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Posts Tagged ‘Republicans’

For the National Republican Congressional Committee, Anh “Joseph” Cao was a diamond in a shitpile.  The 41-year old Vietnamese lawyer, (pronounced “Gow”), knocked off scandal-plagued Democratic incumbent William “Dollar Bill” Jefferson in a bright blue, majority black district.  Cao’s three point victory made him the first Vietnamese-American in Congress, and the NRCC immediately trumpeted his success as a harbinger of better days.

So who is he?  Cao was born in Saigon, son of an ARVN officer.  His father was captured by the Communists, and spent seven years in prison as his mother fled with her children to the United States.  After being released, his father rejoined the family in America.  Joseph moved to Louisiana in 1997 for law school, and lives there with his wife and two daughters.  Thus, your template:  A refugee from a Communist country, member of a politically conservative ethnic group, also happens to be a convert to Catholicism.  On the surface, Cao has all the trappings of a far-right Republican.

Thing is, he’s not.  Cao has a fascinating background.  Following his Jesuit training and MA in Philosophy at Fordham (Go Rams!), Cao moved to Virginia where he worked with Boat People S.O.S. (BPSOS).  BPSOS is a community-based organization dedicated to helping Vietnamese refugees in America.  After earning his J.D., Cao took a position as BPSOS’ in-house counsel.  After Hurricane Katrina destroyed his home and office, Cao returned to New Orleans where he joined the board of the Mary Queen of Vietnam (MQVN) Church’s Community Development Corporation.  MQVN has earned a strong reputation for community development work in the aftermath of the hurricane.  Its leader characterized the situation:

“Before the storm, I guess you could call us libertarians,” Father Vien said. “Our attitude toward government was: ‘you don’t bother us, we won’t bother you.’ But Katrina changed all that. We had a responsibility to speak out.”

With MQVN, Cao fought to have utilities turned back on as quickly as possible in storm-damaged neighborhoods.  He also worked against a landfill project that would have dumped a quarter of Katrina debris in New Orleans East.  Eric Tang’s excellant Huffington Post profile notes praise for MQVN’s work from African-American leaders including local progressives.  Senator Obama visited the church in February.  Overall, Cao’s religious perspective informs a social gospel:

“When I was in Mexico helping the poor, I had a struggle with the issue of poverty and of evil in the world,” Mr. Cao said. “I told my spiritual director about my struggles, and basically he told me that God sends good people to help with human suffering – people like Gandhi and (the Rev.) Martin Luther King (Jr.). I thought the best way I could effect social change was to go to law school and into politics.”

Until 2007, Cao was registered independant.  He frequently cites Aristotle’s definition of virtue: “To walk in the middle line.” Cao says he “is not a hardcore conservative,” and there’s absolutely zero Republican branding on his website.  In an interview with the New York Times, the incoming Representative explained his overall view of things:  “Life is absurd but one cannot succumb to the absurdity of it.”  How often do Republicans channel Camus?

What about social issues?  Whither God and gays?  Cao spoke with U.S. News:

How important were traditional family values issues, like abortion and marriage, in your race?
Very little. I was focusing on the need to rebuild the Second Congressional District so the issues of abortion and marriage were not the focus of my campaign at all.

That’s refreshing, as was this follow-up:

Are those values issue high priorities for your first term in Congress?
My main priority in the first couple of years is to focus on rebuilding the Second Congressional District in Louisiana. Three and half years after Katrina, there are areas that remain devastated. The healthcare system is in need of reform. The educational system is in need of reform. We need to develop economically, need to look at the levies and at coastal restoration. Those are the issues right now that concern the majority of my constituents, so that’s what I’ll be focusing on.

As a devout Catholic, Cao will likely be a reliable pro-life vote.  That said, he strikes me as someone who would vote against gay marriage but might just oppose a Constitutional ban.

Most importantly, the tone of his campaign has been heavily focused on the needs of his constituents.  This might be a matter of necessity in the 29th-bluest district in the country, but his record does show a powerful commitment to community development.  Cao has expressed interest in joining the Congressional Black Caucus, arguing that he represents a majority-black district.  It won’t happen, (outstanding progressive Steve Cohen of Memphis already tried it and failed), but Cao’s record suggests this is a real, good-faith effort to strengthen the voice of his voters.

The incoming Representative is noticeably new to the political game.  He admitted to CNN that his victory was aided by low voter turnout due to Hurricane Gustav.  (Note to new members:  You are happy with turnout, you think it represents a strong mandate for change, etc. etc.)  Republicans have crowed about Cao with tacky headlines (“the future is Cao!“,) but he is unlikely to be re-elected if the Democrats offer a strong challenge.  Besides which, he’s hardly a useful model for future races.  All Cao’s victory proves politically is that Republicans can win blue districts if the Democrat has been caught with $90,000 cash in his freezer, is under indictment on election day, and if a hurricane drops turnout to approximately 1/3 of the 2004 vote total.  If that’s Boehner’s plan, well, good luck to you, sir.

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This is how National Review describes a completely voluntary call to national service:

Friday, November 07, 2008

Arbeit Macht Frei [John Derbyshire]

Corvée labor, a/k/a “community service.”

Those of us over 55 are not excluded, I see. Shall we have to build our own camps, I wonder, like zeks?

For those of you who don’t get the reference, “arbeit macht frei” translates roughly to “work makes you free;” and was written on the gates at Dachau, Theresienstadt, and numerous other Nazi concentration camps.
To paraphrase Charles Pierce:  “If Derbyshire thinks Obama is a fascist, he couldn’t have found a fascist at Mussolini’s bachelor party.”
This isn’t some Idaho militiaman either; National Review is the leading conservative magazine in America.  But then, what should we expect from the home of fatty fascist-finder Jonah Goldberg?

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I read the news today, oh boy:

CHICAGO (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama says he didn’t know that one of his relatives was living in the United States illegally and believes the appropriate laws should be followed.

The Associated Press found that Obama’s aunt had been instructed to leave the country four years ago by an immigration judge who rejected her request for asylum from her native Kenya. The woman, Zeituni Onyango (zay-TUHN on-YANG-oh), is living in public housing in Boston and is the half-sister of Obama’s late father.

So this is our October November surprise.  The Obama campaign has released a statement denying knowledge of Onyango’s legal status and stating that “any and all appropriate laws [should] be followed.” Senator Obama has met Onyango literally a handful of times in his life, once in Kenya and once in Chicago, and she attended his Senate swearing-in in 2004 without visa assistance from Obama’s staff.  She’s mentioned in passing in Dreams of my Father, but has played no role whatsoever in the campaign or the public discourse.

We have a sick, sick media.  Ms. Onyango is the half-sister of a father that Barack Obama barely knew, a father who left when his son was two years old, and who subsequently saw his son a grand total of one time after returning to Kenya.  The Senator’s childhood, teenage years, adulthood, all of it was spent with his mother’s family, with no connection to Onyango or any of the rest of his father’s family.

This is personal.  My biological father was an alcoholic who was functionally out of my life from the moment it began, and physically out of my life by the time I was three.  For close to 20 years I had no contact with him, no child support, nothing, until I exchanged literally two letters with the man something like three years ago.  My entire life has been a product of my mother’s family (and my stepfather,) and when Senator Obama writes that he “was probably shaped more by [his father’s] absence than his presence,” this speaks directly to the experiences of both myself and others who’ve been through such situations.  He speaks directly to everyone who’s had to hear some so-called friend proclaim: “well if I was in your position, I’d be curious to know what my father was like.”

So let’s do a hypothetical.  Let’s pretend I was electable for a moment, (somewhere other than Kerala,) and running for some public office.  Obviously biography matters.  Both candidates have made this about their personal stories.  Family stories are relevent to the extent that they shape the person’s values.  (I recently received the 91-page FBI file on my great-aunt, so you can file my political chances…)  The problem is, Barack Obama’s father’s side of the family is exactly zero part of his life, and has been such for decades.  He’s no more answerable for his father’s half-sister than I am for my biological father’s sister, whose name I can’t even come up with offhand, but who, I was once told, lives in an Orthodox community in Monsey, New YorkMazel tov for her, but for all I know she could be Chairwoman of the Aryan Brotherhood Jewish Women’s Auxiliary.  What that has to do with the price of hash in Herat, let alone my hypothetical Senate campaign, is unclear; and any journalist who decided that this woman’s personal life was a front-page story three days before the election could consider himself expelled from the press room the day after I won.

It is fair game to profile a relative who the campaign has cited to help their candidate’s chances.  Scarborough might be a douchebag, but Senator Obama did turn his white grandmother into a public figure when he mentioned her in his speech on race.  Just the same, Joe McCarthyCain matters because he had been working on his brother’s campaign in between the red-baiting and abuse of emergency services.  Onyango’s composite contribution to Senator Obama’s campaign, let alone his life, amounts to something like $200 worth of campaign cash.

The context makes this story even nastier.  Going on two years, the press and the political right have debated everything from Senator Obama’s birth certificate to his childhood education to his alleged Arab heritage.  The Very Serious Media has alternated between giving equal time to and debunking smears on his patriotism including the flag pin flap and the national anthem story, while the Know-Nothing McCain-Palin ticket slices America into real and fake segments.*  The press frequently presents both sides of every story with equal weight, even while partisans of the right bring outright white nationalist perspectives.  (Sorry Kathy, but “blood equity” is a bit too Ein Volk, Ein Reich for my taste…)

And so, into this foreigner-smearing, patriotism-questioning, race-baiting, not-like-us discourse, the entirety of our big media chooses to excrete a story about the illegal immigration status of Obama’s distant aunt some three days before the election.  The Washington Post, MSNBC, and Fox News are all running this as the second story on their websites as of 3 PM Saturday.  Jerome Corsi would be proud.

*(New York and northern Virginia become “Real America” on occasions upon which they are attacked by terrorists.  Offer not valid after 30 days.)

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Need better wingnuts

This is a difficult, difficult read.  It took me four tries to get through it.  I think, repeat “think,” she’s arguing that Malcolm X is Barack Obama’s father; before doing a 180 and backing away from it right at the end.

You really should read it.  Pamela Geller isn’t a nobody, she isn’t writing from her cabin in Montana.  Best known for bikini blogging, she writes for somewhat prominent magazines, interviews right-wing Dutch parliamentarians and top U.S. officials, and defends war criminals.  So when you read through that, bear in mind that this is at least a slightly important person for the political right.

Yikes.

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Stephen Colbert is legitimately running the GOP.  Witness:

“The next generation of the Republican Party. The Young Eagles provide the GOP with the financial resources to compete in national, state, and local elections, while affording members the opportunity to interact and network with Republican Party officials, pundits, enthusiasts, and donors as well as business leaders and innovators throughout the country.”

The Young Eagles, (Eaglets?), complete with silly logo:

But how does one join this elite cadre of Reagan revolutionaries?  Simple: Throw a shit-ton of money at a dying elephant:

“A Republican Young Eagles membership requires a $7,500 personal contribution per year or a joint membership of $3,750 per person per year.”

In case you aren’t prepared to ante your rent money for the cause, prospective Eaglets can get a taste of the organization at a reasonably-priced $1,500 per event.  If you can pony up $40,000 (!), it buys you attendance at “special events” and some Young Eagles Roundtable thing. (Nest?  Access to the Eagles’ Nest?  Maybe you get to watch Dick Morris eat regurgitated worms?)  Prep your passports, Eaglets, because these special events are held in such foreign locales as New York* and Los Angeles.

Where in the name of chicken-friend Jesus are young people supposed to find $40,000?  Perhaps it helps that “Young Eagles” membership is open to people up to 45 years old.  Sorry Senator Obama, you just missed it.  So the GOP youth auxiliary actually includes the tail end of the baby boomers.  An impressive effort to relate to those kids playin’ the hippity-hop on your lawn.

I swear, part of me really believes this is a parody.  Although to be fair on the stupid logo, I’ve always thought the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation

…looked disturbingly like the Carolina Hurricanes ice hockey team:

So I guess I should lay off the design people.

* New York becomes a part of America on days it is attacked by terrorists.  Offer void after 30 days.

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Where’d Palin come from?  Lost in the bad press, McCathyism, and populist chicanery is the fascinating story of how Little Miss Wasilla charmed the pants off the Republican intellectual establishment*

*(Take the phrase under advisement when this fool is allowed onto the reservation.)

Jane Mayer of the New Yorker magazine, (now with more racism!) uncovers the gory details:

“During her gubernatorial campaign, (policy advisor John) Bitney said, he began predicting to Palin that she would make the short list of Republican Vice-Presidential prospects. “She had the biography, I told her, to be a contender,” he recalled. At first, Palin only laughed. But within a few months of being sworn in she and others in her circle noticed that a blogger named Adam Brickley had started a movement to draft her as Vice-President. Palin also learned that a number of prominent conservative pundits would soon be passing through Juneau, on cruises sponsored by right-leaning political magazines. She invited these insiders to the governor’s mansion, and even led some of them on a helicopter tour.”

Although the McCain-Palin campaign has trashed the media and coastal elites, the governor spent tens of thousands of dollars on east coast PR firms to promote her pipeline projects to such small-town main-street publications as the New York Times, Washington Post, and Fortune.  The blogger Brickley, who originally registered the PalinforVP website, is a similarly textbook product of the big right-wing institutions:  He’s attended workshops at the Young America Foundation and interned for Heritage.  While Brickley was passing word around the internet, the conservative establishment was trekking north to the realm of the moose queen:

“Shortly after taking office, Palin received two memos from Paulette Simpson, the Alaska Federation of Republican Women leader, noting that two prominent conservative magazines—The Weekly Standard, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, and National Review, founded by William F. Buckley, Jr.—were planning luxury cruises to Alaska in the summer of 2007, which would make stops in Juneau.”

This motley band of assholes included National Review editor Bill “the smiling assassin” Kristol, Weekly Standard editor Fred “the dead-ender” Barnes, and Bush speechwriter Michael “Axis of Evil” Gerson.  The group met with Palin for lunch at the governor’s mansion, as well as a “flight-seeing trip” along the Alaskan coast.  Barnes recalled “being struck by how smart Palin was, and how unusually confident. Maybe because she had been a beauty queen, and a star athlete, and succeeded at almost everything she had done.”  He also added that she was “exceptionally pretty.”  Gerson called her “a mix between Annie Oakley and Joan of Arc.”  Paulette Simpson of the Alaska Federation of Republican Women described the all-male, all-over-55 group as “very enamored of her.”  Shortly after, Barnes’ Weekly Standard ran the first major national article on the governor.  Policy Advisor Bitney attributed this first step towards national prominance to the group’s lunch date.

Senator Ted Stevens (R-Crime) later noted that “Kristol was really pushing Palin” around the DC cocktail circuit before McCain picked her.  Two months before her selection, with Palin still far from the national radar, Kristol told Fox News Sunday that she would be the VP pick. In fact, Kristol harped on Sexy Sarah so shamelessly that moderator Chris Wallace asked him “Can we please get off Sarah Palin?”  (Later, Kristol referred to the governor as “my heartthrob.”)

Palin also entertained other conservative elites on a second National Review cruise.  Guests included the Review’s Rich “starbursts” Lowry, failed Supreme Court nominee Robert “Colonel Sanders” Bork, and Fox News’ Dick “toe-sucking” Morris.

Conservative historian* Victor Davis Hanson recalled Palin “in high heels, walking around this big Victorian house with rough Alaska floors,” and described her as “striking.”  Review senior editor Jay Nordlinger was admirably direct in referring to the governer as “a real honey” in an online column.

*(I’m using “historian” guardedly.)

Two days after Palin’s selection, the excessively sleazy Morris wrote of the event:  “I will always remember taking her aside and telling her that she might one day be tapped to be Vice-President, given her record and the shortage of female political talent in the Republican Party.  She will make one hell of a candidate, and hats off to McCain for picking her.”  Attendees recalled that Morris warned the governor that she would have to “stay an outsider” to be successful after campaigning as one.”

This was all groundwork for handing her to McCain.  McMaverick wanted Lieberman, but his advisors vetoed the pick.  Rove wanted Romney, but McCain and Romney never got along.  Choices such as Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and former U.S. Trade Rep Rob Portman were boring and added little to the ticket.  Without any good options, advisors congealed around Palin.  According to David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, super-lobbyist Charlie Black told McCain: “If you pick anyone else, you’re going to lose. But if you pick Palin you may win.”  (Black is a nasty, nasty character fwiw.)

The story of Palin really isn’t small-town-girl-makes-good.  Rather, it’s a classic example of the Washington elite converging on a popular person and creating her via money and influence.  The whole New Yorker feature is here and worth a read.

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Congressman Barney Frank is a witty guy. When California Republican David Dreier was passed over for a House leadership position, the openly gay Frank was asked whether he thought this was because Dreier was “too moderate” or because of persistant rumors about Dreier sexual preferences. His reply?

“[Dreier] didn’t get it because he was moderate. And I’m going to a moderate bar after work.”

Frank is Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee and led the push for the bailout bill. Immediately after the bill’s failure, House Republican Roy Blunt (R-Tobacco) pinned blame on Nancy Pelosi, claiming that her “partisan floor speech” drove 12 Republicans to vote against it instead of in favor as they had promised him. An aide to the Speaker called it “absurd,” adding that “you don’t vote on the speech, you vote on the bill.” Further, none of the 9 Republicans who made floor speeches after Pelosi even mentioned hers, nor did any other Republicans complain besides Blunt.

And so back to Barney Frank, who looked the final roll call and did the math:

“One of the truly great coincidences in the history of numerology. The number of deeply offended Republicans who put feeling over country turned out to be exactly the number you would need to reverse the vote.”

Frank is right. Twelve is the perfect number for a political trick. Without the dozen alleged Pelosi defections, the final 205-228 failure becomes a perfect 217-216 pass (with one abstention.) Had Blunt blamed the Speaker for any number less than this, it wouldn’t have changed the outcome anyway. Had he cited a large number like 20 or 30, it wouldn’t have been believable since no Republicans actually cited her speech as having influenced their votes.

I’ll make a conjecture: Blunt straight-up lied. Does anyone honestly think that 12 Republicans switched to “no” votes on a seemingly urgent bill supported by their House, Senate, and White House leadership because mean aunt Nancy hurt their feelings? Blunt looked at the final tally, realized it was a lost cause, and threw out a magical number.

Today, Blunt backed away from his whiny-ass bullshit. It’s possible he felt like a fool being called out. It’s also possible that he realized his political mistake. It’s a much easier sell for Democratic leadership to pin the bill’s failure on obstructionist Republicans than for Blunt to blame a 1-minute floor speech no one saw. Even without a cue, Americans are blaming the GOP by a 2-1 margin. Explains why fatty Blunt has moved back to the bi-partisan blah blah blah he was carrying on before…

Oh, and I’m with everything Digby said.

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