Nel's New Day

April 12, 2013

Lawmakers Represent GOP Positions

The primary GOP strategies of 2013 were made obvious during this last week by three high-profile Republican legislators: (1) attack when caught in planning slimy attacks on opponents; (2) outrageously pander and lie to minorities; and (3) disagree with anything that President Obama suggests even if was originally the GOP position.

Item #1: The first fool of the week is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who, with his 37 percent popularity rating, is fighting for re-election in 2014. Caught on tape approving his campaigners’ suggestions to destroy potential opponent Ashley Judd, McConnell immediately called the FBI, an odd reaction for someone who wants “small government.”

On February 2, McConnell met with staff in Louisville (KY) and told them, “I assume most of you have played the, the game Whac-A-Mole? This is the Whac-A-Mole period of the campaign…when anybody sticks their head up, do them out.”

Campaigners took McConnell at this word. They began their discussion with her progressive positions and then moved on to find ways to show that she is mentally unfit for McConnell’s position:

“She’s clearly, this sounds extreme, but she is emotionally unbalanced. I mean it’s been documented. Jesse can go in chapter and verse from her autobiography about, you know, she’s suffered some suicidal tendencies. She was hospitalized for 42 days when she had a mental breakdown in the ’90s.”

McConnell went into full-blown hysteria when Mother Jones released the tape of this meeting. He didn’t negate their underhanded tactics; he just tried to guess who had made the recording. First it was the “far-left” organization called ProgressKY and then “the liberal media.” He had the room swept for bugs and declared that the episode was “Nixonian,” ignoring the fact that Watergate was caused by a Republican, before he used the incident for raising funds.

Campaign manager Jesse Benton described the matter as “an ongoing criminal investigation” and described the taping as “Gestapo king of scare tactics” on Mike Huckabee’s radio show. “Obviously a recording device of some kind was placed in Senator McConnell’s campaign office without consent,” she said.

McConnell should have stuck to his accusation that ProgressKY, a fundraising group, was responsible for the recording of the meeting. Shawn Reilly, head of the PAC, is cooperating with the FBI in witnessing the recording. And Benton was wrong about a “recording device” in McConnell’s “office.” The taping was done in the hallway outside the office.

After McConnell asked for the FBI to investigate the taping, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) asked both the FBI and the Senate ethics committee and the FBI to determine whether there was a violation of the law. “Using taxpayer-funded resources to pay staffers to dig up dirt on political opponents isn’t just an ethics violation, it’s a federal crime,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. Another ethics question is whether someone from Karl Rove’s American Crossroads SuperPAC led the group just five days before their hit piece on Judd.

Item #2: Rand Paul, riding high after his win at CPAC for top conservative presidential candidate, has started with reaching out to black voters at Howard University. Unfortunately for him, it wasn’t an overwhelming success.

Words cannot describe the painful visual delivery of his presentation as he touted the strong Republican support for minorities—before the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. While doing so, he queried his audience to see if they knew that Republicans had overcome slavery and started the NAACP, information that his college-educated black audience well knew. They even had to correct him when he referred to Sen. Edward William Brooke III, “the first [elected] black U.S. senator” as “Edwin Brooks.”

He told his audience that the GOP lost their votes because Democrats began offering “unlimited federal assistance,” while Republicans offered something “less tangible–the promise of equalizing opportunity through free markets,” a repeat of Mitt Romney’s statement that the Democrats won in the last election because they gave the 47-percenters “stuff.”

Worse was his attempt to persuade the audience that declaring voter ID laws discriminatory is “demeaning” to the history of segregation. Paul hadn’t done his NAACP homework on this one: the organization’s president, Benjamin Jealous, said that voter ID laws are “pushing more voters out of the ballot box than any point since Jim Crow.”

The saddest part of Paul’s misguided attempt to woo black voters was his lie about his earlier position on the Civil Rights Act. “I’ve never wavered in my support for civil rights or the Civil Rights Act,” he stated. A member of the audience pointed out, “This [opposition] was on tape.” Early in Paul’s campaign for Senate in 2010 was that he disagreed with the Act’s ban on discrimination in private businesses such as restaurants. He later switched his position during the campaign, most likely because it didn’t play well, but his statement about never wavering is completely wrong.

Item #3: Rep. Greg Walden’s (R-OR) position to President Obama’s support of incorporating the “chained CPI” into Social Security’s COLA has caused him—and the GOP—a lot of trouble. Following the typical GOP caucus response of “disagree with anything this Democratic president says,” Walden, chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee that determines next year’s House campaigns, said that reducing this vital source of income was “a shocking attack on seniors” and “trying to balance this budget on the backs of seniors.” In fact, it’s just what the GOP wants: cut benefits to senior citizens.

In the past, Republicans have rejected their own proposals–cap-and-trade, Dream Act, EITC, payroll tax cut, etc.—whenever President Obama agreed with them. But disagreeing with the chained CPI seemed to go too far. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said, “I’ve made it clear that I disagree with what Chairman Walden said.”

Press secretary Jay Carney dived into the fray, saying that this proposal comes from GOP leaders:

“This is a Republican proposal. And cynical attempts to make it otherwise by some represent, I think, dissonance within the Republican Party, and we’ve seen plenty of condemnation from conservatives and Republicans of that sort of flagrantly ridiculous and cynical attempt to disown a proposal that emanated from Republican leaders.”

From the other side, the far-right Club for Growth announced it will find a farther-right candidate for the 2014 primary because of Walden’s statements. Walden’s district covers two-thirds of eastern Oregon, and he knows it well, having represented it for 14 years. With a disproportionate percentage of seniors, the area, relying on farming and ranching, was one of the hardest hit by Bush’s recession. Typical of many rural areas, they hate outside agitators.

Good luck to the Washington, D.C. pressure group! The best thing that could happen to Democrats in this district is a far-right candidate in the general election who doesn’t want benefits for seniors.

As for finding someone more conservative, you can check out his record. He got 0 percent from FAIR on immigration, CAF on energy independence, ARA in senior benefits, and AU in separation of church and state; 13 percent from the AFL-CIO and ACLU; 20 percent from the National Educational Association; 30 percent from NARAL; and 96 percent from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

I’m guessing that all three of these legislators will stay in Congress, but I don’t give Rand much of a chance for becoming president.

February 9, 2013

Desperate McConnell Lies about Background Checks

American Crossroads has fired the opening salvo in Kentucky over a possibility of Ashley Judd running for the Senate in 2014 when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s term is up. Judd hasn’t declared, but Karl Rove’s conservative super PAC has dropped $10,000 into a Web-only ad pointing out she lives in Tennessee, works as an actress, and—horrors—campaigned for President Obama.

McConnell is trying to look as if his campaign is separate from the attack ads. His campaign manager Jesse Benton said, “We’re just focused on building an elite campaign and talking to Kentucky voters about Senator McConnell’s tremendous leadership.” Yet the two are connected through the Crossroads’ president, Steven Law, who has also served as McConnell’s chief of staff. Law also managed McConnell’s first re-election campaign in 1990 and later served as executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, whose purpose is to get GOP senators elected and re-elected.

McConnell’s desperation shows up in his campaign’s fundraising email:

“There are almost too many schemes to list. But President Obama’s worst center around:… a thinly-veiled national gun registration scheme hidden under the guise of ‘background checks’ to ensure federal government minders gain every bureaucratic tool they need for full-scale confiscation…. It is almost hard to believe the sheer breadth and brazenness of this attempt to gut our Constitution.”

One can expect the NRA to make a statement like this. But coming from McConnell, it brought out the fact checkers who make the senator look pretty bad. Washington Post wrote that nothing in the president’s plan creates a national gun registration scheme; it simply extends the current Brady law rule on background checks to all firearm sales. In fact, current law specifically prohibits using the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to create a federal firearms registry and requires that all records be destroyed within 24 hours.

McConnell knows this because he first served on the committee that wrote the law and then was one of only 17 GOP senators to vote for the law. More than that, he signed a letter about the firearms database prohibition, saying it should be made permanent rather than lasting for just one year as most language in appropriations bills does.  Thus The Washington Post gives McConnell four Pinocchios, the award for biggest lie regarding gun background checks.

pinocchio_4

Republicans are fond of using Ronald Reagan as an example for good government in the 21st century. They should heed his op-ed piece from March 29, 1991, explaining the importance of the Brady Bill:

“While there has been a Federal law on the books for more than 20 years that prohibits the sale of firearms to felons, fugitives, drug addicts and the mentally ill, it has no enforcement mechanism and basically works on the honor system, with the purchaser filling out a statement that the gun dealer sticks in a drawer.

“The Brady bill would require the handgun dealer to provide a copy of the prospective purchaser’s sworn statement to local law enforcement authorities so that background checks could be made. Based upon the evidence in states that already have handgun purchase waiting periods, this bill–on a nationwide scale–can’t help but stop thousands of illegal handgun purchases.

“And, since many handguns are acquired in the heat of passion (to settle a quarrel, for example) or at times of depression brought on by potential suicide, the Brady bill would provide a cooling-off period that would certainly have the effect of reducing the number of handgun deaths.

“Critics claim that “waiting period” legislation in the states that have it doesn’t work, that criminals just go to nearby states that lack such laws to buy their weapons. True enough, and all the more reason to have a Federal law that fills the gaps. While the Brady bill would not apply to states that already have waiting periods of at least seven days or that already require background checks, it would automatically cover the states that don’t. The effect would be a uniform standard across the country.

“Even with the current gaps among states, those that have waiting periods report some success. California, which has a 15-day waiting period that I supported and signed into law while Governor, stopped nearly 1,800 prohibited handgun sales in 1989. New Jersey has had a permit-to-purchase system for more than two decades. During that time, according to the state police, more than 10,000 convicted felons have been caught trying to buy handguns.”

The NRA leaders and the “no gun laws” proponents repeat, ad nauseum, that all the government needs to do is enforce current laws. Yet our laws allow websites, the largest being Armslist, to advertise guns for sale with no checks. Investigators discovered that 54 percent of these sellers were openly willing to sell firearms to people who admitted that they couldn’t pass a background check.

New York City’s 2011 investigation found more than 25,000 weapons for sale on just 10 websites.  Jon Lowy, director of the legal action project of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said, “The last figure we have is 40 percent of gun sales take place without a background check. That figure is probably low, because it dates from before the advent of the thriving internet market.”

According to John Feinblatt, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s chief policy adviser, the number of guns offered on these ten websites sites grew 68 percent from 2011 to 2012. “Just as gun shows have been a problem because criminals know they can buy guns without detection, the internet is a place where criminals, felons, and other prohibited purchasers can find a weapon,” he noted.

Feinblatt said that states without the private sale loophole and with background checks for private gun sales have 38 percent fewer women killed with guns by intimate partners than states without these safeguards. Without universal background checks even for internet sales, “we’re basically giving a free pass to criminals,” he said.

Even people at gun shows think that mandatory background checks are a good idea. An NRA volunteer from Colorado Springs summed it up: “It tends to keep the bad guys away

If Mitch McConnell wants to get re-elected, he might want to take note of the following statistics. At the end of January, 92 percent of people in the United States—and 97 percent of all women—supported universal background checks for gun purchases, according to a CBS News poll. Quinnipiac found that 92 to 95 percent of voters in Virginia, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania backed expanded background checks, including those on people purchasing their weapons at gun shows. A poll from Women’s Donor Network shows that 90 percent of women are very concerned about gun violence.

In early December, Public Policy Polling, the group that most accurately predicted the presidential election last November, found that only 37 percent of Kentucky voters approved of McConnell, the lowest approval rating among all the U.S. Senators. He was so upset about the PPP survey showing him just a few points above Ashley Judd that he paid for his own survey—and found the same percentage.

Although the GOP doesn’t provide government tracking of gun deaths in the United States, informal reports show over 1686 deaths by guns since the Newtown (CT) massacre.

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