Sugar Frosted Flake

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) has been getting praise heaped upon him for “doing the moral thing,” for “taking a step back,” for “acting on his conscience,” and for “working across the aisle” by figuring out a way to delay Brett Kavanaugh’s SCOTUS confirmation vote, pending further investigation by the FBI.  But you don’t have to scratch too deeply into Flake’s sugar-coated surface to become cynical about his tactics and his motives.

Flake’s heralded rebellious behavior arrives against a backdrop of his previous history of pontificating against Trump and his policies and positions, followed almost immediately by his consistently voting in favor of Trump’s policies and positions.  The stakes here, however, are far greater than whether or not Flake agrees with Trump on any single policy matter.

If Flake had truly wanted to act morally and ethically, he had a less flimsy option available: he could have voted no in committee in order to allow sufficient time for a thorough FBI investigation of all pending allegations.  He would have been able to use the power of one committee member’s vote to ensure the result would be aligned with his purported position of morality.

Instead, he used a different strategy:  vote affirmatively in committee to proceed to a floor vote, with a pledge to vote no when the nomination went to the full Senate.  He agreed to a delay of a single week instead of letting the investigation take the amount of time that would actually be necessary.  This cursory delay gives Flake and the Republicans cover to pretend they looked deeply enough into Kavanaugh’s questionable past.  Flake can go home to Arizona and continue his public hand-wringing without truly having done anything genuine to get to the truth of Kavanaugh’s potential crimes through a robust, unconstrained investigation.

We’ve already seen Trump put limitations around the FBI investigation, including excluding any accusations by the third accuser and preventing the FBI from interviewing those folks from Kavanaugh’s college years who have stated that they regularly witnessed him drinking to excess and exhibiting belligerent behavior.

If Kavanaugh is confirmed (as many Republicans have promised that he will be, despite not having a clue what the FBI might uncover), three of the nine SCOTUS justices – a full third of the court – will be under a lifetime dark cloud.  Clarence Thomas, despite his confirmation years ago, is under renewed scrutiny and criticism in the era of #MeToo; Neil Gorsuch’s seat rightfully belongs to Merrick Garland; and Brett Kavanaugh, who will perpetually be mistrusted as the result of Thursday’s riveting and credible testimony from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, along with a whole host of unexamined or under-examined allegations from additional accusers and witnesses.

On a couple of occasions, I’ve listened to people support Flake by saying that he’s done more than any other Republican has done to try to make this debacle better.  That, sadly, is probably true.  But there is still a gigantic chasm between Flake’s actions and a truly moral and ethical solution.  Flake may have been able to give Republicans a pretense to hide behind and he may momentarily assuage his own sense of guilt.  But it does little to get to the actual truth of Kavanaugh’s history to determine whether he is morally suited for a lifetime appointment on the nation’s highest court.

Scalia

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.

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.

Main Street vs. Bain Street

When President Obama, speaking today in Chicago at the NATO Summit, was asked about Cory Booker’s comments on Meet the Press on Sunday, he used the opportunity to question the applicability of Mitt Romney’s record and experience at Bain Capital.

The President sums it up:

“When you’re President, as opposed to the head of a private equity firm, then your job is not simply to maximize profits. Your job is to figure out how everybody in the country has a fair shot.”

I’ve been harping on this for a while now.

There is no logic that I can think of that justifies Romney’s assertion that experience managing a private equity firm is the skill set needed to be President of the United States. Are there significant components related to finance that are part of a president’s job? Of course. But if one makes the same decisions as a president that one would as a private equity firm manager, one excludes most of America from the mix.

On the campaign trail, Romney is hiding from his record as Governor of Massachusetts so, if anything, the single-focus of business experience that Romney is touting as his primary selling point only proves how well rounded he isn’t.

Virtually lost in today’s hubbub about Cory Booker’s statements and President Obama’s response to them is the fact that the President was addressing a NATO summit.  Although this barely got reported on today, he spoke of strengthening the commitment of our NATO partners with regard to Afghanistan, he reminded us of the U.S. and NATO role in helping to overthrow Gaddhafi and to get Libya farther down the road to peace and prosperity, and he addressed the subject of European missile defense and the role that it plays in combating terrorism.

Considering the import of the issues being discussed at that conference, could a more stark contrast be drawn with the myopic campaign tactics of Mitt Romney?

Related Posts

Boehner Champions More Tax Cuts for the Rich

Speaker of the House John Boehner has gained the reputation for allowing the most extreme elements of the Republican Party to control the agenda in the House.  And while he tries his damnedest to put up a good public front, it’s less and less believable.

His latest public statement was made in relation to what appears to be another politically motivated debt ceiling battle:

“I’m not threatening default.”

But in the same speech, he ominously and erroneously claims that “the largest tax hike in American history is scheduled for the end of this year.” No, John.  At the end of the year, the tax cuts that were put in place by a Republican administration ten years ago are set to expire.  Those are the very same tax cuts that significantly contributed to the very debts and deficits that Boehner and the GOP/Tea Party claim to be so vehemently opposed to.

But facts are troubling things to the GOP.  It’s much easier to claim – through Speaker Boehner and others – that they’re don’t want to threaten default, all the while threatening default by bringing up all the same things they used to threaten default with before.

And while approval numbers for Congress are at an all-time low, most people blame the Republicans for the legislative brinksmanship that led us to the edge of the precipice and that was responsible for the lowering of federal bond ratings with Standard and Poors.  The consequences of that maneuvering are well known; our economy took a significant unnecessary hit

If one were of a cynical frame of mind, and I have often been rightfully accused of that, one might think that this is political maneuvering in an effort to precipitate another hit to the economy, just in time to conjure up more “proof” that Obama is bad for the economy.

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck and cries like a duck …

Man-on-Manny Marriage

In case we didn’t have enough wing-nut bigots for right-wing journalists to interview in the U.S., it’s now apparently fair game to interview sports figures from other countries to provide religious leadership and guidance on U.S. civil rights issues.

Granville Ampong, a conservative blogger for Examiner.com, invited Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao to weigh in on President Obama’s recent statement on the subject of marriage equality.  (Among Ampong’s other notable fair and balanced journalism on Examiner.com is the article entitled “Obama, the catalyst for America becoming Sodom and Gomorrah of modern times.”  Sheesh.)

The concept of separation of church and state apparently hasn’t reached the Phillipines yet. Or at least it hasn’t reached Pacquiao yet.  He prattles on about how God’s word supersedes the laws of man. Never mind the fact that people have been arguing about the interpretation of God’s supposed words for centuries.

I’ve got no problem with people like Pacquiao having his own opinion. But if he has a problem with gay marriage, the answer is simple. Don’t get gay married.

Well, at least he has possible brain injury as an excuse for his lack of critical thinking ability.

At Liberty

Mitt Romney today made one more stride at fusing church and state, with his speech at Liberty University. His pandering seems to know no boundaries.

In one fell swoop, Romney sucked up to the “religious” right and fumblingly grabbed at the youth vote, a demographic for which he desperately needs to gain traction.  (I hope, for his sake, that he doesn’t consider the students at Liberty University as being representative of the youth vote.)

The line in his speech that made the 30,000 or so lemmings in the stadium leap to their feet and applaud was:

“I believe that Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman.”

This, of course, is the same person who claimed in 1994 that he was going to be to the left of Ted Kennedy on gay rights.  This is the also same person who signed the nation’s first marriage equality law into effect.

Does anyone else find it somewhat ironic that a speech advocating significantly restricting liberty is being delivered at Liberty University?

View the Mitt’s entire speech at Liberty University (if you can stomach it) in the video above.