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Rest in peace, Jim Jeffords

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Aug 18, 2014 at 20:50:00 PM CDT

Former U.S. Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont passed away today at the age of 80. When he was first elected to Congress in 1974, New England Republicans were well represented in Washington, DC, and were more progressive than many southern Democrats in the Capitol. By the time he retired in 2006, only a few Congressional Republicans hailed from states to the north and east of New York.

Jeffords will be most remembered for becoming an independent in May 2001, shifting control of the Senate to Democrats just a few months into George W. Bush's presidency. Emily Langer notes in her Washington Post obituary that Jeffords had been out of step with his party on many occasions before then.

In 1981, while serving in the House, he was the only Republican to oppose President Ronald Reagan's tax cuts. Later, as a member of the Senate, Mr. Jeffords opposed President George H.W. Bush's nomination of Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court and publicly agonized before supporting the president on the invasion of Iraq during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

During the Democratic administration of President Bill Clinton, Mr. Jeffords broke with his party by backing the president's health-care plan and voting against the articles of impeachment brought against him in connection with the Monica Lewinsky affair.

Even so, leaving the GOP caucus was a difficult choice for Jeffords. You can watch his May 24, 2001 speech here or read the transcript at the Burlington Free Press website. Iowa's senior Senator Chuck Grassley was among the GOP colleagues most hurt by Jeffords' defection. Speaking to reporters on that day in 2001, Jeffords said his meeting with Republican senators had been

the most emotional time that I have ever had in my life, with my closest friends urging me not to do what I was going to do, because it affected their lives, and very substantially. I know, for instance, the chairman of the finance committee has dreamed all his life of being chairman. He is chairman about a couple of weeks, and now he will be no longer the chairman. All the way down the line, I could see the anguish and the disappointment as I talked.

So many elected officials have remained loyal to parties that no longer represent their views. It's hard to redefine one's political identity and jeopardize longtime relationships. Jeffords stands out because he took a painful step for principles he believed in.

Incidentally, Grassley focused on the policy implications of Jeffords' switch, not his personal loss of power. As it happens, he didn't have to wait long for another chance to chair the Senate Finance Committee, from January 2003 through December 2006.

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Five good reads on Ronald Reagan and race-based appeals

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jul 24, 2014 at 21:42:35 PM CDT

Republicans have been long been masters at demanding that prominent Democrats apologize for some obscure person's offensive comment. Today the Black Hawk County Republicans used this tried and true technique to score a story by the Des Moines Register's chief politics reporter. In a now-deleted post on the Black Hawk County Democrats' Facebook page, a volunteer shared a graphic comparing Presidents Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. Among other things, the graphic described Reagan as a "white supremacist."

Jennifer Jacobs' story leads with a Republican press release and includes an apology from the chair of the Black Hawk County Democrats for this "unfortunate" and "unacceptable" post. However, nowhere does Jacobs hint at why anyone would think to apply this label to Reagan in the first place. Maybe she's playing dumb, or maybe she's too young to remember.

Sad to say, the U.S. has had more than a handful of white supremacist presidents. I don't think Reagan was one of them. But I recommend the following reads on his use of racially charged language to win support for his political agenda.

Ian Haney-Lopez provides a good overview of how Reagan "used coded racial appeals to galvanize white voters."

During the 1980 presidential campaign, Reagan traveled to Philadelphia, Mississippi, site of the most notorious murders of the civil rights movement, to deliver this speech declaring his support for "states' rights." (full transcript) As Bob Herbert wrote many years later, "Everybody watching the 1980 campaign knew what Reagan was signaling at the fair. Whites and blacks, Democrats and Republicans - they all knew. The news media knew. The race haters and the people appalled by racial hatred knew. And Reagan knew."

David Love chronicles Reagan's "troubling legacy" on race. Not only did he oppose the Voting Rights Act of 1965, during the 1980 campaign he criticized that law as "humiliating to the South."

In 1981, Reagan White House aide Lee Atwater gave a remarkably frank interview about the GOP's "Southern strategy." He described how overtly racist political rhetoric evolved into conservative slogans about busing or economic policies that hurt black people more than whites.

Peter Dreier reminds us that Reagan's "indifference to urban problems was legendary" and notes that his administration "failed to prosecute or sanction banks that violated the Community Reinvestment Act, which prohibits racial discrimination in lending."

On a related note, Reagan's riff about "welfare queens" is perhaps the most famous example of how he used racial code words. Josh Levin published a fascinating profile of the con artist who inspired that part of Reagan's stump speech.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Mid-week open thread: Equal rights edition

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 07:05:00 AM CST

Here's an open thread for discussing anything on your mind, Bleeding Heartland readers. Most Iowans I've run into lately are a little down about the seemingly endless cold winter. (Single-digit highs in the Des Moines area today, and the 10-day forecast shows only one day that might reach the 30s.) How about some good news?

Dominoes continue to fall in the march toward equal rights for LGBT Americans. Yesterday Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a bill that would have allowed private businesses to discriminate against gay customers because of their religious beliefs. I posted an excerpt from her veto statement below. Before Brewer announced her decision, both of Arizona's Republican U.S. senators, Jeff Flake and John McCain, spoke out against the legislation. Even a few years ago I would not have expected conservative Republicans to take a stand against this kind of discrimination.  

Meanwhile, last summer's U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down a key provision of the Defense Against Marriage Act is influencing other judicial rulings. Yesterday a federal judge struck down the Texas ban on same-sex marriage, only two weeks after a similar ruling came down in Virginia. Federal judges struck down Utah's same-sex marriage ban in December and Oklahoma's in January. Eventually the U.S. Supreme Court will need to weigh in on a question it ducked last summer: whether state constitutional amendments on marriage violate equal protection rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution.

And now for something completely different: "74,476 Reasons You Should Always Get The Bigger Pizza." Granted, the author doesn't take into account any lingering New Year's resolutions.

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 174 words in story)

Scott Brown and Rick Santorum: same goal, different paths

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 10:18:33 AM CST

Scott Brown and Rick Santorum have a lot in common besides both visiting Iowa this week. Both are former U.S. senators who lost re-election bids. Both are considering running for president in 2016. Both claim humble roots and have called on the Republican Party to do more to appeal to working-class voters.

The two men have very different views on how GOP candidates can accomplish that goal.

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Republicans suddenly see a downside to Reaganism and Citizens United

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Aug 06, 2013 at 10:06:00 AM CDT

Your unintentional comedy for the week: Republican National Committee and Republican Party of Iowa leaders freaking out over lengthy planned television broadcasts about Hillary Clinton. Republicans now threaten not to co-sponsor any presidential debates with CNN or NBC if those networks move forward with a documentary about the former first lady and secretary of state and a miniseries starring Diane Lane, respectively. The RNC is appalled by the "thinly veiled attempt at putting a thumb on the scales of the 2016 presidential election," while the Iowa GOP is upset by the lack of "journalistic integrity."

What a pathetic display of weakness and hypocrisy.

Under the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling, corporations can make and broadcast movies about political figures, and such activity is not considered "electioneering communication" that must be funded through a registered political action committee (PAC). The Citizens United case arose because of a (very negative) corporate movie about Hillary Clinton. I didn't agree with or welcome Citizens United, but Republicans were happy to treat corporations as people with unlimited free speech in the political sphere. Who are they to tell CNN and NBC not to make money by airing films that could draw a large potential audience?

I'm old enough to remember when prime-time television about controversial political topics had to be balanced with an opposing point of view. But under the GOP's sainted President Ronald Reagan, the Federal Communications Commission voted to "abolish its fairness doctrine on the ground that it unconstitutionally restricts the free-speech rights of broadcast journalists." Democrats didn't like it, but elections have consequences. As a result, CNN and NBC can air films about any political figure as frequently as they believe they can profit from doing so.

P.S. - RNC Chair Reince Priebus and Iowa GOP Chair A.J. Spiker wouldn't be making this threat if they believed in GOP talking points about Benghazi or Hillary being "old news."  

Discuss :: (10 Comments)

Hillary Clinton as "old news"? Not likely

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jul 02, 2013 at 06:40:00 AM CDT

Ronald Reagan was 69 years old in 1980 and 73 years old in 1984. George H.W. Bush was 64 when first elected president and 68 when he ran for re-election. John McCain was 71 when nominated for president in 2008. Yet Republican politicians and strategists appear to believe that Hillary Clinton's age and long time on the national stage will be potent factors working against her possible candidacy in 2016. One experienced GOP campaign hand even believes Democrats will raise concerns about Clinton's age before Republicans will.

Dream on.  

There's More... :: (9 Comments, 249 words in story)

GOP "autopsy" discussion thread (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Mar 18, 2013 at 16:40:00 PM CDT

The Republican National Committee released a so-called "autopsy" on the 2012 election results today. You can read the full report on the "Growth and Opportunity Project" here. I've posted a few excerpts, links and thoughts after the jump.

Any comments about the GOP's rebuilding and rebranding effort are welcome in this thread.

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Rob Portman: New marriage equality hero?

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Mar 16, 2013 at 15:10:00 PM CDT

Yesterday Rob Portman of Ohio became the first sitting Republican U.S. senator to endorse marriage equality. In a guest editorial for the Columbus Post-Dispatch, Portman explained that he reconsidered his opinion on gay marriage after his son came out of the closet.

As a rule, I welcome any public support for marriage equality from Republican ranks. It's nice to see a current elected official join the long list of campaign professionals and former GOP office-holders who support civil marriage rights. Still, something about Portman's comments yesterday rubbed me the wrong way.

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Weekend open thread: Frightening news

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Feb 24, 2013 at 10:42:06 AM CST

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread.

To get the conversation started, I've posted some scary or disturbing news after the jump.

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Weekend open thread: Everything but the Harkin news

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 07:10:00 AM CST

Busy weekend in Iowa politics! I'm continuing to update the post on Tom Harkin retiring with reactions and speculation about possible Senate candidates. Here's an open thread for anything else on your mind.

A bunch of links that caught my eye this week are after the jump.

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 1688 words in story)

Weekend open thread: Kerry to Secretary of State edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Dec 16, 2012 at 07:40:00 AM CST

Catching up on news from this week, UN Ambassador Susan Rice withdrew her name from consideration for secretary of state in President Barack Obama's cabinet. Republicans had been hounding her for weeks over public comments she made soon after the September 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya.

CNN reported yesterday that as expected, Obama will now name Senator John Kerry to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. I had concerns about Rice in that job because of her financial interest in seeing the Keystone XL oil pipeline completed. But it was phenomenally stupid for Obama administration officials to leak that Kerry was plan B for secretary of state. That gave Senate Republicans every incentive to throw a temper tantrum over Rice. A special election in Massachusetts means just-defeated Scott Brown has a chance to come back to the Senate. Surprise, surprise: Republicans are going to confirm Kerry with no problems.

Although Obama hasn't caved yet on letting some of the Bush tax cuts expire, the president still has a bad habit of rewarding people who don't deal with him in good faith. Senate Republicans had no problem confirming Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state in 2005, even though she had been national security adviser at the time the Bush administration failed to anticipate and prevent the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington. Obama acknowledged what he called "unfair and misleading attacks" on Susan Rice, yet he is giving Republicans a chance to narrow the Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate anyway.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

Discuss :: (6 Comments)

I really don't believe that she'll stick to that position

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Dec 12, 2012 at 18:08:32 PM CST

Outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, asked by Barbara Walters about running for president:

"I've said I really don't believe that that's something I will do again," says Clinton. "I am so grateful I had the experience of doing it before. I think there are lots of ways to serve, so I'll continue to serve." [...]

Clinton adds, "I just want to see what else is out there. I've been doing this incredibly important and satisfying work in Washington as I say for 20 years. I want to get out and spend some time looking at what else I can do to contribute."

That's the least convincing non-denial denial I've heard in a while. The next Democratic presidential nomination is Hillary Clinton's if she wants it. I don't see her turning her back on that chance.

UPDATE: I am in rare agreement with Newt Gingrich: if Hillary runs for president in 2016, "the Republican party today is incapable of competing at that level."

Discuss :: (6 Comments)

Some people never learn

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 19:15:00 PM CST

The Russian expression "stepping on the same rake twice" means to repeat a stupid mistake without learning from the adverse consequences. That idiom came to mind when I saw that the Club for Growth and Senator Jim DeMint's Senate Conservatives Fund are already on the warpath against a strong Republican candidate in one of the 2014 U.S. Senate races.
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Steve King ready to battle immigration reform, Obama's executive order

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Nov 12, 2012 at 08:05:00 AM CST

Days after winning a sixth term in the U.S. House, Representative Steve King is ready to battle fellow Republicans in the House and Senate who are ready to deal on comprehensive immigration reform. He also confirmed that he will follow through on a lawsuit challenging President Barack Obama's executive order to block deportations of some undocumented immigrants, who were brought to this country as children.
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Final Republican convention discussion thread: Clint Eastwood and Mitt Romney

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Aug 31, 2012 at 09:55:00 AM CDT

Mitt Romney formally accepted the Republican Party's nomination for president last night. A surprise appearance by actor and director Clint Eastwood overshadowed Romney's speech.
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Republican National Convention links and discussion thread (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Aug 29, 2012 at 09:20:00 AM CDT

Normally I am a political party convention junkie, but I haven't watched any of the Republican National Convention so far. Judging from media accounts of the prime-time program, it seems that Ann Romney gave a decent speech, dwelling on the theme of love, after which New Jersey Governor Chris Christie talked mostly about himself and said Republicans need to seek respect, not love. He also praised presidential nominee Mitt Romney for being willing to tell the hard truths about how to fix the deficit, but naturally, didn't share any details on those tough budget cuts to come.

Any comments related to the GOP convention are welcome in this thread. Many links and news stories related to the Iowa delegation are after the jump.

There's More... :: (7 Comments, 1709 words in story)

Weekend open thread: Early Iowa caucus blues

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Oct 01, 2011 at 21:43:14 PM CDT

Florida Republicans messed up the holiday season for Iowa GOP activists on Friday.  
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Dix trying to oust McKinley as Iowa Senate Republican leader (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Sep 27, 2011 at 14:34:11 PM CDT

First-term State Senator Bill Dix e-mailed fellow Iowa Senate Republicans today calling for a caucus and leadership election this Thursday morning in Des Moines. Dix has long been rumored to have his eye on Paul McKinley's position as Senate minority leader.
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Ames straw poll news and discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Aug 13, 2011 at 09:42:46 AM CDT

The Republican Party of Iowa gets its first bite at the apple today, raking in money at the Ames straw poll event. Six presidential candidates who paid for space at the venue will speak to the crowd, along with five GOP elected officials and state party chairman Matt Strawn. I've posted the speaking schedule below and will update this post throughout the day.

Nine candidates will appear on the straw poll ballot: the eight who debated Thursday night plus Representative Thad McCotter of Michigan. Voting closes at 4 pm, but it may take Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz a long time to tabulate results because of the large number of expected write-ins. Speaking of Schultz, I noticed on the Secretary of State's website yesterday that he has put out only one press release since his embarrassing smackdown of former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman two months ago. The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board dismissed an ethics complaint that the Iowa Democratic Party filed regarding that press release.

Any comments about the spectacle are welcome in this thread, especially first-person accounts from Bleeding Heartland users who are in Ames today.

Which candidates, if any, will receive fewer votes than write-ins Sarah Palin, Texas Governor Rick Perry or "Rick Parry," the name Stephen Colbert's Super PAC is pushing? I expect McCotter will have a tough day. Don't know who is supporting him besides former Iowa House Speaker Chris Rants, and he doesn't have a huge following in the Iowa GOP anymore, to put it mildly. When McCotter bid for space at the straw poll, he probably wasn't expecting to be left out of the Fox News debate. That plus the lack of time and money he's spent in Iowa puts him at a big disadvantage.

If former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty does better than expected in the straw poll, he will owe thanks to a couple of outside groups. The American Petroleum Institute's Iowa Energy Forum and Strong America Now both have organizational ties to the Pawlenty campaign. Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register discussed those connections and the outside groups' work in greater detail here. Four years ago, Mike Huckabee's Ames straw poll effort got a huge assist from Americans for Fair Taxation, helping Huckabee finish a close second to Mitt Romney.

UPDATE: News from the day is after the jump.

There's More... :: (28 Comments, 754 words in story)

"...Shall Not Perish From This Earth."

by: The Journeying Progressive

Sun Aug 07, 2011 at 18:42:11 PM CDT

It has been a tough news weekend for the United States.

I've been blocking out news coverage today and cringing every time I hear a partisan or pundit prognosticate about the decline of America, or our supposed shuffle closer to doomsday.

My heart breaks hard every time I think about the selfless men and women we lost in Afghanistan this weekend. Brothers and sisters alike, it seems almost trivial to sit here tonight and type--a freedom they have won for me--while so many are facing grim realities and long, tense moments of combat half a world away.

It's easy to lose focus of who you are and what you stand for in times like these.

Tonight, I'm reminded of a famous speech given by a wartime American president from Illinois (emphasis added):

"It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

It is easy to cower in the face of disappointment or unspeakable tragedy, to cave to the demands of those playing the temporary game of political opportunism. In these times, we should not forget who we are:
There's More... :: (0 Comments, 286 words in story)
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