Why the Right Attacked Unions, ACORN and Planned Parenthood

The Nation

For the past two weeks, all eyes have been glued to Madison, Wisconsin. The collective and joyful resistance to Governor Scott Walker’s power-grabbing budget bill has inspired the demoralized progressive base and put the corporate-backed assault on working people front and center in the national conversation.

But while it’s obvious that the right wing is out to break the back of the progressive movement, it’s easy to miss the strategy that guides their selection of specific targets. Their attacks are all carefully aimed at the same critical juncture: institutions that work for people in their daily lives and in the political arena, those that connect people’s personal struggles across the country to the political struggle in Washington. Once we recognize the critical role these progressive service organizations play in building progressive politics, the right’s broader strategy in Wisconsin and elsewhere becomes clear. Scott Walker is a soldier in the same army as James O’ Keefe and Lila Rose, the right-wing video pranksters who tried to smear ACORN and Planned Parenthood.

Indeed, last month’s attack on Planned Parenthood provoked a sickening sense of déjà vu. Seemingly out of nowhere, undercover activists secretly filmed an employee of a major progressive institution making embarrassing statements. The resulting video makes news and inflames the debate around federal funding of the organization’s services. It was the ACORN attack all over again [see Peter Dreier and John Atlas’s “The GOP’s Blame-ACORN Game”].

ACORN was unique as a national organization that served our nation’s poor people. Wrangling with life’s common but critical challenges like mortgages and housing forms, ACORN employees built trust by offering assistance person-to-person, neighborhood-by-neighborhood. They then leveraged that trust to lobby for federal legislation to address the root causes of the crises facing these communities—predatory lending, lack of community investment and stagnant wages.   Continue reading…


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Why Republicans are suddenly afraid of Obama

My only concern is that the more they fear him, more dastardly, dirtier deeds will occur to try and beat him in 2012…


After their midterm triumph, you’d think they’d be lining up for a chance to run against him. But they’re not.

At Politico on Monday, Jonathan Martin does a nice job explaining the “reality check” that Republicans are now waking up to: Barack Obama seems to be in decent political shape as the 2012 cycle begins, while “breezy predictions of Obama turning out to be the next Jimmy Carter were premature.”

That it’s come to this shouldn’t be that surprising. As we noted over and over last year as Obama and his fellow Democrats braced for a midterm drubbing, the two-year verdict on a presidency is often extremely misleading — as the examples of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton both attest. With his party running Washington and with the economy reeling, it was pretty much inevitable that the first half of Obama’s first term would play out the way it did.

What is surprising, though, is how quickly it’s come to this. When Reagan and Clinton suffered miserable midterms, they were both written off — by their political opponents, by the media and even by members of their own party — as sure one-termers, and the assessment held until well into their third years in office.

Remember that Clinton’s defensive assertion of his own relevance as president came not in the immediate wake of November 1994 midterms, but more than five months later, on April 18, 1995. By that point, the Republican presidential field for 1996 was pretty much in place. And even though Clinton’s poll numbers showed steady improvement in the months after that (while support for the GOP Congress and its public face, Newt Gingrich, collapsed), conventional wisdom late in ’95 still held that Clinton was the clear underdog heading into ’96. For instance, when a poll in early November ’95 — just before the famous government shutdown — showed Clinton’s approval climbing to an 18-month high (52 percent) and gave him a 10-point lead (53 to 43 percent) over GOP front-runner Bob Dole, political analyst Stuart Rothenberg offered this assessment on CNN:

Frankly, I don’t think the president is quite as strong as he now appears for a couple of reasons. One, I expect the political debate to be very different next spring and next summer, with different sorts of issues being addressed including tax reform; and second of all, I was looking at some of these state polls, and Bill Clinton is leading Bob Dole in Virginia, in Arizona, in Florida. I don’t know anybody who follows these sorts of polls and these races who believes that the president is really going to win those states.

Of course, Clinton went on to carry Florida over Dole with ease in ’96. He also won Arizona and finished less than 2 points shy of victory in Virginia. Overall, Clinton netted 379 electoral votes after a campaign that is now remembered (if it is remembered at all) for being particularly boring, uneventful and predictable. But it wasn’t until the end of 1995 and the early months of 1996 that it began dawning on the political class that this would be the outcome. Until then, the “Republican Revolution” of ’94 had distorted most political analysis: Look how thoroughly Americans had rejected Clinton and his party — there’s just no way they’ll rally back to the Democrats two years later!

Continue reading here…

Behind the Right’s Glenn Beck Backlash

The Daily Beast

Bill Kristol criticized the Fox News host’s Egypt coverage, and Rich Lowry and others are piling on. But the condemnations are unlikely to spread to the GOP mainstream—and favorites like Rush Limbaugh and Andrew Breitbart are two reasons why.

Is the right turning against Glenn Beck?

This week in Commentary, Peter Wehner became the latest conservative commentator to call out the Fox News host’s absurd ramblings. He joined Bill Kristol, who criticized Beck’s coverage of the uprising in Egypt, Rich Lowry, who piled on, and Matthew Continetti, who called Beck’s oeuvre “nonsense” last summer.

That brings us to their fellow conservative Jennifer Rubin, who writes for The Washington Post. “What should thoughtful conservatives do? I’ve said it before, but it is especially relevant here: Police their own side,” she advised this week. “Rather than reflexively rising to his defense when questioned about Beck, why don’t conservatives call him out and explain that he doesn’t represent the views of mainstream conservatives? Conservative groups and candidates should be forewarned: If they host, appear with or defend him they should be prepared to have his extremist views affixed to them.”

As a Beck critic who criticized the creepy aspects of his on-air personality even when he was touting awesome Friedrich Hayek books, I’d love to see more folks in the conservative movement adopt Rubin’s attitude. But they won’t. One reason is that it’s difficult to condemn Beck in isolation. Acknowledging that his show is indefensible—that’s the core of her critique—means confronting the fact that Fox News under Roger Ailes knowingly broadcasts factually inaccurate and egregiously misleading nonsense every day. How many conservatives are willing to stipulate that?

It also means departing from the conservative movement’s standard approach to its entertainers: It’s verboten to criticize anyone on “your own side” in an ideological conflict many see as binary.   Continue reading here…

Rachel Maddow: Fox News Is A “McCarthyite Chamber Of Horrors”


In a profile of Rachel Maddow, The Daily Beast’s Howard Kurtz reveals how Maddow puts together her nightly show and also gets many comments praising the new “face of a cable network.” With Keith Olbermann gone, MSNBC is clearly looking to Maddow to lead the way and she seems eager to assume the position.

MSNBC’s President Phil Griffin says of Maddow, “she’s our biggest show . . . [she’s] so friggin’ smart . . . Very few people can be so honest with a remark, a giggle, a serious look. There’s no performance art. That performance is Rachel.” Even conservative commentator and former co-worker Tucker Carlson has nice things to say about Maddow. Despite Maddow seemingly being pleasant to work with, one thing that isn’t different between her and Olbermann is a distrust of her cable news competition.

Maddow’s take on Glenn Beck’s recent Muslim-related shows is that he is “running baroque conspiracies that are designed to freak people out about bogeymen coming to get them, conspiracies that are unsupported by the facts.” And her harshest blow is saved for the entire Fox News Channel, dismissing it as a “McCarthyite chamber of horrors . . . You can’t really call yourself a news channel if that’s what you broadcast.”

Kurtz notes that “Maddow’s repeated attacks have not provoked a response from Fox” yet maybe with her latest round of criticism things might change. Or maybe since Fox rarely acknowledged Olbermann’s comments, they plan on using a similar strategy against Maddow to help make her disappear too.

Check out Kurtz’s full story on Maddow.

Actually, Every Year Someone Calls The Academy Awards ‘Worst Oscars Ever’

First, let me say that until Sunday night,  I had not seen an Academy Award show since 1999 and that was by choice.  

When I was a little girl I looked forward to seeing the Hollywood glamor and the corny jokes Bob Hope and other hosts made.  I think the entire presentation back in the late 50’s and early 60’s was fantastic!

Then something happened during the 70’s and forward.  Discontent with the Viet Nam War, racism, sexism and other isms had hit Hollywood hard and spilled on to the screen and to the award ceremonies.  For the first time I saw people rejecting Oscars as a form of protest, a guy running across the stage naked (it was called “streaking”) and a host of acceptance speeches that were simply political diatribes. 

By the 90’s I had gotten bored with the productions.  The glamour and panache of the 50’s and 60’s had been passed over to a new dawning, as it were.  A sort of rougher, edgier Hollywood.   The old Hollywood glamour might be coming back.  I saw a number of actresses wearing vintage designer gowns,  so there is hope!

Sunday night’s show was “ok”.  It wasn’t the worst and it certainly wasn’t the best…


If it seemed like everyone was ganging up on James Franco, Anne Hathaway, and the Oscars yesterday, it’s because they were. In one of many brutal takedowns, Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers said, “The stirrings I felt from the 83rd annual Oscar show made me want to puke. How could so many stars bore so many people breathless?” Few critics could find anything positive to say about the ceremony, and many echoed the same declaration of “Worst Oscars Ever.” But that phrase may sound familiar – it’s been summoned on several occasions in years past (it’s also somewhat accepted that 1989’s show was really the worst ever). Here, a look at how reviewers of the annual spectacle have summoned the same refrain:

2010 ceremony: “Worst. Oscars. Ever,” said movie critic Peter Howell in the Toronto Star. “Yes, I know I’ve said this before. But the Academy keeps coming up with new lows.” Hosts Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin led a show that “was a desperate attempt to look hip,” and, at three-and-a-half hours long, it “wasn’t the longest Oscar broadcast ever, but it sure felt like it.” In fairness, “I should qualify my rant slightly. This wasn’t the worst Oscars ever, it was the worst Oscars broadcast ever.” They did pick the right winners. Still, in the spirit of one of the year’s most popular films, I wish we had “our own avatars to watch the show in our place, saving us from having to endure it ourselves.”

2009 ceremony: In a piece titled “The Worst Oscars Ever,” The Daily Beast’s Lee Siegel said the “show was an embarrassingly contrived spectacle that only served to prove how insecure Hollywood is about its own future.” Hoping to re-establish “cultural relevance they used to” have, the organizers “desperately seized on a whole new format.” It was a “disaster,” to say the least. “No wonder the show’s main sponsor was JC Penney, who it seems is embarking on an ad campaign to rebrand itself from a downscale discount outlet to an upscale discount outlet.” The night concluded with the airing of trailers for some upcoming films, which “was like watching a nervous breakdown.”

2008 ceremony: “[A]ll in all, it was The Worst Oscars Ever in the History of Hollywood,” said Nikki Finke in LA Weekly. It was the lowest-rated, partially “because this was really the 11th-hour Oscars” thrown together “after the sudden and unexpected settlement” of the writers’ strike. Putting on a show with just two-weeks notice is tough, and it showed. Most of the time, host Jon Stewart “just stood there uncomfortably, searching for a few words to say.” But this “debacle” wasn’t all Stewart’s fault. It’s about the movies, and No Country for Old Men took home top honors. Would it really “kill the academy to include crowd-pleasers” like action films or comedies? “Usually, academy voters are painfully out of touch with the tastes of the American public. Now the show is a pathetic anachronism too.”

2007 ceremony: “This was the most tedious Oscars show ever,” said Rolling Stone’s Rob Sheffield. There’s a lot to complain about here. “Dumb montages. Dumb comedy bits. And sorry, but after two speeches by Al Gore, several speeches about him and a Melissa Etheridge song,” I’d had enough. “Christ, Al, would it have killed you to just win Tennessee?” Spare us, please.

Does that make Jon Stewart’s 2006 show the best ever?

“How many times do you have to get hit over the head before you figure out who’s hitting you?”

The above quote is attributed to President Harry Truman.  I saw it in an article on Keith Olbermann’s blog and thought it was an apropos headline for the topic…

FOK News – Worst Persons of the Day

[…] our winner, the increasingly hapless Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, who has now reportedly gone into the office remodeling business.

There are two accounts of why workers were seen altering windows at the Capitol in Madison this morning. The first is that many of the windows in the building’s public space have been damaged by protesters and the “locking mechanisms” are being repaired. An alternate view originates at the AFL-CIO blog which insists those aren’t repairs, they’re welds or bolts designed to make it impossible to pass food or other supplies from outside the Capitol through the windows into the hands of those who have made this protest the most effective American political sit-in in decades, maybe since Vietnam.

Either story could be true – Hell, they both could. Independent reporting seems to be too scarce yet to be decisive. (Update: pay no attention to this photo of the bolted window frame, with the head sawed off, courtesy of Tweeter @weezmgk)

But Governor Walker (and I hate to insult Paul, but, are you with me on this? Paul F. Tompkins to play him in the movie?) still wins this contest because new polling suggests that if last November’s election were held anew today, the state would reject the ham-handed Koch-head and elect Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. The interior number of the biggest note: 3% of Republicans surveyed said they had voted for Barrett instead of Walker. Now 10% of Republicans say they would cross party lines. Support for Barrett over Walker in families with union members was only 14% last year; it would be 31% now.

In short, Governor Walker has managed to chase a lot of union members out of the Republican Party. This is the unintended silver lining of awakening, which can be summed up by a line attributed to Harry Truman during the 1948 Presidential Election: “How many times do you have to get hit over the head before you figure out who’s hitting you?”

GOP Demonstrate true meaning of “Job-Killing”…

Republicans fine with increasing unemployment…and they don’t deny that it’s what they’re doing!

The Rachel Maddow Show

Rachel Maddow explains this as clearly as anyone I know:

Part 1

Part 2

Governor gives Wisconsin Democrats an ultimatum

TPM News

Wisconsin Voters Already Have Buyers Remorse About Electing Gov. Scott Walker52% Would Vote For Dem Tom Barrett If Election Were Today

Republican Gov. Scott Walker on Monday gave absent Democratic lawmakers an ultimatum to return to Wisconsin within 24 hours and vote on a proposal to reduce the power of public sector unions or the state would miss out on a debt restructuring.

Walker stepped up the pressure on 14 Senate Democrats who fled the state to avoid a vote on the bill as he prepared to unveil on Tuesday a two-year state budget that he said cuts $1 billion from funding to local governments and schools.

What began as one small state trying to rewrite the rules of labor relations has blown up into what could be the biggest confrontation with American labor unions since then President Ronald Reagan fired striking air traffic controllers in 1981.

For the second time since the controversy erupted, President Barack Obama weighed into the debate on Monday criticizing the Wisconsin plan without mentioning it by name.

“I don’t think it does anybody any good when public employees are denigrated or vilified or their rights are infringed upon,” Obama told the nation’s governors gathered in Washington.

Wisconsin’s Walker immediately issued a response, saying: “I’m sure that President Obama simply misunderstands the issues in Wisconsin.”

Pro-union demonstrators continued to occupy the State Capitol building on Monday after some of them refused to leave on Sunday night. Capitol police, who had allowed the protesters to stay in the building for more than a week, on Monday prevented more from entering even though it was a week day.      Continue reading here…

Defiant Clarence Thomas fires back

Clarence Thomas
Image via Wikipedia


Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas – his impartiality under attack from liberals because of his attendance at a meeting of conservative donors sponsored by the Koch brothers and his wife’s tea party activism – struck a defiant tone in a Saturday night speech in Charlottesville, Va., telling a friendly audience that he and his wife “believe in the same things” and “are focused on defending liberty.” 

Delivering the keynote speech at an annual symposium for conservative law students, Thomas spoke in vague, but ominous, terms about the direction of the country and urged his listeners to “redouble your efforts to learn about our country so that you’re in a position to defend it.”

He also lashed out at his critics, without naming them, asserting they “seem bent on undermining” the High Court as an institution. Such criticism, Thomas warned, could erode the ability of American citizens to fend off threats to their way of life.

“You all are going to be, unfortunately, the recipients of the fallout from that – that there’s going to be a day when you need these institutions to be credible and to be fully functioning to protect your liberties,” he said, according to a partial recording of the speech provided to POLITICO by someone who was at the meeting.

“And that’s long after I’m gone, and that could be either a short or a long time, but you’re younger, and it’s still going to be a necessity to protect the liberties that you enjoy now in this country.”

Thomas spoke at the closing banquet for the symposium, which was sponsored by the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group. Several hundred law students, professors, Federalist Society staffers and guests were in the audience for his speech, which was closed to the press.

Continue reading here…