Tag Archives: Dick Cheney

The right’s ugly food-stamp obsession is back! Why lying dog-whistle politics returned…

The right's ugly food-stamp obsession is back! Why lying dog-whistle politics returned

Dick Cheney on “Cavuto,” on the Fox Business Network, Dec. 9, 2013. (Credit: AP/Richard Drew)

Salon – Joan Walsh

“Welcome to Obama’s America,” Fox’s Eric Bolling told his audience Tuesday – a dystopia where people now use food stamps to patronize “strip clubs, liquor stores, pot dispensaries.” Following up on its rubbishy August 2013 faux-exposé “The Great Food Stamp Binge,” Fox again profiled “surfing freeloader” Jason Greenslate, who is allegedly “livin’ large” in San Diego, thanks to the SNAP program, commonly known as food stamps. After Bill O’Reilly’s errand boy Jesse Watters caught up with Greenslate again Monday night, “The Five” used the lazy surfer as “the representative of literally millions of Americans,” in Bolling’s words. It was epic.

“He’s playing the system, he’s stretching the rules to their limits,” Bolling told Fox’s angry, fearful, mostly elderly viewers. “But what would you expect with a $105 billion program that’s almost tripled under Obamanomics? That’s what you would expect, right there, take a look at it. But what’s next? Strip clubs, liquor stores, pot dispensaries? Oh, that’s already going on, folks. Welcome to Obama’s America.”

Bolling’s rant came a day after Dick Cheney visited Fox and attacked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s military cuts, telling Sean Hannity, bizarrely, that Obama “would much rather spend the money on food stamps than he would on a strong military or support for our troops.”

The right just can’t leave that old dog-whistle alone. It’s 2012 all over again – Newt Gingrich will be reviving his claim that Obama’s “the food stamp president” any minute now. In “Obama’s America,” the right is determined to make the president the tribune of a moocher-rewarding, ever-expanding welfare state, even if they have to lie to do so.

Of course in Obama’s America (and everyone else’s) SNAP regulations prohibit buying alcohol or tobacco with food stamps, let alone drugs, and they can’t be used at restaurants or bars, let alone strip clubs. But Bolling wants Fox viewers in a perpetual state of moral panic, and the notion that slackers like Greenslate are “livin’ large” – Fox’s term — on the public dime just works, the facts be damned.

Cheney’s rant was in some ways more offensive. Charging that the cuts proposed by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel are “really devastating,” Cheney went on: “It does enormous long-term damage to our military. They act as though it is like highway spending and you can turn it on and off. The fact of the matter is he is having a huge impact on the ability of future presidents to deal with future crises that are bound to arise.”

Of course, as Think Progress noted back when Cheney began lobbying against defense cuts in 2012, the former vice president himself presided over a 25 percent cut to the defense budget back when he was defense secretary under George H.W. Bush. The fighting force was reduced by 500,000 active-duty soldiers, a move that was blessed by Joint Chiefs of Staff chair Colin Powell.

That was then. These cuts are the work of Obama’s team. So not only must they be attacked as dangerous, they’ve got to be framed as something the corrupt Chicago “gangster” is doing to reward his coalition of slackers, moochers and lazy white surfers.

Now, maybe it’s progress that Fox is making a white surfer the poster boy for food stamp abuse – but it’s the link to “Obama’s America” that updates Reagan’s old imagery about Cadillac-driving welfare queens and “young bucks” using food stamps to buy “T-bone steaks.”

In fact only 1 percent of SNAP funds are wasted in fraud. Three-quarters of SNAP households include an elderly or disabled person or a child, and fully 42 percent of adult recipients are also working, but making too little to feed themselves and their families. Among the nation’s food stamp recipients are almost a million military veterans, who were slurred by Cheney, and thousands of active duty military too. Military families spent $100 million in food stamp funds at military grocery stores in 2013.

Fox and Cheney don’t want you to think about the veteran or the soldier or the single mother or the disabled senior on food stamps. They don’t want Fox viewers to ask why 42 percent of recipients make such low wages that they qualify for food assistance, or why so many veterans and even active-duty soldiers need help. To distract from an economy that’s increasingly hoarding rewards at the top, they point to a cartoonish moocher and blame Obama.


Filed under Food Stamps

The Inside Story Of Liz Cheney’s Tone-Deaf Candidacy

The Huffington Post

When Liz Cheney moved to Wyoming, in 2012, her path to the Senate seemed clear enough. Cheney had a famous name, a high-profile media presence, an impressive CV, and plenty of money. The Republican incumbent, a backbencher named Mike Enzi, was expected to retire. Most political pros would have had an easy time gaming out the next few moves: First, meet Enzi to divine his intentions. Make sure to kiss the ring. Maybe offer a nudge while you do so. Then sit back and let him to do the right thing. When it’s done, offer some gracious praise on the occasion of his retirement. And then await a coronation.

It’s a good bet that’s how Dick Cheney, a famously effective back-room operator, would have handled it. His cable-bred daughter, though, was not content to quietly make Enzi an offer he couldn’t refuse: She simply called him up and informed himshe was moving toward running against him. Not for the last time in the campaign, the shock and awe approach backfired. “I think Enzi would have dropped out if she hadn’t announced so early,” one Enzi donor says. “But Enzi did not want to be seen as being shoved out.”

Monday, it was Cheney who left the race, citing family reasons. (An insider describes the issue as something non-life threatening involving one of her daughters.) But there were political considerations, too. Cheney was trailing badly in early polls and having trouble finding a Washington firm to set up a super PAC. Which all added to the aborted campaign’s central mystery: Why did this well-prepared, well-connected, well-known political figure put on such an amateurish performance when she finally ran for office on her own?

Cheney’s campaign was marked by a Palinesque series of news stories involving ham-handed politics and small-time personal dramas: There was the kerfuffle over whether her dad was an old fly-fishing buddy of Enzi’s. (The senator says yes, the former veep says no.) There was the time her mom told former Sen. Alan Simpson to shut up when he announced his support for Enzi. (She was incensed that he’d stiff someone who’d campaigned for him as a preteen.) There was a $220 fine for in-state residential claims on her fishing license application. (Cheney hadn’t lived in Wyoming long enough to avoid the out-of-towner fee.) And, when that was reported in the local press, there was a controversy over whether she had wished death on the state’s well-loved small-town papers. (She said she was only talking about the liberal national media.)

There was also a much more serious break between Cheney and her sister over gay marriage. Candidate Cheney’s position was that states should decide for themselves. But she also said that she believes marriage is only between a man and a woman. That drew Facebook rebukes from Mary Cheney, who has two daughters with her wife. The whole tableau, transpiring on social media, had a touch of Jerry Springer about it.

You might say this pattern of cable-style bombast and public embarrassment is at odds with the taciturn Cheney brand. Pull back the camera a bit, though, and it starts to look less strange. “The Cheney women are very protective of, as we called him, The Man. That’s what we called him inside the system, The Man, capitalized,” says Kevin Kellems, Dick Cheney’s communications director during his vice presidential years. “You protect The Man at all costs. And two, if the enemy takes a shot at you, you never, ever, ever admit any level of accuracy on their part. You always, always refute it. It is the centerpiece of their DNA.” It’s a tendency that blossomed in the fiery days after 9/11, and grew strong still as Dick Cheney’s reputation collapsed with the Bush administration. “Give no ground was the operating principle of the Cheney operation. Give no ground, ever.”

Continue reading here…


Filed under Liz Cheney

Michael Eric Dyson rips Mary Matalin for ‘amnesia’ after Cheney branded Mandela a terrorist

The Raw Story

Georgetown University Professor Michael Eric Dyson lashed out at conservative strategist Mary Matalin, a former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, after she defended her one-time boss for branding Nelson Mandela a terrorist in the 1980s.

Following Mandela’s death last week, several media outlets pointed out that Cheney had not only voted against sanctions on South Africa’s apartheid government, but had also maintained that he didn’t have “any problems” with the vote as late as 2000.

On ABC’s This Week, Dyson observed that “conservatives get a little bit of amnesia when they forget that Dick Cheney wanted to put him on the terrorist list and insisted that he stayed there, that Ronald Reagan resisted — he said on the one hand that Nelson Mandela should be released, but he depended upon a white supremacist government to reform itself within.”

“When will you ever get tired of beating up on Darth Vader, who said Nelson Mandela is a good man,” Matalin shot back, referring to Cheney. “It was a complicated situation, the ANC was a terrorist organization at one point. He has since said wonderful things about Nelson Mandela.”

“But when you say about excusing Darth Vader, so to speak, this is not just about rhetoric,” Dyson insisted to the former Cheney aide. “This is about public policy that prevented the flourishing of ANC, and look, when they had the feet on the neck of Nelson Mandela and millions of black people in South Africa.”

Watch the video from ABC’s This Week, broadcast Dec. 8, 2013.



December 9, 2013 · 6:22 AM

Those Media Hysterics Who Said Obama’s Presidency Was Dead Were Wrong. Again.

New Republic

It’s been a pretty good week for the Obama administration. The bungled healthcare.gov Web site emerged vastly improved following an intensive fix-it push, allowing some 25,000 to sign up per day, as many as signed up in all of October. Paul Ryan and Patty Murray inched toward a modest budget agreement. This morning came a remarkably solid jobs report, showing 203,000 new positions created in November, the unemployment rate falling to 7 percent for the first time in five years, and the labor force participation rate ticking back upward. Meanwhile, the administration’s push for a historic nuclear settlement with Iran continued apace.

All of these developments are tenuous. The Web site’s back-end troubles could still pose big problems (though word is they are rapidly improving, too) and the delay in getting the site up working leaves little time to meet enrollment goals. Job growth could easily stutter out again. The Iran deal could founder amid resistance from Congress or our allies.

Still, it seems safe to say that the Obama presidency is not, in fact, over and done with. What, you say, was there any question of that? Well, yes, there was – less than a month ago. On November 14, the New York Times raised the “K” word in a front-page headline:

President Obama is now threatened by a similar toxic mix. The disastrous rollout of his health care law not only threatens the rest of his 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.

A day later, Dana Milbank gave an even blunter declaration of doom in the Washington Post:

There may well be enough time to salvage Obamacare.

But on the broader question of whether Obama can rebuild an effective presidency after this debacle, it’s starting to look as if it may be game over.

And Ron Fournier, the same week, explained in National Journal that things were so grim for Obama because his presidency had reached a kind of metaphysical breaking point:

Americans told President Obama in 2012, “If you like your popularity, you can keep it.”

We lied.

Well, at least we didn’t tell him the whole truth. What we meant to say was thatObama could keep the support of a majority of Americans unless he broke our trust. Throughout his first term, even as his job-approval rating cycled up and down, one thing remained constant: Polls showed that most Americans trustedObama.

As they say in Washington, that is no longer operable.

Granted, finding overwrought punditry in Washington is about as difficult as hunting for game at one of Dick Cheney’s favorite preserves. Making grand declarations based on the vibrations of the moment is part of the pundit’s job description, and every political writer with any gumption is going to find himself or herself out on the wrong limb every once in a while. That said, this has been an especially inglorious stretch for Beltway hyperventilators. First came the government shutdown and the ensuing declamations about the crack-up of the Republican Party. Then, with whiplash force, came the obituaries for the Obama presidency. The Washington press corps has been reduced to the state of the tennis-watching kittens in this video, with the generic congressional ballot surveys playing the part of the ball flitting back and forth.

What explains for this even-worse-than-usual excitability? Much of it has to do with the age-old who’s-up-who’s down, permanent-campaign tendencies of the political media, exacerbated by a profusion of polling, daily tipsheets and Twitter. Overlaid on this is our obsession with the presidency, which leads us both to inflate the aura of the office and to view periods of tribulation as some sort of existential collapse. Add in the tendencies of even more serious reporters to get into a chew-toy mode with tales of scandal or policy dysfunction, as happened with the healthcare.gov debacle – the media has been so busy hyping every last aspect of the rollout’s woes that it did indeed start to seem inconceivable that things might get better soon.

But things did get better, as one should have been able to anticipate, given the resources and pressure that were belatedly brought to bear on the challenge. The fiasco took a real toll on the law and on the liberal project, for which Barack Obama bears real responsibility. But the end of a presidency? Take a deep breath, folks.

The sad thing about this spectacle isn’t even the predictable display of presentism. It’s the evident ignorance of the constitution and the basics of American politics. For the next three years, Obama will occupy the presidency, a position that comes with remarkable legal powers, especially now that he’s been partly liberated from the filibuster’s constraints. Washington columnists—the folks who presumably get paid to disseminate this kind of wisdom to the rubes beyond the Beltway—ought to know this better than anyone else, yet even as they fixate so much on the office’s aura, they are awfully quick to declare an administration defunct. News happens, and in the Oval Office, or the House majority, you always the ability to influence it, even when you don’t deserve it. Kind of like certain well-known writers I could name.


Filed under Media Hype, President Obama, U.S. Politics

Evil Cheney family turns sloppy: What is this “feelings” garbage?!

Evil Cheney family turns sloppy: What is this

Dick Cheney confers with daughters, Mary, left, and Elizabeth, at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, July 31, 2000. (Credit: AP/Ed Reinke)

The Cheneys…the saga continues.


As Dick Cheney’s daughters fight over marriage equality, has this cynical family lost its refined ruthlessness?

You’d have expected more from a Cheney political operation. This family has run quite a few cynical campaigns before and enjoys winning; there’s no time to get caught up in any feelings crap. This is because they are an evil family.

When Liz Cheney, perhaps the most cynical of them all, decided to run for Wyoming’s Senate race, you’d have thought there’d be a family meeting beforehand that went like this.

Liz: Mary, I am going to denounce your same-sex marriage, to win a Republican primary.

Mary: Of course you are, Sister. That is the only way to win a Republican primary in Wyoming, where you brilliantly are pretending to live. I would consider you weak if you didn’t.

Dick: The Cheney family must not be weak.

Lynne: Destroy everything, we must.

Liz: Mwah! War!

[Whole family guzzles deer blood from flaming goblets.]

But now a totally unexpected thing and fun has emerged: Mary Cheney is publicly offended by her sister taking a stand against marriage equality.

The relationship “has deteriorated so much that the two sisters have not spoken since the summer,” the New York Times writes, ”and the quarrel threatens to get in the way of something former Vice President Dick Cheney desperately wants — a United States Senate seat for Liz.”

On Fox News Sunday yesterday, Liz Cheney described same-sex marriage as “just an area where [Mary and I] disagree.” Rather than just sitting there and taking it, as even a Cheney family in-law would be expected to, Mary’s wife, Heather Poe, wrote this up on her Facebook page:

I was watching my sister-in-law on Fox News Sunday (yes Liz, in fifteen states and the District of Columbia you are my sister-in-law) and was very disappointed to hear her say “I do believe in the traditional definition of marriage.”

Liz has been a guest in our home, has spent time and shared holidays with our children, and when Mary and I got married in 2012 – she didn’t hesitate to tell us how happy she was for us.

To have her now say she doesn’t support our right to marry is offensive to say the least

I can’t help but wonder how Liz would feel if as she moved from state to state, she discovered that her family was protected in one but not the other.

I always thought freedom meant freedom for EVERYONE.

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Dick Cheney Sets New World Record for Being an Asshole

Former Vice President Dick Cheney. UPI/Jim Ruymen

Mother Jones - Kevin Drum

Really, you almost have to admire the sheer balls this takes:

Former Vice President Dick Cheney took a shot at President Barack Obama late Monday night after it was reported that the president has attended fewer than half of his daily intelligence briefings.

“If President Obama were participating in his intelligence briefings on a regular basis then perhaps he would understand why people are so offended at his efforts to take sole credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden,” Cheney told The Daily Caller in an email through a spokeswoman.

This came on the same day that Kurt Eichenwald told us what he’d learned after seeing a series of daily briefings from the months prior to 9/11. Presumably Dick Cheney saw them all too:

By May 1, the Central Intelligence Agency told the White House of a report that “a group presently in the United States” was planning a terrorist operation. Weeks later, on June 22, the daily brief reported that Qaeda strikes could be “imminent,” although intelligence suggested the time frame was flexible.

But some in the administration [i.e., Cheney's clique of neocon nitwits -ed.] considered the warning to be just bluster….In response, the C.I.A. prepared an analysis that all but pleaded with the White House to accept that the danger from Bin Laden was real.

“The U.S. is not the target of a disinformation campaign by Usama Bin Laden,” the daily brief of June 29 read, using the government’s transliteration of Bin Laden’s first name….On July 1, the brief stated that the operation had been delayed, but “will occur soon.”….On July 9, at a meeting of the counterterrorism group, one official suggested that the staff put in for a transfer so that somebody else would be responsible when the attack took place, two people who were there told me in interviews.

….On July 24, Mr. Bush was notified that the attack was still being readied, but that it had been postponed, perhaps by a few months. But the president did not feel the briefings on potential attacks were sufficient, one intelligence official told me, and instead asked for a broader analysis on Al Qaeda, its aspirations and its history. In response, the C.I.A. set to work on the Aug. 6 brief.

August 6, of course, was the infamous daily brief titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” — the one that prompted George Bush to tell his briefer, “All right. You’ve covered your ass.”

Honest to God, Dick Cheney really is the world’s biggest asshole, isn’t he? And for the record, it turns out that sometimes Obama reads the daily brief and sometimes he attends briefing sessions. Either way, though, he certainly seems to pay more attention to them than either George Bush or Dick Cheney ever did.

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Dick Cheney says Iraq War was worth it because now we know they didn’t have WMDs

Worst administration in history.

In my opinion, this is one of the most idiotic and insensitive things that has spoken by Dick “Darth Vader” Cheney…

Daily Kos

Former Vice President Dick Cheney is on a Famous Person Book Tour. A Famous Person Book Tour, for any youngsters out there unfamiliar with the practice, is an American phenomenon in which a famous person writes a book, and/or causes a book to be written in their name, and because they are famous American law dictates that all American media programs are required to have them on to discuss various things that may or may not have anything to do with the book they may or may not have written. You may think that this law is a bit stupid, but it is entrenched; no newsperson or talk show host wants to be the first person to go to jail for failing to give a Famous Person their free network interview.

So Dick Cheney may or may not have written a book that may or may not be a tutorial as to how to lure young homeless people into your house so that you may harvest their organs for later use. This means we get to hear him defend his life’s work, aka the Iraq War, and you will not be surprised to know that he considers it a fine success because we were able to find out that there weren’t any weapons of mass destruction there.

What we gain and my concern was then and it remains today is that the biggest threat we face is the possibility of terrorist groups like al Qaeda equipped with weapons of mass destruction, with nukes, bugs or gas. That was the threat after 9/11 and when we took down Saddam Hussein we eliminated Iraq as a potential source of that.

Whether Iraq actually had any weapons of mass destruction, you see, is beside the point. The point is that by invading them, unleashing a chaotic series of events that killed perhaps a half a million people or so, we were able to set our minds at ease as to how they did not have any. Scratch one country off the list; all that is required now is to bomb and invade every other nation in the world so as to satisfy ourselves that there are not any illicit weapons there either. You may recognize this as another rephrasing of the Cheney Doctrine, which says that if there is even a one percent chance that another country might do something bad to us, we are allowed to bomb and invade them before they get the chance. If bombing and invading them did not result in them liking us sufficiently, of course, we may have to bomb and invade them again; there is no common rule of thumb as to how many times you need to bomb and invade someone before they like you.

Dick Cheney was and is considered an American foreign policy expert. He was one of the people most intimately involved with deciding who should and should not be killed because reasons. All of the others are still around as well, flitting about on their occasional legally mandated Famous Person Book Tours. There is at least a 99 percent chance that they are all secretly idiots or worse, but the law is the law.


Filed under Dick Cheney, Iraq War

Trash-talking the president

Did someone really say, ‘I cannot even stand to look at you,’ to President Obama? | AP Photo

What motive does Senator Dick Durbin have to lie about his revelation?  Sen. Durbin’s reputation as an honorable man speaks for itself.  On the other hand the GOP reputation for lying is legendary.

I believe the White House denies the incident for two reasons:  the embarrassment it has caused them and the fact that they don’t want to acknowledge an incident that might start a precedent.

According to his office, the Senator stands by his statement.

Any thoughts?


No matter how many times you’ve been there, the White House is a pretty awesome place, conferring on every president what “The West Wing” creator Aaron Sorkin once called “the single greatest home-court advantage in the modern world.”

So it would have to rank as the biggest “in your face” any modern president has faced if someone actually said to Barack Obama, in his own workspace — where a constantly shifting array of blown-up photographs of him line the halls and a retinue of helicopters wait at his beck and call — “I cannot even stand to look at you.”

Such an insult — delivered eyeball to eyeball — would trump Rep. Joe Wilson’s shouted “You lie!” on the House floor during the Obama’s health care speech to Congress in 2009.

It would top former Vice President Dick Cheney’s terse suggestion on the Senate floor in 2004 that Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) should perform an anatomically improbable act. And it would make Dick Armey’s heated advice to a scolding Bill Clinton (“Perhaps it’s my Western upbringing, but I don’t listen very well when someone’s pointing a finger in my face!”) during the 1995 government shutdown seem positively polite by comparison.

Perhaps only John Quincy Adams’s dismissal of Thomas Jefferson as “a slur upon the moral government of the world” sounds worse — and Adams made that assessment in the late 1820s, after Jefferson was dead.

But “I cannot even stand to look at you,” is what Sen. Dick Durbin says one unnamed House GOP leader told Obama in a meeting during the recent government shutdown.

By Wednesday afternoon, spokesmen for the White House and Speaker John Boehner had flatly denied that any such encounter ever occurred. But Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, posted the allegation on Facebook over the weekend, and his office said Wednesday that he stood by his words.

In fact, the alleged dis words are so personal, so passionate, so disaffected-high-school-sweetheart in tone — “I cannot even stand to look at you” — that it’s hard to imagine any grown man saying them to another — much less to the president. “What are the chances of an honest conversation with someone who has just said something so disrespectful?” Durbin’s Facebook post asked with understatement.

It boggles the mind to think what, if anything, Obama could have said in reply: Funny, I can’t even see you!

Alas, White House press secretary Jay Carney insisted that Durbin’s story just wasn’t true. “I looked into this and spoke with somebody who was in that meeting, and it did not happen,” Carney said. And Boehner’s spokesman, Michael Steel, said, “The speaker certainly didn’t say that and does not recall anyone else doing so.”

And yet Max Gleischman, a spokesman for Durbin, the Senate’s second-ranking Democrat, said, “Durbin stands by his comments.”

It’s worth noting that the only face-to-face meeting between Obama and House GOP leaders was on Oct. 10, and Durbin was not present.

But given the bitter state of relations between Obama and the House Republicans, it’s easy enough to imagine that more than one of them went into their meeting in the Roosevelt Room feeling like the distraught Aunt Em in “The Wizard of Oz,” who told the Toto-taking Miss Gulch: “For 23 years, I’ve been dying to tell you what I thought of you. And now, well, being a Christian woman, I can’t say it!”

Even in Washington — especially in Washington — it may be best to let some thoughts rest — unexpressed.


Filed under President Barack Obama, Right Wing Vitriol, Sen. Dick Durbin

What the GOP could learn from Pope Francis

Winning converts takes more than holding babies on the rope line.

Just sayin’…

The Week

The pope warns against being “obsessed” with gay marriage and abortion

Pope Francis is a hit. In July, he drew three million people to Mass at Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana beach. A Pew Research Center poll released this month shows that 79 percent of Catholics have a favorable view of him, compared to only four percent who view him unfavorably.

It’s not only Catholics who approve. “Seldom has a religious leader been embraced so warmly across the Christian world, including by many evangelicals,” Timothy George, executive editor of Christianity Today,wrote earlier this summer.

And he may have won over a whole new crowd who have grown disillusioned with organized religion, after he chastised the Roman Catholic Church for being “obsessed” with abortion, contraception, and gay marriage. Francis’ remarks, published in 16 Jesuit journals worldwide, have rocked the Catholic world.

“It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time,” he said. “We have to find a new balance, otherwise even the moral edifice of the Church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”

The GOP could learn a few lessons from His Holiness.

To concerned Republicans (and especially Republican Catholics): No, the Pope isn’t advocating that priests start marrying gay couples in Catholic churches. In fact, for all the praise he has received from liberals, the Vatican’s official positions on abortion, gay marriage, and contraception are no different from when Pope Benedict XVI was running things.

But he is focusing heavily on problems that Catholics have traditionally cared about — namely, alleviating suffering and poverty — but which have fallen out of the spotlight due to a few divisive, hot-button issues.

The GOP, like the Catholic Church, didn’t always base its identity so fiercely on abortion and gay marriage. In 1972, the Republican Party platform contained no references to God or any religious issues.

Then, in 1980, the year of Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority, it introduced an entire section on abortion. By 1992, Pat Buchanan was giving his fiery “culture wars” speech, in which he decried the “prophets of doom” of the Democratic Party who would usher in a “homosexual rights movement.”

As Republicans moved to the right on social issues, many Catholics — who were among the first to protestagainst Roe v. Wade — went with them, both on the abortion issue and other aspects of the culture wars. Indeed, Republican politicians stoked social issues as much as they could, knowing it would result in a larger conservative turnout at the polls.

As recently as last year, Pope Benedict XVI called gay marriage a threat to “human dignity and the future of humanity itself.” Compare that to Pope Francis, who said in Rio de Janeiro this summer, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

The GOP needs to make a similar shift, wrote conservative columnist and Crossfire co-host S.E. Cupp after the pope made that statement, especially since the majority of Americans now support gay marriage:

Popular opinion is never a reason for a group to abandon its principles. But when its principles are so obviously in conflict not only with the group’s survival, but with the group’s stated philosophy — in this case, one that abhors big government intrusion into private life and champions monogamy and stability within marriage — it’s time to consider softening, not abandoning, those principles. [New York Daily News]

Furthermore, Pope Benedict “always seemed to be the Dick Cheney of pontiffs,” wrote The Daily Beast’s John Avlon, “reaffirming strict doctrine and famously arguing that a smaller church of more devout believers would be more desirable than what might be called a ‘big tent.’”

Pope Francis is more of a populist. He famously broke Vatican tradition by washing the feet of 12 female inmates instead of 12 male priests on Holy Thursday. He regularly cold-calls ordinary people, like when he reassured an Italian woman that she would find a priest to baptize her baby even though it was born out of wedlock. His car? A 1984 Renault given to him to by an old priest.

Instead of spending his time preaching against supposed dangers like gay marriage and abortion, he has cast himself as a pope of the people, willing to go out and address issues that affect people every day.

That leads to another lesson that some conservatives think Republicans could learn from Pope Francis.

“Republicans are seen as defenders of the rich and powerful instead of the poor and vulnerable,” wrote Marc Thiessen, former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, earlier this year in The Washington Post.

To change that, they “don’t have to abandon their principles,” he argued, but instead should “emulate Francis” and demonstrate that their values are meant to help the poor:

It’s not enough for Republicans to simply vote for school choice; they need to spend time with students struggling in failing schools. It’s not enough to rail against dependency; they need to spend time helping those trapped in dependency to get the skills they need to get off public assistance. It’s not enough to complain about Obama’s class-warfare rhetoric; they need to spend time fighting for the vulnerable. [The Washington Post]

Young people — including many young Catholics — overwhelmingly support gay marriage. Many are out of work and struggling financially. If the GOP wants to attract more of them in the future, they might want to follow the example of the pontiff.


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Senate may grant Obama’s wish on Syria; House is tougher, but president has key allies

Did anyone see or hear Donald Rumsfeld make the case for all out war in Syria?

Washington Post Politics – In The Loop

There’s been much talk that President Obama will have a tough time getting Congress to pass a resolution authorizing airstrikes on Syria in response to President Bashar al-Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons.

But that may not be the case if we look at the 2002 Iraq war vote, in which Congress gave President George W. Bush the authority to wage full-scale war “to defend U.S. national security against . . . Iraq,” based on thoroughly bogus claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and that he was involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks because some Iraqi official may have been seen having lunch with some guy in Prague who may have been a 9/11 plotter — or maybe ran a hedge fund.

Looking at the Senate, 55 current members voted on that 2002 resolution (22 were in the House at the time). Of those 55 lawmakers, 39 — 13 Democrats and 26 Republicans — voted for the resolution, according to data compiled by our colleague Alice Crites. So maybe Obama needs to pick up only about a dozen or so senators from the 45 who weren’t in Congress in 2002.

NOTE: This, of course, assumes a modicum of policy consistency among our senators, an obviously iffy assumption. And there’s a possibility that some who voted in favor of the resolution in 2002 may have been a bit chastened by the result.

(On Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 10-7, with one member voting “present,” to approve airstrikes, with seven Democrats and three Republicans in favor.)

The House may be a more dicey proposition for Obama. Only about one-third of its members were there in 2002 to vote on the measure that led to nearly 4,500 U.S. military deaths, many more thousands wounded and tens of thousands of Iraqi deaths in order to rid Iran of its most bitter enemy.

Of the 144 current House members who voted on that resolution — and will vote on the Syria resolution next week — 78 voted for it (including only 20 Democrats) and 65 Democrats and one Republican voted against it.

While House Republicans in 2002 voted overwhelmingly to attack Iraq (only six opposed the resolution), the new GOP members may be much more isolationist than their counterparts 11 years ago, a year after Sept. 11. Add to that a strong majority of House Republicans who have never voted for anything Obama favored. (Not that politics might be a factor.)

But House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) have said they favor authorizing airstrikes, and the measure will be brought to the House floor for a vote. If the Democrats eventually rally behind Obama, he won’t need to pick up much GOP support.

And if key House Republicans prove difficult, Vice President Biden might want to note the spectacular move by his predecessor Dick Cheney before the 2002 vote. Cheney — according to our colleague Barton Gellman’s excellent book “Angler: the Cheney Vice Presidency” — gave a very reluctant Dick Armey (R-Tex.), then the House majority leader, a private briefing in which Cheney claimed that Hussein was looking at making suitcase nukes that he could share with his terrorist pals.

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