Tell The Democratic Leadership: Don’t Cave To Republican Hostage-Taking

Excerpt from: CREDO Action

Republicans in Congress are threatening to shut down the government – again. This time, it’s over their radical demand to defund Planned Parenthood and deny millions of women critical health services.

But it isn’t just Planned Parenthood that’s at risk. Year after year, Republicans have repeatedly used budget showdowns like this one to push for radical cuts to the social safety net, including Social Security, Medicare and food stamps, along with gutting of vital environmental and financial regulations.

  • And what the Republicans have learned is that President Obama and corporate Democrats such as Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Steny Hoyer in Congress are often willing to make a deal giving away extreme and unacceptable concessions to right-wing Republicans in order to avoid a shutdown.

With a series of major government funding showdowns coming up between now and the end of the year, this is the time to lay down markers and tell President Obama and Democratic ;eadership to hold the line and not cave to Republican hostage-taking.

Republicans in Congress know that shutdown threats and fabricated crises can be an effective strategy for getting concessions and compromises that they wouldn’t be able to get otherwise. Cruel and heartless cuts to basic social safety net provisions like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and food stamps, and weakening environmental regulations that protect our health and the climate and financial regulations that prevent even worse abuses by Wall Street, are always on the Republican shutdown menu.

And if the Republicans manage to win concessions from the corporate wing of the Democratic Party, recent history shows that they’ll be nearly impossible to reverse in future spending battles. That’s why Republicans are willing to essentially point a gun at our most basic and critical government services, as well as the health of our economy, in order to get them.

The truth is, Democrats are holding all of the cards in this fight, and will only lose if they cave. The open secret in political circles is that Republican leadership desperately want to avoid a shutdown, because they know they’ll be the ones to pay the price and receive the blame from the American public. That’s what happened in 1994 and as recently as 2013, the last time Republicans forced a shutdown.

  • That’s why Democrats have no reason to give into this cynical negotiating strategy. Not only would it result in extreme right-wing policies, but it would also validate Republican hostage-taking and encourage them to do it every time.

We need a zero-tolerance policy. Democrats need to hold the line and show Republicans in Congress that hostage-taking and shutdown threats are not how democracy works.

  • Tell President Obama and the Democratic leadership:

“Don’t cave to Congressional Republicans’ hostage taking by accepting budget cuts that will harm the poorest and most vulnerable Americans. Hold the line: No cuts, no concessions, no bad deals.”

Thank you for your activism.

Zack Malitz, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets


Ten True Facts Guaranteed to Short-Circuit Republican Brains

Excerpt from: Daily Kos

Sep 04, 2012 12:32pm PDT by Richard Riis

As a public service to those who find themselves inextricably cornered by aggressively ill-informed Republicans at work, on the train or at family gatherings, presented here are ten indisputably true facts that will seriously challenge a Republican’s worldview and probably blow a brain cell or two. At the very least, any one of these GOP-busters should stun and confuse them long enough for you to slip quietly away from a pointless debate and allow you to get on about your business.

1. The United States is not a Christian nation, and the Bible is not the cornerstone of our law.

Don’t take my word for it. Let these Founding Fathers speak for themselves:

John Adams: “The government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” (Treaty of Tripoli, 1797)

Thomas Jefferson: “Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the common law.” (Letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814)

James Madison: “The civil government … functions with complete success … by the total separation of the Church from the State.” (Writings, 8:432, 1819)

George Washington: “If I could conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.” (Letter to the United Baptist Chamber of Virginia, May 1789)

You can find a multitude of similar quotes from these men and most others who signed the Declaration of Independence and/or formulated the United States Constitution. These are hardly the words of men who believed that America should be a Christian nation governed by the Bible, as a disturbingly growing number of Republicans like to claim.

2. The Pledge of Allegiance was written by a socialist.

The Pledge was written in 1892 for public school celebrations of the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in the Americas. Its author was Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister, Christian socialist and cousin of socialist utopian novelist Edward Bellamy. Christian socialism maintains, among other ideas, that capitalism is idolatrous and rooted in greed, and the underlying cause of much of the world’s social inequity. Definitely more “Occupy Wall Street” than “Grand Old Party” by anyone’s standard.

3. The first president to propose national health insurance was a Republican.

He was also a trust-busting, pro-labor, Nobel Peace Prize-winning environmentalist. Is there any wonder why Theodore Roosevelt, who first proposed a system of national health insurance during his unsuccessful Progressive Party campaign to retake the White House from William Howard Taft in 1912, gets scarce mention at Republican National Conventions these days?

4. Ronald Reagan once signed a bill legalizing abortion.

The Ronald Reagan Republicans worship today is more myth than reality. Reagan was a conservative for sure, but also a practical politician who understood the necessities of compromise. In the spring of 1967, four months into his first term as governor of California, Ronald Reagan signed a bill that, among its other provisions, legalized abortion for the vaguely-defined “well being” of the mother. Reagan may have been personally pro-life, but in this instance he was willing to compromise in order to achieve other ends he considered more important. That he claimed later to regret signing the bill doesn’t change the fact that he did. As Casey Stengel liked to say, “You could look it up.”

5. Reagan raised federal taxes eleven times.

Okay, Ronald Reagan cut tax rates more than any other president – with a big asterisk. Sure, the top rate was reduced from 70% in 1980 all the way down to 28% in 1988, but while Republicans typically point to Reagan’s tax-cutting as the right approach to improving the economy, Reagan himself realized the resulting national debt from his revenue slashing was untenable, so he quietly raised other taxes on income – primarily Social Security and payroll taxes – no less than eleven times. Most of Reagan’s highly publicized tax cuts went to the usual Republican handout-takers in the top income brackets, while his stealth tax increases had their biggest impact on the middle class. These increases were well hidden inside such innocuous-sounding packages as the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982, the Deficit Reduction Act of 1984 and the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987. Leave it to a seasoned actor to pull off such a masterful charade.

6. Roe v. Wade was a bipartisan ruling made by a predominantly Republican-appointed Supreme Court.

Technically, Roe v. Wade did not make abortion legal in the United States; the Supreme Court’s decision held only that individual states could not make abortion illegal. That being said, the landmark 1973 ruling that Republicans love to hate, was decided on a 7-2 vote that broke down like this:

Majority (for Roe): Chief Justice Warren Burger (conservative, appointed by Nixon), William O. Douglas (liberal, appointed by FDR), William J. Brennan (liberal, appointed by Eisenhower), Potter Stewart (moderate, appointed by Eisenhower), Thurgood Marshall (liberal, appointed by LBJ), Harry Blackmun (author of the majority opinion and a conservative who eventually turned liberal, appointed by Nixon), Lewis Powell (moderate, appointed by Nixon). Summary: 2 conservatives, 3 liberals, 2 moderates.

Dissenting (for Wade): Byron White (generally liberal/sometimes conservative, appointed by JFK), William Rehnquist (conservative, appointed by Nixon). Summary: 1 liberal, 1 conservative.

By ideological orientation, the decision was for Roe all the way: conservatives 2-1, liberals 3-1, moderates 2-0; by party of presidential appointment it was Republicans 5-1, Democrats 2-1. No one can rightly say that this was a leftist court forcing its liberal beliefs on America.

7. The Federal Reserve System was a Republican invention.

Republicans, and, truth be told, many Democrats, despise the Federal Reserve as an example of government interference in the free market. But hold everything: The Federal Reserve System was the brainchild of financial expert and Senate Republican leader Nelson Aldrich, grandfather of future Republican governor and vice president Nelson Rockefeller. Aldrich set up two commissions: one to study the American monetary system in depth and the other, headed by Aldrich himself, to study the European central banking systems. Aldrich went to Europe opposed to centralized banking, but after viewing Germany’s monetary system he came away believing that a centralized bank was better than the government-issued bond system that he had previously supported. The Federal Reserve Act, developed around Senator Aldrich’s recommendations and – adding insult to injury in the minds of today’s Republicans – based on a European model, was signed into law in 1913.

8. The Environmental Protection Agency was, too.

The United States Environment Protection Agency, arch-enemy of polluters in particular and government regulation haters in general, was created by President Richard Nixon. In his 1970 State of the Union Address, Nixon proclaimed the new decade a period of environmental transformation. Shortly thereafter he presented Congress an unprecedented 37-point message on the environment, requesting billions for the improvement of water treatment facilities, asking for national air quality standards and stringent guidelines to lower motor vehicle emissions, and launching federally-funded research to reduce automobile pollution. Nixon also ordered a clean-up of air- and water-polluting federal facilities, sought legislation to end the dumping of wastes into the Great Lakes, proposed a tax on lead additives in gasoline, and approved a National Contingency Plan for the treatment of petroleum spills. In July 1970 Nixon declared his intention to establish the Environmental Protection Agency, and that December the EPA opened for business. Hard to believe, but if it hadn’t been for Watergate, we might remember Richard Nixon today as the “environmental president”.

Oh, yes – Republicans might enjoy knowing Nixon was an advocate of national health insurance, too.

9. Obama has increased government spending less than any president in at least a generation.

Republican campaign strategists may lie, but the numbers don’t. Government spending, when adjusted for inflation, has increased during his administration (to date) by 1.4%. Under George W. Bush, the increases were 7.3% (first term) and 8.1% (second term). Bill Clinton, in his two terms, comes in at 3.2% and 3.9%. George H. W. Bush increased government spending by 5.4%, while Ronald Reagan added 8.7% and 4.9% in his two terms.

Not only does Obama turn out to be the most thrifty president in recent memory, but the evidence shows that Republican administrations consistently increased government spending significantly more than any Democratic administration. Go figure.

10. President Obama was not only born in the United States, his roots run deeper in American history than most people know.

The argument that Barack Obama was born anywhere but at Kapiolani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii, is not worth addressing; the evidence is indisputable by any rational human being. But not even irrational “birthers” can dispute Obama’s well-documented family tree on his mother’s side. By way of his Dunham lineage, President Obama has at least 11 direct ancestors who took up arms and fought for American independence in the Revolutionary War and two others cited as patriots by the Daughters of the American Revolution for furnishing supplies to the colonial army. This star-spangled heritage makes Obama eligible to join the Sons of the American Revolution, and his daughters the Daughters of the American Revolution. Not bad for someone 56% of Republicans still believe is a foreigner.

Okay, feel free to drop any or all of these ten true facts on your local Republican windbag. Tell him or her to put any of these choice nuggets in his or her teabag and steep it. Then sit back and enjoy the silence.

Note: Although the facts are 100% true, the context is, of course, one of humor; the oxymoronic reference to “Republican Brains” in the title should have been a dead giveaway. Additionally, as everyone knows, there are no facts in the Republican cosmos, only Fox News Alerts.

View Full Site | Helpdesk ©2015 Kos Media

Tell Congress: Pass The Wildfire Disaster Funding Act… and Make Polluters Pay For It By Repealing Fossil Fuel Subsidies

Excerpt from: CREDO Action

Five million acres in Alaska. 300,000 acres in the rainforest(!) of Washington’s Olympic peninsula, one of the wettest places on the continent. Nearly 600 homes and 40,000 acres in Northern California in a matter of hours last weekend.

  • As the West endures one of the most destructive and alarming fire seasons in history, the way Congress funds wildfire response is actually making the problem worse.

In order to compensate for inadequate wildfire funding levels provided by Congress, federal agencies have been forced to divert $700 million from forest restoration and management funds — efforts which would help prevent wildfires to begin with!

A bipartisan group of senators has proposed the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, which would finally treat wildfires as disasters and adequately fund response.1 The heads of President Obama’s Department of Agriculture, Interior, and Office of Management and Budget have called on Congress to pass the bill, and they should.2

Rising temperatures and enduring drought are making wildfires increasingly expensive and destructive: For the first time this year the Forest Service is spending more than 50% of of it’s budget on firefighting efforts, up from just 1/6th in 1995.

It goes without saying, adequate funding for catastrophic wildfire fighting is a band-aid response to a much bigger problem: That a majority in Congress are obstructing action to limit the very pollution which is almost literally fanning the flames of wildfires. Whether it is irony, denial, or both, many of the Republican sponsors of this wildfire bill are some of the worst climate deniers in Congress; western Republican senators like Mike Enzi, Mike Crapo, and John Barrasso.

That doesn’t make passing the bill any less important. But the rising cost of wildfires does make more indefensible the $11 billion in subsidies we give to fossil fuel companies every year.3

  • The present and future of wildfires is truly terrifying.3 Global warming is creating a vicious, amplifying cycle for fire destruction: drought and higher temperatures pull moisture out of the forest, leading to increasingly destructive megafires. These fires release massive carbon bombs into the atmosphere, amplifying the warming.

In a new piece in Rolling Stone, journalist Tim Dickinson lays out the stark reality: Present levels of carbon pollution have already baked in what is estimated to be a sixfold increase in wildfires within 35 years. With current fire suppression capacity already maxed out, “America finds itself woefully unprepared for the blazes to come, much less the worst-case scenario: a Katrina by fire.”4

  • Against this backdrop, (and Republican cries of deficit reduction), there is simply no excuse to continue giving billions of dollars a year in corporate welfare and tax breaks to the hugely profitable fossil fuel industry burning our country down. The need to transition away from fossil fuels couldn’t be more urgent, yet we are subsidizing the mature fossil fuel industry at nearly six times the rate of the emerging renewable industry.

Of course, a majority in this Congress still denies that there’s anything wrong with burning fossil fuels, so repealing fossil fuel subsidies before the next fire season is a longshot. But with the rare possibility of bipartisan agreement on a needed budget fix, we need to build momentum to address escalating wildfires and phase out the fossil fuels making them more destructive.

  • Tell Congress: Pass the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act… and repeal fossil fuel subsidies to pay for it. Go to CREDO Action to sign the petition.
    The petition reads:
  • “It’s long past time to adequately fund escalating wildfires, and stop subsidizing the global warming pollution making them worse. Pass the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act… and repeal fossil fuel subsidies to pay for it.”

    Thanks for taking action against wildfires.

Elijah Zarlin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

“Senators Pledge to Work Together on Wildfire Funding,” Senate Budget Committee
“USDA, DOI, and OMB Urge Congress to Fix the Fire Budget,” USDA, 9/15/15
“End Polluter Welfare Act,” Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Keith Ellison
“What Megablazes Tell Us About the Fiery Future of Climate Change,” Rolling Stone, 9/15/15

© 2015 CREDO. All rights reserved.

The G.O.P. Debate: Crowded, Bloated, Sour, and Trump

Excerpt from: The New Yorker Magazine

The G.O.P. Debate: Crowded, Bloated, Sour, and Trump

With about fifteen minutes to go in the G.O.P. Presidential debate last night, at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, it looked as if it might be hard to pick a low point. The candidates had, after all, been squabbling for almost three hours, long enough to foster fantasies of using Reagan’s Air Force One, which was onstage, as an emergency-escape vehicle. Then Jake Tapper, the moderator, asked Ben Carson about vaccines—or, more specifically, what he, as a pediatric neurosurgeon, thought of Donald Trump’s statements linking childhood vaccines to autism, “which, as you know, the medical community adamantly disputes.” Perhaps Tapper thought that he was setting up a confrontation between rationality and Trumpism, a moment when the doctor would calmly dismantle the Donald. If so, he was disappointed. Carson, after allowing that studies “have not demonstrated that there is any correlation between vaccinations and autism,” and that some inoculations saved lives, added that “a multitude” of them probably weren’t important—“and there should be some discretion in those cases. But, you know, a lot of this is—is—is pushed by big government.”

“Should he stop saying that vaccines cause autism?” Tapper asked.

Trump, Carson replied, was “an intelligent man and will make the correct decision after getting the real facts.”

Trump proceeded to demonstrate his decision-making qualities with a digressive rant about how he knew “a beautiful child” who “went to have the vaccine, and came back, and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic.” He’d had his own regimen for his children, he said, spreading things out; if people followed his advice, “I think you’re going to see a big impact on autism.”

You’re not: the science is very clear that vaccines do not cause autism, and that all the deniers have accomplished is to provoke outbreaks of diseases, like measles, that were once almost forgotten in America. (My colleague Michael Specter has written about this extensively.) A lot of what Trump says—diplomacy by yelling, for example—would be dangerous if put into practice. But most of it, assuming he doesn’t actually get elected, won’t be put into practice. The refusal to inoculate children, though, is something that his admirers can try at home. No other candidate was willing to anger the ideologues by standing up for something as suspicious as science. Given a final chance by Tapper, Carson smiled and said that Trump was “an O.K. doctor”—a reference to Trump’s dismissal of Carson’s surgical skills. Rand Paul, who is also a doctor, added that though he was for vaccines, “I’m also for freedom”—namely the freedom to reschedule shots, “even if science doesn’t say” that there’s a problem.

The exchange was of a piece with the rest of the debate and with the state of the Republican Party: fervid, claustrophobic, recklessly insinuating, and, at the same time, utterly timid when it comes to extremism in its own ranks. The discussion about vaccines was immediately preceded by one about climate change: Tapper—citing George Shultz, Reagan’s Secretary of State, who said that his boss had urged industry leaders to come up with a plan to move away from chemicals destroying the ozone layer “as an insurance policy in case the scientists are right”—asked Marco Rubio why we shouldn’t now do the same, just in case there was something to the overwhelming evidence of climate change, rising sea levels, and retreating glaciers all around us.

“Because we’re not going to destroy our economy the way the left-wing government that we are under now wants to do,” Rubio said. “Single parents already struggling,” he added, couldn’t afford to do things that, in his view, wouldn’t affect the climate. And anyway, “America is not a planet.”

Tapper turned to Chris Christie, apparently on the theory that he had previously been more willing than other Republicans to recognize the reality of climate change. He didn’t have much better luck than he did with Carson. “I agree with Marco. We shouldn’t be destroying our economy in order to chase some wild left-wing idea that somehow us by ourselves is going to fix the climate,” Christie said. Not that he was interested in working with others: he bragged that, while making the air cleaner in New Jersey, he’d pulled the state out of regional cap-and-trade agreements. America may not be a planet, but New Jersey is. Scott Walker then jumped in to say that he wouldn’t listen to the E.P.A. Tapper managed to move on, despite Paul’s clamoring to be heard “if you want a skeptic” about climate change. No one tried to break in on behalf of the planet—the one that America is on.

The flaw in the debate, evident in both of these exchanges, may have been a structural one. In the interests of mixing it up, CNN’s moderators—Tapper was joined by Dana Bash, the network’s political correspondent, and Hugh Hewitt, the conservative radio host—repeatedly quoted criticisms that one candidate had made of the others. The most blunt example may have been when Carly Fiorina was asked what she thought of Trump’s comments, to Rolling Stone, about the unelectability of her face. In lieu of an apology last night, Trump said, “she’s a beautiful woman.” (He also said that he’d heard that Jeb Bush’s wife was “lovely.”) Fiorina declined to simper; throughout, she played her designated role of Trump teller-offer, mixing in references to “my good friend Bibi Netanyahu” and lurid (and inaccurate) descriptions of secretly taped videos of Planned Parenthood employees. Later, she and Trump sniped about their respective business records, prompting Christie, of all people, to tell them to “stop playing” and being so “childish.” “And Carly—Carly, listen,” he said. “You can interrupt everybody else on this stage, you’re not going to interrupt me, O.K.?” He sounded like a first grader striking a pose for the kindergartners.

But rather than really pushing the candidates on their positions, CNN’s did-you-hear-what-he-called-you approach served to keep the debate within the tinny echo chamber of the G.O.P. For example, Bash asked Jeb Bush, “After Chief Justice John Roberts voted to uphold Obamacare twice, Senator Cruz criticized your brother for appointing John Roberts to the Supreme Court. Looking back on it, did your brother make a mistake?” What followed was a somewhat bizarre exchange in which Bush offered a tepid defense of Roberts while saying that Cruz had supported him, too. Cruz replied by comparing Roberts—who, Obamacare aside, has led the court to achingly conservative decisions in Citizens United and Hobby Lobby, has helped to roll back voting rights, and has written bitter dissents on marriage equality—to the far more liberal David Souter. Mike Huckabee, who had earlier said that Kim Davis, the county clerk in Kentucky who is violating the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision by refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, had been afforded less respect for her religious beliefs than “the detainees at Gitmo,” jumped in to expostulate about litmus tests. Only in the Republican primaries would any of this make sense.

The Roberts exchange was one of several in which Jeb Bush couldn’t shake a certain air of petulance. “That’s—that’s my brother,” he said at one point, wiggling his arms a little. He had been trying to finish an evocative line about George W. Bush embracing a firefighter in the rubble of Ground Zero, but, since he’d been interrupted with interjections from, in sequence, Trump, Paul, and Walker, it was hard to figure out just what he was saying, or even parse it grammatically. He certainly didn’t command the foreign-policy discussion, amid a general clamor about renouncing the Iran agreement and Trump dismissing the need to learn “name after name, Arab name, Arab name.” Both Rubio and Carson had stronger moments in explaining why they might, if only occasionally, think before bombing, but both still came across as flagrantly hawkish. Paul, meanwhile, communicated the anti-interventionism that has set him apart. (His most effective moment, though, came when he talked about decriminalizing drug offenses, prompting Bush to talk about smoking marijuana as a teen-ager and Fiorina to speak, movingly, about her step-daughter who lost her life to addiction.) Bush said that he had chosen the same foreign-policy advisers that his brother and father had because, if you wanted a Republican, those were the only people available, “just by definition.” Near the end of the debate, Tapper asked each candidate to pick his or her Secret Service code name. (Paul: “Justice Never Sleeps”; Cruz: “Cohiba”; Walker: “Harley. I love riding Harley’s.”) Bush went with “Eveready—it’s very high energy, Donald.” Suddenly, it became hard to shake the image of Jeb as a giant Energizer Bunny. It also made him sound like a sulker, fixated on Trump’s description of him as “low-energy.” Trump, for his part, offered Eveready a hand-slap and then proposed his own name: “Humble.”

Tapper had another “light question”: What woman should, in accordance with a Treasury Department plan, replace Alexander Hamilton on the ten-dollar bill? Fiorina wouldn’t give a name, saying that she wasn’t in favor of that kind of “gesture.” Others nominated four American historical figures: Clara Barton, Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks, and Abigail Adams. The rest of the answers were divided between family members (Huckabee’s wife, Carson’s mother) and foreigners (Bush: Margaret Thatcher; Kasich: Mother Teresa). Really, Miss Oklahoma did a better job with this one than the Presidential contenders. (The correct answer, by the way, is to keep Hamilton on the ten, and put Harriet Tubman on the twenty.)

Trump went with both Parks and his daughter Ivanka—“because she’s been sitting for three hours.” Do we all get a bill, then? The debate was crowded, bloated, sour, and long. Far from adding order to the race, it is likely to have made it even more unpredictable. As was the case last time, each candidate probably did enough to satisfy his or her narrow faction, or at least to convince a couple of big donors to keep paying. Some (Carson, Fiorina, Rubio) likely did more than that. The question is who will lose the support they gain. Trump’s core supporters may not mind his performance, even though, at times, he seemed to be insulting people just to stay awake, like a truck driver lighting another cigarette. He was missing what he would call his usual “braggadocious” verve. It’s going to be a strange and pot-holed road on the way to 2016. But all we watched, on Wednesday night, were a bunch of bumper cars colliding in front of an old Air Force One.


Excerpt from: The Rachel Maddow Show / The MaddowBlog

Justice Department: Clinton’s email practices were permissible
09/14/15 05:05 PM—UPDATED 09/14/15 07:10 PM
By Steve Benen

In the spring, Republicans, a variety of reporters, and much of the Beltway establishment was convinced: there was a real “scandal” surrounding Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation’s international donors. In time, the allegations crumbled, the controversy evaporated, and the political world lost interest in the story that didn’t stand up to scrutiny.
There just was no there there.

Over the summer, the same Republicans, many of the same reporters, and much of the Beltway establishment was once again convinced: there was a real “scandal” surrounding Hillary Clinton and her email server management. Given the latest revelations, it’s starting to look like deja vu all over again.

The Obama administration told a federal court Wednesday that former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was within her legal rights to use of her own email account, to take the messages with her when she left office and to be the one deciding which of those messages are government records that should be returned.

In the most complete legal defense of Mrs. Clinton, Justice Department lawyers insisted they not only have no obligation, but no power, to go back and demand the former top diplomat turn over any documents she hasn’t already given – and neither, they said, can the court order that.

The Associated Press, BuzzFeed, and the New York Times had similar reports on this “little noticed brief.”

So, let me get this straight. Clinton used a private email server. The State Department said this was allowed. The Justice Department came to the same conclusion. The FBI isn’t investigating her.

I know we’re supposed to think this is a “scandal,” and the coverage has successfully convinced plenty of voters that this “controversy” is evidence of some unnamed nefarious misdeeds, but the rationale for taking this story seriously is looking pretty thin.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post published a lengthy, front-page piece over the weekend that reported Clinton’s personal, deleted emails may yet be recoverable by technicians. I’m not sure why these personal, deleted emails should be an area of interest in a presidential campaign; in fact I’m not sure why any candidate’s personal, deleted emails should be scrutinized.

And yet, over the weekend, Sens. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairmen of the Judiciary and Homeland Security committees, respectively, said “they would push for the deleted e-mails to be reviewed if they can be recovered.”

Of course they would.

Why, exactly, should Hillary Clinton’s personal emails receive scrutiny that no candidate, in either party, has ever had to face? I have no idea, but congressional Republicans seem serious anyway.

Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum added, sarcastically, “I’m sure the nation’s security hinges on this. And if Hillary’s personal emails are successfully recovered, I’m equally sure that a few of the most embarrassing ones will somehow get leaked to friendly reporters.”

Count on it.

In the meantime, if someone can explain why this is literally a front-page story for months, while Jeb Bush’s identical email issue is considered a non-story, I’m eager to hear the explanation.

The MaddowBlog, Election 2016, Elections, Hillary Clinton and Scandals

The GOP Debates?

Excerpts from:  Steve Benen

Carson describes progressive taxation as ‘socialism’
By Steve Benen 09/17/15 11:23AM
For much of the summer, the political world has watched the race for the Republican presidential nomination with one candidate in the foreground. When will the Donald Trump bubble burst? Will it ever? Is there a point at which Trump’s lack of presidential qualifications will catch up with him?

Those questions have value, but note they can be applied just as easily to the guy right behind Trump in the polls.

Ben Carson, the retired physician who’s also never served a day in public office, has quietly built up a remarkable level of GOP support, despite the fact that he often seems to have no idea what he’s talking about.

Last night, for example, Carson argued that progressive taxation is itself evidence of “socialism.” From the transcript:
“It’s all about America. You know, the people who say the guy who paid a billion dollars because he had 10, he has still got $9 billion left, that’s not fair, we need to take more of his money. That’s called socialism. That doesn’t work so well.”
It fell to Donald Trump, of all people, to explain, “We’ve had a graduated tax system for many years, so it’s not a socialistic thing.”

This came before Carson’s bizarre and arguably dangerous rhetoric about vaccinations — an area he should understand better given his medical background.

Towards the end of the event, the Republican doctor added, “[W]hen someone comes along and says, ‘Free college, free phones, free this and that, and the other,’ they say, ‘Wow, that’s nice,’ having no idea that they’re destabilizing our position.”

Oh, good. The three-hour debate nearly wrapped up without an “Obamaphone” reference.


Rubio makes his pitch against gun laws
By Steve Benen 09/17/15 10:47AM
When the issue of gun violence came up briefly in last night’s Republican debate, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) threw out a talking point I haven’t heard in a while.
“First of all, the only people that follow the law are law-abiding people. Criminals by definition ignore the law, so you can pass all the gun laws in the world, like the left wants. The criminals are going to ignore it because they are criminals.”
This generated applause, which is a shame, because it’s a terrible argument. Rubio’s pitch, in effect, is that there’s no point in passing gun laws to protect the public because “criminals by definition ignore the law.” But by that reasoning, why have any laws at all?

The far-right senator added that “the real issue is not what are people using to commit violence, but why are they committing the violence?”
“You can’t have a strong country without strong people, you cannot have strong people without strong values, and you cannot have strong values without strong families and the institutions in this country that defend and support those families.

“Today, we have a left-wing government under this president that is undermining all of the institutions and society that support the family and teach those values.”
I see. So, the United States experiences routine, deadly gun violence because of … what, marriage equality? Is that why gun deaths should be blamed on President Obama and his “left-wing government”?


Jeb sticks to his odd ‘I’m my own man’ line
By Steve Benen 09/17/15 10:06AM
Jeb Bush has surrounded himself with his brother’s and his father’s policy advisers. The former governor is running for president with the donor network created by his brother and his father. In recent months, the Floridian has benefited from fundraising campaigns launched by his mother, father, brother, and son.

And it’s against this backdrop that Jeb Bush likes to tell voters, “I’m my own man.” In fact, last night, he did it again.

In the debate, Hugh Hewitt reminded the GOP presidential hopeful about the overlap between his brother’s team and his own. Bush had an answer ready.
“Well, first of all, Hugh, if you’re looking at Republican advisers, you have to go to the last two administrations. That happened to be 41 and 43. So just by definition, if you’re — and many of the people here that are seeking advice from the foreign policy experts in the Republican side, they — they served in my dad’s administration, my brother’s administration. Of course that’s the case.

“But I’m my own man.”
There’s some truth to the fact that presidents (and would-be presidents) surround themselves with experienced personnel from previous administrations. Since the United States hasn’t had a Republican president whose last name wasn’t Bush in nearly three decades, there’s bound to be some overlap.

But the response has its limits, too. When President Obama put together his team, he drew upon veterans of Bill Clinton’s administration — the only other recent Democratic White House — but he also brought on board experts from academia, think tanks, and the private sector.

If Jeb Bush is going to prioritize experience, is he bound to have some veterans from his family’s team? Sure. But that doesn’t fully explain why Mr. I’m My Own My Man has surrounded himself almost completely with members of his father’s and brothers’ team — many of whom are discredited officials responsible for a series of catastrophic decisions, and who shouldn’t have any influence whatsoever over the future of American policymaking.


Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts
When even conservative justices aren’t conservative enough
By Steve Benen 09/17/15 09:34AM
Over the weekend, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) added a new line of attack to his offensive against his party’s Beltway establishment: the Republican presidential hopeful insisted that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts just isn’t far enough to the right.

In fact, the GOP senator, who was an enthusiastic Roberts booster in 2005, even criticized former President George W. Bush for his reluctance to “spend some political capital” in support of a genuinely right-wing nominee.

Jeb Bush was asked in last night’s debate whether Cruz was right, and though the former governor’s answer meandered a bit, Bush suggested he’d nominate different kinds of justices than his brother: “Roberts has made some really good decisions, for sure, but he did not have a proven, extensive record that would have made the clarity the important thing, and that’s what we need to do. And I’m willing to fight for those nominees to make sure that they get passed. You can’t do it the politically expedient way anymore.”

Cruz added in response:
“I’ve known John Roberts for 20 years, he’s amazingly talented lawyer, but, yes, it was a mistake when he was appointed to the Supreme Court. […]

“It is true that after George W. Bush nominated John Roberts, I supported his confirmation. That was a mistake and I regret that. I wouldn’t have nominated John Roberts.”
Watching this unfold last night, some viewers might have been left with the impression that Chief Justice Roberts is, well, retired Justice David Souter. One President Bush nominated a jurist who seemed conservative enough, but who turned out to approach the law from a center-left perspective, and then another President Bush did the same thing.

Except, that’s not even close to being true.


GOP debate puts vaccinations back in the spotlight
By Steve Benen 09/17/15 08:49AM
It’s bad enough when candidate debates feature bogus political information, but when the events convey misleading public-health information to the public, it’s arguably quite dangerous.

Earlier this year, vaccinations turned into an unexpected litmus-test issue for Republican presidential candidates after some GOP hopefuls made controversial comments on the issue. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), for example, said, “I have heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines.” He soon after added, “I did not say vaccines caused disorders, just that they were temporally related.”

In the months that followed, to the delight of the Republican establishment, the issue faded and the candidates steered clear of the issue.

Now, however, it’s apparently back. In last night’s CNN debate, Jake Tapper told Ben Carson that Donald Trump has linked vaccines and autism. Citing Carson’s background as a medical professional, the moderator asked, “Should Mr. Trump stop saying this?” It seemed like an obvious opportunity for Carson to highlight his scientific expertise.

It didn’t turn out that way. From the transcript:
“Well, let me put it this way, there has — there have been numerous studies, and they have not demonstrated that there is any correlation between vaccinations and autism.

“This was something that was spread widely 15 or 20 years ago, and it has not been adequately, you know, revealed to the public what’s actually going on. Vaccines are very important. Certain ones. The ones that would prevent death or crippling. There are others, there are a multitude of vaccines which probably don’t fit in that category, and there should be some discretion in those cases. But, you know, a lot of this is pushed by big government.”
From there, for reasons that didn’t make any sense, Carson started talking about taxes and the size of the federal workforce, which had no relation at all to a question about vaccines.

At which point, the entire discussion actually got worse.


Fiorina bests Trump while stumbling over facts

By Steve Benen 09/17/15 08:00

  • Most well-adjusted Americans who don’t cover politics for a living probably came to an important conclusion last night: there was simply no way to endure more than five hours of continuous Republican debating on CNN. And that means many news consumers woke up this morning wondering who “won” the night.

The political media has an answer. Carly Fiorina “crushed it.” She won “hands down.” She had a “breakout performance.” She “stepped up to the big stage on Wednesday night and won this debate.”

MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin highlighted the exchange that generated the most attention of the night.
In one of several skirmishes, businesswoman Carly Fiorina — who did not qualify for the first debate — responded to recent remarks by Trump deriding her physical appearance.

“I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said,” Fiorina said.

The audience burst into massive applause in response, easily the loudest of the night. Trump, who seemed caught off guard by the explosive reaction to the field’s only female candidate, said that Fiorina “has a beautiful face” and is a “beautiful woman.”
In case it wasn’t obvious, Trump’s response was nearly as insulting as the comments that got him into trouble in the first place. Adding condescending misogyny to mean-spirited misogyny does not make a problem go away.

It was arguably the first time since the start of the campaign that Trump, the current GOP frontrunner, was caught off-balance and flat-footed. Time will tell whether, and to what degree, Republican primary voters cared, but many observers saw this debate as the event that may finally help burst the Trump bubble.

But while much of the political establishment seemed eager to applaud Fiorina’s debate “victory,” there was just one problem that’s been largely overlooked: much of what she said last night wasn’t true. Indeed, as a substantive matter, Fiorina, who’s running for president despite never having held public office, spoke with great confidence and poise, but generally seemed clueless.

Urge President Obama to Fight Corruption With an Executive Order

Excerpt from:

Right now, corporations that get government contracts can secretly spend untold sums to help elect (and re-elect) the lawmakers who oversee the contracting process. The opportunity for corrupt contract-buying is clear.

  • Please join Public Citizen in urging President Obama to issue an Executive Order requiring corporations that bid for government contracts to disclose all of their campaign spending.

Americans have a right to know that government contracts are being awarded based on merit, not money.
Thanks for all you do!

Bob Fertik

Corporate behemoths like Chevron, Verizon and Lockheed Martin are snout-deep in the taxpayer trough.

Even companies affiliated with the infamously anti-tax, supposedly anti-cronyism Koch brothers have received $100 million from federal coffers in recent years.

And here’s what is truly outrageous:

  • Corporations that have government contracts can secretly spend untold sums to help elect (and re-elect) the lawmakers who set budgets and oversee the contracting process!

But President Obama can fix the problem with the stroke of a pen. Urge President Obama to issue an executive order requiring that federal contractors disclose their political spending.
President Obama has expressed his strong support for a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s disastrous and corrupting Citizens United ruling.

But actions speak louder than words.

If the president wants to fight corruption, he doesn’t need to wait for Congress and the states to pass a constitutional amendment.

President Obama can use his authority RIGHT NOW to require corporations with business before the government to be transparent about their electioneering activities — allowing voters to see for themselves if their members of Congress seem to owe Big Business any big favors.

  • Add your name to Public Citizen’s petition urging President Obama to require disclosure of election spending by federal contractors.

If allowed to continue, parasitic corporations will keep siphoning our tax dollars into profit-driven boondoggles, even as congressional austerity extremists clamor for cuts to programs that assist struggling Americans.

Let’s end the cycle of corruption.


Robert Weissman
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