Iago? Scrooge? Caligula? Models for new GOP House speaker

With McCarthy out as speaker, which unlucky stiff will take his place>

With McCarthy out as speaker, which unlucky stiff will take his place?

With Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s surprising exit from the House speaker’s race, Republican representatives are left in a quandary — who the heck is going to take a job that nobody wants?

An inspiring talk from Pope Francis was enough to send current Speaker John Boehner running back to his Ohio tanning booth. The remaining announced speaker candidates — Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah and Rep. Daniel Webster of Florida — aren’t exactly inspiring the troops.

There’s no shortage of suggestions. Fox News blowhard and radio host Sean Hannity is touting former Speaker Newt Gingrich for the job, and Gingrich, who never met a camera he didn’t like, said he’s willing as long as he can get 218 votes. (No one else is calling him.) Many in the GOP see Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as their savior, but Ryan, who has higher ambitions, can’t say “hell, no” loudly enough. Other names are being tossed out like water balloons, and have as much lasting power, such as Mitt Romney.

A Democratic California congressman even posted an ad on craigslist asking for applications. “Requirements: Proven ability to work with irrational people who pursue narrow priorities at the expense of millions of others. Proficiency in Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Babysitting experience STRONGLY PREFERRED. No Congressional experience necessary. Please e-mail resume and an outline of your plan to TheNextFrankUnderwood [at] gmail [dot] com.”

So we have an ungovernable bunch of Tea Party congress-critters who care more about stomping their feet and threatening to shut down Washington than they do about governing. The speaker’s post is required by the U.S. Constitution, although there’s nothing that says the person has to be a sitting representative.

What’s a country to do? Why, look to models from history, literature, and popular culture, of course. Here are a few modest suggestions that just might fit the modern GOP brand.

Sen. Joseph McCarthy. Hey, if you can’t get one McCarthy, try another. The infamous Wisconsin senator made his name in the 1950s for his political anti-Communist witch hunts, much of it based on false innuendo. After seven congressional committees could find no blame in the tragedy over the Benghazi killings, the GOP established another panel just to make stuff up and lead a new smear campaign. Committee Chair and South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy apparently learned from the master: Do it by badgering witnesses, tossing around fanciful numbers, and destroying people’s credibility by deceptively editing transcripts. Sound familiar? Worked for “Tail-gunner Joe” — at least in the short term. Have you no sense of decency, GOP?

Caligula. He was a Roman emperor who served from 37-41 C.E., until he was assassinated. He is usually described as an “insane tyrant” famous for “cruelty, sadism, extravagance, and sexual perversity.” Sounds about right for the “family values” crowd, as long as that sexual perversity didn’t include gay marriage.

Iago. Othello’s sinister adviser would fit right in with today’s Republican Party. He wasn’t afraid of smear campaigns (check, Desdemona); throwing allies under the bus (check, Roderigo); making up stories about others to further his career (check, Cassio); and overall dishonesty (check and double-check). I’m guessing he’d be from a Southern state.

Ebenezer Scrooge. If Charles Dickens’ legendary miser were alive today and in Congress, you know that he would have signed Grover Norquist’s “I’ll never raise taxes” pledge and that he would willingly accept all campaign contributions from Wall Street. But only if his story ends before bed on Christmas Eve. By the morning, he would have switched parties.

Vice President Sally Langston from Scandal. No reason men should have all the fun. True, she murdered her husband, covered up her daughter’s abortion, and abandoned the Republicans to run as a third-party candidate. But she’s a religious conservative who wore her born-again bona fides on her entire designer suit, not just her sleeve. The caucus would elect her in a nanosecond.

The best James Bond villain: Goldfinger. All of the Bond villains were fabulously wealthy, but consider: Goldfinger wanted to blow up an atomic bomb at Fort Knox. Why? He wanted to ruin the world economy so that his gold would be the only wealth remaining. It must have to do with getting the country back on the gold standard. Surely libertarian devotees of former Rep. Ron Paul can get on board with that.

No doubt, the GOP caucus eventually will elect somebody to be speaker, or the Republicans will keep Boehner around until they enlist some other poor slob. But remember: The speaker of the House of Representatives is second in line to succeed to the presidency. So for God’s sake, Secret Service agents, do your jobs right and protect President Obama and Vice President Biden.


Hillary Clinton gambles on gun control


Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton apparently has decided that the shooting at an Oregon community college that killed nine people is the last straw, and she’s proposing several measures to combat gun violence.

The proposals — to institute universal background checks and to close the gun show and internet sales loopholes, among others — are actually quite modest. They have been proposed before and are supported by large majorities of Americans. By speaking out now, Clinton no doubt hopes to distance herself further from Republican candidates and from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is catching up to or passing her in some polling.

Sanders represents a state with many rural residents who hunt. According to a story at Think Progress, Sanders “voted against the Brady Bill, legislation signed by President Bill Clinton that instituted federal background checks and a five-day waiting period for gun purchases, and has voted for other pro-gun legislation to appeal to voters in his gun-loving, rural state.” It is one area where he has clashed with his progressive supporters.

At a campaign event in New Hampshire, a visibly emotional Clinton introduced Nicole Hockley. Hockley is the mother of 6-year-old Dylan, one of 20 children shot to death at the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012, according to a story at CNN.

Clinton campaign staff said the candidate met Hockley in a photo line before the campaign town hall, and Clinton asked Hockley to join her on stage. “I want you to introduce yourself and maybe talk about what you and other parents are trying to do to get the changes that are necessary,” Clinton told her at the event, according to the CNN story.

The other big proposal in Clinton’s gun safety plan is to do away with the protections that gun manufacturers have against liability lawsuits. When she was a senator, Clinton voted against legislation that protects gun makers and dealers from being sued by shooting victims, and she vowed to work for the law’s repeal. Other parts of Clinton’s gun safety plan include barring those with felony records from being able to purchase a gun. Her whole plan is available at her campaign website.

All of these are great ideas, and are supported by up to 90 percent of Americans. Too bad the odds of any of them actually passing are between slim and none.

After the Oregon shooting, the reaction from the National Rifle Association and Republican presidential candidates to any gun safety measures was predictable. Jeb! Bush inserted his foot further in his mouth (if that is possible) by saying, “Stuff happens.” GOP candidates offered the usual “thoughts and prayers” for the families of the victims — and then quickly added that more guns are the answer, even in the classroom. An NRA spokesman gave the usual platitude that President Obama was “politicizing” the issue by even talking about it. Others delivered the standard line that it’s “too soon” to talk about gun safety.

It shouldn’t be this way. When more then 33,000 people die in the U.S. each year from gunshots, it’s no wonder that the rest of the world thinks Americans are crazy for sticking to their firearms no matter what. According to another story at Think Progress: “Between 2000 and 2014, there were 33 mass shootings in Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, England, Germany, Finland, Israel, Mexico, Norway, Russia, South Africa and Switzerland combined. Over the same time period, there were 133 mass shootings in the U.S., killing 487 people.” Other media outlets put the U.S. total even higher.

By issuing a proposal on gun safety so strongly and so publicly, Clinton has ensured that the issue will be raised during the 2016 election campaign. She’s also vowing to use executive action to meet some of the gun safety goals, which will produce even more howls from gun nuts. Former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was severely wounded by a shooter at a constituent event, tweeted support. “Voters deserve to know how candidates will reduce gun violence. Thanks for sharing your plan, @HillaryClinton.”

It can’t be pointed out too often that the U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down the handgun ban in the District of Columbia pointedly did not give the populace carte blanche on all guns. The decision, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, clearly said communities had the power to pass some restrictions on guns and still comply with the Second Amendment.

But try telling that to the gun owner who is told over and over again by the NRA and Republican candidates that “Obama’s going to take your guns,” even though the president has never proposed anything near that. Remember: The NRA is made up of gun manufacturers as well as gun owners. And who profits by stoking fears about gun control?

The gun makers, which are only too happy to sell more guns. It always comes down to money, doesn’t it?



What will it take to penetrate America’s gun culture?

A candlelight vigil for the victims of the Oregon college shooting. (AP photo)

A candlelight vigil for the victims of the Oregon college shooting. (AP photo)

The vast majority of people in the United States who support common-sense regulations about guns once again are forced to throw up our collective hands in disgust and sorrow at the latest school shooting and the epidemic of gun violence in this country.

By some counts, there have been 142 school shootings since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that killed 20 children and six adults in December 2012. There have been 45 such shootings just this year. The average is almost one school shooting a week. Some media organizations put the number lower, at 94 or 95 school shootings since Sandy Hook. But whether it’s 142 or 94, that’s still way too many shootings and victims.

The latest tragedy is the shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., where a shooter with multiple guns killed nine people and injured nine more before he killed himself. Oregon has few gun regulations. And despite reports by right-wing media that guns were banned on campus, there are no such restrictions. A “good guy with a gun” was not able to stop the killings — that was done by an Army veteran and student who charged the gunman, getting shot himself in the process.

Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin, who is in charge of investigating the deaths, pointedly took no questions at a news conference after the shooting. No wonder. In 2013, he posted a YouTube video with “truther” conspiracy theories casting doubt on the Sandy Hook shooting that got millions of views (the post was taken down a day after the Oregon shooting). Hanlin also wrote a letter to Vice President Joe Biden in 2013, saying that if any of the proposed gun restrictions spurred by Sandy Hood passed, he wasn’t going to enforce them, echoing the words of right-wing groups like the Oath Keepers.

I guess the facts seem a little different when the shooting is in your own community, right, Sheriff?

The number of deaths at school shootings doesn’t include other gun-related deaths in the U.S. President Obama challenged news organizations to compare the number of people killed by guns and the number killed by terrorists. A chart, done by Steve Benen at the Maddow Blog and using data from CNN through the State Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shows that the results aren’t even close.

People are shot daily across the U.S., and not only by guns purchased legally. In Chicago, which has suffered an epidemic of gun deaths, many of those killings are done by people firing guns bought outside legal boundaries. As an editorial in the Chicago Sun-Times said: “Our city ranks among the highest in the nation for gun violence, but does not rank high for overall violence or homicides committed without guns. Police here confiscate seven times as many guns per capita than they do in New York. … Illegal guns are killing our city, body and soul.”

A Chicago man convicted of gun trafficking — buying guns at gun shows in Indiana and selling them on the street in Chicago — got a mere three-year prison sentence, and he’ll probably be out in less time than that. Yet he’s just as culpable for deaths from those guns as those who did the shooting. In Indiana, as in 32 other states, it’s perfectly legal for a gun owner to sell a gun at a gun show where there are no background checks on buyers.

After the Sandy Hook tragedy, Vice President Biden was given the task of developing legislation to stem at least some of the gun violence. The proposals, which are backed by large majorities of U.S. citizens, sometimes by as much as 90 percent, included universal background checks, limits on magazine size, and bans on some assault rifles. Despite bipartisan support in the Senate, the Senate could not get past the threat of a Republican filibuster to even vote on the proposals.

Whenever gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association and its affiliates spout off about the Second Amendment, it’s important to remember that the 2008 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in D.C. v. Heller did not give gun owners unlimited rights when the court struck down the handgun ban and other ordinances in the District of Columbia. “Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose,” wrote Justice Antonin Scalia, hardly a bastion of liberal thought.

At a news conference after the Oregon shooting, a visibly angry Obama told the nation that “thoughts and prayers are not enough.” Predictably, gun rights groups criticized Obama for “politicizing” the tragedy. “The politics have to change,” Obama said.

Obama pointed out that the U.S. is the only Western country with high levels of gun deaths, and said it was because of the number of guns and few restrictions against obtaining them. “You can’t kill as many people when you don’t have easy access to these kinds of weapons,” he said.

In 1996, a mentally ill Australian man shot and killed 35 people and injured 18 in a two-day rampage of violence. It took the Australian Parliament just 12 days to pass strict gun control laws, limiting and prohibiting the sale of various semi-automatic weapons. There hasn’t been a similar incident since. In 2012, there were only 30 homicides by firearm annually in Australia, according to figures from the United Nations. Contrast that with the more than 33,000 gun deaths each year in the U.S.

Many in the U.S. thought Sandy Hook would be a turning point. Surely even Congress could pass common-sense restrictions backed by up to 90 percent of the population after 20 young innocent children were gunned down. But it didn’t happen — legislators are just too scared of the NRA and gun rights voters.

What’s it going to take? How many more have to die?

Boehner out: Who would want any job in GOP leadership?

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 21: U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) speaks as House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) (C) and House Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) (R) listen during a briefing to members of the media after a House Republican Caucus meeting January 21, 2015 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The House GOP leadership briefed the media on their responses to President Obamas State of the Union address the night before. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

We won’t have John Boehner to show off his tears for much longer.

No doubt House Republicans will elect someone to be their new speaker now that Ohio Rep. John Boehner is resigning at the end of October. But to call the house speakership with the current radical GOP membership a “thankless job” is like calling a tornado a gentle breeze.

Boehner stunned the political world by announcing — seemingly out of nowhere — that he was calling it quits. He said publicly that he had made the decision “just this morning” after praying about it, but he’s been fighting the Tea Party-led House conservatives since he took over as speaker after the 2010 election. There have been rumblings about ousting Boehner for years, and the Ohio Republican probably figured that the job just wasn’t worth it anymore. Time to take his tanning bed and go home.

Later reports said Boehner had been planning to leave the speaker’s post earlier and to let former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor take over as speaker. But Cantor was ousted in a Republican primary by a Tea Party candidate in his Virginia district in 2014, forcing Boehner to stay in charge.

Steve Benen, on Rachel Maddow’s blog, called the House speakership “the worst job in Washington.” The cliche about “herding cats” doesn’t do justice to the problem of trying to appease and placate the GOP House radicals, who have derailed much legislation Boehner and his deputies tried to pass. Those same radicals are again threatening a government shutdown, this one tied to defunding Planned Parenthood. One of Boehner’s last acts probably will be to pass a short-term government funding bill with mostly Democratic votes.

Several in higher GOP posts already have announced that they won’t seek the speaker’s post, likely leaving it open for the current House majority leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California. Like Boehner, he’s considered more of a moderate, at least by current GOP standards. Rep. Steven Scalise, the House majority whip who once described himself as “David Duke without the baggage,” said he would run for majority leader, leaving the speakership for McCarthy.

In his short congressional career, Kevin McCarthy has sponsored only two bills that actually passed, Benen wrote: one renaming a post office and one renaming a flight research center. “Now he’s going to be speaker of the House and second in the line of presidential succession?” Benen asked. Doesn’t leave you with much confidence, does it?

And lest you think those anti-incumbent feelings are confined to one house of Congress, consider what Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal told the ultra-conservative attendees at the Values Voters Summit. The presidential contender (albeit with less than one percent support in national polls) drew loud applause when he also called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to turn in his Senate credentials.

Jindal said he was “actually angrier with the Republicans than with the Democrats” because they “don’t do the things they say they’re going to do,” according to a report on Talking Points Memo. “It is time to fire these clowns and restore order once and for all.” This, from a governor whose approval ratings in his own state reached an all-time low of 27 percent earlier this year.

Well, sure. President Obama hasn’t been impeached, and he’s still black.

Earlier, another GOP presidential contender with higher polling numbers, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, got a “roaring standing ovation” at the same meeting when he told the crowd that Boehner was leaving. According to an online story from The Hill, Rubio told the gleeful attendees that it was time for GOP leadership to “turn the page.”

“Turn the page” — you wonder what book they’ll be reading next. Maybe something by Ayn Rand?

So the GOP base, including the die-hards at the Value Voters Summit, are willing to throw all the bums out and elect someone with little or no experience as congressional leaders or as president. People like real estate mogul and would-be narcissist-in-chief Donald Trump, who says he’ll deport 12 million immigrants “warmly and humanely”; pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, who considers the Constitution an inconvenience when it comes to separating church and state; or failed former HP executive Carly Fiorina, whose super PAC had to scramble to create a video to resemble the make-believe one she described in criticizing Planned Parenthood during the last GOP presidential debate.

Those three, of course, are leading in current polls. Good luck, America.

Joe Biden as Hamlet: Make up your mind, already

This Pete Souza White House photo shows Biden as we often see him -- with a big smile.

This Pete Souza White House photo shows Biden as we often see him — with a big smile.

To run or not to run. That is the decision facing Vice President Joe Biden. By all accounts — inside the Beltway, across the political spectrum, and from potential donors and supporters nationwide — the vice president has not yet decided whether to face the grueling task of launching a third bid for the presidency.

It’s hard to blame him. If you watched Biden’s recent interview with Stephen Colbert on The Late Show, you would see a man still reeling from the death of his son Beau from brain cancer, who reportedly urged his father to run one more time.

“I don’t think any man or woman should run for president unless, No. 1, they know exactly why they would want to be president, and No. 2, they can look at the folks out there and say, ‘I promise you that you have my whole heart, my whole soul, my energy, and my passion to do this.’ And I’d be lying if I said that I knew I was there,” Biden told Colbert.

That would suggest he’s a no-go, but news reports full of “leaked” information claim that some would-be Biden donors are waiting in the wings, itching to write those checks (Hollywood Reporter, Reuters). Dr. Jill Biden reportedly has given a third run her blessing (CNN). There’s no shortage of stories with reports that he will or he won’t run and the problems he’ll face if he does (The Atlantic, The Christian Science Monitor, BuzzFeed News, just to name a few). There’s a “draft Biden” website, which will gladly take your money and your email address — just in case. You also can check the money odds of a Biden run at PredictIt.org (currently at 57 cents, down six cents as of this writing).

If he decides to run, Biden already faces the problems of being a late entry. Filing deadlines for several states are approaching. Many staff members already have been hired by other candidates, in multiple states. Many donors already are committed. Some unions already have made endorsements, although others reportedly are holding back until Biden jumps in — or doesn’t.

Biden faces a raft of obstacles. He turns 73 later this year, although that’s still a year younger than Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and only a few years older than former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Several polls, still basically meaningless at this point, register support for Biden, mostly at Clinton’s expense, but the numbers and headlines fluctuate daily.

Biden’s media coverage is currently positive, especially in the wake of his son’s death, but it wouldn’t be long before many in the media start dumping on him for his history of “gaffes.” GOP opponents would bring up the plagiarism charges from his 1988 run — potentially more serious than the never-ending but essentially non-scandalous story of Clinton’s email server.

There’s also Biden’s questionable hands-on behavior to members of Congress and their families as lawmakers are sworn in at the beginning of a term — a duty he clearly loves but which struck some people as more than a little creepy.

So who knows what the vice president will do? Time is running out; the first Democratic debate is less than a month away, even though more are needed (yeah, we’re talking to YOU, Debbie Wasserman Schultz!). So with apologies to William Shakespeare, here is Biden’s soliloquy.

To run, or not to run: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous Fox News pundits,
Or to take arms against a sea of Republicans,
And by opposing end them. To run, to sleep —
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That candidates are heir to. ’Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To run, to sleep —
To sleep, perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of candidacy what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this electoral coil,
Must give us pause. There’s the respect
That makes calamity of long political life.
For who would bear votes and policy statements of time,
The vote that was wrong, the senator’s gaffe,
The pangs of despised positions, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of th’ unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare ballot? Who would voters bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary office,
But that the dread of something after election,
The undiscover’d statement from whose bourn
No candidate returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those votes we have cast
Than fly to other policies we know not of?
Thus conscience does make candidates of us all,
And thus the political hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the vote cast of thought,
And elections of great pith and moment
With this regard their voters turn awry
And lose the fall election. — Soft you now!
The fair Hillary! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember’d.

Donald Trump, GOP have been stoking hate speech for years

Best description of the Trump supporter who claimed Obama is a Muslim: "Anonymous asshole."

Best description of the Trump supporter who claimed Obama is a Muslim: “Anonymous asshole.”

Some in the GOP and the media are shocked — shocked — that supporters of the beaver tail-headed man hoping to become narcissist-in-chief are not-so-secret racists, xenophobes, and just plain jerks.

That shouldn’t be a surprise. Those supporters are just repeating what Donald Trump and many Republicans have been saying for years about President Obama, immigrants in general, and Muslims in particular. And the media have been giving them all a free ride.

Trump’s poll numbers put him at 30 percent of Republican voters, plus or minus, in a crowded and unexciting field. He’s attracting the worst of the GOP base, like the man who asked a question at a New Hampshire town hall event claiming that Obama is a Muslim and that Muslims are holding “training camps” in the U.S. to kill Americans. Trump didn’t correct the man for his false characterization of the president, instead promising that his campaign was “looking at a lot of different things,” continuing his nebulous and policy-free campaign.

Barely-registering-in-the-polls candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina was among several Republicans to criticize Trump for not setting the record straight. Graham and several news organizations recalled the moment in 2008 when GOP presidential nominee John McCain corrected a questioner who thought Obama was an Arab. McCain told the woman that Obama was a patriotic American whom McCain just happened to disagree with.

Of course, this is the same Sen. McCain who picked former Alaska Gov. $arah Palin as a running mate. He never said a word when Palin claimed that Obama was “palling around with terrorists” for Obama’s work on a Chicago school improvement project that also had on board Williams Ayers, a University of Illinois professor who was in the Weather Underground decades before. Not so brave, Sen. McCain.

Trump’s campaign gave several different excuses as to why the real estate mogul didn’t correct the questioner at the New Hampshire event, including the ludicrous claim that Trump didn’t hear him, even though Trump answered, “Right.” Trump finally tweeted that he wasn’t “morally obligated” to defend Obama when someone says something bad about him. Somehow, the words “morally obligated” and “Trump” don’t go together. Talk about an oxymoron.

At a Heritage Action event, which Trump apparently was too chicken to attend after the heat of the “Muslim Obama” comments, several attendees actually defended him. Some GOP candidates blamed it all on the media, saying they were trying to “stir up controversy” and that the remarks were taken “out of context,” according to a story at Think Progress.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, also barely registering in the polls, told reporters that “It’s not my job, it’s not Donald Trump’s job, it’s not anybody’s job to police a question,” according to the Think Progress account. “The questioner can say whatever he wants, it’s a free country.”

Of course, Trump has famously questioned Obama’s citizenship for years. He’s bragged to interviewers that he had “people” in Hawaii looking into Obama’s “claims” of a birth certificate and that “you wouldn’t believe what they’re finding.” The fact that he’s never released any of this “evidence” says it all, but that hasn’t stopped the media from letting him ramble about it.

Trump gave what was billed a “major foreign-policy speech,” and it was carried live on several cable channels. It turned out to be a 30-second mention of foreign policy with much ranting against immigrants and a fundraiser for a nonexistent “veterans” group that consists of one guy and lost its nonprofit status (see Rachel Maddow’s report on the scam).

When will those in the media learn to stop giving this clown a free ride? Trump hasn’t spent any money on advertising — he doesn’t need to, when networks and cable channels often run his live speeches for free, even though they’re not doing that for any other candidate, on either side.

Trump isn’t alone in stoking hatred and misinformation among the GOP base. North Carolina state Rep. Michael Speciale recently posted a photo of Obama calling him “an Islamic son of a bitch.” Don’t forget that former Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann made repeated claims that the Muslim Brotherhood had infiltrated the Obama administration. Is it any surprise that as many as 54 percent of Republican voters, and 66 percent of Trump supporters, think Obama is Muslim?

White House Press Secretary wasn’t surprised, according to a story from Politico. “Mr. Trump isn’t the first Republican politician to countenance these kinds of views in order to win votes,” Earnest told reporters.

Of course, all of this hate-mongering and immigrant-bashing might produce a backlash against the GOP in the end. According to another Politico story, Hispanic leaders expect more Hispanic voters to turn out in 2016.

“I think the greatest thing to ever happen to the Hispanic electorate is a gentleman named Donald Trump, he has crystalized the angst and anger of the Hispanic community,” U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Javier Palomarez told Politico in an interview. “I think that we can all rest assured that Hispanics can turn out in record numbers.”

Payback’s a bitch, no matter what language it’s in.

Kim Davis, Jesus, and the woman at the well: A marriage equality lesson

If Kim Davis really studied her Bible, she would come up with a different conclusion on sinning and issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

Kim Davis is the infamous homophobic county clerk in Rowan County, Kentucky, who has become a conservative folk hero for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. She spent five nights in jail on a contempt charge for refusing to obey court orders to follow the U.S. Supreme Court decision — and the law of the land — and issue marriage licenses to all comers.

Why doesn’t she just resign if she doesn’t want to issue such licenses, some ask. Well, Davis earns $80,000 a year as the elected county clerk, a post held by her mother for many years while Davis was chief deputy county clerk. (Nice to keep a high-paying job in the family.) There is no avenue for a recall in Kentucky, and she won’t face re-election until the fall of 2018. Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway has decided against prosecuting her.

Davis claims that her belief against marriage equality is based on her Christian principles and thus is a higher authority than the Supreme Court. She’s gained support from many conservatives, including GOP presidential contenders like Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who fought for the spotlight on which candidate supports her more, with a Huckabee aide literally pushing Cruz out of the way.

But let’s look at the situation from a biblical perspective. Some cite Leviticus 18:22, which reads (depending on the version): “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.” This is the classic verse the right points to when arguing against marriage equality. Of course, Leviticus 19 also contains verses prohibiting tattoos, forbidding men to cut their hair or shave their beards, and warning against eating rare meat.

(Interestingly, Leviticus 19:33-34 also blows up any Republican argument against immigration reform. “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” But we digress.)

On the other side of the marriage equality coin, some cite Romans 13:1: “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” In other words, follow the law.

I see another Bible reading as applicable: John 4:4-42, the story of the woman at the well.

To recap: Jesus comes to a well and asks a Samaritan woman for a drink. Asking a Samaritan to draw water for him goes against the custom of the day. “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” she asks him.

The two have a discussion about “living water” and how anyone who drinks of the water that Jesus provides (mainly, faith) will never be thirsty again.

At first, the woman is clueless, asking Jesus how he intends to get water when he has nothing to draw water with. Finally, he tells her to call her husband. She answers that she has no husband. Right, says Jesus, since she’s had five husbands already. The Samaritan woman is an outcast from her own society, seen as immoral for her string of lovers.

Now, as many know, Davis is on her fourth husband. Her personal life might be her own, but it’s pretty hypocritical to claim moral superiority when you’re discarding husbands left and right and the father of your twins is your third husband, conceived while you were still married to your first husband, and claimed by your second one. (Makes your head spin, doesn’t it?)

Guess Davis skipped over the verses that were inconvenient about her own marital status. Malachi 2:16: “I hate divorce, says the Lord God of Israel.” Matthew 5:32: “But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” Any “exceptions” to the divorce/remarriage rules in the Bible suggest that the faithful spouse might be entitled to marry again, but not the one who was unfaithful in the first place. Like Kim Davis.

But back to the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus is willing to minister to an outcast of Jewish (and her own) society. Besides the message of eternal life through faith, the passage tells us that all people are valuable to God and that Jesus desires that we demonstrate love to everyone, including enemies and those we consider outcasts. Kim Davis should consider demonstrating that love to gays and lesbians.

Davis’ story is ending with a whimper (for now, at least). Other deputy clerks under her are issuing marriage licenses to all comers amid her lawyer’s threats of filing suit against Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear. Beshear already ruled out calling a special legislative session to deal with Davis’ “problem,” calling it a waste of money. Candidates like Huckabee and Cruz, straining for relevance in a crowded field dominated by real estate mogul Donald Trump, will keep her cause alive, because they haven’t got much else to talk about.

Whatever your system of beliefs (or lack thereof), it’s worth remembering the bigger lesson: If a Jew like Jesus could go outside a cultural norm and minister to a Samaritan, a sinner like Kim Davis should be able to find it in her heart to let two people who love each other get married.

And the woman at the well learned her lesson at the end, accepting Jesus’ message. We can only hope Kim Davis and others like her might learn one, too.


Political murder is in vacanza!


We at Politicalmurder.com are taking a break for two weeks. We are traveling through Italy, drinking wine, eating pasta and gelato, and seeing sights from ancient ruins to timeless artwork. And (we hope) avoiding stories about Donald Trump.

So you will see no new posts at this site. But I’ll try to update the Political murder of the day every day (unless we’re having too much fun), so look over to the column on the right to see who died on this day in history, then click the link above.

If you missed some posts from the past, click above on Complete list of posts. You can revisit past opinions on the news of the day. I’m always surprised to see what posts still get read, such as When — and why — did the U.S. become so gun-crazy? and Other movies did assassination better than The Interview. Other timeless posts seem to be You want less gun violence in Chicago? Hire somebody and Why is voter turnout so low? Why don’t people vote?

Posts making fun of Donald Trump are high on the list, too, such as Donald Trump’s bubble: How much expansion before it pops?, Clickbait trumps all: Why media are all in on Donald Trump, and 3rd-party Trump candidacy could make 2016 a Wild West show. And I still think the Republican National Committee, Fox News, and the rest made a mistake when they didn’t take my suggestion: Let’s run GOP debates like NCAA tournament.

If you’re looking for something on the non-political side, try Why did we love Spock? A Leonard Nimoy tribute from a Star Trek nerd. Or see what I’m “predicting” for the Crawleys’ last hurrah: Downton Abbey final season: Molesley becomes prime minister.

Finally, don’t forget about reading The Political Blogging Murder, a funny mystery set at a Netroots Nation-type of convention, available at this site for a mere $2.99. You can read an excerpt here or by clicking the excerpt link above. Or check out how to order the book here or at the Now available link above.

So go ahead. Read. We’ll be back with a new post in mid-September.

Trump, the GOP, and the shrinking white voter problem


Donald Trump, apparently running for racist-in-chief as well as narcissist-in-chief, has committed outrages during his campaign that would have disqualified any other politician. Yet his poll numbers keep rising, and he never seems to pay a price for his insults.

It’s more than just being “Teflon Don.” He’s tapped into the id of the “ugly American” stereotype. And there seem to be a lot of them, which is causing problems for the Republican Party, particularly against a field of candidates too large to distinguish themselves individually when the media are still all Trump, all the time.

Trump is appealing to the kind of voter who, as a Trump supporter did, will tell Jorge Ramos, one of the most popular television hosts in the United States and the undisputed king of Spanish-language media, to “Get out of my country.” Even though, as Ramos pointed out, he’s an American citizen, too. This was after Trump ordered Ramos out of a news conference, telling him to “Go back to Univision.”

Many media outlets have been describing the problems Trump-ism is creating for the Republicans. And he is causing problems, despite the assurances of RNC Chairman Reince Priebus that Trump is a “positive” for the GOP, which Priebus said was a “young, diverse party” that gave voters a “whole slew of options.” The “slew of options” might be there in numbers but not in policies.

Trump’s policy positions, such as they are, are laughable. His immigration “plan” of mass deportations, a never-ending border fence, and an end to birthright citizenship has been described as totally unworkable, prohibitively expensive, and unconstitutional (which hasn’t stopped other GOP candidates from embracing it). As the candidates are forced to run to the right and defend/explain comments on “anchor babies,” the rabid GOP base is pleased, but too many other voters ultimately will be driven away. Trump is at a negative 51 rating among Hispanic voters, according to a Gallup Poll.

A National Journal story points out that courting the white supremacist vote as Trump does leaves little but the Republicans’ shrinking white electorate. “As Trump’s rise shows, many of those voters militantly oppose the policies (like immigration reform) that might help the party expand its coalition,” the story said. “By demonstrating that dynamic so viscerally, Trump’s ascent has further weakened the Republicans who contend the party must bend to, rather than resist, demographic change.”

But why stop with just insulting Hispanics? At the campaign event after the news conference where Trump ordered Ramos to be thrown out, Trump also imitated Asians with poor English skills, implying that all they could say was, “We want deal.” Ha-ha.

Makes you wonder what ethnic group he’ll go after next. Surely Trump can think of new insults and slurs for Arabs, Indians, Pakistanis, and a host of nationalities in Europe and Africa, too. Will he say the N-word? The possibilities are legion. But Trump-ites will just slam critics for being “too politically correct.”

Some of those who attend Trump rallies — and there are lots of people there, even if some have come solely out of curiosity — have shouted, “WHITE POWER!” or passed out copies of a white supremacist newspaper. One woman in a GOP focus group gushed that “His goal is to make America great again! It’s on his hat!” (Well, if it’s on his hat, it must be true.) There’s also a ringing endorsement from former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard and white supremacist David Duke, saying that Trump is the best candidate around, that he “understands the real sentiment of America.”

In a recent post, the Southern Poverty Law Center listed Duke’s endorsement and those of other known white supremacists, who are praising the Donald and his immigration plan on their racist websites. In what the SPLC called Trump’s “war on immigrants,” the post warned that “specifically targeting minority communities and whipping up a climate of fear and bigotry can have very real negative results,” such as the recent beating of a homeless Hispanic man in Boston, whose two white attackers then urinated on him. “Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported,” one of the attackers told police. One white supremacist even wants to name an all-white town in North Dakota after Donald Trump.

Will there be a point of no return for Trump and his campaign? A point where he gets so insulting to so many that his candidacy will finally implode, left only with those on the far right? And where will the other Republican candidates be then?

It doesn’t seem to be happening anytime soon. But I have a feeling it finally may happen on Monday, Feb. 1. That’s the night of the Iowa caucuses, when actual voters will look at themselves and their neighbors and say:

“What the hell were we thinking? We can’t actually vote for this clown.”

Black Lives Matter offers 10-point plan to curb police killing


The Black Lives Matter movement has finally announced what many have been waiting for — a specific national platform aiming to curb police violence and reform the criminal justice system.

The complete policy outline is detailed at a new website called Campaign Zero. Here are some of the specifics from the site:

  • More than 1,000 people are killed each year by police in the U.S. Of those, nearly 60 percent were unarmed.
  • There have been only nine days this year when police did not kill anyone.
  • The numbers of people killed by police in the U.S. aren’t even comparable to statistics in other countries — 1,100 killed in the U.S., and fewer than 10 people killed by police in other Western countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, and Japan.

The site offers a 10-point plan to integrate recommendations from communities, research organizations, and the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, which issued a final report in May. The points are:

End broken windows policing. This calls for an end to the decades-long focus on policing minor crimes and activities, especially in neighborhoods with people of color. Also addressed are the need for different approaches to those with mental health issues and an end to racial profiling.

Community oversight. This calls for an all-civilian oversight structure with discipline power that includes a Police Commission and Civilian Complaints Office. Both offices would have specific responsibilities and across-the-board power.

Limit use of force. This solution seeks to establish standards monitor how force is used.

Independently investigate and prosecute. Among other recommendations, this point seeks a permanent Special Prosecutor’s Office at the state level to investigate any police shooting.

Community representation. This calls for officers to be a more accurate representation of the communities they serve.

Body cams/film the police. This would require and fund body cameras as well as dashboard cameras. All citizens would have the right to record police interactions on a cell phone, and police would not have the right to confiscate that phone, as is the case in some states.

Training. This calls for rigorous and sustained training, especially about racial bias.

End for-profit policing. This calls for an end to quota systems and limits fines for low-income people.

Demilitarization. This seeks the end of the sale of military weapons to the nation’s police forces.

Fair police union contracts. This seeks to rewrite police union contracts that create a different set of rules for police, and asks that disciplinary records be open and accessible

It’s an ambitious list but one with a lot of common sense. No doubt it will face a backlash from some police groups, but many police also are seeking solutions.

Many have been waiting for these kinds of specifics from the Black Lives Matter movement amid complaints of disruptive behavior at Democratic campaign events, especially those by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Well, now we’ve got those specifics. And I think the movement will be stronger for it.

The Black Lives Matter campaign is asking for action at the federal, state, and local level. It also offers charts on which presidential candidates are backing the proposed solutions. We can only hope that more proposals will gain support, at least on the Democratic side. After all, many Republican candidates, such as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and real estate mogul Donald Trump, are dismissing the movement out of hand. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is on board with one idea — ending for-profit policing.

“We can end police violence in America,” the website says. “Together, we will win.”




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