Archive for the ‘National Politics’ Category

No Mitch Henck, Obama and Santorum don’t hate gays equally

January 8, 2012

Throughout American history, civil rights for various groups, from women to blacks to gays, have come slowly and painfully. Typically, the movement begins with a small group in favor of expanding rights, a small group that is hostile to that expansion, and a small group that is ambivalent. In time, the last group gradually shifts to support the newer vision of social justice. That is what we see in President Obama’s support of gay rights. Barney Frank explains:

“My own view is that I look at President Obama’s record, he was probably inclined to think that same-sex marriage was legitimate, but as a candidate for president in 2008 that would have been an unwise thing to say,” Mr. Frank said. “And I don’t mean that he’s being hypocritical. I mean that if you live in a democratic society, it is a mix of what you think the voters want and what you think is doable.”

Liberals and conservatives alike enjoy pointing out that the president’s position on gay marriage is no different than Rick Santorum’s. Conservative(ish) Madison radio host Mitch Henck made this point over and over again the other day, feigning puzzlement at the gay community’s hostility to Santorum’s candidacy. Even if we disregarded the major gay rights initiatives Obama has championed, including domestic partnerships for federal employees, repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and a proactive campaign for gay rights abroad, there’s a major difference between Santorum and Obama on gay marriage.

Essentially, Obama is to gays what JFK and LBJ were to blacks in the early 60’s. He is trying to find a why to support the progressive definition of gay rights without losing an election. Santorum, very simply, is to gays what Strom Thurmond was to blacks. Not only is he viciously opposed to any recognition of gay partnerships, but he believes the law should reflect the view that homosexuality is immoral, just as Thurmond believed integration to be immoral.

Actually, America is just like Poland

January 7, 2012

So says a Polish correspondent reporting on the Iowa caucuses, says my friend Patrick McEwen. The same reporter I overheard talking to a former state senator at a Mitt Romney rally struck up a conversation with Patrick at a caucus in Davenport. According to Patrick –– an avid Ron Paul supporter –– the reporter said the campaigns had taught him one thing about America:

“Except for Ron Paul, your politicians say nothing when they speak –– just like in Poland.”


Iowa Evangelicals vote for a Mormon and a Catholic

January 4, 2012

A generation ago, Iowa Evangelicals would have regarded last night’s results as a sad display of spiritual decay in the GOP. A Mormon beats a Catholic by 8 votes, followed by a social libertarian who rarely ever mentions God? Results like that would have infuriated Pat Robertson in 1980.

The acceptance of Mormons and Catholics by Evangelicals is NOT an indication that religion is no longer important in politics, or that religious voters prefer to keep Christianity out of politics. What it shows is simply that the religious right has puts its differences with Mormons, Catholics and Jews aside while it takes on its biggest enemy: American secularism.

Christianity teaches us that there is only one way to God, and yet, as we have seen in recent decades, some of the most prolific promoters of that message are willing to make alliances with supposed heathens and heretics to achieve a common goal.

For instance:

The Evangelical movement sees the Israeli Jewish population as a protector of the Holy Land from Muslims, which is curious, since it seems nearly impossible that Muslims could do worse than kill the supposed son of God himself.

Similarly, the Evangelical right has warmed considerably to Catholics, such as Rick Santorum. Sure, some might regard the Pope as the anti-Christ, but he’s still a hell of a lot better than Planned Parenthood.

Evangelicals are probably more reluctant to elect a Mormon, but at the end of the day, there are only a handful of states that have a cultural and political character more friendly to conservative Christians than Utah. A pro-life Mormon beats the hell out of a pro-choice Muslim, which is apparently the status quo.

Tommy Thompson: It may happen

March 1, 2010

A weak Republican candidate and a weak Democratic year is looking more and more tempting to Tommy Thompson, according to Politico.

Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, who served four terms as Wisconsin governor, is securing financial pledges and ramping up his outreach to longtime political aides in preparation for a possible campaign against Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold.

Another longtime Thompson ally said the governor already has $200,000 in potential donations for a campaign that doesn’t yet exist.

“If you talked to me two weeks ago, I would have put it at a 50-50 shot. Now it’s at 70,” said the Thompson aide, who requested anonymity to avoid offending his friend. “He’s asking serious questions like, ‘Who would run the campaign? Who would do the fundraising? When would we announce? How much could we raise?’”

Avoid offending his friend? Give me a break –– this is a first class “leak” intended to get Republicans excited about a potential run. Politico is the first stage –– it gets the elites (contributors, consultants etc.) and politicos excited. The next stage will be the Wisconsin press, which will give the masses an opportunity to evaluate a Thompson bid.

Democrats cannot dismiss this story. People love Russ Feingold, but there is also a fair bit of nostalgia for Tommy Thompson. Popular governors are generally better-liked than popular senators, if for no better reason than more people come into contact with what they do and senators are derided as “Washington insiders.” The most recent poll shows Thompson slightly ahead of Feingold, while one done in November showed a solid lead for Feingold.

The standards for a senate race are not anywhere near as high as the ones Tommy clearly didn’t live up to during his short-lived presidential bid, but Feingold is a great candidate and a great debater, so Tommy will not be able to win on name recognition a lone. He’d have to bring it. No excuses about hearing aids or diarrhea.

Bad year for Dems could mean Feingold loss

February 24, 2010

Russ Feingold has tons of respect from people who pay attention. I have countless anecdotes about conservatives who vote for Feingold because they respect his honesty, intelligence and commitment to principle. But that only means that history will look kindly on him. That does not mean the 2010 midterm elections will. Here are some polls I forgot to post last week:

In a new Rasmussen poll, Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold (D) fails to garner 50 percent against two announced Republican challengers, while he trails former Gov. Tommy Thompson, who has yet to say whether he will run. Thompson led Feingold by a similar margin last month.

Thompson 48, Feingold 43

Feingold 47, Wall 39

Feingold 47, Westlake 37

For Feingold to lose against Wall or Westlake the Democrats will have to do really badly. If the economy is still in bad shape (and showing no signs of improvement) Obama and his party is going to get hammered. Feingold will not be immune to the damage.

No, that’s not what Tommy Thompson said

February 12, 2010

Terrence Wall’s first TV ad displays the aspiring politician’s willingness to get chin-deep in the mud to beat Russ Feingold. Although Feingold has yet to respond in-kind, his party and his campaign have responded with partisan venom, and in doing so have strayed far from the truth.

For instance, the most recent meme has centered on a comment Tommy Thompson made to reporters about a possible run against Feingold:

“This election…it’s going to be decided on things that aren’t that particular to Wisconsin.”

According to the Democrats, that means Thompson said “the election won’t be about Wisconsin.” The conclusion to that train of logic is that Thompson doesn’t believe Wisconsin issues are important enough to discuss.

This is even more disingenuous than the recent attacks against Terrence Wall for avoiding state income taxes in 12 of the last 15 years. At least the latter case is based on a fact. The Thompson quote is a cynical misrepresentation of what the former governor (notice the Democrats refer to him as “former Bush administration official,” and not “former governor”) said.

It’s unfortunate that a campaign waged on behalf of a candidate known for his honesty and integrity is so dishonest and lacking in intellectual integrity.

What government “takeover”?

February 10, 2010

Terrence Wall’s latest campaign ad accuses Russ Feingold of voting in favor of a “government takeover of health care.”

Analysis of the ad from the Associated Press.

How Obama uses Paul Ryan

February 3, 2010

Like him or not, Paul Ryan is no dummy. There’s a reason the Wisconsin Republican has had such a quick ascent within the House GOP leadership. It appears that he has even become a subject of Obama’s new strategy to engage the Republicans (or at least to pretend to engage them).

Obama praised Ryan for having ideas at the retreat, contrasting him with Republicans who offered only talking points. But Obama also criticized Ryan, saying his plan would too strictly limit Medicare benefits.

Ryan proposes that the deficit be closed by shifting some seniors away from Medicare. He would have Americans 55 and younger be issued vouchers to buy private insurance approved  by Medicare instead of being placed in the Medicare system. when they grow older.  Those older than 55 would stay in Medicare.

Ryan is a movement conservative. He is a Buckley-reading son of the Wall Street Journal Editorial Page. He is the idol of campus conservatives all across America. An intellectual in an anti-intellectual party. But there’s a reason Obama was comfortable highlighting his intellectualism. His ideas are radical, and they strike against the most sacred special interest in Washington: the elderly. Obama welcomes the opportunity to showcase Ryan’s alternatives because they are incompatible with American public opinion.

The perception that Obama’s health care plan would covertly starve Medicare to pay for increased Medicaid etc. is one of the most important barriers that Democrats need to address in order to win the health care debate. By so generously giving the floor to a Republican who is overtly anti-Medicare (relatively speaking), Obama can remind voters that it is in fact Democrats who wish to protect the elderly.

The argument that needs to be made

January 25, 2010

New York Times editorial board on the Supreme Court’s campaign finance ruling:

“The majority is deeply wrong on the law. Most wrongheaded of all is its insistence that corporations are just like people and entitled to the same First Amendment rights. It is an odd claim since companies are creations of the state that exist to make money. They are given special privileges, including different tax rates, to do just that. It was a fundamental misreading of the Constitution to say that these artificial legal constructs have the same right to spend money on politics as ordinary Americans have to speak out in support of a candidate. (more…)

Another go at court nominations

January 22, 2010

Will Sensenbrenner have something to say about these guys?

Lynn S. Adelman, Victoria Nourse, Richard Sankowitz and Dean Strang.

These are the four names Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl forwarded to President Obama to replace a vacancy on the 7th district federal court.