Monday, September 14, 2015

Last Call For The War On Women, Con't

So if there are still any questions about the true purpose of the highly coordinated smear job on Planned Parenthood, well, House Republicans put those questions to rest this week.

Congressional Republicans say they are determined to shut Planned Parenthood down, regardless of whether it broke any laws.

In more than two months of investigations, members have yet to turn up evidence that Planned Parenthood acted illegally, the same conclusion reached by a half-dozen state investigations. The Department of Justice has so far declined to launch a formal probe. 
Several Republicans acknowledged this week that they may never find proof of wrongdoing at Planned Parenthood — but said it doesn't matter.

“I don’t know whether we’re ever going to be able to answer that question, whether it was illegal for them to do what they were doing,” Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) said during the House’s first hearing on the topic Wednesday. "I don’t know if it was illegal … but it was immoral, what was seen on that video."

Republicans have long been fierce critics of Planned Parenthood, which is the nation’s largest provider of abortion services. Under the law, the organization is banned from using federal funding for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest or medical necessity.

Stirred by outrage over secretly recorded videos at Planned Parenthood, Republicans opposed to abortion rights say it’s time to end federal funding for the group once and for all.

“The issue is not whether there’s been a crime committed or not,” Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas.) told the same group at the hearing. “This issue is whether or not taxpayers should fund Planned Parenthood. That’s the issue before this committee.”

So now do we understand what the goal was now all along?  Changing laws involving abortion in order to shut clinics down is one thing, but now Republican anti-choicers are freely admitting that using laws to stop abortions no longer matters.

It doesn't matter to Republicans if you break the law, they'll take reproductive health care away from women anyway.

Any more questions?

Off To The Red State Races

Democrats are trying to win the Senate back in 2016 and that means contesting red state Senate seats, and hoping for more Claire McCaskill/Heidi Heitkamp/Joe Donnelly style wins against an increasingly damaged Republican brand.

Arizona, Arkansas and Missouri look like unlikely pickups for Democratic Senate candidates to win in 2016. But Democrats are preparing for the unlikely. 
You don’t need to look any further back than 2012, when despite a favorable GOP climate, mistakes by two favored Republican candidates kept Republicans from winning control of the Senate. 
Last week, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee recruited former U.S. Attorney Connor Eldridge to take on Republican Sen. John Boozman in Arkansas — a state where Democrats lost the last two Senate races. But Democrats say Eldridge has the kind of background that could appeal to voters in the deep red state in the case of an opening, and say his entrance into the race could expand the map as the party seeks to win the majority next November. 
Eldridge joins two other Democratic recruits who could forge paths to victory in the right political environment: Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick in Arizona and Secretary of State Jason Kander in Missouri. Both are adept politicians who face strong GOP incumbents in states that lean Republican in presidential years, but could swing the Democrats’ way in the event of unforced Republican errors. 
“It doesn’t always work, but if you put the pieces together and put the race on the map, only good things can happen,” said Ben Ray, a Democratic operative who helped Sen. Joe Donnelly to victory in Indiana in 2012, when Republican Richard Mourdock’s ill-advised rape comments helped Donnelly win an otherwise dark red state.

Yes, Democrats need to win seats like Marco Rubio's in order to win back the Senate.  But they also need to challenge Red State Republicans, and they figure given how awful the 2016 GOP nominee for the White House is going to be, they might be able to pull off some upsets.

An unpalatable GOP presidential nominee could also shift the tide towards Democrats, giving them an opening down the ballot. With businessman Donald Trump — who has broken nearly every convention in running a presidential campaign as he’s offended significant segments of the electorate — as the Republican front-runner, there’s a chance that could happen. 
“If it’s Trump, you’re going to get a lot of people who are very upset about his candidacy. If they go with someone more mundane, the disappointment for others could very well carry into the general election,” Marsh said. 
In other cases, Democrats might be able to benefit from slowly “chipping away” at an otherwise popular Republican’s credibility by tying them to Washington and a Congress which has been repeatedly panned by the public – a strategy already embraced by D.C. outsiders like Kander and Eldridge. 
A similar strategy paid off for Republicans in 2014 as they took the Senate majority for the first time since 2006. The GOP seized upon President Barack Obama’s unpopularity and an electorate dissatisfied with the status quo.

Look how badly the four GOP senators are doing in the 2016 White House race too.  None are doing better than single digits, where the outsiders, Trump, Carson, and Fiorina have a combined majority of the vote.   Going after seats in the Midwest and Rocky Mountain states is a good idea.  How much worse would things be if Republicans had beaten McCaskill, Heitkamp, Donnelly and yeah, even Joe Manchin?

Abbott, Tossed Fellow

Well, things certainly escalated quickly today.  Australia's right-wing dipstick of a Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, has lost his party's vote to remain leader and is no longer the country's PM.  The new boss is hopefully less of a jackass, but it doesn't look like by much.

Australia's 29th prime minister is Malcolm Turnbull, who ousted Abbott with the help of the Abbott's deputy, Julie Bishop, 54-44 in a vote of the parliamentary members of the governing Liberal Party, Monday night Australian time. In a late-night press conference, Turnbull, also a member of Australia's conservative party, said he came to power "seeking to persuade, rather than to lecture"—highlighting one of the chief criticisms of Abbott as an inflexible scold who failed to explain complicated policies to the Australian people. 
For those even remotely familiar with Australian politics, you'll know the last few years have been a bloodbath in the corridors of power, with fierce factional divides in both parties, Labor and Liberal, making the prime ministerial office the most treacherous room to occupy in the country. Three sitting prime ministers have now been toppled and replaced by their own parties, partly due to disagreements over climate change, terrible polling, and the management of Australia's resource-dependent economy. But Abbott's fall—in power for less than two years—is extraordinary: for a man who said he would bring stability back to the top job, he served in the position for a shorter time than the two previous prime ministers that he helped topple, Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd (both members of the opposition Labor party). Pressure on Abbott had been building for months. 
Turnbull used to be a proponent of a cap-and-trade program, and he once called Tony Abbott's position on climate change "bullshit" because he Abbott was vehemently opposed to a market-based solution. Abbott himself has previously doubted the science behind climate change, then ran a brutal scare campaign against a carbon tax, arguing it would trash the economy. But it's unlikely, at least in the short-term before another election, that climate will be back on the agenda anytime soon: carbon pricing has cut to the quick of Aussie politics and become a symbol for deep ideological divides, something Turnbull is likely loathe to stir up, early in a new prime ministership. Commentators in Australia say Turnbull madeprivate undertakings not to rock the boat too much, as he locked up the votes to contest the leadership. 
Sure enough, Turnbull said at his first press conference that the government's position on climate change will stay the same for the moment. The current policy of government investments in carbon abatement (called "Direct Action"), rather than a market-based system "is one that I supported as a minister in the Abbott government, and it's one I support today," he said, describing it as "very well designed," and a "very, very good piece of work." Still, he did leave the door open to tweak the policy as he begins discussions with his new ministers.

We'll see where Turnbull ends up on the question of climate change, but four PMs in the space of less than three years makes me think that Australia's in a lot worse shape than a lot of people are aware of. Getting Canberra back at the forefront of the climate change fight is going to be vital in the years ahead.


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