Category Archives: U.S. politics

Is it only GOP rhetoric that is the problem?

When speaking last week at the Kansas Agri Business Expo in Wichita, talk-show host and 2008 GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee (in photo) blamed the GOP’s loss this election on the harshness of Republican rhetoric, not on the party’s underlying message. Huckabee has been more sensitive about issues of poverty and race than many Republican leaders. But is it really only the tone that is the problem, not the message – particularly on immigration and women’s issues? At a book-signing event in Kansas City, Mo., this past weekend, Huckabee criticized “the Republican Party’s complete abandonment of Todd Akin.” Huckabee stood by Akin after the Missouri congressman said that victims of “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant because “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Conservative super PACs had bad batting average

How effective were the conservative groups and political action committees that spent hundreds of millions of dollars this past election? “The U.S. Chamber of Commerce won 1 of 13 races it invested in; the Club for Growth, 2 of 6; FreedomWorks, just 2 of 16. American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS went a combined 3 for 17 in their races,” Time magazine’s Swampland blog reported.

Rove taking lessons from GOP defeat

Other than Mitt Romney, no one may have had a worse election than Karl Rove. Most of the candidates supported by the former Bush White House adviser and his political action committees were defeated. So what lessons does Rove (who will speak in Wichita later this month at the Kansas Livestock Association convention) take from the defeat? He wrote in the Wall Street Journal that Republicans need to learn from the Democratic get-out-the-vote effort, and that Republicans “must avoid appearing judgmental and callous on social issues.” He also said the GOP “must reduce the destructiveness of the presidential primaries,” and perhaps limit its number of primary debates. And he suggested holding the GOP national convention in late June instead of late August.

Tangled web aimed at concealing political spending

A California court case shows how hard it is to find out who bankrolls political activity. California law prohibits anonymous spending on ballot measures, so a state commission sued to find out who gave $11 million to a group opposing an initiative to increase taxes on the wealthy and supporting an anti-union measure. It turns out the money came from an Arizona group. And where did it get that money? From the Center to Protect Patient Rights, which is run by Sean Noble, an associate of the Koch brothers. But this group got the money from another group, Americans for Job Security. The commission has yet to find out where this group got the money. “If you’re keeping score at home,” Washington Post columnist Harold Meyerson wrote, “that’s four levels of concealment.”

Politics should not get in the way of neighbors

With all the bile and mudslinging in politics today, it was refreshing to read last week about the Lamps and Lieses, next-door neighbors in the North Riverside neighborhood. The Lamps are dedicated Republicans, and the Lieses are dyed-in-the-wool Democrats. Their yards are filled with signs supporting opposing candidates. Yet they haven’t lost perspective on what really matters or how they should treat others with respect. “If our politics causes us to destroy or vilify our neighbor, then what good is the politics? It defeats everything,” Linda Lamp told The Eagle. Alan Lies added: “The neighbor concept is more important to us than politics.”

Independent expenditures swamping election

Spending by independent groups (the vast majority of which favors conservatives) has surged this election cycle, the website reported. As of Tuesday morning, $838 million had been spent on independent expenditures so far during the 2012 campaign by third-party groups, many of which don’t have to disclose their donors. In the 2008 presidential election cycle, $138 million was spent on independent expenditures. The spending increase was fueled in large part by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts of money on political expenditures.

AFP spending big bucks in southern states

Americans for Prosperity, the free-market group backed by Charles and David Koch, isn’t just spending big bucks to influence Kansas elections. It has also pledged to spend nearly $1 million in Arkansas in an attempt by conservative Republicans to take control of that state’s legislature, the Washington Post reported. That effort was set back a bit last week when the Arkansas Republican Party had to condemn assertions made by one of its legislative candidates that slavery was a “blessing in disguise” and comments by another candidate advocating the deportation of all Muslims. In Florida, Miami Herald columnist Carl Hiaasen complained about how a “new stealth campaign against three Florida Supreme Court justices is being backed by those meddling right-wing billionaires from Wichita.”

Dislike of GOP another hurdle for Romney

Another hurdle for Mitt Romney this election is the public’s unfavorable view of the Republican Party. According to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, 53 percent of voters view the GOP unfavorably, which is even worse than four years ago. However, the Democratic Party isn’t that well-liked either, with 46 percent of voters having an unfavorable view. And Republicans had great success in the 2010 election despite their party label.

Pennsylvania voter-ID law put on hold

Another voter-ID law has been blocked. This time it was in Pennsylvania, where a state judge said the law could not go into effect before the November election. Opponents of the law had argued that it was deliberately aimed at disadvantaging minorities, and they cited a top GOP state lawmaker who boasted that the law “is going to allow Gov. Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.” Last month, a federal court panel struck down a voter-ID law in Texas, and a state court blocked Wisconsin’s law. South Carolina’s voter-ID law is still tied up in federal court.

GOP having its own ACORN problem?

Republicans have greatly exaggerated the occurrence of voter fraud to justify new state voter-ID and registration laws. Meanwhile, a firm hired by the Republican National Committee and several state Republican parties has been submitting voter-registration forms with clear irregularities, including misspelled names and missing dates of birth. After news of the problems broke last week, the RNC fired the firm, Strategic Allied Consulting, which is run by a GOP strategist. Several states have begun investigations. Submitting fake voter-registration forms does not necessarily mean that someone would vote illegally – though that’s what Republicans claimed in 2008 when they accused the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, of falsifying forms.

Akin is acting cavemanlike

Just as some Republicans were starting to rally back around Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., he made another Neanderthal move. Akin commented this week that Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., didn’t act very “ladylike” during their most recent debate, which he said shows that she “feels threatened” by his candidacy. Akin not only will likely lose his race, but he also likely will cost the GOP any hope of regaining the Senate.

Is Chick-fil-A waffling like its fries?

A Chicago official and a gay-rights organization announced last week that Chick-fil-A executives had pledged to stop giving money to anti-gay groups. The company said in a letter that its nonprofit arm, the WinShape Foundation, would not support “organizations with political agendas,” and it affirmed in a statement that it would protect its employees against discrimination. But after a backlash from conservative Christians who had rallied to support the company, Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy denied the company has agreed to cease making donations to groups that oppose gay marriage.

Ryun a leader in effort to stop Democratic voter fraud

Secretary of State Kris Kobach isn’t the only well-known Kansas name on the GOP front lines in a fight against the so-called epidemic of voter fraud. A New York Times article noted that former U.S. Rep. Jim Ryun (in photo), who represented the 2nd Congressional District from 1996 to 2007, now chairs the Madison Project, a political action committee financing a plan called Code Red USA to blanket polling places in swing states with conservative election observers watching for Democrats bent on voter fraud. “Our mission is to organize, equip, train and mobilize grassroots conservatives to take back America,” says a Code Red USA video, which describes the “Obama political machine” as “absolutely determined to do anything to stay in power.”

No more tax dollars for political conventions

Good for the entire Kansas delegation in the U.S. House for voting Wednesday to stop using tax dollars to subsidize political party conventions. Now a final measure will be negotiated with the Senate, which has passed its own version. The $35 million in public support for the recent conventions represented only 20 percent of their total costs, and eliminating the subsidy won’t help the nation’s deficit. But the political parties can and should pay for their own parties.

Public wants limits on PAC donations

More than 8 in 10 Americans want limits on the amount of money that corporations, unions and other groups can donate to political action committees to try to influence U.S. elections, according to a survey by Associated Press and the National Constitution Center. But as AP noted, such limits might require a constitutional amendment, as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 2010 Citizens United case that such spending is a protected form of political speech. More than 6 in 10 of those surveyed also favored giving same-sex couples the same government benefits as other married couples, and slightly more than half of Americans support legal recognition of gay marriage.

Friendships toe party lines

Why are Americans so divided politically? One reason is that so few Republicans and Democrats are friends with people who support the other political party. Only 10 percent of Republicans and Democrats say a majority of their friends and family are from the other party, according to a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll. Many people also get their news from cable programs and websites that reinforce their political views. It is easier to dismiss and demonize those who hold different views when they aren’t your friends.

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.”