Trump shifts his tone, promises to make party proud

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Donald Trump sought to reshape his candidacy on Tuesday night, using a teleprompter to deliver a carefully prepared address that cast the presumptive presidential nominee as a champion for ordinary Americans.

The speech was clearly designed to reassure Republicans worried about the billionaire’s candidacy after his remarks criticizing a federal judge provoked cries of racism within his own party.

“You’ve given me the honor to lead the Republican Party to victory this fall,” Trump said. “We’re going to do it, folks. I understand the responsibility of carrying the mantle and I will never ever let you down.”

“I will make you proud of your party and your movement,” he added.

The speech was clearly designed to reassure Republicans worried about the billionaire’s candidacy after his remarks criticizing a federal judge provoked cries of racism within his own party.

“You’ve given me the honor to lead the Republican Party to victory this fall,” Trump said. “We’re going to do it, folks. I understand the responsibility of carrying the mantle and I will never ever let you down.”

“I will make you proud of your party and your movement,” he added.

Trump passed on hot-button issues like his pledge to build a wall along the Southern border, his proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the country, his criticism of Judge Gonzalo Curiel, and declined even to use his preferred nickname for Hillary Clinton – “Crooked Hillary.”

Instead, Trump vowed to work to earn the support of all those who cast ballots for other candidates over the course of the primary.

“To those who voted for someone else in either party, I’ll work hard to earn your support,” Trump said. “I will work very hard to earn that support. To all of those Bernie Sanders supporters who have been left out in the cold by a rigged system of superdelegates, we welcome you with open arms.”

The remarks come as Trump tries to move past one of the most explosive controversies of a presidential campaign in which he has repeatedly pushed the envelope, particularly on matters related to race and ethnicity.

Trump should have been enjoying a victory lap on the last night of GOP primaries after steamrolling a deep field of Republican contenders and clinching the nomination a full month before Hillary Clinton was able to wrap up the Democratic nomination.

Instead, Trump found found himself under siege from Republicans and Democrats alike for comments he made about an Indiana-born federal judge being biased against him because he’s of Mexican descent.

Top Republican leaders from House Speaker Paul Ryan (Wis.) and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) on down have rebuked Trump.

Ryan said that Trump’s remarks are the “textbook definition” of racism, while McConnell demanded the likely GOP standard bearer “get on message.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a fierce Trump critic and former presidential candidate, is urging Republicans who have endorsed Trump to retract their support.

Republicans are also upset that Trump is missing opportunities to go after Democrats for a weak economic recovery and Clinton over an inspector general report that called into question her use of a private email account and server.

Trump tried to get back on message on Tuesday night, saying that he expects build a substantial lead over Clinton in the polls in the coming weeks as he takes aim at the likely Democratic nominee.

“America is getting taken apart piece by piece and auctioned off to the highest bidder,” Trump said. “We’re broke. We owe 19 trillion going quickly to 21 trillion. Our infrastructure is a disaster. Our schools are failing. Crime is rising. People are scared .The last thing we need is Hillary Clinton in the White House or the extension of the Obama disaster.”

Trump said he would give a major speech next week detailing why he believes Clinton is unfit for office.

“The Clintons have turned the politics of personal enrichment into an art form for themselves,” Trump said. “They’ve made hundreds of millions of dollars selling access, selling favors, selling government contracts…secretary Clinton even did all of the work on a totally illegal private server…and the corrupt system is totally protecting her.”

Trump’s speech concluded just moments before Clinton was scheduled to speak at a rally in Brooklyn, where she’s expected to claim victory in the Democratic presidential primary.

As eager as Trump was to go after Clinton, Democrats are equally as eager to have their shot at Trump.

Since Trump’s controversy with the federal judge, many Democrats have branded the likely GOP nominee a racist and a bigot and sought to tie him to down-ballot Republican running for reelection, particularly in the Senate, where the GOP is playing defense as it seeks to protect a fragile majority.

By Jonathan Easley

Search is on for a third-party candidate to take down Trump

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Conservative activists who want a third-party alternative to Donald Trump and Hillary Clintonface one big obstacle: finding the right candidate.

Former Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) would be a unifying figure for conservatives, but his health is in question after a battle with cancer.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), who helped kick off the push for a third-party pro-Constitution candidate in February, has taken himself out of the running, citing obligations to his family.

“The answer is no. Senator Sasse has been clear when asked this before: he has three little kids and the only callings he wants — raising them and serving Nebraskans,” said his spokesman James Wegmann.

The names of Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas) and former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) had both been mentioned, but they removed themselves from consideration by announcing they will support Trump.

Two other potential candidates — Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee, and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, who is expected to win the Libertarian Party’s nomination for president later this year — are non-starters with the conservatives who are involved in discussions about a third-party candidate.

Erick Erickson, the conservative writer and radio host who has organized conference calls about a Trump alternative, said the movement wants a new face, which is not Romney.

“His name has been floated by three separate groups and all of them came to the conclusion that a new face was needed,” he said.

But Erickson added, “I do think it’s possible” for conservatives to rally behind someone.

“Given the antipathy for Trump and Hillary [Clinton], you could put together a compelling ticket that would unite conservatives and the more establishment Republicans and probably pick up some independents along the way,” he said.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) rocked Republican circles on Thursday afternoon when he announced he will not back Trump, at least for now, giving conservatives valuable time to field another option.

Romney and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who both ran against for president, said this week there’s no chance they will vote for Trump, adding to the growing chorus of holdouts within the party establishment.

Romney allies interviewed by The Hill said they are frustrated by the choices before them, but aren’t pushing for him to enter the race.

They believe a third-party or independent bid would be a near impossible for anyone to pull off, and don’t want to see Romney drained of all his political capital over a doomed effort in which he might be blamed for handing the election over to Clinton.

“I don’t want to see him get in unless there was a chance he could win,” one former Romney adviser said. “There’s enormous dissatisfaction with both major party candidates, but it’s too steep a climb. Is there an opening? Sure. Is it realistic? I don’t think so.”

Other conservatives say Johnson, an early advocate of legalizing marijuana who told The Daily Caller he consumed cannabis within the last several weeks, “is a bridge too far to cross.”

Many establishment Republicans and conservatives view Johnson as a fringe figure.

“He might be an outlet for some protest votes, but if your concern with Donald Trump is that he’s not presidential enough, I’m not sure why Gary Johnson would be your guy,” said Ryan Williams, a veteran of Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign.

“I don’t think Gary Johnson was discussed more than three seconds,” said Deborah DeMoss Fonseca, a spokeswoman for the conservatives looking for a Trump alternative.

“The question is, ‘What are our options?’ and that is what is still being discussed and that takes hours and hours and hours,” DeMoss Fonseca added. “We’re working with different groups of people that have different expertise.”

Organizers of the third-party, conservative push estimate it will cost at least $250 million to fund a candidate, and possibly tens or hundreds of millions of dollars more.

The other challenge is navigating the complex rules for getting a presidential candidate on the ballot in all 50 states.

The fundraising and ballot requirements are two major reasons why former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has presidential ambitions and billions of dollars in personal wealth, thought he needed to make a decision about running for the White House by the end of March. He ultimately passed on it.

Conservatives involved in the search for a Trump alternative describe their discussions as decentralized, with various groups holding conference calls and conducting fact-finding missions.

In addition to Erickson and DeMoss Fonseca, other participants include Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, Bill Wichterman, a former aide for former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) who is well-connected among social conservatives, and Bob Fischer, a South Dakota businessman and longtime activist.

They hope that Paul Singer, the billionaire hedge fund manager who helped bankroll the “Never Trump” campaign before Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) dropped out of the presidential race, can be enticed to back a third-party option in the fall. Calls and e-mails to Singer’s office were not returned.

Charles and David Koch, the billionaire industrialists who have funded other conservative causes, are viewed as another potential source of the money. But it will take some cajoling to get them on board.

James Davis, a spokesman for Freedom Partners, the umbrella political group funded by the Kochs, told The Hill that it’s not considering supporting a third-party candidate.

David Koch ran for vice president on the Libertarian Party’s ticket in 1980, which received only 1 percent of the vote.

“There’s a lot of activity between us and a lot of phone calls and emails about who to contact. We’re still reaching out to financial people as well as to people to see if there’s a widespread for a third candidate,” said DeMoss Fonseca. “Six months ago all of us would have said, ‘That’s silly, that’s ridiculous.’

“We want to do something that’s effective and credible,” she added. “For the first time in our lifetimes there are a lot of people and a lot of big Republicans are saying, ‘We can do this but is it too late? Is there still a pathway?’ ”

But other Republican voices in the Never Trump movement are beginning to doubt the viability of a third candidate.

Operatives from the two leading anti-Trump super-PACs did not participate in the recent conference calls.

Katie Packer, a former senior adviser to Mitt Romney who runs the main anti-Trump group, Our Principles PAC, said her group is turning its focus from the presidential race to protecting GOP majorities in the House and the Senate.

“Looking at the data, we’re very worried about incumbent Republicans getting caught up in a flood,” she said. “The first thing we’re looking at is what can be done for down-ballot Republicans. We don’t have any plans to actively oppose Trump in the general election … but we continue to believe he’s terrible for the party, the country, and especially down-ballot Republicans, so we’re looking for opportunities to help them.”

An operative for the Never Trump PAC, a smaller group that has so far focused primarily on digital ad buys, told The Hill they’re also not engaging in the effort to recruit an alternative, but said they might get on board if the right candidate materializes.

By Alexander Bolton and Jonathan Easley

Lindsey Graham Challenges Republicans: ‘Tell Me Why’ You Deny Climate Science

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks during a No Labels Problem Solver convention, Monday, Oct. 12, 2015, in Manchester, N.H. | CREDIT: AP PHOTO/JIM COLE


Today, during a convention in New Hampshire hosted by the bipartisan group No Labels, Republican presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) took a moment to differentiate himself from the rest of the GOP field by talking about climate change.

As one of the only Republican presidential candidates to repeatedly bring up climate change in the press and during campaign stops, Graham began by asking the audience if anyone there believed climate change was real. Nearly half of the attendees raised their hands and applauded.

“I do, too,” Graham said. “So here’s the trade-off. For those of you who believe climate change is real, you’re gonna have to deal with a guy like me who will push a lower carbon economy over time and in a business friendly way. The great trade-off is energy producers and environmentalists in a room trying to find, over a 50 year period, a way to go to a lower-carbon economy while in the meantime responsibly exploring for fossil fuels that we own and trying to create alternative energy in every sector of the economy.”

Graham’s assertion that climate change must be solved in a business-friendly way — a position that includes support for continued fossil fuel extraction — elicited a call of “Keep it in the ground!” from one audience member. An analysis of global fossil fuel reserves published last January inNature found that, in order to avoid catastrophic climate change, the vast majority of existing fossil fuel reserves will need to remain in the ground.

Graham continued by contrasting Democrats who view climate change as a “religion” with Republicans that refuse to accept the mainstream consensus on climate science.

“It is, to me folks, a problem that needs to be solved, not a religion,” Graham said of climate change. “So to my friends on the left who are making this a religion, you’re making a mistake. To my friends on the right who deny the science, tell me why.”

Trotting out a popular climate denier talking point, Graham told the audience that he is “not a scientist,” joking that he received a “D” in science in school only because the teacher didn’t give “F’s.” But, he continued, he has seen first-hand the way that climate change is altering the landscape and lifestyle of places around the world, from Alaska to Antarctica.

“I’ve been to the Antarctic,” Graham told the audience. “I’ve been to Greenland. I’ve been to Alaska and I’ve heard from people who live in these regions how the climate is changing. And when 90 percent of climatologists tell you that it’s real, who am I to tell them they don’t know what they’re talking about?”

Technically, Graham’s comment is incorrect — 97 percent of climate scientists, not 90 percent, believe that climate change is real and that human activity is the primary cause. But Graham’s acceptance of mainstream climate science could work in his favor with voters — according to a recent poll, 90 percent of Americans — across political parties — believe that candidates running for Congress or president should have an understanding of the science that informs public policy.

Graham concluded the climate section of his speech by outlining how he would combat climate change while helping business. The trade-off, Graham said, would include more nuclear power and oil and gas exploration combined with a push toward low-carbon technologies.


Republican “Survivor”: A Proposal for Culling the G.O.P. Field

Voters (and viewers) can’t be expected to take fifteen or twenty Republican primary candidates seriously.
Voters (and viewers) can’t be expected to take fifteen or twenty Republican primary candidates seriously. CREDIT PHOTOGRAPH BY ANDREW HARRER/BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY


A couple of weeks ago, I was driving along the Belt Parkway, listening to Sean Hannity’s radio show, when the right-wing commentator said something that surprised me about the ever-expanding field of Republican primary candidates. This is getting ridiculous, Hannity complained—how are they all supposed to fit on the same stage for a debate?

Hannity’s fears have proved to be well grounded. On Wednesday, the former senator Rick Santorum, who had been the runner-up to Mitt Romney in the 2012 G.O.P. primary, announced his candidacy. On Thursday, it will be the turn of George Pataki, the former governor of New York. Who knows whom Friday will bring? Lindsey Graham? Rick Perry? Donald Trump? Herman (999) Cain? Ted Nugent?

Here, in alphabetical order, are the eight Republican candidates who, by Thursday, will be officially running: Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Pataki, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Santorum. Then there are Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, two front-runners who have all but announced that they are in. Currently in the “exploratory” stage, we have Graham, Trump, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, and the benighted Chris Christie. That makes fifteen, with other outlying possibilities, too.

The number turns out to be too high for Roger Ailes, Hannity’s boss at Fox News. The network (along with Facebook) is set to host the first televised G.O.P. debate, in Cleveland, on August 6th, and it has said that it intends to limit participation to the top ten candidates in the polls, plus those who are tied. “It was a difficult call based on political necessity,” Howard Kurtz, the veteran media reporter, who now works for Fox, explained in a post on Tuesday. “With 17 or 18 Republicans gearing up to run, you simply can’t have a viable debate with all of them. Each candidate would receive a miniscule amount of time. No sustained questioning would be possible. And it would be bad television.”

Not everyone associated with the Republican Party is happy about Fox’s decision. Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Wednesday, Bill Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard, accused Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, of colluding with Fox to cull the field prematurely. “There are fourteen candidates who are serious people,” Kristol said (doubtless prompting a protest call from Trump). “I think they all deserve to be on the stage.” He proposed that they have two debates, with the candidates split up randomly. “Republicans would be interested. They wouldn’t turn off the TV halfway through.”

Kristol raises a good point. If Fox applied its proposed criteria on the basis of current polling data collated by Real Clear Politics, Santorum, who won eleven state primaries in 2012, would barely make the cut. Fiorina, the only female candidate, who has reportedly impressed Republican audiences in Iowa and New Hampshire, would miss out. So would Graham, Jindal, and Kasich, all experienced elected officials. That doesn’t seem fair, or even particularly democratic. So what to do?

The G.O.P. needs a procedure that affords all of the candidates an opportunity to impress while also acknowledging that voters (and viewers) can’t be expected to take all fifteen or twenty candidates seriously. One solution might be to turn the early stages of the G.O.P. primary into a version of “Survivor,” the long-running reality-television series.

Here’s how it could work. Following Kristol’s suggestion, Fox and Facebook would hold two debates on August 6th, with the candidates drawing lots to decide whether they appeared on the first or the second one. Each would receive the same amount of airtime, and the questions in the two debates would be broadly similar.

For the second debate, which CNN is scheduled to host from the Reagan Library, in Simi Valley, on September 16th, things would be different. A limit of twelve candidates would be imposed. Rather than follow the “Survivor” template literally, and have the candidates themselves decide who gets to appear at the debate and who doesn’t, it would be best to rely on surveys of likely Republican voters. The top dozen candidates in the poll of polls on September 9th, a week before the debate, would make the cut; everybody else would miss out. I’d leave it to the network executives and the R.N.C. to decide whether this debate would need to be split in two, like the first one. (CNN has suggested an alternative format for its event, using the full slate of candidates, in which the top ten candidates appear in one debate and the rest in another.)

The winnowing process wouldn’t end there. For the third debate, which will take place in October, there would be another cut, to ten candidates, with the poll of polls again deciding who is invited. And for the fourth debate, in November, there would be a final cut, to eight candidates.

By that stage, the G.O.P.’s Iowa caucus would be on the horizon—it’s now slated for February 2nd, but may well move up a bit—and the field might be starting to narrow of its own accord, regardless. But for now, and for the next few months, there are too many candidates, and some way of treating them equitably needs to be found.

My solution perhaps isn’t the best. Quite probably, it would favor candidates who have raised enough money to launch advertising campaigns and boost their poll numbers—but the current system does that anyway. Another possible objection is that focussing attention on the minor players would blur the message of the front-runners. I doubt that would happen. Bush, Rubio, and Walker would still get the bulk of the media’s attention.

On the upside, shifting to the “Survivor” model would afford everyone an opportunity, and it would inject a bit of excitement into the race early on. Over to you, Reince!

John Cassidy

Congress Debunks Congress’s Nuttiest Benghazi Theories

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

The Daily Beast

The new House report is tearing apart dozens of GOP claims about the 2012 attack. From Darrell Issa’s ‘stand down order’ to Lindsey Graham’s Hillary slam, see who was discredited.
The House Intelligence Committee’s report on the 2012 terrorist attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, is undermining years of GOP talking points—and some Republicans, understandably, aren’t taking it well.Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, for one, says the committee, led by outgoing Michigan Republican Mike Rogers, was “co-opted by the CIA” and produced a “fundamentally misleading “ report. Even Rogers is backtracking, saying he didn’t examine the role of the State Department and the White House in the response to the attack.Back in May, Rogers warned that his colleagues “should not let this investigation get into conspiracy theories,” and the committee seems to have avoided them. Instead the report resolves many questions about the attack that cost the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, and discredits several of the most histrionic claims about it.

Here are five claims by current and former members of Congress about Benghazi that the report at least partially rebuts:

1. The safety of American personnel at the American consulate in Libya was undermined by a stand down order.

The report makes clear that despite what outgoing House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) has insisted, there was no stand down order: “No CIA officer was told to stand down.” Instead, “there were mere tactical disagreements about the speed with which the team should depart prior to securing additional security assets,” and officers on the ground acted in “a timely and appropriate manner,” it concludes.

2. The Obama administration ignored calls for help and committedfatal errors and possible crimesin its response.

Rebutting repeated claims by fringe Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX), the report finds that those on the ground in Benghazi “received all military support available…there was neither a stand down order nor a denial of air support, and no American was left behind.” Further, while the report raises concerns about the process behind writing the talking points then-U.N. ambassador Susan Rice used to discuss the attack on television, the report concludes: “U.S. personnel made reasonable tactical decisions.”

3. CIA agents present were polygraphed repeatedly in an effort to determine if any of them were leaking to the media.

While Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) has comparedthe Obama administration’s “coverup” of Benghazi to Watergate, the committee “found no evidence that any officer was intimidated, wrongly forced to sign a nondisclosure agreement or otherwise kept from speaking to Congress or polygraphed because of their presence at Benghazi.” Needless to say, the report also concludes that unlike Watergate, the “Executive Branch agencies fully cooperated with the Committee’s investigation.”

4. Hillary Clinton got away with murder with Benghazi.

Sorry, Lindsey Graham: “There was no intelligence failure prior to the attacks,” the report says, there was “no specific tactical warning” of any threat to the consulate in Benghazi. Despite the South Carolina senator’s claims, the committee found that while there was sufficient intelligence to discern that the security situation in Libya was deteriorating, no intelligence indicated “planning or intentions for attacks on the Benghazi facility on or about September 11, 2012.”

5. Americans begged for help at Benghazi and none ever came. The only rescuers were Glenn Doherty and Tyrone Woods, two former Navy SEALs.

Rep.Michele Bachmann, (R-MN) said Doherty and Woods “defied orders and chose to go to the aid of their brothers” when no other help was forthcoming. The report makes clear that Doherty responded to the attack as a part of a team under orders from the CIA station chief in Tripoli and that others came immediately to the aid of the Americans in Benghazi. Resources were promptly diverted to rescue those under attack, the committee found. Bachmann’s other claim—that the Benghazi attack might be the judgment of God—was not addressed by the report.

Senators Admit Congress Really Sucked In 2013

Joint Session of Congress

The Huffington Post


Below are the full reactions of senators, lightly edited for clarity:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)

“That’s a good question. We were not attacked, uh, to the extent that we were on 9/11.

“We showed a level of dysfunction that has seldom been reached. Maybe the only other time was before the union dissolved. The good things are that it could have been worse. The final story on 2013 for me is it could have been worse.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)

“What good happened? A lot of the things Obama wanted to get done didn’t get done, like he wanted to avoid sequestration, which would have put one and two-tenths trillion [dollars] back into spending.

“That’s very positive. We got 17.2 trillion in debt, and you don’t want to add another one trillion and two-tenths to it.”

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.)

“Well, the government isn’t completely closed, is it? What good happened this year? I only have three years left, that’s what happened that’s good.”

(Why was it so bad?) “That’s all about leadership. If you have good leadership, you have good progress. If you don’t, you don’t. And that’s not a partisan statement — that’s both sides.”

Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.)

“Oh, man. That’s the toughest question I’ve had all year.

“It is surprisingly hard. This is the most frustrating year of any of my years in the Congress — House or Senate — because so few major issues went addressed, starting with the fiscal situation, and then bumping along through all the crises and so forth. What good happened this year? The best thing that happened this year is that we finally got word late last night [Dec. 19] that we’re going to be done. I think we all believe that it can’t get worse than this year, so maybe next year will be better.”

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.)

“That’s a really, uh … you know, look, from my perspective, not a great deal. I mean our foreign policy, our credibility around the world is continuing to shatter. Look at Syria. I can’t think of a lot of good, I really cannot. I have to tell you, this year in many ways for me has been one of the most productive. But as I leave here and look at just overall what’s actually happened, it’s not been a good year for the United States, so it’s hard for me to think of much. I’m sorry. I’m usually very upbeat and optimistic. I’m sorry.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), walking with Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.)

Rubio: “What good happened this year? Well, I’ll get back to you.”
Casey: “We got a budget bill!”
Rubio, yelling as elevator doors close: “We’re still America — that’s what’s good!”

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)

“We finally got a semblance of a budget. We had the student loans — try to get some stability to that, lower interest rates. And we were able to drive both sides further apart. I don’t know if that’s good, but that’s what happened. That’s facts.

“With [Republican Sen.] Susan Collins, we were able to put a bipartisan group together. We got the governors caucus started, which is really bipartisan, so we’ve got to see if we can carry that and hopefully get a little better direction to get things accomplished. It’s gonna happen if you have relationships, so you have to work on that.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)

“We elevated the stories of survivors of sexual assault to make it a national debate and make sure victims’ voices are heard. It was one of my highest priorities.

“I have lots of personal successes, but those are all for [sons] Theo and Henry. I think that’s it.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), walking with Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.)

Whitehouse: “We cleared the filibuster away from nominees …”
Wicker: “We were not attacked by foreign governments.”
Whitehouse: “The economy continued to improve.”

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.)

“There are a lot of good things. You know, we’re all blessed. This country’s blessed. We’re still standing. There’s a lot of things where people said the sky is falling, but it hasn’t fell.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)

“What good happened this year? [Chuckle, pause, asks if that means with his family or the Senate.] A good report from the president’s review committee on the NSA.”

Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.)

“Give Lizzie, my press secretary, a call, and we can set something up.”

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.)

“My son did great in soccer and cross country. When you said good, I immediately thought of home, not Washington, D.C.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)

“You know I think, uh, I’m having trouble trying to come up with something good. I think it’s good that we have exposed the surveillance of Americans without a warrant, and we’re going to try to do something about it. It seems like there’s some consensus in that direction.”

[It’s pointed out that his example is actually rather negative.] “I tried to turn it into a positive. You know, really, we abandoned the sequester caps, and really, I go home disappointed with the year.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)

“I think that the budget thing was good. I think that will avert another shutdown. I can’t think of a hell of a lot of things besides that, to be honest with you. The observers say it’s the least productive Congress in history, and I don’t disagree with that. We did some good stuff on that defense bill. Did some good stuff on that. I’m digging for the pony here.”

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.)

Murphy: “The Red Sox won the World Series.”
Booker: “That’s painful. That’s bad!”
Murphy: “Cory Booker got elected to the United States Senate.”

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.)

“What good? [Chuckle] Well, you really threw me for a loop. Oh, God. We did pass some bills — the WRDA [Water Resources Development Act] bill. There’s a whole series of bills that people worked on — the compounding [pharmacies] bill — they worked pretty hard on. These are bills that did not make the front page or even the first five pages, but they’ve made a big impact to the folks that really care about them. In fact, I even have a list of eight or nine of them, but they really haven’t attracted any attention. On those bills — they were bipartisan — we worked hard, mostly on the HELP [Health, Education, Labor and Pensions] Committee.

“You know, everybody talks, ‘Where’s the farm bill? Why didn’t we get all of the high-profile stuff?’ — and then turning the Senate into the House, which is a bad thing, and our response. Everybody focuses on that. But I think there’s a reservoir of commitment here, on tax reform, on the tax extender package, and other things that really count. Foreign policy is a big one. I just think you have to understand that there are two very different opinions and philosophies here on the part of Republicans and Democrats, but we can occasionally build a bridge. And we’ll keep doing it in spite of 2014, which happens to be an even-numbered year, and you know what happens then.”

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)

“What good happened this year? Well, I think a lot of Senate relationships were strained by what happened late in the year, but I think they’re going to survive. In the Senate, those relationships and friendships matter because you only have 99 colleagues. And, uh, uh, most of the good things that happened for me were with my family and friends, and while people had their challenges generally, this was a good year for my family and for most of the people I know.”

Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.)

“I had a lot of good experiences with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, in getting amendments, working together on amendments and bills, and getting them passed by the Senate. I think the Senate took on a lot of tough issues. If you look at what the Senate passed, it was a number of big issues, from budget to immigration, and gun control was up, and I think the list goes on and on.”

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.)

“I think we’re getting close on the farm bill. Obviously passing a budget. I think ENDA [Employment Non-Discrimination Act] was a good outcome, immigration reform. I think as we focus on all the negative, there were some pretty amazing things. I don’t think anyone felt we were going to do comprehensive immigration reform. ENDA had been hanging around for a long time. And I think the budget, as I understand, is the first time since 1986 that a divided Congress has produced a budget. I tend to look at the good side of things. There was plenty bad, though.”

Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska)

“We passed a budget for the first time in four years. … That’s not a bad thing. We got a defense authorization. A lot of appointments done. The economy, I think the economy, we saw the report yesterday — 4.1 percent GDP — better than people expected. Economy’s better, retail sales are up, consumer confidence is up, and deficit is down. That’s good news.”

Sen. Angus King (I-Maine)

“Number one, getting the first budget in four years. And I don’t know if you were aware, but I just learned this is the first budget out of a divided Congress, with the House [under a] different [party], since 1986. I think that’s significant. It wasn’t the most picturesque process in the world, but it was done though bipartisan negotiation. That’s a big deal. That’s a very big deal. Getting the defense bill done, I feel positive. We had some good bipartisan work on immigration. We had some good bipartisan work on student loans. So there were some bright spots. Not a very productive year — I’m not going to argue that.

“I think this whole business with the rules, we need to have some continued discussions. It’s trying to find the right balance between respecting minority rights and not facilitating obstruction.”

[He’s asked whether he’s still glad he ran for the Senate last year.] “Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. You’re dealing with public policy at the highest level, and for a person like myself who’s curious, likes public policy and likes to try to fix things, it’s a great place to be. I’ve had some very frustrating moments. The shutdown, the vote on [gun] background checks was a downer, but by and large, I feel pretty good.”

Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.)

“I think a number of things. We’re right on the verge of getting the farm bill done, we’re piecing that together. We got the WRDA [Water Resources Development Act] bill done. So really a lot of things have gotten done when you take away the budget issues. That’s really where we, you know, where we have a problem agreeing — in the amount of money we’re going to spend in the future and increase taxes, increase revenue to get those dollars. That’s really where the concern is at.

“I’d like to have seen a lot more things voted on. I don’t have any problems at all casting votes. I think the amendment process needs to be fixed, [so] members can offer amendments. That’s how you avoid what happened with the military pay issue that we’ve got, how things like that are allowed to go forward. That doesn’t happen if everybody’s consulted.”

At Stand Your Ground Hearing, Ted Cruz Argues Florida Law Helps African-Americans

Ted Cruz
Sen Ted Cruz – (R-TX)      Credit AP

Here are some stats about the Stand Your Ground (SYG) laws compiled by Media Matters:

  • Under SYG, Homicides With Black Victims Much More Likely To Be Found Justified
  • SYG Laws Are Linked To An Increase In Homicides
  • Studies Show “Statistically Significant” Rise In Homicides In SYG States.

Think Progress

With Trayvon Martin’s mother sitting just across from him, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) claimed that Stand Your Ground is beneficial for African-Americans. At the Tuesday Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing, Cruz claimed, “In Florida, the data show that African-American defendants have availed themselves of the Stand Your Ground law more frequently than Anglo defendants.” Indirectly citing a Daily Caller story that said black defendants were successful in 55 percent of fatal cases compared to 53 percent of whites, Cruz said this “isn’t about inflaming racial tensions though some might try to use it to do that.”

Shortly after Cruz described Stand Your Ground as protecting innocent victims from violent aggressors, Sybrina Fulton and Lucia McBath, the mothers of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, delivered emotional testimony about their murdered children.

GOP witness John Lott, president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, also argued Cruz’s point at length. “Poor blacks who live in high-crime urban areas are not only the most likely victims of crime, they are also the ones who benefit the most from Stand Your Ground laws,” he said according to prepared testimony. Later, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said he found Lott’s argument “compelling,” and that he did not see how the law “has a racial injustice about it.”

This is an oversimplified, if not misleading, portrayal of the racial disparity in Stand Your Ground. It looks only at the rate of successful Florida claims based on the shooter’s race, which indeed is slightly higher for black shooters than white shooters.

By no means does this mean blacks “benefit” under the law.

A report from the Congressional Research Service on inter-racial shootings nationwide shows disparity at work. Without looking specifically at Stand Your Ground, CRS found a clear racial disparity in shootings that were ruled to be justified, as well as an increase in cases of justifiable white-on-black homicides after states began enacting the ALEC model legislation in 2005. According tothe report, white-on-black shootings were considered justified far more often than black-on-white shootings.

The same data that Florida Cruz cited also shows that killers are far more likely to go free when their victims are black. In those cases with black or Hispanic victims, the killings were found justified by the Stand Your Ground law 78 percent of the time, compared to 56 percent in cases with white victims. The racial disparity among victims has also been confirmed by other studies, like the Urban Institute’s finding that in Stand Your Ground states, white-on-black homicides are 354 percent more likely to be ruled justified than white-on-white homicides.

Friday Blog Roundup – 8-9-2013

Lest We Forget….

The Day In 100 Seconds

Good Lord, Everyone Hates McConnell

Obama To Hold News Conference Friday

16 Medal of Freedom Honorees Are Named

Obama-Putin talks are off, but the fallout is unclear

Lindsey Graham’s challenger suggests that he’s a gay

2 cups of cocoa a day might keep the Alzheimer’s away

U.S. Pulls Staff From Pakistan Consulate as Violence Continues

Fourteenth Woman Comes Forward Alleging Harassment By San Diego Mayor

Rush Limbaugh thinks real lesson of Filner story is that people are too mean to Rush Limbaugh

For every question, there is a Reagan

Rep. Darrell Issa (R – Calif.)

The Maddow Blog

When Ronald Reagan left office in early 1989, several conservative activists feared history may not be especially kind to the two-term Republican, who spent most of his second term under a cloud of scandal, corruption, and mismanagement. The “Reagan Legacy Project” intended to give the former president a public-relations boost, urging state and local governments to start naming things — schools, bridges, courthouses, highways, etc. — after Reagan.

And for the most part, the p.r. scheme has been a great success. Reagan’s name is everywhere, and the Republican icon is far more popular with Americans now than when he was actually president. Missteps like selling weapons to Iran to finance an illegal war in central America have been largely swept under the rug.

But those preoccupied with the Reagan “legacy” never seem satisfied. Congressional Republicans, for example, have already built a Reagan building downtown and forced National Airport to change its name, but it’s now time to start renaming bodies of water, too.

The House Natural Resources Committee will likely approve legislation Wednesday that would name 3.4 million square nautical miles of ocean and thousands of miles of coastline after the late President Ronald Reagan.

Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-Calif.) legislation would rename the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which generally extends from three miles to 200 miles offshore, as the Ronald Wilson Reagan Exclusive Economic Zone…. The late Reagan, a Californian like Issa, established the EEZ with a 1983 presidential proclamation that declared the nation’s sovereign rights for exploring, exploiting and conserving offshore resources, including energy.

Yes, the man the RNC once literally referred to as “Ronaldus Magnus” apparently doesn’t have quite enough stuff named after him — a problem Issa is eager to address by changing the name of nearly all of the water surrounding the United States. Our coastal waters would necessarily be known, forevermore, as Reagan waters.

Why? Because congressional Republicans say so.

It comes a year after Mitt Romney proposed the creation of a Reagan Zone Of Economic Freedom — no, seriously — that would include all of the countries around China, which would be bolstered by their new powers bestowed upon them by magical Reaganism.

What I find especially curious about all of this is that today’s Republican Party, radicalized to an extent unseen in the United States in recent history, has absolutely no use for the Reagan legacy. None.

Bob Dole, Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee, and others have all said in recent years that Reagan couldn’t even win a GOP primary by today’s standards, at least with his policy record, and I’m fairly certain they’re correct.

As we talked about last year, Reagan raised the debt ceiling 18 times, and he supportedthe precursor to the Buffett Rule. In his first term, Reagan raised taxes when unemployment was nearing 11% — imagine trying this today — and proceeded to raise taxes seven out of the eight years he was in office. It’s a fact the right finds terribly inconvenient, but “no peacetime president has raised taxes so much on so many people” as Reagan.

Reagan gave amnesty to undocumented immigrants, expanded the size of the federal government, tripled the debt, backed bailouts of domestic industries, and called for a world without nuclear weapons. Reagan also routinely compromised with Democrats, met with our most hated enemy without preconditions, and was willing to criticize Israel.

And then there’s his gubernatorial record: in California, Reagan increased spending, raised taxes, helped create the nation’s first state-based emissions standards, signed an abortion-rights bill, and expanded the nation’s largest state-based Medicaid program (socialized health insurance).

Maybe today’s GOP policymakers should focus less on naming stuff after Reagan and focus more on governing like him?

10 things you need to know today: June 23, 2013

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden left Hong Kong for Russia on Sunday after extradition attempts failed.
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden left Hong Kong for Russia on Sunday after extradition attempts failed.

The Week

Snowden lands in Moscow after fleeing Hong Kong, flood tolls reach record levels in Canada and India, and more

U.S. intelligence fugitive Edward Snowden has landed in Moscow after flying out of Hong Kong “on his own accord” on Sunday, from where the U.S. was seeking his extradition on charges of espionage. The former NSA contractor is reportedly expected to fly on to Cuba en route to Venezuela. Hong Kong said Washington had failed to meet the requirements for extradition.[BBCWall Street Journal]

President Obama announced in an online video that he will unveil a national plan to combat climate change in a speech Tuesday. Obama says he’ll lay out his vision for reducing carbon pollution, preparing the U.S. for the effects of climate change and leading other nations in the global effort. White House aides have suggested the steps will include renewable energy and energy-efficient appliances and buildings. [Huffington Post]

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a chief GOP proponent of immigration reform, said on Fox News Sunday that he’s confident the Gang of Eight bill can net the 70 votes he’s been shooting for. Graham said the bill, which includes a “border surge” plan, would offer sufficient southern border security. The Senate could pass a reform package by the end of the week, but the bill could face a tall hurdle in the Republican-controlled House. [Politico]

Gunmen burst into a small hotel in northern Pakistan early Sunday, killing nine foreign hikers. The victims were Ukrainian and Chinese, while another Chinese man managed to safely escape. The attack took place between midnight and 1 a.m., said Ali Sher, a senior police official. He said the violence occurred in Fairy Meadows in Gilgit Baltistan province. [CNN]

A biplane carrying a wing-walker (a daredevil who traverses the length of an aircraft during flight) crashed into a field during an air show in Ohio at Dayton International Airport on Saturday, killing the stunt performer and the pilot. Jane Wicker and her veteran pilot, Charles Schwenker, were performing stunts at the 39th Vectren Air Show, which will continue today. [NBC News]

While as many as 100,000 people in the Canadian province of Alberta have been forced out of their homes as torrential rain continues to cause serious flooding, flash floods, and landslides in northern India have killed at least 1,000 people in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand in the past week. Both tolls are expected to rise as harsh weather persists in both regions. [New York TimesBBC]

“Supermoon,” the largest and brightest moon since 1993, officially arrived at about 7 a.m. EDT Sunday morning, as the moon makes its closest swing by Earth this year (perigee). About a half hour later, the moon reached full status, making it appear 12 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than a regular full moon. The effect should linger for a few nights. [NBC News, Christian Science Monitor]

Two weeks after temporarily handing over The Daily Show desk to John Oliver, Jon Stewart paid a visit to his Egyptian counterpart Bassem Youssef, who hosts the country’s Daily Showequivalent, The Program (Al-Bernameg). Youssef and Stewart discussed Stewart’s upcoming Jordan-set film, the trouble with satire, and taxi drivers. [New York]

State police officers and dogs searched the home of New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez for more than 3½ hours on Saturday as they continued to investigate the killing of a semi-pro football player whose body was found about a mile away. Authorities are expected to execute an arrest warrant at some point for Hernandez for obstruction of justice. [ESPN]

Fans of Southern chef Paula Deen are lambasting her soon-to-be former employer Food Network for dropping the longtime star after her admitted use of the n-word. Angry messages piled up Saturday on the network’s Facebook page, with many Deen fans threatening to change the channel for good. Deen and her brother are being sued by a former manager of their restaurant who says she was harassed and worked in an environment rife with innuendo and racial slurs. [Washington Post]