GOP Duplicity

Congressional Republicans Go Silent On Obama’s LGBT Discrimination Order

OBAMA AND BOEHNER

President Barack Obama talks with Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) after a luncheon at the Capitol, on March 14. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images) | Mark Wilson via Getty Images

The Huffington Post

President Barack Obama announced Monday that he’s moving forward with an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating against employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The decision marked a huge victory for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, which had been pushing for such action for years. But judging by the reaction from Republican lawmakers, you’d think nothing happened at all.

Not a single member of GOP leadership in the House or the Senate had anything to say about the president’s forthcoming order. Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), confirmed that the office had not issued a statement. Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), had no comment. A request for comment from the conservative House Republican Study Committee was not returned.

The executive order would only apply to federal contractors and doesn’t carry the punch of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a bill stalled in Congress that would make it illegal for employers nationwide to fire or harass someone for being LGBT. Nevertheless, when issues like these have been debated in the past, they often have engendered primal screams from ideologues on each side of the debate. As The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent noted, when an similar order was issued in 1998, Republicans mobilized quickly to block funds from being used to implement it.

This time, however, cultural conservatives appear to be fighting the battle without the help of elected Republicans.

Some conservative groups say they are counting on their allies on Capitol Hill to speak up.

“Once the executive order is public, we expect conservative lawmakers to address it,” said Carrie Gordon Earll, senior director of public policy at Focus on the Family. “In the meantime, there should be a considerable amount of ‘pushback’ from the Hill or the president [will end up] advancing ENDA rather than an executive order.”

But increasingly, GOP operatives are ignoring such advice, wary about waging culture wars that seem at once dated and sure-fire political losers, or simply in agreement with the administration. A former Mitt Romney campaign aide told The Huffington Post that it’s no surprise that congressional Republican leadership is muted after the Obama administration’s announcement.

“The White House doesn’t seem to grasp how completely uninterested GOP is in fighting on this stuff,” the aide said. “They could mandate gay marriages for everyone right now and you probably wouldn’t see a press release.”

There were, in fact, a handful of Republican lawmakers who issued press releases. But those who did — namely, Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) — didn’t protest the impending executive order. Rather, they urged the president to accommodate religious institutions.

Where GOP lawmakers were acquiescent, socially conservative groups remained vigilant. Ralph Reed, who heads the Faith and Freedom Coalition, said he was “not especially” bothered by the silence from elected Republicans due to his confidence that, should ENDA come to the House floor, it would go down in defeat at the hands of Republicans.

“We [have] had the votes in the House to defeat ENDA and the overwhelming majority of Republicans in the Senate voted with us,” Reed told The Huffington Post. “They are on record on this, and there will be no shortage of opportunities to make that clear.”

But Reed’s statement on the executive order didn’t focus so much on the idea that sexual orientation would be protected in the federal workforce — once anathema in religious conservative circles — as much as it did on the president circumventing the legislative branch.

“It’s just another example of Obama attempting to achieve by regulatory or executive fiat what he is unwilling or unable to achieve legislatively,” Reed said. “Like immigration reform, same-sex marriage, climate change and the regulation of political speech (in the case of this administration by the IRS), Obama has shown a predilection for executive action that raise the specter of an imperial presidency. Obama could not pass ENDA in Congress, so he now seeks to impose it on the nation with the stroke of a pen.”

Reed’s assessment of the level of GOP opposition to ENDA may not be keeping pace with changing attitudes on LGBT issues. In 2007, the last time the House voted on ENDA, the legislation failed to make it to the president’s desk. But last fall, the latest ENDA bill passed the Senate and is now only stalled in the House because Boehner won’t allow a vote. In the meantime, the bill picked up its eighth House Republican co-sponsor last week. Even some Senate conservatives have been open to supporting ENDA and the accompanying executive order.

“I need to look at it,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) told The Huffington Post earlier this year, when asked about possibly supporting executive action on LGBT workplace discrimination. He was one of 10 Senate Republicans who voted to pass ENDA.

“Maybe I’m wrong,” Portman added, “but I think there’s a chance that [ENDA] could get some support among Republicans in the House.”

SIX REASONS THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT ISN’T HURRICANE KATRINA

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President George W. Bush and Katrina support team.

Those who compare the Obamacare website failure to hurricane Katrina don’t seem to see the obvious flaw(s) in their “logic”.

The New Yorker – John Cassidy

Friday was the day when the world came down on top of President Obama—or, rather, theTimes did. In a scathing editorial, the Grey Lady lambasted the “incompetence of the administration in ushering in reforms that millions have been waiting for.” On the paper’s front page, one of its White House correspondents, Michael D. Shear, wrote that the “disastrous rollout” of the Affordable Care Act not only threatens the rest of the President’s agenda, “but also raises questions about his competence in the same way that the Bush administration’s botched response to Hurricane Katrina undermined any semblance of Republican efficiency.”

In writing about the rollout of the A.C.A., I, too, have used the term “disaster.” Referring to the over-all situation, I’ve also said that “it’s a mess.” But Hurricane Katrina? I can easily imagine why Republican politicians are making the comparison—it casts President Obama in a terrible light. But does it really stand up? I don’t think so, and here are six reasons why:

1) Obama got out of Air Force One: Whatever you think of it, and I’ve always had mixed feelings about it, the A.C.A. is a historic and proactive piece of legislation that was intended to fulfill Obama’s campaign promise of universal health care. Even if it were to fail, and it’s far too early to reach any conclusions about what its ultimate results will be, the President would deserve credit for tackling an issue that’s been festering for half a century or more. He saw a problem and walked toward it rather than away from it. And now that things have gone awry, he’s taken responsibility. “(T)hat’s on me,” he said on Thursday, while introducing some emergency fixes that will allow some purchasers of individual insurance policies to keep their existing plans.

Hurricane Katrina was a natural disaster, and such calamities are tough for any government to handle. The most damaging charge against President Bush isn’t that the rescue operation encountered difficulties—that was inevitable—but that he failed to take proactive steps. Rather than exercising leadership and mobilizing the nation’s resources to rescue a city that was literally underwater, he was passive, leaving the job to an underfunded and badly managed federal agency. To this day, one of the most damaging images of his Presidency is of him flying over New Orleans on Air Force One, looking out of the window at the devastation below, but not ordering the plane to land.

2) Nobody’s been killed: This one, I owe to Slate’s admirable Matt Yglesias. As he pointed out on Friday morning, one thousand eight hundred and thirty-three people died during and after Hurricane Katrina made landfall. How many would have been saved if the federal rescue program had been more effective, it is impossible to say. But the number almost certainly isn’t zero. In the “disaster” that is the A.C.A. rollout, a hundred and six thousand Americans have signed up for new individual insurance policies, and more than a hundred and sixty thousand have signed up for Medicaid. Those figures are a lot lower than the administration had been hoping for, but, as far as I know, they haven’t proved fatal to anybody.

3) This time, there is no “Brownie”: To put it kindly (very kindly), the Department of Health and Human Services doesn’t appear to have done a good job of building and testing Healthcare.gov. But the Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services, the agency within the Department of Health and Human Services that is responsible for the Web site, is run not by one of President Obama’s cronies but by Marilyn Tavenner, a veteran of the health-care industry who spent twenty-odd years working for Hospital Corporation of America. And Henry Chao, the C.M.S. official who oversaw the actual construction of the site, is a twenty-year veteran of the agency. While they haven’t covered themselves in glory, both appear to have been reasonably qualified for their jobs, which was hard to say about Michael Brown, the lawyer and friend of President Bush who was serving as the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency when Katrina hit, and who was the unfortunate subject of the president’s immortal remark, “Brownie, you’re doing a heckuva job.”

4) The war in Iraq is over: Hurricane Katrina struck in August, 2005, just as the insurgency in Iraq was entering its bloodiest phase. At that juncture, the White House was already facing heavy criticism because of its handling of the conflict. The pictures of death and destruction in New Orleans, which conveyed the impression that the federal government was powerless to intercede here at home, did untold damage to the Bush Administration’s reputation. It was almost as if it couldn’t do anything right.

The situation now is a bit different. While the Obama Administration faces a divided Congress, which makes it very difficult to pass any legislation, the White House has just won a significant political victory in the showdown over the budget and the debt ceiling. The country is at peace, and the President, until very recently, had high personal approval ratings. In the past few weeks, these have fallen sharply, which is hardly surprising. But at least his problems are restricted to one area: the A.C.A. There isn’t the pervasive sense of crisis, borne out of the war in Iraq, that blighted Bush’s second term.

5) Despite it all, Healthcare.gov appears to be fixable: Large-scale public-sector technology projects are often fraught with problems—something the Administration should have anticipated. In the worst-case scenarios, entire systems sometimes have to be scrapped and replaced with something better. That’s what happened in Britain a few years ago, when the National Health Service tried (and failed) to put patient records online. In this case, though, none of the experts inside or outside the Administration I’ve seen quoted have suggested that such an outcome is likely.

This looks like a repair job rather than a start-over project. It may take a while, and there’s likely to be some gremlins even after the Administration’s self-imposed deadline of December 1st. But, as far as I can make out, none of the individual problems that have been uncovered are insurmountable. It’s largely a matter of building additional capacity on the front end of the system—some of this has already been done—and repairing bugs on the back end, which had been sending incomplete and inaccurate information to insurers. This work, too, seems to be progressing.

6) The “disaster” narrative doesn’t yet represent the final cut: Once the Bush Administration had failed the immediate test of responding to Hurricane Katrina, there wasn’t much it could do to change the story. The victims were dead. The pictures from the Louisiana Superdome and other locales were lodged in the consciousness of the American public. Rebuilding a region hit by a natural disaster is, by its nature, a long and largely thankless task. But fixing Obamacare is different. If, and it’s a big if, in the next couple of weeks the Administration can get Healthcare.gov working fully—or even close to fully—it will make a big difference to how the A.C.A. is represented in the media and viewed by the American public.

At the moment, the people featured in news stories are mostly the losers from the reform—young, healthy people who want to keep their cheap, and sometimes inadequate, insurance policies. Meanwhile, many of the potential winners from the reform—families who earn low to moderate incomes, older people, people with preëxisting conditions who struggled to get any insurance—can’t get onto the Web site to enroll in new policies. If this changes, the media narrative will change with it. Reporters will find more people who like their new policies, and the generous subsidies that come with them. More attention will be paid to the state insurance exchanges, some of which are working pretty well. And some diligent journalists will even report on the steady rise in the number of people enrolling in Medicaid, many of whom didn’t have any insurance at all previously.

Taken together, these things could have a big impact on how Obamacare is perceived. Whatever happens, the rollout will be looked back upon as a big screwup. But the story’s ending has yet to be written.

REPUBLICANS BLAST OBAMA’S SUPPORT OF THEIR IDEA

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Borowitz Report

Moments after President Obama said he would allow insurers to continue health plans that were to be cancelled under the Affordable Care Act, leading Republicans blasted the President for agreeing with an idea that they had supported.

“It’s true that we’ve been strongly in favor of Americans being allowed to keep their existing plans,” said House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). “But now that the President is for it, we’re convinced that it’s a horrible idea.”

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) went further in ripping the President, calling Mr. Obama’s tactic of adopting ideas proposed by him and fellow Republicans “beneath contempt.”

“The President should be aware that any future agreeing with us will be seen for what it is: a hostile act,” he said.

Minutes later, White House spokesman Jay Carney helmed a hastily called press conference, hoping to stem the quickly escalating coöperation scandal.

“The President understands that he has offended some Republicans in Congress by agreeing with them,” Mr. Carney said. “He wants to apologize for that.”

But far from putting an end to the controversy, the President’s apology drew a swift rebuke from another congressional Republican, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who called it a “blatant provocation.”

“If the President is going to continue agreeing with us and apologizing to us, he is playing with fire,” he warned.

‘Worse than Watergate’

The Watergate Hotel Washington, D.C., June 11, 2012.

The Watergate Hotel Washington, D.C., June 11, 2012.  JIM WATSON/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Steve Benen, a contributor on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC website makes a few salient points about the GOP comparing every perceived left-wing failure to the Nixon Administration’s Watergate scandal.

The Rachel Maddow Show

On his Fox News show yesterday, Howard Kurtz sat down with Bob Woodward and raised a question that caught me a little off guard. “Some of the president’s detractors compare every scandal to Watergate, with which you are famously associated,” Kurtz said. “And so Benghazi is worse than Watergate. IRS was worse than Watergate. Bill Kristol said the other day that Obamacare is worse than Watergate in its impact on the country. What do you make of those comparisons?”

Woodward, who’s had some unfortunate missteps this year, didn’t fully answer, but the question itself gave me pause. Bill Kristol actually said the other day that Obamacare is worse than Watergate?
As it turns out, yes, he really said that.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich this week compared the Affordable Care Act to the Watergate Scandal, but Kristol believes the healthcare law is far worse. “Obamacare, honestly, will do more damage to the country than Watergate ever could’ve done,” he said.
“Watergate was stupid, petty, partisan politics and [President Richard] Nixon did misuse the Oval Office and then did lie to the country about it, probably. But, here, we have a legislative takeover of a huge percentage of the economy and an area that’s so important to everyone’s lives.”
Remember, as far as the Beltway is concerned, Bill Kristol is an establishment figure in good standing. He also thinks Nixon “probably” lied about the criminal conspiracy the disgraced president ran out of the Oval Office.
But it’s the comparison to the Affordable Care Act that’s uniquely incomprehensible. “Obamacare” critics are on safe ground complaining about a dysfunctional website, but to suggest that the law itself – a Republican-friendly reform system, which focuses on private insurers, cost-saving measures, and deficit reduction – is worse than the constitutional crisis posed by the Nixon White House becoming a criminal enterprise is plainly silly , even for contemporary Republicans.
That said, I suppose it’s time to updating a post from last year. Republicans are on record arguing:
* Benghazi is “worse than Watergate.” [Update: this argument comes up quite a bit.]
* The IRS story carries “echoes of Watergate.”
* National security leaks are “worse than Watergate.”
* A job offer for former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) might be “Obama’s Watergate.”
* “Fast and Furious” might be “Obama’s Watergate.”
* The White House’s relationship with Media Matters might be “Obama’s Watergate.”
* NSA surveillance is one of “Obamas Watergates.”
* The James Rosen controverys is “becoming Watergate.”
In May, Peggy Noonan was so overwhelmed by her contempt for the president, she wrote in her column, “We are in the midst of the worst Washington scandal since Watergate,” and then neglected to mention which perceived “scandal” she was even referring to.
If you’re thinking this overheated nonsense is hard to take seriously, you’re not the only one.

Votes on domestic-violence bill lead to GOP fibbing

These people have no moral fiber whatsoever…

Rachel Maddow Blog

It’s one thing for congressional Republicans to vote against the Violence Against Women Act. It’s another for some GOP lawmakers to try to deceive the public about their votes.

At first glance it seemed as though Republican Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri had broken with the majority of her fellow conservatives in the House of Representatives last week to renew an expanded version of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, which funds programs to assist survivors of sexual assault and domestic abuse.

A statement from her office proclaimed: “Hartzler votes to protect women from acts of violence.”

“Violence against women, in all its forms, is unacceptable,” Hartzler said in the statement.

Reading the Hartzler press statements, one would believe she voted for the law. She didn’t — like most Republicans in Congress, Hartzler opposed VAWA when it was brought to the floor for final passage. But she voted for a watered-down version that was brought to the floor in order to be defeated, and Hartzler, aware of the popularity of the law, assumes the public won’t be knowledgeable enough to tell the difference.

This way, she can get the credit for pretending to do the popular thing, while actually doing the opposite.

A spokesperson for Hartzler told McClatchy “there wasn’t any intention to deceive.” Oh no, of course not. Hartzler opposed legislation, then issued press releases to make it seem as if she supported the legislation. Why would anyone think she intended to deceive?

What’s worse, Hartzler wasn’t the only one playing this cynical game.

A Democratic source emails this afternoon to note that Reps. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.), Tim Walberg (R-Mich.), Keith Rothfus (R-Pa.), Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), Steve King (R-Iowa),Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.), and Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) all did the exact same thing.

What happened to far-right conservatives having the courage of their convictions? If they opposed the Violence Against Women Act and felt the need to vote against it, then why pretend otherwise? Why try to deceive the public instead of explaining why they opposed the legislation?

Extremism is disconcerting, but by some measures, cowardice is worse.

2 School Shootings On the Eve Of Obama’s Major Gun Control Speech

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2 School Shootings On the Eve Of Obamas Major Gun Control Speech

Update: In the second fatal school shooting of the day, two people were killed as a gunman open fired in an Eastern Kentucky community college. Follow here.

A day before President Barack Obama is set to unveil his gun control measures, there has been another school shooting in America.

According to reports, the suspect — a currently enrolled student — allegedly shot one administrator before fleeing to a stairwell and turning the gun on himself, according to a police briefing broadcasted by KMOX.

This new event will likely play into Obama’s gun control speech, set for Wednesday, in which he will likely seek an assault weapons ban and will look to strengthen background checks for gun buyers.

STLToday is reporting on the shooting:

A long-time employee of Stevens Institute of Business & Arts was shot by an on-again, off-again student, who then shot himself Tuesday afternoon, police said.

Both men were in surgery at 3 p.m. and St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson said he was “hopeful” both men would survive after the shooting, about 2 p.m.

Authorities said the victim, in his late 40s, was shot in the chest with a handgun by a student, 21, in a fourth-floor office, police said. The suspected shooter then went to a stairwell between the third and fourth floors and shot himself. Dotson said a gun was found with the man.

The suspected shooter was a spart-time student for the last four years, Dotson said.

Obama will act unilaterally on the gun control issue via executive order. Such action would bypass Congress and the presumed legislative gridlock.

During the speech, Obama will be joined by several leading mayors (we’re guessing New York City Mike Bloomberg will be front-and-center, as he is staunchly anti-gun) in his announcement and is expected to implement most, if not all, of the 19 executive orders which range from expanding background check requirements to dedicating resources to the enforcement of mental health checks and inter-state communication.

The will undoubetedly spark a major partisan debate: conservatives and pro-gun advocates are calling out the president for failing to use the legislative process and would be inflamed over the issue.

The conservative Drudge Report compared executive action to dictators Hitler and Stalin.

The backlash could be immense and could cost Obama leverage in future political battles, most notably the coming debt ceiling fight next month.

Obama has often pulled the “popular mandate” card, saying that his re-election in November proves Americans are behind him … almost hinting at persumed unconditional support among voters.

But what do the American people really think about the gun debate? Well, for starters, just 4% of Americans identify guns as the nation’s top problem, as Gallup reports.

The polling data on more specific policy issues is completely divided, with no clear consensus on what to do.

Still, the issue has come to a head. Since 2005, when the assault weapons ban expired, there have been 32 mass public shootings, including seven in 2012 (adding up to 20% of all mass public shootings over the last two decades). Whether voters identify guns as a problem or not, politicians are looking to address the issue immediately.

Charity president unhappy about Paul Ryan soup kitchen ‘photo op’

Paul Ryan and his wife Janna wash pots at St. Vincent De Paul dining hall. (Associated Press)

It’s bad enough to pretend to do charitable work but what’s really stupefying is that Ryan and company thinks the majority of Americans  believe this farce…

The Washington Post

The head of a northeast Ohio charity says that the Romney campaign last week “ramrodded their way” into the group’s Youngstown soup kitchen so that GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan could get his picture taken washing dishes in the dining hall.

Brian J. Antal, president of the Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society, said that he was not contacted by the Romney campaign ahead of the Saturday morning visit by Ryan, who stopped by the soup kitchen after a town hall at Youngstown State University.

“We’re a faith-based organization; we are apolitical because the majority of our funding is from private donations,” Antal said in a phone interview Monday afternoon. “It’s strictly in our bylaws not to do it. They showed up there, and they did not have permission. They got one of the volunteers to open up the doors.”

He added: “The photo-op they did wasn’t even accurate. He did nothing. He just came in here to get his picture taken at the dining hall.”

Continue reading here…