President Donald Trump has put son-in-law Jared Kushner in charge of several very important initiatives, including bringing peace to the Middle East, ending the opioid crisis, and completely reorganizing the entire executive branch of the federal government. Jared of all trades, so to speak but he is no under the microscope of the FBI for …
For nearly 22 minutes John Oliver, host of HBO “Last Week Tonight,” roasted GOP presidential front runner, Donald “The Vulgar Talking Yam” Trump, whose real family name is Drumpf, in a searing litany of his lies, fraudulent business deals and bigotry. Part of what was so good about it was that Oliver’s wiry amped-up style …
I have 4 articles for you this morning – 3 related and the last one just an interesting one.
First, in the wake of the ill advised slap by inviting Bibi to Congress, this is what the GOP Senators did now, pretty much in violation of the Logan Act, not that they’ll be called on it:
I am once again shocked, but not surprised, at the lengths Republicans will go to to undermine the President of the United States while he is conducting negotiations with the government of a foreign country.
link to the letter
By Charles P. Pierce, Esquire’s Politics Blog
And the Reign Of Morons dawns. Many in the Beltway are beside themselves which, I guess, is easier than talking to some of the new unmoored members of our national legislature — and speaking of unmoored members, congrats to my new friend, United States Senator Joni Ernst. And all of you sweaty people waiting on hold in your cars for Mark Levin or Laura Ingraham, dream big. Anything is possible. Of course, the overall narrative is that we are in for a period of sensible conservative governance which, while it may collide from time to time with a Democratic president who declines to become whit…er…turn into Mitt Romney despite the clear verdict of a third of the voting populace, can prove that our new congressional leadership can “govern” while keeping its toes out of the oatmeal. This is why I saw Dana Bash this morning, talking to new Congressman Lee Zeldin of New York, who looks more like a member of the largely mythical Not Insane caucus than does, say, Jody Hice, the guy from Georgia who believes Islam is not a religion, or Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin, who believes that gay people are after him (Not bloody likely, Glenn), or Mark Walker, the North Carolinian who wants to start a new Mexican war, this time with…frickin’ laser beams. Better to bring out Zeldin as the face of the freshman follies. He did, after all, get elected from a “blue state.” Of course, Zeldin is a good little GOP squirrel who knows where all the nuts are buried. [..]
It will be interesting to see if this constructed narrative of Responsible Conservative Government holds true through the first time the president vetoes something on the new Congress’s wish list. In fact, the person for whom I would have sympathy, if I felt any sympathy for him at all, is not Boehner but Mitch McConnell, whose new senatorial majority is studded with jumped-up loons from the fringes of Republican state goverrnments, like my new friend Joni, and which also still contains both Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, with their national ambitions and their utterly self-involved attitude toward their jobs. This is a harder wrangle for McConnell, who still isn’t altogether popular, than the one Boehner faces. And, of course, it should be said that the Democratic party is positioned quite well to make the lives of both Boehner and McConnell utterly miserable, but very likely won’t do it, because Joe Manchin (D-Anthracite). If there really is rising populist power in the Democratic party, then here’s a chance to prove it. Screw with these people every way you can. Make the even more radical Republican state governments more furious at the “Washington establishment” than it already is. Monkeywrench the whole business and explain in simple terms to the country why you’re doing it. This has to start in the White House. The rest of the country needs to be protected from the hazardous material for which a third of it voted.
And first up on the agenda is the Keystone XL Pipeline but apparently not without a fight from the Democrats and the White House. Once more from Charlie
Well, give them credit. They started off the way they said they would. The first issue of the new Congress is indeed our old friend, the Keystone XL pipeline, the continent-spanning death funnel that will bring the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel from the environmental moonscape of northern Alberta to the refineries on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico and thence to the world. And, it seems, they’ve picked the fight they wanted to fight.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest says he does not expect Obama would sign any Keystone legislation that reaches his desk. The spokesman says there is a “well-established” review process that is being run by the State Department that should not be undermined by legislation. Earnest also says the pipeline’s route through Nebraska also must be resolved.
Now, let us take to heart the advice of Mr. Winston Wolf. The White House veto threat is not a categorical threat to the pipeline’s construction. The president is saying that the bill in question is premature, that it is short-cutting established procedure that already is underway, and that it is an improper federal infringement upon the function of the state judiciary of Nebraska. The president has not eliminated any of his options. [..]
So, good for the White House. It said the right thing today. (Win The Morning!) If the president vetoes this faith-based legislation, good for him, too. But, in that case, the story will be White House Wins First Showdown (!) There will still be the State Department report, and the Nebraska Supreme Court, and nobody’s really out of the woods yet because the pipeline is inherently dangerous, the fuel that it will carry is inherently poisonous, the company seeking to build (and to profit by) the pipeline is inherently dishonest. Some things don’t change. You can paint pretty flowers on the death-funnel, but it’s still a death-funnel.
With the price of oil dropping like a stone, Keystone XL may not be cost effective for its Canadian owners or its foreign customers.
The main challenge for reporters when they ask a question is to get a response that actually responds to the question being asked. The tactic of responding with totally unrelated talking point over and over seems to have been ingrained in politicians, although they are not the only ones who engage in this method of not answering uncomfortable or unexpected questions. “No comment” just doesn’t cut it anymore. The “canned response” has been raised to a new level of ridiculous by the GOP, to the point it sounds robotic, as if someone was pushing the “repeat button” the remote control.
Substituting for the vacationing Rachel Maddow, MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki handed out the first ribbon for the newly established Canned Response Repetition Hall of Fame for repeating the most ludicrous talking point. There were several nominees, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) but the winner was Gov. Rick “Voldemort” Scott (R-FL) who gave the exact same response four times in under a minute. The man is truly creepy.
Can the voters in Florida elect a human the next time.
You could label this “what were they thinking” but we’re talking about the Republican Party here. IT seems that in the midst of the latest “crisis,” the failure to launch of the Healthcare.gov web site, the genius Republicans of the House of Representative decided to ask a murder suspect to testify as an computer expert. No, I am not pulling you leg.
House Republicans Asked Murder Suspect John McAfee to Testify on Obamacare Website
by David, Crooks and Liars
According to emails obtained by CNBC, House Republicans asked the founder of McAfee Associates to “guide our oversight and review” of the Affordable Care Act website.
In 2012, McAfee went on the run from Belize authorities after being suspected of the murder of his neighbor. He was later detained in Guatemala and deported to the United States, but has not been charged with a crime.
“This is the Committee of jurisdiction for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare),” House Committee on Energy and Commerce counsel Sean Hayes wrote to McAfee’s lawyer on Oct. 14. “For three years we have been monitoring the implementation of the law and have been trying to dig into what has happened with the Exchange rollout.”
“Given the failures of Healthcare.gov, and Mr. McAfee’s expertise, I was hoping he might be able to discuss his views with staff on the hill,” the email continued. “It would be an informal discussion: we would take notes but these would not be for attribution, it would mainly guide our oversight and review of the program.”
“This would hopefully not be a heavy lift for him: what problems could lead to the compromise of personal identifying information? What could we be doing to prevent data or identify theft? What advice generally does he have?”
The deal fell through when the House wouldn’t pay for Mr. McAfee’s travel expenses. In case you aren’t aware of the hilarity of this invitation, Rachel Maddow gives us the Cliff Note version of Mr. McAfee’s biography
Can you imagine the hilarity of McAfee’s testimony as his mind wanders from the technicalities of launcing a web site to his sexual prowess and drug expertise? C-Span’s ratings would soar.
The Republicans have been screaming cover-up for months over the attack on the American diplomatic mission at Benghazi, in Libya on September 11, 2012 that took the lives of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. One of the accusations surrounded e-mails between the White House, the State Department and the CIA was that there was an intentional downplay of the motive for the September 11 attack.
Based on e-mails that were leaked, the Republicans claimed that the White House had changed the talking points to edit out “terrorism” in an effort to down play the attack just before the election. In an attempt to quell the GOP’s uproar, the White House released a 100 pages of e-mails to the public to disprove the cover-up allegations. Guess what, like true to from politicians trying to make a mountain out of a molehill, they fabricated the so-called quotes to create a scandal. The quotes that were cited by Republicans as accurate are far different than which is in the actual emails.
CBSNews‘ Major Garrett broke the story on its Evening News:
On Friday, Republicans leaked what they said was a quote from (deputy national security adviser Ben) Rhodes: “We must make sure that the talking points reflect all agency equities, including those of the State Department, and we don’t want to undermine the FBI investigation.”
But it turns out that in the actual email, Rhodes did not mention the State Department.
It read: “We need to resolve this in a way that respects all of the relevant equities, particularly the investigation.”
Republicans also provided what they said was a quote from an email written by State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland.
The Republican version quotes Nuland discussing, “The penultimate point is a paragraph talking about all the previous warnings provided by the Agency (CIA) about al-Qaeda’s presence and activities of al-Qaeda.”
The actual email from Nuland says: “The penultimate point could be abused by members to beat the State Department for not paying attention to Agency warnings.”
There is no indications that the White House “fixed” the talking points. This is a purely manufactured conspiracy by the Republicans to discredit, not just the White House, but the State Department and Hillary Rodham Clinton for political advantage.
This isn’t Watergate this is Whitewater. There nothing there, never was but that won’t stop the right wing lying smear machine from wasting millions of tax payer dollars digging more holes:
Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Republican House speaker John Boehner, made it clear that it will not be giving up the fight. “This release is long overdue and there are relevant documents the administration has still refused to produce. We hope, however, that this limited release of documents is a sign of more co-operation to come,” Buck said.
Never mind that they lied. Keep digging your own grave, guys.
It would seem by now that Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) realized that the filibuster “gentleman’s agreement” with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is as much of a farce as “bipartisanship.” Since Last January’s deal, the Republicans have filibuster two cabinet nominees, unprecedented in the past, blocked numerous judges and other nominees. Now a group led by Sen. Rand Paul, Mitch’s compatriot from the Blue Grass State, have threatened to filibuster a bill that hasn’t even been written.
Once again, Harry has tossed out another idle threat to fix the filibuster, this tilw by invoking the dreaded “nuclear option.” In an interview with Nevada Public Radio, Harry said that “he has not ruled out altering Senate rules to speed up Senate judicial nominations.”
“All within the sound of my voice, including my Democratic senators and the Republican senators who I serve with, should understand that we as a body have the power on any given day to change the rules with a simple majority, and I will do that if necessary,” Reid says. [..]
“I’m a very patient man. Last Congress and this Congress, we had the opportunity to make some big changes. We made changes, but the time will tell whether they’re big enough. I’m going to wait and build a case,” Reid says. “If the Republicans in the Senate don’t start approving some judges and don’t start helping get some of these nominations done, then we’re going to have to take more action.”
E.J. Dionne makes some very salient points in his Washington Post op-ed, where he asks is this the end of majority rule? He points out three facts first that universal background checks are overwhelming supported by Americans; second, “the Morning Joe/Marist poll last week showing 64 percent of Americans saying that job creation should be the top priority for elected officials.” Third, “only 33 percent said their focus should be on reducing the deficit.” Yet, congress has completely ignored these facts allowing the NRA and the minority deficit hawks of the far right to control what is debated in the House.
Dionne goes on to say:
In a well-functioning democracy, the vast majority of politicians – conservative, moderate and liberal – would dismiss such views as just plain kooky. But here is the problem: A substantial portion of the Republican Party’s core electorate is now influenced both by hatred of Obama and by the views of the ultra-right. Strange conspiracy theories are admitted to the mainstream conversation through the GOP’s back door – and amplified by another fight for market share among talk radio hosts and Fox News commentators.
That’s because the Republican Party is no longer a broad and diverse alliance but a creature of the right.[..]
And our Constitution combines with the way we draw congressional districts to over-represent conservatives in both houses. The 100-member Senate is based on two senators per state regardless of size. This gives rural states far more power than population-based representation would. The filibuster makes matters worse. It’s theoretically possible for 41 senators representing less than 11 percent of the population to block pretty much anything.
The American people deserve better than this. There should be at least on functioning segment of the government that represents the people, that needs to be the Senate.
Harry, drop the bomb. Go for the nuclear option. Let Mitch squeal how his party has been wronged and how the Democrats will pay. Take the soap box away from the likes of radical loons like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. Then pass approve some judges and nominees, pass bills the right wingers will hate but Americans will love. Tell President Obama that there will be no Social Security or Medicare cuts in the budget passed by the Senate. Tell the president that there will be a stimulus package to create jobs, an end to subsidies for oil companies and banks, as well as, tax reform and revenue increases.
Stand up to the right wing so-called Democrats, like Max Baucus, Harry. End your destructive “love affair” with Mitch. End filibuster.
I have a dream. Harry Reid could make it a reality.
When I read in the headline in The New York Times that “top Republican donors were seeking more say in Senate races“, I wondered just how much more influence could they want, as it is, frankly, they own the place. But then I read further:
The biggest donors in the Republican Party are financing a new group to recruit seasoned candidates and protect Senate incumbents from challenges by far-right conservatives and Tea Party enthusiasts who Republican leaders worry could complicate the party’s efforts to win control of the Senate.
The group, the Conservative Victory Project, is intended to counter other organizations that have helped defeat establishment Republican candidates over the last two election cycles. It is the most robust attempt yet by Republicans to impose a new sense of discipline on the party, particularly in primary races. [..]
The Conservative Victory Project, which is backed by Karl Rove and his allies who built American Crossroads into the largest Republican super PAC of the 2012 election cycle, will start by intensely vetting prospective contenders for Congressional races to try to weed out candidates who are seen as too flawed to win general elections.
The only thing that ran through my mind after reading the whole piece (and you should but do not eat or drink) were the lyrics from the Eagles’ “Hotel California“:
They stab it with their steely knives, But they just can’t kill the beast
The Republicans, in there zeal to defeat President Obama at any cost, created a monster that they no longer can control. But not all of the big donors are displeased with the beast and are a bit cross with Mr. Rove for trying to euthanize their pet and now they are revolting:
“Because of the bad results of the 2012 cycle, I kind of feel like we’re in a state of gang warfare,” Matt Kibbe, the president of FreedomWorks, a grassroots advocacy group aligned with the Tea Party movement, told MSNBC.com, adding: “The establishment is circling the wagons, and they’re trying to protect their own.”
Kibbe argued that the the energy in today’s GOP comes from the very Tea Party-backed candidates, like Rand Paul and Mike Lee, that Rove has opposed in the past. “What Rove is proposing is a recipe for failure,” he said.
In a press release put out shortly afterwards, Kibbe warned: “The Empire is striking back.”
Tea Party Patriots, perhaps the leading national grassroots Tea Party group, took the same view. “Instead of returning to conservative principles, Rove and the consultant class are pouring millions into picking off conservative leaders,” national coordinator Jenny Beth Martin said in a statement. “The consultant class has been on the wrong side of history and it is time for conservatives to wake-up and stop funding their sabotage of conservatism.”
Right-wing bloggers were no kinder.
Ben Shapiro, an editor at Breitbart News, accused Rove of “declaring war on the Tea Party.”
Influential conservative blogger Michelle Malkin agreed. “This is war,” she wrote, adding: “Who needs Obama and his Team Chicago to destroy the Tea Party when you’ve got Rove and his big government band of elites?”
Erick Erickson, the influential founder of Redstate.com and a long-time champion of the Tea Party, had a similar take. Rove’s goal, Erickson wrote, is to “crush conservatives, destroy the Tea Party, and put a bunch of squishes in Republican leadership positions.”
Fox News should be a very lively place with both Rove and Erickson now on payroll as political analysts.
Over at the Maddow Blog there’s more from Steve Benen:
Roll Call reported over the weekend that the Senate Conservatives Fund, founded by former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint (R), is already condemning Rove’s new project.
“This is a continuation of the establishment’s effort to avoid blame for their horrible performance in the 2012 elections,” Senate Conservatives Fund Executive Director Matt Hoskins said. “They blew a ton of races up and down the ticket because they recruited moderate Republicans who didn’t stand for anything. Now they want to use this new PAC to trick donors into giving them more money so they can lose more races.”
Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller echoed the sentiment: “They are welcome to support the likes of Arlen Specter, Charlie Crist and David Dewhurst. We will continue to proudly support the likes of Pat Toomey, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.”
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow described the deep division between the right wing Republican base and the moneyed interests, that form the Republican Party, but can’t draw sufficient votes to win elections.
Steve Benin notes the great irony of this fight is that neither side of the Republican divide has any credibility at all. Poor Karl. “You can check out anytime you please but you can never leave.”
Get the popcorn and start the music
During Monday’s Inauguration coverage, MSNBC commentator and host Chris Matthews remarked about the slipping popularity of the Republican Party and how in order to win they will have to rig the elections in order to win in the future.
“If states like Pennsylvania ever get controlled by Republican legislators, that is frightening,” [..]
“There’s so much willingness to rig the elections by the Republicans,” Matthews continued. “They know they’re heading into demographic trouble. They know they’re going to be a minority in this country. It’s almost like Lebanon – we’ve got to fake the census now, y’know?”
He concluded: “And what I see them doing is saying, ‘Okay, we know we’re never going to be popular again, so we’re going to have to rig it.”
Apparently, Mr. Matthews was unaware of what the Republicans in the Virginia legislature were up to.
Virginia Senate Sneaks Through Gerrymandering Bill While Country Watches Inauguration
by Annie-Rose Strasser, Think Progress
While the eyes of the nation were turned toward President Barack Obama’s second inauguration on Monday, the Virginia State Senate managed to hurriedly pass a bill that would redistrict the state’s senate seats.
The vote, 20-19, would have been a tie had Democratic Senator Henry Marsh been present. Marsh, a civil rights leader, was in Washington, D.C., attending the inauguration.
Had Marsh been present, however, the state’s Lieutenant Governor, Bill Bolling, would likely have broken the tie. The bill was reportedly pushed through in a matter of hours. [..]
The gerrymandering bill now goes to the heavily Republican House of Delegates for a vote, where it will likely face little opposition.
Victim Of VA State Sen. GOP ‘Dirty Trick’ Calls Move ‘Shameful’
by Evan McMorris-Santoro, Talking Points Memo
“I wanted to attend the historic second inauguration of President Obama in person,” Marsh said in a statement. “For Senate Republicans to use my absence to push through a partisan redistricting plan that hurts voters across the state is shameful.” [..]
Marsh said he was “outraged” and “saddened” by the state Senate GOP move. He said the bill was “unconstitutional,” a line being used by many Democrats in Virginia these days that could signal future legal action.
Gov. McDonnell Condemns Virginia Senate GOP Move As Bad Way To Do Business
by Evan McMorris-Santoro, Talking Points Memo
After first distancing himself from the new legislative lines the Virginia Senate GOP forced through Monday, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) condemned his party’s political gamesmanship Tuesday.
“I certainly don’t think that’s a good way to do business,” McDonnell told reporters in Richmond, according to the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star. [..]
McDonnell has so far not said if he would veto the redistricting plan, which still must pass the state House. It is not clear if McDonnell has taken or will take other steps to undo the Senate GOP’s surprise move.
I wouldn’t put any money on Gov. McDonnell vetoing that bill, as Laura Conaway at The Maddow Blog notes, the governor would like everyone to just stop talking about the sneak redistricting now
When I asked McDonnell’s office just now whether he would sign or veto the bill, which still needs approval from the House, they sent over a recording (mp3) of the governor fielding that question today with local reporters. The verbate:
REPORTER: Is it time yet to tell these guys, “If it comes to me, I’m going to veto it”?
MCDONNELL: Well, listen, my focus this year is on education, transportation, and budget and government reform. That’s what I had asked this session to be about. Obviously, the tactics that were used yesterday was a surprise, and I don’t think that’s the way that business should be done. But I haven’t looked at the bill. I’m not happy about the things that have happened. Look, some people said they were against my transportation bill long before yesterday, so this has got a long way to go. I don’t know whether I’m going to get a bill or not. But I’m going to wait and see at this point what happens. I have not looked at the bill. At this point, though, I want people to focus on the things that are important. What I said the session should be about is education, transportation — not redistricting and other things. That’s my focus.
The short answer, so far, is no answer yet. McDonnell could try to keep the House from passing the bill and sending it to him. A year ago, he found himself in much the same position, trying to get the legislature off the ledge — and off the front pages — with that forced ultrasound bill. He ended up signing that one.
The bill would create a Republican super majority in both houses, so that even if a Democrat is elected governor, s/he’ll be unable to pass an agenda. Gov. McDonnell will sign this it.
If you can’t win the White House unless you have 270 electoral votes, then you need to fix it so you do, legally, by gerrymander and voter supression. That is the GOP strategy to win the White House in 2016. Since gerymandering was the way that they succeeded in holding their majority in the House, they may well succeed.
The GOP’s Electoral College Scheme
by Reid Wilson, National Journal
Republicans alarmed at the apparent challenges they face in winning the White House are preparing an all-out assault on the Electoral College system in critical states, an initiative that would significantly ease the party’s path to the Oval Office.
Senior Republicans say they will try to leverage their party’s majorities in Democratic-leaning states in an effort to end the winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes. Instead, bills that will be introduced in several Democratic states would award electoral votes on a proportional basis.
Already, two states — Maine and Nebraska — award an electoral vote to the winner of each congressional district. The candidate who wins the most votes statewide takes the final two at-large electoral votes. Only once, when President Obama won a congressional district based in Omaha in 2008, has either of those states actually split their vote.
But if more reliably blue states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin were to award their electoral votes proportionally, Republicans would be able to eat into what has become a deep Democratic advantage.
All three states have given the Democratic nominee their electoral votes in each of the last six presidential elections. Now, senior Republicans in Washington are overseeing legislation in all three states to end the winner-take-all system.
Rachel Maddow reports on a new initiative by state level Republicans to rig the Electoral College in the states they control to better advantage Republican presidential candidates and subvert popular political will.
RNC’s Priebus Endorses Plan To Rig Electoral College
by Henry Decker, The National Memo
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
That appears to be Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus’ philosophy when it comes to rigging elections in the GOP’s favor. In 2012, the strategy was suppressing votes through voter ID laws, ending same-day voter registration, and clamping down on early voting, among other restrictive legislation. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 25 laws and two executive actions were passed in 19 states over the past two years with the aim of making it harder to vote.
In 2013, the plan appears to be changing the way that votes are counted. Priebus has stepped forward as the latest Republican to support a proposal that would split Wisconsin’s electoral votes by congressional district.
On Monday, seven Pennsylvania Republican state representatives introduced a bill to make this vote-rigging scheme a reality in their state. Under their bill, the winner of Pennsylvania as a whole will receive only 2 of the state’s 20 electoral votes, while “[e]ach of the remaining presidential electors shall be elected in the presidential elector’s congressional district.”
Pennsylvania is a blue state that voted for the Democratic presidential candidate in every single presidential race for the last two decades, so implementing the GOP election-rigging plan in Pennsylvania would make it much harder for a Democrat to be elected to the White House. Moreover, because of gerrymandering, it is overwhelmingly likely that the Republican candidate will win a majority of Pennsylvania’s electoral votes even if the Democrat wins the state by a very comfortable margin. Despite the fact that President Obama won Pennsylvania by more than 5 points last November, Democrats carried only 5 of the state’s 18 congressional seats. Accordingly, Obama would have likely won only 7 of the state’s 20 electoral votes if the GOP vote rigging plan had been in effect last year.
I don’t think this is what the founders planned when they created the Electoral College. I know some will argue that the Electoral College insures that even small states with small populations have a say in the selection of the president but this ploy by the GOP would end that voice, too. Has the electoral College outlived its purpose? It amy well be time to consider a direct election of the President based on the popular vote.
To be, or not to be: that is the question,
Whether ’tis nobler to flip or to flop, like a fishmonger’s ware,
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Taketh pride in the firing, as poor Seamus shall bear.