENEFACTORS

Stop Hating the Super PAC Moneymen!

The Coming GOP Super-PAC Tsunami

The Super-PAC Economy

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From The Daily Beast

The Pols Who Praise Slavery

The Pols Who Praise Slavery

Rogue rancher Cliven Bundy recently shared his thoughts on African Americans and whether or not they were better off as slaves. While Bundy can, and probably should, be dismissed as fringe nonsense, he is hardly alone.

Bad Match

It’s Not Racist to Oppose Gay Marriage

JUST SAY IT IS SO

In the Obamacare Closet

Big Texas Sell

Rick Perry Is Coming for Your Job

SNEAKY MOVES

Red State Obamascare Tactics