Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Mitt Romney’s Judicial Advisor: Robert Bork

I’m really short on time and the election is getting close. So I wanted to be sure that I had a chance to post something that I think is incredibly important … and largely overlooked. But due to time constraints, I’m largely going to have to let others do the talking for me.

One of the most critical issues to me, when I’m looking at the Presidential race, is the Supreme Court (and, to a lesser extent, lower federal courts). Though it isn’t discussed much during the campaign, the President’s power to appoint justices to the Court is one of the most important powers granted to a President and is, almost without doubt, the longest lasting legacy of any President’s term in office.

The current makeup of the Supreme Court is worth noting:

John Roberts, appointed by George W. Bush, 57 years old

Antonin Scalia, appointed by Ronald Reagan, 76 years old

Anthony Kennedy, appointed by Ronald Reagan, 76 years old

Clarence Thomas, appointed by George H.W. Bush, 64 years old

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, appointed by Bill Clinton, 79 years old

Stephen Breyer, appointed by Bill Clinton, 74 years old

Samuel Alito, appointed by George W. Bush, 62 years old

Sonia Sotomayor, appointed by Barack Obama, 58 years old

Elena Kagan, appointed by Barack Obama, 52 years old

Thus, three of the sitting Justices are 76 or older (and another is 74); of those, one (Ruth Bader Ginsburg) has recently been treated for pancreatic cancer. Three of the judges have been on the bench for at least 20 years (by next year, that number will rise to four and by the next Presidential election, five).

In all likelihood, the next President will get to appoint at least one (or as many as four!) Justices to the United States Supreme Court. Depending on those appointments, the balance on the Court could shift dramatically. Perhaps even more importantly, because an appointment to the Supreme Court is for life and because the recent trend has been to nominate younger judges, it is quite possible that the balance between liberal and conservative on the Court could be locked in for thirty years or so.

Now, obviously, Presidential candidates don’t tell us who they intend to choose for nomination to the Supreme Court. But we can usually tell something about the types of judges that they would appoint. So, by way of example, we can look at President Obama’s two choices: Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. We can examine their backgrounds and we can examine their voting records as Supreme Court Justices.

Mitt Romney, by contrast, doesn’t have a history of judicial appointments for us to examine. Instead, he has the man that he’s named his Judicial Advisor: Robert Bork. So, to get an idea of the type of judges Mitt Romney might nominate (beyond his blanket statement that he prefers judges like Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Alito, Scalia, and Thomas … the entire solidly conservative block of the Court), we should look at the record and opinions of his chosen Judicial Advisor.

Now take a few moments and watch that video again. That is the man that Mitt Romney will be listening to when, if elected, he is given the chance to nominate judges to federal benches, including the Supreme Court. And that terrifies me.

As I said at the outset, I’m short on time. I had hoped to write a more in depth examination of Judge Bork’s positions. The video above helps to set the stage for what I don’t have the time to do. If you want a more detailed analysis of Judge Bork’s positions (and, presumably, what will be whispered into Mitt Romney’s ear), then take the time to read this report published by People for the American Way: Borking America.

bork-cover The very notion of a President taking legal or judicial advice from Judge Bork chills me to the very core. And I hope you feel the same. Overturning Roe v. Wade would be but an appetizer to the far-right social reengineering and reimagining of our Constitution that Romney-appointed Justices might do. It would be right-wing judicial activism on steroids. Please don’t give Mitt Romney the chance to listen to Robert Bork and nominate federal judges that could so dramatically change our nation and society.

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Monday, October 29, 2012

Romney: The Lying Liar That Just Keeps Lying … and Wants to Cut (or Privatize) Disaster Relief

So have you heard Mitt Romney’s newest lie? It’s actually a whopper. Last week, Bloomberg ran an article about Chrysler. Depending on the reader’s interpretation, the article could be read to suggest that Chrysler, now owned by Italian auto manufacturer Fiat, would be moving production of its Jeep line to China, that is if you didn’t read all the way to the 5th paragraph where Mike Manley, COO of Fiat and Chrysler in Asia said that he was referring to adding Jeep production sites rather than shifting output from North America to China. Neveertheless, during a campaign rally in Ohio, Romney talked about US auto manufacturing jobs being moved to China, tying that move to the efforts by the Obama administration to keep Chrysler from being liquidated by helping arrange a sale to Fiat.

"I saw a story today that one of the great manufacturers in this state Jeep — now owned by the Italians — is thinking of moving all production to China," Romney said at a rally in Defiance, Ohio, home to a General Motors powertrain plant.

One problem: As noted by Fiat’s COO, Chrysler is not moving production to China. Instead, Chrysler is looking into adding new production capacity in China for Jeeps being sold in China. Moreover, Chrysler is actually expanding the number of jobs at its Jeep plant in Detroit. And just to be clear, a Chrysler spokesperson clarified the issue:

The Bloomberg story, though accurate, "has given birth to a number of stories making readers believe that Chrysler plans to shift all Jeep production to China from North America, and therefore idle assembly lines and U.S. work force. It is a leap that would be difficult even for professional circus acrobats," Chrysler spokesman Gualberto Ranieri said.

"Let's set the record straight: Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China. It's simply reviewing the opportunities to return Jeep output to China for the world's largest auto market. U.S. Jeep assembly lines will continue to stay in operation."

Not reported in the story linked to above was the remainder of the statement from Chrysler’s spokesperson:

A careful and unbiased reading of the Bloomberg take would have saved unnecessary fantasies and extravagant comments.

Now any rational person with a shred of integrity or any devotion to honesty and truth would, at best, say, “Oops, what I said was wrong,” or, at least, stop telling the lie. But this is Mitt Romney we’re talking about. Thus, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Romney didn’t admit he was wrong. Nor, for that matter, should it be a surprise that he didn’t stop telling the lie. Nope. Instead he made a new political campaign ad that uses very careful language to imply that Chrysler is moving those Jeep jobs to China … and that President Obama is to blame:

Note how carefully the ad skirts actually telling the lie. Nowhere does it say that Chrysler is moving jobs to China; rather it says that President Obama “sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China” and then tells us that “Mitt Romney will fight for every American job." But when you listen to this ad, what story are you hearing Romney tell you?

So again I ask what it tells us about a man that wants so badly to be President that he has chosen to run a campaign that has been intentionally divorced from the truth. If these sorts of tactics meet with electoral success then we truly will have entered a “post-truth” era in which the most effective candidate will the one that can dream up the biggest, yet most plausible lie, and our entire system will be rendered a shambles, resembling nothing so much as a Hollywood special effects blockbuster.

We cannot elect a serial liar to the office of President.


Oh, and one more thing: While you watch the Weather Channel as Hurricane Sandy bears down on New Jersey and the Atlantic Seaboard, just remember that during one of the Republican debates in June 2011, Romney said that federal spending for disaster relief was “immoral” and wanted to return disaster programs to the states or “even better” (his words) to the private sector. Here’s a transcript of the exchange between moderator John King (of CNN) and Romney:

KING: Governor Romney? You’ve been a chief executive of a state. I was just in Joplin, Missouri. I’ve been in Mississippi and Louisiana and Tennessee and other communities dealing with whether it’s the tornadoes, the flooding, and worse. FEMA is about to run out of money, and there are some people who say do it on a case-by-case basis and some people who say, you know, maybe we’re learning a lesson here that the states should take on more of this role. How do you deal with something like that?

ROMNEY: Absolutely. Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better. Instead of thinking in the federal budget, what we should cut — we should ask ourselves the opposite question. What should we keep? We should take all of what we’re doing at the federal level and say, what are the things we’re doing that we don’t have to do? And those things we’ve got to stop doing, because we’re borrowing $1.6 trillion more this year than we’re taking in. We cannot…

KING: Including disaster relief, though?

ROMNEY: We cannot — we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we’ll all be dead and gone before it’s paid off. It makes no sense at all.

Do we want a President who wants to send disaster relief back to the states so that each state must, essentially, fend for itself? Hey, we here in Indiana don’t have a lot of disasters, I guess, so maybe that’s a great idea. Let New Orleans and Florida and California fend for themselves, right? Did I hear you say drought? Tornados? Er… flooding? Well, um. And what was that about a chunk of Indiana being in the New Madrid fault zone? OK. So maybe the idea of natural disasters being the sort of thing for which the federal government is there to help all of its citizens is a good idea, like maybe sorta just the thing that a federal government is for in the first place.

But just sending disaster aid back to the states isn’t enough, not for Mitt Romney. Because he wants to privatize it too. Just imagine how well that would work. If you can pay the disaster relief premium, you can get help. But if you’re poor… Do we really want disaster relief to be available for a profit?

Think about that while you watch Hurricane Sandy come ashore.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Conception from Rape: Something God Intended to Happen

This is what Indiana Treasurer and GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock said in a debate last night:

This is that issue that every federal or state candidate faces and I too certainly  stand for life. I know there are some who disagree and I respect their point of view, but I believe that life begins at conception. Uh, the only exception I have for an abortion is in that case of the life of the mother. I struggled with it myself for a long time but I came to realize that life is a gift from God. And I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape that it is something God intended to happen.

Those were his words. The context is plain.

So much to say. So little time.

First, for those who are shocked I want to offer this:

Faithful to the “self-evident” truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion or fund organizations which perform or advocate it and will not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life.

Those are the words of the 2012 Republican Platform. You’ll note, of course, that the platform calls for a so-called “personhood” amendment whereby an “unborn child” has a right to life. In actuality, this is almost always phrased as saying that life begins at conception and that the “unborn child” (i.e., fertilized egg, zygote, or fetus) has full rights under the 14th Amendment. Moreover, by design, a personhood amendment would automatically outlaw all abortions; after all, how could we choose to “kill” some “unborn children” but not others? (Please see my post A Closer Look at Personhood Legislation for a more detailed discussion.) So, in reality, the position that Richard Mourdock espoused was actually less extreme than the actual Republican Party platform. Seriously.

And that scares me.

Now, it is true that almost immediately after the debate, Mourdock attempted to clarify the statement that he made during the debate:

God creates life, and that was my point. God does not want rape, and by no means was I suggesting that He does. Rape is a horrible thing, and for anyone to twist my words otherwise is absurd and sick.

Then, in the face of a continued firestorm of criticism, Mourdock held a press conference to further explain his comments. As reported by The Indianapolis Star:

Mourdock said: “I said life is precious. I believe life is precious. I believe rape is a brutal act. It is something that I abhor. That anyone could come away with any meaning other than what I just said is regrettable, and for that I apologize.”

But he would not apologize for the words themselves.

“The apology — as I said before, roll this tape back — is if anybody misinterpreted what I said,” he said.

He said he hates violence, including rape, and that God does as well. His words, he said, had been twisted, including by his Democratic opponent Joe Donnelly, and that that was what was wrong with Washington these days.

“The God that I worship would never ever want to see evil done,” he said.

But when asked if God intended a pregnancy that arose from a rape, Mourdock said such theological questions were “above my pay grade.”

So let’s take the original statement, the clarification, and the explanation, parse them together, and see what we have.

I want to note the “non-apology”. Though I’m sure that some will say that Mourdock has apologized, even he recognizes that he didn’t. Rather, he specifically notes that he is only apologizing for someone being able to come away with a different meaning or misinterpreting what he said. He’s not apologizing for saying that he doesn’t believe in an exception for rape and he is not apologizing for saying that an egg fertilized by rape is something “God intended to happen”. His apology is only for those who misinterpreted what he said; in other words, he did nothing wrong, but you did by not understanding that what he said isn’t what he meant, even if it really is what he meant when he said it.

Got that?

So let me see if I can wrap my arms around what Mourdock is really saying.

God doesn’t like rapes or violence (though a careful reading of the Bible might make one dispute that*). But if a woman is impregnated by a rape that God doesn’t like, the fertilized egg was still something that “God intended to happen.” Um. What? If the conception was something that God intended, then how is it possible that the act that led to the conception was something that God did not intend? I have a hard time with the idea that a supposedly benevolent deity might just happen upon a rape in progress and say, “Gee, I don’t know. I really hate this rape and all, but I think I’d like to make a baby anyway!” Or, maybe ask it a different way: If God intended for the conception, why not introduce the sperm to the egg via, oh, I don’t know, maybe a dinner date, some chocolates, and some roses? Either God is involved in the process … or not. But I don’t see how God intends the result but not the method. For that matter, if God did not intend the rape and God does have the power to create life … then why didn’t God stop the rape? Omnipotent or not?

I think Mourdock realized the conundrum that he’d put himself in when asked if God intended the pregnancy that arose from the rape. Thus he responded that theological questions were above his pay grade. Of course, it was his theological pronouncement about God’s intent that started the mess in the first place. Oh, wait. I get it. He understands the will and intent of God when he’s legislating but not when he’s called to explain.

And Mourdock thinks that we’re “absurd and sick” for thinking he meant what he said.

But there’s more to Mourdock’s debate statement that I want to discuss.

One thing that really struck me was his statement that “there are some who disagree and I respect their point of view.” The problem, of course, is that though he may “respect their point of view” he has no problem legislating his point of view. Then again, we need to remember that Mourdock, just the day after beating Sen. Richard Lugar in the primary last spring, talked about liking to “inflict” (again, his word) his opinion on others. Thus, it seems to me that Mourdock’s claim to respect other viewpoints is just a sham. He doesn’t respect any view but the one he holds and chooses to inflict. And he uses God’s intent as a crutch to try to avoid responsibility for inflicting that viewpoint.

Might some women view a rape-induced pregnancy as a “gift from God”? Certainly. Might some or even many women choose to go through with the pregnancy and either keep the baby or put it up for adoption? Again, certainly. And I have nothing but respect for those women. But might there not also be women who look at their growing belly and see not a gift but rather the violent acts of their rapist? Might not many women, when feeling the discomfort of the pregnancy be reminded of the pain of the rape? Might not rape victims feel victimized not only by having been raped but also by the changes that they must make in their life to accommodate the pregnancy or child (such as dropping out of school or not being able to work in a desired job or whatever)? Might not many mothers be reminded of the horror of that rape each time they look upon their child’s face and see some vestige of the rapist’s DNA? Imagine the feelings of a woman who looks at a child with physical features that strongly resemble the rapist’s and not the mothers. Might not those women be subjected to the horror all over again if the rapist should seek custody rights (as is allowed in some states)? And I cannot imagine how a woman handles explaining to her child that the father who is missing from that child’s life was a rapist. Or, for that matter, how that child explains to his or her friends that “no, daddy isn’t dead and no, mommy isn’t divorced; daddy is in jail for raping mommy and making me.”

Should the government tell a woman who is the victim of a rape that she must live with that burden?

Mourdock and the Republican Party say “yes”. And they want a Constitutional Amendment, too.

I also want to look at the remainder of Mourdock’s answer to the question (the part that isn’t included in the video of his “God intended it” comment):

You know, Mr. Donnelly's comments about and what's happening there, trying to reform it. That's good to reform it, but it should not be here in the first place. You know, the fact that we have the Catholic Church and so many institutions having to file a lawsuit to get their basic freedom that I thought was guaranteed under the Constitution, the practice of your religion, that now there has to be an amendment put forward to somehow bring that about. If the law had never been passed that lawsuit wouldn't be in place and religious freedom would not today be in question.

(This is my own transcription from the video of the entire debate; this portion begins at about 45:40. I apologize for errors in the transcription.)

Please note Mourdock’s concern over freedom to practice religion. He is so very concerned with the impact of the birth control insurance coverage mandate on religious freedom. OK. I get that (though he’s wrong; see The Birth Control Brouhaha, More on the Birth Control Brouhaha, Still More on the Birth Control Brouhaha, Yet More on the Birth Control Brouhaha, and Paul Ryan and the Birth Control Brouhaha for detailed explanations of why). But now note that his explanation for why he opposes abortion in the case of rape relates to … religion. He bases his opposition to his understanding of theology, both in terms of what his religious understanding tells him about the beginnings of life and about God’s intent. So please, Mr. Mourdock, explain to me how you can synthesize opposition to infringements of religious belief at the same time that you are willing to outlaw certain abortions that are specifically allowed by other religious beliefs? If Jews believe that a woman can get an abortion after she has been raped, then isn’t telling her that she can’t an infringement upon her religious viewpoint? And what about a woman who doesn’t believe in the existence of a deity or the involvement of a deity in the creation of life? Aren’t you imposing your deity-determined worldview upon that woman in direct contravention of your own idea of freedom of religion? It’s like he wants to eat his cake … and that of the women, too.

(For those interested in the Jewish viewpoint on abortion, please see my post Keep Your Religious Doctrine Out of My State's Laws, in particular the section entitled Beginning of human physical life, about half-way into the post.)

Ironically, it was just this week that the Mourdock campaign began airing a television commercial featuring an endorsement by Mitt Romney. I’ve read that this commercial is the only commercial that Romney has filmed in support of a down-ticket candidate. Which makes watching this response commercial by American Bridge, created in the hours immediately after Mourdock’s debate comments, particularly relevant:


While the Romney campaign (via a spokesperson, not Romney himself) has said that they don’t agree with Mourdock’s statement, support has not been withdrawn nor has a request been made to pull down the endorsement ad.

“Gov. Romney disagrees with Richard Mourdock, and Mr. Mourdock’s comments do not reflect Gov. Romney’s views. We disagree on the policy regarding exceptions for rape and incest but still support him,” said Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul.

Interesting, isn’t it, that the Romney campaign statement talks about Mourdock’s views on abortion in case of rape and incest, but does not discuss Mourdock’s “God intended it to happen” statement that gave rise to the furor.

In addition, though GOP Gubernatorial candidate Mike Pence has issued a clear statement disagreeing with Mourdock’s comment, he has been somewhat disingenuous in doing so. According to the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette:

Congressman Mike Pence — who is in the middle of a race for governor — distanced himself from U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock Wednesday morning.

Democrats immediately pounced on the comment and Gov. Mitt Romney also denounced it.

Now you can add Pence to that list.

“I strongly disagree with the statement made by Richard Mourdock during last night’s Senate debate. I urge him to apologize.”

While Pence is strongly against abortion, his campaign said he has consistently supported exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.

That doesn’t appear to be the case though.

A question on Indiana Right to Life’s survey this year asked statewide candidates in which circumstances they believe abortion should be legal.

Pence checked B — or life of the mother only.

Democrat John Gregg checked B and C — life of the mother and rape and/or incest.

Gregg's campaign also pointed out that last year Pence signed on to a House resolution with no exceptions.

Unless I’m mistaken, that would be the same House resolution that also sought to redefine rape to “forcible rape”.

Mourdock’s words were terrible. And while it’s good to see both Mitt Romney and Mike Pence (kinda sorta) distance themselves from Mourdock, it remains true that Mourdock’s position is less extreme than that set forth in the Republican platform or by Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan. The far right of the Republican party wants to outlaw all abortions, without exceptions. They want to use the Constitution do accomplish that goal. Or the Supreme Court, if they must. Some of them have grudgingly agreed to a few exceptions. For now. Maybe.

But if Congress is dominated by people like Mourdock, safe and legal abortions will be a thing of the past. Even for women who don’t share Mourdock’s religious views on abortion. Hangers in back alleys will again be the way of the world. Well, that is if you’re poor. The wealthy will still be able to obtain abortions by traveling to a state or country where they’re legal.

One final point that I want to share. When this story broke last night, I went to the website of The Indianapolis Star just to see how others were reacting. Thankfully, much of the reaction to Mourdock’s statement was quite negative in the nature of teeth-gnashing or “woe is we” if we elect Mourdock. If you’re offended by Mourdock’s statement — or by the platform of the GOP — then please take heed of the the following comment that I posted last night:

To all of those who are offended by Mourdock's comments tonight: Expressing your outrage here is fine and important. But if you don't act, if you don't do something, if you don't make sure to vote and make sure that all of your friends vote, if you don't do everything that you can to be sure that Mourdock never again holds elected office, then your outrage will be for naught. When confronted by the sort of horrific worldview espoused by people like Mourdock, those of us who disagree must stand up and fight for what we believe in. Put up a yard sign. Make some calls. Do something. Because we cannot allow Mourdock to become Indiana's next Senator.

Oh, and I couldn’t help but post this:


*See, for example Deuteronomy 22:28-29 (New International Version, for my Christian readers):

If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay her father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

An Open and Honest Way?

I want to focus on one specific sentence from last night’s debate. And no, it’s not the line about horses and bayonets or the one about fundraisers in Israel (though I liked both of those zingers). No, it’s one claim by Mitt Romney that completely encompasses the problem with his campaign and his candidacy. In Romney’s closing statement, immediately before asking those watching to vote for him, Romney said:

I’ll lead you in an open and honest way.

Just think about that claim for a moment. Mitt Romney says that if he’s elected President he will lead “in an open and honest way”. That’s what he said.

So I’m curious to know if that “open and honest” leadership would look anything like his campaign.

For example, remind me again how Romney plans to pay for his 20% across the board tax cuts (that are estimated to cost $5,000,000,000,000 — that’s $5 trillion). If he and his campaign were “open and honest” don’t you think they’d have told us how they’re going to pay for it? Oh, that’s right. They’re going to pay for it by closing loopholes. Um, remind me which loopholes those are? What? You can’t? Because “open and honest” Mitt Romney hasn’t told you which loopholes he’d close.

And what about that extra $2,000,000,000,000 that Romney wants to spend on the military, even though the military isn’t asking for that money? An “open and honest” campaign might have told us how that money is going to be spent. But Romney has been almost totally silent on that count. One thing I think we can guess is that the money won’t be spent on our veterans; after all, if Romney planned to help our veterans, you’d think he might have mentioned them, maybe … once?

Then there’s his plan to add 12,000,000 new jobs. Has Mr. “open and honest” explained that 12,000,000 jobs is the number that most economists (including conservative economists) believe that the economy will add under the current policies? For that matter, Mr. “open and honest” has also failed to mention that the studies he cites to support his jobs plan … don’t support his jobs plan. The authors of some of those studies have said as much, including an oil industry group.

I probably don’t really need to remind you that Mr. “open and honest” has been shall be say, “less than open” when it comes to his own finances. Just remember that he has only released two years of tax returns (unlike almost all candidates in the modern era who have released 12 years, following on the precedent set by Romney’s father). One reason that Romney gave for not releasing more tax returns: He didn’t want to be criticized. “Open and honest” Romney has also failed to explain why he would be the first President in history with Swiss bank accounts. Or Cayman Islands bank accounts. Or several other offshore bank accounts. What part of “open and honest” explains stashing your wealth in offshore tax havens and/or secret bank accounts?

The frightening thing is that the foregoing discussion is related only to the word “open”. I haven’t even touched on the issue of honesty. Yet.

As I’ve discussed extensively and repeatedly on this blog, the Romney campaign (including Vice President candidate Paul Ryan) have been anything but honest throughout this campaign. For some recent examples, please read my posts Mitt Romney Will Apparently Lie About Anything, Mitt Romney Will Apparently Lie About Anything (Again), or Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies. Or, if you’ve got the time for a deep (and I mean deep) dive into Romney’s lies, then take some time to read through Steve Benen’s posts in his series Chronicling Mitt’s Mendacity: I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII, XIII, XIV, XV, XVI, XVII, XVIII, XIX, XX, XXI, XXII, XXIII, XXIV, XXV, XXVI, XXVII, XXVIII, XXIX, XXX, XXXI, XXXII, XXXIII, XXXIV, XXXV, XXXVI, XXXVII, XXXVIII, and XXIX. Yes, you saw that correctly. As of last week Benen is up to 39 posts full of Mitt’s lies, obfuscations, distortions, tall tales, and so forth. Pick a link. Any one. You’ll see that each of these posts is replete with a multitude of mendacious statements. And you’ll see that Benen has provided facts and details (with links!) to help you see through Romney’s blizzard of dishonesty.

And why, pray tell, should we believe that Romney won’t flip-flop on his pledge to be “open and honest”; after all, he’s changed his mind (often more than once) on just about every other issue.

We are two weeks away from potentially electing a serial (if not pathological) liar to the White House. But I guess we shouldn’t worry about that because Romney promises that he’ll lead us in an “open and honest way”.

But, given his prior statements, all I can deduce is that when Mitt Romney said he would lead us in an “open and honest way” — he was lying.

Romney will apparently do or say anything to get elected; he wants to be President so badly that truth and facts, “open and honesty” are just words to be ignored and abused, just another position to be had as long as convenient, just another lie to tell.

Mitt Romney has disqualified himself from being President of the United States.

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Arab-Americans for _____ Draws Criticism from _____ and Silence from _____

Can you imagine the outcry, furor, and probable expressions of hate and rage that would fill the airwaves if President Obama announced a group of Arab-Americans for Obama? And imagine if some of the members of that group were linked to support for Palestinians or even Hamas. I’m sure that Fox News would tell us that was proof that President Obama really was a Muslim. Voices across the right would see that as legitimization of their view that President Obama really doesn’t like Israel. And I suspect that many American Jews would begin to second guess their support for President Obama. However, so far as I know, President Obama hasn’t announced the existence of such a group supporting him.

But there is a group of Arab-Americans for Romney. In fact, the Romney campaign issued a press release to tout this new group on October 12. Hmm. I don’t recall hearing Fox News or Rush Limbaugh or any of the other talking heads on the right discussing this development (or, perhaps more properly, I didn’t see those talking heads exploding).

Here’s the article that first brought this to my attention:

The Romney campaign’s recently announced “Arab-Americans for Romney” includes some of the Republican Party’s staunchest advocates for the Palestinian cause, some of whom have worked directly against positions shared by the intensely pro-Israel Republican Party and President Barack Obama.

The list, which includes some prominent sitting and former members of Congress like Darrell Issa and Sen. John E. Sununu (the son of Gov. John Sununu), as well as anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist's wife Samah. Also on the roster is George Salem, an advisor to global lobbying firm DLA Piper who has recently been involved in bitter infighting in Washington’s pro-Palestinian community, pushing for a more confrontational stance toward Israel.

Salem sits on the board of the American Task Force on Palestine, a group in Washington that is aligned with Salam Fayyad, the technocratic Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority. Salem was at the heart of a dispute last year inside the organization, in which, according to an ally’s account, he pressed for the group to support the Palestinian pursuit of statehood before the United Nations, a move Israel feared and that the United States openly opposed.

Salem didn’t respond to a request for comment, but Fayyad’s allies in the American Task Force on Palestinine’s leadership were surprised to see his name on Romney’s list. “Honestly, it seems like [Romney] didn’t do his homework,” said one source on the side of the current ATFP leadership.

Pro-Israel Democrats, however, complained to BuzzFeed Thursday that Romney was paying no political price for associating him with Israel critics at a time when Obama has been pounded constantly on alleged breaches of faith with the Jewish State.

“I’m not saying all these individuals are anti-Israel, but if this were the other way around, that’s exactly how they’d be portrayed,” said Democratic strategist Aaron Keyak, a veteran of the partisan Israel wars, of the list. “There would be a breaking [Republican Jewish Committee] release and a big bold headline on Drudge, Free Beacon, Weekly Standard, and Fox News: ‘Obama's Anti-Israel Kitchen Cabinet. Instead — silence.”

The list, which was announced on Friday, has garnered little attention outside of foreign policy circles.

“There's nothing wrong fundamentally with having an Arab-American group,” said David Harris, president of the National Jewish Democratic Council. “But I’m sure the Obama folks would be pilloried if they put out any affinity group led by individuals who were deeply opposed in principle to Iran sanctions, for example,” he said, referring to Rep. Justin Amash, a libertarian and ally of Rep. Ron Paul who voted against the sanctions.

“To say that there’s a double standard here is putting it mildly,” Harris said.

Other pro-Israel activists were agitated but declined to be quoted criticizing Romney.

“The fact that the Romney folks have an anti-Israel activist like George Salem and a guy like like Grover Norquist, who has been widely criticized, including by Republican members of congress, for long standing ties to terrorists and supporters of terrorists groups, affiliated with their campaign is pretty troubling,” said one official with a Jewish organization. “If this were the Obama campaign, you can only imagine the howls of outrage that we would be hearing from Conservatives — and rightly so.”

Salem’s role produced particular complaints, in part because of his role in connecting President George W. Bush with Arab American leaders who were later pushed well out of the political mainstream. Salem has served as a lawyer for the Holy Land Foundation, a group with ties to Hamas, which President Bush shut down in 2001, and has been the target of at-times intense intra-party criticism since then.

Some of the Republican Party’s fiercest pro-Israel voices, including Romney aide Dan Senor, Republican Jewish Committee Chairman Matt Brooks, Emergency Committee for Israel executive director Noah Pollak, and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol were uncharacteristically silent in response to questions about the coalition.

I agree with David Harris (of the National Jewish Democratic Council); there is nothing wrong with Romney having Arab-Americans who support him. And there is obviously nothing wrong with a group of Americans, no matter what their ethnic or religious background, supporting any candidate of their choosing or trying to influence policy. But the double-standard on the issue is simply stunning.

Do you honestly believe that an Arab-Americans for Obama group wouldn’t be the subject of an anti-Obama TV commercial throughout the country? Do you honestly believe that people wouldn’t see such a group as proof that Obama “hates” Israel or is really a Muslim? And just imagine if that group included people with ties to the Palestinian Authority or even Hamas… It would be brutal. The so-called Emergency Committee for Israel would be taking out full page ads in every newspaper across the land. But when the support is given, not to President Obama, but rather to Mitt Romney? Crickets. Silence. Nada.

To my Jewish friends who are uneasy about their support for President Obama (or who may not be supporting him because of Israel, I ask you to think about these questions.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Paul Ryan and the Birth Control Brouhaha

In last week’s Vice Presidential debate, the issue of the mandate for birth control coverage was again raised. I’ve covered this issue extensively in the past (see, e.g., The Birth Control Brouhaha, More on the Birth Control Brouhaha, Still More on the Birth Control Brouhaha, and Yet More on the Birth Control Brouhaha). But given that the issue came up, and given that (not surprisingly) Rep. Paul Ryan lied about it, I feel compelled to discuss the issue once again. First, let’s look at what Ryan said during the debate:

What troubles me more is how this administration has handled all of these issues. Look at what they're doing through “Obamacare” with respect to assaulting the religious liberties of this country. They’re infringing upon our first freedom, the freedom of religion, by infringing on Catholic charities, Catholic churches, Catholic hospitals. Our church should not have to sue our federal government to maintain their religious — religious liberties.

And with respect to abortion, the Democratic Party used to say they want it to be safe, legal and rare. Now they support it without restriction and with taxpayer funding, taxpayer funding in “Obamacare,” taxpayer funding with foreign aid.

First, how often have you heard any Democrat, let alone President Obama or Vice President Biden say that they support abortion “without restriction”? The claim may sound sinister and fire up the Republican base … but it just isn’t true. Moreover, there isn’t taxpayer funding of abortion in Obamacare; rather, states are given the right to mandate abortion coverage in a state-administered insurance exchange.The Hyde Amendment continues to prevent federal funds from being used for abortions except in the case of rape, incest, or where the life of the mother is at risk. I’ll leave discussion of foreign aid (and the Mexico City rule) for another post (hopefully).

But what I really want to focus on is the notion that Catholic charities, churches, and hospitals are having their freedom of religion infringed upon. At least a part of that statement is simply a lie. The requirement to include birth control coverage in an employer-provided insurance policy excludes churches. No church, no synagogue, no other house of worship is obligated by federal law to include birth control coverage in the insurance provided to employees. Why is that? Because of the recognition of the intensely religious nature of the church, synagogue, or house of worship and the presumption that those employed there are directly involved in carrying out the religious mission of the house of worship. But that is much less true in the case of a hospital or university where a large number of the employees may have absolutely nothing to do with the religious mission of the hospital or school. I doubt that there are many Jewish employees at most Catholic churches; but I bet there are a lot of Jewish doctors and teaches at Catholic hospitals and universities.

So let’s look at this from a slightly different perspective. The claim is that by requiring a Catholic hospital to include birth control coverage, somehow the religious freedom of … er … someone … is being violated. I’ve previously discussed whether this argument would also allow a Jewish hospital to refuse to have its employer-provided insurance plan include medications that contained pork or shellfish. But think about it a bit differently. Essentially, the employer-provided health insurance is simply a part of the compensation given to the employee by the employer. Would the situation, thus, be different if, instead of the employer paying the insurer, the employer gave the premium payment to the employee as compensation and the employee then purchased the insurance directly? If you think that there is a real difference between those situations, I’d really love to understand your reasoning.

Or ask the question this way: Can an employer direct how the employee uses the compensation given to the employee? Could that same Catholic hospital have a rule that says that no part of an employee’s take home pay can be used to purchase birth control or pay for an abortion? If your answer to that question is in the affirmative, you might ask yourself where that rule would end. Could a Muslim employer prohibit employees from using their salaries on pork? Could a Hindu employer prohibit employees from using their salaries on meat? Could a Jewish employer prohibit their employees from using their salaries in support of groups that oppose Israel’s right to exist or which try to convert Jews? Could those Catholic hospitals prohibit their employees from voting for a candidate who supports abortion rights or paying their divorce attorney? What about for a candidate that supports the death penalty?

For that matter, and though I’ve asked the question before, let me ask again: Why are Catholics so worked up about birth control (not abortion, note) insurance coverage, but almost silent about having their tax dollars go to pay for the death penalty? If it violates a Catholic’s freedom of religion to require that Catholic to include birth control in insurance provided to employees, why doesn’t it also violate that Catholic’s freedom of religion to use the taxes paid by that Catholic to pay for capital punishment (which, it is my understanding, is also prohibited by the Church)?

You see where this goes?

In essence, though, what Paul Ryan told us was that he thinks that it is permissible and appropriate for elected officials to try to impose their religious beliefs upon those who don’t share them (and to bolster his view, he lied); by contrast, Vice President Biden made clear that he is able to separate his beliefs and the choices that he makes as an individual from the laws that he would impose upon others.

The difference in those two views of the role of faith in governance couldn’t be more stark. And let me just offer this one final query: How does Paul Ryan’s belief that his religious views should serve as a basis for laws affecting those who don’t share his faith differ from the way that groups like the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan or Wahhabi Muslims in Saudi Arabia? Oh, and I can’t resist the bonus question: If Paul Ryan’s faith informs his belief about birth control, then why isn’t he advocating the repeal of the death penalty? Hmm. Curious.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Apparently, I Have Enemies

Other than spam, scam emails have become a bane of online activity. We’ve all received emails from people in Nigeria or Hong Kong or wherever looking for our help in accessing their funds, for which we’ll be paid a handsome reward. And as an attorney, I frequently receive bogus requests to help chase spouses or debtors “in my jurisdiction”. But this weekend, I received a completely new sort of scam email:

From: Ramzi Abdul

Subject: I was sent to kill you

To your attention

I want you to read this message very carefully and that you keep the secret until further notice. You do not need to know or who I am or where I come from. I was paid an advance of $60,000 to kill you. My sponsors one of which is what we can call a friend gave me the reasons I noted. I am more than 5 days on the mission and i have known your house and every of your moves both day and night and your loved ones and there is no way of you escaping from me because i am good at the job i was paid for.I am a killer and mafia and now I know that you are innocent of what you are accused. Do not try to warn or send this message to the FBI or the police or any of your relatives or friends because i am watching you every minute and secs of the day because I know that I'll have to do the job for which I was paid. Note that this is the first time that I am going to betray my employer.

Look, I will do everything I can so that we can meet but I need you to pay me $4,000 dollars.You have nothing to be afraid of me, I can come and see you in your office or home once you have complied and paid me the $4,000 dollars i need from you now so i can explain everything to you, it is up to you to decide. Never attempt recording or filming our upcoming meeting. If you do, It will cost your life.Once payment is made, I will give you the file that contains the names and queries of the sponsors. This is a good evidence that can be used to sue him if you wish. The balance of the payment is $7,000 which will be settled later when we meet. For the moment this is not the trouble I give you my phone number because you will cooperate.I have your picture and other important information about you and your loved ones. I was involved with my team in the Yemen Arab Republic. You must not ask me any questions.

Quickly confirm for your good.

Well, at least I’m presuming that this is a scam. If you’ve taken out a contract to kill me, give me call. Let’s do lunch, instead.

I did speak to a local FBI representative just to be sure that this was, in fact, just another Internet scam. She said that it was and that she’s seen it before. For what it’s worth, I did report this to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

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Monday, October 8, 2012

Breaking My Own Rules … Kinda

One of the basic rules that I’ve set for myself with this blog is that I want to respect other people’s opinions (even when they’re clearly wrong) and encourage discussion and debate via comments to my posts. Thus, comments to this blog are not moderated. For those who don’t know what that means, on many blogs, a comment is not actually displayed until the blog’s author approves the comment. I don’t want to do that and I haven’t done that.

Some of the comments that I’ve received have not been flattering. Usually, when a commenter tells me I’m wrong, I will try to push that person to back up their statement (which they very, very rarely make any attempt to do). When a commenter calls me a name, I usually respond with a discussion on discourse or ask them how calling me a name helps to make their point. And I usually remind them that it is my blog, after all.

But what I have not done is to delete comments. My preference is for my readers to be able to see just what others have thought of the opinions I’ve expressed (and hopefully chime in with their own opinion), even if those comments are critical of my posts. I’m a big boy. I can take it. And, for that matter, note that I don’t post my thoughts anonymously. Moreover, when I make a mistake, I try to acknowledge that mistake and make the appropriate correction.

So far, the only exception to my rule against deleting comments has come in regard to comments that are obviously spam. I’m not sure what the point of spamming the comment section of a personal blog is, but when I come across comments that are clearly spam, I delete them. Neither you nor I want to read them and they don’t add anything to the discussion I’m trying to foster. Recently, I’ve received a few comments that actually appear to be substantive but have a spam URL attached to the end of the comment. As there is no (easy?) way for me to edit comments posted by others to delete these spam links, I’ve elected to leave the comments in place, because they do seem to be at least somewhat substantive and related to the posts to which they are attached.

But a comment that I received this weekend in response to Post-Debate Depression is going to force me to break my rule against deleting comments … kinda. The comment in question is not actually a problem. It appears to be critical of me (and me, personally, not necessarily the ideas that I expressed in my post). In fact, here is the full text of the comment:

You suffer from a severe case of selective political righteousness, no need to bloviate on about your self and what you feel. You need to take a step back from that, a step outside your narrow frame of reference. Taking views into consideration that are outside of your "comfort zone" are what allows personal growth. best of luck.

“So what’s the problem?” I hear you ask. Well, the problem isn’t with the comment; rather it is with the commenter. For reasons that will become obvious in a moment, I’m not going to say who he is (and I don’t actually know his name, only the online name that was attached to the comment). After reading the comment, I decided to look at the commenter’s profile. This is something that I often do, just to get an idea of the background and maybe general political or social leanings of the person making a comment. In this case, the commenter’s profile doesn’t say anything about the commenter (other than that he is a student in the United States), but does list three blogs authored by the commenter (though one appears not to have any posts).

I can still hear you saying, “So what?”

Well, I decided to click on these blogs to try to understand the commenter’s point of view. And that’s where things went off the proverbial rails. The first post on one of the blogs (and the only post on the other) is apparently just a copy of am article by a Pakistani political commentator that is apparently a well-know conspiracy-theorist and who espouses clearly anti-Israel, if not anti-Semitic views (for example, he blames “Hindu-Zionists” for the Mumbai terrorist attacks in November 2008). The article posted on the commenter’s blogs seems to be a sort of laundry list of the “problems” that we’ve allowed to grow in the US. But included in this list is this frightening explanation:

Tell them we come from monkeys and that Adolf Hitler killed six million jews.

Ding, ding, ding. Sorry, but when you start posting articles that lead me to think that you’re a Holocaust denier or approve of the writings of a Holocaust denier, I’m not going to be very interested in your point of view. Oh, and note how either the commenter (or original author) has kept “jews” in lower case.

But I was still a bit curious to see if this was just an isolated comment in a single post. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. The commenter only has a 5 posts on his “main” blog. In addition to the one quoted above, he also has a post blaming Jews for the slave trade, a post that seems to imply that the Germans couldn’t have committed atrocities in World War II because the orders given to soldiers essentially told them to act properly (e.g., don’t hurt civilians), a post about Jews threatening European governments in the late 19th Century, and finally a post accusing the Jews of declaring war on Germany and provoking World War II.


Obviously, nothing you or I say to this person is going to change his mind or dissuade him from his worldview. But I see no reason why my blog should provide a link that could lead people to these articles. Outright anti-Semitism is just something that I’m not going to tolerate, especially on my blog.

And so what I’ve decided to do is two things: First, I’ve written this post explaining the situation. Then, I’m going to delete the original comment. But I’m going to repost just the comment under my name with a link to this explanation. Thus, my goal of not editing or moderating the comments themselves will be served, but without providing a link to the anti-Semitic commenter or his blogs.

What do you think? Did I make the right decision? How would you have handled this situation?

Oh, and if the original commenter should happen to read this: Don’t bother posting any new comments. I will delete them. Absent a mea culpa and a recognition that your anti-Semitic posts are wrong, you are banned from this blog.

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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Post-Debate Depression

I watched the presidential debate last night and I must admit that I went to sleep (and woke up) feeling depressed. I was (and I guess I still am) depressed for two reasons, but they may not be exactly the reasons that you might guess. And no, one of those reasons is not that I think that Mitt Romney is going to win on November 6th. I still think that President Obama will most likely be re-elected to a second term.

So why am I depressed?

Well, first, I’m depressed about President Obama’s performance. I’m not particularly upset with anything that he said; rather, I’m upset with how he said things and about the things he didn’t say. One of my biggest disappointments with President Obama’s presidency has been his tendency to try so hard to be the calm, dispassionate, adult in the room rather than taking an occasionally-needed much harder and aggressive tone. Getting along, being dispassionate, even being reasonable, are terrific traits. Usually. But sometimes I wish that President Obama would look Republicans in the eye and say, “Bullshit” or “That’s a lie” (well, maybe in a slightly more politic tone…).

And yes, I do understand that a more combative tone might have hurt his personal favorability numbers. Maybe. I guess I just wish that he’d played a bit more offense and a bit less defense. I wanted to hear him talk about Romney’s 47% comment, I wanted to hear about vulture capitalism and job destruction. I wanted him to ask Romney how many jobs those offshore bank accounts have created. I wanted him to ask Romney what his effective tax rate would have been in 2010 under the Ryan tax plan (0.82%). I wanted him to hit Romney on his flips and flops and backward somersaults. I wanted him to say, “Gee, Mitt, I know that Paul Ryan says the math is complicated, but give me just 5 tax loopholes that you intend to close. Just 5. I dare you. Oh, and tell us how much revenue that will generate. Come on. Go ahead. I’ll even cede you some of my time.” And I wanted to hear President Obama offer very forceful responses to Romney’s lies. Certainly there were enough opportunities.

Which brings me to the second reason that I’m depressed. As anyone who has read other posts on this blog knows, one thing that really concerns me is the political lie. And I’ve tried to highlight over recent months (and years, I suppose) that many Republican candidates (and pundits and so forth) have become completely disassociated from truth, facts, reality, evidence, and science. When Paul Ryan gave his acceptance speech at the Republican convention, a speech that was light on truth but very, very long on lies and obfuscation, it became apparent that the Romney campaign’s principal strategy wasn’t to have a real or honest debate and discussion of the issues; rather, the strategy was simply to lie their way to the White House.

And last night, Mitt Romney demonstrated that there has been no deviation to that strategy.

He lied with impunity. He made shit up. He used what one commentator referred to as the “Monty Python strategy” (just saying “no it doesn’t” to any claim made about a Romney policy). Any “good” policy that President Obama favors, Romney suddenly favored too, even if for the last 7 years of running for office he’s opposed that same policy. (After the debate, his campaign even acknowledged that Romney wasn’t accurate on his claim that his healthcare policy would protect people with pre-existing conditions.)

For some reason that I can’t fathom, President Obama simply wouldn’t or couldn’t directly challenge Romney’s lies. Of course, I doubt that in preparing a debate strategy, President Obama and his advisors even contemplated that Romney’s strategy would be to lie about every policy proposal he had. I guess I might be a bit flummoxed by that too. Though, I guess I do fault the moderator for not saying, “Gee, Gov. Romney, that’s not what you said the other day” or “You know, Gov. Romney, that statement isn’t true” or maybe even asking Romney to explain the difference between what he said on stage and what he’s said previously. But apparently in the interests of being “neutral” journalists no longer make an effort to help the public understand the issues or sort fact from fiction.

What most upsets me about this, though, is that the Romney campaign apparently thinks so highly of the lie as political strategy (and, correspondingly, so little of the ability of the electorate to recognize the lies) that they are willing to use that strategy. What will it say about our country if our next President is elected, not on the basis of detailed discussion of policies and ideas, but on the basis of lies used to cover up a complete dearth or real and workable ideas?

If people prefer Romney’s policies, that’s fine (well, not really, but you know what I mean). But they have to know what his policies really are. For that matter, I guess Romney needs to know what his own policies really are, too, and I’m not sure that he does. A policy of simply “I’ll say I’ll do whatever I think is most politically expedient to getting votes” isn’t really a policy, let alone of formula for good governance. But Romney is apparently trusting that the undecided portion of the electorate either doesn’t care about truth or facts or simply has no way of recognizing the lies and separating reality from total fiction and fabrication. Or maybe he’s just hoping that those who don’t like President Obama, for whatever reason, are just looking for any reason to support Romney, even if that reason is total bullshit.

And so I’m really, really depressed at the notion that the campaign of one of the major parties has elected to elevate lies to a preeminent position in electoral discourse and strategy. A campaign or electoral victory built on lies is just another step in a very, very wrong direction. We need to hold Romney accountable for the lies he tells. We need to demand that he tell the truth. We need to push journalists to call out lies and to stop playing the game of false equivalence.

Most importantly, though, is that we must educate our friends and neighbors. We must be sure that Romney’s lies don’t become “true” to those who don’t follow politics and the news so closely. We must be sure that whoever we elect, we do so on the basis of a sound understanding of actual policy proposals and not on the basis of sound bites and lies.

Those responsibilities are incumbent upon each of us if we care about the direction of our country or about the core of our political system.

Update (October 4, 2012): A little while after publishing this, I remembered one other point that I wanted to make. Don’t worry. I’ll be brief. I just wanted to note that I thought the absolute lowest moment of the debate was when Romney told President Obama that he was entitled “as the president to your own airplane and your own house, but not to your own facts.” This statement is the height of hypocrisy, coming from a man with several houses (including one with a car elevator), who claims a business deduction for a dancing horse, who supports tax deductions for private airplanes, who lies repeatedly, even after being called out for it, and whose campaign has actually said “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers”. Apparently, in Romney-world, what he says is true, no matter the actual, you know, reality. And woe unto anyone who contradicts Romney, even if the contradiction is based on stupid shit like evidence, for that contradiction is, apparently, automatically a lie. Talk about the world turning upside down. Trying to imagine a Romney presidency is fear-inducing.

Update 2 (October 5, 2012): This post was quoted in today’s edition of The Indianapolis Star in the article “In presidential debate aftermath, an unlikely benefit for U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly” by Mary Beth Schneider. The article appeared on the front page of the print edition (though mention of this blog doesn’t come until late in the article on page A4 or page 3-4 of the online version). And oddly enough, the online comments to the article aren’t dripping with hate toward me (just a few run-of-the-mill “liberal media bias” comments directed at the author). There is a typo in the article, however. The article says “But that, he said, was the biggest reason for his blues.” I believe that the word “was” should have been “wasn’t”.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Mitt Romney Endorses … a Far Right Extremist

Guilt by association is a dangerous game. And usually unfair. A politician shouldn’t necessarily be held to account for things that a supporter says, though it often depends on how close to the politician that someone is and just how offensive the statement may have been. Thus, I think that it’s probably unfair to hold President Obama or Mitt Romney accountable for the statements of other random Democrats or Republicans, respectively. On the other hand, when a candidate actively courts the support of a particular person or when the comments are just so far over-the-top, then the politician does have some degree of obligation to respond in some way. Thus, Sen. John McCain was correct to reject the endorsement of Pastor John Hagee. And Gov. Romney should probably have done the same following some of the more obnoxious statements of Donald Trump and Ted Nugent.

And yet it’s a different story entirely when a politician chooses to associate with or endorse someone. In that case, the politician, by giving that endorsement, especially to someone “down ticket”, essentially “owns” the views expressed by the person so endorsed. After all, the politician didn’t have to endorse the person; rather the politician, in giving the endorsement, expressed a choice and belief in that other person’s candidacy and views. That’s what an endorsement means.

Which brings me to Mitt Romney and Iowa Rep. Steve King.

I know that Rep. King may not be a household name, at least not to those who don’t follow politics as obsessively as I do. But for those who have been paying careful attention, King is someone who has likely appeared on their radar more than once. And at a campaign rally in Iowa last month, Mitt Romney endorsed Steve King. Romney told Iowa voters that they needed to reelect King and said that he wanted King to be his “partner” in Washington.

So what’s wrong with that? Well let’s look at a list of Steve King’s greatest hits, shall we? (Thanks to Think Progress for compiling some of the following items.)

  • King expressed support for Missouri Republican Rep. Todd Akin after his now infamous comments about women not getting pregnant from “legitimate rape”. King is also a co-sponsor of a bill that would ban the use of Federal funds for abortions for rapes that weren’t “forcible” (e.g., statutory rape) and when asked about young victims of incestuous rape King responded that he wasn’t aware in a “personal way” with those sorts of victims.
  • King also believes that US law currently permits a sexual predator who impregnates a young girl (wait, I though he wasn’t aware of such situations a “personal way”) to pick her up at the playground, drive her across state lines, force her to have an abortion, and then drop her off back at the swingset. Seriously. His words.
  • King believes that the Supreme Court’s decision in Griswold v. Connecticut was wrong. That decision, you may recall, recognized a fundamental right to privacy and concluded that a state could not ban contraception.
  • King’s belief about Griswold v. Connecticut isn’t surprising given his general views of contraception: “Preventing babies from being born is not medicine. That’s not— that’s not constructive to our culture and our civilization. If we let our birth rate get down below replacement rate we’re a dying civilization.”
  • King has compared immigrants to dogs and suggested that we choose which immigrants to allow to enter the US in the same way that he chooses a good bird dog.
  • King also advocated for certain types of profiling to catch immigrants and noted that you can tell illegal immigrants on the basis of their shoes and your “sixth sense”.
  • King suggested that we build an electrified fence along the Mexican border (he even showed Congress a model he’d built) and compared that proposed fence to the way farmers handle livestock.
  • Immigrants who want to be part of American society, King suggests “love taxes” and thus aren’t (or won’t be) “real Americans”.
  • King also claims that undocumented immigrants are responsible for approximately one-quarter of the murders committed in the US each year. His claim is baseless (and easily refuted with arithmetic).
  • King was very active in Iowa politics, even spending $80,000 for advertising, to defeat the Iowa Supreme Court judges who had ruled that Iowa’s ban on gay marriage was discriminatory.
  • King … and I’m not making this up … voted against a federal ban on interstate dog fighting and against a ban on bringing children to dog fights. King compared dog fighting to consensual martial sports like boxing. Given Romney’s own issues with dog cruelty, this seems to be either an odd place for an endorsement … or a theme.
  • King thinks that it is unconstitutional for states to ban foie gras. Of course, I suspect that he has no trouble with states banning marijuana or the patchwork of laws regarding alcohol.
  • When, in 2010, a man flew his small plane into a federal office building in Texas, apparently to protest the IRS, King told an interviewer that he understood the man’s frustrations and seemed to sympathize with the domestic terrorist because the IRS is, you know, evil or something.
  • After the passage of the Affordable Care Act, King spoke to a group of Tea Party activists and seemed to suggest that secession might be a necessary response to the new law: “If I could start a country with a bunch of people, they’d be the folks who were standing with us the last few days. Let’s hope we don’t have to do that! Let’s beat that other side to a pulp! Let’s take them out. Let’s chase them down. There’s going to be a reckoning!” (Emphasis added.) Hmm. I wonder if the folks he wants to beat to a pulp would include Mitt Romney, the architect of Obamacare’s core framework?
  • King refused to vote for a House resolution honoring Ramadan (though he did offer a similar bill to honor Christmas).
  • And though this should not come as any great surprise, King is a birther: “It would have been awfully hard to fraudulently file the birth notice of Barack Obama being born in Hawaii and get that into our public libraries and that microfiche they keep of all the newspapers published. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some other explanations on how they might’ve announced that by telegram from Kenya. The list goes on. But drilling into that now, even if we could get a definitive answer and even if it turned out that Barack Obama was conclusively not born in America, I don’t think we could get that case sold between now and November.” (Emphasis added.)
  • Finally, King thinks that Sen. Joe McCarthy — you know, the guy after whom “McCarthyism” is named — is a “great American hero”.

Need I say more?

And this is the guy that Mitt Romney endorsed, told Iowa voters to vote for, and wants for a partner in Washington.

Sorry, Mitt. We don’t need people like Steve King in Congress (or in any other position with responsibility) and you’re decision to endorse King is just further evidence of why you need to be at home in one of your houses in January watching President Obama be inaugurated again.

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