Category Archives: U.S. politics

Public prefers small-ball politics to big ideas

donkeyelephantfight“Americans say they want politicians to tackle the big issues and get things done… Yet almost every time elected officials have tried bold problem-solving in the past 20 years, it has produced a backlash against them,” wrote columnist Ramesh Ponnuru. “The more ambitious the attempt, the worse the political repercussions have been.” He concluded that activists with far-reaching agendas should pull the reins on their ambitions and “people considering running for office should know that politics, for the foreseeable future, is probably not going to be much fun.”

Reid keeping up criticism of Koch brothers

reidharrySenate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is keeping up his onslaught against the Koch brothers. This week he noted how Koch Industries benefited from a temporary provision of the Affordable Care Act while groups backed by the brothers have been attacking members of Congress who supported the ACA. “If the Affordable Care Act is so awful,” Reid asked, “why did Koch Industries use it to their advantage?” According to federal records, Koch Industries received $1.4 million to subsidize its costs for workers who retire before they become eligible for Medicare. Reid also suggested that GOP senators start wearing ties and jackets with the Koch Industries logo, like the patches on NASCAR uniforms. But even some Democrats are tiring of Reid’s tirades. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., complained that “this type of rhetoric does not help us move this country or move the agenda forward.”

Reid wrong to call Kochs ‘un-American’

reidharry“Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., broke down all barriers to protocol recently when he called the Kochs ‘un-American,’” columnist Kathleen Parker wrote. She acknowledged that “allowing the super-wealthy to disproportionately influence political outcomes may indeed be bad for the democratic process – and that’s of legitimate concern to all. But one’s eyes should be wide open when people are singled out as un-American.” Parker’s conclusion: “Reid owes the Kochs – and the American people – an apology.”

Moran read Koch’s commentary into congressional record

morannew“The fundamental concepts of dignity, respect, equality before the law and personal freedom are under attack by the nation’s own government. That’s why, if we want to restore a free society and create greater well-being and opportunity for all Americans, we have no choice but to fight for those principles,” wrote Koch Industries chairman Charles Koch in a Wall Street Journal commentary last week. His explanation of his free-market beliefs and political involvement was read into the congressional record by Sen. Jerry Moran (in photo), R-Kan. “In Kansas, there’s a company called Koch Industries that is a component of our state, its economy, and many, several thousand, Kansans work there. And unfortunately in the political discourse of our country, Koch Industries, its owners, are often subject to attack,” Moran said. According to the Washington Post, the political network backed by the Koch brothers raised at least $407 million for the 2012 elections, and their ongoing spending has inspired criticism by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on the Senate floor, including his contention that Republicans are “addicted to Koch.”

Democratic complaints about Kochs ‘dumb and delusionary’

kochsSenate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., clearly considers Charles and David Koch (in photos) to be the Democrats’ main opponents this election year, and has been pushing back on the Senate floor at misleading ads sponsored by Koch-funded groups in some races. “But the notion that Democrats can gin up their voters by marketing fear of the Kochs is dumb and delusionary,” wrote Dick Polman, a blogger and former Philadelphia Inquirer columnist. “Why do I say this? Because the anti-Koch strategy is classic ‘inside baseball’ – of great interest only to those voters who obsess about the political process…. It’s also a sign of weakness when a party or a candidate whines that the campaign process is unfair.”

Did Roberts show GOP’s problem with Asian-Americans?

gopvoteAn article in Politico magazine headlined “Why Are Asian-Americans Democrats?” pointed to recent “clueless” remarks by Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., during the confirmation hearing of U.S. surgeon general-nominee Vivek Murthy, a British-born Indian-American. Roberts’ small talk inviting Murthy to Dodge City to meet a “lovely doctor from India” and saying he would “be right at home” were of “the ‘I have plenty of friends who are Indian’ variety…. It likely reminded Murthy that he is different than the white ethnic majority – some other kind of American. However harmless it might seem, this is exactly the sort of exchange that makes Asian-Americans – the fastest growing ethnic group in the country – more likely to identify themselves as Democrats than Republicans, and by stunning margins,” wrote authors Alexander Kuo, Neil Malhotra and Cecilia Hyunjung Mo. Their conclusion: “As long as Republicans appear scornful of minorities, our findings suggest, they will not get Asian-Americans’ electoral support. This applies not only to rhetoric, but also to policy issues such as immigration reform.” Columnist David Harsanyi, while calling Roberts’ statement “clumsy,” responded that it could “be argued that the GOP is also a party that is far more likely to celebrate and foster the merit-based success on which the Asian community thrives.”

Koch-backed AFP is dominating campaign spending

money-bagThe Koch brothers-backed Americans for Properity is “a dominant force in the 2014 midterm elections, spending up to 10 times as much as any major outside Democratic group so far,” the New York Times reported. The group has already spent more than $30 million in at least eight states, and it now has more than 200 full-time paid staff members in field offices in at least 32 states. The group tried to learn from its defeats in the 2012 elections by pouring money and research into grassroots organizing. It also is spending heavily on testimonial-style advertising, primarily against Obamacare. Fact-check organizations have criticized the accuracy of the ads, and Democrats have complained that some of the spots feature actors, not “real people.” But, the Times reported, “Americans for Prosperity has not retreated.”

Brownback defends Dole; what about moderates?

dolemugGood for Gov. Sam Brownback for saying he didn’t appreciate the recent suggestion by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, that former GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole (in photo) didn’t stand for principle. “You can disagree with him on policy, but he’s the iconic figure of the World War II generation,” Brownback said on Fox News. “He’s a wonderful man.” Brownback also cited President Reagan’s rule against speaking poorly of fellow Republicans. “Reagan was always a very inclusive person and he had a lot of moderates in the party,” Brownback said. What would Reagan have thought of the Brownback-led campaign two years ago to purge GOP moderates from the Kansas Senate? The many mailers attacking former Sens. Dick Kelsey, Jean Schodorf and others certainly weren’t concerned about speaking ill – or speaking accurately.

Pro-con: Was Reid justified in attacking the Kochs?

kochsBy far the largest voice in many of this year’s political races has been that of the Koch brothers (in photos), who have spent tens of millions of dollars peddling phony stories about the impact of health care reform, all in order to put Republicans in control of the Senate after the November elections. Now Democrats are starting to fight back, deciding they should at least try to counter the tycoons with some low-cost speech of their own. Democrats may never have the same resources at their disposal – no party should – but they can use their political pulpits to stand up for a few basic principles, including the importance of widespread health-insurance coverage, environmental protection and safety-net programs. The leader of this effort has been Sen. Harry Reid, the majority leader, who has delivered a series of blistering attacks against the Kochs and their ads on the Senate floor over the last few weeks. Mr. Reid’s comments have gone to the heart of the matter. A recent speech pointed out that the fundamental purpose of the Kochs’ spending is to rig the economic system for their benefit and for that of other oligarchs. – New York Times

An abhorrent floor speech by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., revealed such a twisted conception of both the First Amendment and the facts that all Americans, whatever their political persuasion, should be repulsed. Mr. Reid singled out billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, who express their libertarian conservatism through political donations. He called the Koch brothers’ political involvement “un-American,” accused them of trying to undermine “democracy” and even claimed that Koch Industries subsidiaries do business with Iran, which their company quickly denied. Reid apparently thinks the First Amendment, which protects free political expression for all Americans, shouldn’t apply to the Kochs. Yet he said nothing about leftist unions that spend more on politics than they do. A Center for Public Integrity study found unions and other Democrat-friendly groups outspent the Kochs on 2012’s state-level elections. Such political expression is quintessentially American. What Reid wants – free speech only for him, his liberal colleagues and the unions and other leftist groups that pull their political strings – would be truly un-American. And if money’s the issue, the left has far more to answer for. – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

McCain, Dole react to Cruz’s criticism

cruz,tedSen. Ted Cruz (in photo), R-Texas, joked at the Conservative Political Action Conference about “President McCain,” “President Romney” and “President Dole,” suggesting they didn’t “stand for principle” as GOP presidential nominees. Afterward, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said on MSNBC that he didn’t mind being criticized but “Bob Dole is such a man of honor and integrity and principle. I hope that Ted Cruz will apologize to Bob Dole because that’s, that has crossed a line that, to me, is – leaves the realm of politics and discourse that we should have in America.” McCain also said: “I wonder if he thinks that Bob Dole stood for principle on that hilltop in Italy when he was so gravely wounded and left part of his body there fighting for our country.” Dole’s response: “Cruz should check my voting record before making comments. I was one of President Reagan’s strongest supporters, and my record is that of a traditional Republican conservative.”

Brownback to GOP: Talk about poverty, mental health

bbackmugAt Politico’s recent State Solutions Conference, Gov. Sam Brownback said talking more about poverty and mental health could help the Republican Party among women voters and on social issues. “The answer can’t just be cut food stamps. That’s not the model,” he said. “Two-thirds of our prison population in Kansas has mental health, substance abuse or both problems.”

Pompeo defends Koch brothers, criticizes Reid

reidharryRep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, defended Charles and David Koch after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (in photo), D-Nev., blasted the brothers for helping finance attack ads against Democrats that Reid said were misleading and dishonest. “It’s too bad that they’re trying to buy America, and it’s time that the American people spoke out against this terrible dishonesty of these two brothers who are about as un-American as anyone that I can imagine,” Reid said on the Senate floor Wednesday. Pompeo called Reid’s comments reprehensible. “This cannot be tolerated – not for these two great men or for any individual who disagrees with those in power,” Pompeo said in a statement.

Secretaries of state shouldn’t be overtly partisan

kobachcandidKansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was mentioned in a National Public Radio report on “a trend of overtly partisan figures running for a job designed to be neutral when it comes to election administration” – though he defended himself and other officeholders. “The secretaries range on the political spectrum and have policy differences, but I would vouch for every secretary of state to be able to have fair election results,” he said. But Art Sanders, a political science professor at Drake University, sees the politicization of the secretary of state office as “a very good symbol of how low our politics have sunk.”

Kochs, AFP pouring millions into Senate races

kochsAmericans for Prosperity is spending millions of dollars trying to shift control of the U.S. Senate. AFP, which is linked to the Koch brothers, already has spent $8.2 million on TV, radio and digital ads attacking Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., Politico reported. That’s more than all Democratic outside groups have spent in every Senate race in the country combined. So far, AFP has spent about $15 million on Senate races and more than $4 million on House races. “It’s just not fair to have two folks in the country potentially determine the outcomes of these Senate races in states where they don’t even live,” said Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.

Sullivan: Kansas bill also about national GOP

gayweddingcakeThe scathing national commentary about the Kansas House’s passage of HB 2453 included a thoughtful condemnation by Andrew Sullivan, who said the bill “is premised on the notion that the most pressing injustice in Kansas right now is the persecution some religious people are allegedly experiencing at the hands of homosexuals.” Sullivan, an openly gay conservative, also wrote: “If the Republican Party wanted to demonstrate that it wants no votes from anyone under 40, it couldn’t have found a better way to do it.” And he said: “This is about Kansas, but it is also about the Republican Party. Are there any Republicans willing to oppose this new strategy? Do the GOP’s national leaders support it?”

AFP still not welcome in Coralville

thumbsdownThe group Americans for Prosperity was lampooned on “The Daily Show” for its failed results last year after bringing attack-style politics to the small town of Coralville, Iowa. At one point, correspondent Jason Jones appeared before the Coralville City Council with a straw hat and cane, singing a “Music Man” spoof about why Coralville needed to get itself a super PAC. Council members were not amused. The most brutal comments came from Chris Turner, the fiscally conservative candidate who got blamed for AFP’s negative ads (and came in tied for last in the council race). He described AFP’s tactics as “reprehensible” and said that “when AFP came to town, it was kind of like being endorsed by Charles Manson.”

Koch brothers have even bigger political plans for 2014

kochs“If the Koch brothers’ political operation seemed ambitious in 2010 or 2012, wait for what’s in store for 2014 and beyond,” Politico reported. It said that this year the Kochs’ close allies are “wading into Republican primaries for the first time to ensure their ideal candidates end up on the ticket, and also centralizing control of their network to limit headache-inducing freelancing by affiliated operatives.” Though the Koch network tries to mask the source of its funding, tax filings show that the network raised more than $400 million during the 2012 campaign, the Washington Post reported. Charles and David Koch convened an invitation-only gathering of wealthy GOP donors and officials in Palm Springs, Calif., last weekend that Politico said was aimed at raising “millions of dollars for efforts to shape the political landscape for years to come.”

Pompeo joining in ‘destination’ fundraising

pompeo,mikeRep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, was one of the lawmakers mentioned and pictured in a New York Times article on “destination fundraisers, where business interests blend with pleasure in exclusive vacation venues.” Pompeo was among the “special guests” at a “Winter Escape to Vail Weekend” early this month at the Four Seasons Resort, when the “suggested contribution” was $2,500 per political action committee and $1,500 per individual. “Neither the lawmakers nor the lobbyists attending the events want to talk about them, even though such trips are permitted under the law,” the Times reported, though Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., was quoted as saying of the Colorado gathering: “This was a good way to raise some funds.” A health care lobbyist who attended called it “a way to get some large chunks of a lawmaker’s time.” The fundraising trend is bipartisan: “It has become kind of the norm,” said Democratic lobbyist Vic Fazio, a former California congressman.

Moran says GOP should share ideas for economic opportunity

morannewSen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., told the Wall Street Journal that Republicans should be eager to discuss GOP ideas to promote economic opportunity. “It’s very beneficial for us to talk about the things we are for, the things we care about, and most importantly how they impact the lives of people around the country,” Moran said. Although “there are legitimate philosophical and policy differences. . . we ought to do everything we can to avoid this being the political show that is trying to categorize Republicans and Democrats in ways that is only useful for partisanship,” he also said.

Lack of moderates not just a problem for GOP

donkeysIt’s not just the Republican Party that is losing moderates. The number of moderate Democrats in Congress is also shrinking. During the 111th Congress, from 2009 through 2010, there were 54 members of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of moderate and conservative Democratic lawmakers. Now there are only 15 members, the Washington Post reported. Some of the lawmakers lost elections after redistricting placed them in Republican-leaning districts. Others retired out of frustration with gridlock and partisanship. The loss of moderation on both sides is a key reason why this past Congress was the least productive ever.

Christie did good job with apology, but will it be enough?

christie,chrisNew Jersey Gov. Chris Christie did a good job today apologizing for the closing of highway lanes to punish a Democratic mayor who didn’t endorse Christie’s re-election. Though he again denied any knowledge of the actions taken by some of his associates, he took responsibility for what happened. He also announced the firing of one of his top staff members, who he said lied to him about the incident. But the investigations into bridge-gate will continue. If information comes out indicating that Christie knew anything about the closure – or other examples surface of how Christie or his staff retaliated against political opponents – Christie’s hopes for a 2016 GOP presidential nomination could quickly fade.

Koch-linked network raised $407 million last election

kochs“The political network spearheaded by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch has expanded into a far-reaching operation of unrivaled complexity, built around a maze of groups that cloaks its donors,” the Washington Post reported. Tax filings show that the network backed by the Kochs and other donors raised at least $407 million during the 2012 campaign. “A labyrinth of tax-exempt groups and limited-liability companies helps mask the sources of the money,” the Post reported, but more than half of the money was funneled through the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, an organization whose board includes current and former Koch Industries officials.

Conservatives push back against libertarians

voterepublicanFormer Bush administration officials Mike Gerson and Pete Wehner are pushing back against the rising influence of libertarianism in the Republican Party. They wrote in the journal National Affairs that “responsible, self-governing citizens do not grow wild like blackberries, which is why a conservative political philosophy cannot be reduced to untrammeled libertarianism.” They argued that “conservatives should offer a menu of structural reforms that do not simply attack government but transform it on conservative terms.” But as Washington Post political blogger Chris Cillizza noted, a nuanced explanation of when and where government is necessary doesn’t fire up the GOP base the way savaging Obamacare does.

Fewer Republicans believe in evolution

evolutionThe purging of moderates from the GOP might explain why the percentage of Republicans who believe in evolution has decreased sharply. In 2009, 54 percent of Republicans believed that “humans and other living things have evolved over time,” but now only 43 percent believe that, according to polling by the Pew Research Center. In contrast, 67 percent of Democrats believe in evolution, up 3 percentage points since 2009. Sixty percent of U.S. adults believe that humans have evolved over time, about the same as in 2009.

Is Roberts’ conservatism a ‘foxhole conversion’?

rightturnonlySen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., was recently ranked as the fifth most conservative member of the Senate by Heritage Action for America. So how could some tea party groups consider him not conservative enough? The Madison Project, which is headed by former Kansas congressman Jim Ryun, attributed Roberts’ current ranking to an election-year foxhole conversion, the Washington Times reported. Roberts was ranked much lower on Heritage Action’s 2012 list, before he was facing a primary challenge for 2014. His 65 percent rating for 2012 was the lowest of the Kansas delegation. But other conservatives warn that tea party groups are undermining their credibility by trying to paint Roberts as some liberal.