GOP: Let ’er R.I.P.

We note the passing today of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, champion of all things conservative and a self-proclaimed “strict constructionist” when it came to interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.

O.K. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk politics.  Too soon, you say? Hold your horses.  At this writing, it is merely a matter of hours since his death and Scalia’s corpulent corpse isn’t even cold yet.

Yet at this writing, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is already making statements that the Senate should prevent President Obama from appointing Scalia’s successor and that the nomination and confirmation of a new justice should wait until after the new president is in office, more than 11 months from now.

At this writing, Dr. Ben Carson, perhaps in some last-ditch effort to regain what he believed to be relevance, has said he doesn’t think a new justice should be sworn in until the next administration:

“It might perhaps be good to wait until we have a new president and someone who is going to put in the requisite amount of research into finding a strict constitutionalist.”

At this writing, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa has tossed his two cents in:

“… it only makes sense that we defer to the American people who will elect a new president to select the next Supreme Court Justice.”

At this writing, Senator Lindsay Graham has been slightly softer in his views, but every bit as crazy. He’s stated that there should be consensus in the Senate around the nominee but then suggested arch-conservative Orrin Hatch.

If there is any Democratic voter who says that they just won’t vote in November if their candidate isn’t the nominee, let today’s events be a warning. If you think the hyperpartisanship of today’s politics is bad, let your mind wander to just what it would look like with a Republican president and a Republican-controlled Congress, with nominations of multiple Supreme Court justices as bad or worse than Scalia. Enjoy your worst nightmare.

Walter Scott

Deja Vu with a View

It has happened again: another white police officer shooting an unarmed black man under deeply questionable circumstances.  These occurrences happen so frequently, they’re almost predictable.

However, the most recent police shooting (or, at least, the most recent one that is garnering national attention) has even some of the most ardent and loyal supporters of police decrying the law enforcement officer’s side of the story.  This would not be the case were it not for the video of the actual shooting, which surfaced yesterday via The New York Times.

The video is chilling to watch.

The North Charleston, S.C. police department, upon seeing the video, almost immediately fired Michael Slager, the officer who fired eight bullets at Walter Scott as Scott ran away from him.  Slager was also immediately charged with murder once the video showed what had transpired.

But there are still so many questions that need to be answered, among them:

  • Was Slager’s police report about the incident (that took place several days before the video surfaced) completely at odds with the events that are shown in the video?  Is that an explanation for the uncharacteristic haste with which he was charged?
  • What is the object that Slager picked up and subsequently dropped close to Scott?  Was this the stun gun that the officer claimed that Scott was reaching for?  Why did Slager retrieve this object before attempting to come to Scott’s aid or summoning additional help?
  • Why does Slager’s action – retrieving and relocating that object – appear to be so automatic?  Is this an indication of just how commonplace this sort of behavior is when officers in North Charleston are unaware that they are being filmed?
  • Why do the additional police reports filed by other officers who were next on the scene align so closely with Slager’s account of the events?  Was there collusion that was part of the cover-up?

And perhaps the biggest question:

  • What role did race place in all of this?

North Charleston is less than 10 miles from the Charleston slave market, one of the main points of entry to the United States for the slave trade; it’s often referred to as the “capital of the slave trade.”  There are those in South Carolina (as well as elsewhere in the South) who still don’t like to talk openly about slavery and its horrific and persistent after-effects.  If slavery is mentioned at all, it’s referred to as “that unpleasantness” or some other euphemism masquerading as gentility.  This kind of paranym, more sugary than sweet tea, is deeply embedded within the culture of the South.

As events over the next weeks and months progress, it will be revealing to see how this community, other cities, and the nation as a whole respond.  Will this be the shooting that finally moves the understanding of systemic racism forward?

Mike Pence

Mike Pence’s Fugue State

Indiana Governor Mike Pence appears to have been walking around in a fugue state for the last week. Somewhere between my empathy and my thirst for comeuppance lies a certain curiosity about what it must be like to be in his shoes these days. His world – or at least his political world – has turned upside down and back again in record time.

Between his bumbling appearance on This Week with George Stephanopoulos and his wheezing press conference the following day, the governor has received more national attention than he has ever dreamed of having, most of which has been exceedingly negative.

Pence is certainly no political neophyte. Far from it. He is what most observers would refer to as a seasoned politician. So why, then, has he appeared to be at such a loss for a solution to his (and Indiana’s) mounting public relations nightmare?

The most logical hypothesis is that he has managed to surround himself for years with people who either agree with his positions or who are politic enough not to challenge them too sharply.

The positions he has taken and the values he has held have generally fallen on the spectrum somewhere between conservative and off-the-charts right wing. This is particularly evident when you review his record on LGBT issues.

  • In 2006, he voted in favor of a federal constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage
  • In 2007, he voted No on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act while in Congress
  • In 2010, he voted No on President Obama’s proposed repeal of DADT, arguing that “unit cohesion” would be affected.

It’s not just LGBT issues where he’s taken the most right-leaning positions. He’s voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and he opposed a similar state act in Indiana.

While there may have been viewpoints expressed that were different from his own, Pence pretty much skated by both in Congress and as Governor without having too much opposition aimed directly at him.

Suddenly this week, Pence faced genuine pushback – both in Indiana and across the country – the likes of which he’s never experienced after signing the state’s so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act, surrounded by a gaggle of nuns and his most devotedly anti-LGBT cronies. To say that he reacted to that pushback like a deer in the headlights drastically underestimates headlights.

He first denied that the bill had anything to do with discrimination, and then spun on his heels almost immediately to request that the law be changed.  On Thursday of this week, Pence signed the hastily cobbled-together amended version of the RFRA, under an even more secret veil of secrecy than he had signed the original version.

It remains to be seen how much additional blowback he’ll face and how much more political capital he’ll lose. But one thing is certain: even if he regains his equilibrium, his political world will never be quite the same.

Pick a Party, Already

During a press conference today, Sen. Chuck Schumer referred to the stalemate in Washington today as the “tea party shutdown.”   Schumer may be doing some political calculation in order to allow the GOP as a whole to save face.  After all, he’s got to work alongside of these people. However, it is completely disingenuous for him to characterize bringing the government to a halt as solely the work of the tea party.

We’ve watched over the last several years as the so-called tea party candidates have inserted themselves into the Republican party.  And the Republican party has done little or nothing to discourage them or their attendant extremism.  In fact, many in the Republican party used the ascent of the tea party as an excuse to espouse their own extreme right-wing views more openly and shamelessly.

Consequently, it’s virtually impossible to delineate where the GOP ends and the tea party begins.  They have become one and the same.  While there are certainly more extreme members with more extreme views, they blend in all too inconspicuously with the GOP at large.

With the current government shutdown, certain more centrist members of Congress have attempted to distance themselves from the tea party extremists within their ranks.  But the party as a whole has not yet come up with a strategy to restrict tea party influence within the GOP in a way that is commensurate with their actual numbers.  Consequently, the GOP owns this shutdown.

The basic questions that we were asking when the tea party first formed still haven’t been answered.  Which is it?  Are you upper or lower case?  Are you a faction of the Republican Party, and therefore the “tea party” or “tea party caucus”?  Or do you consider yourself an actual legitimate third party, or Tea Party?

If it’s the former, then the GOP needs to take your views into consideration but make its collective decisions based on the majority within the party.  (This especially means you, Mr. Speaker.)   That also means that the GOP owns all of the insanity within its ranks, in those cases in which the extremists convince the more mainstream members of Congress to vote with them.

If it’s the latter, then the tea party earns its upper case status, along with all of the responsibilities and obligations that a political party has.  So far, the tea party has reaped all the rewards of both positions and has borne none of the responsibilities of either.

So make up your minds.

To paraphrase Jesse Pinkman, “let’s Party, bitches.”

GOP Hypocrisy in Action

The New York Post reported today on a suspected denial of service attack on the New York state website meant to handle enrollment in the health care exchanges.  But buried within that article is a quote from attorney Greg Crawford, a man with Crohn’s disease who will potentially receive significant benefit from the Affordable Care Act:

“I’m not a big fan of the government taking over all this stuff politically, but I’m going to benefit from it tremendously as an individual, and I just wish it would work,” he said.

I do not know Crawford’s political affiliation, but this statement certainly sums up the way the GOP approaches government and the services and resources that the government provides. In their world view, the government should stay out of our business and not provide any services, unless it affects me.  We see this with the government shutdown, we’ve seen this with gay marriage, and we’ve seen this with funding for stem cell research.  We’ve witnessed how Republican governors who were vociferously opposed to bailouts are first in line to take credit when bailouts are successful.  We’ve watched as members of Congress voted against funding for rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy do a 180-degree turn when there’s a natural disaster that affects their own states or districts.

Crawford’s statement, apparently oblivious to the irony embedded therein, is just one more manifestation of the self-centeredness of today’s GOP.

I guess there’s been a slight change in direction for the Romney campaign. The URL for one of Mitt’s SuperPACs – – now leads to a Japanese site that sells software enabling a user to capture online porn video chats.

So much for the morality candidate.


Ew, not because you posted a selfie, Geraldo.  Ew, because you’re supposed to be a journalist.  YOU ARE NOT THE STORY.

70 is the new 50 (Erica and family are going to be so pissed…but at my age…)

And, by the way, Geraldo, there are tools that you can use to rotate that photo.

UPDATE:  Geraldo deleted his tweet and removed his selfie from Twitter.  Apparently, he hasn’t learned that people can actually take screen shots.  He also hasn’t figured out that he makes himself look worse by backtracking.

BTW, check out that profile pic.  Apparently, 70 is also the old 30.

Republican Soul-Searching: A 9-Point Plan (Redux)

I first posted the following blog entry on 11.11.2008, days after the election of Barack Obama.  It’s repeated here in its entirety.  It’s kind of stunning to note that, if the GOP amended their strategies and policies at all in the ensuing four years, they did so in the wrong direction.

In the wake of the drubbing they took in the election last week , the Republican Party is now in the process of doing some long overdue self-examination. The media have been trying to determine the whereabouts of the soul of the Republican party. So I thought I’d offer my unsolicited 9-point plan for Republican soul searching:

  1. Get one. In order to search one’s soul, one actually has to have a soul.
  2. Stop lying. This is the 21st century. We have technology. We will find out that you’re lying. The only ones left to believe your lies will be stupid people. And you don’t want stupid people in your party. (I know this is an unfamiliar concept to Republicans, because you’ve benefited for a couple of decades from the stupid people who you’ve drawn to the party and who have believed the lies that you’ve told them.)
  3. Have principles, and follow them. Strategy and tactics are the necessary evil of a political campaign, but they’re not what people vote for. We’re drawn to noble, clear ideas. We’re looking for leaders who inspire us to make our nation and our world a better place.
  4. Get smart. That’s not to suggest that you should be more tactical, but rather that you should actually value education more. That also means valuing the educated more. You’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of “no child left behind,” but you continue to run people (like Michele Bachmann) who seem like the children who were left behind. The nation and the world are facing unbelievably difficult issues, and it will take intelligent, educated people to come up with solutions.
  5. Ostracize the corrupt. Especially when they’re in your own party. The fact that Tom DeLay is still somehow perceived as someone who can go on national television and represent the positions of the party is laughable. Marginalize persons of his ilk or the nation will marginalize the entire party.
  6. Stop elevating and rewarding wackos. Believe it or not, people are looking to you for leadership. When you put subnormal or even just mediocre people on the ballot and expect that the public is going to go along with it just because you have previously enjoyed unquestioning party unity, you do your party and the nation a grave disservice.
  7. Separate church from state. You can have still your religion. Knock yourselves out. But why not put your faith into action by doing good works, instead of blurring the boundaries between pulpit and politics in an attempt to force the rest of the world to believe the same dogma that you choose to believe?
  8. Distance yourself from the ditto-heads. Admit it. You’ve spent the last 25 or so years building and fostering the multi-billion dollar right-wing media empire — of the Rush Limbaugh/Sean Hannity/Bill O’Reilly variety. But now you may be realizing that you’ve created a monster that is incapable of moderating itself. Cut ‘em off before they eat you alive.
  9. Quit blaming the media. How can you be focusing on what you need to be doing when you’re whining about how badly you’re being treated? Besides, you don’t win votes with shame and blame.

One more thing you might want to take into account. I’m sure there are Republican campaign professionals who are right now dissecting examining every aspect of Barack Obama’s campaign, searching for clues as to what was done to win an election and how they might replicate those things. What those strategists seem to be failing to take into account is that, while some of the campaign strategy might be replicatable, the candidate cannot. Obama is a once-in-a-lifetime candidate with transformative ideas and, by all accounts, an uncanny ability to inspire and bring people together.