The war drums are beating louder for a possible military attack against Iran.
If you listen to most of the Republican candidates for president, and many members of Congress there is a possibility of another U.S. military action in the Middle East.
In several debates, Republican presidential candidates have promised to go to war to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and have strongly criticized President Obama’s handling of Tehran as his most serious foreign policy failure.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said he would direct U.S. forces to pre-emptively strike Iran’s nuclear facilities if sanctions failed.
“If all else fails, if after all of the work we’ve done, there’s nothing else we could do besides take military action,” Romney said at a debate on foreign policy in South Carolina earlier this month.
“You have to take whatever steps are necessary to break its capacity to have nuclear weapons,” said Romney who also proposed covert action such as “taking out their scientists.”
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum said the U.S. should support an Israeli military strike against Iran. There has been speculation in Israeli media that Israel might strike Iran’s nuclear sites.
With the exception of Congressman Ron Paul of Texas all the other Republican candidates for president support a possible U.S. or Israeli military attack on Iran.
Paul warned against an American overreaction to the perceived threat of a nuclear Iran.
Paul’s stance is in stark contrast to his Republican rivals who have criticized Obama for not being aggressive enough against Iran.
However the president has said the United States was considering all options on Iran to prevent Tehran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
On Iran, Obama said: “No options off the table means I’m considering all options.”
Dennis Ross, who just retired as the White House’s top Iran policy official, said President Obama was committed to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
“The administration prides itself on a certain reality that it does what it says,” he said, referring to Obama making good on his promise to capture or kill Osama bin Laden.
The president who had inherited a war that he opposed from the start was right to end the Iraq war. He would be making a mistake to begin a new war with Iran.
Despite hysteria from many of our political leaders and mainstream media there is no concrete evidence of an existence of a nuclear weapons program in Iran.
Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour M. Hersh, wrote in the November 18th issue of The New Yorker that: “I’ve been reporting on Iran and the bomb for the New Yorker for the past decade, with a focus on the repeated inability of the best and brightest of the Joint Special Operations Command to find definitive evidence of a nuclear-weapons production program in Iran.”
On a newly published International Atomic Energy Agency Report, Hersh concluded: “The new report, therefore, leaves us where we’ve been since 2002, when George Bush declared Iran to be a member of the Axis of Evil — with lots of belligerent talk but no definitive evidence of a nuclear-weapons program.”
An attack on Iran would cause oil prices to soar which would harm the still recovering U.S. economy and the struggling global economy.
A military attack on Iran could have catastrophic consequences and only strengthen Tehran’s determination to make an atomic weapon, said Prince Turki al-Faisal, the former head of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence services.
“Such an act I think would make the Iranians more determined to produce an atomic bomb. It will rally support for the government among the population, and it will not end the program. It will merely delay if anything.”
The prince said that while Saudi Arabia did not favor a military option, it would continue to press Iran publicly.
“We fully support tightening of the sanctions, assertive, assertive diplomacy and concerted action via the United Nations,” he said.
Many of the same Washington media and political establishment calling for President Obama to attack Iran were the same ones calling for an invasion against Iraq because Saddam Hussein allegedly had weapons of mass destruction. They were wrong then. They are wrong now.
All week long Philadelphians, and to some degree, the rest of the country, have been inundated with up-to-the-minute updates, pontification, and analysis of the saga of a high school girl and her Romney / Ryan T-shirt.
Unless you’ve been deployed on a submarine for the past couple of weeks, you know the story: on Charles Carroll High School’s dress down day, when students are allowed to wear non-uniform clothing, 16-year old Samantha Pawlucy wore a pink shirt supporting the Republican presidential ticket. She later told reporters that she did her own research, vetted the candidates, and decided that Romney was her man – without prompting or encouragement from her parents.
The trouble started when Pawlucy’s geometry teacher, Lynette Gaymon, teased her about the shirt, saying that the school is a Democrat school, and equating Pawlucy’s T-shirt to a garment advocating the Ku Klux Klan. According to Pawlucy, Gaymon’s taunts encouraged other students to join in, and soon Pawlucy was the object of ridicule – good-natured or not.
And there’s the rub. Gaymon said, in one of her few public statements, that she was only joking with the student, and didn’t mean to upset her or harm her in any way. She also wrote an apology which was subsequently read to the entire student body at Carroll High, but failed to satisfy her detractors, who by then had called for a rally in support of Samantha, and called for Gaymon to be fired by the school district for her actions, which they say amount to bullying.
Even after the rally of support Tuesday, Pawlucy’s parents said Samantha was uncomfortable at the school, and plan to transfer her, and her siblings, to a charter school. Gaymon is still awaiting the results of an internal district investigation to learn whether she’ll still teach at Carroll, or anywhere else in the district for that matter.
The time for what pop psychologists like to call “a teachable moment” has passed, and what we’re left with is not a study of life’s hard lessons well learned, but the usual political propaganda and naked opportunism.
Romney himself called Samantha on Wednesday, but she wasn’t home. Framed as a First Amendment issue, the rallying cry has gone far and wide, and comment sections are fat with vitriol directed at both the Pawlucy family and Gaymon.
The problem is, as it usually turns out, that just about everyone involved is a little bit innocent, and a little bit guilty.
First, and obviously, Gaymon was dead wrong to declare that a young, impressionable high school student should not have worn the shirt. Pawlucy, and anyone else in this heavily Democratic town, has the right to endorse and support any candidate they choose, even if you don’t agree with that choice.
It’s not like the sin of wearing a Cowboys jersey to an Eagles game, which will get you pelted with peanuts and doused with beer at Lincoln Financial Field. Even then it’s wrong, but in the realm of sports, at least it’s understandable. You know going in that you’re in hostile territory, and waving a red flag in front of a bull. You expect it, and should be prepared for it.
Samantha Pawlucy, on the other hand, should be commended for doing her own research on the candidates and the issues, and making up her own mind, even if she’s not old enough to vote.
As to whether her parents knew, or at least expected, some negative reaction to the shirt, which they could then exploit for political purposes, we’ll never know.
But it wasn’t hard to predict the political opportunists who jumped in, declaring this a First Amendment issue, which it isn’t, and using it to hammer the teacher, the teachers’ union, the school district, Obama, and Blacks in general.
Gaymon didn’t exactly help matters with her apology, which never addressed Samantha and which never addressed the actual incident, and was seen as half-hearted by Pawlucy’s parents.
It’s too late now for apologies, no matter how sincere. It’s also too late for cooler heads or common sense to prevail, since the partisan bullhorn shouters have already completely taken over the dialogue.
There is still time, however, to make sure this ugliness isn’t repeated. Teachers must encourage students to be more like Samantha, even if the result of their research brings them to an unpopular conclusion. Teens should be taught to be careful researchers and critical thinkers who make up their own minds about the subjects important to them.
We need more Samanthas, even if they end up wearing Romney T-shirts.
Cowboys’ jerseys, on the other hand, are another thing entirely.
Daryl Gale is the Philadelphia Tribune's city editor.
A cell phone video of a Philadelphia policeman viciously punching a Puerto Rican woman to the ground during an event celebrating Hispanic heritage goes viral, heaping more shame on this city perceived internationally as a notorious hub of police misconduct.
Philadelphia’s Police Commissioner — a Black man — fires that assaultive police officer — another Black man.
Yet, that punching policeman receives quick defense from a white man, the president of Philly’s police union, an organization widely condemned by many non-whites for its reflexive backing of bigotry and brutality.
The mayor of Philadelphia, a Black man, provides the Puerto Rican woman with an apology while Philadelphia’s district attorney — another Black man — decides whether the abuse the woman received warrants charges against that Black policeman.
Are the interracial dynamics evident in this incident of police abuse an example of post-racial America where historic fault-lines of race have blurred to the point of necessitating elimination of programs like affirmative action?
In this era when a Black man sits in America’s Oval Office and a Black female is a television network-owning billionaire many argue that programs to address America’s legacy of race-based inequities like affirmative action are unnecessary, illegal and divisive.
Never mind that less than two years ago Philadelphia’s Black mayor and police commissioner were the subjects of a civil rights lawsuit due to their controversial stop-and-frisk program where police stopped more Black and Hispanic persons that whites.
Never mind that Black-owned businesses received a paltry 3.5 percent of federal contracts funded through President Obama’s vaulted ARRA stimulus according to continuous stimulus monitoring conducted by the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University.
And, never mind that those who push the line that race prejudice is no longer a barrier to persons of color would not trade places with a Black person — even a rich Black person like comedian Chris Rock, who’s joked about the disconnect between those proclaiming the death of systemic prejudice and their refusal to surrender any benefits from systemic privilege.
If American society truly stood upon the “solid rock of brotherhood” that Dr. King referenced in his seminal 1963 “I Have A Dream” speech some Black Republicans would not need to criticize GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney for lacking racial inclusiveness within top ranks of his campaign staff.
If that “sunlit path of racial justice” King noted in 1963 truly existed the Television Newsroom Management Diversity Census released last month by the National Association of Black Journalists would not detail how non-whites comprise 12 percent of TV news decision makers when non-whites comprise 35 percent of America’s population.
This week, yet another challenge to affirmative action programs lands in the august chambers of the U.S. Supreme Court for a hearing. Most of the conservative members of that judicial body, including that court’s only Black member, consider affirmative action an ugly evil.
The Supreme Court’s current head, Chief Justice John Roberts, was a foot soldier in the Justice Department of 1980s President Ronald Reagan where legal schemes were implemented to dismantle civil rights gains of the 1960s like changing legal proof required for proving unlawful racism from impact to intent.
That small impact-to-intent change produced a big burden for racism victims requiring their providing both statistical evidence of race discrimination (documenting unqualified whites constantly promoted over qualified Blacks) plus producing evidence of “intent” to discriminate – evidence harder to obtain because most discriminators became savvy enough not to openly use the N-word.
This latest attack on affirmative action is another college admissions ruckus, this time from Texas.
Texas colleges give automatic admission to students graduating in the top ten percent of their high school classes. Those colleges utilize other factors, including race, for admissions of non-top-ten-percent students.
Abigail Fisher and another white student are challenging that admissions policy arguing that while they were ineligible for automatic admission their grades were better than others admitted who like them were not eligible for automatic admission.
The legal logic at the core of this challenge is not much different from the consistent history of attacks on efforts to reverse the legacies of American apartheid: white entitlement that twists color-blindness to continue excluding persons of color.
Race as a consideration in college admissions is a tactic employed to alter decades of discriminatory admissions similar to set-asides seeking to alter decades of discrimination in the construction industry.
The firms that always controlled construction successfully attacked set-asides to continue excluding non-whites and now many of those firms are spinning off companies [allegedly] headed by daughters and wives to take advantage of contracting advantages extended to female-owned companies established to correct gender discrimination.
Pennsylvania contractors, for example, bitterly fought the federal governments first construction set-aside program contending that program would deprive them of “profits,” force them to deal with minority contractors whom “they would ordinarily not do business with” and would place them at a “competitive disadvantage.”
Federal courts in the late 1970s reject those fallacious assertions but efforts to stack federal courts with conservative judges — funded in part by contractors receiving tax dollars — eventually lead to elimination of that set-aside program established because minority contractors received only one percent of the $2 billion Congress provided for public works projects in 1976 to stimulate the economy.
Affirmative action falls into that verbal equation of: Figures never lie, but liars figure.
Linn Washington Jr. is a graduate of the Yale Law Journalism Fellowship Program.
With election year politics heating up and with the four horsemen of the vote — economy, energy, foreign policy and healthcare — occupying a considerable amount of mindshare, the Democratic National Committee leader wants to remind voters just how good things are and can be — while also pointing out the nearsightedness of the critics of President Barack Obama’s administration.
DNC Executive Director and former White House Political Advisor Patrick Gaspard visited Philadelphia this week to address to AFL-CIO convention taking place here, and also trumpeted the president’s decisions as “strengthening America’s core, fundamental values.”
“Pennsylvania is going to be a unique, consequential state in the election. … I’ve been having conversations with activists and leaders, trying to mobilize the vote,” Gaspard said. “Cleary, organized labor is central to what we’re trying to motivate during this election year; we’ve just received the national AFL-CIO endorsement last week, and the president is rightly proud of his alliance with organized labor, particularly at a time when working people have been under assault from Republican governors and Republican legislation.
“We’re proud of that endorsement,” Gaspard continued, “and we came here to thank them.”
Gaspard said that although Obama is pleased with the economic recovery over the past several months, he is cognizant that many Americans feel the recovery hasn’t been rapid enough.
“Obviously, there’s caution, but if the president was here right now, he would be the first one to tell you that the pace of growth needs to be accelerated, and there’s far too many Americans — and far too many Philadelphians — who are struggling every single day to make ends meet,” Gaspard said. “But he would also say that when you consider that when we came into office, the economy was bleeding 750,000 jobs per month, and the period from September 2008 — when the markets collapsed — to before Barack Obama was sworn in, we lost 4 million jobs in that one period, and then, we lost another 4 million from the Inauguration to before the Recovery Act passed. So, the 8 million jobs lost, [Obama] inherited.”
Gaspard pointed out that the recovery, however slow, is advancing, pointing to the creation of 4 million jobs in the private sector over the past two years. “We’ve seen the first uptick in manufacturing output since 1997, and a 12 percent increase in manufacturing, which equals 400,000 brand new manufacturing jobs,” Gaspard said. “The president is proud of the very difficult decision he made to help save the automobile industry. That decision alone saved 1.4 million jobs in the heartland of this country, right up and down the supply chain in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Missouri.
“Independent analysts who follow the industry closely have said [the auto industry] is the backbone of the African American middle class, specifically in places like Detroit,” Gaspard continued. “And if we had listened to Mitt Romney and allowed the auto industry to go bankrupt, thousands of African Americans would have lost their employment, and that would have had a profound impact on those communities.”
Gaspard referred to GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s comments that he would have let the automobile industry go bankrupt, in much the similar way the former Massachusetts governor handled Bain Capital. According to Gaspard, more than 265,000 Pennsylvanians now have jobs due to the auto industry bailout.
In the wide-ranging session, Gaspard also touched on President Obama’s apparent connection with the working class citizen, saying that connection is compelling Obama to overhaul healthcare. The Supreme Court will decide the constitutional merit of the bill’s many measures.
In the meantime, Gaspard said Obama remains confident in the bill, as the president studied constitutional law. Still, Gaspard allowed that there is still quite some ways to go.
“There’s a reason why over the course of the last century in American politics, one president after another — Democrats and Republicans alike — attempted to get national healthcare reform done, and could not get the needle moved on it. There’s been constant advancement, but moving forward on a national healthcare model has always been extremely difficult,” Gaspard said, noting that even Richard Nixon ran on a healthcare reform platform. “I think it’s a very complicated issue, and there are critics of the bill, who asked a lot of appropriate, wise and smart questions about the mandate … so there is fair questioning that rightfully takes place, but too often, these moments are unfortunately often accompanied with crass political cynicism.”
Gaspard believes that once more people see the provisions of the bill — such as the ability to keep children on their parents insurance — more people will begin to accept it, as will the parents of the more than 230,000 children in the state who can now get treatment for pre-existing conditions and women who take advantage of the myriad programs.
“There are cynical people like Mitt Romney who passed a healthcare bill in Massachusetts that is practically a mirror to the one we passed,” Gaspard said. “And yet, he’s running away from the signature accomplishment he had.”
Councilman Oh praises superintendent’s handling of case
Two city council members weighed in on the Samantha Pawlucy controversy Thursday — the day after Mitt Romney called the Philadelphia 16 year-old who has attracted national attention for her support of his candidacy.
Councilman David Oh lauded school Superintendent William Hite for his handling of the incident while taking a jab at Hite’s predecessor — Arlene Ackerman.
“I find it very reassuring that the school district is taking action on it,” Oh said. “I think in contrast to the prior school district, in terms of their failing in dealing with an incident in which Chinese students were taken out of a classroom and then beaten, and then the principal excused that behavior and action was not taken for many months, this is reassuring to the parents in Philadelphia.”
Pawlucy was reportedly mocked by her geometry teacher at Charles Carroll High School for wearing a Romney T-shirt in class on Sept. 28. The incident made her feel so uncomfortable, she told school officials, that she is now transferring to another school.
The Associated Press reported Thursday that Romney called Pawlucy at home. Though officials with the Romney campaign confirmed the call they declined to provide details. The family would not comment.
Councilman Dennis O’Brien, an advocate for kids with disabilities, said the incident highlighted the issue of bullying — this time by a teacher.
“My kids — kids with disabilities — are often victimized in numerous settings and with little response,” he said. “This offers us all the opportunity to look at bullying. The fact that we tolerate this is the beginning and the root of all this bullying.”
The girl briefly returned to Charles Carroll High School in the city's Port Richmond section Tuesday. But her father says she never actually made it to class because she felt uncomfortable.
In other news, Council President Darrell Clarke decided not to introduce a proposal, put forth by the mayor’s office, that would create a new hybrid pension plan for new city employees.
“We want to know what the potential implications are,” Clarke said. “We anticipate introducing this bill in the future, but I want to understand what is we’re putting in the hopper.”
Last month Mayor Michael Nutter announced a new pay and benefits package for about 5,500 employees that would include changes to their pensions. But, in order to create the less expensive plan, the administration needs council’s approval.
The U.S. Supreme Court may have upheld the health care law championed by President Barack Obama last week but that doesn’t stop the lies, myths and distortions about it.
Republican U.S. Senate candidate for Virginia George Allen groundlessly called the health care reform law “a government takeover of health care.”
Other Republicans have repeated similar false claims.
While the Affordable Care Act expands government regulation of health care it is not true that the law creates a “government takeover” of health care.
PolitiFact, a fact-checking website of the Tampa Bay Times points out that “the law continues to rely on the private sector to provide health insurance for consumers. In fact, its coverage mandate will expand the number of people who buy private insurance policies. The act sets up exchanges where private companies will compete to insure people who don’t have policies.”
PolitiFact notes the law does not create a single-payer system, like in Canada, where medical payments are funded by a single insurance pool controlled by the government or a public option allowing the government to compete for business with private insurers.
Employer-based coverage will continue under Obama’s health care law.
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has stepped up his misleading rhetoric about the law since the Supreme Court ruling.
“Obamacare raises taxes on the American people by approximately $500 billion,” said Romney.
The fact is “the tax increases fall heavily on upper-income people, health insurance companies, drug makers and medical device manufacturers,” according to a fact checking analysis by the Associated Press.
“Individuals making over $200,000 and couples making over $250,000 will pay 0.9 percent more in Medicare payroll tax and a 3.8 percent tax on investments. As well, a tax starts in 2018 on high-value-insurance plans,” reports AP/
People who fail to obtain health insurance as required by the law will face a tax penalty but that number is expected to be small.
Romney also calls the law a “job-killer” but the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says the law would have a “small” impact on jobs, mainly affecting the amount of labor workers choose to supply,” said FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania. “Those getting subsidies, for instance, might work less hours since they’re paying less for health care.”
The president makes a promise that’s impossible to guarantee when he says: “If you’re one of the more than 250 million Americans who already have health insurance, you will keep your health insurance. This law will only make it more secure and more affordable,” according to FactCheck.
“While the law does build on the U.S. system of primarily-work based coverage, the nonpartisan CBO has consistently said there will be some movement among those who currently have coverage.
The CBO has estimated that at least a few million Americans with employer-based insurance will in fact not be able to keep their current plans, and there’s nothing in the law that would prohibit employers from switching health care plans, just as they could have before the law was passed,” reports FactCheck.org.
It is estimated that some employers will find it more cost effective to pay a penalty under the law and not provide insurance coverage.
The health care reform law is not perfect. An estimated 26 million will remain without coverage including those who can’t afford it even with the subsidies.
But the law is not a “government takeover” or “job-killer” or a huge tax increase for the average American.
The fact is the health care reform law while not perfect has many benefits.
It is expected to bring coverage to 30 million uninsured Americans; young adults can stay on their parents insurance up to age 27; insurers can’t deny coverage to people with pre-existing medical problems.
When politicians and pundits debate merits of the law they should do so with the facts and not with exaggerations, lies or distortions.
ST. LOUIS — Rep. Todd Akin fought to salvage his Senate campaign Monday, even as members of his own party turned against him and a key source of campaign funding was cut off in outrage over the Missouri congressman's comments that women are able to prevent pregnancies in cases of "legitimate rape."
Akin made no public appearances but went on former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee's national radio show to apologize. He vowed to continue his bid for higher office.
"The good people of Missouri nominated me, and I'm not a quitter," Akin said. "To quote my old friend John Paul Jones, I have not yet begun to fight."
But Akin seemed to be losing political support by the hour as fellow Republicans urged him to abandon a race the party had long considered essential in their bid to regain control of the Senate. Incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill is seen as vulnerable in public opinion polls and because she has been a close ally of President Barack Obama.
An official with the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee said the group's head, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, called Akin on Monday to tell him that the committee had withdrawn $5 million in advertising planned for the Missouri race. The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the conversation was private.
Publicly, Cornyn called Akin's comments "indefensible" and suggested he take 24 hours to consider "what is best for him, his family, the Republican Party and the values that he cares about and has fought for."
Two other Republican senators — Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin — urged Akin to step aside from the Senate race.
Brown, who is locked in a tight race with Democrat Elizabeth Warren, said Akin's comments were "outrageous, inappropriate and wrong."
Johnson called Akin's statements "reprehensible and inexcusable," and urged Akin to withdraw "so Missouri Republicans can put forth a candidate that can win in November."
Akin also got a swift rebuke from the campaign of presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
Romney and Ryan "disagree with Mr. Akin's statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape," Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said.
"Like millions of other Americans, we found them to be offensive," Romney said in an interview with National Review Online.
The furor began Sunday in an interview on KTVI-TV in St. Louis. Asked if he would support abortions for women who have been raped, Akin said: "It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that's really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
Later Sunday, Akin released a statement saying that he "misspoke." But the fallout was swift and severe.
During the somber interview on Huckabee's program, Akin apologized repeatedly, saying he made "serious mistakes" in his comments on KTVI.
"Rape is never legitimate. It's an evil act. It's committed by violent predators," Akin said. "I used the wrong words the wrong way." He later made a similar apology in an appearance on Sean Hannity's radio show.
President Barack Obama said Akin's comments underscore why politicians — most of whom are men — should not make health decisions on behalf of women.
"Rape is rape," Obama said. And the idea of distinguishing among types of rape "doesn't make sense to the American people and certainly doesn't make sense to me."
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said a woman who is raped "has no control over ovulation, fertilization or implantation of a fertilized egg. ... To suggest otherwise contradicts basic biological truths."
Between 10,000 and 15,000 abortions occur each year nationwide among women whose pregnancies resulted from rape or incest. An unknown number of babies are born to rape victims, the group said.
Research on the prevalence of rape-related pregnancies is spotty. One estimate published in 1996 said about 5 percent of rapes result in pregnancy, or about 32,000 pregnancies among adult women each year.
McCaskill was ready to move on, saying Akin should not be forced out of the race.
"What's startling to me is that (Republican) party bigwigs are coming down on him and saying that he needs to kick sand in the face of all the primary voters," McCaskill said Monday at a campaign event in suburban St. Louis.
"I want Missourians to make a choice in this election based on policy, not backroom politics."
The McCaskill campaign seemed to favor a matchup against Akin. McCaskill ran statewide TV ads during the primaries painting Akin as too conservative even for Missouri. She also ran ads against his GOP rivals.
The Akin ads served two purposes for McCaskill: boosting Akin among the more conservative Republican primary voters to help get him nominated and raising questions about him among moderates and liberals.
Akin won the state's Republican Senate primary just two weeks ago by a comfortable margin over millionaire businessman John Brunner and former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman. Many considered him a favorite to beat McCaskill in November.
Experts say the rape comments were a game-changer.
"He may in fact have mortally wounded himself," said David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. "This is a statement that is so crude and so offensive to more than half the electorate that there's a real danger here that he has dealt himself out of this race."
University of Missouri political scientist Peverill Squire said Akin's comments could particularly hurt him among suburban voters, where Republicans have done well in recent elections and "where McCaskill really does need to pick up some votes to stay in office. This certainly gives her an opening."
Ushering Akin from the race is complicated by the fact that he has never been a candidate beholden to the party establishment. Since being elected to Congress in 2000, Akin has relied on a grassroots network of supporters. His Senate campaign is being run by his son.
Missouri election law allows candidates to withdraw 11 weeks before Election Day. That means the deadline for the Nov. 6 election would be 5 p.m. Tuesday. Otherwise, a court order would be needed to remove a candidate's name from the ballot.
If Akin were to leave, state law gives the Republican state committee two weeks to name a replacement. The candidate would be required to file within 28 days of Akin's exit.
If Akin gets out, attention turns to Brunner and Steelman, but other possibilities include Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich, whom Republicans unsuccessfully tried to draft into the race earlier this year; former Sen. Jim Talent; and two members of Missouri's House delegation, Blaine Luetkemeyer and Jo Ann Emerson.
Talent, who lost his seat to McCaskill in 2006, said he would not enter the race, The Washington Post reported.
Akin, a former state lawmaker who was first elected to the House in 2000, has a long-established base among evangelical Christians. He has been an outspoken abortion opponent, and his campaign website proudly points out that he is listed among Planned Parenthood's "Toxic Ten" legislators. -- (AP)
It’s the big elephant in the electoral room: the Supreme Court.
As contentious and downright nasty as this general election cycle has turned, neither incumbent President Barack Obama, nor the Republican nominee, former Gov. Mitt Romney, have touched it. Despite splashy headlines that the high court was headed into a new session this past week, the political press corps appeared to take a pass and shrug on it. The masses hardly noticed.
The candidates, for obvious reasons, are reluctant to bring it up. With the American psyche overwhelmed by an endless news cycle of gaffes, blunders and embarrassing video clips, Supreme Court issues rank at the bottom of the messaging list. Voters are still concerned about the country’s economic trajectory more so than what nine lifetime appointees in black robes are grumbling about yards away from Capitol Hill. As a result, the two main candidates have obliged with little mention of how they would pick a Supreme Court justice.
“I suspect it’s because every candidate claims that they want the same thing in a justice: someone who will interpret and not make law,” guesses Anderson Francois, a professor of law and supervising attorney at Howard University’s Civil Rights Clinic. The clinic has already been involved in filing Supreme Court briefs on historic civil rights and voting rights cases up for deliberation this session.
Picking a Supreme Court justice ranks among the most consequential decisions a president can make. Yet, in these very polarized and uncertain political times, Supreme Court picks are fast becoming the ideological battle of the ages. With ongoing chatter and rumors swirling about the deteriorating health of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and what might happen to the other three justices over age 74, inquiring minds want to know: who would a second-term President Obama or a first-term President Romney select as a replacement?
“Only the base of each party tends to focus on the issue of the court, and their votes aren’t likely to be swayed,” observes Amy Howe, editor of the authoritative court watching SCOTUSblog and a partner at D.C.-based Goldstein & Russell, P.C. who has argued before the Court. “The Court this year is tough to pigeonhole. During the 2010 elections, the president did try to make the court an issue after Citizens United, but to the extent that he wants to rely on the Affordable Care Act he can’t really run against the court. Same for Mitt Romney in reverse.”
Neither candidate has spoken to it directly, with sources pointing to a palpable nervousness about how their natural bases and their opponent’s bases would react. Supreme Court nomination fights typically energize the respective ideological extremes on both the left and right. However, there are numerous clues in the public consciousness about how the candidates would deliberate, from Obama already picking two justices (Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor) to Romney highlighting the issue of a strengthened Constitution as a key platform on both his website and during the debate.
“The role of government — look behind us: The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence,” said Romney during the first debate with President Obama at the University of Denver while pointing to a large diorama of the historic documents behind the stage. “The role of government is to promote and protect the principles of those documents.”
Some observers took that as the Republican’s dog whistle to hard-right conservatives still licking their wounds from the high court’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act earlier this summer. In that case, Chief Justice John Roberts, once a reliable ideologue on the right’s favorite issues, seemed to step out of political character by largely keeping the controversial “ObamaCare” law intact.
But, the stakes are higher than that for either side of the ideological fence. There is a growing sense that at least two slots might open up due to retirement, illness or other personal reasons. Should he be re-elected, Obama is expected to pick a justice conforming to his center-left philosophy, thereby beginning the process of dramatically shifting the court from the right. That scenario scares conservatives, who hope Romney will arrive to solidify the Court’s conservative majority for decades to come.
And, at the end of the day, it’s the Supreme Court that gets the last word on all the important issues.
This session already promises a number of “blockbuster” cases, as Howe calls them, potentially earth-shattering docket shifters that could determine the fate of everything from voting rights to DNA sampling to gay rights and affirmative action. Many observers, particularly civil rights advocates, are biting their nails at the thought of an unapologetic conservative court potentially destroying affirmative action for good through one swift ruling on Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin — in which that school’s minority admissions program is being challenged. Others, particularly Black and Latino politicos, are worried about the implications of fresh challenges threatening the Voting Rights Act, while gay rights advocates wonder if the Court will uphold the Defense of Marriage Act or strike down California’s Proposition 8. There is also the lesser known, but equally impactful Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Company case, which examines the liability of corporations torturing outside the United States.
Former Colorado Senate president and Johns Hopkins senior fellow Peter Groff cautions that some cases might stand out more than others at the closing days of the election. While he believes it’s “unlikely” they will impact the election, “the timing of the arguments in the affirmative action case is interesting.”
“It could prompt a cross country debate on the issue between the president and Romney late in the campaign,” adds Groff.
A large part of the problem, many experts agree, is that the Court is too partisan. “The courts are supposed to be unbiased and nonpartisan,” argues Andrew Blotky, Director of Legal Progress at the Center for American Progress. “But under our Constitution, the President appoints Supreme Court justices, which means that elections have real consequences. And now we have a Court with majority Republican-appointed justices.”
“People need to understand elections have consequences and in this day of hyper-partisanship courts are not immune,” says Groff.
America tuned in recently for the ninth GOP presidential primary debate. With tea party favorites Chris Christie, Sarah Palin, Jeb Bush and Mitch Daniels (all current or former governors, by the way) opting to sit on the sidelines in the secret hopes that their real chance to win the White House will be in 2016, the overall field is in place.
In watching the ninth straight debate (yes, I am a dork and have watched every single one from beginning to end), I have come to the conclusion that the candidates have solidified their narratives — or niche — thus far in the debates. Before the most recent debate, I wrote down a few sentences predicting what they would say based on their previous debate performances. They reaffirmed their narratives during the recent debate, as predicted. Let me explain:
Michelle Bachmann —– as the only female in the race, she has consistently mentioned her background as a mother and wife. She believes that her gender and unique experiences endear her to what working families are going through as they navigate the tough economic reality that many families find themselves in. As a tax attorney, Bachmann has also positioned herself as the only candidate who understands the tax code and the need to simplify it. No matter what the question is, Bachmann goes back to her niche and answers with some type of response that includes being a mom, repealing “Obamacare” and simplifying the tax code. I’m not sure where Bachmann goes from here, but she’s defiantly made herself a household name.
Rick Santorum – the only Catholic in the race and the only candidate who champions himself as the “defender of the family.” Santorum, a father of seven children, consistently expresses his frustration during all of the debates that family values, i.e. traditional marriage and the need to outlaw abortion, are not debated. Santorum’s niche is that he’s the only champion who speaks up for the traditional family unit and is not afraid to challenge his fellow conservative presidential hopefuls for not speaking about the family. Although he denies this, my hunch is that Santorum is running for vice president. Vice presidential candidates typically make up a deficit that the nominee may have, and if Mitt Romney becomes the nominee; many social conservatives will demand that he put someone on the ticket who speaks to them. Santorum could be that very person.
Newt Gingrich – the former Speaker is arguably the smartest candidate in the field. His objective is very clear — during every debate he clarifies the moderator’s questions and he answers very substantively while praising the other candidates. Gingrich is the elder statesman in the room who sees potential in each of the candidates’ positions and is determined to bolster each of them, knowing full well that he is not going to be the nominee. His niche is that he making all of the other candidates become better candidates by leading the through his answers.
Rick Perry – To date, his debate performances have been lackluster. Governor Perry seems to be dazed and not substantive in responses to the questions being posed to him. He frequently mentions Texas in his answers and has yet to run a national campaign. He’s still learning the ropes on how to be a national candidate and has yet to find his niche.
Jon Huntsman – the former governor of Utah and ambassador to China is the only candidate who brings significant foreign policy experience to the race. During the debates he often speaks forcefully about the trade imbalance between the United States and China. Huntsman’s niche is that he is the only person who understands America’s foreign policy and is able to hit the ground running in repairing America’s image around the world. My hunch is that Huntsman is running to be on the short list for secretary of state.
Herman Cain – The follower of the pack has now become the leader of the pack. The former head of Godfather’s Pizza, former member of the Federal Reserve and cheerleader of his famed “9-9-9 Plan,” Cain’s niche is that he brings a strong business acumen to the office of the presidency. Cain is quick on sound bites and his true niche is that he answers every debate question with a plain common-sense response. The only caveat is that the economic problems we face are more complex that simple answers. His poll numbers will fall, and like Bachmann, I’m not sure we he goes from here.
Mitt Romney – Like Cain, the former governor of Massachusetts brings a strong business acumen to the race. Romney’s middle-of-the-road messaging campaign works perfectly for someone who is already the nominee. The reality is that he is not, and his niche appears to be that he is trying to convince Republican primary voters that he is the only person who can win a general race against the president. Throughout each of the debates, Romney appears to be steady, calm and substantive. Will his niche messaging work? We’ll know after Super Tuesday.
Ron Paul – The Texas Congressman is a true libertarian. He believes that anything government touches is bound to fail. He created this niche in 2008 when he first ran for president and that message continues to this day. His niche is the most narrow and simplistic. It wins him straw polls in contest after contest, but at the end of the day, it wins him nothing else.
So we now know the political playbook — each candidate has his or her recipe for victory. My political instincts still tell me that this is Romney’s race to lose. Super Tuesday will prove me right or completely wrong. Stay tuned.
There are those who believe that the core of American politics is spoiled rotten. Therefore, justified or not, there are critics of both President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney’s campaigns, who believe things are about to spin out of control.
The issue these days is the president’s harsh criticism of Romney’s record at Bain Capital, considering he too has prominent donors who are also in private equity. And at a recent White House briefing, press secretary Jay Carney explained the difference between the two, and responded to Mayor Cory A. Booker of Newark and former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell’s latest criticism of the campaign.
“Those folks aren’t running for president,” Carney responded. “They do not believe that their experience in their line of work wholly qualifies them to sit in the Oval Office, and be Commander-in-Chief, and make the kinds of decisions on the economy that the president must make.”
Carney continued, “he (the president) appreciates the support of Americans from every walk of life … every area of the economy, and as I’m sure you know, you reported on it, the fact of the matter is the president’s support, as demonstrated by contributions, comes demonstrably from people who just give a little bit, they’re not from huge donors.”
The administrations defense of their actions did not stop there. President Obama, responding to criticism from some Democratic supporters, said last week that attacks on Mitt Romney’s experience at Bain Capital were fair game and that Romney’s years at the helm of a private equity firm were worthy of serious debate.
The focus on the Bain attacks has added to the clash between the two campaigns and their allies about the increasingly negative tone of the 2012 presidential campaign, especially as President Obama seeks to define Romney in the eyes of voters.
Targeting Bain carries risks for the president, not least with wealthy Wall Street executives whose largess in 2008 helped finance his campaign. Some of those supporters have already soured on the president after his efforts to tighten regulation of their industry.
“This is not a distraction,” President Obama said about Romney’s record at Bain during a news conference at the end of the NATO summit meeting in Chicago. “This is what this campaign is going to be about.”
President Obama’s comments came shortly after Booker called the Obama campaign’s focus on Bain Capital a “nauseating” part of negative campaigning on both sides.
Booker later made an about-face on Twitter and in a video; he said Romney’s record at Bain was fair game.
Last week, Republicans were quick to point out how uneasy some in President Obama’s own party are about the criticism of private equity investors, and they started an “I Stand with Cory” petition to try to embarrass the president.
“President Obama confirmed today that he will continue his attacks on the free enterprise system, which Mayor Booker and other leading Democrats have spoken out against,” Romney said in a statement. “What this election is about is the 23 million Americans who are still struggling to find work and the millions who have lost their homes and have fallen into poverty.”
The president’s comments were his first explicit endorsement of his campaign’s aggressive strategy attacking Bain Capital. The Obama campaign’s full-throated assault, through ads, statements and Web videos, is now in its third week and portrays Romney in highly personal and unflattering ways. A video released earlier in the month highlights an office supply company in Indiana whose workers were fired when it was bought by a Bain company.
“You can tell by the way he acts, the way he talks,” one former employee said of Romney in the new ad. “He doesn’t care anything about the middle-class or the lower-class people.”
President Obama has denied that such attacks were unfair or unjustified. “(Romney’s) main calling card” for becoming president was his business experience. He said Romney’s years of buying and selling companies for profit gave him little understanding of the president’s role.
“If your main argument for how to grow the economy is, ‘I knew how to make a lot of money for investors,’ then you are missing what this job is about,” President Obama said, putting an emphasis on the words “this job.” “It doesn’t mean you weren’t good at private equity. But that’s not what my job is as president. My job is to take into account everybody, not just some.”
Bain Capital was also moved to defend itself, issuing a statement that said, “revenues grew in 80 percent of the more than 350 companies in which we have invested.”
And Romney said the attacks on his record at Bain were intended to suggest that, “I’m not a good person, or a good guy.” President Obama’s campaign dismissed that criticism, saying its ads and statements were efforts to describe how the values Romney pursued at Bain would color his actions as president.
President Obama said he views private equity firms like Bain Capital as a “healthy part of the free market” that are designed to “maximize profits.” He said that among them there are “folks who do good work.”
But he made it clear that he believes private equity firms put profits above all else, which, he said, is too limited a view at a time of economic struggle.
“Their priority is to maximize profits, and that’s not always going to be good for businesses or communities or workers,” President Obama said.
Referring to his campaign’s videos that feature workers laid off by Bain companies, President Obama said, “I’ve got to think about those workers in that video just as much as I’m thinking about folks who have been much more successful.”
Romney’s campaign has also described President Obama in harsh and personal ways. Romney has repeatedly said the president “doesn’t get it,” painting the president as an amateur. His campaign often accuses the president of personally breaking promises he made to the American people.
And the Republican super PACs have also targeted President Obama personally. The New York Times reported last week on a plan by one of them to link President Obama to his controversial former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. It was later dropped.
Both campaigns have made it clear that they intend to focus as much on the candidates themselves as the policies they support. Booker, speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press” two weeks ago, said the attacks were crowding out more serious conversations about the economy and other issues.
“My concern is we are about to go into a significant political campaign that will affect the destiny of our nation,” Booker said in his video clarification. “I am, indeed, upset. I am, indeed, frustrated. But I believe the American public, working together, we can begin to more and more denounce this type of campaigning.”
The New York Times contributed to this report.
Zack Burgess is an enterprise writer for The Tribune. He is a freelance writer and editor who covers culture, politics and sports. He can be contacted at zackburgess.com and followed on Twitter @zackburgess1.