Tag Archives: Eric Kleefeld

Cheddar Revolution: Moldy Yet?

Kris Maher and Amy Merrick at WSJ:

Playing a game of political chicken, Democratic senators who fled Wisconsin to stymie restrictions on public-employee unions said Sunday they planned to come back from exile soon, betting that even though their return will allow the bill to pass, the curbs are so unpopular they’ll taint the state’s Republican governor and legislators.

The Republicans rejected the idea that the legislation would hurt the GOP. “If you think this is a bad bill for Republicans, why didn’t you stand up in the chamber and debate us about it three weeks ago?” said Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. “People think it’s absolutely ridiculous that these 14 senators have not been in Wisconsin for three weeks.”

The Wisconsin standoff, which drew thousands of demonstrators to occupy the capitol in Madison for days at a time, has come to highlight efforts in other states to address budget problems in part by limiting the powers and benefits accorded public-sector unions.

Sen. Mark Miller said he and his fellow Democrats intend to let the full Senate vote on Gov. Scott Walker’s “budget-repair” bill, which includes the proposed limits on public unions’ collective-bargaining rights. The bill, which had been blocked because the missing Democrats were needed for the Senate to have enough members present to vote on it, is expected to pass the Republican-controlled chamber.

Eric Kleefeld at Talking Points Memo:

A return to Wisconsin at this juncture would appear to give the green light for Walker’s legislation to pass — that is, a win for Walker’s efforts to pass legislation when numerous polls show the state disapproving of Walker, and saying he should compromise. However, at this juncture it is unclear just what is going on.

In response, Miller spokesman Mike Browne released this statement, saying only that they were continuing to negotiate towards an outcome that does not strip the bargaining rights of state workers:

“It is true that negotiations were dealt a setback since last Thursday when Governor Walker responded to a sincere Democratic compromise offer with a press conference. However, Senate Democrats have continued to reach out to the Governor and Republicans through the weekend.

Democrats remain hopeful that Governor Walker and legislative Republicans will, in the near future, listen to the overwhelming majority of Wisconsinites who believe they should come to the negotiating table in good faith to reach an agreement that resolves our fiscal issues without taking away worker rights and without hurting programs that help provide health insurance for working families and prescription drugs for seniors.”

In addition, state Sen. Chris Larson released this statement:

Sen. Miller’s comments are taken out of context in the Wall Street Journal article just released. Dems will return when collective bargaining is off the table. That could be soon based on the growing public opposition to the bill and the recall efforts against Republicans. Unfortunately, the WSJ fished for the quote they wanted, skipping this key step in logic: we won’t come back until worker’s rights are preserved.

State Sen. Jon Erpenbach also told WisPolitics that Democrats are not planning to return. State Sen. Bob Jauch, who has been one of the lead negotiators, also said of Miller’s comments: “I think he’s speaking the truth that at some point – and I don’t know when soon is – at some point we have to say we’ve done all we can.”

Christian Schneider at The Corner:

The Wisconsin politerati is all atwitter today at a WSJ report indicating that senate Democrats might soon end their Illinois exile. In the article, Democratic senate leader Mark Miller says recent polls show Walker’s budget-repair bill to be politically “disastrous” for the governor, which he says will give Democrats more leverage to negotiate portions of the larger budget bill in the weeks to come.

If this is what Miller thinks, it seems like a suspect strategy — a variation on the rarely seen Let’s capitulate to our opponent because the public currently doesn’t like what he’s doing plan. How many congressional Republicans rooted for Obamacare because they thought it would show the public once and for all how unpopular government health care could be? What if Green Bay Packer quarterback Aaron Rodgers said in an interview before the Super Bowl, “Maybe it won’t be so bad if the Steelers win — imagine how sick of Ben Roethlisberger the public will be”? It sounds like Mark Miller, in today’s parlance, has convinced himself that he’s “winning.”

Perhaps Miller’s quote was a trial balloon, meant to gauge the opposition he’ll get from his base, which has spent three weeks screaming itself hoarse on the steps of the state capitol. It would be reasonable to expect some displeasure: If Democrats do return and vote on the bill without any changes — as they had indicated they would never do — cops, firefighters, and teachers are likely to ask, “Why did I just spend three weeks in the capitol pressed up against a hippie?” Indeed, within hours of the story being published, Miller was rebuffed by some members of his own caucus.

On the other hand, it is possible that Scott Walker really has waited them out. (On his last physical, does it say “Blood Type: Tiger”?) In the past three weeks, Democrats and public-sector unions (but I repeat myself) have thrown everything they have at Walker, and he hasn’t budged. (And I do mean everything: They even tried to embarrass him by exposing the fact that in high school he had a mullet and was nicknamed “the Desperado” — unaware that in Wisconsin, this is likely to increase his approval rating.)

It seems a little short-sighted for senate Democrats to believe Walker has damaged himself irreparably. Several polls show Walker’s approval rating to be in the low 40’s, but Walker almost certainly expected to take some kind of public-relations hit when he entered this standoff.

Moe Lane at Redstate:

You see, we tend to forget that politicians are not identical, like potatoes: these fourteen men and women are just that – men and women – and it’s easy to believe that they’re getting tired, sore, and fuming about how they’ve somehow become the surrogate whipping boys for a national debate on public sector unions. Some of them might even be thinking that they didn’t actually sign up for this, that this wasn’t in the job description, and that the people urging them to exile in Illinois might not really give a tinker’s dam about them or their problems. And that this situation that they’re in is getting old. Oh, sure, no doubt a few of the AWOL senators are having a ball… but some of them are not, and the loss of message discipline in the last few days shows that.

And it only takes one AWOL senators to end this nonsense.

Scott Johnson at Powerline

Jason Stein at The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

The leader of Senate Democrats hiding out in Illinois is seeking a face-to-face meeting with Gov. Scott Walker and the Senate GOP leader.

Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller (D-Monona) said in a letter sent out Monday that he wants to meet with Republicans “near the Wisconsin-Illinois border to formally resume serious discussions” on Walker’s budget repair bill. Two other Democratic senators met with Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) last week in Kenosha.

Democrats have been holed up south of the state line since last month to block action on Walker’s budget repair bill, which would end most collective bargaining for public employee unions in the state.

“I assure you that Democratic state senators, despite our differences and the vigorous debate we have had, remain ready and willing to find a reasonable compromise,” Miller said in the letter.

Neither Miller nor Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie could be reached immediately for further comment. Fitzgerald spokesman Andrew Welhouse had no immediate comment.

The Wall Street Journal spurred hopes of compromise Sunday with a story citing Miller and saying the Democrats would be back “soon.” But that same night Democrats knocked that down, saying that they hoped to return soon but that there was still no development to make that happen.

Miller spokesman Mike Browne said Monday morning  that he knew of no plans for Democrats to return later in the day. The senators were scheduled to meet later in the morning or early afternoon, he said.

One of the Democratic senators, Tim Cullen of Janesville, said in a phone interview Sunday that there were no developments toward a possible compromise with Republicans and no talks scheduled for this week.

Two other Democratic senators — Jon Erpenbach of Middleton and Chris Larson of Milwaukee — said Sunday their group had no plans to come back to the Capitol until Republicans addressed more of their concerns with the budget-repair bill.

“I can tell you for a fact that nothing has changed down here,” Erpenbach said.

On Monday morning, a small, dedicated group began to chant in protest of Walker’s budget-repair bill in the Capitol rotunda.

Outside the Capitol, there is little or no sign of the mass protests that have engulfed the Capitol square in recent weeks.

On the streets surrounding the Capitol, the number of satellite trucks has dwindled to two. And the only sign of an organized-labor presence is the sight of two Teamsters semi-trailers.

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From The Home Office In Yazoo…

Andrew Ferguson at The Weekly Standard:

Both Mr. Mott and Mr. Kelly had told me that Yazoo City was perhaps the only municipality in Mississippi that managed to integrate the schools without violence. I asked Haley Barbour why he thought that was so.

“Because the business community wouldn’t stand for it,” he said. “You heard of the Citizens Councils? Up north they think it was like the KKK. Where I come from it was an organization of town leaders. In Yazoo City they passed a resolution that said anybody who started a chapter of the Klan would get their ass run out of town. If you had a job, you’d lose it. If you had a store, they’d see nobody shopped there. We didn’t have a problem with the Klan in Yazoo City.”

In interviews Barbour doesn’t have much to say about growing up in the midst of the civil rights revolution. “I just don’t remember it as being that bad,” he said. “I remember Martin Luther King came to town, in ’62. He spoke out at the old fairground and it was full of people, black and white.”

Did you go? I asked.

“Sure, I was there with some of my friends.”

I asked him why he went out.

“We wanted to hear him speak.”

I asked what King had said that day.

“I don’t really remember. The truth is, we couldn’t hear very well. We were sort of out there on the periphery. We just sat on our cars, watching the girls, talking, doing what boys do. We paid more attention to the girls than to King.”

Matthew Yglesias:

Fortunately, it’s actually possible to look at the archives of the Citizens Council newspaper published right in Mississippi. Here’s a selection:

The Citizens’ Councils were, right in the state of Mississippi where Barbour is from, the respectable face of white supremacist political activism. Here’s an example from the Association of Citizens’ Councils pamphlet: “Why Does Your Community Need a Citizens’ Council?”

Maybe your community has had no racial problems! This may be true; however, you may not have a fire, yet you maintain a fire department. You can depend on one thing: The NAACP (National Association for the Agitation of Colored People), aided by alien influences, bloc vote seeking politicians and left-wing do-gooders, will see that you have a problem in the near future.

The Citizens’ Council is the South’s answer to the mongrelizers. We will not be integrated. We are proud of our white blood and our white heritage of sixty centuries.

Haley Barbour gives these people credit for keeping things calm!

From 1956, David Halberstam at Commentary:

In march of this year Congressman John Bell William told a Greenville, Mississippi, White Citizens Council, “I’d gladly trade all the Negroes in the country for my few good nigger friends.” Williams is no political scientist—he flunked out of the University of Mississippi law school in near record time—but on this occasion he did, if inadvertently, define the nature of the Citizens Council movement. Pull aside the curtain of States’ Rights and you find, more prominent than anything else, this desire to trade coat-and-tie Negroes for barefoot ones.

The White Citizens Councils, a loosely connected series of local groups which have arisen throughout the South in protest against the Supreme Court’s May 17, 1954 desegregation decision, undoubtedly constitute a very significant political phenomenon. Individually, the Councils can be either powerful or frail, at times the sincere expression of confusion and desperation, at other times the vehicle for personal frustration. But the single thread connecting all the Councils, strong and weak, is the determination not just to oppose integration in the public schools but to stop or at least postpone it. In most of the Deep South, where hostility to integration is nearly universal, it is this militancy and dedication that make the Council member stand out.

Despite occasional efforts by supporters to build the Councils up into a movement of broad conservatism, their only serious purpose is to fight the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Not only do they contest the NAACP’s desegregation suits, but they seek to cancel much else that the Negro has gained over the last half-century by keeping him out of the polling booth. The exact strength of the Councils is difficult to determine: in Mississippi, their cradle, 100,000 members are claimed, but sober estimates would run closer to 55,000. Yet nowhere in the Deep South is their strength to be scoffed at—it is a product of crisis and as more law suits are filed it will mount.

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo:

Just by way of background, in the last decade or so there’s been controversy about a group called the Council of Conservative Citizens, a successor group to Citizen’s Councils. In other words, the CCC group was an organizational attempt to cleanse the reputation of the earlier group or rather shed some of its more explicit connection to white supremacy and legal racial discrimination. But even those folks were and are so retrograde that the mainstream right would have nothing to do with them. David Keene, head of the American Conservative Union — sponsor of the annual CPAC conference — said almost a decade ago: “We kicked [them] out of CPAC because they are racists.”

So folks like Keene won’t have anything to do with the cleaned up, scrubbed down version of the group. But Barbour thinks the genuine article operating as the rearguard during the Civil Rights Era was just great.

Ace Of Spades:

There are a couple of things to chew on here.

First, both Barbour and Yglesias can be right. Based on the profile it’s clear that many people in Barbour’s home town (including his brother Jeppie, the then Mayor) held beliefs that simply were reprehensible about blacks but none the less managed to take a relatively benign course of action in integrating the community.

[…]

Were members of the Yazoo Citizens Council less than the shining examples Barbour holds them up as? Based on the examples Yglesias digs up, yeah. That’s not exactly a surprise given the time we’re talking about.

Does Barbour’s romanticized version of events fail to convey the whole picture and give some people more credit than they deserve? I’d say so. But that’s not exactly news either. The profile makes it clear these are people Barbour grew up around and admired. The fact that he cuts them slack the rest of us wouldn’t does not exactly shock me. It’s a pretty human reaction. Does this mean Barbour is a racist? Of course not. Does it mean Barbour supported segregation then or supports it now? Of course not.

So what does it prove? Nothing much as far as I can see. What it does is confirm something we already know…Democrats get a pass for their past and Republicans get nailed for the slightest variation from liberal dogma.

Obama skated by on Bill Ayers by saying he was a child when Ayers was bombing buildings and killing people. Of course Ayers past wasn’t the issue, it was his unapologetic defense of it and the wisdom of a presidential candidate associating himself with such a man in the present.

Barbour was 8 years old when the 1955 campaign to intimidate supporters of school integration Yglesias cites was conducted. What’s the relevance of that to Barbour or his memories of integration efforts in the 60’s?

If Barbour were associating with men who still believed in segregation or defended their role in opposing it back in the day (as Ayers does about his terrorist past and continued belief in violence as a political tool), I’d be the first to say he has a disqualifying problem. But that’s not the charge, is it?

Oh and if supporting segregation is disqualifying (and again no one is claiming Barbour did any such thing, then or now), then I’d like liberals to explain their on going love affair with Jimmy Carter.

As Laughlin McDonald, director of the ACLU’s Voting Project, relates in his book A Voting Rights Odyssey: Black Enfranchisement in Georgia, Carter’s board tried to stop the construction of a new “Elementary Negro School” in 1956. Local white citizens had complained that the school would be “too close” to a white school. As a result, “the children, both colored and white, would have to travel the same streets and roads in order to reach their respective schools.” The prospect of black and white children commingling on the streets on their way to school was apparently so horrible to Carter that he requested that the state school board stop construction of the black school until a new site could be found. The state board turned down Carter’s request because of “the staggering cost.” Carter and the rest of the Sumter County School Board then reassured parents at a meeting on October 5, 1956, that the board “would do everything in its power to minimize simultaneous traffic between white and colored students in route to and from school.”

It’s clear that this country still hasn’t fully dealt with the implications of the Civil Rights era or how to deal with the sides people took or didn’t take at the time. That’s only going to fully come about when the generations that lived through that era have all passed.

I get that it’s a complicated and emotional issue but I think we need some balance in how we deal with it. To simply and forever give Democrats who actively took part in it a pass, while smearing Republicans who only had tangential involvement (like a high school aged Haley Barbour) is simply unacceptable.

Now, all of that said…this is simply bad politics for Barbour. A lot of folks whose only notions of the south come from watching or reading To Kill a Mockingbird or popular history simply equate “southern” with “racism”.

The insinuation that Barbour is an apologist for racists (or worse) is a powerful one. People want to hear their own worldview reflected back at them by politicians. That’s why Obama is forced to pretend his incredibly strange childhood and background fits perfectly within the traditional American narrative. Barbour’s recollection of the south in the 60s will no doubt resonate with a lot of people who live there and know people they like and respect who did the best they could in difficult times. But for a lot of others it will sound like (pardon the phrase) whitewashing history. Personally, it strikes me as somewhere in between.

As a matter of pure politics, if Barbour does run for President (and you can tell the left is at least a little worried about that judged on the hits he’s taking today), he’s going to need to have a better spin on his take about this period in history. Because, as we see, it’s going to be brought up over and over again if he is nominated. Voters outside the south (think Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado, even Florida) are going to want a better narrative than, “there were some good people who stood up for integration regardless of their feelings about blacks”.

David Weigel:

Like I said, Barbour is not dumb. If he’s being a revisionist about race in Mississippi, he’s not alone, and he’s fighting back against a media standard that all conservatives hate — this idea that Southerners and conservatives can never stop atoning for Jim Crow. Why should he have to apologize for this, after all? He wasn’t in a Citizens Council. With the exception of some people, like Howell Raines — who covered Barbour’s 1986 Senate bid — how many of these reporters know what they’re talking about, anyway? And there are few things conservative voters hate more than being told they were on the wrong side of the Civil Rights movement.

Max Fisher at The Atlantic with the round-up

Jonathan Chait at TNR

Eric Kleefeld at TPM:

I just spoke with Dan Turner, the official spokesman for Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS), who responded in strong terms to criticism of Barbour’s recent praise for the segregationist Citizens Council groups of the Civil Rights era.

“You’re trying to paint the governor as a racist,” he said. “And nothing could be further from the truth.”

[…]

So, I asked Turner, does Barbour have any comment on the Citizen Council movement’s basis in white supremacy, and its work of launching economic boycotts to cut off employment and business for African-Americans who became active for civil rights — including that notable occasion in Yazoo City?

“Gov. Barbour did not comment on the Citizens Council movement’s history,” Turner responded. “He commented on the business community in Yazoo City, Mississippi.”

I asked further about the Citizen Council movement’s white supremacist activities, such as the boycotts in Barbour’s hometown. “I’m not aware that that’s accurate,” Turner said. “I’m not aware that he [Barbour] has any statement on that. I’m aware of the statement that he made in context of how he made it.”

After being pressed further on whether Barbour’s comments about the Citizens Councils were accurate, Turner said: “I’m aware of what the governor said in this interview. I’m not gonna get into the business of trying to twist what the governor said, or to manipulate it.”

What does he mean by manipulate it, I asked?

“Your questions are very angular, let’s say that,” said Turner. “You have a very specific point that you’re trying to drive at, and you’re trying to paint the governor as a racist. And nothing could be further from the truth.”

I then responded that I was not asking about whether Barbour is a racist, but was asking about whether it is true or not that the group he praised was a racist organization?

“It was an organization in Yazoo City that was, you know, a group of the town leaders and business people,” Turner responded, then referring back to Barbour’s comment. “And they passed a resolution that said anybody who started a chapter of the Klan would get their ass run out of town. And that doesn’t sound like a racist to me. Does it to you?”

Turner then repeatedly asked me that question, whether the group in Yazoo City sounds racist from its anti-Klan policies. I responded again by asking about the same Yazoo City group that launched boycotts of African-Americans who sought civil rights.

Turner asked me a question right back. “Do you have any comment that throughout the history of America things have changed?” he said. “Do you have any comment that there were riots in Northern cities, as well as how there were problems in Southern cities?” Turner then pointed out that civil rights was an issue for the whole country, including places like Boston, and not just the South. And as he also added again, things have changed.

“Tell me what in Gov. Barbour’s past gives any indication of any racist leanings, and I’ll be glad to address the question,” said Turner. “Otherwise, it’s not a legitimate question. There’s nothing in his past that shows that. If you pick out a sentence or a paragraph out of a fairly long article and harp on it, you can manipulate it. And that sounds to me like what you’re trying to do.”

Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs:

It’s a trivial matter to show that the Citizens’ Councils were repellent white supremacist organizations, and their current incarnation, the Council of Conservative Citizens, is every bit as bad — if no longer as powerful.

And I don’t believe Turner doesn’t know this. How could he not know? It’s as if they just can’t help themselves.

The White Citizens’ Councils usually refrained from terrorizing and murdering black people like the Klan did, because they were businessmen. A permanent underclass of low-cost, low-maintenance servants and manual laborers was very valuable to them. So instead of killing African Americans, they just denied them education and opportunities.

Unless, of course, they happened to be wearing their Klan robes — because, contrary to Barbour’s whitewashed narrative, there was a lot of crossover between the CC and the KKK.

Amanda Terkel at The Huffington Post:

After facing intense criticism Monday over his comments about civil rights and the White Citizens Council, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) has released a follow-up statement condemning the segregationist group.

When asked why my hometown in Mississippi did not suffer the same racial violence when I was a young man that accompanied other towns’ integration efforts, I accurately said the community leadership wouldn’t tolerate it and helped prevent violence there. My point was my town rejected the Ku Klux Klan, but nobody should construe that to mean I think the town leadership were saints, either. Their vehicle, called the “Citizens Council,” is totally indefensible, as is segregation. It was a difficult and painful era for Mississippi, the rest of the country, and especially African Americans who were persecuted in that time.

 

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Another Primary Night: Hot State, Hot State, Cold State

In Arizona:

Eric Kleefeld at Talking Points Memo:

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the Republican Party’s nominee for president in 2008, has won his nomination for another term in the Senate by a landslide, against the right-wing challenge from former Rep. J.D. Hayworth.

With 11% of precincts reporting, McCain leads by 59%-30%, and has been projected as the winner by the Associated Press.

As we noted this morning, McCain was heavily favored to win going into today. To his credit, McCain recognized early on that there was a restive environment among the GOP base, shifted to the right, and refocused himself to not lose that crowd to the anti-illegal immigration champion Hayworth — and he also outspent Hayworth by a ratio of about 10-1.

Weasel Zippers:

McCain Crushes Hayworth in Arizona GOP Primary, Will Now Shape-Shift Back Into a RINO…

Allah Pundit:

I can’t believe, in this year of all years, we couldn’t find a better challenger for McCain than this guy. It’s 60/29 as I write this. What a travesty.

Wonkette:

You’ve still got John WALNUTS! McCain to laugh at for another six years, assuming his bullshit genes are strong enough to fend off death until then. And then he will return to Arizona to make some more hilarious commercials, looking for all the world like he has never once seen the Dr. Seuss desert all around him.

In Florida:

Alexander Burns at Politico:

Multimillionaire health care executive Rick Scott narrowly captured the GOP’s nomination for governor of Florida Tuesday night, shocking both Republican and Democratic insiders who believed the free-spending newcomer’s fortunes had taken a sharp turn for the worse in the final weeks of his campaign against state Attorney General Bill McCollum.

On a night that was supposed to favor political insiders from coast to coast, and even as another self-funding Floridian – real estate billionaire Jeff Greene – crashed and burned in the state’s Democratic Senate primary, Scott’s victory stood out as a triumph of scorched-earth campaign tactics and relentless outsider messaging.

Jim Geraghty at NRO:

Can this be right?

In the GOP primary in Florida, a foregone conclusion for Rubio, 787,122 total votes cast.

In the Democratic primary, an actual competitive race between Kendrick Meek and Jeff Greene, 489,384 total votes cast.

UPDATE: Similar disparity in the gubernatorial primaries, although my assumption is that you get more votes in more closely divided and harder-fought primaries:

Vote in GOP primary for governor:  806,123 total votes cast.

Vote in Democratic primary for governor: 469,230 total votes cast.

Were Republicans more interested in their gubernatorial primary than Democrats were in their senatorial primary?

Paul Mirengoff at Powerline:

On the day of the Florida primary comes word of a new PPP poll that shows Marco Rubio 8 percentage points ahead of Charlie Crist in a three-way race also involving Kendrick Meek, who expected to secure the Democratic nomination. Crist has been leading in most polls I’ve seen, including the previous one by PPP, which had him up by 6 points.

The 14 point swing is due, not surprisingly, to a change in the dynamic with both Democratic and Republican voters. Democrats seem to be “coming home” to Meek, a traditional liberal Dem. According to PPP, they are now breaking for Meek 39-38, whereas before they favored Crist 44-35.

Republicans also seem to be “coming home.” Rubio’s 54-23 lead with GOP voters in July has now increased to 69-20. Crist still has his core of Republican support, but the undecided Republicans are moving into Rubio’s camp, if the latest poll is correct.

Crist faces an obvious dilemma. The more he reaches out to Democrats, the less popular he becomes with Republicans. But his real problem seems to be that, even as he has reached out to Dems, these voters are swinging towards Meek. And since Meek is an African-American, he has a large built-in advantage with a substantial portion of Florida’s Demcratic electorate. In addition, if Meek becomes the actual nominee, instead of just the leading contender in a tough race, more Democrats may be inclined to come home to him.

Even so, Crist is a formidable candidate; one poll certainly doesn’t change that. This race is best viewed as a toss-up.

Holly Bailey at Yahoo News:

After weeks of looking as though he might lose the race, Rep. Kendrick Meek soundly defeated financier Jeff Greene in Florida’s Democratic Senate primary — a major victory, since Greene spent more than $26 million of his own cash in the race.

With more than half the vote in, Meek was beating Greene by double digits. Greene, who led the polls up until about a week ago, had campaigned as an outsider, but Florida voters ultimately soured on his candidacy after weeks of bad press over his celebrity-studded yacht parties and thin political resumé.

But now Meek now faces an even more difficult challenge: Can he keep Democrats from defecting to Charlie Crist’s campaign? All summer, polls have found Meek running a distant third behind Crist, who quit the GOP to run as an independent, and Republican Marco Rubio — in part, because Crist has been pulling significant Democratic support away from Meek.

But a new Public Policy Polling survey out this week found that Meek has now a 1-point advantage over Crist among likely Democratic voters in the race — a narrow edge that has taken away Crist’s overall lead in the general election. According to PPP, Rubio now leads the race at 40 percent, compared with 32 percent for Crist and 17 percent for Meek. The poll’s margin of error is 4 points

And in Alaska:

Doug Mataconis:

The biggest news coming out of Tuesday’s primary elections comes from Alaska where incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski is fighting for her political life

Robert Stacy McCain at The American Spectator:

The New York Times, Roll Call and Anchorage Daily News reported this result cautiously — Murkowski was “imperiled” and “battling for her political life,” etc. — but with Miller at nearly 52% of the vote, it appears evident that the challenger has won an upset.

Shortly before 4 a.m., Miller campaign spokesman Randy DeSoto told me by phone he was “cautiously optimistic,” and a few minutes later, campaign scheduler Harmony Shields said that the result would, at least officially, be “inconclusive” pending completion of the vote-count later today. However, other sources close to the campaign said privately they were confident of victory.

The come-from-behind triumph of Miller — whom I profiled for the American Spectator in early July — would be the second time that Sarah Palin had dealt a defeat to the Murkowskis. She upset the senator’s father, Frank, to win the governorship in 2006, and her endorsement was a key factor in helping Miller, a veteran of the 1991 Gulf War, mount a strong surge in the final two months of the primary campaign.

David Weigel:

OK — you’re wondering how Joe Miller, a lawyer who has never won an election, is currently leading Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) in a primary she seemed to have in the bag. Didn’t Murkowksi have all of the money? Weren’t Miller’s rallies pretty listless affairs?

Yes, but since at best Murkowski is going to win closer than any polls suggested, here are two things that affected the race. The first: The Tea Party Express threw around half a million dollars into the campaign on Miller’s behalf. That’s huge money in Alaska. Second: Measure 2, a parental consent ballot initiative, brought out pro-life voters who have never trusted Murkowski. Sarah Palin’s early endorsement also handed Miller credibility and media attention which, in a GOP primary, was more important than Palin’s increasing unpopularity in the state.

Summing it up:

Marc Ambinder:

Says John Dickerson: “The national lesson from the primaries today is clear: a;sdlfk jp9r;tyh##”

Hewing to my “good analysis is victory agnostic” nostrum, here’s what I’m taking away from a night of surprises and triumphs.

One: J.D. Hayworth was a wannabe insurgent who was toppled by his own arrogance. He was too smooth for a year where anyone who sounds like a politician…really, anyone who sounds fairly coherent and talks in crisp, reasonable-sounding, consultant-approved sound bites…is suspect, particularly for Republicans.

Two:  Show me a low turnout primary election, and I will raise you polling that just does not capture likely voter enthusiasm swings. But turnout in Alaska was high — higher, in fact, than expected. I’ve always wondered how you poll Alaska anyway, and the tightness of the race suggests that models up there aren’t working very well. BTW: it’s likely that a parental notification ballot initiative drove conservatives to the polls in Alaska, boosting Joe Miller, a Gulf War vet and ally of Sarah Palin’s, to striking distance and possible victory over incumbent Lisa Murkowski.

Three: It is fairly clear that the anti-establishment / anti-Washington / pro-radical revolution plankton are feeding more off Republicans than off Democrats. As the year has unfolded, it has become easier and easier for formerly fringe candidates to find funding sources, get key “outsider” endorsements and shock complacent frontrunners.  When it comes to the Tea Party factor, remember: about issues it ain’t. Bill McCollum was one of the attorneys general who filed a lawsuit against Obama’s health care reform bill. He is as conservative as a Blackberry at an Apple convention.  But he has ties to the state’s now-discredited Republican establishment (think of the indictment of the former party chairman) and his avuncular, amiable, comfortable-as-a-leather shoe style just doesn’t fit with the times.  Rick Scott didn’t need the money, but the Tea Party Express helped him build a volunteer base. In Alaska, the same group ponied up $500,000 to help Miller (probably) defeat an incumbent U.S. senator.

Four: For the four statewide races in Florida, 5 Republicans turned out for every four Democrats.  500,000 Florida Republicans chose as their gubernatorial nominee someone who the Democratic Party can easily label a “corrupt health care CEO” and not get sued for libel. Note: Sink outpolled Scott by 75,000. Obviously, a large chunk of the 500,000 Republicans who voted for Bill McCollum (last seen on Fox News, 24 hours a day) will enthusiastically support their new nominee, but Sink begins the general election, even in a Republican year, with a lead. Health care will be a major part of her race because Scott claims credit for running ads that substantially slowed down the progress of the Congressional debate and because of his own record.  Scott begins the general election with a pot of gold. Democrats will need to spend money to pick up a seat that could well determine how Florida is redistricted next year, which means that the White House and Congressional Democrats have a stake in what happens.

More Republicans voted for Marco Rubio than Democrats did for all four Senate candidates combined, an ominous and unsurprising sign that enough Democrats are probably going to align themselves with Charlie Crist so that Crist wins or Rubio walks away with the seat.

Five:  in Alaska, Sarah Palin’s endorsement does seem to matter. It’s not like no one predicted that Joe Miller could be the next senator; former Gov. Tony Knowles told me a month ago that Murkowski was not taking Miller seriously and that he could easily organize a campaign to beat her in the primary.  Absentees won’t be fully counted for a while, but Miller’s victory can be reasonably inferred from the outstanding ballots.

UPDATE: Murkowski concedes. Robert Stacy McCain

Michelle Malkin

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Liberal Bloggers Are Not Surprised… No, They Are Not

Ben Smith at Politico:

News Corp., which owns Fox News and the New York Post, gave $1 million to Haley Barbour’s Republican Governors Association this year, according to the RGA’s most recent filing.

The company’s media outlets play politics more openly than most, but the huge contribution to a party committee is a new step toward an open identification between Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. and the GOP. The company’s highest-ranking Democratic executive, Peter Chernin, recently departed.

The $1 million contribution this June 24 was first reported by Bloomberg and appears on the RGA’s July 15 filing with the Internal Revenue Service.

The group’s other seven-figure donor is the libertarian billionaire David Koch.

UPDATE: News Corp. Spokesman Jack Horner emails, “News Corporation believes in the power of free markets, and the RGA’s pro-business agenda supports our priorities at this most critical time for our economy.”

The giant check to the RGA dwarfs low four-figure checks from Fox’s PAC to Democrats including Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer.

Eric Kleefeld at Talking Points Memo:

This is, of course, in addition to the massive in-kind contributions that the company makes to the GOP on a daily basis.

Nitasha Tiku at New York Magazine:

That might be the why Peter Chernin, the company’s highest-ranking Democratic executive, recently parted ways. Well, that or working under the employ of a company that sneers at your political beliefs. In light of Target’s recent refusal to donate to pro-gay candidates (as a way to even out writing a check to anti-abortion, anti-gay-marriage Minnesota Republican Tom Emmer), it seems like the new corporate stance is: Yeah, we’re not fair, and who gives a crap about being balanced.

David Weigel:

Anyway, it was enough to kick off attacks from the Democratic Governors’ Association, which has spent a year being compared unfavorably to the RGA (in fundraising terms), and the DNC. Nathan Daschle’s statement on behalf on the DGA went like this:

Time and time again, Fox News has defended itself against accusations that it is nothing more than a tool of the Republican Party. We know now that the reality is so much worse: they’re bankrolling the GOP. FOX’s news division is ignoring the fact that its own parent company made a direct and unprecedented partisan contribution to defeat Democrats. This is hypocrisy at its worst, and is a sad day for all of us who believe that an independent and impartial media is vital to our democracy.

And so on. I see an attempt — it’ll probably succeed, given Fox News’ propensity to respond to this stuff — to start a debate over something that confirms what liberals think is happening. A lot of the Democrats’ attempts to gin up their tired base involve informing them of the money flowing in to the GOP while they’re not looking.

Steve Benen:

Matt Gertz asks, “Are there still people who doubt that Fox is just an arm of the GOP?”

There shouldn’t be.

On a related note, anyone want to lay odds on whether Fox News’ on-air broadcasters, reporting on gubernatorial races, disclose that the same company paying their salary is also helping finance the Republican candidate they’re covering?

Digby:

I doubt all those Fox news patriots know that the same News Corp that’s owned by a Wahhabist Saudi prince just donated a million dollars to the Republican party. Of course they’ll never find out because the only network they watch is the same terrorist funded network that’s doing it.

But if they were to hear about it, considering that they all seem to be so worried about the terrorists coming to kill them in their beds, I would imagine they’d be uncomfortable about getting all their news from a network that’s partially owned by one of “them.” And I’d be very surprised if they were sanguine about a scary Muslim donating to their patriotic political party. Why next thing you know they’ll be trying to build community centers near Ground Zero.

At the very least, this whole thing is very insensitive, don’t you think? After all, some people really hate Muslims and it’s very unpleasant for them to have to watch news networks that are owned by them and be asked vote for a Party that’s funded by them. I’m not saying that Murdoch should be forced to stop donating millions to Republicans or partnering with Saudi princes who believe in Sharia law. I just think it’s common sense that he wouldn’t do it in the first place.

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Newt And The Mosque (And The Alien)

Newt Gingrich:

There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia. The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is over.

The proposed “Cordoba House” overlooking the World Trade Center site – where a group of jihadists killed over 3000 Americans and destroyed one of our most famous landmarks – is a test of the timidity, passivity and historic ignorance of American elites.  For example, most of them don’t understand that “Cordoba House” is a deliberately insulting term.  It refers to Cordoba, Spain – the capital of Muslim conquerors who symbolized their victory over the Christian Spaniards by transforming a church there into the world’s third-largest mosque complex.

Today, some of the Mosque’s backers insist this term is being used to “symbolize interfaith cooperation” when, in fact, every Islamist in the world recognizes Cordoba as a symbol of Islamic conquest.  It is a sign of their contempt for Americans and their confidence in our historic ignorance that they would deliberately insult us this way.

Those Islamists and their apologists who argue for “religious toleration” are arrogantly dishonest. They ignore the fact that more than 100 mosques already exist in New York City. Meanwhile, there are no churches or synagogues in all of Saudi Arabia. In fact no Christian or Jew can even enter Mecca.

And they lecture us about tolerance.

If the people behind the Cordoba House were serious about religious toleration, they would be imploring the Saudis, as fellow Muslims, to immediately open up Mecca to all and immediately announce their intention to allow non-Muslim houses of worship in the Kingdom.   They should be asked by the news media if they would be willing to lead such a campaign.

Justin Elliott at Salon:

In a new blog post arguing against the planned Muslim community center near Ground Zero, Newt Gingrich explicitly argues that the United States should follow the lead of the oppressive theocracy of Saudi Arabia and reject the so-called Ground Zero mosque.

This is not a distillation or summary of his argument. Gingrich actually favors adopting the discriminatory policies of the Saudis.

Jonathan Chait at TNR:

In this context, “double standards” means that the United States maintains a more pluralistic attitude toward religious minorities than Saudi Arabia does. Now, you could make the same kind of argument about any repressive policy in a place like Saudi Arabia. If women are not allowed to walk around freely in Saudi Arabia, then men should not be allowed to walk around freely in the United States!

Naturally, Gingrich would say that my proposal does not follow from his. Why? Well, because his argument depends on a parallel identity: Saudi Arabia is a Muslim country, and the U.S. is a Christian-Jewish country. Indeed, conservatives assert this so routinely that it’s no longer controversial or newsworthy: The United States is a Judeo-Christian country. (It sometimes attracts notice when they drop the “Judeo.”)

If you want to understand why this is such a toxic premise, just look at Gingrich. Because the premise that we are a Judeo-Christian nation naturally leads to the conclusion that non Judeo-Christians ought to enjoy less religious protection. That can be seen in his formulation of “us,” which excludes Muslims. And at that point there’s no longer any moral basis for differentiating the U.S. from Saudi Arabia. It’s not that they’re a theocracy and we aren’t. It’s that we’re one kind of religious country and they’re another kind.

To be clear, I’m not saying we are a theocracy or are becoming one. I’m saying that the now-dominant right wing view destroys any principled basis for giving equal treatment to religious minorities.

Matthew Yglesias:

Why on earth would we adopt this standard? There are no synagogues in the Vatican City, and yet we have Catholic churches all over the place. That’s because the United States of America isn’t a small city-state run by a religious leader. In Denmark, they have a state-sponsored church, but we don’t have a state-sponsored church because in the United States we have a strong belief in a brand of religious pluralism that’s served both the country and religion well. Saudi Arabia is notorious for its lack of freedom of religion, but we don’t improve anything by mimicking Saudi Arabia’s flaws.

One gets the sense that Gingrich’s reasoning is so weak here because he actually has no idea why it would make sense to prevent mosque-construction in Lower Manhattan. He just knows that this has become a far-right cause celebre and he likes to ride the far-right wave. If the far-right wants anti-Muslim bigotry, then he’ll provide it. But he’s an “ideas guy” so he has to try to think up a reason.

Jamelle Bouie at Tapped:

Chait notes that in this context, the “double standard” is the United States’ tolerance and religious pluralism, which stands in contrast to the illiberalism of a country like Saudi Arabia. To Chait, what Gingrich wants to say is that since the United States is a “Judeo-Christian country,” we should be allowed to prohibit Muslim places of worship, much in the same way that an Islamic theocracy like Iran would prohibit Christian or Jewish places of worship.

I’ve always been struck by the disrespect some conservatives have for core American principles like religious pluralism and freedom of worship. Especially since these are often the same conservatives who insist on “originalism” when confronted with any constitutional problem. I don’t expect consistency from right-wing conservatives, but if they were going to pretend like their views were coherent — and not just a combination of vulgar resentment and anti-liberalism — then they’d at least note that the Founders weren’t particularly keen to label the United States a Christian or Judeo-Christian country. Here’s Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli (seen above), which was approved unanimously by the Senate and signed by President John Adams on June 7, 1797:

As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

I’m struck by how uncontroversial this treaty was; the revolutionary generation still dominated national politics, and the Senate was home to many of the men who drafted and signed the Constitution. What’s more, the text of the treaty was released to the public, and as far as I can tell, there was little — if any — opposition to Article 11. In the United States of 1797, no one took offense at the notion of an officially non-Christian government, even when the overwhelming majority of Americans identify with some flavor of Christianity. Of course, that’s not to say that religious beliefs were irrelevant to the actions of leaders, but that most people recognized the government as essentially non-sectarian.

As Gingrich demonstrates, modern conservatives have a lot of antipathy towards religious pluralism, at least as it applies to Muslims. And to me at least, it’s striking how little of it has to do with the country’s history, and how much of it has its origins in very contemporary resentments and prejudices.

D.B. Grady at The Atlantic:

One might ask Gingrich how many mosques are permissible in New York City. He appears to suggest 100 is too many. Perhaps we should bulldoze them all. In his fervor over preventing the construction of a new mosque, he’s advocating the very religious intolerance he denounces from abroad. Similarly, the complex is not being built on Ground Zero. It’s two blocks away. That, it seems, is too close. Perhaps the former Speaker could suggest a more permissible distance for a house of worship. Would Brooklyn be more appropriate? Surely, though, families of 9/11 victims live in Brooklyn. They live all across the United States. Maybe the Saudis are onto something.

“America is experiencing an Islamist cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization,” Gingrich continued. “Sadly, too many of our elites are the willing apologists for those who would destroy them if they could.”

According to Daisy Kahn of the American Society for Muslim Advancement, “We decided we wanted to look at the legacy of 9/11 and do something positive” in order to “reverse the trend of extremism and the kind of ideology that the extremists are spreading.” In other words, exactly the sort of thing conservatives have been calling for Muslims to do for nine years.

“No mosque. No self deception. No surrender.”

Al Qaeda couldn’t have put it better themselves.

Daniel Larison:

From what we know of the promoters behind this project, Saudis have little or nothing to do with it, but Gingrich is hoping to conflate anyone involved with this project with Saudis. He is relying on his audience to remember that most of the hijackers were Saudis, to generalize from those 15 Saudis to all Saudis, and to identify all Muslims with the most extreme adherents of the most extreme forms of Islam. The purpose of this is not to resist “an Islamist cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization,” because our civilization is in no danger of being destroyed by any such offensive, but to rile up people here and convince them that all Muslims are out to get them, which will in turn make them more receptive to the agenda of growing the security and warfare state that Gingrich et al. favor.

Gingrich complains that the original name of the building, Cordoba House, is itself an insult. References to Cordoba can mean many things. For Western ecumenists, Ummayad Cordoba represented a high-point of convivencia and therefore served as a model of multi-religious co-existence. What is usually not mentioned is how the cultural and intellectual life there stagnated later under the Almoravids and Almohads, nor do many remember the Mozarabic Christian martyrs of the early centuries of Islamic rule in Spain, and Gingrich doesn’t mention any of this, either. Then again, Gingrich is not really interested here in historical accuracy or understanding. Cordoba has also represented for Arab nationalists one of the high points of Arab culture, and for pan-Islamists it represented one of the most far-flung parts of the briefly-united caliphate, and it is only this latter meaning that Gingrich chooses to give to the name of the organization and the building project. Gingrich simply assumes bad faith on the part of the promoters, and that determines the entirety of his argument.

What may be most striking in Gingrich’s statement is his claim that “they” (i.e., Muslims) are lecturing “us” about tolerance, but what is happening is that “we” are being held to “our” own standards. Perhaps the most irritating thing about the arguments Gingrich and Palin are making is that they do not want to critique the idea of religious tolerance, but they don’t want to face up to what it might mean in practice.

UPDATE: Eric Kleefeld at Talking Points Memo

UPDATE #2: Justin Elliott at Salon

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There’s A $100,000 A Year Income In My Soup

Hart Van Denburg at Minneapolis City Pages:

Waiters and waitresses around the state were startled to learn the other day that Republican candidate for governor Tom Emmer thought they were overpaid, after hearing about a very few servers at a St. Paul resto who reportedly make more than $100,000 a year.

Emmer managed to generalize that out-of-the-ballpark outlier stat to all servers in the state: He wants restaurant owners to be able to pay their wait staff a baseline sub-minimum wage.

Here’s the quote that got him in trouble:

“With the tips that they get to take home, there are some people earning over $100,000 a year. More than the very people providing the jobs and investing not only their life savings but their families’ future.”

Make it up in tips, he told servers — as if tips represent predictable income.

But the law’s not on his side. Minnesota and six other states don’t allow employers to pay workers less than the minimum wage if they earn tips.

Tom Emmer, on his campaign website:

Yesterday we kicked off the next phase of the Freedom and Prosperity Project. We are talking with different businesses around the state about the most important issue in this election: jobs. The first stop was at a restaurant where we listened to the owners talk about things state government could do to keep and grow jobs. They mentioned a tip credit, already in place in 43 other states including all of our neighboring states.

When a reporter asked if I supported the concept of a tip credit, I answered yes. I want the wait staff at a restaurant to be successful and make as much as they can, and a recent study published in Applied Economics Letters shows that tip credits have essentially no negative impact on wages for tipped employees. So contrary to what some people are saying, I have no interest in “cutting wages.”

Tip credits can impact jobs, and in a good way. Tip credits can help employers hire more people, or pay other employees higher wages. In today’s economy, we have to do everything we can to grow jobs, including hospitality jobs.

When the Legislature tried to raise the minimum wage, I supported a modest tip credit, freezing tipped employees at the current minimum wage to account for the wages they received as tips. This proposal was designed to prevent layoffs at bars and restaurants across the state as we headed into the recession. And, in fact, over 4000 jobs were lost last year in the hospitality industry as the recession took hold. Ultimately, our legislative leaders refused this modest concession.

I am a strong believer that a paycheck is better than an unemployment check. Job losses and business closings aren’t good for anybody. The United Auto Workers Union learned that lesson the hard way, as our auto industry almost collapsed at least partly due to an unwillingness to negotiate wage, benefit, and work rules that would have kept the industry afloat.

Minneapolis Star-Tribune op-ed

Eric Kleefeld at Talking Points Memo:

Emmer tried to backtrack by posting a statement on his website, declaring that his proposal would not actually affect workers’ wages at all: “I want the wait staff at a restaurant to be successful and make as much as they can, and a recent study published in Applied Economics Letters shows that tip credits have essentially no negative impact on wages for tipped employees. So contrary to what some people are saying, I have no interest in ‘cutting wages.'”

The Star Tribune published an editorial with the fitting title, “Tip to Emmer: Drop gratuity idea.” Of his insistence that economic forces would result in workers’ pay remaining the same, they said: “The result is a contradictory message with a cynical aftertaste. Emmer appears to be telling business owners that he wants to do them a favor at their workers’ expense. Then he tells those same workers: Don’t worry. Your employers will discover they can’t really lower your pay, no matter what state law says.”

Meanwhile, the restaurant owner involved said that he had received hateful phone calls over the matter. He also insisted that he never actually told Emmer that his staff members were making over $100,000, and that Emmer’s quote itself was “manipulated.” It should be noted that the Star Tribune’s reporter stands by the quote, saying that it is in on tape — and that Minnesota Public Radio separately reported Emmer saying the same thing.

In his press release announcing the listening session with servers, Emmer said: “This week we met with business owners and next week we will listen to the employees, especially servers concerned about the tip credit issue. I’m looking forward to a robust discussion.”

Atrios:

One tremendous problem we have in this country is that too many who run in whitecollarish circles get absolutely enraged at the idea that some people working in blue collar or service industry jobs might actually be making a few bucks. It doesn’t matter how hard those jobs are, that the jobs might actually require a high level of skills, or how many years people have been in those jobs, they’re somehow seen as lesser jobs.

I’m reminded of when my local transit authority went on strike, and people were absolutely livid that some lowly bus drivers earned $50K per year. My response, of course, was to suggest that if you think earning $50K per a year in a job with limited career advancement opportunities, driving a goddamn bus down narrow Philadelphia streets 40 hours a week sounds like an excellent job opportunity, then go become a bus driver.

Steve Benen:

While this is clearly amusing, and the kind of thing that can really resonate in a campaign (see “chicken for checkups”), it’s worth keeping in mind that the limits of Emmer’s ideology go well beyond bizarre ideas about servers and tips.

Indeed, by some measures, Emmer has the most radical ideas about constitutional law of any gubernatorial challenger running this year.

Emmer, who’s also a lawyer, believes in a 19th-century-era concept called “nullification.” It’s kind of like secession-lite — states can overrule federal law whenever they choose to do so. The concept has been rejected as nonsense since the Civil War, but Emmer has not only endorsed it, he co-sponsored a measure that would presumptively nullify all federal laws in the state of Minnesota.

Under Emmer’s proposal, no federal mandate upon the state would be honored by Minnesota unless the governor, Speaker of the state House and state Senate Majority Leader were to issue determinations that the federal government has the power to legislate in that area. If any of those three officials were to determine that the federal government does not have the relevant power, the mandate could not take effect unless the legislature passed a law specifically applying it.

MinnPost pointed out to Emmer that this idea runs afoul of the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, which established that federal laws are the “supreme Law of the Land” to which states are bound. It was only noted that Emmer’s method skips the traditionally accepted manner for states to challenge a federal law, to file a lawsuit and adjudicate the matter in the courts. Emmer responded that this is the “preferred mechanism by some. That is usually federal-leaning constitutionalists.” But he said the states shouldn’t wait for courts to determine the scope of the federal government’s authority.

Emmer even wrote an op-ed a few weeks ago insisting, “As governor, I will push back against this federal encroachment into our local affairs. I believe that our Legislature should have a voice in whether federal laws should be made to apply to Minnesotans.”

This isn’t just a garden-variety bad idea; this is truly crazy. It’s the kind of sentiment one might expect from John C. Calhoun in 1833, not a 21st-century major-party gubernatorial candidate.

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We’re Steele Having Fun And He’s Steele The One

Eric Kleefeld at Talking Points Memo:

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele may be misremembering exactly how and when the Afghanistan war began.

At a Republican Party fundraiser in Connecticut on Thursday, Steele declared that the war in Afghanistan “was a war of Obama’s choosing” that America had not “actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in,” in a response to an attendee’s question about the resignation of Gen. Stanley McChrystal — which Steele called “very comical.”

“The McChrystal incident, to me, was very comical. And I think it’s a reflection of the frustration that a lot of our military leaders have with this Administration and their prosecution of the war in Afghanistan,” said Steele. “Keep in mind again, federal candidates, this was a war of Obama’s choosing. This is not something the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in.”

“It was one of those, one of those areas of the total board of foreign policy [“in the Middle East”? — Note: The audio is not quite clear in this section.] that we would be in the background, sort of shaping the changes that were necessary in Afghanistan as opposed to directly engaging troops,” Steele continued. “But it was the president who was trying to be cute by half by flipping a script demonizing Iraq, while saying the battle really should be in Afghanistan. Well, if he’s such a student of history, has he not understood that you know that’s the one thing you don’t do, is engage in a land war in Afghanistan? All right, because everyone who has tried, over a thousand years of history, has failed. And there are reasons for that. There are other ways to engage in Afghanistan.”

Bill Kristol at The Weekly Standard:

Dear Michael,

You are, I know, a patriot. So I ask you to consider, over this July 4 weekend, doing an act of service for the country you love: Resign as chairman of the Republican party.

Your tenure has of course been marked by gaffes and embarrassments, but I for one have never paid much attention to them, and have never thought they would matter much to the success of the causes and principles we share. But now you have said, about the war in Afghanistan, speaking as RNC chairman at an RNC event, “Keep in mind again, federal candidates, this was a war of Obama’s choosing. This was not something that the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in.” And, “if [Obama] is such a student of history, has he not understood that you know that’s the one thing you don’t do, is engage in a land war in Afghanistan?”

Needless to say, the war in Afghanistan was not “a war of Obama’s choosing.” It has been prosecuted by the United States under Presidents Bush and Obama. Republicans have consistently supported the effort. Indeed, as the DNC Communications Director (of all people) has said, your statement “puts [you] at odds with about 100 percent of the Republican Party.”

And not on a trivial matter. At a time when Gen. Petraeus has just taken over command, when Republicans in Congress are pushing for a clean war funding resolution, when Republicans around the country are doing their best to rally their fellow citizens behind the mission, your comment is more than an embarrassment. It’s an affront, both to the honor of the Republican party and to the commitment of the soldiers fighting to accomplish the mission they’ve been asked to take on by our elected leaders.

There are, of course, those who think we should pull out of Afghanistan, and they’re certainly entitled to make their case. But one of them shouldn’t be the chairman of the Republican party.

Sincerely yours,

William Kristol

Think Progress:

Dear Bill,

You love, we know, war. Love it. Always trying to get America into new and bigger ones. It’s your thing. We get it.

But we think you’re being unfair towards RNC Chairman Michael Steele. Sure, he was wrong when he said that Afghanistan “was a war of Obama’s choosing” and “not something that the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in.” But as you correctly note, his entire term has been marked by “gaffes and embarrassments” — such as telling African Americans they “don’t have a reason” to vote Republican, by suggesting Republicans are “drinking that Potomac River water” and “getting high,” and telling the public that it has “no reason, none, to trust” the GOP. But none of this produced from you the slightest peep of protest.

You express concern that Mr. Steele breaks from Republican orthodoxy by voicing his criticisms of the Afghanistan war. But when Mr. Steele broke from Republican principles and expressed his view that abortion should be an “individual choice,” we didn’t hear your call for his resignation. (In fact, your publication defended him.)

What really irks you is that Mr. Steele has the temerity to suggest that the continued war in Afghanistan is not a good idea — which is a debate worth having. It’s therefore no surprise that the one thing that should motivate you to call for the resignation of Mr. Steele is his suggestion that it’s a bad idea for the U.S. to continue to “engage in a land war in Afghanistan.”

For the crime of questioning an American war, you feel that Mr. Steele must pay. This shouldn’t be a political issue — members of both parties have concerns about the current course in Afghanistan, and members of both parties should be having this debate. Not just Democrats.

So Mr. Kristol, instead of calling on Mr. Steele to resign, challenge him to a debate on Afghanistan to discuss your foreign policy views. And as for Mr. Steele, we hope he stays.

Sincerely yours,

The Think Progress team

Erick Erickson at Redstate:

I have heard Michael Steele’s comments regarding Afghanistan and the President.

I have read the RNC’s statement on the matter.

The RNC statement is indecipherable in the context of what Michael Steele actually said.

The war in Afghanistan is not a war of Barack Obama’s choosing. It is a war of Al Qaeda and the Taliban’s choosing. We responded.

Michael Steele must resign. He has lost all moral authority to lead the GOP.

Greg Sargent:

The statement from DNC spox Brad Woodhouse, just out:

RNC CHAIRMAN MICHAEL STEELE BETS AGAINST OUR TROOPS, ROOTS FOR FAILURE

“Here goes Michael Steele setting policy for the GOP again. The likes of John McCain and Lindsey Graham will be interested to hear that the Republican Party position is that we should walk away from the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban without finishing the job. They’d also be interested to hear that the Chairman of the Republican Party thinks we have no business in Afghanistan notwithstanding the fact that we are there because we were attacked by terrorists on 9-11.

“And, the American people will be interested to hear that the leader of the Republican Party thinks recent events related to the war are ‘comical’ and that he is betting against our troops and rooting for failure in Afghanistan. It’s simply unconscionable that Michael Steele would undermine the morale of our troops when what they need is our support and encouragement. Michael Steele would do well to remember that we are not in Afghanistan by our own choosing, that we were attacked and that his words have consequences.”

The DNC argument for using this script is that Dems rarely attack Republicans as being against the troops, while Republicans go after Dems this way on a nearly daily basis. They would insist that the strong language really is warranted. Steele said that history suggests we can’t win there — this is what the DNC describes as “betting against our troops.” And Bill Kristol agrees that this is an “affront” to them.

Are liberal Dems who have made much the same case about Afghanistan also “rooting for failure” and “betting against our troops”? The DNC would argue that this is a different situation — that Steele’s argument isn’t in good faith. It cuts against what he himself has said in the past — that we must win — and is at odds with his entire party. Also, they’d argue that coming from a party leader, his words really do have consequences for troop morale and for the war effort.

But Steele didn’t “root for failure” anywhere. And he isn’t really “betting against our troops.” He’s saying that this an inherently unwinnable situation, however brave and tough the troops are. I don’t know if that’s what he believes, but that’s what he said.

Clearly, Dems are opting for strong language to break through on a Friday before a holiday weekend in the belief that this does raise real questions about Steele’s candor. But this is Karl Rove’s playbook. I don’t care how often Republicans do it — this blog is not on board with this kind of thing from either party.

The DNC is taking a hit at Steele, but it’s not really a fair one because he isn’t alone in being a Republican who is expressing doubts about continued American involvement in Iraq. George Will said pretty much the same thing, albeit much more eloquently than Steele, back in September. And, earlier this year, The Cato Institute hosted a forum in which several conservative intellectuals and Members of Congress essentially endorsed the idea that America needed to drastically scale back it’s involvement in Afghanistan. So, to say that Steele is bucking his own party on this issue simply isn’t true.

At the same time, though, Steele’s assertion that Afghanistan is a war of “Obama’s choosing” is simply absurd. For one thing, the war itself was started, and continued, under a Republican President. Moreover, while it’s true that the President did make the idea of concentrating on Afghanistan instead of Iraq part of his campaign, he was hardly alone in arguing that we needed to continue our involvement in Afghanistan. In fact, it’s hard to say what would be different in that war if John McCain had won in 2008 instead of Barack Obama. So, calling it a war of “Obama’s choosing” is simply ridiculous.

And while it is refreshing to hear Republicans questioning the war, I have to wonder if they’d be saying the same thing if the President had an R after his name.

Actually, I don’t have to wonder.

David Frum at FrumForm:

So I feel like an idiot.

About a week ago, one of the young staffers here proposed an article: “What happens if Republicans bug out on Afghanistan?” I nixed it. “Let’s not deal with hypotheticals.” Oops.

Michael Steele’s Afghanistan-skeptical comments seem to have been unscripted, but who knows. FrumForum’s Tim Mak placed an immediate call to the RNC to ask whether the chairman had perhaps been misunderstood or had possibly misspoken. The RNC had no comment. The comment is not being walked back, not today anyway.

Some thoughts in reply:

1) The time to make the case against an enhanced commitment to Afghanistan was a year ago, before that commitment was made. Back then, however, Republicans almost unanimously supported the president’s decision. Indeed Republicans pressed the president to make the decision and upbraided him for taking too long. Karl Rove and Sarah Palin, among others, myself included, signed a letter pledging bipartisan support for an Afghan surge. Back then, as I remember it, the main Republican criticism of the president was that he should not have mentioned a deadline for the Afghan surge.

2) Maybe as time passes people change their minds. Fine. But if they do change their minds, they should acknowledge that is what they have done. They should not revise history so that a strategy that was broadly supported by all becomes “Obama’s war.”

3) Maybe the strategy is genuinely wrong. Maybe the Afghanistan commitment is not worth the costs. Maybe instituting a stable central government in Afghanistan is an over-ambitious project. Again: fine. But with the guns firing, that’s a point of view to advocate in a serious and considered way, as part of a debate over national interests, not to score political points. The debate should be aimed at finding a resolution in Afghanistan that is maximally successful for the U.S. and partners, not the way that is maximally humiliating to the president. Obama may fail in Afghanistan. But if he does, the whole country fails with him

There is a lot to catch up after the last week away, but I thought I would start by saying a few things about Michael Steele’s Afghanistan remarks. They have predictably drawn the ire of Bill Kristol, who has called for Steele’s resignation, but Steele’s continued tenure at the RNC doesn’t interest me very much. What I do find interesting is how the utterly shameless, reflexive Republican opposition to everything Obama touches has finally run into the brick wall of one issue that most Republicans and mainstream conservatives consider to be completely non-negotiable. Incorrigible misrepresentation of every other foreign policy initiative Obama undertakes is permitted, but staking out a relatively less hawkish position than the administration is simply not tolerated.

Obviously Steele’s Afghanistan comments are not derived from any serious principled objection to an American presence in Afghanistan, and they certainly don’t reflect any fundamental opposition to foreign entanglements. As far as I can tell, Steele has rarely given these questions any attention at all until now, and he was a reliable backer of the Iraq war all along just like virtually every other aspiring Republican office-seeker and elected official. Steele evidently believes that Afghanistan is now a political liability for Obama, and he wants to take advantage of this, but far from being a potential “turning point” it is just another example of how clueless and hopeless Steele is when it comes to serving in a leadership capacity for Republicans. I can hardly wait to hear how Steele’s cynical posturing is another sign of the rise of antiwar Republicanism.

However, even if Steele were sincere and principled in his objections, it would be important to explain why he is wrong. It is true that last year Obama chose to increase the number of soldiers in Afghanistan, where the war effort had been chronically under-manned and under-resourced for most of the last decade, but this has been the one war in the last fifteen years that the U.S. did not choose to enter. It probably grates on many Republicans that the one war that comes closest to anything resembling a just or necessary war in the last decade is the one that they quite deliberately starved of resources and manpower. It is also probably discomforting that they did this to pursue a war in Iraq that has consumed far more lives, both American and Iraqi, and which had not even the remotest connection to American interests. Steele says that there are “other ways to engage in Afghanistan,” which confirms that he has no desire to disengage fully from the country, but if other “antiwar” Republican arguments are anything to go by he means that we should bombard Afghanistan from afar and hope for the best. Steele doesn’t really mean what he’s saying, but even if he did we shouldn’t take it seriously.

UPDATE: Ann Coulter at Human Events

Andrew Sullivan on Coulter

Tom Maguire on Coulter and Sullivan

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