Category Archives: U.S. politics

GOP voting laws running into roadblocks

GOP efforts to erect roadblocks to voting have been running into their own roadblocks in the courts. And correctly so. Last week, a federal judge in Ohio blocked a GOP plan to end early voting on the Friday afternoon before Election Day. In 2008, more than 93,000 people in Ohio voted on the final weekend and Monday before Election Day, many of them African-Americans who voted after attending church. Federal judges also last week struck down Texas’ voter-ID law and a redistricting map that disadvantaged minorities. Also last week, a judge rejected new restrictions in Florida that would have prevented the League of Women Voters and other groups from registering voters. The week before that, a three-judge panel restored early voting in parts of Florida. South Carolina’s voter-ID law is still in court, and Pennsylvania’s law, which a state appeals court upheld recently, is scheduled for a state Supreme Court hearing next week.

Hitler references have no place in U.S. politics

Pro-union Wichitan Pat Lehman, who is among the Democratic National Convention delegates, famously says what she thinks and doesn’t care what anyone thinks about what she says. But she did her presidential candidate and party no favors this week by mentioning Republican strategies in the same breath as Adolf Hitler’s, and then doubling down when challenged. “It’s like Hitler said, if you’re going to tell a lie, tell a big lie, and if you tell it often enough and say it in a loud enough voice, some people are going to believe you,” Lehman said about the GOP contention that voter-ID laws are necessary to fight voter fraud. The political media and Twitter seized on Lehman’s quote, linking it to California Democratic chairman John Burton’s statement this week that Republicans “lie and they don’t care if people think they lie…. Joseph Goebbels – it’s the big lie, you keep repeating it.” Not only are such references to the “big lie” factually challenged, but the surest way to discredit any argument in contemporary politics is to bring up Hitler as you make it. Such rhetoric also exhibits disrespect for the victims and survivors of the Holocaust. As Jeremy Burton, who leads the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, said on Twitter: “Can we all just please agree, no Holocaust analogy in U.S. politics is ever OK. Nor does it work.”

GOP needs broader appeal

The GOP needs to broaden its appeal if it wants to win in November, columnist Michael Barone wrote in the Wall Street Journal. In the 2008 election, whites without a college education accounted for half of the votes cast for John McCain. When the GOP has had more success at the polls, it has appealed to a broader electorate. In 2010, for example, white no-college voters accounted for 42 percent of the voters for winning congressional Republicans. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., warned that the GOP can’t lose the demographics race. “We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term,” he said.

Ignore facts, attack fact-checkers

Candidates love to point out when independent fact-checkers catch their opponents in a lie or exaggeration. But when they are caught, they and their partisan supporters are increasingly attacking the fact-checkers. After fact-checkers noted the many false and misleading claims in vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s speech last week at the Republican National Convention, GOP surrogates accused the fact-checkers of spinning the facts.

Some GOP platform planks are odd, but does it matter?

The GOP platform position opposing abortion for any reason has received the most attention, but Brad Plumer of the Washington Post noted that the platform has some planks that are just plain odd. His top 10 list included policing universities for liberal bias and ending our dependence on foreign fertilizer. But House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, dismissed his party’s platform this week, saying he hadn’t read it and doesn’t know anyone who has. “If it were up to me, I would have the platform on one sheet of paper,” he said.

Kobach led GOP push against Shariah law

With all the real threats facing this country, the official GOP platform wants to protect us from a nonexistent one: Islamic Shariah law infiltrating our courts. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach – who else? – helped persuade the Republican National Convention to adopt a platform amendment supporting a ban on foreign law. Though Kobach acknowledged that he was not aware of any court that accepted arguments based on Shariah law, he nonetheless thinks “it’s important for us to say foreign sources of law should not be used as part of common law decisions or statutory interpretations by judges in the lower state courts as well.” Kansas lawmakers nearly unanimously passed such as ban last session, despite no evidence of a threat.

Likening Romney-Ryan to Dole-Kemp

In an interview with Britain’s the Daily Telegraph, former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole called Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan a “great team” and compared the ticket to his own 1996 pairing with Jack Kemp (in photo) – the most recent GOP ticket to attempt to unseat a sitting Democratic president. The choice of Ryan, a Wisconsin congressman and Kemp disciple who wrote speeches for the 1996 campaign, was an “extension of Jack’s legacy,” Dole said. But the 89-year-old former Senate majority leader also called on Romney and the GOP to reach out to young people and ethnic minorities. “We cannot be a single-issue party or single-philosophy party,” he said. Dole defended Romney’s decision to release only two years of tax returns, though Dole had released 30 years’ worth. “It wasn’t any sweat for me – I don’t have these complicated things where you need 19 accountants to figure out what your taxes are. I imagine Romney must have an army.” Dole did fret that in the wake of the Citizens United decision, “it’s going to be hard for someone like me to run for president” – someone who lacked either personal wealth or wealthy friends or relatives. Then again, Dole joked, “The Koch brothers live in Wichita – maybe I could call on them.”

Voter ID controversy will continue

A Pennsylvania judge decided today not to issue a preliminary injunction of his state’s new voter ID law, meaning that the requirements will be in place for the November presidential election unless the Pennsylvania Supreme Court intervenes. But the controversy will continue. GOP lawmakers argue that the law is needed to protect the integrity of voting. Others contend that the law is really aimed at reducing turnout among minorities and the poor. (The GOP House leader in Pennsylvania once boasted that the new law “is going to allow Gov. Romney to win the state.”) A national study released this week found only 10 cases of alleged in-person voter impersonation since 2000. That amounts to one case per every 15 million registered voters nationwide. An estimated 1.3 million voters in Pennsylvania don’t have the required ID.

Reactions to Ryan pick not surprising

It was not surprising that Gov. Sam Brownback endorsed Mitt Romney’s choice of Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., as his running mate. Ryan served on Brownback’s staff from 1995 to 1997 when Brownback was in the U.S. House and Senate. The selection is “great news for America and great news for Kansas,” Brownback said, adding that Ryan “has the vision, experience and character to help bring America back.” It also wasn’t surprising that Kansas Democratic Party Chairwoman Joan Wagnon had a different view. She said that Ryan and Brownback have a shared vision that “new budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthy, while placing greater burdens on the middle class and seniors, will somehow deliver a stronger economy.”

David Koch, convention delegate

The New York Republican Party has listed David Koch, executive vice president of Wichita-based Koch Industries, among 34 at-large delegates to the Republican National Convention later this month in Tampa, according to National Journal. Koch and his brother Charles have spent heavily to deny President Obama a second term, and the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity plans to spend $25 million more on anti-Obama ads in 11 competitive states in the coming weeks. David Koch also hosted a fundraiser for Mitt Romney last month at his estate in the Hamptons.

Kansas on leading edge of conservative GOP tide nationwide?

A post on the Washington Post’s blog the Fix headlined “The death of the Kansas moderate?” linked Tuesday’s apparent conservative takeover of the Kansas Senate to other events around the country, including tea party candidate Ted Cruz’s surprise win in Texas over the lieutenant governor in a primary for U.S. Senate and the recent defeats of incumbent legislators in Texas, Tennessee and Oklahoma related to guns and taxes. “It’s not just Kansas,” Curtis Ellis of the anti-incumbent Campaign for Primary Accountability told the Fix. “Clearly, Republican voters understand that state legislatures are where the action is.”

Koch versus Galifianakis

“The Campaign,” the new political comedy starring Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis, features two billionaire siblings played by Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow. Galifianakis told the New York Daily News it was “pretty obvious that the Motch brothers represent the Koch brothers,” and that “I disagree with everything they do. They are creepy and there is no way around that. It’s not freedom what they are doing.” Which brought this response from Koch Companies Public Sector’s Philip Ellender: “Last we checked, the movie is a comedy. Maybe more to the point is that it’s laughable to take political guidance or moral instruction from a guy who makes obscene gestures with a monkey on a bus in Bangkok,” referring to a scene from “The Hangover Part II.” Ellender added: “We disagree with his uninformed characterization of Koch and our beliefs. His comments, which appear to be based on false attacks made by our political opponents, demonstrate a lack of understanding of our longstanding support of individual freedom, freedom of expression and constitutional rights.”

Taxpayers paid for lawmakers to attend ALEC meeting

The American Legislative Exchange Council and its corporate funders have been under fire for drafting “model legislation” for states on voter-ID and “stand your ground” gun laws. As a result, more than a dozen major companies have pulled out of the organization, including Coca-Cola, Pepsi, McDonald’s and Walmart. But at least eight state lawmakers, including Rep. Gene Suellentrop, R-Wichita, registered to attend ALEC’s July 25-28 annual meeting in Salt Lake City, the Lawrence Journal World reported. Kansas taxpayers paid the $475 registration fee for each lawmaker ($575 for Suellentrop and a state senator, who registered late). Other state lawmakers may have attended the meeting but did not register through Kansas Legislative Administrative Services.

Happy birthday, Sen. Dole

Today is the 89th birthday of Bob Dole, who represented Kansas in the U.S. Senate from 1969 until he resigned to be the GOP presidential nominee in 1996. Sixteen years later, Dole still stands out not only for the length of his service and his dedication to veterans but also for his ability to work extremely well with others in Washington, D.C., to get big things done. Dole once said he hoped that the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics in Lawrence would become a place “where conviction coexists with civility, and the clash of ideas is never confused with a holy war.” The state and country need more such places.

Does political moderation lead to misery?

Observing that “many data sets show” that conservatives are happier than liberals, Arthur C. Brooks argued in the New York Times that “marriage and happiness go together” and that “religious participants are nearly twice as likely to say they are very happy about their lives as are secularists.” He also highlighted how “the happiest Americans are those who say they are either ‘extremely conservative’ (48 percent very happy) or ‘extremely liberal’ (35 percent),” suggesting moderates are miserable. He asked: “What explains this odd pattern? One possibility is that extremists have the whole world figured out, and sorted into good guys and bad guys. They have the security of knowing what’s wrong, and whom to fight. They are the happy warriors.”

The case for voting for a third party

“If change is what you want, you can’t keep voting for the status quo when November rolls around,” columnist Lane Filler wrote. He contends that trying to change the Republican and Democratic parties from within doesn’t work. “You can’t influence these parties by voting for them,” he said. “You can only change the Democrats and Republicans by defeating them.” But wouldn’t voting for a third party be a waste? No, said Lane. “If everyone who abhors the coziness of politicians and big-money contributors, and the shared corruptions of the Republicans and Democrats, refused to vote for a major party, the total numbers would shock,” he argued. “And in the next election, when people saw the way the tide was pulling, they’d be even higher.”

Voter restrictions too much for one GOP governor

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed three bills this week that his fellow Republicans had pushed as necessary to safeguard the integrity of elections – an issue Republicans in Kansas have promoted as well. Snyder vetoed bills that would have required photo ID to obtain an absentee ballot, required a ballot box affirmation of citizenship, and mandated training for groups doing voter-registration drives – something he said could “cause confusion.” Like Kansas, Michigan already requires those voting at the polls to show photo ID. Jennie Bowser of the National Conference of State Legislatures told the New York Times that “voter ID falls on very stark partisan lines, and there are very few exceptions to that. It’s unusual and notable when somebody crosses it.”

GOP doesn’t talk about disclosure anymore

Many GOP lawmakers used to argue that the best campaign-finance solution was to lift limits on donations but require immediate, full disclosure. But Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor at the Washington Post, noted that most Republicans don’t talk about disclosure anymore. Why? The U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision has resulted in a flood of corporate money favoring Republicans, much of it undisclosed. “The playing field has tilted toward Republicans, and they’re in no hurry to tilt it back,” Hiatt wrote. One GOP lawmaker who is still raising alarms is Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. He called the Citizens United decision “misguided, naive, uninformed, egregious,” and he lamented the huge amounts of money that are now pouring into politics (some of which may originate overseas, he warned). “I just wish one of them had run for county sheriff,” McCain said of the Supreme Court justices. Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., defended the lack of disclosure as protecting free speech, arguing that the government or activist groups on the right or left might use such disclosures to target and intimidate citizens.

Republicans hate Obamacare but like much of it

Though most Republicans oppose the federal health care law, they support many of its key provisions, according to a new Reuters-Ipsos survey. For example, 80 percent of Republicans favor creating an insurance marketplace for small businesses and individuals (yet Gov. Sam Brownback sent back federal grant money last year to help Kansas set this up). Also, 57 percent of Republicans support providing subsidies on a sliding scale to help people buy insurance, 54 percent favor requiring companies with more than 50 employees to provide insurance, and 78 percent support banning insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions (which necessitates the individual mandate to purchase insurance). How is it that people hate the law but like what it does? “It’s another sign of the conservative messaging triumph in this fight and the failure of Dems to make the case for the law,” wrote Greg Sargent of the Washington Post. But if the Supreme Court strikes down the law, Sargent said, there might be opportunities to refocus on some of these individual reforms.

Did Clemens, Edwards benefit from tea party thinking?

This week’s acquittal of Roger Clemens in a federal perjury case followed the mistrial in the federal case against John Edwards, the former presidential candidate accused of campaign-finance misdeeds related to a mistress. Why couldn’t the Justice Department make either case? “Jurors could be sending a message to Washington they don’t like the awesome firepower of the Justice Department brought to bear on borderline cases without an obvious victim,” suggested Forbes senior editor Daniel Fisher. He wrote: “The jurors in the Clemens case, as with Edwards before them, might be reacting to a core idea in constitutional law which is playing out in slightly different form in the Obamacare debate. What is the extent of federal power?”

Politicians need to be careful about autobiographies

A new book by David Maraniss of the Washington Post documents mistakes and distortions in President Obama’s memoir, “Dreams From My Father.” Some of this already has been reported, such as Obama’s accounts of a girlfriend in New York City who actually lived in Chicago. Washington Post reporters also found that Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., whose autobiography came out this week, embellished accounts of his parents’ emigration from Cuba.

Could Reagan still fit under the GOP tent?

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (in photo) “had the temerity to state in public what many others think in private: that the Republican Party has become so intransigent that even Ronald Reagan couldn’t fit under its tent,” Dana Milbank wrote in the Washington Post. Bush noted this week that Reagan got a lot done because he tried to find common ground with Democrats. Reagan also raised taxes several times. Not surprisingly, Bush was condemned by tax-pledge enforcer Grover Norquist, who called his views “foolish” and “bizarre.”

Another major corporation leaves ALEC

Johnson & Johnson announced this week that it was withdrawing its support of the American Legislative Exchange Council. In the past few months, more than a dozen companies, including Coca-Cola, Pepsi, McDonald’s and Walmart, have dropped their memberships with ALEC, a corporate-backed organization that provides “model legislation” for state lawmakers. The companies have been under pressure from liberal activists because of ALEC’s support of voter-ID laws and “stand your ground” gun laws. Common Cause has also filed a federal complaint that ALEC is violating tax laws by acting as a lobbyist and not a nonprofit. ALEC announced in April that it was refocusing its agenda on economic issues.

A big gulp of political spending

Washington Post editorial cartoonist Tom Toles’ take on the impact of the Citizens United ruling on political spending.

So they said, tweeted

“I would love you guys to outlaw Justin Bieber or something like that.” – Gov. Sam Brownback (in photo), in Manhattan last week, suggesting a piece of mock legislation for Kansas Boys State

“Who wants to be sitting at the table when all heck hits the fan?” – Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, telling Politico that long-term budget projections may be deterring House members from challenging current House GOP leaders

“The people have spoken, and they’re both named Koch.” – humorist Andy Borowitz, tweeting after the Wisconsin recall

“Unions blaming the Koch brothers for (Tuesday’s) election is like Emperor Hirohito blaming Bob Hope for Hiroshima.” – blogger David Burge, on Twitter

“BREAKING: Scott Walker Wins Koch Industries ‘Employee of the Month’ Award for Record 17th Time” – the Daily Edge, on Twitter

“Someone stop the Koch brothers! They’re about to … sob … give $100 million to … the OPERA! #OccupyLaBoheme” – John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary magazine, in a tweet (referring to David Koch’s $100 million gift to renovate what was then the home of the New York City Opera)